Saturday, September 27, 2008

My creationist beliefs

This is a response to a blog post on, asking creationists questions about exactly what they believe and why.

Before I answer your questions, I have some things to point out:

A. I can never convince anyone that I'm right or they're wrong. That's God's job. My goal is just to defend/explain my beliefs in such a way that you *might* actually be led to trust in our God. The choice is ultimately up to you.

B. You mention that all creationists will reject the evolution "into other species through means of natural selection". That's not necessarily true. I have no problem whatsoever with the idea of natural selection. It's hard to argue with the idea that unfit organisms will die in the wrong environment. And it is also quite logical to say that there may be some variations caused by environmental differences over time. I have no problem with natural selection causing new species as long as they are similar. It's when you go from a bacteria to frog that I have problems. Lion to tiger? It's still a big cat. Nothing too dramatic has changed - just some sizes, coat patterns, etc. It didn't grow wings or anything.

C. I do not want to give the impression that I speak for all creationists. The previous poster somewhat did and some could be offended. I do think that many will share my views, but I realize that there are multiple creationist branches, some of which will disagree.D. When I refer to evolution, I typically mean not just biological evolution, but also old-earth geology, big bang cosmology, etc.

OK, so now answers to your questions:


1. How old is the earth (roughly)?

Approximately 6,000 years old. This value is obtained primarily from the geneologies outright given in the Bible. Though there's a little ambiguity involved, I don't think you can add much to it. Maybe 7,000 years. (Creationist sites I look at usually say 6,000-10,000.)

And I do NOT agree with the previous poster who stated that "the creationist stance, though, is that these items were created as being aged (God created a “mature” planet and universe)." That may be his opinion, but it is not "the" creationist stance. There are multiple groups with different views. Mine is that the science is being applied wrong due to wrong presuppositions. When applied through a different worldview the results will turn out very differently.

2. And how old is the universe?

Same. Plus or minus up to four days depending on the exact definitions of "universe" and "earth" used.

3. How much have you yourself read or studied the Theory of Evolution?

Actually, I have a pretty good knowledge of the theory of evolution.Although I have not done extensive reading by choice on evolution, I have done a lot of creation reading, and most of it is at least somewhat reliable. So evolutionary ideas get picked up along the way.Additionally, I have been in the public school system for four years of high school. I am now in a secular university being further indoctrinated with evolutionary ideas. I went through a dinosaur phase a few years back. There's not that much creationist literature on the topic so you wind up memorizing Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous if nothing else.I'm quite interested in particle, relativistic, and quantum physics. Here it's more big bang/cosmology ideas, but these go hand in hand with evolution.Overall, I'd say that I actually have a better idea of what scientists believe regarding the universe, earth, and life than a good chunk of the population. It's not perfect, and is biased toward creationist literature, but I am prepared to discuss the matter with knowledge of the evolutionary model.

4. Of that reading/studying (if any), how much was reading or studying the works of evolutionary biologists or others who accept evolution as valid (such as Charles Darwin, Steven J Gould, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, etc) as opposed to reading anti-evolution sources (such as the Discovery Institute)?
I basically combined that into #3. As biology is not a topic of interest to me, I haven't actually read any of the famous people mentioned. But neither does that mean I am ignorant of the ideas presented.

5. What is the BEST evidence in your opinion that supports the idea of creation? I’m not asking here for “holes” that you feel exist in evolution, but for specific evidence that positively supports creationism.

Interesting question. It would fundamentally be the belief that we have an eyewitness account (given via Moses) of the creation of the universe from Someone who I'd consider a very, very reliable source.

Leaving Biblical accounts aside, it would be one of the following:
the sheer improbability of life and evolution by chance
the diversity/creativity seen in the universe
the mere existence of something rather than nothing
(and the knowledge of the issues with secular theories)

6.What would it take to convince you that evolution is the means by which all species were “created”, over the course of billions of years (this could be as simple as “god” telling you personally, or some amount of evidence you’d require)?

One of the following:
A. A theologicallly-sound demonstration of how the inspired account in Genesis works with evolutionary ideas
B. Discovering that the Bible is NOT inspired. This would rock my faith in a whole lot more than evolution vs. creation, and is unlikely.
C. God directly telling/showing how he created.


