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

 

6 thoughts on “A catastrophic video

  1. Ken Wolgemuth

    Kevin,
    Thanks so much for posting this. The video is certainly a catastrophic disaster. Catastrophic plate tectonics requires some kinds of rocks that don’t even exist on earth. When the earth model has the properties of rocks on earth, the plates move about 3 to 6 inches per year, just as we measure with satellites. Catastrophic plate tectonics requires plate movement of 1 MILE PER HOUR!!. That is analogous to a man being able to run at 3000 miles per hour. That is a human being running on foot from New York to San Francisco in 1 hour! That is faster than a commercial jet flies.

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  2. Angela Perry

    Great article! I use your earth science book with my homeschooled kids and it is excellent. I had to go through a period of transforming from YEC years ago. I was not raised religious at all but when I met my husband, who had been raised in an evangelical fundamentalist home, I was taught about the Bible and specifically taught about Genesis through a YEC lens. Although I had doubts constantly about the information I was getting, I was taught that this was an attack of Faith so I trained myself to only look at YEC-supportive materials and when I began homeschooling, I grudgingly began teaching my children from that stance. Eventually my doubts became more and more upsetting to me and I started spending hours researching origins. My husband and I had intense conversations about this and the kids were confused to say the least, and I think they must have thought their parents were betraying God somehow. It was a very rough time. But the Truth was always the most important thing to both my husband and I, no matter where it would lead us. We began questioning everything. This led us also into questioning Protestantism as a whole. We started to have a hard time believing that the True Church could be split into 40,000 different denominations or that the Faith had been “lost” for 1,000 years until Martin Luther came, as is so commonly taught. We started to spend months of daily research on the origins of the Church in much the same way as we researched the origins of the Earth. What we found was astonishing. The true historical picture we found, supported by secular historians, was so different than the stories every public school and American Sunday school ever taught us or anyone we knew. Scientific history gave us the Truth in this matter, much the same way that scientific history had given us the Truth on the origins debate. We were eventually baptized as a family into the Orthodox Church, which has an unbroken 2,000 year history since the time of the Apostles. The liturgy, doctrines, and practices are the same as they were in the first century and are the same all over the world. For the first thousand plus years, the Orthodox Faith was all there was. It wasn’t until 1054 when Rome broke away from the Church that there were then two “denominations”, with Rome considered heretical by the rest of the original Christian world. Martin Luther reacted to these heretical teachings and practices and protested them. Now there are 40,000 different denominations of Protestantism all over the world who have abandoned Roman heresy only to develop their own legion of heresy. None of them even remotely resemble the original Christian Faith. The Orthodox Church, meanwhile, has proceeded unchanged all this time and continues to offer a witness of the True Faith of Christianity as was given to us by the Apostles. This Faith is largely unheard of in America, and has only recently been seeded here by immigrant groups. But it is rooting and flowering here, more and more each day, with entire Protestant churches converting at once, in the hundreds in some cases. As for my family, we were baptized ten years ago and it has radically changed our lives. We love the original teachings of the doctrines of Christianity, including the Ecumenical Councils (which most have never even heard of, and which defined Christianity for posterity) and the unaltered teachings of the Bible, which do not include YEC thankfully. The Law of God, a famous Russian catechism text states plainly in its intro how foolish the YEC stance is. I have found the Orthodox Church to be intellectually robust, spiritually stimulating, and completely refreshing and ten years in I am still so thankful we found it. I personally was wondering if you have ever looked into Eastern Orthodox Christianity? I think you will find it to be much more scientifically grounded, spiritually authentic, and deeply profound.

    You may appreciate these resources in your own research of the matter:

    https://ourlifeinchrist.com

    https://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2011/06/my-journey-into-the-orthodox-church/

    I hope you can use these resources, and I hope you will find the joy I have in discovering a Christian Faith that has not been tainted by all the -“isms” that are so prevalent in this age and this country. I think someone of your obviously sound mind and sharp reasoning abilities will appreciate being free of the debates that rage on in Protestantism, because they are entirely unknown in Orthodoxy.

