Right on the heels of global warming, one of the most debated issues of our day, we have a special kind of crazy. I was under the impression that the Flat Earth Society was now mostly defunct, but apparently geocentrism is the crazy belief of the week. In much the same vein as the ‘journals’ run by creationists, Dr. Robert Sungenis has organized a conference and written a book, both entitled “Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right”.
The U.S. Department of Education indirectly specifies which schools are allowed to give out degrees – they specify which accreditation groups are considered ‘nationally recognized’. For reasons absolutely beyond my understanding, five of their national accreditors exist only to give degrees to these sorts of crazies, who then go on to make these sorts of claims under the guise of a degree. “Faith-based” organizations should not be in the business of accrediting anyone.
But that’s not the worst of it. There are actual people with actual degrees from actual universities, who work in actual fields like the pure sciences rather than earning a degree in some shared mass delusion, who wrote favorable reviews of that book. I just don’t understand how you can call yourself a Ph. D. if you can’t grasp the most basic of science.
Crazy people should be in asylums, not pulpits.
So, one of the arguments often made against the idea that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, as those with a literal reading of the Bible believe, is that the light from stars further than 6,000 light years away could not possibly have reached the Earth, and yet, we see it.
There are a few responses, such as that the light simply traveled much faster in the past, enabling it to have reached us, or that it was created en route to fool us, but these have their problems. Well, Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis has finally found a good solution.
Let’s begin with how science works. Science works by assuming nothing except your own observations, everything else that has been established by science, and that the universe works by a set of simple but uniform laws. We use our observations to draw conclusions about how the world works, and then we test it. If it fails, we draw a different conclusion. If it doesn’t fail, then it becomes scientific fact. Something that many people don’t understand is that science doesn’t say that the world works exactly like the scientific model says. Science just says that the model makes accurate predictions of how the world works. The results are good enough for us to use, but as our instruments get better and our knowledge gets greater, the models might change.
The important point, though, is that science is a way to go from data, to a hypothesis, to experiment, to finally a scientific theory. It’s not a way to go from assumption, to hypothesis, to a scientific theory – but that’s exactly what this creationist is doing. He assumes that the universe is 6,000 years old, and then somehow gets a theory out of it.
The best part is the journal he’s chosen to publish in. Scientists often spend a lot of time thinking about what journal to publish their work in, and this particular one chose one called the Answers Research Journal. That’s right, the same Answers as the Answers in Genesis mentioned above.
He claims to have both Scriptural evidence – if he were a real scientist, he would know evidence comes from data, not an ancient text – and scientific evidence, to support the theory that, paraphrased with care taken to preserve tense, allows distant light to reach Earth virtually instantaneously. I’d love to critique it scientifically, but he hasn’t published it yet. If the journal mentioned does happen to publish this paper (it’s a free online journal) I probably will follow up on this. I’m also very interested in how this works. He says virtually instantaneously, which means it does in fact have finite speed, just very large. One possible approach to critiquing this paper could be to use gravitational lensing of distant objects, assuming that he claims that light still does reach Earth virtually instantaneously.
I don’t know a lot about what he’s saying yet, but he claims that his model makes testable predictions, which is the defining characteristic of science. So we’ll see.
There’s also the fact that our current model states that light travels at the same speed, regardless of where it is, when it is, how old it is, etc. (although the medium through which it travels is relevant), and that that speed is based on a few fundamental constants in electromagnetism and can be derived directly from Maxwell’s equations. There’s no reason to abandon that elegant and accurate model for one which applies different laws based on the light’s age and origin and which is not directly derivable from theory.
It’s people like this that make the rest of you look bad.
By the way, I like one of the comments on Friendly Atheist’s post on the subject. If it can travel faster than the speed of light, then time travel into the past is possible, right? So maybe this guy can go back and find out for himself. If the dinosaurs of 6,000 years ago don’t eat him first, of course.