Friday, April 2, 2010

More Bible-Based "Scientific" Idiocy

Can there be a limit to scientific ignorance? Well, both Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan believed there wasn't, especially from the religious zealots. Because people think they know science, or some aspect like astronomy, they feel compelled to talk off the tops of their heads about it. (Or, maybe they just copy from Googled links).In a recent blog on a fundamentalist website, for example, assorted explanations and reasons were offered for why the Earth could not be ‘flat’ and why (again!) the biblical authors were way ahead by asserting the Earth was “round” – and that this can somehow be construed to mean the Earth is spherical. So the bible’s sheep herders predicted Earth’s sphericity before Eudoxus or Aristotle.

Not so fast!

First, the claim that Isaiah 40:22 predicts a spherical Earth because it says “round Earth”, e.g.

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth..."

No, not so! Roundness (circularity) and sphericity are two different properties. One (circularity) applies to a simple two dimensional surface or geometry. Indeed, the property of circles was investigated by Sumerian and Egyptian mathematicians long before any of the biblical authors emerged from their caves.

As I pointed out also in an earlier blog, the particular property of sphericity can only be determined by the use of mathematics. Without mathematics, people would believe the Earth is a round, flat space. How so? If one looks across a vast, flat horizon – either from the middle of a desert or the ocean- the perspective one obtains is that of a vast FLAT expanse with a circular boundary at the far periphery. Thus, the impression created in an ancient mind – without use of discriminating mathematics- would be that he or she inhabits the center of an enormous flat circle!

How did the ancient Greek astronomers (e.g. Eratosthenes) break out of this and arrive at sphericity? In Eratosthenes’ case, around 240 B.C., he had to first decide what exactly he had to measure to assess sphericity as opposed to circularity. This is where a key assumption entered: that the Earth was spherical and the Sun distant enough that its rays at Earth were essentially parallel.

Eratosthenes thereby performed a measurement of the angle of elevation of the Sun at noon at Alexandria, and at Syene. This value could then be used to obtain Earth’s circumference, at 250,000 stadia or about 24,900 miles. The repeat of the experiment from thousands of different directions, orientations, shows sphericity not just circularity. Why? Because if Eratasothenes (or any of his thousands or millions of followers – who repeat the experiment even today at assorted universities) were measuring a circle, they’d have to be on the circle’s EDGE to obtain its circumference . Cut out a circle from cardboard and examine it. Any distance on the circle itself would be a chord, not a circumference. One would have to stand or situate exactly ON THE EDGE to get the circumference. No untrained, non-mathematical ancient mind would remotely contemplate this, because to him one would “fall off” at the edge. (Gravitational physics would need another 2500 years to be developed by Galileo and Newton)

Thus, the very act of measuring a circumference using a shadow angle (and trigonometry) on any part or place of Earth implicitly presumes its sphericity , since the extension of all such measuring lines leads to a circle that can be oriented around any direction across Earth. What then is the sphere? Technically – as we see from calculus, it is the integration of an infinite number of conic sections that are each circles – which results in a sphere (see diagram).

Thus, mathematically, we take a circle – say defined by:

x^2 + y^2 = 4

And rotate it around the x-axis to generate a sphere. This is done by using calculus to integrate: pi(4 - x^2)dx from (-2) to +2. Thus, in the process of rotation an infinite series of circles is generated, to obtain a sphere with radius 2 and volume 33.427 cubic units. That the integration yields cubic units – proves that the result is a sphere since circles lack volume as geometrically defined.

Another error made by fundies, associated with the above, is the claim that if Earth was really a flat circle, sunlight would never be blocked out because “only on a sphere could the sun be blocked out on different sides of the planet.” This is not strictly true, because the property whereby light gets distributed over time is not sphericity but the fact that the earth rotates so all parts receive sunlight at different times! (One revolution every 24 hours, actually every 23 h 56 mins)

The ancients had not yet processed sphericity and hence no rotation of Earth (to generate days and nights). Thus, they beheld the situation as depicted in Fig. 2. They inhabited a flat circular Earth and the SUN moved across the sky each day to provide day and night. When the Sun went below the western horizon it was evening, then night. When the Sun appeared on the eastern horizon it was morning. To read Isaiah 40:22 and then assert the roundness is really sphericity and argue that there'd be no day & night without it, is therefore wrong-headed and turns the actual situation on its head. Remember, in the ancients' world view it was the Earth that was stationary and always at the center of the universe (geo-centric view) all else moved around Earth - including Sun, stars etc. This perception configures exactly with Fig. 2.

Thus one cannot assert or claim that biblical quotes such as Isaiah 40:22 – referring to a circle- actually imply a sphere. NO, they don’t. People read into those quotes what they want. They so much NEED the quotation to be accurate – to prove their spurious “divine inspiration” that they will torture and twist the meaning to make it so.

