Category Archives: Ice Age

William Buckland – Ice Man

Buckland was one of the great 19th century geologists who taught at Oxford. Here is a sketch of him teaching. His students included Charles Lyell, Samual Wilberforce and one  saint, Saint John Henry Newman.


In June 1842 Charles Darwin undertook his last geological field trip. He was at his father’s house, The Mount  in Shrewsbury, that month and after a winter of sickness, he felt somewhat better. Thus, he went in his gig to Snowdonia to assess whether Buckland was correct in identifying proof of a former Ice Age. In October 1841 William Buckland travelled to Wales with Thomas Sopwith (his grandson designed the Sopwith Camel, a WW1 fighter plane) to see whether Agassiz could be right about a former Ice Age. In a few days of horrendous Welsh weather Buckland identified all the main glacial troughs.

Buckland was one of the leading geologists of the early 19th century but there is no decent biography of him apart from Rupke’s study  The Great  Chain of Being (1983). His eccentricities were numerous, but are mentioned more than his geological work.

He was the first to find a Mesozoic mammal, worked with Mary Anning on Dorset fossils, wrote a Bridgewater treatise on geology and, my interest here, introduced the concept of Ice Ages to Britain in 1940.

Before then what we now see as glacial deposits and glacial geomorphology was explained by an effect of the Deluge. In the 1830s Charpentier, a mine own in the Rhone valley, and Louis Agassiz, of Neuchatel and then Harvard, recognised that glaciers were far more extensive and explained erratics like the Pierre au Bot above Neuchatel. Darwin was originally totally unconvinced and preferred floating icebergs to explain erratics and had explained the Parallel roads of Glen roy as fluctuations of sea level, only to be trounced by Agassiz in 1840.


When he visited Switzerland in October 1838 and met Agassiz, Buckland was convinced of an Ice Age – note the singular, as then no one envisaged a whole series over 2 million years. Two years later in 1840 Buckland, Agassiz and Lyell travelled north on a glacier hunt.

Just south of Lancaster they found signs of glaciation as it is the southern limit of a drumlin swarm. I live 10 miles south of Lancaster and see them whenever I go north. In the Lake District they noticed the glacial cwms on the east side of Hellvelyn. Going further north they checked out Darwin’s work at Glen Roy and found what he admitted was a “great blunder” . It was not a lowering of sea level but a lake dammed by a glacier as Agassiz had found by the Aletsch glacier.

No. 857: Tyndall on Parallel Roads

And so in October 1841 Buckland headed for Snowdonia with his friend Thomas Sopwith.


Buckland dressed for Welsh Glaciers by Thomas Sopwith, note the writing. This shows Sopwith’s sense of humour, but some humourless sciency types thought it was getting at Buckland for believing a young earth. That didn’t stop a recent biographer of Buckland saying it was on the way to Scotland!!


View from top of Y Garn 3104ft showing the Llugwy trough leading to Capel Curig, Llyn Idwal, a morainic lake. Buckland visited the vlley behind Tryfan in the middle distance and note glacial features

To the left is Nant Francon, viewed below – with embellishments.



In 1831 de la Beche painted this watercolour to show that little rivers could not produce big valleys. He was right, but ideas of glaciation were a few years ahead.

This map shows the routes of both Buckland and Darwin in 1841-2 with some further details. I have retraced both routes.



The lake Llyn y Gader is WSW of Snowdon summit. The glacial troughs were sorted by Buckland in an amazing bit of work.

for detail please read my paper in Proc Geol Assoc BucklandDarwinWalesIce


Snowdon from the old coaching inn Plas y Brenin taken early morning. Buckalnd identified the glacier coming down here from Snowdon, but it also went down Nant Gwynant.

Buckland and Sopwith started at the glacial lakes at Ellesmere before heading for Snowdonia. despite filthy weath they sorted out the essential glacial features in a few days

One place he stopped was by Rhyd Ddu (the start of the quietest path up Snowdon, which I climbed last year on the 60th anniversary of my first ascent of Snowdon in 1961. It was about my 50th ascent.) . There he found a roche moutonnee by Llyn y Gader


which Tom Sopwith sketched



He also did a water colour of Buckland inspecting the roche moutonee which some think is Mary Anning. Compare the scenery with the pen and ink sketch and photo.


