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Author Topic:   Uniformitarianism - demonstrated or assumed?
Peepul
Member (Idle past 3406 days)
Posts: 206
Joined: 03-13-2009


Message 1 of 9 (543736)
01-20-2010 11:48 AM


Creationists often complain that evolutionists are wrong to 'assume' uniformitarianism. I've seen it used as a fallback defence when a creationist has no response to particular detailed evidence of evolution.

I'd like to discuss to what extent uniformitarianism is an assumption, or a view justified by evidence.

Here's some background from Wikipedia

quote:
Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of naturalism, assumes that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It is frequently summarized as "the present is the key to the past," because it holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.

I believe it's worth identifying two kinds of uniformitarianism relevant to us (these are my own terms).

Laws and constants - that the laws and constants of nature have remained unchanged since some given time in the past, or have changed only in ways that do not invalidate the theory of evolution or evidence that supports it, such as radiometric dating. Not necessarily from the very beginning, in the context of evolution, but at least from the formation of the solar system about 4.7 billion years ago.

Earth-specific processes - taking the above as established, that processes operating in normal times on earth work the same way now as they did in the past - or vary in known ways - geological examples being plate tectonics, carbon and nitrogen cycles, deposition, volcanism, fossilization, biological examples being mutation, selection, reproduction, recombination, examples from physics being solar radiation flux and cosmic ray flux.

My own interest is primarily in the fundamentals - the laws and constants, and particularly those which are relevant to the age of the earth and dating methods. I'm more relaxed about earth-specific processes - if the fundamentals are established than we can assume that the evidence we have from the distant past about them is trustworthy. Also I believe the conflict between 'uniformitarianism' and 'catastrophism' is over - both apply at different points in the earth's history, and we can tell from evidence when each has been important.

I know there are some quite strong constraints on the fine structure constant, and also that some observations have supported a small change over time. But how strong is the evidence that radioactive decay rates really are the same now as they were in the distant past? Do we have any evidence that the laws themselves have not changed in the last 4.7 billion years?

Edited by Peepul, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by New Cat's Eye, posted 01-20-2010 3:38 PM Peepul has not yet responded
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 Message 7 by RAZD, posted 01-21-2010 6:37 PM Peepul has not yet responded
 Message 9 by straightree, posted 04-19-2010 6:22 PM Peepul has not yet responded

  
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Message 2 of 9 (543789)
01-20-2010 3:30 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Uniformitarianism - demonstrated or assumed? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 9 (543791)
01-20-2010 3:38 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Peepul
01-20-2010 11:48 AM


But how strong is the evidence that radioactive decay rates really are the same now as they were in the distant past? Do we have any evidence that the laws themselves have not changed in the last 4.7 billion years?

Do we have any reason to think that they have, or could, change?

The only reason it came up is because the creationists got backed into a corner and their only way out was by claiming they might have changed.

I don' t know of any other reason to think they're not unchanging.

But I do suspect that there's evidence that they have not changed. Probably some decay rate data from different pieces of known ages that correspond to other methods of determining age.

I don't have anything specific, but I'm sure it will come up.


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subbie
Member (Idle past 132 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 4 of 9 (543807)
01-20-2010 5:31 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Peepul
01-20-2010 11:48 AM


RAZD has an exhaustive thread on correlations in dating methods. If things were different in the past, they would have to have been different in such a way that all dating methods produced erroneous results to the same degree. That strikes me as an especially slender reed upon which to base an argument.


Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. -- Thomas Jefferson

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. -- Barack Obama

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Apothecus, posted 01-20-2010 9:34 PM subbie has responded

  
Apothecus
Member (Idle past 799 days)
Posts: 275
From: CA USA
Joined: 01-05-2010


Message 5 of 9 (543813)
01-20-2010 9:34 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by subbie
01-20-2010 5:31 PM


Hey Subbie.

IIRC, RAZD's correlations (which to me are bulletproof) extend "only" as far back as ~100ky, taking into account Antarctic ice cores. When I say "only", I'm taking a devil's advocate stance in assuming a YEC may harp, "Well, even if I did believe these floating chronologies, and time extends at least this far back, who's to say constants and laws hadn't varied wildly prior to 100ky? Uniformitarian rubbish! Aarrgh!!" Seems like you'd need some Oklo reactor data (although this assumes you accept radiometric dating) or evidence of normal isotope decay in distant supernovae (although this assumes you accept stellar distances).

