Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Apparently evidence doesn’t exist

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Sat Jul 02, 2016 1:34 pm by itsdemtitans

The views of creationists on “evidence” are interesting. Quite often you’ll see organizations like AiG saying that we all have “the same evidence” and what it means to the viewer depends on their worldview. This is best shown by one of their own pictures.

So, according to AiG, all that matters is your worldview. Your worldview determines how you see the evidence. The logical result of this is that evidence, in itself, says nothing. This of course contradicts the very definition of evidence, which google defines as:

the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid

Thus, if we are to believe creationists, then there’s literally no evidence pointing to anything about our origins. None at all. All we have are bones and rocks and DNA which can be fit to match any preconceived conclusion, but these things do not, in themselves, point to any particular answer.

One must ask, then, why YECs so often push to challenge evolution. Why do they point to the rock record and proclaim “_____ is evidence of a global flood” or “_____ disproves gene duplication” or “_____ points to intelligent design.”? If creationist organizations are right, that evidence is a matter of worldview, then they cannot point to these things and say they are evidence against evolution. They are not evidence of anything, just more raw data that can be mashed into either conclusion.

I understand not all YECs subscribe to the view of places like AiG, and understand what evidence actually means. But when AiG turns around and does exactly this, claiming evidence for their position exists, then they’re contradicting themselves. Either they admit there is no evidence, and thus no genuine conclusions can be reached only assumed from the onset, or evidence does exist, in which case arguing about it being “a matter of worldview” makes no sense.

But of course they’re blind to this contradiction. I doubt that’s a surprise. I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice this contradiction either.

Until next time guys.

Kevin Henke tackles John Woodmorappe’s TAB flood sorting mechanism

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:42 pm by itsdemtitans

Hey people,

Two blogs in one month, eh? I’ve got a treat for you today. Back in 1983 creationist John Woodmorappe came up with a hypothetical flood sorting mechanism known as Tectonically-Associated Bioprovidences. It was set to explain problems with original ecological zonation hypothesis. In 1998, Geologist Kevin Henke tackled the paper. It reveals better than anything else how incompetent creation “geologists” are. However, it was hidden away in the archive of the Talkorigins newsgroup. After cleaning it up to better fit the format of this forum, I gained permission from Kevin to repost it here. Thanks, Kevin!

It’s a little hard to read without Woodmorappe’s figures in front of you, but there’s still plenty of Gold in it. Enjoy the read!

~Itsdemtitans

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Response to Woodmorappe’s Claims in his Paper: “A Diluviological Treatise on the Stratigraphic Separation of Fossils”

Kevin R. Henke, August 8, 1998

Note to reader: To fully understand my critique, you will have to obtain a copy of Woodmorappe’s paper and refer to the figures and tables in it.

John Woodmorappe (not his real name) first presented his TAB (Tectonically Associated Biological Provinces) concept in “A Diluviological Treatise on the Stratigraphic Separation of Fossils,” which appeared in the December, 1983 issue of the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ). The article was reprinted in his 1993 book, “Studies in Flood Geology.” Woodmorappe attempts to disprove the reliability of index fossils and explain away the geologic time table by evaluating the relationships between 34 groups of index fossils.

First of all, he can’t even get the time ranges of many of the index fossils correct. I randomly checked some of them in his Table 2 and found many errors and improper uses of index fossils: For example, he lists Monograptus with the Ordovician graptolites. However, Monograptus never lived during the Ordovician. It’s a Silurian index fossil! See Shimer and Shrock’s “Index Fossils of North America” (1987, 13th printing) p. 75, 77 or Moore, Lalicker and Fischer’s “Invertebrate Fossils,” McGraw-Hill, 1952, p. 731. As another example, Xenodiscus is a lower Triassic ammonoid(Shimer and Shrock, p. 569). Yet, Woodmorappe lists this fossil with the Permian ammonoids in Table 2. Also Dictyonema is not a suitable index fossil for the Ordovician, because it lived from the Upper Cambrian to the Lower Mississippian (Shimer and Shrock, p. 65).

I could go on.

Everyone makes mistakes, but Woodmorappe’s errors in Table 2 and elsewhere in this paper are too common for him to be a competent geologist. When I pointed this out to Woodmorappe in January 1998, all he could do was to say that he would recheck his references. It’s a little late. This rechecking should have been done in 1983, as part of “peer review” process of CRSQ. Woodmorappe also inappropriately uses rare vertebrate index fossils, such as Dimetrodon and dinosaurs, like Stegosaurus. These vertebrate fossils are very valuable and WHEN they’re found, they are useful. However, Woodmorappe must realize that two of the properties of a truly useful and relevant index fossil are widespread occurrence and frequent preservation.

It’s obvious that he did not consult tables, like the one in Mintz, Leigh W., 1977, “Historical Geology: The Science of a Dynamic Earth”, 2nd ed., Charles E. Merrill Publishing, Columbus, OH, p. 212, before he selected his 34 groups of index fossils. This table does not even recommend using vertebrates, since vertebrates are so rarely preserved. Forams, radiolarians, and other microfossils are much more useful than a large dinosaur that has little chance of being preserved and becoming a fossil. Also forams are found in more diverse aquatic environments than dinosaurs. Forams and other microfossils have a relatively good chance of being preserved, because of their diversity and small size. Dinosaurs are clearly inferior index fossils. Geologists learn all of this in second semester freshman Historical Geology 102 or related intro classes. It’s a wonder that Woodmorappe can draw any conclusions at all from his work because Table 2 indicates that he can’t read the contents of a simple paleontology book.

Woodmorappe responded to this paragraph through private email to Karl Crawford and me by simply stating:

“His [Henke’s] claim that I use ‘bad’ index fossils such as dinosaurs shows that he [Henke] does not know what he is talking about, or else he is deliberately trying to snow-job you. Everyone knows that dinosaurs can be used as index fossils if they are found.”

