Around the web 12/30/2010

Wikipedia: Eurypterid (from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904))

Eurypterids in the petting zoo? — Eurypterids—the giant, scorpion-like arthropods of Ordovician to Devonian seas and lakes—may not have been the terrors of the waters that most have assumed. From FoxNews: Ancient 8-Foot Sea Scorpions Probably Were Pussycats. Some may have been vegetarians or scavengers, though the researchers acknowledge that species other than the ones they studied may have been predators.

Gasoline prices — From CNNMoney.com: $5 for a gallon of gasoline in 2012.

The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, says Americans could be paying $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012. In an interview with Platt’s Energy Week television, Hofmeister predicted gasoline prices will spike as the global demand for oil increases.

HT: Geology News

Voyager 1 at edge of solar system — It is amazing to me that we are still in contact with the Voyager 1 probe, which is now 17.4 billion kilometers from the sun. From NASA:

December 13, 2010: The 33-year odyssey of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind.

Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion kilometers (10.8 billion miles) from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.

The event is a major milestone in Voyager 1’s passage through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer shell of the sun’s sphere of influence, and the spacecraft’s upcoming departure from our solar system.”

Praying for my children — I’m moving towards using prayer books rather than spontaneous prayers. I find that this helps me to concentrate better, and tends to be much richer in the use of Scripture than when I pray on my own. Here’s an example of a Scripture-saturated prayer for one’s children from a book I don’t have called Starck’s Prayer Book:

“Heavenly Father, immediately after their natural birth, I placed them into the arms of Your mercy in Holy Baptism.  Behold, I now do the same in my prayer.  Bless my children. Attend them in their going out and their coming in.  Keep them in Your holy fear, that they may never burden their consciences with sins or offend You, or worst of all, fall from Your grace.  Give them believing, humble, obedient, and godly hearts, that, like the child Jesus, they may increase in stature, wisdom and favor with God and men.  Imprint on their hearts the image of Jesus in order that they may always keep, until their blessed end, a gracious God and an unstained conscience. Let my children be devout in their prayers, well-grounded in their Christian faith, steadfast and zealous in worship, chaste in their living, godly in their conversation, so that by their words and actions they may give offense to no one and thus bring upon themselves a fearful judgment.  Preserve them from temptations and evil company.  By Your Holy Spirit keep them constantly in mind of Your holy presence, that they remember that You are with them at home and away, in their room, by day and by night, in the company of others and when they are alone.  Let Your holy angels be with them when they go out and when they come in.  Let Your angels guard them when they travel.  Give them Your holy angels as their companions.  By their aid rescue them from dangers, as You did with Lot.  Let them, like Jacob, live under the angels’ watchful care.”

My children were baptized at ages ranging from 6 to 17, so I would have to modify the first part a bit.

HT: Cyberbrethren

Christian martyrs— From the LA Times: Iraq’s War on Christians.

When America intervened to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Christians — mostly Chaldeans and Assyrians — numbered about 1.4 million, or about 3% of the population. Over the last seven years, more than half have fled the country and, as the New York Times reported this week, a wave of targeted killings — including the Oct. 31 slaying of 51 worshipers and two priests during Mass at one of Baghdad’s largest churches — has sent many more Christians fleeing. Despite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promises to increase security, many believe the Christians are being targeted not only by Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has instructed its fighters “to kill Christians wherever they can reach them,” but also by complicit elements within the government’s security services.

Similar stories have come out in recent weeks from other parts of the world. For example, Christmas weekend violence kills 38 in Nigeria.

Tertullian (~160-220 AD) was the first to say, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” While it is true that the church can grow and thrive under intense persecution—such as under the Romans of Tertullian’s time or China in the twentieth century—persecution can also drive the church to extinction. Picture Turkey (Ephesians, Galatians, the seven churches of Revelation 2-3) or most of North Africa.

Montana still under 1,000,000 — According to U.S. Census results, the population of Montana for 2010 was 989,415. When you drive across the state, it is hard to tell where they all are. There is still a whole lot of emptiness, which is the way it should be. From the Billings Gazette: Census: Montana population grows 9.7 percent.

Paleontologists visit the Answers in Genesis museum

The Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky apparently has a nest of dinosaur eggs on display (here and here).

If you are a regular reader of The GeoChristian, you know that

  1. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God.
  2. I don’t believe much of what Answers in Genesis has to say about Earth history.

These dinosaur eggs are another reason why I don’t think Answers in Genesis has the answers. Think about it, depending on which young-Earth creationist one listens to, these dinosaur nests were deposited either in the middle or towards the end of the flood. This is what would have had to have happened:

  • The flood covers the entire Earth, eroding vast amounts the planet’s crust.
  • These sediments then start to deposit: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, etc… (not all geologic periods in all places, but always in the same order).
  • When it is time for the Cretaceous sediments to be deposited, there are still a bunch of (pregnant) dinosaurs swimming around.
  • The dinosaurs find places on dry ground to make nests, and there is time for the embryos to develop within the nests, and even to hatch.
  • Then there is time for more dinosaurs to make nests and their babies to hatch, because there are a number of localities where the dinosaur nests occur in multiple layers, sometimes separated by soil horizons.
  • Then there was more flooding and deposition to form the rest of the Cretaceous rocks, and perhaps Cenozoic rocks as well (again, depending on which young-Earth creationist you talk to).

Young-Earth alternatives are:

  1. The dinosaurs laid their eggs underwater.
  2. The nests were somehow transported all together by the flood, and then deposited.
  3. The nests were formed after the flood.

I don’t think any of these alternatives work any better.

