Answers in Genesis conference — day 2

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.
The Palouse River Canyon below Palouse Falls, Washington. This canyon (less than ten miles from my M.S. research area) likely predates catastrophic flooding in the Channeled Scablands. Credit: sss
The Palouse River Canyon below Palouse Falls, Washington. This canyon (less than ten miles from my M.S. research area) may have been enhanced by the catastrophic Scabland floods which occurred during the Ice Ages. Credit: Williamborg, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Palouse-Canyon-Washington-State.jpg
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The Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington. The channels (grayish blue) are apparent where the flooding stripped unconsolidated loess (windblown silt) off of the Columbia Plateau. Credit: NASA/Landsat
  • 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