It even appears on book covers!!


This is an interesting sketch in Llanberis  made in the 1820s. The unannoted copy is to be found in the Oxford Museum but this with the word “Glacier” added is found in the Agassiz collection at Neuchatel. Thanks to Hugh Torrens telling me to go and find it while in Neuchatel.

No photo description available.

DSCF9513 (1)

On the left is one of the many erratics blocks in Llanberis Pass. Snowdon is up to the right.

For more read my paper which deals with Darwin as well.

Darwin spent a few days in Capel Curig and then several around Cwm Idwal before moving on to Moel Tryfan and then Llanberis and Snowdon.

For further reading

Darwin, Buckland and the Welsh Ice Age, 1837 – 1842, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 123 (2012) 649–662

the original paper


Creationists diss Climate Change. Snowballs from “Is Genesis history?”

Well, Creationists from “Is Genesis History?” are giving reasons why we should not worry about climate change.

Here it is in a short blog showing their arguments to be dubious and duplicitous and thus misleading their flock. It also shows how bad science or pseudoscience can lead to bad ethical decisions – here on climate mitigation.

Before you read this, here is an account of Evangelicals and climate Change taking the story up tp 2010, so is now rather out-dated

So here is there blog from the glaciers of Washington State;

Part is all about a winter’s visit to the glaciers of Washington state and Vardiman and Purifoy use that backdrop to play down climate change. Read the whole article, which is like a cosy chat with some dubious ideas thrown in.

I reproduce their dubious ideas and then show why they are flawed both in their explicit comments and what is implicit.

Del, Larry, and the other guys in our crew had donned their snow shoes and were slowly making their way to the passage we had dug out. I was amazed to see them climb up, put one foot on the snow…and not sink in! Del, who is from Colorado, chuckled at my comments about snowshoes: he had spent years using them and knew how necessary they were in deep snow.

It was an incredibly beautiful day. The snow flurried a bit in morning, then the clouds cleared away and the sun came out. The ice on the glacier literally shone with a blue light. It was amazing.

I love the mountains of Washington but have only climbed Mt St Helens in October 2009. Many are covered in glaciers and what is most evident is that these glaciers are receding.  No mention is made of  retreating glaciers. This has been considerable in the last century and in itself indicates a warming temperature, whether the warming is natural of not. This is a useful article and shows some of the changes in Washington State where there visiting.

I enjoyed seeing the new glacier on Mt St Helens in 2009



Here is an article on Washington glaciers

During the Ice Ages much more of the Rockies were glaciated right down to New Mexico. The evidence for glaciation is clear above Taos around Wheeler Peak.

227To put a spanner in the works this photo looking north from Wheeler Peak NM is either of a rock glacier, or a short-lived glacier from the Little Ice Age, i.e. about the 18th century.  I’d like to go back and check it out.

Surely not mention glacial retreat is rather selective and shows at least an unconscious bias? Or conscious?

Virtually all glaciers have receded in the northern hemisphere since about 1815 with the end of the Little Ice Age. I have seen many examples in the Alpes

As we settled in to listen to Larry and Del, I was absolutely fascinated. Larry explained the cause of the Ice Age and how it related to the unusual atmospheric conditions in the world immediately after the global flood.

This begs so many questions. Larry admits to an Ice Age, but then fails to say the the Ice Ages started 2 million years ago and there have been a whole succession of Ice Ages and warmer periods . This has been gradually worked out and in Britain the main period is the Late Devensian reaching a maximum 18,000 years ago.  This carved out most of the glacial features in British mountains. Later, there was a smaller glaciation  – the loch Lomond Stadial, which was a short cold spell and resulted in much less glaciation, often leaving smaller moraines where the previous glaciation had been active.

Larry is showing a conscious bias by not mentioning the wider context.

When the Ice Age(s) were discovered it was almost assumed there was only one Ice Age and not a succession. Agassiz and Charpentier were there first to discover the Ice Age in the 1830s in Switzerland. When Buckland visited Switzerland in 1838 Agassiz convinced him of the Ice Age and then on a visit and tour of Northern England and Scotland Agassiz, Lyell

Louis Agassiz: Overview of Louis Agassiz180px-charles_lyell

and Buckland demonstrated that Britain too had an Ice Age. They found their first proof in  a drumlin between Lancaster and my house in Garstang. They also challenged Darwin’s blunder at Glen Roy.

