meet the ray comfort of astronomy

May 21, 2009 — 32 Comments

Just a few weeks ago, in a guest post on The Panda’s Thumb, I warned that creationists are trying to assault astronomy and physics. And now ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Spike Psarris, an electrical engineer who’s tackling “the intellectual bankruptcy of evolution” with movies about astronomy which are a bargain at just $19 per DVD. Between his videos, interviews and his website, he repeats only ten or twenty times how he went to work in space programs as an “atheist and evolutionist” only to emerge a Christian creationist after he was swayed by overwhelming evidence of something or other. Hence, he obviously has the authority to put all of modern astronomy and biology in its place and he’ll start with a 105 minute trip through our solar system.

solar system

The short previews he provides have an absolutely alarming stupidity per statement quotient, as if Psarris is on a mission to compete with Ray Comfort in ignorance. Every other sentence he utters either starts or ends with how some piece of evidence about our observations of the solar system either prove evolution wrong or come up with results that are “devastating to the evolutionary model.” Now, even ignoring the obvious fact that evolution has nothing to do with planetary formation or astronomy in general, only the changes seen in active biospheres over long periods of time, and focusing only on the supposed evidence he tries to present, even an amateur astronomer can point out that for someone who worked in a space program, he doesn’t seem to know an awful lot about space.

For example, one of Psarris’ assertions is that the evolutionary model predicts that Jupiter has to have a large core but Galileo supposedly found that this core was no more than three Earth masses. Really? You don’t say, huh? Because astronomers estimate that its mass is between 14 and 18 Earths. He also claims that there was some sort of evolutionary prediction that Jupiter’s atmosphere shouldn’t have argon or an entire host of other gasses. And come to think of it, I’m sure there’s something about it in On The Origin of Species. Oh no, wait, he means in our universe, not some parallel astrophysical realm. Never mind. After asserting that a non- existent model has been proven false, he also whips out a bit of purple prose from a study’s abstract about a gap in our knowledge of Jupiter’s formation, written decades ago as proof that astronomers just make it up as they go along, feeding you lies and half-baked guesses.

Psarris repeats that trick whenever he can. Make a false or non-existent assertion, whip out some obscure, out of context quote, rinse and repeat, all the while chanting about the evolutionary model being wrong or an evolutionary prediction failing or how evolution is false, paying no attention that he’s miserably failing at trying to use physics to discard astronomy rather than actually dealing with the theory’s realm. After about five or six minutes, his anti-scientific mantra is like moaning in a porn flick, there for no other reason than as a repetitive background noise for viewers to enjoy. What exactly was he doing in a space program if he’s unable to tell the difference between biology and physics? How is his degree in electrical engineering in any way a qualification to spout inanities about observable and well known scientific facts? And why does he think people will really be willing to spend $19 on this absurd bit of space themed creation erotica?

Share
  • Anonymous

    You realize Ray Comfort is satire, right?

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    Ah, only if Ray Comfort were satire, the world would be a much better place…

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Oh, if ONLY Ray Comfort were a Poe… Could you imagine the devastation he could wreak on YECs by simply stating “Hey, folks, I’ve been messing with you all along; evolution’s real, deal with it”?

    We can dream…

  • Amadan

    And why does he think people will really be willing to spend $19 on this absurd bit of space themed creation erotica?

    Never underestimate the willingness of the gullible to fooled.

  • http://dad2059.wordpress.com dad2059

    What Amadan said.

    And being the social and political creatures we are, prefer the simple, secure and comfortable in stressful times of change.

  • musubk

    “Worked in the space program” in this case means “was hired to help design a minor electrical component that required absolutely no knowledge of astronomy”. I’ll bet a dollar on it.

  • Pingback: Top Posts « WordPress.com

  • Pingback: The evolution of creationist astronomy | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

  • http://beyondtheblog.wordpress.com/unexplained/ Anthony North

    Skeptics of the pseudo, kind like you lot, always laugh at alternative views. Science can’t prove anything conclusively. Science denies lots of things it can’t prove, but that does not mean it could not be true. There could be an alternate rational explanation for the creation that you lot wish to ignore, as it just couldn’t possibly be in your narrowminded estimation of the universe

  • Greg Fish

    “Science cant prove anything conclusively.”