What about the claim that only “three time zones” will emerge at the end of days: “daylight, evening and night.”( Matthew 24:40-41, Luke 17:34-36) )

This confuses the meaning of a time zone, with an interval fraction of the day referenced to quality of sunlight. Thus, “daylight, evening and night” don’t refer to time zones but to differing intensities of light referenced to fractions of the revolution period of Earth -which show marked contrasts in light quality – measured in lumens. Thus, “evening” is defined to have about twice the available lumens as “night” (assuming no moonlight) while day is many thousands more times magnified.

A “time zone” is defined by taking the 360 degrees through which Earth rotates in one day, and dividing it by 24, since it requires 24 hours to make one revolution. Thus, one standard time zone would be generated via (360 deg/ 24 hr) = 15 deg/h or 15 degrees of longitude per hour - so be 15 degrees of longitude in expanse. Thus, time zones (calibrated per HOUR) are marked out by LONGITUDE differences, not illumination differences!

Time zones don’t mean anything until referenced or calibrated to a fixed position-location, and that is the Greenwich Meridian, defined as 0 degrees longitude. All longitudes west of Greenwich mark time earlier – and all longitudes east of Greenwich mark times later. Thus, Berlin will always have a time later than London, and London will have a time later than New Orleans. The time difference is referenced to longitude difference for the central meridians. For example, if London is at 0 degrees longitude, and New Orleans is at 90 degrees west longitude, then New Orleans is earlier than London by (90 deg/ 15 deg/h) = 6 hours. If the time in London is noon local mean time, then it is 6 a.m. in New Orleans

In order to solve the problem of different local mean times, Greenwich Mean Time or GMT was developed, so people can compare the same clock times around the world GMT is based on a 24 hour clock defined at the Greenwich Meridian. So, for example, if one is listening to the BBC from New Orleans and the time given is 13h 30 m GMT, then that means it’s 1.30 p.m. in London. Since New Orleans is 6 hours earlier, than that means it’s 7.30 a.m. local mean time in New Orleans. Thus, knowing GMT, one can always work out the time at one’s location if one knows the longitude difference relative to Greenwich. (Note for the purposes here, I am taking London as having the same longitude as Greenwich. It's actually off by a few thousand feet but negligible in terms of computations.)

In line with this, let’s take on another myth, the claim that if Jesus returns “everyone on Earth will see him”. This is impossible, since – as we’ve seen- if and when he returns (likely not, since it’s a myth) he has to pick one longitude of location to return to – he can’t return to ALL longitudes of the Earth at the same time! They are spread out across some 25,000 miles!

Even if he arrived – say at Greenwich meridian- at noon tomorrow, he could not be seen instantly everywhere! Even if he moved at the speed of light (186,000 miles/ sec) it would require 0.134 seconds (134 milliseconds) to whirl east around the world from London- appear at all longitudes- and return. (And it’s doubtful people would see any more than a blip of light) Thus, the claim is more nonsense.

Before leaving, two more bits of codswallop to knock off:

1) The claim that reference to seeing a “vault of heaven” means or implies Earth’s sphericity. No it doesn’t. The earliest rendition of the sky in relation to Earth was as a vault (for example, see the frontispiece of Fred Hoyle’s textbook, Astronomy and Cosmology) with the Earth at the base as a FLAT circle. (See Fig. 2) Indeed, the horizon system for observers to this day makes use of this imagery for angular measurements – altitude and azimuth- though we don’t take it literally!

2) Matthew 4:8 declaring “Jesus and Satan viewing the entire earth from a tall mountain” is palpable idiocy. Even from Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth, one cannot “see” the entire Earth – only about 4000 square miles (about 5 mllionths or 5/1000000, of Earth’s total surface area), and that assumes clouds don’t obscure anything (nearly impossible to assume!). To see the “entire Earth” one would have to be displaced a distance to enable a full view (and by “entire” here, what I mean is the Earth seen as an orb from space). For example, the film on Apollo 17 I just finished watching showed the entire Earth when Apollo was about 25,000 miles away en route to the Moon. So unless Jesus and Satan went into space they wouldn’t see the “entire Earth”

It is nonsense like this that makes communication with fundie gasbags and blowhards all but impossible. So convinced they are that their “good Book” is inerrant and divinely inspired, they can’t process or see the stupid scientific claims they make to try to turn their KJVs into science texts (or even approximate ones, in terms of insisting the authors knew what they were really yapping about)

Now, if they have FAITH that some or all of their KJV is roughly in concert with scientific claims and principles, that’s fine. But don’t try and tell us that your KJV leads the way and its sheep herder nomads knew things before Galileo, Newton or Einstein! You just make a mockery of yourselves in the process.

Best move? Stick to your faith and bible but leave out the attempted scientific discourses and efforts to convince us of anything!

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