Category Archives: creation Ministries Internation

Why creationism bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory

A fine article by Paul Braterman on Creationism as a conspiracy theory.

My only caveat is that I don’t consider Creationism to stem from biblical infallibility or inerrancy

Otherwise great and reasoned rather than polemical

Primate's Progress

A friend asked me why I bother about creationism. This article spells out my reasons. It has had some 150,000 reads since first published in The Conversation in February, and has been featured in Snopes and Yahoo! News, and attacked by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis, Jake Hebert Ph.D [sic] at the Institute for Creation Research, and others.

https://images.theconversation.com/files/381349/original/file-20210129-21-zsa3bk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&rect=0%2C374%2C4031%2C2015&q=45&auto=format&w=1356&h=668&fit=crop
A replica of Noah’s Ark from the biblical tale at the Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky.Lindasj22/Shutterstock

Many people around the world looked on aghast as they witnessed the harm done by conspiracy theories such as QAnon and the myth of the stolen US election that led to the attack on the US Capitol Building on January 6. Yet while these ideas will no doubt fade in time, there is arguably a much more enduring conspiracy theory that also pervades America in the form…

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Young-Earth Creationism in 2021: The Dawn of The New Creationists, Part 1

This is a good account of a less strident alternative to Ken Ham’s pugnacious Answers in Genesis and Sarfarti’s acidity in Creation Ministries.

He deals with the second generation of “Is Genesis History” and focuses on the people rather than the content.

Sadly knowing the work of the creation scientists involved, I fear that it will not be even passable science.

I have found Joel Duff’s writings on creationism to be very good, as he started by describing not criticising!!

Will there be a rabbit in the Precambrian?

Naturalis Historia

In 2017 the film documentary Is Genesis History? marked a significant moment in the history of creationism evangelism.  A professional-quality production defending the young-earth interpretation of Scripture and overview of the state-of-the-art in creation science—the attempt to conform the physical evidence of creation into the Young-Earth biblical framework.

Upon its release, I wrote several reviews of this important film including my reflections on its significance to the Young-Earth community including A Landmark Film for the Young-Earth Community: Reflections on “Is Genesis History? and Mountains, Meadows and Marmots: Creation or Judgement?. In the first of those reviews I wrote the following:

“I expect this film to become one of the most effective apologetics tools the young-earth movement has ever produced both because of who produced it—a group outside of the major creationist organizations—but also because of who is not in the film—AiG president Ken Ham. Ken Ham has become such…

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Evangelicals and Science; The Rise of Creationism 1961 -2007, Chapter 7

By 1961 the issue of anti-evolution had apparently receded and left in the wilds of Dayton, Tennessee

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but then came back with a vengeance with the publication of The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb.

And so we have all animals on the ark, including (baby) dinosaurs.

ararat_or_bust

Slowly and surely like a heavily laden WWII bomber it took off and created havoc among evangelicals, first in the USA and then around the world.

Ken Ham is now the leader with his Creation Museum which has cameos of humans living with dinosaurs!!

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The core work is The Genesis Flood published in 1961, written by Morris, a hydraulic engineer and Whitcomb an Old Testament bible college teacher.

Image result for henry morrisImage result for j c whitcomb

Evangelicals were slow to review it but here is the best of the critical reviews

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/the-genesis-flood-a-revue-in-1969of-the-creationist-pot-boiler/

I attempt to give a history, an exposition and criticism of the content of YEC and then a bit on Intelligent Design. Here is a blog on the Church of England and Creationism.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/the-church-of-england-and-creationism/

However it is not the only evangelical understanding of science as chapter 8 will show. But now open this link for a brief account of Creationism from 1961

Chapter 7; The Rise of Creationism

GNWD018C07_p165-200

Sorry Ken, Young Earth pseudoscience was invented by Seventh Day Adventists.

Ken Ham gets Vischious on Phil Vischer’s dismissal of YEC as Seventh Day Adventist

Image result for ken ham imageark-gsa-2016-introslide

Ken Ham has recently got all upset by Phil Vischer’s comments on twitter stating that YEC comes from the Seventh Day Adventist ideas of George McCready Price in his book The New Geology of the 1920s.

https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2020/12/19/phil-vischer-veggietales-creator-responds/?fbclid=IwAR0FvNdicbQd-8BROtEcaXMgmjmTdsi7d6cIHYHK42Er3y-VvxCUkzQLp4w

Young Earth Creationism is a new-fangled pseudoscience movement with no roots in the past beyond the prophecies of Ellen White in the 19th century.

Here’s what Ken didn’t like;

I also wanted to make a correction to a false statement he made implying where my beliefs about Genesis originated. Vischer stated:

It’s the idea of evolution and millions of years being added into the Bible that’s new!

This is simply not true. The scriptural geologists, as they’re called, were defending the historicity of Genesis and a global flood a century before A New Geology was published—and they were using many of the same scriptural arguments we use today because  God’s Word hasn’t changed!

The_Genesis_Flood

Poor Ken , so wrong on so many counts. Let’s consider them in depth. (If you are lazy just read my brief script, but if you are not indolent you can read all the links to get a full story.)

The classic long account of the origins of Creationist is in Ron Numbers The Creationists, -an excellent book – but here is a short account I wrote in 1985 and won’t change much of what I wrote!

rootsof creationism1986

The so-called Scriptural Geologists were a group from 1817 to 1855 in England who opposed geology as they didn’t accept a long timescale. They started from a literal interpretation of the Bible insisting Genesis spoke of 6 24 days, all strata laid down in the flood , no death before Adam and Eve scrumped some apples etc.

ararat_or_bust

Their geological incompetence was considerable, and apart from one, George Young, none wielded a geological hammer . Mortenson describes them in his Ph D thesis and book  – on AIG website as   “British Scriptural Geologists in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century”  It’s hilarious to find Mortenson saying most were competent geologists. They weren’t, whether by today’s standards or those of 1830. . Just read what I say about Fairholme on p115-6 from my book

GNWD018C04_p83-112 .

Anyway thanks to efforts of Sedgwick and Buckland these Scriptural Geologsits had gone extinct from 1855 and after that any British Christian with a little education accepted geology. not so in the USA as many slave supporting theologians were biblical literalists!! These two were Anglican clergy who were two of the leading early 19th century geologists.

Bucklandglacier300px-Adam_Sedgwick

Read Adam Sedgwick’s battles with younger earthers from 1830 to 1844. It was a fun paper to write.

sedgwick

In fact, before the rise of uniformitarian (slow and gradual) geology, the overwhelming view of fossils was that they were the result of the global flood!

Again simply untrue.  Uniformitarianism took effect after 1831 with Lyell and with Hutton earlier. However many geologists before 1831 were not uniformitarian and from 1780 or so.  Virtually no geologists from 1770 or so accepted fossils were the result of the Flood. In England think of Smith (after 1798),

200px-william_smith_geologist

Rev  Michell, rev Richardson, Rev Townsend, Revs Conybeare, Rev Sedgwick , Rev Buckland, Rev Henslow (all Anglican clergy), de la Beche, Phillips,  Greenough , Murchison, Otley, Brogniart, Cuvier  just for starters. I could give some more if I bothered. For more read Martin Rudwick (a Christian) Earth’s Deep History.

Vischer has simply not done his homework—a simple search on our site reveals articles such as “Where Did the Idea of Millions of Years Come From?

Loads of mistakes here . Too many to list or discuss.

it’s the idea of evolution and millions of years being added into the Bible that’s new!

No, deep time was first suggested by Llwyd and Ray in the 1680s and many after that. Few scientists disagreed with deep time  after 1780.

And as for me personally, my father and I were dealing with the creation/evolution issue and what God’s Word in Genesis teaches when I was in grade six (at age 11) at school. The pastor of the church we went to started teaching evolution from the pulpit. My father was very upset and challenged this pastor using God’s Word in Genesis. Then at age 13, when in grade 8 at high school, we were using the latest science textbooks that presented naturalistic evolution as fact. My father and I discussed Genesis and that evolution did not mesh with God’s Word. It was because of an understanding that Genesis is God’s Word and is written as literal history that formed what I believe about creation—God created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. Believing in a young earth is a consequence of what we believe Genesis taught. It had nothing to do with some Seventh Day Adventist, as Vischer claims. And I should know—I was there when my father and I discussed these issues. I held these creationist beliefs long before I ever read The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. In 1974, before I had even heard about The Genesis Flood book, I read a small booklet from England that dealt with the issue of death. How could the fossil record have been laid down before man sinned when it’s a record of death, disease, bloodshed, and suffering? I saw this as a powerful theological argument against millions of years before I ever read The Genesis Flood.

Yes, I met a 400lb American baptist missionary in Uganda, and a pentecostal diamond driller in South Africa who were creationists and I bet they  hadn’t read The Genesis Flood.

I am afraid poor old Ham has got it wrong again and Vischer is essentially correct.

No, Young Earthers cannot claim that their brand of science-denying biblical literalism has roots in the early 19th century and before

With George McCready Price it comes from the “prophesying” of Seventh Day Adventism. It began to rear its head during the Scopes Trial and was a rumbling sore during the interwar years.

My book chapter on the Scopes years.

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GNWD018C06_p139-164

and then the plagiarism of Price by Morris in his woeful geology in The Genesis Flood of 1961 and subsequent developments of increasingly bad science and intolerance.

My chapter considering many aspects of YEC and ID.

GNWD018C07_p165-200

and finally, consider how bad Morris’s geology was – and that of Answers in Genesis is no better. Here is an excellent review of The Genesis Flood by the Dutch geologist van der Fliert in 1969. If YECs were truly honest, they would have ditched the book.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/the-genesis-flood-a-revue-in-1969of-the-creationist-pot-boiler/

If you want more read Young  and Stearley The Bible, Rocks and Time.

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To conclude; Vischer is right in his comments about Ham. Perhaps it’s time to see YEC as pseudoscience pretending to be the Gospel

Deconstructing a Creationist on Siccar Point

Some time ago the Creationist “geologist”, Tas Walker, wrote an article on the unconformity at Siccar Point in Scotland.

https://creation.com/siccar-point-trail?fbclid=IwAR22CvA_lqxLbs1280OBkafhr9b2CmlOGxVBILHL_6h-LUPXdh3zlYUW8QY

One of the most famous of geological sites is the unconformity at Siccar Point in Scotland.  James Hutton went there in 1788 with his friend Rev John Playfair. Near the sea they found  an interesting feature. Some rocks dipping steeply were overlain by almost horizontal strata. Sir John Hall later made a sketch

Photo; Paul Braterman from his blog which gives a more geological description of Siccar Point – https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/time-turned-to-stone-part-1-time-as-interval/  I will deal more with historical aspects.

The rocks at 65 deg are Silurian  and the flatter ones are Devonian. It represents a gap of 60 million years or so. This is elementary geology to but Hutton was the first to realise the incredible time gap. Since then many more have been found all over the world.

A fine one is the Steamboat Unconformity in the Blackhills with a gap of a billion years between mid Precambrian and Cambrian.

The time gap varies in unconformities!

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/seeing-rocks-slant-unconformities-old-and-new/

Unconformities demonstrate a considerable lapse of time, something Young Earth Creationists do not like. Hence Siccar Point is a good target to eviscerate as “creationist geologist” like Tas Walker tries, flashing his doctorate from the Dunning-Kruger University, in this article.

“The heritage trail at Siccar Point, Scotland

Commemorating an idea that did not work”

Doesn’t it work? Let’s see!

Before going through his blog I’ll make some historical and geological comments about the background of Hutton at Siccar Point. This CMI blog seems to imply that Hutton pulled his ideas out of thin air when visiting, but a consideration of the previous 120 years of geologising all over Europe contradicts that.

What Tas does is to re-iterate the creationist version of the Hutton-Lyell myth. The creationist version is that Hutton and Lyell were the naughty boys who invented Uniformitarianism out of thin air to attack the bible. Unconformities were part of that attack along with Deep Time, which nobody had thought about before.

The myth has a secular form in an old-style bad history of science , which is hopelessly Brito-centric just focussing on two geologists as if they were the only ones. Creationists took this and gave it a demonic twist.

Thus we have two main issues – Deep Time and Uniformitarianism

Deep Time is simply vast geological time. In 1650 most educated and uneducated people in Europe thought the earth was about 6000 years old. There was no geological evidence to guide them, so that cannot be held against them. For the last 70 years geologists have argued that the earth is 4.56 billion years old. In the 1780s Hutton and others knew the earth was very old but not how old.

We usually think of Ussher’s date of 4004BC which is similar to John Lightfoot’s of 50 years less. Both wrote in the 1650s and were excellent scholars.

The journey began in the 1660s, when Nils Steno (later a Catholic bishop who got beatified) was studying fossils and strata in Italy and worked out the Principle of Superposition. He was rather undecided on the age of the strata. But he had made a vital breakthrough.

Twenty years later Edward Lhwyd and Rev John Ray spent much time botanising in Snowdonia. Lhwyd was struck by the number of boulders in Nant Peris. As only one had fallen in living memory, he tentatively concluded that the hundreds of boulders must have fallen at intervals of several decades, meaning that Ussher’s age of 4004BC needed to be revised upwards. After all 500×50 =25,000. A wee advance on Ussher! In fact, they were glacial erratics dumped almost together some 20,000 years ago, so Lhwyd was wrong! Even so, it was an interesting idea showing a questioning mind.

Others reckoned the earth must be older too as did Hooke and Hobbes (see my Genesis and Geological time p41)

Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

Going into the 18th century more and more studied the rocks throughout Europe and almost all concluded that the earth was old. Less geological was Buffon who in his Epoques of 1778 argued from cooling globes the earth had to be at least 74,000 years old, but privately argued for millions. If you want more read Martin Rudwick’s Earth’s Deep History or Gabriel Gohau Les sciences de la terre aux XVII et XXVIII siecles.

Few continued with a young earth after Scheuzer, apart from the English Hutchinsonians, followers of John Hutchinson (1674-1737). One was Alexander Catcott whose Treatise of the Deluge (1768) is the oldest book I own. It’s a mix of biblical theology, speculations about the ark ( which included 2 camelopards and quoting Bishop Willkins “1825 sheep… for the rapacious beasts” ) and some good geomorphological observations.

 By the end of the 18th century few scientists/savants did not accept Deep Time and the Irishman Richard Kirwan was one of the handful who didn’t. Even J.A. de Luc, who is often presented as a young earther, believed in an ancient earth, but not as ancient as Hutton’s!

In the last decades of the 18th century Hutton just took the standard view of an ancient earth along with a galaxy of workers all round Europe –Rev J  Michell, Fr. Soulavie, de Saussure (of Mt Blanc fame), De Luc, Werner an others in almost every country, but an Anglocentric approach, which only considers Hutton and Lyell, misses that.

Hutton is NOT the father of Deep Time, but one of many very able scientists, who worked on deep time.

We also need to note that from 1660 Christians, especially clergy, were involved in the discovery of geological time. In 1785 the Rev William Robertson, Moderator of the Scottish Kirk, was totally supportive of Hutton and reckoned that nothing in Hutton’s  work was “in any respect repugnant to the Mosaic account of creation.” And for the last 135 years most Christian ministers, evangelical or not, have agreed with Robertson, from Billy Graham to John Stott, loads of Popes and Archbishops and those in local churches.

Uniformitarianism

This is used as a bogey term. In one sense Uniformitarianism in the sense of “the present is the key to the past” is both widely used and has to be used and basic to any historical study. In its minimal sense it means that the physical processes today occurred in the past – e.g. water flows downhill, and the physics and chemistry is the same. In the maximal sense it insists that rates of processes were identical in the past. At times both Hutton and Lyell tended toward that view, though Lyell in his Principles of Geology looked to more “catastrophic” processes to explain how erratics were moved from the central alps to the Jura Mountains, as in the case of the Pierre a bot – but that was before the concept of Ice Ages.

Continental geologists use the term “Actualism” to show how present geological processes relate to past geological time and events. It is a better term as the word itself allows more variation of “rate” as “uniformitarianism” as a word does.

After Lyell published in 1831 most British geologists ditched the older ideas of catastrophism and those who did not, like de la Beche and William Buckland, found themselves left behind both geologically and in time as they got older and younger geologists took their place. For 150 years a weakness in geology was that geologists tended to think all processes had always been slow and gradual, but that was slowly overturned in the 20th century as Ager made very clear, Ager may not have been a Uniformitarian but he was a strict Actualist.

Two examples;

Volcanic rocks. Travellers around Europe would see active volcanoes at Vesuvius and Etna. One who studied Vesuvius was Lord Hamilton, cuckolded by Lord Nelson. From Italy some found the hills in Auvergne looked like and had similar rocks to Italian volcanoes, pointing to them being volcanoes. Similar hard rocks were found in Britain and Hutton studied the Salisbury Crags. The similarities – the present is the key to the past – demonstrated these were volcanic. Repeat a thousand times!

