This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/the-genesis-flood-through-ancient-eyes-an-interview-with-john-walton-and-tremper-longman
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/the-genesis-flood-through-ancient-eyes-an-interview-with-john-walton-and-tremper-longman
It’s extraordinary that the interpretation of the flood as local, comes as such a theological shock to so many people, when it was already the standard mainstream Christian interpretation by the end of the nineteenth century.
“With the advent of modern science—which has amassed a huge body of evidence against a recent worldwide deluge …” This is not correct. Modern geological science is based on the a priori assumption that Noah’s Flood never occurred. They are committed to finding explanations that do not involve the global Flood. Consequently they do not ‘see’ it. Yes, geologists have amassed a huge body of evidence, and done an excellent job. When you examine this evidence and allow the possibility that Noah’s Flood occurred you see it everywhere–it is a great fit.
That is not correct. You might want to check the history of geological science. The initial doubts about the young age of the earth came from Christian geologists that were trying to find evidence for Noah’s Flood. Well before Darwin BTW.
Some examples of this great fit would be?
I am aware of the history of geological science. The early geologists based their interpretations on biblical history (Steno, Burnett, etc.). Search for Steno on Creation.com. This changed in the late 1700s when Hutton, for one, advocated the new philosophy that only processes that can be observed in the present can be used to explain geological events in the past. This excludes the biblical Flood from the table and introduces the need for eons of time. And this philosophy is almost exclusively used in geological circles today.
Hutton’s ideas were advanced by Lyell in his Principles of Geology and widely taken up. The Christian geologists you refer to were people like Rev Buckland and Sedgwick who in the early 1800s accepted the new philosophy of long ages, even though they contradicted biblical history. They were content that the loose deposits on the surface of the continents were the remains of Noah’s Flood, which was the last of multiple catastrophes that engulfed the earth over eons of time. They called it diluvium. It is obviously not correct because they began with the wrong assumptions and the diluvium does not match the description of the Flood in the Bible. In the later 1800s this material was interpreted as caused by the ice age glaciations and these Christian geologists ‘recanted’ their view that it was the result of Noah’s Flood. I expect that is what you are referring to.
Some of the evidences of Noah’s Flood include evidences of catastrophe, extensive geographically extensive sedimentary deposits, thick sedimentary deposits showing evidence of rapid deposition, polystrate fossils, overfit valleys, large animals being fossilized in thick sediments, fossil graveyards, water gaps, wind gaps, planation surfaces, and more. There are lots of papers and articles on these sorts of evidences that can be found by searching on sites such as creation.com.
And the processes that can be observed in the present include catastrophic events so no, geologists don’t exclude the flood they just don’t find any evidence that it happened.
Sedgwick changed his mind in 1831 after speaking out against Lyell for several years.
Don’t need a global flood for that. See the Channeled Scablands.
shallow sea marine deposits
Since you seem you know your Flood Geology, can you explain how the Nile River canyon was formed?
Not so, Tas. If there were abundant, clear evidence for a single worldwide flood roughly 4400 years ago, a young geologist somewhere would make her career by arguing persuasively for it. There is no a prior assumption about Noah’s flood; rather, there is the widely accepted conclusion from the evidence that there was no such worldwide event a few thousand years ago. I will elaborate on this below in a separate reply about an important episode in the history of geology.
Since you are aware of the history of geological science, Tas, you will know that the last major geologist to defend a worldwide flood in Noah’s time was William Buckland. He did so in his 1823 English book with the Latin title, Reliquiae Diluvianae (Relics of the Deluge). As seen in its famous images of mud-filled caves (http://www.lindahall.org/william-buckland/), Buckland believed that various locally flooded caves in Northern Europe were all contemporaneus in origin. He also believed that “diluvial deposits” in the same region were left behind by the Biblical Flood. What he had not considered, in his own biased analysis, was the possibility that (a) those caves had been flooded at different times and (b) the diluvial deposits (which were not found in more temperate regions) had resulted from glacial activity rather than the Flood. Once he realized these things, he changed his mind and never wrote a planned sequel that would have discussed the effects of the Flood in greater detail. In other words, alternative ideas were more convincing to a Christian geologist who had once been strongly inclined to read the data in biblical terms.
