BWE’s Final Debate Post

Author: BWE_the real_one. [ Fri Nov 02, 2007 6:29 pm ]
Post subject: Re: Formal Debate: Dendrochronology and C14?

Well, here it is, the final debate post, which is, as far as I can tell, three or four posts long in coming. I instigated this debate a long time ago. It began as a challenge you, Dave, issued over the origins of the Portuguese language. It took a few turns and ended up as a debate on the validity of Dendrochronology instead.

I asked you to engage in a debate on any topic where you could choose either side. You chose this topic. The reason I wanted to engage is that I wanted to put down, for anyone who wished to read, a testimonial to the power of indoctrination.

I knew you wouldn’t let me down and you didn’t. The words in this testimonial are real. The exchange is real. The implications are real. In some small way, I suppose I wanted to express my utter horror at the real and tangible effect of the lies and almost criminal tactics used by a faction of the lunatic fringe: in this case, creationists. You are the foil here Dave. You are my demonstration of the effect. For that I am sorry. I will offer a more fitting and proper apology at the end of this essay.

I asked for a one-on-one debate to demonstrate clearly and conclusively to what lengths the deluded will go to maintain their delusion. I introduced Morton’s demon because my optimistic side believes that you and some other creationists are suffering from the affliction and not actually intentionally spreading the virus.

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.

I also wanted to demonstrate exactly how much “honest investigation” a sufferer would do.

Your blind assumption that the flood must be real therefore Dendrochronology must be wrong led you into this debate and illustrates what the attempt to push ignorance onto society looks like. Organizations and ideologies that perpetuate the blind obedience of their followers are anathema to me. I hope I do a good job here of expressing why.

This was not a scientific debate. This was an ideological debate played out through the rhetoric of creationism and its sciency sounding talking points. The power exerted by religious organizations of your flavor should be weighed against the quality of their ideas. You gave me the material to do that and for that I thank you. I am quite confident that, to all but the most severely afflicted by Morton’s demon, I have exposed your ideology for the fraud it is. With that said, a brief summary of the three points I used to illustrate my argument in this debate is in order:


1. The title of this debate is retarded. I don’t need to rehash all the reasons I’ve listed because it is self-evident. You might as well call it “Chemical Engineering: Evil conspiracy or valid discipline?ԝ Same thing.

There is this thing called the scientific method. In science classes you learn a fair bit about it. The scientific method is a rigorous methodology for rooting out all your little gatekeepers. For example, assume you think Earth (blessed be her gift of fermentation) is flat. She certainly looks flat. But then you try to hold a yardstick up to the horizon when you go to the coast for a family reunion. The edge isn’t flat, it’s curved. Then you take a trip up to Alaska to do some fishing one day in late June. You wonder why the sky stays light for so long. You’ve never seen it light out so late. Then you notice at noon that the mailbox casts a shadow going north. In late summer your mailbox casts its shadow almost directly below it. A little trigonometry (because of course you measured the length of the shadow) and you realize that Earth (she made the little green apples) might be round. The next morning, your neighbor invites you to go up in his rocket ship. “Wow”, you think. “What a vacation!” From orbit you clearly see that Earth (the shape of our palms is proof She loves us) exhibits some of the same things that round things exhibit. First and foremost, She is round. Using the scientific method, we must accept that she does indeed appear to be round. We can go around her. At the very least, we can discern that our flat hypothesis was incorrect. The scientific method is a way we keep from fooling ourselves. Earth (tricky She may be) looks flat to someone standing on a plain. Applying the scientific method allows us to determine that She is round like a bouncy ball.

I could go on and on with this little parable but I think you get the point. If you flatly 🙂 refused to accept the evidence (curved horizon, shadows, length of days and finally a view) because you had too much invested in your idea of a flat Earth (buxom she surely is) you would not be honestly assessing the evidence. Maybe you refused because, oh, say, you were president of the dues paying Flat Earth (may we continue to imagine new uses for her soothing lubricants) club, or even because of something as honorable as a father, wise and powerful in many ways, but who erroneously held the flat Earth (may we dance naked in her warm rains) hypothesis and taught it to you. If you refused to accept the obvious conclusion from the evidence, Morton’s Demon would be the culprit. And I believe Morton’s demon prodded you to make the retarded title of this debate.