1. Why does the evidence of geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, etc all make it seems as if the earth and the universe are much older than your beliefs say they should be? Is it a “test” or “joke” of some sort from “god”?

I think science is currently looking at the evidence and coming up with a good theory to support it. However, the "nonscientific" evidence that young earth creationsts bring to the table (ie. Genesis) forces a completely different view of that evidence. Science does this sometimes. A decent comparison would be with the geo/helio-centric models of the solar system. Only a few known facts (like retrograde motion) didn't fit the geocentric model, but they did fit the heliocentric model. Another example is the orbit of Mercury. The established theory of gravity had to be modified by Einstein's relativity to give accurate predictions. In the same way, the evidence of Genesis doesn't nicely fit into evolutionary models and requires a different perspective entirely. So, no, I do not think it is a test from God. Rather, it is a failure on the part of science to examine all available evidence. Even without Bible passages, there are problems with evolutionary theory that must be addressed.

2. Why, if the earth is as young as you claim, would so many branches of science (geology, physics, astronomy, biology, cosmology, anthropology, chemistry, etc), and scientists claim otherwise? Are they intentionally lying, or deluded, or does “god” want to hide the truth from some people, or is there some other reason?

Mostly see #1. Beyond that I believe that science has blinded itself. Scientists are not conciously lying, or deluded, but in many cases they subconciously hide behind science to avoid what I believe the Bible teaches to be true - that there is a real, personal God who created the universe and is concerned about you and your actions, specifically your choices about Jesus Christ. It's a lot easier to pretend he doesn't exist than to confront the issue of needing salvation. Most of this is subconcious, and exceptions exist, but I believe that science has come up with evolution to avoid having to deal with God.

3. Other religions than yours (whatever yours may be) have different accounts of creation than your religion does, and these accounts are not based on science, or evolution, etc. Why do you think there are so many accounts of how things came to be that differ from your own view?

I believe that Satan is a real and powerful being in our universe and is out to trick and deceive. Call me intolerant if you want, but I believe all other religions are wrong and have been deceived.

4. What type of evidence would you require to accept the age of the earth and the universe as being billions of years old, as opposed to thousands of years old (as before, this could be as simple as “god” telling you personally, or some specific evidence you’d require)?

Exact same answer as for #6 above.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

This was intended to be a response to the comments on the article posted here:

However, I think I got it in too late and a few hours later it said that no new comments were being accepted. However, I'll put it here, because I think it's pretty good.

I am so disappointed with the quality of comments overall here. Most of them are just attacks on one group or another, and can be deeply offensive. I for one can understand both sides of this well. I am a possible physics major at the Colorado School of Mines, with extensive reading on particle and relativistic physics and quantum mechanics, and I am also a Christian who believes in a literal 6-day creation. Do the two perfectly fit each other? No. But they're not enemies by nature and it certainly isn't worth attacking each other over.

Believe it or not, there are a few scientific theories out there put out by creationists. Are they perfect? No. They have issues and will need to be revised.

However, that is the nature of science. Science strives to understand the universe through coming up with models to describe observations. If something doesn't fit an established theory, it could be wrong or need an update. Our theories fall in the same boat.

And by the way, everyone, a theory is not junk. In normal life we say things like "Well, my theory is that she won't show up on time". This is not what science means when it talks about theories. In science a theory describes a wide range of phenomena consistently. They are not flimsy things. Plate tectonics is a theory, and I hope that most would agree that it explains earthquakes pretty well. Gravity (as defined by Einstein) is also a theory. The last I checked it still worked.

To those who are labeled as Christian freaks: Evolution is a theory too. I believe that it has some major flaws, but it is still a theory, not a joke. We will do better by addressing its issues and having equally sound theories of our own than by just attacking it and calling its proponents wicked or athiests.

To the scientists: Please don't just assume that the Christians are quacks. Many are and believe just because their parents did. But that's not all of us. Some of us really can think for ourselves and see the evidence to support a different model.

Now, to the issue at hand, which used to be the Large Hadron Collider. As I mentioned, science operates off of theories which describe many things well most of the time. There is indeed a theory involved here. We're not just playing around with a lot of energy. The standard model and various other "less-established" theories, (String theory is one that has been mentioned earlier here. It is also one that can be considered to not be a true theory at this time.), have been consulted numerous times I'm sure to make sure this is safe.