I should also point out that an ice age–the ultimate explanation for a lot of the diluvial deposits–was absolutely against the a priori biases of a Huttonian or Lyellian kind. Those are the biases that you have said prevented geologists from favoring the Flood. For example, young Charles Darwin badly misread the famous parallel roads of Glen Roy (Scotland) as having resulted from Lyellian rising and falling of the sea, rather than from a glacial lake and ice dams. That’s b/c he was too Lyellian in his biases, ruling out “catastrophes” like an ice age to account for features of the earth’s surface. To connect the dots: Buckland did not abandon his belief in a worldwide flood b/c of Lyellian or Huttonian bias. Indeed, he settled on an alternative explanation that was simply not in line with such a bias.
In my experience it does not work that way. Geologists look to interpret the geological evidence in terms of a modern environment, and that rules out any consideration of a global, rapid, all encompassing watery catastrophe . I work with them and use their reports. And there are geologists who are researching and publishing within the biblical Flood framework. They will often publish in mainstream geology journals but they cannot mention the Flood or their papers would be rejected and they would be banned. But they can publish their geological discoveries, and they do. If you want to read their work you will need to read journals that allow and encourage that sort of thinking, such as Journal of Creation, CRSQ, and ARJ.
Hi Ted, One big point that comes from your post is that geologists, even the most competent ones, regularly misinterpret the geological evidence. You mention Buckland, Hutton and Lyell.
So you should be skeptical when geologists say they don’t see evidence for Noah’s Flood when the Bible so clearly describes that event. You have to ask yourself what they are looking for, why they come to that conclusion, and what they should be looking for if they were looking for evidence of Noah’s Flood. In my experience, modern geologists are doing exactly the opposite; they are not looking for evidence of Noah’s Flood, and any evidence they find that tends to point that way they are actively working to interpret in another way in order to avoid a Flood conclusion. I could give you many examples.
The other big point: you say that Buckland was defending the biblical Flood, but in fact he wasn’t. The Wikipedia entry for Buckland explains that he held to the gap theory which was invented to try to harmonise the biblical account with Hutton’s long-age eons. So Buckland had already conceded the long-ages of geology represented the time before Genesis 1 and he was trying to find Noah’s Flood. Of course you will not find the evidence for the Flood if you assume the geological column exists before Genesis 1. The column is mainly a record of the effects of the Flood. Google “Wilpena Pound Creation” and you will see a chart to convert the geological column to biblical history.
And there were many geologists who did defend the biblical Flood in the first half of the 19th century. Do a search for “scriptural geologists”. They are not well known today but their evidence and arguments were very sound and are still relevant. They were ignored by the ‘elites’ of the day, and it has taken over 100 years to expunge some of the biassed wrong ideas that the ‘elites’ promoted, that you allude to in your post.
Thanks for stopping by, Yes. A question for you: Mt Everest reaches over 29000 ft above sea level. In your opinion wad it covered over by a worldwide flood about 4400 years ago?
Also: the RATE report states that, if nuclear decay accelerated during the Noahic flood year to the extent necessary to explain observed radiometric dates, the earth would have super-heated to thousands of degrees Celsius, melting the entire crust and boiling off every drop of water into outer space. What is your explanation for the fact that there is still water on the planet, and no evidence of a universal, planet-wide, recent crust meltdown?
Hi Chris, Clearly the rocks that comprise Mt Everest were deposited under water. They consist of Ordovician limestone and contain marine fossils such as crinoids. Did you look at the conversion table I mentioned in a previous post (find it by searching “wilpena pound creation”)? Mount Everest was pushed up late in Noah’s Flood. Also check the link at the bottom of that article to the article called “Noah’s Flood—the big picture”.
Yes, I was aware that there is a heat issue with the RATE work. Not all creation scientists have accepted the idea of accelerated decay. They have developed other explanations for the pattern of radioactive ‘dates’. I’ve not followed the RATE research closely to see what has been proposed to address the heat issue, but I understand there are some promising proposals.
It is helpful to understand that this is a worldview issue. We have two different interpretations of the data based on two different beliefs about the world. One contrary piece of data does not prove a worldview wrong. When those who hold to the long-age, evolutionary worldview encounter evidence that seems to contradict that view they do not say, “Oops, the worldview is obviously wrong. The earth is young. The Bible is true. Noah’s Flood happened!” No, they say, “How do we explain this evidence [within this worldview]?” The bit in brackets is not spoken but assumed. They classify it as a new discovery and treat it as a research project. It is the same with the biblical Flood. The question is, how do we explain this evidence within the biblical Flood paradigm. And it usually leads to new insights.
