Disproving young Earth creationism through astrophysics

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Disproving young Earth creationism through astrophysics

Postby Aglet » Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:45 pm UTC

I was going to bed last night and thought of an argument (which a Google search reveals has been previously presented, but I came up with it independently).

If the universe was created 6000 years ago (or whatever), then how can we see light from stars millions of light-years away? The Google search and my own devil's (God's?) advocate came up with these explanations. As far as I can tell, #3 is the most popular for young Earth creationists.


1. The speed of light is actually faster than 3.0 x 10^8 m/s.
Dumb.

2. Stars are actually closer to us than we think.
Similarly dumb. If there are trillions of stars (and, indisputably, there are), the millions that would be within 6000 light-years should be apparent in telescopes.

3. The speed of light has slowed down over time.
I don't know the exact science of this, but there's almost certainly a few contradictions in here, the least of which is a bunch of relativity problems.
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Postby nyeguy » Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:16 am UTC

You forgot the common argument that god made all the light at a point where it would reach Earth really quickly in the beginning.
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Postby hatguy » Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:18 am UTC

4. When the universe was created, God placed beams of light, appearing to come from billions of light-years away, in order to test your faith.
It is unclear if he did this before or after burying fossils that look millions of years old.

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Postby Xanthir » Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:19 am UTC

The correct answer to #3 is "Show me the math."

They can't, because there isn't any. If they come up with anything, it's handwavey bullshit that anyone with a modicum of knowledge and a rational viewpoint can call bs on.

We're not talking "show me math that shows the speed of light may have varied over time". That's potentially respectable, and hell, the way inflation works it can be true depending on how you run your definitions. Ask for calculations showing that the speed of light has slowed sufficiently for 15billion years or so to compress down to 6000. Then, since this would screw with pretty much everything, ask what the other effects of extremely sped up light would be, and how we would detect such telltales. Considering that they're just pulling stuff out of their ass to justify an answer they've already decided was right, even if they do have some bs math to throw at you they won't have anything that actually explores the consequences of such an event.

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Postby Aglet » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:46 am UTC

hatguy wrote:4. When the universe was created, God placed beams of light, appearing to come from billions of light-years away, in order to test your faith.
It is unclear if he did this before or after burying fossils that look millions of years old.


Actually, the website that I saw #3 on acknowledged that this didn't make any sense, I guess for the same reason that putting fossils in geological strata to test our faith doesn't make sense.

Actually, I'm not sure what's less likely - God putting dinosaur fossils in the ground, or man coexisting with dinosaurs 6000 years ago.
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Postby Herman » Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:52 am UTC

Actually, this problem has been solved. It seems that all stars are actually angels. The Bible accurately predicted, thousands of years before modern astronomy, that heaven was in the sky. Even secular astronomers will admit that stars (i.e. angels) are only observed in the sky. This confirms Biblical predictions that angels live in heaven.

And light emanating from an angel can travel as fast as it damn well pleases.

Also, scientists are all gay and eat babies.

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Postby elminster » Sat Aug 18, 2007 7:24 am UTC

*several post rewrites, summations and alot of thinking on how to not make it sound so blunt by being more metaphorical*

Religious people are simply betting against the odds.

Were progressively holding more and more hands, theirs is reserved for the royal flush.

Maybe unlikely, but incomphrensabily spectacular if true. You could say science plays it safe, but its those people who win the most eventually.

p.s. Religious people are partly stupid.
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Postby hyperion » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:36 am UTC

Any evidence that proves the Earth is older than 6000 years will simply be dismissed as "the Devil did it".
I hate ignorant people ever so much.
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Postby Bondolon » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:32 am UTC

HYPERiON wrote:Any evidence that proves the Earth is older than 6000 years will simply be dismissed as "the Devil did it".
I hate ignorant people ever so much.


That's not really fair to proponents of creationism. While I'll admit that they're completely ignorant, I'd hardly go so far as to call them out-and-out stupid. Most of the people who have any explaining power attribute things like this to fundamental misconceptions on the part of physicists, trusting too much in science and not enough in faith. There's not a creationist I know that would be so blatantly stupid as to attribute the creation of any part of the universe to "the devil". By-and-large, the argument is that either the universe was created in such a way that if in fact said stars ARE that far away and light actually DOES travel at c (i.e., the scientists got some things right), the light from these stars was made to already be heading to Earth, JUST AS IF it had been traveling for all of the time, even though it actually hadn't. A point they do have on their side is, if this hypothetical construct were true, it would be true in light of the fact that it was created by a being that, by its very nature, would have an intellect capable of ideas that no living being would ever be able to conceptualize, and plans that no living being could ever hope to understand.

