The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 5 in a series

Did I mention I previously attended meetings of a creationist group in Dallas? I’m sure I did. Here’s more of the same.

There’s a group called the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science, MIOS, and they had program meetings on a Tuesday night most every month. Often times there were presentations on why creation is true and evolution is wrong, not only wrong but usually evil. These were what I call creationists of the first type. They hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, which is the origin of the creation story. So they need to continually confirm the truth of biblical stories, including the famous flood of Noah. Also other stories. Including the story of Joshua.

A presentation one night was a bizarre explanation of how the story of Joshua at the Battle of Jericho has been proved true. I have a copy of the handouts from the meeting, and here it is, as verbatim as my ability allows:

THE SUN DID STAND STILL

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called “myth” in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development:

“I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1,000 years from now. We have to know this so we don’t send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down! They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said, “It’s perfect.” The head of operations said, “What’s wrong?” “Well, they have found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.” They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer!

One religious fellow on the team said, “You know, one time I was in Sunday School and they talked about the sun standing still.” They didn’t believe him; but they didn’t have any other answer so they said, “Show us.” He got a Bible and went back to the Book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for anybody who has ‘common sense’. There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, “Fear them not; for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That’s right — “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . . and pasted not to go down about a whole day.” Joshua 10:8,12,13. The space men said, “There is the missing day!” They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua’s day was 23 hours and 20 minutes — not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it was -­”about (approximately) a day.”

These little words in the Bible are important. But they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you’ll be in trouble 1,000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. This religious fellow also remembered somwhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS. The space men told him he was out of his mind. But they got the Book and read these words in II Kings: Hezakiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the Prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said, “Do you want the sun to go ahead ten degrees?” Hezekiah said, “It’s nothing for the sun to go ahead ten degrees, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.” II Kings 20: 9-11. Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees BACKWARDS! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty-three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in II Kings make the missing 24 hours the space travelers had to log in the logbook as being the missing day in the universe! Isn’t that amazing? Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth!”

The above article was copied from “The Evening Star”, Spencer, Indiana. It is verified by Mr. Harold Hill, who gave permission for reprinting, February 22, 1970.

References Cited for “The Missing Day in Time”

Did the Sun Stand Still? Tract No. 1211. North Syracuse, N.Y.: Book Fellowship [n.d., 7 pp.] *Mentions Irwin H. Linton, A Lawyer Examines the Bible.

Apologetics. By Harry Conn. Minneapolis: Men for Missions [tract, n.d., 9 pp.]

The Missing Day /Behind the Missing Day. Minneapolis: Osterhus Pub. House [tract, n.d., 4 pp.]

Harold Hill, as told to Irene Burk Harrell. How to Live Like a King’s Kid. Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1974. Ch. 13, “How to Find the Missing Day,” pp. 65-75. On pp. 75-77: “Book Report ‘Long Day of Joshua’ C. A. L. Totten,” by V. L. Westberg, August 1970, Sonoma, Cal.

Joshua’s Long Day. In Five Minutes with the Bible & Science. Daily Reading Magazine. Supplement to Bible-Science Newsletter. Vol. VIII: No. 5 (May, 1978). Caldwell, Id. [2 pp.] *Mentions Robert L. Odem, “The Lost Day of Joshua,” Ministry (November/December, 1970), and J. B. Dimbleby, All Past Time.

Harry Rimmer. The Harmony of Science and Scripture. [1927] 4th edn., Berne, Ind.: Berne Witness Company, 1937.

Charles A. L. Totten. Joshua’s Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz. A Scientific Vindication. [1890] Study No. 2 of “The Our Race Series—The Voice of History.” Merrimac, Mass.: Destiny Publishers, 1968 edn. with a foreword by Howard B. Rand.

Dan A. Oren. Joining the Club: A History of Jews and Yale.New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

“A Clergyman Insane. He is a Graduate of Yale and one of Lieut. Toten’s [sic] Disciples.” The New York Times. 26 June 1891. p.l.