Ripple marks. Those who play by rivers and the shore will find many ripple marks in places and often see them being formed by a river or the see. At times exposed rocks have marks which look identical and comparison – the present is the key to the past – points to them being laid down by water. When working in Precambrian strata in South Africa, I found that the Stinkfontein sandstones (900my)  often had ripple marks, which I duly measured and recorded, helping me work out the direction of the ancient rivers. One day it rained hard – a downpour in a desert – resulting in flash floods. These produced ripple marks in places so I measured and compared them.

These are two simple examples and there are many more. Needless to say, working it out in practice is often difficult

This is Uniformitarianism proper rather than an idea plucked out of thin air.

The worst example of mis-applying Uniformitarianism is the argument from the rapid formation of a gorge at Mt St. Helens to an alleged rapid formation of the Grand Canyon. Now that takes the biscuit!  The volcanic ash was deposited rapidly during the eruption and then eroded before they could consolidate. Even in 2009 I found that applying a small jet of water from a masculine source caused rapid erosion!

The Grand Canyon was cut into hardened sediments, from Precambrian to Mesozoic, exposing the unconformity between the Precambrian and Cambrian. On my ascent and descent I was unable to erode anything!!

******************************************

Now here is Tas Walker’s article

https://creation.com/siccar-point-trail?fbclid=IwAR22CvA_lqxLbs1280OBkafhr9b2CmlOGxVBILHL_6h-LUPXdh3zlYUW8QY

by Tas Walker

My comments are in italics

Siccar Point | CC BY-SA Dave Souza

High above the cliffs on the Scottish coast—60 km east of Edinburgh—is an interpretive billboard that overlooks a rocky point.1 It is part of a heritage trail opened in 2006, celebrating the life of James Hutton, a local farmer and physician

. This is a silly putdown as Hutton was these, but far more. He was part of the Scottish Enlightenment, which involved the Kirk, an a pioneer geologist.

 who became known as the ‘father of modern geology’.2

. He often shares this title with William Smith of England. I prefer to see him as one of many key figures from Steno in the 1660s onwards.

 He proposed the geological philosophy of uniformitarianism—that present geological processes are the key to understanding the rocks.

This is a cardboard cut-out history of geology. “the geological philosophy of uniformitarianism” sounds impressive but is nonsense. All geologists, then and now, sort of accept uniformitarianism, with the present as the key to the past, but Hutton almost over-played the rate of rock formation  and the sameness of processes. It was a difference of degree, not kind, to Catastrophists.

Hutton assumed Noah’s Flood never happened.

He avoided the question but was long convinced of the vast age of the earth as were the vast majority of geologists of his day. Hence he was always looking at rocks so much older than the flood.

 He did not appreciate the enormity of that global catastrophe, which involved faulting, folding, and immense deposition and erosion.

Hehe. Nor did any other geologist from the 18th century!!

The locals are keen to capitalize on Siccar Point, claiming it is the most important geological site in the world.2 

Not all would agree, but Siccar Point is very important – Vallorcine nr Chamonix, Old canals near Bath (Smith), Auvergne volcanoes, Jurassic Coast, Steno’s Tuscany come to mind.

The story goes that these rocks led Hutton to conclude the earth was not made in six days.

That is simply not so. He was already of that opinion as were the vast majority of geologists from 1700 whether Christian or not. It was the same in England and the European mainland

 Rather, faulting and folding were important processes in the evolution of the landscape.3 The sign at the site says the rocks proved geological time was virtually unlimited,

No, just very long as Hutton et al could not pin down a time except in words of de Saussure of Mt Blanc fame “tres vieux”.

contrary to the few thousand years, which most people believed at that time.1

That is very misleading. Most people at that time could not read and as all they heard came from simple preaching they probably thought the earth was young. As for those with education many agreed with Hutton, or rather the scientific savants throughout Europe, and by 1800 the vast majority of educated, Christian or not, accepted an ancient earth

But Hutton did not discover deep time, he assumed it.

Nonsense. Deep time was coming in from the time of Steno in Italy in the 1660s. Right from the 1660s there was an increasing awareness that the earth was more than a few thousand years old. Thus Lhwyd and John Ray tentatively argued for an older earth in the 1680s. Throughout the 18th century researchers found evidence that the age of the earth was immense but could not put a date on it. Hutton was one of those

 That was partly because Hutton’s knowledge of geology in the late 1700s was seriously limited.

Pathetic comment. Yes, Hutton’s knowledge of geology was limited compared to 1850,1900, 1950 or today, but he knew a lot.

 He did not know that the lower Silurian rocks were turbidite beds, deposited rapidly from underwater density currents that sped across the ocean floor as fast as 100 km (60 miles) per hour.4 Neither did he know the upper strata were of a terrestrial origin, deposited from a vast expanse of fast flowing water that covered a large part of the continent, depositing thick, cross-bedded strata.5,6

This comment is plain silly. Turbidites were discovered between 1925 and 1950. It is like criticising Isaac Newton for not knowing Relativity

But most significantly, Hutton assumed Noah’s Flood never happened.

 He did not appreciate the enormity of that global catastrophe, which involved faulting, folding, and immense deposition and erosion.

 During the Flood, the rocks at Siccar Point were eroded in days or weeks, not over millions of years.

Face palm

The notice board at Siccar Point, which needs a little improvement

As John McEnroe said on the tennis courts “Are you serious?” The “What really happened” is pure bunkum.

Hutton is hailed as a father of modern geology for his philosophy of uniformitarianism, but ironically geologists now acknowledge that uniformitarianism does not work.

A veritable half truth

 Toward the end of his career, Derek Ager, professor of geology at Swansea, Wales, said of uniformitarianism, “We have allowed ourselves to be brain-washed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed ‘catastrophic’ processes.”7

See above on Uniformitarianism. Ager wrote to me in a letter complaining how creationists twisted his work.

Hutton’s friend (and popularizer) John Playfair, who accompanied him by boat to Siccar Point in 1788, is famous for his impressions of that trip. He is quoted on the sign. “The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.”

However, as the son of a Presbyterian minister, it is unfortunate that Playfair did not connect his Bible with the world around him

Thus in one sentence Tas walker condemns the vast majority of Christians to perdition

. A better response would have been, “The mind was sobered to look upon the enormity of God’s judgment at the time of Noah.”

Mine is to study Exodus 20 vs 16!!!

I cannot see how anyone can write such an article as it is so inaccurate. I am sure it is not pleasing to God. 

references and notes

  1. Interpretation board, Siccar Point; geograph.org.uk/photo/2143249. Return to text.
  2. International interest in new James Hutton trail, Berwickshire News, 21 June 2006; berwickshirenews.co.uk/news/local-headlines/international-interest-in-new-james-hutton-trail-1-237894. Return to text.
  3. Siccar Point, Gazetteer for Scotland, 2011; scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst5590.html. Return to text.
  4. Fine, I.V. et al., The Grand Banks landslide-generated tsunami of November 18, 1929: preliminary analysis and numerical modelling, Marine Geology 215:45–57, 2005. Return to text.
  5. Browne, M., et al., Stratigraphical Framework for the Devonian (Old Red Sandstone) Rocks of Scotland south of a line from Fort William to Aberdeen, British Geological Survey, Research Report RR 01 04, p. 50, 2002; nora.nerc.ac.uk/3231/1/Devonian[1].pdf. Return to text.
  6. For a detailed geological analysis of Siccar Point see: Walker, T., Unmasking a long-age iconCreation 27(1):50–55, 2004; creation.com/siccarpoint. Return to text.
  7. Ager, D., The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, Macmillan, London, p. 70, 1993. Return to text.
  8. After this the landscape was eroded by ice sheets in the post-Flood Ice Age. Return to text.

That begs a lot of questions as the Ice Ages began 2 million years ago. Which Ice Age does he mean? Was it the upper or Lower Dryas or an earlier one?

Is the Geological Column Evolutionary and Anti-Christian

Is the Geological Column anti-christian?

Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, Indigo, Violet

Many will know the colours of the rainbow/spectrum off by heart and won’t need an aid lie;

“Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

There don’t seem to be many on the geological Column

column+temp

(c) Ray Troll, @ratfishray

Camels Often Sit Down Carefully; Perhaps Their Joints Creak? Persistent Early Oiling Might Prevent Permanent Rheumatism.

One cannot even study Geology 001, yet alone 101, without needing to remember; “Cambrian, Ordovician………………..”

The Geological Column is as central to geology as the Periodic Table to chemistry, yet it is frequently dismissed by Young Earth Creationists and has been since McCready Price challenged it a century ago. Price wrote an apparently erudite book, replete with references The New Geology (1923). Here he claimed that the arguments geologists put forward for the order of strata is based on circular reasoning and that strata could occur in any order and thus you could find Cambrian lying on top of Jurassic. The leading geologist Schuchert called it a “geological nightmare”.

The accusation of a circular argument has stuck and was repeated by Morris in The Genesis Flood  and many subsequent creationists.

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/geologists-going-round-in-circles/

Essentially it is that you date the fossils from evolution and use the fossils to prove evolution. Sometimes geologists almost speak like that!! And so the Geological Column is often called the “Uniformitarian Evolutionary Geological Column” to stress that the column is based on the Uniformitarian Geology of Lyell and the theory of evolution Thus in one go you can discredit Lyell and Darwin and all they stand for.

But is it actually true to say the Geological Column is Uniformitarian and Evolutionary and anti-Christian?

Uniformitarianism stems from James Hutton in the 1780s and most of all from Charles Lyell in 1831. Though evolution had been suggested, it was only widely accepted after Darwin published The Origin of species in 1859. You need to note the dates 1831 and 1859 as you read this.

The Geological Column is a way of putting the strata in order of deposition and was worked out in the early 19th century. Before that most “geologists” were convinced the earth was “tres vieux” (de Saussure) and there was an order which they couldn’t work out.

The first to give a kind of order was the Rev John Michell of Cambridge which was written down by a Mr Smeaton on the back of a letter!

Mr Michell’s Account of the south of England Strata

This gave a tolerably complete  list of strata from the Chalk (Cretaceous) down to the Coal Measures (Carboniferous/Pennsylvanian) you would find travelling from London to Yorkshire. Michell probably produced his “column” while travelling by coach or horse back and doing a little fieldwork. Thirty years later William Smith produced a classic cross-section of the strata of England and Wales from Snowdon in Wales to London to accompany his map of england and Wales, but had worked much of it out before 1800, almost fleshing out the sketch of Michell.. This order was impressed on me at the age of 16 and 17 as on three occasions cycled from mid- or north Wales to our house south of London. My geology then was just about good enough to identify the basic geology. Not that I’d studied geology then, beyond high school geography, but my geography teacher was a geologists and mountaineer. I even got commended when I wrote an essay describing one of my trips with a bit of geology thrown in! I’d broken the journey into geological stages. The third time I did it, I cycled the 350 miles home from Capel Curig in Snowdonia. I started by climbing Snowdon by the Snowdon Horseshoe and then still had 340 miles to cycle. It took me six days but I had climbed Snowdon and Cadair Idris as well. I can assure you that the hill of yellow strata on the right of the diagram (the Jurassic scarp of the Cotswolds) – Birdlip Hill is a very steep climb on a heavily laden bike.

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(Smith’s 1815 Cross-section annotated by  Callan Bentley)

The cross-section is slightly simplified, but it shows progressively younger rocks lying on top of the oldest around Snowdon, which are about550 my to those in the Vale of Thames (Tertiary) i.e. London at 50 my. It was another fifteen years before Sedgwick and Murchison began elucidating the Welsh rocks, first into the Cambrian and Silurian and later with Ordovician in between (the three names are based on ancient tribes in Wales.)

The usual (mythical?) history of geology puts the rise of geology down to two men, Hutton and Lyell. Lyell was a late comer in 1830 and Hutton,

james-hutton-caracitureAngular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)

though he grasped the concept of geological time due to the discovery of the unconformity at Siccar Point, he did not put the rocks of Scotland into a timeline. That was for reasons beyond his control in the actual geology as even the Southern Uplands were too complex as “starter” strata and as for the Highlands, which defied geologists for nearly a century. (Oldroyd) . To put it simply Hutton in Scotland and de Saussure around Chamonix had chosen the short straws as the strata were too folded and metamorphosed for straightforward elucidation in the early stages of geology. They could demonstrate that the strata were ancient but not put them in hisotorical order. What was needed was to be able to follow essentially almost flat lying strata over many miles. That is what Michell did in 1788 but never published.

That work was largely carried out in by English, and some French, geologists in the first half of the 19th century. Before that, following Werner, rocks were seen as Primary, Secondary or Tertiary. This could lead to confusion as Primary were meant to be “original” rocks and thus not sedimentary, and, of course, granites can be of any age.

Who invented the Geological column?

Below is a table of the Geological Column showing who had actually worked on it and named the systems

As we see from the diagram below, most of the names setting up the column were British (Lyell and Murchison were Scots, and Sedgwick, Phillips, Conybeare and Lapworth were English) And at the bottom is the great Christian geologist J.D. Dana of Yale.

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As the whole development of the Geological Column was empirical, piecemeal and observational, the result is more coherent than its unfolding. It was not sorted out after a few weeks in the field, but after several years, an immense amount of fieldwork and argument, at times acrimonious, between the geologists. The work on the Devonian has been exhaustively expounded by Martin Rudwick and the Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian by Jim Secord. For myself, apart from reading the literature, I went on a field trip looking at Murchison (and Lewis) on the Silurian in South Wales and traced out much of Sedgwick’s ramblings from his notebooks in North Wales. I particularly walked, yes walked, most of his routes from august to October 1831. That covered most of the country between Shrewsbury and Holyhead. That included several long mountain hikes in Snowdonia following his routes. The longest was 18 miles and involved 6000ft of climbing. My dog and I were knackered!! At the end of 1831 Sedgwick hadn’t got and had to return for several years before working out the Cambrian.

Let’s look at the major workers and consider how godless or godly they were!

The 3-fold division – Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cainozoic.

As each of the Systems were being worked out, it became clear that they fell into three groups, and in 1841 the geologist John Phillips (1800-1874) named them Palaeozoic (Old Life Trilobites and fish) Mesozoic (Middle Life – dinosaurs) and Cainozoic (new life – rise of Mammals). Phillips was the orphaned nephew of the founding geologist William Smith, who trained him up as a geologist. He had no formal education and never went to university. He worked for the British Geological Survey and published many technical papers and semi-popular books on geology. In 1856 he succeeded Strickland as Professor of Geology in Oxford, after Strickland was killed by a train while looking at the geology in a railway cutting. I think he’s the only non-graduate professor at Oxford.

So how godless was Phillips? He wasn’t! He was a lay member of the Anglican Church in contrast to others mentioned here. In his many popular books on geology he discussed the relation of geology and genesis. In the 1820s he accepted a deluge but moved to a Day-Age understanding of Genesis, to the annoyance of young earthers of his day like Dean Cockburn of York. Cockburn attacked many geologists including Murchison, Buckland and Sedgwick, as described here;

In 1860 Essays and Reviews was published which took a very liberal view of the faith, including denying miracles. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce was furious  so he organised and edited Replies to Essays and Reviews and asked Phillips to write a chapter of genesis and geology. Wilberforce and Phillips held similar views on the subject. Phillips’ biographer, Jack Morrell, portrays Phillips as a liberal Anglican, but as his views on geology was that of most Anglicans – liberal or evangelical – I feel he overstated the case.

The Precambrian

After the 1840s when the order Cambrian to Pleistocene was elucidated , the non-fossiliferous strata older than the Cambrian were simply called Precambrian and then split into two by American Geologists. The newer was known as Proterzoic as life was suspected in it (and demonstrated in the last 70 years) and was named by Stuart Emmons of the USGS in 1888. I don’t know what his faith stance was.

The older Precambrian was termed Archaean by Prof James D Dana of Yale in 1872 (1813-95) .Dana wrote the standard textbook Manual of Mineralogy (1848) which went through 21 editions until 1999. Surely DeepTime for a book! Darwin sent him a copy of The Origin of species  in 1860 but he did not read it for several years due to a breakdown. When he did he was largely convinced by Darwin. In 1872 he advised the Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge, on creation for his Systematic Theology. So much so that several pages of Hodge’s Systematic Theology  were written by Dana. It would be fair to say Dana was a convinced evangelical on good terms with the Princeton theologians.

And now to work our way religiously up the column!

The  Palaeozoic

These represent strata from 250 my to 560my and simply means Old Life

Except for the Carboniferous, the main players were Rev Adam Sedgwick and (Sir) Roderick Murchison

The main deviser of the Carboniferous

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was the Rev William Conybeare, an Anglican priest, who was educated at Oxford and was then ordained. He belonged to the liberal wing of evangelicals and served in the parish of Axminster in Devon and then Dean of Llandaff Cathedral. During the 1820s he advised the editor of The Christian Observor, an evangelical paper founded by Wilberforce, to combat the views of Anti-geologists like George Bugg. In 1822 with William Phillips he wrote Outlines of the Geology of England and Wales, an excellent (long) summary of geology at that time, where he put forward the Carboniferous (Mississippian and Pennsylvanian in the USA).

