Category Archives: Henry Morris

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 Dr Callum 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

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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.

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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

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

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

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

Reaching into Plato's Cave

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

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

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

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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

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

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

SH16DARWIN2

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.

The_Genesis_Flood

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

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

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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Six Geological Reasons Why I am Not a Young-Earth Creationist Part 1 — Igneous Rocks

Here Kevin gives the first of 6 blogs on why Geology says no to a Young Earth.

It’s worth reading just for the geology and photos

GeoChristian

This is the first in a planned six-part series of Six Geological Reasons Why I am Not a Young-Earth Creationist. I am a Christian who holds to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, and who also has a master’s degree in geology. I have previously given my biblical and theological reasons why I believe the Bible does not require a young Earth. This present series will have six parts:
  1. Igneous rocks
  2. Sedimentary rocks
  3. Metamorphic rocks
  4. The fossil record
  5. Ice ages
  6. Radiometric dating

Each of these broad geological arguments against young-Earth creationism can be summarized as: Too many events, too little time.

Introduction

Since the 1700s, most scientists, Christian or otherwise, who have studied the Earth have concluded that there is overwhelming evidence that Earth is many millions of years old. The evidence for an ancient Earth has come from many subdisciplines of geology, including the study of igneous…

View original post 2,022 more words

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

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

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

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They didn’t quite say this

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

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

Whitcomb, who died on 4th Feb 2020,

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here it is.

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

ararat_or_bust

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

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

 

Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of Geology

J. R. VAN DE FLIERT*

Department of Geology
Free University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scientific Pretension and Scientific Foundation

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

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


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


The Essential Importance of the History of Science and Theology

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

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

Uncritical Criticism of Geological Principles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the answer is:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Sound Theorizing in Geology and the “Spirit of Speculation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Uniformitarianism and the Authors of “The Genesis Flood”

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

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


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


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

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

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

And further:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Trustworthiness of the Geological Time-Scale Disputed

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

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

We read on page 206:

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

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

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

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

Then the authors of The Genesis Flood continue:

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

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

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

This is commented on as follows:

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

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

Moreover:

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

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

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

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

The Natural Exposure of Normally Superimposed Rock Sequences

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Primary Superposition in Highly Disturbed Areas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top and Bottom Engraved in Individual Layers

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

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

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

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

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

The Question of Correlation

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reworking: Mixing of Fossils of Different Age

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

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

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

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

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

Structural Uniformity and Actual Experience

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science and the Bible: Not the Fundamentalistic Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some good reading matter by recent writers

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The Welsh Dragon—sorry the Welsh Dinosaur. Yr Draig Goch; or yr deinosor gwirion

As I lived in Wales for many years we got used to flying the Welsh flag  – a red dragon. It now seems that it was not a dragon but a dinosaur as Dr  Brian Thomas. who has a Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from Liverpool University demonstrates in this blog for the Institute for Creation Research.

He had visited St David’s cathedral in west Wales and found a carving of a dinosaur Brachytrachelopan mesai  on a misericord as he describes below. (I lifted the blog to save you the effort of opening it!)  As befits a Ph D from one of our leading universities with a great geology department (where I gave lectures on the glories of creationism many years ago) Thomas discusses the possibility of it being a dinosaur in a very scientific way (nagadi) and considers whether it could have been the imagination of the woodcarver. However he shows that was not the case and that there were dinosaurs in wales at that time. Unfortunately the welsh velociraptors (known in welsh as diogyn – the fastest animal on earth) had died out before 1280, otherwise  Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, would have used them with great effect against Edward I of England. Not even his longshanks would has escaped them! This is a great pity, although we would not have Conwy or Caernarfon castles today.

P1010482P1010475

 

If they had survived and Edward paid homage to LLywelyn, other dinos could have helped to build the castles as the had Stonehenge just after Noah’s flood

Dinosaurs-Built-Stonehenge-----Sounds-Legit

The welsh have an excellent term to describe this high quality intellectual reasoning;

cachu rwtsh

The more I read this article, the more I am convinced by it and support his last sentence

This remarkable art forces a rethink of secular dinosaur doctrines but happens to fit perfectly with a biblical view of dinosaurs.

There is more too this, as  Phillip Bell of Creation ministries Internation found representations of dinosaurs in Carlisle cathedral.  These show that in the Lake District dinos were still alive and well in the 15th century. I am convinced that the then Bishop of Carlisle had a pet dinosaur  and thus it was put on his tomb to remind subsequent generations of his love of dinosaurs.

These two episcopal examples show conclusively that dinosaurs were roaming Britain less than a thousand years ago. Wales has been better at keeping the memories alive, but the Church of England and the Church of England have hopelessly compromised themselves on the truth of biblical creation.

I call upon the Archbishop of Wales, and his counterparts in York and Canterbury, to repent and publicise and preach the truth of Biblical Creation and to lead the Anglican Churches away from heresy.

This would be a much belated recognition of the wonderful work of Henry Morris, whose name indicates his Welsh ancestry

 

Source: St. Davids Dragon—Fantasy or Reality?

From The Institute of Creation Research, San Diego

My early memories of dinosaur teachings reflected the doctrine of their extinction 65 million years ago and the evolution of mankind only several million years ago. If that really happened, then our ancestors who lived before the scientific study of fossils should have had no knowledge of dinosaurs or similar creatures like pterosaurs and ichthyosaurs.

Certain pieces of ancient artwork appear to show just the opposite. I grabbed an opportunity to examine one such piece—a carved wooden dragon—found in St. Davids Cathedral in Wales. The ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History in Dallas displays a picture of this intriguing dragon art.

St. Davids Cathedral, Wales
Image credit: Brian Thomas

My wife and I visited the cathedral situated in picturesque Pembrokeshire, a far western headland of Wales. Religious buildings have occupied the site for a millennium. The current cathedral had its last big refurbishment in the 1800s, about 400 years after a major late-medieval upgrade, when the dragon-art piece was crafted. We ascended the slope-floored main area to several smaller chapels in the back.

One chapel featured folding seats called misericords. Each one is attached to a tall, straight-backed, dark, ornately carved wooden slot. They line three walls like a series of serene sentinels. Whereas medieval artists represented ecclesiastical themes with reverence, they brought a measure of whimsy to scenes, faces, and animals carved on the underside of each solid oak seat. When the seats are folded up, each carving is visible.

Image credit: Brian Thomas

One misericord shows a dinosaur look-alike. Its overall anatomy resembles the sauropod dinosaurs known from fossils, with longer hind legs than front legs. These long-necked, extinct reptiles typify Jurassic rock layers. This one’s neck is not nearly as long in proportion to its main body as the more familiar sauropods like Diplodocus. Lest someone say its neck looks too short for the carving to represent any real sauropod, its neck length closely matches that of a dinosaur fossil found in Argentina in 2005 named Brachytrachelopan mesai.1

Two of the carving’s body details—small wings and ears—don’t match what fossils suggest.2 Like some modern cartoon dragons, these wings make no biological sense. The creature’s body would be far too massive for such tiny wings to support it in flight. Do these misfit features disqualify the piece from representing a real animal? It depends.

Brachytrachelopan
Image credit: Copyright © M. Hattori. Used in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

We first must ask if the unknown artist could have imagined by chance this particular animal form. The pure imagination hypothesis would explain the wacky wings, but it wouldn’t explain the long neck, long tail, legs positioned beneath a barrel-shaped body instead of straddle-legged like modern lizards, small head with sauropod-shaped mouth, and reptilian frills along its spine. When placed on a biology balance, the weight of creature features favors the idea that the artist somehow knew what sauropods looked like. If so, then he or she knew this centuries before scientists began to describe them from fossils.