As shown above, I NEVER said that dinosaurs were “bad” index fossils. I called them inferior to invertebrates because they are not as well preserved. They are very good index fossils, WHEN they’re found. Also, Woodmorappe largely ignores ocean sediments and continental well cores in this study. Why does he do this? He emailed Karl and me and told us that ocean and well core (borehole) data were largely unavailable when he wrote this article in the early 1980’s. However, continental well core data for the Williston Basin and most other petroleum-producing areas have been available since at least the 1950’s or 1960’s. Useful information on ocean sediments has been available since at least the late 1960’s. Woodmorappe could have updated his article with ocean and continental well core data before it was reprinted in 1993. Ocean sediments are relatively complete back through the Cretaceous and better support evolution and the geologic time table than the largely eroded and nonpreserved continental rocks and sediments for the same time span. If Woodmorappe really wanted to study the validity of the geologic time scale, he should have looked at ocean sediments. Chapter 7 “Fossil Distribution and the ‘Ecological Zonation’ Hypothesis” in “Neglect of Geologic Data: Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings” by old-Earth creationist Daniel E. Wonderly (Interdisciplinary Biblical Institute, 1987) talks about the problems that forams and radiolaria in ocean sediments present for advocates of “Flood Geology.” Wonderly’s chapter not only demolishes creationist claims about “ecological zonations,” but it also would put to death Woodmorappe’s TAB concept.

Well cores and fence diagrams are essential to obtain a 3-D view of the geology of an area. By largely ignoring these data and only looking at surface outcrops, Woodmorappe is certainly not going to find very many cases of index fossils from different periods in one locality, especially since he is only working with 34 groups and many of them are rare vertebrates. Woodmorappe is correct when he says that it is rare to have outcrops in one location that contain more than two geologic periods. This is because most rocks from a given period are very thick, often thousands of feet thick. Except for the Grand Canyon and relatively few other places, you have to drill deep within a site to reach the rocks of another period beneath the one or two on the surface. This is not surprising since the rocks of each geologic period often represent millions of years of net accumulation. In the oil-producing Williston Basin of western North Dakota, for example, it is not uncommon to go to a site with dinosaur fossils, index mollusk fossils, or turtle fossils on the surface ARRANGED IN THEIR EXPECTED GEOLOGICAL ORDER and drill down through hundreds or thousands of feet of rock containing numerous index fossils of different mollusks, brachiopods, etc. from at least SEVEN different geologic periods.

As an example, there are outcrops near the border between Slope and Bowman counties in western North Dakota (Township 135N, Range 106W). In that area, Champsosaurus is located in the Huff Member. Both just above (in the Tullock Formation) and below (in the Pretty Butte Member) are specimens of the index fossil, Viviparus, a snail. (For details, see: Frye, Charles I., 1967, “The Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.) So how did the Champsosaurus get sandwiched between layers with these snails? The outcrops include well-layered bentonite beds, which are weathered volcanic ash deposits. Also, the Huff Member typically contains very water soluble gypsum crystals. How did the ash beds settle and form extensively lateral layers during a violent Flood? Why weren’t the gypsum crystals dissolved and washed away by the Flood waters? Oil wells throughout the two counties go down into the Paleozoic, where brachiopods, trilobites and other marine invertebrates, many of them as index fossils, are present. You can see the intact fossils in the miles of drill cores from the Basin that are stored in Grand Forks, ND. It’s easy for Woodmorappe to draw false conclusions when he’s only working in one or two dimensions by studying outcrops (i.e., the surface) rather than working in three dimensions by studying well cores or using fence diagrams. If he was thinking in 3-D and using a larger number of index fossils with the correct time ranges, he wouldn’t be drawing such bad conclusions, such as: “index fossils shun each other geographically” (p. 154).

There’s no shunning in at least the Upper Midwest. I browsed through Shimer and Shrock’s list of gastropod index fossils and I easily found EIGHT index fossil species that are useful in the Fort Union and Lance Formations of western North Dakota and Montana. AGAIN, I was ONLY looking at GASTROPOD (“snail”) index fossils from ONE book and I was able to find: Viviparus raynoldsianus, Lunatia subcrassa, Campelona multistriatum, Valvata subumbilicata, Drepanochilus americanum, Pleurolimnaea tenuicostata, Planorbis planoconvexus, and Cylichna scitula. Woodmorappe incorrectly suggests in his article that index fossils are too spread out from each other to be reliable. Well, that might be true IF you’re only looking at a few of them and many of them are poorly preserved (i.e., rare) vertebrates! But, if you use common sense, as many INVERTEBRATES as possible (including down to the species level), and ocean and continental well cores, Woodmorappe’s assault on the geologic column crumbles.

Figure 1 on p. 135 is a bar graph that shows the percentages of fossil families and genera that are found in only one geologic period, just two periods and so on all the way up to the percentage of families and genera found in all 11 Phanerozoic periods. The bar graph shows that about 80% of some 19,805 fossil genera evaluated by Woodmorappe and over 30% of some 2,617 fossil families evaluated by Woodmorappe are restricted to one geologic period. That’s a lot of potential index fossils! Less than 7% of the genera and about 30% have life spans that include three or more periods. The immediate question that I have is how such a violent world-wide Flood could manage to so segregate or keep the fossils segregated. Why aren’t the vast majority of fossil families and genus found in 8 or more geologic periods? Woodmorappe attempts to deal with this creationist problem in this paper, but fails in my opinion through special pleading and the use of straw people arguments.

Woodmorappe also warns his readers that the genera and family results in Figure 1 may be biased because of subjective and inconsistent genera and family classifications and “circular reasoning” (p. 135-136). Even if minor adjustments are needed in taxonomic classifications or if the often touted and rarely supported creationist claims of “circular reasoning” are real in a few cases, the data in Figure 1 are clearly consistent with the geologic column. The fossil groups are segregated because they lived and died at different times, and they EVOLVED!

Woodmorappe notes that further exploration sometimes leads to the expansion of the life span of an index fossil. An example may be found in Mintz, 1977, p. 211, which states that the bryozoan Archimedes was once thought to only have lived during the Mississippian period. However, it’s now known to occasionally occur in Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks. Therefore, Woodmorappe (p. 136) argues that the results in Figure 1 may not be final.

Paleontologists are very familiar with this problem. This is why they look for fossil assemblages in previously unexplored regions rather than just relying on single index fossils. Geologists argue that using just one index fossil for a previously unexplored outcrop is unwise because there is a chance that the fossil may have lived earlier or later in this area than in other areas of the world. This could result in the improper dating of newly discovered sedimentary rocks (see Mintz, 1977, p. 210-217). This is why geologists use fossil assemblages of 5, 10, 24 or even more fossils. The chances that ALL 10, 24 or whatever number of members of a fossil assemblage lived in an unexplored area before or after they lived everywhere else in the world are remote. It does not surprise me that Woodmorappe doesn’t talk extensively about REAL WORLD fossil assemblages in this paper, because in the hands of early 19th century geologists, fossil assemblages were important in killing Flood Geology.

