The June 2013 issue of Acts & Facts magazine from the Institute for Creation Research has a two-page article on the fossils of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. “The La Brea Tar Pits Mystery” was written by Dr. John Morris, president of ICR, and Dr. Timothy Clarey, ICR’s new staff geologist.
The article correctly states that some paleontologists have moved away from the simple “animals got stuck in the tar when they stopped for a drink of water” interpretation of the La Brea tar pits. It appears that at least some of the fossils were washed downstream from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains and became trapped in the tar. Morris and Clarey make an unjustified extrapolation from this, and claim that all of the fossils must have been transported to the La Brea site from elsewhere.
Morris and Clarey believe that the La Brea Tar Pits and their enclosing sediments were formed after Noah’s flood. In their flood geology model, Noah’s flood deposited the bulk of Earth’s rock record, but most deposits that geologists would consider to be of Quaternary age (i.e. the Ice Ages) were deposited in a period of a few hundred years after Noah’s flood. This is sometimes referred to as “residual catastrophism.” Morris and Clarey describe the formation of the La Brea fossil deposits as follows:
Large flooding events (sometime after the Great Flood) could have swept the animals into the tar pit openings and deposited the bones in tight, jumbled masses. Biblical scientists have reinterpreted the fossil deposits as a consequence of closely spaced, catastrophic flood events that likely occurred in the waning of the post-Flood Ice Age. The immediate post-Flood years were likely chaotic and more geologically active than today as the earth’s surface recovered from the catastrophic activity of the Flood.
There are a number of problems with the residual catastrophism model as it relates to La Brea. Here are just a few:
- Soil formation — Soils do not form overnight, and plants need soil. The La Brea flora comes from mature forest ecosystems, and the large herbivores were dependent on abundant vegetation. In the YEC residual catastrophism scenario, soil would have had to form very rapidly, but this process would have been impeded either by high rates of erosion or high rates of deposition.
- Ecological succession — This is related to the problem of soil formation. Ecological succession is the process of development of an ecosystem over time. If one started with bare rock or sediment after the flood, there would have had to have been a succession of communities that inhabited the area over time, starting with pioneer species that could live on the barren surface, such as lichens, mosses, and insects. Over time there might have been communities dominated by grasses, brush, and eventually a variety of forest types. In the YEC scenario, this would have had to occur very quickly, leading up to mature flora capable of supporting the animal community. Post-flood residual catastrophism suffers from the same problem as the rest of YEC geology: too many events, too little time.
- Migration — The mammal and bird fossils of La Brea would have had to migrate from Ararat (in modern-day Turkey) and become well-established in the Los Angeles area in a very short time. This is part of the broader biogeographical problem of YEC — kangaroos all migrated to Australia (exactly where kangaroo fossils were deposited by the flood) and didn’t leave any stragglers behind, African animals all migrated to Africa, western North American animals (again, as evidenced in the fossil record) all knew to migrate to western North America, and so forth.
- Sedimentation — All of this migration and fossilization happened while residual catastrophism was occurring, which in many places meant the deposition of many hundreds of meters of sediments!
In the second-to-last paragraph, the YEC explanation for the La Brea fossils goes from bad to worse:
Uplift of the nearby Santa Monica Mountains and associated earthquakes could have instantly changed river directions and the levels of the land surface, setting local floods in motion. Rapid melting of the glaciers at the end of the Ice Age could have also contributed catastrophic outpourings of floodwaters from the mountains, depositing animal remains in the process. Close-spaced catastrophic events likely continued until Earth reached the relatively stable balance we now experience.
I was quite surprised to see the authors propose that melting of glaciers could have contributed to the formation of the sediments of La Brea. The sediments of these deposits were clearly derived from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, which in that area presently do not exceed 1500 feet (460 m) in elevation. There is absolutely zero evidence that the Santa Monica Mountains were ever glaciated. A few small glaciers may have existed above 10,000 feet (3050 m) in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains during the Pleistocene, but it needs to be emphasized that these were small glaciers, and that the sediments of La Brea did not come from these ranges.
The authors conclude with a typical YEC overstatement:
The better explanation for the fossils in the La Brea tar pits matches perfectly with the biblical perspective of recent creation.
The authors have certainly not demonstrated that their residual catastrophism model can explain the La Brea fossil assemblages or their enclosing sediments. Like much of what is presented by the YECs, it is not necessary biblically, nor valid scientifically.
Grace and Peace
In 2012, I reviewed a previous Acts & Facts article by Morris: Young-Earth creationism and the intensity of volcanism. Morris tried to show that the intensity of volcanism has been decreasing ever since the flood, but he did so through choosing eruptions that matched his premise, and then ignoring many thousands of other eruptions.
Also in 2012, I got involved in a discussion about the La Brea Tar Pits with young-Earth creationist Jay Wile on his Proslogion blog. Dr. Wile was advocating for the La Brea Tar Pits being formed during Noah’s flood rather than after the deluge, while I gave a number of reasons why neither the flood explanation nor the post-flood explanation worked. See A Large, Detailed Study Confirms Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction.
In 2012, two old-Earth Christian geologists gave a presentation at the General Assembly (annual meeting) of the Presbyterian Church in America. Gregg Davidson is a professor of geology at the University of Mississippi, and Ken Wolgemuth is an oil industry consultant, and their presentation was entitled “The PCA Creation Study Committee a Dozen Years Later: What Does Science Say Now?”
The PCA is a theologically conservative denomination, holding to biblical inerrancy, as well as conservative positions on a number of other issues. Like a majority of denominations that hold to biblical inerrancy, the PCA does not take a position on the age of the Earth. There are large numbers of scholars, pastors, and elders within the PCA who believe the Bible teaches a young Earth, and large numbers who believe the Bible does not require a young Earth.
In the 1990s, the PCA created a committee to address the issues surrounding origins, such as the age of the Earth and biological evolution. The committee released its Report of the Creation Study Committee in 2000. This is a fairly balanced document, outlining the biblical arguments in favor of young-Earth creationism alongside those for three old-Earth biblical interpretations.
However, some young-Earth creationists within the PCA were outraged that the denomination would include these old-Earth Christians at the General Assembly. There were those who were upset that any old-Earther would be give the floor in a General Assembly seminar, others who were angry because of perceived ties between the speakers and the theistic evolution (a.k.a. evolutionary creation) organization BioLogos, and others who merely asked why equal time was not given to young-Earthers.
I see that this year’s General Assembly has a YEC seminar, as well as a YEC exhibitor. Here’s the description for the YEC seminar:
Astronomy Reveals Creation
Seminar Speaker: Dr. Jason Lisle, Director of Research, Institute for Creation Research
Critics of the Bible have often attempted to use the methods of science to persuade others that the Bible is not trustworthy. We are told that the universe is a cosmic accident—a “big bang” followed by billions of years of evolutionary processes. However, these attempts to discredit biblical creation do not stand up to rational scrutiny. The science of astronomy confirms that the Bible is true. In this highly visual presentation, astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle shows powerful scientific evidence that confirms that our universe is not an accident, but has been designed and created by God as the Bible teaches in Genesis. The Christian can be encouraged that the Word of God is absolutely trustworthy on all matters. This includes not only matters of theology and morality, but matters of science and history as well.
The Institute for Creation Research will have a booth in the exhibition hall.
I pray for unity, clarity, faithfulness, love, grace, and peace within the denomination in regards to this sometimes divisive issue.
Grace and Peace
If my recollection is correct, one of the presenters was unable to be at last year’s seminar, though he had been scheduled.
Davidson and Wolgemuth are available as speakers for seminaries, Bible schools, and other organizations through Solid Rock Lectures.
I wrote about the 2012 General Assembly here: PCA General Assembly includes a seminar on the age of the Earth. Here are some quotes and comments I found at the time from blogs advocating YEC-only within the PCA:
“there appears to be a move to kick Young Earth Creationists out of the PCA tent.”
“the assault on biblical creationism will most assuredly destroy your denomination.”
“After reading the description of the anti-YEC Seminar, I was so rattled spiritually and emotionally that I could barely concentrate for the rest of the day.”
“I won’t be attending the actual Seminar. I don’t trust my ability to be gracious and to play well with others in that setting, not to mention to keep my head from exploding.”
“Can someone invite a YEC scientist, with credentials, to attend the seminar and raise objections to the so-called “evidence” that will be presented?”
Davidson and seven other PCA geologists have written an article entitled PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth which was published in Modern Reformation magazine in 2010. YEC geologist and PCA church member John Reed wrote a response which is posted on the Answers in Genesis website.
Yesterday on the Answers in Genesis website, Ken Ham encouraged people to take “the dinosaur quiz” and to let him know on his Facebook page how we have used this quiz to help “rescue our kids.” I guess I took him seriously, so I posted a comment on his Facebook page:
This morning, my comment was gone.
I am sure Answers in Genesis has to delete many comments from their Facebook page — obscenity, mocking, false accusations, and so forth. My comment was certainly in none of those categories. Nor was it self-promotion; there are plenty of other comments pointing people to YEC websites.
I guess AiG does not want respectful dialog. Perhaps they do not want their flock to see alternative biblical answers in Genesis from someone else who believes the Bible from the very first verse.
Grace and Peace (especially to all my young-Earth creationist brothers and sisters in Christ)
P.S. I previously wrote about the dinosaur quiz here: More on the Answers in Genesis 4th grade dinosaur quiz.
Here is a quiz on “Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel” given to fourth graders at a South Carolina Christian school:
The quiz was based on material from Answers in Genesis.
Atheists and skeptics, of course, have made much of this quiz since it was first posted on the internet a few weeks ago. Christians are obviously a bunch of morons, liars, brainwashers, idiots, and so forth. For a couple of examples, read Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School by PZ Meyers or South Carolina creationist science quiz is real on Daily Kos.
The atheists are wrong; Christians are not idiots. But Answers in Genesis is wrong as well, in that young-Earth creationism gives the skeptics a tragically easy reason to reject Christian truth.
Here’s how I would answer the 4th grade quiz, with red X‘s on the answers the teacher would have marked as incorrect:
X — True. The opening statement of the Bible — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” — is not necessarily included in the six days of creation, so the earth could have been created in 4000 B.C., 4,000,000 B.C., or 4,000,000,000 B.C.
X — True. Dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
1/2 X — The 6th day. But is God’s day the same as our day? Moses himself indicates flexibility on this question in Psalm 90.
X — False. The Bible does not say that dinosaurs lived with people, and there is plenty of geological evidence that they did not.
X — The Bible says that animals and humans in the Garden of Eden ate plants, but states that the world outside of the garden was a wild place in need of subduing. Carnivores outside of the garden ate meat.
X — None of the above. Maybe a hippopotamus. A brachiosaurus wouldn’t have fed on grass like an ox, and could not have hidden in the lotus plants and reeds in the marshes along the Jordan River.
I don’t know what happened to #8-10. I probably would have gotten them wrong.
