Category Archives: geology

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!!

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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?

Darwin’s first attempt at geology – Llanymynech

After leaving Cambridge in early 1831 Charles Darwin returned to his home – The Mount – in Shrewsbury

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and decided to learn some geology in preparation for a trip to Tenerife, which never came off. At that time geology was not well-developed and all the strata belowed the Carboniferous (U.S.A Mississippian) was unknown. Sedgwick and Muchison began to unravel later that year, with Darwin in tow with Sedgwick.

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a superb presentation of the Geological Column by Ray Troll, accurate and witty.

By early July Darwin had obtained his geological equipment and was especially proud of his compass-cum-clinometer. Here is his actual field bag and actual equipment, which is stuill the basis for field work today.

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He also needed maps and he used Robert Baugh’s topographic map of Shropshire (wait for my next blog) and Greenough’s geological map of England and Wales. This is a photo of Darwin’s actual copy in Cambridge Univ Library.

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After leanig how to use his clinometer on furniture he went into the filed to try his hand at field work. His destination was Llanymynech Hill some 15 miles west of Shrewsbury. I presume he travelled on one of the horses. His notes, transcribed below say NE, but that is typical of Darwin’s compass inversion, which he did both at Llanymynech and Cwm Idwal. If you don’t visit the sites and sit in stuffy libraries just reading his notes you’d never see this. You cannot do the history of geology without fieldwork, getting soaked, chased by irate cows and twisting ankles.

TRANSCRIPTION OF THE LLANYMYNECH NOTES,g
Llanymynech 16 miles NE [sic] of Shrewsbury; to the north of the village about ] of mile in an extensive quarry of Limestone. On the road to it, passed over a hillock of a soft slaty rock. some of the Strata were crumblingaway by exposure to the air. Strata very distinctly defined inclined at 78″. Direction ESE 6a 1i7N!7. The quarry is worked in the escarpment of a range of Carboniferous Limestone facing S by ]if. On the Eastern side & high in the hill where the stratification is better marked the rock more compact & of a redder colour. the seneral D is NE b N 14′. To the Westward & lower down D of st.ata is more NW 6< the angle lessl In centre there of quarry are several great cracks passing strait thrugh the rock now filled with clay. To this line the strata on each side are inclined on each side from [E crossed out] tOf 10″ & from [W crossed out] E 15o. It gives to the strata the appearance ofcurves. The stratification of the whole Western side appears to be less regular than that of the East. At one place I observed a series of strata having D ENE 10″ – The lowest Strata of Limestone that are worked consist of rocks of a softer texture, marked in patches by a brightish red, called by the’Workmen’bloody veined’Beneath there is the Delve consisting of avery argillaceous Limestone, soft & wastingaway on exposure to the air. it is not worth being burnt for Lime – The Workmen have never gone beneath this.

This has recently been put on the extensive website Darwin on line 

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=CUL-DAR5.B1-B4&viewtype=side

Llanymynech Hill bounds the west of the Shropshire plain and his an extensively quarried limestone hill of 226 metres. The carboniferous limes lies on top of silurian slate (hill of slaty rock) There is a golf course on top for those who like to spoil a good walk and ther is a heitage trail. It is a hill I know very well as I have walked all over it and also done several of the rock climbs. On the visit I made all my measuresments i’d cycled the 11 miles from Chirk.

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View looking ovber Breiden Hills

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viewpoint with details for trail and on Darwin

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Information board gleaned from my work

From Darwin’s notes it seems he came up from Llanymynech village and truned off on a lane at the bend GR266212.

The exposures are at the bend just up the hill. Continuing up you see the quarry cliffs and then need to find the paths onto them.

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As you go up the lane you find the “slaty rock” with some obvious bedding. That was infuriating to measure as I found they dipped to the NW. It seems he was dyslexic  – like the best of us. The strata were later seen to be Silurian.

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Following up from those slaty rocks a path leads you into a quarry. This not as Darwin saw it as further quarrying took place for about a century.  It is now abandoned and a  haven for wild flowers and rock climbing. Some of the hardest routes are here, which I had to second rather than lead.

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The limestne is well-stratified, with some interspersed muddy beds. Worsely is valuable on this. (The mud made for hairy rock-climbing in the rain.)

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To read more, open up for my paper in the Brit Jour of the History of Science

Darwin at Llanymynech

Peter Worsley has corrected some of my conclusions on the mudcracks!

http://www.emgs.org.uk/files/publications/19(3)_contents.pdf

Darwin was baffled by the Bellstone in Shrewsbury, but in 1831 nop one knew that it had trundled down from Scotland on an ice sheet

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After his next work on maps (my next blog) Adam Sedgwick arrived on the scene at the Mount. Big sis Susan took a shine to the reverend geological bachelor and his sister Caroline wrote to Darwin on the Beagle to say they expected Susan to become Mrs Sedgwick!! That would have been fun for historians.

So in August Sedgwick arrived and took Charles around North Wales in a gig and taught him a litte geology 

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/just-before-the-beagle-darwin-in-wales-1831/

 

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The Gap Theory set to classical music: Haydn’s Creation

The Gap Theory set to classical music: Haydn’s Creation

To many people geology and Genesis don’t mix but over the centuries many Christians have tried to “reconcile” the two. To some that is absurd as you cannot reconcile the 144 hours of 6 days with the 13.2 billion years of our universe.

