Flood Geology Psuedoscience

‘Flood geology’ is a branch of Creationism reserved almost exclusively for the hardest of the hardcore Young Earth Creationists, and asserts that the Biblical account of a worldwide flood is not only true, but supported by geological evidence. It’s not actually something new, and as at one time accepted as valid before being replaced with the uniformitarian model, which exists in a much revised form today (local catastrophic events are now recognised as playing a part in the shaping of the Earth’s crust, whereas earlier uniformitarian models rejected them entirely). As with the geological column, flood geology was rejected by scientists before Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and certainy before evolution became as widely accepted as it is today. 

Flood geology works on the principle of ‘catastrophism’, or ‘neo-catastrophism’ if you’re pandering to the Creationist terminology; its modern form at the very least accepts that tectonic activity has contributed to the formation of Earth’s geological features, but suggests that such activity occurs several orders of magnitude faster than is seen today or is thought to be possible. 

Probably the two most famous names in modern flood geology are Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, whose book The Genesis Flood has influenced catastrophists since its publication. Both men are unashamedly wed to the Bible, and their ‘theory’ reflects that; the flood they describe is the Noachian flood, and the story of Noah’s Ark is claimed to be entirely factual. While not every YEC adheres exactly to Morris and Whitcomb’s ideas, there is certainly a common thread that they undeniably began. 

Ironically, the fossil record and geological column are cited as primary evidence for a global flood, despite the fact that the vast majority of scientists today agree that both strongly indicate an Earth that is much, much older than 6,000 years. 

The ‘explanation’ for the fossil record is particularly interesting for how nonsensical it is. Supposedly, the Flood killed almost all life on Earth except for that harboured on Noah’s Ark (a concept I don’t intend to touch with a ten foot pole), which presents a problem, in that the fossil record does not seem to indicate the simultaneous death of millions or billions of animals in a short space of time. According to this catastrophistic model, the various strata were laid down rapidly, with their fossils representing whichever dead animals happened to be within them at the time. YECs will often claim that rapid burial is actually necessary for fossilisation, and that the Flood thus provides the only plausible (try not to laugh) explanation for the fossil record, but this is wrong; while rapid burial is one method by which an organism can become fossilised, it is certainly not the only one, and indeed fossils have been discovered which bear signs of having been left exposed for a time until being buried (or until falling into a peat bog or anoxic lake, or until being covered with volcanic ash…)

The apparent sorting of fossils in rock strata is variously explained by the organisms in question having differing abilities to temporarily escape the flood, the differing buyancy of dead bodies, and whether the organism in question would have lived at high altitudes. A curiously small amount of attention is paid to plant fossils, but presumably there’s an explanation for those, too (I haven’t been able to find one). 

The existence of so-called ‘fossil graveyards’ is another example of evidence cited for a global flood, with the suggestion that a large number of animals were buried rapidly where they stood. This becomes less likely when you consider that, in life, you never find that many animals in one place – indeed, even herd animals would have trouble surviving if there was that much competition from others. An alternate explanation is that hydrological activity tended to ‘funnel’ large numbers of bodies into one place, where they were subsequently buried. 

These fossil graveyards are explainable by local-scale catastrophies (the drowning of large numbers of migrating wildebeests and their subsequent burial by river-bank collapse) or relatively large numbers of fossilisations over a long period of time (the death of animals in tar pits over many years, in conditions which favour fossilisation). 

Creationists frequently dismiss radiometric dating out of hand, with weak justification. (Note that there is a difference between radiometric dating and radiocarbon dating – the latter is one type of the former, and radiocarbon dating is largely irrelevant to geological timescales). However, they cannot escape the fact that every dating method available to us – radiometric, ice core, dendrochronology – confirms the idea of an old Earth and rejects that of a young one. It was for these reasons (and with much less accurate dating methods) that earlier geologists first rejected the idea of a global flood.

An equally serious problem is the existence of written historical records (mainly Egyptian and Mesopotamian) that mention neither a global flood or their people’s complete extinction. (And this is one area where C14 dating is used extensively, but well within its known upper limit of usefulness.) 

Of course, the idea of a global flood (one that apparently covered all land on Earth, although YECs sometimes disagree on this point) immediately raises the question of where all that water came from and where it went when the flood was over. Again, there are various proposed mechanisms, some more silly than others. Some say that rapid tectonic activity released huge amounts of water from the ocean or underground, while others cite some sort of ‘vapour canopy’ that held massive amounts of water in the Earth’s atmosphere – far more than the evidence suggests was ever possible. My favourite is the suggestion that an enormous ‘shell’ of ice once encapsulated the Earth; as others have frequently pointed out, this would, upon collapsing, act much like an incredibly large meteorite impact. 

