Discovery Institute May Have Hit a New Low?

I’m your huckleberry :slight_smile:

Would love to have this conversation. I think you and I start at the same place and draw different conclusions. I’ll most likely have to engage tomorrow, though. Much to do before sleep, and morning comes early.


Hi Jeff: Thanks for writing back. I appreciate that you are taking the time to dialog, but your mind is so closed that I fear you won’t be able to hear. Really, not thousands, there are millions of examples of this. Understand that you don’t merely find all examples in literature that speaks against YEC, because most scientists don’t bother with such efforts. Rather, the entirety of science speaks volumes of these examples of correlated data. One of the most effective means of proving your point is to correlate multiple data points with statistical significance. Doing so means that, to a specific degree, the correlation is not random. This happens in many scientific disciplines on a daily basis.


Isn’t that sort of the point of critiquing uniformitarianism? That only perhaps in observation of catastrophes would you be able to find some idea of how a world-wide catastrophic flood would operate? The processes SHOULD be fundamentally different than what’s observed.

Hi Jeff. You talk about a YEC model and pieces coming together. As a geologist I don’t see this at all. Consider the distribution patterns of fossils in the sedimentary rocks. All that YEC says is that ‘the Flood caused it’. But that is not really an explanation, is it now? Yes, a Flood would likely cause lots of dead animals and plants, and their fossils could be preserved in sediment, sure, but ‘Flood’ says nothing at all about why they fossils follow the clear pattern of ordering both vertically and laterally over the globe.

In contrast, mainstream geology has by now a very detailed model of the fossil distribution, with the main causes being evolution and plate tectonics. Then, behind these two key words lie massive amounts of much more fine grained explanations based on observations and theory that you could read up in textbooks and the primary literature.

When we measure a stratigraphic section and we see the fossil content systematically changing from bottom to top, we can simply explain that because the animals didn’t live all together at the same time, unlike in a Flood scenario. Therefore, obviously, they didn’t die all together at the same time, and therefore their preserved remains are systematically vertically segregated as time went by and the sedimentary column was deposited with the fossils inside it. Straightforward, no?

I have never seen a YEC explanation of this ubiquitous fact of the fossil distribution that gets beyond children’s cartoon concepts (‘little mammals outran big dinosaurs up the hill’ or some sort of nonsense).

Yet the undeniable fact of systematic fossil sorting has been recognised by now for some 250 years. It was the very basis of our understanding of geological history, long before absolute dating came on the scene. Why is it so hard for YEC to come up with some realistic models for this, even tentatively? Instead, it is essentially ignored as an inconvenient truth, or explained away by armwaving and silly stories that don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

So here we have a fundamental fact of geology and Earth history, and YEC hasn’t got anything sensible to say about it.


As I alluded, uniformitarianism is a somewhat anachronistic term, because it hails from a founding era of geological debate for which that dichotomy no longer frames discussion. By now these aspects of geological discourse have long been subsumed into the tectonic model and much more detailed understanding of the epochs of earth history. The real point is this, that whether one is dealing with gradual processes or a cataclysmic episode such as the Chicxulub impact that ended the era of the dinosaurs, the underlying principles are continuous and uniform .

The build up of chalk formations over millions of years is entirely consistent with applicable and observed principles. The explosive impact of the asteroid is also entirely consistent with physical principles of energy conservation, and accords with unmistakable evidence of cratering, global dispersal of well defined chemical and impact signatures, and a spectacularly abrupt and pervasive discontinuity in the fossil record over the entire planet.

Even gradual processes are characterized by change over eons. The changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean is recorded in the mineralization cycle. So, between catastrophic change and steady change over geological time, uniformitarianism is simply a mischaracterization of what scientists have recognized now for many decades, and that is change is both constant and punctuated.

What are uniform, however, are the underlying principles which serve to unify and explain disparate phenomena. The field theories which govern subatomic physics from weapons to astrophysics to radiometric dating are based on observational science. Half lives are not independent variables, they are dependent on these more fundamental principles.

