Conservapedia:Counterexamples to an Old Earth

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Note: Conservapedia's counterexamples are bolded to make them more discernible from the general body of the text.

The main problem with these little statements is that they are simple assertions without citation or supporting evidence or even, in many cases, any grasp of reality. It is difficult to know how to rebut a claim that isn't even internally consistent.

Contents

[edit] Point-by-Point Refutation of Conservapedia's Counterexamples to an Old Earth

Conservapedian Counterexamples   Rational Rebuttal

[edit] History

"The oldest direct evidence of life -- written documents, clothing, remnants of civilizations, tree rings, etc. -- is no older than about 3000 B.C. and certainly younger than 4000 B.C., the approximate date of origin for the Earth based on a literal reading of the Bible."  

Tree ring dating sequences work perfectly back to 11,000 years ago, while clonal colonies of aspen in Colorado are just as old, and one clonal colony in Utah (known as Pando) is far older, with parts of the root system going back 80,000 years, and fossils (generally regarded even by Conservapedia as direct evidence for life) date back to several billion years ago.

[edit] Astronomy

"The moon is receding from the Earth at a rate[1] that would have placed it too close to the Earth merely a billion years ago, causing tidal catastrophes and other problems, and colliding with the Earth before that."   Accurate modeling of the dynamics of the Earth-Moon system over geologic time frames is extremely complex, and depends upon factors as variable as the distribution of continents on the Earth. Extrapolating linearly for such a system isn't just wrong, it's as plainly wrong as the predictions of Newtonian mechanics regarding the orbit of Mercury (which , incidentally, is exactly why those predictions were junked a century ago and replaced by the non-linear relativistic model).
"spiral galaxies appear to be young, and only implausible proposals of the existence of dark matter can reconcile with belief in an old universe"   This is mostly assertion of how "young" these galaxies are (they certainly don't look 6000 years old), and given the standard of physics education amongst Conservapedia's (serious) editors, they don't have much qualification to describe dark matter as "implausible". The use of dark matter as a theory to explain some of the features of the universe we previously couldn't explain isn't controversial, though it may yet turn out to be something else entirely. On the other hand, creationists have done little to no research or made any remotely plausible explanation as to why a recent creation of the universe would better explain our observations than "mysterious" "dark" "matter."
"The planetary orbits in the solar system - including Earth's - are unstable and unsustainable over the long periods claimed by Old Earth believers.[2][3]"   The sources Conservapedia refer to claim that 5 billion years into the future, there's a 1% chance that Mercury's orbit will became so excentric that it disrupts the orbit of either Venus, and in rare cases also the Jovian planets. 5 billion years of future plus 4.5 billion years of past gives 9.5 billion years of vast playground for "Old Earth creationists" to theorize almost anything. About 5.5 billion years the sun will become a red giant anyways, according to "Old Earth creationists", "Big Bang Evolutionists" and "Relativists". This also reveals a glaring ignorance of the pertinent mathematics on the author's part - no surprise there - and specifically of important quantities in chaos theory like Lyapunov time - a period of time, dependent on the particular system's other properties, over which any dynamical system, including the orbits of the planets in our solar system, becomes chaotic (not strictly random, but unpredictable to such a degree as to be indistinguishable from randomness).
"At least one spiral galaxy spins in the direction opposite to the spin of its tail, suggesting an age too young to have generated the tail and contradicting the theory that the tails of spiral galaxies were formed over a long period of time.[4]"   The source doesn't claim that the age is young. As far as galaxy dynamics concerns, the "spin" direction could have been established say 10 billion years ago.

The source selection is just laughably pathetic, so we should consider helping Conservapedia by elevating the sourcing level from laughably pathetic to just lousy. An example of a young galaxy is WP:I Zwicky 18, which is newly formed, and a counterexample of galaxies all being formed early. Then we leave for the editors of Conservapedia to apply unorthodox logics, so that they from that prove that all galaxies are younger than say 6000 years. Maybe that's no trouble for them.

"The primary reaction in the Sun is the fusing of hydrogen to make helium, but the ratio of these remains too high for the Sun to have been burning for millions of years."   Don't worry folks, there's more than hydrogen left!The Sun has a mass of around Sun's 2 x 10^30 kilograms. The rate of fusion is around 4.28 x 10^9 kg/sec, thus the reaction could continue for around 3.5 x 10^18 seconds, which is only about 100 billion years! The Sun is only around 5 billion years old.

[edit] Geology

"the massive Great Lakes are receding in volume too rapidly to have existed a long time"   This is a straw man: nobody claims that the Great Lakes are as old as Earth; they are remnants left over from the most recent glaciation that covered the area on the order of 12k years ago. The vagueness of the claim makes it hard to know how to respond - what is 'a long time' in this context?

This further confuses the inductively reliable process uniformitarianism underlying modern science with the long-falsified Lyellian uniformitarianism of the earliest nineteenth-century geologists. The latter states that natural processes have always operated at the same rate as they do at present, upon which claim this 'counterexample' depends, while the former states that the mechanisms underlying natural proceses have always operated in essentially the same way as they do at present. This is a very big and very important difference which the author, like NephilimFree, evidently doesn't understand.