On Map 36, Woodmorappe plots “localized occurrences” of Jurassic ammonoids, Lower Carboniferous corals, Silurian brachiopods and graptolites and Cambrian trilobites on maps of Nevada, Utah, and Great Britain. He states (p. 150) that there are very few localities in these areas where three out of the four fossil groups occur within a few 10’s of miles of each other. But, why would any geologist expect to find locations that have three or four of these groups, since they don’t even have consecutive ages?!

For map 36, Woodmorappe includes Cambrian trilobites, skips the Ordovician, includes Silurian brachiopods and graptolites, skips the Devonian, includes Lower Carboniferous corals, skips the Upper Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic and includes Jurassic ammonoids. Why all the skipping? Woodmorappe’s larger maps (p. 140-146) indicate that Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, and Triassic index fossils are at least present in parts of Great Britain. What would these maps have looked like if Woodmorappe had included a thorough representation of index fossils from four consecutive periods, such as Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian? For creationists, would the results have been too good in illustrating the reliability and usefulness of index fossils?

Woodmorappe constructs some hypothetical examples of his TAB concept in Figure 4. Immediately, I wonder why he is using a hypothetical example rather than a reconstruction of an actual field location, like the Michigan Basin or the Williston Basin. Geologists have derived reliable paleogeographic maps that are useful in oil exploration. Creationists could try reconstructions as well. By not using a real world example, Woodmorappe is not allowing scientists to really evaluate his TAB concept and his claims against orthodox geology. He is being like William Morris Davis, who sat at a desk rather in the field and derived a “cycle of erosion” for landscapes. The “cycle of erosion” proved to have no extensive field support.

Initially, Woodmorappe (p. 158) divides the Phanerozoic into four divisions, I, II, III, and IV, (where, I = Lower Paleozoic, II = Upper Paleozoic, III = Mesozoic, and IV= Cenozoic). The Precambrian is included in I (p. 160). For Woodmorappe’s TAB concept to work, biogeographic zones must be strongly associated with certain tectonic provinces, thus the name: Tectonically Associated Biological [TAB] Provinces. Specifically, he argues (p. 158) that Lower Paleozoic strata would be associated with the most tectonically active areas. The Cenozoic deposits would be least affected by tectonic forces (e.g., Figure 5). Of course, there is no geologic evidence to support such a link. He attempts to argue for a link from information in Table 3 (p. 152-153, 158), but this “link”, if it really exists, could be explained as nothing more than erosional effects.

To argue that Cenozoic-Mesozoic deposits experienced less tectonic activity than Paleozoic deposits, Woodmorappe (p.158) claims that 57.4% of the total volume of Phanerozoic platform sediments are Cenozoic-Mesozoic and only 41.3% of the more tectonically influenced geosynclinal sediments belong to these two Eras. However, these percentages may have no statistical significance for Woodmorappe, since the Paleozoic lasted for about 375 million years and the combined Cenozoic-Mesozoic Eras represent only 225 million years.

Woodmorappe (p. 158) talks about how submarine topography and volcanic activity could affect biogeography. However, according to Woodmorappe’s claims, the Lower Paleozoic strata of Indiana or Iowa should have experienced more tectonic activity than the Cenozoic deposits of California, Oregon and Washington State. No way. For Woodmorappe’s TAB concept to stand even a slight chance of working, areas with rocks containing Lower Paleozoic fossils MUST ALWAYS have sunk further into the Earth’s crust than adjacent areas with rocks with Upper Paleozoic or younger fossils (see Woodmorappe’s paper, p. 155 and following). But, there is no basis to believe that this occurred.

Woodmorappe finally states (p. 158): “It should be emphasized that TAB’s did not arise from trial-and-error migrations [of organisms from one biogeographic province to another] but were present since the Creation and were based on teleological design.” When there’s inadequate scientific evidence, Woodmorappe invokes miracles to prop up his TABs. By comparing Woodmorappe’s Figure 6 with Figure 4, numerous contradictions become apparent. Notice that in Figure 6, Woodmorappe claims that IV/III/II/I is the most abundant TAB with about 28% of the Earth’s land surface. IV/III/II/I in Figure 6 is represented by TAB 3 in Figure 4.

However, his maps in Figure 4 show that this TAB would be relatively rare when compared with TABs 7 (I only), 10 (II only), 14 (IV only), or 5 (III only), since TAB 3 only occurs at the junction where IV, III, II, and I (TABs 7, 10, 5 and 14) meet (Woodmorappe admits that TABs like 3 form at junctions, see p. 162). Geometry 101 dictates that the intersection point of I, II, III, and IV polygons in Figure 4 will be smaller (i.e., a point) than the areas of each of the polygons that are part of the intersection. Therefore, Figure 4 or any other TAB maps that Woodmorappe could cook up dictate that TABs 7, 10, 14, and 5 should cover larger areas than their intersection point 3 or IV/III/II/I. However, Figure 6 indicates that 3 actually has a higher percent of the Earth’s land surface area than 7, 10, 14, or 5. By trying to expand TAB 3 and shrink TABs 7, 10, 14 and 5 to try to make Figures 4 and 6 consistent, Woodmorappe risks producing abundant false TABs like IV/II/III/I, which he admits are nonexistent to rare.

Look carefully at the cross sections in Figure 5 and you will see how currents could easily produce a false TAB of III/IV II in the center of basin II by depositing IV from the left before III from the right. It is only by special pleading and doctoring of the diagram could Woodmorappe eliminate this problem. But, all things are possible when you use imaginary cross sections instead of real ones. In Figure 5, Woodmorappe claims that rocks II and III are separated by a few 10’s of kilometers. Such distances are too short to be effective barriers to many organisms. If erosion did not purge the barriers, the migration of sea birds and terrestrial animals between the two marine environments could easily carry invertebrate eggs, forams, seeds, and other organisms that would cause Permian forams to noticeably mix with Cretaceous clams, like Inoceramus, for example. Thus, the migration of organisms in Figure 5 could also create many false TABs. (See Raup and Stanley, 1978, “Principles of Paleontology,” p. 404f, for discussions on the creative ways in which organisms may cross geographic barriers.)

