A catastrophic video

This five-minute “Noah’s Flood and Catastrophic Plate Tectonics” video was recently released by Genesis Apologetics. It has as shown up in my Facebook feed several times this week, so I decided to watch it.

I have no doubt that the producer(s) of this video mean well. They believe the Bible, and want to provide evidence that supports the truthfulness of the Bible. I suppose many people watch this sort of thing and have their faith somehow strengthened. However, the video goes far beyond what the Bible actually says in regards to Noah’s flood, and for many people, the video will provide not evidence for the truthfulness of Genesis, but a stumbling block that hinders faith.

Analysis

0:14 “Over a million square miles are filled with the remnants of most known dinosaur species.” — This is not true. Many species are known only from other locations around the world.

0:17 “And they’re all mixed with other land animals, fish, birds, and all sorts of sea life.” — This is a ‘generalization from an exceptional case’ fallacy. Some dinosaur fossils are found mixed with marine fossils, but most are not. Dinosaur fossils are generally found as part of coherent terrestrial ecological systems, not a willy-nilly mix of different environments such as implied in this statement from the video. If the fossils were deposited on land near a shoreline, there could be mixtures from different environments as sea level rose and fell. There are also places where dinosaur bones could have washed out to sea at the mouth of a stream.

0:22 “The leading theory asserted by evolutionists is that an asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula… [which] is why millions of dinosaurs are buried in mud and ash.” — This is completely wrong. No geologist says that all these dinosaurs in western North America were buried by the Yucatan impact. Dinosaur fossils are found not in catastrophic impact-related sediments, but in rocks that preserve ordinary environments such as river floodplains and coastal plains. Actual impact deposits are extraordinarily rare.

0:44 “There’s also vast areas of crumpled and buckled geology from land masses that were laid down wet and then folded.” — This statement is quite simply false: sedimentary layers do not need to be soft in order to folded due to mountain-building processes. There are significant differences in how sedimentary layers fold when wet and unconsolidated (leading to soft-sediment deformation) and when they are lithified. Most folded rock layers in mountainous regions have features that indicate the rocks were solid when folded, such as faulting within the folds, or microfractures that are visible under a microscope.

0:51 “And this action was obviously driven by rapidly subducting plates.” This is only “obviously” to young-Earth creationists. The history of mountain-building in the American West was complex and episodic. There were periods of uplift, and periods of erosion. Mountain building went through different phases in different areas, with periods of igneous intrusion and volcanism; thrust faulting, deep-seated block faulting, and basin-and-range extension. It is very difficult to see how all of this could have been squeezed into a portion of a one-year event.

1:25 “The dinosaurs somehow just kept on peacefully thriving in this area while [subduction of the Farallon plate] was happening.” — Ecosystems thrive in volcanic arcs associated with subduction zones today, such as around the Ring of Fire. There is no reason to believe ecosystems did not also thrive as subduction-related volcanism occurred while dinosaurs were alive. From what we see in the rock record, volcanism was episodic then just as it is now, and did not destroy all life over large parts of the the continent.

1:46 “This happened just thousands of years ago during Noah’s flood when the fountains of the great deep were broken apart.” The video goes on to describe “catastrophic plate tectonics.” This is quite an extrapolation from the text of Genesis 6-8, which says nothing about plate tectonics or the formation of the Rocky Mountains and other mountain ranges.

2:00 “[Tectonic-generated tsunamis] explain the multiple layers these creatures are found in” — Most dinosaur-bone deposits are in layers that have sedimentary structures (beds, ripples, dunes, etc.) and fossils associated with ordinary environments such as flood plains and coastal plains, not with tsunamis.

2:17 “These dinosaurs were buried furiously, with over ninety percent of them found disarticulated.” — It makes more sense that this was a minor, local catastrophe, such as a flood on a stream. A global catastrophe would have scattered the bones, whereas a stream flood would have concentrated bones at specific places, such as on the point bar of meanders. Young-Earth flood geology has no mechanism for keeping dead organisms together in cohesive ecological packages, and would not produce concentrated fossil graveyards.

2:25 “Widespread volcanism that occurred during this process also shows this happened quickly over a year, and not millions of years.” — A lot of volcanism occurred during the time of dinosaurs, but it was episodic, just as it is today. Marine sediments from the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, downwind from the subduction zone volcanoes, record thick, distinct volcanic ash layers (altered to bentonite). The thickness of clay far exceeds the thickness of volcanic ash, showing that most of the time volcanoes were not actively erupting.

3:06 “How else can we explain… a recently-discovered massive dinosaur graveyard where ten thousand adult Maiasaura were found buried in mud… It sounds like the adult dinosaurs were stampeding away from the imminent danger of raging floodwaters.” — In the young-Earth scenario, how had these dinosaurs survived most of the flood up to this point? There are thousands of feet of sedimentary rocks beneath this site that YECs claim were deposited earlier in the flood.

