Another Christian Science Fair embarrasses itself
By PZ MYERS, SCIENCEBLOGS.COM
Added: Thu, 24 May 2007 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Ranjani for the link.
It's becoming a trend: Evangelical Christian institutions that try to do science inevitably demonstrate breathtaking inanity of their own. The latest victim is the Pawleys Island Christian Academy. Take a gander at the first place winner in biology.
Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first place in the Life Science/Biology category for his project "Creation Wins!!!," says he disproved part of the theory of evolution. Using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites. He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect.
"Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites," Benson said. "However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts."
This isn't just wrong, it's appallingly wrong. He's wrong on the facts, wrong on the interpretations, wrong on the understanding of how science works. If we're charitable and grant that a 14 year old has some reasonable excuse for ignorance, we can still indict his parents, his science teacher, and the judges at this fair on gross incompetence on multiple charges.
This experiment has nothing to do with biology.
Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate; stalactites are made of calcium carbonate.
Stalactite growth rates are estimated to be around 0.1-10 centimeters per thousand years. If we assume his 'stalactite' was 10 cm long and use the slowest growth rate, that's 100 thousand years, not millions.
Even if he had demonstrated an accelerated rate of stalactite growth, stalactite length isn't the method used to date the age of the earth.
To quote the unquestionable authority, Terry Pratchett: "And all those exclamation points? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head." Mister Benson comes perilously close to the underpants limit in his title.
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