Category Archives: de la Beche

How do you measure (geological) time? (according to Creationists)

Learn More About the Is Genesis History? Bible Study Set

So asks a recent blog of “Is Genesis History?”

They seem to think that geologists in the early 19th century just made it all up from their fantastical imaginations!!

That is not quite true as I show, but first a family diversion.

When our daughter was about 6 or 7 she took some rocks and put labels on them with enormous numbers – 436740 years , 736400 years etc. All were less than a million. Sadly, many like Mr Snelling do not have as an advanced understanding as she had then!!

I found this short blog absolutely face-palming as it made almost as many serious errors as words! It is amazing, and very concerning, that anyone with more than a 6 year olds understanding could get so much wrong.

Yet “Is Genesis History?” has qualified geologists producing their material and one has to ask why it is so wrong, as well as pointing out where it is wrong. Today we hear much of Unconscious Bias, but this seems worse than Conscious Bias.

https://isgenesishistory.com/5-measure-time/?fbclid=IwAR13z2BSgB3mmkOnq0pWnq9Hk8LpyBGh0Pd6QDrGOIA1sZYXgt6XY-bv-AU

Here it is in full

“The Bible would say that the past is the key to the present.” – Andrew Snelling, Geologist at SP Crater & Sedona, Arizona

If the Bible presents a concise timeline of history, where does the idea of millions of years come from?

Geologists like Charles Lyell wanted to replace the history recorded in Genesis with a naturalistic history of their own construction. They started with the idea of long ages, then interpreted the rocks in light of their new paradigm.

Today, geologists rely on measuring radioisotope decay and interpret its results in terms of the conventional paradigm. Yet anomalies in these dating methods question their conclusions. Instead, one can look at geological formations to see evidence of a young earth transformed by a global catastrophe: the flat and enormous extent of sedimentary layers; a lack of deep and widespread erosion between most layers; and evidence that sediment was rapidly deposited by huge amounts of water.

Learn more about radioisotope dating and flood geology in

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“The Bible would say that the past is the key to the present.” – Andrew Snelling, Geologist at SP Crater & Sedona, Arizona

Simply empty affirmation . Where does the Bible say it? It is meaningless.

Geologists like Charles Lyell wanted to replace the history recorded in Genesis with a naturalistic history of their own construction. They started with the idea of long ages, then interpreted the rocks in light of their new paradigm.

This is simply a gross misrepresentation about how “long ages” came into being. Not one geologist started “with the idea of long ages”. Consider how “long ages” developed;

Up to the mid-17th century almost all scholars from Columbus to Ussher thought that the earth was a few thousand years old, with Ussher giving his famous date of 4004BC.

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This made great sense at the time but was undermined within a few decades.

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

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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 and 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.

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

James Hutton and Siccar Point

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 235 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.

By 1800 few geological savants denied “long ages”. The geologist William Smith

200px-william_smith_geologist      William Smith's A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland (1815)

William Smith and his map of 1815

was persuaded out of a young earth by several local vicars, notably Benjamin Richardson and Joseph Townsend. Townsend, an evangelical, published a major work in 1813, but his prowess was soon overtaken by several other Church of England clergymen, John Henslow, William Conybeare, William Buckland and Adam Sedgwick, who made great contributions to the Geological Column, especially from the Cambrian to Carboniferous. Buckland introduced the concept of an Ice Age to Britain

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Henslow and his exquisite map of Anglesey 1823

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William Buckland checking for ice and hyenas!!

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 Sedgwick wanting to get back to the field

As they were in their prime a young Scot and pupil of Buckland began his geologising, but disagreed with the catastrophic “long ages” ideas, especially of his friend Conybeare and in 1831 published the first volume of his Principles of Geology. By the time Lyell began geology almost all geologists were convinced of the evidences for “long ages”. Here we’ll be told of the Scriptural Geologists expounded by Terry Mortensen. Despite Mortensen’s claims only one, George Young, carried out any field geology  (in Yorkshire) and was criticised for rejecting geological time.

Lyell was very much a johnny-come-lately , and neither he nor anyone else “started with the idea of long ages”. That is blatantly false. By the time Lyell picked up his hammer, geologists had slowly been finding evidence for “long ages”. Lyell continued and found even more evidence!!

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   Lyell looking principled  BucklandArchiveCauseEffect002

Many geologists didn’t like Lyell’s uniformitarianism in 1831 and so De La Beche painted a watercolour of why Buckland’s son could not make a big valley by having a pee.

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 Tow others having a pee with no more success

To claim that “Geologists like Charles Lyell wanted to replace the history recorded in Genesis with a naturalistic history of their own construction.” is also a falsehood and without evidence. It is not true of Lyell, nor any other geologist, except George Young. Lyell was very critical of those like Young who tried to squeeze a “history” of the earth from Genesis. Here he was almost entirely in agreement with all the clerical geologists like Buckland.

