Creationist Geologic Time Scale: an attack strategy for the sciences.
Should the scientific community continue to fight rear-guard skirmishes with
creationists, or insist that "young-earthers" defend their model in
Donald U. Wise, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts at Amherst,
and Research Associate at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. email:
This article is an expanded version of an original manuscript that was
published in American Scientist, March/April, 1998, vol. 86, n. 2, p.
This manuscript proposes a new approach for science's battle against the rising
influence in America of pseudo-science and the Creationist movement. The
framework of Creationist Bible-based earth history, focusing on Genesis and the
Noachian flood, can be assembled into a single geologic time scale (Figure
1, enlarged by addition of many geologic facts, difficult for Creationists
to explain. (Figure 1 is an abbreviated version of the time scale outlined in
the following paragraph which was redrawn and published by the American
Scientist.) Some of the items are so absurd that all but the most dedicated
fundamentalists will see the overall picture as scientific nonsense, even
bordering on humor, a most rare commodity in Creationist literature. Science,
rather than using its traditional defensive approach of item-by-item rebuttal of
Creationist attacks, needs to take the offensive by challenging Creationists to
defend their "scientific" view of earth history as represented by this
time scale. (Note that the numbered items in this Time Scale are further
expanded in subsequent numbered sections which are keyed to these same numbers.)
A Creation "Science" Geologic Time Scale
(1) 4000 B.C. Creation Week: (laws of science suspended)
Day 1 - Space, light & dark, earth materials.
Day 2 - Waters above and waters below.
Day 3 - Earth's crust and plants.
Day 4 - Sun, moon, and stars in place.
Day 5 - Atmosphere + animals of the waters.
Day 6 - Land animals + Adam & Eve.
Day 7 - Day of rest.
1,500 years. Pre-Flood "Geology." Laws of science invalid.
- (2) Adam and Eve, talking snakes, etc.
- (3) World's waters are in great Venus-like atmosphere or in ground
water. No rain, no ocean basins.
- (4) Radiometric dating invalid; speed of light changed.
- (5) Humans, dinosaurs, mammals, the "works," all live together
peace. Both lions and Tyranosaurus Rex are vegetarians in Eden before
- (6) Human life spans up to 900 years.
- (7) Battle of Satan and angels produces craters on moon.
Flood Year: Flood "Geology" - ONE (?) year of normal (?)
- Rain - 40 days
- (8) Big animals run to mountain tops. Not a single dumb human caught
in all the early flood sediments. All dinosaurs washed off only in
- (9) Coral reefs (Guadalupe Mountains of Texas) grow to thicknesses of
half a mile during single year.
- (10) Vast coal beds accumulate one on top of another, each as original
swamp deposits on order of 100 feet thick, all in one year.
- (11) Mile-thick salt formations in Utah form by evaporation (!) of
seawater during (!) the flood.
- Flood - about 250 days.
- (12) Most of the world's sedimentary rocks dumped on continents to
average thickness of one mile, almost entirely during the flood year.
- (13) Most continental drif occurs. Flood waters drain into the newly
formed ocean basins. Atlantic opens at average rate of 1/2 mile per
- (14) Most deep sea sediments (average about 1,500 feet thick) collect
on the newly opened ocean floors.
- (15) Hawaiian volcano built 30,000 feet high on new sea floor. (Cools
enough for birds and plants from Ark to colonize soon after end of
- Final Retreat - ? 100 days ?
- (16)Volcano of Mount Ararat built 7,000 feet high underwater and cools
in time for grounding of the Ark.
- (17) Successive Yellowstone ash beds bury 10 to 27 forests one on top
of another, all grown during single year.
- (18) Grand Canyon cut by receding flood waters. Flood sediments
de-water and harden in one year to rock strong enough to stand as
steep, mile-hile cliffs.
- Post-Flood Geology - 4,500 years of normal (?) science to Present
- (19)From Ark, Noah (?) directs streams of distinctive animal and plant
communities to migrate to Africa, Australia, South America, etc.
(Ferry service ?) (Some creationists use post-flood continental
drift at rates up to one mile per hour !)
- (20)Sun stands still for Israelite battle. Earth stops rotating and
then starts again due to near-miss by Venus out of its orbit ?
- (21)Only one ice age as post-flood atmosphere cools.
Geologists' abundant evidence of many great ice advances
separated by sub-tropical vegetation and development of thick soil zones
between some advances are wrong.
- (22)Late-flood granite masses, formed at 1,000 degrees (F.), cool to
present low temperatures at rates in violation of all laws of thermal
physics. Fit to radiometric daes is mere coincidence.
- (23)Extreme rates of continental drift typical of flood (1/2 mile per
hour) suddenly slow to present-day laser-measured rates of inches per
year. Accord of present rates with radiometric dates is mere chance.
- (24)Coral reefs (Bikini, Eniwetok) grow 1/2 to 1 mile thick in first
1,000 years (rate of one foot per month) then slow to present measured
rates of inches per century.
Figure 1. (GIF, 168K)
Figure 1. Unlike the 4.5-billion-year-old geologic time scale that has
been developed through a century and a half of scientific research,
creationism's geologic time scale compresses the history of the universe into
about 6,000 years, requiring that radiometric dating be discredited and that
many of the steps in the formation of the earth were so accelerated that
millions of years of geologic change were accomplished in a few days or weeks.
The entire fossil record of the earth is explained as having been deposited
during the year of the Noachian flood 4,500 years ago.
Creationism has its philosophical roots in the Darwinian debates of the last
century, but its welding into a potent political movement has been largely a
phenomenon of the last half of the 20th century (Numbers, 1993). In recent years
Creationism has grown into a force capable of challenging orthodox science in
the arena of public opinion (Schmidt, 1996). After federal courts struck down
attempts to force teaching of creation "science" in the public
schools, Creationists have taken a new approach. They have begun pushing laws
requiring that any teaching of evolution in the public schools be balanced
against or accompanied by teaching of the "evidence against
evolution." In effect, this "evidence" consists mostly of
Creationism's religion-based pseudo-science. Such laws, if enacted, would have
chilling effects on science teaching and textbook content and would lend
governmental support to one particular religious interpretation.
The real battles (Schmidt 1996) between traditional science and Creationism
are likely to be fought on a state by state, school board by school board basis
in a form that will require active, grass-roots participation by large numbers
of American scientists. Unfortunately, most of us are essentially unarmed for
such battles. While Creationists regard this as a holy war worthy of their
almost undivided attention, most scientists have given it short shrift, either
by ignoring it or by laughing at such pretensions of "science." As a
result, most scientists remain so unfamiliar with the claims, methods, and
arguments of Creationists that they are unprepared for participation in any
public confrontation. A notable exception was the late Robert Dietz of Arizona
State University who used both science and humor of the cartoons of John Holden
(Dietz and Holden, 1987) to actively debate the local Creationists. Excellent
descriptions of methods used by Creationists to win such debates, at least in
the public mind, are given by Thwattes and Awbrey (1993), Fezer (1993), and
Arthur (1996). To develop any level of preparation for such arguments and
methods, one requires copious time as well as access to the diffuse mass of
"gray" publications, religious tracts, and other in-house Creationist
publications. For those without the time or access to such resources, this
article is intended as a "crash-course" introduction to Creationist
history, ideas, and methods as well as some factual tools to oppose Creationist
claims and a few of the best cartoons to inject a bit of humor into any
discussion (Figure 2).
Figure 2 (GIF, 72K)
Figure 2. Creationists offer a cartooned view of science that is often
hard to address in public debate. Creationism, itself, meanwhile, has tempted a
few cartoonists to take up their pens. John Holden, a paleontologist by training
(and co-author with R. S. Dietz of a cartoon commentary, Creation/Evolution
Satiricon), has pondered the implications of Henry Morris' explanation of
lunar craters as the result of cosmic battles between Satan's angels and those
of the Archangel Michael.
