Category Archives: Science

Klinghoffer Thinks About the Drake Equation

Everyone knows about the Drake equation, developed by Frank Drake in 1961 to estimate of the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. It depends on several factors: the number of stars in our galaxy that have planets, the number of such planets that can potentially support life, the number of those that develop intelligent civilizations which then generate signals we can detect, and how long such civilizations exist.

We found an article at PhysOrg yesterday, Are we alone? Setting some limits to our uniqueness, describing a re-think of the Drake equation by Adam Frank, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, and Woodruff Sullivan of the astronomy department and astrobiology program at the University of Washington. It was published in Astrobiology. Here’s a link to that paper: A New Empirical Constraint on the Prevalence of Technological Species in the Universe , which you can read online without a subscription. PhysOrg quotes Frank who says:

We’ve known for a long time approximately how many stars exist. We didn’t know how many of those stars had planets that could potentially harbor life, how often life might evolve and lead to intelligent beings, and how long any civilizations might last before becoming extinct. Thanks to NASA’s Kepler satellite and other searches, we now know that roughly one-fifth of stars have planets in “habitable zones,” where temperatures could support life as we know it. So one of the three big uncertainties has now been constrained.

Yes, we know that. The new approach the authors took was this:

“Rather than asking how many civilizations may exist now, we ask ‘Are we the only technological species that has ever arisen?'” said Sullivan. “This shifted focus eliminates the uncertainty of the civilization lifetime question and allows us to address what we call the ‘cosmic archaeological question’ — how often in the history of the universe has life evolved to an advanced state?”

That still leaves huge uncertainties in calculating the probability for advanced life to evolve on habitable planets. It’s here that Frank and Sullivan flip the question around. Rather than guessing at the odds of advanced life developing, they calculate the odds against it occurring in order for humanity to be the only advanced civilization in the entire history of the observable universe. With that, Frank and Sullivan then calculated the line between a Universe where humanity has been the sole experiment in civilization and one where others have come before us. [Emphasis supplied.]

Interesting, but still quite speculative. We weren’t going to write about it, but then we saw that the Discovery Institute has jumped in. The latest article at their creationist blog is Cosmic Archaeology: Taking the Sting Out of the Drake Equation. It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger.

What could the Discoveroids possibly contribute to this topic? We’ll give you a few excerpts from Klinghoffer’s essay, with bold font added by us for emphasis.

Frank Drake’s work has previously been a stumbling block for materialist understandings of the cosmos.

What? Let’s read on:

If our habitable planet is common currency and life evolves so easily, with intelligent life and civilization following readily in its wake, then why do we record no evidence of such life out there — no contact from ETs, not a peep? Could it be that life is so unlikely as to require a designer’s guidance for it to come into existence? Hence the anxiety.

Uh huh — the “anxiety” — which we all know as the Fermi paradox. Klinghoffer continues:

Ah, but you see, it’s because all the previous alien civilizations have gone extinct! Just as — so fashionable opinion never tires of telling us — our own threatens to do.

Then he talks about the new article in Astrobiology and says:

Whether Earth’s intelligent life has or had parallels elsewhere all depends on how readily previously dead matter evolves such an astonishing pattern. If it does so relatively easily, then many other inhabited planets like Earth have probably gone before us … . If you select the Milky Way as your area of interest and then a likelihood of evolving intelligent life at 1 in 10,000 (10^-4), then the result is some 6 million civilizations, past or present. If you choose 10^-24, then “We are the first advanced civilization.” There are, and have been, no others.

Okay. That’s not very difficult to figure out. Here comes Klinghoffer’s valuable contribution to the issue:

[W]e do know that evolving a civilization involves hurtles downstream from a far more basic problem — getting a functional protein. No building blocks of life means, inescapably, no life. ETs don’t need to be designed precisely as we are for this to be true.