If we look at Dendrochronologists-Douglas, Ferguson, Stuiver, Yamaguchi, et al.- and at their published work, we can see that they in fact faithfully follow the scientific method and cap it off by submitting their work to peer reviewed journals for publication. (That’s actually a shorthand way, even if not perfect, you can tell if something is real science – whether it can make it into peer-reviewed journals – but don’t worry, I don’t expect you to just accept an argument from authority :)). I cited and quoted several papers by dendrochronologists and generally explained the methodology they used, the data they gathered and the conclusions they arrived at. If at some point in their research, there was a mention of the psychic force of Uranus aligning with tree rings, and no reference to valid scientific literature and no explanation of what this force looks like, how it can be measured or even how it can be detected, we might say that dendrochronology does not appear to be valid science. I can’t wait to see the creationist quote-mines from that one. At that point, we could decide whether the pseudo-science employed circular reasoning as a tactic.

The question your title asks, stripped of its rhetorical footwork, is either, “Is dendrochronology valid science?” or “Is dendrochronology circular?” Either question could spark an interesting, brief, but interesting conversation. But for the life of me, I can’t see how the first line of your opening post:


could ever enter into that conversation. There’s honest inquiry, and then there’s your approach: Hey diddle-diddle the cat in the fiddle. Woo-woo! I think I can I think I can. There sits Morton’s demon, forcing you to make a fool of yourself and not letting you in on the joke.

2. Dendrochronology is not circular. I don’t need to rehash those points either. The claim made by Don Batten, dishonest to an extreme (and so mindlessly parroted back by you) is a lie and I explained why and will again below. If you need a refresher, scroll up the page until you see the illustration I made on the envelope. It’s about halfway up the page.


But my last point deserves a summary.

3. Some creationists, in what looks like an effort to shore up their financial base 1 by assuring their followers that science couldnt possibly be right since it contradicts the Bible, spend a fair amount of effort writing sciency sounding articles and editorials that draw heavily on rhetorical games, logical fallacies, lies, quote-mines, making bold statements and wagers without following through and lots and lots of sheer stupidity. Fortunately for them, the base is primed to believe. And, also fortunately for them, their believers aren’t typically scientists (although this is sometimes a chore to figure out).
(1. Speculation)

The salient feature of this lie is its intent to perpetuate ignorance. These ridiculous attempts to justify a system that is morally, ethically and spiritually corrupt appear simply crazy to those not infected by the demon. But to those honest but ignorant followers of the ideology, the justification serves the dual purposes of isolating the faithful and ensuring the continued flow of money into the coffers of the larger beast. As a society coping with the massive problems of overpopulation, pollution, global warming, totalitarianism looming in the United States and other serious concerns, we have a moral obligation to expose the fraud and try to help those who struggle with the inconsistencies they are being asked to live with.

Every single creationist we referenced in this debate lied, made misleading statements with the intent to deceive or committed such sloppy errors in scholarship as to render their words useless for all but emergency toilet paper required after reading their pages. A list then.

A). Don Batten, Creationist, makes the actually false claim that 14C testing gave the dendrochronologists (specifically Ferguson) the approximate ages of the samples so they could line them up correctly. His main argument for circularity was a lie. But, in true creationist style, he couldn’t stop there. He had to further the lie with another whopper. In the spirit of Alice’s Restaurant he apparently decided that it was better to make one big pile rather than two little ones, and, rather than bring the first one up, he decided to throw his second one down on top. As a plant physiologist, he knows that Bristlecones don’t share the characteristics of the Monterey Pine, yet he claims that, because whales and dolphins can breed and make wholphins (a fact that is also intentionally wrong because only some whales can interbreed with dolphins, certainly not baleen whales) that he is justified in equivocating the two utterly different kinds of pine trees. He lies for the sake of his ideology. Starts to feel a tad creepy, don’t it?

