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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Marcus Ross Two Faced Again

Creationist Marcus Ross was at it again during the 2010 Geological Society of America Meeting. He, along with creationists Steve Austin, William Hoesch, John Whitmore and Timothy Clarey led a field trip called "Garden of the Gods at Colorado Springs: Paleozoic and Mesozoic Sedimentation and Tectonics". One of the students from the University of Florida attended the field trip and I am hoping to entice him into a guest blog entry. My blog is going to focus on Marcus Ross' contribution to a session on Cretaceous ammonites.

The abstract listings can be found by following this link. Ross' abstract is the last one on the list. The abstract itself is rather innocuous and does not refer to a young earth or a global flood. Nevertheless, I wanted to see exactly what Ross was going to say. To be honest, Ross gave a very nice talk, sprinkled with humor and good slides. He was prepared and the presentation was of a professional quality. So what happened?

Basically Ross was using ammonites as a correlation tool to put his mosasaur fossils in a stronger temporal framework. The abstract itself contains little details of the methodology, but suffice it to say that Ross used the geological time scale (millions of years), showed images of dentition changes in mosasaur fossils (but did not mention evolution), hiatuses in the stratigraphic record and then used these all to demonstrate that ammonites could be a useful proxy for placing mosasaur fossils in a proper stratigraphic framework.

I was sitting in the audience thinking, "OK, this is pretty decent work but it sure as hell doesn't harmonize with his stated position on the age of the earth and the occurrence of a global flood!". First of all, a global flood would have rendered such a statistical method useless as there is no reason that ammonites should be zoned in a global flood and furthermore there would be no correlation between ammonite zones and the changes in mosasaur populations through millions of years of geologic time. Furthermore, there would be no way to make this work in a column of rocks that include erosional hiatuses that took place over millions of years.

After his talk, I asked the following question; "How do you harmonize this work with your belief in a 6000 year old earth on which a year long global flood took place?". He was immediately flustered and then a bit tersely replied "My talk had nothing to do with a global flood or a 6000 year old earth so your question is irrelevant". I then pointed out the fact that indeed his talk was completely counter to his public statements/creationist position because he showed correlation between strata/fossils, millions of year ages, evolution of mosasaurs and hiatuses in the rock record. He then replied (and I am paraphrasing to the best of my recollection) "Ok, for everyone in the audience who doesn't know it, yes I am a young earth creationist who believes the Earth is 6000 years old and a global flood took place. However, I am not speaking as a young earth creationist here. When I speak at young earth creationist meetings I use a different framework than when I speak at the Geological Society of America meeting." Several jaws dropped at that point, but someone in the audience felt sorry for Marcus and invited him to look at his collection etc. It would be nice if Marcus could eventually see that what he just described in his talk actually argued against a young earth, but it won't happen.

Students came up to me afterward and one wondered why I was so harsh with Ross. It's a good question and I have an answer. Creationists like Marcus Ross, Steve Austin etc don't necessarily care about how they are viewed at these conferences, but they attend and present so that they can go out to their creationist brethren and flash credentials. It's not so much what they say or do, but that their followers think that they are actually making an impact in the world of science. If you don't believe me, take a look at this post from the ICR describing last years meeting. The article claims that they were 'influential' at the meeting and thus makes it appear that they are making inroads in moving geology back to the 18th century. In fact, all Ross did was to show that he is schizophrenic when it comes to science. I don't yet comprehend how he compartmentalizes these two opposing viewpoints and claims to be 'honest' about his approach to both. The simple fact is that one cannot hold that the earth is both 4.5 billion years old AND only 6000 years old. It's akin to saying that 3=69. One is reminded of the biblical quote

""No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. "

There is another point to be made. Marcus Ross, Steve Austin and many others are also trying to overthrow science education in this country in favor of a new system under perhaps a conservative Christian theocracy. This is the reason I am so harsh when I see such blatant hypocrisy. For Austin, Ross and others of their ilk, the Ph.D. and the presentations at meetings like GSA are all about trying to enhance their image amongst their followers. If they can appear to be real scientists, then those who don't know any better might believe that young earth creationism is also good science. They might then be persuaded to act at the local, state and national level to have creationism instituted in the public schools.

Marcus Ross is just one of many two-faced creationists and I'm going to call them out on this hypocrisy any chance I get.

Cheers

Joe Meert

32 Comments:

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Dr. Jerque said...

Thanks for posting this. It is an interesting situation for GSA.

 
At 4:13 PM, Blogger meg said...

Wow, I had no idea this type of thing was going on, but it would have great potential for working. I always wondered how 'creation science' even started and had any kind of credibility. It seems these young-Earth-creationists are forgetting Spiderman's great wisdom: With great power, comes great responsibility.

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger Steve Gough said...

Thanks for observing and posting!

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Gary Hurd said...

Thanks Joe for taking the time to attend. Were tehre any other interesting comments?

