MAJOR FACTORS WHICH HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE
NEGLECT OF GEOLOGIC DATA BY CREATIONIST LEADERS
The preceding pages of examples of sedimentary characteristics which demand long periods of time raise an essential question. Why do the young-earth leaders not recognize the significance of these structures and characteristics? These leaders are maintaining a method of thought and practice which is really foreign to what most evangelical scientists know as responsible scientific research. Yet, perhaps because evidences for long periods of time have so often been taught within a context of objectionable evolutionary theories, some evangelical scientists seem to be willing at this point not to investigate or question the scientific accuracy of the creationist leaders' writings. As to why Morris and his colleagues handle Bible-science questions in the way they do, we can give no full answer; but there are some obvious factors which contribute to their method.
1. Early Influences and Assumptions
Perhaps the most basicreason that they are willing to be so uninformed as to the actual conditions in, and nature of, the earth's strata is that they, very early, adopted an unusually narrow system of Bible interpretation. When Morris and Whitcomb were laying the foundation for the current young-earth creationist movement they forsook the pattern of biblical exegesis which had been used by the main fundamentalist leaders of the first half of this century, to the extent of declaring that the Bible does not at all allow for long periods of time. (Also, the strong Seventh-Day Adventist influence on these and other recent-creationist authors can easily be noted by checking through the books, articles and bibliographies produced by such creationists from 1960 to the mid 1970's.) Thus Morris, Whitcomb, and their colleagues, going on an independent track, have worked all these years on the supposed principle that, since there "cannot be" long periods of time represented in the strata of the earth, there is no use to look for them—or even to study the strata very much. So, when the young-earth leaders have gone out to examine rock strata it usually has been for the purpose of looking for features which they felt might confirm their view of the earth's youth. This type of field activity does not qualify as scientific research, and does not yield reliable information, because it is an attempt to "take a short cut" instead of to follow consistent research methods.
Another false assumption which has been a major source of error among young earth creationists almost from the beginning is as follows: if one part of a local stratigraphic column is of a type which conceivably could have been deposited rapidly by moving water, then it is assumed that the entire column was deposited by the Flood. Thus, if an ancient, ocean-storm deposit of sand and silt, or a debris-flow deposit, is found in a particular location, it is assumed that the entire column of stratigraphic formations beneath that site was produced rapidly—by the Flood—regardless of the rock types or of how many thousands of feet thickness are present.
2. Influence from Current Philosophy of Science
There has been an increasing tendency during the present century for some philosophers, educators, and even some practicing scientists, to abandon the idea that man has the ability and privilege of discovering truth. Philosophers of science have focused mainly on the more theoretical sciences such as physics, and have forgotten that such sciences as genetics, physiology, biochemistry, oceanography, and geology are regularly using the scientific method of research to successfully learn the true nature of many aspects of the world around us. The influence of these philosophers has affected creationists to the extent that many of them now assert that science cannot dependably and accurately observe or identify reality. By accepting these erroneous opinions, many extreme creationist leaders have promoted the opinion that little or none of the geologic research carried out during the past decades is reliable.
Let us briefly examine some of the reasons why such a view of scientific research is unacceptable. We have at least two types of evidence that man can carry out reliable observations of the natural world, and thus can collect accurate data and draw correct conclusions.
The first of these evidences comes from the teachings of Jesus Christ. When He was on earth He acknowledged the reality of man's ability to correctly observe and understand at least the more common conditions and processes of nature. This fact is in agreement with the teaching of Scripture concerning man's having been made "in the image of" the God who created the natural world. Some of the statements of Christ declaring that man can correctly observe and be sure of conditions in nature are the following: (a) the distinction between old cloth and new cloth, and between old wine and new wine (Matthew 9:16-17); (b) time distinctions (John 11:9); compare John 4:53.for an inspired assertion of a particular man's ability to make time distinctions; and (c) the recognition of clouds as precursors of rain (Luke 12:54-56). (See Wonderly, 1981, for a discussion of these passages and of their relation to the reliability of scientific truth.) Thus the idea that man cannot reliably discover truth by observing nature is not a Christian concept.