A major contribution  was his delineation of the Carboniferous (300-355my). These strata are particularly well- formed in northern England. At the base are massive limestones, best seen at Malham Cove. Above are a mixture of sandstones and shales, notably the Millstone or Pendle Grit. Above again are the Coal Measures, which both outcrop on either side of the Pennines and below surface resulting in deep mines.

So the Carboniferous was hardly atheistic but Christian!!

From 1831 Sedgwick and Murchison tried to sort out the geology of Wales, working in what we now call the Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian strata.

300px-Adam_SedgwickDSCF2393story of the geological challenges and relationship breakdowns are related in Jim Secord Controversy in Victorian Geology. (1986). Their work started amicably in 1831 with Sedgwick (and Darwin for a few weeks) going to North Wales and Murchison to the south. Their aim was to find a place where the Old Red Sandstone (Devonian) could be followed conformably down into the older rocks Sedgwick drew the short straw as the geology was against him as there was no ORS from Llangollen to Snowdonia.  Murchison soon struck gold as Rev Thomas Lewis, curate of Aymestry in Shropshire, and former student of Sedgwick, had already worked out the succession down from (what would be) Devonian to (what would be) Silurian. This effectively handed everything on a plate to Murchison, while Sedgwick was floundering in North Wales “climbing every mountain”. One may say Sedgwick worked up from the “Cambrian” and Murchison worked down from the Devonian to the “Silurian”. Let’s say there was conflict, geological and personal, when their geology met up. On top of that Murchison did not give enough recognition to Lewis.

There was no resolution in their lifetimes and in 1879 Charles Lapwoth, termed many of the middle strata of the then Silurian and Cambrian, Ordovician. This resolved nearly half a century of controversy. In fact the three systems are subtly different. The Cambrian contains more sandstones, the Ordovician lavas and the Silurian slates. (A gross over-simplication, but whenever I am in Wales or Northwest England, climbing or geologising, the differences are manifest.)

Towards the end of the 1830s a number of geologists carried of fieldwork in Devon and Cornwall trying to make sense of the confusing strata commonly called Culm. The comlex story has been unravelled by Martin Rudwick (a Christian) in The Great Devonian Controversy. The main players were Murchison and Sedgwick, with a fair number of clergy as part players eg Buckland, Conybeare and Williams and, more topically, the former slave-owner de la Beche.

And then to finish it off in 1841 Murchison went off on a campaign in Russia getting as far as the Urals in the Great Perm east of Moscow. As a result he termed the strata above the Carboniferous as Permian (250-295my)

Thus 300 my of strata were classified in 20 years. A fantastic achievement – by British geologists.

But what of their religious beliefs?

Charles Lapworth. I know little about him, but he did go to a church teachers training college. From the silence we can say he was no active atheist, but little more.

Sir Roderick Murchison. He seems to have made no public comment about his faith. However he opposed Darwin’s theory of evolution and supported a successive or progressive creation of species. He never fully subscribed to Lyell’s Uniformitarianism. I suggest he was like John Phillips.

Adam Sedgwick, William Conybeare, Thomas Lewis. All three were Anglican priests and devout. They were evangelically inclined, Sedgwick more so. Sedgwick was the only one to see Darwin’s Origin of Species published– which he opposed strongly, even though Darwin was his pupil. Conybeare opposed Lyell’s Uniformitarianism and argued vociferously against him! Sedgwick was more sympathetic. If they were alive today they’d be seen as conservative Christians in the Church of England and very conservative in the American Episcopal Church and untouched by “liberalism”

Mesozoic (strata from 65 to 250 my)

I am afraid I know nothing about the religious views of the three mentioned

That is not to say there was no British involvement. In 1780 the Rev John Michell had worked out an outline of Mesozoic strata and then from 1790 William Smith worked out the strata in detail giving them delightful local names, some of which are still used for stages today. Michell was for many years vicar of a parish and quite diligent. There is no evidence that he was evangelical, but no reasonable question would doubt he was a Christian.

William Smith was a canal engineer working near Bath (near Bristol) in the 1790s

200px-william_smith_geologistuntitled

involved in the digging of two parallel canals. He observed the same succession of strata and the same succession of fossils, some of which he used as markers elsewhere. As he travelled the country he could observe the geology either where he was working on looking out from a coach. From this he produced the first geological map of England and Wales in 1815, giving the strata in order (see the cross-section above) but not our familiar names. The map is remarkably accurate even by today’s standards. Smith did much to clarify and understand what came to be called Jurassic strata.

What about Smith’s faith? The evidence is extremely poor. The little I can say is that before 1800 he thought the earth was only 6,000 years old. He then changed his mind because of his advisers! These were three local vicars the Revs Richard Warner, Benjamin Richardson and Joseph Townsend. Townsend was fiery evangelical preacher, who in 1813 wrote The Character of Moses established for Veracity as a Historian. Though it contained some material of Genesis and adopted the old Chaos-Restitution interpretation, recently popularised by Thomas Chalmers, allowing for considerable geological time. It was also a good summary of the state of geology in 1810, though it looked more to the Christian Swiss geologist Jean Andre de Luc, rather than William Hutton.

Smith has a copy of George Faber’s A Dissertation on the Prophecies relative to the Great Period of 1,200 Years, the Papal and Mahomedan Apostasies, the Reign of Antichrist, and the Restoration of the Jews,’ 2 vols. 1807 in his small library. Faber, an evangelical was fascinated and supportive of geology and friendly with Rev William Buckland of Oxford. In his  A Treatise on the Genius and Object of the Patriarchal, the Levitical, and the Christian Dispensations,’ 2 vols. 1823, he devoted one chapter to Genesis and geology and had learnt his geology from Buckland.

Cainozoic – strata from 65 my to now

The crucial person here is Charles Lyell who put forward a threefold division – Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene in 1833, working out the boundaries from the fossil content.

180px-charles_lyell

Lyell extended Hutton’s Uniformitarianism – though he did allow some catastrophe.

Relgiously he was Unitarian and thus no atheist. Like Sedgwwick , Buckland and others he objected to trying to argue that all strata were laid down in the Deluge and sometimes made scathing comments on that. They are often quoted in a way to make Lyell seem atheistic.

Further in his Principles of Geology he rejected any kind of evolution and did not accept evolution until the 1860s, several years after The Origin.

The names Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene were coined by Rev William Whewell of Cambridge, a man in the religious mould of Sedgwick and Conybeare.

To include the Ice Ages Lyell proposed the Pleistocene in 1839, after Agassiz (a Unitarian) and Charpentier discovered an ice age some years before. The idea was brought to Britain the year before by the Rev William Buckland of Oxford. In 1840 Lyell, Buckland and Agassiz travelled from the south of England to Scotland to find evidence of glaciation. That they did, but the first evidence were the drumlins near Lancaster a few miles from my home.  In 1841 Buckland worked out that Snowdonia had been glaciated, a fact which Darwin confirmed in 1842.

Religiously Buckland was devout and very similar to Whewell, Conybeare and Sedgwick, except that he was a total eccentric. He became Dean of Westminster in 1846 at the height of cholera outbreaks. As an elite scientist (as were the other three) he became a scientific adviser. Part of this was descending into the sewers of London. In a sermon at Westminster Abbey he later expounded the Christian duty of providing decent sewerage and for illustration graphically described what he saw and smelt in the sewers. Queen Victoria was in the congregation.

Is the Geological Column ungodly?

As a scientific concept it makes no judgement on what is godly and what is not.

However it is a historical fact that a high proportion of those developing the Geological Column were Christian  – and not those only in name. Having read many of the writings of Sedgwick, Buckland, Whewell, Conybeare and Townsend, I found they were not time-serving clerics and their aim may be summed up in the memorial to Sedgwick at Dent Church in the Yorkshire Dales.

DSCF3739

Further there is no evidence that there was any atheistic and antichristian purpose behind the development of geology. Even Hutton, who is often accused of this, was not anti-Christian but deist and had good relations with many Christian clergy like Playfair and Robertson, a Moderator of the Kirk.

On this score the Geological Column is no more godly or ungodly than the Periodic Table, Newton’s Laws of motion  or the structure of DNA. It is simply good science, which in the execution included the work of many Christians.

As for the Geological Column being evolutionary, that can be swiftly dealt with. Darwin only began to develop his evolutionary ideas in 1838, by which time the Geological Column was well and truly sorted. I’m quite sure Darwin who was born in 1809 did not influence the Rev John Michell in 1788, or Smith in the 1790s, or Conybeare in 1822.

To say the Geological Column is based on evolution is just plain silly, as much was worked out before Darwin was out of diapers..

As for it being Uniformitarian the case is nearly as feeble, as none of the British geologists, bar Lyell of course, were Uniformitarian. They were either Catastrophists or partial converts to Uniformitarianism as was Sedgwick. However though until the 1840s they reckoned the Deluge could have deposited the top 30 ft of strata, all rejected any idea that all the strata were laid down while Noah was on a cruise.

Perhaps the watercolour of de la Beche (and a recent re-enactment) sums up their views.

BucklandArchiveCauseEffect002

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The sooner the popular idea that the Geological Column is based on a circular argument from evolution  and a result of godless Uniformitarianism is ditched the better.

It would help if devout Christians could also accept that many early geologists and workers of the geological column were devout Christians – even if some weren’t.

2 Corinthians 11 vs1

Books

J. Secord Controversy in Victorian Geology 1986

M Rudwick The Great Devonian contoversy 1985

M Rudwick Bursting the Limits of Time 2005

M. Roberts Evangelicals and Science 2008

Lying for Jesus by lying about Darwin on slavery and racism

An article about Darwin and race has been recirculating. It was written back in 2013 by Phil Moore of the Everyday Church, London . It is on The Gospel coalition website and was originally in ThinkTheology. Depsite its title it is really a claim than Darwin was an out and out racist and supported genocide.

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https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-your-biology-teacher-didnt-tell-you-about-charles-darwin/

What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is a great British hero. That’s hardly surprising, since he was one of the most influential thinkers of the past 200 years. I happened to live opposite Darwin’s former lodgings when I was a student at Cambridge University, so I looked out each morning on a blue plaque hailing him as one of the greatest Britons who ever lived. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve that commemorative plaque, but I should point out that he wasn’t a British hero but a British villain. You don’t need to be a Bible-thumping evangelical to question whether Darwin’s thinking deserves to be given a bit more thought.

Whatever your views on origins and evolution, we can hopefully all agree that, at present, we give far too much honor to the British thinker who justified genocide.

Devaluation of Humans

Darwin didn’t hide his view that his evolutionary thinking applied to human races as well as to animal species. The full title of his seminal 1859 book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. He followed up more explicitly in The Descent of Man, where he spelled out his racial theory:

The Western nations of Europe . . . now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization. . . . The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.

Thankfully, most British people today are embarrassed by the racist rhetoric that undergirded the late-Victorian British Empire. What’s astonishing is how little they understand that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution provided the doctrine behind its white supremacism. Whereas the British Empire of the early 19th century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce, who sold slave badges that proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”,

Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy. Four years after Darwin published The Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. In his 1863 paper, “On the Negro’s Place in Nature,” he asserted: “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.”

Christian reformers had spent decades in the early 19th century teaching Britain to view non-European races as their equals before God.

In a matter of years, Darwin swept not only God off the table, but also the value of people of every race with him.

Enabling Genocide

Victorian Britain was too willing to accept Darwinian evolution as its gospel of overseas expansion. Darwin is still celebrated on the back of the British £10 note for his discovery of many new species on his visit to Australia; what’s been forgotten, though, is his contemptible attitude—due to his beliefs about natural selection—toward the Aborigines he found there. When The Melbourne Review used Darwin’s teachings to justify the genocide of indigenous Australians in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. When the Australian newspaper argued that “the inexorable law of natural selection [justifies] exterminating the inferior Australian and Maori races”—that “the world is better for it” since failure to do so would be “promoting the non-survival of the fittest, protecting the propagation of the imprudent, the diseased, the defective, and the criminal”—it was Christian missionaries who raised an outcry on behalf of this forgotten genocide. Darwin simply commented, “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilized over a savage race.”

Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Cecil Rhodes was gleefully embracing Darwin’s thinking as justification for white expansion across southern Africa. He was so inspired by Darwinian evolutionist Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man that he later confessed, “That book has made me what I am.”

What it made him was the architect of one of the most brutal and immoral acts of European expansion and genocide in history. Rhodes wrote in 1877:

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. . . . It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best, the most human, most honorable race the world possesses.

If what Rhodes believed sounds shocking to you—and I hope it does—then understand that he was simply stating what he drew from the works of both Darwin and Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, who extrapolated his cousin’s thinking to pioneer racial eugenics.

Select Your Choice

I’ve used British examples because I’m British, and it seems more polite to point out the errors in my own national worldview than in that of other nations. I could’ve pointed out how Darwin’s thinking was used by late 19th-century Americans to justify acts of genocide against Native Americans. I could’ve pointed out how Hitler and his Nazi philosophers used it to justify wars of expansion and horrific holocaust. I could’ve pointed out how Communist Russia used Darwinian evolution to justify its liquidation of non-Russian people groups within the Soviet empire. I could’ve pointed out how it was used by Serbs to justify their genocide against Croatians and Kosovans.

But I don’t have to. The British example is enough to make us question whether Charles Darwin was truly a British hero at all. At least we should strip him of his place on our £10 banknote and stop protecting his thinking from the scrutiny it deserves in school classrooms, in TV documentaries, and in the corridors of power.

Because whether or not you agree with his thoughts on evolution, you should at the very least want to discover he was wrong.

Whom would you rather discover was right all along? The Christian reformers of the early 19th century, like William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftesbury, who argued from belief in divine creation that slaves should be freed and that children shouldn’t be forced to work themselves to death in factories for having been born to the wrong parents? Or Charles Darwin, who argued from belief in a godless beginning to the universe that natural selection is a virtue and that, consequently, acts of genocide are part and parcel of the way the world was always supposed to be?

In the words of Jesus himself, “By their fruits you will be able to judge their teaching.”

Phil Moore leads Everyday Church in London. He also serves as a Bible teacher and evangelist within the Newfrontiers family of churches. He is the author of the Straight to the Heart series of devotional commentaries. Phil is married to Ruth, and they have four young children. Together, they love eating strange and exotic food, watching movies with lots of popcorn, and reading books by Roald Dahl. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Here’s an excellent reply by the Christian historian of science Ted Davies . He’s saved me the bother of doing all the fact checking. Moore is a disgrace.

https://biologos.org/articles/did-darwin-promote-genocide

I was about to respond to the essay but felt Ted had given a good response pointing out the many errors and misquotes etc. But there are a few things I’d like to add. I ought to say I’ve been researching aspects of Darwin’s geology and religious views for 30 years and have published academic papers on his geology.  I have all his publications and his correspondence going up to 1862, when the money ran out! It’s all online now anyway..

First to consider are Darwin’s views on slavery. His family of Darwins and Wedgwoods had been abolitionists for 3 generations . Josiah Wedgwood, his grandfather, designed and made the medallion;

Am I not a man and a brother

It is almost daft that Moore referred to Wilberfoce giving out these medallions, designed by Darwin’s grandfather.

Darwin’s parents were very involved in abolition, which was not surpising as his mother was a Wedgwood. For several generations the Darwins and Wedgwoods were the radical, Unitarian side to abolition in contrast to the evangelicalism of Wilberforce and others.  In fact the Abolitionist movement was a coalition of Evangelicals, Quakers and Unitarians.

The first volume of Darwin’s Correspondence often refers to slavery and how his family were involved with the local archdeacon in abolition.

And so at the end of 1831 Charles set sail on The Beagle and was appalled by slavery in Latin America. He rejoiced when he read of the probable coming of abolition in 1833 in a letter to his sister, Catherine; (Correspondence  May 22 1833)

. How famously the Ministers appear to be going on; I always much enjoy political gossip, & what you at home think will etc etc take place. I steadily read up the weekly Paper; but it is not sufficient to guide one’s opinion: and I find it a very painful state not to be as obstinate as a pig in politicks. I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery.—What a proud thing for England, if she is the first Europæan Nation which utterly abolishes it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in Slave countries, all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negro character. It is impossible to see a Negro, and not feel kindly towards him; such cheerful, open, honest expressions & such fine muscular bodies. I never saw any of the diminutive Portuguese, with their murderous countenances, without almost wishing for Brazil to follow the example of Hayti; and considering the enormous healthy looking population, it will be wonderful if at some future day it does not take place. There is at Rio a man (I know not his titles) who has large salary to prevent (I believe) the landing of slaves: he lives at Botofogo, & yet that was the bay, where during my residence, the greater number of smuggled slaves were landed. Some of the Anti-slavery people ought to question about his office; it was the subject of conversation at Rio amongst some of the Lower English.

Of course, some would see white privilege here, but it was written in 1833

His main recorded argument with Capt Fitzroy was over slavery, which Fitzroy supported.