    Science doesn’t prove things. It tests hypotheses and builds theories from those that can be shown as valid based on rigorous testing and peer review.

    “Science denies lots of things it cant prove, but that does not mean it could not be true.”

    To deny something means that verifiable proof has been presented and ignored. This isn’t what happens with most so-called “alternative” views. Instead, they’re presented as fact and when they’re shown to be wrong or lacking evidence behind them, their advocates start attacking scientists for being denialists rather than gathering better evidence.

    “There could be an alternate rational explanation for the creation that you [sic] lot wish to ignore…”

    My “lot” wants more evidence than quote mining and clearly ignorant statements. Asking people to prove their theories rather than just make up their own reality isn’t some sort of unreasonable demand.

  • http://beyondtheblog.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/the-psychology-of-creationism/ Anthony North

    There is a feeling among rationalists that the world is slowly going mad. The reason? The continuing growth of fundamentalist beliefs concerning Creationism. But what is at the root of this growing phenomenon?

    Well, first of all, science cannot ever prove it wrong. They can rant and rave; they can show how science shows it is not the case but at best, this can only show the working mechanisms of a process, and not the whys.

    Thus, God is immune to the scientific process.

    And the sooner science accepts this and stops decrying the Creationist, the sooner there may be the return of a little commonsense in the debate on both sides.

    This is not simply an opinion of mine. I think it can be backed up by sound reasoning. And not reasoning to do with science or Creationism, but the process of the very conflict involved.

    I think there is a valid law for such conflicts.

    I call it the law of opposite effect. It can be explained quite simply. The more one stance becomes entrenched, the more the other will dig in its heels.

    Thus, the condemnation from either side will guarantee the reasons for condemnation will increase. Hence, the problem isnt science or Creationism, but the battle between the two.

    And it gets worse.

    As the conflict continues, and stances become more fundamental, the point comes when both sides become fanatical. When this point arrives, all commonsense disappears.

    But more than this, my law has another element: basically, the more fanatical you become, the more you will further the opposite outcome to that intended. Hence, science guarantees Creationism, and vice versa.

    And the problem is also of paradigms.

    Science is now grounded in a totally material world, with nothing other than what can be observed. Well, one thing can be observed above the material the innate need in people for something above the material.

    Im talking about a form of spirituality. Now, to me, spirituality is about bonding of man to man, mankind to nature, and nature to the universe. It is a form of holistic love, I suppose, and I assume scientists DO fall in love, despite their rationality.

    Hence, in a world that does not offer intellectual ideals concerning this process, the gap will be filled by systems that do. And the ultimate expression of this is an entire universe created through love by God.

    An urge towards spirituality will always exist. Whether this means there is a supernatural or not is beside the point. And as long as science decides there is no such thing, they will continue to fuel movements that say there is. And to be quite honest, in terms of the knowledge we have, they could be just as right as scientists think THEY are.

  • Xenocide

    One, you cannot prove a negative. The burden of proof lies with the claimant, and creationist claimants have yet to grant anysort of proofs.

    The ignorant speeches of Anthony North are those that could not have been born without a higher education.

  • Reaper

    “one thing can be observed above the material the innate need in people for something above the material.”

    Oh, you’re talking about hormones? Irregular electrical activity in the brain? Biopsychology?

    “as long as science decides there is no such thing, they will continue to fuel movements that say there is.”

    Science says “there is no proof for such a thing”, the joy of it is that should proof arrive science will say “okay, that’s a shock, but okay”, whereas creationists seem unswayable by any amount of evidence.

