(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog, 28 January 2014)
Young Earth Creationism just got a wee bit dafter
People who take the Bible literally and believe in Young Earth Creation (YEC) seldom cease to be a source of amusement and infuriation, in varying degrees. These people believe that the entire universe, including the Earth, all flora and fauna, and mankind were created in the Biblical six days, 6000 years ago. Some of their crazier notions are dinosaurs and mankind co-existing, all creatures being herbivores before the ‘Fall of Man’, when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and that the Earth was formed largely as we see it today.
All bizarre stuff, long ago rejected as arrant nonsense, yet the young earth creationists blindly ignore science and maintain that if it is in the Bible, it is the ‘Word of God’, which is thereby infallible and therefore must be the truth. Probably one of the most infuriating things YECs attempt is to attempt science, which they are frankly no good at and which even children have been able to point out the fallacy of their arguments.
So, faced with the problem of how marsupial creatures appear mostly in Australia, two well-known bastions of YEC, Conservapedia (“the trustworthy encyclopedia”) and Answers in Genesis have came up with a ‘scientific’ explanation as to how animals were widespread after the flood of Noah – and YEC just got a little more crazier.
Here is a quote from Conservapedia:
“The Post-Noachian Flood Volcano Theory comes from the example of Krakatoa, which, in 1883, erupted and destroyed most of the island, thus remaining lifeless for many years. Still the same life that was there before the eruption eventually came back. It is possible that volcanoes in the Mount Ararat region were able to transport the smaller animals over much greater distances than the animals could get just by walking.”
Yes, dear reader, you did just read that correctly. Conservapedia is indeed claiming that animals were blown across the globe by volcanic eruptions in the area of Mount Ararat in Turkey, including marsupials being blown across the globe to Australia.
Answers in Genesis even tries to justify this line by quoting Encyclopedia Britannica concerning the reconolization of Surtsey after a volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1963;
“Comparisons can be made with more modern recolonizations. For example, the Encyclopædia Britannica has the following to say about Surtsey Island and Krakatoa and the multiplication of species.
Six months after the eruption of a volcano on the island of Surtsey off the coast of Iceland in 1963, the island had been colonized by a few bacteria, molds, insects, and birds. Within about a year of the eruption of a volcano on the island of Krakatoa in the tropical Pacific in 1883, a few grass species, insects, and vertebrates had taken hold. On both Surtsey and Krakatoa, only a few decades had elapsed before hundreds of species reached the islands. Not all species are able to take hold and become permanently established, but eventually the island communities stabilize into a dynamic equilibrium.
There is little secret, therefore, how nonflying animals may have travelled to the outer parts of the world after the Flood.”
There it is, in their own words. They honestly imagine that volcanoes could have blown creatures across the globe after the Naochian flood. I laid out this hypothosis to my girlfriend’s 14 year old daughter. She stared at me for a full minute before saying “No wonder nobody listens to Christians any more.” before walking away.
Laying aside the fact that Surtsey island is a mere 87 miles distant from Iceland, and nothing like the thousands of miles required for the widespread diaspora of animals, I decided to have a little fun with the YEC “Volcano Theory” as they call it, to display the many flaws in their argument and just why it is so absurd.
For my example, I shall indeed be citing Australasian marsupials, and assuming as the YECs do, that the Earth was created largely as it appears today. To this end, I am assuming that the hypothosis of marsupials being blown to the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia, where the highest concentration of them are to be found to this day, giving a distance of approximately 7500 miles for the animals to travel.
1: No Evidence of Large Scale Volcanic Activity
Firstly, whilst Mount Ararat itself is indeed a mountain formed from a stratovolcano (formed of lava flows and pyroclastic ejecta), it stands alone. There are no other “volcanoes in the Mount Ararat region” around the Ararat Massiv. Any volcanic eruption therefore would have to come from Ararat itself.
There is indeed evidence of Mount Ararat, a stratovolcanic mountain, being active in the third millennium BCE, the same period claimed for the flood, which would seem to support the YEC claim. It is strange however that the Bible, being supposedly so accurate, makes absolutely no mention of Ararat undergoing a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. One would find it equally bizarre if Noah attempted landing the ark on an active volcano.
