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

A Visit to the Institute for Creation Research
Copyright © 1998 by Karen Bartelt
[Last Update: June 24, 1998]

Previous . . .

The Flood

There is nothing more central to the ICR message than the Flood of Noah. Unlike old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists, who accept radiometric dating, the fossil record, and immense periods of geologic time, young-earth creationists are forced to explain the geologic features of earth almost exclusively as products of a global flood. What follows is first a summary of what the ICR presents as scientific evidence for the Flood, then responses by me and other scientists to the same piece of geologic evidence. Some theological arguments which the ICR says support the Flood are also presented.

Water-laid formations and marine fossils exist nearly everywhere on earth including all the high continental plateaus and mountain ranges of the world.

This is an accurate statement, as far as it goes. What the ICR is not saying is that, interspersed with these 'water-laid formations and marine fossils' are numerous sedimentary layers that are indisputably nonmarine in origin. Using the Grand Canyon as an example, the Kaibab Limestone and Redwall Limestone do contain marine fossils. However, in between these layers lies the Coconino Sandstone, which contains the tracks of reptiles (Lockey and Hunt 1995) and shows strong evidence of being deposited as sand dunes in a desert (McKee 1979). It's kind of difficult to create a desert environment during the year of the flood. Below the Coconino Sandstone lies the Hermit Shale, which contains the remains of terrestrial plants such as ferns, and insect wings, and does not contain marine fossils. Below the Hermit Shale is the Supai Formation, containing the tracks of terrestrial animals (Levin 1996:108; Grand Canyon brochure). Creationists have proposed that these tracks might have been made by animals while they were in the water, but this theory falls apart rapidly when one considers first the purported violence of the Flood, and second, the year-long duration. How long were those animals treading water, and why were they able to make their tracks only in a way that supports faunal succession?

Vast 'fossil graveyards' all over the world, and in every supposed 'geologic age', indicate rapid burial.

Returning to the undisputed marine strata such as the Redwall and Kaibab limestones, another critical question is posed by evangelical Christian geologists: "...if the flood wave swept out of the ocean, why is the Redwall totally lacking in such marine forms as whales, seals, walruses ... all kinds of fish and sea snakes? Moreover, if these animals were buried rapidly, we should expect to find whole skeletons. We don't even find individual vertebrae (Van Till et al 1988:123)."

No one would argue that most fossils are the result of a rapid burial. However, we have, according to the ICR: a vapor canopy collapsing, "fountains of the deep" splooshing from below, and possibly runaway plate tectonics. Creationist Henry Morris asserts: "Destruction beyond imagination must have been wrought on the antediluvian earth (1966)". So why isn't everything churned up a lot more? Why does the fossil record appear Darwinian in nature? Leonardo Da Vinci, one of Henry Morris' pious scientists in Men of Science, Men of God (1982), rejected a universal flood in the 1500's, saying "And if the shells had been carried by the muddy deluge they would have been mixed up, and not in regular steps and layers, as we see them now in our time" (quoted in Gohau 1990:34).

Both sedimentary and volcanic rock formations are frequently regional or even continental in areal extent. They could not have been deposited by modern local processes.

Straw man, or straw theory. No geologist asserts that sedimentary or some volcanic features (like flood basalts) were the result of local processes. Any standard geology text describes the large scale, not local, inundations of the continents, especially during the Paleozoic, and the sedimentary strata that resulted.

Almost every geologic layer gives evidence of having been laid down catastrophically, by processes with rates, scales, and intensities beyond those operating today.

The ICR must have catastrophic deposition, yet their display is devoid of numbers. Just how fast must some of these events have taken place? Recently, Dr. Donald Wise dealt with such issues in the March/April 1998 American Scientist. For the 150 meter thick Kaibab Limestone to have been deposited during the Flood year, the lime secreting organisms would have had to have been forming carbonate at the rate of 80 cm/day (Wise 1998a:166). Wise (1998b) also notes that the El Capitan Reef in Texas would have had to have grown at the rate of 7 cm/hour, or about 80,000x known rates of reef growth. These are certainly rates and scales beyond what is seen today. No wonder the ICR leaves out any quantitative data.