For another instance, the plate tectonic model unifies observations, both current and recorded in geology, of the earthquake and volcanic activity of the ring of fire, including your neighborhood. It explains the pattern of magnetic reversals found in the spreading fissures of the oceanic trenches. It explains how the continents are shaped to fit together, and why the same formations are found as severed halves. It explains the rising majesty of the Himalayas, and the ground down Canadian Shield. It explains why some rock is young with crystals rich in parent species, and other rock is old and full of daughter isotopes. As @Michael_Callen pointed out above, it explains the pattern of the Hawaiian chain through to Alaska, as well as the Galapagos. It is consistent with what we expect to be driven from the heat balance of the Earth’s core. And plate tectonics is observed; movement is well within the sensitivity of our instrumentation.

So we have basic principles derived from observational science with tremendous explanatory power. YEC rejects the application of these basic principles, not because of any failure in the observation, but because of the theological implication. There is no scientific grounds for such dismissal. It is observational, experimental, and operational science that has yielded these principles. So I do not give credence to the contention that YEC accepts observational science.


As I recall, I did show you something new: JeffB and Swamidass: Understanding Evidence for Phylogeny - #82 by swamidass.


That is certainly true.


There are a few cases. Certainly Dean Kenyon and Michael Behe were to some extent ostracized by their departments. But is that wrong? Apply the flat earth test. If a professor in the geography department of Prestigious U (Go Elitists!) comes out as a flat-earther, should he be trusted to teach round-earth geography? Will his publication record nose-dive as he tries to publish openly flat-earth research?


Those who criticize uniformitarianism do not understand what they are criticizing.

If time travel were possible, and I could send one of our rulers back to, say, 4004 BC, then it would still work for measuring length just as it does today. That’s an example of what uniformitarianism says. It says that the methods we use today very likely would have worked just as well at other times and in other places.

It does not say that the world today is the same as it was 6000 years ago. Everyone knows that have built bridges, highways, dams, etc and that those have changed the shape of the world. That’s consistent with uniformitarianism. And, actually, the Bible itself gives pretty good support to uniformitarianism. It describes how people live several thousand years ago, and most of those descriptions are consistent with our ideas of uniformitatianism.


That, my friend, is how you shouldn’t do science.

Even if it goes against empirically established science?

Antivaxxers, flat-earthers all have “rebuttals’” to objections raised against their claims, but these replies don’t comply with data and are sometimes downright ridiculous. YEC responses typically exhibit the same qualities. The moment you treat your YEC beliefs, especially the ones making empirically testable claims as purely scientific hypotheses and look for evidence to falsify them, its all going to come apart.


That’s a different issue. His point is that the numbers are skewed because of the difference in consequences for going public. That is probably true, but not enough to discount the overwhelming consensus.

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Not at all.

If you are a dendrochronologist, you begin with counting and characterizing tree rings. You can conflict with YEC without any intention, and never have given the slightest thought to those philosophical questions in your entire career.

If you are a oil geologist, you begin with looking for formations that coincide with periods of accumulation of organic matter which has been concentrated in a dome and capped with impervious overlay. Again, everything in your job can be incompatible with YEC, all without any thought about theological questions.

Most scientists begin with the empirical, and just follow the evidence where it leads. The presuppositions are based on prior work and state of knowledge. Should you be planning your next business flight, would you give any consideration to the flat earth discussion? That is how much YEC is typically in the thoughts of scientists.


How could any such effects possibly outweigh the alleged fact that creationism is right, and evolutionary biology is wrong?

What’s the point of critiquing (with mere rhetoric) conclusions derived from enormous amounts of observational and experimental evidence?


Yes, just about every day I’ve been trying to find time to get back to that one. Haven’t forgotten. Just didn’t want to give a quick reply to that one without thinking it over. And unfortunately in the meantime I’ve managed to kick over a hornets nest here. I’ll probably just let everyone take their jabs at me here (was expecting them), and move over to that thread.

BTW, i don’t mind the jabs. I really am satisfied in my belief in a young universe!

