(Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXIV: Wherein Dog Whistles Abound

Oh, goody. We’re back to young earth creationists trying to tell us what we icky secular types think of geology. This time, the authors of Earth Science Fourth Edition are on about changes over the course of the earth’s existence. Let’s see how much fail they pack into the topic, eh?

Our section objectives tell us that we’ll be able to show how the earth has changed over time. Everybody agrees it has, so that’s lovely.

Then they’ll want us to “compare and contrast the old-earth and young-earth histories, emphasizing when changes happened and how long they took to occur.” Fabulous! We’ll be able to stick science and myth in two columns and see how badly the myth mangles reality.

Then we’re to “evaluate the scientific problems with the old-earth view of the earth’s history.” Ha ha ha no. No, because they won’t be addressing actual problems, like the bits in our theories that still need improving (fer instance: we really don’t quite understand hot spots yet, although we’ve got some good leads). What they’ll be doing is more like complaining that guides to King’s Cross Station are wrong because they don’t include Platform 9¾.

Finally, we’re to “compare and contrast the arrangement and significance of the old-earth and young-earth geologic columns.” I can do that in a jiff: one works and one doesn’t. Done!

It becomes readily apparent they have no idea what plate tectonics is or how it works. As they try to ‘splain, they first over-simplify to the point of incoherence. They seem to think we believe the continents move around willy-nilly for no reason at all. They think tectonic plates are “pieces of the continents.” That tells me they haven’t absorbed any new information since the idea of continental drift was first mooted. We know that the continents aren’t plowing through oceanic crust. The “plates” in plate tectonics include both oceanic and continental crust (lithosphere).

Image shows a map with North America centered. The North American plate is shaded in purple, and extends far beyond the continent in the north and east portions. It's only along the west coast, where the Pacific Plate directly touches the North American Plate either by subduction or transform fault, that the plate doesn't extend beyond the continent.
North American Plate. Image courtesy Alataristarion (CC BY-SA 4.0)

They do understand the basic fact that we can actually see that the plates are in motion. They can’t avoid it. But they do carefully avoid the fact that the amount of time it would have taken for the Atlantic Ocean to open at that slow rate (180 million years) closely matches the radiometric dates of the oldest Atlantic seafloor (about 180 million years!). Gosh. I wonder why they’re shying away from that?

Suddenly, they leap to ice ages. Remarkably, they get most of the facts right: we know of at least five major ice ages going back over 2.1 billion years. There could be many causes, including changes to atmospheric composition, fluctuations in solar output, and “wobbles” in the earth’s orbit. So of course they emphasize that “not all geologists agree with this model.”


Then they’re on to what we old-earth types “believe” about the geologic column. It’s so full of creationist dog whistles that my ears are bleeding.

Image shows a howling dog lying on the floor with its front paws over its ears. Caption is in red and says "Make it stop."

They emphasize that we old-earthers think the Earth has experienced “slow changes, perhaps including rare, one-time catastrophic natural events.” Then they sneer in an info box that we icky old-earthers believe in occasional catastrophes, and that we “realize that strict uniformitarianism, the fundamental principle of geology, doesn’t work well as a scientific model.” Look, you little shits, uniformitarianism has included catastrophes throughout its history. Don’t you be trying to use an obsolete definition that even the originator of the principle wouldn’t have agreed with to try and show us up. It makes you look like fools. We’ve known for centuries that the past, like the present, contained a myriad of dramatic events. When you look at them on a geologic time scale, many of them become regular happenings. Meteors hit; seas rise and fall; ice comes and goes; as it was, so it is, so shall it be.

Anyway, creationists, listen to Eugenie Scott before you embarrass yourselves further.

They go on to explain that “geologists have constructed a theoretical column of rock strata that they believe documents the history of the earth.” Hear the dog whistles? They keep puffing while explaining that we’ve used radiometric dating to assign ages to rocks in the geologic column: “making certain assumptions,” “they believe,” “Geologists believe…” My, do they hate radiometric dating!

More dog whistles are blown when they talk about relative ages. “Geologists assume” things like the principle of superposition. “Geologists believe” they can estimate the age of a layer sandwiched between layers of known age. And the column “fits their assumptions of a very old Earth.” They follow up with the old creationist favorite: “You should note that nowhere in the world are there rocks from all geologic time units stacked on top of each other in one place.”

Au contraire, creationists. (Mind you, this is a fellow creationist calling them on their bullshit.)

So much bullshit. And we haven’t even started on the next section yet, “Problems With the Old-Earth Story.” They’ve stuffed so much wrong in there it’ll take us an entire post to sort it out.

(Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXIV: Wherein Dog Whistles Abound