As to that evidence of volcanic activity, that itself presents problems for the YEC claim. Among the evidence discovered are human remains. Were the flood to have destroyed every human being upon the face of the earth, then that leaves the question of where those humans at the base of Mount Ararat came from.
2: Volcanic gases
Even before any eruption, the first danger to life would come from volcanic gases. In recorded time alone, thousands of deaths have been caused by sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and carbonic acid and hydrogen sulfide released from active volcanoes. The Oku Volcanic Field in Cameroon, Africa, is a prime example of this. In August, 1984, 37 people were killed when carbon dioxide was released from Lake Monoun. In August, 1986, 1,700 people were killed when a large amount of carbon dioxide was released from Lake Nyos and at least 300 people were hospitalized. The problems of carbon dioxide release from the Oku Field was so severe that a $2.8 billion project to degas Lake Nyos was undertaken.
Imagine then a primitive people, with nothing to protect them, actually being on an active volcano, spewing out deadly gases, with a boat full of animals – and not one creature is reported to have died. Certainly not Noah or any of his family.
I don’t know if the YEC camp get their ideas from watching old Roadrunner cartoons, but volcanic eruptions tend not to blow living organisms across the globe. They are far more likely to tear them to shreds. Conservapedia makes mention of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in the Java Strait. That indeed was a devastating series of eruptions which ripped the entire island apart. The pressure wave created by the largest Krakatoa eruption circled the globe seven times, and is estimated to have measured in the region of 200 megatons of trinitrotoluene (TNT). The sonic blast of the explosion reached as far as Australia and was also reported in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The largest atomic bomb in history, the ‘Tsar Bomba’, set off by the USSR in 1961, with a yield of 58 megatons, does not even come near to comparing with that. And consider that those close to ground zero in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings (around 15,000 kilotons each) were instantaneously vapourised, while those a little further out were burned to a crisp.
Yet Krakatoa is not the largest volcanic eruption known to have occurred. That particular distinction belongs to the eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, some 2.2 million years ago, which spread ash over 2500 cubic kilometres (599.78 cubic miles). We therefore see that even that devastating eruption, which destroyed all in it’s path, would not even come near to blasting anything 7500 miles distant.
Blast injuries can occur at as little as 3psi (half atmosphere), and a human body can be torn apart from as little as 6psi. The largest volcanic eruption in recorded times was that of Tambora, Italy, in 1815, which erupted with an internal pressure in the region of 47 million psi. Yet the creationists would have you believe that a volcanic eruption well in excess of that of the Yellowstone Caldera eruption would simply carry furry creatures off to foreign climes.
Contrary to what some people are wont to claim, the Bible does indeed state in several places that the Earth is flat, which seems to the basis upon which Conservapedia are basing their ideas; that somehow the animals would be blasted across the skies from one continent to the other. We know of course that the Earth is not flat, and far from flying across the skies, even if they survived the blast, the animals would be blasted off into space, were it not for a little matter called gravity. The Earth’s gravity tends not to like things flying off from it, and to paraphrase Douglas Adams in “Life, the Universe and Everything”, tends to take an upward glance and demand to know what the hell do you think you’re doing up there.
So it is that to travel from the 7500 miles from Mount Ararat to the Daintree Rainforest, the animals would have to travel through space on a ballistic trajectory. This first would require reaching an escape velocity fast and strong enough to escape Earth’s gravity and atmosphere, then carry them high enough to enter a ballistic trajectory taking them to their new home in Australia. The force needed for escape velocity from Earth is approximately 11.2 kilometres per second (6.96 miles per second). This is in the region of 34 times the speed of sound – Mach 34. To put it another way, the velocity of rifle bullet emerging from the muzzle is up to 1.7 km/s, and as you can see Earth escape velocity is well in excess of that.
The human body can survive 3 to 6 g-force, and every person who has ever gone into space has to undergo extensive training to first see if they are suitable, then to enable to endure the massive g-forces produced by escape velocity. Because of the limitations of the human body, manned spacecraft launches have to take g-force effect into consideration, thereby allowing space launches only a narrow window in which to operate.