The second strong reason we have for recognizing that many scientific research projects have resulted in conclusions which are in agreement with God's created world is that such research has achieved reliable results. Thousands of highly successful research projects are completed each year in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Nearly all of these are carried out with honesty and integrity on the part of the scientists—because there are usually at least several scientists checking on each other.
The general human population, and also some of the creationist leaders, have no conception of how much successful scientific research had to be carried out before we could have such things as antibiotic medicines, the many wonderful synthetic medicines which we now use, and insecticides which are deadly poison to insects but harmless to man (such as the modern fly sprays). Each of these was developed by a long chain of successfulscientific observations and scientific research projects, one building upon another until the truly correct chemical was finally produced. Until man finally succeeded in designing consistent inductive scientific research, the human race had to get along without such medicines and other beneficial chemicals—and as a result was ravaged by disease, parasites, and early death. It is truly absurd to find philosophers who daily enjoy the benefits of high-quality scientific research, yet tell us that such research cannot accurately reveal truth concerning the natural world. It is very difficult to accept such an assertion, or the commonly heard claim that all scientific conclusions are tentative, while watching wasps and flies fall helplessly to the ground only seconds after being sprayed with a complex syntheticsubstance. The research projects which developed such substances were successful because they resulted in the discovery of relationships of different kinds of chemicals which God created. God knew what those relationships were from the time they were first formed, but man is just now deciphering them.
We need to keep in mind also that the discovery of real scientific truth has not at all been confined to the field of medicine and pest control. The only reason that we can now have the vast transportation system that we do, and the convenience of gas and oil heat in most of our homes, is that many systematic, geologic, and petrologic research projects were carried out for locating the world's oil and gas reserves on which we now depend. It has been necessary for these research projects to identify the basic nature, relationships, and originsof most of the kinds of rock formations in which petroleum is found. Of special importance is the determining of the particular, ancient environments in which the sedimentary layers of each oil-producing area were originally laid down. The old idea of just guessing at where to drill for petroleum could never have provided more than a small percentage of the present flow of oil and gas. The modern petroleum industry is absolutely dependent upon the excellent understanding of the sedimentary layers of the earth's crust which has been worked out by many hundreds of systematic research projects. If correct human observations were not really possible, then these projects would not result in a knowledge of where the oil-bearing layers of rock are to be found.
During the time that the petroleum geology personnel are carrying out these research projects, they realized that it is urgent that they be as objective as possible. This includes being aware of the fact that any introduction of their own personal preferences and opinions into the research process will jeopardize the success of the project. The research personnel know that they must try to learn the realnature and arrangement of the rock layers in order to predict the locations for drilling. Thus they make every effort to screen out their own prejudices and personal opinions as they collect data and relate it to what is already known.
This is in direct contrast to a considerable amount of the teachings of present-day philosophers of science. Many such philosophers, including some Christian ones, assert that all of the conclusions of scientific research are heavily colored by the cultural background and personal interests of the research personnel. But this assertion is applicable primarily to the more theoretical fields of research such as theoretical physics, anthropology, and human evolution.
Thus the belief that scientific research cannot reliably reveal truth about the natural world is wholly incorrect. Yet many creationist leaders, being unfamiliar with inductive scientific research methods and projects, promote this mistaken idea.
3. Lack of Acquaintance with the Various Branches of Geology
A third very important factor contributing to the young-earth creationists leaders' failure to take the geologic data seriously is that, almost without exception, they have had little training in geologic research, and no training in actual sedimentology or sedimentary petrology. Because of this they have no way to notice or to identify the many evidences for age which are in the rocks, even when they do go out to look at them. Because Morris himself finished what training in geology he had, before sedimentology and sedimentary petrology had become developed disciplines, he missed out on gaining a knowledge of these. And besides, his main interest and practice have been in civil engineering (with special emphasis on applied hydraulics), which has very little resemblance to these branches of geology. Hydraulic engineering has little or no connection with the study of the actual nature of mature, cemented rock layers or of the dynamics of sediment deposition, burial, cementation, and deformation.
So, Morris, Whitcomb, and their colleagues have spent more than twenty years of writing and public speaking on the subject of "Flood geology" without ever making a serious study of the rock layers of even their own United States. And practically all other young-earth authors have followed their example.