Reading his correspondence it is clear that Darwin was easily triggered over slavery and responded to attack its cruelty.

Slavery contnued to trigger Darwin as it did when he read Lyell’s  Travels in north America (1845),  in which Lyell criticised American racial attitudes,  but disapproved of the Abolitionist movement.  That was too much for Darwin. There seems to be a missing letter of August 1845 where Lyell toned down his views. Even so Darwin was so triggered that he revised his conclusion with all guns blazing  with this superb piece of morally-charged writing on the horrors of slavery, which he inserted into the second edition of The Voyage of the Beagle (1845).

I don’t know how anyone can say Darwin was a racist after reading it. Here Darwin had gone into a strident autoethographic mode!

“On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have stayed in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye. These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said, that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations. I have seen at Rio de Janeiro a powerful negro afraid to ward off a blow directed, as he thought, at his face. I was present when a kind-hearted man was on the point of separating forever the men, women, and little children of a large number of families who had long lived together. I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of;—nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. Such people have generally visited at the houses of the upper classes, where the domestic slaves are usually well treated, and they have not, like myself, lived amongst the lower classes. Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master’s ears.

It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves, to stir up the rage of their savage masters. It is an argument long since protested against with noble feeling, and strikingly exemplified, by the ever-illustrious Humboldt. It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children—those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own—being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin. “

Well, it is absolutely clear that Darwin loathed slavery and his faimilies had done their part for abolition.

[A review of a book on Darwin and slavery http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/desmond-moore-sacred/  }

But was Darwin a racist?

YES, YES, YES according to all woke anti-racists. He was a typically evil Victorian full of white privilege and a condescending attitudes to the poorer classes and inferior races.

NO, NO, NO, when judged fairly by moral standards and the standards of his day.

no, no, no when judged by the standards of today.

I am amused by this comment from Moore ;

The full title of his seminal 1859 book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.

If Moore had read The Origin he would know that, apart from a cryptic sentence

“light will be thrown on the origins of man and his history.”

Darwin did not mention humans at all and thus even less than zero on races! In the title Darwin was referring to different races, or groups, or families of plants and animals. It was a vague and general term. From reading much Creationst stuff on Darwin and race, I reckon this was just lifted from an article on Darwin’s alleged racism!! I often come across it and facepalm when I do. I also doubt the integrity of the writer.

The long quotation I gave from The Voyage of the Beagle should suffice for most people as it shows deep compassion and concern for those who suffer. In The Diary he makes a few comments about slavery , which though critical seem dispassionate. I get the impression he was a strong decoupler so did not feel he always had to make strong moral judgements. However this quote on leaving Brazil was most passionate and should be required reading for all on matters of slavery and race. It is haunting writing.

His writings and especially his letters often bring out his compassion, as he was not constrained by “academic” impartiality. He supported a charity for chimney sweep boys and, to the surprise of many, supported the South American Missionary Society which worked in Patagonia. SAMS was and is a very evangelical Anglican missionary society. I’ve never found out why he supported it beyond geographical links. I suggest he was more concerned by the physical welfare of Jeremy Button’s compatriots.

As Ted Davis points out , some of his comments  in books, especially The Descent of Man can, at a push, be taken as racist, but as I said above he was a strong decoupler. Often his descriptive statements are seen as prescriptive. Note he knew how original inhabitants of Americas died of disease when the Spanish and Portugese came. Disease enabled the conquest more than guns. Further he had witnessed how indigenous peoples were losing out to settlers, not so much as by war, or even genocide, but by disease and their inability to compete.

Against this, if you read more about Darwin – and for me it is the first 11 volumes of his Correspondence and his son’s Life and Letters, reams of semi-legible notes, transcribed notebooks, his various writings and much about him, like me, you will have to conclude he was a compassionate and moral person, with severe questions about God, an abhorrence of slavery, and a concern for those in need. However he had the assurance of a successful and wealthy Victorian that his style of life was somewhat better than anyone else. I suppose to those who protest below the statue of his “follower” (?????) Cecil Rhodes at the front of Oriel College might make him guilty of valuing his “white privilege”  – and that would make him a racist of the vilest kind.

As Moore concluded his article;

 In the words of Jesus himself, “By their fruits you will be able to judge their teaching.”

I think that Darwin’s fruits and teaching on race were quite good and for the 19th century and excellent example

#26 My faith was threatened by YECism, not science!

On how Creationism can have disastrous effects on people’s Christian faith.

It is not a personal choice, but something which divides and can destry a person’s faith.

Reaching into Plato's Cave

Christianity has always existed alongside of science. Some of the greatest Biblical characters were highly educated people (Moses; Daniel; Solomon; Saul of Tarsus). Most of the early Church Fathers were fully schooled in the highest forms of Greek thinking (Irenaeus; Clement; Origen; Augustine). Many leading scientists from the past (Sir Isaac Newton; William Buckland) and the present (Francis Collins; John Lennox; John Polkinghorne) fully embrace their Christian faith.

This week, we talk to Dr. Joel Duff, a geneticist, a professor, and an active researcher, who grew up in a Christian home (his father is an Orthodox Presbyterian minister) that always encouraged open inquiry to science. He didn’t sense these two parts of his world to be in conflict. He was fully able to read certain Biblical passages … especially those in Genesis … as metaphor, allegory, and ancient poetry.

Instead, it was an encounter with YECism when he was in…

View original post 201 more words

Creationism and Calvinism in Britain

A basic Christian belief is that God is the Creator of all that is. It’s there in the first chapter of the Bible, and those churches which use creeds both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds start by affirming God as creator.

calvin

There is frequently conflict among Christians over Creation, which comes out most strongly over the Theory of Evolution. Despite the popular view this is a major issue, apart from the Scopes Trial of 1925, there was little controversy until the 1960s when Young Earth Creationism came to the fore, first in the U.S.A. and then throughout the world. It was scarcely known in Britain before 1968. At the risk of over-simplifying Creationism has split the ever-growing evangelicals down the middle and is almost the default theological position for Evangelicals throughout the world.

In Britain theological colleges have not stressed the teaching of Young Earth Creationism, but some of the more evangelical ones are strongly sympathetic (including one Anglican college) and tend to default to YEC.  But now one college has nailed its colours to the mast. Many will see the newly founded and minute Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Newcastle as irrelevant. Being a watcher of all things evangelical and American I would disagree. It is an offshoot of the  Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from South Carolina, which is highly influential among conservative America presbyterians and is strongly creationist. The Newcastle seminary is to serve English Presbyterians, a tiny group with similarities to some of the fissiparious Scottish Presbyterian churches which may have Free in their name!! I can’t follow the realtionship between them, but they are not the same as the main Kirk. I also note how creationism has infiltrated into those churches.  You can read their statement on creation here;  

https://presbyterianseminary.org.uk/about/statements-of-belief/?fbclid=IwAR3kkL7-xYecA7H9T3JxuypHnwDekytSu6lKD92uxf9nXk0VTT5i4jmOYo8

It doesn’t explicitly mention Creationism but its motive is clear, which is too teach only a theology which supports a 6 day 24 hour creation, as is expressed here;.

Accordingly, we believe that when God revealed his creation as ex nihilo and by the power of his word, and when he surrounded the six days of creation with such phrases as “the first day . . . the nth day” and “evening” and “morning”–all phrases which would have been understood in their normal sense by Hebrews in the second millennium BC–that God himself intended to convey that the work of his creation spanned six ordinary days, followed by a seventh and non-continuous day which also spanned 24 hours like the other six days.

This is what Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has been appealing for over many years.

Were this confined just to a minute college in Newcastle I would not be moved to comment, but this is a widespread attitude among evangelicals and has spread to mainstream denominations including the Church of England, Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Not to mention the many in Northern Ireland!

So, first, I will consider the importance of the doctrine of creation to Christians (with the implication that this needs to be taught and preached in all churches) and, secondly, I will consider the WPTS statement on creation and where I consider it to be wrong.

The importance of Creation

There is no question on the importance of Creation, but there is great diversity on how Creation should be understood. For most christians the belief that God created out of nothing is vital, though some do question it. For most it is summed up by William Temple’s quasi-equations in his classic book Nature, Man and God

God – Creation = God

Creation – God = 0

 Or we may rhetorically ask the question;

Why is there something, rather than nothing.

  For this discussion I will take God as Creator as read as it is more about how Christians actually understand creation, and especially in relation to modern thought. Or I should ask whether one can consider Creation in a vacuum of theology alone and make no reference to modern (or ancient) thought, thus producing a consistent belief which relates only to the bible.

Important as it is, I will not consider the Christian’s responsibility to the environment or Creation Care  as it is often called. That is because of lack of space. Here the doctrine of creation moves to a vital ethical question as we need to learn how to treat creation properly and consider pressing issues of pollution, species loss, habitat loss, climate change etc. We need to get our doctrine of creation more or less right so we can deal with environmental issues. That includes knowing the age and history of the planet and the inter-relationship of living creatures. I am not a fan of either the Cornwall alliance or Friends of the Earth!! Here is a brief summary of a Christian’s attitude to the care of creation.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

By insisting on creation in a mere week the WPTS simply rejects all of cosmology , geology and biology, although they avoid mentioning it , except for the odd aside “Even the secular confidence in earlier cosmologies is declining in some areas.” Rejecting so much science puts a stumbling block before people, Christian or not, who are quite liable to walk away and reject the Gospel.

It is clear that they have no grasp of the development of science over the 3 thousand years or the ancient adage “science is thinking God’s thoughts after him” . There is no awareness that the Bible reflects the thought forms of when that section was written. Thus Gen 1 and Isaiah 40 indicate a flat earth as they were written before the Greeks worked out the earth’s sphericity in about 500BC. Paul uses a scientifically wrong analogy on seeds in 1 Cor 15 vs 35. His argument is very clear today though if we are gardeners we’ll  chuckle at his wrong biology. Both Leviticus and Deuteronomy regard bats as birds. Wise readers of the Bible simply accept that the writers are using contemporary understandings, which have been superceeded. No big deal. Then of course Darwin was clueless about genes and genetics!

There needs to be an awareness that the Bible  is not scientific nor anti-scientific but pre-scientific. Hence we don’t accept its “science” to be correct as with the examples given above.  The whole principle of accommodation of scripture is simply ignored, despite the fact that one of the finest expositions of accommodation is by John Calvin both in the Institutes and his commentary of Genesis.

He who would learn astrology[i.e astronomy] and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.

All considering the doctrine of creation, whether believer or atheist, should memorise that bit of Calvin.

Now for some history.

If traditional dates for the writing of biblical books is correct most of the Old Testament predates any science, as with a flat earth. Who cares that in the magnificent Isaiah 40, verse 22 speaks of a flat earth.

The historical relation of science and Christianity can be muddled by those trying to claim the church opposed every new finding of science. Briefly they need to consider Augustine

Augsutine

and then the scientists of the Middle ages who were mostly priests. There is much written on this and on the whole it was a positive and constructive interplay of ideas. Books by Hannan, Grant andLindberg are very useful here, as is the recent work on Bishop Robert Grosseteste (d1253) expounded by Tom Mcleish and others.

WPTS should be so pleased that Protestants were far more supporting of Copernicanism than Catholics and under Cromwell clergy astronomers were supported like John Wilkins who married Cromwell’s sister, made master of trinity Cambridge, helped to found the Royal Society and became Bishop of Chester, succeeding Pearson, who accepted 4004 BC as the date of creation!

I think it would be fair to say the Westminster Divines both supported copernicanism and the foundation of the Royal Society. Before long in the 1680s some Fellows eg Edward Lhwyd and Rev John Ray were beginning to suggest Ussher rather underestimated the date of creation and soon many more did.

300px-John_Ray_from_NPG

By the end of the 18th century most educated Christian in Britain and elsewhere accepted those dreaded “millions of years” or else just hundreds of thousands as with de Luc. The Westminster Confession supporting Scots were in the forefront here, though in the early 19th century Anglican clergy were very active geologically. What is often overlooked is that by 1859, when Darwin published most clergy accepted deep geological time. (I cannot find one Anglican priest or minister of the Kirk who followed ~Ussher’s 4004BC date.)

As WPTS is presbyterian we need to note that in Scotland nearly all the clergy from the various Presbyterian Churches including the Free Presbyterians totally accepted geological time with relish. Notable were John Fleming , Thomas Chalmers and the wonderful Hugh Miller. They did not see a problem with the Westminster Confession as in chap 4 section 1

In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit 1 to create the world out of nothing in order to reveal the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and  goodness.2 He made everything in the world, visible and invisible, in the space of six days, and it was very good.

So I cannot see why WPTS and their fellow Presbyterians are so worried.

A major weakness in this statement is that it seems to see Scripture as timeless and not written according to the culture at the time of writing. As a result the statement is an echo chamber in a locked room with no windows. It may seem strong and coherent, but it does not relate to the world either today, human and non-human or the past. It ends up as irrelevant.

It makes no explicit reference to science except referring vaguely to a “secular cosmology” as something we should reject. And so students will be encourage to reject so much of modern science and fall prey to Young Earth Creationism.

 

Now for my comments on the Statement

(Statement in quotation form and my comments in standard form)

Statement on Creation

We the faculty of Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary wish to acknowledge publicly our view on creation so that the churches and individuals supporting the Seminary may know what to expect from classroom instruction and faculty writing. In so doing, we note the following as preliminaries:

  1. the issue of creation has long been considered a fundamental Christian belief, one that distinguishes Christianity from other religions;
  2. this particular doctrine has been subject to prolonged attack since the mid-19th century, but continues to be critical for orthodoxy;
  3. although the history of belief on this subject is clear, some fine and notable theologians from our communions have held differing views on this subject; and
  4. that as a Seminary we are obligated not to teach contrary to the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Standards may be changed by the church courts, but, in our view, the seminaries ought not to be teaching contrary to those Standards, so that when there are changes they will occur as a result of the church’s mature deliberation and not in a de facto manner.
  1. yes, I totally agree but Judaism and Islam have a very similar doctrine of Creation.
  2.   The rise of the Conflict Thesis of science and religion has not helped, but here I think they are driving at the general acceptance of evolution, which they wrongly see as attacking creation.
  3. Their view of the history is clear, but they take a very selective and inaccurate view. The fine theologians dissenting to a young earth are legion and from Scotland , Northern Ireland and the USA. The Princeton School were very wise on the science in creation. Charles Hodge and BB Warfield are worth studying today.
  4. But why didn’t those in the 19th century see the problem?

 

Thus, we offer our view on the subject of creation as a school that serves a number of Reformed denominations, especially the EPCEW, PCA and the OPC.

Note EPCEW is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales which has 30 churches. PCA and OPC are from the USA. On the surface they and this statement may seem insignificant but the issues raised and stance taken is significant in Britain

I hear they are in contact with Scottish Wee Frees, and many of their views are shared by the FIEC, Reformed Baptists and other evangelical groups. (Not to mention some Anglicans – say 5% of clergy and a retired Bishop)

  • We believe that God’s Word is not only inerrant, but that it is also clear to the learned and unlearned alike; thus, we affirm that when God reveals his mind–on creation or any other matter–he is quite capable of making his thoughts known in ordinary language that does not require extraordinary hermeneutical maneuvers for interpretation.

Inerrancy and geology/evolution was not a problem to the Princeton theologians BB Warfield and the Hodges! Inerrancy takes many forms and has long seen to be compatible with geological time and even evolution.

Inerrancy does not imply literalism of Genesis, despite this being a common misconception

I have to say that many parts of the bible are not clear and especially the Old Testament – even St Peter agrees with me!

See above about accommodation and Calvin’s attitudes!

The language and imagery of the bible is very variable and is open to misinterpretation .

  • Accordingly, we believe that when God revealed his creation as ex nihilo and by the power of his word, and when he surrounded the six days of creation with such phrases as “the first day . . . the nth day” and “evening” and “morning”–all phrases which would have been understood in their normal sense by Hebrews in the second millennium BC–that God himself intended to convey that the work of his creation spanned six ordinary days, followed by a seventh and non-continuous day which also spanned 24 hours like the other six days.

Yes creatio ex nihilo is fundamental. But it is difficult to see what creating by “the power of his word ” actually means. Ultimately God creating is  a mystery and we cannot get beyond physical explanations to the creative power of God behind what we can see..

“Power of his word”  is emotive and explains little. It is simply an affirmation of god’s power.

I have no issue with the days of Genesis being 24 hours but we need to consider what the chapter is telling is.  If we insist that creation must have taken no more than 24 hours then from chap1 vs 6-8 we must also insist the earth is flat with a firmament above us. You cannot have one without the other.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

Calvin waxes strong on accommodation here.

I will leave the seventh day……………..

 

  • We believe that an accurate study of OT texts does not support the gap theory, the framework hypothesis, the analogical theory, or the day-age view. Indeed, we find the OT creation texts to be interpreted as normal days, and no passage demands that Genesis 1-2 be re-engineered to yield other interpretations. The long history of rabbinical commentary, the very dating of time by the Hebrew calendar, and orthodox Jewish thought so understands these texts to embrace only days of ordinary length.

