how to fail sixth grade science in three pages
When you encounter something profoundly inane on the internet, you have to ask yourself whether it’s a hoax, an elaborate Poe, or if someone really thinks that proselytizing ignorance is the way to go and is willing to associate his name with it. Such is the case with Spike Psarris, an engineer turned evolution debunker armed with clumsy falsehoods about astronomy and the physics of planetary formation in a texbook case of what’s known as The Salem Hypothesis. To find out whether he really means what he says, I did a search and came up with a facepalm-inducing article he wrote for Answers In Genesis. Turns out that unbeknownst to us, the planet Mercury poses such an evolutionary dilemma, scientists might as well shelf the whole theory, take their ball, and go home.
Again, you might be wondering what physics and astronomy have to do with biology. But remember that we’re talking about a publication for a group controlled by a man who thinks that the world could only be 6,000 years old, the Flintstones was a documentary of sorts, and that it all came to an end when a snake enticed a woman to eat an apple. Little things like making sure the right scientific discipline is being critiqued aren’t exactly a big priority here. And being published in magazines ran by Answers In Genesis means you’re serious in perusing at least a part time career in being a public ignoramus. So, in order to live up to the expectations of this bizarre profession, Psarris tries his first assault on modern science thusly:
… Mercury is so dense that its thought to have an iron core occupying some 75% of its diameter. This extraordinary density has generated much turmoil and confusion in evolutionary astronomy. Evolutionists mostly agree on models of planetary formation but their models say Mercury cant be anywhere near as dense as it actually is.
Mercury is about as dense as the Earth and its core is really thought to be 75% of the planet’s diameter. This was known before the first flyby of the planet with Mariner 10, so how exactly it caused so much turmoil for the astronomical community is kind of hard to pin down. I’ve also never heard of evolutionary astronomy. Maybe he means astrobiologists, but I’m not sure how they would be rattled either. Finally, I don’t know how the density of Mercury somehow defies astronomical models. We know that heavier materials will clump closer to stars during solar system formation, so Mercury being composed of 60 to 70% metals in an orbit just a bit under 58 million miles from the Sun isn’t exactly an invalidation of astronomical theories.
Funny enough, in his reference, Psarris says that the high density is a fact, regardless of whether the model is correct or not. Wait, it doesn’t matter if the model he’s trying to disprove is right or wrong, all that matters is the density? So his argument is what exactly? That Mercury is dense? Or maybe that he’s about as dense as the planet’s core? And this isn’t the only bizarre argument he unleashes on his readers.
After decades of struggle, astrophysicists have given up and admitted that Mercurys high density cannot be accommodated within slow-and-gradual-development models. Instead, the preferred explanation now is that billions of years ago, a large object crashed into Mercury, stripping away its lesser-density material, and leaving behind the high-density planet seen today.
Wait, what? Since when? Psarris’ reference of this claim is a meaningless out of context quote from a popular science book on the solar system. The quote itself mentions a hypothesis about a large impact but provides no details on what kind of impact is being talked about. Mercury had a lot of impacts from all sorts of meteors and comets, like any other body in the solar system. Giving us a page and a snippet with no detail, makes no sense whatsoever and can only be used as an example of poor citing skills. But since Spike found himself a line of attack, he’s going to continue with it, citing creationist literature as his support.
He goes on to accuse astronomers of fabricating planetary collisions, invoking some other imaginary event in which Venus’ rotation stopped because of a monster impact, dismissing that Uranus’ tilt could be caused by a gravitational disturbance and rejecting the fact that solar wind strips planetary atmospheres without adequate magnetic fields to protect them. And somehow, the fact that Venus spins very slowly around its axis, that Mars has a thin atmosphere and that Uranus is on its side, are all detrimental blows to the theory of evolution and the concept that it took our solar system 4.6 billion years to coalesce. Mind you, none of this has anything to do with Mercury. It’s just the rant of a zealot foaming at the mouth with indignation while spouting off inanities that should’ve been cleared up for him in middle school.
Psarris also doesn’t even hint at trying to provide any explanations for why any of the anomalies he highlights happen. He just declares them as a problem for astronomy and moves on. And that makes me wonder if he’s just painfully aware of the fact that he doesn’t know enough to pursue this topic and decided to gloss over it, or if he went so far off into his polemics that he didn’t even notice the three claims he made along the way. Space is chaotic. Very large objects in our solar system move at very high speeds. The Sun, like all stars, gives off radiation which interacts with the atmospheres and magnetospheres of planets in relatively predictable ways. What does he want to tell us with clumsy and backhanded criticism of investigating these phenomena? I don’t know and I honestly don’t think he does either.
Next, he tries to convince us that only a 6,000 year old solar system could possibly explain how planets would have active, molten cores that produce magnetic fields. Apparently, since other ignoramuses on Ken Ham’s payroll said so, a 4.5 billion year old planet would cool down and there would be no magnetic field. The facts that rock is a great insulator, that gravitational tugs and pulls help keep cores warm and that sextillions of tons of molten rock don’t exactly cool overnight, managed to evade Psarris who then goes on to smugly pat himself and his fellow Young Earth kooks on the back, ending the whole thing with a Biblical quote and a declaration of how Mercury has science on it’s back and crying for mercy as is required of a good Ken Ham underling.
What I really want to know is what space oriented project hired him as an engineer, as his biography says. I’m really curious how many times an astronomer or physicist talking to him ended up groaning in frustration and storming out the door while muttering something not fit to print in a family-friendly forum…