Re: Precambrian geology (2)

Allen Roy (
Sun, 28 Mar 1999 03:18:37 -0700

> From: Jonathan Clarke <>
> > There is an a priori reason for preferring the 'catastrophic' and that
> > the witness evidence of the Bible.
> This does not hold water. the Bible speaks of catastrophic events but
> ascribes the geological record to them. You admit this when you say
below that
> the church fathers did not see physical evidence to the flood or read the
> as saying that there was such evidence.

Would anyone expect the Bible to point to some kind rock formation as
evidence of catastrophic events described in the Bible? Of course not.
Does it matter that the Bible does or does not do so? No.

I did not say that the Church fathers did not see physical evidence for the
flood. I said that they taught the idea that the earth had not changed
since the Creation week. Is this a Biblical teaching? No. This is an
interpretation of the texts which, like many of the other teachings of the
Church, was adapted from Greek paganism and 'Christianized.'

> The first people to systematically develop historical
> geology did so within a paradigm that said that sediments were deposited
> Noah's flood. This was in the 17th and 18th centuries. They included
> 1638-1686), Burnet (1635-1715), Woodward (major publication 1695),
> (his major work was in 1696), Ray (published in 1713) and Catcott (major
> 1768). Others included Halley and Newton. However, the efforts of these
> people to understand the history of the earth in terms of Noah's flood
led them
> to accumulate evidence which showed the opposite; that the flood could
> explain the geological record.

This is because of thier extremely small concept of the Flood and because
of the general paucity of geologic evidence of any kind since geology was
in it's infancy.

> Geological diluvialists must not be confused with catastrophists. These
> people such as Cuiver (1769-1832), Sedgwick (1785-1873), Murchison
> (1792-1871), and Buckland (1874-1856). They believed that the earth was
> and that the geological record contained evidence of a succession of
> catastrophes. Noah's flood was but the most recent of these. They were
> catastrophists because they could not conceive of present processes which
> lead to large scale sedimentation, fossilisation, and deformation.
> Catastrophism was dominant from about the 1800's to the 1830's. Neither
> diluvialists be confused with another 18th century school of geology, the
> neptunists, who had an aquatic theory for the origin of all rocks .
> Catastrophism was dominant from about the 1800's to the 1830's

The Diluvialists held to extremely puny concepts of the Flood compared to
Flood catastrophists of today. What they ascribed to a succession of
catastrophes, today's catastrophists ascribe to one mega-catastrophe
consisting of many thousands of events.

> The term "uniformitarism" was coined by by a catastrophist, William
> (1794-1866), to describe the approach of Lyell (1797-1875), who against
> catastrophists, and held that present processes operating at present
rates were
> sufficient account for the geological record. Lyell is the best known of
> uniformitarians, but others include Scope (1797-1876), Fleming
> and Lomonosov (1711-1765). With the exception of Lomonosov, these were
> active from 1810 on and uniformitarianism widely accepted from about

While the term uniformitarianism may not have been used by the earliest
naturalists, it still describes well thier overall view of geology.

> Although uniformitarians were successful in showing catastrophism was not
> necessary to explain the geological record, geomorphological diluvialism
> persisted as a way of explain landforms surfical deposits. Buckland, for
> example explained surface and cave deposits, including bone beds, as the
> of Noah's flood. The glacial theory of Agassiz (1807-1873) proved a
> explanation for such deposits, and geomorphological diluvialism fell out
> favour.

They did provide a theory, but Flood catastrophists of today hardly call it
successful. And, Flood catastrophists explain landform surfical deposits
as both Late-Flood/Post-Flood and warm Ice Age workings depending upon

> Incidentally modern geology is not "uniformitarian" in the sense of
Lyell, so
> it is better not to label it as such.

I dare you to make that statement on Talk.Origins. :) Actually, you are
right, while it is still called 'uniformitarian,' the belief actually
allows for catastrophies of nearly any size to occure. Anyone ever heard
of the word oximoron?

> You are quite right. The church fathers did not think of geological
> catastrophism because there is nothing in the scriptures that explicitly
> it.

Would anyone need for the scriptures to explicitly state that this or that
rock was the result of the Flood? Of course not. This is silly.

> General acceptance of a universal flood meant that it was a convenient
> (and justifiable) explanation when thick sedimentary piles full of
> were recognised. In the end the explanation just didn't work and the
> geological diluvialists collected the data that overthrew their own

The only reason it didn't work was due to the overall paucity of geologic
information. Their flood paradigm was too puny to account for the data
they collected. Instead of expanding their paradigm to a larger
understanding of the Flood they abandonded ship before it was even in

> That is fine, it is how science works, and I am not criticising the 17th
> 18th century diluvialists for working in that framework. It is a
> story now, however. Postulating Noah's flood as an explanation of the
> record is the same as holding to any other long abandoned scientific
> such as the phlostigon theory of combustion, Aristotelian physics, or
> geocentric astronomy.

Flood catastrophism of today cannot be compared with the puny concepts of
the diluvialists. They abandonded the Flood paradigm while geology was
still in its infancy. Just like you said, it is a different story today.
More and more, the evidence can be better explained in catastrophic terms.
Uniformitarianism is becoming more and more catastrophic. The small ideas
of the diluvialists should indeed be abandonded, but that does not reflect
upon the proposals of Flood catastrophism of today.

