In honor of Avogadro’s number (6.02 x1023), today is mole day. According to some who celebrate this day, celebrations can actually begin at 6:02 on 10/23.
Mole Day Jokes — there are some new ones here I had not seen before.
Grace and Peace
Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: Martian Dust Devil Trails
The APOD description for this image:
Who’s been marking up Mars? This portion of a recent high-resolution picture from the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows twisting dark trails criss-crossing light colored terrain on the martian surface. Newly formed trails like these had presented researchers with a tantalizing martian mystery but are now known to be the work of miniature wind vortices known to occur on the red planet – martian dust devils. Such spinning columns of rising air heated by the warm surface are also common in dry and desert areas on planet Earth. Typically lasting only a few minutes, dust devils becoming visible as they pick up loose red-colored dust leaving the darker and heavier sand beneath intact. On Mars, dust devils can be up to 8 kilometers high. Dust devils have been credited with unexpected cleanings of mars rover solar panels.
Go to APOD for a higher resolution image. You’ll be glad you did.
Grace and Peace
Some recent images from NASA’s Earth Observatory Image of the Day:
Grace and Peace
|I wasn’t really happy with the first iteration of my “Answers in Genesis conference — day 2″ post” so I have rewritten it. Here it is again, hopefully somewhat improved.
On Sunday night, I attended part of day two of the Answers in Genesis “special outreach” with Dr. Terry Mortenson (PhD in the History of Geology). Here are a few thoughts:
- Mortenson stated that the geological column (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian… with associated fossils) doesn’t actually exist all together in any one location. It is true that it doesn’t exist at the Grand Canyon (where the rocks are Precambrian through Triassic, with the Silurian and Ordovician missing). There are other locations, as documented by Christian geophysicist Glenn Morton, where layers of each period of geologic history are present (see The Geologic Column and its Implications for the Flood; Morton was once a young-Earth creationist who published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly). Morton describes a location in the Williston Basin of North Dakota that has layers from each major time unit from the Precambrian and Cambrian all the way up to the Quaternary, and lists 25 other major sedimentary basins around the world which have similar complete geologic columns. The geologic column is an observation of nature, not a construct of evolutionists.
- Mortenson used erosion in the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington as an example of what a catastrophic flood can do in a short time. These channels were formed when a glacial dam broke during the Ice Ages, releasing up to 2000 cubic kilometers of water which was impounded behind the dam, forming Lake Missoula. These flood waters spread out over the Columbia Plateau creating the Channeled Scablands. He showed a picture of the Palouse River Canyon, which is cut hundreds of feet down into the Columbia River Basalts, and stated that evolutionary geologists believe this was cut in just a couple of days during the Scabland flood. This was a misstatement of what geologists teach. There is ample evidence that there were numerous catastrophic floods that carved the Channeled Scablands, not just one. Geologists believe that the ice dam formed dozens of times, and broke dozens of times. The Palouse River Canyon may have existed in some form before flooding, with the flood waters enhancing the canyon rather than creating it from scratch.
- Mortenson, like other young-Earth creationists, posits hyper-rapid evolution after the animals left the Ark. For example, Noah did not have to take horses, donkeys, and zebras all onto the Ark; he only had to take a pair of the “horse kind.” The idea is that this pair had sufficient genetic variation in their genes to produce horses, donkeys, and zebras, and anything else that would fall into the “horse kind.” The problem is that it is not individuals that have genetic diversity. It is populations that have diversity, and the larger the population, the greater the potential for variation. If the pair on the Ark were both Clydesdales, then their offspring would be Clydesdales. If the pair were an Arabian and a Clydesdale, then there could be a greater variation in the offspring, but not zebras, donkeys, or even Shetlands apart from many generations of selective breeding.
- Much of what Mortenson said about the origin of life, the origin of information, gaps in the fossil record, and the nature of natural selection is consistent with what is being said by the progressive creationists (e.g. Hugh Ross) and the intelligent design movement. I am in general agreement with this position.
- Like in the previous night’s presentation, Mortenson presented this as a battle between two opposing world views. One is either wearing Biblical glasses or Evolutionized glasses, and this determines how one views Earth history. Again, I don’t think these are the only options. My approach—which I believe is thoroughly Biblical—is that all truth is God’s truth. If there is a conflict between what God has revealed in his Word and what we see in nature, then we either misunderstand nature, or we misunderstand Scripture (or both). In the end, when we perfectly understand both, there will be no conflict. What I believe the young-Earth creationists often do is force nature to fit their understanding of the Bible, often resulting in a distortion of what God has sovereignly allowed to happen in Earth history.
- Mortenson also stated that young-Earth creationism has been the position of the church for almost its entire history. This is true, and I place a high value on the Church fathers and church history in general. But this is a dangerous argument to use in a Baptist church. I could have used the same argument to say that believer’s baptism was virtually unheard of in the church for 3/4 of church history, and is therefore invalid. That might not have gone over too well.
- Mortenson showed a video on sedimentary layers featuring Andrew Snelling that contained many the problems that I pointed out in my Six Bad Arguments from Answers in Genesis series. This stuff doesn’t work scientifically, and should not be used as Christian apologetics.
Without a doubt, most in the audience thought that Mortenson had presented a convincing case for young-Earth creationism. Unfortunately, few in an audience like this have the geological background to critically analyze the arguments presented.