Each of these proposed mechanisms, and many more besides, have been rejected by the vast majority of experts as pseudoscience. They tend to lay out an explanation for single geological events (rock strata, mountains, valleys etc.) without providing an overarching model capable of explaining all of Earth’s geological features in a way that doesn’t violate the laws of physics. 

Creationists like to play an odd game with inference, rejecting it outright when the conclusions drawn are ones that they disagree with, but supporting it enthusiastically when they have supposed evidence of their own crackpot ideas. Flood geology is another area where Creationism rapidly evolves; neo-catastrophism is supposedly far more plausible than the silly ideas of the past, yet in reality they’re both equally stupid. When a Creationist branch fails for long enough, its proponents rework it slightly to give it a veneer of scientific credibility. When this inevitably doesn’t impress, they reduce the absurdities – in practice, they draw further from the strict Biblical account – and the whole dance begins anew. 

This is obviously far from a complete rebuttal to flood geology, but I would suggest that your time would be better spent learning about real geology, which is fare more interesting. I’ve included links to some further information, including an excellent YouTube video (its creator goes by the name potholer54 and I recommend the rest of his stuff) and the ever-popular TalkOrigins. Further posts will examine Creationist claims about the fossil record and the Cambrian explosion.

As always, criticism and corrections are encouraged.

 

 

TalkOrigins – The Geologic Column (and its Implications for the Biblical Flood)

TalkOrigins – General Flood FAQ

Tas Walker’s Biblical Geology (I haven’t looked at this one much, but it seems pretty well put together at least.)

13 Responses to Flood Geology Psuedoscience

  1. freidenker85 says:

    What I would like to know is how do we know how long it takes for an animal to fossilize. Also, even if rapid burial was indeed a requirement for fossilization – can’t rapid burial occur, say, a bazillion times in the last 4.5 billion years? Flood geology doesn’t exactly address this whole “Young Earth” whachamacallit, at least not that I’ve seen in your post. I’ve read about “creationist dating methods” and was appalled, but I AM curious if there as any corroborating, multiple YE dating methods that imply a young earth (and how do they reconcile the enormity of corroborating OE dating methods)

    BTW, just to add some further methods to your list – there’s Amino-Acid dating (Biology majors have too much crap to read), photolumisence (a method I completely don’t understand, I admit) and this whole wonderful thing with astronomy that seems to indicate that unless God’s got some hefty sense of humor – then all of the stars, say, everywhere, have been formed yonks ago, geologically speaking.

    So these too will have to be addressed.

  2. forknowledge says:

    Thanks for the information! The dating methods you described are all beyond my level of scientific knowledge, and this is the first I’ve heard of them (apart from the astronomy stuff; I didn’t even think of that, most likely because I was too focused on geology).

    I probably didn’t make it clear enough, but YECs posit catastrophism because it (supposedly) provides a mechanism by which the varied geological features of the Earth could form very quickly. That’s really it’s main appeal, along with the fact that it corresponds with Genesis.

    I don’t think there are any YE ‘dathing methods’ as such; generally speaking, they use the same tactic as against evolution, and act as thought criticism of one is evidence for the latter. One point I’ve made before is that YECs will claim that radiometric dating methods are faulty, but will never explain how this leads to a date of 6,000 years (instead of, say, 2 billion years – not what the radiometric evidence says, but still much higher than they’re claiming).

  3. Stian says:

    It hurts to read about “flood geology” and the likes…it just doesn’t make any sense at all…

  4. freidenker85 says:

    “One point I’ve made before is that YECs will claim that radiometric dating methods are faulty, but will never explain how this leads to a date of 6,000 years (instead of, say, 2 billion years – not what the radiometric evidence says, but still much higher than they’re claiming”

    Actually, I remember reading some TO articles back in the day about creationist dating methods – but I couldn’t find any samples actually being dated. All I found was that the dating methods were being used to show that things happened a lot faster than they appeared to be. I wouldn’t say much about these dating methods (This is why I posted a question in Sirius’ blog about any dating methods he knows, so far he’s only replied that he sent an e-mail to some… I don’t know, establishment, or other and asked them) –

    but what I WOULD say is that the science behind radiometric dating isn’t as elusive to anyone with secondary school background in physics. There are some basic assumptions that are made in RM dating that have withstood very horrible tests of time (i.e, scientists tried with cheerful malevolence to somehow affect the speed of radiometric decay to no avail) – and since no one’s assuming that the laws of physics suddenly changed for no apparent reason – the premises in RM are pretty simple:

    You get a characteristic decay rate that is inherent in the nuclear composition of heavy radioisotopes which is nothing but permanent – because it depends only on the identity of the isotope and, well, the laws of physics – which would have to be disputed (and make everyone dizzy) before this can be. Now, the underlying principle isn’t horribly complex – in every sample measured, you simply see the ratio of parent radioisotopes to their daughter “decayed-to” radioisotopes – the material ratio should pinpoint how long the parent radioisotope’s been decaying since it’s formation. It is important to note that, in fact, RM dating only points out to a MINIMAL age of any sample being measured. This is a fact that I found really mind-boggling. It is pretty reasonable to assume that most fossils did not survive much in their state without being encrusted in stable mineral deposits – but strictly speaking – as a dating method it only gives an estimate of the number of years since the mineral was deposited, not the animal being dead.

