Creationist nonsense on geology; the odd case of Prof McIntosh D.Sc.

THE GEOLOGY OF GENESIS FOR TODAY

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One of the best selling British creationist books is Genesis for Today by Andy McIntosh, which is now in its 5th edition. https://www.dayone.co.uk/products/genesis-for-today

Most of the book is a popular exposition of Genesis 1 to 11 – and some of it I agree with, but not his insistence that it is literal history.

In Genesis for Today McIntosh gives three scientific appendices, which are much the same in the 1st and 5th editions.  I could either go through and nit-pick his geological errors or consider them under main headings. I have chosen the latter.

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Most would think that a professor in a scientific discipline at a leading university (with a first-rate geology department) would be able to make a reasonable showing on geology.Many amateurs and non-geologists I’ve met in geological societies have a clear grasp.

From the whole of his book, other writings and having sat through a meeting he lead for the Blackburn Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, where reckoned all my geological criticisms were wrong. As I challenged him one nice Christian lady asked me if I were a Christian 😦

The major part of his book is biblical and scientific aspects put in the appendices. Here he simply re-iterates standard young earth arguments

ASSUMPTION OF GRADUAL DEPOSITION

McIntosh claims that “Uniformitarian geologists” assume that all strata were deposited slowly, and makes this claim on p185-6, p186, line 17-8; p195 lines16-20 (citing Andrews); p198 line 16 ff (largely citing Austin), p199-201 on fossilized tree trunks.

This is simply a false claim as geologists make no such assumption and for centuries have been aware of varying rates of deposition.

This is especially so in my neighbourhood as the Bowland Shales were laid down incredibly slowly and the overlying Pendle Grits are turbidites and deposited very rapidly

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Type section of Bowland Shales on Pendle Hill, and rough x-section by Bleasdale

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Top of Bowland Shales nr Bleasdale with Pendle Grit above. The thick grits were deposited in days and the thin shales in many thousands of years. Some may see injectites! The 18inch band of grit was probably laid down in one turbidite event – meaning days. The shales would be 10s of thousands. (The injectites were probably pushed up soon after deposition.

On p186 the allegation of “this assumption of gradual deposition” is false, negating what he says about the working out of geological history aka the geological column. A familiarity of the history of geology (see MJS Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time, 2005aka BLT) and any other work on the history of geology will refute this claim. In fact the contrary is true as most early geologists before 1830 were Catastrophists and had no clear idea of geological time and varied from young, middle or old earth in perspective! In the 1790s Smith was young earth but accepted an old earth from the evidence he found soon after 1800. Most allowed a variable rapid rate of deposition but even Lyell, that champion of slow deposition, allowed some rapid deposition.

P193 gives Andrews misrepresentation of geologists “supposed evolutionary slow rate of formation of rock strata”. When someone, even with a D.Sc makes such elementary errors they can be safely ignored.My comments above on turbidite grits and shales in Bowland contradicts him, as does almost all study of sedimentary rocks, especially following Keunen’s work on turbidity currents in the early 50s.

P197-199 deals with mudflows. McIntosh gives the impression that catastrophic events and deposition have long been denied by geologists. That is simply not the case, even by Lyell, though it must be said that from 1840 to 1970 many geologists had an aversion to catastrophe. However geologists have long known that erosion can occur very rapidly despite what Austin is quoted as saying on p 198.

The section of Fossilized Tree Trunks p199-201 is similarly flawed. Taking the example of “polystrate fossils” or tree trunks, no geologist has ever said that these were exposed for millions of years. Further they were in swamps not at “the bottom of the ocean” The quote from Morris is risible. The main paragraph on p200 contains much error. No geologist says trunks were exposed for “at least a million years”. Further if mudflows carried the tree trunks to their positions (and cleverly deposited them mostly vertically!) how can one explain that fossil trees are in sandstones and are now of sandstone and not in mudstone, shale or siltstone? The quotes referring to millions of years from J D Morris are simply misrepresentation as no geologist says that.

