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Flood geology (also creation geology or diluvial geology) is the interpretation of the geological history of the Earth in terms of the global flood described in Genesis 6–9. Similar views played a part in the early development of the science of geology, even after the Biblical chronology had been rejected by geologists in favour of an ancient Earth. Flood geology is a field of study within creation science, which is a part of young Earth creationism.
Adherents believe the Christian Bible is inerrant and hold its passages to be historically accurate, including the story of Noah's Ark, and that the Bible's internal chronology, which places the Flood within the last five thousand years, is reliable. Flood geology contradicts the scientific consensus in geology and paleontology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, cosmology, biology, geophysics and stratigraphy, and the scientific community considers it to be pseudoscience.
- 1 Biblical basis
- 2 The great flood in the history of geology
- 3 Creationist flood geology
- 4 Modern geology and flood geology
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
The first draft of Book of Genesis was probably composed, according to modern scholarship, in the late 7th or the 6th century BC, and later expanded into a work very like the one existing today. Its purpose was to elevate Hebrew monotheism over Babylonian polytheism. Underlying the flood story in Genesis 6-9 is the ancient Israelite view of the cosmos as made up of a flat disc-shaped earth floating on water. Below the earth were the "waters of chaos", the cosmic sea; the waters were also above the earth, and so the solid bowl of the raqia (firmament) was necessary to keep them from flooding the world. The flood story is essentially a reversal of the creation story in Genesis 1: with the flood the waters are no longer kept in check by the firmament, and all life is wiped out except for those on board the Ark. De-creation is followed by re-creation: God remembers Noah, the waters are restrained, the dry land reappears, and the animals disembark and are once again told to be fruitful and fill the earth.
Underlining the function of the flood story as one of de-creation and re-creation, its chronology replicates the seven days of Creation: it begins in the second month, equivalent to the second day, the day on which the firmament was created; the waters then rise for 150 days (five months of 30 days each), until at the end of six months (equivalent to the six days of creative work in Genesis 1) the ark rests on the highest mountain peak. (To underline the point, Noah's name means "rest" in Hebrew). After a month of rest (the equivalent of the seventh day of the Creation story), the waters recede for 150 days/five months as the world is "re-created", in the sixth month Noah waits, and in the seventh he and the animals exit the ark and give thanks to God.
Genesis also contains a chronology which places the Flood in the year 1656 after Creation (or at least this is the date in the standard Hebrew text - the Masoretic text - other texts have slightly different chronologies). Correlating this with a date in the modern calendar has proven contentious with outcomes varying from 2304 to 6934 years BC. In line with belief in Creation, early Christians rejected the concept held by many Greek philosophers that the cosmos was eternal; thus Theophilus of Antioch dismissed Plato for saying that there had been 200,000 years "from the Flood to the present time". The early Church Fathers regarded the six days of Creation both as 24 hour days, and as more figurative or allegorical periods which could be of 1,000 years each. They believed and taught that human history would last 6,000 years before ending with the return of Christ, and placed Creation around 5,500 BC. This transfer from the days of Creation may have had Jewish precursors. Around the time of the Protestant Reformation scholars developed a Biblical chronology to determine the time since Creation, which they placed at around 4,000 BC.
The discrepancy between the ancient cosmology of a disc-shaped Earth under a solid crystalline dome and newer understandings was explained as God's teachings having been put in terms that would have been understood at the time, a theological principle of divine accommodation emphasised by John Calvin.
The great flood in the history of geology
Many early Christians, including Tertullian, Chrysostom and Augustine, believed that fossils were the remains of animals that were killed and buried during the brief duration of the Flood. The geological peculiarity in northern Europe where much is covered by layers of loam and gravel as well as erratic boulders deposited hundreds of miles from their original sources furthered acceptance of the idea. Early geologists interpreted these features as the result of massive flooding (in the mid 19th century geologists accepted that they had been formed by ice age glaciations). The global flood was associated with massive geographical upheavals, with old continents sinking and new ones rising, thus transforming ancient seabeds into mountain tops.