Perhaps this is so as all attempts to tie Genesis into scientific findings fail at some point. However most made sense in many ways.

Gap Theory was a recasting of the old Chaos-restitution interpretation which was dominant from 1600 to the early 19th century and had roots in the early church – and was an odd rewrite of chaos restitution going back to early church when ideas of chaos from Heisiod were used to show how genesis has a universal application.

The Framework theory derived from Meredith Kline and allows more “flexibility”

The Day Age goes back centuries and became dominant in the 19th century but always suffered from an inability to harmonise days withe geological eras.

One may say that all were good tries but ultimately didn’t work

Far better is to see that Genesis is more a literary representation and not historical in any sense, except that God created in the past!!

  • The NT church and Scriptures offered no revisions of this view, and nowhere do those texts themselves advocate framework or day-age views. We certainly believe that if the wording of Genesis 1-2 required clarification or modification away from the normal meaning of the Hebrew terms, God would so indicate in the text itself, as well as in NT treatments of Genesis 1-2.

The NT only gives various references to a few verses and says nothing on insisting on a literal view.

 

  • The earliest post-canonical commentaries either advocated a 24-hour view of the days (e.g., Basil, Ambrose) or followed Augustine in a somewhat platonic scheme. Augustine’s view, however, was that creation occurred instantaneously, and he nowhere enunciated a day-age view or a framework hypothesis.

Yet almost all rejected the Flat Earth views of the Old Testament – due to overwhelming evidence.

There was no evidence for geological time!

  • Until the Protestant Reformation, only two views were propagated: (1) the Augustinian view (followed by Anselm and John Colet) and (2) the literal 24-hour view (espoused by Aquinas, Lombard, and others).

see previous comment

  • The magisterial Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Beza) adopted a uniform view, that of 24 hours, and overtly repudiated the Augustinian view.

During the 16th  century with the recovery of studying old literature – Renaissance – commentators from all churches tended to read the bible more literally than allegorically, so the 6/24 hr view was paramount.

However there was questioning, especially over astronomy.

Back to Calvin on accommodation, which bore fruit in later centuries.

  • Prior to the Westminster Assembly, the leading Puritans (Ainsworth, Ames, Perkins) and others repudiated the Augustinian view and taught a sequential, normal day view.

Without any geological evidence for deep time or even a little bit more time that was inevitable.

  • The Westminster Assembly divines either felt no need to comment on the length of days–so clearly was it established–or if they commented, they uniformly (either explicitly or implicitly) adopted the 24 hour view. With 60-80 divines normally attending sessions, at least 20 of the divines who did comment in other published writings indicate that they only understood the creation days to be 24-hour days (or ordinary days), and none have been found who espoused a contrary view. Specifically, there were no divines who wrote advocating a day-age view or a framework view. We continue to esteem them not only as confessional authors but also as faithful exegetes. We deny that certain scientific theories are so certain as to compel us to reinterpret Scripture on this matter.

In a sense only relevant to Presbyterians but the questions raised by geology from 1660s affected all churches, though many never got their knickers in a twist over it.

BUT, the evidence for an older earth was unearthed by many who were Christian. It was not a godless attack on Christianity.

  • Following the Westminster Assembly, the testimony of the American Reformed tradition (e.g., J. Edwards) followed the tradition of Ussher/Perkins/Ames/The Westminster Divines on this question. No debate about this subject arises until after 1800, as the winds of various European views began to circulate.

This is too closely focussed on the Presbyterian tradition with the Westminster Catechism. Edwards wrote little on science after the 1720s and made no comment on geological time. Further even his radical contemporary Benjamin Franklin accepted a young earth in mid 18th century. (This almanack was written by Franklin.)

1739almanac - Copy

In the wider church i.e other Protestant, Anglicans and Catholics, the topic of Genesis and time was frequently discussed from the 1660s with little controversey or sense that geology was undermining the bible

For more details see Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

  • By the mid-nineteenth century, certain leading Presbyterians (C. Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and later Shedd and Warfield) began to conform their exegesis to the ascendant science of the day. We believe that this was a strategic and hermeneutical mistake, as well as a departure from the meaning of terms in the Westminster Standards.

This ignores the fact that most educated Christians throughout Europe and America had accepted geology as this rather anglocentric article shows;

Genesis and geology unearthed

The geological column was essentially worked out in the early 19th century by geologists such as Rev Adam Sedgwick (seen here) who was a major worker on the Cambrian to Devonian, a mere 180 million years worth of strata

column+temp300px-Adam_Sedgwick

The presbyterians cited followed on from geologists like Rev E Hitchcock and British counterparts. In his Systematic Theology Hodge gives a careful discussion of genesis and geology and was helped by the geologist James Dana. Later in his What is Darwinism he looked to Asa Gray a Christian botanist and populariser of Darwin in the USA.

250px-Edward_Hitchcock

Mention ought to be made of Scottish and Irish presbyterians which are discussed in Livingstone’s Darwin’s Forgotten defenders.

 

  • Leading southern Presbyterians (such as Thornwell, Dabney and Girardeau) however, simultaneously resisted efforts to broaden the church on this point, as is documented in the Woodrow trial and decisions.

These were almost alone in their rejection of geology and evolution and were almost alone in their support of slavery. So much for evolution supporting racism!

 

  • Early in the twentieth century, numerous evangelicals – and some seminaries – became overly concessive to a secular cosmology, departing from the historic view expressed in the Westminster standards on this subject.

This is a very loaded statement.I presume a “secular cosmology” is simply the whole scientific picture from cosmology , geology and biology over 13.4 billion years. It is only secular as it is not overtly Christian, though many of the scientists behind it were Christian themselves. N.B. People were “departing” from the Westminster standards on this with in 25 years

  • Some of us, at earlier times, were willing – due to love of the brethren and respect for esteemed teachers – to declare that the meaning of confessional language on this question was vague. We are no longer able in good conscience to do so. Both the normal meaning of the confessional phrases and the original intent as verified by other writings of the divines is now abundantly clear, with no evidence to the contrary.

It was not so much that the language from another era was vague, but that all the evidence pointed to an earth and universe billions of years old. Maybe WPTS should realise that the Westminster Divines writing nearly 400 years ago were simply wrong. It was only shortly after William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood.

 

  • Even the secular confidence in earlier cosmologies is declining in some areas.

This is such a vague statement. What and who do they mean? There are always some who reject contemporary cosmologies as Fred Hoyle objected to the Big Bang (put forward by a Christian – Georges le Maitre) before his death. He dubbed it Big Bang to ridicule it. And then some question evolution, and a tiny handful the age of the earth

Featured Image -- 11353

(I dig his sunglasses)

This statement sounds good and may mislead those with no science.

  • Therefore, we declare our view shares the exegesis of the Westminster divines that led them to affirm that God created all things “in the space of six days” by the word of his power. We also believe that this clear meaning of confessional language should be taught in our churches and pulpits, and that departures from it should be properly safeguarded.

The Westminster Confession was written by  60-80 clergy  in one decade nearly 400 years ago. Why ignore all since who have considered the science.

For me, I prefer to follow the myriads of clergy in the last 400 years, who have understood science and the way it develops.

 

  • Accordingly, we reject the following contemporary notions:
    1. that John 5:17 teaches a continuing seventh day of creation;
    2. that violent death entered the cosmos before the fall;
    3. that ordinary providence was the only way that God governed and sustained the creation during the six days of creation;
    4. that extraordinary literary sensitivities must be ascribed to pre-1800 audiences; and
    5. that Scripture is unclear in its use of “evening and morning” attached to the days of creation.
  1.  Not very important
  2. This is a more serious issue. A major plank of creationism is that there was no death before the Fall. Life started about 4 billion years ago and since then there has been a cycle of life and death. Predation, i.e. violent death occurred among trilobites in the Cambrian some 500 million years ago. To deny this is to say all science is wrong and especially geology with all its half-chewed fossils. I am baffled to understand how the fall affected the structure off far-off galaxies.
  3. This is neither here not there and will depend on how you define providence. I don’t see why you need to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary providence.
  4. In my own historical and theological researches I have read a vast number of works before 1800 in several languages. Many have shown immense erudition, profundity and literary sensitivity. (For those reasons I often go to Calvin on Genesis.) I regard writers like Ussher, Ray, Mersenne, Pantycelyn, Needham and de Luc among many others as having great literary sensitivity. I just accept that some  (or many) of their ideas were modified after their time. I think Ussher was a brilliant scholar and theologian, who, among other things, opened the way for a more critical historical method.
  5. I think the meaning of YOM wa very clear to the writer of Gen 1 – it is 86,400 seconds. But he was also very clear about the earth being flat and a firmament above it with tiny stars tacked on.

Jacobus_ussher

The great James Ussher – a great scholar and theologian

We admit that some Christians have been too lax on this subject, and others have been too narrow. Hence, we hope to enunciate in this statement a moderate, historic, and biblical position. Even should other fine men differ with us on this subject, we hereby announce our intent to remain faithful to the teaching of the Westminster Standards and other Reformed confessions of faith on this subject.

To God alone be glory.

I agree that too often Christians have not been concerned been concerned about the relation of science to theology and focussed to much on a personal relationship to Jesus.

But to insist on a literal Genesis is the opposite of moderate and biblical. It is false and creates a ginormous stumbling block for so many Christians and seekers. To do this you have adopt the whole of Young earth Creationism founded by Morris and Whitcomb, which rejects science by misrepresenting it as we see on websites like Answers in Genesis or Creation ministries International.

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Far better is to read the various writings from https://biologos.org/about-us  and   https://faraday-institute.org/index.php

which have excellent material on Christianity and science.

To conclude I will quote the Lord Protector , Oliver Cromwell (who wrote to the general assembly of the Scottish Kirk four years after Westminster

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

 

 

The Genesis Flood, a review in 1969 of the Creationist pot-boiler

Having studied geology and then worked as an exploration geologist I couldn’t conceieve of any person with any education not accepting that the earth is billions of years old and the whole geological story is what has happened. It was re-started in 1961 with the publication of The genesis Flood by Morris  and Whitcomb

I have an early edition with little notes in it!!!

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They didn’t quite say this

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My first shock was when I met a 400lb or so missionary from the Southern States in Uganda who lent me magazines arguing for a young earth, but they were so naive I put it down to Christian hillbillies. A year later while mapping a thousand square miles of unknown Precambrian rocks in South Africa – yes, I was the fourth geologist to look at them – I red a review of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris by A.N. Triton aka Oliver Barclay. In a long review Oliver gently shredded the book.

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Morris was a more active creationist, writing loads of books, not of which had any scientific basis. He also set up the Institute of Creation Research, which has “scientsits” churning out similar stuff.

Whitcomb, who died on 4th Feb 2020,

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later wrote a bit of creationism, but was more of a theologian and probably contributed the theological parts of the Genesis Flood.

Probably most significant is Appendix 1 Paleontology and the Edenic curse. It’s the usual guff on Ro 5.12 & ! Cor 15 vs21 -22. And the misreading of Romans 8 vs 19-22 forcing in an edenic curse into the verses. John Lightfoot who got creation at 3962BC in the 1650s would not accept his interpretation. It then gives claims that animals were originally veggies if not vegans and that the Fall changed animals structurally. This type of theodicy later became the mainstay of creationists like Ken Ham and Sarfati, but that’s another story.

I read this book years ago – it’s not very good

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I remember laughing at the thought of anyone being so daft to believe it! The following year I went to L’Abri in Switzerland to study under Schaeffer and as I was a geologist seeking ordination, his son-in-law insisted I read The Genesis Flood. I was dismissive of it but then read it with increasing fury. At first I couldn’t contradict it, but then I found the flaw. The authors consistently and systematically misquoted all geologists they referenced. I was appalled at the dishonesty. I read the other half dozen books given to me and found the same. Needless to say at L’Abri I had several doubting whether I was a Christian. I gave a paper on creationism which didn’t go down too well.

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At that time Creationism was hardly known in Britain and none were bothered by it at theological college in Durham , though one student and one visiting lecturer went on to become creationists. Creationism only became apparent in 1981 in the wake of the Arkansas trial, but by that time evangelicals were split down the middle over it and a good number (5%) of Anglican clergy had fallen for it.

Anyway back to The Genesis flood. After it was published in 1961 American evangelicals were slow to comment on it so reviews only appeared after a few years. The most damning and comprehensive was one by the geologist Prof Van der Fliert of Amsterdam in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation.

So here it is.

Nothing has changed  and the approach today is still misrepresentation and wacky alternative geologies, which claim most strata were deposited during the few months of Noah’s Flood.

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It is fair to say that these two authors have done immense damage both to science and the church. I could itemise some of these

https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1969/JASA9-69vandeFliert.html

Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of Geology

J. R. VAN DE FLIERT*

Department of Geology
Free University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

From: JASA 21 (September 1969): 69-81.

Introduction

With increasing astonishment, I read through the book The Genesis Flood-The Biblical Record and Its
Scientific Implications,
 by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr.If I had been told a few years ago that an apparently serious attempt would be made to reintroduce the diluvialistic theory on Biblical grounds as the only acceptable working hypothesis for the major part of the geological sciences I would not have believed it. I would have considered it just incredible that a professor of Old Testament and a professor of Civil Engineering would write it, and that the foreword would be written by a professional geologist.

The serious fact is that it has been written and published in a volume of more than 500 pages of excellent paper and illustrated with 28 photographs. To stress the pretended scientific value of the work, favorable comments of a theologian and various representatives of natural sciences-a geologist, a geophysicist, an archaeologist, a biologist, a geneticist, a chemist, and an engineerare printed on the cover.

It is almost incredible that such an effort, which must have cost an enormous amount of work and money, has been made for such a bad procedure as this. I have felt very reluctant to write against it, but finally agreed to do so, yielding to stress from different sides.

There are two main reasons for this article. The first is that the authors of The Genesis Flood have written on the basis of their belief in the Holy Scriptures as the reliable Word of God. This belief I share.

Second, it is my sincere conviction that it is a fundamental and extremely dangerous mistake to think that our belief in the reliable Word of God could ever be based on or strengthened by socalled scientific reasoning. Any attempt to harmonize the historical geology of today with the account of the first chapters of Genesis represents a colossal overestimation of scienceas well as a misunderstanding of the Genesis recordan overestimation which is as great as that of those scientists who completely reject God as the Creator. If we thus overestimate science, we lose the battle before it is started. The Bible does not give outlines of historical geology nor accounts of scientifically controllable creative acts of God! If we think the Bible does provide these, we have brought God’s creative work down to scientific control, down to the visible things, contrary to the teaching of the Bible that “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3a). We deal a death-blow to the Christian religion when we bring the Holy Scriptures down to scientific level by teaching that the Bible should give us a kind of scientific world-picture or axiomata of historical geology, or of Western science of history, or physics, biology, jurisprudence or whatever science it be. Thus, we lose the Bible as a reliable Word of God completely, because we then make its teachings dependent on the poor state of our scientific knowledge today … which will change tomorrow!

The overestimation of science fails to see its possibilities and its limits. It means the corruption of true scientific working, both in the evolutionistic thinking of those who do not believe in God, and also in the thinking of Christians who do believe in God. These latter corrupt scientific work thoroughly when they start from a pretended biblical (in fact, imposed by them on the biblical teaching) elementary historical geology, into which then the geological data will have to fit! This is no less pseudo-scientific than that kind of evolutionistic reasoning that ignores God, and therefore presents truly a very had case for orthodox Christianity today!

Scientific Pretension and Scientific Foundation

Before I start a more technical treatment of a few important geological questions, I want to make a few critical remarks of a general character concerning the pretended scientific value of The Genesis Flood.

First, writing a book with such significant claims or conclusions requires a thorough knowledge of the geological sciences and their principles. Neither author -one a theologian, the other a civil engineer-is a geologist. Everybody knows that in the present state of scientific development it is practically impossible for one person to master more than one branch of science. Now, the list of modem publications cited in the book is impressive but at the same time misleading. The way in which part of this literature is used proves that the real problems have often not been understood. A theologian should know how dangerous it is to lift a text out of the context and to treat it separately. This is true not only for interpreting the Bible but also for explaining scientific publications. To lift a certain sentence out of a publication, and to use it for something quite different than the original author meant, is scientifically dishonest. I realize that the authors of The Genesis Flood did not intend to do this at all, and in a few cases they even admit that the author they cite used his words in a slightly different way, but in others they give evidence of not having understood the exact bearing to which they refer. Thorough scientific work makes extremely high demands on professional knowledge!


If I had been told a few years ago that an apparently serious attempt would be made to reintroduce the diluvialistic theory on Biblical grounds as the only acceptable working hypothesis for the major part of the geological sciences, I would not have believed it.


