Re: Precambrian geology (2)

Jonathan Clarke (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 08:00:34 +1000

Greetings Allen and welcome back to the discussion,

Allen Roy wrote in part:

> What I was trying to say was that the Bible does not single out any
> particular geologic formation as being the result of any kind of
> catastrophe. That is not saying that the Bible denies that the Flood is
> responsible for any geologic formations. Nor am I admiting that the
> fathers did not see physical evidence because the Bible does not identify
> some strata as flood deposits. I was trying to say that they did not see
> physical evidence of the flood because they were unable to conceive that
> the strata they were looking at could be catastrophically depositied.

OK, I now follow your meaning. I think it is safe to say that the ancient
world did not generally consider that it was possible to regard the rocks as a
historical record. There were exceptions of course, such as Herodotus. There
were also a range of speculations in typical Greek fashion, some of which seem
prescient today, but there was no science of historical geology. Hence the
fatherd did not need to relate the Bible to extra-biblical knowledge in this
area, whereas they did have to do so with respect to astronomy.

> Nor am I saying that the Biblical record is irrelevant. I was saying that
> one
> would not expect the Bible to identify specific rock formations as Flood
> deposits. But just because the Bible does not do that, that does not rule
> out the possibility that the catastrophe was responsible for the Rocks.
> Floods by nature cause erosion and make deposition. A 'flood' that 'covers
> mountains' is to be expected to do large scale erosion and deposition. The
> Bible does not come right out and say this, but it does follow logically.
> Just exactly what the scale of that erosion and deposition is not explicit.

I quite agree. I would see the flood passages as refering to a historic event
also. With respect to the flood an earth history, it is quite a priori
conceivable that the rock record is the result of a single global flood. Maybe
there are planets in the universe where the geological record is dominated by a
single aquatic episode. The issue is whether the terrestrial record records
that. On the face of what I see, it does not.

> It is when one begins to look at the geologic record that the scale
> becomes important. This is where the differences of opinion begin. Flood
> catastrophists see the entire record as catastrophic deposition.
> Uniformatarians see it as representing long ages.

You still use this term "uniformitarians". It is not helpful to do so. Most
geologists are decidedly not uniformitarian in the sense that was understood in
the 19th century by Lyell and others. Therefore it would be better not to use
it. What matters in modern geology is the actual processes that formed a
particular feature, not "uniformitarianism". In the same way your use of
"catastrophism" is likely to be misunderstood. Catastrophism has as many
nuances as uniformitarianism, and so should be avoided if possible. Individual
processes may be catstrophic of course, and because they can be observed today
may be uniformitarian at the same time.

> It has been along time since I read anything about the early diluvialists
> and catastrophists. I don't remember a whole lot about every detial of
> what they proposed. However, what I have been trying to say is that
> Creationary catastrophism today is different from the early catastrophists.
> To be sure there are similarities, but where the early catastrophists
> captiulated, modern catastrophism has found valid explanations. Probably
> the best thing to do is to take the model of each early catastrophist along
> with the evidence which appeared to invalidate it and compare it with
> curent catastrophism. This would be alot of work, but likely quite
> productive in the long run.

This is something that should have been done a long time ago.

> LIke I said above, it follows logically that floods cause change. The
> question is how much? And again, there are some similarities between the
> 17th century diluvialists, but there are differences which explain the
> geologic record within a catastrophic paradigm.

No problem with the fact that floods causes change. This is true whether
talking about any kind of flood event. Last year I had students noting the
effects of a recent flood in their mapping area. The question here is
different: is whether the evidence supports the contention Noah's flood was a
global event and if so to what extent it is responsible for the geological
record. Regarding the similarities and differences between the diluvialists
and modern flood geologists, see below.

> I have read some of them, enough to recognize basic differences between
> what they proposed and what is proposed now. This would be a great place
> to take each one and compare then and now.

What are these basic differences? How has modern flood geology addressed the
issues that led 17th-18th century diluvialism to be abandoned? These include
the problem of multiple unconformities and conglomerates, the fossil
succession, and the lithological succession. What about al, the that has been
learned on formation processes of rocks since then? Especially things that
point to long multiple subaerial time breaks between successive strata such as
buried paleosols horizons, buried karst surfaces. Also the high correspondence
between a wide range of modern depositional and volcanic rocks and many ancient
ones. And these are just a few of the problems.

> The Creationary Catastrophism of today is different from that 'rejected'
> 200 years ago. It is invalid to label todays catastrophism with a 200 year
> old label, so you can attempt to dismiss modern catastrophism as
> unscientific and backwards.

Perhaps it is unfair to to link 17th-18th century diluvialism with modern flood
geology. Geologists (although they would not have labelled themselves as back
then) of the 18th century eventually recognised that the geological record was
not the result of a single deluge. They modified their theories in the light
of the evidence. Those who were serious Christians (many, perhaps most of
them) explored many ways of relating three Biblical text to their scientific
discoveries. Modern flood geologists regard as non-negotiable the idea of the
flood as an all encompassing geological agent.

> You are again saying that what modern catastrophists is the same that the
> old. This simply does not work.

Please explain (see above).

> It has nothing to do with professional competence nor spiritual integrity,
> but it is due the strength of the reigning paradigm.

If say that people are unable to challenge the reigning paradigm if the
evidence demands it then you are challenging their professional competence. Of
course it might be that the reigning paradigm is supported by an immense body
of evidence......

Can you name one person who believes that the earth is young or that the
geological record is the result of the flood purely because of the evidence and
not because their hermetic of Genesis requires them to?

> >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?
> Here again we need to look at each one specifically and analyze their
> assumptions and interpretations, and then compare with todays views.

In that case, please be specific. You said on the 28th of March that the
church fathers "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.' " Can you justify this statement? Why
were they wrong to do this?

> > The flood event is clear the the Bible, but Biblical catastrophism is
> not. Please explain how it is.
> I see both as one and the same. This comes from looking as the description
> of the Flood of the Bible and looking at the geologic record.

However, you cannot avoid the fact that although it may be evident to you, it
has not been to most people. Nobody thought of systematically explaining
physical geography and the geological record by the flood until people began
thinking geologically. The history of how people have understood the flood in
relationship to exegesis of the text and Biblical knowledge shows that many
positions have been held.

> My own view is this:
> The Universe (including galaxies, stars and planets) was created at some
> point "In the Beginning" long ages ago.

What evidence makes you think that the universe is very old, rather than only
6,000 years? Why do you accept this evidence and not geological evidence?

> That some 6000 earth-years ago, the Creation week occurred during which the
> earth was modified to house and support life (as we know it) and then that
> life was created during 7 rotations of the planet.

What about the earth and sun? Was the earth created on the 1st revolution and
the sun on the 4th, or were they created at some stage in the distant past?

> Then, some 4000 years ago, the Flood occurred which compleately altered the
> surface of the globe. Many types of animals and plants were buried and
> fossilized.
> The messy geological problems arise because of the felt need to interpret
> things in terms of long times. And there are big metaphysical problems
> with long evolutionary ages, too.

Thank you for explaining your view in this area.

Gosse's "geological knot" (his phrase) was that the geological evidence to him
pointed clearly to an old earth and not to a young one or to formation in the
flood. He summarises this in some detail in his book.

What are the metaphysical problems of an old earth?

God Bless