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Thread: The Semmelweis reflex

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    tWebber
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    The Semmelweis reflex

    Imagine that you are a physician on a hospital staff and another doctor at the hospital discovers a procedure that dramatically reduces the death rate of its patients. Wouldn’t you and the other doctors at the hospital eagerly adopt the procedure and practice it yourselves? The answer is so obvious to most people that it seems stupid to even ask such a question. But a doctor name Ignaz Semmelweis did discover such a process and the other doctors rejected it. Here is Wikipedia’s description of what happened.

    Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician of German extraction now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures. Described as the “savior of mothers”, Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics. Puerperal fever was common in mid-19th-century hospitals and often fatal, with mortality at 10%–35%. Semmelweis proposed the practice of washing with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 while working in Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, where doctors’ wards had three times the mortality of midwives’ wards. He published a book of his findings in Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever.

    Despite various publications of results where hand-washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings. Semmelweis’s practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory and Joseph Lister, acting on the French microbiologist’s research, practiced and operated, using hygienic methods, with great success. In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum, where he died at age 47 after being beaten by the guards, only 14 days after he was committed.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis

    It seems unbelievable that doctors would ignore this clear evidence that hand washing could reduce the death rate among patients. The reason for their reaction what that this practice contradicted generally held beliefs regarding the cause of disease.

    Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time. The theory of diseases was highly influenced by ideas of an imbalance of the basic “four humours” in the body, a theory known as dyscrasia, for which the main treatment was bloodlettings. Medical texts at the time emphasized that each case of disease was unique, the result of a personal imbalance, and the main difficulty of the medical profession was to establish precisely each patient’s unique situation, case by case.

    The findings from autopsies of deceased women also showed a confusing multitude of physical signs, which emphasized the belief that puerperal fever was not one, but many different, yet unidentified, diseases. Semmelweis’s main finding — that all instances of puerperal fever could be traced back to only one single cause: lack of cleanliness — was simply unacceptable. His findings also ran against the conventional wisdom that diseases spread in the form of “bad air”, also known as miasmas or vaguely as “unfavourable atmospheric-cosmic-terrestrial influences”. Semmelweis’s groundbreaking idea was contrary to all established medical understanding.

    Eventually Dr. Semmelweis’s ideas were vindicated and the treatment he received led to the coining of a new term, the Semmelweis reflex.

    The so-called Semmelweis reflex — a metaphor for a certain type of human behaviour characterized by reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs or paradigms — is named after Semmelweis, whose perfectly reasonable hand-washing suggestions were ridiculed and rejected by his contemporaries.

    We can see the Semmelweis reflex in operation today in one area of scientific study, the origin and age of the earth.

    The established scientific belief is that the earth is billions of years old and life evolved gradually over this long period of time. The fossils that are found all over the earth are supposedly evidence of this evolutionary process.

    Some people have a different belief regarding the origin of the earth. We believe the Bible is true and God created the earth in six days. We believe there was a worldwide flood and the fossils are evidence that this flood actually occurred.

    There is scientific evidence that supports the Bible. For example, the October, 2012, issue of Answers magazine, which is published by Answers in Genesis, contains a report on some evidence that shows the earth can’t be as old as is generally believed. You can read this report here:

    https://answersingenesis.org/evidenc...a-young-earth/

    Of course the Semmelweiss reflex will cause many to either ignore this evidence or try to explain it away. If you are willing to consider the possibility that the popular beliefs might be wrong here are some other sites you might be interested in:

    http://www.piltdownsuperman.com/

    http://biblicalgeology.net/

    http://sixdaysblog.com/

    http://scienceagainstevolution.info/
    The brutal, soul-shaking truth is that we are so earthly minded we are of no heavenly use.
    Leonard Ravenhill

    https://clydeherrin.wordpress.com/

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post

    We can see the Semmelweis reflex in operation today in one area of scientific study, the origin and age of the earth.

    The established scientific belief is that the earth is billions of years old and life evolved gradually over this long period of time. The fossils that are found all over the earth are supposedly evidence of this evolutionary process.
    There is a HUGE difference between Semmelweis' opponents and mainstream scientific views on the age of the earth:

    Semmelweis' opponents had no solid scientific reasons for holding their view and rejecting Semelweis' view. Their view was based on unscientific convictions, as the Wikipedia article shows.

    The mainstream scientific view on the age of the earth is based on scientific evidence. Many scientists who helped to establish the current view themselves faced the "Semmelweis reflex" of others.

    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post
    Some people have a different belief regarding the origin of the earth. We believe the Bible is true and God created the earth in six days.
    To clarify, you believe that God created everything in six contiguous, 24-hour days. This is a possible interpretation of the text, but it is only one of many possible interpretations. It is not necessarily the correct interpretation.

