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Supernovae, Supernova Remnants and Young Earth Creationism FAQ

Reply to Jonathan Sarfati

Copyright © 2003
[Last updated: September 7, 2003]

Jonathan Sarfati of Answers in Genesis (AiG) wrote a brief reply to Dave Moore's Supernovae, Supernova Remnants and Young Earth Creationism FAQ which debunked a Sarfati article on supernova remnants and the Keith Davies article on which it is based. This article is Mr. Moore's reply to Dr. Sarfati. Mr. Moore reports that he has posted a copy of his reply to TheologyWeb where it got deleted. Dr. Sarfati posts at TheologyWeb under the screen name "Socrates" with the habit of referring to himself in the third person.

Dr. Sarfati says,

This seems to come from blustery and verbose article on the essentially atheistic site from a person called Moore who admits that he lacks qualifications in astronomy. Much TalkOrigins bilge is written by people unqualified in the areas they're talking about -- and it shows! Keith Davies, who research I acknowledged using, and I are well aware of this Moore article, and I understand that he is preparing a detailed response.

Neither does Davies (have qualifications in astronomy), who appears to be a teacher [1], and neither does Sarfati, whose qualifications are in chemistry (specifically superconductors) [2]. But that doesn't seem to stop Sarfati pontificating upon any subject under the sun on the AiG website [3] [4], when he lacks basic qualifications in most subject areas. Is that the stench of hypocrisy in the air?

Moore is also obsessed with the anti-creationist fetish that creationists quote out of context.

Sorry, Sarfati. This is genuine fact. Faced with the extreme shortfall of evidence (i.e. none) that backs up their position, Creationists often resort to quote-mining - indeed in the past they have published whole books of doctored quotes "supporting" creationism [5]

He rails against the way Davies uses some of the unusual phrases found in journals that indicated surprise at the shortfall of galactic SNRs, and no doubt this is what your critic has picked up on.

Except that the phrases, when quoted in context of their paragraphs and discussions in the original papers indicate completely different conclusions to what Davies alleges in his article.

Moore makes the point that several of these phrases were written in the context of explanations of the problem and that Mr Davies should have made that clear. Moore omits completely one crucial fact. He fails to say that Davies introduce those phrases clearly and unambiguously by saying:

'A number of astronomers, in the context of trying to find solutions to the shortfall have commented on the situation as follows.'

The above completely unambiguous statements that Davies uses to introduce those phrases should at the very least have been included with the section Moore has excerpted from his paper. To have not only left out that important introductory statement but also not even to have referred to it is bordering on defamatory.

It is nothing of the sort Sarfati. Davies is alleging that there is a shortfall in SNR numbers, and is doctoring quotes from an old paper to make it appear that astronomers do so as well, when even a cursory scan through the astronomical literature (something that you appear not to have even attempted) shows that there is not a shortfall - the current numbers of confirmed supernova remnants in our galaxy (approximately 250 and rising according to Green's latest catalogue of SNRs) is approaching the theoretical total in our galaxy [7], and that the difference in the two figures is easily explainable [8].

My paper was necessarily condensed from Davies but gave all the references to him and his sources so people could check them.

But it appears Sarfati did no checking of the sort over his paper. It is riddled with gross errors and incorrect and inaccurate conclusions. Even a cursory knowledge of astronomy would have picked them up.

Keith Davies' "Supernova." This is the photo labeled by Davies as a "Super Nova photo." Davies credits the photo as "courtesy NASA/JPL." The image here is reduced in size from Davies' larger image. A much clearer photo of this region is contained in "The Horsehead Nebula Region" which is written by a creationist writer who correctly identifies the what Davies calls a supernova as Alnitak. Larger views of the belt region (though view is rotated differently) can be found at The Electronic Sky and "The Orion's Belt & Sword."
Keith Davies 'Supernova'

But what is worse for Davies, what he calls a "Super Nova photo," at the top of his article, is nothing but an over-exposed image of a normal star, one of the stars in Orion's belt, Zeta Orionis (Alnitak). The nebulosity surrounding it is NGC 2024, an emission nebula and you can also see the Horsehead Nebula at the right-hand side. So before Davies has even written one word in his article, he has committed an elementary mistake so basic that even rudimentary knowledge of astronomy would have picked up. That Sarfati did not pick this up either doesn't reflect well upon him either.

I notice however that in Sarfati's reply does not contain any attempt at rebuttal based upon the astrophysical evidence that I have presented on why Davies is wrong, instead it is merely obfuscating and blustering without addressing the facts. Indeed, since I originally wrote the supernova FAQ, the astronomical literature is replete with even more observed examples of old (> 50000 year) remnants, remnants which according to Davies, do not exist!

[1] As the qualifications prominently quoted at the top of Davies' article shows.
[3] A quick scan of AiG's website indicates dozens of articles from Sarfati on many subjects in science, all of them displaying the same basic ignorance and incorrect methodology he demonstrated in his original supernova article.
[4] Indicatally, Sarfati is wrong on a technicality. I am currently (June 2003) almost half-way through a part-time degree in Physical Sciences (majoring in Astrophysics).
[5] For example,
[7] and references therein.
[8] Again, see my original article for references.

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