During the Age of Enlightenment, naturalists began proposing natural causes for the miracles recounted in the Bible. Naturalistic explanations for a global flood were posed by John Woodward, (1695), and Woodward’s student William Whiston, (1696).
The modern science of geology was founded in Europe in the 18th century. Its practitioners sought to understand the history and shaping of the Earth through the physical evidence found in rocks and minerals. As many early geologists were clergymen, they naturally sought to link the geological history of the world with that set out in the Bible. The ancient theory that fossils were the result of "plastic forces" within the Earth's crust had by this time been abandoned, with the recognition that they represented the remains of once-living creatures. This, though, raised a major problem: how did fossils of sea creatures end up on land, or on the tops of mountains?
By the early 19th century it was already thought that the Earth's lifespan was far longer than that suggested by literal readings of the Bible. (Benoît de Maillet had estimated an age of 2.4 billion years by 1732 as against the 6,000 years proposed by Archbishop James Ussher's famous chronology). In 1823 the Reverend William Buckland, the first professor of geology at Oxford University, interpreted geological phenomena as Reliquiae Diluvianae; relics of the flood Attesting the Action of a Universal Deluge. His views were supported by other English clergymen naturalists at the time, including the influential Adam Sedgwick, but these ideas were disputed by continental geologists and by 1830 Sedgwick was convinced by his own findings that the evidence only showed local floods.
Charles Lyell's promotion of James Hutton's ideas of uniformitarianism advocated the principle that geological changes that occurred in the past may be understood by studying present-day phenomena. In common with Newton, Hutton assumed that the world-system had been in a steady state since the day of creation, but unlike Newton he included in this vision not only the motion of celestial bodies and processes like chemical change on earth, but also processes of geological change. Christopher Kaiser writes:
In other words, in comparison with Newton's, Hutton's was a higher order concept of the system of nature which included not only the present structure of the world, but the process (or natural history) by which the present structure had come into existence and was maintained. As with Newton, and in contrast to materialists like Buffon and neomechanists like Laplace, the origins of the system were beyond the scope of science for Hutton: in nature itself he found 'no vestige of a beginning - no prospect of an end'. But Hutton came about as close to being a neomechanist as one possibly could without changing the Newtonian framework of God and nature. Only the Newtonian stipulation that God had personally designed the present system of nature stood between natural theology and the retirement of God from science altogether... Like Derham and Cotes, Hutton believed that God had implanted active principles in nature at creation sufficient to account for all its natural functions.
The idea that all geological strata were produced by a single flood was rejected in 1837 by theologian Buckland who wrote:
Some have attempted to ascribe the formation of all the stratified rocks to the effects of the Mosaic Deluge; an opinion which is irreconcilable with the enormous thickness and almost infinite subdivisions of these strata, and with the numerous and regular successions which they contain of the remains of animals and vegetables, differing more and more widely from existing species, as the strata in which we find them are placed at greater depths. The fact that a large proportion of these remains belong to extinct genera, and almost all of them to extinct species, that lived and multiplied and died on or near the spots where they are now found, shows that the strata in which they occur were deposited slowly and gradually, during long periods of time, and at widely distant intervals.
For a while, Buckland had continued to insist that some geological layers were related to the Great Flood, but grew to accept the idea that they represented multiple inundations which occurred well before humans existed. He was convinced by Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz that much of the evidence on which he relied was in fact the product of ancient ice ages, and became one of the foremost champions of Agassiz's theory of glaciations. Mainstream science abandoned the idea of flood geology that required major deviations from present physical processes.
Creationist flood geology
Flood geology was developed as a creationist endeavor in the 20th century by George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist and amateur geologist who wrote a treatise in 1923 to provide a Seventh-day Adventist perspective on geology. Price's work was subsequently adapted and updated by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr. in their The Genesis Flood in 1961. Whitcomb was motivated after reading The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954) by theologian Bernard Ramm. Ramm supported the view that scientists who are Christians could come to alternative interpretations to the strict six day creation, as promoted by Price, that are both Biblical and concordant with current scientific evidence. Morris and Whitcomb argued that the Earth was geologically recent, that the Fall of Man had triggered the second law of thermodynamics, and that the Great Flood had laid down most of the geological strata in the space of a single year.
