Tuesday, May 13, 2014

YEC Star Light Problem: Recent News on Lisle’s ASM Solution.

Fundamentalist Christian and YEC guru Jason Lisle has yet to publish his promised blog posts on the relation between gravity and his solution to the YEC starlight problem.  So, I thought, I’d better keep the matter on the simmer just in case it gets forgotten. Lisle’s promise of blog posts are found in a comment he added to one of his other posts. In this same comment he also gives us his one liner refutation of the objection that his cosmology entails a gravitational field:

Missing gravitational field: I had already planned to deal with this in detail in a future blog entry. But the short answer is: no, ASC does not require a gravitational field. It is simply a coordinate transformation from the ESC. And coordinate transformations do not introduce any real forces.

Well yes, you can do almost anything with coordinate systems. In some coordinate systems objects can look completely distorted or time can run backwards. So, right, ASC doesn't generate a gravitational field. But as Lisle will tell us there is a difference between his Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC) and his Anisotropic Synchrony Model. It is when Lisle moves over to a model rather than a mere convention that the question of a gravitational field ultimately arises.

Below I've reproduced one of Lisle’s recent blog comments that impinge on this matter along with my inevitable interleaved comments. (See the comments section of his post titled Are you Epistemologically Self-Conscious? and dated 6 September 2013)

LISLE: Hello and welcome back.

My Comment: Welcome back? I'm not sure Lisle is the sort of person to whom I could reciprocate a welcome. I don’t think he compares well with the more self-critical and self-aware YECs one finds on Uncommon Descent and others like Paul Nelson who, as far as I can tell, are reasonable evangelicals unlikely to assassinate detractors character's on the heretic's pyre. Lisle, on the other hand, comes out of the “hell and hamnation” stable of AiG and Ken Ham, where we find an abrasive religious ethos. Here a strict observance based faith means that charges of heresy and disobedience to God’s very words come as naturally as the bad language used in some secularist circles. (See here and here for example). Lisle, like Ken Ham, takes his cue from Romans 1 and is likely to believe that those who disagree with him are wilfully suppressing the truth in unrighteousness; this belief has the effect of sanctioning the wanton character defamation of detractors.

LISLE There has been much confusion regarding the difference between the anisotropic synchrony convention (ASC), and the anisotropic synchrony model (ASM). The conventionality thesis notes that the one-way speed of light is not measurable and not even meaningful apart from a defined synchrony convention – and such a convention is tantamount to defining the one-way speed of light. In other words, we get to choose the one-way speed of light (within certain constraints) and then this tells us how to synchronize clocks. The ASC convention has the one-way speed of light moving infinitely fast toward a given observer (not necessarily earth, though it happens that all human observers are currently on earth). Thus, ASC, by itself, does not require any special position for anything in the universe. If an observer were in the Andromeda Galaxy M31, he would measure light moving infinitely fast toward him, if he uses ASC. So, ASC does not require anything in the universe to be in a special position.
When it comes to conventions, we are free to choose. We can use ASC, or the more commonly used Einstein Synchrony Convention (ESC). As long as we are consistent, all physics will be self-consistent and consistent with all observations. It’s just as we can use the metric system or the English system to measure distances. However, if we are to switch systems, we must do a conversion

My comment: Nothing wrong here, and he is right about the confusions of ASC and ASM. But therein is the rub; Lisle’s ignorant lay followers are so totally fazed by it all that they think Lisle has worked an intellectual miracle by pulling an infinite speed of light out of the hat. It’s what Lisle doesn't tell them that’s the problem. In particular, notice the sentence about M31; nothing wrong with that technically but to the layman it shields the cosmic asymmetry in Lisle’s ASM. This asymmetry comes out very clearly in Sam Trendholme’s elegant thought experiment. According to Lisle’s ASC model it follows that at this moment in time light (and presumably gravity?) from our galaxy hasn't yet reached M31, but clearly not vice versa. This asymmetry leads to Lisle’s irrational cosmological model where he has to posit in-transit-signal-creation .  
LISLE: My theory is that the Bible uses the ASC system and not the ESC system, partly because the latter was not invented or used until very recent times. But ASC was implicitly used by all ancient cultures. Since the Bible was written to be understood, it would make sense for the Lord to use the ASC system which could have been understood at any time in any culture, and to use Earth as the point of reference.

My comment: Does the Bible use ASC? I once thought that this statement by Lisle was at least arguable, but on second thoughts I'm not so sure. The writers of those ancient times probably thought that distant events are notified to sight across space instantaneously in all directions – translating that in our modern terms this implies a two-way instantaneous transmission of a signal. But having said that I suspect the ancients didn't even think in terms of a signal travelling to the eye but rather in terms of a direct and instantaneous apprehension of an object. For example, I have recently published a blog post on a primitive YEC who seems to have an intuitive view of sight notification as a two-way instantaneous affair and which doesn't involve the transmission of a signal. So, the implicit human historical meanings that lay behind the Biblical text are likely to be wrong with respect to modern scientific ontology; these ancients may well have thought in terms of a two-way instantaneous sight notification. But then Genesis is not to be judged against the criteria of modern scientific ontology but rather the common sense ontology of pre-scientific writers who were concerned with mythological religious polemic and wouldn't know what Lisle was talking about if he told them they were using ASC!

LISLE: Any system of synchronization must specify a reference position (by ASC) or a reference velocity (by ESC). There is no getting around that because of the physics of relativity – e.g. there is no absolute, observer-independent synchrony scheme. Assuming that I'm right, and the Bible uses ASC, then when the text states that God made the stars on the fourth day of the creation week, this would mean that they were all created at the same time by ASC reckoning from Earth’s position. And they would be instantly visible to anyone on Earth. On the other hand, if the Bible uses ESC and the stars were made on day 4 by ESC reckoning, then this means that the stars were made at the same time as defined by Earth’s velocity on day 4. So either way, the Earth is used as a reference frame for our benefit. This does not necessarily imply a special position for Earth (though it does not deny it either).

