Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Greatest Hits of Creation "Science"

Aprils Fools day seems to me to be far too much work, especially on the internet where whatever you do someone is bound to act up about it, case in point; the Top 10 Creationist Discoveries. This was an attempt at wired to put together a post about the nonsense spouted by creationists, it started off well then rapidly descended to insulting rednecks, from the look of the comments, you can say anything you like about rednecks as long as you DO NOT PUT DOWN NASCAR. My feelings on the post are mixed as its funny seeing people take such personal offense to something clearly so stupid, but I also think it was a great missed opportunity to actually look at the greatest hits of creation "Science". So without further ado here is (possibly) the first in a series of posts on the greatest discoveries of creation science as I see them (in no particular order):

T-Rex ate Coconuts: Apparently the top scientific minds of the creation museum think that the reason T-Rex has extremely large teeth is because they were used to eat coconuts. Why would they feel the need to claim this? Well because they believe that the world is actually only 6000-10000 years old and that dinosaurs frolicked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Even these intellectual giants have worked out that a vicious carnivore weighing in the range of 6 tonnes would bring up major health and safety concerns for Adam and Eve. Lets face it even God wouldn't be happy filling in those risk assessment forms. To get round this problem they fall back on that most reliable of paleontological references: the Bible, where it explains that in the Garden of Eden all animals were vegetarian, they didn't start eating each other until after "the fall", makes perfect sense to me. Apart from the fact that that means God designed them knowing that one day they would need their claws and sharp teeth to eat each other, something that couldn't happen until after "the fall", so he knew that Adam and Eve were going to misbehave, and yet he still freaked. No actually I don't think I get it.

Personally I think there are nuts involved in this idea, but they aren't coconuts.

Dinosaurs were on Noahs Ark: The linked article goes into a lot of detail about how it is possible for 8 people to pack tens of thousands of animals into a single craft, feed, water and keep them clean for AN ENTIRE YEAR! You really did not want to be the poor SOB who had to clean the sauropod cage did you?

Some anonymous internet genius came up with this interpretation of what would have happened in the event of a containment failure:

God was down with a bit of incest: Ever wonder who Cain married? No me neither but these guys have put way to much thought into it. Apparently Cain married either a sister or niece, but don't worry this wasn't considered icky then, after all if you start with only two people what else are you going to do? Extra points for this explanation because they manage to wrangle in a semi-coherent explanation of why people shouldn't marry their close relatives anymore, presumably some people need to be reminded of this.

Human ancestors were actually people forced into caves during the flood:
With that said, the Bible does describe a period of traumatic upheaval (the Flood – Genesis chapters 6-9) upon the earth during which time civilization was utterly destroyed and men were forced to start over. It is in this historical context that some scholars believe that men lived in caves and made use of stone tools. These men were not primitive; they were simply destitute. And they certainly weren't half ape. The fossil evidence is quite clear: cavemen were human (hence the term cave-"men," men who lived in caves).
It goes on to explain that all of the fossil evidence of human ancestors such as homo erectus are not what evolutionists think:
It is almost entertaining the lengths evolutionary scientists go to prove the existence of prehistoric cavemen. They find a misshaped tooth in a cave and from that create a misshapen human being who lived in a cave and hunched over like an ape.

That is one hell of a tooth.

Dispatches From NAM

As I'm in Munich on a collaborative visit at the moment I haven't made it to the National Astronomy Meeting this year. As well as meaning Durham were unable to retain the 5-a-side football trophy (as if I would have changed that) it means I have missed out on actually being in the room when some really interesting talks are given. Fortunately some people are live blogging the event here, its a good way to keep up with the goings on and to find pretty pictures like this one to steal:

Most of this picture has been around for a few years. It shows data from the SDSS which essentially shows the density of stars across a particular patch of sky, what is interesting is the number of coherent streams of stars visible. Many of these streams have been traced and found to be associated with dwarf satellites or globular clusters of our galaxy which are currently being torn apart by the gravity of the Milky Way. Whats new about this picture is that a team of astronmers (not sure who exactly, though the talk describing the result was given by Dan Zucker of the Institute of Astronomy) have used the original map to discover several new Milky Way satellite galaxies.