B). John Woodmorappe, (a creationist alias-go figure) tries a different tack altogether. He tries to equivocate three individual core samples with all of Dendrochronology and what’s more, evades the fact that his objection is already well understood and accounted for . Woodmorappe becomes the second creationist in this series of intentional misrepresentation with the intent to deceive. His words were:

“The pattern of 14C depletion in the annual rings is remarkably consistent between all three of the trees cored, suggesting that either changes in CO2 flux are occurring homogeneously across the entire area of the tree kill, or that trees integrate CO2 flux very well over relatively large areas.”

Under the right conditions, inherited carbon-14 dates can therefore mimic ‘real’ ones.

To which I noted

how frickin easy it is to determine if this has happened.

and posted a paper that explained why this isn’t a problem. If this were a real problem for dendrochronology then he would be right to point it out, but since it isn’t a problem at all, it illustrates that creationists are looking for anything at all to dupe the rubes. It is dishonest in other words to falsely claim that volcanic outgassing somehow invalidates dendrochronology. It doesn’t.

C). David Rohl, the next in this series of missteps also cites Yamaguchi’s experiments as evidence FOR the fallibility of Dendrochronology and also brings up another argument from authority when he adds that Mazar rejected the 14C calibration curves. But Yamaguchi did not in fact cast Dendrochronology into the dustbin. He improved the process so that autocorrelation errors won’t hinder the process. And Mazar, (after Rohl wrote his bit) actually was satisfied with the calibration as I pointed out. The reason I call Rohl’s use of Mazar an argument from authority is that Rohl actually misrepresented Mazar’s original objection. The reason it turned out to be funny (or tragic I suppose) was that by the time you posted it as an argument,

It has thus been recognised (ever since Long’s work) that the problem for historians derives from the calibration curve. Mazar’s refusal to use the calibrated dates amounts to a rejection of the dendrochronology curve. Until such time as this problem can be sorted out, I would only be prepared to advocate the adoption of uncalibrated dates in support of a relative but not an absolute chronology.

We cannot know for sure why the various dendrochronology curves cause this problem.

I pointed out that Mazar had published:

14C Dates from Tel Rehov: Iron-Age Chronology, Pharaohs, and Hebrew Kings 14C Dates from Tel Rehov: Iron-Age Chronology, Pharaohs, and Hebrew Kings (the article will open with a free subsrcription) with Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht? (Science 11 April 2003:Vol. 300. no. 5617, pp. 315 – 318)

where Mazar wrote:

Here we report a stratified series of high-quality radiocarbon dates from Tel Rehov, in northern Israel (Fig. 1; table S1), ranging from the 12th to the 9th century B.C.E. We have used the most accurate procedures afforded by 14C dating: single-year organic samples taken only from primary contexts, high-precision dating, multiple measurements, conventional and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) techniques (19). The calibration precision in historical years was greatly enhanced by stratified archaeological wiggle matching (20, 21), because successive layers cannot have the same position on the calibration curve but must follow each other in time.

So if Rohl actually cared that Mazar was an authority, I would expect Rohl to change his conclusions. We both know that didn’t happen. Why do I know? Not because I’ve ever read Rohl (other than the pages you provided) but because Rohl is a creationist. He is dishonest. And so far I’ve seen nothing to indicate that he will ever be honest, nor in fact that there are honest creation science -ishs either.

But Dave, you simply bought it, hook, line and sinker. I don’t think you really even try to understand the arguments. I think you just copy and paste the parts that look good from your sources and ignore any evidence that someone might show you. Dave, did you fully read my posts? I think the demon doesn’t like my writing and so you miss almost all of it. I have a reason for thinking this.

I have an admission to make. The conclusion I first posted as Yamagachi’s was in fact the conclusion from a different paper. I mislabeled it so it got switched around. It is actually the conclusion to Dendroclimatology of the Mountain Pine by Ricardo Genova. TRB Vol. 46 p.11. I noticed right away but, curious as to whether you actually follow, read and investigate arguments or instead ignore them and simply continue preaching your agenda, I left it up there. At this point in the debate you have not noticed. I can only assume that you won’t notice by the time I post this. Fortunately, I did post Yamagachi’s real conclusions later on.