X — There are multiple history books of the universe. The Bible tells us about the origin of the universe, but it doesn’t give us much in the way of details. What it tells us is true, but what it tells us and what the young-Earth creationists tell us that it tells us are two different things. For example, Genesis 1 tells us that God made the stars, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the processes he used to accomplish this act. For that, I would turn to books about astronomy and nuclear chemistry. Genesis 1 also tells us that God said “Let the land produce living creatures,” which implies some sort of process without stating what that process was. I would turn to books about biology and geology to learn about the history of those living creatures and the processes by which they came about. (I apologize, Teacher, that this answer did not fit on the little line).
False. I think just about everyone would agree that Noah’s ark didn’t look like that.
X — I took Vertebrate Paleontology a long time ago at Montana State, but I would really have had to guess on this one. I would have had guessed b. rhino.
X — None of the above. The Bible does not say that Noah’s Flood deposited the sedimentary rock record along with its fossils. None of the other answers are things that in themselves would produce fossils.
X — Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms from the past that are preserved in Earth’s crust. There are patterns in how they are preserved that indicate that they were not produced by one, brief, cataclysmic process.
X — I agree that Earth is billions of years old. To say that it is only 6000 years old is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible.
My grade from a YEC’s perspective: 4.5/15 = 30%. F
Conclusion: With a Biblical and scientific foundation like this, no doubt some of these kids are “Already Gone.”
Grace and peace
|For an update, including my answers to the missing quiz questions, see More on the Answers in Genesis 4th grade dinosaur quiz|
Around the web 5/17/2013 — A Christian leader who is really a Baal worshiper, Old-Earth Christian homeschooling, and more…
TO REJECT YEC IS LIKE BAAL WORSHIP? — If you don’t agree with Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, you are a compromiser. You might even be a closet Baal worshiper. Mr. Ham recently singled out Hank Hanegraff (who is “The Bible Answer Man” on the radio) as a compromiser because he doesn’t believe that leviathan and behemoth (in Job 40-41) were something like a plesiosaur and a brachiosaurus, respectively. Ham equates Hanegraff’s “compromise” with the Israelite’s worship of Baal, and states that The Bible Answer Man is attacking and undermining the authority of God’s infallible word by accepting an old Earth and rejecting the YEC reading of dinosaurs into the Bible.
I’m not making this up. If you don’t believe that dinosaurs are in the Bible, you are a compromiser.
I’ve written about the YEC “dinosaurs in the Bible” invention previously: The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?
THE NEED FOR OLD-EARTH HOMESCHOOLING — From Christianity Today: A New Creation Story: Why do more homeschoolers want evolution in their textbooks?
“Many homeschool parents contact me or show up at my office and quietly say, ‘Is there anything besides [YEC]?’ ” said Kenneth Turner, a theology professor at the traditionally YEC [Bryan] college who homeschools.
(It is interesting that Bryan College is a YEC school, while William Jennings Bryan was an old-Earther).
GLOBAL WARMING AND JESUS’ SECOND COMING – Climate Change Study: Religious Belief In Second Coming Of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action. This doesn’t surprise me, given the “disposable Earth” attitude toward the environment of many conservative Evangelicals. Like young-Earth creationism, this attitude towards the Earth is neither Biblically correct nor scientifically valid.
SAUDI ARABIA ON MY DOORSTEP — The Bakken is booming. Companies line up to drill after survey shows Dakota oil, gas fields far bigger than believed.
“These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday in a statement.
The new U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 7.4 billion barrels of oil, 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in the Williston Basin Province of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Answers in Genesis had its first ever live chat on Facebook today, where people could discuss the article When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History with one of the authors. Unfortunately, the author who chatted was the editor of Answers magazine, Mike Matthews, not Andrew Snelling, AiG’s geologist. The basic idea of the article is that the entire Pleistocene Epoch can be compressed into a 250-year period between 2250 and 2000 B.C.
In case you missed it, I reviewed this article last week: The Pleistocene is not in the Bible.
The chat is on Facebook at
Here are a few excerpts from the chat. I was the first person to ask a question.
I commented on some other people’s questions:
Sara is a geology student somewhere, and is a young-Earth creationist. I pray that her faith will remain intact through the process of getting a geological education:
One GeoChristian reader was also at the chat, and asked a couple good questions:
The chat was mostly respectful, though there were a few skeptics who dropped by:
My question on Yellowstone volcanism and glaciation hadn’t been answered and the chat time was almost over, so I prompted for a response:
I never did really get an answer beyond, “this is a matter of ongoing research.”
Dialog is good. The people at Answers in Genesis are my brothers and Sisters in Christ, and I love them. I just think they are wrong.
Grace and Peace
Many leading Christian apologists—an apologist is one who makes a reasoned defense for the faith—are old-Earth Christians. They hold firmly to the truthfulness and reliability of the Scriptures, but reject the hyperliteralism of the young-Earth creationist movement. One such scholar is J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology.
In the book Three Views on Creation and Evolution (edited by Moreland and John Mark Reynolds), Moreland offered the following advice to young-Earth creationists:
Suppose we are interpreting some biblical text and we have hermeneutical option A and option B. Suppose further, that on exegetical grounds alone, we compare the text with other portions of Scripture and find that (1) A and B are both plausible, that is, within the bounds of reason exegetically speaking; and (2) A is superior to B. Now suppose further that B harmonizes Scripture with what we have pretty good reason to believe is true outside the Bible, but A flies in the face of these extrabiblical factors. In short, B solves external conceptual problems. Then, in my view, it is hermeneutically permissible to adopt B as the correct interpretation of a text.
In this scenario, we can let the young-Earth “literal” 24-hour calendar day interpretation be option A and various old-Earth interpretations be option B. Some young-Earth creationists acknowledge that old-Earth interpretations are possible, but they think the young-Earth interpretation is better. If the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture were superior and the scientific evidence pointed to a young Earth, then I would be a young-Earth creationist. As it is, however, there are old-Earth interpretations that work well (I like the analogical days interpretation, perhaps with elements of the day-age interpretation tacked on) and are well within the bounds of good hermeneutics and Christian orthodoxy; and young-Earth science fails miserably. I am quite comfortable, therefore, with being an old-Earth Christian.
Elsewhere, Moreland has stated,
Now, when it comes to the days of Genesis…I’m of the view on this that while we ought not allow science to dictate to us our exegesis of the Old Testament, nevertheless, if there is an interpretation of the Old Testament that is exegetically permissible– that is, an old age interpretation; that is to say, if you can find conservative, inerrantist, evangelical Old Testament scholars that say that the interpretation of this text that treats the days of Genesis as unspecified periods of time, and that is a completely permissible thing to do on exegetical grounds alone, then my view is that that is a permissible option if it harmonizes the text with science because that option can be justified exegetically, independent of science.
To believe that the Bible allows for millions of years is not something forced on the text from the outside. One can make a strong case for biblical ambiguity regarding the age of the Earth without any references to geology or astronomy. We can add J.P. Moreland to the long list of old-Earth biblical scholars.
Grace and Peace
One group of biblical scholars who recognized that there is more than one way to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis was the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. They wrote the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which gives a standard definition of what is and isn’t meant by “inerrancy.” Many of the scholars who wrote this document were themselves young-Earth creationists, but they recognized that there are other valid options, and that YEC is not an essential part of the Christian doctrine of Scripture. The vote to leave young-Earth language out of the document was almost unanimous.
Another group of theologically conservative scholars who recognized that old-Earth interpretations are possible, even though many of them are themselves YECs, are those who served on the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Creation Study Committee. Their report gives an excellent overview of the young-Earth and various old-Earth interpretations.
Young-Earth creationists (YECs) attempt to squeeze most of the geological record into the brief span of Noah’s flood, even though the Bible does not state that the flood was responsible for Earth’s sedimentary rocks, and does not even require that the flood covered the entire Earth (read more here and here). There is an important exception to this, however. Glacial sediments and other deposits of the Pleistocene Epoch—the “ice age” —are usually considered to be post-flood deposits by YECs.
Answers in Genesis recently published an article by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?” It begins with a true statement:
“The Bible doesn’t say, ‘And then there was an Ice Age.’”
If the authors had stopped right there, they would have written a great article. The Bible does not teach us about ice ages any more than it teaches us about genetics or chemistry. But they did continue, and the result is another bad answer from Answers in Genesis. As blogger James McGrath noted in regards to this article:
I continue to wonder whether the folks at AiG are working to make Christianity look as foolish as possible, even while claiming their aim is to promote it.
Like much else in YEC geological thinking, there are many problems with this article. The geological, paleontological, and archeological records left by Pleistocene Epoch events and organisms are both detailed and complex; and difficult—or impossible—to compress into the suggested YEC timetable. A simpler solution would be to stick to what the Bible actually says about ice ages, which is nothing at all. The whole idea that the ice ages can be tucked into a 250-year period following Noah’s flood is an unnecessary imposition on the text of Scripture, and scientifically indefensible.
SUMMARY OF THE ARTICLE
A good way to summarize the paper by Snelling and Matthews is by presenting the timeline given in the article and accompanying poster:
- 2350 B.C. – Noah’s flood
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — First human tools in archeological record. Tower of Babel.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of the Ice age. Abram born.
The authors give a variety of “Bible facts,” “geological facts,” and “archeological facts” to support the timeline.
A SHORT LIST OF WHAT WOULD NEED TO BE FORCED INTO 250 YEARS (THE LIST COULD BE MUCH LONGER)
Here is a brief summary of events one would have to squeeze into a 250-year long ice age:
Formation and melting of ice caps. According to the YECs, the ice ages would have begun with the accumulation of ice several kilometers thick over much of North America and Northern Europe, as well as ice caps over many mountain ranges elsewhere in the world. YECs propose that there was extreme snowfall in polar areas during the first part of the ice age. In order to form a 3000 meter thick ice cap over North America, as much as 30 kilometers of dry powdery snow would need to accumulate and compact (powder snow has a density about 1/10 that of glacial ice). Less snow would be required if it were not powder snow, but powder snow is a good assumption based on modern precipitation over ice caps. If the continental glaciers took 100 years to form, this would be 300 meters of snowfall per year. Not only would the ice need to accumulate in a short amount of time, it would need to do a tremendous amount of erosion and deposition to create Earth’s diverse glacial landscapes, and then entirely melt away, perhaps in a few decades. YECs have a hot-ocean proposal for causing the intense precipitation; I have not read their proposal for melting the ice in only a few decades.
Multiple glaciations. Geologists believe that there have been multiple periods of glaciation during the Pleistocene (such as the Wisconsinan, Illinoian, and various pre-Illinoian glaciations), separated by warm interglacial periods. YECs advocate that there was just one ice age, perhaps with some fluctuations along the margins of the ice sheets. If there were only one glaciation, something had to happen that would make geologists think that there were multiple periods of continental and alpine glaciation. The evidence for multiple advances and retreats of the continental ice sheets includes deposition of non-glacial sediments such as wind-blown loess in between glacial till layers, presence of volcanic ash layers and well-developed soils between glacial deposits, and temperate forest fossils deposited between layers of glacial sediments. YECs either ignore this evidence, or state that there must be some alternative explanation, but the evidence is clear: there was not just one ice age.