This eyewitness hypothesis would benefit from an explanation of the ears and especially the wings. Until someone uncovers an ancient artist’s notebook that explains particular stylistic choices, we must reason it out. Medieval dragon depictions across Europe very often include wings. Perhaps artists placed wings on their large reptilian forms to identify them as dragons. In medieval Europe, the word dragon referred to reptiles. The St. Davids sauropod may represent a real, though extinct, reptile with imaginary body parts added on purpose. How could this happen?

If flying dragons were more widely known than fen-dwelling (wetland) dragons, then the artist could have added the flying serpent’s familiar wings to a lesser-known land dragon body just to make sure the viewer knew the creature was a reptile. Evidence that ancient inhabitants of the United Kingdom were familiar with flying dragons that we know today as pterosaurs would bolster this supposition. One sober 18th-century Scottish account reads:

In the end of November and beginning of December last, many of the country people observed…dragons…appearing in the north and flying rapidly towards the east, from which they concluded, and their conjectures were right, that…boisterous weather would follow.3

And according to an approximately 19th-century Welsh anecdote, “the woods around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike.”4 If flying dragons hadn’t yet been eradicated from the UK by the 1700s, then the animals must have been around to terrorize old and young long before then—for example, in medieval times when the St. Davids carvers lived.

Whoever would reject the wings-equal-dragon hypothesis still needs to explain the wealth of short-necked sauropod-specific anatomy on the St. Davids misericord. The larger weight of evidence lies on the side of artists who had some measure of eyewitness knowledge of their subject matter. This remarkable art forces a rethink of secular dinosaur doctrines but happens to fit perfectly with a biblical view of dinosaurs.5

References

  1. Creation researcher Vance Nelson connected the carving to this fossil in his book Dire Dragons. Nelson, V. 2012. Dire Dragons. Red Deer, Canada: Untold Secrets of Planet Earth Publishing Co.
  2. A third detail—webbed feet—could have represented a wetland habitat.
  3. Flying Dragons at Aberdeen. 1793. A Statistical Account of Scotland. 6: 467. Quoted in Cooper, B. 1995. After the Flood. Chichester, UK: New Wine Press, 141.
  4. Trevelyan, M. 1973. Folk-Lore and Folk-Stories of Wales. Yorkshire, UK: EP Publishing Limited, 169. The passage adds on page 170: “An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful….This old man attributed the extinction of winged serpents to the fact that they were ‘terrors in the farmyards and coverts.’”
  5. God created dinosaurs when He “made the beast of the earth according to its kind” (Genesis 1:25). Noah’s Flood fossilized many of them, when “all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 7:21). Some dinosaurs presumably survived the Flood on board Noah’s Ark, where “they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life” (Genesis 7:15). Centuries later, God told Job, “Look now at the behemoth….He moves his tail like a cedar,” probably indicating a sauropod living near where “the Jordan [River] gushes” (Job 40:15-23). These and many other historical records challenge evolutionary beliefs about dinosaur extinction.

* Dr. Thomas is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool.

Cite this article: Brian Thomas, Ph.D. 2019. St. Davids Dragon—Fantasy or Reality?Acts & Facts. 48 (11).


De



 

Easing the way for Young Earth Creationism; the case of J W Dawson and G F Wright in 1900

History always has its twists and turns, some of which are unexpected.

Two leading Christian apologists for geology in the late Victorian period were Dawson and Wright. Both were very competent geologists. Dawson was THE leading Canadian geologist. His books on geology and faith are good, but he could not accept evolution. Wright from the USA was a league below and slowly rejected his earlier acceptance of evolution.

THE ANTIQUITY OF EARTH AND HUMANITY
Since the discovery of Deep Time in the eighteenth century, no geologist
could give dates for the age of the earth. Throughout the early
nineteenth century geologists tried culminating with the Rev. Samuel
Haughton’s estimate for the base of the Cambrian as 1,800 my in 1860.
The work of the physicist William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) in the
early 60s soon reduced the maximum age of the earth to 100 my and
then to 24 my. Most geologists, including Charles Darwin, capitulated
to these estimates though it mitigated against evolution. Kelvin’s dates
were widely accepted until the first attempts of radiometric age-dating in
1905.

Image result for kelvin
Of more concern to evangelicals were arguments for the antiquity of
humanity put forward from about 1860. Before then evidence was too
scanty to give any firm date. So long as humans had only existed for
only some 10,000 years, one could adopt a chronology similar to Ussher’s.
Lyell in The Antiquity of Man (Lyell, 1863) concluded that humans first appeared
100,000 years ago,which was unacceptable to most evangelicals, as
it challenged any semblance of history in Genesis 4–11. Van Riper (1993)
groups responses from 1855 to 1880 as Lyellian (100,000 years), Prestwichian
(20,000 years), and traditional (Ussherian?) (6000–8000 years).
The first group included Darwin, Huxley, Lubbock, and Wallace, and
the last were confined to religious publications. The Canadian geologist,
J. W. Dawson (1820–1899)

Image result for j w dawson

 

who reckoned he had discovered the oldest fossil-form and named it Eozoon canadense in 1864. He thought it was a   sponge or giant micro-organism. His ideas were challenged and in 1894 geologists found similar rocks in material at Vesuvius.  What was a sponge was in fact limestone altered by magma.

Image result for Eozoon canadense

continually argued for a traditional date and
at his death was the only leading scientist not to accept evolution. From
1860Dawson published many books reconciling geology and Christianity,
with titles like Archaia (Dawson, 1860) and The Story of the Earth (Dawson,
1874). These exude geological competence, but he always favored Kelvin’s
shorter timescales (Burchfield, 1976) and a low human antiquity, which
was music to evangelicals as they could retain the traditional chronology,
which Schofield put in his Reference Bible of 1909.
Another evangelical geologist, George F. Wright (1838–1921), a Congregationalist
minister who was encouraged to take up geology by Asa
Gray, was persuaded against his earlier Darwinian views by considerations
of geological time. From his early years he took an intermediate
position between Lyell and Darwin on one hand and the heirs of Ussher
on the other.

Image result for The Ice Age in North America: And Its Bearings Upon the Antiquity of Man George Frederick Wright

In the 1870s and 1880s Wright was Darwinian as expounded
in Studies in Science and Religion (Wright, 1882), but retained the special
creation of humans, as did Wallace. After he returned to Oberlin College,
Ohio, in 1881 he began an intellectual drift to the right but continued his
fieldwork on glacial geology. He began to question evolution partly because
the materialism of Spenser and Huxley. He also was worried by the
Higher Criticism of C.A. Briggs.When he first heard Briggs in 1891 he was
convinced that Moses did not write the Pentateuch. On reflection he reacted
against Brigg’s liberalism and became more conservative and began
to associate evolution with higher criticism, a position still put forward
today.
In 1892 he published Man and the Glacial Period (Wright, 1892) which
is a useful compendium on the state of glacial studies. I found it useful as a source for victorian glacial studies, but it has drawbacks.