I'm all ears for any (new) arguments to present to YECers regarding uniformitarianism. Unfortunately, if they remain true to form then per usual we'll be beating our collective head against a brick wall.

BTW, are you in MN?

Have a good one.


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subbie
Member (Idle past 132 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 6 of 9 (543816)
01-20-2010 10:24 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Apothecus
01-20-2010 9:34 PM


Well, in his first post, just above the first red line, is this:

quote:
Rational people can go further and see that the probable age is much older than that. There is data available for instance that is cross referenced between radiometric dating, biological layering and astrophysics that shows that life on this planet is at least 400 million years old.

Inferred Minimum age of the earth = 400,000,000 years based on cross-referenced data.


I'll leave it to the reader to find the voluminous support for this that RAZD lays out, but it seems clear that the evidence shows that simply denying the accuracy of any individual dating method is probably the weakest of all the weak creo arguments.

Sending you a PM to address the personal stuff.


Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. -- Thomas Jefferson

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. -- Barack Obama

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Apothecus, posted 01-20-2010 9:34 PM Apothecus has not yet responded

  
RAZD
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Posts: 20487
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.5


(1)
Message 7 of 9 (543908)
01-21-2010 6:37 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Peepul
01-20-2010 11:48 AM


radioactive uniformitarian issue/s
Hi again Peepul,

Laws and constants - that the laws and constants of nature have remained unchanged since some given time in the past, or have changed only in ways that do not invalidate the theory of evolution or evidence that supports it, such as radiometric dating. Not necessarily from the very beginning, in the context of evolution, but at least from the formation of the solar system about 4.7 billion years ago.
...
My own interest is primarily in the fundamentals - the laws and constants, and particularly those which are relevant to the age of the earth and dating methods. ...

In addition to what Subbie has mentioned, I'd like to add this thread:

Are Uranium Halos the best evidence of (a) and old earth AND (b) constant physics?:

quote:
Where I am starting is from Dr Wiens:
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html

quote:
13. "Radiation halos" in rocks prove that the Earth was young.

This refers to tiny halos of crystal damage surrounding spots where radioactive elements are concentrated in certain rocks. Halos thought to be from polonium, a short-lived element produced from the decay of uranium, have been found in some rocks. ...

At any rate, halos from uranium inclusions are far more common. Because of uranium's long half-lives, these halos take at least several hundred million years to form. Because of this, most people agree that halos provide compelling evidence for a very old Earth.


(bold added for empHASis, part deleted not about uranium halos)

The thread goes on to discuss how any change in the constants would affect the energy of the particles and alter the way the halo forms, ergo there has been no change in these constants during the "several hundred million years" they take to form.

Uranium halos are a nail in the coffin on variable rates.

Enjoy.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Peepul, posted 01-20-2010 11:48 AM Peepul has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by Fiver, posted 04-17-2010 4:12 PM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
Fiver
Junior Member (Idle past 3352 days)
Posts: 26
From: Provo, UT
Joined: 04-17-2010


Message 8 of 9 (556146)
04-17-2010 4:12 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by RAZD
01-21-2010 6:37 PM


Re: radioactive uniformitarian issue/s
My take on this is that ALL science is based on uniformitarianism. When we see germs today, which of us will suggest that the Black Plague may have been caused by something else? When we discover the law of gravity in the 1600s, who of us will suggest that maybe it didn't exist before then?

Of course, this should not be confused with the 'constant rate' distortions of creationists (for example, the idea that the moon's current rate of movement away from the earth must've been the same throughout all of history).

This may seem like an assumption from a philosophical perspective, but it is one which ALL science makes.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by RAZD, posted 01-21-2010 6:37 PM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
straightree
Member (Idle past 3139 days)
Posts: 57
From: Near Olot, Spain
Joined: 09-26-2008


Message 9 of 9 (556417)
04-19-2010 6:22 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Peepul
01-20-2010 11:48 AM


A hint
It maybe that the fact that we are receiving the light from stars at millions light-years distance, could strengthen the assumption that at least the laws of light transmission have not changed along all this time.

Edited by straightree, : correcting error


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Peepul, posted 01-20-2010 11:48 AM Peepul has not yet responded

  
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