From 1860 until 1980 the most popular way of conservative evangelicals reconciling the two was the Gap Theory. Here it is posited that between the verses of Genesis I vs1 and vs3 , there was a “gap” when all the millions of years of geology took place before god re-ordered it in 144 hours to get ready for humans. That was rejected by less conservative Christians 150 years ago and by Young Earth Creationists in recent decades (though their view is even more implausible).

The Gap Theory came to the fore with Pember’s Earth’s Earliest Ages of 1876. It wasn’t entirely novel as it was a development of Thomas Chalmers’ ideas of 1804.

In fact, in another form, as the Chaos- Restitution interpretation, it goes back centuries and even to Justin Martyr. It was an apologetic to relate to Classical thought and arguing that the chaos or “formless void” of Gen 1.2, was the same as the “chaos” of so many Classical writers from Heisiod onwards. Aristophanes put an erotic spin on it, but what do you expect from the author of Lysistrata?

In one form or another it was the most common interpretation from 1600, with a straight 144 hour creation lagging a bit behind, and a day-age view lagging in third place. Here is a summary paper on the period 1600 to 1850 published in a Geol soc of London volume on Myth and Geology. https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/genesis-chapter-1-and-geological-time-from-grotius-to-thomas-chalmers-1620-1825/

And so to Haydn’s Creation;

It begins with a superb orchestral piece “the Representation of Chaos” to set the scene. After that in a series of recitatives, solo arias and choruses it works through the Six Days of Creation.

HAYDN’S CREATION

PART ONE Overture – The Representation of Chaos

The First Day Recitative and chorus

RAPHAEL In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth; and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

 CHORUS And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; and God said: Let there be Light, and there was Light.

Recitative

URIEL And God saw the Light, that it was good: and God divided the Light from the darkness.

This is simply the first two verses of Genesis 1. But then to bring out the common understanding of the creation and end of Chaos, Haydn slips in anther Aria and Chorus to being out the “recreation” of creation after the time of chaos has ended.

Most of the aria and chorus is rather sombre but turns to joy with “A new-created world springs up at God’s command.” And so the rather dark and dismal chaos has been transformed into the delight of “A new created world”.

URIEL Now vanish before the holy beams the gloomy, dismal shades of darkness; the first of days appears! Disorder yields and order fair prevails. Affrighted fly hell’s spirits, black in throngs; down they sink in the deepest abyss to endless night

 3 CHORUS Despairing, cursing rage attends their rapid fall. A new-created world springs up at God’s command.

After the transformation of chaos all is read for the Second Day

Some background

            Haydn’s Creation expresses the variety and ambiguity of the 18th century interpretation of the Creation Story in musical form. Haydn’s Creation apparently gives a simple musical rendering of Genesis Chapter One in a thoroughly literalistic manner. A closer examination belies this and indicates that the libretto follows the Gap Theory with its interval between the two clauses of verse two, allows a measure of “ruin-and-restitution” and has probable close links with contemporary sciences, especially the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace.

SeeNeil Jenkins on the Creation

http://www.neiljenkins.com/biography

            The Creation was one of Haydn’s last works and he began composing the music in 1796 after visiting London in 1791-2 and 1793-4, when he “experienced the overwhelming effect of Handel’s oratorios. Temperley argues that Haydn’s experience of Handel’s oratorios in London was the chief stimulus for both The Creation and “The Seasons”. The original text of The Creation was in English and it was given to Haydn by Salomon in 1795. Gottfried van Swieten, who translated the text into German wrote about its origins in 1798; “Neither is it by Dryden   but by an unnamed author who had compiled it largely from Milton’s Paradise Lost and had intended it for Handel….” The author is not known, but many have assumed that it was Thomas Linley (1733-95). However, what is known is that it dates from about 1750, and is thus evidence for contemporary understandings of Genesis One and is similar to Milton and other poets, who incorporate ideas of Chaos. as well as many exegetes, as described above.

  Milton, himself,   was far more committed to a literal Genesis, with some odd things thrown in. He did much to mislead Christians for two centuries. My blog on Milton and his influence   https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

van Swieten’s libretto is a fairly literal translation of the English , and the Recicatives in German do not follow German Bibles, but rather a literal rendering of the A.V. into German. Temperley argues that the inept or bizarre choice of epithets: “holy beams”, “dreary, wasteful hail” and others are modelled on Milton by an imitator lacking the master’s touch. The structure of the oratorio is simple, following through the six days of Creation with Recitatives, Arias and Choruses, with that for the First Day preceeded by the superb orchestral introduction The Representation of Chaos. As with much contemporary exegesis, e.g. Bishop Samuel Horsely, it is easy to see it as straight literalism. Consideration of the Aria with Chorus, “Now vanish before the holy beams” indicates that the librettist follows a form of “ruin-and-restoration” with a Destruction of gloomy chaos by the Light (“Now vanish before the holy beams / The gloomy shades of ancient days” and “Affrighted fly hell’s spirits black in throng; / Down they sink in the deep abyss / To endless night. and “Despairing rage attends their rapid fall “) and the formation of “a new-created world” which “springs up at God’s command.” The libretto for the first Day points to the first Act of Creation being the Chaos “without form and void” and then after an unspecified time was recreated or reconstituted in Six Days. Thus from the chronological sense of the libretto the orchestral Representation of Chaos should between Raphael’s first recitative and the first chorus, though not on musical grounds! The words of the libretto for Day One preclude the possibility of taking the Chaos as the pre-existing material which God moulded into shape over six days

