Category Archives: geology

Weird Worldview Warriors take on 350 years of geology.

In August 2018 I was asked to write of blog entitled

10 questions to ask a young earth creationist

It was fairly basic focussing on creationist flaws and then to my amusement an Amercian Steven Risner devoted several blogs on it in I presume he meant keyboard warriors. I just luv werldvew warriers!! It’s so pretentious!  He came about with the usual young earth stufff,


but more recently focussed on who geologists have got their geology wrong for 350 years. I suppose most geologists are plain thick to do this. According to Risner there have a succession of thicko geologists teaching at all the universities of the world, from Oxford to the University of Lower Piddle in Dorset and are blissfully unaware that all their teaching is based on false assumptions. How thick can the Goulds, Lord Oxburghs, Arthur Holmes , Tuzo Wilsons and the rest be? They should have more perception.

So let’s consider Steven Risner’s gems of critical thinking.

He posted this on 11th April and he may wonder why I spent so long in replying. My first delay was due to Holy Week and the business for a priest in that week and I’m sure he’d approve of that. (Maybe I am an imposter!) And then a bit of time off!!

Why do you claim that so many geologists in the last 350 years got their geology wrong?

As is my custom, I try to answer short and sweet if possible. This has more than one answer that’s fairly obvious, at least to me.The first one is that the last 350 years of geological study disagrees with the Bible’s clear teaching on earth’s history. It doesn’t get any more obvious. However, the second answer is a little more detailed.

Over the last 350 years, geologists frequently have started their observations of the evidence with the wrong assumptions. These assumptions force geologists to interpret the evidence a particular way. Those assumptions are that of deep time and that there was no global Flood as described by the Bible. If we reject the clear teachings of the Word of God, how can we even suggest we are following the God of the Bible? Sure, many of these old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists will say they accept Christ’s teachings and the apostles’ teachings, but why? If we reject some of it, what standard do we use to know if we should accept what the Bible says in one place and reject other parts? I’m seriously asking. If the answer is “science,” then we’re lost already.

The bottom line is this: if your worldview places the authority of science (or in this case what you mistakenly believe is science) over that of Scripture and you use that so-called science to determine how the Bible is to be interpreted, you’ve placed something before the authority God has over you. This is especially true if those portions of Scripture you’re choosing to reinterpret based on your view of nature are major foundational points of the Christian faith.

Now there is a lot here but our warrior makes three points

  1. He assumes the Bible has a clear view of earth history
  2. Geologists start with wrong assumptions that there is Deep time and no global Flood
  3. Geologists place the authority over that of scripture

If he is right then the whole of geology must be rejected as intellectual codswollop. If even one is partly true then all geology is nullified

Now to consider his main points in turn

  1. He assumes the Bible has a clear view of earth history

The first one is that the last 350 years of geological study disagrees with the Bible’s clear teaching on earth’s history.

This is a standard appeal from Young Earthers that the Bible is absolutely clear on the earth’s history. Yet apart from the claims that  Genesis 1 and a few psalms (poetry) speak of earth history, the Bible says nothing that could even considered as earth history, and even that is questionable, as all have either a poetic or stylistic form There is simply nothing of the earth’s history in the Bible, and those who claim there is do not read the Bible for what it is. It is like going to Genesis to find the Periodic Table. On early Genesis there is no consensus down the two millennia on what it means beyond God as creator, with some taking Genesis one as something other than a historical account. Augustine simply regarded the whole of Creation as instantaneous and not spread over six days. Further there was no consideration over the time of earth history until proto-geologists started to consider the order of strata. A little thinking would show that there couldn’t have been.

It was only in the 1680s that questions were raised about time. Before that there was much vagueness but a tendency to a shortish chronology. Even Calvin who assumes a young earth gives us no earth history. Seventy years later the Roman Catholic Fr Mersenne is his literally mammoth commentary gives no earth history either. It was memorable reading Mersenne in Latin as the volume was so large – about 24 in x 15 ins x 5ins.

So none of these learned clerics give us earth history, and the the Theories of the Earth at the end of the 17th century give no coherent account because they are so variable.

Oh for a clear view of Biblical Earth History!!

2.Geologists start with wrong assumptions that there is Deep time and no global Flood

Over the last 350 years, geologists frequently have started their observations of the evidence with the wrong assumptions. These assumptions force geologists to interpret the evidence a particular way. Those assumptions are that of deep time and that there was no global Flood as described by the Bible.