I'm not saying that I agree with this position (as I definitely think it is as dumb as hell), but I do insist that if a position is going to be criticized, it's ACTUALLY the position being taken and not a straw-man of it. There are many creationists with fair amounts of power that misunderstand large sections of creationist dogma, and it's unfortunate that said people are... shallowing the pool, as it were, but they are and everyone has to deal with that. In any case, the fact is that there is a coherent, logically valid train of thought behind creationism, and the only good way to argue against one person's theory is first to actually understand it, and secondly to be able to refute it. Too many people are content with dismissing it out of hand, and, no matter which side you're on, that's complacency, which is ignorance in and of itself.

edit: Hyperion, this isn't exclusively targeted at you, btw. You just happened to get the quote.
Last edited by Bondolon on Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby schrodingersduck » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:39 am UTC

One of my high school physics textbooks actually had the question "Young-Earth creationists believe the universe is 6000 years old. What would be the minimum value the Hubble constant could have if this were true?". This works because in an accelerating universe, the age of the universe is approximately 1/H.

Incidently, the WMAP satellite found a Hubble Constant of 71 ± 4 (km/s)/Mpc. A 6000 year old universe should have a Hubble Constant of about 162,968,992 (km/s)/Mpc. Still, it's only a few orders of magnitudes out!

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Postby Macbi » Sat Aug 18, 2007 11:12 am UTC

The explanation I heared was that the earth is (naturally) at the centre of the universe, and then since mass is not equally distributed in the universe, relativistic effects cause the light to be accelerated towards us.

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Postby zenten » Sat Aug 18, 2007 1:49 pm UTC

I like the ones that argue the earth was created 6000 or so years ago, but the universe itself is billions of years old.

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Postby Nevea » Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:28 pm UTC

zenten wrote:I like the ones that argue the earth was created 6000 or so years ago, but the universe itself is billions of years old.


Then they'll come back with "But the Bible states that the heavens and earth were made in the same day." And yeah, it does say that...

Anyways, I just read this book called The Science of God which takes a very very scientific way of interpreting the Bible. It really was awesome, and kinda scary how the science we're coming up with nowadays is actually mentioned in the Bible and are thruths we've known for some time. The book really does a great job of showing how science and religion are NOT mutually exclusive. If you love science (youre browsing XKCD forums, need I say more) and still consider yourself spiritual but don't know what to think of certain discrepancies, I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Amazon page for reviews and stuff: http://www.amazon.com/Science-God-Geral ... 076790303X
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Postby Xanthir » Sat Aug 18, 2007 7:14 pm UTC

Nevea wrote:
zenten wrote:I like the ones that argue the earth was created 6000 or so years ago, but the universe itself is billions of years old.


Then they'll come back with "But the Bible states that the heavens and earth were made in the same day." And yeah, it does say that...

Anyways, I just read this book called The Science of God which takes a very very scientific way of interpreting the Bible. It really was awesome, and kinda scary how the science we're coming up with nowadays is actually mentioned in the Bible and are thruths we've known for some time. The book really does a great job of showing how science and religion are NOT mutually exclusive. If you love science (youre browsing XKCD forums, need I say more) and still consider yourself spiritual but don't know what to think of certain discrepancies, I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Amazon page for reviews and stuff: http://www.amazon.com/Science-God-Geral ... 076790303X

Yeah, and the Tao predicted quantum physics...

The bible doesn't have any modern science in it. Any attempt to find science in it is just reading things *extremely* metaphorically and stretching to apply it to things we already know. There's a reason nobody's ever actually used the bible to discover new scientific facts - it's because there aren't any in there.

It's like numerology, or the number 23. If you look hard enough, *everything* is connected to the number 23. Doesn't mean anything, it's just a consequence of the fact that we are pattern-finding animals and like patterns in unusual places. It's the same phenomena that makes us see faces in everything.

Now, if the bible had something in it like, say, "The way of the rock is of 2, but the way of the lodestone is of 3" (indicating that gravity follows an inverse-square law, while a magnetic dipole follows an inverse-cube law at sufficient distances) would be pretty surprising. That would be relatively unambiguous.

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Postby Lanjolo » Sat Aug 18, 2007 7:54 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:Now, if the bible had something in it like, say, "The way of the rock is of 2, but the way of the lodestone is of 3" (indicating that gravity follows an inverse-square law, while a magnetic dipole follows an inverse-cube law at sufficient distances) would be pretty surprising. That would be relatively unambiguous.