Ancient soils. There are many places where soil layers formed during the Pleistocene, including instances where there are multiple, stacked paleosols, like in the Palouse Loess of Eastern Washington. Some exposures of the silty, wind-borne Palouse deposits have as many as nineteen well-developed ancient soils stacked on top of each other, implying alternating periods of silt accumulation and soil development, each of which would take time. The soil horizons include animal burrows and root casts, which indicate the passage of time. The paleosols in areas of dryer climate in the Palouse contain typical semiarid soil features such as petrocalcic horizons (a calcite-cemented layer at depth within the soil), which form in the advanced stages of the soil forming process.
Supervolcanoes. Some of the “supervolcano” eruptions that occurred during the Pleistocene of the western United States were one to two thousand times greater in volume than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The distal volcanic ash deposits from the Yellowstone Caldera, which had three separate massive eruptions, covered much of the United States, and undoubtedly had global effects. These ash deposits are interbedded with glacial deposits in the central United States and southern Canada, so at least some of the eruptions had to occur between periods of maximum glaciation. But there’s more:
- There were less dramatic, but sometimes still enormous, lava flow eruptions before, between, and after the three caldera eruptions. For example, long after the third supervolcano eruption, the caldera filled in stages with approximately 1000 cubic kilometers of rhyolitic lava.
- After all of these caldera eruptions, as well as after the massive rhyolite eruptions that occurred after them, the Yellowstone Plateau became covered by an ice cap of its own. When did this happen in the YEC calendar?
- Not only was there an ice cap that formed after the final volcanic activity in Yellowstone, there are glacial deposits that are older than some of the volcanic rocks. Therefore, the YECs somehow have to explain a sequence of smaller eruptions–supervolcano–smaller eruptions–supervolcano–smaller eruptions–supervolcano–glaciation–smaller eruptions–glaciation, all in 250 years.
- It wasn’t just Yellowstone. Other Pleistocene supervolcanoes include Long Valley Caldera in California, Valles Caldera in New Mexico, Taupo in New Zealand, and Toba in Indonesia. According to this YEC ice age model, all of these had to erupt between 2250 and 2000 B.C.!
Hyperevolution. According to the YECs, there was very rapid diversification of life forms after the flood. There may have been a few thousand “kinds” of animals on Noah’s Ark, but these evolved into the tens of thousands of species that were on Earth during the Pleistocene (I’m just thinking of vertebrates). An example mentioned in the article is the diversification of the “elephant kind” into elephants, mastodons, and woolly mammoths. How many generations would this have taken? This all happened between 2350 and 2200 B.C., an evolutionary explosion that would make your average punctuated equilibrium advocate blush. This is especially true for mastodons, who have a very different tooth structure from that of elephants and mammoths.
Human prehistory. The YEC ice age model compresses all of human prehistory—Neanderthals, paleolithic, neolithic, and all ancient history before 2000 B.C—into the time from the flood (2350 B.C according to their time chart) to Abraham (2000 B.C.). It looks on their poster like the Neanderthals were around for roughly 100 years. The YECs have to completely ignore archeological sites with multiple levels of habitation.
Human expansion. Humans had to multiply, differentiate into races, and migrate from Ararat and Mesopotamia to the entire world in 250 years. The poster’s timeline has humans entering Australia around 2150 B.C. and North America around 2100 B.C. This happened while supervolcanoes were erupting and either snow was accumulating by tens to hundreds of meters per year over parts of North America, or the landscape was being flooded by rapidly melting ice sheets. No wonder the boy to the right is running!
ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS WITH THE ARTICLE
1. “As a massive ice sheet expanded over Canada, it drove out most living things, and then it continued to push south into the Ohio valley.”
According to this YEC ice age scenario, Northern Hemisphere glaciation started about one hundred years after Noah’s flood. At the beginning of the YEC ice age, the surface of Canada and the Ohio Valley would have been mostly barren, with little vegetation and even fewer animals, as they would have had to multiply and migrate from Noah’s Ark. However, there is an abundant and complex fossil record—of both animals and plants—from the time before continental glaciers appeared on North America. There is a continuity in the fossil record from Pliocene to Pleistocene flora and fauna that is completely inconsistent with the YEC story.
2. “During the Ice Age the earth’s landscapes, forests, and grasslands bore little resemblance to our own.”
As a matter of fact, the types of landscapes and biomes in the ice ages were very similar to those present on Earth today, they were just all compressed toward the equator. Moving from northern Canada to Central America during the Pleistocene, one would have transited ice caps, tundra, boreal forests, temperate forests or grasslands, subtropical forests or deserts, and tropical forests, just like today. The locations of these would have been different—further south in general—but the plants and animals would have been very similar, minus a few well-known species that have gone extinct, such as mastodons and sabre-toothed cats.
3. “The Bible gives us an inerrant chronology for marking historical events. It tells exactly how many human generations passed from the Flood to Abraham’s birth: eight.”
I agree that Genesis is describing real historical events, such as Noah’s flood, the Tower of Babel, and the life of Abraham. I disagree with the interpretation that the flood was global, as well as the idea that it had anything to do with the formation of the geological record. The Bible is completely silent on the topic of glaciation or ice ages.
The issue of whether or not the genealogies in Genesis were meant to be complete is a matter for debate. At the most, the chronologies in Genesis might give us a timetable for Noah’s flood, which I believe was a local flood, though one that seemed universal to Noah. Many conservative Bible scholars (and even prominent YECs such as the late Henry Morris) believe that the biblical chronologies are more flexible. It is a huge and unjustifiable leap to go from this timetable to inserting a massive ice age into a 250-year period.
4. “Apart from Antarctica and a few high mountain chains, sediments deposited before the Ice Age do not show signs of cold-weather environments or ice sheet activity. Indeed, the world appears to have been a pretty balmy place until the Ice Age.”
This paragraph refers to a period of 100 years. That is one hundred years for Earth’s surface to recover from the flood, soils to form, plants to disperse (somehow temperate North American plant seeds all end up in temperate parts of North America, Asian plants ended up in Asia, etc.), ecological succession to occur at various locations, animals to multiply and migrate to their appropriate biomes and continents from their starting point in Turkey (kangaroos somehow knew to hop to Australia, where pre-ice age kangaroo fossils are found), all while volcanoes were erupting, hyper-hurricanes were brewing, and hundreds of meters (in some cases) of Pleistocene sediments were depositing.
5. So it is reasonable to conclude that the start of the Ice Age in the Northern Hemisphere (the Pleistocene) roughly coincides with the Babel judgment, around a century or so after the Flood (perhaps 2250 BC).
No it isn’t. Look again at the serious geological problems I outlined above. The Bible is not about the Pleistocene.
6. “The Bible mentions that some very important cities were established by Abraham’s day and continued to thrive throughout Old Testament times.”
“In no case do these settlements, including Ur, date as early as the end of the Ice Age. At the time of Ur’s settlement it was a port city on the Persian Gulf, but this gulf did not even exist during the Ice Age.”
When Abraham was born in Ur, migrated to Haran, and then to Canaan—with a side trip to Egypt—these were all homes to well-established civilizations with long histories and sizable populations. Nothing in the Bible or archeology hints otherwise. The city states of Mesopotamia were not just getting settled after a few hundred years of geological chaos. The Mesopotamian plain was pretty much the way it had been described back in Genesis 2, without a catastrophic makeover. Abraham was firmly planted in the flow of human history, which had been going on for a few millenia before him.
7. “Archaeologists have found thousands of campsites and small settlements where Noah’s descendants lived after the Babel dispersion during the Ice Age. These early pioneers were daring explorers and settlers, quickly reaching as far as Australia and the Americas.”
These settlements and campsites have a complex history, with many signs of long-term use, often with multiple levels of occupation that cannot be crunched down to the YEC time scale.
8. “The Bible does not reveal much about the biology and geology of the Ice Age,”
I’ll say an “Amen” to that…
“but it does tell us about the languages, culture, and migrations of the people of that time.”
The Bible says a good amount about the languages, culture, and migrations of people in the ancient Near East—the nations listed in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10—but it does not go beyond that.
9. “Various species of the saber-tooth cat (such as Smilodon fatalis) began appearing as the Ice Age got underway, though not in the areas first settled by humans. The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) did not appear until later, but as the cold increased and grasslands spread across northern Asia and North America, its numbers quickly filled the grassy plains.”
This is YEC hyperevolution in action. Again, how many generations did it take to get from “cat kind” to lions, tigers, jaguars, cougars, sabre-toothed cats, and house cats?
10. “Another interesting development during the Ice Age was the appearance of Neanderthal people, whose range was restricted to Europe and the Near East. Like all other humans, they were descendants of the people who scattered from Babel. Their remains do not appear until the middle of the Ice Age, and they disappeared as the glaciers reached their maximum and the cold, dry weather reached its worst.”
As I already mentioned, the Neanderthals would have lasted for about 100 years. In this time frame the YECs have to compress the various Neanderthal morphologies, as well as signs that various tool technologies developed in one area and spread to other areas. Many Neanderthal archeological sites have multiple levels of occupancy, which is difficult to cram into 100 years.
11. “Sometime after the demise of Neanderthal people, the first “stone age” villages begin appearing all over the Old World. We find them by the thousands, in some instances spread over several acres, and apparently predating any “cities” we know of.”
Again, the YECs are compressing thousands of years of history into a century. If the demise of the Neanderthals was in 2100 B.C., then the entire Neolithic, with its “stone age villages,” lasted from 2100 to 2000 B.C. At the end of this brief stone age, there were full-blown city states in Mesopotamia.
12. “We also know from the fossil record that they faced constant flooding, dust storms, supervolcanoes, massive earthquakes, meteorites, and downpours of snow or rain on a scale never before seen.”
We know from the geological record (not the fossil record as much) that the Pleistocene had times of flooding but also times of dryness, times of dust storms (loess deposits) but also times of landscape stability (soil formation), and supervolcanoes, but also soil development and other geological processes between eruptions.
But we do not know any of this from the Biblical record! Perhaps that is a sign that the Bible is not about the Pleistocene after all.
Whatever the relationship is between the Bible and the ice ages, this is not it. Fortunately there are better ways to think about the Pleistocene Epoch in relation to the Bible.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Bible says nothing about ice ages.
If one is convinced from the Bible that Earth must be young there are some good alternatives:
- One could possibly say, “I don’t know when the ice age occurred.” That would be better than presenting bad science as Christian apologetics.
- One could allow there to be a tension between “I believe the Bible teaches a young Earth” and “Science seems to tell a story of an old Earth.” That might not be intellectually satisfying to many of us, but it would also be better than presenting bad science as Christian apologetics.
