Creationists infiltrate geology meeting

Shoot me: I wasn’t aware of the Skepticblog, which is run by six people who include Steve Novella, paleobiologist Don Prothero, and Michael Shermer, but I’ll be paying attention to it from now on.

Two days ago, Don Prothero filed a report on how creationists had invaded the 2010 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA), including running an entire field trip in Colorado on which young-earth creationists, while identifying various formations as the results of “sudden deposition,” never identified their real agenda.  There were also some talks by creationists, including a bizarre presentation by Marcus Ross of Liberty University (a tipoff) on Cretaceous mosasaurs, here described by Prothero’s colleage Steve Newton:

Because most of the audience probably did not know Ross’ background, it must have been puzzling to them when the first question following Ross’ talk challenged him on how he could “harmonize this work with [his] belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth.” (This question came from University of Florida geology professor Joe Meert, who bloggedabout the exchange.)

Ross answered the question by saying that for a scientific meeting such as GSA, he thought in a “framework” of standard science; but for a creationist audience, he said, he used a creationist framework. Judging from the reaction of the audience, this answer caused more confusion than enlightenment. Ross pointed out that nothing in his presentation involved Young-Earth Creationism. But he then volunteered that he was indeed a Young-Earth Creationist.

It was a strange moment for the audience. It was the last talk of the session, and as everyone migrated into the hallway, several people asked me what had just happened, as if they had misheard the exchange.

The problem is that although these folks should be given the right to talk at meetings so long as they adhere to conventional scientific standards (and they do, although it’s a lie), they can then boast about how their “science” has been presented at important meetings.  As Prothero notes:

Sadly, the real problem here is that YEC “geologists” come back from this meeting falsely bragging that their “research” was enthusiastically received, and that they “converted” a lot of people to their unscientific views. As Newton pointed out, they will crow in their publicity that they are attending regular professional meetings and presenting their research successfully. For those who don’t know any better, it sounds to the YEC audience like they are conventional geologists doing real research and that they deserve to be taken seriously as geologists—even though every aspect of their geology is patently false (see Chapter 3 in my 2007 Evolution book). And so, once more the dishonesty of the YEC takes advantage of the openness and freedom of the scientific community to exploit it to their own ends, and abuse the privilege of open communication to push anti-scientific nonsense on the general population that doesn’t know the difference.

The good news is that the latest meetings don’t appear to have included stealth creationists—or at least they didn’t run any field trips.

41 Comments

  1. Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    sbscrb

  2. Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Just reading through some of the blogs this article links to.

    Isn’t it funny that the mere existence of sites like creationwiki and conservapedia shows that the majority view among scientists etc does not agree with theirs. Especially considering that wiki’s are editable by anyone.

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Creationists are always being suppressed, y’know. Except when they aren’t, in which case they are accepted enthusiastically.

      • Microraptor
        Posted October 28, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Help, help! I’m being repressed!

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Nethier conservapedia nor creationwiki are editable by anyone. Creationwiki demands that you send them an email to join, and do not allow apposing viewpoints to their own. They consiquentially have an exxedingly small cadre of active uses, all of which are creationists.
      Conservapedia, while technically more open, has many of the same problems. The internal dynamics of the site means that the more deranged the user (eg “User:Conservative”) the more likely they are to stay. Thus, they act as an attractant to crazy people – you’ll get banned for showing support of relativity for goodness sake…

  3. Scryptic
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Having once been a believer, I understand self-delusion. What I don’t understand is this notion of having a “standard science framework” and a “creationist framework”. It’s as if they know the truth, but still choose to proffer nonsense. I’m guessing it must still be some form of self-delusion? I really don’t know.

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      Read the post ~ it is all explained in the 2nd Prothero quote. They are YEC, but in temporary scientific ‘stealth mode’ to enable them to go back to the flock & bleat about their success. They are liars for Jesus.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    It might be well to remember the “doctrinal statement” that Liberty U faculty (and students?) must pledge affirmation to. I was unaware (and astonished) to learn that this was a fact of life @LU after an LU faculty member, whose name I have forgotten, enlightened us about this on this forum at least a year ago (do you still follow the website? Did they detect that you posted here and fire you?). It basically forces you to lie if you come across anything that deviates from the foregone conclusions. But, as we learned, if one is creative in interpreting the statement, one can maintain one’s professional ethics.