With love for the body of Christ, and for scientists who are turned away from the Gospel by bad arguments in defense of the Bible.
Grace and Peace
The ESV Study Bible (ESV is the English Standard Version translation) is a masterpiece of conservative Evangelical scholarship. The scholars who put this volume together are highly-qualified Bible experts who have a high respect for the Bible as the Word of God.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of a study Bible, this contains more than just the text of the Bible. It contains many thousands of cross-references and explanatory notes, plus drawings, maps, articles, and an extensive concordance (index). The ESV Study Bible is a massive work, with over 2,000,000 words on 2750 pages.
The Introduction to the ESV Study Bible makes it very clear that the authors of the various articles and study notes share a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. The Introduction was written by Lane Dennis of Crossway Books and Bibles, and Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary. Here are some quotes from the introduction:
The first kind [of words in the ESV Study Bible] is the actual words of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us. (p. 9)
The notes are written from the perspective of confidence in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. (pp. 10-11)
Because of this commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible, many would think that the ESV Study Bible would give a strong endorsement of the “literal” six-day interpretation of the young-Earth creationists, with a roughly 6000-year old Earth and a global flood that deposited most sedimentary rocks. The authors of the notes, however, take a cautious and broad approach to questions of the age of the Earth and the extent and work of the flood.
There are two groups of people who insist that Genesis teaches a young Earth. The first of these is the young-Earth creationists, led by organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. They are convinced that the Bible requires a young Earth, and distort science to make it fit their interpretation. The other group is the atheists and skeptics. It is in their interest to say that the Bible requires a young Earth, as it makes it easier for them to not believe. For the most part, neither group is willing to consider Biblical scholarship that would upset their preconceptions.
INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Overview of interpretations
The ESV Study Bible‘s Introduction to Genesis (which is different than the Introduction I have quoted from already) was written by T. Desmond Alexander of Union Theological Seminary in Belfast. It has a section called “Genesis and Science,” which begins with an overview of the various positions that are held by theologically-conservative Biblical scholars.
The relation of Genesis to science is primarily a question of how one reads the accounts of creation and fall (chs. 1–3) and of the flood (chs. 6–9). What kind of “days” does Genesis 1 describe? How long ago is this supposed to have happened? Were all species created as they are now? Were Adam and Eve real people? Are all people descended from them? How much of the earth did Noah’s flood cover? How much impact did it have on geological formations?
Faithful interpreters have offered arguments for taking the creation week of Genesis 1 as a regular week with ordinary days (the “calendar day” reading); or as a sequence of geological ages (the “day-age” reading); or as God’s “workdays,” analogous to a human workweek (the “analogical days” view); or as a literary device to portray the creation week as if it were a workweek, but without concern for temporal sequence (the “literary framework” view). Some have suggested that Genesis 1:2, “the earth was without form and void,” describes a condition that resulted from Satan’s primeval rebellion, which preceded the creation week (the “gap theory”). There have been other readings as well, but these five are the most common.
None of these views requires denying that Genesis 1 is historical, so long as the discussion in the section on Genesis and History is kept in mind. Each of these readings can be squared with other biblical passages that reflect on creation. (pp. 43-44)
Note that only one of the five primary alternatives—the “calendar day” reading— requires a young Earth. The others each have room—or require—an Earth that is older than 6000 years. I personally make no commitment to a specific view, except to say that I rule out the calendar day interpretation based on external evidence (keeping in mind that all truth is God’s truth).
Note also that the Introduction to Genesis indicates that even Exodus 20:11 does not require a literal, seven consecutive day interpretation:
The most important of these [passages] is Exodus 20:11, “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day”: since this passage echoes Genesis 1:1–2:3, the word “day” here need mean only what it means in Genesis 1. Therefore, it does not require an ordinary-day interpretation, nor does it preclude an ordinary-day interpretation. (p. 44)
INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Is Genesis 1 a scientific account?
Genesis gives a true account of the origin of the universe, but one should be extremely cautious when attempting to correlate the words of Genesis to specific scientific concepts. Genesis 1 wasn’t written to tell us about the degree to which populations can vary (reproduction “according to their kinds” doesn’t place any kind of limit on variation), Genesis 2 wasn’t written to tell us that it never ever rained before the flood, and Genesis 3 wasn’t written to tell us how snakes lost their limbs.
Should Genesis 1 be called a “scientific account”? Again, it is crucial to have a careful definition. Does Genesis 1 record a true account of the origin of the material universe? To that question, the answer must be yes. On the other hand, does Genesis 1 provide information in a way that corresponds to the purposes of modern science? To this question the answer is no. Consider some of the challenges. For example, the term “kind” does not correspond to the notion of “species”; it simply means “category,” and could refer to a species, or a family, or an even more general taxonomic group. Indeed, the plants are put into two general categories, small seed-bearing plants and larger woody plants. The land animals are classified as domesticable stock animals (“livestock”); small things such as mice, lizards, and spiders (“creeping things”); and larger game and predatory animals (“beasts of the earth”). Indeed, no species, other than man, gets its proper Hebrew name. Not even the sun and moon get their ordinary Hebrew names (1:16). The text says nothing about the process by which “the earth brought forth vegetation” (1:12), or by which the various kinds of animals appeared—although the fact that it was in response to God’s command indicates that it was not due to any natural powers inherent in the material universe itself. (p. 44)
INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The purpose of Genesis
The primary purpose of Genesis 1 seems to be to identify God as the Creator of everything who is completely separate from the creation, and to contrast him to the gods who appear in the creation accounts of the nations the Hebrews had contact with.