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This cartoon is from  Ackermann It’s a young world after all (p85)  and is a dishonest parody of fossil tree trunks

 

 

I could say more on Mt St Helens

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One needs to explain how all the mud from the postulated mudflows has disappeared without trace!

In reference to Austin and Nevins’ comments on the coal measures (which are the same person as Austin used the name Nevins when working for his Ph D at Penn State) the standard interpretations of coal deposition do not eliminate an element of catastrophism. Fred Broadhurst of Manchester argued with evidence that the deposition of coal seams individually took tens of thousands of years whereas the much thicker intervening sandstones were deposited rapidly. No geologist would say otherwise that sands are deposited speedily and muds and silts slowly. There have been many careful sedimentological studies on this type of question. Finally geology has advanced a little since the days of Lyell, excellent geologist though he was!

 

 

CIRCULAR ARGUMENT IN GEOLOGICAL DATING

On p 187 McIntosh writes, “The cyclical nature of the reasoning now becomes apparent….” And then cites J D Morris, who basically reiterates the accusations made by his father in his many books. (The Genesis Flood p130-6, Scientific Creationism p 94ff,) and repeated by many other writers.

This is false for several reasons. First, much of the geological column was worked out without the use of fossils as it was by workers before 1810 or so and by Sedgwick on the Cambrian in the 1830s. Secondly the Geological Column was worked out in considerable detail well before 1859 by geologists who rejected evolution. (To take the Palaeozoic –Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian, the main workers were Sedgwick, Murchison and Conybeare who rejected evolution, and worked out the historical order from a combination of superposition (i.e. the order of strata) and the use of fossils interpreted in an anti-evolutionary way). Sedgwick and Conybeare were evangelical Anglican clergy as well; Sedgwick both taught Darwin geology and opposed The Origin.

The use of fossils in stratigraphy is derivative from the Principle of Superposition, which is an extension of the law of gravity; i.e. the stuff at the bottom of a pile got their first (unless someone/something squeezed it in later) and was first put forward by Steno in the 1660s. During the 18th this was applied by various “geologists” e.g. Strachey, and Michell, who produced a geological column from the coal beds to the chalk, now known as Carboniferous to Cretaceous. Work exploded in the late 18th century over all of Europe and Hutton was only one of many. The use of fossils to “date” was developed by Smith and Cuvier in particular (both anti-evolution) because they were empirically found to come in the same order wherever you went. This was in Europe first and then further afield. This is well explained in Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time.

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Hutton and Smith

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Lyell and Henslow’s 1822 map of Anglesey

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Memorial to Sedgwick in Dent

            The pen-ultimate sentence at the end of the section on p187 is meaningless. The last sentence is simply wrong,

“Even indirect dating of sedimentary rock is impossible when it contains no fossils.”

as all Pre-Cambrian strata have been put in historical order WITHOUT the use of any fossils. I did this personally in South Africa where I mapped a large area of late Precambrian strata in the NW Cape, without any fossils to help except a lone stromatolite. I worked out my own geological column, as I was only the third geologist to map this area in 1970 for a mining company when Alfred Kroner was also doing it for Univ of Cape Town. (The previous geologists were Rogers in the 1910s and de Villiers and Sohnge in the 40s, who basically agreed with my re-writing of the local column and is what is now accepted for the whole area.)

So much for it being impossible! Also Sedgwick mapped much of North Wales without fossils and all historical geology is in principle possible without fossils, but they do make life easier.

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From the top of Y Garn 3105ft. Sedgwick went up this during a 12 hours day looking at Cambrian slates and diverse igneous rocks

The order of fossils in historical sequence has been worked out by sheer observation e.g. trilobites only in the Palaeozoic and then particular trilobites in certain strata. This information, since 1859 has been used as evidence for evolution (or more strictly in Darwin’s notebooks from 1838). Some geologists do put this in terms of circular reasoning e.g. R H Rastall, but have failed to understand the way that the Geological Column and the fossil succession was elucidated. There is no circular argument as its basis. However if you found a fossil dinosaur you can be fairly sure that you are in Jurassic or Cretaceous sediments.

