A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting and hunting fossils with a geological engineer in the mountains of Montana. Besides wearing me out on the hike (He is ten years my senior.), we had a vigorous and extended conversation about the geological record. In the process, I asked him a question that I have never heard anyone else ask, and for which I have never gotten a satisfactory long-age answer: The conversation went something like this: He was pointing and speaking of the earth layers around us, and I asked, "Where did the dirt come from?" He didn’t know what I meant, so I pointed out, "There are layers of fossils one on top of another. Once the lower layer was laid down, where did the dirt come from for the subsequent layers?" He went into an extended explanation of tectonic plate movement and subduction. (This is a good example of an argument fallacy called Ignoratio elenchi.) I replied, "I have no problem with the idea that earth’s plates move or that one may move underneath or on top of another, but I’m talking about sedimentary layers. If approximately 70-75% of our land surfaces are covered with sedimentary rock and dirt, the second, and all subsequent layers, could not possibly come from the remaining 25-30% of surface." He explained the lifting and erosion cycle, and that some mountains of the world are documented as still getting higher. "Yes, I agree that uplift and erosion take place today simultaneously, and that some land is rising. But my question is, why are trilobites in the bottom layers and dinosaurs are buried on top of them? The dinosaur dirt must have been laid down from the top onto the trilobite dirt, not from the bottom up. If one layer was laid down, and then millions of years later another layer was laid down without disturbing the dirt already in place, where did the new dirt come from–and the layer on top of that and on top of that?" Our conversation extended through the hour decent on gravel roads, but I eventually allowed him to change the subject without a satisfactory answer. His last answer was, "It came from the sides." This of course ignores the observation, that there are no "sides." To date the only explanation that makes since to me is that all the dirt must all have been in suspension at the same time and gradually settled apart, perhaps taking weeks or months, not millions of years. If any reader of this site has a millions-of-years explanation to offer for where the dirt came from, please offer it. Thanks.
Archive for October, 2007
The Oct 9, 2007 issue of the New York Times discussed in its Science section a sociological phenomenon called "cascading." Author John Tierney here introduces me to a new term, but it beautifully describes an experience I had as a Boy Scout. Though that was so many years ago, it still burns in my memory that I was so taken in. It was over a merit badge, and it has to do with estimating distances. We were taught a technique for estimating, and then asked to apply the technique for the width of a stream we could not cross. The scout master gave the same assignment to about five of us boys at one time and then went down the row asking our answers. I was the last boy, and as I heard each boy ahead of me agree with the first, I concluded that my answer, far different from theirs, must be wrong. By the time the pointed finger of scout master got to me, I agreed with the answer of all the others. Then he scratched his head with that finger and said, "That’s amazing: Every one of you got it wrong!" He announced the right answer, and it was very close to the one I had swallowed. Too late to get that badge now!
The specific examples given in the article dealt with health, but if the phenomenon is true in one area of science, we should not close our eyes to its reach in all aspects of science. (Life in general, for that matter, but the impact would be so much more consequential in science.) In the early pages of Icons of Evolution, Jonathan Wells talks of how his training as an embryologist brought him to the realization that the evolutionary parallel argued for embryonic development was flawed, but he assumed that the
evidence in all other fields must be robust. After all: everyone knew it was true. I think the last paragraph of Mr. Tierney’s article could well be applied here:
“’This is a matter,’ he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical [make that scientific] importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.’ Or a cascade.”
I heard it again from another evolutionist: "We must keep body, mind and spirit separate. All three have their place, but distinct from each other." Others distinguish only two categories, saying "Faith and Science" must remain in distinct domains. What I really find disturbing, is when so-called Christians say it. They hope to avoid conflict, but do not realize that they have bought into a line from atheism. If these two can be separated with no affect, it is only because one is real and the other is not. Guess which one the atheists think is not real. You can always divorce yourself from considering an unreal belief, but you cannot separate reality into two non-overlapping parts. It was refreshing to hear both parties in the Dawkins-Lennox"God Delusion" Debate state that NOMA is not even a consideration. (Please note that the creator and number one proponent of NOMA is an atheist.) Non-Overlapping Magisteria only exists in concept, and the two minds that came against each other that evening could agree on that if nothing else. Both agreed that science infringes upon matters of faith and that faith infringes upon matters of science. That is why Dawkins can justify his rejection of God based on science, and it is why Lennox can justify his faith in God based on science. The real delusion is upon Christians who would rather have peace than truth.
Many areas of academic freedom (besides the evolution debate) are hamstrung by political correctness. Another example may well be that University of Virginia Professor Patrick J. Michaels is not able to continue receiving funding for the academic position of state climatologist as long as he uses this position to disagree with the governor about global warming. According to the Washington Post, this has no apparent connection with Michaels’ evidence, just which side of the fence his conclusions fall on.
Dawkins: “Atheism is not a faith!”
Lennox: “Of course it is! You believe in it, don’t you?”
The “God Delusion” Debate; Alys Stephens Center, Birmingham, AL; October 3, 2007.
Knowing that the two debaters hail from the same university (Oxford), I expected the “debate” to have all the authenticity of Saturday night wrestling. I was wrong. Apparently this was their first debate with each other, in fact their first meeting. With a book title like
The God Delusion, I expected Dawkins to be arrogant. Wrong again! Though he was bold in his opinions, he came across to me as gracious and even humble at times. If there was any imbalance in the debate, I am aware of only one occasion: At one time Judge Bill Pryor, acting as moderator, called time on John Lennox. Lennox did not stop, and Prier allowed him to continue. Immediately afterwards Prier called time on Richard Dawkins, who stopped immediately, sacrificing his point. The debate was spontaneous yet well focused, with obvious points of passion. I made notes as best I could, but I will be studying it again when I
get the DVD.
By the time I heard about the
debate at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center,
Oct 3, the tickets were sold out. That’s 1300 seats, weeks ahead of time, at
$30, $40, and $50 each. That says something about the importance of this issue
to Americans. There is no way around it. The passionate pushers of evolution are atheists, and they make evolution a religious issue, even if the opponents do not.