    Conclusion: some creationists are more creative than others.

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      It’s one of the reasons intelligent people don’t always become non-believers. Sometimes they’re just too good at finding excuses to continue believing what they want.

  5. Rudi
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Let me get this straight – these people are studying real geological evidence first-hand, but don’t actually think this evidence exists? How is that even possible?

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      Marvel at the power of cognitive dissonance!

    • abb3w
      Posted October 28, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Not quite; they just don’t think the nature of the evidence compels them to reject the biblically Young-Earth as a premise, since they can interpret the data in a way that’s (at least resembling) consistent with that premise.

      Or in other word, they believe there’s evidence, but they don’t believe there’s compelling evidence.

      • articulett
        Posted October 28, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Magical beings (such as gods and demons) can make a young earth look old if they want to. Clever creationists can see through the trickery.

        So can schizophrenics and those who believe we are in a matrix.

        Now, if only they can agree upon a coherent explanation as to why anyone would go through such extensive means to trick humans…

  6. Dominic
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Can someone explain to me what strange views they have of that means radioactive decay does not happen? Or do they say their go created everything with the appearance of age to ‘test’ humans?
    I really do despise creationists – sorry.

    • Notagod
      Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard the christians state that although radioactive decay is occurring at a constant rate today, that doesn’t mean that the christian gods couldn’t have created a period when radioactive decay far exceeded the current steady rate to give the appearance of age and to further test the faith of the chosen christian who has been selected to witness the poof to life of a mostly (completely?) eaten zombie.

      • raven
        Posted October 28, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        Fundie xians will say anthing, no matter how stupid or dishonest.

        Sometimes they claim radioactive decay was faster in the recent past, making radioactive decay dates appear much older than they really are.

        1. This means their god is a monster trying to fool his ants in their ant farm. The fundies don’t have a problem with monstrous gods. An evil religion deserves an evil god or two.

        2. If those rates of decay were much faster in the past, the earth would have melted down into a molten ball of slag. What keeps volcanoes and plate tectonics going is radioactive decay of the entire earth producing enough heat to melt most of it.

        • Posted October 28, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

          Merci!

        • Posted October 28, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          What keeps volcanoes and plate tectonics going is radioactive decay

          I’m sure all the flood water kept the surface cool while the greater heat caused the single continent of Noah’s time to split into the current configuration. Then the water evaporated and took away the excess heat.

          See? Perfectly reasonable. I’m sure the math works out, but I’m not a genius like Ken Ham.

          • Posted October 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            But the heat would have gone into the atmosphere with it, & that is one bleedin’ humungous amount of water (salty or fresh???) approx.25,000 feet of depth, that would have caused huge global warming. Perhaps this is illustrative of the hot air creationists produce!

        • Kirth Gersen
          Posted October 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          @ raven — exactly so. As a geologist, I get “challenged” by this stuff all the time. I generally take this approach: “Assume the rates have indeed changed over time. Find 2 rocks of different ages, dated using two different methods. Solve for the rate of change of decay rate over time that would yield the apparent dates on them.” When they realize that the math can’t work, they generally resort to complaining about “margin of error,” whereupon I point out that +/- 10,000 years in 1,000,000,000 represents accuracy to within 0.001%.

  7. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Creos, on havoc, let slip the dogs of cultural war.

    That this foul deed shall smell on the topic of earth

    With carrion men, groaning for burial.

    • Dermot C
      Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      What God-shaped hole within the breast
      Could raise a mighty Everest?
      Would Odin, Allah, heaven-blessed?
      Might Zeus, Osiris and the rest?

      What shaman could hallucinate
      be-drugged, a universe as great,
      which vicar, priest or dean curate
      museums built to elevate?

      What ignorance did Newton learn?
      Which innocent did Darwin burn?
      What tree of knowledge did they spurn,
      to teach the way the heavens turn?

      What plagiarist usurps that power?
      What grand impostor guards the bower?
      What fruit do Popes and gods devour?
      Who pulls the petal from the flower?

      • gr8hands
        Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        “What ignorance did Newton learn?” Well . . . he studied/wrote a great deal about alchemy, and extensively studied the bible — clearly ignorance there.

        That aside, I really loved this poem!

        • Dermot C
          Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          Yes, I know, but: “Newton” scans; “Einstein” doesn’t!