This is interesting in particular because its been known for a considerable amount of time that models of galaxy formation predict that a galaxy the size of the Milky Way should have many more dwarf galaxies than are actually observed. The discovery of more dwarf galaxies is helping to fix this discrepancy, the observation that many dwarfs are currently being destroyed by the MW also tends to lend support to the idea that originally there were many more, they have mostly been stripped and subsumed into the halo of the Galaxy. An additional bonus of the work presented at NAM is the observation that the motions of stars in the dwarf galaxies is much too fast to be explained without the dwarf galaxies being heavily dominated by dark matter, another prediction of current generations of galaxy formation models.

Score one complete (predicting the excess DM) and one partial victory (getting closer to the right number of satellites) for current theory then, there is however a final twist in the tale.
The shapes of the dwarf galaxies is apparently irregular, something that doesn't make that much sense if they are embedded in a larger dark matter halo, this should act to damp out external pertubations (say due to the Milky Ways gravity) and to keep the stars in a more regular shape. Whack one mole, another pops up, such is a scientists lot.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dawkins, Dawin Raise The Roof

This hilarious video is doing the rounds now:

I love this video because it is so clever that it appeals to both sides of the creationism - science battle. I think it really acts as a mirror to the way of thinking of both sides, both of which seem to think it is supporting them. At the moment no one seems to know who made it, with suspicions that it may be part of a viral campaign for the ID propaganda film Expelled, personally I doubt that, but who really cares its still very funny and as I said it does act as a great mirror into the thought processes of either side.

The creationists opinions of it, on display at such places as Uncommon Descent are that its meant to insult prominent atheist such as Richard Dawkins et al., at a certain level it appears that that is true, they come across as being quite arrogant, especially in the intro. However they (the creationists) never seem to get beyond this, its like they have seen something that confirms their prejudices and their satisfied, off they go happy, this is one for the home team, nothing more to see here.

Over on the pro-science side, almost the exact opposite is true, everyone (myself included here obviously) are over analysing, this has led to some really interesting points that were immediately seized upon by the commenters over at Pharyngula as proof that the video was pro-science, the most important is simply that the lyrics are very forthright and from a scientists perspective, true.
We might have lost at Scopes, beaten down by the dopes,
and the stooges of popes, but in losin' we coped,
becomin' more than we hoped,
creationists slipped on the soap of their own slippery slope.
Not exactly the type of thing a creationist would probably write. You don't tend to denigrate anothers position by writing from their position in (what they would view) a truthful way, scientists do tend to see the scopes trial as an event that despite being lost has proven to in the long run be a great victory for science, sort of a Pyrrhic victory for the creationists. Those on the ID side seem to have totally ignored this, its as if they can't get past the funny video to see the actually content. The scientists do exactly what scientists do however, they look, question, theorize, argue, test and search for evidence ironically precisely the type of things that the creationists claim that the evil "Darwinist" cabal never does.

Then there is the fact that the video uses the word Creationism, something IDists try very hard not to, if this is a viral for ID, its not a very good one, because it ties ID to creationism, by making use of a logo similar to Expelled (the ID propaganda piece) but using the word creationism throughout. The whole point of ID is to circumvent the separation of church and state in the US, by saying the intelligent designer could be anyone/thing, not necessarily the God of the Bible ("nudge, nudge, wink, wink, it is actually God though pastor"), thereby allowing them to teach it in schools. By providing yet more evidence that creationism and ID are one and the same, someone is going seriously off message.