For the launch needed to propel anything 7500 miles, manned spacecraft would be no use. We instead have to look at intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are usually (but not always) armed with nuclear weapons. A good example would be the Chinese DongFeng 5A (NATO reporting name: CSS-4) ICBM, capable of striking targets within a 13,000 km radius (7500 miles = 12070 km). The DongFeng 5A is a vehicle-launched missile whose g-force at launch measures in hundreds – or enough to tear any living organism apart through pressure alone. That is the sort of escape velocity which would be needed for the creationist argument to work.
And do not forget that space crews are in highly sophisticated machines, hooked up to life support, and protected by pressure suits. Even if the animals were indeed launched, they would be in the open, with the heat and pressure of blast propelling them high up into space, with absolutely no protection. It reminds me of the old joke of the two seagulls watching a Tristar jetliner;
“He’s moving fast.” says one seagull.
“So would you if you had three arses and all of them were on fire.” replies the other.
5: The Flight
So, our marsupials, having survived deadly gases, blast waves, and the launch, are now in space and on a ballistic trajectory taking them to Australia. The only problem of course being that they are now in the vacuum of space. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that wallabies and other such creatures need oxygen to breathe. And we are not talking about them just holding their breath for a few minutes here. For the distance we are talking about, the creatures would be in space for an hour or more. Even the hardiest land animal I know of is not capable of holding it’s breath for so long.
6: The Landing
However, let us assume that the marsupials have somehow managed to avoid asphyxiation in space for an hour or more, and they are now in a freefall through the atmosphere to their new home.
Well of course, we first have to assume that they have managed to angle themselves just nicely to avoid burning up on re-entry – also assuming that they have reached a sufficient speed (around 40,000 mph) to allow them to re-enter Earth atmosphere and not bounce of it and go floating off into space.
They are now falling from high altitude towards the Earth, and of course, they are not going to asphyxiate nor freeze to death in the conditions of the upper atmosphere.
On 16 August 1961, Colonel Joe Kittinger of the US Air Force jumped from a helium balloon from the height of 102,800 feet (19 miles up), thereby achieving the world’s highest ever skydive, which he held for decades to come. He opened his parachute at 18,000 feet to bring himself to a safe and controlled landing. On previous jumps, Kittinger had blacked out and went into flat spins at time, severely endangering his life. On the ascent of his record-breaking jump, one of Colonel Joe’s gloves ripped, causing his hand to swell up to three times it’s normal size. He never told ground control, because he knew that they would abort the jump and pull him back to ground.
Joe Kittinger was a technical advisor on the Red Bull Stratos jump on 14 October 2012, in which Austrian Felix Baumgartner, meaning to jump from 120,000 feet, instead did not jump until his balloon reached 127,852 feet (24.21 miles up). As well as smashing Colonel Joe’s record, and making the world’s highest manned ballon ascent, on his descent Baumgartner reached 843.6mph, thereby becoming the first human being to break the sound barrier outside of a vehicle.
Both men wore pressure suits and life support, absolutely vital for the high altitude and the descent, and landed safely by parachute. Our marsupials would be falling from the upper limits of Earth atmosphere, the Karman Line, some 100 km – over 62 miles – up, with no protection, or life support systems whatsoever.
And further assuming that they survived cold and lack of oxygen, as well as the massive pressures created by both the upper atmosphere and smashing through the sound barrier during the freefall to earth, we have the little matter of the landing. As cuddly as koala’s and kangaroos may seem, one would imagine that as the Earth comes up to meet them in excess of 800mph, they are far more likely to go “SPLAT!” and make very deep holes, than bounce along the ground to a safe landing.
I really don’t know why Young Earth Creationists even bother trying to use science, when they are obviously so pisspoor at it and only succeed in making themselves look bloody stupid when they do. I know many Christians, whom I have a great deal of respect for. Most, if not all of these, accept that the Bible is full of inaccuracies, and accept that evolution is an undeniable fact, rather than making themselves look foolish by making such fatuous attempts to deny it as Conservapedia and Answers in Genesis does.
Even if there are those who maintain that the Naochian flood were true, most Christians are happy to claim that there was widespread diaspora of animals afterwards, simply because “God put them there”. That is a matter of faith for those individuals, and whilst as an atheist I may disagree with them, I am far more likely to have respect for them than anyone who imagines wallabies and duck-billed platypus raining down on Queensland.