Friday, December 01, 2006

Re: How about the Setterfield assertion, that the speed of light has been decreasing? #1


Thanks for your message and apologies for the delay in responding.

[Graphic: My copy of the booklet, Setterfield, B., "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981.]

However, my policy is not to get involved in private discussions on creation, evolution or design, so when I receive a private message on those topics, I respond to my blog CED, after removing the sender's personal identifying information, which I have done in your case.

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 3:01 AM
Subject: Enjoyed your work.

>Old Earth? ... How about the Setterfield (AU) assertion, made after much scientific research, that the speed of light has been decreasing over the past 7000 years at a decreasing rate, which rate is now almost imperceptible but which has been detected as existent between the time of the first measurements and the present?

First, as I said in my recent post "Re: I'm a YEC, and I think you're misrepresenting our position #1," I do not regard it as a high priority for me to attack Young-Earth Creationism (YEC), since as an Old Earth Creationist (OEC), I regard YECs as my fellow creationist allies in the struggle against our common enemy, Naturalistic Evolution. Indeed, I have only posted on the problems of YEC when challenged by a YEC, like yourself.

I have Setterfield's three papers, "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe" parts 1-3, which were originally published in the YEC Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1-3, 1982, pp.52-81, and bound together in one booklet: Setterfield, B., "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981 (see graphic above).

There is also an online summary by Setterfield with the same title in the YEC non-technical magazine, Creation, Vol. 4, No. 1, March 1981, pp.38-48.

I will first make my own critique of Setterfield's data and claims, mainly from the booklet and then post critiques of Settterfield's data and claims by others. There are no consistent page numbers in the booklet, so I have renumbered the pages myself and will use those.

The importance of Setterfield's "c-decay ... proposal that the speed of light has been changing through time," is that if it were true, it would "solve not only many of the observational problems of astronomy and Genesis creation, but also the related questions that are often asked concerning radiometric dates and ages":

"INTRODUCTION: One of the most difficult questions that Creationists are called upon to answer, assuming that the Universe and all that is in it is the product of an act of Creation only 6-7,000 years ago, is `How is it that objects millions of light years away can be seen? Surely such light would have taken millions of years to reach us.' The question is a valid one and several types of answers have been proposed in the past with only limited success. Some have proposed that both a star and the light from the star were created at the same time. so that a star was visible instantaneously throughout the whole universe. This view is unable to resolve several problems which exist with respect to exploding stars. It results in the apparent problem of having to believe that we are seeing some things that exist only in the form of light and never really happened. Others have proposed that light does not travel through space in straight lines but along curved surfaces [Riemannian Space concept], so that in reality light can reach anywhere throughout the universe in approximately 16 earth years. However, while the mathematics of Riemannian space is fascinating, confirmation of the idea is lacking, particularly in the area of experimental proof. There is a third alternative which to date has not been fully explored, but which seems to solve not only many of the observational problems of astronomy and Genesis creation, but also the related questions that are often asked concerning radiometric dates and ages. The basic postulate of these articles, which has wide-ranging implications for the whole of the physical sciences, is that light has slowed down in a form of exponential decay since the time of creation. This suggestion seems radical and at first looks outside of confirmation. However, there are at least 45 observations of the speed of light since 1675 which support this suggestion." (Setterfield, B., "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Extract from Ex Nihilo Creation Science Magazine, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-3, 1982, Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981, reprint, p.2. Emphasis original)

I must admit I had either never understood, or had forgotten, about Setterfield's theory, and so apparently had YECs who I had for many years challenged to present evidence which points to a Universe and/or Earth ~10,000 years old - see my web page "Problems of Young-Earth Creationism (YEC)" - because Setterfield does in fact produce such evidence.

However, as we shall see, Setterfield's theory is wrong (as even many YECs appear to admit because otherwise there would be no need for later YEC theories like Russell Humphreys' "white hole model" , which I recently responded to).Therefore, after this series of posts showing that Setterfield's theory is wrong, I will modify my web page "Problems of Young-Earth Creationism (YEC)" to take account of Setterfield's failed theory.

Indeed, even a then Institute for Creation Research physicist, Dr. Gerald E. Aardsma,

[Graphic: Aardsma's re-graphing of Norman & Setterfield's data after error bars were properly weighted]

found that when analysing Setterfield's data which had been presented in a revised paper co-authored with Trevor Norman (a mathematician at Flinders University who collaborated with Setterfield in these three Technical Journal papers), titled, "The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time" (1987) according to the "standard practice to weight the data points in inverse proportion to the size of their error bars" then "there is no discernible decay trend in the data set presented by Norman and Setterfield":