    Those of us who are OEC also believe that the Bible is true, but we do not believe that your interpretation of Genesis 1 is correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post
    We believe there was a worldwide flood
    Also a possible interpretation of the text, but probably not the correct one. I have argued in another thread that the text itself suggests that the Flood may not have been global.

    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post
    and the fossils are evidence that this flood actually occurred.
    There is no mention of this in Scripture; this is a completely extra-biblical claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post
    There is scientific evidence that supports the Bible. For example, the October, 2012, issue of Answers magazine, which is published by Answers in Genesis, contains a report on some evidence that shows the earth can’t be as old as is generally believed. You can read this report here:

    https://answersingenesis.org/evidenc...a-young-earth/

    Of course the Semmelweiss reflex will cause many to either ignore this evidence or try to explain it away. If you are willing to consider the possibility that the popular beliefs might be wrong here are some other sites you might be interested in:

    http://www.piltdownsuperman.com/

    http://biblicalgeology.net/

    http://sixdaysblog.com/

    http://scienceagainstevolution.info/
    These scientific arguments for a young earth are sometimes known as "PRATTs" (points refuted a thousand times). They have been refuted numerous times in numerous places.

    If you look at the arguments linked above, they generally fall into two classes:
    1) relative (not absolute) dating methods which rely on constant-rate assumptions and numerous other simplifications (e.g. Sediment layers on the ocean floor, dust layers on the moon, salinity of the ocean, decay of earth's magnetic field decay, etc.). These methods are not nearly so accurate or reliable as the so-called "absolute" dating methods.
    2) supposed problems with absolute dating methods (e.g. C-14 in coal or diamond or dinosaur bone, erroneous results of K-Ar dating, etc.). These supposed problems can be explained, and are generally due to misapplication or misinterpretation of the absolute dating methods.

    Since you seem to like web links, here are some links to groups which uphold the truth of Scripture but also promote good science:

    The American Scientific Affiliation
    God and Science
    Old Earth Ministries
    Reasons to Believe
    Solid Rock Lectures
    Last edited by Kbertsche; 12-04-2015 at 09:56 AM.
    "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

  3. Amen klaus54, Jedidiah, Scrawly amen'd this post.
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    tWebber
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    I know RTB takes issue with Biologos due to their evolutionary creationism, but I think it's a fantastic site with contributions from well-grounded and thoughtful Christian's:

    http://biologos.org/
    Last edited by Scrawly; 12-05-2015 at 02:58 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kbertsche View Post
    The mainstream scientific view on the age of the earth is based on scientific evidence. Many scientists who helped to establish the current view themselves faced the "Semmelweis reflex" of others.
    It is not based on evidence alone. It is also based on the belief that the natural processes we observe today have always gone on and the evidence is interpreted in the light (or the dark ) of that belief.

    One example of this is the use of radiometric dating to determine the age of the earth. Radioactive elements break down and form other elements; one example is uranium breaking down to become lead. The rate of the process is known, so by measuring the amount of uranium and lead it is possible to determine how long it would take the lead to form. If all of the lead that exists is the result of radioactive decay it would take over 4 billion years to produce the amount of lead that exists today. But if God created the world as the Bible says he did some of the lead that exists would have been created directly and wouldn't be the product of radioactive decay. We could not measure the earth's age by this method unless we knew how much lead was in the original creation.

    Scientists who reject the Biblical creation account assume that all the lead that exists was the result of decay. When Christians accept their estimate we are actually rejecting the belief that God created the earth.
    The brutal, soul-shaking truth is that we are so earthly minded we are of no heavenly use.
    Leonard Ravenhill

    https://clydeherrin.wordpress.com/

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    Theologyweb's Official Grandfather Jedidiah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post
    Scientists who reject the Biblical creation account assume that all the lead that exists was the result of decay. When Christians accept their estimate we are actually rejecting the belief that God created the earth.
    Not true. It is the relative abundances of the four isotopes of lead which is used. No scientist I have ever heard of claims to know the original amount of lead on the earth.
    Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by theophilus View Post
    It is not based on evidence alone. It is also based on the belief that the natural processes we observe today have always gone on and the evidence is interpreted in the light (or the dark ) of that belief.

    One example of this is the use of radiometric dating to determine the age of the earth. Radioactive elements break down and form other elements; one example is uranium breaking down to become lead. The rate of the process is known, so by measuring the amount of uranium and lead it is possible to determine how long it would take the lead to form. If all of the lead that exists is the result of radioactive decay it would take over 4 billion years to produce the amount of lead that exists today. But if God created the world as the Bible says he did some of the lead that exists would have been created directly and wouldn't be the product of radioactive decay. We could not measure the earth's age by this method unless we knew how much lead was in the original creation.

    Scientists who reject the Biblical creation account assume that all the lead that exists was the result of decay. When Christians accept their estimate we are actually rejecting the belief that God created the earth.
    No, scientists don't assume this; they conclude it based on the data.

