Exposing PseudoAstronomy

April 6, 2012

Incest Between Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis?

From what I’ve found, there are really two major “think” tanks in the United States of America when it comes to young-Earth creationism (YEC). And, there are almost as many astronomers who work for them. One of them is Dr. Jason Lisle, who got his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the same department at the same university as I. We only missed each other by a few months in terms of his graduation and my matriculation.

Upon his graduation, Dr. Lisle went to work for Answers in Genesis (AiG) which is now headquartered in Kentucky, under an hour’s drive from where I grew up in Ohio. Dr. Lisle used his astronomy background to design their astronomy exhibits in the AiG Creation Museum, design their planetarium show, and of course write for AiG’s website. He’s still writing for them today, and AiG still lists him as on staff uses “we have a real astronomer on staff!” as an argument from authority.

One of Lisle’s books is entitled, “Taking Back Astronomy” – a book which I still plan to review on this blog but I’ve been saying that now for almost three years. Another is a book where he argues that the very fact we have things like logic means that God created the universe 6000 years ago (I’m not joking on this one – he really does say that).

This is why I was surprised to read from the Institute for Creation Research, which is headquartered in Texas, that Dr. Lisle is the ICR’s new Director of Research. No where in the press release that I linked to above does it say anything about working at AiG nor having some sort of joint appointment. On his bio page on ICR’s site, it also does not mention AiG nor a joint appointment, but it does state that since his graduation, he’s worked “in full-time apologetics ministry … [and] was instrumental in developing the planetarium at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.”

I find this intriguing, hence why I’m writing about it. I’m not quite sure what’s going on here and am a bit surprised that either (1) he’d be allowed to have such a joint appointment spread so far apart, or (2) AiG still has him listed in any capacity. I’m not sure if there’s any particular deep dirty secret reason for this move by Lisle, but, since I monitor these sorts of things, I thought I’d bring it up here.


  1. Interesting, he seems to have gotten the position from John Morris himself (who is named in this 2009 article as “President and Director of Research”).

    There does seem to be a lot of this kind of incest between all three of the main YEC organisations (ICR, AiG, CMI). Those with actual science degrees (i.e. things more relevant than MDs and MAs) can shop around, and there’s no reason why they should stay at the same place for their entire careers. But I’ve never seen them stay on with the old group. I wonder how strenuous his new duties are?

    Comment by eyeonicr — April 6, 2012 @ 2:14 am | Reply

    • Yeah, three main ones in the world, but two are in the USA, which is what I’d said.😉

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — April 6, 2012 @ 8:38 am | Reply

  2. […] called No Nearby Dark Matter. As Dr Lisle seems to be at least vaguely competent, and is as such a real catch for the Institute, this article isn’t nearly as bad as the usual […]

    Pingback by Warm Dark Matter? « Eye on the ICR — May 14, 2012 @ 2:30 am | Reply

  3. I think Lisle left AiG. Don’t know any of the circumstances. At least I saw some chatter on the web about that… but am too busy to look into it.

    Comment by Jesse — June 29, 2012 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  4. Regarding Dr. Lisle’s position on logic, it is not accurate to assert causality between the divine necessity for the existence of logic and a young earth. That itself is an ill posed logical construct. Both premises can and should be independently verified or falsified. No such conjunction is implied by Dr. Lisle and intellectual honesty dictates that none be imputed. From an objective observer’s perspective, the tone of the post being referred to implies attempted derision vs critical analysis. The later is preferred.

    Comment by Daniel — July 1, 2012 @ 7:25 am | Reply

  5. About Dr. Lisle

    Jason Lisle, Ph.D

    Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who writes and speaks on various topics relating to science and the defense of the Christian faith. He graduated summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University where he double-majored in physics and astronomy and minored in mathematics. He then earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dr. Lisle specialized in solar astrophysics and has made a number of scientific discoveries regarding the solar photosphere, including the detection of giant cell boundaries using the SOHO spacecraft. He also does theoretical research and has contributed to the field of general relativity.