Now that is a bold statement! As these putative assumptions have gone back 350 years we should be able to identify who put them forward. And so someone or a group of savants decided sometime after 1660 to argue  WITHOUT EVIDENCE, as it was an assumption, for Deep Time and the absence of a Global Flood. If it were so pervasive, then historians could identify the culprits. I claim to have read a vast number of writers from 1660 onwards on geology (and its relationship to Christianity), yet I have failed to find one possible suspect. Better historians of geology, like Rudwick and Ellenberger have been equally unsuccessful.  If Risner’s claim were true, then all of us would have found several examples where a writer made a garatuitous assumption of Deep Time. At best this is arguing from lack of evidence, or is it simply codswollop?

The period 1660 to 1710 is pivotal in the study of earth history from Nils Steno through John Ray to the Theories of the Earth and the known and unknown William Hobbs. Before 1660 virtually none had any inkling of Deep Time. Here James Ussher was reflecting the views of most with an age for the earth of about 6000 years. Yes, he argued for 4004BC and others went for some date within a thousand years of so of his date – including Sir Walter Raleigh, who wrote a history of the world while waiting execution. There was not much geological research in the 1610s!!

Having read many works from this period, I found no example of an assumption of Deep time , but rather the opposite. In fact, all savants in the late 17th century made the tentative assumption that the earth was young and Ussher’s figure of 4004BC was in the right order and that the global Flood had laid down the strata. They went into the field with that in mind and initially interpreted the strata according to their assumptions and gradually many found that the evidence went against their assumption of a young earth, so corrected them!


The earliest example of question the young earth and global assumption I have found is the Oxford scholar Edward Lhwyd, who was a good friend of Rev John Ray.


See this for detail where referring to Lhwyd’s letter to Ray

The Royal Society of London, founded in 1660, epitomised the flowering of science both in Britain and the continent. The work of Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and others in physics and chemistry needs no introduction. Less well-known is the natural history of John Ray (1627-1705), Edward Lhwyd (1660-1709) and others. The period also saw the beginnings of a scientific study of the earth and their findings were published in turgid volumes known as “Theories of the Earth”. On a first reading these seem to be a literal reading of Genesis stories with a few semi-scientific glosses. A closer read shows them to be more profound as they meld together the Bible, the classics, almost mediaeval “book” learning with the citing of endless authorities and scientific insight in a Chaos-Restitution interpretation of Genesis One. Here they shared the outlook of most theologians (except Ussher!) and literary writers such as Thomas Traherne and Alexander Pope. Instead of taking the Creation story to teach creation in six short days, writers, following an interpretation going back to the early Church Fathers, claimed from Genesis (Chapter one verse one) that God first created Chaos (without form and void) and after an interval recreated it in six days. The duration of Chaos was undefined. With Ussher it was twelve hours, but for most it was a long and unspecified duration.  Some, notably Thomas Burnet (1635?-1715), Edmond Halley (1656-1742) and William Whiston (1667-1752), reckoned the days to be more than twenty-four hours. Halley attempted a calculation of the age of the earth from the sea’s salinity, but came to no firm conclusions other than it was tens of thousands of years old. Likewise theological writers of the day; Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707) reckoned that God first created Chaos and then later re-ordered it in Six Days. He said of the duration of Chaos, ‘It might be … a great while;…’ Few accepted Ussher’s date of 4004 BC for the initial Creation, though most accepted that humanity first appeared in about the year 4000 BC, hence the general acceptance of the rest of Ussher’s chronology. The extension of time by the “Theorists” and contemporary theologians was minute compared to the billions of years of geological time, but was, as Stephen Gould wrote of Whiston’s argument that the day of Genesis one was a year long was, “a big step in the right direction.” In Britain the way was open for a longer time-scale.

Fossils and Geology

Not until the late 17th Century were “formed stones” or fossils recognised as imprints of dead creatures rather than formed as “sports of nature” in place. Only then could “fossils” be used to demonstrate former life and it took a century before the succession of fossils was used to put strata into historical order. Possibly the first person who used the succession of fossils to demonstrate evolution was Charles Darwin in a notebook in 1838, shortly before he “discovered” Natural Selection. In the 1690s there were insufficient grounds to suggest “Deep Time” or the continual reworking of the earth’s crust as understandings of erosion were rudimentary. Ray, Whiston and others cannot be expected to have done otherwise.