As a real world example, I have asked Woodmorappe and/or Karl Crawford to apply the TAB concept to the Williston Basin of North Dakota. The Williston Basin contains abundant Late Paleozoic evaporites, which indicate dry climates that are completely incompatible with a raging Flood. Some creationists, like Nutting in his ICR,”Graduate School Thesis,” have,attempted to argue that the evaporites had a hydrothermal origin that was related to volcanism. But, except may be for wind-blown volcanic ash beds, there is no evidence of igneous or metamorphic deposits in the Late Paleozoic rocks of the Williston Basin. Woodmorappe makes more errors with his fictional examples in Figures 7 and 8, which deal with biostratigraphic distributions. In Figure 8, Woodmorappe attempts to show that index fossils are “incompatible” or, in other words, index fossils don’t tend to overlap at field sites. Since he is not basing his arguments on any real world examples in Figures 7 and 8, his arguments are nothing more than invalid straw people. But what makes the situation even worse for him is that he can’t even read his own figures. For example, in Figure 8, Woodmorappe claims that E1, I20; E3, I18; and E20, J14 are “compatible” or overlap stratigraphically. But Figure 7 shows that they don’t!

CONCLUSIONS:

The conclusions in Woodmorappe’s article are based on the improper use of index fossils, too few fossil groups, other fundamental errors and numerous contradictions between his imaginary figures. Because of these errors and a lack of real world examples in Figure 4, his TAB concept is geologically worthless. Woodmorappe needs to read some Geology 101 and 102 textbooks before he tries to apply his ideas to real geological features, such as the Williston Basin of western North Dakota. If he does, he will probably discover, as geologists did 150-200 years ago, that Flood Geology is crap.

Buried rivers kill Noah’s Flood

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Mon Apr 04, 2016 10:43 am by itsdemtitans

How often do you hear creationists say that there’s no evidence for erosion in the geologic record? Well, unfortunately for them, there is, and it’s not just something they can hand-wave away as some product of the Flood. Here, I’m going to show several examples of paleorivers (all images from Glenn Morton’s archived essays, save the last two). These are found everywhere throughout the rock record, at so many levels that it rules out the Phanerozoic as having been produced by a single event, and therefore, falsifies Flood Geology.

Paleorivers are exactly what they sound like; river channels that have been buried and preserved in the rock record. They often show slow meanders and which negate them having formed rapidly on unconsolidated flood sediment.

Here are several images of paleorivers. The name of the strata they’re found in will be listed above each one.

Carboniferous:

Paleoriver in limestone

This is a paleoriver from the Breckenridge limestone in Texas. Oil wells drilled outside of the channel find limestone at this level, but wells drilled into the channel fail to find any limestone here but instead find the sands and shales deposited by the river. As you can see it meanders tightly and extends for several miles, just as modern rivers do.

Carboniferous:

Coal paleoriver
erous:
Above is a channel in the Harrisburg No. 5 coal in Illinois. The two maps show where the meandering sandstone channel is in two different counties. Here is what the authors have to say about it:

“Figure 4 (modified from a map by Trescott) shows that the No. 5 coal underlies all of the area except for the locality of a meandering channel averaging about three-quarters of a mile in width in the main alluvial valley. ~-Harold R. Wanless, James R. Baroffio, and Peter C. Trescott,”Conditions of Deposition of Pennsylvanian Coal Beds,” Geol. Soc. America Spec. Paper 114 pp 105-142 (1969), p. 115-116, in Charles A. Ross and June R. P. Ross, Geology of Coal, (New York: Hutchinson Ross Publishing Co., 1984, p. 95-96

This once again reflects a meandering channel covering a long distance, just as we see on the surface today. It also sinks the “Floating Forest” theory YECs have for explaining coal seams. If that were true then such channels would not exist, as catastrophic burial of a floating forest or veggimat will not form a gentle meandering channel over such a vast distance.

Cenezoic:

Above view

Forward view

These two images come from this paper here. They show not just paleorivers, but an entire ancient landscape, dating to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. This deeply incised landscape is cut into the 58.5–56-Myr-old Lamba formation, which consists of marine deltaic deposits whose flat topset units were deposited at sea level . This formation is largely unreflective and consists of mudstones and siltstones with occasional thin sandy layers. The eroded landscape has been infilled by the 2 56–54.5 Myr Flett and Balder formations. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Ancient river drainage basins, which look exactly like the ones on the surface today, will not form under catastrophic conditions enacted on still-unconsolidated flood sediment. But according to YECs the flood sediments were still soft after the Flood to allow the rapid carving of the Grand Canyon. So obviously this feature could not have formed, but here it is.

Implications:

So, there’s several examples of paleorivers, and this is but a small sample of what’s out there. Paleorivers are found at a wide range of stratigraphic levels. I think the implications of these features are clear. These are surface features, buried under tons of sediment. Why are these such a problem for Flood Geology? Because creationists themselves list a claimed lack of erosion and surface features between layers as one of their top six evidences for a Global Flood. Obviously then, they know things like paleorivers cannot form in their Flood. But there they are. Thus, we’ve falsified Flood Geology yet again.

Comments and criticisms welcome! :)

The Fine-Tuning Argument: The Worst Argument for Theism

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:35 am by he_who_is_nobody

Theistic Apologists deploy several arguments to try to establish that a god(s) is necessary. In my humble opinion, the worst of all these arguments is the Fine-Tuning Argument. The Fine-Tuning Argument is essentially saying that the parameters of the universe as we know it are placed in such a way to allow life as we know it to exist. However, there are three fundamental flaws that make this easily the worst argument a theist could use to justify their deity(s).

 

First, when employing this argument, the theist is making the underlying assumption that the fine-tuning we see in the universe is the only possible way the universe could exist that would permit life. No justification for this is ever given, beyond the fact that if the fine-tuning were different, then things would be different; an example of a counterfactual conditional. Simply because things would be different does not mean that life or a universe could not exist. They may not be as we see them today, but that alone does not mean that the possibility for life and a universe are dependent on the fine-tuning of the universe as we know it. This is an unjustified claim built into the argument that should be challenged. Beyond that, the theist also has not shown that the fine-tuning of our universe could be anything different. It could just as easily be that all possible universes have the same fine-tuning.

 

Second, this argument does not take into account evolution. Built into this argument is the assumption that we (either humans or all life on this planet) perfectly fit. The Earth is just the right distance from the Sun, the Moon is just large enough to keep our axis stable, Jupiter is just large enough and far enough away to keep us safe from space junk, etc… However, what the theist usually fails to account for in this picture is the 14 billion years of history the universe has gone through, 4.543 billion years of our planet’s own history, and  ~4 billion years of life history on this planet. Most of the life history we see is shaped by selection and a lot of dumb luck thrown in for good measure. Essentially, it is asinine to say this planet/universe is fine-tuned for us. If anything, we are finely-tuned by the environment.

