The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

An account of the 1993 Internation Creation Conference
Alan M. Feuerbacher

This past weekend, February 25-27, 1993, an International Creation Conference was held in Beaverton, Oregon. I went to some of the main sessions on Saturday to see for myself what young-earth creationists had to say for themselves. The speakers included some fairly well-known creationists: Donald Chittick, Dmitri Kouznetsov, Gary Parker, Ian Taylor.

I was only able to catch four lectures, but obtained tapes of others. I was able to pose one question to a panel made up of the above speakers in front of a large audience. The audience contained some skeptics as well as believers. After some of the lectures I was able to pose questions directly to the speaker, and after the Saturday afternoon session was over I posed some questions to Gary Parker directly, in a small group.

This material should be of some interest to t.o regulars. It does not generally represent my own views, but it should provide grist for the FAQ mill. The young-earth creationists seem to be changing their tune on many things, and at this conference they presented some new ideas that also appeared in last week's TV program on CBS about the search for Noah's Ark.

Friday night Ian Taylor spoke about "The Genesis Flood." The following is from a tape, as I didn't hear the lecture -- just a few highlights I'm not familiar with. Taylor claimed that Niagara falls has been retreating about 6 feet per year since the 1840s. I thought the accepted figure was around 3 feet a year. This, he said, is consistent with the Falls starting the erosion of its gorge some 6000 years ago. Taylor said that the `White Cliffs of Dover' deposit actually extends from Ireland through England, France, Germany, India, Sumatra and into Australia. This is incontrovertible evidence for a worldwide flood, he said. He said the usual things about the Grand Canyon, but never said a word about the tremendous amount of evidence showing that the sediments were laid down over a long period of time. Taylor said that in 1988 a French Catholic scientist by the name of Gibetheau [sp?] published a paper in a scientific journal and gave a lecture in Paris, about his experiments in flood geology. He took sedimentary rocks from somewhere in France, ground them down to their original grain size, colored them, and put them in a flume where they dropped out of the water flow in the same order they were found in the geologic column. This is supposed to be proof that the geologic column could have formed like flood geologists have always said. Taylor said that this was the first experimental confirmation of the idea.

On Saturday Ian Taylor spoke on "The Ice Age." Most creationists used to claim that ice ages never occurred, but that all the data scientists now interpret as evidence for an Ice Age is really for Noah's Flood. Apparently the ICR is now saying there was one, and only one, ice age. This was a surprise to me.

Taylor posed the question: If an ice age occurred, where should it be placed -- before or after Noah's Flood? He then lectured about a new theory an ICR member, Michael Oard, recently came up with to answer the question. The theory goes like this:

At the beginning of Noah's Flood, the water vapor canopy above the earth collapsed and hot water from the fountains of the great deep burst upon the land. Ocean hot springs today are remnants of these subterranean waters. The hot water raised the temperature of the oceans by 2 or 3 degrees (F or C was not specified). This extra warmth caused increased evaporation right after the Flood. Volcanic action during and immediately after the Flood caused a general cooling, similar to what happened around 1815 at Mount Tambolo [Tambora] in Sumatra. The two effects combined to give heavy winter snow and little summer melting, so that after two or three hundred years the glaciation reached a maximum. Glaciers have been melting worldwide ever since, and today's glaciers are remnants of that ice age. Striations on rock can imply either glacial or water action, and so cannot be assigned to be from either cause. There is so much bogus stuff here I can't even begin to comment.

Taylor talked a bit about the astronomical theory of the ice ages -- the orbital cycles and such of the Milankovitch theory, such as the 100,000 year variation in the eccentricity of the earth's orbit, the variation of the tilt of the earth's axis and the precession of the equinoxes. He claimed that physicists say temperatures could not have been affected by such minor variations in cycles, but he gave no references.

Taylor argued against there being many ice ages, claiming there is no evidence whatsoever for the astronomical theory -- that it is impossible that the earth's cyclicly receiving less solar energy could result in cyclical ice ages. Again he offered no evidence other than the argument from incredulity. Later I pointed out to him that ocean bottom sediment cores had indeed provided evidence -- see below. Taylor said that oxygen isotope analysis had been done on "ice cores" but he thought that we don't need multiple ice ages to explain it. Again, he offered no evidence.