To illustrate the tragedy of this we can use the example of limestones. Limestones in particular possess a structure (or "fabric"*) and components which readily reveal the depositional history of the rock. Thus the origin of limestone strata, whether they be near the surface or deep in the oil fields, can be fairly well understood by a study of (1) the petrology of carbonate rocks (limestones and dolostones), (2) the invertebrate and plant fossils in limestones, (3) carbonate sediment production and deposition processes, as observed in tropical marine environments today, and (4) rock cementation processes (diagenesis*). During the 1950's petroleum geologists began in earnest to put these principles to work in understanding the carbonate (limestone and dolostone) bodies of rock which frequently serve as source rocks for the recovery of petroleum. Because so much petroleum is obtained from carbonate rock, the petroleum industry realized that an understanding of the subsurface distribution of these strata, and of the rock itself, would greatly enhance their ability to predict the locations of oil deposits. (It should be noted by creationists that this concentration on limestone formations had nothing to do with any attempt to demonstrate or fortify evolutionary theory, and that hardly any of the hundreds of research papers in carbonate studies which are given at professional meetings each year make any attempt to defend or promote the teaching of evolution.)
By 1959 a detailed and useful system of classification of the different types of limestones had been worked out by petroleum geologists. This system, which soon came into general use, recognized approximately 10 basic textures of limestones (biomicrite*, oomicrite, oosparite, etc.), depending on the microscopically identifiable components present, and upon the types of cementation with which the particles were united together. Most of these basic types exhibit specific biogenic structures such as in situalgal microlayers within the rock layer. (Microscopic particles, cement crystals, and algal growth layers are seen and identified by grinding sections of rock thin enough for light to pass through.) But Morris and his colleagues have perpetually neglected to use such studies of carbonate rock in their attempts to explain the origin of the sedimentary cover of the earth. This is a great loss and hindrance to evangelical Christians who are interested in studying origins, because, as stated above, limestone is the only common kind of rock which possesses a fabric and components which readily reveal the depositional history of the rock. Even though the book, The Genesis Flood, by Morris and Whitcomb, has an unusually complete index, it has no entries for "limestone," "dolostone," "carbonates," "calcite," "dolomite," or "petrology." Yet the book purports to give definitive explanations for the origin of practically all the sedimentary strata of the earth, and it has continued to serve as the main pattern of "Flood geology" doctrine. Virtually all young-earth creationists' books published since The Genesis Flood ignore carbonate sedimentology and petrology to a similar extent.
Thus the young-earth creationist leaders have continuously failed to use the primary "tools" (sedimentary information and data) which could help them the most in finding out what the strata are actually like. One should remember that in most parts of the world any deep drilling into the sedimentary cover will encounter several to many intervals of carbonate rocks or sediments—on the average about 20% of the total column or drill hole. Since a multitude of high quality cores from such drillings give convincing evidence that nearly all of this carbonate rock was laid down in marine environments with lime-secreting animals and plants playing a large part in the deposition process, the carbonate layers are the primary key to understanding the depositional history of the sedimentary cover at any particular location.
Furthermore, there is an abundance of research reports which carefully describe various kinds of cyclic, marine, sedimentary strata that contain characteristics which show that their deposition had to take place over a period of many years, with time for cementation and other diagenetic processes to proceed before other strata were added above them. The many known geologic formations which contain these types of cyclic sequences thus rule out any "Flood geology" explanation of their origin. The reading of papers such as those found in the published symposium Cyclic and Event Stratification(Einsele, 1982) could effectively inform creationist leaders concerning this type of deposition. Several of the chapters of this book give details of cyclic sequences of strata in Europe and other parts of the world and describe their petrographic* characteristics. Many of these characteristics give abundant evidence that the strata studied were formed over long periods of time, in developmental stages determined by the local environments existing at that time. Most of these environments can be identified as similar to those found in various marine settings known today.
In spite of their lack of knowledge of such principles as these, the
young-earth authors who write on subjects dealing with the origin of
earth's sedimentary cover appear to show great confidence. Because of
image of confidence, evangelical scientists and Bible scholars who are
unfamiliar with sedimentology and petrology assume that the authors
these disciplines. (Scientific studies today are too vast and too
for a physicist, chemist, biologist, engineer, vertebrate
or a Bible scholar to be expected to know what information, methods,
data have to be used for understanding rock formation processes.)
