Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bill Nye Wipes the Floor with Ken Ham in Debate

Bill Nye at Ohio State University in 2012.jpg
"for a scientist to engage in a formal, on -stage debate with a creationist is to legitimize the creationist position" - Statement from National Center for Science Education

"Please! You don't want to raise a generation of science students who don't know our place in the cosmos, and who don't understand natural law.  We need to innovate to keep the United States where it is in the world". - Statement of Bill Nye in his debate yesterday

While I might normally agree with the NCSE position (and by extension that it doesn't make any sense- for the same reason -  to debate online creationist idiots who don't know basic biology or physics),  Nye's case is decidedly different. This is based on the news released this morning (CBS Early Show) that FOUR states already have laws against evolution and four more are considering them. The four moron, backward states are: Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky. No surprise there- the usual suspects, including TN, the venue for the Scopes trial which ought to have settled the issue once and for all in favor of evolution.

The four moron-states to be are: Oklahoma, South Dakota, Missouri, and Virginia (incredibly the home state of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia who ought to be turning over in his grave at the prospect).  The bill in Missouri, incredibly, would allow parents to pull their kids from classes that teach evolution. This is freakin' NUTS! Without evolution integrated into biology, it is impossible to study the subject other than as a memorizing gauntlet. The student will never be able to understand the principles or interconnections so will be forced to memorize everything. Not a good way to learn!

Thus, Nye's engagement with a creationist- having been viewed on social media (it ought to have been televised on national media) may at least partly stem the tide to more nutso laws from our more backward states.

The most incredible stat that shows our nation harbors too many morons: one third of Americans reject evolution (that's nearly 100 million) in favor of the nonsense that 'humans existed in their present form since the beginning'.

How did Ken Ham get blown out so badly? A few examples, as when he opined:

"No one is ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true".

But (a) he hasn't proven a God even exists! Further, (b), even if one might exist, he hasn't proven its nature. Is it the Deist God, believed in by Jefferson and Madison? Is it the Catholic God in the form of the Trinity? Is it the Fundie God that relishes in genocide (e.g. wiping out the Canaanites) and child murder (obliging a prophet calling on him to rip some kids apart using 'She bears' after they taunted him for his bald head.)

Apart from that, this interjection is a red herring in the context of the debate which is supposedly based on the SCIENCE of the claims for creationism. Interjecting "God" is not science, but an appeal to religion, also a logical fallacy known as "argument from authority".

Ham's red herring formula for debate was also evident in his statement:

"We do see the collapse of Christian morality because generations of kids are being taught that the Bible can't be trusted. "

But again, this has not one iota to do with the topic at hand. The Bible is not trusted for many reasons. Consider the question: How did Simon Peter find out that Jesus was the Christ?

According to Matthew 16:17, it was by a “revelation from heaven”. However, if reference is made to John 1:41, Simon’s brother told him. This isn’t the only example! Consider the Easter narrative of the resurrection, putatively the most important event in Christianity. According to one version of the story (Matthew 28:2) the stone was rolled away after the women arrived at the tomb, in their presence. However, Mark's Gospel says it happened before the women arrived. Which version is the true one, or is there even a single version which meets the criterion of material adequacy? 

Of course, there are just as many contradictions in the Old Testament, as well as illogical, unphysical claims, such as in Genesis,  with the Earth being formed before the Sun - which is an impossibility.  In effect, there are multifold reasons to distrust the Bible and that's the very basis of critical thinking. What Ham would have is all our kids turn into instant dummies, no critical thinking allowed!

This may be the main reason Nye (on one level) probably wasted his time, because those like Ham are ham-headed and impervious to the light of reason.

 Let's confine attention here to the segment of the debate where Nye and Ham argued whether Noah could have realistically built the Ark, as described in the Bible. Nye at one point observed:

"It's  very reasonable perhaps to you that Noah had super powers but to me it's just not reasonable."

Ham responded something along the lines of: "Why would you say Noah was unskilled? I didn't meet Noah and neither did you.'"

Again, a deflection from the core issue. Nye never said Noah was "unskilled" only that the construction of such a vehicle to transport all the pairs of critters then on Earth (including dinosaurs - according to the creationists) is bat shit crazy and violates the laws of physics!

Let's examine this in more detail. After translating the Biblical units of cubits, one arrives at the following dimensions of Noah's claimed Ark:  550 feet long, 91.7 feet wide and 55 feet high. To make units more compatible for calculations, we convert all these to meters, then we will calculate the total effective volume . We know that 1 meter = 3.3 ft. so:

550' = 166.7 m

91.7' = 27.8 m

55' = 16.7 m

Then the total effective volume is:

V = (166.7m) x (27.8m) x (16.7m) = 77, 392 cubic meters

We now introduce a basic principle of physics by which we are able to ascertain if a given ship or object is able to float, or not.  This is Archimedes' Principle, which stated in modern terms is:

"A fluid acts on a body immersed in it with a net force that is vertically upward and equal in magnitude to the fluid displaced by the body".