Taylor said that the Flood caused the earth's axial tilt to wobble, resulting in the precession of the equinoxes. This wobble has been damping out over time, causing the tilt to decrease. He neglected to point out that these phenomena are the result of the physics of rotating bodies, but this, of course, was lost on the audience.

Taylor next presented the evidence supporting one ice age, from Michael Oard's work:

Even with my limited knowledge I could off most of these arguments. Taylor then presented a variety of other arguments for the Flood and against multiple ice ages. Geologists want the ice over Canada to have been several miles thick so they can claim the land is rebounding due to release from the great weight. They need this to explain such things as finding whale fossils in the Lake Champlain region of New York. [Apparently these folks haven't read, or they choose to ignore, findings such as are summarized in E. C. Pielou's After the Ice Age - The Return of Life to Glaciated North America, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991]. Geologists can't account for some `holes' in supposedly glaciated regions in Canada that show no evidence of ever having been under ice. "Great masses of coral are found under the ice of the North Pole," Taylor said. Submarines find great areas of coral in the Arctic.

Taylor said that muskox, hippos, camels, mammoths, rhinos, cave lions, reindeer and many other mixed warm and cold type fauna lived all together in the far north, according to stratigraphic evidence. He quoted A. K. Grayson about finding such fauna in the valley of the Thames in England, but at this point he seemed to be mixing up information about the far north with information about England. Taylor described the finding in 1986 of a frozen forest on Axel Heiberg Island, near Ellesmere. There were 18-inch diameter metasequoia trees broken off at the base, whose trunks were underlain by the branches with leaves still attached, underlain by the remains of lions, camels, alligators, hippos, etc. Metasequoias are found only in China today. Professor James Basinger examined this stuff in 1986. Mammoths may have survived until two or three hundred years ago. Sometime within the past 15 years mammoth remains were discovered on the East Coast of the U.S., from which biologists are now trying to clone ancient bacteria recovered from the gut.

Taylor said that the Arctic ice cap was formed some two or three hundred years after the Flood, when the great northern ice sheets began to melt and the runoff of fresh water into the Arctic Ocean raised its freezing point enough for it to freeze solid for most of the year. Once formed, the albedo effect keeps it in place. The frozen mammoths of Siberia can't be accounted to the Flood. Taylor does not accept the scenario presented by many creationists in the past, based on Henry Howorth's 19th century book on frozen mammoths. He rejects the theories of Ivan T. Sanderson, of "quick-frozen" mammoth fame, who wrote the 1960 Saturday Evening Post article "Riddle of the Frozen Giants" and spawned a whole raft of pseudoscience. He has no idea how the 1901 Berezovka and 1977 Dima mammoths were killed and preserved, except that they didn't die in the Flood. Of course, there have actually been several dozen large mammals found frozen, but most were in far worse condition than these two or were lost.

After the lecture I pointed out to Taylor that in 1979 there was found "Blue Babe," a bison frozen in Beringia, which has been extensively analyzed (e.g., by R. Dale Guthrie in Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe, 1990). He acknowledged the find but refused to say that mammoths might have been frozen in the same way. I suspect he didn't want to talk about the fact that the bison had been mostly eaten before freezing, and that it had been buried by entirely natural processes. I also found him rather evasive on several topics I later asked him about.

Taylor commented that he was non-committal on continental drift because "all the evidence isn't in yet," although other speakers such as Donald Chittick and Gary Parker later said that the whole theory of plate tectonics has been proven wrong. Details will be in forthcoming ICR publications.

At the end of the Saturday afternoon session a "Round Table Discussion" was held, in which a panel of five ICR people answered questions from the audience. The panel included the four mentioned at the beginning of this post. All the sessions were recorded and I purchased tapes of some. I posed a question about Milankovitch cycles:

Earlier today, Dr. Taylor, you had spoken about ice ages and you mentioned the earth's orbital cycles as being a factor involved in that -- they're also known as the Milankovitch cycles. There are variations on the order of 100,000 years, 40,000 and 20,000 years or so. Recently, geologists have become pretty well convinced that there were many ice ages that had components of variation at those precise intervals, because they've dug up ocean bottom sediment cores, analyzed the oxygen 18 to 16 isotope ratios, and done Fourier, or spectral analysis on that, and found that the isotope ratios varied at exactly the same rate as the orbital cycles. That's a very, very incredible correspondence between the theoretical physics and actual experimental evidence, so how does that jibe with what you've said earlier today about there being a single ice age only a few thousand years ago as opposed to many ice ages over a period of millions of years?

