need defense from religious fundamentalists

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Discussion by: wakey72

Hi there…I was just hoping someone can help me.  My brother has a bit of a brain injury and can be easily influenced, and unfortunately some religious fundamentalists are trying to influence him.  Recently he was emailed this (below), and he forwarded it to me wondering what my response would be.  I can see that it's obviously a falacious argument, but I was wondering how to respond, seeing as my background isn't in science:

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Hi (name blanked),
Since the type of education you have practically makes you an engineer, I've always wondered, when the ocean flows into a river, which then flows into a lake; at what point does the salt water become fresh water, and how?
(name blanked out)

Hi :

    It is fresh water first and then, once it hits the ocean it is salt water. The great lakes have a level of salinity; which I have actually measured, as part of the building operations work I've done in the past. I think it is correct to say, that as the rivers have flowed to the oceans for thousands of years, the salt is left behind, thus, increasing the level of salinity. This is one of the concepts that disproves the evolution nonsense, because the salinity of the ocean would be off the scale, if the earth was billions of years old.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. A lake will be saline to the degree water flows in faster than it flows out. Sometimes, such as Mono lake, it can be even more saline than the ocean. A river flowing picks up a tiny bit of salt from the soil it percolates through.

    A river will be pretty much fresh. It will dump into the ocean and mix, where you get brackish waters. Some fish such as black mollies, specialize in these partly salty waters. Eventually the river water reaches the salty ocean. How quickly this happens depends on the size of the river. You can taste the fresh water of the Amazon far out to sea.

    So the oceans are getting a tiny bit saltier every day. So what stops them from getting “infinitely” salty?

    1. there is not much salt lying around on the land in areas that get a lot of rainfall. In other words, most of the salt is already in the ocean. There is no more salt to make it saltier.

    2. Go on a tour of the Morton or Windsor salt mines. Deep under the earth are gigantic quantities of very pure salt that were once deposited on a very salty sea bed. Tectonic plates lift and bury such massive salt deposits, removing them from the ocean.

    3. For a better answer, ask a geologist rather than an aggressively ignorant and dishonest creationist.

    4. One mechanism you might want to research is evaporation. Does it remove some salt as a side effect?

    5. another mechanism you might want to look at salt being removed from the ocean by biological activity. E.g. salmon going inland to spawn and die. To my surprise this is a major factor in forest fertility.

    6. In some parts of the world humans harvest salt from the sea.

    7. to solve this problem, you really need to know how much salt enters the ocean each day, and how much leaves it by various mechanisms.

    8. What’s the logic here? Here a science puzzle. If you, as a layman, cannot answer it without help, that proves God exists? Huh? Who is this guy, the Sphinx?

  2. Here is a quote from Wikipedia which I’m sure could easily be verified:

    “Ocean salinity has been stable for billions of years, most likely as a consequence of a chemical/tectonic system which removes as much salt as is deposited; for instance, sodium and chloride sinks include evaporite deposits, pore water burial, and reactions with seafloor basalts.”

  3. unfortunately some religious fundamentalists are trying to influence him

    Obtain an appropriate book for your brother, admitting that you don’t know. Your brother’s injury doesn’t make you his keeper. He’s entitled to believe whatever he likes. The fundamentalists are just doing their job, like bugs do. Your job is to help him sort good information from bad. You can’t mop up every item of bullshit for your brother. Somehow he needs to be enabled to do that for himself. A couple of books perhaps.

  4. Respond by blocking the person who sent it from sending any further eMails to that address and continue blocking their addresses without response until they give up. Neither you, nor your brother, has to respond to every religious shit-heel who tries to take advantage of those who are easily influenced.

    If you want, direct them here before you block them. There’s no shortage of educated and capable people here to dismantle their specious nonsense – and for that reason, they won’t come. Their goal with these questions is not to fix their wonky knowledge or to better their education, it’s to prey on the vulnerable.

    Don’t let them.

  5. I’ve always wondered, when the ocean flows into a river, which then flows into a lake; at what point does the salt water become fresh water, and how?

    Tidal estuaries usually have layers (stratification) of salt water and fresh water which gradually mix as currents and tides, stir them together. The patterns of mixing vary according to the shape of the valley. Oceanography is probably too complex a subject for fundamentalists to understand. Salt-water – especially cold salt water, – is denser than fresh river water, so initially flows in a layer under it, before it gradually mixes.

    Estuarine water circulation

    I think it is correct to say, that as the rivers have flowed to the oceans for thousands of years, the salt is left behind, thus, increasing the level of salinity.