The Essential Importance of the History of Science and Theology

Second, it is really astonishing that the authors of The Genesis Flood do not seriously take into account the history of the “warfare between theology and geology”. They sound as if this were the first time that the idea was put forward that the deluge was responsible for the major part of the fossiliferous strata in the earth’s crust, whereas this idea was perhaps a respectable hypothesis early in the history of the development of geology but was soon shown to be false by evidence accumulated as the science of geology began to grow. This history of geology is an essential part of the study to be made, and has to be taken into account as an event which God has revealed to us in the middle of the twentieth century.

Is it any wonder, if we neglect this history, that we make the same mistakes as our fathers did one, two, three or even more centuries ago? When I saw the pictures of the pretended-but definitely not-human footprints in Cretaceous strata of Texas with the comment: ‘Note the tremendous size which immediately reminds one of the Biblical statement that there were “giants in the earth in those days” (Genesis 6:4),2 I was immediately reminded of the times before Cuvier when bones of elephants found in the earth were also considered to be evidence of the Genesis flood and declared to be remains of the giants of those days. Even the undeveloped science of that time was thought to confirm the reliability of Scriptures, and it is said that these bones were nailed to the doors of churches for the sake of strengthening the faith of simple Christian believers! I recall the days when Scheuchzer found his famous fossil which he named ‘Homo dilucii testis’, the ‘man witness of the deluge’.
But Cuvier, the father of comparative vertebrate anatomy, by scientific methods ascertained elephant bones to be elephant bones and Scheuchzer’s “Homo” to be the skeleton of a Miocene salamander. Where then was the foundation on which those simple Christian believers built their faith? And what are Professors Whitcomb and Morris doing now for those Christians who do not know about geology but believe in the Holy Scriptures as the reliable Word of God? The socalled scientific foundation which they want to lay under the Christian’s faith can be easily shown by unbelievers to be no more than loose sand. They could have known it too, if they had simply made a serious study of the history of the (largely manmade) problems between the Bible and geology!

Uncritical Criticism of Geological Principles

Third, the last general remark I want to make concerns the uncritical attitude of the authors regarding their own reasoning. The whole hook intends to levy a fundamental attack on the socalled uniformitarian principle in the geological sciences. They du not realize that, in part, their reasoning is based on the same starting point. In part, also, they fight against windmills, because most present-day geologists do not accept this principle exactly in the sense as it was understood by Lyell (who was no evolutionist when he wrote the first edition of his Principles3), but use it in the sense of a constancy of physical and biological laws, which does not at all exclude, for example, periods with climates differing from that which we know presently, or alternating longer quiet periods with shorter ‘catastrophic’ or paroxysmal episodes.

Besides, one could even agree that Lyell himself was not dogmatic in presenting his uniformitarian principle. His uniformitariauism is what Professor Dr. R. Hooykaas has called a ‘methodological principle‘4, but not one that pretends to have ‘eternal validity’. In the 3rd Volume of the first edition of his Principles, Lycll wrote on page 6:

In our attempt to unravel these difficult questions, we shall adopt a different course, restricting ourselves to the known or possible operations of existing causes; feeling assured that we have not yet exhausted the resources which the study of the present course of nature may provide, and therefore that we are not authorized, in the infancy of our science, to recur to extraordinary agents.

Now, in order to do justice to Lyell, it is necessary to know what he meant when he wrote these lines, and what he meant by extraordinary agents. The answer is not difficult, because on p. 3-6 of the same volume he offers examples. First of all, Lyell refers there to the controversy “respecting the origin of fossil shells and bones-were they organic or inorganic substances?” To this point he remarks:

That the latter opinion should for a long time have prevailed, and that these bodies should have
been supposed to be fashioned into their present form by a plastic virtue, or some other mysterious agency, may appear absurd; but it was perhaps, as reasonable a conjecture as could be expected from those who did not appeal, in the first instance, to the analogy of the living creation, as affording the only source of authentic information. It was only by an accurate examination of living Testacea, and by a comparison of the osteology of the existing vertebrated animals with the remains found entombed in ancient strata, that this favourite dogma was exploded, and all were, at length, persuaded that these substances were exclusively of organic origin.

As a second example, the controversy concerning an aqueous or igneous origin of basalt and other crystalline rocks in mentioned. This was an essential point in the early controversy between Neptunists and Flutonists. Lyell says:

All are now agreed that it would have been impossible for human ingenuity to invent a theory [the Neptunist theory[ more distant from the truth; yet we must cease to wonder, on that account, that it gained so many proselytes, when we remember that its claims to probability arose partly from its confirming the assumed want of all analogy between geological causes and those now in action.

And then Lyell put the important question concerning the methodological principle in these words:
By what train of investigation were all theorists brought round at length to an opposite opinion, and induced to assent to the igneous origin of these formations?

And the answer is:

By an examination of the structure of active volcanoes, the mineral composition of their lavas and ejections, and by comparing the undoubted products of fire with the ancient rocks in question.

He concludes with a third example, the question of whether the great alteration of the level of sea and land, proved by the occurrence of marine fossils in strata forming some of the loftiest mountains in the world, has resulted from the drying up of an ocean covering the whole earth or from the elevation of the solid land. “A multitude of ingenious speculations” failed to explain the former hypothesis. But when “in the last instance” the

question was agitated, whether any changes in the level of sea and land had occurred during the histor
ical period it was soon discovered that considerable tracts of land had been permanently elevated and depressed, while the level of the ocean remained unaltered. It is therefore necessary to reverse the doctrine which had acquired so much popularity, and the unexpected solution of a problem at first regarded as so enigmatical, gave perhaps the strongest stimulus to investigate the ordinary operations of nature. For it must have appeared almost as improbable to the earlier geologists, that the laws of earthquakes should one day throw light on the origin of mountains, as it must to the first astronomers, that the fall of an apple should assist in explaining the motions of the moon.

After having given these examples, Lyell says that the geologists of his time are, for the most part, agreed on questions “as to what rocks are of igneous and what of aqueous origin-in what manner fossil shells, whether of the sea or of lakes, have been imbedded in strata” etc. and are “unanimous as to other propositions which are not of a complicated nature; but when we ascend to those of a higher order, we find as little disposition


First, the over-all impression one gets from reading this article is that (finally!) here is a widely experienced professional geologist, who-even though an evangelical Christian-accepts the findings of modern geology, and who carefully explains why the pseudo-scientific floodgeologists are wrong (in terms which most informed laymen will understand). I believe that it is very important to put the views of such men as van de Fliert before the Christian public, so that they are not so likely to be misled by the erroneous view of people (like the flood geologists) ignorant of modern earth science.

Second, van de Fliert makes a number of points in the course of his article which I believe are important to get across to non-geologist Christians. He indicates the stunned disbelief that so many of us have had when we have seen how the floodgeologists, instead of being properly laughed out of court, were widely accepted in the intelligent Christian community. (This, incidentally, is leading many geologists, both Christian and nonChristian, to think that our generalscience-type courses have been total failures if the average college-educated person can’t recognize as big a blunder as this one when he encounters it) He also indicates the absolute philosophical inescapability of some sort of uniformitarianism or actualism when thinking about past events (whether of a few years or a few eons ago). Simultaneously, he clearly shows that uniformitarianism is a general guiding principle, rather than a philosophical! theological “law” which is rigidly applied to every situation encountered. Finally, he stresses quite nicely the fact that the use of fossils to indicate geologic time is a matter of repeatable, verifiable observation; such use is not a circular-reasoning device based on a preconceived bias for evolutionary explanations of life history.

In conclusion, van de Fliert’s article represents a significant contribution to one of the current controversies in the area of religion-science interactions.
Roger J. Cuffey Department of Geology and Geophysics The Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pa. 16802


as formerly to make a strenuous effort, in the first instance [repeated here!], to search out an explanation in the ordinary economy of Nature”.

Sound Theorizing in Geology and the “Spirit of Speculation”

In chapter I of Volume III of his Principles, entitled “Methods of Theorizing in Geology”, Lyell simply distinguishes two opposite ways of thinking. One starts from scratch with geological reasoning without first making a careful study of the “ordinary economy of nature”. This method has led to untenable speculations and even absurdities; the history of geology provides several examples. This lesson of history should finally be accepted, not merely on incidental points (such as the nature of fossils, the igneous origin of various crystalline rocks, etc.), but as a principle. The second method in contrast starts with a careful study of the present economy of nature, and then sees if the results of the geological processes of the past are really different from those of those oing on at present. This methodological principle has- to be applied to every aspect of geology and his reproach to Cuvier and his school, for example, is that they apply it only partially but not consistently. Such critics are described in the following:

We hear of sudden and violent revolutions of the globe, of the instantaneous elevation of mountain chains, of paroxysms of volcanic energy, declining according to some, and according to others increasing in violence, from the earliest to the latest ages. We are also told of general catastrophes and a succession of deluges, of the alternation of periods of repose and disorder, of the refrigeration of the globe and of sudden annihilation of whole races of animals and plants, and other hypotheses in which we see the ancient spirit of speculation revived and a desire manifested to cut, rather than patiently to untie, the Gordian Knot.

I repeat that Lyell’s uniformitarianism was not dogmatic; he did not exclude the possibility that paroxysms or processes differing from those presently operating might have taken place in geological history. Note the important restriction in his words, “in the infancy of our science”.

This restriction we also find in the concluding remarks of the Chapter:

But since in our attempt to solve geological problems we shall be called upon to refer to the operation of aqueous and igneous causes, the geographical distribution of animals and plants, the real existence of species, their successive extinction, and so forth, we were under the necessity of collecting together a variety of facts, and of entering into long trains of reasoning which could only be accomplished in preliminary treatises. These topics we regard as constituting the alphabet and grammar of geology; not that we expect from such studies to obtain a key to the interpretation of all geological phenomena, but because they form the ground work from which we must rise to the contemplation of more general questions relating to the complicated results to which, in an indefinite lapse of ages, the existing causes of change may give rise.

Lyell had indeed been looking for the methodological basis on which a sound geological science could he built, rather than a geology full of the uncontrollable speculations which had been current for a long time prior to his writing.

Basic Uniformitarianism and the Authors of “The Genesis Flood”

Lyell’s starting point, like that of Cuvier and many others, is the constancy of law, of structural order in created things. This, of course, is the only basis on which we can hope to speak reliably on the geological past. On this point, the authors of The Genesis Flood stand on exactly the same methodological basis as does Lyell. A few examples will illustrate.

There is no doubt that they consider fossils to be remnants of animals and plants which actually lived on earth under circumstances comparable to those we know presently. It is only on the basis of structural constancy that the authors can suggest that huge, but in form superficially human-like, footprints in Cretaceous strata are considered as evidence for the contemporaneity of man and dinosaurs!


Any attempt to harmonize the historical geology of today with the account of the first chapters of Genesis represents a colossal overestimation of science-as well as a misunderstanding of the Genesis record-an overestimation which is as great as that of those scientists who completely reject God as the Creator.


A second example is the way in which the authors of The Genesis Flood argue in favor of what they call “the most significant of these Biblical inferences”, which is “a universally warm climate with ample moisture for abundant plant and animal life”5 before the deluge. For the sake of confirming this inference, the results of present day geology concerning ancient climates are good enough apparently to indicate that there were some periods when there existed a mild and warm climate over the greater part of the world. But these results are based entirely on uniformitarian reasoning. How can we ever infer a warm climate in the geological past, except on the basis of criteria which we derive from studies of the fauna and flora, or physical or chemical processes, which are characteristic of areas of warm climate we know on earth today? The distribution of coral or other reefs, for example, in the marine environment, and the absence of annual rings in the secondary wood of trees, are only two of these criteria.

A third example to show how the authors of The Genesis Flood depend in their reasoning on the priori assumption of the constancy of law, structure and even processes, is found in their speculation that the “superficial appearance of evolution” of similar organisms in successively higher strata could be the result of the “hydrodynamic selectivity of moving water”. After a reference from Krumbein and Sloss6 about criteria on which the settling velocity of large particles is dependent, they write:
These criteria are derived from consideration of hydrodynamic forces acting on immersed bodies and are well established.

Particles which are in motion will tend to settle out of proportion mainly to their specific gravity (density) and sphericity. It is significant that the organisms found in the lowest strata, such as the trilobites, brachiopodes, etc. are very “streamlined” and quite dense. The shells of these and most other marine organisms are largely composed of calciumcarbonate, calcium phosphate and similar minerals, which are quite heavy; heavier, for example, than quartz, the most common constituent of ordinary sands and gravels. These factors alone would exert a highly selective sorting action, not only tending to deposit the simpler (i.e., more nearly spherical and msdifferentiated) organisms nearer the bottom of the sediments but also tending to segregate particles of similar sizes and shapes, forming distinct faunal stratigraplsic “horizons”, with the complexity of structure of the deposited organisms, even of similar kinds, increasing with increasing elevation in the sediments.

And further:

Of course, these very pronounced “sorting” powers of hydraulic action are really only valid statistically, rather than universally. Local peculiarities of turbulence, habitat, sediment composition, etc., would be expected to cause local variations in organic assemblages, with even occasional heterogeneous agglomerations of sediments and organisms of wide variety of shapes and sizes. But, on the average, the sorting action is quite efficient and would definitely have separated the shells and other fossils in just such fashion as they are found, with certain fossils predominant in certain horizons, the complexity of such “index fossils” increasing with increasing elevation in the column, in at least a general way.7

These are only three out of a hundred or more examples which could be given of this use of uniformitarian (the present is the key to the past) reasoning to argue for a catastrophist conclusion!

The geological nonsense in the above reasoning is so flagrant that I don’t want to discuss it. Speculative hypotheses are dangerous enough already when brought into connection with the Bible, but this is even worse than speculation. What the authors of The Genesis Flood should learn from Lyell’s example is the fear of speculation and the necessity of a serious search for the foundation on which a reliable geological science could be based!

A little-noticed fact is that the antagonism between uniform itarianists and catastrophists (like, for example, Lyell and Cuvier) is not nearly so fundamental as it would seem. Both geologists agree that the laws of chemistry, physics, and biology-as we know themare applicable also for historical-geological times.

This is an unavoidable a priori for a science that presumes to speak at all about the history of the earth. How paradoxical it may sound; only on the, basis of the constancy of law and structure can we reliably speak about changes in the development of the earth’s crust and its fossil content. In other words, the processes of which the geologist studies the results must be (perhaps not in intensity and scale) essentially of the same created order as that which we actually live in and form part of. If this were not so, the whole of historical geology would be in principle beyond the scope of human scientific possibilities.

On this fundamental point, the authors of The Genesis Flood agree with modern geologists, at least as far as the process of forming the fossilbearing strata in the earth’s crust is concerned. The tragedy is that they have not realized that in this way they have fused the dynamite under their pseudo-scientific building, exploding their so-called ‘Scriptural framework for historical geology’.

On the basis of this principle, the fundamental question is to be answered by careful observation and analysis of the world’s sedimentary strata and structural relationships. Are these the result of a catastrophic process, such as the authors of The Genesis Flood conceive? Or are they the result of processes whose intensity and scale are generally comparable to those going on today, as modern historical geologists have concluded?

There is no doubt about the answer in the present state of our knowledge; the broad lines of present-day historical geology are to be considered as well observed facts.


Although I object to one minor point, I find the overall treatment excellent. If anything, however, the case could be made much stronger than van de Fliert makes it (that is, circular reasoning is not involved in the geological context; it is merely inferred, by those who are not knowledgeable). Hence van de Fliert’s position is quite moderate, rather than extreme.
William F. Tanner
Consulting Geologist 2004 High Road Tallahassee, Florida 32303


The Trustworthiness of the Geological Time-Scale Disputed

Let us now turn to a few fundamental facts and principles of present-day geology. First of all, consider those that concern the stratigraphic column and the geologic (relative) time scale.

As an introduction, note a few quotations from the summary of the chapter, “Modern Geology and the Deluge” in The Genesis Flood.

We read on page 206:

The geological time series is built up by a hypothetical superposition of beds upon each other from all over the world.

That this superposition should be “hypothetical” (which here clearly means “not factual”) is argued with a quotation from a geological text book:8

If a pile were to be made by using the greatest thickness of sedimentary beds of each geological age, it would be at least 100 miles high . . . It is, of course, impossible to have even a considerable fraction of this at one place. The Grand Canyon of Colorado, for example, is only one mile deep.

By application of the principle of superposition, lithologic identification, recognition and nnconformities, and reference to fossil successions, both the thick and the thin masses are correlated with other beds at other sides. Thus there is established, in detail, the stratigeaphic succession for all the geologic ages.

Then the authors of The Genesis Flood continue:

This frank statement makes the method by which the geologic time scale was built up quite plain. Since
we have already noted that lithologic identification is unimportant in establishing the age of a rock, it is clear the “fossil successions” constitute the only real basis for the arrangement. And this means, in effect, that organic evolution has been implicitly assumed in assigning chronological pigeonholes to particular rock systems and their fossils.

There follows a second quotation from Von Engeln and Caster, which apparently should confirm this conclusion:

The geologist utilizes knowledge of organic evolution as preserved in the fossil record, to identify and correlate the lithic records of ancient time.9

This is commented on as follows:

And yet this succession of fossil organisms as preserved in the rocks is considered as the one convincing proof that evolution has occurred! And thus have we come round the circle again.