Now you may be wondering, "If we already have a theory and know exactly what's going to happen, then why do it? And if we don't know what's going to happen, then couldn't we destroy ourselves?". That's a valid question, and the scientifically-informed need to be more tactful and polite in answering it.

There are multiple theories/variations involved, and they all differ from each other in some ways. However, overall they will be reasonably similar, just as Einstein's theory of gravity is more accurate than Newton's but will look almost identical in many cases. All of these theories will say that this is safe, but the experiments are still valuable because they will provide specific data to help determine which theories are more accurate in these cases.

The black hole question is one that has kept coming up. If we accidentally create a black hole, how do the scientists know we won't all die? First of all, let's be honest. They don't. Science cannot, by definition, EVER prove anything. If new evidence comes in it may have to modify its theory. So if we die, then the theory would need to be modified. However, the fact that similar circumstances happen frequently in nature and the fact that the theories are usually quite accurate, suggest that we won't die.

Second, if the theories are right, only a tiny black hole would be created. These are not the monsters you see in the universe eating stars. At small scales (and even large over enough time if I remember correctly), black holes do actually die. So called Hawking radiation is actually sent out of a black hole and over time can cause it to evaporate. With really really really tiny black holes like the ones that "might" be produced here, that would happen really fast.

Even if it didn't evaporate, it's been suggested that it would probably go through the earth. Someone seemed nervous at the idea of a black hole going to the center of the earth. That's not what we're talking about. It would literally travel right through the earth (like go from Switzerland through the middle to ....what? South America?) and then out the other side. In fact, this is happening all the time. As part of nuclear fusion (which probably did "not" create the universe and is understood), the sun sends out lots of small particles called "neutrinos". They have little to no mass (I think they recently found they do have a small mass.) and can travel in huge numbers right through solid matter without any problems. There are some (trillions I think) going through you right now without any problems. If a black hole were to do the same, it wouldn't bother me. They really are too tiny to worry about for a long, long time (billions of years) if ever.

There is a lot of energy involved, but it's not nearly the amount that most scientists think was unleashed in the big bang. Think about it: a fundamental assumption in science is that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Since we are using only a small fraction of the energy in the universe, we cannot create another big bang. We can, however, find out how matter behaves under conditions relatively similar to those proposed by the big bang.

In summary, scientists are not just playing with a lot of energy trying to recreate the big bang with no idea what will happen. No, they really have a pretty good idea what will happen. It's the details that will matter, in destroying or modifying theories. Perhaps an accidental discovery will be made. I'm glad the fear of an accidental discovery hasn't halted the rest of science. We have "enough" of an idea of what will happen that the odds are good that anything accidental would be useful, not cataclysmic.

Please, please, please, everyone, quit the religion/science attacks. They're not helping and just make both sides look stupid to the other.

Christian freaks like me: You're not converting anyone by citing the Bible. It's unltimately their choice to accept or reject God, and is where the earth came from "really" the issue here? I agree it's important, but not to the point that we make enemies from the ones we want to see the light. There is still some science and useful benefit from this, even if one goal of many involved scientists is to have more insight into the big bang. There are other things we can learn from the LHC. If nothing else, isn't having a deeper understanding of God's universe a commendable goal?

Science lovers (also like me): Try to give the Christians a break. Some of us may in fact be misinformed or even wrong, but either your theories or ours can be thrown out if the wrong new evidence comes into play.

I'll be looking forward to seeing results come out of the LHC starting in two days! Hope it works and that it will give helpful results for years to come!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Review: Larryboy and the Emperor of Envy

Cute book. Being a few years too old for it, I only needed thirty minutes to read the thing, but it was entertaining and made a point about jealousy/envy. I enjoyed how the evil henchmen, and I think others, kept addressing the reader specifically throughout the book. (Are you talking to me? No, I'm talking to the reader. Huh? What reader? Oh, never mind.) Entertaining, and probably not a bad book for younger audiences (8-12).

3.5 stars out of 5

Review: A Mathematical Mystery Tour: Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Cosmos

An interesting book. The author travels to see four different mathematicians in hopes of finding the answers to two questions:

Why is mathematics so incredibly useful in the natural sciences?
Is mathematics discovered, or is it created?

Overall, it was a readable book. However, it had moments that went quite philosophical and other moments when you really had to pay attention to really follow the math, or logic, that was being done.

