Fairy tales for adults

Steve Bougerolle steveb at creek-and-cowley.com
Wed Feb 12 12:41:10 PST 2003

On Thu, 2003-02-13 at 03:43, Richard Lightman wrote:
> In the past christians have argued that "What you see through a
> telescope is created in the telescope" when moons orbiting
> jupiter were discovered despite religious dogma to the contrary.
> I hape we do not have to go through that again

What's the point of this straw man?  Do you really believe anybody here
would make such a stupid argument, or that we are the fundamentalists we
have been discussing?

> One of the ways of measuring the distance to distant gallaxies
> is by measuring cepheid variable stars. You can look up the period of
> a distant cephid on that graph to find its absolute brightness,
> and use that, and the apparent brightness to calculate the
> distance.


1) Apparent brightness is affected by many things, dark matter and 
   instrument bias being two of the most obvious.
2) There are no truly "local" Cepheid variables.  Thus the problem
   with apparent brightness not directly giving you absolute brightness
   returns to bite you twice.

Now, these are not unsolvable problems by any means.  #2 in particular
is relatively easy to address by a simple statistical analysis (although
#1 remains).

However, my point is not that we know nothing about the universe.  My
point is that, if you judge it by the standards of logic, astronomy is a
disaster area.  The second problem above would be particularly relevant
in such a debate because it turns on circular reasoning.

This debate started because somebody (Bryan?) said it was quite possible
for intelligent and educated people to believe a literal account of
Genesis, and then a feverish heated response came back.  I'm just
attempting to show how that can be true.  

Many intelligent and well-educated people have a good grasp of logic but
are not particularly proficient with science (think of judges, for
example).  They could look at practically any aspect of astronomy and
immediately find so many logical holes they would reject it out of hand
- and they would be right, because by THEIR standards our ideas of the
universe are crap.

Likewise, we see all the numeric and scientific details and judge
Genesis by them, and that makes it look bad by OUR standards.

However, both judgements would be unfair because astronomy is not
intended to be a work of logic and Genesis was not written (I'm sure) to
be a scientific treatise.   It is unfortunate that many people continue
to fixate on the scientific details of Genesis, on one side of the
debate or other, but that doesn't really say anything at all about how
reasonable it inherently is.

> Cepheids are one of the best understood types of star in the universe. 

LOL.  True, but not saying much...

> Why would a creationalist god create such a detailed illusion of the
> universe being very old?

What detailed illusion?  The whole account of creation in Genesis fits
in one page of normal text.  All concern with details comes from people
reading things into that.  The text itself is wonderfully simple.

Steve Bougerolle
Creek & Cowley Consulting


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