 

Third and by far the largest problem for this argument. As of the writing of this post, we currently know of one planet in our solar system that supports life. That life is supported mainly on its surface, and (except for Tardigrades), species can only survive in certain environments. There are seven other planets in our solar system (plus a few hundred moons) that do not support life (as far as we know now). There are a few possible other places in our solar system that might have life (i.e. Mars and a few moons around Jupiter or Saturn). Thus, out of several celestial bodies in our solar system, there are less than ten of them that could support life. Besides this, there is empty space between those celestial bodies wherein life cannot exist. Basically, whenever a theist tries to use the Fine-Tuning Argument, they are essentially saying; “Look at this earth size planet. It has one microorganism on it. Thus, the planet must be finely-tuned for the microorganism.” Any engineer would look at that system and conclude that it was poorly tuned if its purpose was for sustaining that microorganism. If this universe was fine-tuned for anything, it was fine-tuned for creating black holes and not life.

 

One objection to these objections could be if the theist is willing to admit their deity(s) is not omnipotent. Most apologists in the West would not dream of giving up that aspect of their deity. However, why would an omnipotent being need to fine-tune a system in the first place? Would it not be powerful enough to create a flawless system? In addition, if it were not powerful enough to create a flawless system, how could we say it is a god?

 

Another objection that Abrahamic Apologists could try is “The Fall” caused this. One problem I would have with this objection is that it could account for the planet earth, but why all the other celestial bodies and the rest of the universe? Why create such a universe that would be affected by two hairless apes on a rock orbiting a nondescript star?

 

There appears to be nothing redeemable about this argument. In fact, this argument could be far better used to show that there is not a single omniscient and omnipotent deity that cares about life (let alone humans) for the simple fact that this universe is not finely-tuned for us. Given just one of those two attributes (omniscient or omnipotent), a human fine-tuner could produce a universe far more hospitable for life.

A Response to Islamophobia

Laurens
Laurens
Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 pm by Laurens

Let’s first begin with a definition of the term Islamophobia. I posit that Islamophobia is the irrational prejudice against Muslims, often revolving around an idea that Islam as a whole is violent in nature due to the occurrence of terrorism among a minority of Muslims.

There are some who posit that this is just a made up word that is used to discourage any kind of criticism of Islam. The first thing to point out is that all words are made up, it is what tends to be done when a new thing occurs that needs a concise description. To say a word is made up and therefore cannot be describing something real makes no sense. Secondly it’s not true that it was invented to discourage criticism of Islam, it is meant to discourage criticisms based off a bigoted and prejudiced view of Islam. No secular person is going to have a problem with you putting forth a well reasoned argument as to why you think the Qu’ran is not divinely inspired. The problem is when people like Sam Harris advocate that we profile people who ‘look Muslim’ (whatever that means) at airports because being Muslim inherently makes you suspect according to him.

Of course as with any word it is going to get misapplied and misused, but this does not negate the fact that Islamophobia is a very real phenomena, and is becoming increasingly prevalent in society. If you are not convinced that the above definition relates to an actual phenomena, take a look at the following examples:

This list is by no means exhaustive. Anti-Muslim hate crime is rampant across the Europe and the US. In the face of these facts you cannot deny that there is an irrational hatred and fear of Muslims that is aptly described by the term Islamophobia. Obviously it is not just something that is expressed in violent crime and abuse. By far the most pervasive form of Islamophobia is in it’s rhetoric. With people like Sam Harris insisting that Islam is somehow an existential threat to civilization or Donald Trump advocating for a ban on Muslims from entering the US.

In my opinion perhaps the main issue that aids the growth of Islamophobia is the mainstream media, and what it chooses to report. We only ever hear about Islamic terror attacks, thus it is easy for us to develop a misguided belief that this is a characteristic of Islam rather than an anomaly. This, combined with a lack of education on Islam provides fertile ground for the development of Islamophobic views. One thing that is often said is that moderate Muslims do not do enough to speak out against terror. This is demonstrably untrue:

(Again, not an exhaustive list)*

Muslims do more than enough to speak out against terrorism. Failure to do elemental research before making a claim is a characteristic of bigotry. Having said all that, why should they have to speak out in order to prove that your assumptions about them are incorrect? They have no more obligation to condemn it than your average Christian has to condemn the Westboro Baptist Church. They might want to of their own accord, but they shouldn’t have to just to educate ignorant morons who can’t be bothered to do elemental research. If someone says “all Christians are like the Westboro Baptist Church” does that mean all Christians are obligated to now speak out against the WBC in order to prove this moron wrong? Of course not. In the case of Islam people are speaking out, all the time, and it still doesn’t change people’s views.

As with Christianity, Islam is incredibly diverse. A brief glance at this Wiki page will demonstrate just how diverse. Extremely conservative sects such as Salafism are prone to extremist interpretations, but it is important to note that this is but one of many diverse sects. It is also worth adding as a side note that an ally of the West; Saudi Arabia uses it’s extreme wealth (a lot of which comes from us) to export Wahhabism (the strict Saudi form of Salafism) across the world—a contributing factor to the rise of ISIS. Politics aside however, the point is that Islam contains a wide variety of interpretations, only a very small subset of which promote extremism.

It is for this reason that pulling quotes out of the Qu’ran doesn’t prove anything. You can find horrendous abhorrent things in the Bible, but you’d be hard pressed to find many Christians that believe it, or act upon it—many won’t even know it’s in there. The same goes for the Qu’ran. Just because you can find something in there that appears to condone violence, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all Muslims believe it. Religions are complex things, we can appreciate this when we talk about Christianity, why is it so difficult to accept when it comes to Islam?

Islam is a religion, not a race is a catchphrase you hear a lot in this debate. I don’t see how that is relevant though, all it really suggests is that Islamophobes are bigoted in a different way than racists are. Well done! Although in many instances this is not true—hence why attacks on Sikhs have risen along with the rise of Islamophobia. If you have brown skin, a beard and a turban you must be Muslim according to some. Demonstrating a link between racist views and Islamophobia.

It is often asserted that the left are inventing the term Islamophobia in order to limit the free expression of those who are just out there to criticise ideas. This not true. Criticise ideas all you want, no one is going to call you an Islamophobe if you want to write an article about how you don’t think that Muhammad was divinely inspired (assuming it doesn’t make broad generalizations about all Muslims or insults them unnecessarily). If, however, you are going to advocate social policies that are inherently discriminatory against Muslims, or ramble about how moderate Muslims do not do enough to condemn terrorism (despite this being demonstrably false) thereby implying that all Muslims are terrorist sympathisers then you are an Islamophobe and you deserve to be called out on it.