            As well as looking to contemporary biblical interpretations of all of the Eighteenth Century, Haydn also looks to modern science especially astronomy. As Tovey wrote, ” the chaos he intends to represent is no mere state of disorder and confusion. he has a remarkably consistent notion ofit, which harmonises well enough with the Biblical account of the Creation; not less well with the classical notions of Chaos, whether in Heisiod or Ovid; but most closely with the Nebular Hypothesis of Kant and Laplace.” Kant published his views in 1755 and Laplace in popular form in 1796. While in England Haydn visited the astronomer Herschel at Slough, but Tovey does not give the date. Tovey considers that the Representation of Chaos represents not disorder but a gradual evolution of Cosmos from Chaos. One could see this differentiation from the original “chaotic” nebula as Gardiner expressed it “Amidst this turbid modulation, the bassoon is the first that makes an effort to rise and extricate itself from the cumbrous mass (bar 6) Later “In mingled confusion the clarinet struggles with more success (bar 31?) and the etherial flute escapes into the air (bar 39). It is interesting that William Gardiner wrote this in 1811, which is the the time that the Gap Theory was gaining wide credence among British Christians,such as Chalmers, Sumner and the Reverend Geologists, as this gave them plenty of time for all their geology to be inserted into Genesis

Though Haydn began work on The Creation in 1796, ironically a year after Smith’s formulation of stratigraphic succession, the libretto comes from the beginning of the century. The libretto was in English and given to Haydn while he was visiting England in 1791. Returning to Vienna Van Sweiten translated it into German, which was the language of the first performance in 1798. The original English text had possibly been prepared for Handel in the 1740s and is based on Genesis One , some Psalms      and Paradise Lost. Though with typical Enlightenment optimism it stops short before the Fall, it provides another insight on how Genesis was understood in the 18th century. The Introduction and the early recitatives and choruses show that it is not a simple literal interpretation. We are presented with an initial Creation, then a long, dark and mysterious Representation of Chaos in a minor key, (which musically is in the right place, but should follow on from Raphael’s first Recitative.) and then “a new-created world”. What we have is a musical rendering of the Gap Theory, which both reflects widely-held understandings of Creation Story in the whole of the 18th Century and then because of its popularity made this understanding more widely known. After its first performance 1799 in German and then the English version at Covent Garden in 1800.  It became one the most popular choral works, almost overtaking The Messiah in popularity. Societies were formed up and down the country expressly for The Creation and its familiarity is referred to in The Mill on the Floss

            It was fitting that Salomon should have presented the first London performance, but John Ashley pre-empted him with a performance at Covent Garden on 28th March 1800. The Creation entered the standard repertory of provincial choir festivals within two decades (Norwich 1813, Edinburgh 1815 and York 1823). Throughout the century it was also performed annually at Exeter Hall, London, the bastion of interdenominational evangelicalism. There is an irony that it was at Exeter Hall in 1856  that Hugh Miller so forcibly presented the geological arguments against the Gap Theory. Some years later, on 7th January 1866, with greater irony, Thomas Huxley was introduced to an audience at St Martin’s Hall, Covent Garden by “a booming church organ pumping out Haydn’s ‘Creation’ to heighten the sense of awe”. (p345   )

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The production of the Creation is important to highlight the relation of Genesis and the general thought and science of two centuries ago. The received version is that until these atheistic geologists came along with their hammers in 1790, the churches all believed in a 6 24 hour day creation. Young Earth Creationists are adamant about this and the more liberal Christians tended to argue for this until this century.

Before 1790 most “educated” Christians were either iffy about or rejected a 6 day creation. The discovery of Deep Time did not shatter the churches beliefs, but rather Deep Time slotted quite easily into the supposed chaos of Gen 1 vs 2, and just considering British Christians this so-called Gap Theory became widely accepted, though some preferred the Day Age view.

It comes out clearly in the evangelical Rev Joseph Townsend’s The Character of Moses Established for Veracity as an Historian, Recording Events from the Creation to the Deluge, (1813). Townsend was one of the three vicars who worked with William smith, the “father of English Geology”. It was then expounded by Rev William Buckland in huis iaugural lecture as Reader in Geology and Mineralogy at Oxford in 1819  – Vindiciae Geologicae and then in his Bridgewater Treatise of 1837.

These are but two examples, but a minority e.g. G.S.Faber and the American Silliman presented the case for the Day Age view. Some still held to a 6 24 hour day, either because geology was no concern to them or they considered geology atheistic.

By the late 1840s the chaos view was going out as it did not “fit” with geology and the more liberal went with the Germans and broke the nexus with historical events. This summary of Genesis interpretation from 1800 to 1850 is hopeless brief and wil, be expanded in a later blog.To conclude we can listen to Haydn’s Creation and see that geology was not a problem for early 19th century Christians  – at least the sensible ones and there is no need to hold that Deep geological Time can only lead to atheism as I was told by a historian of geology 20 years ago when we were looking at the thermal metamorphism of slates caused by an intrusive sill at the fantastic Tan Y Pystyll waterfall near Shrewsbury.

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

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(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.

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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

Many years ago at an Evangelical Alliance conference in Wales a travelling secretary, with a physics degree, from UCCF (Universities and colleges Christian Fellowship) told me I was too dogmatic in insisting that the earth was billions of years old.