The following October Buckland and Sopwith went to Snowdonia in appalling weather and identified the main glacial features there. (picture of Buckland here often wrongly claimed to be of Mary Anning!)


In june 1842 Darwin checked out Buckland’s work and concurred! He found various glacial troughs which could not have been formed by piddly little streams!!


a re-enactment (almost) as it was sketched by de la Beche in 1831


Darwin made much of these boulders found in Cwm Idwal


To read more see

To most geologists this was the final draining of the Flood, but in some illegible notes Buckland argued that the Flood was a result of all the ice melting.

However there have been several sets of Ice Ages during geological time with five significant ice ages throughout the Earth’s history: the Huronian (2.4-2.1 billion years ago), Cryogenian (850-635 million years ago), Andean-Saharan (460-430 mya), Karoo (360-260 mya) and Quaternary (2.6 mya-present). Approximately a dozen major glaciations have occurred over the past 1 million years, the largest of which peaked 650,000 years ago and lasted for 50,000 years. The most recent glaciation period, often known simply as the “Ice Age,” reached peak conditions some 18,000 years ago before giving way to the interglacial Holocene epoch 11,700 years ago.

The Cryogenian is often known as Snowball  Earth as it seems the whole planet was covered in ice. I was lucky enough to work on the Numees glaciation of Cryogenian age in South Africa , at a time when its glacial basis was questioned. What convinced me were dropstones falling into varved sediments. I have also seen Ordovician glaciation in rocks of the Howgill Fells of Northern England.

So much for a summary of standard glacial geology, so back to the specious nonsense from these expert geologists of “Is Genesis History?”

i am simply gobsmacked by his suggestion of “the unusual atmospheric conditions in the world immediately after the global flood.” There is simply no evidence. Further the last great diluvial geologist, William Buckland, argued that the Flood was the result of melting ice from the Ice Age. He was not far off.

I’d love to know what these supposed atmospheric conditions actually are!! It may sound convincing to those who are aware there was an Ice Age but little more! It is simply duplicitous bullshit.

This led to an explanation of current concerns about climate change, and how they are the result of a deep confusion about earth history.

WHAT!!!! This just dismisses earth history in a throw away comment.  It is simply absurd to say there is “deep confusion about earth history” when earth history is so well known and understood and has been for over two centuries. The deep time of earth history goes back further than the Periodic Table and even Dalton’s atomic theory and predates Phlogiston! Geology was on the right track before chemistry!!

This is a duplicitous way of getting ill-informed readers to believe that earth history is unfounded and thus “Is Genesis History?” s claim of a 10,000 year old earth is correct.

By casting Climate Change as a result of confusion over earth history, doubts are implied about climate Change and the unreliable arguments and claims about it.

Duplicitous is not the right description of this. The wording is vague but is intended to lead readers into thinking that Climate Change is not happening and thus is of no concern.

There is no doubt that Climate Change is happening and that much/most of caused by humans and is have a bad effect of the whole planet and the conditions many people live under.

He then moved to the question of ice cores and explained how they actually point to a major catastrophe in the past.

Really? I’d love to see the evidence for that. This is another unsubstantiated throwaway comment, which the less-informed will take as indicating a Flood in the past.

This is a must-see video if you want to dispel the concerns and hysteria that have overwhelmed so many people today concerning climate change.

This is cleverly and deceitfully put as if concerns about Climate Change are to be equated with the hysteria which some come out with. We need to see firstly the reality of issues of Climate Change  and thus of dangers  as well as hysteria, which is whipped up by some, including school truants wanting you to panic.

Only a fool would deny the seriousness of Climate Change and the need for carefully thought-ought action and mitigation

The concerns are real. The amount of CO2 has doubled in my lifetime and it is clear that world temperature is rising.

Without going into details CO2 and CH4 emissions must be reduced. Not all agree on how that should be done. Often the emphasis is on governmental level action, with insufficient on the sum of actions of individuals.    ???

Too often Climate Change is considered above all other environmental issues, and then only in relation to fossil fuels. The more extreme wish only renewables (which are insufficient) a rapid  disengagement with fossils and an refusal to use nuclear power. As we see in the energy crisis of late 2021 this will result in fuel poverty and associated deaths as winter draws in.