Some Creationist History
Numbers (1993) gives a massively documented history of the Creationist movement
from which much of the following is excerpted. In the 1930s a group of mostly
Seventh Day Adventists founded the Deluge Geological Society (DGS) while in the
1940s a second group, mostly Baptists associated with Wheaton College, founded
the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). The ASA focused on the interplay of
Christianity and science whereas the DGS sought to bring interpretations of the
geological record into accord with a strict Biblical interpretation.
The ASA and DGS merged briefly in the 1940s but ultimately split largely
after a talk given by a young ASA member, J. Lawrence Kulp. Kulp studied C14
dating methods with Urey at Chicago and then set up the second C14
lab in the country at Columbia University. On the basis of emerging C14
results, Kulp told the combined group in 1949 that there was no escaping an
interpretation of great antiquity for the human race. The result was a permanent
rift. In the 1950s Ph.D. hydrologist and fundamentalist, Henry M. Morris, and
broadly educated seminarian and Bible teacher, John C. Whitcomb, Jr., joined
forces. They updated many of the ideas of George McCready Price's New Geology
(1923) to produce The Genesis Flood (Whitcomb and Morris, 1961). Morris
believed the ASA "was too permeated with evolution ever to be reclaimed."
He and eight like-minded individuals, including Ph.D. biologist Duane Gish, met
in 1961 with the purpose of founding a new group based on the philosophy and
ideas of the book. Out of this nucleus came the Creation Research Society (CRS)
in 1963 and the scientific creationist movement.
Largely under the influence of Morris and Gish, the CRS has grown into a
national and international network of organizations with links to the parent
Institute for Creation Research (ICR). The ICR in the San Diego area now
operates as a degree granting organization, accredited by California's State
Department of Education, offering M.S. degrees in biology, geology, astro/geophysics,
and science education. California removed its accreditation in 1990 but had to
restore it two years later under orders of a federal judge (Numbers, 1993). The
Institute publishes many books and articles and sponsors its own Bible oriented
"research" studies and symposia. Currently it is reputed to operate on
an annual budget of 3 million dollars (Scott, 1996).
The New Crop of Creationist Geologists
One of the greatest anomalies in the history of scientific creationism and flood
geology has been the near non-presence of well educated geologists (Numbers,
1993). Even most of the promising young evangelicals who undertook advanced work
in geology emerged with badly shaken faith in strict Creationism. J. Lawrence
Kulp was mentioned above. F. Donald Eckelmann, a Wheaton alumnus, ultimately
became chair of Brown University's geology department and Christian
evolutionist. Davis Young, the son of an eminent Old Testament scholar, studied
geology at Princeton and moved on to M.S. work at Penn State, still a believer
in the Morris version of the Genesis flood. During his Ph.D. work with Eckelmann
at Brown, Young became more and more disenchanted with Creationist ideas,
subsequently writing a book (1977) charging flood geologists with teaching
"bad geological science." The same scenario ensued for Nicholas Rupke,
a Dutch student of P. H. Kunen, who submitted a manuscript on cataclysmal
sedimentation for publication by the CRS. At CRS urging Rupke came to Princeton
in 1968 and completed a Ph.D. in 1972 under F. B. Van Houten and A. G. Fisher.
He finished by accepting organic evolution and forsaking the faith of his
family, going on to Oxford and a career in the history of science. Harold James,
Jr., and Edward Lugenbeal attended the Seventh Day Adventist Theological
Seminary before being recruited to do graduate work at major institutions at the
expense of the Adventist Geological Research Institute. James, after earning his
doctorate in geology at Princeton, was found to have been "so
indoctrinated" as to require dismissal by the GRI. Lugenbeal studied
prehistoric archeology at Wisconsin before resigning from GRI citing "the
emotionally and ethically debilitating attempt to bolster our peoples' faith by
telling them a series of partial truths about science" (Numbers, 1993).
A very few young evangelicals did manage to survive graduate education in
geology with their Biblical fundamentalist faith intact. Three of the most
prominent are Stephen Austin, John Morris, and Kurt Wise (no relation).
Steven Austin earned a B.S. in geology form the University of Washington and
an M.S. from San Jose State with a thesis critical of uniformitarianism. Morris
and the CRS paid Austin's tuition and living expenses while he earned a Ph.D. in
coal geology from Penn State in 1979 (Numbers, 1993). During his Penn State time
he also wrote creationist articles under the pseudonym of Stuart Nevins.
Currently he is chair of the ICR's Department of Geology and a major contributor
to their in-house publications and articles on geology. His Grand Canyon:
Monument to Catastrophe, (Austin, 1994) is a slick, full-color volume
designed both as a guide for Austin's fundamentalist field trips into the Canyon
(Figure 3) and as a
potential text for fundamentalist college-level geology courses. In these
publications his scientific philosophy is never in doubt: "The real
battle in regard to understanding the Grand Canyon is founded not just upon
Creation and Noah's Flood versus evolution, but upon Christianity versus
humanism." (Austin, 1994)
Figure 3 (GIF, 268K)
Figure 3. Grand Canyon geology --- the sweeping history of earth told
in rock that has inspired generation of geologists --- has recently been
rewritten by creationists. In the alternative view the canyon was not formed by
layers of sedimentation atop ancient metamorphic rock deposited over millions of
years, followed by volcanic flows into the canyon and the downcutting action of
the powerful Colorado River. Some 500 million years of the canyon's history are
explained in this view (labels at left) as taking place during the
Noachian flood year, a feat that would require massive layers of wet sediments
to be deposited and harden at astounding rates over the course of weeks, leaving
them solid enough to be incised into mile-high cliffs by receding floodwaters.
(Creationist ages, left, after Austin 1994, with basic geology after
John Morris, Henry's son, earned a Ph.D. in geological engineering from the
University of Oklahoma and taught there for several years. In 1984 he moved to
the ICR where he is now Administrative Vice President. He has led several
expeditions in search of Noah's ark and has worked on the supposed coexistence
of human and dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River bed of Texas. His book, The
Young Earth (J. Morris, 1994), has an initial 35 pages which might just as
well be the lesson book for a fundamentalist Sunday school. This is followed by
about 75 pages of a mixture of geologic interpretation and Biblical themes. The
final 70 pages are view-graph masters designed to "be shared with your
church or Bible study groups." His overriding values seem clear. "The
data of geology, in our view, should be interpreted in light of the Scripture,
rather than distorting Scripture to accommodate current geological philosophy."
(Morris and Morris, 1989)
Kurt Wise was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist family in rural Illinois and
accepted flood geology as a teenager while attending a conference for Christian
youth run by Bob Jones University. He graduated from University of Chicago with
honors in geophysical sciences before going on to Harvard and his Ph.D. with
Stephen J. Gould. He has been the focus of a number of articles in the popular
press (Campbell and Scroggins, 1995, and Hitt, 1996) and currently teaches at
the fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan College in Tennessee near the site of
the Scopes trial. He minces no words about his scientific philosophy and agenda.
"I intend to replace the evolutionary tree with the creationist orchard,
separately created, separately planted by God." (Hitt, 1996)
Creationist Geologic Thought at Present
Until recently "Creation Science," as presented by the likes of Henry
Morris and Duane Gish, was such a hodge-podge of geologic ideas, floating
loosely in time and space, that it was nearly impossible to obtain an overall
picture of how their Bible-based model might fit into the fabric of generally
accepted geologic and paleontologic observations. This has changed or at least
been modernized with the rising influence in ICR circles of the likes of Austin,
Morris, and Wise. All three are familiar with some of the geologic literature
but are highly selective about which portions they decide to use. They also tend
to lean more heavily on ICR in-house publications than on refereed papers in the
The current thinking of the young creationist geologists is perhaps best
shown in a paper co-authored by six of them, including Austin, Morris, and Wise
(Austin et al., 1994). Their "tentative" model of "Catastrophic
Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History" starts about
6,000 years ago with a pre-flood earth differentiated into core, mantle, and a
crust with horizontal segregation into granitic continents and basaltic ocean
basins. "If this differentiation had occurred by any natural means, the
gravitational energy released ... would produce enough heat to melt the earth's
crust and vaporize the earth's oceans. ...it most certainly occurred before the
creation of organisms (at the latest Day 3 of the creation week.)" The
authors note that "even though such differentiation could have been
performed by God without the 'natural' release of gravitational potential energy"
the differentiation process provides a natural driving mechanism for the
proposed next stages of rapid motion, the Noachian flood. This was initiated as
slabs of oceanic floor broke loose and subducted along the edges of continents.