    They have flowed into oceans for millions of years. In the mean time ocean floor sediments have been uplifted to form rocks and soils on land, where millennia of rainwater dissolved the salt in them and returned the salt to the oceans. Where inland seas or salt lakes have dried up there are layers of salt, (which can be mined) in the rocks. (An example of a sea drying up, leaving layers of salt, is the Dead Sea.)

    Here is a simple diagram and explanation, which is at the childlike level of most fundamentalists:

    http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/ocean/Watercycle.shtml

    It does not explain the tectonic cycling of ocean-floor sedimentary rocks, back on to the land, so simplistic reading would lead the uneducated to come to the fundamentalists’ false conclusions about the age of the Earth. The Earth does not contain unlimited quantities of salt so the salt, like the water is recycled from land to sea and back again. The water in rain, and the salt in sedimentary rocks. The recycling of rocks is of course very much slower, taking millions of years.

    http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/homework/swater.html

    If you want an advanced understanding tectonic plate movements here is a more complex explanation.

    Evolution of Continents and Oceans

    I would suggest you do not reply to these people (who are obviously very wilfully ignorant of even basic geography), but as has been suggested by others block their emails to your brother.

    I would suggest you read these materials yourself and perhaps printout the school water cycle chart if you need to explain these questions to your brother.

    Young Earth Creationists usually have no understanding of geological time-scales or geological processes, so you are unlikely to be able to educate them in the complexities of geology or climate. If your brother has limited abilities, he is also unlikely to be able to understand the more complex features of large numbers or science.

  6. because the salinity of the ocean would be off the scale

    off what scale exactly? here’s a scale for you 0% not one molecule of salt to 27% which is about the saturation point beyond wich, salt will not disolve. Seawater is in the 3-4% ball park

    the oceans receive fresh water through rivers, melting ice and a whole lot of rain, and the geological processes that create new land from silt depostits which eventially become rock then weathered down to release their salt back into the system, plus tectonic subduction reabsorbing subterainian salt this argument has to be right up there along with the one that says if the world was 4bn years old all the water would have been drunk by now for sheer ignorance.

    there is so much salt to go around, not enough to raise the salinity of all the oceans. where seas are cut off from frresh water and start to evaporate the salinity goes up. this is seen and in such places where this has historically happened you have large expanses of salt in the soil.

    all creationists arguments that claim to use science, are based on the assumption that they’re being directed at somone who wouldn’t question or check facts.

    always look out for superlatives. these are where you find the weaknesses because if the argument was defensible and actual numerical value would be all you need.

    while there are many things wrong with this argument, “off the scale” is the one I’d throw back while making myself comfprtable in my favorite armchair

    • In reply to #9 by SaganTheCat:

      this argument has to be right up there along with the one that says if the world was 4bn years old all the water would have been drunk by now for sheer ignorance

      And the other one that claims that if the world were really 4bn years old then all the mountains would have eroded away. Well, yes… but only if there were no processes for mountains to ‘grow’.

      I was going to suggest we collect all these together – along with rebuttals – into something called The Glittering Halls of Human Stupidity. But then I remembered someone has, but called it Talk Origins. I think my name’s better, but there’s no doubting they’ve put more work into it than I have.

  7. Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist. Could it be that the poster is a creationist himself who imagines that that this argument is going to have all here totally stumped and on the road to Damascus?

    • In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist. Could it be that the poster is a creationist himself who imagines that that this argument is going to have all here totally stumped and on the road to Damascus?

      There certainly seems to be a lot of them at the moment.

      I don’t really mind if it provokes an interesting debate. This one is idiotic, however.

    • Precisely. It could also be that these posters are sitting back and laughing at the supposedly logical and intelligent atheists who waste their time in answering their preposterous twaddle.

      In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist. Could it be that the poster is a creationist himself who imagines that that this argument is going to have all here totally stumped and on the road to Damascus?

    • In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist.

      A lot of these are the same questions I would have wondered about when I first left Christianity. I was taught all this crap as fact, and when I began to suspect it wasn’t true, I wasn’t sure where to find the answers. (This was before Google was really widespread, though.)

      Admittedly though, even now, when I try to look up something in a topic I’m not familiar with, it’s easy to be bombarded by Christian websites. I was once trying to see if a quote from Darwin was true or not, and I had to dig through several pages of Christian claims, first.

    • In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist. Could it be that the poster is a creationist himself who imagines that that this argument is going to have all here totally stumped and on the road to Damascus?