Most of the writers had some “scientific” understanding and often spent as much time refuting each other as suggesting new ideas. Some were mostly speculative, as was Thomas Burnet’s The Theory of the Earth. Despite his devotion to the Deluge, he sought to explain phenomena naturalistically and somewhat extended the duration of Genesis One. John Ray’s Miscellaneous Discourses concerning the dissolution of the worldshows the beginning of careful observation on earth processes and questions over geological time. After reading the first edition of Ray’s Miscellaneous Discourses, Lhwyd wrote to Ray on 30 February 1691, ‘Upon the reading on your discourse of the rains continually washing away and carrying down earth from the mountains, it puts me in mind…which I observed’, and then described what he had observed in Snowdonia. He described innumerable boulders which had “fallen” into the Llanberis valleys. (Most of these are glacial erratics.) As ‘but two or three that have fallen in the memory of any man…, in the ordinary course of nature we shall be compelled to allow the rest many thousands of years more than the age of the world.’ Ray commented on Lhwyd’s findings and seemed deliberately to avoid facing the logic of Lhwyd’s comments. He nailed his colours firmly to the fence, and did not explicitly reject an Ussher chronology. However from his discussion of Chaos and other comments, it is fair to conclude that he accepted that the earth was considerably more than five-and-a-half thousand years old, but left the reader to decide.

DSCF9511 (1)

An erratic block in Nant Peris, Snowdonia, near where Lhwyd had his ideas. They are scattered both along the floor and sides of the valley. Occasionally a higher one may roll dwon, but I can think of no example recently.

And so some thought time might be less shallow. They had no assumption of deep or shallow time, but carried out geological investigations, starting with a tentative young earth.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century a large number of theories of the Earth were  published, mostly in Britain by writers such as Burnet, Whiston, Woodward, Ray and Hobbes (Roberts 2002, pp. 144–150). These were an attempt to rationalize the early history of the earth into six days to uphold the text of Genesis. The authors allowed an indefinite time for chaos and combined Genesis, classical writings, scientific observation and speculation into a fascinating melange of ideas. Burnet wrote of the indefinite
chaos, ‘so it is understood by the general consent of commentators’ (Burnet 1681, chap IV, p. 30) and the commentator Bishop Patrick wrote of the duration of chaos that ‘(I)t might be a great while’ (Patrick 1854, Vol. 1, pp. 1–3). Exactly how long chaos lasted was never made explicit. Most accepted that the ‘days’ of Genesis 1 were of  twenty-four hours duration, but Burnett and Whiston argued that each day of creation could have been a year in duration and the obscure William Hobbs suggested an even longer time basing his ideas on 2 Peter 3:8; ‘one day is as a thousand years’ and ‘I say, why may not one such day, be equall to many years’ (Hobbs 1979, p. 110). Writing about Whiston (Whiston 1696), who extended each day to a year, Stephen Gould said that this ‘was a big step in the right direction’ (Gould 1991, p. 372).

These remarks lifted from two of my published chapters show there was no dogmatic assumption of either Deep Time or a young earth in the late 17th century, but rather savants trying to make sense of the rocks they saw and beginning to stumble towards Deep Time as a result of their research. They started with an initial assumption of a young earth, as that was the culture they lived in. Slowly they changed their minds . They were gradually wading out to deeper water from the shallows.

What we have is that early geologists/savants took their working assumptions form the prevalent culture, hence they initially started with a young earth and found that what they observed in rocks did not fit. Lhwyd is an example – even though the many boulders in Nant Peris had not rolled down the hillsides but were transported by glaciers. He gives an excellent example on how geologists were thinking things through

Because of this I never mock Ussher or anyone else from that period who tended to accept a young earth. They were excellent scholars for their day and slowly worked out details of geological time.

As we move into the 18th century more and more “geologists” became convinced of a deeper time, though there was still considerable variance of conclusions. Thus Hutton, of unconformity fame

Angular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)

accepted a vast amount of time of many millions, whereas J. A. de Luc seemed to accept only hundreds of thousands. A minority like Kirwan still held to thousands. Among the geologically literate few held to a young earth by 1800 and those who did were changing their minds. One was William Smith who worked out how to relatively date rocks by fossils in the 1790s, he produced a succession of strata in historical order and the fist geological map ever of a country (England and Wales) in 1815, which was remarkably accurate by todays’ standards..



Yet in the 1790s he was young earth not for dogmatic reasons. In ten years he realised the earth was old – probably due to his mentors the Revs Samuel Richardson and Joshua Townsend, who as Christian clergy accepted an old earth! Then James Parkinson d1824 – the first to diagnose Parkinson’s disease – wrote the first volume of Organic remains of a former world in 1804. There he described the earth as some 6000 years old. But four years later in volume ii , he explicitly avowed an ancient earth.

Did they change their assumptions or were they following the evidence? I’d say they modified their working assumptions as they went along, and had the nouse to do so.