Deformation of the mantle by these slabs raised the temperature and lowered its
viscosity into a runaway convection system which overturned the whole mantle.
Upwelling mantle plumes created the mid-oceanic ridges, drove plate tectonics at
rates of "meters per second," and discharged magmatic
steam into the atmosphere to cause the flood. Tidal waves washed the continents
and piled marine sediments into great mountain systems along the edges. In a few
hundred years after the flood, residual heat from the cooling ocean floor warmed
the oceans and climate into a system characterized by efficient atmospheric
transport of moisture to the poles to create glaciation and ice caps.
The thermal problems of this model are mind boggling. At the start,
gravitative energy released by earth's differentiation into core and mantle
would raise average temperature of the entire globe by 2,500 degrees (Birch,
1965). To this must be added the frictional heating of the runaway subduction
plus the massive heat of condensation of a collapsing vapor canopy. Then brand
new basaltic ocean floors at minimum temperatures of 1,100 degrees C. had to
form over 2/3 of the earth's surface, presumably beneath non-boiling flood
waters. Finally this massive thermal pulse dissipated in a few thousand years by
unstated processes to leave most of the earth's surface devoid of hot springs or
abnormal heat flow. The authors apologize that their "model is still in
the formative stages and thus is incomplete." From a thermal viewpoint
"incomplete" seems like gross exaggeration. An incandescent earth with
an asbestos ark floating on a sea of molten lava would be more appropriate!
The Creationist Geologic Time Scale
Austin's (1994) book in particular and to some extent Morris and Morris (1989)
and J. Morris (1994) are not to be taken lightly. Before entering into
confrontations with Creationists any scientist, even one with extensive geologic
training, would be well advised to read these publications very carefully to see
where and how the record is cleverly distorted or how obscure literature
citations or in-house Creationist studies are expanded into general principles
concerning a global flood. In reading such literature, a traditional geologist
has difficulty keeping the time scale in order. Time and again, I found myself
confusing pre- and post-flood events or mixing creation week events with flood
events. One version (Froede, 1995) has a rudimentary scale with major eras being
Creation Week, Antediluvian Ages, Flood Event, Ice Age, and Present. Another by
Walker (1994) splits geologic time into eras and stages, based largely on
numbers of days during creation week and the flood event. In order to minimize
my confusion and get the overall Biblical chronological sequence in order, I
found it necessary to go through conflicting ideas in many Creationist papers
before being able to build my own version of their geologic column. Once this
framework of Creationist geologic time was in place, many of their speculations
could be added to other valid geologic observations which they generally ignore
to produce Figure 1.
Not included are items from even the lunatic fringe of Creationism such as the
flat earth based on the Biblical description of its having "corners" (Flirpa,
1987) or a geocentric solar system harking back to pre-Copernican days (Schadewald,
1985) or Henry Morris' hollow earth. After a creation seminar on October 24,
1986, Morris was asked about the bottomless pit of Revelations 9:1-11. His
answer was "Whenever Hades or Sheol is referred to in the Bible, it's
always down in the earth, the depths of the earth. So right there in the center
of the earth, apparently there's a great opening that we can't really deal with
in terms of our seismic instruments or other instrumentation. But apparently it
is there. You can take the Bible to mean what it says." (Creation/Evolution
Creationists will undoubtedly challenge or try to confuse arguments
concerning individual items on Figure
1. The detailed discussion that follows attempts to arm the scientific
community with some real data and references and to warn of typical Creationist
attacks on particular points. For additional geologic discussion, a scientist
would be well advised to read Heaton's A young Grand Canyon ?, Weber's
(1980) paper on "fatal flaws in flood geology" or Young's
(1977, 1982) books which seem to have upset the Creationists enough to make them
attempt to answer his points one by one (Morris and Morris, 1989) or Gish's
(1993) book of rebuttals.
Creation Week (1)
The Biblical sequence of events of creation week is well known and discussed at
length by H. Morris (1993) among a host of others. Some Creationists even
highlight the discrepancy between the Genesis sequence of events and the
traditional "evolutionary order of appearance." J. Morris (1994) gives
the following comparisons which to his mind support the Biblical sequence but
which a scientist might find an ideal place to begin application of logic.
. Biblical Order Evolutionary Order
Earth before sun and stars Sun and stars before Earth First life forms are
plants First life forms are marine organisms Fruit trees before fish Fish before
fruit trees Fish before insects Insects before fish Land vegetation before sun
Sun before land plants Birds before land reptiles Reptiles before birds Man as
the cause of death Death precedes man
The precise date of creation in years varies among Creationists. A good
discussion of the origins of this date, starting with the Bishop of Ussher
(1650), is given by Brice (1982). H. M. Morris (1993) suggests that creation
took place about 6,000 years ago and that elapsed time from creation to the
flood was 1,656 years. By subtraction, this means that the flood took place
about 2350 B.C., a time somewhat after the start of recorded Egyptian and
Summerian history. J. D. Morris (1994) notes that some uncertainties exist
between the length of the Biblical time and the historical record but "I
suspect it is the secular chronology which needs revision."
Garden of Eden (2)
The well known Genesis story is expanded at length by H. M. Morris (1993).
Walker (1994) describes a 1700 year span as the "Lost-World Era"
starting with the apple incident and expulsion from Eden and ending with the
Flood about 2300 B.C. He suggests this name because "not much of
geologic significance would have occurred in the time available." This
"not much" would include almost all events in the rich record of
Canopy Theory (3)
Most creationist models for the source of the flood waters stem from the
writings of Isaac Newton Vail who proposed (1874) and successively refined into
the "annular theory" (Vail, 1912) a model in which the early earth had
a series of Saturn-like aqueous rings, the progressive collapse of which caused
successive cataclysms to bury and create fossils. Collapse of the last remnant
ring caused the Noachian flood. Subsequently, most writings propose only one
great canopy which collapses to create the flood (Dillow, 1981). Vardiman
(1986a), head of the ICR physics department, calculates that the base of the
canopy was about 7 km above the earth's surface with an ambient surface
temperature of about 30 degrees C.. Additional unlikely details of this
pre-flood atmosphere are calculated by Jorgensen (1990). Other Creationists
writings such as the Austin et al. (1994) model avoid some of this
problem by having much of the future flood water stored within the earth to
burst forth as the "fountains of the deep" described in the Bible (Figure
Figure 4 (GIF, 150K)
Figure 4. Catastrophic phenomena must be postulated to explain the
occurrence of a flood powerful enough to drown all but a few creatures and to
massively rearrange the surface of the earth. Creationists have suggested that
before the Noachian flood the earth had a Venusian atmosphere dominated by a
huge canopy of water vapor that collapsed and inundated the earth to create the
flood with the help of "fountains of the deep" activated by the
subduction of crustal plates. At the center of the earth in one creationist
view, as yet undetected by seismology, is Hell.