Dr. Taylor responded that the Milankovitch theory is only one of many theories that have been proposed. Most have already been abandoned, and he thinks this one will be too. He admitted that the ocean bottom cores and the physics of orbiting bodies support one another, but he said that he personally found it difficult to believe that there was more than one ice age, again invoking the argument from incredulity. He said:

That is difficult enough, meteorologically, just on one occasion, but for that same thing to happen over and over and over, cyclicly, I think it's just a bit beyond my level of faith to accept, at any rate, so this is the problem with it, I think. Having one ice age is difficult enough. The conditions are so specific that it's difficult enough. Having more than one ice age, it's virtually impossible. I think this is what I was saying. The mere fact that there's a coincidence in those levels of oxygen analysis, I think we should be a bit open for it, yet. There may be other explanations for that. I'm not going to speculate here about that at all, because I really don't know.

Then Gary Parker seemed to confuse the difference between ocean bottom sediment cores and ice cores, and said:

Let me just add a point that, I wish I could give you the details right now, but Dr. Larry Vardiman [sp?] at ICR has just finished a technical monograph re-evaluating the ice core data and has happened so many times in the past, evolutionists come up with data that seems to fit the theory and it turns out the data is incorrect, and that's the way it looks from Dr. Vardiman's analysis looking at the O16 - O18 ratios, and so on, ice core [sic]. He's got a little Impact article out on that that you can get now, and there's a full technical monograph that I think is being released right about now, this month or next month. It'll have all the references and things like that on it, and it should be very, very helpful.

Dr. Taylor then said that satellite triangulation measurements of continental drift rates were originally published that showed some continents were drifting apart at two centimeters per year, but the original data shows that in some places they are coming together by two or three centimeters per year, so there is a selection of data taking place to support the theory. He suggested that Dr. Vardiman's analysis shows similarly that the original data is "not really as good as they pretend it to be," and that O18 - O16 isotope data supporting the orbital theory is a case in point.

Donald Chittick lectured on "Dinosaurs and the Bible." He put forth some wild claims. The "Behemoth" of Job was actually Apatosaurus or something like it. Due to its large digestive system [Ted Holden, take note] it burped huge quantities of methane, which certain organs in the head or throat fired up from time to time, producing the legend of the fire-breathing dragon. The pyrotechnic organs might have been special teeth that clacked together to make sparks, or a sparking organ based on something like that in electric eels, or most likely, an organ that made a substance that bursts into flame on contact with air, such as arsine gas (I'm not making this up -- Chittick really said this). He said that dinosaurs are probably still living. This has been proven by the find by Japanese fishermen of a plesiosaurus carcass somewhere in the Pacific, which they don't want to release, and by an African legend of an "elephant lizard" -- Mokele Mbembe. Someone recently even wrote a book about his search for this creature.

Chittick's presentation was by far the most way out of the day, IMHO. He generally seemed to spout the most pseudo-scientific babble of the lot, while Kouznetsov was the most long-winded. Taylor seemed the most knowledgeable, while Parker was the smoothest speaker.

Gary Parker spoke on "Dry Bones and Other Fossils." To my surprise he mentioned Australian fossil stromatolites. I had thought that young-earth creationists avoided this topic, claiming that stromatolites were really rock formations, and not fossils. In any case, he said that the existence of fossil and living stromatolites in Australia was evidence against evolution. Parker said that the "dawn horse" (Hyracotherium or Eohippus) was really the Hyrax, an animal living today. He also said that Archaeopteryx was most definitely a bird, since it had feathers.

Ian Taylor spoke on "Archaeopteryx -- The Ultimate Hoax." He basically rehashed the Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe, et al, argument that the feathers on Archaeopteryx fossils were faked by their discoverer in the 19th century to fool museums into paying huge sums of money to acquire the fossils. He went into some detail about how early drawings and photos of the Berlin specimen showed the curve of the main flight feathers as heading toward the hand bones of the wing, whereas later photos show them as heading toward the upper wing bone. Taylor made much of this as proof that the fossils have been doctored, probably by the Museum. His main point was that the skeleton of Archaeopteryx was so similar to that of the dinosaur Compsognathus that they were probably one and the same creature.