      Religious trolling or ignorance on a subject (which isn’t a bad thing per-se), often hard to tell.

    • In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist.

      Most definitely. The arguments are composed in the form of a magic trick — something to fool a complete layman. The tricks are very old, and well used even though the bogosity is known. It is a bit like trying a fool’s mate on novice chess player. It is a bit insulting when they try such crap on you especially when they wrap the attempt at legerdemain in some lie.

    • In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist. Could it be that the poster is a creationist himself who imagines that that this argument is going to have all here totally stumped and on the road to Damascus?

      Yes. I have posted more than once about this habit. It’s a way of posing creationist arguments in the hope that one of us will trip ourself up. They sometimes claim to have a Ph. D. (one poster claimed two!) and say crass things like “I’ve read Richard’s book”. Then it comes: “But I just don’t see how something can come from nothing” [substitute any other creationist mantra].

      I didn’t realise that believers were so dishonest until I started reading this site regularly.

      • In reply to #22 by Pabmusic:

        I didn’t realise that believers were so dishonest until I started reading this site regularly….

        Dishonesty is pretty much the defining factor when the religious feel compelled to talk on the subject.
        I used to think that they couldn’t be trusted and had to check what they claimed against primary sources. Now after 30 years of this stuff I can pretty much presume that what their saying is false and dismiss it there.

    • Ooh read the title again – it doesn’t say ‘need defence AGAINST religious fundamentalists’ but ‘need defense FROM religious fundamentalists’. Perhaps juvenile creationist ‘dilemmas’ like the one presented here ‘need defense FROM religious fundamentalists’ and so our friend is providing such defence AGAINST evil atheists like those who swarm on this iniquitous site and who try to tear the mask off creationist propaganda. And to think – the clue was in the title all along ;)

      In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist.

    • Be that as it may, I fancy that some of these believers may just be questioning youngsters dissatisfied with the “answers” they get from their elders, especially given the seemingly naïve way these postings are couched. What I hear when I read these OPs is a cry for help. At worst, science-minded, but not necessarily science-educated readers (like myself) are schooled on geological, biological, oceanographic, etc. processes that we (I) would not otherwise have been exposed to. At best, if indeed the OPs are sincere in their questioning and plea for help, then they have been armed with more reasonable and realistic explanations for natural processes. This forum may be their best resource for getting answers to their questions. Personally, I think the gain from giving the OP the benefit of the doubt outweighs the risk that we might be feeding a troll.

      In reply to #11 by JuliaOr:

      Is anybody else getting suspicious of these type of posts, ie where an ‘atheist’ needs advice answering a question posed by a creationist. Could it be that the poster is a creationist himself who imagines that that this argument is going to have all here totally stumped and on the road to Damascus?

      • I think half of the posts on these forums are from religious people, certainly the ones I have come across. Although I respect the right for everyone to comment in the forum, have discussions and communicate in a fair and respectable manner I also need somewhere as an atheist to be free from religious bigotry and constant religious attack. When i came onto this site I was hoping to gain access to ideas from other atheist individuals and groups about what action atheists can take about being discriminated against and also about coming together to affect political and social change.

        In reply to #25 by therbert03:

        Be that as it may, I fancy that some of these believers may just be questioning youngsters dissatisfied with the “answers” they get from their elders, especially given the seemingly naïve way these postings are couched. What I hear when I read these OPs is a cry for help. At worst, science-minded,…

        • In reply to #30 by Vikranersciel:

          I think half of the posts on these forums are from religious people, certainly the ones I have come across. Although I respect the right for everyone to comment in the forum, have discussions and communicate in a fair and respectable manner I also need somewhere as an atheist to be free from religio…

          Also I am just sick of wackjobs and to be honest really need the company of intelligent individuals, if for no other reason than to actually learn something from them.

  8. Churches seeking to exploit vulnerable adults? Sounds fairly typical, You might try collecting these emails and forwarding them to your POVA officer (Your council should have one) tell them that your brother is being harassed and go from there.

    • In reply to #13 by Mr Greene:

      Churches seeking to exploit vulnerable adults? Sounds fairly typical, You might try collecting these emails and forwarding them to your POVA officer (Your council should have one) tell them that your brother is being harassed and go from there.

      Nice thought but I’m not entirely sure POVA would be that responsive unless, for example, the character who sent this rubbish starts tapping the guy for money or exploiting him in some other heinous way. POVA tends to be dealt with by a small committee, including social services, health and police representatives, and is usually up to its ears in very nasty and immediate issues which leave little time for arguing the toss with Creationists and other silly people!