There also needs to be consideration of more “natural” solutions; tree-planting (but only the right trees in the right places!), restoration of wetlands (peat bogs), inter-tidal zones  as well as shallow seas. There will need to be changes in agriculture and not necessarily those put forward by activists like Vandana Shiva!!

Here is a useful article from an Oxford/Oriel professor

What I wrote previously are the real concerns of Climate Change which need addressing.

There is also the hysteria.

This comes out with protesting youngsters holding up placards “You will die of old age, we will die of climate change.”

That is due to extreme green groups whipping up hysteria and over-egging the problems so that all seems apocalyptic. It is seen when founders of Extinction Rebellion untruthfully say billions will die of climate change.

It comes out with school kids write of their fears of the future and creating eco-anxiety. Certain truants from school add to this hysteria, along with some scintists, who let their activism guide what they say.

This is not helped by activists slating others and being quick to dismiss the unhysterical as climate deniers. There are some climate deniers but many of the so-called deniers don’t buy into the hysteria.

Here the right buttons of the Creationist audience are pressed and with carefully crafted dismissal, Creationists are liable to reject the essential truth of Climate Change and the need for action by implying it is simply hysteria.

If you’d like to learn more about creationist ideas concerning the Ice Age, I recommend two books by Mike Oard, another scientist who worked closely with Larry Vardiman: The Frozen Record (on ice cores) and Frozen in Time (on the Ice Age).

Oard’s arguments for an Ice Age lasting only a few hundred years are simply poor and also depend on the rejection of geological Time and the previous four glaciations going back two billion years. I wonder how he ties the Cryogenian into a Genesis timescale. Maybe it was after Cain murdered Abel!!!

For more information on climate change, consult The Cornwall Alliance. (Sign up for their emails – they are fantastic!)

Actually they are fantastical and have no grounding in reality.

Dr. Vardiman’s full interview is included in Beyond Is Genesis History? Vol 1 Rocks & Fossils. The topics he talks about are extremely important to understanding what happened after Flood.

This blog from “Is Genesis history?” is written to persuade readers that Climate Change is not happening and uses dubious arguments to get that across.
I hope my comments make it clear why they are so very, very, very wrong and , in fact, rather duplicitous. It says little for the skills of the “scientists” behind “Is Genesis history?”
Jer 17 vs9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Climate Change is real, it is here and needs mitigation.
(we may disagree on how to mitigate it!!)

The Howgill Fells, Vikings, Sheep and geomorphology


Last year I was asked to review  An Excursion Guide to the Geomorphology of the Howgill Fells Paperback  by Adrian Harvey for the Yorkshire Geological Society. The Howgills are more or less in Yorkshire but this was more geomorphology than geology.   

22 Jun. 2017, Adrian Harvey, Paperback: 128 pages. £14.99

Publisher: Dunedin Academic Press; Illustrated edition (22 Jun. 2017)

Language: English ISBN-10: 1780460708 ISBN-13: 978-1780460703

Apart from Ordovician in the Rawthey Valley and the Dent Fault, the Howgill Fells are not a magnet for geology fieldtrips. There are even some Ordovician glacial sediments. They could be described as a series of parallel whalebacks of Silurian slate with few outcrops and draped with post-glacial soliflucted sludge which occasionally overlies glacial till! Rock exposures are rare. This guidebook to the recent geomorphology by Andrew Harvey, emeritus professor of geomorphology at Liverpool, could make you change your mind.

The focus of this excursion guide is on the Postglacial geomorphology of the Howgills, as before that a static ice sheet could not do much geomorphology! They have neither the more dramatic geomorphology of the Lakes or the Dales, but geomorphology they have, and Harvey brings it to life. The book is in two parts. Part one deals with the general geomorphology and part two on the excursions.

The introduction is a general overview with a brief summary of the geology, and a mention of glaciation which is limited to the cwm above Cautley Spout and probable cwms west of the M6 south of Tebay. That much will be familiar to most geologists. The next two chapters are on what has happened and is happening since the glaciers retreated. When I say “what is happening” I mean that as Harvey has been visiting the Howgills for half a century, we are introduced to changes he observed. I found this fascinating and enlightening.