Really, here’s a hundred reasons why the earth is ancient

sketch of Rev William Buckland, later Dean of Westminster and lover of London sewers, doing geological fieldwork in Snowdonia. Quiztime; who painted it ( clue; camel’s hump) : why was it? Name the mountain ; when?

 

via 100 Reasons the Earth is Old

Genesis One for Geologists

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About a decade ago I was asked to write a British Protestant perspective on Genesis and creation for a Special Publication of the Geological Society of London for their volume

Geology and Religion SP 310, 2009.

An Anglican priest’s perspective on the doctrine of creation
in the church today
Genesis one for geologists

My aim was to give the range of perspectives today, focussing on Anglicans, but also typical of all churches. I had a limited number of words so I had to restrict my material. As it was connected with a conference of INHIGEO (International History of Geology) I focussed on the interest and scope of that conference and the other book chapters.  These were very wide ranging but mainly referring to the Christian Faith. Due to space I omitted many essential things, like the environment, details on composition of Genesis, theodicy etc. thus it was on Genesis and time.

It was not like writing theology whether academically or for the church and I needed to find a focus. In part I imagine I was writing for two other contribuorts; one an atheist (now departed) who told me that geology destroyed faith, and the other an agnostic friend who once started an e-mail with “Dear Bloody Clergyman,……….”!!

I hoped, and hope, this essay clarifies things for beleiver and unbleiever and why we not have to beleive six impossible things about geology and Genesis before breakfast.

315500_393800870693304_2100848630_n
Within the British and US Protestant churches there is an immense variety of  understandings of the doctrine of creation, particularly within the mainstream
denominations, which have both liberal and conservative or evangelical wings. I will subdivide them into three main groups, two of which may be divided again. These are:
(1) non-realism;
(2) critical realism ((a) liberal; (b) conservative);
(3) naive realism ((a) old-Earth creationism (evolution denied); (b) young-Earth
creationism).
I have chosen this relatively unusual way of classifying  Christian belief today as I consider it to be the best way of highlighting the spectrum of today’s Protestants, especially in the English-speaking world. Like any classification it has its limitations
and, as we are dealing with human thought, these groups do not form watertight compartments. The various types of ‘realism’ give a good focus, as they centre on the nature of God, creation, and the meaning and content of theological language,
which may or may not look to the Bible as revelation. At the extreme of non-realism, theological language is purely metaphor, which gives meaning to life, and in naive realism every biblical statement ‘naively’ and literally describes concrete phenomena.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe
The title may seem odd but the German editor had asked a Roman Catholic Priest to write a chapter as well.

I also wrote a chapter on Adam Sedgwick’s views on geology and faith. Sedgwick (1785-1873) was a great ealry 19th century geologist, who worked extensively in Wales and Devon and gave the name to the Cambrian System. He was an evangelical, taught Darwin geology and was not too happy with the young earth creationists of his day.

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Adam Sedgwick; geologist and evangelical.

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And so to my chapter on creation for geologists!

An Anglican priest’s perspective on the doctrine of creation
in the church today
Genesis one for geologists

More reading

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Just before the Beagle, Darwin in Wales, 1831

1831 was an eventful year for Charles Darwin. In the first half of the year he graduated from Cambridge with an adequate degree. He had plans for the future; first an expedition to Teneriffe and then a life as a clergyman, when he’d have time for plenty of natural history. Had this happened he would have been one of the last of people without much Christian conviction to be ordained. Even Darwin noticed that clergy were more devout when he returned from the Beagle voyage in 1835.

Many make much of the fact that his degree was in theology and philosophy rather than science. But then you couldn’t do a degree in science, but Darwin did the next best thing, or was it the best thing. For much of his time at Cambridge he attached himself to Rev John Henslow, who was then prfessor of Botany. He had been professor of mineralogy and in the early 1820s produced memoirs on the geology of the Isle of Man and Anglesey. Have been round Anglesey with Henslow’s map and memoir I found found it an incredible piece of geology.

The second half of the year was so different. He had returned to Shrewsbury and tried to teach himself geology with limited success. For the most of August he was in North Wales with Adam Sedgwick as be begand his pioneering work on the Cambrian. After trekking from Capel Curig to Barmouth, he went home to find a letter inviting him on the Beagle.  He managed to get his uncle – a Wedgwood – to persiade his father  and on 27th December set sail from Plymouth.

Things were never the same again.

As you read this you will see how well qualified Darwin was to go on the Beagle. He was already recognised as one of the best of the young naturalists.

For the future Dawin the scientist, or rather Darwin the geologist, July and August were the most crucial. During July he tried to carry on the geology he’d learnt from Henslow and Sedgwick with limited success. He visted Llanymynech quarry and tried to produced a geological map of his home ares.

Then Sedgwick arrived in early August to stay at the Mount. From there Darwin joined Sedgwick on two day trips from Shrewsbury and on 6th August the set of for Llangollen in Sedgwick’s gig. Sedgwick was trying to work out the strata below the Old Red Sandstone (Devonian) and thus gradually sorting it out going down the succession. Ironically he got within 2 miles of this on Long Mountain near Shrewsbury, but turned back – possibly because the horse was knackered! It is a long pull-up and one many cyclists today would avoind or regard it as a hard climb.