Image result for Man and the Glacial Period

 

Wright hoped
for a favorable response. That was not granted him, as he insisted that
there had been only one period of glaciation, and rejected the findings
of recent glaciologists, who had unraveled a series of Ice Ages rather
than one as was originally thought in 1840. Wright concurred with Joseph
Prestwich, that the one Ice Age had lasted 25,000 years, but by the 1890s
few geologists accepted that and Wright was taken to task by the geologists
Chamberlin and McGee, the latter calling him as “a betinseled charlatan.”
Dana regarded McGee’s dismissal was “a disgrace to American Science,”
but Numbers is correct to state that Wright’s “theological convictions had
undoubtedly colored his scientific conclusions” (Numbers, 2006, p 44).
In The Origin and Antiquity of Man (Wright, 1913) he reiterated his case
and refused to accept “Man’s origin by purely naturalistic agencies.” He
argued that the earth was less than 100 million years old and that life,
that is the base of the Cambrian, began some 24 million years ago. These
conclusions, drawn from Kelvin, allowed him to accept a short 25,000
year Ice Age. Even so, he followed Flinders Petrie’s dating of the first
Egyptian dynasty at 4777 BC. On geological time Wright was restrictive.
He objected to Lyell’s “unlimited” geological time with the base of the
Cambrian 500 million years ago (close to today’s 550 million years). He
commended Darwin for downsizing his almost limitless time in 1859 to
some 100my and favored Walcott of Burgess Shale fame and a Presbyterian
for allowing only 27.5 my. It is difficult to be certain why Wright changed
from a thoroughgoing evolutionist to a skeptic who took a limited view
of geological time, which hardly gave time for evolution. Numbers (2006,
pp. 33–50) gives some pointers.
Time, they were a-changing! A few years before in 1905 the English
physicist John William Strutt, later Lord Rayleigh (1842–1919) began to
apply radioactivity to date rocks and showed that a mineral containing
radium was 2 billion years old because of its helium content. In the same
year Bertrand Boltwood suggested that Lead may be the end product of
the decay of uranium and calculated the ages of forty-three minerals from
400 to 2,200 my. The radiometric dating game had begun and by 1913
Arthur Holmes (1890–1964) in The Age of the Earth reckoned the base of the
Cambrian to be 600 my and the age of the earth to be 1.6 by. Geologists
would never again talk of less than billions. The immediate effect was to
render untenable any suggestion that humans had been around for less
than 50,000 years. The loose agreement with “biblical chronology” which
Dawson and Wright claimed was consigned to history. From then on the
choice was, either to accept billions of years for the age of the earth and a
100,000 years or more for humans or to accept that humans are recent that
is less than 20,000 years and to REJECT all radiometric age dating. As we
shall see that first occurred in the 1930s and became a major thrust of YEC
after 1961.

******

To insist as Wright did for a single Ice Age only 20,000 years ago and that humans are of the same antiquity is to open the way to reject radiometric age-dating and thus for Young Earth Creationism. Thus enabling Henry Morris to flourish

It is sad that two competent scientists left a questionable legacy which has done harm both to Christianity and science.

Can a Christian believe the earth is billions of years old?

For nearly sixty years now Young Earth Creationists have been trying to convince the world that the earth is only a few thousand years old and evolution never happened.

Science Confirms The Bible

The book which started it all.

The_Genesis_Flood

Most stop short of saying that if you accept deep time and evolution you cannot be a Christian. However, I’ve been told that many times.

The result is that Creationists, and especially Ken Ham have been successful in convincing both Christian and non-Christian that to be a Christian you must believe in a young earth.

Ham and other believe there were dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

Image result for ken ham image51gBlHMEfwL__SS500_

I prefer this!

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Recently Ken Ham has been asking this question and then answering it

Can a person believe in an old earth and an old universe (millions or billions of years in age) and be a Christian?

It’s was on Facebook on 28th September 2019, with the following introduction and a web reference.

https://www.facebook.com/BiblicalCreation/

and

https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/does-the-gospel-depend-on-a-young-earth/?fbclid=IwAR0T1vGnkR6NLHSBl6aJrdjhJp23ow5ChqEAb6q7QG37Jy2reHIR2uM6FCY

 

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
~Romans 10:9

Numerous other passages could be cited, but not one of them states in any way that a person has to believe in a young earth or universe to be saved.

And the list of those who cannot enter God’s kingdom, as recorded in passages like Revelation 21:8, certainly does not include “old earthers.”

Even though it is not a salvation issue, the belief that earth history spans millions of years has very severe consequences. […] The point is, believing in a young earth won’t ultimately affect one’s salvation, but it sure does affect the beliefs of those that person influences concerning how to approach Scripture. We believe that such compromise in the Church with millions of years and Darwinian evolution has greatly contributed to the loss of the Christian foundation in the culture.

https://answersingenesis.org/…/does-the-gospel-depend-on-a…/

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https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/does-the-gospel-depend-on-a-young-earth/?utm_source=articlesmedia&utm_medium=email&utm_content=1-banner-cta&utm_campaign=20190928&mc_cid=3778e71b84&mc_eid=e396ad77f1

So here it it in its full glory and unexpurgated.

I’ve included it all and put my comments in quotation form

like this. Anything in a grey background is yours truly.

Chapter 1

Does the Gospel Depend on a Young Earth?

by Ken Ham on September 28, 2019

 

Can a person believe in an old earth and an old universe (millions or billions of years in age) and be a Christian?

A typical Ham question where the answer is “yes” but really “no”.

First of all, let’s consider three verses that sum up the gospel and salvation. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” Jesus said in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Romans 10:9 clearly explains, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Numerous other passages could be cited, but not one of them states in any way that a person has to believe in a young earth or universe to be saved.

I think I second him on this

And the list of those who cannot enter God’s kingdom, as recorded in passages like Revelation 21:8, certainly does not include “old earthers.”

 

Elsewhere we can find more as in Galatians 5 vs 20

Many great men of God who are now with the Lord have believed in an old earth.

This is rather patronising to say the least. In fact it is most since geologists started hammering the earth.

 

Some of these explained away the Bible’s clear teaching about a young earth by adopting the classic gap theory. Others accepted a day-age theory

What Ham doesn’t seem to realise is that these interpretations of Genesis weren’t “made up” to make geological time palatable , but go back hundreds of years earlier and right back to the early Fathers.

See my chapter in Myth and Geology, Geol soc Special Publications 273 2007.

sp273-39

 

or positions such as theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis, and progressive creation.

This is rather sweeping and dismissive of the many who have considered Genesis in the light of science

My chapter (in English from Streitfall Evolution

Evolution and religion in Britain from 1859 to

Scripture plainly teaches that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ, with no requirement for what one believes about the age of the earth or universe.

In many ways I agree with that, but Christians can put others off beleif in Christ by holding silly beliefs themselves or rejecting science. St Augustine sums it up

Augsutine

Now when I say this, people sometimes assume then that it does not matter what a Christian believes concerning the supposed millions-of-years age for the earth and universe.

 

Now we are getting to it! I disagree with Ham as rejecting “billions-of-years” makes the Gospel absurd. I find this rather duplicitous  as the diagram shows what Ham really thinks as his honest answer is that you cannot.

Image may contain: text

 

Even though it is not a salvation issue, the belief that earth history spans millions of years has very severe consequences.

Having softened his readers up, he nows let rip.

Let me summarize some of these.

Authority Issue

The belief in millions of years does not come from Scripture, but from the fallible methods that secularists use to date the universe.

 

As the Bible was written some 2 to 3 thousand years ago, this is not surprising. Neither do the following come from Scripture; heliocentrism, genetics, DNA, periodic table, but according to Paul in I Corinthians 15 seeds actaully die before they germinate. That is simply untrue!!

To attempt to fit millions of years into the Bible, you have to invent a gap of time that almost all Bible scholars agree the text does not allow — at least from a hermeneutical perspective.

Here Ham is alluding to the Gap Theory, which suggests a gap of time between the initial creation in vs1 and the final re-ordering in vs2, which was the most common view of conservative evangelicals up to about 1970 to accommodate geological time. Here Ham implies it was invented/concocted as an adhoc response to deep time.

That is not the case. Some in the early church held it. In fact before 1800 most western Christians reckon God first created chaos and then later re-ordered it after a period of time. Before geology opinions differed on the duration of Chaos. Ussher nobly allowed a few hours, but others allowed much more. Thus in 1801 Thomas Chalmers took this “Chaos-Restitution” interpretation and allowed most geological time to be in this period of Chaos.

Hence it was not invented but an old interpretation modified. OK it was rejected by most in later years.

Or you have to reinterpret the days of creation as long periods of time (even though they are obviously ordinary days in the context of Genesis 1).