Extensive math background isn't required, but you do have to understand what you're reading as you go along or you might be a bit more lost than you'd like.

Not quite my favorite math book, but not the worst either.

3.5 Stars out of 5

Review: Travelers Through Time #3: Back to the Day Lincoln Was Shot

Disclaimer: I am seventeen years old and so quite a bit older than this book's target audience. I often read books for younger kids, but my views will probably be different than those of your young ones. Take review with a grain of salt.

Second disclaimer: This book is the only one in the series that I have read. (It was a freebie from a summer reading program a few years back.) Perhaps reading the first two would have helped; perhaps not.

Third disclaimer: There are a few spoilers in here. I'll try not to give away too much though.

My overall impression wasn't the best. It certainly wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't one that I'd rant and rave over.

My first problem with the book was its version of morality. Evidently the kids had broken some rules in the previous book, and in this one they go ahead and steal the time machine from two of the kids' grandfather. There were no reprocussions to this. Instead, it was rationalized with an end-justifies-the-means mentality. After all, if stealing the invention could save Abraham Lincoln, isn't that a good thing? I don't think so. It's not that the kids are immoral but that they fail to take the moral stance.

The kids also lacked foresight and planning into their adventure into the past. They neglected to take along any food and decided to arrive in time in the middle of a busy street. Wise moves.

The issue of time travel is poorly dealt with. Perhaps it was better explained in earlier books in the series, but it sure wasn't here. Evidently their machine, TASC, needs a picture of the place they're going and reconstructs their molecules there. How does that work with the dates (which were entered seperately) you may ask? I have no idea. You would think that a picture from one date and a different input date would mess things up, but that wasn't approached. Maybe the picture they found just happened to have been taken on the right date. I'm not sure.

The kids never even think of the paradoxes of time travel, the simplest of which is the grandfather paradox. (What would happen if you killed your grandpa before he had your mom? You would never have been born to go back and kill him...Remember Back to the Future?) They conclude early on that they changed the past in a prior book, and then they go off to save Lincoln - doing it again. Not even one time does it occur to any of the kids that they could completely change their lives by saving Lincoln. Bright kids should come up with that.

I also wasn't impressed with the sensory detail. Sure, the author threw in some things here and there about clothing or what they ate (since they didn't bring their own food!), but overall I didn't get much of a sense of where the characters were. (However, that could also be because I skimmed too much since the book is so far below my level.) The storyline was the focus, not the setting.

Your kids may like it if they're into history. However, if they're too bright the time travel as presented may bug them, and they won't get too much more of an understanding of history. The actual information about the event was minimal and there are better books out there on the subject of Lincoln's assasination, even for young readers. (Try "In the Line of Fire," which is about all the assinations - successful and attempted if I remember right - of the presidents.) Just don't expect them to really get too much out of it - apart from reading time and a chance for you to get that much needed nap! (Oh, and read them in order.)

3 Stars out of 5

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Review: Larryisms: Book 1

I am sorry to say that I really didn't like this book.

First off, the concept of having a person's random thoughts on anything is, in my opinion, a little odd. Don't we already have our own thoughts? What makes his better?

Second, many of his comments show opinions that not all people will agree with. Several quips look down on people who aren't the brightest. Others are definitely anti-politics, or at least anti-Bush. I don't think this is quite the place for such opinions.

Third, and by far the worst, were his opinions on God. It's very clear that he's athiest or at least not religious in the traditional sense of the word. "Never trust a God who"... comes up many times. And often they are either wrong, quite biased, or contentious inisghts. For example, "Never trust a God who wants you to believe that sex is evil." MANY Christians will say that the God we serve doesn't have any problem with sex, but only when it's used wrong. Others go right against core Christian beliefs (for me at least, and probably many others), such as one that suggests we're already in Hell. I find that offensive. I counted 55 such quotations. With an average of 5.7 quotes per page times 127 pages, that's 55 anti-Christian quotes out of 724, or 7.6%, using ONLY that structure. Note that God is capatalized; therefore he is referring to the God of Christianity. The quotes show at best a shallow understanding of our faith, or, at worst, outright heresy.

In short, if you are either right-winged in politics or a professing Christian and don't like mockeries of your faith, this book is not for you.

2 stars out of 5