This was a trap of some sorts I suppose, albeit unintentional. Your demon forced you to exclude interference, which included just about everything I posted (other than the words beer and strippers apparently).

OK, BWE. Please focus on my specific questions and spare me the 2800 words on why creationists are bozos in general, how many beers you are winning, talk about strippers, etc.

What do you suppose I would have written had you made the same mistake? Been a gentleman and pointed it out? It is certainly a testament to predictability of creationist tactics. It demolishes any argument you might choose to make about how you are interested in learning and investigating. It also illustrates the mindset of those who get suckered by the propaganda of creationism. Creationism of the sort sold by Ken Ham and his ilk teaches not to question. Don’t believe the outsiders and don’t question the insiders. Can you see how this is disturbing to those outside of the cult? Moving on to the next creationist we covered.

D). Herbert W. Sorenson shows up next on the list. But you manage to pop Creationist Walter Brown in there when you pointed to a footnote of his:

“The entire chronology is the work of one laboratory, the director of which [C. W. Ferguson] has refused to allow critical study of the raw data.” For details, see Herbert C. Sorensen, “Bristlecone Pines and Tree-Ring Dating: A Critique,” Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 13, June 1976, p. 5.

However, I gave an example pointing out that other labs do in fact borrow raw samples and that the raw data is available online. Also in that bit:
Please note WHY they were checking the raw samples.

I pointed you to the data, pointed you to software to read the data and explained how to use the data. All of which sort of invalidate Sorenson’s assertion and Walt Brown’s too for that matter.

Each time we looked at the words of a creationist, we discovered lies, untruths, half-truths and obfuscations. There were no exceptions.

In conclusion Dave, my final thoughts on where we stand. You’ve spent a fair bit of energy trying to convince me to come see things the way you do. The fact that you were willing to debate me attests to that. You did it knowing that I would most likely point out your untruths made on behalf of the demon, your quote-mines, your refusal to honor agreements and your general stupidity in argument.
In an earlier post I asked you:

Can you point me to a single creationist science article making negative claims about dendrochronology or 14C dating that does not use dishonest science or rhetorical games intended to obfuscate?

to which you replied:

Yes. None of the ones I have cited use dishonesty of any kind.

I asked you these three questions:

1) Do you understand my point above as to why the title of this debate is retarded? Please explain your understanding and refute my point if you can.
2) Do you understand what my argument is in claiming that dendro and 14C are not circular? Please explain your understanding and refute my point if you can.
3) Do you know that I presented evidence pointing out intentional misinformation and lying in every single creationist source we’ve covered in this debate? [snip typo] please explain your understanding and refute my point if you can.

To which you answered:

1) No, I don’t. Sorry.
2) No. I still think it is circular and based upon arbitrary assumptions. I think I have shown this.
3) No. I think you are mistaken on this. I think others have told you that creationists are dishonest and you have accepted this uncritically.

Your demon is making you out to be a fool. Your ability to string together a coherent sentence and do somewhat complex math as well as act in a truly humanitarian way at times leads me to wonder, who’s at the controls? Somehow, somewhere along the line you decided that lying is ok if it’s for the demon’s cause. Augustine made that argument too. It is pretty sublime to assume that you are qualified to judge a cause good enough to lie for. But maybe the demon restricts your judgment and renders you unaware of the truth so much that you don’t recognize the lie.

I’m not going to pretend that you shouldn’t be called a liar, quote-miner, welcher and moron. I’ve been reprimanded at this reputable internet institution for saying so, even though I provided irrefutable evidence to support my claim. You richly deserved the titles and I am happy to provide the evidence as I have done before. But I don’t think you are doing it out of malevolence and I wonder if you truly don’t know most of what you do. I regret that you are so far out on the wingnut spectrum. You seem like a decent guy who is willing to put a great deal of energy into doing what you think is good. I believe there might be a great deal of happiness in using your drive to help people instead of simply feeding your demon.

