Tuesday, 28 April 2015

When YEC errors are publicly called out - the Stone Tool saga part IV

I've repeatedly commented on what happens when someone wades into a technical discussion in which they have no expertise or qualifications, and embarrass themselves and their faith tradition by speaking nonsense on the subject. Sadly, we've seen this happen in our community when a YEC waded into a discussion on stone tools, one in which he was definitely not qualified to offer an informed, expert opinion, and made anti-evolutionary arguments based on a mathematical error. A somewhat more informed poster observed both the YEC's posts at the website hosting the original article, and a science denialist Facebook group that the YEC frequents, and duly called him out for his many errors. This is what I mean by bringing our community into disrepute by endorsing pseudoscience. The comment follows:
MT, your comments here and on the Facebook page where you’re discussing this show you can use a calculator, but also show you don’t understand the actual subject of this article and the PlosOne article.
Firstly a mathematical error does not mean the PlosOne article is pseudoscience; the error to which you pointed is merely a calculation in an illustration of the evidence (in which calcuations are estimates based on assumptions, using “maximum figures”, not the figures actually represented in the data). It is not an argument on which the scientific case is based. On the other hand I can see plenty of pseudoscience in that Facebook forum, and you’re clearly responsible for some of it.

Secondly I see you’ve chosen not to engage the actual evidence in the PlosOne article, or the actual case it makes. That’s typical of YECs; try and avoid the science, change the subject to something else, then pretend you’ve addressed the science. It’s just dishonest. No wonder other Christians complain.
Thirdly you confuse lithic cores with débitage; this confusion finds its height in your statement “that figure would imply that the whole of Africa – approximately 30 million square km – should be covered entirely by these worked stone pieces”. No, it’s not talking about “worked stone pieces”, it’s talking about débitage, which are not “worked stone pieces”. If you’re going to try and criticize an article it’s best to at least uderstand the subject first. Please get someone who understands the subject, to read the article to you and explain it to you. Or at least ask them to help you undersand the difference between lithic cores and débitage.
Fourthly regardless of what “Natural Historian” wrote, the original PlosOne article does not say that on the basis of the estimated “maximum figures” we should expect a volume of débitage equivalent to 42-84 million Great Pyramids “strewn across the African continent”. The original article says that such a volume “would result in a volume of débitage SUFFICIENT TO cover the surface of Africa to a depth of at least several meters”. It’s simply an attempt to depict accessibly the estimated volume of débitage. It certainly does not reflect what would happen in reality (I have actually criticized the writers for giving a misleading impression with this hypothetical).
Over the course of time (especially over one million years, a length of time you can’t even comprehend), débitage does not simply build up on the surface of the land, but is continually buried under an increasing number of soil layers. You would know this if you had read the original PlosOne article (read the article), and you would know this if you had read the article on this page (read the article), and you would know this if you had read the article “How Rare Are Stone Age Artifacts? A Visit to a Stone Tool-Making Factory in South America” which is linked to on this page (read the article), which even shows convenient photos of densely packed débitage buried at up to 1.8m below the surface (; look at the photo), and of course you would know this if you knew anything about the subject on which you’re commenting. You would certainly know this if you knew anything whatsoever about archaeology.
Since débitage can be found even as deep as twenty meters (or more), as well as scattered or piled on the surface of the land, it is completely irrational to assume (as you did), that we should expect one million years of débitage to actually be sitting piled on the surface of Africa (which you strangely seem to treat as if it is completely flat), regardless of its volume. Over the course of one million years, the débitage did not remain on the surface; most of it is buried at various depths, some of it is scattered densely or loosely across the surface and just below the surface, some of it is found in elevated terrain, and some débitage is piled up in high volume areas such as quarries.
Consequently, débitage distribution over the total surface of Africa is uneven, and most débitage is BELOW the surface. In fact there are even photos showing this, in this article and in the article to which this article links, and in the original PlosOne article. How you could miss all this, I just don’t know. Please ask someone who actually understands this subject, to explain it to you.
For the record, I had already sent my criticisms to the authors (as anyone should who’s interested in correcting them), before I read this discussion. They include some criticisms not mentioned here. (Emphasis mine)
One hopes that such public exposure will ensure that YECs in our community refrain from idly speculating on subjects about which they are poorly informed, and in the process bringing our community into disrepute.