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September 7, 1999

Planetary Origins

Whatever the facts seem to say

Just because I don't buy the Biblical literalist account of creation, it doesn't mean the Creationists don't have some good points to make on the inadequacies of the conventional Darwinist theory. In particular, I think they muster some compelling arguments as to why the forces that shape the planet we live on happen much faster and more catastrophically than is conventionally taught, implying an Earth that is a lot younger than conventionally taught. (I'm talking about scientific arguments, not scriptural interpretations that lead to figures like 6,000 years.) The huge epochs marking the geological column that was worked out in the nineteenth century were premised, after all, on the assumption of uniformitarianism, which held that everything that happened in the past can be explained by the same forces that are observed today, operating at the same rates that are observed today, given sufficient time. This is just as much a dogma taken on faith as that of any fundamentalist, and today there's surely more than enough accumulated evidence to show that it's hopelessly wrong, as many scientists acknowledge. If uniformitarianism is dead, so, then, is the notion of a billions-of-years-old Earth that follows from it.

On a number of occasions in life I've modified or on some occasions reversed an opinion (I like to say "broadened") by taking some time to actually read what the people I disagreed with had to say. Here are a few items from John D. Morris's book The Young Earth, 1994, published by Creation-Life Publishers, POB 26060, Colorado Springs, CO 80917, Tel: 719-591-0800, that struck me as pretty strong evidence for the Earth perhaps not being as old as we're used to being told it is. Also, for things not happening in a pattern of slow, gradual change over millions years in the ways the textbooks depict.

— Polystrate fossils: typically trees, extending through deposits supposed to have taken millions of years to form, e.g. coal seams separated by layers of shales and limestone. Frequently animals. Either on land or in the oceans, dead animals are quickly eaten and scattered by scavengers, and the remains decomposed by bacterial and chemical action. Clearly, fossils such as this were buried rapidly. The layers containing them didn't take tens of thousands or millions of years to form.

— Clastic dikes: intrusions of clastic rocks (formed from previously existing rock, e.g. sandstones) from below into hardened layers such as limestone or granite above. For this to have happened the sandstone must still have been fluid, not hardened as it would have been if laid down far earlier.

—Top layers of buried strata showing no traces of soil formation or the activities of climate and living things such as worms, roots, bacteria, as would occur with exposure on the surface for significant periods. Implies they were covered rapidly.

— And yet, surface imprints such as ripple marks, animal tracks are preserved against erosion long enough for rock formation to occur. Again, suggests rapid burial.

There's more, but you get the idea.

Regarding significant changes being brought about by rapid, catastrophic events as opposed to gradual change, the very richness of many fossil beds itself speaks against the uniformitarian doctrine of slow burial. Fossils are preserved when burial and insulation from destruction and decay takes place quickly. A few unfortunates might fall into tar pits or crevasses, be overwhelmed by mud slides or avalanches, and so on, but what are we to make of the bones of millions of animals ranging from mastodons, caribou, horses, camels, rhinoceros, bears, and deer, smashed and broken, mixed with the splintered remains of countless trees, covering a band stretching across northern Europe, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, in some places forming islands in the Arctic Ocean hundreds of feet high? Or entire forests of trees sixty feet high preserved from their bases to their tops? Or valleys excavated by flash floods, and layers built up by successive lava flows, showing after a few years same characteristics as other formations that were supposed to have taken millions of years? For more from the Creationists, Steven Austin's Catastrophes in Earth History, 1984, available from the Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, provides a fascinating collection.

 
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