Then he quotes Discoveroid Ann Gauger (a/k/a “Annie Green Screen”), who is now Casey’s replacement in the blogging department:

Proteins exhibit exquisite design, with extraordinary specified complexity embedded in their sequences. Too much to be the result of random processes.

Well, that settles the issue — at least as far as Klinghoffer is concerned. His conclusion is very weird, but here it is:

To speak of intelligent life developing, putting odds on that, seems beyond calculation. But reckoning on civilizations having extinguished themselves is an ingenious move and grants evolutionists a tenuous handhold. How can anyone prove there aren’t scads of dead Earths out there? It also fits well with the ethos of the moment, an apocalyptic one that sees civilization and technology’s advance, human flourishing itself, as an exercise in self-destruction.

That’s it, dear reader. Now you know the Discoveroids’ best thinking about whether we’re alone. They’re confident that we are, so there’s no need for any further research. Instead, we should spend all our time contemplating the glory of their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who miraculously created us and our privileged planet.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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ICR: Theology Makes Science Possible

It’s time you straightened out your thinking, dear reader, and the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom — are going to help you.

Their latest article is How Theology Informs Science . It’s by Jake Hebert, described at the end as a “Research Associate” for ICR. They say he has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Texas at Dallas. Jake says, with bold font added by us:

Since biblical skeptics claim that God doesn’t exist, they would argue that theology — unlike “real” disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and mathematics—makes no meaningful contribution to human knowledge. For example, physicist and professing atheist Lawrence Krauss states:

[Alleged quote from Krauss:] Indeed, I have challenged several theologians to provide evidence contradicting the premise that theology has made no contribution to knowledge in the past five hundred years at least, since the dawn of science. So far no one has provided a counterexample.

We haven’t verified that quote, but it sounds reasonable. Jake says:

Contrary to this assertion, counterexamples do exist. Not only is good, Bible-based theology essential for a proper relationship with our Creator, but it also contributes to our understanding of the natural world. Usually its contributions are subtle, but sometimes they are surprisingly direct.

We’d like to see some specific examples. But first Jake tells us this:

The Christian worldview makes science possible [footnote citing something by Jason Lisle]. Because science relies on observation, scientific studies are pointless unless the information about the world provided to us by our senses is trustworthy. How do you know that what you are observing is truly real?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! If an organism’s senses didn’t function, it wouldn’t survive. Jake continues:

How do you know that you are not actually a disembodied brain being fed electrical stimuli to make you think you are reading this article? Because God is faithful and truthful, we would expect our senses (which He created for us) to be generally reliable sources of information about the world around us. Likewise, with the relatively infrequent exception of miracles, one expects the universe to behave in an orderly, predictable manner, since “God is not the author of confusion” [scripture reference].

Okay. So we have functional senses and the universe is orderly (except when it’s incomprehensible because of all those miracles). Is that it? No, there’s more:

Good theology provided crucial insight that led to the discovery of conservation of energy, one of the most important laws in physics. Intuitively, we think of energy as the capacity to make something happen. This rule states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, although it can be transformed from one kind to another.

For some reason, Jake didn’t give us a scripture reference for that one. Instead, he tells us:

James Joule discovered that the amount of friction needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit consistently resulted from the same amount of mechanical work: 772 foot-pounds. This was an important step in the development of a formal statement of conservation of energy. … In honor of his discoveries, physicists measure energy in units called joules. It is well known that Joule’s studies in this area were motivated by his theology.

Motivated by theology? Not informed? Motivated? Jake gives us what we think is an accurate quote from Joule:

Believing that the power to destroy belongs to the Creator alone I affirm…that any theory which, when carried out, demands the annihilation of force is necessarily erroneous.

That appears to be the best example Jake has for us. Actually, it’s his only example. He concludes with this:

So, contrary to Krauss’ assertion, theology (particularly good theology) makes practical contributions to our understanding of the natural world. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” That the Christian worldview led to modern science provides additional evidence for the use of theology in our modern age. [Oh yeah! See Did Science Originate with Creationists?] A right understanding of God and our relationship to Him yields practical benefits in both this world and the world to come.