However, the ICR cannot have its cake and eat it, too. If one proposes catastrophic rates, one does not have a good explanation of calmly-buried fossils (see 'fossil graveyards' above) or well-sorted sediment. Furthermore, catastrophic processes provide no good explanation for the features found in some sedimentary beds. In his description of the geologic column of North Dakota, Glenn Morton notes the presence of burrows, mudcracks, and cross-bedding, and evaporite minerals (How does one concentrate salt during a flood?). North Dakota strata are not completely marine either, but many layers contain abundant stratigraphic and fossil evidence of fresh-water or terrestrial deposition. Morton also notes that "Shale due to the very small particle size requires quiet, tranquil waters for deposition to take place. This is one of the unrecognized difficulties of flood geology. Every shale, which is 46% of the geologic column, is by its existence, evidence for tranquil waters." (Morton 1996).

Except for recent lava flows, no volcanic or basaltic formations are known to have been laid down under air. All were extruded under water.

The Columbia River basalts, indisputably extruded under air, cover huge portions of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, and are 2500 meters deep in places. Mainstream geologists assert that they erupted over 3.5 million years during the Miocene (Wicander and Monroe 1993:491-3). The Deccan Traps of India contain 5x the lava of the Columbia River basalts and erupted from the Cretaceous into the Cenozoic (Levin 1996:420). Apparently the ICR considers these flood basalts to be 'recent'. One wonders why those immigrants from the Tower of Babel dispersion didn't burn their tootsies on this stuff as they made their way into India and North America.

The ICR's statement is hardly confirmation of a flood, anyway. Right now, most extrusion of lava occurs under water, at oceanic ridges. The presence of basalt extruded under water is a wonderful confirmation of plate tectonics, not a global flood. Volcanoes are puny builders of the earth's crust compared to their undersea buddies. There is a gash in the earth's crust from Iceland to the South Atlantic, chugging out more basaltic crust than any contemporary volcano, and we're not in the middle of a global flood.

Similarity of minerals, rock types, tectonic features, and all other aspects of rocks characterize all the 'geologic eras'.

This is proof of a global flood? Why? This vague statement really doesn't say anything, but it's wrong, anyway. Certain features like greenstone belts are not found in all geologic eras. Greenstone belts are characteristic of the Archean and Proterozoic Eons, and Archean greenstone belts contain more ultramafic rock than do Proterozoic greenstones . Banded iron formations are not found in all geologic eras, but occur sparingly in the Archean, and 92% of them occur in the interval from 2.5 to 2.0 billion years ago. Geologists consider banded iron formations to be the first indications of free oxygen in the oceans. Pyrite and uranitite, minerals formed in the absence of free oxygen, are found in Archean rocks, but another iron-containing mineral, hematite, is not. Hematite becomes abundant in Proterozoic-and-later rocks, again due to the change in the amount of free oxygen (Wicander and Monroe 1993:238-40, 269, 272-5).

On a relative scale, mountain building 'episodes' all seem to have occurred 'recently' with few, if any, demonstrable exceptions. They probably represent late Flood topographic adjustments which ended the Flood.

With all of the qualifications and vagaries, the first sentence is totally meaningless. However, present-day mountain ranges are geologically young: The Himalayas rose 40-50 mya. The last rise of the Rockies, from the late Cretaceous to the Eocene (90-45 mya), is 'recent', given a 4.6 billion-year-old earth. However, the ICR ignores the abundant evidence of mountains that eroded eons ago, leaving only the roots: the Wopmay orogen (2.0 to 1.8 bya; NW Canada); Penokean orogen (2.0 to 1.8 bya; Wisconsin); Grenville orogeny (1.3 to 1.0 bya; SE Canada, Greenland, and Scandinavia, part of present-day Appalachians); Taconic orogeny (ca. 450 mya; most of present-day Appalachians); and many more (Wicander and Monroe 1993:261-6, 309-11).

Absence of any worldwide time-gap in the "geologic column" shows that the deposition process was continuous while the strata were being formed.