The trend of this reasoning is clear: Historical geology is basically unsound because it has been trapped in circular reasoning. First, geologists determine the order of succession of fossils in the earth’s crust on the basis of the superposition of the strata, but at the same time they declare the position of the strata reversed-by some tectonic process-when at another place the succession of fossils is found reversed! What is more, and even worse: Behind this is the ‘hypothesis’ of evolution, of “a gradual progression of life from the simple to the complex, from lower to higher” (pp. 132, 134).

Moreover:

quotations from outstanding evolutionary authorities both in geology and biology, demonstrate the great importance of the paleontological record to the theory of evolution. In turn, the principles of evolution and uniformity are seen to be of paramount importance in the correlation of the geologic strata. These principles are absolutely basic, both from the point of view of the history of the development of modern geology and from that of present interpretation of geologic field data. The circular reasoning here should he evident and indeed is evident to many historical geologists (p. 134),

How corrupted and preconceived present-day historical geology really should be is then formulated in the following words:

The basis for the apparent great strength of the present system of historical geology is here clearly seen. Provision is made ahead of time for any contrary evidence that might be discovered in the field. The geologic time scale has been built up primarily on the tacit assumption of organic evolution, which theory in turn derives its chief support from the geologic sequence thus presented as actual historical evidence of the process. Fragments of the sequences thus built up often appear legitimately superposed in a given exposure, but there are never more than a very few formations exposed at any one locality, occupying only a small portion of the geologic column. Formations from different localities are integrated into a continuous sequence almost entirely by means of the principle of organic evolution (p. 136).

I give these rather long quotations in order to show in what light such a sentence as “The geological time series is built up by a hypothetical superposition of beds upon each other from all over the world” should be read, and furthermore to give an example of the mixing up of truth and untruth in the way of arguing of the authors of The Genesis Flood when it concerns one of the fundamentals of geological science.

The Natural Exposure of Normally Superimposed Rock Sequences

The actual situation is that the geological time-scale is based on a factual superposition of rocks yielding a factual superposition of paleontological criteria which has been proved to be the same all over the world. In order to make this clear, we will have to deal first with natural exposureswith the way nature exposes the sedimentary rocks, which contain those documents of the history of the earth’s crust which the stratigrapher investigates.

When Von Engeln and Caster state that “if a pile were to be made by using the greatest thickness of sedimentary beds of each geological age, it would be at least 100 miles high” and that it is “of course impossible to have even a considerable fraction of this at one place”, it should be noted that they are speaking of “the greatest thickness of each geological age”.

Two qualifying remarks should be made about this point. First, the average thickness of sediments of a certain age is far less than the value of the greatest thickness. Second, if at one place a geological age is represented by its greatest thickness, it is very unlikely that sediments of another age would attain their maximum thickness at the same locality.

However, it is extremely unlikely-virtually impossible-to have a considerable fraction of a pile of sediments reduced in this way, and representing all geological ages, at one place.


Lyell’s starting point, like that of Cuvier and many others, is the constancy of law, of structural order in created things. This, of course, is the only basis on which we can hope to speak reliably on the geological past. On this point, the authors of The Genesis Flood stand on exactly the same methodological basis as does Lyell.


For example, consider the world famous example of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, where Paleozoic rocks, still in horizontal position, unconformably overlie tilted Algonkian or intensely folded and metamorphosed Archean Rocks at one locality. As a result of what geologists call epeirogenic movements, this area has been uplifted vertically without changing the original horizontal position of the Paleozoic rocks. Following the uplift, the Colorado River has cut deeply into the rocks to expose, in the steep walls of the canyon, the beautiful vertical succession of more than 1000 meters of Paleozoic strata, In this exposure of a normal uncomplicated succession, the superposition is simple and clear. The Archean basement rocks lie at the bottom of the canyon. Progressively higher up on the walls within the canyon we found the Algonkian sedimentary rocks, then the older Paleozoic rocks, and finally-around the canyon rims-the younger Paleozoic rocks.

Very often, however, things are more complicated. Frequently, the original subhorizontal position of the
sediments at the time they were deposited has not been preserved; as a result of differential movements in the earth’s crust, the sedimentary sequences have been tilted, broken, or folded, so that the layers usually show a dip (varying from a few degrees up to a vertical position). Topographically, these differential movements may give rise to subaerial elevations (mountains) and depressions (lowlands). The mountainous areas are subjected to erosion, which results in the development of new topographic surfaces cutting the bedding planes of the layered sedimentary rocks at an angle. Eventually, erosion may lead to so called “peneplains” or subhorizontal erosion surfaces of vast extent. These peneplains thus may expose thick sequences of sedimentary rocks, in thickness far exceeding those of the Grand Canyon and of which superposition is as undoubtedly established.

In the Grand Canyon, we find a sequence (some 1000 meters thick) of horizontal Paleozoic rocks exposed-in the steep canyon walls-in only the very short lateral distance traversed as we ride from the bottom of the canyon to the high rim overlooking the canyon. In a large region of subhorizontal topography (a peneplain) underlain by nonhorixontaldipping, folded, or hasinal-sedimentary layers, on the other hand, nature may have exposed sequences of rocks amounting to many thousands of meters in thickness. In such a situation, we can no longer speak of a local superposition. We can, for example, walk for hundreds of kilometers across a series of low-dipping sediments in the “Paris Basin”, from Triassic rocks in Luxemburg to Middle Tertiary rocks in Paris. Local differences in topographic elevation (a few up to perhaps 100 meters) are insignificant compared to the distance of a few hundred kilometers and the thickness (about 2000 meters) of the sediments which are exposed at or near the surface. In the case of the Paris Basin, which covers a great part of France, we have a huge bowl-shaped structure, consisting of strata dipping gently towards the centre, which implies of course that the younger strata are exposed in the central, the older in the peripheral, parts of the basin. There can be no doubt about the superposition of the strata in the Paris Basin. The formations are only very gently deformed, and a tectonic reversal is entirely excluded.

A comparable but much larger structure, with lowdipping Mesozoic and Tertiary strata, is found in the Gulf Coast Area of Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in North America. This is a huge structure of low-dipping strata, in which the superposition is unquestionably normal and also very well known (as a result of thousands of bore holes which have been drilled in the search for oil in these areas). Again, here we cannot reasonably speak of just one locality or one place. But surface and subsurface data permit an unquestionable correlation, layer by layer, and thus the establishment of the sequence of normally superimposed strata attaining a thickness of many thousands of meters.

No evolutionary theory whatsoever could or would ever suggest a reversed position of the strata in the Paris Basin in Europe or in the Gulf Coast Basin in North America! The paleontologist would thereby saw through the branch on which he sits.

The stratigraphic column has been built up essentially on the basis of sedimentary sequences in many relatively stable areas where tectonic disturbances and metamorphism played a minor role and where therefore a reversed position of the strata could a priori be eliminated. On the basis of solid knowledge from these simple areas, the tools have been obtained which permit us to understand more complicated regions. This is an example of the procedure followed by every geologist when he enters a new or unknown area; he first looks for the simpler structures which permit the establishment of the stratigraphic sequence, which in turn is a basic tool for unraveling complicated tectonic structures.

In summary, I want to emphasize that the way nature exposes huge sequences of strata is usually not by cutting deep canyons or valleys into highly upheaved horizontal strata at one place, but instead by differential crustal movements followed by peneplaining erosion (which uncovers older strata in mountainous areas and also furnishes sedimentary materials which are then deposited-often containing fossils-to form younger strata). As a result of such tilting and other crustal movements, great areas of dipping, but unquestionably normally superimposed, strata are now found at or near the surface, and are therefore accessible to the geologist. The huge sequences of sedimentary strata which can be studied in such relatively undisturbed positions over great areas all over the world form the solid factual basis for the establishment of the time stratigraphic column.


It is time for scientists who are Christian to speak up and be counted in regard to “flood geology” and interpretations of the Scriptures. Van de Fliert is absolutely right when he says that “We deal a deathblow to the Christian religion when we bring the Holy Scriptures down to scientific level by teaching that the Bible should give us a kind of scientific worldpicture or axiomata of historical geology, or of Western science of history or of physics, biology, jurisprudence or whatever science it be.” I do not think this means that we cannot rely on the Scriptures to be scientifically correct, but we cannot make the teaching of the Bible dependent upon scientific knowledge.
Donald C. Boardman Deportment of Geology Wlseaton College Wheaton, Illinois 60187


The Primary Superposition in Highly Disturbed Areas

However, much more is to be said. When discussing what they called “Methods of resolving contradictions”, the authors of The Genesis Flood write:

Furthermore, even where superposed strata are exposed, it rather often happens that the fossils appear to be in reverse order from that demanded by the evolutionary history, which paradox is commonly explained by the assumption that the strata have been folded or faulted out of their original sequence (p. 135).

It is an old story which is told here. It was already elaborated in Professor Aalders’ book10. And it seems that this favorite argument of professors of Old Testament is supported even by some geologists; the authors of The Genesis Flood give the citation of C. H. Rastall, lecturer of Economic Geology at Cambridge University, saying:

It cannot be denied that from a strictly philosophical standpoint geologists are here arguing in a circle. The succession of organisms has been determined by a study of their remains embedded in the rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks are determined by the remains of organisms that they contain (p. l35).

Now, Mr. Rastall may be a good economic geologist; he is definitely not a good philosopher because his statement is simply not true!

What are the facts? A reversed position of strata is the result of strong disturbing movements after deposition. Complicated tectonic deformation occurs when the sediments are deposited in an area which is or becomes highly mobile, in contrast with relatively stable regions.

Since the reversed position of the layers, and, of course, the inverted succession of fossils, is not of primary or stratigraphic origin, but of secondary or tectonic origin, we should find (and we do) completely independent tectonic evidence (in addition to the fossil evidence) for a reversed position of a sequence of strata. Surely, we prefer simple structural relations when establishing a stratigraphic column in an area, but we do not finally depend on them.

In many instances, we can follow a certain sequence of strata from a less to a more intensely disturbed area, and observe, for example, how in this direction the dips increase to a vertical position, and somewhat further on have turned more than 90o from the original horizontal position so that they are then “overturned” and the sequence of layers has become in fact inverted or reversed. A gradual transition from a normal to an inverted position is in fact a phenomenon which is often encountered in folded areas. It has nothing to do with theory; it is just a matter of observation.

When in a mobile area we find with the help of fossils that a sequence of strata lies in reverse position, this conclusion if reliable implies that the strata are folded and that there must be a hinge zone along which the layers have been turned up. Such hinges, along which layers are sometimes turned over 180 degrees so that they are now in a perfect upsidedown position, are perfectly visible, for example, in some deep valleys in the Swiss and Austrian Alps. Now, if our index fossils are reliable, the paleontological evidence, the succession of the fossils, must be in accordance with the tectonic-structural evidence for whatever, normal or reversed, position the strata are in. But if this is the case, and this is in fact what we find, then both evidences do mutually confirm each other. The reversed sequence in which the fossils are found locally therefore does not invalidate, but, on the contrary, fortifies their value as time markers, because we know from independent tectonic evidence that the layers there are in overturned position.

The same situation holds when, as a result of tectonic causes following differential movements in the earth’s crust, rock masses are pushed up and over on top of neighboring areas; in this way also, older rocks will lie on top of younger strata. If such an abnormal succession is of tectonic origin, we should find the fault plane, the overthrust plane, exactly at the place where the older strata appear above the younger formations. Such a situation will usually be characterized by tectonic criteria related to the overriding phenomenon. At such an overthrust plane, we often find a tectonic brcccia, consisting of broken and crushed rock fragments of usually heterogeneous material. In other instances, depending on overburden and fluid pressure at the overthrust plane, friction may have resulted in such high temperature that the anomalous contact indicated by our fossils is characterized by a ‘burned’ or a dynamometamorphically altered zone. And here again, this is exactly how we find it. Tectonic and palcontologic evidence point in the same direction. Instead of contradicting, they confirm each other, and here again we may speak of convergent evidence.

Top and Bottom Engraved in Individual Layers

To find an answer to the question of whether we are dealing with strata in normal or reversed position, a third criterion can usually be found. It is of stratigraphic-sedimentologic character, and involves sedimentary structures found in individual layers.

Let me give a few simple examples to demonstrate the principle. On a sandy bottom, running or waving water may cause characteristic ripples in the sand which we call ripplemarks. They are often found in a fossil state. Wave ripplemarks, for example, form sharp ridges and rounded troughs. When we find in a sequence of layered strata that these sharp ridges point downwards, we therefore know that this sequence lies in an overturned position. In case the external form is not clear, the internal lamination may provide decisive evidence.

Another example, seen by almost everybody at some time, is that when a puddle or a muddy ditch desiccates, a pattern of cracks appears in the drying mud, the so-called “mud-cracks”. Such mud-cracks also have often been fossilized as a result of the filling of the wedge-shaped openings between the polygons with other material, e.g., sand. In this manner, again, the layer was marked for top and bottom during the process of sedimentation. The points of the wedges indicate the direction in which the older layers are to he found.

A great number of comparable stratigraphic-sedimentologic criteria, so-called top-and-bottom features, are known. Usually very small structures, they often give an unmistakable answer to the question whether the position of a layered sequence is normal or not, completely independent of tectonic or paleontologic evidence. In practice, the field geologist working in complicated areas is constantly concerned about the question “normal or reversed position?” He therefore is very keen on finding such top-and-bottom features, the more so when fossil evidence is not immediately, not sufficiently, or not at all available.

It will be clear that when we add the stratigraphicsedimentologic evidence of the sedimentary structures to the already convergent evidence of tectonics and paleontology, there remains no trace, not even a glimpse, of circular reasoning whatsoever. Quite the opposite is true; the reliability of the fossils for relative age determination of geological formations is not denied by local occurrences in reversed order, but on
the contrary confirmed. For with the help of two other criteria, independent from each other and independent of those fossils, we can irrefutably demonstrate that the layers there indeed occur in overturned position.

The Question of Correlation

With the possibility of establishing the normal succession of strata in the earth’s crust, we have in principle a factual basis for the establishment of the order of succession of the fossils they contain. In order to make clear now that the order of succession is the same all over the world, and that fossils therefore may be used as time-characteristic index-fossils I have to go into a little more detail about the local and regional successions of geological formations, the gaps they necessarily contain, and the question of regional and intercontinental correlation.


The actual situation is that the geological time-scale is based on a factual superposition of rocks yielding a factual superposition of paleontological criteria which has been proved to be the same all over the world.


When we look at a geological map of France, we can see that the relatively undisturbed sediments of the Paris Basin overlie more intensely folded sediments of Paleozoic age outcropping in various areas around the actual basin boundary. When we look now at the succession of rocks from Paris, then moving outward from the centre of the Paris Basin, to Charleroi in Belgium, we observe that the lowermost sediments of the Paris Basin, unconformably overlying the folded Paleozoic strata of the Ardennes Massiv, are Upper Cretaceous. Around the basin’s edges, at the surface of this angular unconformity there is in this sequence a huge gap, because practically the whole Mesozoic and part of the Paleozoic are missing. But when we follow this contact, the outcrop of this important unconformity, in an East-South-Easterly direction we gradually encounter successively older formations appearing in the Paris Basin above the unconformity surface; these formations have been called: Lower Cretaceous, Jurassic, and then Triassic.

When we look at the geological map of the United States, we see that (in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia) the folded Paleozoic sediments of the Appalachians plunge down underneath essentially
disturbed sediments of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Province, the oldest of which are here Cretaceous, at least at the surface.

There is a striking similarity in the position of the Coastal Plain sediments as regards the folded Paleozoic rocks of the Appalachians on one side of the Atlantic and those of the Paris Basin with respect to the folded Paleozoic Rocks of the Ardennes on the other, particularly when we look at the Paris-Charleroi section.
That identity is not only structural; it is much more complex. There is a succession of Upper Mesozoic
and Cenozoic strata which, notwithstanding all kinds of differences due to locally differing sedimentation conditions, can he compared and correlated with that in the Paris Basin, on the basis of the fossil faunal contents of the sediments. That is to say, when we compare the sequences of strata on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, where the superposition is unquestionably known, there appear to be differences in the faunal content of successive layers; these differences allow for a descriptive stratigraphie subdivision, and they occur in the same order of succession. And when we look now at the underlying folded rocks and establish therein the stratigraphic superposition, we find, first of all, that the faunal content of these layers is totally different from the overlying strata, but very similar to that of the folded Paleozoic formations of the Ardennes. Furthermore that comparison of the sequence in the United States and in Europe also reveals faunal characteristics for a subdivision in the same order in America and Europe. All this has nothing to do with evolutionary theories. We simply find a factual superposition of faunal elements (in the strata) which occurs in the same order on both sides of the Atlantic. On the basis of such experience in comparing or correlating stratigraphie columns all over the world, we can then finally say that fossils may be used for indicating the place of the formation in the sequence. This experience of correlating the superposed strata all over the world is essential; every index fossil is constantly being checked on its guide value by new stratigraphie field work, by the many boreholes of the nil companies, etc., all over the world and every day.