The diagram below will prove useful to understand what follows:

The net force vertically upward (F- W) as shown (and equal to the weight of fluid displaced), is computed using the difference between the upthrust (F) and the weight (W). The vessel in the medium will always float provided that the upthrust exceeds the weight. Or, in more detailed terms: A body will sink if its own average density (total mass divided by total volume) exceeds the density of the liquid. In the case of salt water, this density is 1,100 kilograms per cubic meter. Thus, if the total density of a vessel (which includes all its ballast, added weight- divided by its volume) is greater than the density of the fluid on which it rests, it must sink. There are NO ifs, ands, or buts....since basic physics can't be violated.

Thus, the maximum average density allowed would be (assuming salt water medium of the density above):

1,100 kg/ m3

which again, is the density of the liquid in which the vessel (Ark) is immersed.

Now, factoring in the mass of all animals collected. We ab initio do not know this, but reasonable estimates on the basis of a Fermi-type problem, can provide a ball park answer that also exposes the final truth. Thereby we establish a mean weight per species, then multiply that by the appropriate number of species. For the case of mammals, we'll need a mass between the maximum (for giant African elephants) and the minimum (common mice) with many in between (hyenas, jackals, leopards, snow leopards, Bengal tigers, Siberian tigers, Lions, Black bears, Brown (Grizzly) Bears, giant tree sloths, anteaters, Capybaras, Zebras, Horses, Donkeys, etc.). Surveying the distribution of mammal species a fair average per pair mass would be 20.0 kg. The total mass for mammals alone then comes to M = (20.0 kg)(250,000) = 5,000,000 kg . Now, one metric ton = 1,000 kg, so this yields a total of 5,000 metric tons (1 metric ton or tonne, equals 2,200 lbs.)

Allow that 1/10 that mass (again on average) is feces removed and we add an additional 500 tons which will accumulate per day. Say the craft is going for 100 days then that is 50 thousand tons of just excrement which- added to the actual total mammal mass - yields: 55,000 tons - assuming no pair of mammals dies. Let half this (excrement) amount (e.g. 25,000 tons)be equal to the amount of food needed for the duration and one gets a total effective mass associated with the mammals of : 55,000 tons + 25,000 tons = 80,000 tons

Repeating this for reptiles, and using an average per pair mass of 10.0 kg each, we get:
M'(av) = (10.0 kg)(200,000) = 2,000,000 kg

or 2,000 metric tons. Most reptiles consume at least their own body mass in food each day and evacuate the same, so for a 100 day estimated journey:

(Mass of reptiles + aggregate expelled waste + food) = 2,000 + 2,000 + 2,000 = 6,000 metric tons, and for 100 days this translates to: 2,000 + (4,000)(100) = 402,000 metric tons.  That is, 402,000,000 kg.

Thus, the average density obtained for our calculation is (and note we haven't even included the Ark's own mass, which as we shall see becomes irrelevant in the scheme of things):

D = M/V = (482,000,000 kg) / 77, 392 m3 = 6, 228 kg/ m3

which clearly exceeds the density of sea water (at 1,100 kg/m3) by a factor:

6, 228 kg/ m3/ 1,100 kg/m3 = 5.66

Thus, this vessel (Ark) must sink!

(And we aren't even including the mass of 14,000 humans purportedly on the Ark as well!)

Again, Ham's dodge in the debate concerning "Noah's skills" is irrelevant. It is a matter of flouting physics - not a matter of skill - and this is why Nye was spot on in his take that Noah would "require super powers."

Bill Nye's plaintive demand to Ham to "show me one piece of evidence and I will change my mind immediately" was misplaced. Ham has NO evidence, none! Zippo, nada. All he has is recycled auto-responses that bear no relation to science, only to his political ideology. It's like debating a wall, or a Pastor Mike. From this point of view the debate was a waste of effort. From the perspective of providing science a stage to challenge nincompoops,  their drivel and false ideology it was a dramatic success.

See also:

There's a neat experiment readers can do on their own to show these principles. You will need only salt, a plastic soap dish and some lead shot (buck shot can also suffice).

Fill the sink or a large bowl with water and put the soap dish on it. Notice the flotation. Now, gradually add pieces of lead shot to the soap dish and note how it gradually sinks lower and lower - and (at some point) sinks, then too much shot is added. When does this happen? When the average density, e.g. mass of soap dish + lead shot, divided by the volume of the soap dish, exceeds the density of the fresh water (1 g/cm^3 or 1000 kg/ m3).

The experiment can be repeated for salt water, and it will be found the initial float position of the soap dish is slightly higher, since salt water is more dense and confers a larger upthrust. You will also note that it takes a bit more shot to sink the dish - but like ALL vessels- at some point it must sink!

Archimedes' principle cannot be disobeyed!

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