Now Dave, remember when you wrote this:

c. Oh, but wait a minute. Yes it is. Remember all those people that have told me “Dave, we can calibrate C14 with dendrochronology … and varves … and ice cores … and you name it.” BTW, varves are WORTHLESS for dating anything. See my recent post at IIDB on June 24 here …

See how you typed in the word “worthless”? All in capitals? Morton’s demon? Think about it.

I exposed parts of you that no one should have to have a public light shone on. You lost this debate, lost your honor and displayed your demon-fed hubris to the entire world. I can’t imagine what I would do if I discovered that my community was so, so… despicable? … I would feel very adrift. If my Father whom I adored led me to that community, however trustingly, it would be hard to understand. I know firsthand what it’s like to have a giant for a parent. You either have to break away and learn to want obscurity or you have to follow in their footsteps, never quite measuring up. It’s hard to be yourself when you live in the shadow of greatness.

I went into this debate believing this was what educators call a “teachable moment”. Learning happens in a space of cognitive dissonance. I think I might have been wrong. I believed your confusion would result in learning. I feel that instead I may have simply caused more conflict. If learning doesn’t happen in that space of cognitive dissonance you are left with a choice: one side but not the other. Something must be protected at all cost. Morton’s demon’s price.

This and many other discussion boards exist for the purpose of creating community for those who realize the cancer that feeds the church coffers and television shepherds. Rebuilding is possible. And, in all seriousness, everyone is fallible. Just because you bought into it or just because people you love bought into it doesn’t mean you or they meant to hurt anyone. It’s just tragic. You can do your part by not passing on the meme. Communities rally around ideas. People like Batten, Woodmorappe, Rohl and Sorenson who intentionally teach ignorance as the rallying cry have no excuse and I refuse to stand by while they rally my neighbors to tear down our society and attempt to plunge us back into the dark ages.

Make no mistake. I am engaged in a culture war and the stakes are high. If your community somehow stopped honoring the ideals of compassion, honesty, truth and integrity, you have the right to be angry and I am. But you also have the option to forgive and to teach and maybe it’s not too pretentious to think I can do that. Truth seems far more sublime than science to me, but honesty is not particularly subjective. Nor is compassion.

I mentioned redemption. Redemption necessarily requires a sacrifice even if no more than the courage to overcome the fear of setting yourself adrift from the ideology that defined your outlook. Something or someone must block the oppressor, at whatever cost, long enough to allow the oppressed a way to escape. Think of Susan B. Anthony, Abe Lincoln, Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy for real-world examples.

I am waiting to see if redemption comes. I see signs it might. You might be the redeemer, the one to pay the price and allow another YEC to escape the relative security of the cult. They may read this thread and come to understand the nature of creationism and look for a way out. Or you might be the redeemed; seeing the price paid by others that allows you to break free of the ignorance and isolation that fundamentalism uses to bind its followers.

The damage done to your cause through this thread cannot be undone. It remains preserved, at least temporarily in the electronic medium as the symbolic sacrifice even if nothing or no one else is redeemed. The lies are incontrovertible, preserved in quotes and links. You lost horribly. The question is whether you try to find redemption or whether you throw your pride away and continue to serve the demon.

Now for the apology:
I’m sorry that I treated you harshly. I know you are a good person Dave. You are active in your community, you give charitably, you have adopted children and you’ve occasionally demonstrated honest compassion. I sincerely hope that no reader of this debate will use anything I’ve said to judge you harshly. To any that would, I would remind them to judge not, lest ye be judged yourselves. You did engage to the best of your ability and as far as I can tell you presented objections that you felt were legitimate. This is a sonofabitch of a thing to work through and I can’t say that I could do it. I’m not sure if I did a terrible thing or a wonderful thing. Maybe I just did a thing. I feel like I’ve tried to address serious issues without putting on too many airs. I have tried to be sincere. I hope at least that I caused no lasting harm.

Thank you for the debate. I sincerely appreciate it. The fact that this is a product of an internet forum blows me away.



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