The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #3

Our last post in this series was The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #2. That was about electromagnetism, which — according to telescopic observations — hasn’t changed in 10 billion years.

The first post in the series mentioned supernova SN1987A, which undeniably indicates that lightspeed hasn’t changed for more than 168,000 years, so there’s no way the universe we observe could be only 6,000 years old. But it was mostly about a demonstration that the mass ratio between electrons and protons has remained the same over the past 7.5 billion years.

Why do we bother with such things? 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. See The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science. 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, because the light from distant stars is just now reaching us, and it can tell us how things were a long time ago.

As we’ve said before, 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. Therefore, whenever we learn of evidence that the laws of nature haven’t changed, it’s worth mentioning.

There’s a great new article in PhysOrg — Distant quasar spectrum reveals no sign of changes in mass ratio of proton and electron over 12 billion years. We’ve written about that ratio before, but at that time the evidence was that it had remained the same over the past 7.5 billion years. Now there’s evidence that it’s been unchanged for another 4.5 billion years. That’s getting close to the start of the universe. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A team of space researchers working with data from the VLT in Chile [that’s the Very Large Telescope] has found via measuring the spectrum of a distant quasar by analyzing absorption lines in a galaxy in front of it, that there was no measurable change in the mass ratio of protons and electrons over a span of 12 billion years. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team, made up of two members from VU University in the Netherlands, and two members from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, describe their findings and what it might mean for helping to explain dark energy.

Here’s a link to the paper: Constraint on a Varying Proton-Electron Mass Ratio 1.5 Billion Years after the Big Bang. Without a subscription, all you can see is the abstract, so we’ll stay with PhysOrg:

Some theories suggest that dark energy, the mysterious force that has the universe continuing to expand, might be a field that evolves over time — if so, that might mean that some of the constants we take for granted, such as gravity, the speed of light, etc., might actually evolve as well. In this new effort, the researchers sought to test that idea by looking to see if the mass of protons or electrons (both of which are considered to be fundamental constants) and the ratio that describes their mass difference, changed over the course of billions of years.

We’re not terribly interested in dark energy, but if their observations can puncture a claim of the creationists, that’s good enough for us, so we need only one more excerpt:

Their measurements showed no deviation (with a precision of 10-6) from the current constant, suggesting that the ratio has remained constant for at least 12 billon years.

Creationists like ol’ Hambo and his flock now 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.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #3

  1. 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.

    The blunt answer to Ham and his sycophants at AiG and the ICR is that their comments about science are completely irrelevant because none of them are ever there where the real action is. They have no business commenting on the science because not one of them can do any science despite the letters and self-congratulatory “titles” they always manage to attach to their names at every opportunity.

  2. Mike:
    You got it right. Most creationists would never want to do real science because (1) its hard (as most of my students will tell your) and (2) it would interfere with the sales of their snake oil. For those few creationists that actually did get a Ph.D in biochemistry or geology (for example) I find it rather ironic that they did it in order to destroy the validity of the very discipline that they studied and invested all that time in. Which was all for naught. Their criticism has in no way scratched the validity of the real scientific disciplines. All that time, money, and effort for nothing. As an old grad school professor of mine use to say, “if any biologist doesn’t believe in evolution, they should have their Ph.D. revoked.” I’ll ditto that.

  3. The creationists’ “Were you there?” argument can be turned on its head. After all, were any of them “there” when the events of Genesis supposedly occurred?

    “Oh, but,” they’ll say, “it’s the Bible!” To which I say, “So what? Where’s the proof that the Bible really is divinely inspired? It comes down to faith, or, to use their preferred term, ‘arbitrary, unverifiable assumptions.'”

  4. Doctor Stochastic

    One sign of a fundamentalist is that their books are self-proving.

  5. Charles Deetz ;)

    @Eric Lipps Good plan, but you know it ain’t gonna work. Nye couldn’t get past Hambo’s shield of self-deception using the same approach. You’ve got to trick him somehow, it is the only way.

    I’d thought that you could suck them with a CSI example and get them to agree that artifacts in a crime scene could tell a better story than an eyewitness, then expand that example into deep time. Then I see AIG using ‘CSI’ references on their website … you can’t win.

  6. @Doctor Stochastic
    Other signs of a creationist are self-contradiction and negativism.

  7. “VU University”
    That’s a tautology, my dear SC, like SC Curmudgeon. VU means Vrije Universiteit – Free University. The lovely irony is that the VU is founded by an orthodox protestant:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Kuyper

    “radiometric dating methods are accurate”
    *Whistle* observable, repeatable science *whistle*.

    CD is a bit desparate: “you can’t win”
    If you mean with “win” “admit that they are wrong”, no. But you can expose their “arguments” as what they are: ridiculous. Imo Bill Nye did this pretty well, in his own polite manner.

  8. If the speed of light, or the rate of radioactive decay, had changed since this distant galaxy emitted light, or that ancient rock was deposited, all the other laws of nature would have had to be different as well, and we wouldn’t have had this star or that rock anyway.

  9. @mnbo
    About the cartoon: H. has his imagination, claiming that it’s taken from the Bible.
    On N.’s side, I’d note that the studies on the age of the Earth go back more than 150 years.
    @Paul Braterman
    If the speed of light, etc., had been different enough to make the age of the Earth orders of magnitude different, things would be so different that life, and indeed everything else, would not be possible as we know it.

  10. If the speed of light changed in the past, it isn’t changing now, just when we have devices accurate enough to measure even a very small change. But they dismiss those observations, and promote ones made five hundred years ago, because it suits their agenda.

  11. Would someone help me understand just what are the laws of nature? The definitions I read are really complex and filled with many views. Is there a simple explanation? Help would be appreciated.

  12. @ Peg:

    These “laws” are essentially the consistent patterns we see in nature all around us. They are explained to very high precision by scientific theoretical structures; such as Newtonian theoretical mechanics, general relativity, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and the theory of evolution.

    Those theories are so accurate that they have allowed us to build all the technology we use and take for granted even as we sit at a computer asking what the “laws of nature” are.