Re: Precambrian geology (2)

Jonathan Clarke (
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 19:34:46 +1000

Hi Allen

Allen Roy wrote:

> > From: Jonathan Clarke <>
> > 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.
> I think that Ager had a good word for what you are describing --
> Neo-Catastrophism. This is to be contrasted with Creationary
> Catastrophism. Neo-Catastrophism could be summed up with the quip, "Long
> ages of boredom accented by instances of shear terror." (Didn't Gould say
> something like that?)

The book is "The nature of the stratigraphic record". It was a
published in
the 60's or early 70's I think, and was very important book at the
time. In it
Derek Ager said that the stratigraphic record was like the life of a
So I suspect that Steve Gould was quoting Ager in this case. Ager was
happy to invoke processes not observable at the present time as well.

> > > It has nothing to do with professional competence nor spiritual
> integrity, but it is due the strength of the reigning paradigm.
> > If [you] 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......
> I don't think I was saying that. What I see we have here are two paradims
> which interpret the evidence differently according to each paradigm. I
> don't see this as challenging professional competence. One could be just
> as professionally competent if one changed from one paradigm to the other.
> It is the basis on which the paradigms rest which make the difference and
> the apparent conflict.

But paradigms do not exist in a vacuum. they are based (or should be)
evidence. Paradigms change because of evidence, not because of fashion.

> > 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?
> No I cannot, nor would I expect that to happen. I would expect the
> paradigm to change because one changes position on the witness evidence of
> Genesis.

But this depends on whether you how you read Genesis 1-3. If you read
it as a
scientific or historical account then you would expect it to contain
and scientific data. Indeed, the Christian naturalists of the 17th and
century did so. However the evidence they saw forced them to revise
paradigm, and interpret Genesis according to various concordist
such as the gap approach which you favour in later in your email, or the
day =
age approach. The scientific evidence made them reevaluate their
of Genesis not the other way round.

The process is identical to how the invention of the telescope resulted
in a
reinterpretation of of the geocentric passages of the Bible.

Incidentally the gap approach is generally credited to Thomas Chambers
and the tablet theory to Kurtz (1857) PJ Wiseman (1949), all of whom
the great age of the earth and a limited role for the flood.

> > > 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?
> I may have dealt with this before, but quickly:
> a. The apparent vast distances (and thus ages) of the universe as measured
> by light-years.
> b. The literary structure of Genesis.
> c. The history of the fall of Lucifer and introduction of Sin to the
> universe and then planet earth.
> I believe that the geologic evidence can be interpreted within the Flood
> catastrophe paradigm and thus is not evidence for an old earth.
> > > 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?
> The literary structure of Genesis would indicate that Gen 1:1, 2 are events
> which predate the Creation Week. This 'Beginning' would have been the
> creation ex-nihilo of the Universe (perhaps by something like a Big Bang: m
> = E / c^2 w/God's Omnipotence providing E ) including our solar system
> (but perhaps without the sun being alite).
> The entire Creation Week story is told from the perpective of being ON
> planet earth (an evening/morning, one rotation day has no meaning except ON
> a rotating planet). Day one could represent the lighting of the Sun as
> seen from the earth through the thick, cloudy atmosphere described in
> Psalms (the swadling clouds). On day four, the clouded atmosphere is
> cleared up and the sun and moon and stars become visible (made to be seen
> in the expanse) to someone on earth.

So if you believe that PreCambrian rocks are essentially pre-flood you
have no problem with conventional geological explanations for
rocks. If you do why? They date from before your creation week and
may, in
your model, have been formed over long periods.

> > 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.
> I"ve not heard of Gosse, nor (obviously) read his book. The problem, IMO,
> is that the geologic evidence as interpreted within the Neo-Catastrophist
> paradigm will only point to an old earth. A young earth can be interpreted
> from the same evidence but within the Creationary Catastrophist paradigm.
> You cannot expect to accept the interpretations according to the reigning
> paradigm and find them pointing to anything but an old earth.

Phillip Henry Goss was a prolific British amateur naturalist of some
note who
published his book "Omphalos" in 1857. He is widely credited with
the apparent age argument, which he called prochronism. I understand
that the idea did not originate with him, a point he makes clear early
in the

> I was just reading in a current (at least here at NAU) text book called
> "Petrology" (A facinating book!!! but I can't remember off the top of my
> head the authors) about classifying stratigraphic rocks. They pointed out
> that there are about three basic classification systems which range from
> the purely descriptive to the very interpretive. I would have no trouble
> with purely descriptive classification systems, but big problems with
> interpretive classifications, because the interpretive classification
> system is inherently Neo-catastrophist. I think that those who use or were
> trained using the interpretive classification system, would have a very
> hard time understanding how Creationary Catastrophists can look at the
> evidence differently. And, they may have a hard time recognizing the
> inherent Neo-catastrophism built into the classification system.

Where or what is NAU? The curse of TLA's (three letter acronyms)! I
used to
be OIC of the GRL for WMC myself.

You are quite right about the risks of interpretatuion based rather than
descriptive based stratigraphy. That is why the formal stratigraphic
used round the world is based on descriptive properties, not
properties about formational processes. The foundations of stratigraphy
laid by the diluvialists, refined by the catastrophists, and elaborated
by the
uniformitarians. The biostratigraphic subdivisions are empirical
relationships, established long before people had any real idea what
they meant
in terms of absolute (or if you prefer) numerical time. So today the
or otherwise of neocatastrophism has nothing to say about how
works, but only how we understand the formative processes of individual

> > What are the metaphysical problems of an old earth?
> I supposed the primary one is the need to explain death prior to the fall
> of man.

Augustine for one in the 4th century AD saw no problem with animal
before the fall.

> Allen

God Bless