    In U-Pb dating, we don't simply look just at the total amount of lead. We look at the amounts of individual lead isotopes (Pb-206, Pb-207, and Pb-208). (See https://www.princeton.edu/geoscience...chronology.pdf). Each of these lead isotopes is a decay product of a specific uranium (or thorium) isotope. Each of the parent isotopes decays at a different rate, so the amounts of these lead isotopes differ. And the amounts of these lead isotopes that we find are consistent with the differing decays rates of their parents.

    In other words, if God created some of this lead, He created the lead isotopes in just the right proportions to make it look like they had all come from radioactive decay of their parent uranium and thorium isotopes. Why would He do this? Why not make them in equal amounts, or make only one isotope? If the lead isotopes did not actually come from radioactive decay, their relative abundances would seem to make God a deceiver.
    "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kbertsche View Post
    No, scientists don't assume this; they conclude it based on the data.

    In U-Pb dating, we don't simply look just at the total amount of lead. We look at the amounts of individual lead isotopes (Pb-206, Pb-207, and Pb-208). (See https://www.princeton.edu/geoscience...chronology.pdf). Each of these lead isotopes is a decay product of a specific uranium (or thorium) isotope. Each of the parent isotopes decays at a different rate, so the amounts of these lead isotopes differ. And the amounts of these lead isotopes that we find are consistent with the differing decays rates of their parents.

    In other words, if God created some of this lead, He created the lead isotopes in just the right proportions to make it look like they had all come from radioactive decay of their parent uranium and thorium isotopes. Why would He do this? Why not make them in equal amounts, or make only one isotope? If the lead isotopes did not actually come from radioactive decay, their relative abundances would seem to make God a deceiver.
    Looking at the equations (and looking up how isochron dating works), it seems that one would get straight-line isochrons just by having the parent and daughter distributed proportionally at t=0. And so it would seem the same with the lead-lead dating you refer to, if the different daughter isotopes were distributed in a rock proportionally.

    It also sounds like you misstate what is concluded. It does not seem to be concluded (from the isochron) that all the Pb-206, -207, 208 are from radioactive decay. Rather, the isochron method is supposed to work when there is daughter isotopes to begin with. (See the equations you linked to which includes ratios of daughter isotopes at t=0).

    And if the different daughter isotopes give isochrons with the same slope (and supposed same age), then it's not that the daughter isotopes have a particular ratio (e.g., Pb-206 / Pb-207). Rather, it would would imply that the different parent-daughter ratios have some particular relationship to each other. E.g. that the ratio U-238/Pb-206 was put in the original rock in a particular relation to the ratio of U-235/Pb-207.

    Then just for fun I did a quick search of answersingenesis.org and they seem to refer to studies showing that different isochrons often give different results, and give different results from the non-isochron methods. And that the linear relationship represented by an isochron can easily arise in cases of unrelated samples.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    Looking at the equations (and looking up how isochron dating works), it seems that one would get straight-line isochrons just by having the parent and daughter distributed proportionally at t=0. And so it would seem the same with the lead-lead dating you refer to, if the different daughter isotopes were distributed in a rock proportionally.
    Yes. Each of the parent isotopes occurs in different amounts and decays at different rates. This produces different amounts of each of the daughter isotopes; these amounts change with time.

    My point was that U-Pb dating looks at the amounts of each of these lead daughter isotopes, not simply at the total amount of lead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    It also sounds like you misstate what is concluded. It does not seem to be concluded (from the isochron) that all the Pb-206, -207, 208 are from radioactive decay. Rather, the isochron method is supposed to work when there is daughter isotopes to begin with. (See the equations you linked to which includes ratios of daughter isotopes at t=0).
    Yes, you are correct. I was speaking of the simple situation where the only lead is radiometric (which sometimes occurs). But in most cases, there is also some initial non-radiometric lead in the sample. This makes the calculations more complex.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    And if the different daughter isotopes give isochrons with the same slope (and supposed same age), then it's not that the daughter isotopes have a particular ratio (e.g., Pb-206 / Pb-207). Rather, it would would imply that the different parent-daughter ratios have some particular relationship to each other. E.g. that the ratio U-238/Pb-206 was put in the original rock in a particular relation to the ratio of U-235/Pb-207.
    But the present-day ratio of U-235 to U-238 is known and uniform (see p 345 in the paper referenced above). So this means that the daughter isotopes have particular ratios to one another as well. See Eq 3-5 on p. 344 in the paper; here each of the three Pb isotopes is normalized to the amount of non-radiometric Pb-104.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    Then just for fun I did a quick search of answersingenesis.org and they seem to refer to studies showing that different isochrons often give different results, and give different results from the non-isochron methods. And that the linear relationship represented by an isochron can easily arise in cases of unrelated samples.
    Yes, isochron dating is complex, can be done in numerous ways, and can be difficult to interpret. See, for example, Fig. 7 in the paper referenced above.
    "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

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