October 23, 2017

Mike the Geologist: On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (10)

Grand Canyon Sunset. Photo by Joe Jiang

Previous posts in the series:

• • •

The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?
By Gregg Davidson, Joel Duff, David Elliott, Tim Helble, Carol Hill, Stephen Moshier, Wayne Ranney, Ralph Stearley, Bryan Tapp, Roger Wiens, and Ken Wolgemuth.

Final post in series.

Chapter 20: Science vs. Flood Geology- Not just a difference in worldview is the final chapter in the book.  At the beginning of the book it was noted that flood geologists claim they are looking at the same data as modern geologists; they just interpret through the lens of a biblical worldview.  The implication is that if you believe the Bible is true, then your eyes are open to the natural evidence that the earth, and the canyon, are very young.  If you are wearing “humanistic” glasses though, all you see is the evidence that the earth is very old.  Everybody is doing good science, it is just arriving at different interpretations of the data due to your worldview presuppositions.  One world- two views as AIG puts it.

Creation Ministries International says this:

We often emphasize two important points about science and the origins debate: (1) there is a fundamental difference between the science of present processes (operational science) and the science of past events (historical science), and (2) historical science in particular is governed by the biases we bring to the data so that people with different worldviews can look at the same data and come to completely different conclusions on what happened. 

• http://creation.com/same-data-different-interpretations.

But is that distinction true?  Is the “science of present processes” different in any significant way from the “science of past events”?  For each subject addressed in this book, when the data are considered in their totality and the conclusions are allowed to follow from the data, instead of the conclusion being pre-determined from the start, the data lead to an inevitable conclusion of a long developmental history of many millions of years for the formation of the Grand Canyon.

A recent age for the canyon can only be imagined by deciding on such an answer in advance, carefully selecting bits of data that can be construed to fit the preconceived model, and ignoring data that do not fit. (page 207)

That is the difference between the real science of geology and the pseudo-science of flood geology.  Real science goes where the data leads, flood geology does not.

The message of flood geology is that what is observed in nature today cannot be used to inform us of what may have happened in the past, that fundamental laws of physics and chemistry cannot be assumed to be well understood, and – critically – that nature cannot be trusted to tell its own story.  In this regard, flood geology is not only unscientific, it is unbiblical.  The first chapter of Romans states that the Creator’s divine nature is manifest in His physical creation- in nature.  If nature cannot be trusted to tell a truthful story, what does this say about flood geologist’s conception of God? (page 208)

If the basis for evaluating the history of the formation of the Grand Canyon is physical evidence then flood geology falls far short.  A truly viable account- a scientific account- must take into account all the data, not just that which conveniently fits flood geology’s preferred model.  The flood geology claim of being just “as good as” the prevailing scientific view is hollow; even if they are able to persuade gullible scientifically illiterate Christians.

Sign in the Ark Encounter

However, I get it.  I really do it get.  The desire to defend the faith from the skeptics.  The rise of modernity has coincided with the rise of modern science and has seemed to overwhelm the old paradigm.  Religion is a thing of the past for ignorant and superstitious people, so the modern “scientific” skeptic says.

12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain… 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Cor 15:12-14,19)

Inerrancy Governs Our Response to the Conclusions of Science. If we believe the Bible contains errors, then we will be quick to accept scientific theories that appear to prove the Bible wrong. In other words, we will allow the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God. When we doubt the Bible’s inerrancy, we have to invent new principles for interpreting Scripture that for convenience turn history into poetry and facts into myths. This means people must ask how reliable a given passage is when they turn to it. Only then will they be able to decide what to make of it. On the other hand, if we believe in inerrancy, we will test by Scripture the hasty theories that often come to us in the name of science.

https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/why-should-we-believe-in-the-inerrancy-of-scripture/

This seems like a reasonable position for a Christian to hold.  If we can’t believe the Genesis account of the Flood, then how can we believe the New Testament account of the resurrection?  If we doubt the one why shouldn’t we doubt the other and be of “all men most miserable”. So we can only let Scripture judge Scripture, we cannot let the fallible, ever-changing science of unregenerate, fallen men judge the holy, God-breathed, infallible, un-changing Scriptures.  It’s the serpent that inspires the question, “Hath God said…”

The problem here is twofold.  First of all reality is reality.  If something is true in the natural, physical realm then it is true- period.  All truth must, for the Christian, be God’s truth.  The YECs say that we can’t allow “the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God”.  And to an extent, for the Christian, that has a measure of plausibility to it.  Science tells us when you are dead you are dead.  Men dead for three days stay dead.  Five loaves and two fishes can’t feed 5,000 people.  Human beings can’t walk on water.  But the issue with miracles are that they are not judged by science because they are, by definition, one-off events not the result of natural causes.  The second issue with YEC is the inconsistent application of the hermeneutic.  The Genesis account also says the sky is a solid dome, there is an ocean above the dome, and an ocean under the earth (which by the way rests on pillars).  The earth is a flat circular disk and the sun, moon, and stars revolve around it.  The stars are “lesser lights” and the moon gives its own light.