- One could say that there is only an appearance of age; that this is all part of what God created in the beginning. That raises interesting theological questions, but this too would be better than presenting bad science as Christian apologetics.
- At a minimum, I would hope that YECs would be willing to budge a bit on the chronological certainty proclaimed by some leading YEC writers and speakers. Henry Morris was willing to do this. This would help YECs to avoid what appears to the rest of us as chronological absurdities, such as Neanderthals existing for only a century between 2200 and 2100 B.C.
There are good old-Earth alternatives that I hope young-Earth creationists would consider:
- There is the old-Earth creationism of Hugh Ross. The science of the Pleistocene and earlier ages stays intact, and he advocates the unity of the human race including the Tower of Babel. This would be far better than presenting the bad science of YEC as Christian apologetics.
- There are those who advocate non-concordism, the idea that there isn’t a whole lot of overlap between Genesis and geology. Many of these scholars hold to Biblical inerrancy. Some of them don’t (C.S. Lewis for example) but are still well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This would also be far better than the hyperliteralism that leads to hyperevolutionary YEC being presented as Christian apologetics.
The geological problems that confront the YEC ice age scenarios are the same as those that plague all of YEC flood geology: Too many events, too little time. In the span of a few centuries, soils develop, forests grow, animals migrate from Ararat to the entire Earth, animals evolve at a very fast rate, the Antarctic ice cap forms, Earth is plunged into an ice age, supervolcanoes erupt, supervolcanoes erupt again, and again, an ice cap forms over Yellowstone (I guess it cooled down rather quickly), humans migrate everywhere in a time of geological chaos, all the ice melts, and Abraham arrives on the scene in a setting where it seems like none of this happened!
It simply isn’t in the Bible, and it doesn’t work scientifically
My fear in writing a critique like this is that someone who has been steeped in YEC ideology will have their faith crushed when they see that an important aspect of YEC does not work. They have been taught that if YEC isn’t true, then neither the Bible nor Christianity is true. This is a false dichotomy. Christianity does not need to be propped up by faulty apologetics. Christianity—and the truthfulness of the Bible—is not dependent on the YEC chronology. There are and have been many Christians who reject YEC and who are thoroughly orthodox in their beliefs, such as Charles Spurgeon, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, and J.I. Packer. Many of Christianity’s leading defenders, such as C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, Norman Geisler, and William Lane Craig accept an old Earth.
My other fear is that no one would write a critique like this. Bad apologetics—and there is little doubt that YEC is bad apologetics—can cause believers to abandon their faith (hence many of our youth are “already gone”), and put an unnecessary stumbling block before non-Christians who might otherwise be open to the gospel.
My wish is that nothing I have written be taken as an attack against the authors or any other YEC.
With love for the church,
Grace and Peace
I quoted blogger James McGrath (“I continue to wonder whether the folks at AiG are working to make Christianity look as foolish as possible…”). McGrath is right on this, but in another case I sided with Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham against McGrath:
- The GeoChristian — Ken Ham and I are in complete agreement
- Ken Ham — Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?
I would rather get the gospel right and geology wrong than get geology right and the gospel wrong!
According to Collins and Collins, Snelling believes the ice over North America was only 700 meters thick rather than up to 3000 meters thick as glaciologists believe. This thinner ice sheet would not have had the same dynamics as a thicker ice sheet, meaning that it would not have spread as rapidly (and YECs like things to move along quickly), and would have had different patterns of erosion and deposition than what is observed in the landforms and deposits of the glaciated areas. They also report that other papers by Vardiman, Snelling, and Oard suggest that the ice age lasted between 500 and 700 years. That doesn’t help the YEC cause much. There are still too many events, too little time.
I have critiqued work by Dr. Andrew Snelling before:
Since I spent some time discussing Yellowstone volcanism, I’ll mention that some YECs argue that volcanism hit a peak during the flood, and has been tapering off since then. The Institute for Creation Research published an article entitled Volcanoes of the Past, which I critiqued last year in Young-Earth creationism and the intensity of volcanism.
The excellent blog Naturalis Historia has a post on the Toba supervolcano, which erupted a volume of 2800 km3 of tephra about 74,000 years ago. Ash deposits from this eruption lie on top of human artifacts in India. In the YEC ice age chronology, that means that the Toba eruption had to occur after the Tower of Babel, so some time after 2250 B.C.
Neanderthals or Neandertals? I used the spelling used by Snelling and Matthews.
The Northern Hemisphere glaciation map is from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Northern_icesheet_hg.png, and is based on a USGS map.
The reference to 19 paleosols in the Palouse Loess is from Busacca, 1989, Long quaternary record in eastern Washington, U.S.A., interpreted from multiple buried paleosols in loess, Geoderma 45, pp. 105-122. Dr. Busacca was on my M.S. committee in graduate school, and I worked on volcanic ash layers in the paleosols in the Palouse Loess for my research project.
The reference to older glaciation in Yellowstone can be found at
Around the web — 4/7/2013 — Archean jellyfish? Homeschool uncritical thinking? An atheist’s journey!
Jellied jellyfish — The cover of the April 2013 Journal of Creation has a picture of a jellyfish, with a caption that states “Fossil Jellyfish from Western Australia: Challenging Geological Chronology.” The article is “Fossil jellyfish from the Pilbara, Western Australia” by Philip Worts. The article is not available online yet, but I assume there is a claim that the Archean rocks of the Pilbara Craton—which contain what many believe to be Earth’s oldest known bacteria fossils—contain jellyfish fossils as well. I haven’t read the article so I cannot comment on that aspect.
What is harder to believe, that jellyfish got preserved in quiet, oxygen-poor sedimentary environments, or that somehow the carcasses of these fragile creatures stayed intact in the abrasive sediment-rich slurry that the YECs propose for Noah’s flood?
More unsalty salt — Last week I wrote a critique of a young-Earth creationist proposal that evaporites (rock salt, gypsum, etc.) were formed during Noah’s flood by crystallization from “salt magma.” Now there is a homeschool study guide to go along with the salt magma YouTube video. Most homeschooled kids won’t be harmed by this, but those who do any critical thinking or investigation about the video could be at risk of being “already gone.” This is especially true when they are presented with the false dichotomy of “if YEC isn’t true, then Christianity isn’t true.”
Atheist to deist to Christian — Christianity Today has the story of Jordan Monge: The Atheist’s Dilemma: I tried to face down an overwhelming body of evidence, as well as the living God.
But never once did I have to sacrifice my intellect for my faith.
It was the only rational course of action.
Persecution of Christians continues – Secular Sweden Sees No Problem in Sending Christian Converts Back to Iran?
What is worse, a toy or a bloody conquest? — Lego drops Jabba toy after Muslims complain — So, it’s bad that this Lego set has a building that sort of looks like a mosque in Istanbul, but it is just fine that the Turks invaded the Christian Byzantine Empire, and converted its greatest church, the Hagia Sophia, into that mosque?
Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
The empty tomb — Here are 14 Evidences for the Resurrection. This is a central teaching of Christianity. Put all other issues aside for a while—questions about evolution, biblical inerrancy, gay rights, or whatever else keeps you from Christ—and give some thought to the most significant person in all of history: the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The result is a very strong case that Jesus (a) died, (b) was buried, (c) rose from the dead, and (d) appeared alive to a variety of persons.
Wasps spoil YEC picnic — Naturalis Historia describes wasp cocoons found in dinosaur egg fossils.
Young earth creationists paint a picture of half-crazed dinosaurs running around to escape the next giant wave washing new layers of sediments over the world and laying nests in barren sand layers and then running off to try to find higher ground. What we find in this nest contradicts everything about this explanation. Here we find that a well-organized preserved nest in which one of the broken eggs has these cocoons preserved in it.
The YECs might respond with their “They only look like wasp cocoons” tactic. That doesn’t help them; dinosaur nests simply do not fit into their flood geology model.
Richard Dawkins practices survival of the fittest — Dawkins is quite willing to tell the Arabic newschannel Al-Jazeera that the the God of the Old Testament is a hideous monster, but didn’t have anything bad to say about Allah in the Quran. Perhaps he hates Christianity worse than he hates Islam. Perhaps he wants to live a little longer. See In defense of Richard Dawkins.
Don’t worship the Bible — C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen has some good thoughts about Evangelicals, inerrancy, and the Bible — The Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.
Persecution of Christianity continues – Bible Burning Spreads to Another Former Soviet State. “The newest report on Kazakhstan suggests that a recent court order to ‘destroy’ 121 books (mostly Bibles) confiscated from a Baptist could be the first-ever religious book burning in the country.”
Persecution of Christianity questioned — CNN posted a story today – Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians? — that reported nothing new to anyone who has actually read church history. Official persecution of Christians by the Romans was sporadic, and most Christians in the Roman Empire never faced a real threat of martyrdom. But when the Romans did move into action against Christians (e.g. Nero), they could be quite brutal. Like today, however, there could be a lot of social pressure against becoming a Christian.
Landsat 8 — The Landsat Data Continuity Mission has released the first images taken by the satellite. It will be renamed Landsat 8 once it has completed all of its tests and calibrations. See First View from the New Landsat Satellite on the NASA Earth Observatory site.
Grace and Peace
On my most recent “Around the web” post, I stated that I would be writing a longer response to the young-Earth creationist (YEC) proposal that salt deposits (usually referred to as evaporites) were actually formed through igneous processes rather than being precipitated from seawater. This may not be that longer response. Instead, it is a quick review of Stef Heerema’s article published in the Journal of Creation in 2009 (A magmatic model for the origin of large salt formations) and his more recent You Tube video defending and expanding on this hypothesis. What is really needed is a comprehensive overview of the formation of evaporites in the context of the young-Earth/old-Earth debate, and as I said, this is not it.
This proposal was brought to my attention when I read an endorsement of it from YEC geologist Tas Walker. On his BiblicalGeology blog, Walker wrote:
[Heerema's] research shows that the salt pillars around the world are elegantly explained by the interaction of a melted salt magma with the waters of the worldwide Flood.
I like Stef’s model, and think it is far superior to the uniformitarian attempt to explain the evidence, which I was taught at university in my geology course. That model hypothesizes that hundreds of kilometres of seawater evaporated slowly in an enormous, shallow, secluded area of the coast, over millions of years.
Before I go through the article, I need to comment about what drives Heerema’s igneous model, which is the perceived necessity to fit the geological record into what he calls “the biblical timescale.” It would be much better to refer to this as “the YEC timescale,” because that is what it is; it is not the biblical timescale. The Bible nowhere says that the geological record—virtually all the sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks dated Late Precambrian and later—was formed by Noah’s flood. The “necessity” to squeeze a billion years of Earth history into Noah’s flood is something YECs impose on the text of Genesis, and there are plenty of theologically conservative biblical scholars who disagree with this.