    Since completion of his research at the University of Colorado, Dr. Lisle began working in full-time apologetics ministry, specializing in the defense of Genesis. He has written a number of articles and books on the topic. His most well-known book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, demonstrates that biblical creation is the only logical possibility for origins. Dr. Lisle wrote and directed the popular planetarium shows at the Creation Museum, including “The Created Cosmos.” He now works (beginning in April, 2012) as director of research at the Institute for Creation Research.

    Comment by Mark — August 23, 2012 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  6. You stated that:
    ‘One of them is Dr. Jason Lisle, who got his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the same department at the same university as I. We only missed each other by a few months in terms of his graduation and my matriculation.’

    So maybe you would know. How did this guy get a PhD in astrophysics without knowing how friction works? How do pass thequalifiers without knowing that the gravitational force is conservative? You can’t turn mechanical energy to heat energy without a frictional force or chemical reaction. So how come they let him out not knowing basic thermodynamics? Or Euclidean geometry?

    I recently got interested in the recession of the earth-moon system. I looked at a description of the problem in ANSWERSINGENESIS. They posted Lisle’s equations and illustrations. I don’t want to buy his damn book because I don’t want to support trash. Therefore, I assume that the ANSWERSINGENESIS article is giving an accurate account of his ‘theory’.

    Lisle claims that the rate of recession always decreases with time. He says that. He claims it is a ‘rule of physics’. He is sometimes quoted as saying that the transfer of angular momentum increases with the gravitational field at the surface of the earth. There is no law of physics like that.

    For an astrophysicist, this is very close to a lie. He is making up a law of physics that he probably would never used in graduate school. If he really used that ‘law’ in his thesis, then his thesis committee should have been fired.

    He knows better. If wants to use such a law, then he has to prove it. This would entail examining frictional forces. However, he doesn’t even mention frictional forces. He states that there is only centrifugal force and gravity between the earth and the moon. If that were true, there would be no recession at all because GRAVITY IS A CONSERVATIVE FORCE.

    The fellow ignores the shape of the earth in his analysis. Basically, he is assuming that the frictional forces are determined solely by the land masses don’t affect the friction that creates the recession. Hence, his fictional forces do not vary explicitly with time. Hence, the angle between the earth moon axis and the axis of the two bulges are constant throughout all time in his theory.

    This is not even possible in a smooth earth approximation. If the earth were perfectly smooth, the angle between the two bulges of water and the earth-moon axis would decrease with distance to the moon. When the moon was close, the gravitational force would dominate over the frictional force making the angle very small. Thus, the recession would be very small.

    The earth is rough with land masses. The land masses near the equator block the tidal flow of water. So the more land masses near the equator, the more friction The more friction, the greater the angle. The greater the angle, the larger the rate of recession.

    The land masses block the equatorial flow of water today. Just look at where mesoAmerica and the Middle east land is located. So the friction today is at its peak. Of course the earth is moon is scuting away. However, the continents are not stationary. I understand that not even many Creationists believe that. They think the continents hopped skipped and jumped after the great Flood.

    So the rate of recession was less in the past. MesoAmerica wasn’t in the way of the tides. Africa wasn’t in the way of the tides. For most of earth’s history, the flow of tides was not blocked by land. So the recession was slower.

    I don’t claim this is obvious. However, Lisle should have checked with geophysicists before he published his calculation. He could have stated his added assumption, that the continents don’t move. That would also be nonsense, but it is not a mistake in astrophysics per se. It is a denial of modern geology, but that is not his specialty.

    Comment by Darwin123 — April 27, 2014 @ 7:06 pm | Reply

    • I think it takes a great deal of extra cognitive dissonance to be able to hold a YEC view and be in any way remotely trained in the sciences these days. I think that he simply went through the motions while here at CU and was able to do it. His thesis work wasn’t anything to sneeze at, either; he worked with Juri Toomre doing MHD models of the sun. There’s still a photo hanging in the campus observatory that he took of the moon eclipsing Saturn. I’ve heard that people knew of his proclivities, but that it was a mentality of, “Do the work, pass the courses, worldview doesn’t matter.”