So, is this picture above true… or does it contradict the Bible?  Were Galileo and Copernicus wrong and the geocentrists right: If you don’t believe the sun rises, then you don’t believe the son rises.  The answer is that we do indeed allow the conclusions of science to judge the Bible; at least our interpretation of it.  What would have happened if Galileo and his colleagues would have bowed to the pressure to conform to the accepted wisdom of their society and the accepted interpretation of the Bible?  Even if the technological advances had somehow been able to continue and we developed TV, satellites, long-range telescopes, and put men on the moon; the truth of the solar system and indeed the cosmos would have had to come out eventually.  And then what of Christian believers and the faith.  What if the faith was tied to the Earth being the center of the cosmos as indeed some church men were trying to do:

From the trial of Galileo: We pronounce this Our final sentence: We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo . . . have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture…

The result would be that the Bible would be discredited and men would not believe its witness (nor ours) to the resurrection.  Many would eventually feel compelled to leave the faith altogether in the mistaken notion that science and the Bible are hopelessly at odds.  And then Augustine’s prediction made back in 408 AD would come true:

…If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

Pete Enns, in a recent post on his blog, said this:

The findings of science and biblical scholarship are not the enemies of Christian faith—they are only “enemies” of biblical literalism, which is not to be equated with the Christian faith… In fact I’ll take this a step further: The discoveries of science and of ancient history are opportunities to be truly “biblical” precisely because they are invitations to reconsider what it means to read the creation stories well.

We need only think of the ruckus caused by Copernicus and Galileo, telling us the earth whizzes around the sun, as do the other planets, when the Bible “clearly” says that the earth is fixed and stable (Ps 104:5) and the heavenly bodies do all the moving. Sometimes older views—no matter how biblically grounded we might think they are—do and must give way to newer ones if the circumstances warrant.

Saying you will make Scripture the priority based on your trust in God is one thing, but trying to have it both ways by saying “real science” would agree with my faith statement is DISHONEST. Either you are going to engage the science honestly, or you are going to set it aside because your trust in God is what is most important to you. If you say that based on Scripture the entire planet was under water but by some miracle it didn’t leave the evidence that would be expected, or you just don’t know why it didn’t leave the evidence- that is being honest and consistent.  Let me be clear, if you insist that the Flood took place just as Genesis “literally” says then you are stating it was a miracle.  A one-of-a-kind event that did not conform to natural laws; it was a supernatural occasion where God temporarily set aside the regular laws of the natural world.  If that is your position then fine, I disagree, but I respect your faith.

What you cannot say is that science properly applied with the right interpretive lens supports the conclusion the Grand Canyon was created in a single flood event.  That is wrong.  That is mistaken.  This book conclusively and unambiguously demonstrates no single flood deposited all the layers and formed the Grand Canyon.  Flood geology marches its adherents inexorably down the road to conclude the Bible teaches error and thereby undermines faith and undermines the very scriptures it purports to defend.

I will conclude with the final words of the book (page 209):

Does it matter?  It certainly does!  Truth ALWAYS matters.

• • •

Photo by Joe Jiang at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Thanks again Mike. You, and others like you, are a blessing to the Church.We need more of you. God speaks truth in reality and in scripture. Both are his word to us. When they appear to disagree, the interpretation of one must be wrong. As I say over and over, God dwells within reality and the more we lose contact with reality, the more God’s face becomes blurred.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As talk-show host Rich Buhler used to say over and over:

      “God lives in the real world.”

      • Mike Jones says:

        I didn’t know who Rich Buhler was. Had to look him up. Sounds like an interesting guy.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Buhler

          He was a Christian talk-show host from the Eighties. (Self-described “Pun-o-Costal”.)

          Hosted “Talk from the Heart” on KBRT (740 AM) on weekday afternoons back then. Really high-quality talk show.