Another alternative is that the Bible isn’t attempting to describe geologic history in Genesis 6-8. The Bible doesn’t say anything about dinosaurs (let’s save discussions about behemoth and leviathan for another time), and it doesn’t say that the sedimentary rock record was deposited in the flood.

So what are professional paleontologists to think of Christianity and the Bible when they tour the Creation Museum? Will they be drawn to Christ?

Seventy attendees of last week’s North American Paleontological Convention toured the Creation Museum last week. These professionals can see all the problems with the dinosaur egg display, and a host of other problem exhibits. The intention of the Creation Museum is to defend the truthfulness of the Bible and to point people to Christ. I suspect that many of these paleontologists were more likely to walk out of the museum with their minds hardened against Christianity, thinking that they would have to turn off their brains to become Christians. Will it be because of their atheistic, anti-Christian world views (not all paleontologists are atheists, nor are they all hostile to Christianity), or because the museum presents something that just isn’t true (not required by the Bible, not scientifically accurate) as apologetics?

New York Times: Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh

With a love for the body of Christ, and for scientists who are turned away from Jesus Christ by bad apologetics.

Grace and Peace

Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 2)

This is part two 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, bad apologetics, and 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 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.

Flood evidence number two” from Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis is called “The World’s a Graveyard” and claims that fossil graveyards around the world provide proof for a global flood.

According to Snelling, layers that contain large numbers of fossils, or that contain extraordinary preservation, can only be explained by catastrophic processes. Some of his examples include:

At Florissant, Colorado, a wide variety of insects, freshwater mollusks, fish, birds, and several hundred plant species (including nuts and blossoms) are buried together. Bees and birds have to be buried rapidly in order to be so well preserved.

Alligator, fish (including sunfish, deep sea bass, chubs, pickerel, herring, and garpike 3–7 feet [1–2 m] long), birds, turtles, mammals, mollusks, crustaceans, many varieties of insects, and palm leaves (7–9 feet [2–2.5 m] long) were buried together in the vast Green River Formation of Wyoming.

Notice in many of these examples how marine and land-dwelling creatures are found buried together. How could this have happened unless the ocean waters rose and swept over the continents in a global, catastrophic Flood?

According to Snelling, catastrophic flooding is the only way to form layers with large numbers of fossils, or to preserve soft parts.

Here are some basic problems with Snelling’s argument:

  • The first paragraph refers to the Florissant fossil beds in Colorado. The standard geological explanation of the Florissant Formation is that volcanic flows (lahars) blocked a valley, forming a lake. This lake gradually filled with mud and volcanic ash, which trapped fossils from the surrounding community of organisms.
    Fossil wasp from the Florissant Formation (credit: xxx)
    Fossil wasp from the Florissant Formation (credit: National Park Service)
    • Rather than providing for exquisite preservation, a catastrophic slurry such as Snelling proposes would have ground fragile objects such as leaves, flowers, and insects to microscopic fragments.
    • Rapid deposition could be one way to preserve soft parts as fossils, but it is not the only way. Rapid deposition can be a means of preserving delicate parts in a relatively still environment, but is unlikely to do so in a truly catastrophic environment. Anything that keeps decomposers (such as bacteria) away from soft parts will make preservation possible. This could be thin layers of diatoms, as appears to be the case at Florissant, or anoxic (zero oxygen) or toxic bottom conditions, which are well-documented in the natural world today. For example, deep waters in the Black Sea are anoxic, so there is little decomposition of organisms that sink to the bottom.
    • The fossils at Florissant form a coherent ecological package; a group of organisms that would naturally live together in the same ecosystem. If deposited during the Flood, these would have had to been ripped up (gently) by the beginning phases of the Flood, somehow kept together as a unit without mixing with other fossil assemblages while other sediments and volcanic deposits were being formed, and then gently deposited in a 1 x 15 mile area.
    • Having the Florissant Formation created as a post-Flood deposit, as some young-Earth creationists propose, doesn’t help at all. In this case, the entire ecosystem would have had to been established in a short time after the Flood while intense volcanism occurred nearby, and then be washed down into a valley without shredding leaves or breaking wings off of insects. Either way, it just doesn’t work.
  • The second paragraph refers to the Green River Formation of Wyoming. What Snelling doesn’t let you know is that the fossils of the Green River Formation also represent a coherent ecological package.
    • The fossils do not form a random mixture of alligators, sunfish, bass, chubs, pickerel, herring, garpike, birds, turtles, mammals, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, and palm leaves as Snelling implies. These fossils, and many more, are all present, but in a very systematic arrangement that reflects a complete lacustrine (lake) ecosystem. Open water organisms are found in the central part of the basin, shoreline marsh organisms are found towards the edges of the basin.
    • It doesn’t help to suggest that the Green River Formation was formed in a lake after the Flood. For this to happen, the lake would have had to form, a complete ecosystem would have had to form (which doesn’t happen overnight), and then somehow rapid sedimentation would have had to occur with fine-grained lake sediments. By the Answers in Genesis Flood model, this all happened sometime in the time after about 2300 BC. Too many events in too little time.
  • Snelling says, “Notice in many of these examples how marine and land-dwelling creatures are found buried together.”
    • Not a single example given by Snelling is of a unit that has marine and non-marine organisms mixed together. I don’t have the slightest idea what he is getting at.

Answers in Genesis has a deep and wide influence in Evangelical churches and schools. Many look at this as a positive thing. I look at it as an apologetics disaster.

An excellent resource for anyone who wants to dig further is The Bible, Rocks and Time by Christian geologists Davis Young and Ralph Stearley (Chapter 9 Fossil Graveyards: A Rumble in the Jumble).

With love for the body of Christ.