 

Again this is not another invention but a modification of an ancient interpretation which was held by some in the early church. It was not as widely held as the Chaos-Restitution

See my chapter in Myth and Geology and also this paper in The Evangelical Quarterly

Genesis of Ray

In other words, you have to add a concept (millions of years) from outside Scripture into God’s Word. This approach puts man’s fallible ideas in authority over God’s Word.

Sorry, Ken. You misrepresented this “alternative” views and failed to acknowledge they were common before any geologist wielded his hammer.

As soon as you surrender the Bible’s authority in one area, you unlock a door to do the same thing in other areas.

Ken would do well to read John Calvin on accommodation in his commentary on Genesis, on chapter one!! Here Calvin stresses the Bible is about God and not scientific detail. In other words

the Bible tells you how to get to heaven

Not how the heavens go.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

Once the door of compromise is open, even if ajar just a little, subsequent generations push the door open wider. Ultimately, this compromise has been a major contributing factor in the loss of biblical authority in our Western world.

Ken loves the word compromise, possibly because it puts those he disagrees with in a bad light. It implies we all lack integrity, which is very offensive

It is not compromise, but striving to understand the world around us in the light of Scripture.

The Church should heed the warning of Proverbs 30:6: “Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.”

Not a kindly remark. One should not weaponise the Word of God.

Contradiction Issue

A Christian’s belief in millions of years totally contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. Here are just three examples:

Thorns. Fossil thorns are found in rock layers that secularists believe to be hundreds of millions of years old, so supposedly they existed millions of years before man. However, the Bible makes it clear that thorns came into existence after the Curse: “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because. . . you have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: Cursed is the ground for your sake. . . . Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you’ ” (Genesis 3:17–18).

Nope. Gen 3. 18 does not say thorns came into existence at the so-called Curse.

Disease. The fossil remains of animals, said by evolutionists to be millions of years old, show evidence of diseases (like cancer, brain tumors, and arthritis). Thus, such diseases supposedly existed millions of years before sin. Yet Scripture teaches that after God finished creating everything and placed man at the pinnacle of creation, He described the creation as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Certainly calling cancer and brain tumors “very good” does not fit with Scripture and the character of God.

It’s odd that Christians in previous centuries did not have this problem with “very good”. Why should “very good” mean the absence of death?

Diet. The Bible clearly teaches in Genesis 1:29–30 that Adam and Eve and the animals were all vegetarian before sin entered the world. However, we find fossils with lots of evidence showing that animals were eating each other — supposedly millions of years before man and thus before sin.

To be pedantic this does not preclude meat in one’s diet.

  Death Issue

Romans 8:22 makes it clear that the whole creation is groaning as a result of the Fall — the entrance of sin. One reason for this groaning is death — the death of living creatures, both animals and man. Death is described as an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), which will trouble creation until one day it is thrown into the lake of fire.

Th is is eisegesis on eisegesis. Paul is not clear at this point – hence the diversity of opinion among commentators. Paul neither says or implies “One reason for this groaning is death”.

Romans 5:12 and other passages make it obvious that physical death of man (and really, death in general) entered the once-perfect creation because of man’s sin. However, if a person believes that the fossil record arose over millions of years, then death, disease, suffering, carnivorous activity, and thorns existed millions of years before sin.

 

Again Ken his selecting his preferred interpretation.

The first death was in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal as the first blood sacrifice (Genesis 3:21) — a picture of what was to come in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world. Jesus Christ stepped into history to pay the penalty of sin — to conquer our enemy, death.

 

This depends how you consider Genesis 3, but nowhere does it say animals did not die before this point. Most importantly it does not say god offered a sacrifice to make those clothes. This is ingenuous.

By dying on a Cross and being raised from the dead, Jesus conquered death and paid the penalty for sin. Although millions of years of death before sin is not a salvation issue per se, I personally believe that it is really an attack on Jesus’ work on the Cross.

Well, this is not an argument, but what he personally believes! It is better to follow Scripture and look to all commentators to see how we should understand it. One person’s personal views do not count for much.

Recognizing that Christ’s work on the Cross defeated our enemy, death, is crucial to understanding the good news of the gospel: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Far more important is to see that through the cross Christ forgives us and that the resurrection opens the way for new life.  (Could write much more here.)

Rooted in Genesis

All biblical doctrines, including the gospel itself, are ultimately rooted in the first book of the Bible.

This is universal Christian belief.

  • Marriage consists of one man and one woman for life (Genesis 2:24).

I won’t challenge this as the ideal, but it is a pity many Creationists don’t follow it!!

.However you read Genesis, sin started with humans

  • From the beginning God promised a Messiah to save us (Genesis 3:15).

Not all Christians accept this “bruised heel” argument

Genesis 3 16-19 does not actually say this. It is a popular interpretation which owes to John Milton than the Bible

paradiselost

Not the best biblical passage on this!!

I think all Christians would agree, but prefer to look elsewhere in the Bible and especially Jesus’ teachings.

Agreed. I reject the views of Creationists in Apartheid South Africa and the Confederate States who used Genesis to support racism.

 

False Claims

The New York Times on November 25, 2007, published an article on the modern biblical creation movement. The Creation Museum/Answers in Genesis received a few mentions in the article. However, I wanted to deal with one statement in the article that the writer, Hanna Rosin, stated concerning the Creation Museum:

The museum sends the message that belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation. The failure to understand Genesis is literally “undermining the entire word of God,” Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, says in a video. The collapse of Christianity believed to result from that failure is drawn out in a series of exhibits: school shootings, gay marriage, drugs, porn, and pregnant teens. At the same time, it presents biblical literalism as perfectly defensible science.

“Note particularly the statement: “belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation.” Had the writer done just a little bit of homework, she would have found that not to be true! Even if Christians believe in an old earth (and even theistic evolution), they would know that such a statement is absolutely false.

 The Creation Museum avoids saying this explicitly, but it is implied in everything Ham, AIG and the Creation Museum say.

The Bible makes it clear that, concerning Jesus Christ, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30 asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas (in verse 31) replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

He’s on stronger ground here, but reflects standard Christian belief

In Ephesians 2:8–9 we are clearly told “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” And Jesus Christ stated “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ ” (John 14:6).

Creation Museum/Answers in Genesis Teachings

As one walks through the Creation Museum, nowhere does it even suggest that “belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation.”

Not so, Maybe it does not state it, but the whole approach of the Creation Musuem and AIG, not only suggests it, but makes it to be the only conclusion.

In fact, in the theater where the climax of the 7 C’s walk-through occurs, people watch a program called The Last Adam. This is one of the most powerful presentations of the gospel I have ever seen. This program clearly sets out the way of salvation — and it has nothing to do with believing in a young earth.

As I often tell people in my lectures, Romans 10:9 states “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” By confessing “Jesus is Lord,” one is confessing that Christ is to be Lord of one’s life — which means repenting of sin and acknowledging who Christ is. The Bible DOES NOT state, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead — AND BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH — you will be saved”!

You protest too much!!

Concluding Remarks

So it should be obvious to anyone, even our opponents, that this statement in the New York Times is absolutely false. Sadly, I have seen similar statements in other press articles — and it seems no matter what we write in website articles, or how often we answer this outlandish accusation, many in the press continue to disseminate this false accusation, and one has to wonder if it is a deliberate attempt to alienate AiG from the mainstream church!

I was not aware that AIG was part of the mainstream churches !

I believe that one of the reasons writers such as Hanna Rosin make such statements is that AiG is very bold in presenting authoritatively what the Bible clearly states. People sometimes misconstrue such authority in the way Hanna Rosin has. It is also interesting that people who don’t agree with us often get very emotional about how authoritatively we present the biblical creation view — they dogmatically insist we can’t be so dogmatic in what we present! It’s okay for them to be dogmatic about what they believe, and dogmatic about what we shouldn’t believe, but we can’t be!