Radiometric dating (4)
Creationists argue that radiometric dates are invalid on a number of grounds,
despite the massive and detailed explanation of all the dating methods by
Dalrymple (1991). They argue that if the speed of light is changing, then all
other fundamental constants could have changed, including rates radioactive
decay. Some of these arguments are based on supposed changes in the speed of
light using uncertainties in such measurements as of about 20 years ago. More
recent refinements in the measurements have laid this idea to rest for all but
the most committed (see discussion by Schadewald, 1984, and Lippard, 1989,
Related creationist arguments note (correctly) that light from the most
distant galaxies has red shifts up to the equivalent of four times the speed of
light. Hence, they argue that the universe appears to be expanding at a rate in
excess of the speed light in violation of Einstein's equations and that these
values for the speed of light must have changed with time. Thus, a very young
universe is possible (Curtis, 1995). The whole argument is based on a false
premise, that these red shifts are Doppler effects. In reality, the red shifts
have little to do with Doppler-like instantaneous speeds of celestial objects.
Instead, they represent a kind of tape measure of the wavelengths of light
stretching from those distant galaxies to the earth. When these wavelengths
started, they were of normal lengths. In the intervening eons, the cosmos has
expanded along the line of travel by as much as four times, stretching the
wavelengths embedded in it. Thus, the Creationist argument is a complete
misreading of the physics: the red shift has nothing to do with instantaneous
Doppler effects and Einsteinian equations but instead is a measure of long term
expansion of the cosmos and everything within it.
Another creationist argument claiming unreliability of radiometric dating is
that of Gentry (1992), who observed tiny spheres or halos of radiation damage
around minerals embedded in Precambrian micas. An excellent summary of Gentry,
both as a person and a "scientist," is by Gardner (1989). Gentry
argues that these halos had to be formed in primordial granites by some, now
extinct, very short-lived, radioactive element during the first few minutes
between neuclosynthesis and Earth formation. Because this contradicts geologic
dating of Precambrian events, he argues all those dates must be wrong. His
argument with its confused geology and the real geologic facts refuting it are
put forth by Wakefield (1988) and Wakefield and Wilkerson (1990), who show that
Gentry's samples came from dikes that cut Precambrian sedimentary rocks. Hence,
his samples must be younger than those sedimentary events: there is no way the
geologic setting allows them to be of primordial origin. In contrast, the best
radiometric dates yield a primordial age of the earth and solar system by
defining sequential events of accretion and early differentiation in meteorites
ranging from 4.58 to 4.50 Ga (Allegre et al., 1995).
Creationists commonly cite the helium problem as evidence for a young
atmosphere, contradicting the radiometric dates (Vardiman 1986b, 1990, and J.
Morris, 1994). It is well known that the rate of production of helium from the
earth's crust and mantle exceeds by a factor of 2 to 5 the Jeans rate of
strictly thermal escape from the upper atmosphere (Kellogg and Wasserburg,
1990; Harper and Jacobsen, 1996). If these were the only factors in the earth's
helium balance, the atmosphere might have a maximum age of only 2 ma. (J.
Morris, 1994). However, Shizgal and Arkos (1996) provide a number of non-thermal
processes capable of accounting for steady-state atmospheric compositions of
earth, Venus, and Mars. These include exothermic exchanges of He+ and
N2+ to boost He to escape velocity as well as the polar
wind sweeping He+ outward along high-latitude open magnetic field
lines. The helium problem is still under active scientific investigation, but it
has gone far beyond the classic thermal escape models still cited by the
Another frequently cited argument for the "unreliability" of
radiometric dates is Austin's (1994) dating of the Uinkaret lava flows of the
Grand Canyon region. It is generally recognized that some of these flows were so
young that they cascaded over the Canyon edges and dammed huge lakes within it.
Austin cites a number of different analyses of these lavas which can be used to
calculate a wide range of radiometric model ages, some older than the earth
itself. He concludes (p. 129) by asking: "Has any Grand Canyon rock ever
been successfully dated?" The counter argument might be: "Why
is your sundial not as accurate as my quartz crystal watch?" There are
many methods of deriving radiometric dates, some are widely recognized as being
far more accurate than others. For the most part, Austin used a ham-handed
approach by dating whole rocks rather than individual minerals or parts of
individual mineral grains. He then culled other dates from the literature for
comparison to complain about the wide spread of all the results: a straw-man
approach. In reality, there are quite precise dates on these Uinkaret volcanics,
using some of the best K-Ar methods (Wenrich et al., 1995). These show a
regional pattern of younger and younger dates moving eastward with time to reach
the youngest of the Grand Canyon volcanos only 10,000 years ago, in good accord
with the geomorphic data.
Creationist claims about radiometric dates coupled with the supposed
unreliability of the fossil record fail to point out the rarity of locations
where rocks with well controlled fossil dates are closely associated with proper
mineral material for the most precise of radiometric dates. There are at most a
few hundred of these well dated localities on which the entire dating system of
the geologic column is based. Where such conditions exist, the same fossil
horizons yield precise dates of the same fossil horizons even then the locations
are continents apart. For instance, Bowring et al. (1993) use the finest
uranium-lead methods to date zircons associated with the base of the Cambrian in
Siberia at 543.9 (+/- 0.2) million years while in southern Africa, Grotzinger et
al. (1995) find a number of ash beds spanning the same fossil range yielding
dates from 545 to 539 (+/- 1) million years. In the Rocky Mountain region, about
20 Cretaceous ash beds are interlayered with well known fossil-bearing sequences
recognized both here and in Europe. Precision dating of these ash beds by
Obradovich (1993) confirms the same 1, 2, 3 .. sequence as do the fossils and
field relationships for individual beds differing by only 0.5 to 1 million
In the face of such precision and reproducibility, it is difficult to argue
that radiometric methods and the associated stratigraphy, when used with care on
the best of geologic locations, have no reliability and that the fossil record
is a rather haphazard jumble of life forms mashed together as the flotsam and
jetsam of a single great flood.
Humans and Dinosaurs Coexisting (5)
Creationists (Gish, 1992, and Ham, 1993) use Biblical statements of the absence
of death in Eden prior to the apple incident to conclude that all animals,
including dinosaurs, were vegetarians at that time. Thus, they would claim that
God created Tyranosaurus Rex to eat leaves with those teeth and peacefully share
Eden with lions, humans, and the like.
The "evidence" most commonly cited for coexistence of pre-flood
humans and dinosaurs is the exposure of footprints near Glen Rose in central
Texas in the bed of the Paluxy River. In that these beds are interpreted as
Noachian flood deposits, the tracks must have been made by the evil people of
those days as well as the dinosaurs just before both groups were engulfed by the
waters. Why the tracks are those of walking rather than running individuals is
To my knowledge, the best scientifically based discussion of these tracks is
by G. J. Kuban (1986) who reports visiting the site in the company of a number
of Creationists, including ICR's John Morris. Kuban's extensive documentation of
the tracks includes stain markings of obviously non-human, three clawed toes as
integral parts of the "man-tracks." He notes later correspondence with
John Morris of ICR, including Morris' subsequent agreement that all the Taylor
Site tracks (the best of the sites) were probably dinosaurian. In a following
article of the same issue, J. Morris (1986) makes a half-hearted retraction.
Kuban's religious neutrality is shown in an after statement to his 1986
paper: "I am a Christian and believe in a Creator, but prefer not to be
labeled a 'Creationist' or an 'Evolutionist,' since I do not fully identify with
all the tenets that are often assumed to typify each camp. However, on some
issues that I have studied in depth, such as the Paluxy controversy (Kuban also
has published a 250 page monograph on the subject), I have formed definite
conclusions. Although my findings are not favorable to the "man track"
claims, the objective of my research has not been to attack Creationism, but to
carefully investigate and document what actually exists on the Paluxy sites
alleged to contain human footprints." Kuban notes that: "When the full
evidence is brought to light, it is evident that all the Taylor Site tracks are
Films for Christ Association, which made and distributed the film
"Footprints in Stone" about these tracks, reviewed Kuban's evidence
and showed its basic honesty by immediately withdrawing the film from
distribution and giving a clear retraction (1986).