Why bother quoting some 'atheistic evolutionist' when evangelical Christian geologists have disagreed in toto with the ICR on this issue? Referring to the Grand Canyon: "In fact there is an abundance of physical evidence to indicate that layers of rock have been eroded away and are therefore now missing...Regardless of whether or not the concept of biological evolution has any validity, the geological data clearly point to the former presence of 'missing rock.' (Van Till et al 1988:99)." Van Till et al. provide one of the best blow-by-blow refutations of ICR-type Grand Canyon geology in Science Held Hostage (1988). Though the Van Till text predates some of the articles by Austin (eg, 1994), the ICR offers no new evidence to support their theories, and the arguments of Van Till et al are still valid today.

Just in case the geologic evidence isn't good enough, the ICR offers the following Biblical evidences. Those of you who thought the Flood might have been regional or perhaps a metaphor are just not reading your Bibles correctly.

God's purpose to destroy all corrupt men on earth required a global cataclysm (Gen 6:11-13).

A truly omnipotent god could have zapped the evil ones where they stood. This statement hardly confirms the existence of, let alone the need for, a global flood, and says more about the ICR's concept of God than anything else.

Waters of the Flood rose above the world's high mountains (Gen 7:19,20).

Wait a minute. Didn't the ICR just say: "On a relative scale, mountain building 'episodes' all seem to have occurred 'recently', with few, if any, demonstrable exceptions. They probably represent late Flood topographic adjustments which ended the Flood." So were there high mountains before the Flood, or not?

The Ark was required to preserve non-marine life on earth, but would have been unnecessary for a local flood (Gen 6:19, 20).

This opens the entire can of worms about how many animals there were on the ark, and what did they do with all that manure? This issue is comprehensively treated by Mark Isaak in "Problems with a Global Flood" at the Talk.Origins Archive.

The Flood reached such a high level that the occupants could not disembark for a whole year (Gen 7:11, 8:13, 14).

Well, I'm quibbling here, but these verses speak only of the duration of the Flood, not the height. These verses do not preclude a regional flood.

The present human populations of the world have all descended from Noah (Gen 9:19).

Well, there sure is a lot of independent confirmation of that, isn't there? What about the Egyptians, whose history stretches from at least 3100 BC -- well before the Flood -- through the pyramid builders of the Old Kingdom (2770-2200 BC) -- which includes the time of the Flood -- to the end of the New Kingdom (1087 BC) (Lerner et al 1993). Definably Egyptian art, architecture, and documents exist continuously through these ages. The earliest evidence of the Egyptians diverting the Nile for irrigation dates to 3100 BC, and by 1750 BC they had established river gauging stations to predict the height of the Nile flood (Officer and Page 1993:63). This civilization was obviously "tuned in" to floods. How come the Egyptians seem not to have noticed a global flood?

Jesus Christ taught that the Flood was worldwide (Luke 17: 26, 27).

These verses describe the coming of the kingdom of God: "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them." The real point of the parable is not that "the Flood was worldwide", but that "Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it (Luke 17:33). "...all of them" who were destroyed could have lived in the Fertile Crescent. Perhaps the ICR realizes that most of their patrons won't bother to look these verses up.

The flood geology of the ICR lacks experimental evidence, contradicts evidence presented by other scientists -- including other scientists who happen to be professing Christians, and is not even internally consistent. "By its failure to deal with a wealth of relevant data, the recent creation-global flood model is unable to display the appropriate characteristics of a credible scientific theory such as external consistency, internal coherence, predictive ability and ability to account for a wide diversity of geological phenomena. Scientific creationists cannot expect geologists to take flood theories seriously until such theories demonstrate the appropriate characteristics. And that will not happen unless scientific creationists become sufficiently familiar with geological observations that have been made by trained professionals and demonstrate that they can treat those observations competently and with professional integrity (Van Till et al 1988:124)."

Continue . . .

Home Page | Browse | Search | Feedback | Links
The FAQ | Must-Read Files | Index | Creationism | Evolution | Age of the Earth | Flood Geology | Catastrophism | Debates