Of course Islamic terrorism is evil, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but we shouldn’t allow it to fill us with so much hatred and fear that we completely abandon our critical faculties. Sadly it seems many already have. This is not a case of uber-left-wing people pandering to extremists through fear of reprisals if they so much as venture the slightest criticism of Islam. It’s simply reasonable people trying to tell those who are caught in an epidemic of scaremongering that they have blown things out of proportion and should think before they make sweeping generalizations. Islamophobia is a real and very disturbing phenomena and it needs to be spoken out against.

 

* I realise that I appear to contradict my assertion that we only hear about Islamic terror attacks in the news by posting a list of news sources that report Muslims speaking out against terror, however I do not believe these stories are as widely spread, or given as much time as stories about terror attacks. Terror attacks are always front page news, these stories aren’t.

Why Atheism Should Be Taught In Religious Studies

Laurens
Laurens
Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:44 am by Laurens

This week we had news that secular views being left out of GSCE Religious Studies was a mistake. Of course this has got some conservative commentators backs up. Why should we teach non-religion in classes about religion? To answer that first we should ask why we are teaching children about religions in the first place. Clearly, or at least hopefully we don’t teach Religious Studies in order that children can decide which is the right one, or be told what to believe. We do it to encourage harmony and understanding. So we don’t remain ignorant and all become massive Islamophobes (although I’m not sure that is working out so well).

In light of this, it is very important to educate people about those who have no religion at all. To complete our set of understanding. No one is advocating that Religious Studies classes teach kids that God is imaginary, just that people are made aware of what atheists are all about and why. To neglect this is to leave people open to all sorts of nonsense that gets said about atheists by the religious. That atheists have no morals for example, or that atheists believe in nothing. The only way to counter such misinformation is to educate people. If Religious Studies has a purpose at all, it is to nurture understanding between faiths and beyond to the irreligious. Otherwise there is really no use in teaching it.

I also think that it should not be called Religious Studies, but rather Philosophy and Ethics or some more inclusive title. Again not to marginalize religion, but to encourage an understanding of world views that extend beyond religion and the broader context in which religions and philosophies interplay and relate to each other. Just teaching kids what each different religion believes is not truly insightful. It would serve us all well to learn about the cultural context in which these beliefs evolved. It doesn’t undermine belief in Christianity to learn about Jewish Messianism and the Roman occupation of Judea (and subsequent corruption or perceived corruption of the Jewish temple authorities), but it surely teaches us something about humanity, our history and how we cope with change. We would all do better if we were educated on all different kinds of Philosophies and their cultural and historical heritage, a vital part of that is those who have rejected religious belief in favour of a rational and empirical world view.

This is not a case of sneering liberals wanting to turn your children into God-hating communists. Its about giving the next generation the best possible understanding of what it is to be human, our struggles, and cultural heritage in the hope that it will iron out any prejudice and tribalism. Really, including atheism in Religious Studies should be the first in a step towards teaching a broader humanities subject. Not because we want to remove religion from your children’s lives, but because religion doesn’t have the monopoly on things humans believe and should therefore only comprise a part of their education on the subject.

UPDATE 04/12/2015 – It has been pointed out to me that I was perhaps unclear about my usage of the term atheism. To be clear I do refer to the wider definition that is probably better defined as Secular Humanism that simply atheism—which could apply to religions such as Buddhism. So whenever I use the term atheism in the context of it being taught as part of a Religious Studies syllabus, I mean Secular Humanist views, not just lack of belief in God.

Why I am a Feminist

Inferno
Inferno
Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:36 pm by Inferno

There have been, in the past, a few discussions about what feminism is and why or why not one should be a feminist. I will try to lay out why I think the discussion is purely semantic and why we should all be feminists.

 

Part 1: The meaning of feminism

The first part we need to discuss is a definition of feminism. Wikipedia defines feminism as follows:

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies that share a common stated aim: to define, establish, and defend equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

Note that feminism aims for equal rights, not special rights. The underlying assumption is that women currently have fewer rights in many areas. Establishing this will be the second step. For now, let’s take a look at another definition. In her HeForShe-speech, Emma Watson put it thus:

For the record, feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

This goes a step further: while one could argue that the Wikipedia definition suggests raising rights for women (while not raising those of men), Emma Watson’s definition makes it clear that both sexes should have “equal rights and opportunities”. This is an important point: in some few areas, men are at a disadvantage to women. In Austria, a woman is more than twice as likely to receive custody of a child, even if her ability to do so is in grave doubt.

 

Part 2: Accepting that there is a problem

Having accepted that feminism isn’t “wanting to subjugate all men” or something equally silly, we can move on to establishing that there is a problem.

Looking at only one of literally thousands of possible pieces of evidence, we find that out of 535 members of Congress (US), only 20 are women. The reasons put forward are manifold, but it seems that “family planning” plays no role here. Instead, it is thought that women doubt themselves more than men and are less likely to consider running for office. The evidence does not suggest that women are actually worse.

This undermining of women’s self-perception lies, I believe, at the heart of the issue. Sadly I can’t find the article so you’ll either have to believe me or not, but in a (New York Times?) article a few years back, an author asked women about their career choices. The overwhelming majority cited their self-perception (“I’m not good enough,” etc) as the main problem. This was (unconsciously) made worse by their mentors, who would encourage their male counterparts because they actively sought attention, while the females at the respective jobs didn’t actively search for encouragement (“If I’m good enough, I’ll be told”) and consequently didn’t feel like they were good enough.

I believe that perhaps the largest task the feminist movement faces is to encourage people to throw away their conscious and unconscious biases. We know that they exist when it comes to race. Implicit Association Tests are routinely used to seeing what sort of bias a person (or group of people) has against a different group of people. (White vs black, national vs “immigrants”, etc). To mention but one 2012 study, people were more likely to think of men in presidential terms than women.

When following instructions to sort images rapidly, the average person found it easier to pair words like “president”, “governor”, and “executive” with male names and words like “secretary”, “assistant”, and “aide” with female names. In other words, many people had great difficulty associating women with leadership.

This is powerful evidence that women are thought of as less capable and it might be part of the reason why women choose not to go into political careers. (Or scientific careers, etc.)

I could have also mentioned other pieces of evidence: rape victims by gender, pay by gender, etc, etc. It doesn’t paint a very equal picture.