3:39 “Soft tissue found in dinosaur bones.” — Preservation of “soft tissues” certainly came as a surprise to paleontologists, such as Mary Schweitzer, who is an Evangelical Christian. As often happens, YECs jumped on a mystery in science (long-term preservation of biomolecules), while scientific research has taken over a decade to get a handle on what is going on. After fifteen years of investigation, we now know of plausible chemical pathways for how certain biomolecules could be preserved for millions of years. The biomolecules and structures preserved in dinosaur bones have been altered in significant ways, allowing for longer-term presentation. YECs will say things like “proteins cannot be preserved for millions of years,” and perhaps this is correct. But these are no longer ordinary proteins, and one cannot simply extend laboratory experiments done on normal proteins (or collagen) to the altered biochemicals we actually find in dinosaur bones.

4:48 “Doesn’t it look like the catastrophic worldwide flood described in the Bible that happened just thousands of years ago make better sense of this evidence?” — Most Christian geologists reject the sorts of evidence presented in this short video. This rejection of YEC is not a rejection of the Bible, nor is it the result of a defective worldview. Instead, YEC science fails to explain the origin of a wide range of geological features even when attempting to explain these features withing a YEC framework.

Conclusion

Like the producer(s) of this video, I affirm the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, including Genesis. I believe in a real creation from nothing by the triune God of the Bible. I believe in a real Adam and Eve, a real first sin, and in a real, historical Noah’s flood. I don’t believe the Bible requires a 6000-year old Earth, nor do I believe it requires a global flood (here, here).

My concerns about YEC materials like this video have to do with evangelism and discipleship. The video makes statements that misrepresent what scientists say (e.g. the Yucatan impact caused the burial of the dinosaurs), and provides explanations for dinosaur-bearing layers that are neither biblically necessary nor scientifically credible. When presenting these bad arguments to scientists, they are often driven away from Christianity rather than attracted. This is not because of the foolishness of the cross, but because of the weakness of the apologetic arguments.

In terms of discipleship, I am thinking mainly of the youth in our churches. Many of these kids get a steady diet of young-Earth materials in their churches, schools, and home schools. For many of them, this does little harm. Others, however, have their faith shipwrecked when they find out that much of what they were taught doesn’t work as scientific explanations. When they discard their Dr Dino and Answers in Genesis videos, they discard their faith as well.

I get emails from young people, often undergraduate students in the sciences, who have had a crisis of faith, or who are going through faith struggles now, because of YEC teachings. Many of these have been taught, “If Earth is millions of years old, then the Bible is a lie and Jesus didn’t die for your sins.” This false dichotomy, combined with bad science such as in this video, has caused much damage.

The Bible is true, no matter how old the Earth is, and no matter how dinosaur fossils came to be. This is because the Bible is silent on these matters. For an introduction to various views on Genesis held by inerrancy-affirming scholars and pastors, try the Report of the Creation Study Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America

Grace and Peace


©2020 Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com

 

Bold and Gentle – book review

BoldAndGentleGeoChristian.com exists due to the encouragement of my friend Glenn Brooke. Glenn, who has a PhD in biochemistry, is one of the smartest people I know. He is also one of the wisest. A wise person lives their life well, knows the right thing to do in various situations and actually does it; and helps others to do the same. On top of being smart and wise, Glenn is a good communicator. Glenn’s latest book is Bold and Gentle: Thriving Wisely in an Age of Exponential Change.

Glenn got started as a blog writer before I did, with a successful blog called “Be Bold, Be Gentle.” In 2006, we were visiting about science and Christianity, and Glenn suggested I give blogging a try. Fourteen years later, GeoChristian.com has had over a million page views, the accompanying Facebook page gets over 100,000 views per year, and I’ve written an Earth Science textbook that has been used by several thousand Christian middle school students. I thank Glenn for getting me started. Glenn’s vision of being simultaneously bold and gentle in our interactions at home, church, work, and in the community resonated with me from the beginning, and I have sought to always write the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) just as Glenn has modeled.

Glenn has written a number of books, many of which have been on leadership. Glenn’s Bold and Gentle points back to his initial blogging days. Glenn wrote this book for his adult children out of a desire to pass on the wisdom of living a bold and gentle life in a rapidly changing world. Glenn writes that technology and the economy are changing at an increasing pace, but people don’t change very much at all from generation to generation. Most of the chapters are just a few pages long, but give wisdom and insight on topics such as why wisdom matters, planning, developing skills that transcend the changing workplace, self-care, relationships, money, and long-term personal growth. At the end of the book, Glenn addresses special topics that will be challenging in the years ahead as his children go through their adulthood.

Glenn is much more of a talker than I am, and there are things I am sure he verbalized to his children as they were growing up that I kept inside with my own children, who are also now adults. Glenn has now passed on wisdom in writing to his own children with this book, and has given all of us a resource we can pass on to the next generations. May we and our children live boldly and gently in all our efforts and relationships.

Grace and Peace