    Come and see!

    With love, Angela Perry

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  3. Angela — Thanks for your comment, and thanks for using my Earth Science textbook in your home school!

    I know people who have, like you, gone from Protestantism to Orthodoxy (or Roman Catholicism) to escape the hyper-literalism that leads to things like young-Earth creationism. I am familiar with the Orthodox Church, as I have read The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware as well as a number of articles by Orthodox writers, have attended Orthodox services, and lived in Romania for over five years.

    There are things I admire about Orthodoxy, such as its historical rootedness, as well as a much better sense of aesthetics and order than what is found in many Protestant churches. The emphases on the Trinity and Resurrection are also strong points in Orthodox theology. At the same time, I believe that Orthodox theology and practice has lost some essential New Testament doctrines such as justification by grace through faith as taught by Paul in Romans, and added things which were not present in the New Testament church, such as icons.

    There are divisions and squabbles in Protestantism, but there is more that unites Protestants, and even Orthodox and Catholics, than what divides us. We all hold to the Nicene Creed (with or without the filioque), and core doctrines such as the Holy Trinity, deity of Christ, and his crucifixion and resurrection. My church follows a liturgy which is simpler than what one would find in an Orthodox church, yet which also has roots that go back deep in church history. I am thankful for this liturgy, as it protects us from the faddishness of much of American Evangelicalism. The Orthodox church, sadly, has its divisions and disagreements as well, as can be seen in Ware’s book, as well as the current friction between Moscow and Constantinople regarding an autonomous Ukrainian church.

    Thanks again for your comment. I look forward to the day when the body of Christ will be truly united. There is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6)

    Grace and Peace,
    Kevin

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  4. Aaron Tapia

    So why didn’t you “review” the long version of the video? Why do you pretend to believe the Bible and then make excuses for clear indications of recent creation, and deny the Flood, twisting the Bible that you pretend to believe to support your hatred of creation? The foundation for the gospel is in Genesis, which you seek to destroy. You need to repent and get out of your circle fest with atheists and other unbelievers.

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  5. Aaron — Thanks for taking time to read my review of the video.

    //So why didn’t you “review” the long version of the video?// Does it correct the mistakes made in the short version of the video?

    //Why do you pretend to believe the Bible// Is that how you respond to Christians who disagree with you about other doctrines?
    https://geochristian.com/2013/01/29/my-way-or-the-highway-adultery-edition/

    //clear indications of recent creation// There are many highly-qualified, inerrancy-affirming, theologically-orthodox Bible scholars and pastors who disagree with you. Here I give biblical reasons why the Bible does not require a young Earth:
    https://geochristian.com/2019/10/04/five-biblical-reasons-i-am-not-a-young-earth-creationist/

    //deny the flood// I believe in a real flood, but I don’t believe the Bible clearly requires a global flood:
    https://geochristian.com/2013/05/19/geoscriptures-genesis-6-9-reading-the-account-of-noahs-local-flood/

    //your hatred of creation?// I do not hate young-Earth creationism, though I disagree with some of its teachings. Young-Earth creationists are my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

    //The foundation for the gospel is in Genesis, which you seek to destroy.// Genesis lays foundations for several important doctrines in the Bible. None of these doctrines depends on the age of the Earth, and the Bible nowhere uses the age of the Earth as part of a theological argument.
    https://geochristian.com/2018/02/19/six-theological-reasons-why-christians-do-not-have-to-embrace-six-day-young-earth-creationism/

    //You need to repent and get out of your circle fest with atheists and other unbelievers.// I have far more in common with young-Earth Christians than I do with atheists. Ken Ham acknowledges this when he writes about me in his article “Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?’
    https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2010/11/03/do-old-earthers-and-young-earthers-agree-on-anything/

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