Re: Precambrian geology (2)

Steven Schimmrich (
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 08:46:20 -0400

Jonathan Clarke wrote, in reply to Allan Roy, that:
>> 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
> soldier. So I suspect that Steve Gould was quoting Ager in this case. Ager
> was quite happy to invoke processes not observable at the present time as well.

Allan and I had a long discussion about Ager a year or so ago on this list (or
maybe it was SCICHR, I forget). Anyway, YECs love this quote always use it out of
context to imply that Ager's ideas somehow support the idea of a global catastrophic
flood and the sedimentary processes that YEC's propose. Ager himself stated in one
of his later books that YEC is complete and utter nonsense and that his ideas in no
way support their agenda (I can dig up the exact quote if anyone cares). What Ager
did propose is that the strata we see in the sedimentary record are records of
"catastrophic" events. What did he mean by "catastrophic" events? Storms, hurricanes,
turbitity currents, etc. How many such "catastrophic" events are preserved in the
stratigraphic record? Millions. It's a long jump from Ager's ideas to the idea that
ALL sedimentary rocks record ONE global flood. Besides which, I think most geologists
think Ager overstated his case a bit (although the types of "catastrophic" events he
proposed are certainly recorded in the stratigraphic record). For the record, I am
a geologist and have taught a course called "Sedimentary Petrology and Depositional
Environments" here at Calvin so I'm pretty familiar with Ager's work and the latest
thinking in sedimentary geology. So, the next time you hear a YEC throw out that
quote by Ager, kindly remind them that Ager believed YEC to be complete nonsense and
his ideas in no way support their flood model.

- Steve.

   Steven H. Schimmrich                         Assistant professor of geology
   Department of Geology and Geography (office)
   Calvin College                      (home)
   3201 Burton Street SE                        616-957-7053, 616-957-6501 (fax)
   Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546