Smith and Parkinson show the gradual shift over geological time, and  with only one or two exceptions all competent in geology accepted Deep Time well before 1820. It is instructive to see how Christian writers changed their views over time. Thus Dean Close of Carlisle was young earth in the 1820s and fully accepted Deep Time by 1850. Thre are many other examples.

This shows a slow gathering awareness of Deep Time from 1680. By 1800 Shallow Time was a thing of the past.

As usual Answers in Genesis in the incarnation of Mortenson argue that the church compromised.

As for a Global Flood, most savants in the 17th century simply assumed a Global Flood, as did most theologians. However William Poole in his Commentary argued for a local flood and our unknown William Hobbs refused to grant geological efficacy to the Deluge. This continued right into the 19th century.

Willaim Smith accepted a global flood which laid down the most recent strata as did many others until the 1830s. Most interesting is William Buckland who wrote Reliquiae Diluvianae in 1823. There he limited flood deposits to the uppermost strata, which today are seen as pleistocene. The volume was dedicated to his mentor Bishop Shute Barrington of Durham, who was then a crusty and conservative reactionary octagenarian bishop! (I think he holds the record for the time he was a bishop.) On theology he looked to evangelical scholars like John Bird Sumner. Buckland held on to diluvialism right up to the 1840s and at Oxford are some of his almost illegible musings of the flood in relation to glaciation written in the 1840s.

To sum up, Risner fails to identify who made these assumptions of Deep Time, which would guide all geological thinking. He produces no evidence for his claims.


I could say more but you could read Davis Young’s The Biblical Flood. or the Bible, Rocks and Time


3. Geologists place the authority over that of scripture

The bottom line is this: if your worldview places the authority of science (or in this case what you mistakenly believe is science) over that of Scripture and you use that so-called science to determine how the Bible is to be interpreted, you’ve placed something before the authority God has over you. This is especially true if those portions of Scripture you’re choosing to reinterpret based on your view of nature are major foundational points of the Christian faith

This needs to be reworded;

The bottom line is this; if your worldview places the authority of science…………. under your inconsistent interpretation of Scripture……

This many Creationists cannot see. They force their literal view of scripture onto Scripture. This was challenged 500 years ago by Calvin and his view of accommodation.

The period of the Reformation resulted in a more rigorous biblical interpretation with an emphasis on the literal, or plain, rather than allegorical, meaning of scripture. This  inclined most theologians and savants to understand the ‘day’ of Genesis Chapter 1 as of twenty-four hours and thus the earth to have been created in about 4000 BC, be they Luther, Calvin, Mercator, Raleigh or Columbus. Despite the emphasis of both Roman Catholic and Protestant exegetes on the ‘literal’ meaning of Scripture, this ‘literalism’ never went to the extreme of insisting on a flat earth, which is demanded by a literal reading of Genesis 1:6–8, and Exodus 20:4. In fact, very few Christian theologians had ever considered the earth to be flat, a myth demolished by Russell (Russell 1991).  Literalism was tempered by ‘accommodation’. This refusal to adopt a slavish literalism can be seen clearly in Calvin’s understanding of the accommodation of Scripture. In 1554, eleven years after Copernicus published De revolutionibus, Calvin published his commentary on Genesis in Latin. Calvin


made no reference here, nor probably anywhere else, to the Copernican theory, but he stressed that Genesis was not written to teach astronomy. As he dealt with the Mosaic description of the firmament of Genesis 1 he wrote, ‘He, who  would learn astronomy and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere’ (Calvin 1847, p. 79). He considered the firmament of Genesis 1:6–8, not to be the solid crystalline dome, which is implied by Egyptian astronomy, but a representation of rain clouds, because ‘nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world’ (Calvin 1847, pp. 69–88). Calvin was wrong at this point as most ancients considered the firmament to be a solid dome. But he considered that Moses accommodated himself to the limitations of human thought and as Calvin commented on Genesis 1:15, ‘For as it became a theologian, he had respect to us rather than the stars’. Calvin approached his task with Ptolemean assumptions of a spherical rather than a flat earth. He also did not question a 6000- year-old earth nor a universal flood. Calvin’s  accommodating interpretation eased the path for many Calvinists to accept  Copernicanism, with  the result that some Roman Catholics referred to the ‘Calvino–Copernican’ theory. In the following centuries Calvin’s doctrine of  accommodation allowed devout Protestants to accept the findings of science, whether astronomy or geology, without the rejection of the authority or the teaching of scripture (Hooykaas 1972, pp. 114–130).

Calvin’s idea of ACCOMMODATION shows there is no theological objection to an ancient earth as the Bible is not written to give that information, but rather is ACCOMMODATED to the thought forms of the time it was written.

