Secular Astronomy and Logical Fallacies
Secular Astronomy and Logical Fallacies
Evolutionary astronomers claim to have solid scientific backing for their beliefs.
But over and over again, their claims often contain the same logical flaw -- a flaw to which they seem blind.
Here are a few recent examples of this flaw at work. See if you can spot it.
Example 1: The planet Uranus has a strange characteristic. Instead of spinning like a top as it orbits the Sun, it rolls along sideways like a ball.
This contradicts the secular model, which says that Uranus couldn't have formed that way. Therefore, secular astronomers believe it must have formed in the 'correct' orientation. Then something must have crashed into it and knocked it over.
Problem: Uranus has a collection of moons that orbit its equator (which is oriented up and down, relative to the ecliptic, instead of sideways). A collision massive enough to knock Uranus over would have disrupted this system. So this explanation doesn't work.
Recently, a French scientist claimed to have solved this problem. He said he can explain the planet's tilt and its moons, by invoking two collisions instead of one. He's built models showing how two collisions could have produced the Uranian system we see today (and that similar collisions can explain the smaller tilt of Neptune).
As he told a reporter, "This is quite an unconventional scenario for the formation of the giant planets, but I think that the obliquities [axial tilts] of Uranus and Neptune point in this direction."
Example 2: In the last few years, we've discovered more and more "exoplanets" (planets orbiting stars other than our Sun). Time and again, secular astronomers have been surprised by the orbits we see for these planets.
Many of these planets have highly tilted orbits. Others orbit their stars in the opposite direction of the stars' spin. Some planets do both.
These contradict secular expectations for how solar systems form. Evolutionary astronomers had expected other solar systems to look like ours, but many are very different.
Researchers are busy trying to explain this. Some recent models have the embryonic planets crashing into each other, knocking each other around.
One group of researchers is claiming to be successful with this approach. Results are still preliminary, but they think they can produce solar systems that look like the ones we're finding.
The study's lead author said they were "on the cusp of solving the mystery of why some planetary systems are tilted so much."
Example 3: The Andromeda galaxy is the nearest large galaxy to us. Because we can study it closely, we've learned a lot about it.
We've discovered it has many 'peculiar' properties. ('Peculiar' means the galaxy is difficult to explain under the secular model.)
An international team of astronomers believe they have solved some of Andromeda's mysteries. Their solution is that Andromeda must have been formed when two smaller galaxies crashed together several billion years ago.
The team leader told the BBC that this discovery had "the potential to revise all our knowledge" not only of Andromeda, but other local galaxies as well -- including our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
OK, there are three examples. Did you spot the flaw?
You might have thought that I was talking about the constant use of collisions to explain everything. This is a common theme among the examples, but it's not what I'm talking about.
Here's the flaw:
Over and over again, evolutionary astronomers present their models as if they actually tell us something about history.
They will often include impressive computer simulations, showing how everything supposedly happened.
But a reconstruction of hypothetical past events isn't a scientific model.
It's just a story.
At best, it shows you one way that something *could* have happened. It doesn't necessarily tell you anything about what *actually* happened.
Since we can't observe what happened in the past, a historical model only has to conform to what we see in the present. And there are an infinite number of models -- an infinite number of stories -- that can do this.
For example, most evolutionary astronomers believe in a "giant impact" origin for our Moon. They think the Moon was formed when a Mars-sized object crashed into Earth billions of years ago.
They believe this because of a computer simulation which showed how material from the collision could have sprayed up into space and then reformed into the Moon. (There's evidence that disproves this model, but that's not my point. Let's assume for now that the model matched the evidence we see today.)
Consider: there are countless other simulations you could create, each of which could produce a Moon as we see today.
You could create a simulation with just one collision. Or you could create a simulation with two collisions. Or three, or four, or five...
Or, instead of using a collision, you could speculate that the Moon formed somewhere else and got captured into orbit by Earth's gravity.
Or maybe the Moon formed by accretion close to the Earth, and then started orbiting our planet.
Or maybe the Moon represents a big piece of the primeval Earth that somehow became a separate object.
You could make a sophisticated model for *any* of these ideas. (Indeed, secular astronomers have done so for all of these examples.) And countless other ideas are possible.
In other words, you can make up an infinite number of stories that would each produce the Moon we see today.
As creationists, we know that all these stories are false, because the Lord created the Moon on Day 4 of creation week (Gen. 1:16).
But if you're an evolutionary astronomer who denies the Moon's creation, how do you pick among all these stories? How do you know which secular story actually happened?
Can you even know that *any* of them actually happened?
No. Maybe the truth is something nobody has thought of yet.
Nevertheless, many astronomers today seem to think that when somebody makes up a new simulation, it actually shows that everything happened that way.
This is a logical fallacy called "affirming the consequent." It's structured like this:
-- Premise 1: If A, then B
-- Premise 2: B
-- Conclusion: Therefore, A
Here's a non-astronomy example:
-- If I stand in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., then I am in the United States.
-- I am in the United States.
-- Therefore, I am standing in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
Do you see the problem?
Even though both premises are true, the conclusion isn't necessarily true.
Just because I'm in the United States doesn't mean I'm necessarily in the Capitol Building. I could be in Chicago, or Los Angeles, or wherever. (In fact, I'm more likely to be in one of those places than in the Capitol.)
Astronomical simulations are often presented in the same fallacious way:
-- If our computer simulation is correct, then a big object could hit the Earth and produce a Moon.
-- We have a Moon.
-- Therefore, a big object must have hit the Earth and produced the Moon.
Again, just because we have a Moon doesn't mean a big object hit the Earth billions of years ago.
There are many other possible explanations (including the true one: that the Lord created the Moon and everything else).
Affirming the consequent is one of the most basic fallacies in logic. But evolutionary scientists commit this error frequently.
Creationary scientists are generally more careful about this. You'll often see creation models prefaced with statements like, "Since the Bible doesn't give us details about this event, we can't be dogmatic."
And to be fair, most evolutionary astronomers will (if asked) acknowledge that their models and simulations don't *prove* anything.
But that's not how these "discoveries" are usually presented to the public.
And it's not how the researchers usually talk about their models.
Keep your eyes open for this fallacy. You'll be surprised how often this simple logical error is used to "confirm" secular models and (supposedly) discredit the Biblical account of history.
By Spike Psarris
as originally published in CREATION ASTRONOMY NEWS - Volume III, #1 (sign up for the newsletter at his website) reprinted with permission from the author.
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