> > We can understand the past by interpreting the evidence of the
> > record within our paradigm. The past only has signficance or meaning
> > within a paradigm.
> Oh? Are you saying the past is only what we believe it to be? That we
> create the past within our imaginations? That there is no independent
> historical record which we can discover and come to conclusions about?
> Do you use the same paradigm to interpret human history and the
> historical passages of the Bible?

What I was trying to say was that the geologic record can only be
understood within a paradigm. I choose to interpret the geologic record
within a Biblical paradigm. The only true history is that which God has
revealed to us, which we accept as valid witness evidence by faith in Him
because of our trust in Him. The geologic record will be in harmony with
the Biblical evidence.

> > The differences in interpretation of how rock formed is not in the
> > but in the paradigm. We can discuss and compare interpretations of the
> > evidence.
> I as said before, rocks are not ink blots into to which we read what we
> I am glad you share my opposition to becoming a potato farmer (not that
> is anything wrong with potato farming, if any are reading this - it is
just not
> for me)! Rocks are interpreted according to paradigms, but what if they
> fit the paradigm? The paradigm must be changed. How do you chose
> competing aspects of your flood paradigm when faced with a rock outcrop?
> hope it is on the evidence of the rock itself.

The problem does not lie in the evidence of the rock outcrop, but in the
interpretations of the evidence of that outcrop. A flood paradigm may
change or be modified, but absolute rejection is not likely to be
determined by physical evidence in the rocks.

> If you believe that paradigm is all there was to it, then I would assume
> are a strong presuppositonalist. The fact that we are having this
> this suggests you are not.

What is a presuppositionalist? I would guess that I am not.

> The 18th century diluvialists collected the evidence
> that changed their paradigm. Buckland collected the data which led him
> reject his on earlier work on the origin of surfical deposits. Just
> data is collected and interpreted within a paradigm does not mean that
> interpreter must be blind to other interpretations which square with the
> evidence more successfully.

I agree. But just because there may be interpretations of physical
evidence which thus far seem to be better than a Flood catastophist
interpretation or for which a Flood catastrophe interpretation does not yet
exist, that does not mean one should or must throw over the idea. The
concept of the Flood catastrophe comes from Biblical witness evidence which
one accepts by faith in God's truthfulness. The Flood catastrophe thus
becomes a world view within which one interprets the physical evidences.
The Flood catastrophe model of today, which is far grander than the
extremely limited view of the diluvialists, is still in it's infancy.
Interpretations do not yet exist for everything which has been thus far
interpreted within the evolutionary paradigm. Progress is being made. It
is slow, mostly because of the limited number of Flood catastrophist

> > Can a paradigm change? Yes. There are many parts which make up the
> > Some parts of the paradigm are non-negotiable. Others parts change
> > easitly. In the Creationary Catastrophe paradigm, the flood
catastrophe is
> > not negotiable. Just exactly how it occurred is being explored. This
> > and that come and go.
> Why is the flood catastrophe not negotiable? You have admitted it is
> obvious from the text. What is your basis for saying this? Is it
> evidence for catastrophe? Or it is you reading of the Bible?

I did not say it was not obvious from the text. I said that some Church
fathers held interpretive views of the Bible based on adapted
extra-Biblical beliefs which today's Flood catastrophists do not accept. I
believe that Flood catastrophism is quite obvious from the text, and as
such is not negotiable.

> What about other YEC who hold to apparent age creationism? The
> effects of the flood are clearly negotiable to them. What do you say to
> folk?

Hmmm. All YECs that I know (and that would be most of those who are on
CRSnet) who hold to apparent age creation (that is, the universe, the
earth, and biological forms were created with apparent age during the
creation week) are avid flood catastrophists.

> > Philosophy of science is accepted by all of us. Without agreeing on
> > certain assumptions about what we can know we could not even do
> > This is true no mater what intepretive paradigm one chooses.
> If only this were true. Unfortunately it is not. Vernon Jenkins defines
> science along the lines of naive Popperian falsification. You favour
> paradigms. In reality the philosophy of science is more complex than
> although both Kuhn and Popper have much to say that is valuable.

My view may not be strictely Kuhn. I have never read anything by him, so I
wouldn't know. My concept of paradigm may not be same as what he proposes.
I equate paradigm with one's world view; one's overall philosophy of
understanding and of making sense of the world and one's existance. I
believe that I also use it as hypothesis. Perhaps I am not being as
consistant with my use of this word as I should be.

> So what are the basic assumptions of science? I have posted this before:
> assumptions include the reality and intelligibility of the universe,
> recognition that speculation must be constrained by data, a commitment to
> reasoned investigation, communication of results, methods, and
> to the scientific community, and the verifiability of results.
> Not a perfect definition, but a working one. Can you work within this
> definition? If so, then we are talking the same language. If not, then
we must
> strive harder to find a common one.

I would agree with that. I would have this as a working definition of
scientific enquiry within my paradigm/world view. The key point in your
definition is 'interpretation'. This is where the difference lies between
Flood catastrophe and standard geology. This 'interpretation' is done
according to assumptions which are besides the ones you listed above.


PS: I'll be gone for nearly a week starting tommorrow (3-22-99). I can't
respond to anything untill I get back.