"freshwater lakes are known to be relatively young Ice Age theories were developed to try to explain this, but massive freshwater lakes exist even near the equator" [sic]   Freshwater lakes form and disappear on rapid geologic timescales; the puddles left behind after a rain represent an extreme version of this phenomenon. Any low spot will collect freshwater under the proper circumstances, and will become saline, or alkaline, or dry up, or get bigger, as conditions change. If the puddle on my driveway is only an hour old, does that make my driveway only an hour old as well?
"The Earth's magnetism is changing at too fast a rate for the Earth to be old. The Earth's magnetic field is weakening in strength by 5% every 100 years, from NASA. Exponential decay at that rate is not compatible with an old Earth, since it would have required the Earth's magnetic field to be impossibly large at the times postulated by old-Earth theory. "   This outright ignores the geological evidence of multiple magnetic field reversals over geologic time, and the modern theories of geomagnetism which predict that periods of field reversal are preceded by field weakening. We are overdue for a field reversal, and we are possibly in one of the periods of weakening that precedes the flip. We won't know for sure for another couple thousand years, though. For what it's worth, even with the weakening over the last century, the Earth's field is more than twice its average strength over the previous million years.
"the existence of inland saltwater lakes, such as Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake, suggest a recent global flood"   No, it evidences the fact that such lakes are endorheic: water does not leave them except by evaporation because water flows into them but not out, which results in a higher concentration of minerals. Salt flats and other evaporite mineral clusters (such as gypsum) around the world indicate that there have been many salt lakes throughout the world throughout its history which no longer exist
"the plentiful supply of high concentrations of underground well water, which would be expected based on familiar principles of entropy to dissipate over a long period of time"   Apparently they would have to dissipate because in Andyland is no known way for any water to ever get underground, because no water ever falls from the sky, and even if it did it would immediately bounce off and not soak in.
"The relative purity of underground well water, which should be a muddy slurry had millions of years of erosion taken place.   Breaking news, insoluble material suspended in water eventually settles if it is not disturbed. Again, they have failed to comprehend that erosion is part of the rock cycle - sediment eroded from one rock eventually becomes part of the sediment deposited in the formation of new rock.
"the lack of erosion between rock layers http://www.amazon.com/review/R1WTZL8GG4H9K0, http://www.knowthebible.net/id115.html"   Don't bother clicking on the reference links; they don't make cogent arguments. How would one define erosion between rock layers? This would seem to contradict a basic geological principle - superposition - that even Answers in Genesis claims to accept.
"earthquakes alter the Earth's rotation every century; extrapolating by orders of magnitude in time would have resulted in the occurrence of much larger earthquakes that would have destabilized the rotation A similar analysis may be performed for the likelihood of devastating collisions with meteors as time is extrapolated by orders of magnitude."   The farther back you go, the more violent the earthquakes/floods/meteors must have been, because why exactly?
"The interior of the earth is heated by decay of radioactive isotopes, which could not possibly still be persisting in sufficient quantities after 5 billion, or even half a billion, years. "   Radioactive isotopes in the Earth's core include Potassium 40 with a half life of 1.2 billion years, Uranium 238 with a half life of 4.468 billion years, Uranium 235 with a half life of 700 million years, Thorium 232 with a half life of 14 billion years, more than 3 times the age of the Earth!...enough said. Even Lord Kelvin, a creationist, calculated long before the radioactive heating mechanism was understood that the Earth was, at a bare minimum, tens of millions of years old, and those calculations assumed that the Earth's core was not continuously heated as we now know that it is.
"Fresh tracks of motion by stationary rocks are still visible in some areas, which has baffled Old Earth scientists for more than 60 years."   Andy, read what you've written...fresh tracks of motion...that is WHY they're still visible you moron! If you saw some footprints in the mud would you assume that the world has existed only so long as they have?

[edit] Biology

"The intelligence of humans is rapidly declining, whether measured by SAT scores,[SAT scores have been rapidly decreasing in real terms.] music, personal letters,[E.g., Civil War letters.] quality of political debates [E.g., contrast the Lincoln-Douglas debates with debates today.], the quality of news articles, [The Federalist was written for the newspaper audience in the late 1780s, but is far too intellectual for newspapers today.] or any other measure. "   Intelligence is a tricky concept to quantify at the best of times. The influence of changes to SAT tests and marking will have a far greater effect than any change in human intelligence. The other examples are quite ridiculous since they are all highly subjective making any meaningful quantification, not to mention consistent quantification for the purposes of comparison, an impossibility. It should also be noted that none of these claims are actually cited, the references are simply a short sentence at the bottom of the page, as can be seen in italics. The most widely accepted means of quantifying intelligence (but by no means a wholly satisfactory one) is an IQ test. Studies have actually shown that the mean IQ has been increasing. [5]

In any case, Andy's historical examples date from a time when considerably less of the population was literate than today - his claims, even if they were true, would only prove how important it is to recognize sampling biases - specifically survivorship bias and selection bias.