 

Part 3: Hostile opposition on both sides

The most remarkable thing about feminism, in my opinion, is the staunch opposition to it from both men and women. I can sort of understand the male side: long-held rights and special treatment will be lost if the cause succeeds. What I can’t understand is the opposition of females.

A typical and very moderate opposition (or rather, counterargument) to feminists is typified by this picture:

 

The content of the picture is true. The jobs mentioned are far skewed in the “favour” of females. I say “favoured” because I mean there are more females in those jobs than males, not that those jobs are great. This is also the false imagery this picture evokes: “Feminists are fighting to get into jobs like engineering and programming even though they have such superb jobs like kindergarten teachers, nurses and flight attendants.”

This is false, and it’s trivial to prove false. In general, programming and engineering are well-paid jobs with fairly high social standing, even though the path is a difficult one. Kindergarten teachers, on the other hand, are regarded as little better than better playmates for the children of rich people. In Austria, a kindergarten teacher can be happy to make one-fifth more (≈1000€) than the absolute minimum (≈800€), below which you get help from the state. This isn’t much different in other countries. While the numbers may be wrong, salary.com lists the median annual wage of a flight attendant as ≈867,000$ and that of a kindergarten teacher as ≈853,000$ (both with little to no chance of rising through the ranks), while even an entry-level engineer can make between ≈850-64,000$, with the possibility of making ≈8100,000$+ at the end of the career.

Is it any surprise that men don’t typically want to become kindergarten teachers? Men are usually encouraged to find a job at or above their qualification, so kindergarten teachers and the like are “left over” for women. As someone working in education, I can assure you that men are welcomed with open arms in any education-related job. We are currently seven men in a team of about forty. My principal specifically wanted more men, as there were only four men in a team of forty before. Six people joined the team, three were men. How is that not fair? More than that, it is extremely unfair, considering about twenty contenders were women and only five were men.

This was but one of the many bogus objections I could have looked at.

 

In any case, let’s take a look at the other side:

I’m using random pictures I found on the web searching for “I don’t need feminism.” Most of the arguments are as confused as this one.

The argument isn’t that women are inherently weak. The argument is that men are (consciously or unconsciously) oppressing women in one form or another. It would have been equally wrong to claim, fifty years ago, that “I don’t need black rights because black empowerment implies that we blacks are currently weak.” No, it simply meant that white people were wielding all the power and didn’t give black people a chance to show just how strong they were.

 

I will only link to the next three, because they offer insight into the great misapprehensions surrounding feminism:

Person 1 claims that “feminism = not wanting men to compliment you“, which may be true for a vocal minority, but certainly isn’t true for the movement as a whole. It also ignores pretty much everything feminists fight for.

Person 2 claims that “feminism = ignoring the inequalities faced by men“, which I showed to be false in the definition.

Person 3 claims that “feminists demand entitlements instead of working for the money” even though the wage gap should be obvious to all thinking people.

Every time I see one of these “I don’t need feminism” pictures, I notice that it was feminists who achieved the rights of the women opposing feminism to do the things they now take for granted. Let’s consider this for a second: working in every job? Feminism, check. Being able to vote? Feminism, check. Being able to dress the way you like? Feminism, check.

Why are some women fighting so hard against the very movement that has achieved so much and is trying to achieve so much more for them?

 

Part 4: Why I am a Feminist

There are many reasons I could put forward and all of them would be valid reasons. I could let Joss Whedon speak for me. I could let this woman speak for me who rightly points out that society teaches women “Don’t get raped” instead of teaching men “Don’t rape.”

The truth of the matter is that there isn’t one big reason why I’m a feminist: there are many reasons, all of them equally important. But if I had to pick one reason, then it would be this: “I am a feminist because I support perfect equality of the sexes. Without this first step, how will we achieve equality for smaller, less vocal minorities?”

Global Warming – Is there a solution?

Inferno
Inferno
Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:52 pm by Inferno

I spend way too much on my newspaper. 200€ a year, just to get a weekly paper. Granted, it’s about 10m² just on one page and it’s as thick as your average Bible, but still… For those of you who don’t know it, I’m talking about the German newspaper “Zeit”. It really is excellent, I just don’t have the time to read it every week. Not even close. So mostly, I just pluck out the articles that really interest me and go through those.

I won’t bore you with the article in “Zeit”, instead I’ll link to the article it references:

Rollin Stones: Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Short version: We’re pumping out much more CO² than we should. In fact, if we keep going at this rate then we’ll reach the red line (about 565 Gigatons until 2050, counting from today) in just over 18 years. (Today’s output ~31Gt/y, and 565/31=18.2) The problem: We’ve got about 2700Gt of CO² sleeping under ground in the form of coal, gas and oil.

So what are our choices? Depending on which side you listen to, there’s different solutions and different non-solutions. If you listen to the deniers then obviously there’s no need for a solution, the greens (note: NO capital G) say that solar/wind/bio-fuel and cutting carbon emissions (either through fuel economy or reducing the economy) are solutions but that nuclear power is a big no-no. The nuclear industry says that nuclear energy is the only solution.

If you’re reading this, you’re interested in what I think and say. Only to thrash it in the comments.

I will try to base my arguments on as much science as I can, though I warn you up-front: Not all here is hard science, some of it is soft science aka. humanities. In those cases, I present arguments and hope that they’re good enough.

A paper in 2004 (Pacala and Socolow, 2004) offers 15 solutions. (page 3 in the PDF, page 970 on paper) They can be categorized into two (or three) sections:

1) Improve efficiency

2) Use renewable energy sources or those of low CO² output

2.1) Use carbon sinks for fossil fuels

All of these 15 solutions are good and I can think of a few others, though they would be costly and possibly not as effective. So let’s focus on these 15. We’ll agree that 1 and 2.1 are all good, skip forestry (I’m very happy to see that on the list and it’s something that will take a lot of effort, sadly) and we’ll move to #2. Here we have five possible solutions: Biofuels, Photovoltaic, Hydrogen, Wind and Nuclear. I’ll try to very briefly deal with all of them, but I will completely skip Hydrogen because I know exactly nothing about its use as a fuel. If anyone could enlighten me in the comments, that would be much appreciated. It’s also noteworthy that both Hydro-electric power and tidal power have been skipped. The solution: There’s just so damn few of them, they make no global impact whatsoever. (Combined, they could potentially make up 1/4th of the power needed today, but that’s potential (i.e. sometimes not accessible and/or in natural reserves) and there’s huge costs involved.)