That’s sad… People who are taking time to patiently explain something to you from an evidence-based perspective are characterized as “taking jabs at” you. Really nice characterization.


Thousands of scientists who possess orders of magnitude more expertise and knowledge than you disagree with you vehemently.

That there are some loose ends in the data does not point to fundamental problems; the loose ends point to the need for further research and refinement.

There is no scientifically credible way to get from 13.8B years to 8000 years as the age of the universe. There is no scientifically credible way to get from 4.5B years to 8000 years as the age of the solar system.


Not a chance!


Overall, I do not regard the Scripture as a guide to science facts or the details of the scientific method. The Scripture does not teach anything about trilobites, dinosaurs, bacteria, viruses, galaxies, solar systems, radioactive decay, the speed of light, electromagnetic radiation not visible to human eyes, calculus, trigonometry… And this list could go on and on and on and on and on. The key point is that if God had laid these out by revelation, our forebears 2500 years ago would have rejected the Scriptures outright.

For some reason, God chose instead to allow humanity to slowly, corporately acquire scientific knowledge.

There are a variety of ways to interpret the early chapters of Genesis in light of this stance. You could, like Saint Augustine of Hippo c. 400 AD proclaim the six days as a purely didactic, symbolic scheme not intended to be scientifically valid. (And he said this based on internal evidence from the Scriptures.) You could adhere to the 6 days of revelation school of thought. You could adhere to the temple imagery school of thought.

Faithful scholars (such as Augustine of Hippo) have come up with many choices for you, Jeff. I have no inclination to urge a particular interpretation on you; you can surely conduct your own investigation.



I remember feeling that way for about 15 years. People I cared about taught the YEC doctrine. They convinced me the scientific community was populated with ungodly atheists and fools who were blinded by their presuppositions to obvious flaws in mainstream science.

Then a Christian geologist pointed out to me that he had participated in a study of core samples dredged from the Pacific that conformed quite exactly with the predictions of mainstream geology. Because I wasn’t coming to a public forum and announcing a conflict with science, he didn’t beat me over the head. He just pointed to the evidence he had personally worked with.

After that, a mental dam broke in my thinking. I was liberated to look for the first time at the evidence I had previously refused to see.

I thought I had been carefully considering the evidence of mainstream science, but in fact I had not. I had deceived myself. It took me 15 years to get to the point where I could recognize that.

Blessings to you on your journey forward, @jeffb.



The problem is that creationist “flood geology” doesn’t just posit unique phenomena that conform to the laws of physics. Instead, flood geology posits fictitious laws of physics that no one has ever observed.

For example: In order to explain radiometric signals that look like billions of years old but are (supposedly) only thousands of years old, “creationist” scientists and organizations (ICR, AIG) have resorted to claiming that the strong and weak fields changed drastically during the flood, causing an acceleration of radioactive decay.

Here are a few small problems associated with this proposal:

  • Most elements aside from hydrogen could not even exist in such a scenario.
  • The amount of energy released would raise the entire planet to tens of thousands degrees Celsius, and every drop of water would evaporate in an instant.
  • Noah and his family and all the animals would literally incinerate in fires hotter than steel forges, instantly, due to the accelerated decay of potassium in their bodies.

Two questions for you, our friend @thoughtful:

  1. How would you rate the plausibility of this proposed acceleration in radioactive decay?
  2. Does the text of the book of Genesis mention anything about accelerated radioactive decay?



I really don’t understand this. Why anyone needs to die on that hill. Jesus said nothing about it. It affects the tenets of Jesus’ Christianity not one jot.


Inflation has been observed (it’s happening today). Dark matter and dark energy have been detected at very high confidence levels by contemporary astronomers. So incorporating these ingredients into origins models is in fact an extrapolation of observations back to origins.

You are correct, however, that the multiverse has not been detected, at least in an uncontroversial sense. (“Dark flows” are your friend if you want to do a google search.).

However, whether we live in a multiverse or not is irrelevant to the questions asked in this thread. Astronomical numbers of astrophysics observations point irresistibly to the conclusion that the universe is 13.8 B years old.