Evaporite minerals include halite (NaCl, rock salt), gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O), anhydrite (CaSO4), sylvite (KCl), and a host of other minerals. The term “evaporite” is not neutral; it implies that the rock was formed by a process that involved evaporation of water. In standard geological models, seawater is isolated from the main body of the ocean in a basin where evaporation leads to precipitation of these minerals. I will stick with the term because it is the common name for these rocks, and because I believe it is an accurate term in most cases.
Heerema’s paper is divided into four sections: Salt formations worldwide, Igneous origin of salt formations, Diagenesis of salt after original deposition, and a conclusion. The entire paper is three pages long.
First section: Salt formations worldwide
In the first section, Heerema describes the worldwide distribution and origin of salt formations. He then attempts to explain why old-Earth models are inadequate for explaining the existence of evaporites. He gives a very brief and incomplete summary of evaporite models used by geologists, then gives what he thinks are four reasons to reject these models:
- “To form a deposit only 1 km thick would require seawater 60 km deep to be evaporated.” — Seawater evaporation rates in tropical areas are on the order of one meter per year. One meter of seawater, if evaporated completely, would leave behind 1.5 cm of evaporite minerals, mainly halite (NaCl). At a rate of 1.5 cm per year, it would take 67,000 years to accumulate 1000 meters of salt, which is a short amount of time geologically speaking. That does not mean that evaporite minerals actually accumulated that quickly; there would have been many other factors involved, including the rate of subsidence of the depositional basin.
- “The salt formations show negligible contamination with sand, contradicting the evaporation model which requires a sandbank in combination with consistently dry weather over a long period of time.” — This is a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of geological models for evaporite formation in marine environments. A common feature of these models is the need for a barrier (often referred to as a “sill”) that restricts movement of seawater into an enclosed basin where evaporation of the seawater can occur, leading to precipitation of various evaporite minerals. Complete evaporation is not necessary. The barrier could be sandy, but that sort of sill would be susceptible to erosion. More likely the barrier would be consolidated or semi-consolidated. Reefs or other biological mounds would work very well for this, and some ancient evaporite deposits grade laterally into reef deposits.
- “The salt formations exhibit negligible contamination with marine fossils” — Most marine organisms do not thrive in hypersaline environments—think of the Dead Sea or Great Salt Lake—so it is unclear why Heerema would expect us to find abundant fossils. One type of fossil that is found in some evaporite deposits is pollen. It makes a lot more sense to posit that pollen was carried to the basin by the wind, than to suppose that a salt lava flow under Noah’s flood somehow absorbed pollen grains from flood waters without metamorphosing them.
- “The evaporation areas need to be in regions of high sunlight and low rainfall if the seawater is to evaporate. However, the distribution of salt deposits globally contradicts the idea that all of these areas were once near the equator for the required time to achieve such a result.” — First, Heerema assumes that deposits that are now far from tropical areas were far from tropical areas when they formed. Contrary to this, there is good evidence that the equator ran through North America during the middle of the Paleozoic. Other parts of the world that are now polar or temperate were also once much closer to the equator. Second, Heerema assumes that climate patterns have been similar throughout Earth history. He is applying a Quaternary (ice age) picture of the world to times in the past that were probably much warmer, even at high latitudes.
Second section: Igneous origin of salt formations
This section began with a quote from James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth back in 1788:
“It is in vain to look, in the operations of solution and evaporation, for that which nothing but perfect fluidity of fusion can explain.”
Hutton may not have been able to envision how contorted layers could form in evaporites, but in the two hundred years since we have made a little bit of progress in the Earth sciences. There is plenty of laboratory and field evidence that salt can flow—in the solid state!—in amazing ways, whether in the subsurface or on the surface as salt glaciers in places like Iran.
Heerema lists six evidences for the igneous origin of evaporites:
- “The temperature required to melt salt and create a salt “magma” are well within the range of magmatic temperatures for silica [sic] magmas.” — However, there is no evidence that something like a salt magma has ever existed in the Earth. Contacts between evaporite formations and other rocks show no signs of contact metamorphism (alterations to minerals caused by heat and hot fluids). Some evaporite minerals, such as carnallite and bischofite, can form by precipitation from seawater, but cannot form from a salt melt.
- “Molten NaCl flows easily like water.” — What Heerema does not demonstrate is that an NaCl lava flow could spread out underwater over many tens of thousands of square kilometers, which is what he is proposing. Heerema claims that calcite and anhydrite could form when water boils in contact with a salt magma, but does not state how this would happen or give any references.
- “It is well known that silica [sic] magmas can produce layered igneous intrusions. Likewise, the crystallization and cooling of the salt “magma” after emplacement will cause segregation of the different salts into layers within the core of the deposit, as found in the formations.” — This paragraph was very confusing. It is not clear whether he was advocating a salt lava flow extruding onto the ocean floor beneath the waters of Noah’s flood, or a salt magma intruding into already existing sediments. In addition, layering of different evaporite minerals generally follows the order of precipitation from solution rather than the order of crystallization from a melt, though there are many exceptions.
- “The Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-km-long geographic trough formed as the result of a parting of the continental crust from northern Syria in southwest Asia through the Dead Sea and the Red Sea into central Mozambique in East Africa… Given the location of these massifs it seems obvious that these have a volcanic origin.” — No. What is common about evaporites along the rifts of of Southwest Asia and East Africa is that they are in basins caused when blocks of Earth’s crust sink as the crust is being pulled apart. Thick evaporite layers occur in locations where there is rifting, a hot, dry climate, and restricted connection to the sea, like the Dead Sea and Danakil Depression. This is precisely what old-Earth geological models for evaporite formation propose. There is no direct association between evaporites and volcanic areas. Many evaporite deposits occur in areas with no volcanic rocks at all.
- “For a modern analogy of magmatic salt formation we can look at the Ol Doinyo Lengay volcano in the north of Tanzania within the Great Rift Valley.” — The only analogies between carbonatite volcanism and Heerema’s proposed salt magma are that carbonatite lavas have a low viscosity and some carbonatite rocks are rich in sodium (Carbonatites are rare igneous rocks based on the carbonate ion, CO32-, rather than on SiO2). Oldoinyo Lengai (Earth’s only known active carbonatite volcano) is in no more a modern analogy for salt magmas than the fluids in a vinegar and baking soda “volcano” would be.
- “Organisms and vegetation deposited in the valleys (or under the water) that are overrun by the flow of salt magma will, in the absence of oxygen, be transformed into coal, oil and gas…. The magmatic origin of these salt formations explains the connection between the salt deposits found around the globe and the associated coal, oil and gas reserves.” — There is no association between the occurrence of evaporites and coal. Coal deposits are usually terrestrial, and most large evaporite deposits are in shallow marine sequences. Hydrocarbon reservoirs are more often associated with evaporite deposits, but the presence of evaporites are not required for the transformation of organic material into oil and gas. The association is more of a coincidence; oil and gas form in marine sedimentary basins, and evaporites also form in marine sedimentary basins.
Third section: Diagenesis of salt after original deposition
In this brief section, Heerema writes about post-depositional changes (diagenesis) affecting salt. These changes include intense deformation that is present in most rock salt formations. However, he did not relate this to his igneous evaporite model.
He also mentioned the existence of salt hot springs in the Danakil Depression of Eritrea. Again, I am not sure how this related to his model. One would expect hot water percolating from the ground after transiting thousands of meters of salt to be salty. This brine is not coming from the mantle or deep in Earth’s crust; it is coming from within the basin itself, so is completely irrelevant to the model.
A few additional observations
Most large evaporite deposits are associated with shallow marine sedimentary rocks—limestones, sandstones, and shales that contain marine fossils—which is further evidence that these precipitated from seawater rather than having been formed by igneous processes.
If salt magmas were rising from Earth’s crust beneath a sedimentary basin, one would expect there to be hydrothermal alteration of the country rocks (the rocks the magma was moving through). Hydrothermal solutions are mineral-rich hot water solutions associated with igneous and metamorphic processes, and are the source of veins in rocks, such as the quartz veins that can contain gold deposits. I would not expect gold-containing solutions, but I would expect some sort of hydrothermal activity.
Heerema provided no evidence for feeder dikes—the conduits through which the supposed salt magma erupted.
Fluid inclusion studies indicate that evaporites formed from seawater. Fluid inclusions are tiny bubbles that contain remnants of the original fluid. Young and Stearley, in their discussion of evaporites, refer to a paper in which the composition of the brine in Silurian salt in the Midwest was consistent with a marine origin, and the researchers determined that the fluid inclusion must have formed at a temperature between 2° and 25°C, which is far below the melting point of NaCl.
Heerema focused on halite (NaCl), but made only passing references to anhydrite (CaSO4), and did not mention gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O) at all. In some evaporite deposits, anhydrite and gypsum dominate over halite. He also did not mention terrestrial evaporites, such as those found in the lake deposits of the Green River Formation.
Peer Review in the YEC technical journals
The home page of the Journal of Creation states that the journal is peer reviewed. Peer review is an essential component of the process of publication of research results, and has many benefits both for the author(s) and the scientific community as a whole. A paper can, in some cases, be submitted to a journal, reviewed, and be sent back to the author several times before it is published, a process that can take over a year. Not only does this process lead to a much better report, but it weeds out some papers that are not suitable for publication.
The publication of a paper such as this demonstrates that the Journal of Creation does not do an adequate job of putting geological papers through the peer review process. In saying this, I am not referring to the implausibility of Heerema’s igneous origin for evaporites, but the little things in the article that a good geological editor or peer reviewer should have noticed:
- Minerals do not evaporate from seawater, they precipitate.
- One of the substances listed as an evaporite mineral is magnesium chloride (MgCl2). Magnesium chloride does not exist as MgCl2 in evaporites, though its hydrated form (bischofite, MgCl2•6H2O) does occur.
- Evaporation leading to evaporite mineral formation is not greatest at the equator, but in the desert belts 10° to 40° north and south of the equator.
- Heerema does not properly distinguish between a magma, which would be within the crust, and a lava, which is extruded onto the surface. For example, he states that “a salt magma will flood into the lowest areas.” For this reason, the first time through the article I was not sure whether he was proposing instrusion of salt magma—a salt batholith—or salt lava flows, especially since in one place he refers to layered igneous intrusions.
- There are two references to silica magma when he meant silicate magma. A silica magma implies molten SiO2 (a magma that does not exist in nature), whereas a silicate magma contains many ions (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, aluminum, and many others) and dissolved gases in a silicate ion (SiO44-) melt.
I do not primarily blame the author for these errors but the Journal of Creation for letting them slip through. A valid peer review and editing process would have eliminated these sorts of errors.
This has always been a problem in YEC technical literature. Back in my YEC days, when I was a student member of the Creation Research Society, I remember cringing at some of the stuff that got printed in what was then considered to be the premier YEC scientific journal, the CRS Quarterly.
The YouTube video
I will not present a detailed analysis of this video, but do want to make a few comments:
- 4:15 — A hydrothermal origin for salt formations was briefly discussed, but this would only deposit evaporite minerals within pre-existing rocks, not in large, separate evaporite layers.