So there you are, dear reader. We owe it all to theology. Jake says so.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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ICR Explains “Waters Above the Firmament”

Everyone knows that according to Genesis 1:6-8 (King James version, of course):

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

That’s rather straightforward. What’s the problem? Well, they seem to be struggling with it at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom.

Their latest post is What Were the ‘Waters Above the Firmament’? It was written by Brian Thomas. He’s usually described at the end of his articles as “Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.” This is ICR’s biographical information on him. Here are some excerpts from his article, with bold font added by us:

Early ICR scientists hypothesized that the “waters which were above the firmament” implied a canopy of water vapor that covered the earth before the Flood. However, later tests led researchers away from this model. What changed their minds?

Gasp! We’re shocked — shocked! — that the “early ICR scientists” have changed their minds. Those were the giants of creation science. What happened? We’re told:

The vapor canopy theory helped explain why God separated the Genesis 1:1 formless mass of water into two bodies, one above and another below, with a firmament between them. An atmospheric vapor wrap gave a place for the waters “above the firmament.” This canopy’s greenhouse effect might have made the whole pre-Flood world tropical and helped people live for hundreds of years.

Sounds perfectly logical. Let’s read on:

But holes appeared in the theory. Atmospheric physicist Larry Vardiman used climate modeling software to construct a virtual vapor canopy. When he input enough water vapor for the first 40 days of rain during the Flood year, he found that Earth’s temperatures would have soared due to an intense greenhouse effect. His results required the sun to emit only 25 percent of its current intensity to keep Earth’s inhabitants from basically boiling.

So what? A few miracles could have handled it. Thomas continues:

While Dr. Vardiman tested the vapor canopy, physicist Dr. Russell Humphreys formulated a new model that placed the firmament waters beyond the farthest galaxies! Humphreys suggested that God miraculously stretched out the heavens on Day Two of the creation week. In other words, God pulled the upper waters some 20 million light-years away from Earth-bound waters below, leaving a firmament of heaven between.

Oh — the water canopy above the firmament was placed 20 million light-years away. According to ICR, that’s “beyond the farthest galaxies.” Okay, that also makes sense — to creationists. Here’s more:

But if there never was a vapor canopy [above the Earth], then what about that idyllic pre-Flood climate helping people live hundreds of years?

Jeepers — another problem. This is terrible! But ICR can handle it. Thomas tells us:

[G]enetics better explains the dramatic decrease in life spans after the Flood. A population bottleneck, like when the world’s population shrunk to only eight on the Ark, would reduce later life spans.

Well, yes — assuming Noah’s family included people with uncharacteristically short lifespans. Here’s the end of the article:

Responsible creation researchers test various historical models, but basic Bible facts never change. For example, “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them,” and “the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water,” regardless of where one places the creation week’s upper waters.

Okay. No problem. It’s all true, regardless of where you put that troublesome water canopy. We are grateful for the tireless work they do at the Institute for Creation Research.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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The Big Bang Disproves Atheism

Buffoon Award

We’ve observed before that creationists have a limited répertoire. Their “scientific” arguments all boil down to two oldie-goldies: (1) William Paley’s watchmaker analogy — if something looks designed, then by golly it is designed; and (2) the God of the gaps — anything not yet fully understood is “best” explained by a supernatural agency. Other than that, they rely on character attacks, claiming that scientists, especially those accursed evolutionists, are immoral atheists, doomed to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.

So when another example of this appeared at the website of WorldNetDaily (WND), we weren’t impressed. As you know, WND was an early Buffoon Award Winner. We’ve described them as a flamingly creationist, absolutely execrable, moronic, and incurably crazed journalistic organ that believes in and enthusiastically promotes every conspiracy theory that ever existed. It’s in their honor that our jolly Buffoon logo adorns this post.