“No Rest for Totten.” The New York Times. 13 March 1892. p. 4. “Lieut. Totten’s Vagaries.” The New York Times. 30 March 1892. p. 1

*I have not yet located these three publications, mentioned in works consulted. I would be grateful for information about them, and for copies of “Missing Day” fliers or tracts.

Jan Harold Brunvand Department of English University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 84112

All right. You’ve read it. So, maybe you didn’t read it. Maybe you read part of it. Let’s take it from there. I was in the room when this presentation was handed out. There were fully functional adults in the room. And nobody laughed. Nobody. I must have held my breath. How about some Skeptical Analysis. Where to start? Let’s start with this bit of unreason:

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards.

The computer stopped? Really? Why? Computers don’t just stop. They get finished, and they pause, waiting for something new to come along. The computer put up a red signal? This massively intriguing. I am, most of us are, accustomed to error messages on computers. They tend to be in the order of:

  • Unexpected “{” in line 32.
  • File not found.
  • Segmentation fault—core dumped.
  • Blue screen of death.

Some forgiveness may be due. Permission for reprinting was given in 1970, so the events preceded Windows 3.2. Maybe a red light (flashing or not) was all that was available.

Anyhow, the explanation for the computer’s stopping comes off the rails quickly. There was a missing day? Really? How does a day turn up missing? What information could the computer possibly have been chewing on to make it conclude there was a missing day? Yeah, that’s curious. Fortunately I have done some of this stuff. I took celestial mechanics and interplanetary navigation in college, and I also did a term project much like the one described above. It goes like this.

You provide the data for the simulation. There are celestial bodies with these masses in these positions and traveling at these velocities. You press the start key, and the simulation launches, predicting where the bodies will be in one-minute (or whatever) intervals. One of the inputs includes a condition that signals the simulation to stop. A condition such as “Simulate 500 hours.” You can easily run the simulation backwards in time. Just reverse the velocities of all the bodies and hit the start key. The simulation will tell you where the bodies were in the past. That is what the NASA simulation must have been doing. And NASA and astronomers and curious amateurs like me do this sort of thing. For one thing, you might want to know where the moon’s shadow crossed the Earth’s surface. Here’s one:

12 June 2000 BC 03:14:51 5 Total 1.0733 06m 37s 6.0°N 33.3°W 247 km (153 mi)

I don’t know if anybody was around to see that, but we can all be sure it happened. Celestial mechanics is a well-developed science.

And no, there is no missing day.

The remainder of the story requires scrutiny. I will scrutinize partially.

The above article was copied from “The Evening Star”, Spencer, Indiana. It is verified by Mr. Harold Hill, who gave permission for reprinting, February 22, 1970.

Permission was given in February 22, 1970. Compare that with this:

Harold Hill, as told to Irene Burk Harrell. How to Live Like a King’s Kid. Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1974. Ch. 13, “How to Find the Missing Day,” pp. 65-75. On pp. 75-77: “Book Report ‘Long Day of Joshua’ C. A. L. Totten,” by V. L. Westberg, August 1970, Sonoma, Cal.

Permission was given to reprint prior to when Harold Hill told the story to Irene Burk Harrell. I will not belabor. Feel free to spot the additional discrepancies.

I was able to verify the “Totten” references appearing in the New York Times back in the 19th century. Apparently there was a C.A.L. Totten back then, and he caught the attention of the Times often. This is from Wikipedia:

Charles Adelle Lewis Totten (February 3, 1851 – April 12, 1908) was an American military officer, a professor of military tactics, a prolific writer, and an influential early advocate of British Israelism.

Finally, there is this item’s signatory:

Jan Harold Brunvand Department of English University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 84112

We know Jan Brunvand. He’s the person who created the concept of the urban legend. Is it possible “The Sun Did Stand Still” is a sample from his studies blown up into something to impress fellow creationists? I shudder to think.

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MIOS

Old NTS Logo

This comes under amusement only. I attended a number of meetings of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS), a young Earth creationist group in Dallas. Usually the programs were presented by Don Patton, maybe one of the leading YEC proponents in the North Texas area until the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) moved there from Santee, California, in 2010.

