An increasing number of capable evangelical scientists now find themselves in a difficult position because of the attractiveness of that popular creationist literature which espouses a young earth. For more than a decade this literature has been promoted by a large number of evangelical ministers and educators who are unaware that it represents a tragic neglect of careful and honest geologic research. While many young-earth creationist authors have presented important principles regarding the truth of special creation, at the same time they have displayed a very poor understanding of terrestrial geology. This book is intended to deal with this defect in the area of the earth's sedimentary cover.
A great many evangelicals now rely on the published works of prominent young-earth leaders who are aware of only minor amounts of data relating to some of the subjects with which they deal. This creates an embarrassing problem. On the one hand these leaders have provided us with some excellent and well-founded refutations of the theories of abiogenesis and macroevolution, but on the other hand their comments about the geologic nature of the earth are characterized by many deficiencies. The immense amount of non-radiometric data which indicates long periods of time prior to the creation of man is almost totally neglected by these creationist authors. They suppose that most geologic research reports contain attempts to support evolutionary theory, and thus avoid them. However, there are many, many geologic publications, both old and new, which show no detectable evolutionary purpose—as we shall see in most of the reports cited below. The creationist leaders also frequently say that those of us who recognize the evidences for long periods of time which are found in the earth's strata do so by relying on a stereotyped form of uniformitarianism left over from the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is not at all the case.
Instead of attributing great age to rock strata by applying uniformitarian theory, modern sedimentary geologists examine and evaluate the characteristics of the strata. We now have many reliable ways of determining the characteristics of rock layers and of the depositional activities which produced them. As a result we frequently find, in a given geologic formation, that some of the strata were deposited rapidly whereas other layers in the sequence were deposited very slowly. A high percentage of the methods which are used for such an analysis were unknown in the early 1960's when Whitcomb and Morris first published their ideas regarding "Flood geology." At that time many geologists did tend to rely too heavily on uniformitarian theory, but that picture has changed rapidly, beginning in the late 1950's.
Sedimentary geologists, such as those employed in the petroleum industry, now regularly look in the strata for evidences of early geological processes which indicate eitherrapid or slow deposition. For example, ancient debris flows (of sediments) are easily identifiable in the strata, and of course indicate rapid sedimentation. On the other hand, biologically cemented, fossiliferous, limestone mounds (bioherms) located in a sequence of strata indicate slow deposition. Many other processes which give definite indication of depositional rates in ancient sequences of strata are now known. Because of this the science of sedimentology has had spectacular success, especially in enhancing petroleum field research during the past two decades. This development of abilities to understand the ancient depositional processes by identifying characteristics of the strata was not for the purpose of promoting any particular theory of origins or age; so, we should feel free to use the results of sedimentological research. Thus throughout this book, the reader will find that we have not applied stereotyped uniformitarian assumptions of slow deposition, but have called attention to, and have documented examples of, geologic activities or processes of deposition, lithification, and erosion which can be definitely identified as requiring long periods of time. (For information on why it is proper to expect similarities between the ancient and the modern geologic processes, see the section, "Analogical Theory and Created Order," in Chapter 2.)
In this critique I am using some of the parts of young-earth creationist writings which are quoted in a recently written Master of Arts in Biblical Studies thesis, by Dr. Edwin Myers (1984)1, plus additional quotations from those same works and authors, to illustrate the problem which is stated in the title of this book. At the same time, it is hoped that our dealing with these parts of extreme creationist teachings will point to some of the ways by which Christians can avoid or rise above the disadvantages which they encounter when essential data relating to geologic age is omitted.
In evaluating the problematic statements made by creationist leaders I have been careful not to use new, untested ideas or scattered bits of data. In almost every case we have cited well-established principles and sets of data which have been verified by several research scientists over a period of at least a few years.
The problem of evangelical men of science and of theology being confused as a result of a very widespread neglect of data by young-earth creationists is clearly illustrated by the above-mentioned thesis, which was written by a graduate student in Dallas Theological Seminary (Myers, 1984). His thesis is a very high quality work, with careful documentation, but it relies heavily on works by Morris and other young-earth creationists. Dr. Myers shows a wholesome interest in the subject of how the data of geology can be related to the Bible—especially to the first chapter of Genesis—and at the same time not impinge upon the doctrine of the full inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. His writing shows careful thought and an appreciation for the importance of being objective.
Myers has made a genuine attempt to "give a fair hearing to" some of the writings of conventional geologists as well as to young-earth authors. However, through out the thesis he shows a preference for the latter. On p. 43 he begins to cite specific parts of writings which give a "Flood geology" explanation of the origin of the earth's sedimentary cover, and which deny that the sedimentary strata are filled with structures and inclusions which reveal slow, natural deposition: He then quotes from Henry Morris what he (Myers) feels is a fair summary of the "Flood geology" claim that most of the sedimentary cover of the earth "was deposited rapidly and quasicontinuously." Myers gives the quotation as follows:
1Before taking his graduate work in
theology Dr. Myers was employed in the fields of physics and geophysics
with the Shell Oil Company for several years. He holds a Ph.D. in