After Taylor's lecture I asked him how it was that on the one hand he could claim Archaeopteryx was a fake, because its skeleton was so similar to that of a contemporary dinosaur, and on the other hand his associates such as Gary Parker could claim that Archaeopteryx was not similar to dinosaurs because it had feathers and was therefore a bird. He never really answered the question, even though I put it to him three times. I felt like Ted Koppel trying to pin down a slippery politician. I couldn't tell whether he honestly didn't understand the problem or was just avoiding my question.

During the "Round Table Discussion" someone asked whether it would be possible to see if the Archaeopteryx fossils that may have been faked could be analyzed further to see whether the feathered areas were faked or not. Ian Taylor said that one Dr. Speckner [sp?] had convinced the British Museum to allow him to take microsamples of limestone from inside and outside the feathered areas and do spectrographic analysis on them. This was done at the Weisman [sp?] Institute in Israel, where Speckner worked and, Taylor said,

he found conclusive evidence.... [that] inside the wing area the material was amorphous and it contained the organics -- weren't quite sure what the organics were, but it was probably the gum arabic, the rubber stuff that was used in those days [late 1800s]. Outside the wing area, in the matrix area, it was crystalline -- crystalline limestone -- no sign of any organics whatsoever. So that would seem to confirm the idea, or the suspicion, that it was indeed a hoax. Now, to be truthful, he said we really need two more specimens to confirm the results of the first two, but at that point the British Museum said, no more, the thing's going back in the vault, and that was the end of it.

Another questioner asked if anything in the fossil record has been found showing that ancient peoples had an advanced technology. This theme had been mentioned several times in various lectures. Taylor said that a Professor Roland Harrison, an Old Testament scholar, claimed that the Great Pyramid of Cheops was pre-flood, since all the other pyramids are poor imitations of it. Taylor said he didn't endorse this view, but there it is anyway. Taylor knew of nothing in the fossil record the questioner had asked about. The meeting coordinator then talked about the "London hammer," apparently a miner's hammer found in London, Texas in 1930 in 150 million year old rock strata, and implied it was pre-flood.

One questioner asked if dinosaur and human remains had ever been found in the same deposits. Chittick and others said that such had been found in South Carolina phosphate deposits, and also somewhere in South Africa. It looks like Paluxy River has bit the dust.

After the main lecture I approached Gary Parker and asked him about his alleged misquotation, in a 1980 Impact article, of a statement Richard Lewontin made in a 1978 Scientific American article on "Adaptation." He said that he didn't really misquote Lewontin -- at least that that was not his intention when he wrote the Impact article. Lewontin subsequently complained in print, several times, about this.

I asked Parker what he thought about last week's program about Noah's Ark on CBS television. He said he hadn't seen it. I asked what the relationship of the ICR was to that program, and he said essentially that they were independent. I asked him about a couple of anomalies in the CBS program. It had claimed that Noah's Flood was about 9000 feet deep, which Parker agreed with. I pointed out that this implied that all mountains, including Ararat, must have been less than 9000 feet high, while the Ark had been claimed to have been at around 12-13,000 feet on Mount Ararat. He had no answer for that, except that there were many different people responsible for the program's content. Then I pointed out that the Flood geology scenario says that land and ocean bottoms must have been at equal depths during the Flood, which he agreed to, but that this created a problem with the Hawaiian Island - Emperor Seamount chain -- in particular the big island of Hawaii, which is 30,000 feet high from the base and would therefore stick 21,000 feet above the Flood water. We concluded from this that the Hawaiian chain must have formed after Noah's Flood. I then asked him if he really thought it possible that Hawaii formed after the Flood, seeing as how the rest of the islands are deeply eroded and become more so the farther west you go, and in fact dive under the surface to become seamounts. He saw no problem in any of this, saying that it was quite possible for large mountains like Hawaii to form in well under 4000 years.

I asked Parker about his view of plate tectonics. He said that the theory is completely wrong. Continental drift does not occur today and did not happen as geologists claim. Some long-baseline interferometer measurements show that continents are drifting apart, but others, which geologists have suppressed, show the opposite. What really happened is that continents were pushed rapidly apart during the Flood, just like the CBS program showed. The information is being prepared right now and will be published very soon. Someone else asked him if he really believed that scientists were engaged in some sort of conspiracy to conceal the truth from people about geology, etc., and he most emphatically said that was the case.

All in all I was impressed by how much pseudo-science could be presented in so short a time. My favorite of the day was Chittick's fire-breathing Apatosaur.

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