Re: Precambrian geology (2)

Jonathan Clarke (
Mon, 29 Mar 1999 22:24:44 +1000

Greetings Allen, once again

Allen Roy wrote:

> > From: Jonathan Clarke <>
> > > There is an a priori reason for preferring the 'catastrophic' and that
> is
> > > the witness evidence of the Bible.
> >
> > This does not hold water. the Bible speaks of catastrophic events but
> nowhere
> > 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
> Bible
> > 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.

So are you saying the Biblical record is irrelevant on this point?

> 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.'

Your exact words were "Church fathers taught that the earth today was just the
way it came from the Creators hands during the creation week and that the flood
came and went without leaving any trace".

Which interpretations were adapted from Greek paganism and Christianised?

> > The first people to systematically develop historical
> > geology did so within a paradigm that said that sediments were deposited
> in
> > Noah's flood. This was in the 17th and 18th centuries. They included
> Steno
> > 1638-1686), Burnet (1635-1715), Woodward (major publication 1695),
> Whiston
> > (his major work was in 1696), Ray (published in 1713) and Catcott (major
> work
> > 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
> not
> > 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.

If you read these authors you will find that their description of Noah's flood
was just as all encompassing as any modern advocate of the flood. Burnet in
his "Sacred Theory of the Earth", for example, envisaged the whole scale
collapse of the earth's crust into a subterranean abyss. Halley thought the
passage of a great comet caused the sea to overflow the land. Whiston was also
fond of comets and said that the passage of the earth through the atmosphere
and tail of a comet caused a change in the axial tilt, fall of heavy cometary
rain, large scale fracturing of the crust and release of abyssal water. All
these writers attributed the present day physiography and the geological strata
to the flood, except Burnet who does not seem to have been aware that there was
a geological record.

So how does this reveal the writer's extremely small concept of the flood?

Of course their geological knowledge was limited. However they were aware of
basic lithostratigphic principles (Steno), considered the implications of
fossils for depositional processes (da Vinci), carried out experiments on
crystallisation (Newton), developed predictive theories for the stratigraphic
succession that would result from a flood (Woodward), and pondered the
implications of conglomerates. It was the result of this knowledge, together
with detailed mapping, that led to the collapse of geological diluvialism.

Sure we know more now, but that does not mean to say that their conclusions
were necessarily wrong. Should we reconsider geocentric astronomy just because
we know more about the heavens that Copernicus and Galileo?

> > Geological diluvialists must not be confused with catastrophists. These
> were
> > people such as Cuiver (1769-1832), Sedgwick (1785-1873), Murchison
> > (1792-1871), and Buckland (1874-1856). They believed that the earth was
> old
> > 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
> would
> > lead to large scale sedimentation, fossilisation, and deformation.
> > Catastrophism was dominant from about the 1800's to the 1830's. Neither
> should
> > 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.

Allen, did you read what I said? The geological diluvialists did not believe
in a succession of catastrophes. That was catastrophists - a very different
group of people working at a late date. As to the complexity of modern flood
geology, I suggest you read "The Sacred Theory of the Earth". Burnet's model
is as complex, with as many different processes going on, as any developed by
modern devotees of flood geology.

> > The term "uniformitarism" was coined by by a catastrophist, William
> Whewell
> > (1794-1866), to describe the approach of Lyell (1797-1875), who against
> the
> > catastrophists, and held that present processes operating at present
> rates were
> > sufficient account for the geological record. Lyell is the best known of
> the
> > uniformitarians, but others include Scope (1797-1876), Fleming
> (1785-1857),
> > and Lomonosov (1711-1765). With the exception of Lomonosov, these were
> most
> > active from 1810 on and uniformitarianism widely accepted from about
> 1840.
> While the term uniformitarianism may not have been used by the earliest
> naturalists, it still describes well thier overall view of geology.

Name one before 1800 other than Lomonsov!

> > 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
> result
> > of Noah's flood. The glacial theory of Agassiz (1807-1873) proved a
> better
> > explanation for such deposits, and geomorphological diluvialism fell out
> of
> > 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
> locality.