The basis of our subdivision of geological time is found in the fact of a worldwide complex identity of the succession of sedimentary strata, The ‘older’ or ‘younger’ can without any doubt be established in both the locally and the regionally exposed strata. The ‘as old as’, the ‘time correlation’, on a regional to continental scale has its base in the identity in the complex succession of stratigraphic series in different places, a complex succession which practically eliminates any other interpretation than that of ‘same age’ (on a certain scale and with a certain degree of accuracy, of course).

We take the example of the Paris Basin /Ardennes and Gulf Coastal Plain Province/Appalachians again. It is clear that the unconformable superposition of unfolded Cretaceous and Tertiary sediments on folded Older and Younger Paleozoic sediments (which, both in relative detail, show comparable faunistic similarity on both sides of the Atlantic) reveals a complex identity structurally and stratigraphieally to the effect that a geologist can give no other interpretation than: an older period (Paleozoic time) in which sedimentation took place in the areas; then folding, mountain building and erosion at or towards the end of this time; finally, renewed sedimentation in at least part of these areas in Mesozoic and Cenozoic times.

We could go a little bit further now and ask about so-called Jurassic and Triassic sediments which appear under the Cretaceous of the Paris Basin. What about their equivalents in the Southeastern States of the United States? Do they really exist, and are they in a position comparable to those in Europe? The map shows that the oldest deposits of the Gulf Coastal province outcropping at the contact with the Appalachians are of Cretaceous age, which implies a gap here for Jurassic and Triassic. Is this implication correct? Yes, because for example away from this surficial contact, from Yucatan to Florida, the oil-well bore has struck older deposits underneath the Cretaceous, showing paleontological characteristics of Upper Jurassic age. Normally underlying sediments, possibly Lower Jurassic, Triassic or Permian, could not he identified as such because of lack of fossils. But when we go, for example, to the Southwestern part of the United States we find a normal superposition of dated Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments covering very large areas in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, The same order of paleontologic criteria in the succession of strata-in Europe, in America, in Asia, Africa and Australia, all over the world-this is a fact which simply cannot be denied except by those who do not know or do not want to know. But the factual situation is there for everyone who wants to to go and see.

Parenthetically, I want to point out that therefore evolution (in the descriptive sense that flora and fauna on earth have been subject to change almost continuously in the course of geologic time) is also to be considered as a well observed fact, which is of course something quite different from a theory of evolution and from an evolutionistic philosophy.

Reworking: Mixing of Fossils of Different Age

But, the authors of The Genesis Flood might react by saying that we are still dishonest with our representation of the fossil succession as an observed fact, because in several instances mixed faunas are found, which would therefore represent a mixture of older and younger fossils. Then, they might say, we come along with a complicated interpretation of reworking or comparable phenomena, but that interpretation is only an interpretation, and the fact is that these fossils do occur together in the same bed. And we would have to answer that that is true, but truth and simplicity do not always go together.

When fossil-bearing sediments become subject to erosion, one must expect not only redeposition of the inorganic components but also those of organic origin. This general consideration already implies that a mixing of fossils of differing ages as a result of reworking processes must occur. But, reworking or redeposition in general results in characteristic features by which it can be determined as such.

In the Netherlands, we find silicified Cretaceous sea urchins as elements in Pliocene fluviatile gravels. Marine animal remains in fluviatile beds is of course already anomalous, but furthermore the silicified tests are rounded by their having been transported, and we know the place where they have been washed out of the sediments in which they were originally embedded.

A second example is that, in muds of the Wadden Sea, Cretaceous Foraminifera are found together with the recent foraminiferal assemblage. These Cretaceous elements, however, are found in the smallest fraction (smaller than 0.15 mm) of the washed residues. They are washed out of Cretaceous deposits of the Paris Basin exposed in the Channel, sorted by longshore current action, and only the finest material reaches the Dutch Wadden Seas. Here, although differing preservation already demonstrates the correct conclusion, the uniform size indicates sorting and proves the allochthonous character of these elements in the faunal assemblage.
We found a very interesting example of mixed faunas when working as stratigraphers for an oil company of the Royal Dutch Shell group in North Borneo. The washed residue of a shale sample appeared to contain a normal assemblage of beautifully preserved Paleocene (Lowermost Tertiary) Foraminifera, but also a few very poorly preserved Miogy,osinas, larger Foraminifera of Miocene (Lowest part of Upper Tertiary) age. At first sight, the perfect preservation, absence of sorting, and normal assemblage of these Paleocene Foraminifera, mixed with some 30-40 million years younger Miogypsinas which were in part pyritized and very badly preserved, was astonishing. From the field geologist, we knew that big ‘exotic’ blocks of probably Paleocene age occurred scattered in the shale. We then looked at the part of the sample which had not been washed, and the solution of the problem was found. The sample consisted of a dark grey shaly matrix, in which a great number of angular fragments of a light coloured marl were disseminated. It was clear that the angular fragments were redeposited fragments of an older formation and that they appeared indeed to contain the Paleocene fauna. The autoebtonous sediment-the dark shaly matrix-was apparently formed under more or less anaerobic conditions, as a result of which sulfuric acid was formed, which in turn attacked and in part pyritized the calcaeous shells of ?vuiogypsina during or shortly after deposition. The Paleocene Foraminifera in the original sediment of the angular elements were perfectly protected against such chemical activity in the Miocene basin.

Stories like this may sound complicated, but in fact they are not. Again here, the way in which the resedimentation process was written down in the structural relationships of the younger sediment did not deny, but on the contrary again confirmed or corroborated the reliability of the fossils-in this case pelagic and larger Foraminifera-as index fossils.

Structural Uniformity and Actual Experience

Within the scope of this article it is impossible to deal with everything which the authors of The Genesis
Flood 
have presented. There is one important and fundamental thing, however, concerning which I want to spend a few sentences-the practical meaning of the so-called uniformitarian and actualistic principles in geology.
As a first remark, I don’t like -isms. A term ending in -ism usually means an overestimation of the aspect, modus, state of affairs or whatever is meant by the term. The question which has to be answered, however, is this: have those people who are considered to be the fathers of uniformitarianism or actualism seen something fundamentally essential for our geological scientific knowledge, even if they may not have correctly defined, not fully understood, or overor underestimated what they had seen?

As a historical geologist, who always has to do with documents of a geologic past in the earth’s crust, I cannot pretend to speak even one reliable word about geological history except on the basis of what I called above “structural constancy”. “Structural” is meant in a very large, generalized sense. The only way to distinguish differing processes in the documents is by means of the differing structures they may reveal, Sedimentary processes produce typical, characteristic structures, and tectonic processes produce other differing, but also characteristic structures in the rocks of the earth’s crust. There are, of course, also many kinds or types of sedimentation processes, the results of which can be differentiated on the basis of the differing structural characteristics produced-such as lithologic and paleontologic criteria, texture and structure (in a restricted sense).

The general rule will he that the more detailed the interpretation, the more detailed also our structural analysis will have to be. The general starting point for an interpretation of the sedimentation processes in geologic history on a really, and the only possible, scientific basis will therefore be the assumption that a catastrophic sedimentation process would have to show characteristic structural relationships, and that, on the other hand, the normal, actual sedimentation processes necessarily result in different characteristic structural features. In other words, when our analysis of fossil sediments reveals in great detail the same structural relationship as that which is actually formed under present day condition, the only conclusion which can honestly be drawn is, “It is the same process!” Ascribing comparably structured sediments to catastropic processes would be something like declaring that fossil fish which we have found on the basis of fossil remains to look in detail like actual fish, were not really fish living in water but birds flying in the air!


The reliability of the Word of God spoken in this world through His prophets and apostles is beyond the reach of scientific control, because the Bible is not a scientific book. As such, it is not vulnerable to the results of science. Therefore, Christian astronomers, geologists, and biologists can work without fear as long as they respect the limits of their own scientific field.


The example may sound silly, but it clearly shows the basic role of structural uniformity even for the determination of fossil remains, and demonstrates also the link with actual life’ experience. What could we say about the function of the organs of fossil fishes, or about the environment they lived in, if we did not know the living fish in its environment today?

Now, in view of the need for more detailed reliable interpretation of depositional environments of fossil sediments, one branch of geological sciences, called sedimentology, has grown very rapidly during the last decades. A major part of the work done by the sedimentologist was and still is a detailed analysis of actual sedimentation processes and their results in modem depositional environments. Of course, when we want to know what the characteristic features are of sediments found in a middle neritic marine environment (the zone of approximately 40100 meters depth [20-50 fathoms] on the shelf), we shall first of all have to obtain samples of the modern sediments in this area, examine them in detail and study all kinds of physical, chemical, and biological conditions in the zone. In addition, we shall also have to study the bordering (inner neritic, and outer neritic) environments to be able to specify their characteristics also in a differential diagnosis.

Modern analyses of these sediments ‘in formation’ are done in very great detail, in both the physicochemical and biologic criteria, with the result that a very detailed classification of sediments as related to their depositional environment appears to be possible. But it also appears that this “key of the present” indeed fits into the sediments of the past, because most of them show, often in astonishing details, the same structural relationships. The identity is there. The uniformity is written down in the fossil sediments themselves. There is no way out unless one wants to declare, to pick up the above examples, that the fish is a bird. The identity may exist on a small scale (e.g., the number of Foraminifera per gram of sediment, and the percentages of different species or genera with respect to the total foraminiferal assemblage) but also on a large scale. To conclude I would like to give one example of the latter.

The authors of The Genesis Flood try to deny the evidence for deposits which required a very long time to form, such as coral reefs. Some of them at least are explained as being redeposited during the Flood (pp. 408,409).

Now there are different types of reefs and different organisms which can build reefs, in addition to corals. Reefs have played a very important role in the geological history of the earth’s crust, and sedimentologic research is particularly active in investigating the depositional environments of reef limestones and those immediately related to the reefs.

Let’s look at a barrier reef. It lies at a certain distance from a shore, and separates a lagoonal environment (between barrier-reef and shoreline) from the open marine environment. At the sea-side of the reef body, we distinguish a fore-reef area, on the landside a back-reef zone. The reef-body itself consists of a core of unlayered, massive limestone, built up by the sedentary reefbuilding organisms still in original life position; it is bordered by coarse, and farther away finer reef detritus, which, particularly the latter, are often very well bedded. Now, we do find barrierand other reefbodies at many different levels in the stratigraphic column. But we do not find, say, the core of a barrier-reef body, as a strange element in other deposits. On the contrary, in Silurian reefs in Gotland, in Devonian and Lower Carboniferous reefs in Belgium, the Jurassic reefs in the Jura Mountains, and Cretaceous reefs in the Apennines, etc., etc., we can recognize and locate, in addition to the reef bodies themselves, the associated depositional environments with their characteristic sediments and faunas: the lagoon, the fore- and the baekreef zones, and the open marine environment.

On a small scale and on a large scale, there is no question whatsoever of some catastrophic mixing-up; on the contrary, everything is found exactly in the place where it should be, compared with actual sedimentation conditions in reef and associated environments. We find structural constancy in detail, even when we consider variation as a result of different reefbuilding organisms (such as calcaceous algae, s tromatoporoids, bryozoans, corals, rudistids, or combinations).

These are the facts of stratigraphic and sedimentologic research, which are at the basis of the major results of the geological sciences. This basis makes it possible indeed to say that the broad lines of presentday historical geology, dealing with the formation of the earth’s crust in geological times in the order of hundreds of millions of years, are correct, and are to he accepted as a well established fact.

Science and the Bible: Not the Fundamentalistic Way

It may seem as if I have written very little about fundamentalism so far. However, I was fighting against it all the time, but silently and indirectly until now.

The book of \Vhitcomb and Morris was written on the basis of what we usually call a fundamentalistic or biblicistic viewpoint. This standpoint implies the belief that the Bible teaches us principles, fundamentals or elements of human science in general and of historical geological science in particular.

For the fundamentalist, therefore, the reliability of the Bible as the Word of God is related to scientific
reliability. For him this is particularly true with respect to the first eleven chapters of Genesis . This conception, however, implies inevitably that science and God’s Revelation in the first chapters of the Bible are placed on the same (scientific) level, on the basis of which scientifically obtained data about the history of the earth and man will have to fir, into the ‘Biblical scheme or framework’.

The ‘question’ of the reliability of the Holy Scriptures can thus be fought out on the scientific field, and, as a consequence, we then see theologians entef this field, as Professor Whitcomb now does, as Professor Aalders did in Holland a few decades ago, and as so many before them have done since the end of the Middle Ages.
But these ‘scientific’ battles for an infallible Word of God have been lost right from the start. In constant retreat, the theologians have had to surrender every position they had once taken in this struggle. That’s what the history of the warfare between science and theology should have made conclusively clear. The tragedy of men who wanted to defend the reliability of the Word of God ‘scientifically’ should have taught us that this entire approach was wrong. It should have convinced us that this science is a very bad ally, because its word had only temporal and no eternal value.

The most tragic aspect of the fundamentalist conception seems to me that his standpoint requires scientific proof, so that he must somehow live in fear of the results of developing scientific work, because indeed this development could then also disprove the reliability of the Holy Scriptures. And this leads to the cardinal question whether in this way the fundamentalist’s conception does not reveal an implicit faith in science, which is far more dangerous for Christian religion than is the scientific development itself.

A few years ago, I was speaking to a conference of Reformed ministers in the Netherlands about some fundamental facts of geology. In the discussion, one of them arose and declared that, if he were convinced that what I had told them was true, he would immediately abandon his ministry. But I ask myself ‘what kind of a religion is Christianity when scientific geological facts can prove or disprove the reliability of God’s Revelation to man? What then do we really believe in? In our own ‘image’, conceptions or ideas about an infallible Bible? In an interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis with the help of current natural scientific knowledge just as earlier theologians did with the help of a world picture, incidentally, usually already out of date in their own time?! Does the message of the Bible then really necessarily change with the changing world picture? It surely does as long as we continue trying to accommodate Genesis and geology.

Instead of giving human scientific work its proper place in the light of Scripture, fundamentalism indeed implies, as I indicated already in the beginning of this article, a colossal overestimation of natural science. Neither geology nor any other natural science can ever be a direct exegetical tool, as they have been used, and still are used in fundamentalistie conceptions.

However, the history of the natural sciences and the results of modern geology, for example, could play a far more modest role, the role of an indirect exegetical tool. Such would be not a tool to test, to prove or to disprove the reliability of Scriptures, but to test the reliability of our ideas and conceptions about the Bible, the inspiration, and the historicity of the first chapters of Genesis.

The reliability of the Word of God spoken in this world through His prophets and apostles is beyond the reach of scientific control, because the Bible is not a scientific book. As such, it is not vulnerable to the results of science. Therefore, Christian astronomers, geologists, and biologists can work without fear as long as they respect the limits of their own scientific field.

Our ideas and conceptions concerning the Bible may indeed appear to be vulnerable to the results of scientific development. This state of affairs seems to he difficult to accept, particularly for many evangelical Christians. It cannot be denied, however, that there is ‘revelation’ (be it of a different kind than that of the Bible) in the development of this created world, also in the results of human scientific and technical advances during the last centuries. It cannot be denied and should not be denied that, as a result of this development, our (scientific) world picture (Weltbild) has obtained huge dimensions, both in time and space and has become entirely different from that of the authors of the Bible. But, this is the world God has wanted us to live in, we and our children.

The fundamentalistie view, conservative in an erroneous sense, requires us to accept a so-called “biblical world picture” which should be normative for scientific work. This is a poor predicament indeed for contemporary Christianity, because it tends to transform twentieth century Christians into aliens, standing, as it were, in Old Testament times. Since this is, of course, not possible, the fundamentalistie view tends to deprive them of their belief in a reliable Bible. It alienates us from the Words of Eternal Life, which we understand through faith and not through science, and which stand firm in this rapidly changing world.

References
1Published by the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Penna., 1961.
2The Genesis Flood, Text of Fig. 11, p. 175.
3Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, being on attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface by causes now in operation. 1st Ed. Volumes I-Ill, London 1830-1833.
4R. Hooykaas, Naural law and divine miracle, a historical critical study of the Principle of Uniformity in geology, biology and theology. E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1959.
5The Genesis Flood. p. 243
6W. G. Krnmbein and L. L. Sloss, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation. 1st Ed. 1951. 7The Genesis Flood, p. 274
7The Genesis Flood, p. 274.
8A. H. von Engeln and K. E. Caster, Geology, 1952, pp. 417, 418
9A. D. van Engeln and K. E. Caster, Geology, 1952, p. 423
10Dr. G. Ch. Aaldcrs, De goddelijke openbaring in de eerste drie hoofstukken van Genesis, Kampen, 1932.
11SR. H. Rastall, Geology, In: Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 10, 1956, p. 168.

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Some good reading matter by recent writers

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