The most apt quote is that of Calvin

He, who  would learn astronomy and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere’

We go elsewhere on most things. Trivially I do not go to the bible to find out how to fix my bicycle, nor when I should plant certain seeds or prune plants. Calvin was clear, the bible is not a source for astronomy – and we can add, any other science.

Behind Calvin’s comment is that we need to know where biblical authority lies and what for. There are so many things which the bible does not mention and thus we do not go to it to see whether we should use oak or balsawood for the framework of a house. !! Nor will it tell us whether coal or gas is a better fuel. It goes on.

To most Christians the Bible is the ultimate authority, but for moral and theological principles and not details on science, mechanics or gardening. However on ethical issues we are not given blanket rules but ideas to give as Middle Axioms as William Temple called them. This is clear in his Christianity and Social Order. Thus a National Health Service as in Britain is not prescribed by biblical authority, but the principles of love of neighbour and even some OT teaching we can see it as an outworking of biblical teaching and authority. Hey I’m going to be called an extreme socialist for this!!

By claiming this Risner actually destroys the authority of scripture as it then is seen to be risibile.

I look to the authority of the Bible on what is revealed about Jesus Christ and why I should love my neighbour, not tell lies or steal etc, but not whether Lyell, Buckland or Steno gives me the better basis for geology, or which month I should plant my runner bean seeds.

For all normal Christians the Bible is the authority for doctrine and ethics, but not whether fish preceeded dinosaurs on this planet.

Risner has a perfect way of undermining the authority of the Bible


Lost World of John Walton –

Last month Creation.con decided to shred me for my blog on Premier Radio.

This month month it is the turn of Prof J Walton of Wheaton College, Chicago on his trilogy of Genesis one,


the Fall


and the Flood.

A book for sale at the Ark Encounter gift shop. You can see on the cover that the felines all came from a single common ancestor cat on the Ark.


The god folk at Creation ministries are not happy bunnies and they also don’t like Steve Moshier on geology

Enjoy the read and see how they are stuck in an inconsistent position and do nothing for the Gospel.

Better is to read Walton’s books

Source: Lost World of John Walton –

Michael Roberts gets hung, drawn and quartered by Australian Creationists!! the final fatal blows

Oh dear my Premier Christian Radio blog of last year has caused some upset down-under. Not content with shredding my first five questions, they have had me hung, drawn and quartered as well. Have I really touched a raw nerve with these Australian creationists?


Well, Creation Ministries International have now shredded my points 6 to 10 and I’m gutted

Much was predictable and they seem disappointed I have not taken heed of their books and articles, which they know I have read. Yes, I took head of them as far was sensible , which was not at all. Jonathan Sirfartie’s Refuting Evolution was a remarkably bad book.

Not being so blessed as them with unlimited time I make a few comments on some of their quotes from the blog.

It is essentially saying one must believe in a 6-day creation and not to do so you are compromised by secular thought and have rejected the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the last half century I have not found one argument for creationism which dust not turn to dust on inspection.

Here is my response to Part 1 of their crit

I give the url to their blog at the end of my response to their response, and here I pick up a few of their points.

Apostle Paul’s theology is contingent upon the Bible’s history, recognizing that the spread of death to all mankind resulted from the sin of Adam. Not only humanity but all creation suffered from the effects of sin, including animals. In a chapter dealing with salvation from sin, Paul describes the whole creation as “groaning” and being “subjected to futility” and suffering under the “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20–22).

CMI’s argument that all creation suffered the curse and that brought in death is not there in Genesis, however much you holler that it is. Clearly if animals, or even bacteria, have been biting the dust since the early Precambrian, then the curse is null and void. Or else the whole of science is.

The writer then appeals to Romans 8 vs 20-2. This passage is open to disagreement , especially if you take the word Ktisis in vs 20ff to mean creation/cosmos. Many theologians and NT scholars get in a fix over this and it is worrying that NT Wright almost seems to accept a curse as he does in Evil and the justice of God, where on p 117 he even thinks seasons are a sign of futility, which is very weird.

In fact ktisis has a variety of meanings and after much research I prefer to follow Archbishop Ussher’s contemporary and fellow chronologist John Lightfoot and translate ktisis  as humanity. It makes better sense.

In Michael Roberts’ introduction he states, “for the last 2000 years most Christians have not believed in a young earth and it is only in the last half century that it has become a big issue for some Christians”.1

This is a blatant misrepresentation of Church history. Belief in a recent creation was the default historical position of the church from the first century right up until the era of Darwin

Total facepalm.