          Also known as “Rumor Rich” because while all other Christian talk hosts were passing on every THIS IS IT! tabloid rumor about The Antichrist Revealed or “cockamamie stories about some Russian scientists who drilled a well into Hell”, he’d trace them down to the source (and the source was always Urban Legend or outright hoax). Now THAT gave him credibility. (Though he did get sucked in to the Repressed/Recovered Memory stuff during the Satanic Panic.)

  2. seneca griggs says:

    As noted, Evangelical conservative hold to the historicity of the first 11 Chapters of Genesis.

    [ Please do NOT expect “Moi” to respond in the next few hours to any questions directed my way. I pretty much read Internetmonk daily, but I also read a lot of other blogs daily. PLUS, I’m about to head to work for a few hours, hope to walk 9 holes of golf and may be engaged in “driving Miss Daily” [ my wife ] later on. And then I don’t wish to re-visit comments from a previous post. In other words; I have a life beyond blog posts and comments.]

    • Seneca, first of all, thank you for explaining your schedule and absence from further commenting, I appreciate the courtesy. ” I have a life beyond blog posts and comments.” Enjoy the rest of your day and be blessed. My reply here is not directed explicitly to you, but to those lurkers who read IM but rarely comment.

      “Evangelical conservative hold to the historicity of the first 11 Chapters of Genesis.” As I said in the post, if that is your position based on your trust in God who inspired the Scriptures then I respect that. I have many friends and family who hold that and I do not wish to break fellowship with them as long as we can agree to disagree. But I am not going to tolerate having my salvation, my commitment to Jesus as Lord of my life, and my love and trust in the Bible as God-breathed writings called into question. This issue is a matter of interpretation and on interpreting the Bible Christians often disagree. Also, I am not going to have my profession accused of “skullduggery”. I am a licensed professional geologist (Indiana registration #2514) and have practiced the profession for nearly 40 years. I do not view geologic evidence through “humanistic lenses” because I am not a humanist, I am a Christian. I don’t compromise my beliefs so I can be accepted by non-Christian geologists, I could care less if they don’t “accept” me or want to charge me with cognitive dissonance because I am a Christian and a scientist. That’s their problem. And I will not tolerate the “lying-for-Jesus” dishonest way that YECs and “flood geologists” treat the physical evidence manifest in the geologic record. I am going to continue to call it out. I consider it my duty to my fellow Christians. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise… (Oh- Geez, Mike get over yourself).

      Anyway, as I said in the post, if you want to maintain the Flood as a miracle of God that occurred “literally” as Genesis describes then that is your interpretation. Just please don’t say that “science properly interpreted” supports you. It doesn’t.

    • Seneca, you are right about one thing. We are not going to discuss this today. First of all, you have failed repeatedly to engage the actual material in the post. You have essentially stuck your fingers in your ears and said repeatedly, “Bible! Bible! Bible!”

      As for your comment today, it shows you still have not even listened to those of us who have responded to you in the past. You have used another evangelical buzzword designed to end the conversation, not continue it. “Historicity” is not in question. I said in one of my responses to you that the Flood story is an interpretation of a massive flood that took place in the ancient world. The question is not that. It is whether or not the text is actually written in a modern, journalistic way, and meant to be read that way. Once again, an evangelical who has no sense of literary genre, style, or context.

      You will be moderated in discussions on this post and others like it from now on. Acceptable comments will be those that actually engage the content of the post.

      • +1

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Hear, hear!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        First of all, you have failed repeatedly to engage the actual material in the post. You have essentially stuck your fingers in your ears and said repeatedly, “Bible! Bible! Bible!”

        Going for brownie points on J-Day (or R-Day).
        Except back in the Seventies it would be Calvary Chapelese:
        “SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”

  3. Mike the Geologist, thanks so much for this series.

  4. It’s all about frame of references. Not just when it comes to physical measurements, but literary interpretations as well. Imagine you’re in a train traveling along a set of tracks while holding a cup of coffee. Now, from your point of view, the cup of coffee is completely at rest. It’s not moving away from you or towards you. But from the point of view of someone sitting on a bench watching as the train goes by, they see the cup of coffee moving by rather quickly. If both people were to calculate the coffee’s velocity, they would get numerically different results. Question is, who’s right? Well, clearly, both are, any act of measurement inherently depends on a particular frame of reference. Trying to answer the question “What is the cup of coffee’s TRUE velocity?”, is nonsensical, because it doesn’t *have* a true or absolute velocity, it’s all relative.

