The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #2

This is another post to refute a constant claim of young-Earth creationists that the laws of nature in the past were wildly different from what they are now. Our first post about this, which refers to several different examples of evidence, is Hey, Creationists: Laws of Nature Don’t Change.

Why do creationists insist that the laws of nature were different in the past? It’s obvious — if the laws of nature haven’t changed, then radiometric dating methods are accurate, geological forces currently at work were behaving the same in the past, the speed of light wasn’t wildly faster in the past to get distant starlight to Earth almost instantaneously, and the waters of the Flood couldn’t suddenly come from and then go to somewhere, somehow. That means the universe described in Genesis is utterly impossible. See The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science.

To defend what’s written in Genesis, creationists declare that scientists don’t know what they’re talking about, because the constancy of the laws of nature is an arbitrary, unverifiable assumption. After all, they say, you don’t know what things were like back then. Were you there?

Well, we weren’t there, but we can see things that were there. Light, for instance. There’s a great article in PhysOrg on this: Three eyes on the sky track laws of Nature 10 billion years ago. They say, with bold font added by us:

Astronomers have focused the three most powerful optical telescopes in the world on a single point in the sky to test one of Nature’s fundamental laws. An international team, led by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, observed a quasar – the extremely bright surroundings of a supermassive black hole – using the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the W M Keck Observatory and Subaru Telescope, both in Hawaii.

Why are they all looking at that quasar? We’re told:

The quasar light passed through three different galaxies, some 10, 9 and 8 billion years ago, on its way to Earth. These galaxies absorbed a characteristic pattern of colours out of the quasar light, revealing the strength of electromagnetism – one of Nature’s four fundamental forces – in the early and distant Universe.

That’s really good! Let’s read on:

“We spread the light very finely into its component colours, producing a rainbow with a `barcode’ pattern of missing colours. We can then measure electromagnetism by `reading’ this barcode,” said Tyler Evans, Swinburne PhD student and lead author of the new study.

This is the published paper — a 24-page pdf file: The UVES Large Program for testing fundamental physics – III. Constraints on the fine-structure constant from 3 telescopes.

Back to PhysOrg, will skip some stuff about coordinating the three telescopes. Here are the results:

[Associate Professor Michael Murphy, who co-authored the work said:] “Once corrected, all three telescopes gave the same answer: electromagnetism hasn’t changed, within a few parts per million, over 10 billion years. I think this is the most reliable measurement of its kind so far”. The team is now making similarly careful measurements in many other galaxies.

One more excerpt:

“With our new techniques and new quasar observations recently complete, we can make the most accurate check to see whether electromagnetism’s strength really is changing or not,” Associate Professor Murphy said.

What will Hambo and his flock do now? They have two choices: (1) ignore these observations; or (2) mention and dismiss them as the desperate ravings of secularists. Either way, ol’ Hambo is going to stick with his claim that “historical (or origins) science” is worthless, because it’s based on arbitrary, unverifiable assumptions, and the only way to really know what things were like long ago is to read the bible.

Scientists have a somewhat different approach — they observe reality. If reality and scripture disagree, well, the choice of which one to go with is up to you, dear reader.

See also: The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #3.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #2

  1. To a creationist the Bible, or at least their interpretation of it is right and reality is wrong.

    This is why true believers can not be reasoned with in any fashion.

  2. I take Hambo at his word: Nothing would cause him to change his mind about Genesis and creation. Period.

    This is the very definition of a demented and crazed lunatic. Or, possibly, the last defense of a calculating charlatan. I’m voting for the latter.

  3. And I am compelled to point out that whatever one says – or can’t say – about things distant in time applies equally well for things distant in space.

    How, before the mid-20th century, could anyone say that Newton’s laws applied beyond the surface of the Earth (plus or minus a couple of miles)?
    How did they know? Were they there?

    Well, they did know.

    And today, we still “aren’t there” when we talk about the center of the Earth (but I’m willing to bet that there is a center of the Earth) or space beyond wherever Voyager 1 is now (and I’m willing to bet that it will keep going tomorrow, that there is space and Newton’s and Einstein’s laws out there).

