Monthly Archives: October 2007

Debate Draft

Dave, whether you can make the software work or not is totally irrelevant to this debate. We are debating whether dendrochronology is circular or valid science.

In this, my next to last post, I submit Morton’s Demon, one last scientific paper with some dating information and the idea of redemption. My final post, after Dave posts his rebuttal to this post or, possibly some evidence in support of his position that dendrochronology is not only circular but not even valid science (hey, a guy can dream can’t he?), will, I hope, tie together what I think are the salient features of this debate and summarize my arguments in support of my three points.

Morton’s Demon (link here) is an analogy made by an ex-YEC, Glen Morton, a geologist. I only need an excerpt for my purposes but, to give you full advantage, feel free to use any part of it.

Morton’s demon was a demon who sat at the gate of my sensory input apparatus and if and when he saw supportive evidence coming in, he opened the gate. But if he saw contradictory data coming in, he closed the gate. In this way, the demon allowed me to believe that I was right and to avoid any nasty contradictory data…

… Morton’s demon makes it possible for a person to have his own set of private facts which others are not privy to, allowing the YEC to construct a theory which is perfectly supported by the facts which the demon lets through the gate. And since these are the only facts known to the victim, he feels in his heart that he has explained everything. Indeed, the demon makes people feel morally superior and more knowledgeable than others. …The … victim does not understand why everyone else doesn’t fall down and accept the victim’s views…

… He can make people believe that radioactive dating doesn’t work even if you show them comparisons of tree rings compared to radiocarbon dating. He can make people ignore layer after layer of footprints and burrows in the geologic column (see ) and believe that burrowing can occur and animals can walk around unimpeded during a global flood… He can make people believe that 75,000 feet of sediment over an area 200 by 100 miles can be deposited in a few hundred years, and he can make people believe that Noah trained animals to poop into buckets on command. …

But unlike Maxwell’s demon, Morton’s demon doesn’t expend any energy–he gets his victim to expend it for him. He can get his victim to expend massive amounts of intellectual energy figuring out how to convince the world that they are wrong. The victim will spend hours reading supportive books or searching through scientific literature noting only those portions which support the YEC position. And the victim will spend lots of energy trying to convince others to come see things the way they do. Thus, the demon gets its victims to spend energy to help it spread the infection.

1. I propose the title you so enthusiastically supported, “Dendrochronology: Circularity or Valid Science?” demonstrates your infection by Morton’s Demon. I posit that, were dendrochronology not valid science, the alternative would be “is it religion” or “is it marketing” or some such thing. But I know a secret. First we need to determine if dendrochronology is valid science. And I know how to do that. You would too if you weren’t infected with the demon.

Your important-sounding headlines make you look a bit foolish upon occasion. Do you do that on purpose? The only conclusion I can draw from your title is that your untenable position needs rhetorical support because you don’t like the results you get from Google. I imagine you feel very comfortable in your diagnosis since you believe there is no contradictory data. The fact that you began your opening post with the statement “WRITTEN RECORDS ARE THE MOST ACCURATE…” demonstrates quite clearly that you in no way understood a single thing I wrote in my opening post. Being so sure of your own position that you fail to note mine demonstrates that you have strong faith in your position and a hell of a blind spot. I imagine my inability to come to understand and agree with your position baffles you. After all, you see the world clearly, right? Why do you think I don’t see the same thing? Do you think I am biased? Deceived? Trying to keep my job? Do you ever wonder if I might be Satan himself, come to lure fools to hell and to test your faith sorely? Do you wonder if I just might actually be right and that Earth (may we ever find others willing to share revelry in Her name) might be much older than 10,000 years and there was no flood? No matter. Now that I raised the questions, feel free to help me make my point in both your next and your final posts.


2. Dendrochronology is a valid method of C14 dating calibration and is not circular. Dendrochronology existed before Ferguson made his master chronology expressly to provide an accurate calendrical chronology for 14C calibration. It was valid then and not circular. Ferguson’s master sequence was not verified by 14C, rather it was made to calibrate 14C readings. The data is available freely on the web. You know this because I pointed you to it and provided a list of software, much of it free, to examine it yourself. Other labs are free to examine the samples and in fact have done so as I pointed out earlier. So not only is it valid science and not circular, it is not fraudulent either despite your quite specific claims to the contrary.

