Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I always thought vanity and lying were sins...

William Lucas of Common Sense Science came to Virginia Tech on Friday night, thanks to the Campus Bible Fellowship, and gave a talk entitled "Expanding Earth: Scientific Evidence for Biblical Creation." I attended for the first half of his lecture, but once he started talking about god I felt a little nauseated and had to leave. Fortunately for me, he'd split his talk up in to two halves: the first half was "scientific" evidence for an expanding earth, and the second half was the jesussy stuff. So I didn't miss out on any of the fun stuff.

Lucas began with a brief history of his "scientific" career, calling himself a "scientist by backgroung," which I thought was somewhat accurate since it implies he does not contribute to science currently (which he doesn't) but I don't know if he ever really did in the first place. Anyway he claims he entered college at the junior level and that the college made him teach the undergraduate classes below that to prove that he knew the stuff. Why would they even have admitted him at that level if they needed proof? It's only 5 minutes into the talk and it already smells fishy...

He went on to mention something about his masters and PhD work, which I won't bore you with, however, he did mention that his PhD research included bombarding matter with negatively charged particles that replace the electrons, whereas on his resume he says that his PhD is in Theoretical physics. I may only have a B.S. in physics, but I'm pretty sure that theoretical physics does not involve doing experiments oneself. Hence the theoretical part...

Moving on, he began his actual slideshow with several slides illustrating the "stretch marks" resulting from an expanding earth. "evidence" for these stretch marks included the midatlantic ridge and other divergent plate boundaries, and a map of tectonic plate movement. He highlighted a few boundary points where plates were diverging and claimed that every single one was moving away each other. Now looking at that map (this isn't the exact one he used, but it's essentially the same thing), you can see that there are indeed some plates that are moving away from each other, but take for example the Eurasian and Pacific plates. They look to me like they are converging. The funny thing was that the map he used in his talk included that evidence of convergence, he simply ignored it and hoped everybody else would too. But the icing on the cake was that he claimed textbook authors deliberately laid out maps so that evidence for the expanding earth was near the edges so they'd be less conspicuous, while he was doing exactly that on his own slides.

His next few slides were even worse. He showed different iterations of the same picture over and over again, claiming they were evidence for different phenomena. These phenomena were geologic age, temperature, "Ocean Magnetic Stripes," and heat flow. Geoligic age and temperature make sense to me, except that he only talked about the mid atlantic ridge, which scientists knew was exhibiting that behavior anyway. I think he completely invented "Ocean Magnetic Stripes," because I couldn't figure out what he was even trying to say, and heat flow to me seemed like a result of temperature difference, but I didn't listen to him very well because I was trying not to laugh.

Then he talked about various geological phenomena like earthquakes and volcanoes and how they all occur on or near fault lines, and how this is due to the earth's expansion. I guess if you don't have any data of your own, you might as well steal other people's data and make it fit your crackpot ideas. Then he showed pictures of the moon with "continents" and mares (seas) as well as pictures of Venus, Mars, and Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, and talked about how they were all expanding too. No data to support this was presented, he just threw it out there for us to swallow. One funny thing was that he called Ganymede a planet about five times before his wife corrected him that it was a moon.

Here his talk took a different turn: after a brief summary of the previous slides, he moved to a new slide entitled, somewhat ironically, "Logical Foundations in Science," with the following "rules" for science
-no false postulates allowed*
-no theories on false postulates*
-all theories must be self-consistent*
-all valid measurements of same quantity must be the same** (he said 82 methods for determining the age of the earth: 4 say old 78 say new...you do the math)
-all entities in universe intereact in self-consistent manner

* rules he violated in this talk
**rules he couldn't violate because he didn't take any data

Using these rules, he went on to "disprove" quantum mechanics, general and special relativity:

According to Lucas, quantum mechanics is wrong for the following reasons:
-not science (no further explanation)
-postulate that observation causes wavefunction to collapse to definite state (he says this is equivalent to "the moon isn't there if nobody's looking)*
-point particle postulate (he proposes a finite-sized spinning ring of charge model for particles)
-postulate that the universe is controlled 100% by random statistical processes (he says we don't just wake up on venus do we?)**

*This illustrates a common misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. We can't just look at an electron and see where it is. We need to actually do something to it to "observe it." Thus the electron doesn't exist in any definite state until it actually interacts with something else. It has nothing to do with us as humans "seeing" it.

**According to quantum mechanics, it is theoretically possible that a full person could be on earth one second and on Venus the next, but this is so astronomically improbable that it wouldn't happen in a span of time trillions of times longer than the age of the universe. The only things we see this kind of quantum behavior with reasonable probability, are particles on the quantum scale (so named for that exact reason) This can be seen in quantum tunneling, for example.