If CMI studied what writers had written and especially from 1600 they would see that I am right. Slowly after 1660 a longer time for creation was accepted and by 1790 few educated Christians held to a young earth, and those diminished rapidly after 1800 after from the scriptural geologists (see below) . By 1859 there were hardly any young earthers in Britain , USA or the rest of Europe.


he idea that there was no “geological evidence to guide” Christians is contradicted by the fact that the scriptural geologists of the time (see next section) were men who possessed expert geological competence. However, they were ignored by the establishment (many of whom were deists), which followed the academic trend of Hutton and Lyell’s uniformitarianism.

That’s fogging it up by flipping from the 17th to 19th century without noting the difference! In the 17th and early 18th there was virtually no geological evidence as so little geological work was done. A cursory look at any history of geology will show that . It was only after 1750 that geological evidence began to accumulate. This also ignores  (deliberately?) any geologist of a different perspective to Lyell and Hutton. Just take Brogniart and Cuvier in France, deLuc and de Saussure in Switzerland , William Smith (the Father of English geology), Townsend, Buckland, Coneybeare Brothers, Sedgwick and a host of others in Britain. Their inaccuracy here beggars belief.

This question borders on the fallacy of generalization, as Roberts implies that all early geologists’ views were similar and that they rejected a ‘young earth’. Terry Mortenson, in his book The Great Turning Point,3 gives detailed descriptions of seven ‘Scriptural Geologists’ who objected to ‘old earth’ (deep time) theories (see also The 19th century scriptural geologists: historical background). However, in the time of Charles Darwin, the rapidly developing field of geology became divorced from Scripture. Subsequently, many early geologists (even some Christians) pursued secular uniformitarian thinking. Sadly, then, they “deliberately overlook[ed] this fact, that … the earth was formed out of water … by the word of God, and … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:5–6).

Ah Terry Mortenson! His book is based on his Ph D thesis from Coventry Univ. I had a copy of his thesis in my house for years and returned it to the the owner. It was not the best of theses. To say these anti-geologists “were men who possessed expert geological competence”  is risible when you assess their grasp of geology as measured by the standards of the early 19th century. Apart from George Young, who did some good field geology in Yorkshire, the rest did their field work sitting in an armchair. Mortenson wrote “George Fairholme was quite competent to critically analyze old-earth geological theories.” as I wrote in Geological Society, London, Special Publications 2009; v. 310; p. 155-170 Adam Sedgwick (17851873): geologist and evangelical

A frequent contributor to the
Christian Observer during the 1820s and 1830s
was George Fairholme (1789–1846), who signed
himself as ‘A Layman on Scriptural Geology’. Fairholme
was a Scot and was probably educated at
home rather than university. He wrote the General
View of the Geology of Scripture (Fairholme
1833) and the Mosaic Deluge (Fairholme 1837).
The preface of the latter discussed the theological
results and scepticism caused by geology and
especially the rejection of a universal deluge:
‘there cannot be conceived a principle more
pregnant with mischief to the simple reception of
scripture’. Fairholme emphasized the universality
of the Deluge: ‘if false . . . then has our Blessed
Saviour himself aided in promoting the belief of
that falsehood, by . . . alluding both to the fact and
the universality of its destructive consequences to
mankind’ (Fairholme 1837, p. 61).
In the General View of the Geology of Scripture
(Fairholme 1833), he gave an appearance of geological
competence by citing geological works.
However, his geology does not bear comparison
with that of major geological writers of his day.
His lack of geological competence is best seen in
his discussion of the relationship of coal to chalk.
Fairholme wrote:
the chalk formation is placed far above that of coal, apparently
from no better reason, than that chalk usually presents an elevation
on the upper surface, while coal must be looked for at various
depths below the level of the ground (Fairholme 1833, p. 243).
He had previously discussed this (Fairholme 1833,
pp. 207–210) and concluded, having misunderstood
an article in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,
Nothing can be clearer than this account; and it appears certain,
that, as in the case of the Paris Basin, this lime-stone formed the
bed of the antediluvian sea, on which the diluvial deposits of
coal, clay, ironstone, and free-stone, were alternately laid at the
same period (Fairholme 1833, p. 209).
It is clear that Fairholme regarded Carboniferous
Limestone and the Cretaceous chalk as the same
formation, and he wrote that coal fields,
lie among sandstones . . . but have, in no instance, been found
below chalk, which is one of the best defined secondary formations
immediately preceding the Deluge.
Thus the Cretaceous strata were pre-Flood and the
Coal Measures were deposited during the Flood.
He continued,
But during the awful event [the Deluge] we are now considering,
all animated nature ceased to exist, and consequently, the floating
bodies of the dead bodies must have been buoyed up until the bladders
burst, by the force of the increasing air contained within them
(Fairholme 1833, p. 257).
It is impossible to agree with Mortenson’s assessment
that ‘By early nineteenth century standards,
George Fairholme was quite competent to critically
analyze old-earth geological theories’ (Mortenson
2004, p. 130). Although Fairholme took it upon
himself to criticize geology, he did so from sheer
ignorance, as is evidenced by his claim that Chalk
always underlies Coal. Fairholme, like all antigeologists,
attempted from his armchair to find
fault with geology, but his ‘scientific’ objections
were simply misunderstood geology. Then, as
now, the advantage of writing such works is that
the refutation of their absurd arguments is beyond
the patience of rational people. The geological fraternity
had very little respect for the anti-geologists
and the response was frequently biting sarcasm,
often led by Lyell.