Oh? I think that is a bit of an overstatement as it is a pretty ginormous problem. As a physics professor, I know what goes into radiometric decay and how you can for example calculate the radiometric decay rate based upon some nuclear physics, electrostatics and Schrodinger’s equation. It would be a very serious thing to suggest casually (with no evidence whatsoever) that such rates changed for one year and then changed back (with no mechanism or model to explain this). This certainly would be Nobel Prize winning work and revolutionizing for all of modern science!
What I’m talking about is not a worldview issue at all. You’ve been taught that it is indeed a ‘worldview issue’ and that there are just some different “beliefs” that people have about the world. But sticking within the framework of the RATE Project and radiometric decay, there are certain facts that exist and only one interpretation has any evidence to support it. An example of a fact would be that: we can measure objects (either igneous rock, asteroids, lunar samples, or even stars that are trillions of miles from earth) that have billions of years worth of radiometric decay present. Now, just going by this alone, the RATE project would try to argue (with no model or evidence) that the decay rate jumped up by a factor of a billion and then quickly jumped back down, also somehow supernaturally removing all the heat generated by the equivalent of several nuclear blasts going off all over the earth every second an entire year. However, a good scientist would wonder, has the decay rate been constant in the past? Well, here’s one example of scientists checking that:
Scientists do not like assumptions! So we test them! Any and all of them that we can find. Are there ways to check if the radiometric decay rate has changed in the past? Yes! From the motion of tectonic plates, to other measurements like electron spin resonance, tree rings, ice cores, varves, life cycles of stars, expansion rate of the universe, and many many more. The problem that one runs into is that all of these methods agree with one another despite being based on completely different underlying Physics. So even if radiometric dating has flaws (which any are accounted for and presented as having error bars–even then it is extremely reliable), there are many different ways to cross check it.
I wish that we could get past this whole “well that’s just your belief/worldview” type of perspective. It might be the language of religious apologetics, but it is certainly not the language of the people who actually go out and measure such things in nature. They have a hypothesis (let’s say it’s based upon their worldview) and they go out and test it! Even if they are stubborn, it doesn’t matter what they want to be true, if it cannot be supported by demonstrable evidence then it falls by the wayside no matter how much such an individual “believes” their hypothesis to be correct. This is why the last major geologist to defend a worldwide flood as per @TedDavis was from 1823!
If I understand you correctly, you are claiming that the Himalayas were pushed up from sea level, or near sea level, to their current heights in the course of a single year. The alternative, just to make sure readers of this conversation are informed, is the consensus explanation of over 99% of geologists: The Himalayas have been pushed up over the course of about 50 million years of collision between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
Your claim is quite remarkable, Tas. Would you kindly point me to calculations of the physical release of energy (the amount of heat generated in particular) associated with this remarkable year? If you want your view to be taken as even remotely scientific, then you will understand the need for these kinds of calculations. The consensus (“old earth”) geologists publish these kinds of calculations all the time. Surely “flood geologists” should be able to do those calculations, too–correct?
I would appreciate your taking a moment to provide some details about these promising proposals.
Yes and no. Let’s take the Himalayas’ formation as an example. We know that they contain limestone. A flood geology explanation of the limestone is that the Himalayas were at or below sea level prior to Noah’s Flood, and thrust up in the course of a single Flood year. The consensus geology explanation is that they were thrust up over the course of 50 million years.
So there are 2 competing explanations based on differing worldviews, and we just choose the one we prefer, right?
I suggest the contrary. A trained scientist can use the equations of physics, plug in the parameters of the mass + composition of the tectonic plates, the friction of the mantle underneath them, etc., and produce a good estimate of how much heat was released from the process, how big the earthquakes would be, and so forth, for each worldview. From these results, the scientific community can describe the characteristics of each worldview’s model, and assess how well they stand to reason.
Moreover, a trained scientist can use the two models of Himalayas formation (flood geology vs. consensus geology) to predict the observations we would expect to see today. For example, the formation of the Himalayas in a single year would entail an enormous amount of momentum. Given the fact that momentum can’t just disappear (Newton’s Laws, you know!) and the momentum available in the geological formation during the Flood year, it would not be difficult to predict how much momentum we would expect to see today in the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates, and how much we would expect the mountains to continue pushing up today. Likewise for the consensus geology: Consensus geologists have figured out the energy equations for a 50 million year history of Himalayas formation, and have checked to see whether the current observations of upthrust and tectonic movement are consistent with that 50 million year history.
In other words, there is no need to throw up our hands and say it’s all about worldview. With some hard work and scientific know-how, we can see what each view would predict for current phenomena, then determine which view is most consistent with current observations.
