Rock-solid for creation
Interview with geologist Dr Andrew Snelling
What led to your interest in geology?
Just before my tenth birthday we went on a family holiday to Tasmania, where we visited the mines. I collected rock samples and became fascinated with them. My interest increased rapidly, and by high school I was convinced I was going to be a geologist. I used to annoy the librarian by sitting in the library at lunchtime and reading a large geology textbook, which later was one of the textbooks I had in first year university geology studies. I was told after high school graduation that at the State-wide final exams I took second place in geology in the State. I went on to specialize in geology at university.
How did your interest in creation science begin?
I became aware of the conflict between what the textbooks said and what the Bible said, in particular with regard to Noah's Flood and the age of the earth. I felt sure the Bible was correct, particularly as there were many things that scientists were still unsure about. I avidly read The Genesis Flood by Drs Whitcomb and Morris at high school and was thrilled to see the evidence supported the Bible. I resolved to get involved in geology from a biblical perspective. When I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree I had a choice — to take a job offered by a mining company, or to accept a government scholarship to study for my Ph.D. I made the latter choice with involvement in creation science research and ministry in view. At that time there was no creation science ministry organization in Australia, and I had no knowledge of any organized creationist ministries anywhere else, some of which were only just beginning.
What obstacles have you come across as a creationist — during your studies or your research?
During my Ph.D. research, creationist Dr Duane Gish was in Australia and spoke on the university campus. I attended his meeting and talked to him. A staff member later cautioned me to keep my position quiet if I wanted to get my degree.
Lampooning and false accusations in the public media have arisen as a result of my work with Creation Science Foundation, and many in the secular geological community have believed false accusations because they were made by a prominent academic.
On one occasion I was barred from presenting a paper at a geological conference because of the creationist implications of the research results. On another I submitted a research paper to an international geological journal. Even though the editor and an overseas reviewer were happy with the paper, the editor was persuaded by the Australian reviewer, who obviously knew my stance, to reject the paper. No good reasons were given. Attempts have also been made to have my Ph.D. degree taken from me. In and through all this I have not been discouraged, knowing that the Lord has other plans.
Tell us about the projects you are currently working on.
There are two important international collaborative projects. The first is the Flood Model Project with US creationists Drs Steve Austin, John Baumgardner, Russ Humphreys, Larry Vardiman, and Kurt Wise. We are trying to build a comprehensive understanding of the geological data from a biblical perspective of earth history centred on what happened during the Flood, and before and after up until the present day. We have suggested that catastrophic plate tectonics may provide a suitable mechanism for tectonic activity, continental 'sprint' and sedimentation patterns during the Flood event, so we presented a preliminary paper on the topic at the Third International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh in 1994. Our model still has problems to overcome, but I remain confident it will prove to be workable and unifying.
In a separate but related project, Drs Wise, Austin and I, with technical computer support, are developing a global geological database using sophisticated software that has been largely donated to us. This project involves recording all the known geological data on every area across the globe — a mammoth and daunting task. The database will enable us to look at global geological patterns for different rock types, fossils, radiometric 'dates', indications in the rocks of former water current directions, and much more. By looking at the bigger picture we hope to get a better understanding of what happened during the Flood. After all, the Flood was a global event, therefore we should expect to find global patterns of sedimentation, volcanic activity, mineral deposits, etc. Though a long-term project, this is strategic because it will allow us to make important pronouncements based on the hard data.
What about research projects you are working on yourself?
Most focus on aspects of radioactive dating methods, which are among the major problems we young-earth creationists face. I am convinced there is an answer to why we see patterns of 'dates' that are consistent with the evolutionary time-scale, in spite of some of the basic flaws in the methods and the anomalous results. It would be a powerful advance to be able to explain the 'good' data accepted by the evolutionists, and the anomalous data they reject, in terms other than 'ages'.
A number of projects are at the critical stage of laboratory work. These cover all the 'dating' methods, including radiocarbon, and involve samples from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Grand Canyon and elsewhere in the USA. I am continuing on in the Grand Canyon with work started by Dr Steve Austin, who has already shown how the methods sometimes give totally anomalous results.
Many of our research projects are original research — a rebuff to the common accusation that creationists don't do serious original research.
How did you become a Christian?
I was born into a Christian home where the Bible was read and we prayed together, and I always remember attending church and Sunday School. However, just before my ninth birthday on a holiday camp, before going to bed I spoke with my cabin leader and made that specific transaction to become a Christian.
As editor of the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, what sort of role do you see the journal as filling?
The Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal is filling a major role in publishing and disseminating creationist technical research, as well as giving informed lay people details from a creationist perspective of science in the news and reviews on important issues and topics.
We are also taking the initiative to activate creationists with technical qualifications, directing them into particular areas of writing and research, and are taking the lead in inviting papers on controversial issues that are unresolved among creationists.
What are some of the important contributions to geology that creationists are making?
Creationist geologists are making important contributions in a number of areas, though the conventional geological community would not readily recognize it. For example, radioactive 'dating' work completed already by Dr Steve Austin has virtually doubled the number of 'age' determinations done on Grand Canyon rocks. The National Park Service officers at Grand Canyon have appreciated the contribution made by creationist geologists to the research effort in the Grand Canyon.
