an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist

Of Ancient Literature and Coral Reefs (or, Joe gets it wrong, again)

Most sane people, when faced with the collapse of their marriage, would get off their lazy arses and try and fix it, but not Creationist nutbar Joe Cienkowski! No attempts at reconciliation for Joe, not when he could be spending his days on Twitter typing lie after poorly written lie about science!

He’s tied himself in a couple of knots in the last 24 hours, firstly getting a little bit confused over when the Torah was written. Compare the following two tweets.

Poor old Joe, can’t even make his mind up when Moses supposedly wrote the Torah! Let’s set aside the fact that Moses, somehow, managed to write about his own death and burial in his books, and look at other literature from the time.

10 seconds typing ‘oldest literature’ into Google brings up this page from Wikipedia. Why Joe is unable to use the most basic tools of the internet to check his facts is a mystery. He spends so much time online every day yet is incapable of doing even the most basic research…it’s very odd behaviour. My guess? He doesn’t want to learn.

Anyway, there’s a list of ancient literature on that Wikipedia page, quite a long list, and here it is if, like Joe, you can’t be bothered to click any links – 

Bronze Age

Early Bronze Age: 3rd millennium BC (approximate dates shown) The earliest written literature dates from about 2600 BC (classical Sumerian).[1]Shuruppak and Urukagina, dating to ca. the 27th and 24th centuries BC, respectively. Certain literary texts are difficult to date, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead which was recorded in the Papyrus of Ani around 1240 BC, but other versions of the book probably date from about the 18th century BC. The earliest literary authors known by name are

Middle Bronze Age: ca. 2000 to 1600 BC (approximate dates shown)

Late Bronze Age: ca. 1600 to 1200 BC (approximate dates shown)

Iron Age

See also Sanskrit literature, Chinese literature

Iron Age texts predating Classical Antiquity: 12th to 8th centuries BC

Classical Antiquity

See also Ancient Greek literature, Syriac literature, Latin literature, Indian literature, Hebrew literature, Avesta
See also: centuries in poetry: 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

8th century BC

 Note that the earliest portions of the Torah don’t appear until around 950BCE. So, yes Joe, we CAN show you something older, quite a lot of things actually. Joe’s attitude is typical of fundamentalist Christians, they can’t conceive that their view of the world is wrong or that, by extension, the Bible isn’t the most important book ever written. Like the claims that they make for their God eventually making the existence of that God logically impossible, they talk up their ancient texts until they’re the most ancient, the original human writing. They reach the point where they can no longer even acknowledge that mankind could have existed before the stories of the Bible.

Looking at it that way you can almost see how they then have to bend reality to fit their strongly held, and mutually reinforced, delusions. 

Joe probably doesn’t think he’s lying, and is unwilling to take the small step that would be needed to verify what others are telling him. 

I suppose it could always be argued that the older books have been misdated, and that the Torah IS the oldest book, I mean, it isn’t, but I can see how they could convince themselves of this. 

What’s harder to deny are properties of the physical world around us, yet Joe tries this as well

I’ve heard this repeated many times from Creationists, and I think I’m safe in saying that Joe is parroting it from Kent Hovind and Ken Ham. 

The claims about the ages of deserts, waterfalls, and coral reefs, are completely irrelevant to the dating of the earth. As I’ve said before, just because a structure is X years old that doesn’t mean that another structure is also X years old. The office I work in is about 20 years old, but that doesn’t mean that the world is also 20 years old…..creationists either can’t, or wont, see this flaw in their argument. 

So, even if true, it wouldn’t say anything about the age of the Earth.

Let’s look at the claim that the oldest coral reefs are only a few thousand years old….another quick googling brings this page up as the top hit. As in previous posts, I’m not going to go into great length here when Dave Matson has done such a comprehensive job of documenting the whole thing. 

I will, however, use a couple of quotes from the page where the age of the Eniwetok coral reef is discussed

Weber reports [op. cit., pp. 29-31] that H.S. Ladd has drilled bore holes through the coral cap that crowns the volcano underlying Eniwetok atoll, in order to measure the thickness of coral that has grown there since the lava cone began to sink beneath the sea. At one point, Ladd had to drill 1380 meters (almost ninetenths of a mile!) before reaching the lava lip of the volcano. It is inconceivable that that much reef could have formed in less than 130,000 years, let alone during the few dozen centuries since Noah’s flood (2348 B.C.) (Zindler, 1989, pp.20-21) [my emphasis]

Far from being only 4000 years old, the oldest corals are very many years older, far too old for the Earth to have been created 6 millennia ago.

Some creationists look at these corals and make the claim that reefs can grow very rapidly indeed, again, this is complete nonsense –

There have been at least two very careful calculations made, of the total amount of coral skeletal material added per year to a given surface of reef, in areas where normal growth is going on. It is significant that none of the research on growth of corals which we are citing was carried out for the purpose of demonstrating that the reefs are of great age. These research projects were done with a view to showing the rate at which corals can be expected to build up barrier reefs which are of value in protecting harbors.

Mayor made a very careful series of observations to determine the amount of actual mineral (skeletal matter) which was being secreted and deposited per square yard on one of the typical, normally growing reefflats. An extended period of observation and measurements made during the Carnegie expeditions of 1917 to 1920, to the Samoan Islands, under Mayor’s supervision, revealed that the total thickness added to the reef flat per year was approximately 8 millimeters [less than 1/3 inch].

At this point let us compare the upward growth we have cited, with the total depth of the thickest known coral reefs–the atolls in the Marshall Islands. During the drillings which were made into these islands, the thickest coral reef deposit found was that of Eniwetok atoll, where one drilling, as stated above, had to go through 4,610 feet of reef deposit before striking the volcanic rock (basalt) base. Another drilling nearby extended through reef deposit for 4,158 feet before reaching the volcanic base [Ladd, 1960, p.863ff]. It is of course true that no one is able to determine the exact length of time which was required for growing such an extensive reef, but it is obvious that it was a very long process. If we divide the thickness of the Eniwetok reef by Mayor’s 8 mm. of deposit per year, we arrive at 176,000 years of continuous growth required for the laying down of this much thickness. However, this would be a false picture, because of the many factors which retard the build-up of the reef, as discussed above. Thus the total length of time required for forming the 4,610 foot reef deposit of Eniwetok was undoubtedly many times the 176,000 years (18).(Wonderly, 1977, pp.32-33)

 A child with access to the internet could dismantle Joe’s argument, yet he keeps trotting these lies out, even when he’s shown the evidence that he’s in error.

As a closing note, I’ve heard many creationists complain that using the internet to gather information and evidence is, some how, not as valid as reading the books on the subject. Whilst it’s never wise to simply accept what you read online, resources like Wikipedia have a wonderful way of self correcting, as groups of users see the accuracy as a matter of pride. Far from the early days of the internet, where anyone could set up a Tripod or Geocities page with a few ‘facts’ on it, I’d argue that the internet is becoming a more reliable source as time goes on.

Still, as Joe refuses to read either books or the internet, it’s not really relevant, is it?

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