Chap 2, Holocene Landform Evolution deals with the sequence of events during the last 10,000 years. This began with the thawing of permafrost which resulted slope instability and the solifluction of reworked glacial till or head, which resulted in the fells being draped with reworked till. Much later were waves of hillslope gullying, which give the Howgills their characteristic aspect today. There was a major wave in the 10th century when Norsemen were rearing sheep. This slowed a century later due to William’s Harrying of the North, with a resurgence then a respite during the Black Death. This was a fascinating tying in of geomorphology to human history. Reflecting on this in the field should lead to good questions on the effect of us humans on the environment. Less historically, but more geomorphologically, he deals with gully structures and alluvial fans. A section on vegetation describes how, from pollen data, the fells were wooded or partially wooded before the Roman invasion.  Gully formation was favoured by extreme wet conditions and human activity, especially sheep rearing. In the last few years Belted Galloway cattle have been introduced on the northern hills to remedy the damage done by sheep .


Chap 3 The modern Geomorphic System deals with the more recent erosional activities. Here Harvey uses his nearly half a century of field work in the Howgills to great effect. All the active gullys are identified and some given special attention, often giving a sequence of events, with photos, of the last 50 years. Carlingill and Grains Gill’s Gullys get pride of place. As well as that he describes the extreme events of July 1982 and December 2015, Both events reactivated gully erosion, affected the rivers and changed gully to channel coupling effects. The maps and photos make the events very clear.

Part Two is on the field sites. First is a reconnaissance road trip round the Howgills to bring out the salient features. It is the only trip which can be carried out by car, preferably by bike. The route of some 40 to 50 miles gives a fine overview and locates the stopping places.

Secondly, the main part are lengthy trips into the heart of the Howgills along various valleys. To the west are Grain’s Gill and Carlingill. To the north are Langdale, Bowderdale and Weasdale and to the south Cautley, the Gills above Sedbergh and Chapel Beck. I followed the routes on Carlingill, Bowderdale and Cautley. Harvey’s routes are detailed and easy to follow, but involve crossing rivers without bridges and the top of Carlingill by the Spout is serious. They are not for the faint-hearted but are magnificent routes in remote areas.


Carlingill is the highlight of all the excursions and is on tough terrain. I confess I went right up to the spout in Carlingill and had a challenge getting out of it!

P1040131Grain’s Gills Gullys from the fan near the confluence with Carlingill

There is a little parking by Carlingill Bridge, where can find the track. On either side are the lovely bog plants Butterwort, bog asphodel (flowering in July) and Sundew. The track on the left side going up Carlingill is never very visible but the lower parts are fairly easy but may require crossing the gill which could be full. The complexities of erosion of  Grains Gill is fascinating and some will divert for a close look. After that the gill rises slowly  with various gullies and erosion of different ages on either side.


Once you go past Green Knott Gill the path either gets better or worse, depending who you are! The gill narrows and the path becomes more indistinct.  There is also a steep drop in to the gill for the unwary.

At the confluence with Little Uigill Beck the gill narrows and neither alternative is easy. 


Continuing up Carlingill becomes more and more challenging and the spout is a dead end unless you are partial to hairy scrambling. I happen to be past it. the spout is dramatic, but was spoilt by some alternative religionist tying bits of plastic onto a tree.  I presume they thought it very green to leave such rubbish, which no better than balloons which descend on the fells. I am sure some will say I’m religiously intolerant. Maybe, but I don’t like litter of any form.


Reaching the point below the “prayer” tree I was faced with a trilemma. The safest and most boring route was to retrace my steps. Or I could scramble up the side of the waterfall, which I would have done thirty years ago. Anyway I had lunch and then climbed up the very steep grass sloe to the right of the stream as you can see in the next photo. I am not sure of the wisdom of going up steep grass on all fours!! 


Carlingill Spout and alluvial fan at Blakethwaite from Knowles. The gorge below the spout is difficult to escape from by climbing with a choice of rock or very steep grass!!

Once I got to the stop of the steep slope I gave a sigh of relief and then went more gently upwards (to the right in the photo) up Uigill Rigg to the top of Breaks Head 628m and then followed the track to the northwest along the ridge, looking down on Carlingill. It was an excellent walk full of geomorphological interest. It is not for the fainthearted.

Harvey’s description of the gullys, alluvial fans etc in each of these is very clear and informative.