Lucas says the general and special theories of relativity are wrong for the following reasons:
-c is the upper limit on velocity (he says "that just doesn't make sense, and quantum tunnelling shows an example of faster-than light travel by an electron...see above)
-also requires point particles
-claims velocity of light is independent of source*
-claims space is isotropic- (he pronounced it isotopic, without the r)

*to disprove this, he showed some mumbo-jumbo about the Michaelson-Morly experiment, which actually worked to prove this aspect of STR.

He also claimed that the only paper for which Einstein got a Nobel Prize (on the Photoelectric Effect) was written by his wife and not him. He told the whole story, but of course provided no evidence to support it.

At this point he introduced his "Universal Force Law," which, coincidentally, happens to explain every one of QM's, GR's and STR's downfalls. He said something about trying to solve a problem on electromagnetism and he just stumbled across this second term, which nobody else had ever seen, and which, incidentally, also happens to explain absolutely everything in the universe. Here is a synopsis.

-Gravity is an electromagnetic phenomenon resulting from vibrations of electrons in atoms.
-magnetic force from spinning ring of charge that is the electron is strong enough to counteract electic attration from the proton.
-Revised law of gravity such that the fundamental gravitational constant G and mass don't exist (he actually said "no such thing as G or mass)
-Predicts every fundamental particle, including the graviton (didn't show any predictions)

Then he gave a bunch of evidence supporting his law, which, like before is simply other people's data that he claims supports his theory, but he never actually shows how they are connected. Here's what he said:

-2.7 K background radiation from the universe is predicted by his law, and it fits the data.*
-Earth and all the planets follow a corkscrew motion in their orbits. (he showed some diagrams, but no actual observation of this kind of motion or any kind of data for that matter)

*He actually showed this exact graph, with the fit of data from COBE to the theoretical curve, which actually comes from quantum mechanics. He didn't say anything about how he predicted that curve, or even why it should look like that, as opposed to something different.

That's the end of the first part of the talk. As I said before I didn't stay for the second half, but he did allow questions during the break between the two halves, so I'll summarize some of the questions and their answers (if you can call them answers)

Q. In your model of gravity being a result of oscillating electrons in atoms, are the electrons oscillating on just one side of the proton, or do they switch sides?

A. Well you see electrons are finite-sized rings, and the magnetic force is stronger than the electrical force so it keeps the electron from crashing into the proton

Q. So if the magnetic force is what is keeping the electron and the proton apart, and it's caused by spining charge in a ring, what's to keep the rings from flipping, thereby reversing the direction of the force and pulling the two together?

A. Well since they're both finite-sized rings, the edges can actually interact, and if you look at, for example the Bohr model, the electron must continuously emit radiation. That doesn't happen, so it's not true.

Q. So if gravity is caused by oscillating electrons in atoms, and oscillating charges emit radiation, shouldn't the electrons continuously emit radiation? Won't they eventually run out of energy?

A. Yes and they do, that's why all mass is decaying.

Whoo boy, this guy could skirt questions like it's his job. Actually, I think it is his job... Anyway, that's all I stayed for, but what I did see was, needless to say, quite entertaining. At the same time, though it's scary that people like this are out there. This guy had no data to support some crackpot idea he has, so he stole everybody else's data and pretended that it supported his idea.

And the christians out there want some proof so badly they'll swallow anything from anybody, which makes Lucas' job so much easier. It'd be nice if we could get everybody to be just a teensy bit more skeptical, but we are talking about Christians here...

By the way, if anybody is interested in any of the topic covered in this post, below are several links on reliable information on the topics.



Brownian said...

I'm going to assume by "Ocean Magnetic Stripes" he was referring to the evidence for geomagnetic reversals found at sea floor spreading ridges, like Iceland. Essentially, as iron-rich magma spreads and cools as it pours out of the ridge, the ferromagnetic particles in the basalt crystallise in alignment with the Earth's magnetic pole. The stripes occur when the magnetic pole reverses, and all the new basalt crystallises in the opposite orientation. As you move away from the ridge in either direction, the stripes give a very good history of the reversals over time. This discovery was important in providing further evidence for plate tectonics.

None of this supports Lucas or his idiocy, of course. I just thought I'd clarify this point for you.

Thanks for sitting through this sort of BS, so that others don't have to. I takes a strong stomach to sit through a creationist screed without vomiting. Yours must be cast-iron!

MaryAloyse said...

There is a good ilustration of the magnetic stripes in the following paper on plate tectonics.