- 8:20 — “Carbonatite” was listed as an evaporite mineral. Carbonatite rocks are formed from carbonate magmas, and have a very distinctive mix of minerals. There is little overlap between the lists of minerals found in evaporites and carbonatites. One exception is calcite (CaCO3), which is formed in a very wide range of geological settings.
- 10:30 — There was a presentation of a NaCl-CaSO4 phase diagram, which he got basically correct in terms of which mineral would crystallize first. But the final crystallization would produce an interlocking mesh of halite and anhydrite, not segregated layers of the two.
- 12:45 — Here the discussion of salt pillars (salt domes, diapirs) begins. Heerema proposes that these salt pillars, which can rise through thousands of meters of sediments, formed while the salt was molten beneath flood waters. The salt developed a crust, but this crust would crack at times, creating upward convection currents of steam. The molten salt would rise up in the steam and water column to form a salt pillar thousands of meters tall. He showed a video of a transparent tank containing a layer of molten NaCl beneath water. The two were separated by a barrier simulating the solid salt crust. Then he exposed the water to the molten salt, which led to the formation of steam. What would have been really impressive would have been a time-lapse movie of a solid salt pillar forming in his tank, but he did not do that.
- 19:20 — Heerema discussed how the upturned sediments around these “salt pillars” could easily have been formed by deposition from fast moving water currents circulating around the salt pillars, but are impossible to explain by standard geological theories. This was the typical YEC “only explainable by catastrophe” tactic. What he missed is that upturned sedimentary layers next to salt domes show every indication of having been deposited horizontally, and then punctured by rising solid but moldable masses of salt. These layers show the typical signs of strain associated with deformation, including folding, fracturing and faulting.
The proposal that evaporite formations were formed by primary igneous processes is not a step forward for YEC flood geology. The hypothesis has little evidence to support it in terms of global distribution, relationship of evaporites to surrounding rocks, or known geological processes. The publication of this paper demonstrates that there are serious problems with the YEC peer review process.
I want to state again that none of this is biblically necessary. The Bible is not a book about the origin of evaporites, or any other sedimentary rock. This sort of “research” discredits the Bible and Christianity, which is both tragic and unnecessary.
Any upper-division undergraduate textbook on sedimentary petrology will have a good discussion of the characteristics, distribution, and origin of evaporites. This week, I read the section in Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy by Boggs, which I am reading this spring just for fun. The fifth edition is listed on Amazon for $146. I bought it new in South Korea two years ago for only $42. College textbooks are such a scam.
Carbonatites are fascinating igneous rocks. Again, any good upper-level undergraduate or graduate textbook on igneous petrology will have a discussion about these. For some good pictures of Oldoinyo Lengai in action, click here (National Geographic) or here.
I am not saying that salt magmas are impossible. I am saying that there is no good support to Heerema’s hypothesis.
The fluid inclusion study on Silurian evaporites was discussed in Young and Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time, pp.303-304.
I got a few of the ideas presented here from a comment by steve660 (the comment on Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:13 pm) on the British Centre for Science Education web site. He recognized problems with the stability of magnesium salts at high temperatures that I did not catch.
Grace and Peace
In a way, I really do not enjoy writing something like this. Young-Earth creationists are my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Around the web 3/22/2013 — The ice age only lasted 250 years, evaporites formed from magma, environmentalism is bad for us, and more
THE ICE AGE (SINGULAR) OCCURRED BETWEEN 2250 AND 2000 B.C. — Answers in Genesis posted an article in February by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History? As usual, none of this is necessary Biblically, or workable scientifically.
Here is everything they want to squeeze into 250 years after their date for Noah’s flood (2350 B.C. on the accompanying map with timeline):
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — first human tools in archeological record.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of Ice age. Abram born.
Again, the Bible says none of this! When Abram is born, he is born into a stable civilization on a stable Mesopotamian plain that isn’t much different than how it is described in Genesis 2. There has been no massive transformation of the Tigris-Euphrates valley!
But the geological problems with the YEC picture dwarf the biblical problems. Not only do they have to squeeze Antarctic glaciation, Neanderthals, the ice ages (there is plenty of evidence that glaciation happened multiple times), and human migration into Australia and the Americas into 250 years, one would have to throw in things like multiple eruptions of a number of “supervolcanoes” (e.g. Yellowstone, Toba, Long Valley), growth of other volcanoes (e.g. Cascade Range), growth of modern coral reefs, and deposition of in some cases many hundreds of meters of ice age sediments around the world. Add in a few biological marvels as well — hyperevolutionary adaptive radiation going from “elephant kind” to mastodons, woolly mammoths, and modern elephants; as well as dispersion of animals and humans throughout the globe.
Don’t teach this to the church or our youth as biblical truth or scientific apologetics!!!!
EVAPORITES (SUCH AS SALT) FORMED FROM MAGMA — YEC geologist Tas Walker has endorsed Stef Heerema’s magmatic model for for the origin of large salt formations. Heerema’s Journal of Creation article is here, and a more recent YouTube video is here. I am writing a longer response to this one, but for now I’ll say that this all shows that, despite YEC claims to the contrary, the Journal of Creation cannot possibly be a peer-reviewed journal.
ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A THREAT TO CIVILIZATION — So says Evangelical writer Cal Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. There are some good things in the Cornwall Alliance’s Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, but…
Here’s what Beisner recently said about why humans could not be doing any catastrophic harm to the Earth by adding excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as reported at Huff Post Green:
“That doesn’t fit well with the biblical teaching that the earth is the result of the omniscient design, the omnipotent creation and the faithful sustaining of the God of the Bible. So it really is an insult to God,” Beisner said.
Isn’t that sort of like saying that it doesn’t matter what we do to our bodies—smoking, excess alcohol and drug use, etc.—because God has designed us in such a way that the things we do could not possible cause us catastrophic harm?
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION – The biblical doctrine of creation isn’t primarily about how old the Earth is. See Bigger Than We Think by David Wilkinson.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES – Iran puts five Christians on trial for their faith, Christian protesters decry Muslim mob’s arson spree following blasphemy charge, Christians, churches dwindling in Iraq since start of war 10 years ago.
I want to write, write, write, but can’t keep up with it all.
Grace and Peace
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
– Genesis 3:17-18 (ESV)
Suppose I were to tell you, “Sometimes it rains cats and dogs in St. Louis.” How would you interpret my statement? If you didn’t know English idioms very well, you might be quite confused by what I said, or come to the conclusion that I was—intentionally or unintentionally—speaking nonsense. Because you know it does not really ever rain cats and dogs, you probably would not take me as actually believing that cats and dogs fall from the sky.
Now suppose that the biblical account of Noah’s flood (Genesis 6-9) contained a verse that said, “And Noah looked out of the window of the ark and saw that it was raining cats and dogs.” How would we interpret this statement? The most natural way to interpret it would be to assume there was some sort of idiom or metaphor in use, and to interpret it as “it was raining very hard.” Unfortunately, we would not be able to look up “raining cats and dogs” in the 1400 BC edition of Hebrew Idioms for Dummies, so we might have to do some educated guesswork.
On the other hand, if we had little stomach for idioms or other literary devices as we read the Old Testament, we might come to the conclusion that the deluge was so cataclysmic that, in this instance, cats and dogs must have been sucked up from the watery surface by strong updrafts, and then hurled down upon the deep, as witnessed by Noah. This would be a reading that goes far beyond seeking the literal, or intended, meaning of the passage. This would be an example of what some call hyperliteralism; a reading of the text that allows for no figures of speech whatsoever.
Now Genesis does not contain the phrase “raining cats and dogs,” but it does contain examples of non-literal writing. Take for example the phrase “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” in Genesis 3:18. This is part of the curse God pronounced on the ground after Adam and Eve sinned. After humanity’s fall into sin, God pronounced a curse on the serpent, Satan; and spoke words of discipline and judgement (and promise) to Adam and Eve. Rather than experiencing the blessings of Eden, Eve would experience, among other things, pain in childbirth, and Adam would experience “thorns and thistles.”
What is the meaning of the phrase “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you?” One common interpretation of this passage is that it teaches that there were no thorns or thistles on the Earth until God made this pronouncement. In Eden, so the interpretation goes, there could not possibly have been things like thorns and thistles; not only do they cause pain and draw blood when they prick our skin, they are specifically mentioned as part of the curse on the ground here in Genesis 3. In other words, thorns and thistles did not exist until they became part of God’s curse on the ground.
Following this line of reasoning further, we have to consider the fact that the fossil record contains plants that have thorns and thistles. If one holds to the “literal” interpretation, then it is clear that these plant fossils could only have formed after Adam sinned. Therefore, the fossil record—and by correlation this would mean just about any rock of Phanerozoic (Cambrian and more recent) age—had to have formed after Adam. This is one of the supposed Biblical foundations for young-Earth creationist “flood geology.”
But is this the best way to understand God’s “thorns and thistles” curse? A better interpretation is that there is a figurative aspect to “thorns and thistles.” If so, the young-Earth interpretation is an example of hyperliteralism, an over-reading of the text caused by focusing on the literal words on the page rather than the main thrust of the section. A broader view of the text is that God was removing his blessing on mankind’s work. The intention at creation was that Adam and his descendants would be fruitful; not just in reproduction, but in their stewardship and dominion over the rest of creation. There would be shalom between man and his Creator, within each person, between man and wife, between individuals, and between humans and nature. This was all frustrated by Adam’s rebellion, and we have been living with the consequences ever since. Thorns and thistles may have existed before, but with the advent of sin they could now have dominion over humanity rather than humanity having dominion over them. All of our work is now frustrated to one degree or another by figurative thorns and thistles, whether it be the weeds in our garden, the broken relationships with coworkers and clients, mistakes we make in our work, or bugs in the latest software on our computers.
Genesis 3:18 is not about thorns and thistles any more than Genesis 3:14-15 is about how snakes lost their legs. Genesis 3:18 is about how our work in general is frustrated because of sin, and Genesis 3:14-15 is about the humiliation of Satan, grovelling in the dust just as defeated enemies of some Mesopotamian ruler would be forced to do. It is much better, in terms of the literary imagery of the passage, to take thorns and thistles as having a broader meaning in terms of our work and relationships rather than narrowing the meaning down to the appearance of weeds in Adam’s garden.
The undoing of the curse on our work is found in the work of Christ, who bore a crown of thorns as he suffered on our behalf. We live in confident hope that all of creation will one day come under the healing rule of Christ, and that our broken bodies will be resurrected whole. In the new (or renewed) Earth there will be gardens, and I won’t be at all surprised if we find roses growing there.
Grace and Peace
The Phrase Finder has an article about the origin of “raining cats and dogs.”
