Exposing PseudoAstronomy

March 24, 2010

Planet X and 2012: Young-Earth Creationists Actually Can Do Real Science Reporting


This post is brought to you by the letters, “A-G-E-N-D-A.” That’s really the key word here, “agenda,” to keep in the back of your mind as you read this post. I’ll tie it back to that word at the end.

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t figured it out, every day I look at the headlines from three Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) websites – Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, and Creation.com. I do this to see if they mention astronomy, geology, or physics, to get ideas for potential blog posts since they will normally skew the information or leave out important parts to fit their worldview.

This time, however, the Institute for Creation Research and it’s “science” writer, Brian Thomas (who I have lambasted profusely on this blog before) had no agenda in terms of trying to get science to fit into the literal biblical worldview. Rather, for once, we faced a common foe: 2012 Doomsday proponents.

The Christian Bible and Revelation

From everything I have heard, a consistent theme that many Bible proponents/scholars/etc. have is that it is very clear that we will know neither the time nor the day in advance of Armageddon. From an outside position evaluating this in the same way I evaluate other predictions, that’s one of the most intelligent things the Bible could do that many of today’s alleged psychics still haven’t figured out — be vague and do not make specific predictions that could later be proven false. Saying that you can’t know ahead of time when something is going to happen ensures that you are never wrong.

Yet throughout time, nearly every generation has thought it’s lived in the End of Days, whether that be from the Christian Bible’s book of Revelation, some vague cosmic event, the Jewish Bible’s various predictions, Nostradamus’ quatrains, etc.

2012 “Earth Changes”

I have written extensively about the idea that Earth’s rotational axis is going to shift in 2012, and I’m not going to get into that here. Suffice to say, one of the lines of “evidence” that proponents of this idea point to is an increasing number of earthquakes that are reported each year.

Indeed, though, this has come to pass! In 1990, there were 16,590 earthquakes around the world. Nearly every year since then, the number has been increasing! In 1995, there were 21,007. In 2000, there were 22,256. In 2005, there were 30,478 …


(Sorry for the bold/italic/caps/color … I was trying to do what the doomsday websites do.)

Enter the Institute for Creation Research

As Brian Thomas writes in, “More Earthquake Data Does Not Mean More Earthquakes:”

On the surface, earthquake data compiled by the United States Geological Survey appear to show a sharp increase in the number of earthquakes in recent decades. … However, the increased number of recorded quakes does not correspond with an increase in seismic activity. Rather, it is due to the proliferation of seismometers deployed worldwide over the last few decades. A USGS fact sheet reminds readers that “as more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located.”

Exactly! Very large earthquakes, such as those of magnitude 6 or 7 and larger, are hard to miss even when they’re over 100 km away. Hence, you do not need a dense network of seismometers to pick them up. Smaller earthquakes – because they release less energy – are not felt over nearly as large a distance. The consequence? If you don’t have a seismometer nearby, you can’t detect it.

So we have a hypothesis: As the density of seismometers increases over the world, we would expect to see an increase in the number of earthquakes recorded/detected that are small.

We have a way to differentiate this from a general increase in earthquakes: If this is due to an actual increase in the number of earthquakes on the planet, then we should see a uniform increase in number across all energy levels (magnitudes).

Let’s look at some of the data (from the above links, graphed by me):

USGS Earthquake Data from 1995-2008, Magnitude 7.0-7.9

USGS Earthquake Data from 1995-2008, Magnitude 7.0-7.9, Error Bars are Counting Statistics

USGS Earthquake Data from 1995-2008, Magnitude 4.0-4.9

USGS Earthquake Data from 1995-2008, Magnitude 4.0-4.9, Error Bars are Counting Statistics

The data clearly show that, yes we do see an increase in the number of small earthquakes, but the number of earthquakes that are magnitude 6 and larger are constant. Note that the error bars are purely due to counting statistics and do not take into account the density of the seismometer network.

Hypothesis that it’s due to better data recording – supported.

Hypothesis that it’s due to increasing earth activity in preparation for a pole shift – falsified.

In addition, as the world’s population increases and cities become more densely populated, the more people will be affected by any given earthquake. Hence, the number of injuries, deaths, and property damage will also be expected to rise, completely independently of any increase in the actual number of earthquakes.

Final Thoughts

The crux of this post was about earthquake data. But this was presented against the backdrop of an agenda. I have shown many times that Brian Thomas will not hesitate to bend the actual science to fit his YEC views (such as here, here, here, here, or here). I’ve no doubt that if the New Testament stated that the end of the world was in 2012 that Thomas would completely ignore the actual reason behind more earthquakes detected per year, as the other 2012-doomsdayers do (like Brent Miller does here).

But Thomas’ agenda seems clearly to uphold the Bible. And the Bible says that we won’t know the time nor place, hence biblical literalists are against the 2012 doomsdayers. That’s part of the agenda of Thomas’ article, and in this case, at least, I have found common ground with him.


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