Despite all this evidence, even from within Creationist circles, the Paluxy
footprints are certain to be raised again and again before scientifically
unsophisticated audiences. For instance, Helfinstine and Roth (1994) have
published a 109 page booklet on these tracks and artifacts. H&R are at best
amateur geologists (R cites his credentials as four extension course in geology;
H cites none at all), and at worst they have the bias of being past presidents
of the Twin-Cities Creation Science Association. They continue the claim of
human footprints as well as the existence of a "human finger" of ante-deluvian
man with photos looking remarkably like a geologic concretion. They also
illustrate a "pre-flood" hammer embedded in iron oxide in a setting
looking like a typical bog iron deposit, a process which is still going on today
and could easily surround a 19th century hammer. Interestingly, their list of
acknowledgments does not include ICR's John Morris who wrote a book on the
tracks nor Glen Kuban with his thorough scientific studies on the site.
Human Life Spans of 900 Years (6)
H. Morris (1993) noting Noah's list of the various human generations and their
times of death (Genesis 5 and 6), concludes that "one of the most
remarkable aspects of Noah's record is the great longevity of the antediluvian
patriarchs. The average life span of those recorded - except for Enoch - was 913
years." Tables showing all the ages and calculations were published by
Lightfoot in 1647 and are reproduced by Brice (1982). Vardiman (1986a) proposes
that shielding from cosmic radiation by the pre-flood atmospheric water canopy
was the cause for human longevity. According to the Vardiman model, Dillow's
(1981) graph showing a nearly linear decrease in life span in the twelve
generations following Noah at 950 years to Jacob at 147 years, was the result of
progressively increasing radiation exposure once the atmospheric canopy had
cleared to produce the flood.
Lunar Craters (7)
Lunar craters are interpreted by Morris (1978) as the result of a cosmic battle
between Satan's angels and those of the Archangel Michael (Figure
2). NASA has not yet accepted this model. In addition Creationists allege
that lack of thick dust on the moon and it its craters indicates a young earth.
This argument continues to be made despite a recent Creationist technical
paper (Snelling and Rush, 1993) which reviews the subject and concludes:
"It thus appears that the amount of meteoritic dust and meteorite debris in
the lunar regolith and surface dust layer, even taking into account the
postulated early intense bombardment, does not contradict the evolutionists'
multi-billion year time scale (while not proving it). Unfortunately, counter
responses by creationists have so far failed because of spurious arguments or
faulty calculations. Thus, until new evidence is forthcoming, creationists
should not continue to use the dust on the moon as evidence against an old age
for the moon and solar system.
Fossil Stratigraphic Sequence (8)
The geologic record is clear in showing more and more complex life forms at
progressively higher levels. Creationists argue that this represents more and
more complex animals running to the mountain tops to be washed off and buried
last (Figure 5), a
mechanism proposed early in this century by George McCready Price in many papers
and in his textbook, the New Geology (1923). Excellent summaries of Price
and his ideas are given by Gardner (1986) and Numbers (1982). This
mammals-to-the-mountain tops model is still in vogue in Creationist circles
although some more recent variations have included rising waters engulfing first
the shoreline plant and animal communities and then the upland flora and fauna.
The argument somehow neglects to discuss why the burial sequence for fish,
marine reptiles, and marine mammals followed the same pattern of increasing
complexity when these groups should not have been so severely affected by rising
waters. In addition, looking at the distribution of intelligence in today's
humans, a pre-flood human race without a single individual dumb enough to be
trapped on some isolated mountain top in early stages of the rising flood waters
would seem to be a miracle in its own right.
Figure 5 (GIF, 108K)
Figure 5. "Creation science" explains the fossil record and
deposits of petroleum, natural gas, and coal as products of the flood year.
Larger land animals, it is argued, ran to the mountaintops (upper insert),
explaining why they appear in upper fossil strata; meanwhile massive mats of
vegetation formed (lower insert), later to become coal beds. The volcano
that is now Mount Ararat rose rapidly (bottom right) beneath the deluge
and just as rapidly cooled to provide a place for Noah's ark to later be
grounded. According to this view, human beings and dinosaurs co-existed before
the flood. At lower left, water spews from one of the Biblical "fountains
of the deep."
Above all, the creationist arguments implies that the fossil record is a
somewhat haphazard jumble of odds and ends dumped by the flood and represents
only a general sequence of simple to complex life. They commonly argue that the
geologic rock record and its fossil sequence is a vast conspiracy among
pointy-headed academics who warp and misinterpret the evidence in an attempt to
defend cherish beliefs about a science's particular version of the nature of the
earth. Another group beside the scientific community has vested interests in the
problem. Oil companies spend billions of dollars every year based on the belief
that the earth contains a highly ordered and very predictable fossil record.
Each year they test and refine the details of this fossil sequence to locate
ancient reefs, trace the shorelines of long vanished oceans, and unravel the
complex time relationships of ancient mountain systems. These fossil data
control the drilling of thousands of multi-million dollar wells, guiding the
drill bits to precise geologic targets at depths up to 8 km. One might expand
the Creationist charges about pointy-headed academics to ask who is likely to be
more reliable about hard facts concerning the nature of the earth: (1) a group
of religious advocates most of whom have almost no direct knowledge of the earth
but wish to push their particular theology about the Bible or (2) numerous
hard-headed petroleum businessmen who have been drilling that earth on a
day-to-day basis for over a century and every day pour millions more of their
own dollars into ventures based on that experience with the fossils and the
Coral Reefs and Limestone Deposits Grown During the "Flood" (9)
The thick limestone and dolomite formations which cover large portions of the
interior of North America to depths on the order of a km or more, pose
especially difficult problems for the "young earthers." In that these
huge deposits are composed dominantly of former calcareous muds and fossil
debris from lime secreting organisms, their production during a single
"flood year" would seem to require almost Herculean activity on the
part of those organisms. For instance, in the Grand Canyon region the Redwall
and Kaibab limestone formations are each about 150 m thick. If spread uniformly
through the entire "flood year," these two units would require
organisms to have produced carbonate mud at rates of about 80 cm per day!
Recently the "young earthers" have avoided this excessive growth
rate during the "flood year" by a new twist (Austin et al.,
1994). For about 1,500 years between Eden and the "flood," extremely
abundant carbonates were produced by the vibrant biologic activity in the
postulated extremely high carbon dioxide pressure of those times. Thick
carbonate muds collected in those early ocean basins only to be hurled onto the
continents by violent runaway subduction during the flood as plates moved at
speeds 1 to 10 km per hour, depending on the model. Conceivably this process
might yield the volume of carbonate sediments on the continents but hardly the
delicate and orderly succession of fossiliferous limestone and other formations
of the continental interior, the Grand Canyon, and elsewhere.
Coral reefs as opposed to regular limestone deposits pose an even more
difficult problem because even an unsophisticated public has some idea of
typical growth rates of corals. One "young earth" approach is by
omission. Austin (1994) notes (correctly) that no great coral reefs occur in the
Grand Canyon and, hence, pose no problems there. He fails to mention that the
Permian Kaibab limestone of the Canyon has well known and generally equivalent
units in the Permian Basin of West Texas (Frenzel et al., 1988). These
include the famous Capitan Reef, reaching a maximum thickness of 610 meters
(King, 1948) with well exposed forereef and backreef facies, all developed on
the edges of the deepwater Permian Basin. Similar integrated reefs and adjacent
basin systems can be found for the Silurian of the mid-continent region (Fisher et
al., 1988) and the petroleum rich reefs of the Devonian of Alberta (Johnson
and McMillan, 1993).