This account is well cast for its main purpose, which was to enable a community of nomadic shepherds in the Sinai desert to celebrate the boundless creative goodness of the Creator; it does not say why, e.g., a spider is different from a snake, nor does it comment on what genetic relationship there might be between various creatures. At the same time, when the passage is received according to its purpose, it shapes a worldview in which science is at home (probably the only worldview that really makes science possible). This is a concept of a world that a good and wise God made, perfectly suited for humans to enjoy and to rule. The things in the world have natures that people can know, at least in part. Human senses and intelligence are the right tools for discerning and saying true things about the world. (The effects of sin, of course, can interfere with this process.) (p. 44)
The doctrine of creation is much richer than merely addressing questions of how and when God created the universe, life, and human beings.
INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Adam and Eve
I often state my position as “I believe in a real creation of the universe by the Triune God of the Bible, in a real Adam in a real garden, committing a real sin with real consequences, and in Jesus Christ as God’s only solution to those consequences.
It is clear that Adam and Eve are presented as real people. Their role in the story, as the channel by which sin came into the world, implies that they are seen as the headwaters of the human race. The image of God distinguishes them from all the animals, and is a special bestowal of God (i.e., not a purely “natural” development). It is no wonder that all human beings share capacities for language, moral judgment, rationality, and appreciation for beauty, unlike and beyond the powers observed in the animals; any science that ignores this fact does not faithfully describe reality. The biblical worldview leads one to expect as well that all humans now share a need for God and a bent toward sin, as well as a possibility for faith in the true God. (p. 44)
Young Earthers often say that to accept an old Earth undermines the foundations of the gospel, but it is clear that one can accept an old Earth, a real Adam, a real Fall, and therefore a real need for a Savior.
INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The flood
Young Earth creationists insist that the Bible requires a global, catastrophic flood. Many conservative scholars, including the editors and contributors to the ESV Study Bible, have looked closely at the text and determined that this is not necessary.
One must take similar care in reading the flood story. The notes will discuss the extent to which Moses intended to describe the flood’s coverage of the globe. Certainly the description of the flood implies that it was widespread and catastrophic, but there are difficulties in making confident claims that the account is geared to answering the question of just how widespread. Thus, it would be incautious to attribute to the flood all the geological formations observed today—the strata, the fossils, the deformations, and so on. Geologists agree that catastrophic events, such as volcanic eruptions and large-scale floods, have had great impact on the landscape; it is questionable, though, whether these events can in fact achieve all that might be claimed for them. Again, such matters do not come within the author’s own scope, which is to stress the interest that God has in all mankind. (p. 44)
Could the introductions and notes in the ESV Study Bible be wrong on these things? Yes. Could the young-Earth creationists be wrong in their interpretation of these things? Also yes. But it is clear that there are a number of conservative, Bible-believing scholars who either advocate or are willing to accept an old Earth and local flood. Based on external evidence, I choose to side with the old-Earth Biblical scholars.
Grace and Peace
Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh.
Grace and Peace
I went to an Answers in Genesis “special outreach” conference today. The speaker was Terry Mortenson, and the topic was “Was Darwin Right?” (though the AiG web site said the topic would be “The Age of the Earth & Why it Matters”).
Here are some things that stood out to me:
- A common young-Earth strategy is to say that there are only two options: The AiG way (God’s Word is truth) or the anti-God way (man decides truth). They leave out a third way that is completely compatible with Scriptures, which is “all truth is God’s truth.”
- I find the extreme literalism of the young-Earth creationists to be completely unimaginative (I’m not sure that is the word I want to use; I’ll try to come up with something else). Even though the Bible is full of symbolism, they leave no room for symbolism in the opening chapters of Genesis. I am not necessarily advocating an allegorical approach to the opening chapters of Genesis, but these guys leave absolutely no room for interpreting Adam being created from mud as a picture of humans being created from the same material as the rest of creation, or thorns as a picture of painful toil in the fields.
- The speaker used quotes from prominent scientists in misleading ways. For example, he used quotes from geologist Derek Ager (author of The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record and The New Catastrophism) to try to support the YEC concept of flood geology. What Ager was advocating (I’ve read the first of these books) was that Lyell’s version of uniformitarianism—sediments deposited one grain at a time for millions of years—is not consistent with Earth history. The sedimentary rock record is made up of everything from slow deposition (e.g. mud in the bottom of lakes) to catastrophic episodes, such as deposits from hurricanes, tsunamis, 500-year floods (or larger dambursts such as the Lake Missoula/Scabland floods), landslides, asteroid impacts, and volcanic eruptions. The sedimentary rock record is still understood to be the result of ongoing processes that obey physical laws; this is a far cry from the flood geology of the young-Earthers. From the presentation, the audience would think that it was a short step from Derek Ager to Henry Morris.
I could say a lot more, but I’ll hold back.