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

Gary,

His was the last talk and so the final comments that I heard were simply the invitation to visit and catalogue some other ammonite collections. The student I know who was in charge of the session (and went on the field trip) will be back tomorrow so I might be able to update then.

Cheers

Joe Meert

 
At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Cian said...

Really, GSA must focus on the content of the presentation/abstract research and the quality of that science. They can't screen based on religious beliefs. But this allows the significance of participation in the conference to be misrepresented. Like Dr Jerque said, an interesting situation.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger RBH said...

As far as I can see Joe's questions about Ross's YEC beliefs were completely appropriate. Ross was engaging in pure duplicity.

This doesn't argue that he should be prohibited from presenting at GSA; Cian's remarks are appropriate in that respect. But that does not mean that he should be permitted to sail under false colors.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger RBH said...

Tried to throw you a trackback from my Panda's Thumb post but got an error message. So this will have to do. :)

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Where this leads to big problems is when you have an ideologue, such as Don McLeroy, former chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, use work by "credentialed" scientists, such as Steve Austin, to "demonstrate" that there are serious problems with the theory of evolution, and that these Serious Problems must be presented in science class to public school students.

This actually happened in Texas and it will take years to get the science standards cleaned up. People like Ross are dangerous to education and deserve no respect whatsoever, only ridicule.

 
At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Stuart Weinstein said...

Good work Joe. This blatant duplicity needs to be pointed out. Science shouldn't depend on what audience the scientist is talking too.

 
At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems that when ross is in "scientist" mode he will function indistinguishably from a scientist with his head on straight. so, the problem is that his dashboard has a switch with "brain on" and brain off" settings, and the creationists will be selling the brain off personality as if it were the completely distinct brain on one. however, i think they have a two edged sword here: IMO science ultimately benefits from creationists being more educated (even though it suffers from this deception), because lord knows the common experience is of arguing with utter know-nothings. as messed up as this guy is, there must be situations where his Liberty students present him with some YEC proof and he will be forced to tell them it doesn't defeat the consensus view

 
At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work. People need to call the creationists out when they use double-speak.

Often academics are too polite in these settings.

If Ross' "creationist" opinion doesn't matter at an academic presentation, then he shouldn't be offering it in any other setting.

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger Eamon Knight said...

The bullshit called "presuppositionalism" is what lets these liars practice this doublethink. As far as I can tell, they see it as being sort of like how in mathematics you can derive alternate (but internally consistent) sets of theorems by tinkering with the axioms. What they won't admit is that in science, the implicit "axiom" is physical reality -- and that it frequently contradicts their claims in rather obvious ways.

 
At 9:13 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

TrackBack URL: http://pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/4731.1362012337

 
At 4:27 AM, Anonymous HRG said...

Hi Joe,

I took the liberty of quoting your article on the CARM evolution/creation board - where your excellent contributions are sorely missed.

Best regards, HRG (you may remember me :) ).

 
At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Philip said...

I fully support your personal criticism, but I'd like to speak somewhat in Ross's defense.

The one thing we do not want in science is a requirement for doctrinal orthodoxy. He's bizarrely compartmentalizing to the point of multiple personality disorder, but people like Grigori Perelman and John Nash have shown that sanity has never been a prerequisite for doing good science.

Please keep casting light on this situation, but this criticism shouldn't extend to muzzling his useful contributions. That's a tactic I'll oppose whether it's at Uncommon Descent or the GSA.

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

For the record, I've never argued that he should not be allowed to speak at GSA nor should other young earth creationists. In fact, they present at both GSA and AGU quite often. In fact, I thought his talk was very nice and sensible science. What I did not get was the fact that all of his talk was completely opposed to his YEC'ist stance. Maybe Marcus is playing a game where he really believes his science and is just making a buck of YEC'ism. Either way this type of schizophrenic double-speak needs to be noted. Remember, Marcus along with others are trying to get ye-creationism of the fundamentalist variety into our classrooms. That's the most important reason to point out their hypocrisy.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Allison M. said...

He's bizarrely compartmentalizing to the point of multiple personality disorder, but people like Grigori Perelman and John Nash have shown that sanity has never been a prerequisite for doing good science.

And countless scientists have shown that religious faith is not antithetical to practicing sound and intellectually-consistent science. If Jesuits can be good scientists, I'd say that there's no rationale for religion to pit itself against science.

Frankly, I would just be perpetually suspicious of this man's scientific work. He clearly believes that the universe is only 6000 years old, so how am I supposed to trust his mainstream geological publications not to, on some level, pander to this presupposition? Somehow, he claims to be able to isolate his biases better than the rest of us can?

 
At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Miro said...

Hello,
I am a Creationist, although I am not a scientist.
Anyway, if this thing trully happened, and I don't have reason not to believe you as an eye-witness, that is certainly something to talk against.
I looked up the article that you mentioned on ICR, and, to their defence, they didn't mention Ross in the GSA section of it. They mentioned a few other Christian scientists, and it seems to me that they were presenting their cases in light of their beliefs.