I agree, bible would be a lot more believable as a scientific book if it contained book of the pi that told the first 2000 digits of pi.

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Postby McHell » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:15 pm UTC

zenten wrote:I like the ones that argue the earth was created 6000 or so years ago, but the universe itself is billions of years old.


Yes, they're all fun and games to watch.

My feeling is that you will never confuse any of them enough with your rational, astrophysics based argumentation, as anything that leaves our (flat, of course) disk is just too outlandish, scifi, fairytaley. Even top minds like Newton, dropped in our age, would need some serious studying to believe you or not; he couldn't decide it offhand from your "yeah, 1/H=age universe, so". So this debate is only meaningful if your YECrea has studied astrophysics.

I saw "BC tours" organize visits to the zoo and explain the children that lions were created (as vegetarians, of course) with claws `to grip on rocks', only later (after the eviction from eden) they said `neat, now we can kill zebras with these'. It's pointless to argue I suspect. But using math will not get you anywhere then.

I have hope for tree-ring-records. The oldest living (bristlecone pine) trees are 3500years old. You just need a few older semi-fossils to get a continuous record stretching beyond 6000. You get a collection of trees differing some 100years (and overlapping > 1000) in age, you get a functional catalogue of years and the climate.
I don't know to where this spreads at the moment. But a tree (part of creation! yay!) is a touchable, comprehensible thing. I think it's feasible to present them with these physical objects and inspire actual doubt; they are not as easy to argue away in the "yea yea Kubrick filmed the moonlandings in a shed somewhere, theyre fakes eejit" fashion.

[Hot years, dry years, etc are all observable from the succession of thicker and thinner rings. You get a piece of wood from a medieval ship or whatever, you can check a catalogue and know exactly which yearrings you observe (so the boat will be a few years younger than that). This is a daily application in archeology.]

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Postby Token » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:19 pm UTC

Nevea wrote:Then they'll come back with "But the Bible states that the heavens and earth were made in the same day." And yeah, it does say that...

Not that I condone creationism in any way, but the Bible says no such thing. There are two creation accounts in Genesis, neither of which places any constraint on the time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the rest of creation.

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Re: Disproving young Earth creationism through astrophysics

Postby SpitValve » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:33 pm UTC

Aglet wrote:3. The speed of light has slowed down over time.
I don't know the exact science of this, but there's almost certainly a few contradictions in here, the least of which is a bunch of relativity problems.


There are serious theoretical physicists who study variable speed of light cosmologies. It doesn't come out obviously contradictory, but apparently they're not as careful with the maths as they could be, so it's not entirely certain if it mathematically makes sense. (This is trusting the opinion of my cosmology lecturer from last year).


But I don't think they're saying it's changing so much that it makes the universe 6ky old.

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Postby McHell » Sun Aug 19, 2007 1:07 am UTC

I was indeed thinking along those lines, SV, when I said a Newton couldn't even figure out right/wrong. What's the point of trying to bamboozle anyone who's less mathematically literate?

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Postby fjafjan » Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:50 am UTC

disproving young earth creationists is like boxing a baby.
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Postby recurve boy » Sun Aug 19, 2007 1:46 pm UTC

Bondolon wrote:
HYPERiON wrote:Any evidence that proves the Earth is older than 6000 years will simply be dismissed as "the Devil did it".
I hate ignorant people ever so much.


That's not really fair to proponents of creationism. While I'll admit that they're completely ignorant, I'd hardly go so far as to call them out-and-out stupid.


True. I was arguing with some colleagues the other day. They aren't creationists, but they are certainly convinced that their eastern mysticism inspired world view has merit. They were completely convinced even though they had did not have any logical arguments or evidence why. Just "There has to be something."

They may or may not be right. But I find it distressing that they just came up with something without ever questioning why it must be so. It's seems to be merely a matter of preference. They like the sound of it, so, ok, they'll go with it ... :?

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Postby SpitValve » Sun Aug 19, 2007 10:31 pm UTC

recurve boy wrote:They may or may not be right. But I find it distressing that they just came up with something without ever questioning why it must be so. It's seems to be merely a matter of preference. They like the sound of it, so, ok, they'll go with it ... :?


I think there are many things that we do in society just because it feels like a good idea, or just because it's what everybody does.

I mean, do you really sit down and try to logically prove why it's right to ask a young lady out to dinner?