Mortenson presented “Seven C’s of the Biblical World View.” As an old-Earth creationist I would agree with most of these:
- Creation — As an old-Earth creationist I believe in a real creation from nothing by the triune God of the Bible. I don’t believe that the Bible specifies when “In the beginning” occurred.
- Corruption — I believe in a real Fall into sin. The extent of the corruption is not clearly outlined in the Bible; the YECs say that it pervaded every aspect of creation, but this is not clear from Scriptures. Certainly the “curse” of Genesis 3 affected man’s relationship with nature, but the Bible does not say to what extent.
- Catastrophe — The catastrophism of the young-Earth creationists simply does not work. The Bible does not say that Noah’s flood created the bulk of Earth’s sedimentary rocks, and doesn’t even require a global extent for this flood.
- Confusion — The YECs claim that all nations and languages originated (with subsequent further diversification) at the Tower of Babel, even though the nations listed in Genesis 10 are mostly located in the Eastern Mediterranean/Middle East. Genesis 10 tells us nothing about the origin of Eskimos or Zulus.
- Christ — I’m in complete 100% agreement. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and is God’s solution for the sin problem introduced in Genesis 3.
- Cross — Christ died as our substitute on the cross, taking the penalty for sin that we deserved.
- Consummation — Christ will come again as king and judge. The effects of Adam’s sin will be completely undone.
I asked one question in the Q&A session:
I am an old-Earth creationist who accepts the inerrancy of Scriptures. I reject young-Earth creationism because I believe it is Biblically unnecessary and scientifically unworkable. In your presentation, you had a slide that listed what you called “compromise positions” such as the progressive creation, framework, and gap interpretations. You said you rejected these because they all had one thing in common: death before the Fall. None of the passages used by young-Earth creationists to demonstrate that there was no animal death before the Fall—Genesis 3, Romans 5 and 8, and 1 Corinthians 15— actually say anything whatsoever about animals, so I don’t think you provided a firm Biblical foundation for rejecting these positions. Could you comment on this please?
Dr. Mortenson was very courteous and articulate in his response. I thought he was wrong on a number of his points, but I didn’t want to get into a debate. I asked primarily so the audience could see that perhaps there are Biblical problems with the young-Earth position. I’ve written my preliminary thoughts on death before the Fall elsewhere.
I’m planning on attending more sessions Sunday evening.
Grace and Peace
The main points from How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament? on Justin Taylor’s blog Between Two Worlds:
- As the maker of all things and the ruler of all people, God has absolute rights of ownership over all people and places.
- God is not only the ultimate maker, ruler, and owner, but he is just and righteous in all that he does.
- All of us deserve God’s justice; none of us deserve God’s mercy.
- The Canaanites were enemies of God who deserved to be punished.
- God’s actions were not an example of ethnic cleansing.
- Why was it necessary to remove the Canaanites from the land?
- The destruction of the Canaanites is a picture of the final judgment.
Taylor does an impressive job of developing each of these points. It won’t be satisfactory to everyone, but it answers many of the objections of the skeptics who try to portray the God of the Bible as an evil genocidal maniac.
Grace and Peace
From Parade Magazine — an interview with Dan Brown, the author of the anti-Christian The Da Vinci Code.
Q: Are you religious?
A: I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, “I don’t get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and Earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?” Unfortunately, the response I got was, “Nice boys don’t ask that question.” A light went off, and I said, “The Bible doesn’t make sense. Science makes much more sense to me.” And I just gravitated away from religion.
Q: Where are you now?
A: The irony is that I’ve really come full circle. The more science I studied, the more I saw that physics becomes metaphysics and numbers become imaginary numbers. The farther you go into science, the mushier the ground gets. You start to say, “Oh, there is an order and a spiritual aspect to science.”
It is a great tragedy that the pastor had no answer. Here are some things the pastor could have said:
- He could have started by saying that he didn’t have all of the answers. A little humility goes a long way.
- A major point of agreement between the Bible and big-bang cosmology is that the universe had a beginning. This distinguishes Christianity from many other options, such as atheism (which finds the beginning to be a rather troubling concept) or non-theistic spiritual worldviews that posit an eternal universe.
- The universe is not eternal, nor is it self-created. The only other option is that had a beginning, which implies an ultimate cause.
- The universe is incredibly fine-tuned for the existence of life, and even intelligent life such as ourselves.
- The first cell (a “simple” bacterium) would have had to have been extremely complex to the point that naturalistic scenarios for its self-creation seem incredible.
- The pastor should have used other evidences for Christianity (historical reliability of the Scriptures, fulfilled prophecy, evidence for the resurrection) to counteract some of the doubts the young Dan Brown had.
That would be good for starters, and I would expect any pastor/evangelist/apologist to be able to elaborate on any one of these.
It is also inconsistent that Brown left Christianity because he thought it wasn’t scientific, only to replace it with fuzzy and subjective gnosticism and paganism.
Grace and Peace
HT: Wintery Knight
Yahoo News: Job competition toughest since recession began
The number of job seekers competing for each opening has reached the highest point since the recession began, according to government data released Friday.
The employment crisis is expected to worsen as companies stay reluctant to hire. Many economists expect a President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to stimulate job creation., putting pressure on
There are about 6.3 unemployed workers competing, on average, for each job opening, a Labor Department report shows. That’s the most since the department began tracking job openings nine years ago, and up from only 1.7 workers when the recession began in December 2007.