In my lectures, I explain to people that believing in an old earth won’t keep people out of heaven if they are truly “born again” as the Bible defines “born again.” Then I’m asked, “Then why does AiG make an issue of the age of the earth — particularly a young age?” The answer is that our emphasis is on the authority of Scripture. The idea of millions of years does NOT come from the Bible; it comes from man’s fallible, assumption-based dating methods.

Here we go again. The false questioning of anything connected to geological or cosmological dating.

That has been dealt with so many times.

 

If one uses such fallible dating methods to reinterpret Genesis (e.g., the days of creation), then one is unlocking a door, so to speak, to teach others that they don’t have to take the Bible as written (e.g., Genesis is historical narrative) at the beginning — so why should one take it as written elsewhere (e.g., the bodily Resurrection of Christ). If one has to accept what secular scientists

i.e atheistic scientists. Ken will not admit how many Christian scienitsts have been involved in all this old age stuff, whether those geologists like Sedgwick and Buckland

buckland

 

in the early 19th century or Fr leMaitre, the Belgian astrophysicist and priest who put forward the idea of a Big Bang.

Featured Image -- 11353

say about the age of the earth, evolution, etc., then why not reinterpret the Resurrection of Christ? After all, no secular scientist accepts that a human being can be raised from the dead, so maybe the Resurrection should be reinterpreted to mean just “spiritual resurrection.”

This is plain deceptive as he wishes to imply all non-creationist scientists are atheistic and deny the resurrection.

Perhaps he has not heard of Francis Collins,

250px-Francis_Collins_official_portrait

Sir John Polkinghorne and a whole galaxy of greater and lesser scientists throughout the world , who see no conflict between faith in the resurrection of Jesus and acceptance of the vast age of the universe, and those things which go along with it.

The point is, believing in a young earth won’t ultimately affect one’s salvation, but it sure does affect the beliefs of those that person influences concerning how to approach Scripture. We believe that such compromise in the Church with millions of years and Darwinian evolution has greatly contributed to the loss of the Christian foundation in the culture.

You have not proved your point!!

However you have shown  that you are prepared to misrepresent other Christians, history  and science to make your claim.

Your approach is deficient both in the Ninth Commandment and our Lord’s Second great commandment and rather replete with what Paul warns us about in Galatians 5 vs16-21

I think I prefer Adam Sedgwick’s ways two hundred years ago. We should do the same today . Here it is;

sedgwick

 

Should Creationism be taught in Welsh Schools

Yes, but no!

YES! that will annoy some. Surely I should just shriek “NO”! We need more than a knee-jerk reaction.

168946_477433586556_727651556_6500443_8206770_nararat_or_bust

In context, Creationism cannot be taught in England and Wales has yet to formulate its position, as new teaching guidelines do not mention creationism and could open the floodgates. As a result the British humanist Association have jumped and have got 50 leading scientists to sign , including at least three Christians – Prof Tom McLeish, Rev Prof Michael Reiss and Simon Barrow. I signed it but don’t think I’ll join the BHA.

Here’s the substance of the letter

https://humanism.org.uk/2019/09/05/uks-top-scientists-tell-the-welsh-government-teach-evolution-not-creationism/

The letter says:

‘As scientists and educators we believe that good science teaching is vital to the education and development of all children, wherever they live in the UK. We note the Welsh Government is currently consulting on a new national curriculum that will drastically overhaul education in Wales, including science education. The new Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) doesn’t explicitly prohibit presenting creationism and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, and evolution is only mentioned once (and only at secondary level at that).

‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. It is a fundamental concept that describes and explains the development of the diversity of life on the planet. Pupils should be introduced to it early – certainly at primary level – as it underpins so much else. What’s more, without an explicit ban on teaching creationism, intelligent design, and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, such teaching may begin to creep into the school curriculum, when it is vital children in Wales are not exposed to pseudoscientific doctrines masquerading as science.

‘State schools in England, including primary schools, are already required to teach evolution ‘as a comprehensive, coherent, and extensively evidenced theory’, and ‘must not allow any view or theory to be taught as evidence-based if it is contrary to scientific or historical evidence or explanations’. We urge the Welsh Government to introduce the same requirements in Wales.’

So often evolution is called a belief and thus people may say “I believe in evolution”. That is unhelpful as evolution is a scientific theory it should not be dependent on belief but evidence. In that, it is contrasted to creationism which is a belief based on a particular reading of the Bible. I, for one, do not believe in evolution but accept the arguments and evidence for it.

I consider that this petition is too focused on biological evolution and ignores cosmological and geological evolution. In school, both at primary and secondary level, the concept of Deep Time must be taught. Yes, the universe IS 13.4 billion years old, the earth 4.64 billion  and the first life was between 4 and 3.5 billion and so on. The succession of life (call that evolution if you will) needs some treatment even at primary level.

I have taken part in teaching rocks and volcanoes to Years 3 and 4 (ages 7 and 8). Having climbed Mt St Helens I show slides of that  and the 1980 eruption and then ask “Where is the nearest volcano?”

124

That stumps them and then I tell them “in the Lake District, 450 million years ago.” Wow! Of course, they will soon forget the 450 million and if asked will just say “millions”, which is fine. Dinosaurs are a must and again their great age can be stressed. This gives an open door for evolution.

However my observation in schools (mostly Anglican primary) is that some teachers are unsure about it and fearful of either what they think the church believes or an awareness of fundamentalist parents. With many evangelical churches teaching creationism this can inhibit schools in their teaching.

Above all, YEC and Intelligent Design need to be excluded from the science curriculum.

What is creationism?

It may seem superfluous asking this question as most think they know what creationism is. Many, including those in churches, assume it is simply traditional Christianity.

Creationism, or more accurately Young Earth Creationism (YEC) holds that the bible, especially Genesis must be taken literally and that God created in 6 24-hour days. They further claim that before the Fall – when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit – there was no death, suffering or disease including among animals and that most of the strata were laid down during Noah’s Flood. I could deal with at great depth but this gives the outline.

On certain things there are variety of understandings but all coalesce on the above.

At times ideas get a bit far-fetched as with the suggestion of fire-breathing dinosaurs, described in this blog.

http://tetzoo.com/blog/2019/9/8/philip-j-senters-fire-breathing-dinosaurs-the-tetzoo-review?fbclid=IwAR3L8wzLxgcs8KkejkqurBA8j9HW_oUz4srdFVKkDFWM8FZ38zJYCAbOF0Y

 

The Bible specifically states that the first few books of the Old Testament are not meant to be taken literally. Despite this, a number of Young Earth creationists promote a view of the ancient world where people lived alongside allosaurs and pterosaurs and so on. If you’ve seen a version of this page mentioning lemonade and homosexuality, it’s a spoof (the original text does not include that section of text). Image: (c) Ken Ham,  Dinosaurs of Eden .

Here is a recent tweet by a creationist. That shows the problem.

More than likely the dinosaurs died out after the flood due to large dietary requirements. After the centuries after that they were hunted to extinction by mankind due to their terror of dragons.

I would have thought most would baulk at that, but these views are held in many churches, especially independent evangelical ones. That includes some Anglicans. i have had some heated discussions with Anglican clergy on YEC.

This, briefly, is what they affirm but they also argue that scientists have got so much wrong, especially geologists, who have wrongly argued for an earth being millions or billions of years old for 300 years. When you dig into their writings you find they take an odd position on evolution  and thus claim that creatures evolved rapidly after the Flood, so that all cats from moggies to lions evolved in a few hundred years after landing at Ararat from the Cat-kind Noah took to sea!

I presume all intelligent people will find that nonsense, but that IS what  creationism (YEC) is. It is what I’ve read and heard from YECs for half a century.