  • sam

    Oh knock it off. i applaud parris. this is the first time i have ever seen anyone on either side of the debate show actual textbooks on physics, chemistry and astronomy, citing sources for his points of view. what he says makes sense.

    all the evolutionists do is spew the “billions of years” yet 0 evidence to back it up. whatever happened to science being an objective way of going about studies? it uses to be you go into a lab, look under a microscope, use a petri dish, Bunsen burner and test tubes, dna and study gases that you can actually use, see and feel. this is what science is about. science is not about seeing something and then using a computer simulation based on only what you see and then say “ok thats what happened. this is billions of years old and is light years away.” why oh why is it that astronomy is always the exception to the rule when it comes to real science and astronomers can always get away with whatever they say being considered a theory?

    i’m sick and tired of astronomers and their ridiculous observations. at least let the engineers make the observations. they actually make the machinery and do the real work. there are way too many astronomers. who needs them? i say we get rid of some.

  • Greg Fish

    “what [Psarris] says makes sense.”

    If you pay no attention to the context, it certainly does. It also makes sense if you choose to ignore that his sources are actually mangled quotes from decade old studies which don’t even say what he claims they do.

    “whatever happened to science being an objective way of going about studies?”

    It’s still the gold standard which is why Psarris hasn’t done any. You don’t create your own theory by abusing the work of others out of context and making up false claims that are then not backed up by any evidence.

    “science is not about seeing something and then using a computer simulation based on only what you see”

    No, it’s not. Which is why computer models are used to derive falsifiable predictions that are supposed to be confirmed by observational evidence. Again, Psarris’ model, if we can call it that, makes no predictions of anything. Rather it just says that everybody’s wrong except him and his fellow pseudoscientists who also have no idea what they’re talking about.

    “let the engineers make the observations. they actually make the machinery and do the real work.”

    Really? We should let engineers do the jobs of people who tell them what to build and how to build it? Just because an astronomer tells an engineer to build a mirror with an X diameter and he builds it, doesn’t mean he becomes an instant expert in astronomy.

  • chris lamb

    “But more than this, my law has another element: basically, the more fanatical you become, the more you will further the opposite outcome to that intended. Hence, science guarantees Creationism, and vice versa.”

    Even a child could see the problem with your logic there.

  • Bill

    Perhaps you guys should read this response and the debate in the comment section.

    http://www.creationastronomy.com/evolution-has-nothing-to-do-with-astronomy/

    I will also point out that….

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/081125-jupiter-core.html

    …..has the normal language of, “suspect”, “probably”,”appear” and “implies”, like most “reports” of scientific theory that implies fact.

    Look at this, for example:

    “Our simulations show there is a big rocky object in the center surrounded by an ice layer and hardly any ice elsewhere in the planet,” Militzer said. “This is a very different result for the interior structure of Jupiter than other recent models, which predict a relatively small or hardly any core and a mixture of ices throughout the atmosphere.”

    A simulation countering another simulation. If only we could have received real physical evidence when Galielo crashed.

  • Bill

    “Which is why computer models are used to derive falsifiable predictions that are supposed to be confirmed by observational evidence.”

    See above “simulation” quote. The subsequent computer models were not falsified nor confirmed by observation, nor has this computer simulation.

  • Greg Fish

    Bill, so Psarris’ rebuttal is that the use of the word evolutionary as an adjective in the textbooks he found on Amazon means that the study of stars and cosmic objects is tied at the hip to studying changes in biospheres over periods of time due to genetic mutations and selective pressures. I’ve seen it since the day he posted it and all he accomplished was to show that he knows even less about evolution and the use of this term as a reference to an algorithm, than he does about astronomy.

    Also, funny thing about the study of Jupiter’s core. He took a random number out of a rather old scientific paper, attributed it to the findings of Galileo, presented it as real, physical piece of evidence when it’s really just a quote mined number and says that because Jupiter doesn’t have a huge core according to the quote he mined, it means that evolution is a sham without ever explaining who said that Jupiter is supposed to have a big core and why exactly this is a problem for either astronomy or evolution.

    The links to the Space.com article was to show that he was wrong in his quote and if you want direct evidence for the mass of Jupiter’s core from scientists, you should be demanding it from Psarris as well.