Potential energy available

So let’s quickly look at those four remaining sources of fuel. I’ll start with Wind.

There are two ways of harnessing the power of the wind: Offshore wind farms and Onshore wind farms. Theoretically, wind power could give us more than enough energy. (see graphic 1) For the following figures, I will rely on this 2010 UK report as shown over at Wikipedia.
We can easily see that there is a huge difference in cost between onshore and offshore wind power: Offshore costs nearly twice as much. That’s also the reason why many companies are reducing their offshore wind power spending and are focusing on other means. For example, to achieve Britain’s goal of 15GW, this article suggests that you’ll need about 60$ billion. I don’t have that kind of money and neither do they, it seems.
The second way, onshore wind power, suffers problems of its own. Turbines don’t look good, they kill birds (though not nearly as many as people might want you to think), they’re unsafe… None of these are real problems, so we’ll skip those and get onto real ones. For this, I have absolutely no concrete number and must rely on what I was told by a high-ranking member in the Austrian ministry for agriculture. (includes renewable energy) If his numbers are correct, then onshore wind installations are pretty much used up. Austria produces about 1400MW from Wind Energy, or about 4% of our national consumption. Most countries produce between 1-7% of their energy from wind energy, in fact the EU average is 7%. Only countries with access to the ocean or with huge parts of unused land produce more than that. If I am to trust said person above, the EU average can rise to 10%, maybe 12%. It’s doubtful if more can be produced, simply because the turbines take so much space.
In short, Wind power can only do so much to curb carbon emissions. We must look further.
Having dismissed wind power as a viable alternative, we move on to biofuels. Contrary to common belief, not all of biofuels are generated by sugar cane or maize. This pop-sci article discusses the worth of forestry-related biofuels. Other researchers are looking into algae, fungi and other alternative biofuel sources.
Apart from the obvious problems with biofuels, like “food vs. fuel”, soil erosion, deforestation, impact on water, etc., there’s another huge problem: ERO(E)I or Energy Return On (Energy) Investment. Basically it means that you put in X amounts of energy and you get Y back. If Y>X, then you have a net gain. An EROEI of 1 means that you just break even: You get back what you put in, so there’s no gain. An EROEI of anything lower than 1 means you lose energy. Fusion, to take but one example, has an EROEI lower than 1.
OK, I see what you’re getting at. What’s the EROEI of bio-fuels? Murphy and Hall (2010) calculated three different EROEI’s:
1) Biodiesel with 1.3
2) Corn-based Ethanol with 0.8-1.6
3) Ethanol (Sugarcane) with 0.8-10
Most biofuels are simply too inefficient to make a big impact. We’d have to use vast swathes of land to achieve this. As Pacala and Socolow (2004) state:

Option 13: Biofuels. Fossil-carbon fuels can also be replaced by biofuels such as ethanol. A wedge of biofuel would be achieved by the production of about 34 million barrels per day of ethanol in 2054 that could displace gasoline, provided the ethanol itself were fossil-carbon free. This ethanol production rate would be about 50 times larger than today’s global pro- duction rate, almost all of which can be attrib- uted to Brazilian sugarcane and United States corn. An ethanol wedge would require 250 million hectares committed to high-yield (15 dry tons/hectare) plantations by 2054, an area equal to about one-sixth of the world’s crop- land. An even larger area would be required to the extent that the biofuels require fossil-carbon inputs. Because land suitable for annually harvested biofuels crops is also often suitable for conventional agriculture, biofuels production could compromise agricultural productivity.

Now I suggest, and you may or may not agree with that assessment, that this is simply unacceptable. We can not, nor should we, use biofuels to replace fossil-carbon fuels. Our greatest hope lies in electric motors. Biofuels can substitute a small sliver of current use, but if I were to make decisions I’d ban them outright.

This leaves us with the photovoltaic and nuclear options. To achieve 1/15th of today’s energy consumption, we’d need an area the size of Israel. (2mio ha = 20,000km² ~Israel or Slovenia) This wouldn’t be a problem if we could just plant them wherever we want, but we have to factor in watts per m² (Graphic 2), distance to destination, etc.

Watts per m²

There is the added problem that photovoltaic costs quite a bit (see UK 2010) and again uses up large tracts of land. However, some people suggest it could make up 3-4 wedges (of 14-16 wedges needed) in this battle. I’m not so optimistic, at least not with the current state of technology. I’m all for using photovoltaic, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got some panels installed ourselves, as much as we could fit on the roof. However, they’re still not at a point where they’re effective enough to really take over. Currently, the most effective (and expensive?) cells have an efficiency of 44%. The average is far below that.
My conclusion: Solar power is by far the most promising of the above four mentioned, but we shouldn’t slack off on innovating them.

Last but not least, I want to turn  to nuclear power. I have previously already talked about how nuclear power is actually an incredibly safe alternative, the problem is just that people don’t know about that. I won’t go into that here. The above mentioned UK estimate (2010) calculates nuclear cost as being lower than tidal, offshore wind and solar power, and as being in the vicinity of other forms of energy. (onshore, coal, gas, biomass, etc.) By “in the vicinity” I mean that they overlap a huge amount, because of course there is some error margin. Nuclear’s EROEI is, depending on what kind of reactor you run, either lower than wind’s (10 vs 18) or much higher than wind (50 vs 18), but no matter what it’s far higher than either biofuels or photovoltaic (1.3 and 6.8 respectively).
There is then, only one real problem: Nuclear energy is a good way of battling CO² output, but on its own it’s not sufficient.

Nuclear alone may just not suffice

I will reserve a political discussion of these issues for a later time. I hope that I’ve made a few points clear:

  • Some suggested solutions (biofuels, wind) may just be far less viable than advertised. These “solutions” should be avoided if at all possible or at least only implemented to a certain degree.
  • Other solutions are difficult to talk about due to a lack of information (wind) or due to public opposition (nuclear), though that wasn’t mentioned now.
  • Various solutions are needed to solve this problem. No one solution can fix this problem on its own. (Well, returning to our hunter/gatherer days might…) Greens are harming the cause (of reducing CO²) by not allowing nuclear energy to be part of the solution.
  • I personally would go further and postulate that avoiding the oncoming crisis is ONLY possible if we use nuclear energy. I’d suggest going for 3-4 wedges instead of the 1 wedge suggested, if only to have a safety net. As soon as solar energy comes to the point where it can actively take over, we can turn off the reactors and lean back in contentment. But until then, nuclear energy is a vital part of the solution.
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