As there is no Devonian in North Wales from Llangollen to the Great Orme, Sedgwick got nowhere, beyond teaching Darwin geology. A trip to Anglesey didn’t help and so Darwin left him to travel home to go shooting. As it was Sedgwick started to work around Llanberis and he had not stratigraphic markers to work on. But that is another story.

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To go back to early July, Darwin received a parcel of a clinometer, and hammer and so started measuring angles all round the house. To test out his skills he rode the 15 miles to Llanymynech Hill,

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which I describe in this paper along with Cwm Idwal

Darwin at Llanymynech

Darwin at Llanym

Also that July he took some local maps of Shropshire by John Baugh, traced then tried to make a geological map.

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Both south of Shrewsbury and at Ness he found New Red Sandstone – Permotrias.

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I ..coloured a map 

A paper on Darwin’s attempts of geological mapping around Shrewsbury, published in Archives of natural History  1999

Coloured a map

These are two papers one co-authored with Sandra Herbert.

and so we come to the main partof his geological journeys, this time with Sedgwick.

On 2nd August 1831 Sedgwick arrived at the mount in his gig. Dr Darwin thought him a hypochondriac. The next two days were spent looking for Old Red sandstone to the east of Shrewsbury and on the 6th Sedgwick and Darwin set off to north wales as described in this paper published in Endeavour in 2000.

Open and read

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Darwin wanted to get home for some shooting and left Sedgwick near Bangor.After Darwin left Sedgwick he went to Cwm Idwal ,

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And Sedgwick’s sketch of Devil’s Kitchen drawn a few weeks later.

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then onto Plas y Brenin at Capel Curig, climbed Moel siabod and walked south to Barmouth

Darwin’s route as a mountain expedition, written for a mountain magazine

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And now more scholarly!!

Darwin never took a compass bearing from Capel Curig to Barmouth. I don’t recommend you try it!! It would cross incredibly rough pathless ground. However I am willing to follow anyone who wishes to try it – especially if they are not used to british hills.  My sadism is coming out here.

As it was he went in a roundabout route and you can visit the localities he described.

Darwin’s Dogleg

This from Archives of Natural History describes the route Darwin took from Capel Curig to Barmouth

Darwin’s dog-leg

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Carreg y Fran

And so after a few days with his mates he went home and found the famous letter!

Six months later he carried out his first geology on the voyage at Cape Verde and here I refer to Paul Pearson.

‘Marks of extreme violence’: Charles Darwin’s geological observations at St Jago (São Tiago), Cape Verde islands

P. N. Pearson and C. J. Nicholas

Abstract

The first stop on Charles Darwin’s famous voyage around the world in HMS Beagle was at Porto Praya (Praia), the principal town on the island of St Jago (São Tiago) in the Cape Verde archipelago. From 16 January to 8 February 1832, Darwin enjoyed his first substantive opportunity to study the natural history of an exotic place. Darwin himself regarded this occasion as a significant turning point in his life because, according to his autobiography, it was here that he decided to research and publish a book on the geology of the places visited on the voyage. He also recalled that it was here, the very first port call, that convinced him of the ‘wonderful superiority’ of Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian geology over the doctrine of successive cataclysms that he had been taught in England. Later commentators have generally accepted this account, which is significant for understanding the intellectual background to the Origin of Species, at face value. In this paper we reconstruct some of Darwin’s observations at St Jago based on his contemporaneous notes and diary, and in the light of our own visit made in January 2002. We find little evidence to substantiate the claim that he interpreted the geology in Lyellian terms at the time. Instead, he formulated a theory involving a great cataclysm to explain the dramatic scenery in the island’s interior. He speculated that a torrent of water had carved the main valleys of the island, leaving deposits of diluvium in their beds. It is indisputable that Darwin came to embrace gradualist thinking enthusiastically during the voyage. Some of his observations made on St Jago, especially relating to uplift of the coast, were instrumental in this change of view, but the conversion was gradual, not sudden. His later published works make no mention of his original catastrophist interpretations.

https://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/287/1/239/tab-figures-data

And so Darwin went round the world studying the geology.

His last geological trip was to look for glaciation in Shropshire and Wales culminating in Snowdonia in 1842 as this paper on William buckland in 1841 and Darwin in 1842 shows.

BucklandDarwinWalesIce

Landslides in Norway and the Forest of Bowland.

On 3rd June 2020 a remarkable landslide occured in Norway when a slice of land complete with houses slid into the sea. The poor owner videoed it and I hope he got something for that. Later you can read a geological blog on it and see the whole video. It is both awesome and sad. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

Here is the house almost entering the sea.

Alta quick clay landslide

I live on the edge of the Forest of Bowland which I explore on foot and bike. It is a fascinating area and luckily many drive past without stopping! As a result it is not very crowded. I often don’t meet a soul on a walk.

My favourite cycle ride is over the Trough of Bowland, through Whitewell and Chipping and thus back to Garstang. There are several variants and when I did it this May I covered 40 miles. When I do it clockwise I always stop by Smelt Hill having done the major climb. A few centuries ago lead ore from the limestone anticline at Sykes was smelted here. Just above the old smelting area there is a bend with convenient stones. Thus I stopped here in May for my lunch. I just love the view.

But look carefully, a few hundred yards upstream you can see a tongue from the left sticking out towards the river.

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This shows it more clearly and it is the debris from a landslip many thousands of years ago. I suggest about 20000 yrs.

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To summarise the geology the area is of Carboniferous strata , with Bowland Shales capped by Pendle Grit as in the cross-section below ( which is for the area at bit further on.).