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      The tusks, that clashed in mighty brawls
      Of Mastodons, are billiard balls;
      The sword of Charlemagne the Just
      Is Ferric Oxide (known as rust);
      Great Caesar’s bust is on the shelf,
      And I don’t feel so well myself.

  8. Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Two things:

    1. Why are there sometimes comments from people, regular posters here, which simply say “subscribe”? I’m puzzled.

    2. This Ross fellow’s head must be an “interesting” place to be inside. On the one hand the Earth is 6,000 years old, on the other it’s billions. How does he manage to keep sane?

    3. (I lied about two things!) The Bible, as a source or ageing the planet, cannot possibly work.

    The current edition was put together by a load of men (probably) at the Council of Nicea/Trent or whatever. We know that certain “gospels” that didn’t portray JC in a good light were excluded and ordered to be destroyed etc.

    So given the above, surely there are bits missing from the bible which means, it simply cannot be used to date the Earth in any way shape or form.

    Mind you, the YECs I see on street corners don’t want to know. They have a “personal relationship with Jesus” and as such, cannot possibly be wrong.

    And, they tell me, you cannot date anything using Carbon 12! (I’m sure it’s Carbon 14 that decays and 12 is stable – but why let facts get in the way of a good myth!)

    Cheers,
    Norm.

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      To get email notifications without commenting on the post

      • Posted October 28, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Thanks.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 29, 2011 at 4:01 am | Permalink

        & in particular, to follow subsequent comments after you’ve already read through the first 100 or so.

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      How does he manage to keep sane?

      Then again, maybe he didn’t manage it after all.

  9. Posted October 28, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    This is somewhat old news, but still a fascinating topic.

    Skepticblog is usually worth following. Just keep in mind that Michael Schermer can’t always keep his libertarianism out of his skepticism, while Daniel Loxton will sometimes try and argue that atheism should stay out of skepticism. But I suppose that can also provide good blog fodder for this site.

    • Keith
      Posted October 28, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Shermer erodes his credibility whenever he lets his political ideology cloud his thinking. Jon Stewart did a nice job exposing how juvenile the Libertarian philosophy is with his interview with Judge Napolitano:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/28/jon-stewart-andrew-napolitano_n_1063521.html

      • Microraptor
        Posted October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Rather like Penn Jillette in that respect- Penn doesn’t seem to get that his continued insistence that Anthropological Global Warming isn’t real makes him look just like the people he’s mocking on other subjects like evolution.

        You know, I just got done reading Shermer’s book on ID vs Evolution and I have to say, it was flat out the worst book on the subject I’ve ever read. I strongly suspect Shermer’s lack of scientific training to be the reason.

  10. SteveF
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I tried to post this comment over there but the spam filter didn’t like it and my edited version is stuck in the mod queue so I thought I’d post it here as well.

    The YECs have been doing a lot of work on the Coconino in recent years. One of their number, Paul Garner has a blog and provided a series of reports on their most recent field season on the Coconino (and other formations in the region):

    http://thenewcreationism.wordpress.com/2010/07/

    They seem to be trying to expand upon this and look at Permian sandstones in general. They’ve recently started work in Scotland:

    http://thenewcreationism.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/notes-from-the-field-the-permian-sandstones-of-scotland/

    Personally I say good luck to them. Unlike the ID creationist crowd, at the YECs are prepared to put their money where their mouths are and do some actual research (though I suppose you could say that the Biologic Institute are starting to do so now). Furthermore, according to Garner, they aren’t just planning on publishing in YEC journals, but the mainstream geological literature (they wouldn’t be the first – various Loma Linda people have done so, most recently on whale preservation in Peru in Geology, a very prestigious journal). If they find something out that’s new and interesting then they should be congratulated.

    Personally, this isn’t my area of expertise so I’m not qualified to evaluate their findings so far (though I could probably dig out some aeolian sedimentation textbooks that I have somewhere, from years ago). Their arguments seem to rely heavily on some grain size data and the presence of dolomite, though there aren’t many details. See here, from the 2009 meeting:

    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009AM/finalprogram/abstract_159012.htm

    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009AM/finalprogram/abstract_161247.htm

    They then expanded on this in the 2010 meeting, with some modern comparative data:

    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2010AM/finalprogram/abstract_180789.htm

    and more work on texture and dolomites:

    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2010AM/finalprogram/abstract_178992.htm

    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2010AM/finalprogram/abstract_180774.htm

    Their findings look interesting, to me as a none expert at least. I know there was a debate a few decades ago on the depositional environment of the Coconino, with some workers favouring sub-aqueous conditions. This was then resolved in favour of an aeolian setting. If the YECs alter this then they’ve done a service to science and it’s not as though our conventional view of earth history can’t stand some deposits being interpreted as water deposited.