This is one of the times the program was presented by David Bassett, who seems to have had some scientific training, though he never allowed it to interfere with his Christian faith. I originally posted this in the September 1997 issue of The Skeptic, the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics.

Living Dinosaurs at MIOS

by John Blanton

We sort of lost touch with MIOS (Metroplex Institute of Origin Science) while I was preoccupied with other matters, so on February 4th I dropped in for their monthly meeting. David Bassett was their speaker for the night, and the subject was “Living Dinosaurs.” David heads up the science department at the Ovilla Christian School south of Dallas. His talk centered on the idea that (if I may paraphrase) “Evolutionists tell us that dinosaurs have become extinct, but since they existed up into modern times, the evolutionists must be all wet and so is evolution itself.”

David Bassett presented a number of cases he said argued for the existence of dinosaurs in recent times. Winged dinosaurs, he said, are evidenced by many instances in literature. He exhibited an illustration of the hilt of Beowulf’s sword, which showed a winged serpent-like critter, an obvious reference to a pterodactyl or a pterosaur. Beowulf, who lived from 495 slew Grendel, who was likely a modern dinosaur-like beast. He also cited many references to “flying snakes,” which were surely sightings of the same animals. Further, the February 8, 1856 “Illustrated London News” showed a live pterodactyl found in France, and 1886 and 1890 issues of the “Tombstone Epitaph” contained a photo of a pterosaur and told of some local riders who encountered and killed a pterosaur that had an 8-foot long head. Finally, Basset cited Carl Baugh’s reports on pterodactyls in New Guinea last year (see the related story on the Creation Evidences Museum in the September 1996 issue of The Skeptic).

Bassett did express some concern about these flying pterosaur sightings. Creationists have concluded that the dense atmosphere preceding The Flood made it possible for these huge creatures to fly, so how could they have been flying in the 19th century!

The recovery by Japanese fishermen in 1977 of the remains of a plesiosaur is further proof that the supposedly extinct dinosaurs are still among us. Japanese scientists, who are not so hung up on evolution as American scientists, pleaded for the preservation of their find. However, the fishermen could not stand the stench and deep-sixed their catch after taking photos. The Loch Ness Monster is an additional example of a living plesiosaur. In fact, the 35 to 45- degree north latitude is the lake monster’s home ground from June through August. They winter in the Indian Ocean.

Additionally, there is the remarkable evidence of living dinosaurs in the Congo region. Although Polaroid photos of these specimens were ruined by the awful climate there, Bassett did have a copy of a copy of an audio tape that was made by a recent expedition. On this tape we could clearly hear the popping sound made by the dinosaurs as they bellowed just a short distance away in the forest. The high atmospheric pressure in this region accounts for the viability of these ancient species. The pressure there is 1.3 to 1.5 times normal atmospheric pressure. This is because of the dense vegetation, which keeps the air quite humid. Of course, water vapor is denser than dry air, David Bassett told the audience.

When he is not contributing to the science education of students at Ovilla Christian School, Bassett works the front desk at Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidences Museum near Glen Rose. Check it out. Also, while at the MIOS meeting I took the opportunity to purchase a copy of D. Russell Humphreys’ recent book Starlight and Time. Humphreys is a legitimate Ph.D. working at Sandia National Laboratories, and his book explains how we can be seeing light from stars and galaxies millions of light years away while the universe is less than ten thousand years old. Watch for a review in a coming issue of The Skeptic.

MIOS

Old NTS Logo

This is one of the first items I wrote about MIOS for The Skeptic, as our newsletter was called back then. This was one of the more enjoyable aspects of my visits to these creationist meetings. I met Clyde McKnight and his wonderful family. Clyde and people like him kept reminding me that creationists are not a mass of uneducated people. Dr. McKnight is like so many well-educated people who follow their faith rather than the facts presented to them.