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Postby gmalivuk » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:29 pm UTC

Aglet wrote:Actually, I'm not sure what's less likely - God putting dinosaur fossils in the ground, or man coexisting with dinosaurs 6000 years ago.


If you grant the (really fucking huge) claim that there's a God who created the entire universe, I suspect it would be pretty easy for Him to stick some old-looking bone-like rocks in the ground.
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Postby Herman » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:31 pm UTC

fjafjan wrote:disproving young earth creationists is like boxing a baby *and then having billions of people insist that the baby won.*


Fix'd

Spitvalve wrote:recurve boy wrote:
They may or may not be right. But I find it distressing that they just came up with something without ever questioning why it must be so. It's seems to be merely a matter of preference. They like the sound of it, so, ok, they'll go with it ... Confused


I think there are many things that we do in society just because it feels like a good idea, or just because it's what everybody does.

I mean, do you really sit down and try to logically prove why it's right to ask a young lady out to dinner?


There is a big difference between justifying actions logically and justifying beliefs logically. You can just decide to do something. But you can't, logically, just decide to believe something is true. You have to be convinced. People who seem to just decide to believe something either already believed it before they think they decided, or have a doublethink-type cognitive dissonance going on. You cannot be simultaneously aware that you chose of your own free will to think that something is true and actually think it's true.

Asking a young lady out to dinner without working out exactly why displays a certain, tolerable level of irrationality. But believing something just because you want to, that shows that your irrationality has penetrated all the way to the part of you that's supposed to think rationally. Which is what was so disturbing to recurve, and now me.

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Postby recurve boy » Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:23 am UTC

SpitValve wrote:I think there are many things that we do in society just because it feels like a good idea, or just because it's what everybody does.

I mean, do you really sit down and try to logically prove why it's right to ask a young lady out to dinner?


We sure do. I always wash my hair twice because my mom used to be a hair dresser and told me too. I've thought about why, but have no answer.

But this is vastly different from believing that there is some super natural energy in your body (that you can control through meditation) that allows your body to heal itself from anything and gives you some spiritual connection to the entire universe.

I should ask more ladies out to dinner but I am irrationally afraid of rejection. Hah!

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Postby Ghona » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:35 am UTC

5. Wait a second, God never specified his reference frame
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Postby 3.14159265... » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:40 am UTC

hatguy wrote:4. When the universe was created, God placed beams of light, appearing to come from billions of light-years away, in order to test your faith.
It is unclear if he did this before or after burying fossils that look millions of years old.
Hat guy would have been more clever.
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Postby SpitValve » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:41 am UTC

Ghona wrote:5. Wait a second, God never specified his reference frame


Win.

He'd have to change His reference frame now and again to get the dilation to work right: otherwise from the Evermoving Deity's perspective, the compartively stationary rest-of-the-universe would be appearing to age more slowly, which is the opposite effect.

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Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:59 am UTC

The speed of light being different in different parts of the Universe, and in different temporal instances, was semi-proved, and theoretically, true. I read about it a few years ago, where they captured (or at least detected) fanastically powerful cosmic particles that had passed through a nebula some *illion light years away, but something about the particle indicated that the universal constants, particularly C, were different where the nebula was.

Of course, damned if I can find it now....

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Postby recurve boy » Mon Aug 20, 2007 4:49 am UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:The speed of light being different in different parts of the Universe, and in different temporal instances, was semi-proved, and theoretically, true. I read about it a few years ago, where they captured (or at least detected) fanastically powerful cosmic particles that had passed through a nebula some *illion light years away, but something about the particle indicated that the universal constants, particularly C, were different where the nebula was.

Of course, damned if I can find it now....


It would have to change quite a lot to have such a big effect that YEC was true.

One of my lecturers at Uni was one of the guys who proposed the C is changing thing. As far as I can recall without looking things up, it's slightly different. But not a lot.

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Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Mon Aug 20, 2007 4:50 am UTC

Well, not prove that YEC was true, but rather that universal constants are neither universal nor constant. It was more of an interesting aside that, I'm sure, the YEC people will be siezing upon when more data is released.

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Postby SpitValve » Mon Aug 20, 2007 7:17 am UTC

recurve boy wrote:One of my lecturers at Uni was one of the guys who proposed the C is changing thing. As far as I can recall without looking things up, it's slightly different. But not a lot.


Oh yeah? One of my lecturers at uni isn't convinced that the C is changing theories are mathematically consistent.

Lecturer battle!

