The Genesis Flood — 50 years on (4)
Since the 1960s, many creationists have followed Whitcomb and Morris in reinterpreting the geological record in the light of the biblical Flood. Several scientific models of the Flood have been proposed, the most promising of which is known as Catastrophic Plate Tectonics.1
This model explains how the earth came to be inundated with water when the continents rapidly separated during the Flood. It also leads naturally to an explanation of the ice age.
The sea floor upheaval associated with this episode of catastrophic tectonics would have caused the temperature of the oceans to be raised significantly.
Research has shown that this would have generated heavy snowfall after the Flood, leading to the rapid build up of continental ice sheets.2 Progress has also been made in some of the ‘problem areas’ for biblical geology discussed by Whitcomb and Morris.3
Consider, for example, the multi-million year ages of rocks and minerals based on radioactive decay. An in-depth study by creationist researchers found evidence suggesting that decay rates had been accelerated during the Flood, thus inflating the true age of these geological materials.4
Significant work has also been done on rock formations that seem to imply slow deposition, such as reef limestones5 and fossil forests.6 There have been studies of the rapid origin of metamorphic rocks 7,8 and large igneous bodies.9 There have even been efforts to reconstruct what the world was like before the Flood, based on careful studies of the fossil record.10,11
That is not to suggest that all the problems have been resolved. Far from it. The Genesis Flood proposed a framework in which these questions might be addressed rather than answering all of them; and much more research remains to be done.
For instance, I am currently working with two colleagues on a study of a rock layer found in the Grand Canyon and across central and northern Arizona. This sandstone has been used to challenge Flood geology, because it is usually interpreted as the product of the slow accumulation of windblown dunes in an arid desert. But we have discovered a great deal of evidence that it was laid down rapidly underwater.12
Research of this kind is invaluable in continuing to build and strengthen the Flood model of geology.
What does the future hold for creationist geology? There are some causes for optimism. In 2008 there was the formation of the Creation Geology Society (CGS), a professional body for creationists in the earth sciences.
The society’s board is comprised of seven creationists, all with doctoral degrees in the earth sciences. The society holds an annual conference and the proceedings are available on the Cedarville University web site.13
This is a significant development because it offers a forum for the kind of professional interaction that needs to take place as Flood geology matures as a discipline.
Furthermore, Flood geologists are increasingly seeking engagement with the conventional scientific community through mainstream meetings and publications. Creationists regularly participate in the annual conferences of the Geological Society of America, and have even led GSA field trips to sites of geological interest.14
Where possible, they try to publish the results of their research in standard geological journals. One example is the work of creationist Leonard Brand and his colleagues on the remarkable preservation of fossil whales in Peru. This research even made the cover of Geology, one of the leading journals in that field.15
There is, of course, a pressing need to train the next generation. An exciting development in this regard is the recent launch of an undergraduate degree majoring in geology at Cedarville University in Ohio.16 Cedarville is a Baptist college with a commitment to biblical creationism.
The geology course, led by Dr John Whitmore, will teach students both the naturalistic and young-age perspectives on earth history, and will emphasise rigorous coursework and hands-on field experience. It has the potential to become an important source of creationist geologists of the future.
Finally, in 2009, the long awaited update and revision of The Genesis Flood was published.17 Its author, Dr Andrew Snelling, is one of the world’s leading creationist geologists and was personally commissioned by Henry Morris some years ago to undertake the assignment.
Entitled Earth’s catastrophic past (ICR: ISBN: 978-0-932766-94-6), this massive two-volume work expands upon and significantly revises the original book, upon which it was based. For today’s reader it offers a modern creationist approach to the science of geology.
There is little doubt that the worldwide revival of creationism in the latter half of the twentieth century owed a great deal to the publication of The Genesis Flood and the remarkable vision of its authors, John Whitcomb and Henry Morris.
This one book has done so much to cause Christians to reconsider the biblical teaching about the Flood and its implications for our scientific understanding of earth history. Since the book’s first appearance, much progress has been made in building upon the foundations that it laid.
Encouraging progress can be perceived even in areas that might first have appeared intractably problematic. These advances ought to give us confidence that ongoing research will yield further significant insights.
Of course, not all the scientific arguments in The Genesis Flood have stood the test of time and some have had to be updated or abandoned. We must always be aware of the dangers of fossilised creationism!
Nevertheless, the Flood geology model shows great promise and a new generation of creationist scholars is urgently needed to develop the biblical and scientific arguments further. Our challenge is to encourage and nurture that new generation (more information: www.bibicalcreationministries.org.uk).
Paul Garner, BSc, FGS
1. S. A. Austin, J. R. Baumgardner, D. R. Humphreys, A. A. Snelling, L. Vardiman and K. P. Wise, ‘Catastrophic plate tectonics: a global Flood model of earth history’, in: R. E. Walsh (ed.), Proceedings of the third international conference on creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 1994, pp.609-621.
2. M. J. Oard, An ice age caused by the Genesis Flood, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, 1990.
3. J. C. Whitcomb and H. M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The biblical record and its scientific implications, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961, pp.331-453.
4. L. Vardiman, A. A. Snelling and E. F. Chaffin (eds.), Radioisotopes and the age of the Earth: results of a young-earth creationist research initiative, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon and Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, 2005.
5. J. H. Whitmore, ‘Modern and ancient reefs’, in: M. Oard and J. K. Reed (eds.), Rock solid answers, Master Books, Green Forest, 2009, pp.149-166.
6. H. G. Coffin, ‘Special edition: the Yellowstone petrified “forests”’, Origins (Geoscience Research Institute), Vol. 24, No. 1, 1997, pp.2-44.
7. A. A. Snelling, ‘Towards a creationist explanation of regional metamorphism’, Creation ex nihilo technical journal, Vol. 8, 1994, pp.51-77.
8. A. A. Snelling, ‘Regional metamorphism within a creationist framework: what garnet compositions reveal’, in: R. E. Walsh (ed.), Proceedings of the third international conference on creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 1994, pp.485-496.
9. A. A. Snelling and J. Woodmorappe, ‘The cooling of thick igneous bodies on a young earth’, in: R. E. Walsh (ed.), Proceedings of the fourth international conference on creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 1998, pp.527-545.
10. K. P. Wise, ‘The hydrothermal biome: a pre-Flood environment’, in: R. L. Ivey (ed.), Proceedings of the fifth international conference on creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 2003, pp.359-370.
11. K. P. Wise, ‘The pre-Flood floating forest: a study in paleontological pattern recognition’, in: R. L. Ivey (ed.), Proceedings of the fifth international conference on creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 2003, pp.371-381.
12. J. Morris, ‘The Coconino sandstone: a flood or a desert?’ Acts and Facts, Vol. 39, No. 7, 2010, p.15.
14. S. Austin, ‘Christian geologists influential at GSA meeting’, Acts and facts, Vol. 38, No. 12, 2009, pp.8-9.
15. L. R. Brand, R. Esperante, A. V. Chadwick, O. P. Porras and M. Alomía, ‘Fossil whale preservation implies high diatom accumulation rate in the Miocene-Pliocene Pisco formation of Peru’, Geology, Vol. 32, 2004, pp.165-168.
17. A. A. Snelling, Earth’s catastrophic past: geology, creation and the Flood, 2 vols., Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, 2009.