Then some of the other lyrics are particularly good, eluding to the development of the scientific method, which the machine appears to be a metaphor for.
You see, this battle's been ragin' since Zeus was on the bottle,
'tween Science like Democritus and Faith like Aristotle,

who said the mover was unmovin' like some magic trick,
but that's no good logic, my posse is far too quick for this religious sthick.
I just don't see a creationist/IDist including something like this at all, its far to cerebral, their arguments usually descend to claims about evolution being uprovable or some such nonsense, not a reasonably good description of the roots of scientific thought. How the ID side could think that this is in support of their side is beyond me, I can only presume that either they don't know what it refers to, or that they just didn't really listen.

All in all it could have been made by either side, but I'm tending to fall into the thinking that it was made by someone who is somewhat in the middle. Someone who understands that creationism/ID is non-science and utterly vacuous, but who is uncomfortable with the more forthright attitudes and statements of the more prominent atheists featured such Dawkins, PZ Myers and Hitchens.

Whoever made it congratulations you have real talent. I just wonder what will happen if it is revealed to be the work of a partisan from either side, my guess is nothing if it is the work of an IDist, but if someone pro-science made it I would expect it to be pulled from the likes of uncommon descent rather rapidly.

Pot meet Kettle

In another example of the rank hypocrisy on display by the pro-ID fringe, Ftk decides to complain that PZ Myers won't engage her in email conversation:
Oh, btw, your experience with emailing PZ sounds very similiar to mine. He basically told me to get lost and he wouldn't respond to me again.

Nice guy that one...
Coming from someone that only allows comments from sycophants, or occasionally from people that disagree, so that she can subsequently block their comments to make it appear she has won the argument this is particularly amusing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Expelled - No Intelligence Displayed

FtK has more dishonesty on display today regarding the PZ Myers/ Richard Dawkins PR coup of the other day :

I hate to say it....



*BIG HUG AND KISS* to both PZ & Richard. You guys are the best! Who da thought you'd help us fill the theatres!!!


EXPELLED controversy top issue in blogosphere

Hundreds Turn Out for Seattle Screening of Ben Stein Film Expelled

It is a stellar day for Intelligent Design...

There are a couple of important points/disclaimers about her post that I think she should be more up front about, the first point I made I'll let her off for, it may simply be too subtle to realise that a previously invited crowd of people who already share your beliefs are unlikely to have been affected by the last weeks events. The second just shows her being dishonest, presenting a press release from the makers of the film without commenting that that is what it is. Anyway here is my comment which will probably never see the light of day on her blog.

Following the second link:

A crowd of 350 invited guests attended a pre-screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed tonight in Seattle's Pacific Place.

So how did the Myers/Dawkins incident influence this turnout?

This screening was for 350 invited guests, presumably invited before the terrible PR debacle (from an ID POV) of the other day. It's not like these were people that heard about the incident and thought they would like to see the film, they were just like every other audience for the pre screenings carefully selected beforehand to agree with ID.

The first is a link to a press release from the producers of the film, hardly a balanced view. Go on FtK, why not "teach the controversy" and link to PZ's post where he raises his objections to that bit of PR. This is a chance for you to prove that your not like those close minded evolutionists you dislike so much.

In fact here is the link for you:

Sometimes its not what is said, but what is unsaid that matters.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No Intelligence Allowed - 2

Continuing the series, my last post didn't make it through, my latest attempt is at the end of this copy:

Blogger Forthekids said...
Yo, Mark...flipped another one of your posts off into space. Dude, quit repeating yourself, and read the Q&A. The answers to your questions ARE THERE.

Ya blind? Quit making me repeat myself.
3:51 PM

Blogger Forthekids said...
Jon, PT's forum has all kinds of nonsense about the flick.

Start here, and notice also that Kristine gives J-Dog the big "Shhhh", when he mentions that someone should tell PZ about the event. Kinda tellin' no?

Whatever....they've been talking about the movie over there for ages. It's pretty obvious that some of the bloggers and forum regulars have been planning to go to screenings, and obviously many of them have been refered to as "private". That means something in my book, and they know it as well.

