Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April 2015 Quiz

Each month I've been asking a series of questions to hopefully encourage readers to think more deeply about their beliefs. What is truth? and how do you know? What tools do you have at your disposal in your search for truth? Will you be able to rule out falsehood? How?

This month I want to do something slightly different. I want to test your knowledge. Do you understand that which you believe? Do you understand that which you reject?

Let's find out...

Yes, you are welcome to use Google.
  1. Name 5 different scientific methods used to determine how old various natural objects are.
    Bonus points if you can find articles from reputable sources detailing how each of these methods was determined to be accurate, and the tests to eliminate errors.
    Double bonus points if you can find details of experiments that show how these methods agree with each other when used to date the same object.
  2. How old do scientists believe the earth is? What methods did they use to calculate the age of the earth?
  3. Name 5 different creationist methods used to determine how old various natural objects are.
    Bonus points if you can find details of experiments to test these methods.
    Double bonus points if you can find details of experiments that show how these methods agree with each other when used to date the same object.
  4. How old do creationists believe the earth is? What methods did they use to calculate the age of the earth?
    (If you feel the need to refer to a holy book then you're missing the point of this exercise)
  5. Does the earth physically rest on foundations that cannot be moved?
  6. If the sun stood still, would it be daylight for longer?
    Bonus points if you can explain in detail what would need to happen in order for the sun to appear in the same position in the sky for 3 hours, from the point of view of an observer on earth.
  7. Where is heaven? Please be specific.
  8. Where and what is the firmament (referred to in Genesis 1:7) ? What did God say it was?
  9. What is Earth? What did God call "Earth" in Genesis 1?
  10. Why does the moon look red during a total lunar eclipse?
While we're speaking of lunar eclipses, be sure to check out the total lunar eclipse on April 4, 2015.

If you're spooked by freaky stories about lunar eclipses and Jewish Passovers, you may want to consider these details before giving in to superstitious nonsense:
  • The Jewish calendar is a luni-solar calendar, which means it is itself based on the passage of the sun and moon in the sky.
  • As a result of this, Passover always occurs on a full moon.
  • Lunar eclipses can only occur on a full moon. Essentially what you're seeing is the earth's shadow on the moon.
  • There will be 8 tetrads this century. We know the day and the hour of all of them. ;-)
  • Big things happen every year, not just during years marked by tetrads.
  • Learn about the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

Happy Easter everyone!


  1. For the curious, here are some answers:

    1. Dendrochronology (tree rings), ice cores, radiometric dating, speed of light, genetics (molecular clock)

    Bonus: The link below in the answer for question 2 contains examples where multiple different methods produced a similar age. The link also includes details of error margins and checks etc.

    Also note that carbon-14 dating is calibrated using dendrochronology

    2. ~4.5 billion years

    Age of the earth measured by a number of different methods

    3. AFAIK creationists do not have any methods for determining the age of natural objects.

    I put the "bonus points" bits there just to mirror the first question. If you have answers for this, please share them!

    4. Same as #3. Creationists do not have any methods for determining the actual age of the earth. What they have instead are assertions that the age of the earth has "upper limits", and these are generally based on flawed assumptions and/or methodology.

    Click here for more info

    5. No. Job did not understand cosmology. If you think he was speaking metaphorically, please explain the metaphor. Also consider that Job describes a view quite similar to that held by people in surrounding nations from the same time period. Perhaps all of their writings were using the same metaphor (albeit with references to different gods)? I doubt it. I think it rather more likely that the common understanding of the day was that the earth was fixed in place and rested on solid pillars (erected by god(s)).

    1. 6. No.

      Joshua 10:13 tells us that the sun and the moon both stood still in the sky for about a whole day. Curiously it also refers to a "book of Jashar", which somehow didn't make it into the canon. In any case, we know the moon orbits the earth but the sun does not.

      The physics required for them both to stand still from the point of view of an observer on earth is rather complex. That is to say, impossible if not absurd.

      The day/night cycle is due to earth's rotation, and the speed of rotation means that a person standing at the equator is moving at roughly 1600km/h (and slower towards the poles). If the earth were to stop spinning, every single one of its inhabitants would continue moving at a speed of 1600km/h, colliding into any nearby tree or mountain. Not to mention the host of other problems.

      After you're done listing off the millions of non-trivial miracles God would need to have done to make this work, you're left wondering why God didn't go with any of the far less complex solutions, such as either defeat the enemy directly (as he apparently did other times) or better yet prevent them from attacking in the first place.

      Is there a better explanation for Joshua 10:13? well yes. The author just didn't understand that the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way round. It seems pretty obvious when you read the verse, but that doesn't stop apologists arguing for the absurd. Such arguments are ad-hoc and meaningless. The apologist simply loves "what if" scenarios without a shred of evidence to back them up. So long as they stick to explanations involving magic, no one can prove them wrong. Unfortunately for the apologist, no one can prove them right, either.

      Apparently if the book says it, it must be true. With such high standards of historical enquiry and critical thinking, what could possibly go wrong?

      7. NFI. The biblical authors thought heaven was in the sky somewhere. Now that humans have been into space and not bumped into any heaven I'm guessing that heaven has been pushed back a little further. It seems that people want to push heaven outside the universe now too (whilst simultaneously claiming that "the heavens" refers to what's inside the universe).

      8. The firmament is Heaven, according to Genesis 1:8. Also, the sky was considered to be solid and dome-shaped (on a flat, circular earth) at the time Genesis was written. Hence the name "FIRMament". If you think the firmament is the atmosphere, then tell me where the sun and moon sit in the atmosphere. Genesis 1:14 says the sun and the moon were placed IN the firmament. If the firmament contains the sun and moon, where is the water ABOVE the firmament, as described in Genesis 1:7?

      Again, the biblical authors didn't understand cosmology. That's not their fault - they did the best they could. It is quite understandable for humans to get those details wrong. It's just clear evidence that it wasn't written by an all-knowing deity.

      9. Earth, according to Genesis 1:10 is simply "dry land". Genesis 1 knows nothing about planets (not to mention galaxies). Plugging these definitions back into Genesis 1:1 we have "In the beginning, God created the sky and the dry land". No mention of a planet, nor a universe for that matter.

      10. The moon looks red during a total lunar eclipse because the light reflected from the moon has already passed through earth's atmosphere, which essentially filters out (or scatters) the shorter wavelengths of light, such as blue and green.