I do agree, @Tas_Walker, that worldview is important. But Chris is right that it is no substitute for observation and explanation that seeks to conform to further observations. Worldview only delivers you so far, and eventually there is reality to be reckoned with. In that regard, the ultimate “worldview contest” is epitomized by the geocentric vs. heliocentric debate unfolding a few centuries back. One could try insisting that, “it just depends on your worldview”, and yet we know how that turned out! One worldview conformed [closer] to reality and the other side eventually failed in that task.
Flat earth vs. round earth: same thing. History is instructive here … and littered with failed worldviews.
Chris Falter, Yes, I am saying that the Himalayas were pushed up in the second part of the global Flood. And yes, it did involve the release of energy, which is evidenced by the amount of granite plutons in the area. Granite is always produced by the energy released in orogenies. An no, I’m not worried about the 99% consensus that you talk about. Every major scientific discovery and advance has involved a minority going against the consensus. Real scientist are constrained by the evidence, not the consensus. And perhaps you could do a calculation yourself. It the Himalayas rose 9km in 50 million years that means they rose at a rate of 0.6mm per 1000 years. Yet the measured erosion rate of the mountains is about ten times that rate. How do you explain the mountains reaching that high if they are eroded that fast?
And yes, biblical geologists have done lots of research on these sorts of issues. Have you read any of it?
Chris and Mervin,
That is exactly right. However, worldview is central. It decides what evidence is collected, how it is interpreted, what questions are asked, and what research is undertaken. Those who think it is peripheral do not understand worldview and how it is affecting them. And worldview does not just involve geology, biology, and astronomy. It involves lots of things, such as our humanity, purpose, relationships, thought processes, destiny, etc. And creation geologists do amazing work, and have broad scientific know-how, which is what you said is needed.
There are huge problems with the consensus worldview for geology, geomorphology, astronomy, biology, etc. I would think creationist scientists know more about the problems than most because they have read so widely.
In geology, for example, have you read the books by Derek Ager, such as “The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record”, and “The New Catastrophism”? He is not a creationist, but, writing toward the end of his career, he was saying that the geology he learnt as an undergraduate was all wrong and that it needed to be approached differently. His ideas are widely accepted now, but they were not some 50 years ago. Yet, Scriptural geologists had been saying the things that he was saying for 100 years. But the elites did not listen. It took them 100 years to finally face the fact that their theories did not work. The same is true for geomorphology, and the other disciplines.
If you are happy to defend the 99% consensus that is fine. But if you are searching for truth I would encourage you to read more widely and work to see what things look like from a different perspective.
Just one quick correction from a math teacher who often sees his students misplace decimal points or neglect their metric prefixes …
9 km in 50 million years comes to an average of 180 mm per 1000 yrs instead of 0.6 mm. May not change your point much, and others can still give answer as they will … but you might as well be using correct calculations as you do so.
Tas, thank you for speaking from your own experience of working with contemporary flood geologists. I have no direct response to your comments on this: I take your testimony at face value. No one is more qualified to speak about your experiences than you are! Furthermore, thank you for engaging us here at BL. You are always welcome to join us in conversation. I wish there were opportunities to exchange ideas with other YEC proponents at places like AiG, which doesn’t allow comments on their columns.
I understand that you did your degrees at Queensland. I’ve never been to that part of Oz, but I’ve been a reader for a couple of doctoral theses that were written there. The book resulting from one of them would probably interest you greatly: https://www.amazon.com/Days-Creation-History-Biblical-Interpretation/dp/1905679270. Perhaps you know the author, who teaches at Melbourne School of Theology? If so, please pass on my best wishes. I’ve never met him myself.
Actually, Tas, I’ve read works by several of the British “scriptural geologists,” including George Bugg, the person whose book Scriptural Geology gave its name to the whole genre. His book is now digitized by Haithi Trust, so anyone can read it at their convenience, but until recently it was very hard to obtain. I was sufficiently interested in reading it that, to save making multiple trips to the Library of Congress (where I first looked at it), I bought a copy. I briefly discuss some of its claims here: https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/science-falsely-so-calledthe-infidelity-of-natural-history-in-the-early-american-republic.
My good friend Rod Stiling (who teaches at Seattle Pacific U) is writing a book about American evangelicals and the flood in the 19th century, which will include some attention to a couple of American scriptural geologists, the Lord brothers–authors you undoubtedly know about and perhaps have read.