This is a blatant misrepresentation which has no basis in history. I would have thought Dr Snelling would have known that it was wrong. Or perhaps not.

Today, geologists rely on measuring radioisotope decay and interpret its results in terms of the conventional paradigm.

It is so much easier, and briefer, to make a statement like this, which is devoid of truth than to refute it. Yes, radiometric age dating is used, but its results are weighed up, with and against the older geology and assessed with care

Yet anomalies in these dating methods question their conclusions.

What anomalies does the writer mean? This statement simply gets readers to be suspicious and thus dismiss all geological dating. It does not seem to be in the spirit of the Ninth Commandment. Over the years I have come across many alleged anomalies and when I have been able to check them I ALWAYS found them to be false accusations.

A classic example is the paper “Radiometric Dating Reappraised” by John Woodmorappe which originally appeared in the Creation Research Society Quarterly (Volume 16, September 1979. It lists some 800 anomalies and some 40 years ago I went through and checked about a hundred. None were anomalies and all were misrepresented. Sadly I didn’t record my findings but here is a short account of some whoppers.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/woodmorappe-geochronology.html

Again the Ninth is pushed to one side!!

And so at the end of a short article replete with dissimulation there is a triumphant conclusion

Instead, one can look at geological formations to see evidence of a young earth transformed by a global catastrophe: the flat and enormous extent of sedimentary layers; a lack of deep and widespread erosion between most layers; and evidence that sediment was rapidly deposited by huge amounts of water.

What can anyone say to that?

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Is this really Mary Anning at Lyme Regis? Or someone else somewhere else?

Is this really Mary Anning at Lyme Regis? Or someone else somewhere else?

It is one of the most popular pictures of Mary Anning and even used on a suggested draft of a £50 note.

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The most famous fossil collector was Mary Anning of Lyme Regis in Dorset. She spent years collecting fossils and selling them on. This is one of the most popular pictures of her at work;

It was used on the front cover of a biography and on The Geological Curator in 1985 anningbioganninggcg

In the next few months the film Ammonite on the life of the great fossil-collector Mary Anning will be premiered in the USA and the UK. Mary lived from 1799 to 1847 in the seaside town of Lyme Regis and unearthed may significant fossils on the Jurassic coast. She provided specimens for geologists like Conybeare, Buckland and de la Beche.

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Duria Antiquior – A more Ancient Dorset is a watercolour painted in 1830 by the geologist Henry De la Beche based on fossils found by Mary Anning

(compare this with Mary anning picture – is it the same style?)

By the time she was died she was famous and here is a posthumous portrait.

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Posthumous painting of Anning by B. J. Donne from 1847, based on the 1842 portrait at the head of this article, showing her pointing at an ammonite

Now back to the oft-posted picture of Mary geologising, alleged to be painted by Sir Henry de la Beche, who was more than capable as an artist. However he should be expunged from history as a former slave-owner.

Here she is, in shorter skirts, standing on a rock with her hammer ready with Golden Cap in the background.

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Just a minute!

Is it really Golden Cap? Golden Cap is only 171 metres high (560 ft if you prefer) and with a flat top to play cricket on as I had to on family holidays.

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And is it Mary Anning?

To me, as I am familiar with Lyme Regis, having been there on geology field trips and three summer holidays as a child, it just doesn’t look right and I am sure de la Beche was a better artist and would have drawn Golden Cap more accurately right down to the horizontal strata.

Looking at it, I am minded of one of favourite mountain ridges in Snowdonia, the Nantlle Ridge which starts at Rhyd Du  and works its way along the ridge to Craig Cwm Silyn. It is an exposed route as to the north cliffs drop into a series of glacial cwms. The first time I traversed that ridge I tore my brand-new anorak.

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Here is the east end of the Nantlle Ridge from Rhyd Ddu with Llyn y Gader in the foreground.

The peak of Y Garn (653metres) on the right with steep (glaciated?) nose and a glacial cwm behind. To climb it the route takes you up the shoulder on the right of the photo. At the bottom was a scruffy sign telling the English to Far Cough. From the first top you move to the left to Mynydd Drys y Coed (695m) and then along the narrow ridge to Craig Cwm Silyn, the high point at 734 metres. From there I normally retraced my steps beck to Rhyd Ddu. The north side of the ridge is precipitous as there are several northerly orientated glacial cwms.

The engineer, geologist Thomas Sopwith drew a sketch of Pen y Gader in October 1841, during a visit to North Wales with the Rev William Buckland  to see if there had been glaciation in Wales as well as in Scotland.

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It’s the same as my photo with a roche moutonee in the foreground.

Now for a bit of history. In 1838 William Buckland went to visit Louis Agassiz in Switzerland. Agassiz was full of ice as he had just publicised that the glaciers in Switzerland had been far more extensive and that there had been an Ice Age in the none to distant past. He claimed ice had spread right up to the Jura mountains , where a glacier had dumped the erratic block, Pierre a Bot, high above Neuchatel – and scratched some rocks in the process. On a field trip we also found many glacial grooves on exposed rocks. Buckland took a lot of convincing but in the end Agassiz froze him out, and Buckland became a convert.