Elsewhere, Morris and Morris (1989) argue correctly but somewhat
disingenuously that "coral" reefs of the past are probably not reefs
at all. They cite S. E. Nevins (pseudonym of S. Austin, 1975) that one of the
greatest of these, El Capitan and the Permian "reef complex" of West
Texas, comprises mostly transported fossil-bearing lime muds. However, they
state that this complex had a "real topographic expression ...that...
controlled the distribution and character of sediments and organisms in the
region." To most geologists this is the definition of a reef whether it is
100 % coral or not. No matter what one calls them, these are organic deposits
which grew in place and were buried in their own debris. In the case of the
Capitan Reef, the "flood" model would require an absolute minimum
vertical growth rate for the mass of 1.6 meters per day or 7 cm per hour, a rate
80,000 times the maximum ever observed for a modern reef surface (Chave et
Coal Deposits (10)
Coal beds represent compaction of organic materials to 5 to 10 percent of their
original thickness. Hence, a typical coal bed might represent an original
vegetational debris accumulation of 20 - 30 meters. Austin did his doctoral
dissertation (1979) on a single coal bed in Kentucky. He argues that
relationships in that bed suggest formation from a mat of floating vegetation,
one of the half dozen or so methods of collecting organic layers to produce
coal. Subsequently, with Ph.D. safely in hand, he added the interpretation that
this floating mat was rafted in a part of Noah's flood accumulation (Figure
5). The implication is that all coal beds formed in this way. For some small
coal beds, such mat accumulations are quite reasonable. For others, like the
Pittsburgh and Kittaning coals of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the total area
of the original swamp had to be on the order of 20,000 square kilometers with
systematic and continuous upward transition from underlying sands and lake beds
into the swamp deposit (Wise et al., 1991, and references therein). There
is no obvious regional discontinuity to represent the base of any floating mat
nor can one imagine a 20,000 square kilometer floating mat avoiding breakup into
smaller fragments in the tumultuous seas of the Creationists' flood. Again, the
Creationists approach to this Kentucky coal is a case of taking one local
example and extrapolating it to the entire geologic record (Major, 1990).
Thick Salt Beds (11)
Thick salt beds formed by evaporation of sea water are a common feature of
geologic columns in many parts of the world. The "young earth
geologists" interpret almost all classic stratigraphic units as deposits
produced during the flood year: hence, they must also account for interbedded
salt formations as part of those events (Figure
6). Some of the more extensive salt formations with the U.S. are in the
Jurassic of the Gulf Coast (Worrall and Snelson, 1989), the Silurian of the New
York to Chicago region (Alling and Briggs, 1961; Smosna and Patchen, 1978), and
the Permian of the Paradox Basin of Utah (Baars and Stevenson, 1982). In the
center of the Paradox Basin these salts reach a depositional thickness of 1.5 km
(Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists Atlas, 1972) with at least 29 separate
cycles of salt deposition (Hite, 1960). To deposit just these beds in a single
year would require the salt to form at an average rate of 4 meters per day (17
cm per hour or 2.8 mm per minute) - and this by evaporation during a world-wide
Figure 6 (GIF, 150K)
Figure 6. Flood geology must explain a massive geologic record as a
single year's events. The maximum known thicknesses of sedimentary rocks of a
given age are plotted at top to derive their maximum rate of deposition during
geologic periods, according to radiometric dating (graph adapted from Hudson,
1964). In the chart are listed some selected features in each geologic time
segment that creationist models require to have been formed within part of the
year of the Noachian flood, most in a few weeks. Standard geologic
interpretations require any single one of them to occupy more than the total
6,000 years of earth history allowed by creationists.
For such deposits Creationists use an ostrich approach. The chemical balance of
salt in the ocean is discussed by Austin and Humphreys (1991) and J. D. Morris
(1994) with brief paragraphs on each of 11 ways that salt can be added and 7
ways it can be removed. The fourth of these removal methods is by halite (salt)
deposition which occurs "as a result of river water evaporation,
not sea water. This happens infrequently in trapped pools, but such deposits
redissolve easily. This output is trivial. The volume of salt water evaporated
in trapped lagoons and not redissolved is not significant." Numerical
values for each of these input and output rates are given by Morris but with no
units quoted to yield an absolute maximum age of 62 ma. for the oceans. He
suggests that the real age is much, much less.
Nowhere is mention given of the enormous halite deposits of the geologic
record nor of their generally accepted origin by continuous evaporation of sea
water flowing into semi-restricted basins. Morris, in an earlier publication
(Morris and Morris, 1989), argues that ancient "pure" salt deposits
are not even evaporites because they are so unlike the "dirty" salt
deposits forming today. He cites the Russian Sozansky (1973) that great salt
deposits are derived from volcanic rocks as products of degassification of the
earth's interior brought up by juvenile waters moving along faults. The
deceptive statement quoted above about evaporation in trapped lagoons is at best
only partly true and even that is obtained by tightly restricting the definition
of lagoon. It is difficult to believe that while almost every elementary geology
student learns about these great deposits of marine salts, a Ph.D. in geology
(Austin) and another in geophysics (Morris) somehow managed to gain their
advanced degrees while remaining innocent of any knowledge of such marine
evaporative processes and geologic formations.
Sedimentary Cover of Continents (12)
Typical continents have a "granitic" basement with a cover of
relatively flat lying Cambrian and younger sedimentary rocks with thicknesses on
the order of a km (Sloss, 1988). Austin (1994) interprets all the traditional
Cambrian (540 ma.) through Cretaceous (65 ma.) sedimentary rocks as part of the
flood deposits. He labels the early Cenozoic (60 ma.) rocks of the Bryce Canyon
area as "post-flood." I am uncertain of the dates he would place on
the post-Cretaceous Cenozoic coastal plain and continental shelf deposits, some
of which reach thicknesses of 12 km off the Mississippi Delta, but suspect that
he would include most of these as "flood-year" deposits or,
alternatively, as pre-flood marine deposits washed onto the continents during
the flood. The flat lying and relatively undisturbed nature of these deposits
argues strongly against such dumping models of pre-flood sediments.
Continental Drift (13)
H. Morris (1993) wants to open the ocean basins during later parts of the flood
as a means of draining the waters from the continents. (For an alternate
Creationist model see note #19, below.) In effect, the Morris model represents a
form of continental drift and plate tectonics. If this opening occurred during
the last half of the flood year with the east coast of the U.S. moving away from
Africa by a total of 5,500 km, this would represent an opening rate of the
Atlantic of 30 km per day or more than one km per hour.
A Creationist mechanism proposed by Baumgardner (1990) suggests that sudden
subduction of the ocean floor caused steam and global rain for 40 days.
Frictional heating of the downgoing slabs reduced the viscosity of the earth's
mantle by a "factor of a billion" (from viscosity of rock to that of
Jello). The result was a runaway convection system with the plates moving at
high speed across the earth's surface. The fact that Baumgardner can write a
finite element program to show convection motion proves nothing except that some
form of mathematics can be applied to almost any set of assumptions, an
excellent example of "garbage in, garbage out."
Deep Sea Sediments (14)
The "standard" oceanic columns have about 800 meters of deep sea
sediments covering 6.45 km of oceanic crust (Worzel, 1974). Present day rates of
accumulation of these sediments on the deep ocean floors for muds, calcareous
ooze, siliceous ooze, and red clay of the North Pacific are respectively 0.2,
.02, .005, and .001 mm/yr (Berger, 1974). Assuming a deposition rate of .01
mm/yr, the 800 m average accumulation would require 80 ma., a quite reasonable
geologic value for average age of the ocean basins.
The "young earth" models would require all this accumulation to
take place late in the flood year or during the subsequent 4,500 years, a rate
averaging about 20 cm/yr or about 20,000 times that of the present. Above all,
the sedimentology of very fine grained oozes and muds on the deep sea floor
demands extremely slow sedimentation rates rather than the catastrophic dumping
indicated by the flood model.
Hawaiian volcanos (15)
The largest of the Hawaiian islands is a complex of five volcanos built on the
sea floor across deep sea sediments which presumably were deposited after the
ocean basins opened during middle or later parts of the flood (H. Morris, 1993).