Creationist geologists are also at the fore of explaining how the Canyon was carved out catastrophically. More and more the conventional geological community is having to recognize the evidence for a catastrophic origin of the Canyon itself, instead of millions of years of erosion of the Colorado River.
Creationist geophysicist John Baumgardner is at the forefront of research on the understanding of geophysical processes in the earth's mantle and how they affect the history and motion of the earth's crustal plates. This research has been ground-breaking, and John and his co-workers have had a paper published on it in the journal Nature, the world's leading weekly science journal.
From a creationist point of view, what are some of the most impressive geological areas you have studied?
In Australia, without doubt the most impressive area demonstrating catastrophic deposition during the Flood is Ayers Rock (or Uluru). Not only is this a mecca for tourists, but the scale of the sandstone beds that have been upturned to form the rock gives clear testimony to the scale of deposition in the Flood. The mineral grains making up the sandstone are a witness to the catastrophic speed of the deposition process and the young age of this outstanding desert landform.
The other spectacular area is the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona, where the scale and magnitude of the rock units and the Canyon itself are awesome. One can physically walk along the sequence of rock units that go back before the Flood, then right through the Flood event up until post-Flood times. While the sequence is not complete, nowhere else is such a complete sequence exposed, nor is there so much evidence for the Flood and its catastrophic nature.
Another area that has impressed me is the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the North Island of New Zealand, an area I have begun to work in recently.
Evolutionists and other 'long agers' generally don't regard the account of Noah's Flood as being true. What evidence are they ignoring?
There is impressive evidence that fossil deposits and rock strata were formed catastrophically. Not only do evolutionists play down such evidence, but they ignore the many indications that there were not millions of years, or even thousands, between various rock units. The rock sequence in the Grand Canyon is a case in point. Not only can it be shown that each of the rock units exposed in the walls of the Canyon must have formed very rapidly under catastrophic watery conditions, but there are not significant time gaps between the various rock units. Therefore the total time involved to put in place some 4,000 feet (1.2 kilometres) thickness of rock layers is well within the time constraints of the Flood event.
It is ironic that no geologist denies that the oceans once covered the land, since rocks containing marine fossils may be found at elevations above sea level anywhere from 1 to 5 miles (1.6 to 8 kilometres). That the ocean waters should have covered the land is exactly what one would expect to happen during a global Flood, while earth movements concurrent with the retreating Flood waters would be expected to leave strata with marine fossils now perched high and dry at considerable elevations, just as we observe.
The fact also that most river valleys today contain only a comparative trickle of water that is not usually cutting the valley deeper, compared with the much greater volumes of water that must have occupied the valleys to carve them out in the past, is testimony to the enormous volume and erosive capacity of the retreating Flood waters.
What advice would you give to students who are creationists and studying the sciences?
In no way would I suggest dishonesty, but it would be important for such students to keep a low profile as to their creationist beliefs, because by speaking out there is the likelihood of being discriminated against and having their grades marked down. Young people should never be embarrassed or fearful of studying any of the sciences from an evolutionary perspective at the highest possible level at university, provided they have a solid biblical faith that will not be shaken by the evolutionary teaching thrown against them.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for a thorough biblical grounding and the recognition of the absolute importance of that biblical foundation on which we build our science, as opposed to the evolutionary faith that establishment science is built upon. I have seen young people place their faith in some scientific evidence rather than in the Word of God, so that when the contrary scientific interpretations of the evidence from an evolutionary perspective have been thrown at them at university they have crumbled and almost lost their Christian faith. I would encourage young people to get the highest possible qualifications they can attain at the best universities. Such qualifications give them not only a thorough training, but status and a platform from which to launch an effective career as a Bible-believing creationist scientist.
Criticism is often levelled at creationist geologists for not accepting the long ages given by radioactive dating methods. Dr Snelling says there are three major flaws in these methods of which people need to be aware.
Because these methods are based on quantities and ratios of different radioactive elements (and isotopes), in principle the technique should only work if we know how much of these elements (and isotopes) were around when a rock or mineral was formed. If we don't know the quantities at time zero, then how do we know that the quantities today have accumulated in the calculated time the methods suggest?
Evolutionists are confident they have ways to get around this problem, but even when they use them ridiculous results still occur. The point is, no scientist was present when most of the rocks formed, so we can't be sure of the starting quantities in these radioactive 'clocks'.
The rock or mineral being 'dated' needs to have remained isolated from external influences through the supposed millions of years. That is, if ground waters, for example, washed some of the radioactive elements away, or added some in, then the quantities that should be there for the supposed length of time will not be, and the clock won't read correctly. This is a common problem recognized by evolutionists and is an explanation often employed when juggling data that don't fit what is expected, or data that is anomalous and rejected.
One has to be sure that through all those supposed millions of years these radioactive 'clocks' have ticked at the same rate they do today. This is difficult to prove because no one was present throughout all the supposed millions of years checking on the rate of radioactive decay.
Evolutionists believe the rates have been constant, but unfortunately for them there is hard evidence that decay rates may have been different in the past. Dr Russell Humphreys is one creationist scientist who is researching the possibility that decay rates may have been faster during the Flood, which of course would systematically 'age' the rock strata. Stay tuned to the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal.