The Rocks Don't Lie

A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood

David R Montgomery, Norton, 2012

The first "geologists" were shamans and priests, attempting to explain their world. A world with regional floods, and marine fossils on the tops of mountains. It is not difficult to imagine how the Babylonian flood myth came about, and how the captive Jews of Babylon adapted that into the Noah story - they weren't "plagarizing", just expressing the "science" of the time in the context of their own foundational truths.

The first European geologists were looking for evidence of a global flood, but studied European sedimentary rocks in an era without floods. They found a more interesting story, with volcanic granite penetrating one layer of sedimentary rock, then planed off by erosion and capped by another layer of different sedimentary rock, incompatible with a worldwide flood. The book tells of geological anomalies not explained by earlier theories giving rise to later ones, and how the fashionable theories of the time would crystallize into dogma, and scientists with data that doesn't fit and theories that explain it being marginalized for decades until the old dogmatists die. First Cuvier's catastrophism, then Hutton and Lyle's uniformitism, with glaciation, plate tectonics and ice dam floods fighting for acceptance.

J. Harlan Bretz spent many decades studying the channeled scablands of eastern Washington, arguing they were the result of repeated floods, and finding the source - lake Missoula, formed by the glacial blockage of a narrow gap at the drain of a vast regional reservoir. A glacier would descend into a valley, block it to mile depths, and when the water behind rose high enough to float the plug of ice, it would wash out along with thousands of cubic kilometers of water, rushing water hundreds of meters deep and moving as fast as 6 meters per second, scouring the land and re-carving the channel of the Columbia. This happened at 30 to 70 year intervals, as many as 100 times between 15300 and 12700 years ago. This is the flood that buried Kennewick Man, one of the people that preceded the native Americans that inhabited the northwest when Europeans arrived. Further work has shown much larger lakes and floods - perhaps one of the largest was the one that (slowly) filled the Black Sea through the Bosporus, causing vast migrations of populations to the rest of Europe and Asia.

Plate tectonics explains the uplift and thrusting of the crust, where mountains and folded terrain comes from. Before plate tectonics, we had no good explanation for mountains and vulcanism, of why the earth hadn't already worn away, of how sedimentary rock could thrust upwards to form the Himalayas.

These "gaps" were exploited by John Whitcomb, Henry Morris, and George McReady Price to justify 20th century Creationist "geology", harking back to Noah's flood. To the gaps in scientific geology, these fellows added huge gaps in their own geological knowledge, ignoring or dismissing the vast amounts of physical evidence that disproved their own theories. The American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of scientists who are also Christians, split over these false theories. Today's A.S.A. still provides a forum for the occasional Creationist, and then the other members show how the Creationism ignores scripture or physical reality.

Science will always be incomplete. Science isn't about knowing everything, but a movement towards finding things out while shedding prejudices. Scientists still make mistakes - the glory is that over time, mistakes are discovered and corrected, and the corrections point out new areas to explore. There is no algorithm or formula for science (though the "paint by numbers" approach is presented in schools), but then there are few successful formulas for life. There are those who claim they are disappointed because "science is a religion", then are even more disappointed when science does not adhere religiously to a formula. If these people would get a life, they would realize that life isn't an algorithm, either.

TheRocksDontLie (last edited 2013-04-14 20:17:05 by KeithLofstrom)