A few comments:
- I’ve been told that there are 50-100 applicants for some geospatial/GIS positions I have applied for. I’ve been a finalist (top 8?) for a number of these.
- I don’t place high confidence in the government’s ability to create jobs in a way that is good for the economy in the long run. The only result of previous government job stimuli that I have seen so far has been an increase in the number of temporary positions, which I have been applying for. But what I really need is long-term employment.
- There are millions of people like me who for one reason or another are not even counted in the government’s unemployment figures.
Grace and Peace
I went for a hike in Deer Creek Canyon, southwest of Denver, this afternoon. I almost stepped on this young rattlesnake; I looked down and my shoe was about six inches from its head. Fortunately, it was stretched out full-length and unable to strike.
The pattern doesn’t seem quite right for a western diamondback, but perhaps this is because it is a juvenile.
Grace and Peace
|This is part six of a six-part series examining supposed evidences for a global flood that have recently appeared on the Answers in Genesis web site.|
|The people at AiG are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I share their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, their respect for the Bible as the Word of God, and their desire to see people come to faith in Christ. However, I view their arguments for a young Earth and geological catastrophism as unnecessary Biblically, as poor apologetics, and as a serious obstacle to the evangelism of scientists.|
|Unfortunately, few people in our churches or Christian education system have the geological background to critically analyze these arguments. The result is that people read articles like these from AiG, find them to be rather impressive, and believe that these present sound arguments in defense of the Bible. The opposite, however, is true. A vast majority of Christian geologists find the arguments for a young Earth and the geologic work of the Flood to be untenable. It is my strong opinion that the young-Earth arguments of young-Earth creationist organizations like AiG have no place in our churches and Christian education system.|
|Part one examined the young-Earth creationist (YEC) argument that fossils at high elevations are proof of a global flood.|
|Part two examined the YEC argument that sedimentary rocks that contain dense accumulations of fossils can best be described by the action of Noah’s Flood.
|Part three examined the YEC perception that transcontinental rock layers, such as the sandstone layer that is found at the base of the Paleozoic sediments throughout much of North America, can best be explained by Noah’s flood.|
|Part four looked at the YEC claim that long-distance transport of sand grains can only be explained by Noah’s flood.
|Part five looked at unconformities and the boundaries between geological formations. The young-Earth crowd claims that there is no evidence for weathering and erosion between layers, which is simply not true.
“Flood evidence number six” from Answers in Genesis is called “Rock Layers Folded, Not Fractured.”
This final article in Andrew Snelling’s six-part series on geology and the flood begins with another incredible mis-statement:
“How could a series of sedimentary layers fold without fracturing? The only way is for all the sedimentary layers to be laid down in rapid succession and then be folded while still soft and pliable.”
Snelling, who has a PhD in geology and is the director of the research department at Answers in Genesis, seeks to demonstrate that the entire sedimentary rock record in the Grand Canyon was unlithified (i.e. soft) when later folding and faulting occurred. If so, according to Snelling, these rocks could not have been deposited over a period of hundreds of millions of years, and must have been deposited during Noah’s flood.
Snelling describes folding of rocks associated with the East Kaibab monocline, a structure in the Grand Canyon (Fig. 1). The Tapeats Sandstone, for example, has locally experienced intense folding where it has been deformed by faulting in the underlying Precambrian basement rocks. The Tapeats Sandstone is at the base of the Paleozoic rocks of the Grand Canyon; the overlying rocks have been deformed as well.
Snelling simplifies the situation by saying that there are only two options (a common young-Earth creationist tactic):
- If the rocks were solidified, then they would deform in a brittle fashion, characterized by faulting or shattering (Fig. 2).
- If the rocks were soft, then they would deform in a ductile (or plastic) fashion, characterized by folding.
Both of these statements are overgeneralizations to the point of being deceptive when used to make the young-Earth case.
The entire column of Paleozoic rocks at the locations described by Snelling is deformed by folding, so he concludes that the entire sequence of rocks must have been soft when deformed.
Snelling’s argument fails for several reasons.
1. First, Snelling has oversimplified the processes of rock deformation by stating that it is either ductile deformation of soft rocks, or plastic deformation of soft rocks. It is one thing to simplify a scientific concept for the sake of writing for a general audience, but Snelling has completely mislead his readers on this one.
Snelling states that only soft sediments are capable of ductile deformation; that soft sediments will deform like clay, while solid rocks are brittle and only capable of fracture. In reality, most solid rocks are capable of either brittle or ductile deformation, depending on the conditions. Factors that determine which will happen include the type of rock, the amount and type of stress applied to the rock; lithostatic pressure (due to the weight of overlying rocks), temperature, strain rate (fast or slow deformation), type of cement holding the grains together, and fluid pressure.
At low temperatures and pressures, such as those encountered at Earth’s surface, almost all rocks deform in a brittle manner. If one applies sufficient stress to these rocks, they will break. As one goes deeper in the Earth’s crust, temperature and pressure increases, and rocks are more likely to behave in ductile rather than a brittle fashion. Some rock types can deform by folding at depths of less than one kilometer if stress is applied slowly. With increasing depth and temperature, more rock types can deform by folding rather than faulting.
The Tapeats Sandstone is presently buried beneath up to two kilometers of sediment, and was likely buried more deeply than this at the time of deformation.
2. A second problem for Snelling’s argument is that there are a variety of mechanisms by which a solid rock can bend rather than break. Think of a layer of sandstone, such as the Tapeats Sandstone at the base of the Grand Canyon Paleozoic sedimentary pile. A layer such as this can be folded without significant fracturing by several means:
- Intergranular movement — individual sand grains slide past each other
- Intragranular deformation — internal distortions within individual grains, often at the atomic level
- Recrystallization — atoms are rearranged at the atomic level, often in the presence of fluids.
Snelling completely ignores these, even though any of them could have been in operation at the time of deformation.
3. A third—and very serious—problem for Snelling’s argument is the nature of soft-sediment deformation. He tries to show that intense folding in the Tapeats Sandstone is the result of soft-sediment deformation. But if the Tapeats and overlying formations had been soft at the time of deformation, soft-sediment deformation and slumping would have occurred on a much larger scale than what is seen at this location in the Grand Canyon.
When layers of solid rock deform, they maintain their integrity as distinct layers. For example, whether folded or faulted, the Redwall Limestone of the Grand Canyon retains its identity as a distinct layer, without mixing with other rock units. Soft sediments, on the other hand, can respond to stress in a number of ways. In addition to folding, a results of deformation of soft sediments includes different types of soft sediment deformation and differential loading structures, such as intense localized folding, diapirs, sand pillows, and clastic dikes (Fig. 3). These structures are formed because of the inherent instability of a stack of unconsolidated sediments of varying densities and water contents.
Figures 3A 3B 3C Credit: Dr. Steven Dutch, used by permission.
Soft sediment deformation structures are common within individual layers of the geologic column, having been formed when these layers were unlithified. For the young-Earth creationists to make their case, however, they need to be able to demonstrate that soft sediment deformation is present in the geologic record on a massive, inter-formational scale. It would not be enough to point out isolated instances of soft-sediment deformation within layers.
4. Related to the problem of soft-sediment deformation is the problem with slumping. If this stack of sediments—a few thousand meters thick—were faulted as in Figure 1, one would expect the upper layers to slide downhill under the influence of gravity (Figure 4). As a rule, this sort of thing is not observed in the geological record, and where it is (e.g. Heart Mountain, Wyoming) it clearly occurred in the solid state.
It is common for young-Earth creationists to state that the geological record can be easily explained by Noah’s flood. They say that most sedimentary rocks are best explained by global, catastrophic processes, and that the fossils these rocks contain represent the organisms that died in the year-long deluge. The geological field evidence, on the other hand, really does not fit the flood catastrophism model.
It must be emphasized that the Bible does not say that the sedimentary rock record was formed by Noah’s flood. Unlike Snelling, most Christian geologists (along with their non-Christian colleagues) look at the rock record and agree that it was formed by slower processes operating over a long period of time. This is not something that geologists read into the rock record, but something they read from the rock record.
The young-Earth creationist approach is to try to make the Earth fit a very rigid understanding of Genesis. The result is often like trying to force a square peg into a round hole; it can only be done by distorting either the peg or the hole (or both). The end result is that neither young-Earth science nor young-Earth Bible interpretation is believable. A better approach is the “all truth is God’s truth” approach. I start with the assumption that both the Bible and what God tells us through science is true. It is not wise to make one fit the other in an unnatural way. Does this lead to tension? A little, but not as much as either the young-Earth creationists or the atheists/skeptics would have you believe. We do not fully understand either science or the opening chapters of Genesis. When we do (not in this life, I suspect) then the tension will be gone.
With love for the body of Christ, and for those who are hindered from seeing the glory of Christ by bad apologetics.
P.S. I felt I worded this much more succinctly as a comment on another blog:
I’ve read the AiG article, and it just doesn’t work.
The question is whether folds were formed when the rocks were solid or unconsolidated. Other Christian geologists I know have pointed out that Snelling uses selective evidence in his study, as other parts of the same layers show very clear signs of solid-state deformation.
The way to see how solid rocks can bend is to take rocks and put them in a press in an engineering laboratory and see how they behave under stress. That has been done many times, and indeed you can do all sorts of things to rocks by putting pressure on them. In Earth’s crust, this results in the folds and faults that make up much of the world’s major mountain belts. These rocks show many signs of solid-state deformation.
If one applies the same sorts of pressure to layers of unconsolidated sediments (sand, silt, clay, etc.) the results are very different. Instead of getting folded layers of rocks, one gets chaos, with blobs of material distorting and either sinking or rising, depending on density. This is called soft-sediment deformation, and is readily distinguishable in the field from solid-rock deformation.
What is observed on a massive scale in the Earth’s crust (with some exceptions) is deformation of solid rocks, not soft-sediment deformation. If the bulk of the sedimentary rocks were laid down by Noah’s flood (and the Bible does not say that they were) then soft-sediment deformation on a massive scale should be a dominant feature of the sedimentary rocks, and it isn’t.
The “all sediments must have been laid down rapidly and while being soft” argument is not consistent with laboratory and field studies, and should not be used as Christian apologetics.
Kevin N (Christian geologist)
The Internet Monk hit another home run today: iMonk 101: To Be or Not To Be or Why I’m Not A Young Earth Creationist. This is written by a Bible teacher who has no science training that I know of (but who gets his science right when he brings it in). His reasons for rejecting young-Earth creationism are a result of his Bible study, not because of his science.
My views on the relationship of scripture and science were more affected by my college Bible classes than my science classes. I learned that scripture must be rightly interpreted. It must be understood within its world, and interpreted rightly in mine. If I came away with any suspicions that the young earth creationists might be wrong, it came from my developing an appreciation for Biblical interpretation, not from the Biology lab. Secular science didn’t turn my head. I learned that the people waving the Bible around weren’t necessarily treating it with the respect it deserved.
Grace and Peace
From Times Online: School lab health and safety rules ‘could stop future scientists’:
It is a scientific fact, tested and proven by generations of pupils, that experiments in school laboratories win young people to the cause of science. White coats, goggles and the chance to set fire to things foster a passion for chemistry that even years of examinations do not extinguish.
But government advisers and eminent scientists are warning of a disturbing development that could endanger generations of future scientists: pupils are no longer allowed to experiment.
Health and safety concerns are preventing students — including those taking A levels — from performing vital and exciting investigations into what happens when one sets fire to magnesium ribbon, or drops a small glob of sodium into a dish of water.
The comments follow an Ofsted report warning that the national curriculum and testing regime led to boring science lessons. Schools spent too much time drilling students for tests, it said.
Jane Lees, head of Hindley High School in Wigan, and a former head of science, agreed that health and safety had put an end to a number of “whiz-bang” experiments. “But we’re moving on to different ways of teaching science — with videos, and on the web with virtual learning environments which are quite as interesting. It’s a different way of learning but it should still be able to turn them on. What you need is inspirational teachers.”
Experiments at risk
Ammonium dichromate volcano Make a pile of ammonium dichromate and set the tip alight using a magnesium fuse. The result is a tiny volcano, complete with ash, steam and nitrogen gas
The thermite reaction Mix metal powder with metal-oxide to create thermite and set it alight. The mix will burn at an exceptionally high temperature
Potassium in water The classic school experiment. Drop potassium into water and it reacts violently, making hydrogen, which then ignites in a small fireball
Safety is very important, but these demonstrations can be done safely with the proper training and setup.
I still remember demonstrations from middle school physical science and high school chemistry (a long long time ago), such as sodium in water, and (gasp) actually handling mercury (do students today ever even see mercury?).
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Further wackiness from Conservapedia (the conservative alternative to Wikipedia): The Conservative Bible.
This Bible will get rid of liberal bias in Bible translations, such as the inclusion of that liberal “woman caught in adultery” passage in John 8.
Some further objectives:
- express free market parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
- identify pro-liberal terms used in existing Bible translations, such as “government”, and suggest more accurate substitutes
- identify the omission of liberal terms for vices, such as “gambling”, and identify where they should be used
- identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations, and propose where they could improve the translation
- identify terms that have lost their original meaning, such as “word” in the beginning of the Gospel of John, and suggest replacements, such as “truth”
- preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio
Was the Bible written to defend “free market principles?” Is government a liberal concept? I thought God instituted government (Rom 13). Is the objective of good Bible translation to have “conservative” terms? Is there any good rationale for changing “In the beginning was the Word” with “In the beginning was the Truth?” (John 1:1)?
This Bible will be an update of the King James Version. The translation will be done by the leading, um… the site doesn’t say. Which Greek and Hebrew scholars are going to be doing this? Or will it be leading “conservative” scholars? And will being politically conservative be more important than Biblically knowledgeable?
Here’s some great perspectives from the blogosphere:
Right wing dementia marches on apace. Some of this has a grain of sense to it, as ideological madness always does. For instance, the dumb attempts to feminize Scripture are pernicious and need to stop. But seriously: the story of the woman taken in adultery is “liberal”? Free market as Sacred tradition? Liberal wordiness? — Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It.
You really need to read the whole Conservapedia entry to grasp how crazy this is. It’s like what you’d get if you crossed the Jesus Seminar with the College Republican chapter at a rural institution of Bible learnin’. — Rod Dreher, Crunchy Con.
I laughed really hard at Dreher’s comment.
Let the Bible say what it says. It is just as wrong to translate the Bible with a politically conservative agenda as it is to do so with a politically liberal agenda.
HT: World Magazine
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Creation evangelism: using young-Earth creationism (Earth < 10,000 years old, most of geology is the product of Noah’s flood) to win people to faith in Christ.
There are many people who have come to faith in Christ through young-Earth creation ministries such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and a multitude of smaller organizations. I rejoice when people come to Christ or have their faith strengthened.
There is another side to this, however. These same organizations also needlessly drive perhaps millions of others away from Christ. The arguments presented by the young-Earth creationists for a young Earth or a global flood may be convincing to those who don’t know much science (and specifically, geology), but when critically examined these arguments are far from persuasive. The result is twofold. First, scientists (and other scientifically-minded people) are driven away from Christ. They are basically told that in order to become a Christian, they have to check their brains at the door. The second result is that many of our young people eventually leave the faith, not because of what the Bible actually says, but because of what the young-Earth organizations have given them as solid evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible. When they see that these arguments are not valid, they often chuck their Christianity along with their young-Earth creation dogmas.
