If you know what you are looking for, the free Metro newspapers mini-cosm feature can be very revealing. So many of the ‘science’ reports are a little long on speculation, a little short on fact, particularly the copious evolution related ones. For instance in the 31st March 2011 edition, (it’s a while ago, I know), there’s an article about a fossil imprint of a cabbage 125 million years ago which has ‘sown fresh doubts about the evolution of flowering plants’. Not that it happened, but about when. The discovery is earlier than expected and ‘suggests they evolved earlier than that’. This is an example of a very common occurrence – the extension of the fossil ranges of different species and groups. The significance is that very often rocks are dated by ‘index fossils’ – fossils that are deemed to be limited in chronological range. However, if the ranges keep expanding, it means that a lot of the dating of rocks will have to be revisited. This is added to the fact that at least one index fossil appears for a brief time, disappears for ‘millions of years’ and then is found alive – the coelacanth fish (notable also for allegedly being a ‘missing link’, until they actually found living specimens!).
In the May 19th edition, every article relates to significant origins / evolution issues. The first is about a new study that proposes that the innermost core of the earth is melting and freezing at the same time. That seems bizarre, but on looking on the net for more detail, they may have a case. However, what caught my eye was the following :
‘The findings could explain how the inner core formed and how the outer core acts as a ‘geodynamo’ which generates the planet’s magnetic field, said study co-author…’
That rather gave the game away. The background is that the measurements of the magnetic field over the last 2 centuries have shown that is decreasing quite a lot (about 14% over that period), the simplest explanation of which is that it is naturally decreasing from an original high level because the electrical current producing it is affected by electrical resistance in the core of the planet. However, too much magnetism would result in the earth being melted completely, so this simple explanation would put an upper limit on the age of the earth in the 10’s of 1000’s of years, not the millions and billions evolution requires. For the past 40 or more years, mainstream scientists have frantically tried to find some kind of mechanism that would be a dynamo that sustained the current / magnetic field in the core. Lots of ideas, little consensus because all the proposals have serious flaws. Thus the plaintive hopefulness of the phrase ‘The findings could explain….’. Now, I’m no physicist, but I suspect that as is usual we should probably accept the basic results, and reject the desperate speculations about it providing a mechanism. Interestingly enough, the articles on the study indicate that a proposed mechanism to do with the freezing of parts of the core has to do with cold crustal rocks pulled down into the mantle. This is much more consistent with the creationist ‘Catastrophic Plate Techtonics’ theory, which has rapid pulling down of parts of the crust a few thousand years ago during the flood, than with the standard views which have a slow pull down a long time ago, and yet somehow the crustal elements retain the coolness and don’t get warmed to the level of the mantle material around them.
The next article can stand on it’s own as an example of blatant ‘just so’ story telling. Apparently major factors that caused early man to shift from moving on all fours to our current position was sex and violence. You could punch rivals for females with greater force if you were stood upright. Just one question – why aren’t women still walking around on all fours then?
Finally, the article New Worlds really takes the biscuit for sci-fi meanderings in the name of science, although it is in the realm of cosmology, a field dominated by study of things that can’t be experimented on, and so outside the realm of science in the strictest sense. And – what a surprise – it’s on the issue of life on other planets, the topic that is guaranteed to send allegedly hard-headed scientists into the realms of fantasy and wish-fulfilment. Antarctic Mars meteorite. Need I say more? Anyway, the article is rife with ‘coulds’ and believed and ‘claimed’.
First sentence : ‘Isolated planets that support life could exist in the Milky Way, astronomers say’. What’s the basis for this astronomical assinine assertion? Well these ‘free floating bodies’ (ie they are not in a system round a star) which (somehow) have been kicked out of developing systems (even though this has never been observed – given evolutionary beliefs about planet formation this has to have been the case, so it’s a circular argument) are ‘believed to contain enough hydrogen to host life’. This gives the impression that have a bit of hydrogen and ‘bingo’ life is practically inevitable – a completely false impression. The article continues : ‘While only dark, Jupiter-like planets have been found so far, it is claimed their previously unknown existence paves the way for warmer, earth-mass planets to be discovered’. But hang on, life requires considerable warmth, does it not? So, even if ‘earth-mass’ planets of this nature are found floating in space, how can they host life. After all, Mars is frozen, Venus is boiling, we are just right, and the deciding factor is distance from our sun. If these planets are free-floaters, far from any star to warm them, how can they host life? And if you argue that the warmth came from a hot core, well, surely the hot core would quickly (in cosmological terms) cool, especially with no star’s warmth, meaning so much shorter a time for ‘life’ to evolve?
In short, the astronomer’s naturalistic world-view leads them to make allegedly scientific pronouncements which have less sober reality content and more fantasy and wishful thinking than the romantic ramblings of a love-lorn spinster!