reproduced in

I just love the Coal measures lying above the Chalk 🙂 and dead mammals floating because of bloated bladders!! Imagine the yuk when the bladders burst.


No wonder the good evangelical parson Sedgwick had so much fun ridiculing the Scriptural geologists!! Sadly no leading Anglican has done the like in recent years. Bishops do’t seem to want to refute heresy  – and it is their job.



We are not sure where Michael Roberts gets his figures “250 years” (under question 2) and here, “350 years”? In the former case, we assume he is referring to the publication of James Hutton’s 1788 Theory of the Earth (230 years ago). Hutton’s publication was a philosophical imposition upon the rocks. It was not based on extensive field observation over many years but upon an unwarranted extrapolation into the past. This uniformitarian approach followed from his a priori naturalism which, after the promotion of Hutton’s work by Charles Lyell, became the ruling paradigm through which geology has been interpreted ever since. Ultimately it comes down to a matter of authority. Both Hutton and Lyell were anti-Bible deists (who were influenced by Masonic belief). They did not ‘read the rocks’, but set out to undo the Bible’s historical credibility, which was accepted at the time of Hutton. Their aim was achieved by subterfuge.

Simples. 250 takes us back to 1760 when geology really got going and 350 goes back to Steno, Ray and Lhwyd. They have no justification to say Hutton’s publication was a philosophical imposition on the rocks, nor Lyell and overlook the fact that there was a tremendous diversity of outlook among the early geologists. some were Christians eg Michell, Towsend, Sedgwick , Buckland etc and others like the canal engineer William Smith had no philosophy at all!!

The subterfuge in this paragraph is the CMI grossly misrepresenting what happened



and so the compare the two  – good ole creationism and the godlessness of Hutton and his successors, including me.


Just a wee problem, the Big Bang was put forward not by a rabid atheist but bu Fr Lemaitre, a Belgian priest. Whoops!

So just a few thoughts on CMI latest tirade against me.

Am I thick?

Maybe I’m in good company?


I am most honoured to get the response as it shows my blog has had some effect. Perhaps I have convinced some that Young Earth Creationism is twaddle

Meanwhile I remain a simple believer in God as creator and Jesus as my lord and Saviour and I delight in both the bible and geology.

Perhaps that is rather sarcastic, but groups like Creation ministries seem to delight in rubbishing the faith of Christians who do not believe the same as them. They compound that by not being rigorous in their honesty by continually misrepresenting those who accept standard views of science and rather unpleasantly calling them “compromisers”.  They seems to be a lack of both love and truthfulness.

Yet, too many Christians fall under their spell.

Now read their blog and see how I am hung, drawn and quartered.


Source: Answering the Premier Christianity article by Michael Roberts – 10 questions to ask a young earth creationist – Part 2 –

Michael Roberts gets slaughtered by Oz Creationists!– rebuttal of 10 questions to ask a young earth creationist – Part 1 –



Last year Premier Christian Radio asked me to write a blog “10 questions to ask a young earth creationist”.

I attempted to focus on the essentials

I duly did that and here is what they published

I published my first draft as a blog and it is slightly longer and fuller. Even so there was much I left out and wanted to expand. Here it is

In the ensuing three months from publication I hadn’t heard much, but now I am being honoured with a two part rebuttal from the lovely people at Creation Ministries International.

Here is the first installment

Source: Answering the Premier Christianity article by Michael Roberts – 10 questions to ask a young earth creationist – Part 1 –

4009 BC and all that & Ben Franklin



On Robert MacFarlane’s twitter feed I found this. He was dealing with the word “almanac” as part of his wonderful study of words. As usual, I went off at a tangent and focussed on the ages of the earth presented there ;

1739almanac - Copy

This gives six estimates of the age of the earth  with considerable variance. The nearest to Archbishop Ussher’s iconic 4004BC is WW who gives 4009BC. That WW is William Whiston who wrote “A new theory of the earth” in 1696.