Counting its underwater portion, this 30,000 foot high volcanic pile had to
grow, cool, and somehow get populated with organisms rapidly migrating from Mt.
Ararat, all in the last 4,500 years.
Mt. Ararat (16)
Mt. Ararat is also a volcanic peak reaching 5.2 km built on top of deformed
sedimentary rocks. In the chronology of "flood geology" this geometry
requires Ararat's top of 2 km of volcanic growth to have occurred entirely under
water across deformed flood sediments very late in the flood year. Surprisingly
the Bible does not report any associated ash or volcanic activity of this major
submarine eruption just beneath the ark. Then, to be available for the ark's
landing, the volcano had to cool completely in a matter of months, somewhat in
violation of the laws of thermal physics and observations of underwater lava
flows of Hawaii. Finally, a tree grew at a truly remarkable rate in only a few
weeks on the fresh volcanic soil in order for the dove to bring a branch back to
Claims of the discovery of Noah's ark in the Mt. Ararat region are reviewed
by one of the few persons recently allowed into the Ararat region (Collins and
Fasold, 1996). The "ark" claimed to be found by some is shown to be
nothing more than a resistant bed in a doubly plunging synclinal fold. Technical
discussion of some of the ark design problems are given by Shneour (1986).
Yellowstone Forests (17)
In the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone the fossil remains of somewhere between 10
and 27 successive forests are piled one on top of another separated by river and
ash deposits (Dorf, 1964). Dorf counts tree rings on the petrified wood and
concludes that at the time of their burial the oldest trees averaged about 200
years in age, a difficult fact for Creationists' interpretation of this stack of
forests as the deposits of a single year. In early papers Fritz (1984 and
references to older papers therein) argues that these forest layers are the
result of log jams in successive mud flows from a volcanic flank and, hence,
could have been formed in a single short-lived volcanic event. This single mud
flow model was and is widely cited by Creationists as an explanation for the
successive Yellowstone fossil forest layers, something like a Mt. St. Helens
type of catastrophe.
Field evidence given by Yuretich (1984) showed that most of the Yellowstone
fossil trees were still in a standing position and many were rooted in soil
developed in place. In a discussion and reply by Yuretich, Fritz (1984) notes
"Yuretich's observation of in situ stumps is compatible with my
model ... of transportation of up to 15% of the upright stumps. Additional
studies on stumps picked totest the critical points of the slight differences
between our models should show complete agreement." In other words, the
multiple levels are for the most part a series of mature forests where were
successively buried in place largely by stream related processes. The
Creationists cannot represent these as the deposits of a single catastrophic
A related Creationist argument is polystratate fossil trees, namely
preservation of standing tree stumps many meters in height penetrating a number
of strata. The claim is that average sedimentation rates from traditional
geologic time scales would be too slow for such trees to be buried before they
rotted. The difficult is in the word average in that many geologic
deposits occur as a series of closely spaced flood or ash events with the next
series separated in time by hundreds to thousands of years.
Grand Canyon Erosion (18)
In the Austin model (1994) the sedimentary rocks of the Grand Canyon were all
deposited during the early part of the "flood-year," later to be
incised into a canyon by the receding waters. The model requires the newly
deposited rocks to become strong enough within a few months after deposition to
stand as mile high cliffs in violation of all reasonable calculations from
hydrology, soil mechanics, and strength of materials. Some rock types, for
example, some limestones, become lithified soon after deposition, but most
sandstones and shales require major loss of water, compaction, and/or chemical
cement to become a strong rock, processes which involve significant amounts of
time. This is especially true for very fine grained muds in which low
permeability makes complete dewatering almost impossible in any short period of
time. Simple loading of other materials on top will not do; trapped water in the
muds would cause sudden liquifaction of the entire mass, a phenomenon known to
hydraulic engineers as the "sudden draw down condition." Rapid
drainage commonly results in collapse of oversteepened cut banks as flood
swollen rivers subside. Mudstones in the young Grand Canyon model should have
behaved in the same way but would have collapsed even more readily than canal
and river banks considering Canyon cliff heights are measured not in meters but
more than a thousand meters (Figure
4). In that Henry Morris has the credentials of a hydrologist and engineer,
might one expect a proper answer to this problem?
Animal Dispersion from Ark (19)
In order to account for the present distribution of animals and humans, some
creationists propose that continental drift took place about 100 years after the
flood. After the Ark grounded, streams of animals and humans migrated (under
divine guidance ?) to the ends of the global supercontinent, Pangea. Once drift
began, they rode the continents to their present locations. Continental traffic
jams at speeds up to one mile per hour produced collisional mountain systems
like the Himalayas and Alps (Curtis, 1995). A different model by Woodmorapple
(1990) has the virtue of avoiding almost all these problems by suggesting that
the present distribution of plant and animal life was the result of
"anthropomorphic transport" after the flood. The mental picture of
aboriginal peoples keeping kangaroos in place in their canoes during An
Australia voyage is intriguing.
Earth Stands Still (20)
Because of its absurdity, Creationists rarely mention the Biblical tale of
Joshua keeping the sun from setting (Joshua 10:12-13) while the Israelites took
vengeance on the Canaanite kings. Velikovsky (1950) proposed that a few thousand
years ago a comet, later to become the planet Venus, was ejected from Jupiter to
do a near miss of the earth, stopping the earth's rotation and the sun's
apparent motion while Joshua directed the continuing battle. Just how the
earth's rotation was restarted is never mentioned. Velikovsky has been so
thoroughly debated and refuted that it seems pointless to restate all the
arguments and his faulty data. Many of the arguments can be found in Goldsmith
(1977), Bauer (1985), and Morrison and Chapman (1990).
However, Velikovsky's mechanisms look almost like good science when compared
with recent statements by an authoritative Creationist. Henry Morris, in the
"Since the earth rotates on its axis, the sun could only be made to
'stand still' relative to earth by stopping earth's rotation." ...
"This was surely a unique miracle, but not beyond the capabilities of the
Creator of the sun and moon and planets. He started their motions,has maintained
them through the ages, and is able to change them at will."
So much for a "scientific" approach to earth history and celestial
Ice Age (21)
Removal of the greenhouse effect after canopy collapse produced one and only one
ice age. The Austinet al. (1994) runaway subduction model includes
several hundred years of much warmer oceans (!) heated by newly formed igneous
sea floors over 2/3 of the globe. It proposes that warmer oceans heated the
atmosphere and facilitated transport of moisture to the poles, thus initiating
the ice age (singular). Cooling was enhanced by the increased albedo of the
earth from all the volcanic ash produced during flood tectonics. Once the global
sea floor and oceanic cooling was complete, the ice age ended at about 2000 -
2500 B.C., and our modern climatic pattern took over. Reasons for failure to
boil the oceans and methods needed to cool all this mass in a few hundred years
are not included in the model.
To explain the apparent record of multiple glaciations Oard (1990) argues for
a very thin, post-flood ice cap which lasted only 700 years. Periodic surges at
its lobes and edges produced local burial of slightly older tills, all of
essentially the same age. He suggests that true interglacial deposits are almost
non-existent, that they are hard to correlate, and that the soils on them are
difficult to interpret. He also argues that some soils form rapidly in today's
environment and that the immediate post-flood, ice-age atmosphere caused soil
formation to proceed at even greater rates to produce the buried soils.