My introduction to YEC was thrust upon in the Swiss Alps. After three years as an exploration geologist in Africa I felt called to the Anglican ministry and in preparation for that went out to study for a month in 1971 under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri above the Rhone Valley. On arrival Schaeffer’s son-in-law, Udo Middelmann suggested I should read a host of YEC books. I was reluctant but did so. At first I was baffled and began to read The Genesis Flood. 

The_Genesis_Flood

At first I felt they were incontrovertible, but then I started to discover the sheer dishonesty of the arguments and their systematic misquotations. The book was cleverly argued and those without geological knowledge would probably not identify the flaws. After that, I often muttered “bloody liars” under my breath as I read The Genesis Flood  and other YEC books. However few in Britain were concerned about YEC in the 70s as it only came to the fore in 1981.

The problem of dealing with YEC is that one needs skills in all branches of science and my skills become limited beyond geology. Even so, YECs continually present new killer arguments which appear plausible and not amenable to quick refutation. I and many others have done slow hatchet jobs on these arguments and without fail they always turn out to be based on bad science and misrepresentation (aka lying). Thus in the early 80s a certain Woodmorappe (alibi!) wrote an article on how so many radiometric dates were wrong and gave a list of 700 dodgy dates. Many came from the 1964 Geological Society of London tome on The Geological Time scale of which I had a copy. So laboriously I checked these out and there were about a hundred.  In every case the literature was misquoted. I could not reconcile that with the Ninth Commandment.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/a-geologist-looks-at-creationism/

There are myriad examples of this , or at a popular level by Prof A Mcintosh, formerly of Leeds. I cannot see how a D Sc in anything could get things so wrong. McIntosh gives talks in various places and works alongside Ken Ham. He wrote a popular book Genesis for Today which has an appendix on why geology is wrong. The errors are horendous.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/05/14/creationist-nonsense-on-geology-the-odd-case-of-prof-mcintosh-d-sc/

It is difficult not to get angry about this type of thing.

creationist binjgo

Yet YEC persists.

As well as that a fair number of Christians are fearful that this is the orthodox and traditional view of the churches and are initially bemused when I say it is not. I have found this for over 40 years in my ministry and consider it is because clergy have failed in their teaching and left the subject to one side. (My own policy has been to deal with creation and science , when the lectionary suggests a reading on creation, slip it out at Harvest as an aside, rather than hammer away. Most know of my being a geologist and often of my interest in Darwin.)

DSCF2350

No, YEC is not the traditional view of the churches. Yes, Christians in the past did believe the earth was thousands. not billions, of years old, but that was before geologists had discovered the earth was ancient. Thus Archbishop Ussher who in 1656 argued for creation in 4004BC, was reflecting the best scholarship available and not rejecting and rubbishing science. It was 20 to 30 years after that some began to realise the vast age of the earth.

The historical relation of Christianity and science would require volumes, but suffice it to say that many early geologists were devout Christians. a good number were Anglican clergy, like Sedgwick, who taught Darwin geology, Henslow, Buckland and Coneybeare. Sedgwick was an inspiration, not only as a geologist, but for the way he tackled wrong ideas, as I show in this chapter/blog. (It was fun writing it!)

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/how-to-deal-with-victorian-creationists-and-win/

As for evolution, that was accepted in most churches within 20 years of the publication of The Origin of species (see https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/evolution-and-religion-in-britain-from-1859-to-2013/ for the last 150 years)

but is Creationism being taught?

The answer many in education will give is that it is not. That is what some educationalists have said to me – including within the church. However over the decades a few instances have come to light. I, and others, are sure there are many more.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Bristol, England, UK

Some Bristol schools have taken pupils to this creationist zoo.

I lift this from another blog of mine. I just love the cart pulled by a dinosaur!!

 

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

The most public face of creationism has been in education, mirroring the American experience. This became apparent in 2002 after the Emmanuel Gateshead affair. It is difficult to estimate how much creationism is taught in British schools, but apart from independent (creationist) Christian and Islamic faith schools, creationism is taught as science in some state schools. It remains largely hidden because one cannot go round schools and ask the question outright and also a teacher teaching creationism would be wary of disclosing the fact.

First, the fifty independent faith schools do teach creationism as science for religious reasons. They often use American creationist material like Accelerated Christian Education. Secondly, several state secondary schools effectively teach creationism but claim to follow the National Curriculum. The first state school to teach YEC was probably Emmanuel College, Gateshead, a Christian foundation formed in 1992. In April 2002 Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis (the leading creationist organisation)[35] led a meeting at the school. As it was a case of hiring out the school hall it was not relevant, but it took on a media-life of its own. However it became clear that creationism was taught as science. Richard Dawkins, the Bishop of Oxford and others called for a review but a government inspection supported the school. Some indications had appeared on the Christian Institute website. The head McQuoid made his support of YEC clear and in 2000 The Christian Institute had hosted a lecture series on Christian education, mostly by teachers at Emmanuel Gateshead. Stephen Layfield, head of science lectured on “The Teaching of Science; A Biblical Perspective”. He suggested that the “Principal evidence [for the Flood] is found in the fossil-laden sedimentary rocks, the extensive reserves of hydrocarbon fuels (coal, oil and gas)…”[36]. This article can be considered a manifesto for creationist teaching of science by arguing that science teachers should question evolution or geological time at every opportunity, and teaching an alternative Creationist opinion. Thirdly, there are examples of creationist teaching within the state system, in a covert way. Numbers of teachers are creationists but short of surveillance one cannot find out what they teach. To teach creationism would be contrary to both government guidelines.

The pressure to teach creationism comes from many different groups, mostly from independent churches, which are involved in groups like Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International. However much writing on creationism appears in evangelical magazines, like, Evangelical Times, Evangelicals Today and in Evangelicals Now. The sheer weight of articles over many years has convinced many evangelicals that evolution is bad science and, at the very least, creationism or design should be taught as an alternative.

In September 2006 the group Truthinscience[37] began a public campaign to encourage ‘the critical examination of Darwinism in schools’ and the teaching of “design” schools. They claimed:

We believe that a critical examination of Darwinism and the controversy that surrounds it will enable students to fulfill some of these objectives. …We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a more critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be exposed to the fact that there is a modern controversy over Darwin’s theory of evolution and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, and that this has considerable social, spiritual, moral and ethical implications. Truth in Science promotes the critical examination of Darwinism in schools, as an important component of science education.[38]

http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/tis2/index.php/home.html

Figure 7 Screenshot of the homepage of Truth in Science http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/tis2/index.php/home.html The DVD Set in Stone presents arguments fro a young earth and the website gives the impression of being “good” science

 

Their website scarcely touched on a young earth or Noah’s Flood but the board of advisors were Young Earth Creationists including Prof McIntosh of Leeds and an Anglican vicar. They claimed to be presenting Intelligent Design as an alternative to “Darwinism”. Design is used by creationists today as it is less threatening to the general public than creationism. They declined to affirm their belief that dinosaurs were on the Ark. One cannot determine how successful truthinscience has been in Britain. However, since September 2006 there have been many responses to the teaching of creationism. The concerns of creationists may be seen in Paul Taylor’s book entitled Truth, Lies and Science Education[39], written for the general reader. Taylor claims much science taught in schools is wrong and based on atheistic assumptions. The book is scientifically inaccurate and asserts much science teaching is actually scientism and gives radiometric age-dating as an example. That is simply absurd.

In 2010 another organisation Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID) was formed with Alistair Noble as the Director.[40] This claimed that Design was a scientific position and thus ought to be taught. The website material is very ambivalent on the age of the earth, but it is difficult not to see it as a YEC front. C4ID has attracted much criticism especially from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE)[41]. C4ID has attempted to influence scientists and teachers and have had lectures presented by American creationists.