  • Bill

    “Bill, so Psarris’ rebuttal is that the use of the word evolutionary as an adjective in the textbooks he found on Amazon means that the study of stars and cosmic objects is tied at the hip to studying changes in biospheres over periods of time due to genetic mutations and selective pressures.”

    That’s not what I read in his rebuttal nor from the related comments of others on that post. They specifically addressed the critics on that.

    “and if you want direct evidence for the mass of Jupiter’s core from scientists, you should be demanding it from Psarris as well.”

    I didn’t watch these videos. I call only speak to what I read, which I admit is rather limited to the link I gave. Perhaps there is more to it but from what I read there and the comments of his detractors, I think the scope of the context was reasonably demostrated. Based on that, I didn’t get the impression that Psarris was making a claim about the actual size of the core of Jupiter, rather he was pointing out the flaws of the claims of scientists that have. The substance of this issue is that if Jupiter has a sufficiently “small” core, it poses a problem to the evolutionary model of planets, as Psarris asserts.

  • Greg Fish

    That’s not what I read in his rebuttal nor from the related comments of others

    But this is exactly to what his argument boils down. He’s put up a few books with the word evolution in the title regarding the development of planets, stars and galaxies, then, like most creationists, sang praises to himself and how his arguments are so incredible in their insightfulness that no scientist can possibly counter them. In other words, what one would call verbal onanism.

    The substance of this issue is that if Jupiter has a sufficiently “small” core, it poses a problem to the evolutionary model of planets, as Psarris asserts.

    Right. Psarris asserts a lot of things but manages to dodge providing an explanation of how exactly this would mean that the current model of planetary formation is wrong and the only alternative is a 6,000 year old universe. He does the same thing in a rant about Mercury, where his best arguments are basically the wrong answers on a test in a middle school science class, or nonsensical absolutist statements that could be made only by someone who’s never watched even a single pop sci documentary on solar system formation.

  • Bill

    “But this is exactly to what his argument boils down.”

    You can certainly have that opinion.

    “He’s put up a few books with the word evolution in the title regarding the development of planets, stars and galaxies”

    A few books? I think it reasonably showed it to be common and not the exception.

    “Right. Psarris asserts a lot of things but manages to dodge providing an explanation of how exactly this would mean that the current model of planetary formation is wrong”

    That I don’t know, so I can’t agree or disagree at this point.

    “or nonsensical absolutist statements that could be made only by someone who’s never watched even a single pop sci documentary on solar system formation.”

    Attacking the person versus the substance of their argument, may make us feel good but it doesn’t change the substance of a debate, only the tone. The substance of your arguments should be able to stand on their own.

  • Greg Fish

    The substance of your arguments should be able to stand on their own.

    I provided the arguments. I cited my sources. I have no obligation to be nice to a very grating pseudo-scientist who insists on spreading misinformation for profit. His tone can be summed up as “you’re all stupid, scientists are all shills for Darwin, now me, I’m smart so you should all listen to me.” And then he expects to be treated with kid gloves. Sorry, not in me to offer that kind of concession.

  • Bill

    Just read this:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/05/28/the-evolution-of-creationist-astronomy/

    All I can say is wow. Where to start…

    “Oh you wacky creationists!” Ok, the very first sentence of the article starts off with a logical fallacy by attempting to poison the well.

    “You make it all too easy. A warning: while easy, it does take some time to debunk a creationist’s blatherings. So I indulge your allowance of this somewhat lengthy dissection.”

    It is very easy when you don’t bother to actually do it. He even admits so here:

    “Now, I did decline to debunk his video on its claims”

    “as I’m rather a busy guy these days”

    Irrelevant. Don’t blog about his claims then.

    “and all his arguments boil down to “science doesn’t know this yet”, which is a losing fight and always will be.”

    This is just a declaration of opinion and means nothing.

    “Instead, I challenged him on the use of the world “evolution”, because it’s painfully obvious he is using it as a buzzword meant to sway people emotionally, and not rationally.”

    Kind of how he uses the word, “creationist”.

    “Evolution is of course a word used like a blunt instrument by creationists to gather the flock… and then, usually, shear them. And when they use it, it’s also very clearly an allusion to biological evolution.”