 

Now here is the Geological Column which was largely set-up by clerical geologists who rejected evilution 🙂

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But of course a rabbit in the Precambrian would prove all geologists to be wrong!!!

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ERRORS ON RADIOMETRIC AGE-DATING

A good summary of radiometric age dating by a Christian is to be found at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html. So I will not deal with general issues. McIntosh raises the usual objections, which have been dealt with by Wiens and Talkorigins. However I will note some other errors.

P186 line 11. “Radioisotope techniques … can only be used on igneous rock… . He is false when he says that methods can only be used on igneous rock. They are widely used on metamorphic rock of all kinds and accessional on sedimentary rocks. He clearly has not grasped how radiometric methods are used to give dates. E.g. lavas and other igneous rocks give dates, so if a lava is dated at say 320my then the strata adjacent are about the same age etc. He gets more confused on p190 l3 on K/Ar dating and only mentions volcanic rock, overlooking plutonic and metamorphic rocks and the occasional sediments.

On p 195 he discusses an 1801 eruption in Hawaii, and fails to record what the papers cited which gave such a wide range of dates were about. One was to test how accurate the method was and the other giving results of billions was not on lava, but on ultramafic inclusions within the lava, whereas the host lava gave young ages with acceptable limits of error. As I wrote in Evangelicals and Science;

Perhaps the most serious and persistent charge against YEC publications
is that many quotations are taken out of context. (See the review
of TGF by van de Fliert cited earlier.) It is often accompanied by accusations
of lying. Thus on the talkorigins Web site, http://www.talkorigins.
org, documents many examples, which in turn are denied. A commonly
cited example is lavas from Hawaii, which were “dated” in the
60s. “In 1968 scientists applied radiometric dating to some rocks which
known to be less than 170 years old. [1801 eruption on Hualalai.] The
radioactive ages determined for those 170 year-old rocks ranged from
160 million to 3 billion years” (Ackermann, 1991, p. 81). Ackermann
then commented, “Obviously, something is wrong with this method.”
However if one reads the paper cited (Funkhouser and Naughton, 1968,
pp. 4601–4607) a very different picture emerges. The material dated
were ultramafic inclusions in the lava of mantle material and thus not
lava. The geochronologist Brent Dalrymple (a witness at Arkansas in
1981) made this clear in 1982, but the Hualalai example is still cited
today; http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v27/i2/cause.asp. During
these twenty-five years Dalrymple’s criticisms were simply ignored. This
is one of many examples.

McIntosh is simply one of many who repeats such old oft-refuted claims!

I will respond by saying of McIntosh’s unintentional misrepresentation, “This hardly inspires confidence.” Sadly the quote from Andrews on page 195 does not inspire confidence either, and he also misrepresents radiometric age-dating both in print and in public lectures. Having read the original papers from the 60s on these determinations I am appalled by the way that for 30years they have been misquoted, even though Brent Dalrymple exposed all this misquotation in 1982. It beggars belief.

As for the Cardenas Basalt of the Grand Canyon, I refer readers to the talkorigins site as this explains better than I can.

Many years ago McIntosh went to Utah to look at Coconino sandstone and petroglyphs. Here is his Answers in Genesis article which describes the dinosaurs in petroglyphs.

https://answersingenesis.org/geology/natural-features/utahs-testimony-to-catastrophe/

CONCLUSION

McIntosh has clearly misunderstood the principles of geology and his arguments are usually fallacious. This may be due to the fact that he relies on unreliable sources like Henry and John Morris, Edgar Andrews and other YEC writers. It is tragic that he has not applied his scientific skills to geology and thus opens himself up to charges of incompetence and misrepresentation. What would he say if I claimed that a mixture of 2 parts of hydrogen to one of oxygen was non-inflammable?

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Two excellent books by Christian geologists for further reading

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