Sunday, August 28, 2011

#239: Jason Lisle

Jason Lisle actually has a PhD in astrophysics (not just a diploma mill degree), and he has actually published scientific papers in astrophysics. You’d never have guessed from the drivel that flows from his pen and mouth. He currently works full time for Answers in Genesis (AiG). He is a master of the Ham Hightail, is one of the most central defenders of Young Earth Creationism alive, has deployed every creationist canard in the book, and boosts his points by appeal to epistemic relativism – in his writings you’ll find nuggets like this (long quote, but has to be given in full):

“Our worldview is a bit like mental glasses. It affects the way we view things. In the same way that a person wearing red glasses sees red everywhere, a person wearing “evolution” glasses sees evolution everywhere. The world is not really red everywhere, nor is there evolution everywhere, but glasses do affect our perception of the world and the conclusions we draw. We will find in [his book “The Ultimate Proof of Creation"] that the Bible is a bit like corrective lenses. Without "biblical glasses," the world appears fuzzy and unclear. But when our thinking is based on the Bible, the world snaps into focus: it makes sense […] evolutionists "see" the world differently than creationists. We have the same facts. But what we make of those facts is colored by our worldview. Thus, creationists and evolutionists interpret the same facts differently.”

So how do you explain the starlight problem when you believe in a 6-day creation 6000 years ago? Lisle’s solution is simple: “creation was supernatural, therefore cannot be understood scientifically.” So the inerrancy of the Bible is actually an axiom. He even published a paper in AiG’s “Answers Research Journal” claiming to have a more sophisticated solution and emphasizing that critics should have an open mind. The argument in the paper is: “The Bible must be true. Genesis says the stars were created simultaneously, on Day Four, 6000 years ago. This conflicts with relativity. Therefore relativity is wrong. Therefore The Bible must be true.” Even the dimmest student would spot the problem here, but Lisle proudly points out that “So far, no one has published in a peer-reviewed journal any criticism of this model.” [hat tip Rationalwiki]. It’s all like the weirdest sort of Alex Jones conspiracy, really – anything is taken to confirm the preheld view, even when it’s evidence against it.

Now Lisle is probably an intelligent guy in some respects (though his abilities are severely compartmentalized), and he is a good speaker who sometimes manage to hide the fact that all his claims are based on assuming (not providing evidence for) the inerrancy of the Bible, and then shoehorning (by twisting to the unrecognizable) other observations to fit that premise (he has to deny some substantial ones, such as relativity). But logic just isn’t his strong side. This hilariously ignorant rant has several times been given as a spot-the-fallacies exercise to critical thinking intro students (it is also discussed here). He has, oblivious to the fact that he wouldn’t recognize a sound argument if it hit him in the head, claimed that the existence of logic proves creation.

Fortunately he also expends energy attacking Old Earth Creationists. His book “Old Earth Creationism on Trial” (with Tim Chaffey) deals with the fallacies of OEC. As usual, Lisle is at pains to recommend keeping an open mind: “All ideas and theories should be subjected to rigorous self-examination, yet a similar self-critique is long overdue from the old-Earth creationists”. And follows it (many pages later) with: “Since the Bible undisputedly teaches a young earth, when someone claims that scientific evidence proves otherwise, we can be certain they are mistaken.” He doesn’t even begin to see the tension between these two claims. A discussion pointing out the most hilarious bits can be found here.

As a fitting conclusion, let’s bring on this quote (from an online debate): “I said I believe that to end the terrorist attacks, you need to kill ALL MUSLIMS. Which part of that was “cryptic” to you? Which one of those two words did you misunderstand?”

Diagnosis: Confirmation bias run wild – ├╝ber-crank Lisle is apparently blissfully unaware of the fact that he has made an art of arguing in circles. He is pretty vocal but important mostly as the scientific alibi of Ken Ham’s gang (and what an alibi).


  1. I'm pretty sure he didn't actually make that final quote.

    Maybe you got that from the page, and assumed the citation was below the parenthetical attribution, instead of above?

  2. Yeah, that seems right. Lisle is crazy, but not that unhinged batshit crazy. I'll remove that quote.

  3. check out his blog and some of the comments

  4. oh and now he opened up his blog again, feel free to post....

  5. My best understanding of Lisle's attempt to explain the starlight problem is as follows; essentially, it's an attempt to explain the results of the Michelson/Morley experiment and use of interferometers to measure the speed of light. He proposes that photons approaching an observer are moving with infinite velocity and photons receding from an observer are moving with a speed 1/2 C. Mathematically, this works out for the interferometer because the photons it observes follow a back and forth path. However, the idea is preposterous. Consider the following setup

    A B C

    where A is a source of light and B and C are interferometers. According to Lisle's hypothesis, photons moving from A to B are moving with infinite velocity with respect to B as they approach B from A and are also moving with infinite velocity with respect to C as they approach C. But, after they have passed B, they are moving at a velocity 1/2 C relative to B. This despite the fact that A, B, and C are at rest with respect to each other. Totally preposterous.