  9. Interesting video on the Russian. Title – “Amazing proof of God’s existence” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-d8-ZZ91Ys translation: old man: – …. and his kingdom will have no end… what happened? boy: -nothing. God created light on the first day. The sun, moon and stars on the fourth. Where does the light shone on the first day? _old man: – that’s where

    =DDDDD strong argument

  10. I don’t know much about geology, but clearly the rivers of today wouldn’t be the same rivers of 100 millions years ago ( or they would all be grand canyons ).

    And then the salt would be divided over those layers : it wouldn’t all be at the bottom.
    So rivers don’t have to become saltier, but places with very deep rivers should show a larger presence of salt in the immediate area.

    So, how salty is the Grand Canyon ( from top to bottom ) ?
    Any deposits of salt not at the bottom of the Grand Canyon , would prove the sea water has passed there, and given the time it takes to erode that deep, it would immediately prove that the Earth is at least many millions of years old.

    • In reply to #19 by kenny77:

      I don’t know much about geology, but clearly the rivers of today wouldn’t be the same rivers of 100 millions years ago ( or they would all be grand canyons ).

      Many river valleys even from a few thousand years ago disappeared under the sea when sea levels rose by 120metres at the end of the last ice-age.

      And then the salt would be divided over those layers : it wouldn’t all be at the bottom. So rivers don’t have to become saltier, but places with very deep rivers should show a larger presence of salt in the immediate area.

      The saltiness of rivers and ground water depends on the rocks the water passes through, or in the tropics, how much evaporation, takes place to reduce the water content, leaving a higher concentration of salts.
      Sea water can also invade porous rocks for considerable distances inland; – especially if wells are over-pumped lowering the water table. (As in modern Egypt.)

      You only get increased saltiness at the bottom of deep rivers where the tide brings in sea-water under the freshwater as a stratified layer. http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Richerson/ESP30/Estuaries.pdf

  11. Moderators’ message

    In keeping with our Terms of Use, please refrain from making personal remarks about other users of the site – in this case, the OP.

    If you wish to respond to the question raised in the OP, please do; otherwise, there are plenty more threads that may interest you more.

    Thank you.

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  12. Feeling a bit chastised here and apologies to the OP if I’ve offended you. It’s just that I’ve noticed a trend lately of people who join about four days before leaving an opening post which gives some new earth propaganda under the guise’ of ‘looking for help’. I hate smug. Besides, I wouldn’t be an atheist if I took everything at face value, would I?

    • Yes, very naughty of us. Such sceptical attitudes are really quite inappropriate ;)

      In reply to #28 by JuliaOr:

      Feeling a bit chastised here and apologies to the OP if I’ve offended you. It’s just that I’ve noticed a trend lately of people who join about four days before leaving an opening post which gives some new earth propaganda under the guise’ of ‘looking for help’. I hate smug. Besides, I wouldn’t be a…

  13. Maybe the reason the salinity has not increased is there is more water? Well it does keep raining! The extra rain water dilutes the ever increasing salt level. Of course this may also “prove” that the earth is only a few thousand years old as the planet would be completely flooded, with rain water being added to the sea level for billions of years.

    Alternatively, the systems have balanced out over billions of years as others have suggested above.

    • In reply to #33 by Martin Hogbin:

      Find your brother a sensible religion that does not preach ideas that are in conflict with science.

      Is there such a thing as a sensible religion? I haven’t come across one yet!

  14. Hi Wakey,

    This is a classic lie that you’ll get from creationists. It has more holes in it than a sieve and is blatantly dishonest. Funny how they never can seem to remember that Commandment.

    The quick and dirty answer is that the chemical composition of the oceans have very little to do with the water flowing into them. The salinity of seawater is dominated by ocean floor processes, largely those occurring near the mid-ocean ridges. This can be demonstrated quite simply by examining the “salt” in the oceans and the water flowing into them. Compositionally they’re very different beasties. Fresh-water sources do contain sodium and chloride but contain much larger proportions of other dissolved ions (Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, SO4, F, PO4,… the list goes on and on) than you find in the oceans. I could go into isotopic compositions but why bother. Let’s keep matters simple and recognize that rivers contribute more sediment than salt so if this line of reasoning were true then all the oceans would have filed in with dirt long before achieving modern salinity levels so it’s patently ridiculous.

    Next time the Fundies bother your brother with an e-mail like that just tell him to ask them why we can see a universe that 13.7 billion light-years across. The explanations that I’ve heard from YECs for that one are hilarious.

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