Here’s what WND recently posted — and they proudly label it as an EXCLUSIVE: Why atheists are ‘fools’. The thing has attracted over 460 comments. The article was written by Matt Barber — probably not the British actor with the same name, because another website that published the same “exclusive” article described this Matt Barber as: “an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war.”

When we first saw it, we scanned the beginning:

They say there are no atheists in the foxhole. Even fewer when death is certain. None once the final curtain falls. God’s Word declares, “The fool hath said in his heart ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 14).

At that point, having seen the same sort of thing hundreds of times before, we clicked away and continued searching for more entertaining material. But then it started showing up at other websites, and our clandestine operatives were urging us to blog about it. So we took another look, and yes — as long and goofy as it is, the article has its moments. So here are some additional excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

In my experience it is something common among atheists: an inexplicable, incongruent and visceral hatred for the very God they imagine does not exist. Indeed, Romans 1:20 notes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Yet excuses they make.

Nothing new, right? But it gets better. Let’s read on:

Psalm 19:1 likewise observes: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The manifest intentionality and fine-tuning of all creation reveals design of breathtaking complexity. The Creator is of incalculable intelligence and infinite splendor. As I see it, atheism provides a case study in willful suspension of disbelief – all to escape, as the God-denier imagines it, accountability for massaging the libertine impulse.

It’s all about your libertine impulses, dear reader. Barber continues:

In the case of the atheist, or the “freethinker,” as they paradoxically prefer, that which is unbelievable is that somehow everything came from nothing – that there is no uncaused first cause; that God does not exist, even as knowledge of His being is indelibly written on every human heart and proved by all He has made.

Be they theist, atheist or anti-theist, on this nearly all scientists agree: In the beginning there was nothing. There was no time, space or matter. There wasn’t even emptiness, only nothingness. Well, nothing natural anyway.

Does that describe how anyone with a scientific education thinks about the Big Bang theory? No, of course not — but it’s how creationists imagine we think. Here’s more:

Then: bang! Everything. Nonexistence became existence. Nothing became, in less than an instant, our inconceivably vast and finely tuned universe governed by what mankind would later call – after we, too, popped into existence from nowhere, fully armed with conscious awareness and the ability to think, communicate and observe – “natural law” or “physics.” Time, space, earth, life and, finally, human life were not. And then they were.

Then he quotes from a creationist who describes the “impossible” fine tuning of the physical laws of the universe, and alleges that it had to be by divine intention. Assuming that such is The Truth, he criticizes those who don’t agree:

Secular materialists claim it can’t be – that such explanation is a “God of the gaps” explanation and, therefore, must be banished from the realm of scientific inquiry. They demand that anything beyond the known natural is off-limits. Atheists attribute all of existence to, well, nothing. It just kind of happened.

When we think about the creationists’ “God of the gaps” approach to things, we should keep in mind that it’s always their first and only “explanation” for everything. Yet, over the centuries, that “explanation” has failed as a rational cause for the rising and setting of the Sun, the regularity of the seasons, the diversity of the biosphere, the occurrence of disease, and everything else to which it has been applied. At this point, all they’ve got left is the universe itself, and they’re beating that drum incessantly. But why would an “explanation” that has always failed in every other instance somehow be correct this time? They don’t say, they just preach.

Okay, moving along, Barber tells us:

And so, they have “reasoned” themselves into a corner. These same materialists acknowledge that, prior to the moment of singularity – the Big Bang – there was no “natural.” They admit that there was an unnatural time and place before natural time and space – that something, sometime, somewhere preceded the material universe. That which preceded the natural was, necessarily, “beyond the natural” and, therefore, was, is and forever shall be “supernatural.” Reader, meet God. In short: the Big Bang blows atheism sky high.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The article goes on and on. There’s lots of quote-mining too. Click over there to enjoy the whole thing. It’s a textbook example of creationist thinking. Their “explanation” has always been silly and unnecessary, but this time they know it’s right. And you, dear reader, are a hell-bound fool!

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