Nobody has stopped them from going in as far as I know. Even PZ's group was allowed in the movie.
8:31 PM

I didn't think that that post would make it through, so I took the liberty of copying it on my blog, that way everyone can see that nothing untoward was being said.

I've been through your FAQs and their links, at least as much as I can manage, I don't have a lot of free time. The nearest I got to an explanation of why ID is an inherently fundamentalist Christian phenomenon was this:

Certainly, Christian, Islamic and Jewish belief systems consider this designing source to be "God" or "Allah", but it appears that even pantheistic religions question Darwinism (in it's materialistic definition) as is seen in the views of the Dali Lama.
Notice that this doesn't claim that anyone else is actually working on ID, I also found this link in the FAQ, the question is:

Is ID just in the US or is it International?

The response is:

FAQ still in progress.

I guess thats a no then.

If you know of some links that show the ID research being done by non-Christians it would be appreciated if you just gave me them, I really don't have time to be trawling the internet if someone else can save me the time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Intelligence Allowed

Hey all, after a very long hiatus I am back at least for a while, I've got a thesis to write and a fairly tight time frame, so got to crack on.

This post is just a copy of a comments section I have been engaged in for a day or two, the author of the blog, the inimitable FtK has taken to blocking any comments that she can't understand/has no answer for. This I obviously find pretty annoying, coming from a confirmed IDist I find it particularly hypocritical, its no good claiming that scientists refuse to engage with you, then deleting any comments that disprove your points. Now obviously its her blog to do with as she pleases, but if your going to go around deleting perfectly civil comments for no reason then they make you look foolish I think its highly intellectually dishonest. It also has the effect of making it possible to claim that people were being rude or discourteous which is unfair. Personally I only delete comments when they are offensive (very rarely) or trying to hawk some product (much more common).

So from now on, in my dealings with FtK, or others of similar habits, I'll post a copy of any comments I make here as well, then we can all see what it is that they have such problems with.

Here is the comments section in full, its basically all about the PZ Myers being expelled by IDists from a showing of a film they made, which they tricked him into appearing in, oh, and the whole topic of the film is how scientists won't allow open discussion of ID, oh, and although they chucked him out they happened to miss Richard Freaking Dawkins, who was standing in line with Myers. You can read the whole thing, or at least the bits not censored here.

Blogger Jon Voisey said...
I still don't get this harping on the "ZOMG! He didnt haf a tikit!!?!" I keep seeing from the creationist camp.

No one had a ticket!

No one tried to "sneak in" or "gate crash". The signed up for an opening screening to the public with their real names!

This blatant attempt to misportray the engagement really is dishonest.
7:27 PM

Blogger Forthekids said...
I didn't say anything about having a ticket. Makes no difference really. These are private screenings, and they can invite or turn away anyone they want to. I think it's hilarious that all of you think it's a big deal.

Honestly, they seem like gate crashers to me. I mean, come on, PZ and Dawkins showing up to the private screenings of a movie they've been slamming for months? times, but certainly not appropriate on their part...rather sophomoric.

Oh, btw, you said that "No one had a ticket!" Wrong. this guy did.
8:05 PM

Anonymous Mellow Middle Aged Man said...

Why are the Darwinists so upset?

Its just a movie, and their evidence is OVERWHELMING.


Uh, isn't that right?
1:18 AM

Blogger Jon Voisey said...
I didn't say anything about having a ticket.
Chapman did.

These are private screenings, and they can invite or turn away anyone they want to.
Quite true. But the fact that they waited until PZ was actually in line, and then didn't kick out Dawkins... seriously. WTF?

And it seems that there was more than one method to gain access. It sounds like they probably sent ticked invitations to religious organizations and then offered the rest to the public. But again, tickets were not required. Thus to insist (as Chapman do and so many other creationists covering this) that PZ and Dawkins should not have been there given that they didn't have tickets is an outright lie.