4. Isolation from the Earth-Science Professions
A fourth factor which has greatly hindered the leaders of young-earth creationism is their usually intense suspicion of earth-science research. They nearly always feel that a person who believes in macroevolution and abiogenesis cannot be honest, or at least cannot use good scientific methods when investigating the nature of the earth. This is an illogical opinion, and simply does not correspond with the facts. The high quality and honesty exhibited in hundreds of research projects in sedimentology during the past 20 years have to be recognized by anyone who is familiar with them. Most of these projects have little or nothing to do with evolution, and were designed to enhance our under standing of the underground strata so as to promote success in the oil and gas industry. Furthermore, there are so many researchers working on the same or similar projects, and all publishing a high percentage of their work, that they serve as a very effective check on each other's honesty and accuracy.
Because of their unwarranted suspicion of sedimentary geologists, the recent creationist leaders have missed out entirely on the help which they could be receiving from these scientists. They could be going on field trips with them to learn the nature of the sedimentary formations and should be attending professional meetings at which the research reports of sedimentary geology and stratigraphy are given, but the ubiquitous suspicions seem always to prevent their doing so. Sometimes recent-creationist groups even go down into the Grand Canyon, but they seem never to be concerned to have a sedimentologist go along to show them the rock features which reveal a great deal of the history of the Canyon's formation. As a result, misinformation about the Canyon is perpetuated among creationist teachers, ministers, and laymen.
Another cause of misunderstanding about the reliability of geologic data among young-earth creationists is their frequent reference to the fact that there are disagreements between geologists, expressed in the literature of geologic research. The creationist leaders seem not to examine the literature enough to notice that disagreements concerning the earth's sedimentary cover are nearly always regarding minor features—not the basic structure or nature of the strata. For example, in sedimentology symposia of professional geologic meetings we sometimes hear heated debate concerning minor aspects of the environments in which a particular marine sequence of evaporite and carbonate strata were deposited; but all are in agreement that these are natural deposits punctuated by periods when the seas locally became hypersaline and precipitated the evaporites.
5. Using Only Small Packets of Data
A fifth factor which appears to contribute heavily to the creationist leaders' usual inability to understand the nature of the earth's crust is their habit of wanting to consider only small "packets" of data which relate to geologic time. They usually seem to feel that it they have a small amount of data concerning a particular geologic formation, or type of rock, they can build an explanation of origins on that small amount of data. But science just doesn't work that way, and trying to makeit work in that manner results only in confusion. Down through the years these leaders have, for example, used merely small segments of information concerning deposits of evaporites, the Grand Canyon, the great geosynclinal area of North America, fossil reefs, and the nature of the earth's coal deposits, but have almost completely avoided the thorough, often exhaustive, field and laboratory studies which have been made and published concerning all of these. They apparently do not realize that the scientific method of research requires the collecting of a large amount of data on which to base one's interpretation and conclusion. If a good amount and wide range of data are not available, then one cannot arrive at any valid scientific conclusion on the question involved. Because of the creationist leaders' lack of understanding of this principle, and because of their failure to take the great amount of data which isavailable into consideration, they have made large numbers of claims which are unsupported by scientific research. Many of the ideas which they have taught and published concerning sedimentary geologic structures have been so illogical and contradictory of the enormous amounts of carefully collected data published concerning them, that creationists have now been almost universally branded as pseudoscientists and charlatans by the educational and scientific communities.
For example, Morris's habit of considering only small packets or
of data led him to make his now widely publicized claim that "there is
no type of geologic feature which cannot be explained in terms of rapid
formation" (Morris, 1974, p. 94, and restated in slightly different
in Morris and Parker, 1982, p. 213). Thus he has shown himself to be
of the ancient erosion surfaces such as we have described above, and
great biogenic growth structures in the strata, as well as of many
types of sediment deposition which required long periods of time. As a
result of these great omissions in the creationist leaders' thinking,
who is familiar with what the earth's sedimentary is actually like
considers them to be either dishonest, grossly ignorant, or
Of course the saddest part of it all is that these creationist leaders
are in possession of much truth which the world needs, concerning at
the factof creation by our Wonderful and Holy God; but they
ruined their opportunity to help scientists, educators, and many others
who have now found out about extreme creationism's obscurantist stance.