In 1840 Agassiz came to Britain and went up to Scotland with Buckland and Lyell. Near Lancaster, where I live, they found their first evidence of an former ice age – drumlins  -and I used to live on one. They then went to Glen Roy with its famous and baffling parallel roads. Two years earlier Darwin studied them and concluding they were ancient raised beaches from the lowering of sea level from 1200 ft. Agassiz disagreed and said there were from an ancient glacial lake publicising it in the Scotsman. Darwin had made a “gigantic blunder”, as he later admitted.

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Next year, the ailing John Eddowes Bowman toured North Wales to find evidence and claimed to find nothing. In October Tom Sopwith met up with Buckland near Chester and explored the area in one of the worst Octobers ever. They began at the meres at Ellesmere and reckoned to identify rocks from both Scotland and Wales, concluding that ice sheets met there. They were absolutely correct and I enjoyed doing the same. From there they went up the Dee valley to Bala and then past Arenig Fawr (2804ft) where they did not notice the result of glaciation.

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After that they stayed at the coaching in  at Pentrefoelas and continued along the new road (A5) to Snowdonia, finding evidence of glaciation en route. They stayed at Llanrwst. And went up to Ogwen. From Llanrwst they went to Pen y Pass and in between the showers worked out the glaciation

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This map shows the glacial troughs Buckland and Sopwith identified.

Llyn y Gader is the smallest of the three lakes just to the west of Snowdon. Note 2 glacial cwms are marked.

For my paper on the work of Bowman, Buckland and Darwin on Welsh Ice see

BucklandDarwinWalesIce

In a few days of torrential rain they delineated all the major glacial troughs in Snowdonia. It was brilliant work. After dropping down to Beddgelert, they ended up at Rhyd Ddu and noted that glaciers seemed to be going in three directions. As well as being an engineer and geologist, he also produced excellent models showing geological structures.

For his brilliant models go to Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ThomasSopwithAppreciationSociety

This Thomas Sopwith was the grandfather of Sir Thomas Sopwith, who designed the Sopwith Camel, a WWI fighter plane. The latter’s grandson, also Thomas, lived near where we lived in Chirk. Sopwith was a fine artist at both sketching and painting. His most famous was of William Buckland dressed for glacier work. It is both faithful, but a bit of a send-up.

The wording is entertaining. It is of Buckland at the Waterloo Bridge in Betws y Coed. I once hobbled over that bridge, having twisted my ankle trying to find one of Buckland’s sites.

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This was also the basis of a painting, a poor copy by an APF. Who was it? Sopwith would say it was not up to scratch!

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https://blog.geolsoc.org.uk/2014/08/21/a-new-version-of-sopwiths-buckland-portrait/

Now another sketch at Beddgelert by Sopwith on 16th October 1841

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Here’s Buckland in the Pass of Aberglaslyn in the same garb. He stayed in Beddgelert but the record of his stay is “missing”

When you compare these with the “Mary Anning” picture, you will note the same clothes, shoes and hat! And then there are also the glacial striae on the roche moutonee, which is not possible for Lyme Regis as ice never reached Dorset during the Ice Ages. Further the painting is in the style of Sopwith and not the exquisite watercolours of de la Beche.

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I think one can only draw one conclusion. This picture is not of Mary Anning, nor of Lyme Regis, nor by de la Beche, but is of William Buckland in Snowdonia and the original by Thomas Sopwith. (The hill on the right is Mynydd Cigwyn just above Nantlle.) Buckland’s cloak, much needed that October, does look a bit like a shorter skirt adding to the confusion.  It also warns against jumping to historical conclusions. Tom Sharpe, who has an imminent biography on Mary Anning, has also made the same points in a HOGG newsletter https://historyofgeologygroup.co.uk/hogg-newsletter/hogg-newsletter-61/

Some years ago I took the part of Sedgwick in a planned HBS documentary of evolution. But it got left out.

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Here’s a photo of a woman in 1830s working class clothes

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Who’s more like the person in the picture?

This annotated picture should make it clear. Go and visit the place and prove me wrong!

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Now here is a picture of Buckland by de la Beche on Buckland’s favourite topic- coprolite. A mortarboard and not a top hat!  Also note what each animal is doing! What is between Buckland’s legs?

Maybe I’ve done what de la Beche did to Lyell’s ideas on uniformitarianism in 1831, when he reckoned that the little volumes of water couldn’t do what Lyell claimed in his uniformitarianism. Here Buckland’s son, Frank, is recruited to show why Lyell was wrong. I reckon this is above Idwal cottage looking down the Nant Francon, but Martin Rudwick is sure it is in the Auvergne. Take your pick, but I re-enacted it on a field trip in 2009

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