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This blog of the section of Bowland Shales on Pendle hill gives more detail

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/namurian-succession-upper-bowland-shales-to-pendle-grits-forest-of-bowland/

The shales are soft and the grit hard. If the shale gets totally wet, in the right conditions, it will slip and cause a landslip. There are many examples in the Forest of Bowland and are marked on the Geological Survey 1 :50000 map.

Another example is between Parlick and Saddle Fell where the area now marked as Wolf Fell has slipped off the saddle! You can see that to the right of Parlick which is on the left of this photo. In the shadow you can see a cwm, which almost appears glacial, but is not.  An area of 1km by 1/2 km has simply slipped downhill. It is marked on the geological map. It must have been a dramatic sight.

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The slope is most irregular. This is the hummocly terrain between Parlick and Saddle Fell.

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This photo taken last september is looking across the landslip from Saddle Fell to Parlick. You can see where it lsipped off Parlick. It must have been dramatic to watch.

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Another dramatic example is Blue Scar up the Dunsop Valley from Dunsop Bridge. There a l;arge area had slump from near the top of the hill leaving a cwm with steep sides. The hill is capped with Pendle Grit overlying Bowland Shale.

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If you could go back in time, when that cliff was not there there was instead a smooth hillside of mostly shales.  Geologically this is the contact between to Bowland Shales and the Pendle Grit. Below the Pendle Grit there are alternate shale and grit bands, with some visible in the lower part of the photo.

A few years ago I went that steep slope to look at some of the Hind Sandstone which was deformed most oddly soon after deposition. It was not the wisest place to do field geology and I do not recommend it!!

 

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This is the “headwall” of the landslip, which I visited the previous year .

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Here the shale and grit are melded together, presumably before they solidified. It was a difficult photo to take as it was very steep and one step back to get a better shot would have resulted in a rapid descent of 100ft. Howver this is the geology of 300 million years ago rather than of today.

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There are many examples of landslips marked of the Geological Survey maps of Garstang and Lancaster;

  • On the north side of Grize Dale valley below Nicky Nook
  • On the north side of Langdon Brook by Langdon Castle
  • On the slopes of Wardstone north of Tarnbrook

Most of these are south facing, which may indicate that it was warmed sufficiently to slide at the end of the Devensian Ice Age, and   most of them were triggered by the melting of permafrost after the last ice advance – & some of them are still unstable, as in the Trough of Bowland.

To visualise  the speed and devsatation of what happened think of the disaster at Aberfan.

There are more landslips if you check the maps but these are the clearest.

As well as that there are an increased number small landslips, as on the minor road by Walmsley bridge, which was clearly due to the heavy rain earlier this year. There are considerable numbers round the country both in high land (I found a cracker on Y Garn two years ago)  and also near the coast as on the Isle of Sheppey tipping houses over the edge. In a sense, this is inevitable due to the change in weather patterns. Since 1980ish British weather has seen both longer wet and dry periods, rather than more broken weather, which is ideal for landslips and building subsidence.

Sadly, we can expect more landslips, and possibly not only small ones but even as large as those ancient ones in the Forest of Bowland.

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I’ll now give an American example, which we visited briefly on holiday in the American West some years ago. We were staying  (in a grotty place) in the Grand Teton National Park and apart from going up to 10,000ft by cable car we explored the area and thus went to the landslide at Gros Ventre some miles to the east. It is one of the biggest recorded landslips.

The top of the of the mountain is about 9000ft , 2000ft higher than the base. When th mountain gave it slipped and ran up the other side of the valley for 300ft. This cause a dam which resulted in fatalities when it broke.

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And so we come to the dramatic footage from Norway, which should remind us how unstable our planet is.

 

The remarkable video of a landslide at Alta in Norway yesterday is probably the finest recording of a quick clay landslide to date.

Source: Alta: a truly remarkable video of a quick clay landslide in Norway

A Six-day Evolutionist? It depends on what you mean by evolution

Creationists get in a tizzy about evolution trying to distinguish microevloution (OK) and macroevolution (not OK)

Naturalis Historia

Young-earth creationists like to talk about two types of evolution, one is real (microevolution), and the other is a lie from the pit of hell (macroevolution). They act as if their were a chasm between the two as large as the Grand Canyon. But when their literature is explored identifying where microevolution ends and macroevolution begins gets very fuzzy.

In our just published peer-reviewed paper, Dissent with modification: how postcreationism’s claim of hyperrapid speciation opposes yet embraces evolutionary theory, we illustrate how young-earth advocates have redefined the terms macroevolution and microevolution to advance their own view of the origins of biological diversity.  We show that the boundary between micro and macroevolution has no clear demarcation in the practice of young-earth creationism despite their rhetoric.  This is not to say that there aren’t aspects of macroevolutionary theory (e.g. universal common descent) that aren’t real points of disagreement but finding where…

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Geologists going round in circles!

It’s fairly common to be out travelling to realise you have gone in a complete circle and ended up where you started. Here are two examples of mine. One evening in the Namib desert I needed to get to the main coast road, which lay due west, as quickly as possible. So I left the road and followed tracks. I used the evening star Jupiter to guide me. However I ended up looping the loop, but finally got to the mainroad – in pitch dark of course. Another was hill-walking in the Great Welsh Desert near Rhayader. There the hills go up to 2000ft and are flatish moorland. Up I went and got into thick mist. I was too lazy or daft to use my compass and suddenly realised I’d looped the loop. Out came the compass and soon I was at the summit of Gorllyn, which few ever climb.