"The graph on the next page displays the percent difference between the 163 measured values of c and the modern value for the speed of light. The vertical lines on some of the data points are error bars which express the range of uncertainty in the measurement which was reported by the researcher. The range of uncertainty was not reported for many of the earliest measurements, so some of the data points are plotted without error bars. Most of the data points after 1850 do have error bars, but they are too small, in most cases, to be seen on the scale of the graph. The relatively few data points between 1850 and 1900 which have very large error bars, result from two indirect methods of measuring c, which inherently yield low-precision results. In a non-weighted least squares fit, every data point has equal weight in determining where the best fit straight line should be drawn through the data. For a data set consisting of measurements having error bars of varying lengths, it is not appropriate to give every data point equal weight as Norman and Setterfield have done. It is standard practice to weight the data points in inverse proportion to the size of their error bars. That is, data points with large error bars (greater uncertainty), have less impact on where the best fit straight line should be drawn than do data points with small error bars. This is especially important for the current data set, since the reported error bars range from ± 20,000 km/s to ± 0.0003 km/s. When I analyzed the entire data set of 163 points using the standard, weighted, linear least squares method, the decay of c was determined to be:
decay of c = 0.0000140 ± 0.0000596 km/s/year.
This result says pretty plainly that there is no discernible decay trend in the data set presented by Norman and Setterfield." (Aardsma, G.A., "Has the Speed of Light Decayed?" Impact #179, Institute for Creation Research, May 1988. Emphasis original)

In fact Aardsma notes that "there are some peculiarities in Norman and Setterfield's selection of data," including one "single, anomalous point [which] is responsible for most of the apparent 38 km/s/year decay which they report":

"Though an objective analysis of the data does not reveal any overall decay trend, the one-sidedness of the data before 1800 seems odd. In this regard, there are some peculiarities in Norman and Setterfield's selection of data of which the reader needs to be aware. The data point which stands out by itself in the upper left-hand corner of the graph is most striking. It is attributed to uncorrected observations of the Roemer type, by Cassini, in 1693. To obtain the speed of light by this method, the earth's orbital radius (i.e. distance from the sun) is divided by the measured time of transit of that radius by light (about 8 minutes, 20 seconds, today). The following quote from Norman and Setterfield is illuminating: Observations by Cassini (1693 and 1736) gave the orbit radius delay as 7 minutes 5 seconds. Roemer in 1675 gave it as 11 minutes from selected observations. Halley in 1694 noted that Roemer's 1675 figure for the time delay was too large while Cassini's was too small (p. 11). Norman and Setterfield have chosen to use a reworked or `corrected' value for Roemer's c determination (this is the earliest measurement shown on the graph), and an uncorrected value for Cassini's. It is peculiar that Norman and Setterfield were content to use an uncorrected value for Cassini, given the comments by the eminent and talented Halley, above. It is also unfortunate, since this single, anomalous point is responsible for most of the apparent 38 km/s/year decay which they report. Furthermore, Roemer's uncorrected c determination would graph below the line at -24%, more than offsetting the uncorrected Cassini value. ... A number of creationist scientists have been subjecting The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time to careful scrutiny since its release in August 1987. It is anticipated that the results of the investigations of these scientists will soon be available to the creationist community. In the interim, caution is clearly in order. (Aardsma, Ibid).

Alan Hayward, an Old-Earth Creationist, also notes that the earliest two data points given in Setterfield's table, those "made by Roemer in 1675 and by Bradley in 1728 ... (Roemer 301,300; Bradley 301,000 kilometres per second)," are "incorrect", and yet "Setterfield's conclusions largely depend upon the high values he attributes to these early workers" (my emphasis):

"Although Setterfield's data span three centuries, the first two centuries (1675-1870) are represented by only two measurements, made by Roemer in 1675 and by Bradley in 1728. Setterfield's conclusions largely depend upon the high values he attributes to these early workers (Roemer 301,300; Bradley 301,000 kilometres per second), as all results obtained after 1871 are below 300,000. But the figures in his table are incorrect. The true values are given in numerous scientific books and papers, and in the article, `Light, Velocity of' in the 1973 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. They are: Roemer, 214,300; Bradley 295,000." (Hayward, A., "Creation and Evolution: Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible," [1985], Bethany House: Minneapolis MN, Reprinted, 1995, p.140. Emphasis original).

However, while Hayward's main point is correct (that Setterfield deliberately selected those values of Roemer's and Bradley's which supported his theory), Hayward's figures are not (albeit being from "the 1973 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica" - my 1984 Encyclopaedia Britannica "Light, Velocity of" does not have those figures). According to a number of sources, Roemer's value was "192,500 miles in a second" (= 309,925 km/s):