But yeah, it doesn't make the universe-is-young thing fit.

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Postby evilbeanfiend » Mon Aug 20, 2007 7:56 am UTC

elminster wrote:*several post rewrites, summations and alot of thinking on how to not make it sound so blunt by being more metaphorical*

Religious people are simply betting against the odds.

Were progressively holding more and more hands, theirs is reserved for the royal flush.

Maybe unlikely, but incomphrensabily spectacular if true. You could say science plays it safe, but its those people who win the most eventually.

p.s. Religious people are partly stupid.


so as soon as the religious people place a bet everyone else folds and we still win more?
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Postby roundedge » Sat Aug 25, 2007 11:52 pm UTC

I remember reading at new scientist that there was some tentative evidence to suggest that the value of C was changing based on samples taken from the Oklo natural nuclear fission reactor, which had natural sustained nuclear reactions ~1.5 billion years ago (I guess this doesn't really lend itself to the YEC argument). The samples suggested that the reactions were occurring at a different rate than they do today, which meant a difference in the fine structure constant, and thus a difference in the speed of light.

But I remember going and finding the actual report through my library, and at the end the author said that the error was too much to say anything conclusive, and more likely than not there was no difference.

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Postby Cynical Jawa » Sun Aug 26, 2007 12:29 pm UTC

Nevea wrote:Anyways, I just read this book called The Science of God which takes a very very scientific way of interpreting the Bible. It really was awesome, and kinda scary how the science we're coming up with nowadays is actually mentioned in the Bible and are thruths we've known for some time. The book really does a great job of showing how science and religion are NOT mutually exclusive. If you love science (youre browsing XKCD forums, need I say more) and still consider yourself spiritual but don't know what to think of certain discrepancies, I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Amazon page for reviews and stuff: http://www.amazon.com/Science-God-Geral ... 076790303X


There was a review in New Scientist of a similar book back in Spring - basically, it was torn to shreds. It was a huge stretch, and made some outrageous claims as to our scientific knowlege e.g. we have a complete theory of quantum gravity. Jesus' resurrection was a result of spotaneous decay into neutrinos and antineutrinos followed by reconstitution back into atoms. I think he even somehow invokes the anthropic principle in relation the resurrection.

I'll see if I can dig it up.

I'm not saying this book is the same, but I am naturally suspicious of it. In a way, your glowing review makes it seem even mroe suspect - I don't know why, but people always seem to sound like that when describing such excellent and accurate works as, say, The Da Vinci Code. Anyway, not a dig at you or the book, I'm just saying that I would treat it with caution.

EDIT: Found that review. Only 790K

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Postby McHell » Sun Aug 26, 2007 1:16 pm UTC

Science and religion are just different realms, like science and art.

You will never have a scientific method of deciding something is art or not. Or what is a better piece (which anyhow will depend on personal choice, another illusion). However, arguing that all art is invalid because it falls out of the scientifically measurable realm just classes you somewhere below the arachnids. For some people, art and culture is what gives meaning to existence, for others it's a waste of time and a delusion; both are equally valid viewpoints I guess.

For the same reason, this discussion will make nobody change viewpoints or corrupt them into changing camp, nor will it reach resolution. Best hope is that some people will sharpen their tools for the next iteration of the same.

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Postby McHell » Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:48 pm UTC

Nevea wrote:kinda scary how the science we're coming up with nowadays is actually mentioned in the Bible


This is very true.

For example, the New Testament offers the basis for computing, binary logic:
But let your communication be Yea, yea; nay, nay:
for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
-- Matthew 5:37

[/misrepresentation]

@icdb: indeed, that Pi=3 argument has been presented.
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Postby ICDB » Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:49 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:The bible doesn't have any modern science in it. Any attempt to find science in it is just reading things *extremely* metaphorically and stretching to apply it to things we already know. There's a reason nobody's ever actually used the bible to discover new scientific facts - it's because there aren't any in there.


"Now he made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference.
(1 Kings 7:23)

In all fairness, this could be the circumference around the inner brim of the bowl, while the diameter is measured across the outer brim.

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Belial
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Postby Belial » Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:52 pm UTC

Or, *gasp*, rounding.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.


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e946
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Postby e946 » Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:57 pm UTC

I really dislike the "God just faked the fossils and created the light midway through its travel" theories because they imply that God, instead of being loving and caring, is mistrusting and misleading. If we're being lied to here, why not in other areas?

"Testing their faith" is something jealous overprotective husbands do, not benevolent omnipotent gods.


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