I imagine you’ve expended massive amounts of intellectual energy figuring out how to convince me (and in fact, the world) that I am wrong. You freely admit to spending hours reading supportive books, in fact you post scans of multiple pages of them. You obviously pore through scientific literature noting only those portions which support the YEC position. When you use the quote in contradiction to the author’s intention you are committing the dishonest tactic known as “quote-mining”. If you were to quote Provine or Ayala or MacNeil or any other scientist who understands evolution and use that quote to try to cast doubt on evolution, you would be dishonestly quote-mining. If you were to use data that they collected and try to show how that data should be interpreted differently then that would be honest. But in that case you would not quote them at all. You would reference their data. You can’t honestly use a quote as evidence that contradicts an author’s conclusions unless you are pointing either inaccuracies or contradictions. I’m thinking as hard as I can right now and I can’t think of any exceptions to that. Also, if your interpretation of the data produced graphs that explicitly contradicted your conclusions and you continued to hold to your conclusions anyway, that too would be dishonest and a symptom of Morton’s demon.

For you to be able to imagine that dendrochronology must be circular and invalid science simply because AiG posts an article saying so is damning evidence for Morton’s demon Dave. Radiometric dating works and we know it does because the calibration curves agree. Dendrochronology was simply enlisted in 14C calibration because it can provide an absolute chronology. As were varves, corals, deep sea sediment cores, ice cores, speleotherms and the like. Dendrochronologists were already out there doing dendrochronology when Ferguson decided to make a master sequence with the express purpose of providing a calibration metric for 14C.

This paper shows how scientists approach controversial issues in radiometric dating.

Today archaeological and geological chronologies of the Last Glacial cycle are largely based on radiocarbon data, for which precise age conversion is possible in the Holocene (Stuiver and Van der Plicht, 1998) and is just as necessary in the glacial. Alongside questions concerning calendric (absolute age) models, understanding the causes for past variations of the atmospheric 14C level, and relating the Glacial 14C-calibration curve to palaeoclimate signatures presents a new challenge to scientists involved in Quaternary research. Reliable synchronizations of deep-sea records with the high resolution Greenland GRIP and GISP2 ice core time-scales (e.g. Bond et al., 1993; Voelker et al., 1998) have not merely made it possible to construct an extended Last Glacial calibration curve covering the last 50 ka, but also adequately link 14C levels derived from marine foraminifera to climate change, as recorded with highest resolution in the GRIP and GISP2 cores (Jöris and Weninger, 1998; Voelker et al., 1998). These archives show an essentially identical relative sequence of stadials (GS) and interstadials (GI) (Björck et al., 1997; cf. Johnsen et al., 1992).

Notice how they make a bold statement in the bolded part? What do you think they will do to support such a statement? Hand wave? Argue from authority? Put up a straw man maybe? Do you think they will honestly assess the problems they face and address them? Well, let’s find out:

However, the underlying age-models show differences steadily increasing with core depth, amounting to many thousands of years during the period covered by the radiocarbon method. Accordingly, 14C data derived from the marine cores and transferred to the GRIP and GISP2 ice-core time-scales must reveal alternative glacial calibration graphs. The discrepancies between the two ice core time-scales are often overlooked.

Independent age control of the radiocarbon time-scale is given by couplets of U/Th and 14C measurements on coral samples (Edwards, 1993; Bard et al., 1993, 1998). For the entire period of the Last Glacial covered by radiocarbon, the GISP2-based marine 14C calibration graph established by synchronisms with deep-sea records is in good agreement with the available U/Th-14C-coral data (Jöris and Weninger, 1998). For the Late Glacial period of GS-1 and GI-1 we, instead, prefer the GRIP chronology which seems to us more reliable (Jöris and Weninger, 2000).