REPORT ON MIOS PROGRAM ON WATER CANOPY

by John Blanton

The Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) is a local group supporting the “creation science” concept. MIOS meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Wadley Blood Center. I urge skeptics to attend these meetings and weigh the evidence presented there. Contact me for details. The following is a report on one of their meetings, which was attended by Scott Faust, Ron Hastings and myself:

The speaker of the evening was Dr. Clyde V. McKnight, who holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Nevada at Reno. Dr. McKnight spoke on the physical basis for a water canopy that would have preceded Noah’s flood (and would provide the flood waters themselves). We three from the NTS were there, eager to hear what support a qualified scientist could provide for the biblical flood story.

Dr. McKnight started by citing some of the usual, non-scientific, bases for the flood, such as the direct description of the flood in the Bible and the biblical implications of conditions in the time preceding the flood. Then, before he detailed his thoughts on the physical basis for such an event, particularly the basis for the water canopy, he outlined some of the personal beliefs that have helped him form his hypotheses.

Dr. McKnight stated that he firmly believes the “laws of physics are operative at all times (e.g., gravity and the second law of thermodynamics always apply). However, he went on to state that “Miraculous events are not subject to scientific analysis,” that “the effects of miracles are [however] subject to scientific analysis,” and, finally, that “the laws of physics are at the discretion of God.” He went on to state that “Unfounded conclusions have no scientific basis,” and there is “no [such thing as] continuous miracles.”

The four concepts for a water canopy are, as Dr. McKnight described them, 1) an ice canopy model, 2) a water canopy model, 3) a cloud canopy model and 4) a water vapor canopy model. Dr. McKnight quickly threw out the first three models as having no valid bases. They were either insupportable by physical laws or else do not coincide with the biblical record. The vapor canopy model, however, he asserted was the “most logical model.”

The hypothesized water vapor canopy in the earth’s atmosphere would be equivalent to forty feet of liquid water covering the surface of the Earth, and it would be stabilized by temperature inversions. Its presence during the biblical period prior to the flood would have the following effects:

Heat from the sun would be trapped in the earth’s atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). Differential heating of the vapor canopy (equatorial solar heat flux versus polar heat flux) would produce jet stream-like flows in the atmosphere (Dr. McKnight concedes this is only a guess and that no analysis has been done to support this contention). These jet stream flows would produce uniform ground temperatures from the equator to the poles (and result in a more ideal earthly climate).

There are objections to this vapor canopy model, and Dr. McKnight has outlined them: A temperature of approximately 220 degrees F at its base would be required to keep this layer in vapor form, and the addition of a regular atmosphere of air below this layer would result in a two-atmosphere surface pressure. Dr. McKnight, however, sees this doubling of the surface pressure resulting in the presence of larger animal life forms [than we have now] prior to the flood. He credits this possibility to the increased partial pressure of oxygen under these conditions, and he cited hyperbaric chamber evidence (without giving specifics) to support this.

Finally, the condensation of all of this water over a short period, Dr. McKnight stated, would result in the release of 10.86 X 10^24 calories of heat energy, and this would cause a 2100 degree Celsius temperature rise in the atmosphere. I was sitting in the front row while Dr. McKnight was giving his talk, so I could not see Ron Hastings sitting in the back, getting ready to make an objection. This last statement stopped Ron cold. The figures agreed with what Ron had come up with, and he just threw up his hands. There was no need for a skeptic to come to a meeting to get a physics lesson from a creationist.

Dr. McKnight stated that due to these facts, the flood could “not [be] supported by the laws of physics,” and “a miracle is the only answer.”

I, personally, had no trouble with that. My only objection would have been with any contention that there was a scientific basis for the flood. Dr. McKnight and I both work for the same giant electronics company, and the following day I sent him a note through the company mail telling him how much I enjoyed his talk and how I agreed with his contention that there was no scientific basis for the flood. The following is Dr. McKnight’s reply in full:

March 11, 1990Dear John,

Thanks for your note – giving talks is not exactly my cup of tea. Most of the people I know would not try to do away with the miraculous, but there may be some problem knowing exactly what part of such an event supersedes natural laws – esp. an event like the flood. There are some who have a problem ever finding a specific point where they will say it was supernatural. Other events which we would call “miracles” do not violate any natural laws – as in many of the events of the book of Esther.