Ramm's book was supportive of religious and scientific dissent from flood geology. J. Laurence Kulp, a geologist in fellowship with the Plymouth Brethren, joined with other Christian geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and biologists whose work related to radiocarbon dating, to persuade the Christian organization, American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), not to officially support or endorse flood geology but to allow members to follow the scientific evidence rather than a literalist interpretation of the Bible. Kulp also wrote a detailed critique of Flood Geology, titled Deluge Geology, which was published in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation in 1950. When the ASA refused to align itself with flood geology, a new generation of Young Earth creationists was founded, many of whom organized themselves around Morris's Institute for Creation Research. Subsequent research by the Creation Research Society has observed and analyzed geological formations, within a flood geology framework, including the La Brea Tar Pits, the Tavrick Formation (Tauric Formation, Russian: "Tavricheskaya formatsiya") in the Crimean Peninsula and Stone Mountain, Georgia. In each case, the creationists claimed that the flood geology interpretation had greater explanatory power than the uniformitarian explanation. The Creation Research Society claims that "uniformitarianism is wishful thinking".
The impact on creationism and fundamentalist Christianity of these ideas is considerable. Morris' theories of flood geology are widely promoted around the world, with his books being translated into many languages. Flood geology is still a major theme of modern creationism, though it is rejected by earth scientists.
Creationist arguments for a global flood
The geologic column and the fossil record are used as major pieces of evidence in the modern scientific explanation of the development and evolution of life on Earth as well as a means to establish the age of the Earth. Young Earth Creationists such as Morris and Whitcomb in their 1961 book, The Genesis Flood, say that the age of the fossils depends on the amount of time credited to the geologic column, which they ascribe to be about one year. Some flood geologists dispute geology's assembled global geologic column since index fossils are used to link geographically isolated strata to other strata across the map. Fossils are often dated by their proximity to strata containing index fossils whose age has been determined by its location on the geologic column. Oard and others say that the identification of fossils as index fossils has been too error prone for index fossils to be used reliably to make those correlations, or to date local strata using the assembled geologic scale.
Other creationists accept the existence of the geological column and believe that it indicates a sequence of events that might have occurred during the global flood. This is the approach taken by Institute for Creation Research creationists such as Andrew Snelling, Steven A. Austin and Kurt Wise, as well as Creation Ministries International. They cite the Cambrian explosion — the appearance of abundant fossils in the upper Ediacaran (Vendian) Period and lower Cambrian Period — as the pre-Flood/Flood boundary, the presence in such sediments of fossils that do not occur later in the geological record as part of a pre–flood biota that perished and the absence of fossilized organisms that appear later, such as angiosperms and mammals, as due to erosion of sediments deposited by the flood as waters receded off the land. Creationists say that fossilization can only take place when the organism is buried quickly to protect the remains from destruction by scavengers or decomposition. They say that the fossil record is evidence of a single cataclysmic flood and not the record of a series of slow changes accumulating over millions of years.
Flood geologists have proposed numerous hypotheses to reconcile the sequence of fossils evident in the fossil column with the literal account of Noah's flood in the Bible. Whitcomb and Morris proposed three possible factors. One is hydrological, wherein the relative buoyancies of the remains based on the organisms' shapes and densities determined the sequence in which their remains settled to the bottom of the flood waters. The second factor they proposed was ecological, suggesting organisms living at the ocean bottom succumbed first in the flood and those living at the highest altitudes last. The third factor was anatomical and behavioral, the ordered sequence in the fossil column resulting from the very different responses to the rising waters between different kinds of organisms due to their diverse mobilities and original habitats. In a scenario put forth by Morris, the remains of marine life were the first to settle to the bottom, followed by the slower moving lowland reptiles, and culminating with mankind whose superior intelligence and ability to flee enabled them to reach higher elevations before they were overcome by the flood waters.