And how is it not appropriate? I knew the movie What the *Bleep* Do We Know? was a load of crock from a basic summary, but I still saw it. Just because I disagree with it means it's "certainly not appropriate" for me to watch it?

Why are the Darwinists so upset?
Because Creationists like this are astounding hypocrites, that lie, abuse ad hominemns, quote mine (but FTK is cool with that), etc.... and yet, the majority of America is so befuddled when it comes to basic science and logic, that they swallow it. We're not upset that we think that our theory is wrong, but rather that we should have to defend reality from such liars.
8:32 AM

Blogger Forthekids said...
Like I said at UD, Jon...

What they did was sophomoric. Obviously, these are private screenings, and it’s also obvious that Myers went in just to be a shyster.

Think about it. If Myers thought what he was doing was on the up and up, he would have blogged about it before hand just like he blogs about everything he’s involved in.

Internet Darwinsts have been joking about getting into the movie by signing up as preachers, etc. They understand that the screenings aren’t meant for the general public at this point. Myers knows that as well.

Obviously, Myers wanted to create commotion by slipping into the flick, and he did. Actually, he created even more than he planned to. Personally, I see nothing wrong with turning a guy like him away, and like I said…this *will* bring more people to the theatres.
8:41 AM

Blogger Forthekids said...
btw, Jon, your little rant about IDers being liars, quote miners, ignorant of science, etc. is so obviously untrue.

Like I said, hopefully the flick will bring people to these on-line debates, and they can judge for themselves in regard to the scientific issues in this debate.

Oh wait, people like you and Myers believe that 90% of Americans are ignorant and border on insane, so I'm guessing that you believe they still won't understand the science. Pity that the grand majority of Americans are such morons. You science "elite" need to hold are hands and lead us away from God and into glories of science.

Gag. You've turned science into a pagan religion. It's disgusting.
8:48 AM

Blogger Larry Fafarman said...
This story has made it into the NY Times and is all over the Internet -- just Google "PZ Myers" and "Expelled." Not surprisingly, the NY Times article was written by Cornelia Dean, who has a long history of bias against criticism of Darwinism.[1][2][3][4]

Sleazy PZ Myers is an unscrupulous BVD-clad blogger who arbitrarily censors comments and commenters. I should know -- I am at the top of his "killfile dungeon" list of banned commenters.

IMO, prescreening "Expelled" was a bad idea. This incident involving Sleazy PZ is being used against the movie, and also a prescreening for Florida state legislators was criticized as violating the spirit of the state's sunshine laws because the legislators got a chance to see the movie before the public gets a chance to see it and comment on it.
10:37 AM

Blogger Forthekids said...
So, Larry, do you think that the general public won't attend the film due to these loud atheists throwing hissy fits?

Personally, I think that will bring the public to the theatres in droves.

If the producers have done their job and exposed the scientific community for the crap they've pulled, then I think the entire episode is beneficial.
11:06 AM

Blogger Jon Voisey said...
he would have blogged about it before hand

Since when does PZ blog about anything before hand except big coffehouse meetups? There's been several occasions where he's written about something after the fact that I didn't know about before hand.

Internet Darwinsts have been joking about getting into the movie by signing up as preachers, etc.

Really? And I suppose you should show me where? The only claims I've seen to anyone "sneaking in as a preacher" was a false allegation from the producers against a reporter who was invited (and later uninvited) with a whole bunch of preachers. But never did he actually pretend to be one.

they can judge for themselves in regard to the scientific issues in this debate.

Are you really that dense? Even those that support the movie have said it's devoid of science. It's just "ZOMG persecution" and "evolution = atheism = eugenics = nazis".

This is not a movie that will inform anyone about the "scientific issues".

You science "elite" need to hold are hands and lead us away from God and into glories of science.

I do my best to make my science posts extremely detailed so that anyone can follow them. But time and time again, I see that Creationists can't even understand or accept the scientific method (which you yourself have rejected because you don't like methodological naturalism). It's impossible to hold anyone's hand or lead them anywhere when they're pulling back, throwing hissy fits going "I DUN WANNA!"