It is a favourite argument of creationists that geologists are going round in circles on their principles of dating

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That would mean all the stuff about Cambrian or Eocene and all those telephone number ages are utterly, utterly wrong!

If this be true, then Darwin needs the hat in this photo

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I came across this claim of the geological circular argument when I went to L’Abri. Francis Schaeffer’s son-in-law told me as I was a geologist I should read creationist books starting with The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. As I had heard of it , I said it was nonsense which did not go down well!! Well, I read and lots of others and have an excellent library of creationist books.

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Reluctantly, as I was stuck high on a Swiss Alp, I sat down and read The Genesis Flood. It was a hard and frustrating read and at first I found it difficult to contradict. I was angry, as if it were true , then all my geological education and work in the field was based on falsehood.

I wasn’t happy with his discussion on uniformitarianism and catastrophism, but my history of geology  was almost non-existent then. I ground my way through the book and getting crosser and crosser. Then I got to the bottom of p134, where he argued that relative geological age dating was a circular argument assuming the truth of evolution.

He cited a long gone geologist R H Rastall

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I thought , What the…? as I knew neither Morris’ or Rastall’s claims were true.

My reason for that, was that I had worked in a large area of Pre-cambrian sediments in the Richtersveld of South Africa. It was unknown territory as the only previous geologists were Rodgers who went there on a horse in about 1914 and De Villiers and Sohnge who spent several seasons there  in the 40s. (Sohnge was lucky not to meet his end in 1970 when he was a passenger in my LandRover. I was pointing out some geology and drove off the road and down a bank!!)

The Richtersveld was a fantastic remote mountainous desert and hardly anyone lived there. I was out in this every day looking at rocks with temperatures up to 100. The cacti were incredible and snakes were common.

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To over -simplify the geology of the Richersveld was thus;

The oldest rocks, the Kheis, were ancient metamorphic rocks, gneiss etc

Above them the Stinkfontein, a succession of conglomerates and sandstone, with a few lava bands

and at the top was the Numees Tillite, which was a bit below the Nama and other strata which were known to be Cambrian.

Last of all were some plutons, which cut the older rocks and if memory serves me right were dated at about 470-500 my.

Apart from one stromatolite I found there were absolutely no fossils. Since then I found out that a sequence of Ediacara suite of fossils were discovered close by. I often wonder if I walked over them as that would have been life-changing – finding the first Precambrian fossils in Africa!

I ended up  mapping about 1,000 sq mls at 1 in to 1 mile scale and superficially looked at an area three times that size. With some other geologists we popped over north of the Orange River into the Sperrgebiet, which was verboten and carried a heavy fine if caught!

Back to the geology. I had to work out the order of deposition i.e. construct my own geological column of the area. De Villiers and Sohnge reckoned the Stinkfontein were equivalent to quartzitic rocks in the Witwatersrand and thus 2 to 2 1/2 billion years old. I  promptly rejected that and reckoned the Stinkfontein were much younger and akin in age to the Torridonian sandstone of the Northern Highlands , thus reducing their age by a mere 1,500,000,000 years.  Over a year or so I worked out this Pre-cambrian geological column from the basal conglomerate of the Stinkfontein up to the glacial Numees Tillite

Image result for numees tillite

Image result for stinkfontein formation richtersveld

 

and loads of stuff in between. I worked out most of the order but had many gaps. I was pleased that a young German geologist, Kroner, who came to the area at the same time, came to the same conclusion after his geological blitzkreig, as opposed to my Tommy-like slow infantry slog!! Essentially my column is roughly what is the accepted one for the Richtersveld today, but foolishly I never wrote it up for publication.

Most days I went up one valley  and over the top and returned down another valley. Often there was the same succession in both valleys. I slowly pieced the geology together. By the end of the day I’d usually run out of water and got thirsty. Often I saw a bright green patch in the dry valley. I knew it was water, but half the time it was brackish! When I got back I drank a glass of water supersaturated in salt!

In all I was there a bit over a year.

Here is a recent column from 2011, some 40 years later. Like me, they had no fossils to help them but they never went round in a circle.In fact it shows that both Kroner and I got some things wrong – and Kroner and I disagreed in 1970! I’ve only just found this and it was fascinating to see what I got right and what I didn’t.

Image result for precambrian strata richtersveld

As I looked at some of the recent papers I could see how the whole understanding of the geology and especially the historical order of strata i.e. a Geological Column of the Richtersveld had been developed in the last 100 years.

I wonder how many Creationists can explain that diagram. It obviously needs to be read with whole chapter!

The developing story is rather like the working out of the Welsh Cambrian  Ordovician and Silurian and the Devonian of Devon and Cornwall from 1831 to 1850.

So with my Richtersveld experience in mind I knew Morris was utterly wrong.

I had devised a Geological Column of a vast thickness of strata covering a few thousand square miles and two billion years.

So without a fossil, how did I do it.

It was essentially the Principle of superposition , where in a heap the stuff at the bottom got there first i.e. the oldest, and the stuff on top the last, i.e the newest. This principle was put forward by Steno (later a Bishop)  in the 1660s and is as obvious (from gravity) as it is essential in geology. Bricklayers don’t start with bricks at roof level but at the bottom!  You are right to say they start at the bottom , unless there clues they did not.

