The challenge of ancient ice ages answered
In 1961, Drs. Whitcomb and Morris published The Genesis Flood1 demonstrating how the overall picture of geology is favourable to the global Genesis Flood. Since then, many secular scientists have challenged this. The questions mostly involve the short timescale presented by the tight chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. Over the years, creation scientists have provided reasonable answers to these challenges in the Creation Answers Book.2 Other works provide in-depth answers to geological questions.3 Still, unanswered questions remain.
Ancient ice ages?
One earth science challenge is ‘ancient ice ages.’ There was a real Ice Age that occurred rapidly after the Flood, based on features we see on the surface of the earth.4,5 We do not include this Ice Age in this article. The concept of ancient ‘ice ages’ comes from certain rocks found in cliffs across the earth. The rocks do have a superficial resemblance to rocks and features seen around glaciers today.
Secular scientists date these ancient ice ages into four main periods within their earth history story. Their earliest ‘ice age’ was over 2 billion years ago and the most recent around 280 million years ago. They say that some of these ice ages were so severe that they covered most, if not all, of the earth. This idea is known as ‘snowball earth’, which is based on rocks they think were laid down in the ocean in the tropics.
One major problem with the idea of snowball earth is that the reflectivity of white snow would cool the earth down by about 100 degrees Celsius (180 degrees Fahrenheit), way below freezing, and the condition would likely be permanent. Secular scientists realize that melting the frozen globe is a serious challenge. They have come up with some far-fetched ideas to explain how it melted. Interestingly, when I investigate challenges to the Bible, I usually find such challenges are also challenges for secular scientists. Often the challenges for secular scientists are even worse, such as the example of snowball earth.
What is the evidence for these ancient ice ages in the rocks? First, the rocks look like hardened glacial debris composed of rocks of all sizes surrounded by small particles, such as sand (figure 1). These deposits are discovered to have covered tens of thousands to sometimes over 100,000 km2. Second, the rocks sometimes have features similar to glaciated areas today, scratched rocks, scratched bedrock (figure 2), and larger rocks floating within banded layers of fine sediments.
Do the features always indicate glaciation?
A major problem is that other processes can create the features that secular scientists think indicate ancient ice ages. Even a few secular scientists have pointed this out,6 but have been ignored.
Various types of landslides can produce all of the features used to ‘prove’ ancient glaciation.7 Landslides can duplicate the glacial look of the rocks and fine particles (figure 3). The movement of the rocks in the landslides can scratch rocks as rock scrapes against rock. Landslides also can scratch bedrock as the landslide moves over hard rock. Landslides can also cause large rocks to float in finer-grained layered sediments. Other creation scientists have come to the same conclusion.8
Evidence that landslides scratch rocks is shown by an ancient landslide deposit on top of the Gravelly Mountains of southwest Montana. It displays glacial-like features, namely rocks of large size surrounded by finer sediments (figures 4 and 5), scratched bedrock (figure 6), and scratched stones.
The Flood caused the landslides
Present-day landslides are small, while the debris claimed to be from alleged ancient ice ages sometimes covers very large areas. One claimed ice age deposit in South Africa was believed to cover most of the country. This claim is based on scattered outcrops.
How can these large landslides be explained within the biblical worldview? The vast majority of the earth’s sedimentary rocks were laid down by the Flood.1 So, these ‘ice age deposits’ are from the Genesis Flood. There could not have been any large accumulations of snow and ice at that time. The Flood water would have been too warm from the ‘fountains of the great deep’ and abundant volcanism.
However, the Flood was global and can account for the large size of most of these ancient ice age deposits7 and it did produce huge landslides. There would be locations in the Flood where very thick sediments piled up. Because of uplift of the area or earthquake shaking, the sediments would slide rapidly and spread over large areas. This would be similar in size to other sedimentary layers that can sometimes be traced for hundreds to even a few thousands of kilometres.
There is evidence within the deposits that the Flood laid down these layers. Nearly all of the deposits appear to have been deposited in ocean waters, which is exactly what we expect from the Flood.
The study of the challenge of ancient ice ages to biblical creation points to how we can approach other challenges by first gathering the facts and sifting out bias. Often we find the challenge presented by secular science is also a problem for them.
More often than not, we discover that the Flood or the post-Flood rapid Ice Age accounts for the challenge. It is important to keep in mind that our information about the Flood and Ice Age may be incomplete. The vast size of the global Flood and Ice Age would cause unique events and result in unique features. I have found that restoring the Flood to earth history commonly provides reasonable answers to challenges.
References and notes
- Whitcomb, J.C. Jr., and Morris, H.M., The Genesis Flood, Baker book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1961. This book makes no acknowledgement of an ice age, but was instrumental in whetting the author’s appetite to dig deeper into the subject. Return to text.
- Batten, D. Catchpoole, D., Sarfati, J., and Wieland, C., The Creation Answers Book, Ch. 16, 6th edn, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2014; creation.com/cab Return to text.
- Oard, M. and Reed, J.K., Rock Solid Answers: The Biblical Truth Behind 14 Geological Questions, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2009. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Frozen in Time: Woolly Mammoths, the Ice Age, and the Biblical Key to Their Secrets, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2004. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., What caused the Ice Age? Creation 36(3):52–55, 2014. Return to text.
- Schermerhorn, L.J.G., Late Precambrian mixtites: glacial and/or nonglacial? American Journal of Science 274:673–824, 1974. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? Creation Research Society Books, Chino Valley, AZ, 1997. Return to text.
- Molén, M., Diamictites: Ice-Ages or gravity flows? in: Walsh, R.E. and Brooks C.L. (Eds.), Proc. 2nd Intl Conf. Creationism (ICC), Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 177–190, 1990; Austin, S.A. and Wise, K.P., The pre-Flood/Flood boundary as defined in Grand Canyon, Arizona and eastern Mojave Desert, California, in: Walsh R.E. (Ed.), Proc. 3rd Intl Conf. Creationism (ICC), Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 37–47, 1994; Sigler, R. and Wingerden, V., Submarine flow and slide deposits in the Kingston Peak Formation, Kingston Range, Mojave Desert, California: evidence for catastrophic initiation of Noah’s Flood, in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proc. 3rd Intl Conf. Creationism (ICC), Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 487–501, 1998. Return to text.
As a creationist, I think about things like the polar ice caps and the possibilities of an ice age or ages. I am not a geologist, yet it seems that the following scenario was possible relating to appearance of an ice age: Following Creation about 6000 years ago, a north polar ice cap would have began forming and continued to do so for about 1400 years until Noah's Flood. At the time of the flood and mid-Atlantic rift, chaos around the globe would have occurred with sufficient tidal forces sweeping over continents to cause the obvious effects we see today. It seems the 1400 year old northern ice cap would have been radically displaced causing it to move across land masses being uplifted by rapid tectonic forces and that would have left evidence of an ice age perhaps in places where there has never been and ice age. It does not seem reasonable to me that a relatively stable young earth would have had time to enter and exit even one ice age. I would appreciate any comments.