  4. Slightly off-topic, but since Sensh brought up the changing speed of light…

    I wrote a long post at my blog on the topic of creationist Jason Lisle’s attempt to solve the distant starlight problem with his “ASC” method. I don’t just call it absurd or ridiculous– I use mathematics to prove it cannot be true, and chop him into little pieces. I also summarize other attempts by creationist to solve the Starlight Problem. It is a must-read for you Lisle-watchers.

  5. Diogenes says: “I wrote a long post at my blog”

    I just read it at Panda’s Thumb. Well done.

  6. I started to read it on Panda’s Thumb as well–but then went to the original, as I didn’t want to miss the explicit [edited outs]. ‘Tis indeed well done!

  7. Charles Deetz ;)

    I just saw Jason Lisle post responding to Diogenes and Curmudgeon. Something about the electromagnetism increasing as it had to hold the spherical slices of the universe together, which could only have happened instantaneously by an external force/creator. Or maybe not.

  8. The whole truth

    Charles, where did Lisle post his response?

  9. To a creationist the Bible, or at least their interpretation of it is right and reality is wrong.

    This is why true believers can not be reasoned with in any fashion.

    Hear, hear, anevilmeme. Creationists consider the “evidence” of the Bible superior to mere physical (as they would say, “naturalistic”) evidence, and cannot be convinced otherwise by mere reason. When that means they have to believe six impossible things before breakfast, Red Queen style, they just go right ahead.

  10. Charles, I went to Lisle’s blog and I can’t find any response.

  11. The fundamental problem with creationist speculations about varying constants of physics is the issue of scaling. For example, a flea can jump 200 times its body length: why can elephants not therefore jump a kilometre? The problem is that body weight goes up as the cube of the linear dimensions, whereas muscle strength, proportional to muscle cross-section, goes up as the square. Thus the ratio of mass to strength goes up as the power of 3/2, which means that elephants cannot jump at all.

    The same applies to the scientific model of the universe. If you change one constant such as the speed of light or the strong nuclear force (claimed by creationists to change in order to accommodate radiometric dates that do not suit them), then all sorts of other measurable constants must change to compensate. Since they do not scale linearly, observable features of the universe would be inconsistent with each other.

    Until the creationists create a model of the universe in which their proposed change in the speed of light is consistent with all of the other constants of physics and without the universe looking very different, then we can treat their speculations with about as much credibility as we would grant to long-jumping elephants.

  12. Richard Bond says: “The fundamental problem with creationist speculations about varying constants of physics is the issue of scaling.”

    I’ve always regarded their biggest problem to be the inter-relationship of the various physical constants. You can’t change only one thing. Consider the relationship of mass and energy, or as Einstein put it, E=mc². If the speed of light varies, the amount of energy within all mass will vary too. If lightspeed becomes infinite, so does the energy content of mass (either that, or there can’t be any mass). Try imagining the sun gently shining on the Garden of Eden in that universe.

  13. SC: “This is another post to refute a constant claim of young-Earth creationists that the laws of nature in the past were wildly different from what they are now.”

    The best refutation is “OECs and IDers disagree; take it up with them.”

  14. SC, you and I are saying the same thing.

  15. anevilmeme: “To a creationist the Bible, or at least their interpretation of it is right and reality is wrong.”

    Unless the “creationist” is an IDer. Then every interpretation is right, even though they contradict each other. And that’s despite their admission (Behe’s words, but no major IDer publicly disagreed) that reading the Bible as a science text is “silly.”

  16. Sorry to be late to the discussion, but I think the answer to SC’s question (What will Hambo and his flock do now?) lies in Michael Murphy’s quote; “Once corrected, all three telescopes gave the same answer”…
    THe answer, dear readers, is obviously “Quote mine, quote mine, quote mine”. To whit: What is the nature of the “correction”? Why was a “correction” necessary? Obviously the Evil Darwinist Conspiracy&trade had to fudge the data to arrive at their pre-conceived comclusion. Wash, rinse, repeat…