At any rate, thank you for pointing this things out. If guys at ICR are smart and have integrity, they will tell Ross not to work for their cause anymore.

Miro

 
At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miro,

You need to go back and look again as they do most certainly mention Marcus Ross in the article. Note too that it's about the 2009 meeting. Information about the 2010 meeting is not yet out. Furthermore about 2 weeks before GSA, Marcus was presenting a young earth argument in Alberta as part of the creationist society there. It's not hard to find.

 
At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Biblical creationist, and geoscientist, I feel the need to remind you that all data must be interpreted. I have had an evolutionist with a Ph.D. in peleontology honestly admit to me that the suture patterns of Ammonites (data), which traditionally have been interpreted as showing evolving complexity, could just as easily be interpreted as representative of their environment. Placing this in a global flood framework is easy, if one interprets the complex sutures as stronger shells capable of greater depths, while those with simpler sutures lived concurrently, at shallower depths.

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

You don't need to remind me that data must be interpreted. It would seem that the creationists are the ones who need to remind themselves. You start with the assumption that an oft-translated and error-prone ancient document is interpreted correctly as describing a young earth. You then take that interpretation and FORCE all data to conform to that interpretation. You forget that the bible is not a book about science. It's part history, part legend, part philosophy and part myth. As such it's a wonderful read, but you've completely tied your hands by forcing all science to fit your particular read of the bible. You miss the beauty of science and you miss the beauty of the bible because you've completely messed up both!

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

You don't need to remind me that data must be interpreted. It would seem that the creationists are the ones who need to remind themselves. You start with the assumption that an oft-translated and error-prone ancient document is interpreted correctly as describing a young earth. You then take that interpretation and FORCE all data to conform to that interpretation. You forget that the bible is not a book about science. It's part history, part legend, part philosophy and part myth. As such it's a wonderful read, but you've completely tied your hands by forcing all science to fit your particular read of the bible. You miss the beauty of science and you miss the beauty of the bible because you've completely messed up both!

 
At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Science is all about testing ideas, it is a process and nothing more. It does not matter where the idea came from. Any scientist, can take a statement from any ancient document, and test it's validity using observable data and scientific methodologies. All this should be repeatable by an independent researcher. Only after such rigorous re-examination of the data could the accusation be made that one group is forcing the data to meet pre-conceived interpretations.

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

Science is about testing ideas, but the young earth creationist is not really interested in 'testing' any idea. As Kurt Wise and many other creationists have noted the bible is the ultimate authority so there is no test that could possibly falsify the bible (in their minds) because the bible is considered infallible. In short, it always amazes me when a creationist makes these claims because they are not interested in 'testing the bible'; they are only interested in making facts fit their fantasy.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger andrew said...

I think that a more constructive approach to this situation would have been to turn things upside-down, asking Ross questions from inside the YEC worldview.

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

Andrew,

In essence that's what I asked because everything he presented could absolutely NOT fit in a global flood young earth model. Apparently that completely went over the previous anonymous posters head. He wants to test ideas, but as Ross showed the data cannot possibly be harmonized with ye-flood geology.

 
At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Holly said...

Thank you so much for speaking up and challenging Ross.

 
At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see my last post was censored, how very objective of you. I wonder who is really biased here... Evolution is just as much religion as anything else, we can't observe our origins. I could very easily make the argument that the religion of Evolution is very much like the Catholic Church of the dark ages in the way that it keeps science from progressing.

 
At 7:58 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

There's no censorship on here. I just don't always check the comments immediately and unless it's a spam for some website all comments are published.

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To repost then: My Bible says "'Come now, let us reason together' says the Lord" Is 1:18. I test God every day, His patience, His mercy, why not His science? There is nothing wrong with testing somethig you believe to be absolute. For instance, we test gravity in Kindergarden. Testing something we know to be true stretches our minds and increase our understanding of the natural world. "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of kings" Prov 25:2
Personally, I agree with you, we should not be switching paradigms. If you don't believe in millions of years, you shouldn't use them. Personally I don't because I find the underlying assumptions bordering on the absurd, it has nothing to do with with my worldview. Maybe Marcus hasn't had an isotope geochemistry class and doesn't have a reason at this point to reject the millions of years dating scheme on a scientific basis.
As for my first post, I was simply responding to your blog comment that "there is no reason that ammonites should be zoned in a global flood" by giving you a testable hypothesis.

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Womble said...

Well done for putting him on the spot and highlighting his duplicitous nature, although I'd have followed on with a question about which conference he would be lying at! I'm a British Geologist and whilst we don't have the issue to the extent that you have in the states we have our own creationists. Theres a creationist here in the UK that says he has a degree in biology and geology....but if you look at the info on him it says his degree is in Environmental Science. To cap it all off the chap has just about enough geology/earth science to have gained membership of the Geological Society of London, which he uses to add authority to what he's saying.

 

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