As to there being no physical, scientific basis for the flood, it depends on what you mean. I believe that the cause of the flood was supernatural in some respects. There is, however, a physical, scientific basis for the flood in the geologic record. Modern science is no longer comfortable with the idea of a world-wide flood and its possible religious implications. It has set about to reinterpret data which was previously accepted as resulting from such a flood. I did try to emphasize that science can evaluate the results of a miracle -this would include the flood.

I really feel that belief in the miraculous is an area where we have much in common with evolutionist. Although there is no real evidence to support the theory of evolution (and much to the contrary); yet the theory is adhered to with an unshakable religious faith because “the only alternative is unthinkable.”

Sincerely yours,

Clyde

One of the benefits of putting out your own newsletter is that you get to have the last word.

Dr. McKnight has missed the point entirely. By hanging his argument on a miracle, he has defeated it entirely. If he is allowed to invoke a miracle whenever his thesis gets into a bind on a scientific basis, then he can have anything he wants. He doesn’t need to do field research, and he doesn’t need evidence. He is free to make any assertion he wants (even one that does not agree with the biblical account), and no one can successfully contradict him. There is absolutely no way to rationally counter an argument that allows for miracles (in favor of the argument). To attempt to do so would be like playing chess with an opponent who has his hand on your king. Check your opponent and, bingo, the game is over. He invokes a miracle and removes your king.

To validate his case, Dr. McKnight must prove it from the weakest position. He must discard all of his special privileges and his what if’s. He must then bring forth real evidence of such overpowering magnitude and credibility that no argument will stand up against it. That is the way that science works. That is what stands behind the laws of gravity, thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. And right now, that is what stands behind the present theories of biology and geology.

MIOS

Recently I’ve been thinking about the old days when I would attend meetings of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science. (MIOS). The newsletter archive of The North Texas Skeptics has a collection of items I wrote about these meetings, and I’m thinking some new readers may be interested in what goes on at a young Earth creationist (YEC) group. This appears to be the first MIOS item I ever posted. It’s from the July/August issue of The Skeptic:

NTS Logo

By John Blanton

The Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) is a local group that claims scientific validity for creationism. At every MIOS meeting there is at least one Skeptic, and we try to keep you informed of their latest claims and developments.

The April MIOS program was billed as a discussion by vice chairman Don Patton on “The Laws of Thermodynamics (devastating evidence against a naturalistic explanation of life, evolution, the universe.)” We were less than devastated.

Don, making use of a high quality, computer-generated slide presentation that would be the envy of a lot of corporate executives, ran up most of the arguments creationists use under this heading:

  1. Things do not get better on their own, they get worse (implying, we were led to understand, that life might spontaneously get shabby and even disappear from this Earth, but it would not develop and thrive on its own).
  2. Life forms represent thermodynamic systems which, according to the famous second law of thermodynamics, must not decrease in entropy (implying that developing life forms represent an increase in organization and a decrease in entropy, something which should not happen without an outside source adjusting the system with his finger).
  3. The information needed to construct a living creature (said information being contained within the genetic material of the life form) is simply too complex to have been formed by accident from the disorganized elements in the atmosphere and the oceans (implying that life forms did not originate spontaneously from a lifeless environment).

Don’s first point is unarguable, since it really does not make any scientific claims. It is just Murphy’s law working.

Don’s second point (as he stated it in his presentation) ignored the correct statement of the second law, which pertains to closed systems. I agree that if any life form is put into a closed box without any interaction with the universe outside of the box, that life form will (given time) decline and fail.

Don’s third point seemed groundless to the Skeptics sitting in the audience. He depicted the spontaneous creation of the genetic code for a specific, highly developed life form as being improbable to the point of being non-existent. None of us disagreed (although Don’s math seemed a little off, I could not follow it closely enough to tell what I was seeing), but none of us had considered that a life form would get started so dramatically. David Dunn took such strong exception to this numerical razz-ma-tazz that he rebuked Don Patton severely during the question and answer period and called him a liar, which accusation Don took quite calmly, to his credit.