    Again, just opinion and he gives zero evidence that the person he is pointing at has done this.

    “He does indicate that I don’t attack his specific points, but as I said clearly I didn’t intend to as there’s no need. ”

    LOL, how convenient.
    “First, as I said, it’s clear that is not why he uses the term in the video.”

    Ok, when are you going to actually prove that? That’s right, “there’s no need” to do that either. Just declare it so and that’s all that is required.

    “Third, (in general) creationists deny biological evolution can happen.”

    That’s purposefully a skewed generalization, creationists don’t deny that changes occur with the lower hierarchy of biological classification’s, only in the upper.

    ” it’s still clear that the reason he uses that word is to generate an emotional response in his listeners. It’s as hollow and empty a use as any other political term hung by one group on an opposing group. Anti-choice, pro-abortion; neither is entirely accurate, and both clearly were coined just to elicit a visceral response, not a rational one.”

    For the sake of argument, Kettle, meet Pot.

    “Another point. He makes a big deal claiming that I call him a liar in my previous post. In fact I do not, and I never use that word. I imply he has born false witness, but actually that literally means not telling the truth. That’s different than a lie; people can simply be wrong, and think they are right.

    That may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I would argue that bearing false witness would include using a term you know is not really appropriate even if you think that the core of your argument is correct. It’s a method of speaking that is less than truthful without actually being a lie.”

    “Bearing false witness” is a legal term used in the Old Testament and refers to a person knowingly making a false statement in a “court” that has bearing on the guilt or innocence of the accused and is intended to prevent justice. i.e. it’s LYING. Plait’s obfuscation isn’t effective.

    “In fact, I do not use an ad hominem attack: I don’t attack him personally at all, I attack his (mis)use of a word.”

    Righhht.

    “He is also setting up a false argument here; you can use an ad hominem when your opponent is dead wrong, too. Just because one person uses an ad hominem — which, remember, I did not — does not mean the other person’s arguments are right.”

    True but until you even attempt to refute his arguments, it leaves you just sitting there name calling.

    “So his methodology is clear: misdirections and distraction. As for his claims themselves… if someone wants to”

    LOL, isn’t that what YOU choose to do Plait, use a methodology of misdirection and distraction versus debating the substance of his arguments? That’s rhetorical of course, since it is clear. Also, I thought there was “no need” to refute his arguments?

  • Bill

    “I provided the arguments. I cited my sources.”

    Where exactly did you show that he, “never watched even a single pop sci documentary on solar system formation”?

    “I have no obligation to be nice to a very grating pseudo-scientist who insists on spreading misinformation for profit.”

    You don’t have an obligation to be nice to anyone but the use of belittlement in a debate of ideas is a weak position.

    “His tone can be summed up as “you’re all stupid, scientists are all shills for Darwin, now me, I’m smart so you should all listen to me.” And then he expects to be treated with kid gloves. Sorry, not in me to offer that kind of concession.”

    Hmmm, I don’t see that as being the case at all. The norm from my experience is that the “shills for Darwin” are the ones that have the monopoly on calling the other side stupid. I guess it depends on whether or not you think those you are intending to affect change with think being “mean”, for whatever reason, is valid evidence for persuasion.

    By the way, sorry for the previous post, It was a stretch of relevance to our conversation at this point.

    I don’t have much else to say on this topic but would enjoy conversations with you and others on perhaps other topics outside of the catfight between these two authors.

  • Greg Fish

    All right Bill, now you’re just trolling.

    While you invested hundreds of words in talking about tone and who’s nice and who’s not, your actual discussion of real world data, of actual evidence and of the quality of sources is not there. In other words, you have a discussion about style based on style without any real substance. The only fact you mentioned came from a quote I provided in the post.

    I’m not a philosopher. I don’t and have no intention of endlessly going back and forth about how facts and issues are being expressed instead of what the facts and issues actually are.

  • Bill

    “All right Bill, now you’re just trolling.”