Some creationists believe that oil and coal deposits formed rapidly in sedimentary layers as volcanoes or flood waters flattened forests and buried the debris. They believe the vegetation decomposed rapidly into oil or coal due to the heat of the subterranean waters as they were unleashed from the Earth during the flood or by the high temperatures created as the remains were compressed by water and sediment.
Creationists continue to search for evidence in the natural world that they consider to be consistent with the above description, such as evidence of rapid formation. For example, there have been claims of raindrop marks and water ripples at layer boundaries, sometimes associated with the claimed fossilized footprints of men and dinosaurs walking together. Such footprint evidence has been debunked and some have been shown to be fakes.
Widespread flood stories
Proponents of Flood Geology state that "native global flood stories are documented as history or legend in almost every region on earth." "These flood tales are frequently linked by common elements that parallel the Biblical account including the warning of the coming flood, the construction of a boat in advance, the storage of animals, the inclusion of family, and the release of birds to determine if the water level had subsided." They suggest that "the overwhelming consistency among flood legends found in distant parts of the globe indicates they were derived from the same origin, but oral transcription has changed the details through time."
Anthropologist Patrick Nunn rejects this view and highlights the fact that much of the human population lives near water sources such as rivers and coasts, where unusually severe floods can be expected to occur occasionally and will be recorded in tribal mythology.
Proposed mechanisms of flood geology
One specific form of runaway subduction is called "catastrophic plate tectonics", proposed by geophysicist John Baumgardner and supported by the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis. This holds the rapid plunge of former oceanic plates into the mantle caused by an unknown trigger mechanism which increased local mantle pressures to the point that its viscosity dropped several magnitudes according to known properties of mantle silicates. Once initiated, sinking plates caused the spread of low viscosity throughout the mantle resulting in runaway mantle convection and catastrophic tectonic motion as continents were dragged across the surface of the earth. Once the former ocean plates, which are thought to be denser than the mantle, reached the bottom of the mantle an equilibrium was reached. Pressures dropped, viscosity increased, runaway mantle convection stopped, leaving the surface of the earth rearranged. Proponents point to subducted slabs in the mantle which are still relatively cool, which they regard as evidence that they have not been there for millions of years of temperature equilibration.
Catastrophic plate tectonics is also associated with the creationist hypothesis that the Earth's magnetic field reversed direction many times in rapid succession during the year-long global flood.
The hypothesis of catastrophic plate tectonics is considered pseudoscience and is rejected by the vast majority of geologists in favor of the conventional geological theory of plate tectonics. It has been argued that the tremendous release of energy necessitated by such an event would boil off the Earth's oceans, making a global flood impossible. Not only does catastrophic plate tectonics lack any plausible geophysical mechanism by which its changes might occur, it also is contradicted by considerable geological evidence (which is in turn consistent with conventional plate tectonics), including:
- The fact that a number of volcanic oceanic island chains, such as the Hawaiian islands, yield evidence of the ocean floor having moved over volcanic hot spots. These islands have widely ranging ages (determined via both radiometric dating and relative erosion) that contradict the catastrophic tectonic hypothesis of rapid development and thus a similar age.
- Radiometric dating and sedimentation rates on the ocean floor likewise contradict the hypothesis that it all came into existence nearly contemporaneously.
- Catastrophic tectonics does not allow sufficient time for guyots to have their peak eroded away (leaving these seamounts' characteristic flat tops).
- Runaway subduction does not explain the kind of continental collision illustrated by that of the Indian and Eurasian Plates. (For further information see Orogeny.)
Conventional plate tectonics accounts for the geological evidence already, including innumerable details that catastrophic plate tectonics cannot, such as why there is gold in California, silver in Nevada, salt flats in Utah, and coal in Pennsylvania, without requiring any extraordinary mechanisms to do so.