Here’s a tragic story, illustrating the failure of “creation evangelism” from Internet Monk: Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We.
Her name is Niki. (Not her real name.) She’s a Japanese student who lived with an American family for a year and attended a Christian school. She took a year of Bible. She attended worship and heard lots of preaching. The Gospel was explained to her many times. She was well liked and sociable.
A very smart girl. A great student, much advanced over the average American student. She made A’s in everything, including Bible.
She left America after graduation and went back to Japan.
She came to America an atheist and she returned to Japan an atheist, and very aware that she had rejected Christianity.
Before she left, she talked with one of her teachers.
“I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say “You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”
No doubt, Niki has met many Christians who told her that she could not be a Christian and “believe” in evolution. No doubt, few, if any, of those Christians took the time to explain what they meant by evolution. Most probably meant that the Bible teaches that the earth is 10,000 years young, that no biological death of any kind happened before sin and the major Creationist ministries such as AIG have all the answers to the hard questions of physics, astronomy and science. (”Were you there?”)
Was Niki ever told about the the thousands of Christians in the sciences who believe the “Big Bang” is evidence for creation by God? No, she wasn’t. Was she told of the many conversions to Christianity among scientists who have been moved by the evidence for God as creator now available in astrophysics? No, because that would complicate the views of Creationism she was told were non-negotiable.
Was Niki ever told that the vast majority of Christians on planet earth don’t believe now and haven’t ever believed science and Christianity answer the same questions in the same way? No, she wasn’t.
Was Niki told that millions of Christians believe in some form of evolution? (For Catholics, it’s in the Catechism!) Some form of an old earth? That millions of Christians do not accept the claims of the Creationist ministries as representing the Bible accurately or correctly? No, she wasn’t.
Was Niki told that even atheists are largely agreed that evolution does not equal atheism, and atheists like Dawkins are wrong to claim that is the case?
Niki, who heard about Jesus for weeks and weeks in her Bible class, could not bring herself to believe in creationism, so she cannot be a Christian.
Many are zealous defenders of young-Earth creationism. They try to use it to try to win non-believers to Christ, and blame Satan when it doesn’t work. But how much of this resistance to the gospel is due to Satanic blinding, and how much is due to the errors of young-Earth creationist teachings on topics such as the age of the Earth, the geological work of the flood, or biological evolution?
With love for the body of Christ and unbelieving scientists.
From today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Same Color Illusion, which illustrates the problem of inaccurate observation in science.
Which is darker, A or B?
Are square A and B the same color? They are. Are too. To verify this, click here to see them connected. The above illusion, called the same color illusion, illustrates that purely human observations in science may be ambiguous or inaccurate. Even such a seemingly direct perception as relative color. Similar illusions exist on the sky, such as the size of the Moon near the horizon, or the apparent shapes of astronomical objects. The advent of automated, reproducible, measuring devices such as CCDs have made science in general and astronomy in particular less prone to, but not free of, human-biased illusions.
Grace and Peace
I know how to clean my computer monitor, but hadn’t really given much thought to how to clean the inside surface of the monitor screen. Here’s how:
Throughout the centuries, there have been a number of very able defenders of the truthfulness of the Bible and Christianity. C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen lists Top Fifteen Must Have Books on Apologetics. His top five are:
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona
- The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
- Faith Has its Reasons by Rob Bowman and Kenneth Boa
- The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer
He has a poll, where readers of his blog currently have a different top five:
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
- Reasonable Faith by William Craig
- The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
I’ve read Mere Christianity, The God Who is There, The Reason for God, and parts of The Case for Christ and Reasonable Faith, and recommend all of them. I have The Resurrection of the Son of God in my Amazon shopping cart, but am not making book purchases right now.
Grace and Peace
I’m almost done with part six of my “Six bad answers from Answers in Genesis” series, in which I analyze Andrew Snelling’s Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood. “Flood geology” as taught by organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the Intitute for Creation Research doesn’t work geologically, isn’t necessary Biblically, and serves as anti-apologetics rather than as a defense of the truthfulness of the Bible.
It turns out that Snelling has written a book (actually in two volumes) that the Institute for Creation Research is calling The Genesis Flood for the 21st century. The book is Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood, which is not on Amazon.com yet, but is advertised in the October 2009 issue of the Institute for Creation Research magazine Acts & Facts.
Here is ICR’s description of the book:
New from the Institute for Creation Research, the longawaited update to The Genesis Flood. Written by researcher Andrew Snelling—one of the world’s leading geologists in the creation science movement—Earth’s Catastrophic Past provides up-to-date geological evidence that demonstrates the authority and accuracy of the biblical account of creation and the Flood.
With in-depth scholarly research and insight, topics covered in this two-volume set include:
• The Biblical Record of the Global Genesis Flood
• Non-Geological Arguments Used Against a Global Genesis Flood
• Noah, the Ark, and the Animals
• The Framework for a Scriptural Geology
• A Biblical Geologic Model of Earth History
I suspect Earth’s Catastophic Past will contain the same bad arguments as Snelling’s “Six main geological evidences” series. I’ll likely purchase a copy and groan as I read it.
A much better perspective on the relationship between geology and Christianity can be found in The Bible, Rocks, and Time, by Christian geologists Davis Young and Ralph Stearley.
HT: Todd’s Blog
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