    And as CM pointed out in the post two days ago, the Bible (specifically Genesis) often describes things in terms of their function: “Even the creation of such things as the heavenly bodies (Day 4: Gen. 1:14-19) is described specifically in terms of their purposes with regard to Jewish worship.”

    From the point of view of a person standing outside on the ground, our sun *is* the brightest object, and the other stars are lesser. From our point of view, the earth *does* look and appear flat. From our point of view, the stars *do* revolve around us. Yes, technically, from our frame of reference, we *are* the center of the universe lol. (While most people tend to think there is a center of the universe, or in other words a single point from which everything is expanding, but this is not true, there is no *absolute* center to the universe. Picture the surface of an expanding balloon, there is no *center*). The author is clearly not trying to make absolute, scientific claims about physical reality, but rather functional claims about our perspective on nature. While I used to be one of those trigger-happy guys that would leap in at any opportunity to try and use science to prove the Bible, I’ve come to realize those debates are moot and irrelevant. They’re two different discussions.

  5. That is why the Bible is not in “error” about the solar system. It is the perspective of ancient authors viewing the cosmos with the naked eye. We moderns have more sophisticated frames of reference, that is all. That is why it is a completely fruitless effort to try and concord the ancient writings with modern science.

    • Exactly, and when we discard overwhelming scientific evidence due to what we (from our frame of reference) perceive are issues of incompatibility with the Bible we are being disingenuous and ultimately painting God as a deceiver.

      You made a great point about trying to have it both ways earlier, i.e. only believing in science when it is convenient and supports your faith. And most people tend to overlook the fact that science is not simply the accumulation of natural knowledge, which does constantly evolve over time, but rather a systematic process of investigation or inquiry. If we believe in God, and that He is who He is, then we have nothing to fear from what science may uncover. Seriously, who cares what we discover? That’s not going to change who God is or what He’s done. We should never have to worry about being at war with science. When I realized that it was one of the most freeing moments. We can embrace both of them, and not be forced to wield science as simply a Christian weapon to be used against the rest of the secular, non-believing world.

      • This needs to go a lot farther than just creationism/flood stuff tho.

        Global warming would be a good next step to a series from a legit scientist who is a christian who believes the data. Most of the rebuttals I’ve seen over the past 10 years to climate change seems to stem from:

        A) it came from Al Gore, so it’s evil because Bill Clinton and Monica and Democrats and Hillary
        B) it’s all going to burn end times theology
        C) taxes are evil and Dems are stealing our money
        D) Obama is Black
        E) it’s still snowing and cold out
        F) nanny state took away my hairspray
        G) God’s in control and wouldn’t let us special snowflakes melt

        All of which seem to be coming from the Me Generation. Once you are honestly able to get past all those kneejerk reactionary positions…that’s when wisdom and learning happens.

        • I second the motion for a study of climate change, provided it’s done smartly and methodically like Geologist Mike has done here.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Unfortunately it has become A Cause, an opportunity for The Righteous Activists to count coup upon the Unrighteous (everybody else). The Righteous Cause and the True Believers. Wagging-finger Righteous Scolds and opportunists Never Letting a Crisis Go To Waste when it assists the climb to control-freak Power.

            Climate Change(TM) also has to work uphill against memories of a similar Media Panic in the Seventies — Global Cooling Crisis (Ice Age Armageddon). This was triggered by some climatology studies which discovered that Ice Ages started a lot faster than previously thought — a matter of years instead of centuries/millenia. Which discovery surfaced in the middle of a short-term cooling trend. While the scientific community studied the hypothesis (and finally came to a negative conclusion), the media picked it up, hyped it up, and ran with it — “Next spring, the winter snows will not melt. That Is How IT WILL BEGIN!”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          What I think happened is that early on Activists Looking for a Cause latched onto it as the Latest Righteous Cause and rammed it down the throats of all the Unrighteous (who were killing the plaaaaanet). Plus a couple dubious proofs early on and it lost a LOT of credibility.

          And there’s still a lot of Church Lady Moral Superiority preening among its activist advocates.

          If we’d encountered Global Warming/whatever during the Can-Do optimism of The Fifties, we’d be coming up with solutions instead of marinating in oh-so-delicious Angst and counting coup on the Unrighteous with wagging fingers. (Granted, some of those solutions would be dumb ones — the Fifites was the period of Operation Plowshare — but at least they’d be coming up with SOMETHING other than the PTA meeting from Interstellar.)

          • You all might be interested in this: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/
            I was initially a sceptic mainly because as a geologist I know climate on this planet has swung wildly. 20,000 years ago my home was covered with ice a mile thick. During the Permian extinction it has been estimated the world wide average temperature was 140F. HOW’s that for global warming. Nevertheless, the evidence has accumulated that climate change is real and anthropogenic causes are likely a major cause.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says:

              Agreed. I was initially skeptical too – for approximately the same reasons. Till I started to look at the data myself.

              • And, like the age of the earth/universe, the evidence is so numerous and cross-disciplinary that it almost takes an act of will, after being made aware of it, to dismiss it.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Note my comment was independent of whether Global Warming/Climate Change/Whatever Trendy Name Is Next was real or not. Just that when it surfaced as an issue, a LOT of its initial supporters seriously damaged its own credibility.

      • when we discard overwhelming scientific evidence due to what we (from our frame of reference) perceive are issues of incompatibility with the Bible we are being disingenuous and ultimately painting God as a deceiver.

        This, as much as anything, is what kills YEC for me. If someone did not have the Bible, and all they had was observation of creation, there is NOTHING that would indicate that it’s only 10,000ish years old. Everything observable – the size of the universe, the speed of light, rock formations, rate of tectonic drift and plate alignments, radiometric dating – point to an ancient earth and ancient cosmos. If YEC is correct, then it means that the Bible is the “hidden key” which alone can reveal the truth about how the universe runs.

        That line of thinking is not Christianity. It’s Gnosticism.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Sign in the Ark Encounter

    Note NO mention of Christ or even God.
    Only Heaven & HELL.
    (Not even Olam-ha-ba…)

  7. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    Urgh. That sign … define “real”. And why (if A then B) exactly? The A->B I still don’t get. I never for a moment believed (A) but got to (B) … well, there is that Hell/ECT thing but that is way more complicated.

    But nice craftsmanship. If I saw such a thing at the antique market I would probably purchase if for the man cave.

    • But nice craftsmanship. If I saw such a thing at the antique market I would probably purchase if for the man cave.

      I have a sign in my outside cellar doorway, inspired by Dante: “Abandon hope forever, ye who enter.”

      If you could see the condition of my cellar you’d understand.

  8. Ronald Avra says:

    I have enjoyed it all. Thanks.

  9. Thanks so much for this series. I have a degree in theology and am married to a scientist and have two grown children with college degrees in science. We’ve never had a problem within our family with accepting the science and talking rationally about what the Bible is saying or what faith entails.

    What has alienated at least one of my kids from the evangelical crowd, and possibly from the faith, though, is precisely what you outline: Christians insisting on maintaining a position that contradicts even the most basic science and labeling anyone who disagrees as faithless louts. That kind of dogmatism and judgement just turns people away, and all for something that’s not essential to faith. What a disservice to the cause of Christ.

    As I said, I really enjoyed the series and though it was one of the most cogent walks through science and its evidence that I’ve ever read. So don’t take this the wrong way, but I have to wonder if what is wrong is the fact that there is a need for such a book or such a series in the first place.

  10. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    As a fellow Geologist I want to congratulate Mike on the clarity of his writing on this series. Excellent job.

    Of course, something not that prevalent in the stratigraphy there (although present in the Supai Group) is evaporites – salt deposits. I do most of my work on those – in the form of potash. And they are some of the best examples of things that YEC cannot explain. Here where I am sitting as I am writing this (central SK), we have the Prairie Evaporite formation about 1000m (3280 feet) below me. Lots of sediments above it – limestone, shale sandstone, including the oil bearing (but not here) Bakken, plus another evaporite formation called the Davidson salt.

    The extent of the Prairie Evaporite Formation is from NW-SE – from Central Alberta to Southern Manitoba along its long axis, and stretching from central Saskatchewan to northern North Dakota along its widest. Below it is another bunch of sediments – like the Winnipegosis Carbonates, that preserved ancient reef systems.

    Now if you know anything about salt – it doesn’t like water. These deposits were formed in a shallow inland sea -that evaporated (“Evaporites”). Some beautifully large, clear crystals can be seen. Nothing that can be formed in the tumult of a flood. Never-mind the carbonates above and below – largely “chemical” sediments. The formation is up to 300 m (980 feet) thick….

    Let that sink in.

    Neither is it unique. We can speak about the Zechstein formation that can be traced from Yorkshire to Belarus. A number of basins in Russia, the Mediterranean, the US, underneath the Gulf of Mexico….

    NOPE. YEC proponents really don’t have a clue.