    On the subject of the fieldtrip that they led, their contribution to the GSA Field Guide can be read here:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YObycrU2JdgC&oi=fnd&pg=PA77&dq=Garden+of+the+Gods+Colorado+%2B+geology&ots=WNYnaC_GTK&sig=Rwdz2U9QAifHmSMrg7Jm4hrmcC8#v=onepage&q=Garden%20of%20the%20Gods%20Colorado%20%2B%20geology&f=false

    Apparently, this was the end result of the trip (I’m taking this quote with a pinch of salt myself):

    “The experts were skeptical,” said Whitmore, “but in the end, they conceded that the rocks we examined were deposited quickly and were deposited in water. We let the data speak for itself.”

    http://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Public-Relations/CampusNews/2011/Cedarville-Trip-Shape-Sandstone-Shapes-Testimony.aspx

    • Aquaria
      Posted October 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      I went to the Cedarville site. They’re full of shit:

      “The experts were skeptical,” said Whitmore, “but in the end, they conceded that the rocks we examined were deposited quickly and were deposited in water.”

      They don’t list one single name. They just assert this, and think that’s enough to make their point.

      The only point it makes is that they’re dishonest scumbags. They would have been tooting the names of all these supposed scientists if any had said it. That’s what these creeps do.

      NAMES, or STFU.

      • Penman
        Posted October 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        I think we’re also missing the bigger picture:

        The goal is to make actual geological facts “debatable” or “suspect,” just as with evolution, AGW, etc.

        I’m grading a bunch of freshman comp essays now about an article arguing that evolution should be taught in K-12 science.

        You would not believe (well, y’all would) how many of my smart students are perfectly fine with the “teach the controversy” approach. It’s so fair-minded, after all!

        Anyway, the goal is for YECers to get scientific cred to muddy the waters enough to that we have to “teach the controversy.”

        If you’re looking at their “researched” minutiae, they’re already winning.

  11. Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Amazing story about the young earth geologist, but I am not surprised. He only lets on he is a creationist because of family, church, and social pressures. Intellectually he is not. I suspect that about half of all church goers don’t believe the literal bible but have no way out of their dilemma. Maybe someday the circumstances will change and they will be able to change labels. In the meantime the geologist’s little heresy eats away at all those who know and love him. He is undermining the true believers rather than promoting them.

  12. NelsonMuntz
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Jesus must really get off when Christians lie for him.

  13. Whateverman
    Posted October 29, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I say let them attend and present their ideas (assuming they follow the rules like everyone else). “Creation Science” exists in a tiny bubble, hiding from the scrutiny of people who know better. The more they try to fit in with the rest of the scientific establishment, the more authoritatively they’ll be shot down.

    Really, if they’re right, I actually want to know about it. Let them try to prove their case to their peers (<– ha).

    • Posted October 29, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Irrelevant. It’s not a case of letting them attend as no one is actively excluding them. Your other point indicates you haven’t understood what’s going on. They have no interest in proving anything to their geology peers.

      QUOTE:

      Sadly, the real problem here is that YEC “geologists” come back from this meeting falsely bragging that their “research” was enthusiastically received, and that they “converted” a lot of people to their unscientific views. As Newton pointed out, they will crow in their publicity that they are attending regular professional meetings and presenting their research successfully. For those who don’t know any better, it sounds to the YEC audience like they are conventional geologists doing real research and that they deserve to be taken seriously as geologists—even though every aspect of their geology is patently false

  14. the word of me
    Posted October 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    “Once more the dishonesty of the YEC takes advantage of the openness and freedom of the scientific community to exploit it to their own ends, and abuse the privilege of open communication to push anti-scientific nonsense on the general population that doesn’t know the difference.”

    This is standard operating procedure for the entire religious community now…they ALL lie for Jesus.


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