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — April 29, 2014 @ 7:54 am | Reply

      • I’ve heard that people knew of his proclivities, but that it was a mentality of, “Do the work, pass the courses, worldview doesn’t matter.”

        I think that is a good mentality. I have cognitive dissonance too although I refuse to think about it.

        Freedom of thought is important, even illogical thought. Just as long as a person doesn’t lie. You shouldn’t be able to misquote somebody. Misquoting scientists is a form of slander. Coming to different conclusions should be allowed.

        My objection isn’t with his faith or even his refusal to believe scientific conclusions. I am bothered by clearly false statements in word, picture or equation. He claimed that the recession of the moon in radial speed always decreased with time. He claimed it is an inevitable conclusion of the known laws of physics. He proved it using a false schematic. He determined the distance to the moon using a false equation based on the false schematic.

        He made a false statements about angular momentum transfer increasing with angular momentum. He claims that the transfer in mechanical energy is caused by the gravitational field. This is obviously wrong because gravity is a conservative force. He either ignores the frictional forces or claims they are negligible. This isn’t true. He says that the moon satisfies Keplers Laws while the distance steadily increases. This can’t be precisely true.

        There are many ways to debunk that analysis. I can give counterexamples of laboratory scale systems. I can discuss the importance of friction. I can discuss the angles in his diagrams. Any way you look at it, he is wrong. He is basically slandering Newton. That is a very unChristian thing to do!

        Some Creationists quote him. I have pointed out that he is wrong. They correctly point out that he has a PhD in astrophysics. I also have a degree in PhD in physics, by the way. It is in optical physics. However, there are some very basic ways his model is wrong.

        What bothers me a little is that his debunkers don’t do a really better job. They talk about how complex the system is. Which is true. You can’t calculate the recession at any given time precisely without knowing the exact geography at every point in time. The exact geography caused by continental drift is too complex to calculate. Even geologists can’t figure out the exact shape of the continents. They talk about the spheroidal approximation that Lisle makes.

        I think it would be better, though, if his refuters did a simplified calculation to show he is wrong. In particular, they should talk about the direction of the gravitational field. I think that the fundamental ‘mistake’ Lisle has is in treating the gravitational field as a scalar. I find it hard to believe a seasoned physicist can make that mistake. However, Lisle makes it.

        It would be so easy for him to check. Astrophysicists have to be able to calculate orbits. That is why I tentatively classify this as a lie instead of a mistake.

        BTW: I think the photograph was of Saturn eclipsing the sun rather than the sun eclipsing Saturn. Saturn could not be seen if the sun fully eclipsed Saturn. The angular field of the sun far exceeds the angular field of Saturn as seen from earth.

        Comment by David Rosen — April 29, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

      • I meant moon eclipsing Saturn and have corrected that.

        With respect to what he’s doing now, I generally agree that he is abusing his degree and should know better. Why he says what he says, whether he’s genuinely lying, or has a bad memory and is confused, or just has managed to twist everything in his own head, I don’t know.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — April 29, 2014 @ 3:14 pm

  7. I am a little curios as to why Dr. Lisle ended his career in mainstream academia at the University of Colorado. In one of his talks he makes reference to his ‘secular colleagues’. I submit he has no real colleagues any more. His move to YEC has likely destroyed his academic and professional life. He is probably one of the most intelligent people alive. This is why I feel his move is a travesty. To make things worse, Dr. Lisle’s presuppositionalism doesn’t warrant a response.

    Comment by Phil — September 6, 2016 @ 7:02 am | Reply

    • I think he went into grad school with this in mind. From grad students who overlapped with him and me, they said that he was already doing YEC interviews while in grad school, and he pretty much went directly to AiG afterwards.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — September 6, 2016 @ 9:42 am | Reply

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