    Considering the fact that it could take billions of years for isotopes to decay and, um, a few decades for an animal to die (or live etc.) – then it’s still a safe bet and definitely a good indicator for when the animal actually died.

    I pointed out in Sirius’ blog for a marvelous example in Renee et. al (1997) in which the workers dated a myriad of samples from Mt. Vesuvius and measured using several independent measures indicating that the rocks have been formed about 1900 years ago. Considering the fact that the mountain erupt in 97AD according to HISTORICAL accounts – this is eye-bulgingly amazing.

  5. Geologist says:

    There is lots of scientific evidence that points to a young earth if you interpret take that evidence within the usual uniformitarianism framework. But it is always re-interpreted using secondary assumptions to harmonize it with long ages. (See Young-age evidence: http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/3040).

    Their page on Radiomentric dating explains how it is all based on assumptions and gives concrete examples (http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/3059).

  6. Penguin_Factory says:

    Geologist:

    How do you know that the information is always re-interpreted like this? I hear this a lot from young-earth supporters, but I’ve yet to see any evidence.

    There’s a whole boat-load of stuff in those links you gave, too much to really address here. I feel a post coming on! Watch out for it in the coming days.

  7. freidenker85 says:

    “There is lots of scientific evidence that points to a young earth”

    Leave radiometric dating – is there a dating method you TRUST that leads to a young earth?

  8. forknowledge says:

    I’m wondering if ‘Geologist’ is actually a geologist…

    Apologies for not reply to comments, but I’ve been busy the last few days. Hopefully that will change soon!

  9. Sirius says:

    forknowledge,

    “I’m wondering if ‘Geologist’ is actually a geologist…”

    Wow. That weak ad hominem is all the insight you had to offer. In case you forgot[though you mentioned his name in this post], Dr. Henry Morris was a geologist. A lot of Creationists are geologists. Let me guess: If he doesn’t agree with Darwinism, he must not be a ‘real’ scientist, right? Because there is no science but naturalism and Darwin is it’s prophet!

    I know you’re busy, but c’mon.

    –Sirius Knott

  10. forknowledge says:

    When someone links to a website that displays ‘facts’ erroneous enough to make a secondary school Geography student weep, you can be pretty sure that they’re not a real geologist.

    I know you’re busy, but c’mon.

    I noticed that you’ve had time to post about another ‘irreducibly complex’ organ (and it’s in lobsters this time!), but have yet to respond to either of the geology posts I made. I guess you’re too busy censoring comments that call you out too harshly on your plate tectonics contradictions or total ignorance of basic science, eh? I guess it’s embarrassing to fail so badly and so consistently after showing so much bravado before! Don’t worry though, I’ve offered to post all penguin’s censored comments here. I’m sure you’ll get around to addressing all of those many, many mistakes then.

  11. Sirius says:

    forknowledge,

    I find you diversionary. At this point I feel the need to remind everyone that your entire response left on my blogsite to my article, Darwin’s Dyke: What the Fossil Record Actually Shows was:

    “How many Creationist websites did you mine this dreck from? Your condescending attitude only makes it more ridiculous. Please, please check your facts before you write things like this.”

    Given the banality of that response, what makes you think I’ve given your rebuttals more than a passing glance?

    Yet for the sake of argument, I will presume upon my own precious time, God willing, to consider your inevitably sophomoric submissions, written no doubt with much adorably misplaced zeal for Good King Darwin, and attempt to dredge up the enthusiasm to fart out some sembalnceof a counter-rebuttal. That is what you’re looking for after all, isn’t it, Brian? If not, please let me know so I can retuen my attention to more pressing matters.

    Until then,
    Sirius Knott

    P.S. A geologist is still a geologist whether you agree with his Creationist conclusions or not. And perhaps you could be more specific about the alleged “weeping facts” you referenced.

  12. forknowledge says:

    Woohoo! I’ll be eagerly looking forward to whatever anemic rebuttal you can manage. This time I would advise doing actual research, though; it tends to help.

  13. […] a reply from the infamous Sirius Knott, in which he addresses what he considers the faults in this earlier post of mine. I’m not going to be replying to this on his own blog, since he happily […]

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