My Comment: Yes, ASC doesn't imply a general geocentricity in itself, but ASM certainly does!

LISLE: Now, why should we accept ASM? Well, it’s a model and not something that the Bible directly teaches. So perhaps we shouldn't. However, I think it is the model that is the most consistent with the data and compatible with the history recorded in Scripture. You asked if there are reasons outside my interpretation of Scripture. First, my interpretation of Scripture is not the issue, but rather how the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. It could be that I'm mistaken in my reading of the text and if I have violated a rule of hermeneutics, I welcome correction. In any case, I believe the text is quite clear that God created the universe in 6-days, with the stars being made on the fourth day. Since God was the only one there at the time, it makes sense to rely upon His testimony of the events.

My Comment: Here Lisle does no justice to the fact that Genesis, like the rest of the Bible, was penned in the context of a people who no doubt had a very different understanding of their world to ourselves – this, what is to us an alien understanding, is implicit in the meaning behind the Biblical texts. But like a lot of other Westerners Lisle will likely be a dualist who underrates the immanence of God, a God who is Sovereign in managing the choreography of all that happens under the Sun (and we must add in this day and age, and well beyond the Sun!). This management will cover all those delicately poised neural thresholds in the human mind, a mind that in an act of mythological creation wrote the first chapters of Genesis as a polemical attack on the religion of the day .

Notice Lisle’s common fundamentalist misconception of Bible reading, viz: "The Scriptures interprets Scripture." This is an epistemic cliché that does the rounds in fundamentalist circles and which is seldom critically scrutinised. It is based on an unspoken motivation to make the scriptures a kind of self-contained closed universe of meaning and interpretation. But Scripture being language does not literally “contain” meaning. Meaning is an extrinsic not intrinsic property of language, a property which it gains through its relationship with its context. The Scriptural texts are, in fact, sequences of symbolic triggers of meaning that necessarily exploit the resources of their social and cultural environment in order to generate that meaning. Like many fundamentalists Lisle’s understanding of language is still at the kind of primitive stage that corresponds to this YEC’s concept of sight notification.  Like sight itself Scripture is not a direct revelation of God that does without intervening layers of signal and interpretation; by its very nature, being language, Scripture cannot work in a cultural vacuum. The upshot is that humanity’s appropriation of revelation through scripture is still partial (1 Corinthians 13).

And finally let me just note in passing that trying to tie hermeneutics down to a set of "rules" is also rather silly.

LISLE: Second, apart from the Scriptures, there would be no basis for science anyway. That is, we would have no rational justification for the inductive principle upon which all science is based. As a clumsy analogy, it’s a bit like saying, “apart from data collected in telescopes, do we really have any good reasons to believe in most of what we read in astronomy textbooks?” Perhaps not. But then again, there really is no good reason to reject the data collected in telescopes any more than there is any good reason to reject the history recorded in the Bible. Rejecting either would undermine our rational confidence in knowing just about anything about astronomy.

My Comment: I may have a general sympathy with Lisle here: Without a belief in God as a benevolent and personal benefactor we lose a cognitive corner stone which means our thinking, epistemology, concomitant ontologies and the whole basis of our rationality have a tendency to crumble into nihilism along with all that we think we know. And yet, ... and yet Lisle presides over his irrational signal-creation-in-transit cosmology!

LISLE: Third, putting aside the above points, ASM accounts for observations in a way that is better than secular models – such as the expectation of evidences of “youth” at all distances in space. By “youth” I mean things that cannot last billions of years, such as spiral galaxies or blue O-type stars. And indeed, these are found at all distances in space.

My Comment: Notice that Lisle doesn't tell us what precisely classifies as “youth”. After all, recall that as far as Lisle is concerned anything much over 10,000 years old would classify as “old” and conflict with his views. As far as I'm aware not enough is yet known about galactic dynamics to start making pronouncements about a 6000 year old universe. Moreover, even if galaxies “wind up” they would take millions of years, and not a mere 6000 years, to do so!  But YECs like Lisle are on an anti-science crusade and it is therefore deemed sufficient by them to simply engage in a negative attack on established science without coming up with any positive evidence for a 6000 year old universe. (See here for similar misconceptions: http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/an-email-from-fundamentalist.html )

LISLE: Fourth, although ASM does not require Earth to be in any special position, there is indeed evidence suggesting that our solar system has a privileged position in the universe. This is the research project I'm working on currently here at ICR. And we have not yet completed our analysis, but hope to have some results in a few months. So stay tuned.

My comment: Surely Lisle must have meant to write “ASC” rather than “ASM”? …..because clearly his ASM is radically geocentric! As Lisle makes clear in his original paper, ESC requires the Earth to be near the centre of a set of concentric shells of creation that would have started at the outer reaches of the cosmos billions of years ago, with finally the Earth’s immediate vicinity only being created around 6000 years ago. This, of course, means that light from the vicinity of the Earth (and presumably gravitational influence as well?) hasn't reached beyond a shell of 6000 light years! The rest of the universe can’t yet see us or feel(?) us! Radically asymmetric indeed! So, I'm not at all surprised that Lisle is lurching toward a form of geocentrism.  In fact might he be looking for that gravitational field after all?!

LISLE: I hope this helps.

My comment: Helped? Most likely it has help lead Lisle’s followers, who hang on his words, further up the garden path of confusion. Like garden paths in general, it’s going nowhere.

No comments: