Re: Walter Brown Jr. Video

Steven Schimmrich (
Mon, 09 Mar 1998 09:44:57 -0500

At 01:30 AM 3/9/98 -0800, David Fenske wrote:
>Can anyone help me with any of the following questions which stem from a
>video by Dr. Walter Brown, Jr., from MIT, entitled "God's Power and
>Scriptures Authority." This video was presented at my church this morning
>during the final class in the "Creation vs. Evolution" series. Many of the
>points he made are ones I have run across before, but a few are new to me,
>and I know I'm going to be asked about them. I'm also curious if any of
>you have read or heard his material and what you thought of it.

Just curious, did your church present any information about science from
scientists (e.g. Dr. Roger Wiens' essay entitled "Radiometric Dating: A
Christian Perspective" at the ASA web site) or was it all young-earth
creationist material? I suppose a fair examination of evidence from people
who've already made up their own minds is too much to ask (am I correct in
assuming that the leaders of the class were young-earth creationists?).

>First, a brief summary. Brown's main thesis takes a "Creation is awesome"
>approach which moves into looking at evidence from the biosphere that life
>couldn't have evolved (the probability arguments; evidence of design), from
>Astronomy that the moon is young (dust and moon's orbit), and from the
>Earth Sciences that a worldwide Flood explains all.
>He used some of the usual arguments which have been discussed here and
>elsewhere in great detail, such as the expectation of hundreds of feet of
>dust on the moon. And he subscribes to an age of the earth conspiracy: the
>vast majority of dating techniques reveal the earth to be young, but such
>data is hidden or squelched.

Those claims make me really mad because it's an outright lie and a slander
of people who spend their lives attempting to understand God's creation (and
there are many scientists, despite what people like Brown might claim, who are
Christian brothers and sisters).

>Here are the points I have some questions on:
>1) He claims that the moon is moving away from the earth, that there were
>several conferences in Hamburg convened to discuss this problem. The
>problem being that you can't go too far back in time before the moon would
>have been too close to earth. Has anyone else heard of this?

I'll leave this one for the astronomers on the list since I haven't heard
about the "conferences in Hamburg". I'm betting, however, that Brown refers
to a very simple-minded calculation where the present rate of motion is assumed
to be a constant rate and then extrapolated backwards. I'm sure the problem
is far more complicated (but I know nothing about orbital mechanics so I'll
defer to those who do).

>2) Polystrate fossil trees: a lot was made of these trees that extent
>through many layers of strata. The conclusion was that only a worldwide
>flood could have deposited these. Is there a standard answer from geology
>on how these things got where they are?

The term "polystrate fossils" is not a standard geological term but one
creationists coined to refer to fossils apparently cutting through several
layers of strata. One place that such fossils are common is in Joggins,
Nova Scotia where Carboniferous-age trees are preserved in an upright position.
The famous 19th century geologist Charles Lyell (a contemporary of Darwin) even
wrote about these fossils. As Andrew McRae points out in a Talk Origins essay (, the method by which
these fossils formed was understood back in 1868 (Dawson, J.W., 1868. Acadian
Geology. The Geological Structure, Organic Remains, and Mineral Resources of
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, 2nd edition. MacMillan
and Co.: London, 694pp). Dawson described over a dozen horizons of in situ
trees with paleosols (fossil soil horizons) and roots extending downward
from the trees into the soil horizons. He also found numerous reptile fossils
in the hollow trunks of many of the trees. It's clear that this deposit
represents a river floodplain during the Carboniferous Period that was subjected
to periodic large flooding events which buried the bases of many tree trunks.
These types of fossils do NOT show any evidence of having been deposited in
a single global flood and simply haven't been a problem for geologists for
over 100 years! Let me guess, Brown never once refered to any geological
studies or explanations of these fossils, right? Anyway, refer to McRae's
essay for more details and references.

>3) He mentioned fossils of celite on mountain tops, and of fish and sharks
>in mountains, all violently squished down. More evidence for the flood. I
>have always assumed these were the remnants of animals who existed in a
>shallow sea or such prior to the uplifting of mountains. Am I correct here?

I have no idea by what you mean by "celite" (sea life?). But, if you go very
high up into the Himalayan mountains, for example, you will find marine limestones
with invertebrate marine fossils. How did they get there? The standard
geological explanation, which I'm sure Brown never mentioned, is that the
Himalaya were formed when India moved northward during the past 50 million years
or so and collided with Asia pushing up the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas.
In the process, the limestone floor of the shallow, tropical sea between India
and Asia was caught up in the collision and squished up with everything else.

How does Brown explain the igneous ocean-floor rocks (called ophiolites) present
high up in the Himalaya as well? How did the large granite batholiths in the
Himalaya cool between the time of the flood and today (totally and absolutely
impossible according to all known laws of physics and thermodynamics)? You have
the same problems in other mountain belts like the Alps and Andes. Maybe Brown
doesn't discuss ALL of the geology relevant necessary to understand the issue?

By the way, want to know why fossils in mountains might be "violently
squished down"? It's because rocks (and fossils contained within rocks) must
deform (change their shape) when mountains are formed. That's why folds are
very common in rocks located in mountains.

>4) The coal in Antarctica: where did the vegetation come from? He claims
>from the flood (I assume it's from back in the days when the climate was
>different and Antarctica had a different location).

Exactly. It amazes me that many young-earth creationists act as if there
was no such thing as plate tectonics. Alfred Wegener, one of the first to
scientifically propose the idea of continental drift in 1915, knew about
coal in Antarctica and proposed a solution. Did Brown EVER discuss what
geologists claim about such things or did he pretend that these were all
"problems" in geology (which would be a dishonest lie)?

>5) Brown claims that "Evolution is scientifically naked," and that no-one
>will debate him in writing on any of the claims he makes.

I will be happy to have an orderly written debate with Brown, on the ASA
or SCICHR list, on any geological subject :). It's rhetoric and untrue
rhetoric at that -- there are obviously many people who would be willing to
debate Brown (just ask the folks on the Talk Origins newsgroup).

>6) His theory of the flood: the hydroplate theory. A huge reservoir of
>water used to exist under the crust. A split occured along the
>mid-Atlantic ridge (all the way from the north to south pole within 3
>hours) and the way sprayed up to a height of 20 miles, producing the water
>needed to flood the whole earth, and moving aside much of the dirt along
>this crack (this with the force of a huge number of Atom bombs). This
>allowed the earth beneath to rise up, forming the mid-Oceanic ridge, and
>sent the continental plates flying east and west at 45 mph. As they slowed
>down they buckled up to form mountains. The water then drained off
>continents into the huge ridges found in the Atlantic.
>This strikes me as ludicrous that such massive structural rearrangements
>could occur so fast. Wouldn't such massive water/earth eruptions put dust
>into the atmosphere, causing a huge greenhouse effect? Wouldn't the heat
>released do something climactically? Could the plates really move so fast?

There are obviously numerous insurmountable problems with such a scenario.
There's also no geological evidence to support such a idea -- it's all armchair
theorizing in an attempt to harmonize their interpretation of Scripture with
geological observations that can't be denied (e.g. the existence of the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge). Read the "Journal of Geophysical Research" sometime.
Papers about plate tectonics in such a journal are supported by geological
observations and heavy-duty mathematics. Can Brown refer us to papers written
by young-earth creationists spelling out, in detail, these ideas and have
them supported by geophysical and geological observations and mathematical
models (specifically regarding 45 mph plates)? Otherwise it's a waste of time
to debate his claim (anyone can come up with a scenario but that's not science
and unworthy of consideration unless it's supported by DATA).

>That's all. Again, very well presented. Almost convincing :-)

Young-earth creationists do give very slick presentations. When examined,
however, many of the claims can be shown to be based on misrepresentations
and outright falsehoods. In my opinion, it dishonors the name of Christ
when Christians endorse and financially support such "ministries". I'll get
off my soapbox now...

- Steve.

   Steven H. Schimmrich
   Physical Sciences Department (office)
   Kutztown University      (home)
   217 Grim Science Building         610-683-4437, 610-683-1352 (fax)
   Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530