And it's not about leading people from God. I really could care less.
11:45 AM

Blogger Mark Norris said...
It would seem that if ID had anything going for it there would be plenty of people jumping on the bandwagon, after all not all research is done by atheist Americans or Europeans. Where I wonder are all of the excellent Chinese, Indian, Korean etc researchers working on ID? How is the supposed suppression by atheist scientists in the US/Europe preventing them researching ID? Why then is no one working seriously on ID?

Could it be because ID offers no predictions, no testable hypotheses, nothing but a shrug of the shoulders and a "God did it" whenever things get complicated?

If you are forced to admit that to call ID science you have to accept astrology as science then you may as well pack up and go home. I wonder FtK do you think astrology is science?

By the way, regarding the matter at hand even Kevin Miller admits PZ was there legitimately

You science "elite" need to hold are hands and lead us away from God and into glories of science.

I don't think anyone is remotely interested in leading you away from your faith, however if your faith requires you to believe something demonstrably false then I think you have problems. There are plenty of very good scientists out there who are perfectly capable of reconciling their faith and science, with the proviso that where the two conflict, the one with the empirical evidence wins. I mean honestly what is the big deal, surely no one is really a biblical literalist anymore.
11:46 AM

Blogger Larry Fafarman said...
Forthekids said...
Personally, I think that will bring the public to the theatres in droves.

I then made a comment here, sorry I didn't keep a copy of it, the gist of it however was to repeat my question as to why ID has no real support from people of any faith other than evangelical Christian. Then I pasted the court transcript where Behe admits under oath, that if ID is science so is astrology. Namely this bit:

Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?

A Yes.

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

Q The ether theory of light has been discarded, correct?

A That is correct.

Q But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?

A Yes, that's correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can't go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless theories.

I don't think she liked it:

You're right, Mark. Your last comment didn't see the light of day. I told you that the responses to your accusations can be found at my frequently asked questions page. Read and enjoy, or buzz off. Thank you.
4:18 AM

Here is my response:
Its good to see that you live up to the ID crowds stated aim of allowing a free and open discussion. We'll leave the matter about Behe's statements then seeing as you apparently believe they are of no import.

How about at least answering my question about why the only people interested in ID are of the evangelical Christian persuasion. Where are all of the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews etc looking for the hand of Brahma, Allah, Vāhigurū or Yahweh? If ID is science, then it is universal, it should be self evident to anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs that it has merit. The fact that it only seems to be of merit to one subset of one peculiarly American brand of religion seems to be a problem for its credibility, do you not agree?

We'll just have to see whether this one disappears.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Birthday BBC News Website

The BBC news website is 10 years old this week. I know I and many others would not know how to live in a world where this invaluable time sink did not exist, partly I know this from the cool graph they have produced showing the growth in traffic to the site over time, you can see it reproduced below, click for big.

There are several interesting things about this graph, one of which is simply the number of page loads a month, right now there are over 1.3 Billion page loads per month and there is no sign of the increase in traffic slowing. Although I am probably responsible for about 1% of those, I still find it a huge number and wonder how they will cope in the future.

The second thing I like is the subtle implicatons about peoples behaviour you can see in the data, you may note for example that there are several dips in the traffic towards the end of a year, most obviously in recent years. My guess that this is the effect of Christmas holidays, when people are forced to go home, and no longer bother to check the news every five minutes as they do when chained to their desks. This of course also tends to imply that much of the traffic is still coming from the western world.

Then there is something I don't really understand unless it is simply a artifact of how they have graphed the data, but it appears that traffic had been increasing rapidly in the days leading up to September 11th 2001, before the attacks on World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. My guess is that they have simply plotted monthly totals which have tended to make it look like there was a rise in traffic pre September-11th, I would imagine that if you plotted daily totals you would see fairly smoothly increasing traffic until September 10th, then traffic would spike dramatically on the 11th before tailing off over the next few weeks, with a few superimposed bumps and wiggles related to events such as the opening of attacks in Afghanistan or new information regarding the attacks becoming available.