William Whiston.pngJacobus_ussher

William Whiston                                                      James Ussher

Whiston is typical of the the 17th century theories of the earth, of which there are legion. Readability and brevity is not their strong point. However as I have pointed out earlier, they did not quite follow Ussher with a 6 24 hour day creation but extended the time a little. Whiston reckoned that the days were a year long and hence 4004BC is extended to 4009BC. As Stephen Gould said this “was a big step in the right direction”.( S Gould Bully for Brontosaurus, 1991, p372) . Five years may not seem much compared to the earth’s actual FIVE billion years, but along with so many others of his day  along with Burnet, Ray and Hobbes, slowly paved the way for understanding deep time.

To many, this would simply show that in 1739 most blithely accepted a 4004BC date for creation, but this shows that something more flexible was being put in a popular publication. Yes Whiston’s extra 5 years was a tiny step but it was part of the beginning of many steps

Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

Now this is very significant for the mid-18th century attitude to the age of the earth, especially considering the author. From the frontispiece it appears Richard Saunders is the author and Benjamin Franklin only the publisher, but in fact, Richard Saunders was a pseudonym Franklin used. (see wikipedia on Franklin, if nowt else available) . Granted this is from across the pond but many there were bang up to date on science and not only Franklin. This can be seen with the Boston preacher Thomas Prince in 1755 after the Boston earthquake (probably Mag 6 – 6.5) on November 18th. Prince was criticised for saying the quake was due to lightning rods, drawing the power of thunderstorms to earth thus causing earthquakes. These were erected because of Franklins’s view expresed in 1737 “that the material cause of thunder, lightning and earthquakes are one and the same.”

However , that is one idea Franklin got wrong, but he was a great practitioner and advocate of science  – and the rebellion of the 1770s.

I suggest by giving a wide variety of dates for creation, he was gently encouraging his readers to think beyond  a strict Ussher chronology.

It would take a few more years before the great age of the earth in millions and not thousands became clear, but this is another example a some diversity of views on the earth’s age.

I am quite sure MacFarlane was not thinking about geological time when he “did” almanacs, but he gave me a little detail to follow up and find another leak in the ark.




For some details


“Poor Richard, 1739. An Almanack for the Year of Christ 1739.,” The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865, accessed February 19, 2019,





Christian belief in Creation in relation to Geology

Can we believe in God from a scientific perspective?

Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel).jpg

I shall avoid answering that  as it would take volumes.

However in August 2007 INHIGEO (International Union of Geological Sciences) held a conference on Religion and geology at Eichstatt in Germany. It was close to the Solnhofen quarry where the Archaeopteryx was found in 1860.  As I couldn’t go at the last minute for family reasons I missed both the conference and the field trip to Solnhofen

However all was not lost as I contributed a chapter to the book Geology and Religion: A history of Harmony and Hostility on Adam Sedwick and his conflicts with anti-geologists;

I was also asked to write a chapter on the doctrine of creation as seen by Anglicans today. That I duly did, and focussed on issues connected with geological time rather than the nature of humans or te environment. Thus if you think they should have been included, I agree, but it was outside my remit.

The volume is  Geology and Religion: A history of Harmony and Hostility Geol Soc of London Special Publication No310

So here it  is ;

with my ending

A brief account like this can hardly do justice to
the variety of understandings of the theology of
creation today. There is a wide range of views,
but a distinction must be made between those of
academia and those of the pulpit and pew. Academics, except for the increasing number of creationists in university positions, tend to incorporate
science into their theology. However, an increasing
number of clergy, who may have studied theology
at university, are becoming sceptical of science
and more inclined to adopt a creationist perspective
on creation. Thus within the Church of England,
there is the whole range from young-Earth creationism to a virtual denial of the existence of God. The
Anglican doctrine of creation is indefinable from
such a diversity of opinion. From my stance as a
practising Anglican priest, with ecumenical contacts and considerable contact with Christians in
the USA, it is difficult to give a simple summary.
Many within the churches take creation in the
wide sense for granted and are not concerned with
scientific issues. However, an increasing number
are accepting young-Earth creationism or else intelligent design without understanding the (lack of )
science behind them; this is partly in reaction to
aggressive atheism of Dawkins and others, although
this style of atheism came after young-Earth creationism became an issue in the early 1980s. The
confusing variety of attitudes encourages me to
play the orchestral introduction to Haydn’s The


An Anglican priest’s perspective on the doctrine of creation
in the church today


To close with my hero Adam Sedgwick


Dent church where Sedgwick’s father was vicar