To understand how it worked out, take this Cross-section and put the numbered rocks (either strata or igneous 2,3) in order of emplacement

 

Now do it if all were laid down in the Flood.

 

There was a lot of geological work all over Europe in the 18th century with glimmerings of putting strata in historical order  and we got the terms of Primary  (oldest) Secondary and Tertiary. They also realised that the earth was ancient – whether they were Christian, desit or indifferent.

In about 1780 Rev Prof John Michell* of Cambridge, who did pioneering work on earthquakes wrote a friend, but did not publish, an order of strata. Here it is with modern names on the RHS ;

Chalk                                                                                          Cretacaeous

Golt (Gault)

Sand of Bedfordshire

Northampton and Portland Lime                                        Jurassic

Lyas (Lias)strata

Sand Newark                                                                            Triassic

Red Clay of Tuxford

Sherwood forest  pebbles and Gravel                               Permian

White sand

Roche Abbey and Brotherton limes

Coal strata of Yorks                                                               Carboniferous

Michell had got it essentially right. It was based on a coach trip from Cambridge to Yorkshire. You could probably retrace his route today within a mile or two.

Then in the 1790s William Smith around Bath and Cuvier around Paris did careful work and often used fossils as markers as some fossils are only found in certain strata. Cuvier was a superb anatomist so had a great understanding of what creature the fossil was from. Smith was a canal engineer and no anatomist and identified fossils from memory rather than anatomy.

This shows how index fossil are used. The trilobite in A is good as it is not found elsewhere, so if strata have that trilobite , you know its age. The spiral shell – turritella – is less useful as it’s found all over the place. Using fossils like this was and is empirical and not from “theory” as you need to know what layers a fossil is found in so you can use it.

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In the 1790s as he began his work Smith thought the earth was 6000 years old, but his mentors – local vicars Richardson* and Townsend *- persuaded him the earth was ancient!! However questions of the age did not affect Smith’s order of strata which he worked out as he travelled England and Wales. He seems to have used a mixture of Steno’s superposition and index fossils .

However evolution was anathema to both Cuvier and Smith.

and so Smith worked out the order of English strata, which si essentially the same as today’s understanding

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Smith  drew a cross section from Snowdon in Wales right across to London, with the oldest on the left (He called what is now Cambrian and Ordovician Killas). Anyone familiar with British geology will identify the various coloured “bands” and give them a modern name. BTW in 1963 after climbing Snowdon I cycled home to just south of London and followed almost the route of the cross-section. It took about 5 days and was 300 miles but I climbed Cadair Idris en route. In the middle is a hill by Cheltenham (yellow – Jurassic), which is Birdlip Hill and very steep!!

 

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And so in 1815 Smith produced his maps and knew nothing about evolution. I have a copy of it – but a reprint. Its accuracy amazes me.

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Sadly publishing the map bankrupt poor Smith and he ended up in a debtor’s jail.

Here is a more recent one from the British Geological Survey.

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There was much to do after Smith’s map! Briefly; from 1831 Sedgwick* and Murchison (who pinched Tom Lewis*’s ideas) sorted out the killas i.e. the Cambrian to Silurian, first in Wales and later further north. Sedgwick and Murchison fell out big way! Sedgwick was the good guy!

In the early 1840s several geologists sorted out the complex Devonian in Devon and Cornwall.

From 1830 Lyell worked out the Tertiary strata which he called Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene at the suggestion of Whewell*.

Mortenson and AIG allege that Deep Time is atheistic. In the paragraphs above all Anglican Clergy are marked with  * – several were Evangelical. So much for there atheism.

Thus well before Darwin published The Origin of species  in 1859 the Geological Column was elucidated without even a whiff of EVOLUTION. Creationists often call it the Evolutionary Uniformitarian Column, but as Sedgwick et all were old earth creationists and catastrophists it should be called the Catastrophic , Creationist Column!

In 1860 Richard Owen, who opposed Darwin included this geological column in a book. All done with no evolution and this no circular argument.

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This shows how geological dating was worked out without evolution.

Here’s a modern column with humour.

(Michell’s column went from 66my to 323my.)

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Henry Morris was just plain wrong.

His weakness was a very poor grasp of both the history of geology and geological methods. Sadly some practising geologists, like Rastall, were also confused! Many scientists are good at their science but not at explaining their methods.

 

Perhaps I didn’t fall for Morris’s inexactitudes as I had worked in the Precambrian, dating rocks without any fossils. I never liked fossils at university so that is why I chose mining rather than oil!

Henry Morris’s misrepresentation has been refuted many times but is usually ignored

Here is one by Prof Van der Fliert in 1969

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

And it’s still put about as by his son John, who has a Ph.D. in engineering geology

The son won’t correct it

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Lesser creationists like Kent Hovind spits it out in his lecture and then his acolytes think it’s true.

This comes from one of his standard lectures

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Even today people fall for and use the meme incessantly on social media.

One would have thought that after 60 years of being corrected this whopper would be dropped , but it is still going strong

I am often told I should believe Exodus 20 vs11, but my response is that Creationists  should obey Exod 20 vs 16.

Below are some photos of Carboniferous Bowland Shales

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Two superb unconformities, one in the Black Hills and the other unknown!

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Darwin’s geology; An Ordovician syncline in wales

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Dipping Silurian shales/slates with an arkosic band

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