The route up Bowderdale is easier – if you can keep your feet dry – but the various gullys and fans are expounded in clarity and detail. I parked the car by Potts near Scar Sikes and followed the track over to Bowderdale. As i dropped down to Bowderdale the track got soggy and I was treated to sundew. I pointed them out to some walkers, who had never seen them before. 

Going up the Dale was fairly easy and Harvey’s guide pointed out many features, including the floods of 1982, where he had the advantage of seeing the area before and after the flood. His comments brought much of the scenery alive to me in a way I’d missed so often in the past.


Greencomb Gully and the fan from the 1982 flood


Hazel Gill with the more vegetated fan for the 1982 flood.

When i reached Hazel Gill I’d intended to go up randygill Top but felt lazy and walked back down the valley fording the river, which was very low, and then back to the car.

Cautley Spout

The route to Cautley Spout and beyond is one of my favourite hil lwalks, where I once saw a Brocken spectre.


Harvey gives safety warnings!! I suppose these are necessary from the number ill-equipped walkers on the hills. the walk from the Temperance Inn  past the Spout and then one of the several routes to The Calf  676m or 2217ft is not the most difficult but can be fun for navigation in mist! The river capture at the col to Bowderdale is explained. It is an open question whether the cirque at Cautley Crags is due to the Loch Lomond advance or is earlier. Whether or not you stop at the foot of the Spout, you are treated to a range of geomorphology from glacial cirques to later solifluction.  This is a gem of a place which can be tailored to the group’s ability and agility. By stopping near the foot of the Spout enables one to see most of the salient features of Howgill’s geomorphology in one visit. Much more can be seen if one continues to the top of Cautley Crags. I love the path which is steep and airy in places. 


If geomorphology is your only interest there is no need to go further but walking on the edge of Cautley Crags to Great Dummacks is delightful, unless there is a strong wind.


Or take the more direct route up the Gill becks to the Calf, passing old sheepfolds and “houses” en route. 


View from the bridge of the Rawthey of the Cautley glacial cwm, Cautley spout is to the right.


View from top of Cautley Crags looking down Bowderdale. The steep line of trees shows the route of the Cautley

You can return from the Calf following a good path to Bowderdale and then cutting off on a diminutive tack to Bowderdale Head. A steep descent and then meandering through glacial deposits leads you back to the Inn, where you can buy some well-deserved orange squash. shortly before the footbridge you should finds some Butterwort and Sundew by going off the path.

The best two excursions are to Carlingmill and Cautley, and Harvey succeeds in making the geomorphology come alive.

This excursion guide has distilled half a century of field work in the Howgills and has made it accessible for those, like me, with an indifferent grasp of Holocene geomorphology. The maps, photos and descriptions are very clear and make you ask with Thomas Huxley, “why didn’t I think of that?” This guide is a model of what a geo-excursion guide ought to be.

Often the Howgill fells are seen as dreary and can be likened to half a dozen dead whales lying side by side, with one having its mouth open at Cautley Spout. Above are three routes I did which are variations on Harvey’s detailed routes.

As well as expounding the geomorphology of today Harvey also considered what it was in the past. It  was so different then and going back 1500 years or more it was far more wooded than it is now. trees have been in decline here for 2000 years, as in the Lakes and Dales and are due to two mammals. These are sheep and humans.

The serious deforestation began with the Vikings, who, when they were not pillaging, were tending sheep on the fells. By nibbling every green shoot down to ground, the sheep prevented the regrowth of any tree or shrub and got rid of most flowers. It’s same story in the Dales . Lakes and Wales, but fortunately Belties, or Belted Galloways, are replacing the sheep and doing excellent conservation work. It is not often you can eat conservation workers. And so until 1066  deforestation and erosion were going hand in hand, or rather, mouth by mouth.

One of the good things William the Conqueror did was to slow this process down for a while by sending his henchmen to the desolate north to harrow it – known as the “Harrowing of the North”.

 But when the harrowing stopped shepherding resumed and so did the erosion until the bacterium yersinia pestis arrived and caused the Black Death, thus stooping the raising of sheep again. Soon things recovered and the sheep continued their destructive geomorphological work up to the present day.

The Howgills are not the best place for wildlife and flowers are not numerous, but are there if you know where to look.