Groups like Truth in Science and C4ID appeal for fairness and to encourage “critical thinking”. However in the push for fairness, there are no demands to teach a flat earth or phlogiston in chemistry. “Critical Thinking” sounds fine, but it is impossible to do that with the misrepresentation of science which is the hallmark of all creationism.

Over the last few years, there have been several official responses. On the official teachers’ website the document GUIDANCE ON THE PLACE OF CREATIONISM AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN IN SCIENCE LESSONS [42],  emphasized that neither Creationism nor Intelligent Design are scientific theories. Shortly after this in September 2007 the Association for Science Education published a similar statement on Science Education, Intelligent Design and Creationism[43] and stated that it agreed the consensus of science expressed in the Interacademy Panel statement[44]; a global network of the world’s science academies, which gave a statement on the unquestionable scientific consensus of the universe being billions of years old, the earth younger and the evolutionary succession of life, in contrast to creationist opinion that the universe and earth are less than 10,000 years old. This demonstrates that Creationism has minimal support in the scientific community, in fact, a fraction of one per cent.

However there are misunderstandings, as in September 2008 when Michael Reiss resigned as Director of Education at the Royal Society, after some Fellows of the Society protested about his views on tackling creationism in science teaching. At a meeting of the British Association in September 2008, Reiss argued that creationist pupils needed to be treated with respect and that simply attacking creationism was futile as creationism was part of a wider (religious) world view.[45] Reiss is a University Professor and chief executive of the Science Learning Centre in London, who has a Ph.D. in biology. He is also an ordained priest in the Church of England, which some atheists see as compromising his science. It seems that Reiss was misunderstood in his appeal to understand why some students are creationist as he made the obvious statement that understanding the students rather than criticizing them makes better educational sense.

Education and creationism have been in the news in 2011, and these type of issues have continued. In March2011 (and again in March 2012), Philip Bell of Creation Ministries International was invited to St Peter’s Church of England Aided School in Exeter to speak to GSCE students in which he gave ‘scientific’ arguments for creationism resulting in a protest by a Christian parent, Laura Horner, a geologist, who set up the CrISIS petition[46], followed by a letter of concern to Gove from several atheists and Christians, asking for clarification. In his reply on 7th July 2011 to Hugo Swire M.P. the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, replied with reference to St Peter’s School, explaining the government position on the teaching of creationist in science lessons;

‘Creationism does not fit with the scientific consensus…: nor does it employ the scientific method. As such it should not be taught as a scientific theory or body of knowledge as it is neither of those things.’

This is one of the few examples where attempts to introduce creationism into schools has come to the public’s notice. It highlights the situation in that teaching creationism is contrary to Government policy, yet it is occurring in British schools

The second case was as a result of the present government’s initiative in the setting up of Free schools, whereby a group can sponsor a new school, which will be independent of the Local Education Authority. A fundamentalist church in Newark, the Everyday Champions Church, was seeking to set up the Everyday Champions School, as a free school in Newark with a creationist basis. The application was turned down in October, as it would have contravened government policy.[47] As of April 2012 there are further applications for creationist Free Schools.

In 2013 a Lanarkshire school sent creationist books home for children. There was an outcry from parents and the BCSE was involved resulting in 18 months of controversy in Scotland and not yet resolved.

TruthBeTold (2)Cart pulled by dinosaur

See also https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/roll-over-nessie-dinosaur-alive-and-well-in-scottish-parliament/ Paul Braterman has several blogs on Scottish creationism.

Throughout the period from April to September 2011, articles on the issue of creationism in schools appeared in major newspapers and in publications like The Times Educational Supplement and the New Scientist. Possibly as a result of this, on 19th September 2011about 30 scientists, including David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Michael Reiss wrote an open letter to the government insisting that creationism should not be taught in schools.[48] Responses have been variable with positive reports in leading newspapers and Ekklesia[49] and strongly negative ones by Creationist groups like CMI[50] and AIG[51]. So far there has been no response from the mainstream churches and little from politicians. It appears that only interested groups , either “evolutionary” scientists or creationists, are concerned about teaching creationism in schools, and that opposition is confined only to those who have an interest i.e. scientists, rather than of concern to a wider society. The fact that such eminent scientists made such an appeal, indicates how seriously they take what they consider to be the threat of creationism to science education and are trying to persuade the wider public. Yet, the teaching of creationism in schools is not considered a serious problem among most people, including church leaders and politicians.

(see https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/evolution-and-religion-in-britain-from-1859-to-2013/ for the last 150 years)

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As well as these I found one church secondary school where parents were leaning on the head over creationism, and I felt the head was reluctant to offend them. This is a soft way in. It needs to be watched.

And then some teachers lean to YEC or are fearful to deal with subject.

In England it is not permissible to teach YEC whether in county or church schools, but I pick up instances of teachers leaning to YEC, but not too overtly. After all you can raise doubts about evolution., without actually teaching YEC. You can hint at doubts about Darwin or geological time. Others have found the same thing. However the evidence is anecdotal rather than systematic.

However teachers , of any faith or none, must deal with creationists pupils with respect and understanding.

BUT there is another side to this, both in the teaching material and by teachers. It can be, and is, presented that Christianity is actually YEC with the implication that a science student cannot be a Christian. I can give examples.

SHOULD Creationism be taught?

In a word “No”.

YEC as I presented above is simply not science and is a hotch-potch of odd ideas cobbled together to discredit science. Further I does not have roots in either traditional church teaching nor the science of past eras. (Yes, I know science has changed and that some ideas have been long rejected, but these were ideas put forward by wise scientists trying to make sense of the world. I could give loads of examples from geology, and itemise where geologists like Sedgwick, Buckland and Darwin got things wrong! Each were superb geologists.) BTW I have published on Buckland and Darwin’s geological work, especially on Welsh glaciation.

YEC dates back to the 19th century. First, in England with the anti-geologists who tried to overthrow the geology of Buckland, Sedgwick and Lyell with an odd mish-mash of ideas. They were effectively silenced by Buckland and Sedgwick among others. The church was wiser back then – and less polite.)

buckland

This is Tom Sopwith’s painting of Buckland looking for Welsh glaciers in 1841. Yes, he was a bit nuts.

We then move to the USA with the ideas Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventists, who wrote a rambling work claiming all strata were laid down i the Flood. This was taken up after 1900 by McCready Price with his “New Geology”. The new ideas simmered in the USA until Morris and Whitcomb  published The Genesis Flood in 1961. After that YEC slowly took off in the USA, becoming the default view of evangelicals. It spread to Britain by 1968 and gradually took root.

There is no way YEC should be taught as SCIENCE in SCIENCE lessons, but inevitably it will come up and teachers need to find a way of dealing with it in a sensitive fashion.

It is clear that YEC cannot be on any science curriculum, but its existence needs acknowledging.

However, if a teacher does teach it, then that has to be a disciplinary matter

The reasons for that should be obvious from what I have written.

YEC simply is not science.

Worse than that it is full of untruth, not in the sense that they get their science wrong, but by systematically distorting and misquoting standard science.

Beyond that it undermines a good understanding of so much science, especially geology and biology, which are needed both to understand  and deal with the pressing issues of today.

In a time of environmental crisis we must get our science right.

We cannot say with Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance that all fossil fuels were laid down a few thousand years ago when Noah was in the ark! This chapter from Religion in Environmental and Climate Change  deals with Beisner and YECs on Climate Change

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If we do we cannot understand geomorphology and thus cannot make good judgments on how to deal with issues of flooding , earthquakes, climate change etc.

The same applies to more biological matters like medicines and medical methods etc.

The same for agriculture and forestry.

And so on, ad infinitum.

What should the churches do?