Isaac Vail (1840–1912), a Quaker schoolteacher, in his 1912 work The Earth's Annular System, extrapolated from the nebular hypothesis what he called the annular system of earth history, with the earth being originally surrounded by rings resembling those of Saturn, or canopies of water vapor. These were hypothesised to have, one by one, collapsed on the earth, resulting in a "succession of stupendous cataclysms, separated by unknown periods of time" burying fossils. The Genesis flood was thought to have been caused by "the last remnant" of this vapor. Although this final flood was geologically significant, it was hypothesized to account for far less of the fossil record than George McCready Price attributed to it. This hypothesis gained a following among Jehovah's Witnesses and from Seventh-day Adventist physicist Robert W. Woods, before being given prominent and repeated mention in The Genesis Flood in 1961.
Though the vapor canopy theory has fallen into disfavour among most creationists, recent defenses of the theory have been attempted by Dillow and Vardiman. Among its more vocal adherents is controversial Young Earth Creationist Kent Hovind, who uses it as the basis for his eponymous "Hovind Theory".
Modern geology and flood geology
Modern geology, its sub-disciplines and other scientific disciplines utilize the scientific method to analyze the geology of the earth. The key tenets of flood geology are refuted by scientific analysis and do not have any standing in the scientific community. Modern geology relies on a number of established principles, one of the most important of which is Charles Lyell's principle of uniformitarianism. In relation to geological forces it states that the shaping of the Earth has occurred by means of mostly slow-acting forces that can be seen in operation today. By applying these principles, geologists have determined that the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. They study the lithosphere of the Earth to gain information on the history of the planet. Geologists divide Earth's history into eons, eras, periods, epochs, and faunal stages characterized by well-defined breaks in the fossil record (see Geologic time scale). In general, there is a lack of any evidence for any of the above effects proposed by flood geologists and their claims of fossil layering are not taken seriously by scientists.
The global flood cannot explain geological formations such as angular unconformities, where sedimentary rocks have been tilted and eroded then more sedimentary layers deposited on top, needing long periods of time for these processes. There is also the time needed for the erosion of valleys in sedimentary rock mountains. In another example, the flood, had it occurred, should also have produced large-scale effects spread throughout the entire world. Erosion should be evenly distributed, yet the levels of erosion in, for example, the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains differ significantly.
Geochronology is the science of determining the absolute age of rocks, fossils, and sediments by a variety of techniques. These methods indicate that the Earth as a whole is at least 4.5 billion years old, and that the strata that, according to flood geology, were laid down during the Flood some 6,000 years ago, were actually deposited gradually over many millions of years.
If the flood were responsible for fossilization, then all the animals now fossilized must have been living together on the Earth just before the flood. Based on estimates of the number of remains buried in the Karoo fossil formation in Africa, this would correspond to an abnormally high density of vertebrates worldwide, close to 2100 per acre. Creationists argue that evidence for the geological column is fragmentary, and all the complex layers of chalk occurred in the approach to the 150th day of Noah's flood. However, the entire geologic column is found in several places, and shows multiple features, including evidence of erosion and burrowing through older layers, which are inexplicable on a short timescale. Carbonate hardgrounds and the fossils associated with them show that the so-called flood sediments include evidence of long hiatuses in deposition that are not consistent with flood dynamics or timing.
Proponents of Flood Geology also have a difficult time explaining the alternation between calcite seas and aragonite seas through the Phanerozoic. The cyclical pattern of carbonate hardgrounds, calcitic and aragonitic ooids, and calcite-shelled fauna has apparently been controlled by seafloor spreading rates and the flushing of seawater through hydrothermal vents which changes its Mg/Ca ratio.
Sedimentary rock features
Phil Senter's article, The Defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology, on the website of the National Center for Science Education, discusses "sedimentologic and other geologic features that Flood geologists have identified as evidence that particular strata cannot have been deposited during a time when the entire planet was under water ... and distribution of strata that predate the existence of the Ararat mountain chain." These include continental basalts, terrestrial tracks of animals, and marine communities preserving multiple in-situ generations included in the rocks of most or all Phanerozoic periods, and the basalt even in the younger Precambrian rocks. Others, occurring in rocks of several geologic periods, include lake deposits and eolian (wind) deposits. Using their own words, Flood geologists find evidence in every Paleozoic and Mesozoic period, and in every epoch of the Cenozoic period, indicating that a global flood could not have occurred during that interval.
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