Additional arguments for the reliability of the long-term trend of the GISP2 chronology are that the counting of annual ice layers is established further back for the GISP2 core than for GRIP, [b]and that the oldest part of GISP2 is synchronized with the Antarctic Vostok chronology (Meese et al., 1994; Sowers et al., 1993; Petit et al., 1999), which is itself calibrated with the orbitally tuned, stacked deep-sea SPECMAP chronological framework (Martinson et al., 1987; Sowers et al., 1993). An important marker to control the validity of the combined U/Th-GISP2-Vostok-SPECMAP time-scale is the Toba eruption some 71 ka ago at the very end of GI-20[/b] (Chesner et al., 1991; Leuschner and Sirocko, in press; Westgate et al., 1998; Zielinski et al., 1996). Records potentially useful for the construction of a Glacial 14C calibration curve are high-resolution deep-sea records and long continuous terrestrial sequences of laminated limnic sediments. Whereas 14C data derived from marine records require corrections for specific reservoir values, 14C data from terrestrial sequences do not, but here difficulties may exist in the continuity of the record and in sample taphonomy.

Among other deep-sea records, the North Atlantic core PS2644 shows the highest resolution of the 14C scale in relation to sample depth, and appropriate links to the GISP2 ice core ages have been established (Voelker et al., 1998). In PS2644 past variations in 14C-levels show up with a pattern almost identical to that recorded in other marine proxies, as well as in the U/Th-14C coral couplets. The combined data show satisfactory agreement with the smoother, geomagnetic glacial calibration curve proposed by Van Andel (1998), back to 50 ka calBC.

This is a picture of their calibration curve. (Fig. 1).

Now, I’m going to hazard a guess about a brand new science. Every year when winter comes to the northern hemisphere of Earth (may we never stray from her good graces) the sunlight becomes noticeably weaker and sets off a specific chemical reaction in exposed quartz at specific latitudes. That chemical signature begins its own isotopic degradation as soon as it moves out of that latitude. Now, if plate tectonics is correct, we should find this signature with gradually older dates as we follow a plate’s assumed motion away from the narrow latitude band where the process occurs. What do you think of that?

Feel free to respond or ignore that snippet as you wish. The actual point I’m addressing with this graph and paper is that these researchers checked their information against all kinds of different calendrical phenomena. They are arguing that their calibration curve meets the high standards required to be precise enough to provide a 14C calibration curve. Dave, all the info and work they went to was to develop one calibration curve and determine its accuracy:

We argue that the relevant glacial 14C-calibration data have sufficient precision, both on an absolute time-scale and in relation to the ice-core chronologies, to support widespread construction of age-calibrated 14C-chronologies in the Quaternary sciences.

You said you wanted to get in depth with the curves one at a time. Well, I haven’t brought this one back up yet because you, for reasons known only to the demon, chose to focus on Ferguson instead, but I will be referring to it again in my last post so you might want to read it in light of the idea I just presented:

Stuiver, Minze, Bernard Kromer, Bernard Becker and C. W. Ferguson (1986). Radiocarbon Age Calibration back to 13,300 Years BP and the 14C Age Matching of the German Oak and US Bristlecone Pine Chronologies Radiocarbon (1986) Volume 28, Number 2B: 939-943 link

3. All this reflection on your dishonesty as a symptom of Morton’s demon brings me to my third point: that Creation “Science” is based on falsehood, strangely gripping its adherents in the miasma of the demon. I want to talk about redemption.

Mark 10:45 (King James Version)
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Tell me Dave, from the purely human element of Jesus’ life, ignoring for the moment the offspring-of-god business, did he offer redemption for a group of people from anything besides sin? What about Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Geronimo of the Apache’s, Simone Bolivar or Caesar Chavez?

Oppression follows humanity around like a disease. Liberation nearly always requires sacrifice and often it requires blood sacrifice. The people I listed all were prepared to offer blood sacrifice and many of them indeed did offer their lives as a catalyst for the redemption of their people. Why do you suppose we honor these peoples’ sacrifices?

1) What value do you place on the sacrifices made by the people I listed and is it comparable to the purely human element of the sacrifice Jesus made? Why or why not?

2) Do you see Morton’s demon in anyone, creationist or scientists or some specific religion or ideology? Can you give an example and go into some detail with your answer?

3) Please read the paper I linked to (You might want to anyway, it gives some nice information on Lake Suigetsu varve count errors) and try to explain what you think the authors set out to do and whether they achieved their goal.