I can't imagine how this could be useful to a creationist, and don't want to know. Don't care to flirt with brain damage.

Joshua Stein said...

I suddenly feel the need to ram a screwdiver up my nose and spin it around.

Thanks for the info, though.

SJNelson said...

Bravo to you for sitting through half of that nut's fantasy rant. You may want to replenish your electrolytes and possibly even get a brain scan- these jeebus-freaks are contagious!!
My niece was looking into that school for next year- I'm going make damn well sure she won't attend.
Thanks for taking notes.

Jon said...

Please don't let something like this influence your daughter's decision to come to Tech. It really is a great school, and this wasn't presented by the school itself.

Tom Foss said...

Sounds rather reminiscent of the quackery promoted by Neal Adams, with the same kind of arrogant "all of science is wrong, but I have no data" attitude. And yet, with the added dash of Christianity.

amanda said...

(he said 82 methods for determining the age of the earth: 4 say old 78 say new...you do the math)
"4 methods were devised by Darwinists, 73 were devised by me, and one was devised by my dog, "Jelly Bean", who communicated it to me via Jesus."
And the creationists would probably just sit there and nod their heads...

amanda said...

Oops, I forgot the "4 were devised by the Discovery Institute" part.

Bryan said...

Sorry you had to sit through as much as you did, I am willing to bet a couple of aspirin came in handy later that evening.

Speaking of Neil Adams and his expanding earth ramblings, a friend of mine discussed this very issue on his blog a while back. I recommend reading the comments, as he does a very good job of explaining exactly how nonsensical expansion tectonics (as neil adams calls it to not "frighten" us geoscientists) really is.

Expanding Earth and the Conspiracy of Science

gaytheist said...

I came her from Pharyngula and was thrilled to find another SW VA blogger. Welcome to the blogroll, my geographic brotha.

gaytheist said...

I should have said here. That would have made the most sense.

Naked Bunny with a Whip said...

Wait, did he answer two questions by claiming that QM is disproved because electrons don't continuously emit radiation, but his theory is supported because electrons *do* continuously emit radiation?

Curt Cameron said...

So how was his talk received by the audience? Were they mostly a bunch of physics students who came to laugh at him?

The Atheist Spy said...

"Ultraviolet Catastrophe" would be a great name for a rock band.

Seriously, though, I once went to a creaitonist's talk, and did by best to ask tough questions during the Q&A. The rest of the audience appeared to be entirely unaware of the fact that most of his "answers" could best be replied to with "That doesn't even make sense!" or "If you could show this in an experiment, you'd win the Nobel prize and shake the foundation of physics".

These people's jobs IS to evade questions; i.e. to answer them with things that you and I (and maybe they too) know don't make sense, or aren't verifiable since they don't make predictions, or would violate some very very basic physics... but that everyone else thinks "sounds pretty good". Unlike medicinal claims made in advertising, however, bogus claims about physics made during creationism talks are not subject to government regulation... When these people pretend that scientific models are as open to interpretation as Nietzsche's books, and when most people are dazzled by big words and unable to spot logical fallacies or incorrectly-used scientific terms, I'm tempted to conclude that this is hopeless. But we fight the endless fight, and do what we can to expose the nuts' nuttiness, and maybe we make a small difference to one person here or there and help them see the (en)light(enment). So I appreciate the work you put into this. Must've been fun, though.

IAMB said...

Nice Jon!

Pat told me you were going to go to that talk, but I didn't know you were going to write about it until PZ pointed the way.

Just beware of exposing yourself to too much concentrated lunacy at a time lest you wind up like me...


Torbjörn Larsson, OM said...

false postulates

Hmpf! I would very much like to know what he considers a "postulate", seeing that so little of even formal science is axiomatic, or how he judges it false as opposed to, say, falsified.

Statistical physics allow violations to the 2nd law of classical thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics allow violations to energy conservation. Are they then based on "false postulates"?

point particle postulate

As if. And how does he explains other QM applications outside particle theory, such as string theory?

Electric universe crackpot level.

Kelley R. said...

It completely blows my mind that a creationist would ever even acknowledge the existence of the magnetic anomalies along the mid-ocean spreading centers... The incredibly slow rate of plate motion calculated against the breadth of the anomalous "stripes" is massive evidence against a young Earth. This is especially damning when you consider that the speed of plate motion can hardly be contested since it is empirically proven by observing newly created ocean floor at the spreading centers themselves. ("Empirical" evidence being something these ID types always seem to be harping about. Do they even know what that means?)

(Obviously this isn't the most ludicrous thing he said, but I feel compelled to bat for the ol' ocean science home team...)

What a nut.