More recently, as with the rest of the high ground in northern England restoration has begun and we shall, hopefully, see more trees and their attendant wildlife.

 Meanwhile the Howgills are fantastic place to explore and relatively few people visit. If you go I hope essay and Harvey’s book bring it to life for you. If you want more then use the OS 1:25,000 OL19 and from that you’ll get a gist of my routes!

this is an expansion of a review I did for the Yorkshire Geological Society

Evangelicals and Science – post-Darwinian evangelicals – part 6 of 12

Well, moving on in time.


Darwin’s statue in Shrewsbury, blessed by Bishop of Shrewsbury in 1896

Here we have Evangelicals and science after Darwin published The Origin of species.

Man but a worm1869_Wilberforce_A504_001

Soapy Sam on the right

I’m sure many will expect a whole of crypto-creationists but there were none – except in the wastes of the Mid-West.

The concerns are less evolution than biblical criticism, human antiquity and loss of faith.

At the time no one thought Ellen White was significant, but she gave birth to Young Earth Creationism.


This little critter is a serious theological problem!!

Now read the chapter!!

And open it up


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Just a minute!

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


And is it Mary Anning?

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


This map shows the glacial troughs Buckland and Sopwith identified.

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

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


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

For his brilliant models go to Facebook

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


Who’s more like the person in the picture?

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



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

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



Deconstructing a Creationist on Siccar Point

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

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

Photo; Paul Braterman from his blog which gives a more geological description of Siccar Point –  I will deal more with historical aspects.

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

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

The time gap varies in unconformities!

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

“The heritage trail at Siccar Point, Scotland

Commemorating an idea that did not work”

Doesn’t it work? Let’s see!

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

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

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

Thus we have two main issues – Deep Time and Uniformitarianism

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Two examples;

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

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

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

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

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

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


Now here is Tas Walker’s article

by Tas Walker

My comments are in italics

Siccar Point | CC BY-SA Dave Souza

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hutton assumed Noah’s Flood never happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Face palm

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

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

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

A veritable half truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mine is to study Exodus 20 vs 16!!!

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

references and notes

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

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

The Pleistocene is not in the Bible — A critique of “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?”

An excellent article by Kevin on how Creationists twist the Ice Ages only yo last a few years, rather than multiple one over 2 million years.

Kevin exposes the crassness of their arguments.

For myself decades ago I worked on the Numees Tillite, Precambrian glacial sediments  in a remote part of the Namib Desert and then researched the discovery of glaciation in North Wales by Rev William Buckland and Darwin. A fantastic project in the mountains

Now read his article


Answers_ice_age_largeYoung-Earth creationists (YECs) attempt to squeeze most of the geological record into the brief span of Noah’s flood, even though the Bible does not state that the flood was responsible for Earth’s sedimentary rocks, and does not even require that the flood covered the entire Earth (read more here and here). There is an important exception to this, however. Glacial sediments and other deposits of the Pleistocene Epoch—the “ice age” —are usually considered to be post-flood deposits by YECs.

Answers in Genesis recently published an article by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?” It begins with a true statement:

“The Bible doesn’t say, ‘And then there was an Ice Age.'”

If the authors had stopped right there, they would have written a great article. The Bible does not teach us about ice ages any more than it teaches us…

View original post 3,877 more words

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.

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

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
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.

Glaciers on High Street

A good walk in the Lake District

Walks, rides and what's there

Not being tied to a job, I can select my days in the hills according to the weather. This week, Wednesday 2nd October was promising sunshine all day so I went for it. I wanted a good route that would take me six or seven hours, so I opted for High Street from the head of Haweswater. My departure was delayed as there was frost on the windscreen, but soon I was off up the dreaded M6. I turned off for Shap and was soon on narrow lanes bounded by limestone walls. Leaving that I was in woodland with Haweswater on my right. highstreet was straight ahead, but it’s a slow road. After the rain I was surprised how little standing water there was.

As I made a late start it was gone ten when I arrived and the carpark was filling up. It was still chilly and remained that…

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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.


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

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?”


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.


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. 


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.

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.

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.)


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!)

As for evolution, that was accepted in most churches within 20 years of the publication of The Origin of species (see 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]

Figure 7 Screenshot of the homepage of Truth in Science 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 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 for the last 150 years)


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.)


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


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.



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