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I Can't Escape Fundamentalists Even When I'm Researching Pure Science

I'm a nerd. Just about anybody who knows me is aware of that fact. It means that at any given moment, I'm likely to be thinking nerdy, technical things. I bring this up to explain this next sentence I'm about to write. The other day, I was thinking about tree ring dating, or dendrochronology, and wondering how far back people have been able to date things using that technique. dendrochronology is based on the simple premise of counting tree rings to figure out how old a piece of wood is. A fancy trick that you can use to extend your dates, since the rings show patterns based on varying conditions from year to year, is to match up one of those patterns on one tree with the same pattern on an older tree.

So, I did a Google search on "tree ring oldest date" to see what I could find, and the second entry that Google returned to me was this page on Answers in Genesis, a site run by a bunch of people who hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible. Why, when I'm looking up something scientific, is the second best result from Google a page by young earth creationists? (It reminds me of another time when I looked up "electron probability cloud," and the first result on Google was this creationist page. What does the Bible have to do with particle physics?)

If that was the whole story, I probably wouldn't have even bothered to write a blog entry. It would have been an annoyance, but not much else. But there's more. When I do Google searches, most of the time I don't really look at the url of the page before clicking on it. So, even though I wouldn't normally go visit the Answers in Genesis site on purpose, I clicked this link to take me there. Once I realized what site it was, I thought, what the hell, as long as I'm here, I might as well read what they have to say. Their basic problem was that if Noah's flood occurred around 4350 years ago, and tree ring dating indicates trees older than that that weren't disturbed by a worldwide flood, then there's got to be a problem somewhere. And obviously, they blamed the science.

The article put forward several explanations of why dendrochronology might be problematic, but here's the quote that really got me, the one that got me worked up enough to write this blog entry. The article said, "However, when the interpretation of scientific data contradicts the true history of the world as revealed in the Bible, then it’s the interpretation of the data that is at fault." Of course! Because noone's ever been wrong in their interpretation of the Bible. Like those jews who thought that the Messiah would be a warrior, or in the Middle Ages, when the church arrested Gallileo for teaching that horribly heretical idea that the sun was at the center of the solar system.

That really disturbs me that people have that mindset, that they already "know" what the truth is, and no amount of evidence is going to change their mind. How can people be so close-minded? It especially bothers me considering what they're basing it on. I mean, when it comes to scientific questions like the age of the earth, which would you rather bet on, a preponderance of scientific data and the theories explaining that data, or an interpretation of a translation of a collection of writings compiled from many different authors over the course of centuries, that hasn't had any new material added since not long after the death of Christ? Oh, and the translations are based off of copies of the originals, since the original versions no longer exist. I know where I'd put my money.

Anyway, here's a decent primer on dendrochronology, without all the fundamentalist blabber. By the way, at least in the region that this article focuses on, they've been able to extend the chronology back to around 9,000 years ago.

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