    Oh no, the “T” word! I see, you give an opinion, it’s fine. I give the opposite opinion and it’s trolling.

    I’ll remind you that this whole discussion is centered around the argument of Plait against Psarris, not based on the substance of his assertions but on the perceived intentions of Psarris using a specific word.

    “I’m not a philosopher. I don’t and have no intention of endlessly going back and forth about how facts and issues are being expressed instead of what the facts and issues actually are.”

    I see that now. I Wish I had read your new post on how you choose to “communicate” and why before I even bothered mentioning the tone of discussions of anyone.

    I’ll be happy to leave aside philosophy in discussions and just talk about “facts”.

  • Greg Fish

    I see, you give an opinion, it’s fine. I give the opposite opinion and it’s trolling.

    My apologies for not clarifying the “trolling” comment. I didn’t mean to say that you’re a troll in the internet definition of the word.

    Actually, I was using the word trolling in a classical sense, as in baiting several lines and waiting for something to bite as you go along. Rather than focus on what claims made by Psarris have been shown untrue or woefully incomplete, you’re focused on minutia about my ideas of his level of education in the subject where he attempts to play expert without having the requisite knowledge to do so.

  • Bill

    “you’re focused on minutia about my ideas of his level of education in the subject where he attempts to play expert without having the requisite knowledge to do so.”

    Sure. But in order for me to talk about your minutia, you would have had to have created it. I stated I couldn’t speak to the other assertions you made but I felt this one should have to be defended by you. No need to do so, later I had read your post on communication style, so I don’t expect an answer that you haven’t already given. Now that we are on the same page, we can move on.

  • Lithp

    Bill, from a cursory reading of this page, the only things you’ve actually commented on are how nicely someone responds & what your “opinion” is.

    I agree with Gfish, you’re not really getting this whole “science” thing. No one gives a crap about what you think. No one gives a crap about what this guy “thinks” about astronomy, they want to see evidence.

    Gfish has shown you that his evidence is lacking, but you sidestepped that, choosing to believe that his “sources” referred to statements he made about the “astronomer’s” general character. That handwave really doesn’t fly in a logical debate.

    You said that this guy’s “theories” “make sense,” but you’ve yet to prove that. I know I stated earlier that no one cares about opinions in logic debates, but I’ll indulge anyway: I think that Gfish has a collossal amount of patience to keep speaking with you considering every one of your comments brings approximately no new information to the table.

    Just thought I’d give an outside observer’s perspective.

  • starshine

    Spike Psarris has a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering and was an engineer in the U.S. military space program. So? I would be interested in knowing what his job description was. I agree with ‘Musubk’. Psarris could well have worked on electrical equipment for, but with no personal involvement in the actual scientific work the equipment was designed to perform.

    A B.A. in Electrical Engineering does not qualify one to be called a scientist. It is qualified scientists who would be applying accepted scientific methodology to the use of the equipment.

    In his videos about the solar system, Psarris keeps using the word, ‘we’–’we found’–’we observed’–etc. This imples he was personally and actively involved in the scientific procedures and discussions regarding the implications of the observations. This appears to be a purposeful attempt to attach some false credibility to his assertions.

    He does have refined speaking skills and can sound like he actually knows what he is talking about to those who:

    –want to believe this arguement for creationism

    –and/or do not have an understanding of the stringent requirements of scientific research (a standard to which he wants to hold science, but not his own assertions)

    –and/or have little more than a basic knowledge of astronomy (This is not a criticism of those people. Astronomy is not everyone’s thing.

    It is, however, a criticism of those who prey on people’s lack of knowledge, quote mine, take information out of context, provide misinformatilon, and use scientific terminology to sound impressive in order to promote their own adgenda.)
    Current scientific knowledge does not have, nor does it claim to have, all the answers. Scientists, including those who hold religious beliefs, do not jump from–science does not know the answer to such and such–therefore god did it.

  • californiandood

    Hey great job ripping on the idiot. But, can you please tell us where your image came from? I just spent 4 hours trying to find out where you got that image frame and I can’t find it. Would be greatly appreciated.

    Dude