John Thomas (who has a degree in physics) and I (with only a couple of B’s in thermodynamics) talked to creationist Clyde McKnight afterward. Clyde exhibited a thorough comprehension of the scientific aspects of the evening’s program, and later that week he sent me a copy of a paper from Physical Review that illustrated the tie-in between the classical second law of thermodynamics and Claude Shannon’s information theory. I pondered how a man, who so had effortlessly put his hand on this technical paper, could hang onto conclusions that are in conflict with his scientific training.

At the May MIOS meeting, chairman Rich Summers announced that MIOS was planning to hold a debate on creation science with delegates from the NTS at one of their future meetings. “We enjoy a debate,” he stated. So do we, Rich. No program was billed for the May meeting, but, after discussing organizational matters, vice chairman Don Patton announced startling revelations concerning the “Burdick Track.”

The “Burdick Track” is a fossil track that was removed from the Glen Rose limestone in the 1940’s by a local inhabitant and kept in his possession until he passed away. It is not supposed to be one of the fake tracks carved in the limestone to attract tourism during the 1930’s. In any event, the implication is that this is the track of a human foot and that it demonstrates that people and dinosaurs lived at the same time. This was the fossil that would put the lie to scientific geology and, thereby, to evolution.

So that was it. Evolution was dead. Killed not by layer after layer of Permian sediment deposited on top of Jurassic stone, not by a fossil australopithecine skull lodged in the petrified jaws of a tyrannosaur, not even by the bones of a jawed fish embedded within a mass of Cambrian rock. No, modern geology, evolution, even large bodies of the sciences of physics and astronomy had been done in by a piece of stone that’s presumably been kicking around somebody’s garage for over forty years. Text books would have to be rewritten, research papers would have to be withdrawn (many posthumously), and geologists and biologists would have to find other lines of work. Provided this really were a human footprint in Cretaceous limestone.

In response to questions about the authenticity of this track, MIOS has had the fossil sectioned (using a lapidary saw) to demonstrate that the material under the pressure points of the footprint exhibits signs of being compressed (signs which are not likely to be there if the footprint were carved). On this night, Don was showing photographs of the fossil and the new cross-sections. Being a Skeptic, I was a little hard to convince. NTS Secretary Mark Meyer was sitting with me in the audience, and I told him, “That doesn’t even look like a human footprint” (it was much wider near the toes, making somewhat triangular in appearance). Wrong again, Mr. Skeptic. Don next threw up a photo of a man with a foot that looked very much like the print. Well, what could I say?

The most startling revelation came after the meeting. I could contain my curiosity no longer. Where did this fossil come from? Is there a left foot to go with this right foot? Is there even a whole trail of footprints? Alas, there was no answer. Don just had the piece of stone (now several pieces) and no field notes from the 40’s to guide paleontologist to the site. There must be some scientific data on this remarkable piece of evidence.

“How old is this footprint?” I asked finally.

“About 110 millions years.”

I was astounded. “You think there were people back then?”

“Oh, no. I don’t believe that.”

“Then who made the footprints in that 110-million year old rock?” I finally got Don Patton to admit that he really thought the rock was only 4500 years old and that the various layers were laid down about twelve hours apart by the daily tides during the great flood (maybe I’m in the wrong business).

Later Mark and I talked to Clyde McKnight about methods for dating rocks. While we indicated we thought radioactive decay methods provided the most reliable approach to computing the age of rocks, Dr. McKnight discounted them completely. He expressed the opinion that radioactive decay rates in times past had been much faster, making the rocks appear much older than he thought they ought to be.

MIOS has since published the photos of this fossil in their newsletter Dino Trax, which is available for interested people at NTS meetings.

I consistently come away from these meetings wondering, “Where is the science in creation science?” I see an undocumented fossil that may or may not be a human footprint being touted as the death knell of biological evolution. I see a pop-culture presentation that purports to refute evolution using well-respected laws of physics. I see postulated historic events or even variations in physical laws being invoked to account for conflicts between hypotheses and data. And I see no real research being performed, no papers being published, nothing concrete being proposed. I invite MIOS vice chairman Don Patton to deliver to our hands, for our study and comment, any statement of scientific principle that has been derived from creation science and by which they are willing to stand.

MIOS

I posted this nearly twenty years ago in The Skeptic, the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics. It’s interesting. This was before the World Wide Web came into its own, so there was no opportunity to Google topics and expand on them, and there weren’t any Web pages to link to in the newsletter. Besides, this was in the days before the newsletter was posted on the Web. It’s hard to believe twenty years have gone by so quickly.

MIOS was alway an interesting topic. I attended a number of Don Patton’s talks during those times past and obtained an inside peek into the world of Young Earth Creationism. I will post more MIOS articles in the weeks to come.

Creationism’s youth kick

By John Blanton

The Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) is a young-Earth creationist group based in Dallas. They hold monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month at the Ridgewood Recreation Center on Fisher Road. MIOS Chairman Don Patton hosts this lecture series, which usually consists of a talk by Patton or some invited speaker. October’s topic, however, was a video presentation of a talk given by Russell Humphreys, a Ph.D. physicist working at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

The young-Earth creationists stick to the literal time scale of creation in the Bible, thereby implying the Earth and the universe are in the order of 6000 years old, certainly less than 10,000 years old. Humphreys stated up front in his presentation that Christian fundamentalists need to demonstrate this very elementary tenet of Genesis, or else they will be unable to defend the more subtle biblical principles. Humphreys’ talk bore down on five points that he considers severely limit the age of the Earth.

In his pamphlet, “Evidence for a Young World,” he cites 100 such examples, but he apparently finds these five the easiest to explain. Some of his examples would be better left in the filing cabinet for the sake of his young-Earth argument, but others raise thorny and quite legitimate issues for mainstream science to answer. I’ll go over the main points of these arguments and will just discuss some of the more interesting explanations from mainstream science. For a more thorough discussion of both sides of the issue the reader is referred to Authur Strahler’s excellent book Science and Earth History the Evolution/Creation Controversy:1

1. Galaxies Here’s the rub. Look into the sky and you see spiral galaxies; clouds consisting of billions of stars spinning about a common center in a pinwheel formation (see Figure 1). Measurement of the rate of motion of the individual stars discloses a troubling concern. The stars near the center of the galaxies are moving at such a rate that they will circle the center more quickly than stars farther out. A quick mathematical analysis will show (and Humphreys has done so) that after a few million years a spiral galaxy gets “wound up” by this process. The spiral shape completely disappears within a half billion years, leaving us to wonder what happens in the remaining fifteen-plus billion years of the universe. Why aren’t all galaxies wound into flat disks by now, especially the Milky Way galaxy where we now are and where we have been for over four billion years? Young Earth creationists will assert that these galaxies have been in existence much less than four billion years, maybe even less than 10,000 years. Of course this misses the question of why the galaxies got wound into a spiral in the first place, a process that ought to take at least a million years.

Galaxy
Figure1. Spiral galaxy photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope

Strahler cites a work by Steven Dutch2 explaining that even spiral galaxies are approximately flat disks of stars and that the spiral features are bands of new stars that shine more brightly in the blue spectrum, giving the overall galaxy its spiral appearance. Even with this explanation the spiral galaxy argument will continue to provide fuel for the creationists for years to come, since the new star explanation will not be easy to understand by the population at large.

2. Comets are another favorite for creationists. They would like to remind you that a 5-billion year-old solar system should present a very stable structure. It should not look like something that has just been born or that is about to die soon. Roll the clock back a few million years, and you should see the same thing you see now. The problem is that comets always seem to be dying, witness Shoemaker-Levy 9. Why are there still any comets left after five billion years?

Good question, and I wish I had thought of that one. Mainstream science can only postulate mechanisms for the creation of new comets to replace the ones constantly being destroyed. One proposed explanation is the so-called Oort cloud, a region of comet material thought to lie in a region 10,000 to 100,000 astronomical units out from the sun. Needless to say, creationists get a good belly laugh when you try to propose something like this. That’s probably how it will stay until mainstream science is able to provide experimental evidence to support either the Oort cloud hypothesis or else some worthy alternative.

3. Erosion Humphreys also likes to talk about erosion of the continents and the sediment that should result from this erosion. He states that with current rates of erosion the North American continent, for example, should be washed flat in fifteen million years. Yet there stand the Rockies (and even Comanche Peak). Humphreys asserts it’s safer to believe the continents were formed a few thousands years ago. Then there was a great flood that fairly well shaped the landscape as we see it now. Since the flood erosion has been going on much as we see it today.

4. Salt Humphreys’ fourth topic was salt in the sea. This is a classic creationist argument, and it goes something like this: Rivers wash salt into the oceans, but nothing seems to wash salt out of the oceans. Evaporation removes water from the oceans, and some it winds back up on land through rainfall. If this process has been going on for millions of years, then the oceans should be a lot saltier.

5. Population Perhaps Humphreys’ weakest argument was the one he finished up with, and it’s based on people, or population. Here is what he had to say about that: Mainstream science asserts that the stone age of civilization lasted about 100,000 years. Given the estimated average human population for that period about four billion people should have died during this time. The question Humphreys poses is, “Where are all of their graves?”

. . . . . O.K.

Following the video presentation, Don Patton fielded a few questions. He seemed to make some reference to the decaying speed of light conjecture, and I asked him if he was talking about Barry Setterfield, so we got off onto that subject. Setterfield has asserted that the speed of light was much faster in the past than it is now (it’s quite fast even today). This provides creationists with a way to explain why we can now see things millions of light years away if the universe is only a few thousands of years old. I cautioned Don against standing behind this thesis, since it is absolutely indefensible, but he still wants to stick with it. If you want to read up this subject some more, once again see Strahler’s book.

Patton’s lack of scientific acumen on the Setterfield conjecture and other topics seemed to bother others besides me in the audience. Glenn Morton stood up and reminded those in attendance that he is a creationist who once published in favor of the young Earth. He now renounces that position because the evidence is too much against it, and he urged others to abandon the idea. A problem he mentioned is that after you teach this concept to your children and then send them to college where they will learn otherwise, their loyalty to your other teachings will be threatened. One cheerful member of the group offered a solution: “Don’t send them.” In a subsequent phone conversation, Morton offered to debate against the young Earth argument if the matter comes up. That opportunity may come soon.

Prior to the meeting I had sent Don Patton a letter inviting him to address the NTS early in 1995, and at the meeting Don expressed his willingness to do so. We previously invited MIOS to give a presentation back in 1990, but Patton declined at that time, saying he didn’t think a 45-minute format gave sufficient time to explain the science of creationism. MIOS had initially agreed to the 1990 program, but that was before they consulted with Patton. Since we didn’t get word of the MIOS withdrawal until the day of the meeting we were left without a speaker. However, MIOS member Ron Huffman, not knowing of Patton’s cancellation, showed up, and we persuaded him to talk on the subject. It was a good presentation, and we had a lively discussion. Hopefully we will have another one this coming February.

MIOS is not the only creationist group based locally, but they are the only group with regular meetings open to the public that I know of. Early in October I received in the mail a notice that Kent Hovind would be presenting a creationism conference over a three day period at the Canyon Creek Baptist Church in Richardson. I took this as an invitation and showed up the first night, sitting in the very front row. This is the first I heard of Hovind, who seems to have a thriving, nationwide creationism conference business. Hovind is quite an interesting piece of work, and I will cover his presentation in the next issue.

References:

1. Strahler, Arthur N., Science and Earth History – the Evolution/Creation Controversy, (Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY).

2. Dutch, Steven I., A critique of creationist cosmology, Journal of Geological Education, vol. 30, pp. 27-33 as cited in Strahler.