The ESV Study Bible comments:
Gen. 3:17–19 God’s punishment of the man involves his relationship with the very ground from which he was formed (see note on 2:5–7). Because he has eaten that which was prohibited to him, he will have to struggle to eat in the future. Given the abundance of food that God provided in the garden, this judgment reflects God’s disfavor. Adam will no longer enjoy the garden’s abundance but will have to work the ground from which he was taken (3:23; see note on 2:8–9). The punishment is not work itself (cf. 2:15), but rather the hardship and frustration (i.e., “pain,” itstsabon; cf. 3:16) that will accompany the man’s labor. To say that the ground is cursed (Hb. ’arar, v. 17) and will bring forth thorns and thistles (v. 18) indicates that the abundant productivity that was seen in Eden will no longer be the case. Underlying this judgment is a disruption of the harmonious relationship that originally existed between humans and nature.
Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Genesis (p. 72 of 1967 printing), writes,
Thorns… and thistles are eloquent signs of nature untamed and encroaching; in the Old Testament they mark the scenes of man’s self-defeat and God’s judgment, e.g. in the sluggard’s field (Pr. 24:31) and the ruined city (Is. 34:13). They need not be envisaged here as newly created, but as henceforth a perennial threat (as the unconquered Canaanites would be to Israel, Nu. 33:55); for man in his own disorder would never now ‘subdue’ the earth.”
Many Christian geologists I know began their undergraduate geological training as young-Earth creationists (YECs). They entered their studies having been equipped by reading YEC classics such as The Genesis Flood and Scientific Creationism, had a whole stack of Institute for Creation Research Acts & Facts “Impact” articles, and were certain that they would set the geological world straight.
None of the Christian geologists I know personally were still YECs when they graduated. For some (such as for myself), there was no serious crisis of faith along the way. For others, there were times of severe trial, as everything they believed about the Bible and the Earth was challenged. I get emails from time to time from geology undergraduates who thank me for helping them during that time of testing of their faith, and for this I am very grateful.
Sadly, many Christians who enter geological studies with a YEC background end up as spiritual shipwrecks and leave the faith altogether. They have been taught that if YEC is not true, then the Bible is not true either, and all of Christianity is false as well. When they start learning about how the Earth really works, they are devastated This is the bitter fruit of years of YEC indoctrination through a barrage of books, DVDs, educational curricula, Sunday school, and youth groups. It doesn’t have to be so.
Steve Smith is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. I had the privilege of meeting Steve a few years ago. We had moved back to the United States after six years of service as missionaries with the Evangelical Free Church, and we were living in Denver while I looked for employment. Steve gave my wife and I a wonderful geological tour of Red Rocks Park. I ended up finding employment in Missouri, so we were not able to get together again.
Steve has done a fantastic job of writing about his experiences as a Christian geologist, from his YEC undergraduate beginnings to his current interactions with young people struggling with science and faith issues. The article is Breaking Away from a False Dilemma, and is posted at Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.
Here are a few clips, but you really should read the whole article:
With a high-school level understanding of science and theology, I was convinced by this “either-or” argument and, to my knowledge, became the first Young Earth Creationist in my local Nazarene church. I knew the enemy and the enemy had a name. It was Evolution.
Although I was fascinated by geology and had found a scientific field that I loved, my faith was in shambles. Based on what I had believed and read in the Young Earth Creationist literature, if the geologic ages were real, if the earth was old, if evolution had happened then the Bible was false, Christianity wasn’t true, and Christ’s death on the cross was meaningless. So what was left? I felt betrayed and seriously considered leaving the church. In retrospect, two factors kept me from leaving: (1) the support of a strong Christian family (and a young lady soon to be my wife) that gave me the freedom to question without condemnation; and (2) the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met. But before I could move on, I had to recognize that I had been snared by a false dilemma and that the Bible didn’t need to be read as a scientific treatise on how to create a world. That was a time of turmoil and what I needed most was theological support that would allowed me to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I saw in the rocks.
I have seen students break down into tears as they stood on an outcrop of rock and saw evidence that contradicted what their church had taught them. I have comforted my own daughter when she was told by a Sunday School teacher that she couldn’t be a Christian if she accepted evidence for evolution. I have talked with scientists who were once raised in a church and are now bitter agnostics because the church “lied to them” about science.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your story.
Grace and Peace
For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is not a primary issue. It is not even a secondary issue. Nor is it a tertiary issue. In fact it is not even a quaternary issue. For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is a quinary issue! That’s three steps below being a matter of even secondary importance!
This does not mean that what we believe about origins is not important, but it helps to put the endless debate in proper perspective.
C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen Blog has a Chart to Help Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials.
Patton reserves the “Essential for Salvation” circle for those doctrines that one must believe in order to be a Christian by just about any definition. This includes belief in God, Christ’s deity and humanity; our sinfulness, and Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
The next circle includes those things that all Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) have believed from the beginning of the church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed, the future return of Christ, the eternal punishment of the wicked, and belief that Christ is the only way to God. One might err on one of these (e.g. believe that all will in the end be saved) and still be a Christian, but not be within the standards of Christian orthodoxy.
The third circle from the center is traditional orthodoxy, which is orthodoxy as defined by one of the broad traditions of the Church: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. I fall within Protestant orthodoxy, believing in justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I fall outside of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, as I reject its teachings about Mary.
I am well aware that there will be differences between Christian traditions and denominations about where to place various doctrines. Lutherans will bump baptism up a notch or two compared to most Evangelicals, and Pentecostals might move spiritual gifts more towards the center as compared to where most Episcopalians will.
Where do teachings about evolution and the age of the universe come into this?
Patton places what we believe about origins in the “important but not essential” category. I think I would place evolution and chronology at this level as well.
Most YEC leaders will state that origins are not a primary issue, that is, that one can believe in an old Earth and still be a Christian. I think the highest they could really put YEC is at the denominational orthodoxy level (though they might look at their denominational orthodoxy as the true standard of orthodoxy and throw out the higher levels entirely).
Many YEC followers seem to place YEC at the primary level, as in, “If you are not a YEC, you are probably not really a Christian.” I have actually run into that quite a bit.
What do you think? Where do the age of the universe and biological evolution fit on the diagram?
Grace and Peace
At times it seems like the young-Earth creationists have a virtual monopoly on science curriculum materials for the Christian homeschool market. There are popular homeschool magazines that ban advertisements from curricula—secular or Christian—that teach an old Earth or biological evolution. The same goes for homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs.
At the extreme in the homeschool movement are those who want to build walls around their children to protect them from all evils, such as evolution. We were part of a homeschool parents’ group in St. Louis whose leader had a rather dominating personality. I think one of our last appearances at the monthly meetings was when she stood up and virtually forbade members of the group from taking their kids to the St. Louis Zoo because of its new talking statue of Charles Darwin. That didn’t stop us, of course, from taking our kids to the zoo, even with the animatronic Darwin. My anecdotal experience is that the outcome for families who took the build-a-wall-around-our-children approach to homeschooling was not positive, either academically or spiritually.
We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years and they all have done very well in middle and high school, and in college. One of the primary sources for our material was Sonlight Curriculum, which has been banned from some homeschool conferences and magazines because they carry old-Earth material along with young-earth. John Holzmann of Sonlight has written an excellent article: Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? A quick search for “Sonlight curriculum evolution” in your web browser will turn up a multitude of “We don’t use Sonlight because it includes evolution” blog posts and articles.
The Atlantic has recently posted an article entitled Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”
The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”
Meanwhile, professors at evangelical colleges that attract homeschoolers often have to deal with objections from Young Earth proponents. “We do have to address some one-sided perspectives in biological science that some of our freshman biology majors come pre-loaded with,” says Jeffrey Duerr, a biology professor at George Fox University, a Christian university in Oregon. “But we do this by first addressing why science and Christian faith are compatible and then by teaching biology to them.”
I think that at present finding an appropriate homeschool curriculum for middle school or high school Earth Science would be a real challenge. The choice seems to be between selecting a secular textbook that is not very homeschool-friendly, and one of several YEC textbooks that are homeschool-friendly but contain numerous scientific inaccuracies and questionable biblical interpretations.
My experience from teaching in Christian schools is that it is far easier to undo any shortcomings in secular textbooks (the shortcomings were not all that many) than it was to undo the bad science and questionable biblical interpretations I saw in Christian textbooks. But I was able to do this based on a solid education in geology and secondary education and years of thinking about Bible-science issues. Most homeschool parents don’t have that background.
What is the solution? What are some good curriculum options for Christians who want to give their middle school or high school students a semester or year of Earth Science?
Grace and Peace
HT: Martin Lack
Dr. Duane Gish was one of the most prominent young-Earth creationists back in the 1970s and 1980s, especially popular among YECs for his tenacity in debates. According to the Institute for Creation Research (where Dr. Gish was vice president under Henry Morris) and Answers in Genesis, he died yesterday, March 5, 2013.
Gish was also an author, being the writer of Evolution: The Fossils Say No! and other popular-level books.
I heard Duane Gish in one of his famous debates at Washington State University back in 1987, where he debated WSU anthropology professor Dr. Grover Krantz (who was best known as an advocate of the existence of Sasquatch). Gish’s debate style was a quick-talking overload of facts, taking the time he had to pile on evidence against evolution and an old Earth from a wide diversity of fields—biochemistry (Gish’s PhD field), paleontology, geology, meteorology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, anthropology, archeology, and more. Most debaters were not equipped to answer such an array of “evidence,” and thus Gish could always find something his opponent had no answer for. Some of his arguments were sound; many were not (he was big on the moon dust and 2nd law of thermodynamics arguments—at least back when he was prominent—which have since been abandoned by mainstream creationists).
On the afternoon before the Gish-Krantz debate, Dr. Gish was invited to speak to the WSU Geology Department graduate seminar. I remember being apprehensive, as I was concerned that he would say things that would further harden hearts against Christianity. I was actually pleasantly surprised; he stayed on safer (and stronger for him) subjects such as the origin of life and the gaps in the fossil record at higher taxonomic levels. He did not talk about flood geology or the age of the Earth, and when asked about these things in the Q&A time, he simply stated that he had his own beliefs on these, but many Christians differed on the matter. In discussions after the debate, I remember one of the geology PhD candidates saying that if that were all that creationists were after, he would not have been opposed to teaching it in public schools. If only Dr. Gish had been more consistent in voicing this view, and if more YEC leaders would humbly do the same.
I may have also heard Dr. Gish speak at Montana State University in the early 1980s, but am not sure.
Despite whatever errors Gish taught and whatever sins he committed (just like me), Duane Gish has now heard the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
I pray for his family and colleagues in their time of grief (which will not be like the grief of the world).
Grace and Peace
Last night, I posted here on The GeoChristian an attempt at satire that some took offence at. I suppose satire will always offend someone, as when Jonathan Swift suggested in his 1729 short story A Modest Proposal that the Irish “problem” could be solved by, well, you can read it for yourself. I guess I am not Jonathan Swift.
I have removed the post, which was entitled, “Ken Ham doesn’t really believe the Bible.”