Real evidence for multiple glaciation is overwhelming. Older works on glacial
geology (Flint, 1971; Wright and Frey, 1965) describe in great detail arguments
for four great ice ages in the last two million or so years. This evidence
includes well developed soil horizons and sub-tropical vegetation over-run by
succeeding ice advances (Morrison and Wright, 1965). More recent works (Goudie,
1983; Wright, 1989; Dawson, 1992; Anderson and Borns, 1994) support these
observations and further separate the four advances into about ten different
advances. In addition, they give evidence of several other very much older
glacial epochs, including some Precambrian ones which would have been
Probably the best arguments for the magnitude of ice age time is the record
from long cores taken through the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica. Gish's
outrageous statement (1992) that an armored dinosaur had been found in the ice
of Antarctica might be taken as a Mesozoic age for the ice, but in reality the
fossil was found in Mesozoic rocks of the Santa Marta formation (Weishampel,
1990). In the Antarctic ice, summer and winter bands can be counted back, year
by year, to at least 30,000 years (Anderson and Borns, 1994) with overall core
lengths indicating total time spans of several hundred thousand years. Dates
from counting the annual layers in the cores can in turn be correlated with C14
dates from the CO2 contained in entrapped air bubbles, with C14
dates from tree ring correlations which can be counted and correlated back
12,000 years, with annual sediment layers from glacial lakes, with dates from
the pollen records of climatic change in Europe and America, and with
radiometric dates and rate of sedimentation dates on deep sea cores. Most of
these dates can in turn be stitched together and mutually supported by
paleomagnetic dates from other areas and dating techniques (summaries by
Anderson and Borns, 1994). As new evidence is gained and dating techniques are
refined, all these lines of converging evidence show increasing good
correlations with the Malenkovich cycles, based on Newtonian celestial
mechanics, an additional set of time determinations linked to modern astronomic
measurements. To argue in the face of such massive and interlocking evidence
that the entire span of the Ice Ages constituted only the last few thousand
years must represent a supreme example of faith overcoming reason.
Cooling Rates (22)
Various mineral types in large granite bodies form at different temperatures
and/or are able to trap daughter products of radioactive decay within them,
starting at different cooling temperatures. Radiometric dating of when these
different minerals passed through their retention temperatures allows
determination of the cooling history and rates within the granite body. Pitcher
(1993) provides a summary of such measurements which range from 30 to 250
degrees C. per million years, depending on size of body and depth of burial.
Such values are in good accord with typical laws of thermal physics.
Present-day Plate Motions (23)
The last 30-40 years have seen plate tectonics grow from an intriguing theory
loosely supported by some data from a few sub-disciplines of geology into a
revolutionary paradigm supported by massive data arrays from the entire spectrum
of the geosciences. Detailed plate motion directions and velocities with their
passenger continents (DeMets et al., 1990) have been derived from
combinations of geophysics, deep sea drilling, seafloor magnetic anomalies, and
land based structural, geophysical, and sedimentological studies, the whole
cemented by a time framework based on stratigraphic, paleontologic, and
radiometric time scales. Recent satellite-based global positioning system
measurements for 38 sites on the different plates show a 95% correlation with
the plate tectonic model predictions (Larson et al., 1997). Only the
Pacific and Nazca plates needed some readjustment to fit the model. Similar
conclusions, using slightly different very long baseline precision measurements
from satellite and space geodesy, were reached by Robaudo et al. (1993).
Because long term velocity determinations must involve a geologic timescale, an
average of 3.16 my for the Larson et al. data, these measurements
represent one more test and validation of radiometric and paleontologic dating
To argue that the early runaway subduction processes (Baumgardner, 1994;
Austin et al., 1994) have ceased and that measured present day plate
motions represent relaxation phenomena which just happen by chance to be a near
perfect match with the rates derived from the supposedly invalid and rejected
traditional geologic time scale requires complete abandonment of Occam's razor.
Present Day and Post-flood Coral Growth Rates (24)
Post-flood growth of coral reefs compounds the problem of "flood-year"
growth of ancient reefs as discussed above in item #9. In the Bahamas Standard
of California drilled 5.76 km through backreef carbonates (Meyerhoff and Hatten,
1974). The atolls of the Pacific ar the upward continuation of reefs growing on
subsiding extinct volcanos. Drilling showed 1.26 km of shallow water limestone
on Eniwetok (Ladd et al., 1953), 0.38 km of reef limestone on Midway
(Ladd et al., 1970), and 0.78 km of shallow water limestone on Bikini
(Emery et al., 1954). In that the underlying volcanos are all built
across deep marine sediments, they must be "post-flood" in age with
their coral caps representing the last 4,500 years. As isolated atolls, all the
carbonate had to be derived from organic growth on the island. The maximum
recorded rate of growth of 30 mm/yr of a single coral of Fiji and Eniwetok (Chave
et al., 1972) could just about produce the drilled thickness on Eniwetok
in the allowed 4,500 years. If the maximum known production rate for any part of
a reef surface of about 7 mm/yr (Chave et al., 1972) could have been
sustained for the reef surface as a whole, the Eniwetok limestone would require
about 180,000 years to form.
The Creationist response to these figures is to propose that an excessive
amount of carbon dioxide remained in the early post-flood atmosphere and that
this produced phenomenal growth rates. Subsequently, the present-day atmosphere
evolved and slowed rates to the modern measured values. They also claim that
slow growing corals on modern reefs represent only a surface veneer of the last
few thousand years over top of thick line muds from the Noachian flood (Morris
and Morris, 1989), a discovery which might come as a surprise to those who have
actually drilled modern reefs and found coral dating continuously form the
present to about 50 m.y. in the Eocene (Ladd et al., 1953). The overall
coral reef discussion in the cited references is typical of the ICR approach; a
combination of omission, redefinition of terms, and misstatement of facts to
provide support for their particular literal interpretation of the Bible.
Only now is the scientific community coming to recognize that while the battles
against Creationism in the last decade may have been won in the courts, the war
itself is in serious danger of being lost in the present court of public opinion
and media nonsense. The warnings of the late Carl Sagan (1996) in "The
Demon-haunted World" are a clear wake-up call for all of us. The
statement by the American Geophysical Union (1994) is unambiguous: "The
council of the AGU notes with concern the continuing efforts by Creationists for
administrative, legislative and judicial actions designed to require or promote
the teaching of Creationism as a scientific theory. The AGU is opposed to all
efforts to require or promote the teaching of Creationism or any other religious
tenets as science." Kraus (1996) may have made the best statement in a New
York Times Op Ed piece: "The increasingly blatant nature of the nonsense
uttered with impunity in public discourse is chilling. Our democratic society is
imperiled as much by this as any other single threat, regardless of whether the
origins of the nonsense are religious fanaticism, simple ignorance, or personal
If such activities are to be opposed effectively, a first step is to learn
the ideas, history, and underlying assumptions of their proponents. A second
step is to devise an effective counter strategy. To date, the scientific
community has been woefully inadequate in the Creationist battle on both counts.
This paper is an attempt to focus our opposition, (1) by providing some readily
accessible information on the Creationists, (2) by making a proposal for an
offensive rather than defensive strategy, and (3) by giving some background
facts to implement the strategy. In public forums, the Creationists should be
challenged to defend their total model of earth history, difficulties and all,
and to give their supporting "evidence" on an item-by-item basis.
Again and again, we should force the point that extraordinary claims require
extraordinary levels of proof. Such public confrontations with Creationists may
have only the scientific depth of disputes between three-year olds, but at least
the proposed strategy will force those fights to occur with their toys in their
sandbox rather than ours.
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About the Author
Donald U. Wise is a research associate at Franklin and Marshall College and
professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, where he chaired the
Department of Geology and Geography from 1984 to 1988. He earned his Ph.D. in
1957 from Princeton University and joined the UMass faculty in 1969. His
wide-ranging research interests have included Appalachian and Rocky Mountain
tectonics, fracture mechanics, global sea-level controls, Martian tectonics,
and the origin of the moon. Around the time of the first lunar landing in
1968-69, he served as chief scientist and deputy director of one of NASA's
offices of lunar exploration.
Illustrations in this article are taken from his article in (1998)
Creationism's Geologic Time Scale, American Scientist, v. 86, p. 160-173.
For more information contact Donald Wise at:
Dr. Donald U. Wise
Department of Geosciences
Franklin and Marshall College
Lancaster, PA 17604