"In 1676 a great impulse was given to optics by astronomy. In that year Olav Roemer, a learned Dane, was engaged at the Observatory of Paris in observing the eclipses of Jupiter's moons. The planet, whose distance from the sun is 475,693,000 miles, has four satellites. We are now only concerned with the one nearest to the planet. Roemer watched this moon, saw it move round the planet, plunge into Jupiter's shadow, behaving like a lamp suddenly extinguished: then at the other edge of the shadow he saw it reappear, like a lamp suddenly lighted. The moon thus acted the part of a signal light to the astronomer, and enabled him to tell exactly its time of revolution. The period between two successive lightings up of the lunar lamp he found to be 42 hours, 28 minutes, and 35 seconds. This measurement of time was so accurate, that having determined the moment when the moon emerged from the shadow, the moment of its hundredth appearance could also be determined. In fact, it would be 100 times 42 hours, 28 minutes, 35 seconds, after the first observation. Roemer's first observation was made when the earth was in the part of its orbit nearest Jupiter. About six months afterwards, the earth being then at the opposite side of its orbit, when the little moon ought to have made its hundredth appearance, it was found unpunctual, being fully 15 minutes behind its calculated time. Its appearance, moreover, had been growing gradually later, as the earth retreated towards the part of its orbit most distant from Jupiter. Roemer reasoned thus: 'Had I been able to remain at the other side of the earth's orbit, the moon might have appeared always at the proper instant; an observer placed there would probably have seen the moon 15 minutes ago, the retardation in my case being due to the fact that the light requires 15 minutes to travel from the place where my first observation was made to my present position.' This flash of genius was immediately succeeded by another. 'If this surmise be correct,' Roemer reasoned, 'then as I approach Jupiter along the other side of the earth's orbit, the retardation ought to become gradually less, and when I reach the place of my first observation, there ought to be no retardation at all.' He found this to be the case, and thus not only proved that light required time to pass through space, but also determined its rate of propagation. The velocity of light, as determined by Roemer, is 192,500 miles in a second. " (Tyndall, J., "Six Lectures on Light, delivered in the United States in 1872-1873," D. Appleton & Co: New York, 1878, p.20)

and Bradley's was "185,000 miles per second" (= 297,850 km/s)":

"The next substantial improvement in measuring the speed of light took place in 1728, in England. An astronomer James Bradley, sailing on the Thames with some friends, noticed that the little pennant on top of the mast changed position each time the boat put about, even though the wind was steady. He thought of the boat as the earth in orbit, the wind as starlight coming from some distant star, and reasoned that the apparent direction the starlight was "blowing" in would depend on the way the earth was moving. Another possible analogy is to imagine the starlight as a steady downpour of rain on a windless day, and to think of yourself as walking around a circular path at a steady pace. The apparent direction of the incoming rain will not be vertically downwards-more will hit your front than your back. In fact, if the rain is falling at, say, 15 mph, and you are walking at 3 mph, to you as observer the rain will be coming down at a slant so that it has a vertical speed of 15 mph, and a horizontal speed towards you of 3 mph. Whether it is slanting down from the north or east or whatever at any given time depends on where you are on the circular path at that moment. Bradley reasoned that the apparent direction of incoming starlight must vary in just this way, but the angular change would be a lot less dramatic. The earth's speed in orbit is about 18 miles per second, he knew from Römer's work that light went at about 10,000 times that speed. That meant that the angular variation in apparent incoming direction of starlight was about the magnitude of the small angle in a right-angled triangle with one side 10,000 times longer than the other, about one two-hundredth of a degree. Notice this would have been just at the limits of Tycho's measurements, but the advent of the telescope, and general improvements in engineering, meant this small angle was quite accurately measurable by Bradley's time, and he found the velocity of light to be 185,000 miles per second, with an accuracy of about one percent." (Fowler, M., "The Speed of Light," Physics Department, University of Virginia, 1996)

which radically change Setterfield's graph and therefore wrecks his theory! I know this because I have scanned Setterfield's data from page 5 (Table 3) of his booklet into Excel, made an Excel graph of it, and added a best-fit polynomial trendline (see further in part #2), and can see the devastating effect on Setterfield's theory of adding the true first two data points of Roemer and Bradley.

While neither Aardsma nor Hayward actually accuse Setterfield and Norman of fraud, nevertheless what the latter have done fits what Broad & Wade describe as low-level "scientific fraud," namely "cooking the data", that is, "improving upon existing results. ... making results appear just a little crisper or more definitive than they really are, or selecting just the `best' data for publication and ignoring those that don't fit the case" (my emphasis), of which "there is only a difference in degree between ... inventing a whole experiment out of thin air":

"The term `scientific fraud' is often assumed to mean the wholesale invention of data. But this is almost certainly the rarest kind of fabrication. Those who falsify scientific data probably start and succeed with the much lesser crime of improving upon existing results. Minor and seemingly trivial instances of data manipulation-such as making results appear just a little crisper or more definitive than they really are, or selecting just the `best' data for publication and ignoring those that don't fit the case-are probably far from unusual in science. But there is only a difference in degree between `cooking' the data and inventing a whole experiment out of thin air." (Broad, W.A. & Wade, N.J., "Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science," Simon and Schuster: New York NY, 1982, p.20).

I do not necessarily claim that all those who commit such low-level scientific fraud are fully aware that is what they are doing. Presumably most are so convinced that their theory must be true, that they sincerely, but self-deludedly believe any data which does not agree with their theory should be ignored or manipulated until it does agree with the theory? I assume that is the case with Setterfield and Norman.

To be continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 14:18-19. 18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator [Possessor] of heaven and earth.

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