In my post, I suggested that because Ken Ham is a Baptist, and I am not, he does not really believe the Bible. Of course, all of my doctrines are correct and true to the Bible. If Ken believes differently than I do—and he does—this is clear evidence (so I wrote), that he is a compromiser and is undermining the authority of Scripture. After all, if he doesn’t read certain verses the way I do, he does not really believe what the Bible says.
Of course I regard this as complete nonsense, as anyone who regularly reads The GeoChristian should know. I have been around quite a variety of Christian groups, and know that people I disagree with have good reasons for what they believe, and that my doctrines are not the standard for the church. My fellowship boundaries are pretty broad, with the widest fence being the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Ken Ham is my brother in Christ, and he and I have much more in common than whatever it is that divides us. We share a love for the Word of God, a desire to see the church built up and taught, and a desire to proclaim Jesus Christ to the nations.
We differ on a secondary matter of Scripture: the age of the Earth. I call this a secondary matter; he calls it a primary one. I call it a matter of interpretation; he calls it a matter of authority.
I apologize to anyone who may have been offended, especially to Ken Ham and to Baptists. My desire is to work towards unity, not to tear down in any way.
Here are some excerpts from the comments from the original post:
K & T — Also, as a complete stranger (but brother!) I’d suggest you be careful not to get caught up in too much of a vendetta against guys like Ken… the spiteful tone of this post is almost as cringe-worthy as most YEC articles I’ve read!
Walter — Your post was rather intolerant of another brother and to state that Baptists are not Christians is crazy. I suggest you reread your post carefully and then remove it. If you do not, it brings your Christianity into question.
I am born again professional geologist and attend an Assembly of God church. I am a fairly recent reader of your blog. When I first read this post this morning, my first reaction was to simply unsubscribe because as a Christian it offended me.
Dustin Smith — After reading through the comments I understand the article much better. I completely agree with the thesis of the article, and I really enjoy reading your posts, so please take it as constructive criticism when I say that this article felt very much like the average YEC article; heavy on statements, jerky logic, and light on grace & peace.
I’ll briefly reply to the above comments:
K & T — I have no desire to be part of any vendetta against Ken Ham. Yes, the post was rather cringe-worthy. As satire, it was intended to be that way. It was an imitation of much of what you and I have read on YEC sites.
Walter — I didn’t mean to imply (even in satire) that Baptists are not Christians. To say that someone does not really believe the Bible is not the same as saying one isn’t a Christian (unless one thinks that people become Christians by believing the Bible). Of course, this is exactly what happens when YEC leaders state that old-Earthers don’t believe the Bible; their followers take an extra step and conclude that old-Earthers are not Christians. One can believe the Bible and not be a Christian, and one can be a Christian and not believe in biblical inerrancy (I do hold to biblical inerrancy).
Dustin Smith — I agree, the post was jerky and dogmatic, and light on grace and peace. Perhaps that was part of the satire.
- Is satire or parody directed against fellow Christians ever appropriate? Is there a way that I could have driven home my point using satire that would not have been taken wrongly?
- Is there any difference between Ken Ham calling old-Earthers “compromisers who don’t really believe the Bible” because they don’t interpret Genesis the same way he does, and someone calling Ken Ham a “compromiser who doesn’t really believe the Bible” because Ken doesn’t hold to the same position on __________ that they do?
- Is the interpretation of Genesis 1 so important that it trumps other doctrines that Christians differ on such as baptism, church government, end times, gifts of the Spirit, or women in ministry?
Grace and Peace
Every five years or so, the top young-Earth creationist scientists gather in Pittsburgh for the International Conference on Creationism. From what I understand, this is quite different from your typical Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research seminars that are presented for the general public at local churches. Instead, this will be the YEC researchers talking to each other at a technical level.
The topics for this summer’s meeting have been posted, and here are a few that caught my eye, mostly those relating to geology:
- Genesis, Biblical Authority & the Age of the Earth — Ken Ham
- The South Fork and Heart Mountain faults: Examples of Late Flood, Gravity-driven “Overthrust” — Timothy Clarey
- A Reconstruction of the Physical Geography of the Early Earth — Stan Udd
- Geomorphologym [sic] The Flood/Post-flood Boundary and the Potential [sic] — John Whitmore
- Numerical Simulations of Ice Age Precipitation and Hypercyclones Using the NCAR WRF Model with a Warm Ocean — Larry Vardiman
- The Mars Desert Hypothesis and The Mars–RATE Connection — Ron Samec
- Bolides, Global Contraction, Isostasy and the Flood — Hamilton Duncan
- Might Rotational Instability of the Earth During the Genesis Flood Explain the Megasequences of the Phanerozoic Sediment Record? — John Baumgardner
- A New Model of the Earth’s Pre- Flood Canopy — Ed Boudreaux
- Numerical Simulation of Lithospheric Breakup in the Biblical Timescale — Jesse Sherburn
- A non-uniformitarian model of ice bodies impacting Mars, leaving craters, flowing water and water ice. — Trevor Holt
- Double-Beta-Decay as a Possible Indicator of Change in the Strong Force — Eugene Chaffin
- Initial Conditions for a Post-Flood Rapid Ice Age — Steven Gollmer
- Higher Order Magnetic Multipole Expansion Terms Show A Sinusoidal Variation In The Earth’s Magnetic Field — Robert Hill
- Superfaults and Pseudotachylytes:Evidence of Catastrophic Earth Movements — Timothy Clarey
- Ancient Egypt, the Ice Age, and Biblical Chronology — Anne Habermehl
- Baraminological Analysis of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae — Paul Garner
- Planetary magnetic dynamo theories: A century of failure — Russ Humphreys
- Soft Tissues in Solid Rocks — Brian Thomas
- The Temporal Geographical and Geological Ubiquity of Excess Argon with a Young Earth Analysis — Richard Overman
- Simulating Flood Deposition of Mudrocks — Steven Austin
- A Model explaining craters, comets, asteroids, meteorites, icy satellites, planet rings, water and ice by the short term passage of ice bodies through the solar system around 2300 years before Jesus Christ — Trevor Holt
- Modeling the Large-Scale Tectonics of the Early Stages of the Flood Cataclysm — John Baumgardner
- How Does an Underwater Debris Flow End?: Flow Transformation Evidences Observed Within the Lower Redwall Limestone of Arizona and Nevada — Darry Stansbury
- The Impacts Vertical Tectonics Model of the Flood — Michael Oard
- The Crucifixion Earthquake of 33 AD: Evidence in the Dead Sea Sediment –Dr. Steve Austin
Here are a few of my thoughts:
- I don’t know who all of these speakers are, but those I am familiar with are very smart people. The caricature of young-Earth creationists as a bunch of low-I.Q. Neanderthals doesn’t fit this group of people.
- Young-Earth creationism has become considerably more sophisticated over the past couple of decades.
- Despite this sophistication, the YEC flood geology model still suffers from many weaknesses that make it untenable. The basic problem is that there are too many events occurring in too little time. I cannot conceive of squeezing the Quaternary Period into a few centuries after the flood (as many YECs advocate), much less trying to compress the entire Phanerozoic (Cambrian to present) into a year.
- Even more serious than the geological problems of young-Earth creationism is the fact that none of this is Biblically necessary. The Bible does not teach that Earth is only 6000 years old, that Noah’s flood is responsible for most of Earth’s geology, or that there was no animal death before Adam’s sin. If the Bible doesn’t require any of this, and if it doesn’t work scientifically, then we shouldn’t be teaching it in the church or to our youth.
- Having said that, I would actually like to go to one of these conferences some time.
Grace and Peace
I’m enjoying a good thundersnow (or some call it a snunderstorm); the first blizzard thunderstorm I have experienced in Montana (I have seen it happen in Utah, Colorado, and I think Missouri). The temperature dropped from 59°F to 32° in less than thirty minutes, and it started to snow and blow really hard. I love Montana.
The Billings Gazette has some good pictures of the storm as it approached Billings.
What’s going on in the wider world of the world wide web?
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM — Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis is concerned that much of the criticism of his young-Earth ministry comes from Christians. Count me in — there are plenty of good reasons why Bible-believing Christians criticize Answers in Genesis. YEC organizations like AiG teach secondary doctrines as primary, take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to these secondary issues, insist on a hyper-literal reading of the inspired Word of God, publish massive amounts of really bad science, and set our young people up for a fall. YEC isn’t Biblically necessary, nor is it scientifically feasible.
“Ham has made it clear that AiG’s main thrust is not “young Earth” but simply biblical authority.”
No, it is not about biblical authority. I, like many old-Earth Christians, do believe the Bible. I just don’t believe much of what comes out of the YEC community. And there is a big difference.
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TEA PARTY WING OF THE G.O.P. – On top of the radical anti-environmentalism and xenophobia that pervades the Tea Party, there are plenty of Tea Partiers like the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, who posted what most of us would view as a racist anti-Obama picture on her Facebook page. From the Billings Gazette: Local GOP leader criticized for Facebook post. A screenshot can be seen at Daily Kos and MT Cowgirl (left wing equivalents of the right wing Tea Party).
THE BIBLE AS REALITY TV — A new Bible miniseries is coming to the History Channel. One of their consultants appears to be TV prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:
Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.
Ummmmm, I’d prefer if he go back to some of his books to double-check how well they stayed true to the Bible. The message of Christianity is not salvation from unhappiness by doing our best.
DOMINION IS THE OPPOSITE OF DOMINATION — The Ecologist has an article about the growth of the “Creation Care” movement, especially among younger Evangelicals.
“As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” [Wheaton biology student Erik Swanson] explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”
WALKING AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY — From Marc5Solas – Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”.
The solution, however, is not to give them more young-Earth creationism, as Answers in Genesis is pushing in their Already Gone book. YEC is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would put it in the “They got smart” category of the top 10 reasons. When they see that it just doesn’t work, our young people throw away their Christianity along with their Dr. Dino DVDs.
EKALAKASAURUS — The Carter County Museum (in the GeoChristian ancestral home of Ekalaka, Montana) has an excellent fossil collection, and is getting some help from Montana State University (The GeoChristian alma mater). From the Billings Gazette: A FOSSIL MECCA – MSU students revitalizing Carter County Museum.
I haven’t been to Ekalaka for a few decades; it might be time for a road trip. I hope they still have the two-headed calf.
A WORLD OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS — In Egypt: Islam or death? Egypt’s Christians targeted by new terror group. In Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police arrest Ethiopian workers for practicing Christianity. In the Middle East as a whole: Religious Change in the Middle East.
In my previous “Around the Web” post, I linked to a story in Christianity Today about the persecution of house churches in China. CT has two followup stories: China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity and Persecution in China Is Very Real.
And to be fair: Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination (though the report could not point to a single person who had been executed in the world in the past year for being an atheist).
A GOOD PLACE — The Today Show lists my home town, Billings, Montana, as the third best place in the United States to raise a family. If only we had a Chick-fil-A.
Well, that took two hours. The thundersnow has ended and it has all turned to slush, which will turn to ice. I blame it on global warming.