"The age of onset of sexual maturity is rapidly changing, suggesting that life is in a short-term rather than long-term equilibrium [6]"   The referenced article actually states that "The change has primarily affected year classes 1950 and later" [7], so unless CP is arguing that the earth was created in 1950, their argument, if one can call it that, is short-lived. The article suggests that "the reduction in median age at maturity is primarily a compensatory response to the reduced stock size" [8]. So once again they have failed to comprehend that the rates of certain process can actually vary over time. In humans, earlier onset of menarche has long been known to be linked to improvements in nutrition and subsequent increases in body fat percentage, with some suggestions that it has also been hastened by environmental exposure to estrogen-like compounds. Andy's citation points to earlier sexual maturity in Atlantic cod, which have been fished so heavily that humans have selectively bred the cod to reproduce as early as possible, because the cod lifespan has been driven lower and lower by our intervention. Anyway, what is meant by a short-term equilibrium vs. a long-term equilibrium? Rapid responses to changes in selection pressure would seem to indicate a robust variability in the population which would lead to greater longterm survival rather than stagnation. Does the rapid development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria suggest that bacteria are in a short-term equilibrium?
"the high observed rate of extinctions of species and harmful genetic mutations suggest a relatively short period for the existence of life rather than a long one."   The number of extinct species would seem to be more of a problem for young-earth theories rather than old-earth ones, since the sheer amount of biomass suggested by the fossil record (all those megamegatons of extinct trilobites and crinoids and forams and diatoms) can't have all been alive within the last 6000 years; the oceans would need to have been an opaque soup of life and the land a shoulder-to-shoulder traffic jam to account for all those bones. There's no reason that speciation and extinction must be perfectly balanced at all times. If harmful mutations crop up frequently but are frequently culled from the population, how does that then suggest that life has not existed for a long time? Most of the really severe mutations end up in miscarriage before we ever see their results, so our view of 'harmful genetic mutations' is affected by survivor bias.

Considering how many species have recently become threatened, endangered or extinct (pandas, pangolins, gorillas, rhinos, elephants and the dodo all come to mind) as a direct result of human activity like bushmeat hunting in Africa, the present rate of extinctions only speaks to how much damage humans can do when they act without adequate consideration of the consequences.

"the age of onset of cancer is markedly decreasing, suggesting rapid changes inconsistent with an alleged long existence to life"   One abstract referring to familial prostate cancer [9], which shows statistically that the trend to earlier diagnosis over time can't be shown to be anything other than the result of more widespread PSA testing, apparently trumps several other studies that show no generational progression. Furthermore, studies of other cancers across generations show no changes in age of onset, or show that some cancers are now found in older rather than younger patients. This is another great example of Andy reading some tidbit and immediately generalizing it to all situations over all time, and only provides further evidence of his gross failure to comprehend even the most basic aspects of statistics.
"the oldest direct evidence of life -- written documents, remnants of civilizations, tree rings, etc. -- is no older than about 3000 B.C."   I don't remember anything that happened before about, say, 1975, so clearly all arguments that the the world is older than that are baseless speculation. We will ignore the evidence of clonal trees that are collectively upwards of 10k years old, even though the individual trees are younger, and the fact that clearly human constructs like burial mounds (interestingly containing mummified cats, of all things) date back much further than the 6,000 years CP claims. We will also ignore the dendrochronology that goes back farther than that. Heck, the existence of even a single tree that was alive from at least 2900 BC until 1962 is an intractable problem for young-earth flood believers, who place the flood at around 2300 BC.
"the number of purely bred dogs declines over time as dogs naturally crossbreed; a short period of time is suggested by the fact that there are over 100 different breeds of dog thriving today"   WTF? So is the number of purebred lines supposed to be less than in the past? A cursory review of the American Kennel Club website shows that the number of breeds recognized there has risen over time rather than falling. As for the number of dog breeds quoted, try multiplying it by a factor of about 50, since the vast majority of breeds aren't recognized by the AKC or any other registry.

The author also seems painfully ignorant of the fact that it's possible to create new breeds. Breeders have done this many times over the centuries and they continue to do so today.

"New brainfarts here"  


Just try to form a coherent rebuttal to incoherent ideas. I dare you.

[edit] References

  1. Measuring the Moon's Distance Apollo Laser Ranging Experiments Yield Results by Fred Espenak, GSFC Planetary Systems Laboratory (LPI Bulletin, No. 72, August, 1994).
  2. Newsweek: "An embarrassing little secret of astronomy ....". (Newsweek has inexplicably taken down its article, but it is quoted by Google and other links)
  3. Existence of collisional trajectories of Mercury, Mars and Venus with the Earth by J. Laskar & M. Gastineau, Nature 459, 817-819 (11 June 2009). Believers in an Old Earth speculate that the instability would not result in problems in a billion years, but other computer simulations could be developed to demonstrate multi-body instability for the solar system far more recent than that.
  4. "Hubble Shows Galaxy Rotating In The Wrong Direction"
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4DFX41H-1&_user=10&_coverDate=01%2F01%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1382590003&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=2348bd8724ba1551231f7974c058c965
  6. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/46/3/235
  7. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/46/3/235
  8. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/46/3/235
  9. ???
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