YEC has been present in the UK for nearly half a century and the churches have done little about it. It has taken over most independent evangelical churches, especailly with the activities of Answers in Genesis. I felt the Church of England has tried to look the other way , when their bishops could have spoken out decades ago. Some years ago Dawkins argued the Anglican bishops should have been forceful. I wrote to The Times agreeing with Dawkins and saying our bishops could have done more. A few days later I got an irate e-mail from my bishop criticising what I wrote! He’d sent it at 6 in the morning, so he must have been up all night fuming at me!!

Most mainline churches are not YEC, but they are a significant presence (at least 5% of clergy) in most, including the Church of England. There are several such vicars in my diocese!

Often in the churches teaching and preaching issues on creation , and thus of evolution, are sidestepped. This allows members to unwittingly think YEC may be true.

In recent years churches have, at long last, emphasised the care of the environment, which needs to be backed up by good simple science on geology, biology and evolution. Churchmembers do not need to know that the base of the Upper Bowland Shales is the Cravenoceras Ieion Marine Band, which was about 325.2 million years ago, but need a general awareness of deep geological time e.g. Ice Ages ended 10,000 years ago etc. YEC says the Ice Age took place after Noah’s flood!

Above all, there must be an insistence on integrity and rigorous honesty. Thus the churches must criticise YEC. I fear this will not happen.

 

Conclusion

YEC is  simply Untrue

The main reason why YEC should not be taught is simply that it is untrue.

That cannot be stressed too strongly whether it upsets anyone or not.

YEC twists and misrepresents science to produce a complete parody of science and such that one begins to question whether leading creationists are not deliberately lying. After half a century of reading creationist writings I would find it very difficult not to say that.

It is also very bad science

If you follow bad science, pseudoscience or untrue science, this has serious implications on science -based projects  in society whether for environmental work, medical improvements, agriculture, technology etc

And finally, as a Christian, I find YEC makes Christianity seem utterly false and dishonest.

Last of all to give a Welsh twist, William Williams (Pantycelyn)  who wrote Guide me, O thou great redeemer made it very clear in Golwg ar Deyrnas Crist that he thought the earth was much older than Ussher’s 4004BC.

P.S. I was asked to write this for the Geol Soc of London book  Geology and Religion. It brings out my position on geology and creation

339lgscreation

 

The ultimate root of Creationism, not science but a fundamentalist worldview

This is an excellent blog on how Creationism is supposedly a defence of Christian Morals which they see undermine if you believe in an old earth.

It trace the root back to a reaction against Bernard Ramm who wrote an excellent book on science and Christianity in 1955.

One odd thing, creationists have a moral crusade but do seem rather lax on the ninth Commandment.

AIG fortress cartoon

 

https://iloveyoubutyouregoingtohell.org/2019/08/09/radical-creationists-fall-into-the-poetry-trap/?fbclid=IwAR1igfy9qOQISMam3DLSasffHYxtpyfRklYeJ3UOADVjzdQf4ATzGFIzwPg

Radical Creationists Fall into the Poetry Trap

Want to understand American creationism? Then don’t dig into Charles Darwin or even Bill Nye. The key to American creationism isn’t science, not even its peculiar “zombie” science. No, to understand radical American creationism, we need to look instead to poetry and the fundamentalist impulse.

Here’s the latest: today’s leading radical creationist Ken Ham recently defended his young-earth position against charges of flat-earthism. As Ham bemoaned,

now it’s not just atheists arguing the Bible teaches a flat earth—it’s some Christians, too, who’ve sadly fallen for flat-earth arguments and now believe that’s what the Bible teaches. But does it?

No, it doesn’t. Now, flat earthers will frequently bring up poetic passages, such as verses from Psalms or Job, and say those verses teach a flat earth because phrases like “ends of the earth” or references to a setting sun appear. But those passages are poetry—by definition poetry is filled with literary devices such as metaphors, similes, and figures of speech. The biblical text is meant to be interpreted naturally, according to the genre. And poetry is clearly intended to be understood within the context of abundant literary devices that are not meant to be taken so woodenly and literally (i.e., God does not literally lie us down in green pastures as per Psalm 23:2).

For those who know the history of American creationism, Ham’s use of the “poetry” defense must seem either brutally cynical or woefully ignorant. Here’s why: Back in the 1950s, fundamentalist Protestant scholars tried to move away from Ham’s preferred sort of radical young-earth creationism. They wanted to remain creationists, but they didn’t want to be bound to scientifically outlandish notions such as a 6,000-year-old earth or a literal world-wide flood.

How did they interpret the creation passages in Genesis? You guessed it: as poetry.

Most influentially, Bernard Ramm argued in his 1954 book The Christian View of Science and Scripture that simple young-earth creationism made a huge theological mistake. As Ramm wrote,

If the theologian teaches that the earth is the center of the solar system, or that man first appeared on the earth at 4004 BC, or that all the world was submerged under water at 4004 BC and had been for unknown millennia, he is misinterpreting Scripture and bringing Scripture into needless conflict with science.

When the Bible describes creation, Ramm argued, it was speaking poetically, in popular, accessible language. Such language, Ramm thought, did not “theorize as to the actual nature of things.” Rather, it explained God’s role as a personal, engaged Creator in poetic language that people everywhere could understand.

AIG fortress cartoon

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The modern American radical-creationist movement was born as an attempt to directly refute Ramm’s ideas. John Whitcomb Jr. and Henry Morris set out in their blockbuster creationist hit The Genesis Flood to prove that Genesis was not poetry, but history.

As always, though, poetry is in the eye of the beholder. How were conservative evangelicals supposed to choose where to draw the line? How were they supposed to decide if talk about a flat earth was meant to be read poetically or literally? Or passages about a world-wide flood? Or the age of the planet?

In the end, the answers came down to something besides science or even theology. For Whitcomb and Morris in the 1960s and 1970s, or Ken Ham today, insistence on a literal young earth and literal world-wide flood is not a scientific decision or a theological one, but rather a very popular kind of draw-the-line-ism, a fundamentalist promise that traditional beliefs must be protected at all costs.

For example, when John Whitcomb Jr. and Henry Morris made their first case for radical young-earth creationism, they insisted that there were only two ways to see the world—young-earth creationism or “evolutionism.” On the creationist side stood Jesus and the Scriptures. On evolution’s side were only “ancient idolatries or primitive animism or modern existentialism or atheistic communism!”

AIG foundations

Throughout his long career, Henry Morris insisted that only a rigid, literalistic, radical creationism stood between true religion and a host of pernicious ideas. In The Long War Against God, for example, Morris warned that a poetic reading of Genesis would mean an endorsement of “premarital sex, adultery, divorce, and homosexuality” as well as ”Unrestrained pornography. . . . [and] Prostitution, both male and female.” Don’t forget, Morris warned, that “evolutionary thinking” lead to “abortionism.” And the Holocaust. As well as, presumably, cannibalism, not to mention “the modern drug crisis (rock music, peer pressure, organized crime, etc.)”

When Henry Morris insisted on reading Genesis as literal rather than poetic, he wasn’t making a theological statement. He was not making a scientific statement. Rather, Morris was appealing to America’s fundamentalist impulse, the desire of many conservative Christians to draw the line somewhere.

For Morris and his erstwhile protégé Ken Ham, the threat of evolution isn’t really theological or scientific. Rather, as Ham never tires of repeating, evolutionary thinking is the foundation of a host of modern social ills, from abortion rights to LGBTQ rights; from youthful disrespect to internet pornography.

I can’t help but wonder if Ham is aware of the long history of his poetry defense. Does he know that Bernard Ramm used the same argument against his mentor’s radical young-earth beliefs? Does Ham just not care? Or, rather, does he understand that his followers don’t really care about science or theology, they are just looking for someone to tell them where to draw the line, where to take up a fundamentalist defense of traditional values?