I'd love to see the daily totals for this period, I think this could really be useful in determining the most important events in modern history, especially when coupled with information on the most popular stories, though I rather fear that various celebrity scandals would dominate the events.

Everybody Is A Crank

The New York Times has a short article (free subscription required) about well regarded scientists stepping out of their own fields and becoming cranks in another. This has been spurred by James Watsons (co discoverer of the structure of DNA) cranky claims about race and intelligence last week, for Watson however such claims are not entirely unusual and not entirely unexpected given his age (79). The article includes an interesting quote from Sir Martin Rees:
“With my own advancing years, I’m mindful of the three different ways scientists can grow old,” Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom and president of the Royal Society, wrote in an e-mail message. The first two choices are either to become an administrator or to content yourself with doing science that will probably be mediocre. (“In contrast to composers,” Dr. Rees observed, “there are few scientists whose last works are their greatest.”) The third choice is to strike off half-cocked into unfamiliar territory — and quickly get in over your head. “All too many examples of this!” he lamented
I'm just struggling to come up with too many examples of this (any ideas internets?), there must be some, but there is another more interesting route to crankdom for scientists, one which allows you to remain comfortable in your own field: you are mainstream at some point but stick with a discredited theory long after it was given up as a lost cause by everyone else, Halton Arp is the obvious example from astronomy. I find this the more interesting route because it is the most dangerous, the easiest most seductive route, kind of like the dark side of science where you let your ego get the better of you.

I don't doubt that everyone is a crank in some field, I just wonder what my crank field is. I've known some friends that held what I thought were borderline cranky views on areas such as global warming or biology, but I guess its always difficult to spot where your own thoughts appear unreasonable to others. No doubt someone will enlighten me. Do you know where your inner crank resides?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Expanding Earth or Shrinking Brains?

DdH has linked to a very amusing video that he has gotten all excited about. I think the fact that Dave is so excited about it really goes to show that if you are cranky about one facet of science you are probably cranky about a lot of others. The video is by someone called Neal Adams, who thinks that the Earth (and other planets) have expanded over time. He basically is not a big fan of tectonic plates, so he as produced animations showing that if you shrink the Earth the continents appear to fit together.

Like any good crank he mixes in a lot of half truths with a lot of absolute nonsense, there are too many problems to look at now, but here are some of the best that just sprung to mind:

Throughout the video he claims subduction and movement of plates are impossible, yet somehow expansion of the entire Earth is fine. Hmm. There is also the fact that we measure the movement of plates, the obvious example being the laser measurement of the movement of the San Andreas fault.

If the Earth is doubling in size where does all of this extra mass come from? If its just normal matter from space we should have noticed the several tons per acre per day!! that should be falling on us (h/t to this video. Not sure I agree with everything he says but its quite fun.), if its due to some strange change in atoms over time then we could certainly measure that with current instruments. So where does it come from? Er that's not made clear. Then again it is very rare for cranks to think through the implications of their theories.

Another interesting problem is that he claims that the Earth has doubled in size in the last 65 million years, this is a bit of problem, as by my rough calculations it would mean that 65 million years ago if there was the same amount of water on the Earth, essentially everywhere would be underwater, oops.

After Neals "success" with geology he moves onto Physics, again proving that if you are cranky in one field of science you probably are in the rest too. Enjoy his explanation of prime matter here (sorry can't get it to show in here). Its been a long time since I've seen such a long stream of nonsense, especially without even a token attempt to provide evidence for his claims, the best one being that electrons wrap around a proton in a type of shell, which appears to leave a hole in it, brilliant. Don't give up the day job. Though I think Dave and him will get a long great, perhaps he can make the animations for the Autodynamics film?