Glacial theory not successful??????

> > 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?

No thanks - two discussion groups is enough. Three and my wife might institute
divorce proceedings. However I stand by my statement. Modern geology is not
"uniformitarian" in the sense that would have been understood by Lyell - the
sufficiency of present causes operating at present rates to explain the
geological record. I don't know many geologists who would hold that definition
when questioned, not matter how vehemently they would defend the abstract word.

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

I am not saying that. All I am saying is that it is no evidence in the
Scriptures that Noah's flood changed the face of the earth, formed kilometres
of geological succession, etc. The church fathers held that and you seem to
agree. To me you are in the same position as the 17th century diluvialists.
You are faced with the fact of a geological record and then explain it with an
event you already have to hand.

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

After nearly 200 of diluvial research my many people they obviously thought
differently. It would be helpful if you could read their works (available in
most good libraries, either their entirety or as exerpts) before deciding
whether they were justified in abandoning ship or not.

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

Already answered, above.

> > > We can understand the past by interpreting the evidence of the
> geological
> > > 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.

When both Bible and and creation are rightly interpreted, yes. But please don't
say that yours is the only Biblical paradigm within which people work. It is
one yes, but not the only one. It is one that developed in response to
geological evidence, a response which was eventually rejected (200 years ago)
as being inadequate. I work within a Biblical paradigm for Genesi 1-11.
Different to yours true, but still Biblical.

> > > The differences in interpretation of how rock formed is not in the
> evidence
> > > 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
> will.
> > I am glad you share my opposition to becoming a potato farmer (not that
> there
> > 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
> don't
> > fit the paradigm? The paradigm must be changed. How do you chose
> between
> > competing aspects of your flood paradigm when faced with a rock outcrop?
> I
> > 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.

And this is precisely what happened. It was not one observation that lead to
the collapse of diluvialism, but a mass of evidence and how they fitted
together that those studying the earth felt was overwhelming.

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

A presuppositionalist is one who argues that everything we believe is
determined by our presuppositions. A strong presuppositionalist (and I
apologise to any philosophers reading this for the caricature) would say that
presuppositions completely determine what we believe. A weak
presuppositionalist would say that they are merely influential, to varying
degrees. We are both weak presuppositionalists, I suspect.

> > The 18th century diluvialists collected the evidence
> > that changed their paradigm. Buckland collected the data which led him
> to
> > reject his on earlier work on the origin of surfical deposits. Just
> because
> > data is collected and interpreted within a paradigm does not mean that
> the
> > 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
> geologists

Most of this paragraph I have addressed already. However is it not possible
that the paucity of modern flood geologists, even among Christian professional
geologists (<10%?) might have something to do with the evidence? Or do you
doubt their professional competence and spiritual integrity?

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

This is not what you said, see above. But more importantly, what were these
interpretative beliefs of the church fathers that were extra Biblical? Why
were they wrong? What extra-Biblical beliefs to you use in interpreting the
Bible. Is it always wrong to do so? How to we chose?

The flood event is clear the the Bible, but Biblical catastrophism is not.
Please explain how it is.

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

Yes, I agree this is so in my experience. But it has always puzzled me. If you
hold to an apparent age approach, then you don't need to explain the geological
record by the flood. It would be simpler to do so. As I recall this was
Phillip Gosse's position. Although he believed in a universal flood, with his
creation of his apparent age (I think he called it "prochronism") he did not
need to explain the geological record by it. It solved no end of messy
geological problems, at the cost of bigger metaphysical ones.

> > > Philosophy of science is accepted by all of us. Without agreeing on
> > > certain assumptions about what we can know we could not even do
> science.
> > > 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
> Kuhn's
> > paradigms. In reality the philosophy of science is more complex than
> both,
> > 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.

You should read Kuhn's "structure of scientific revolutions". In it he says
many interesting things about paradigms and revolutions in science.

> > So what are the basic assumptions of science? I have posted this before:
> The
> > 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
> interpretation
> > 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.

So we have this in common (along with much else I hope).

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

Have a good trip and take care.

God Bless