The Sun is Shrinking!!!

In case anyone thought you can’t find everything on the web, here’s the link for the creationist bulletin that I reference in today’s post: http://www.icr.org/article/165/. Wow, that’s a blast from my religious past.

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Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hypotheses

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about evolution, geologic time, and the origins of the universe. (Is that my Sun in Sagittarius calling?) This is intriguing, because in High School I was a committed Creation Scientist. Back in those days, they were honest enough to call themselves that. I asked for and received monthly bulletins from the Creation Science Research Institute, or some such group, run by Morris et al. It was the usual stuff–carbon dating is unreliable, there’s no transitional fossils, etc. One of the “proofs” sticks out in my mind, because it appeared to be testable science, not the usual “we hate evolution” stuff.

See, one of the things about science is that it tries to find a reasonable and natural explanation for things. The evolution of the eye, for example, or the evolution of religion. (It’s ironic that our ability to believe in God is also a product of evolution.) A member of Homo Sapiens can look at a group of finches on the Gallapagos islands and reason out how they changed over time. This is done by proposing a solution (a hypothesis) and then testing it. Darwin followed the genteel English hobby of pigeon breeding, so he knew how artificial selection worked. This was one piece of his experience that led him to infer natural selection.

The creationist argument that I’m referring to is: the Sun is shrinking at a known rate. If you reverse the film, the Sun is growing backwards in time. At a certain point, it is so big that it engulfs the orbit of the Earth. Therefore, the Earth can’t be as old as science says. And, furthermore, evolution is wrong, God created the world, etc.

This is quite a nice glimpse into the minds of creationists. They latch onto a fact (although that “fact” may be outdated, and may very well be disproved in the future), draw an inference or deduction, and say, Voila! God created the world.

The scientific mind reacts differently. When faced with the problem,”The Sun is shrinking…”, the scientist starts by questioning the “fact”. Is it really true that the Sun is shrinking, and if it is, is it shrinking at a known rate? Let’s assume that both of these are provisionally true. (From what I know about the life cycle of stars, it may be true: as the Sun uses up its fuel, it may be shrinking, so the point is at least reasonable.) The scientist might note that one question is: has the rate of shrinkage changed over time? The creationist bulletin wags its finger: Uh, uh, uh! it says, you evolutionist boys are the ones who said that natural processes occur at a regular rate, so play fair and don’t change your story midstream. (I think this is a strawman; I don’t think science says that ALL natural processes occur at the same rate over time.)

My point is that the scientist immediately begins to ask questions about the problem and starts to bring in prior knowledge, inferences and deductions. He or she wants to know the answer to the problem, whereas the creationist wants to say, Here’s a problem you can’t answer–therefore, the answer is God. In other words, we’re right back at the ancient use for gods: to fill in the gaps of knowledge. Don’t know what causes lightning? God. Don’t know why the Sun moves across the sky? Helios is driving his fiery chariot. It’s a non-answer that leaves the faithful feeling smug and leaves scientists re-assured that creationists are ignorant.

By the way, the creationists don’t seem to care about Mercury or Venus and when they would be engulfed by the Sun.

So, creationist hypotheses (the shrinking Sun, irreducible complexity) all fall down. Part of the problem is: how can you demonstrate that God (or the gods) created the world? It’s apples and oranges.

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment