It’s time for evolutionist geologists to face the evidence

A critique of David Montgomery’s GSA-Today attack on creationist geology


Photo by Bryce Crawford 8393-siccar-point
Siccar Point is a monument to catastrophe and an icon of Noah’s Flood.
Published: 12 November 2013 (GMT+10)

The one thing that comes across in David Montgomery’s article “The evolution of creationism”1 is how blind he seems to his own belief system. He accuses creationists of “dismissing the findings of geologists” as if creationists are refusing to accept geological evidence. However, the fact is that the “findings” he refers to are not findings at all. What the secular geologists have done is to ‘find’ what they have assumed.

Montgomery frames his discussion as “geologists” vs “creationists” as if geologists who hold a creationist worldview are not the real thing. This is a false comparison and self-serving. By “geologist” Montgomery means those who agree with him, “evolutionary geologists”, who interpret the geological evidence according to a particular set of assumptions. Creationist geologists do not agree with those assumptions and interpret the evidence differently.

Montgomery says the biblical account of Noah’s Flood was challenged by geological discoveries like James Hutton’s unconformity at Siccar Point. But it was not a discovery that Hutton made, but an interpretation. This site has become something of a geological icon for evolutionary geologists since Hutton and his offsider John Playfair wrote of it in the late 1700s and early 1800s. But the geological evidence does not support slow-and-gradual processes. Instead, it points to catastrophe (see Unmasking a long-age icon).

©The Geological Society of America, Inc. 8393-gsa-cover-lg
The GSA Today cover featured an engraving of Noah’s Ark. Surprisingly, the Ark looks of about the right dimensions. However, it’s likely the Mountains of Ararat was a site with a less a rugged topography as shown in the image and more a high, flat plateau.

At Siccar Point, the underlying Silurian graywacke consists of turbidites, now vertically inclined, which were deposited catastrophically from underwater density flows running across the ocean floor. Hutton knew nothing of these remarkable processes. They were only discovered after analysing the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake on the edge of the continental shelf off Newfoundland. The overlying Devonian Old Red Sandstone at Siccar Point is composed of thick, cross-bedded strata indicating deposition from flowing water. From modern flume experiments we have learned much about the conditions that produce such features. Now we can estimate the direction of the paleocurrent and the depth of the water. The contact between the two sandstone deposits has been eroded flat. The immediate overlying layer consists of angular broken rocks, breccia, suggesting the erosion was by catastrophic processes. Thus the Siccar Point unconformity from beginning to end is a monument to catastrophe. It’s an icon of Noah’s Flood.

It would make an interesting study to explore why modern geologists still accept the mythology surrounding the Siccar Point site and have not revised Hutton’s discussions in the light of modern knowledge. Perhaps evolutionary geologists do not read creationist literature. In his article Montgomery has not engaged with any modern creationist writings even though he purports to be writing about “modern creationism”. The only creationist work he cited was The Genesis Flood, published by Whitcomb and Morris in 1961. He seems unaware that there has been an enormous volume of scientific research conducted since then, research that has led to a remarkable development of ideas. There are also a number of creationist academic journals that are regularly publishing new research, but Montgomery has not cited a single article from a single one of them.

Along the same line, Montgomery claims “the geological case for a global flood … was discredited before Darwin set foot aboard The Beagle.” But it was not discredited, it was ignored. What he is referring to is the book Principles of Geology by Charles Lyell, the first volume of which Darwin was given before starting his voyage.2 This book outlined a new philosophy, not a new discovery. Its subtitle says it all: “Being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface by reference to causes now in operation.” At least Lyell was honest, in that he acknowledged that his book was an “attempt to explain”. And his “attempt” was based on one big assumption: “by reference to causes now in operation”. That is, only present processes would be considered. In other words, Lyell made a conscious decision to ignore the biblical account of Noah’s Flood and what that meant for the earth. By using Lyell’s uniformitarianism evolutionist geologists ‘discovered’ only what they assumed.

Montgomery makes much of Oxford’s first geology professor, Reverend William Buckland, once claiming that the surficial deposits of loam and gravel in the UK and Europe were evidence of Noah’s Flood. Later Buckland formally recanted his position, and this was seized upon by Lyell et al to dismiss the Bible account of the Flood and say it never happened. But they were attacking a straw man. Buckland’s flood was never Noah’s Flood. Buckland completely disregarded the characteristics of the Flood described in the Bible and his initial claim was obviously in error. Modern creationists recognize that the surficial deposits are post-Flood, formed during the Ice Age, which only the biblical Flood can explain (see Astronomical troubles for the astronomical hypothesis of ice ages).

For more than 100 years the geological profession was dominated by the Lyellian school of thought, and sought to build its interpretations on uniformitarianism, but in recent decades geologists have realised that Lyell’s philosophy does not work. Warren D. Allmon, Director of the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY, said “Lyell also sold geology some snake oil. He convinced geologists that … all past processes acted at essentially their current rates (that is, those observed in historical time).”3 Geology professor Derek Ager said the same thing, “… we have allowed ourselves to be brain-washed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed ‘catastrophic’ processes.”4 Evolutionary geologists are on the horns of a dilemma: they can’t live with Lyell, and they can’t live without him.

The fact is that the evidence for the Flood is dramatic and compelling, but there are two black spots in the thinking of evolutionary geologists that prevent them seeing the connection. The first is the dates that have been assigned to the various geological features. I say assigned because they come directly from Hutton and Lyell’s uniformitarianism. In order to see how the evidence looks from a Flood perspective one has to discard uniformitarian presuppositions, and this means ignoring the dates. The second is the impact of the Flood. One needs to think big. When Buckland pointed to the surficial deposits as evidence for the Flood his thinking was too small, too uniformitarian. The Flood deposited the whole of the Phanerozoic record, and likely most of the Precambrian as well (see Defining the post-Flood boundary in sedimentary rocks and The pre-Flood/Flood boundary at the base of the earth’s transition zone.)

Once you know what to look for, the geological evidence is obvious everywhere. It matches what would be expected as a consequence of Noah’s Flood. Here are a few of the remarkable evidences:

The fossils themselves are evidence for Noah’s Flood (see Buried birth and Deluge disaster). Marine fossils are found on the tops of mountains. The fossils are often well preserved indicating rapid burial before they had a chance to disintegrate and decay (see Whales in desert). Fossils include both land and sea animals as well as soft bodied creatures such as jellyfish (see Hundreds of jellyfish fossils), which is what is to be expected from the Flood. Many animals were buried in graveyards with other animals (see Dinosaur herd buried in Noah’s Flood in Inner Mongolia, China).

Sedimentary deposits blanket the continents (see Sedimentary blankets: Visual evidence for vast continental flooding). These are extensive and relatively thin. They extend for thousands of kilometres and show evidence for rapid deposition from flowing water that covered vast area—as the Flood would have done. There is little evidence of long periods of erosion between sedimentary layers (see ‘Millions of years’ are missing).

Huge volcanic eruptions called Large Igneous Provinces, enormous compared with the sorts of volcanic eruptions today, erupted while sedimentation was occurring. These, and other volcanic activity point to the geological and tectonic upheaval that accompanied the Flood catastrophe (see Peperite: more evidence of large-scale watery catastrophe).

Vast erosion of the continents occurred during Noah’s Flood as a consequence of the receding floodwaters. This erosive process denuded kilometres of thickness of sediment producing flat topped plateaus (see It’s plain to see: Flat land surfaces are strong evidence for the Genesis Flood).

Often the flat plateaus are capped with water rounded gravel deposits that were transported vast distances by the receding waters of the Flood (see Noah’s long-distance travellers: Quartzite boulders speak powerfully of the global Flood).

As the waters fell they cut huge canyons through mountains providing a global testimony to the effects of the receding waters (see Do rivers erode through mountains? Water gaps are strong evidence for the Genesis Flood).

We could go on and on discussing the evidence. It’s dramatic. It’s exciting. It solves many persistent geological problems. But the connection with Noah’s Flood can only be appreciated by those who are willing to see. Those who continue to hold onto their blind spots won’t be able to make the connection. This bias is a major problem. Evolutionary geologists think they are dealing with facts and can’t see that they are only dealing with interpretations. It gives a false sense of superiority and a strong incentive to shut down debate (see Geologists in an uproar: Demand book’s removal from Grand Canyon National Park and The Geological Society of London uses bully tactics: Creationists not even ‘worth the expenditure of our contempt’). We would see great progress if evolutionist geologists could at least see that there is another way of looking at things and stop trying to censor ideas that differ from their own.

In other words, it’s time evolutionary geologists, who presently dominate the geological profession, stopped censoring and discriminating against views they do not agree with (see The Geological Society of London again moves to silence debate on creation science). It’s time they were professional enough to put their assumptions on the table and discuss these issues on their merits, without setting up straw men and without calling people names. I’m confident that if this happened they would see that Noah’s Flood was indeed a real event that explains the evidence and has big ramifications in many areas of public life in the western world.

References and notes

  1. Montgomery, D.R., The evolution of creationism, GSA Today 22(11):4–9, 2012; http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/22/11/article/i1052-5173-22-11-4.htm. Return to text.
  2. For a balanced discussion of the influence of Lyell’s geology on Darwin’s thinking see the DVD “Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World.” Return to text.
  3. Warren D. Allmon, Director of the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, NY, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, Post Gradualism, Science, 262:122, Oct 1, 1993. Return to text.
  4. Derek Ager, The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, Macmillan, London, p. 46–47, 1987. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Thomas A.
Thank you for this article. It's very informative on the case for a young earth. Your website and others like it have helped me immensely on this subject, and I share you work with others. I appreciate your courage in standing up for the truth.
A. T.
I find the GSAs philosophically and factually-challenged attack to be very funny considering that this is a society that publishes so many useful articles to YECs. Just look at this one I read at random last year:

Perry C.T., Smithers S.G., Gulliver P., Browne N.K. 2012. Evidence of very rapid reef accretion and reef growth under high turbidity and terrigenous sedimentation. Geology. 40(8):719-722
Daniel J.
Pheobe, no one's suggesting that geologists are making it their life's work to disprove a global flood. Tas Walker wasn't saying that secular geolgists are trying hard to disprove the global flood; he's saying that they are ignoring the possibility entirely, along with the evidence and logic that creationists use to back it up. That's not disproving, that's covering your ears while saying "la la la, I can't hear you."
"No matter how much you twist things to try and fit your creationist interpretation, it doesn't work." Think you mispelled "Uniformitarian Geologist interpretation," or perhaps "Evolutionary Geologist interpretation?"
Secular geologists claim that different layers of strata represent periods of time lasting millions of years. Well why are there fossilized trees going through multiple strata? Could these trees have started growing in one strata, and then sat around waiting to be fossilized for millions of years while the next strata were deposited? The tops of them would have rotted! "la la la, I can't hear you."
Or what about C-14 being found in diamonds, coal, fossils (including dinosaur bones) and wood buried in the strata that are supposed to be millions of years old. C-14 has a half life of about 6,000 years, and after 10 half-lifes (about 60,000 years), there is so little left that it can't be detected. So all of these items which contain detectable amounts of C-14 must be less than 60,000 years old. Some researchers prepared a conference about that last January when they found detectable amounts of C-14 in T-Rex bones. That was to be shown in session 5. The conference skipped from session 4 to session 6. "la la la, I can't hear you."
Could ripples or footprints on the tops of strata stayed for millions of years without eroding? Out of room ...
Milt M.
Great article Tas. You provided a little additional information about the turbidity currents at Siccar Point that I was not aware of. I think the problem is that if the secular geologists were to recognize the creationist geology they would lose the whole battle, and let's face it, the battle isn't really about geology. They know it and we know it.
R. D.
I wonder if Pheobe A. has thought about the subject matter - ie, the connection between a global flood and theism - at all.

If there was a global flood, sufficient in scale to dump the sedimentary rock record which creationists attribute to it, it is impossible that any air-breathing creatures could survive without something like Noah's Ark. But for the Ark, all air-breathing life would have been wiped-out in any global flood. It is equally impossible that anyone could build such an Ark which would survive such a flood without forewarning. It is impossible that forewarning could come without divine guidance.

Added to the fact that it is difficult if not impossible to find a non-miraculous mechanism to cause a global flood on Earth, and the irreconcilability with any Earth-covering flood and naturalism is plain for all to see. Since naturalism is just about the most important axiom of anything published in any major-circulation journal today, it's pretty obvious why no naturalistic geologist entertains the thought for a second.

This is added, of course, to the fact that everyone would know the implications for other naturalistic ideas outside geology if the majority of the fossil record was suddenly attributed en masse to a recent event. That's all the paleontological evidence cited to back-up evolution out the window for starters.

No, the mostly-slow-and-gradual assumption in geology is foundational to the naturalistic worldview. (And, of course, that's why CMI emphasises the importance of undermining it!)
Phoebe A.
Gavin B and others claim that geologists refuse to accept the evidence for a global flood because it is in the bible and they don't want to believe the bible. This does not make any sense at all. If the scientific evidence pointed to a global flood than that is all it would point to! No geologist, or anyone else, would suddenly have to make a leap of faith and believe it was the flood sent by God to wipe out all life. In fact all they would say is the geological evidence possible gave rise to legends of a man with a boat. If the evidence existed all it would point to is a flood! Not necessarily sent by God. There is therefore, no reason whatsoever for geologists to deny evidence.

The reason that all geologists, including many devout Christian geologists, say there was no relatively recent global flood is because no matter how much you twist things to try and fit your creationist interpretation, it doesn't work. In addition, such a catastrophic recent event would leave masses of unambigious evidence.

So can you please explain WHY you are all suggesting that geologists are devoting their lifes work to disproving a global flood? Because the truth of the matter is that that even if it had happened it would not affect their beliefs or lack of them one little bit. The atheists would still be atheists with evidence for a global flood, the believers still believers.

Geologists are not part of some huge anti religion conspiracy. That is just nonsense.
Tas Walker
Hi Phoebe,
Read again the discussion in the article about the assumptions behind geological interpretation? For example, the discussion around this sentence: "That is, only present processes would be considered. In other words, Lyell made a conscious decision to ignore the biblical account of Noah’s Flood and what that meant for the earth."
In order for geologists to 'see' the evidence for Noah's Flood they have to look at things through a different interpretive lens, a diferent 'search image'. The one most are using is incompatible with biblical history. Even 'devout Christian geologists' can look at the world through anti-biblical 'eyes' (see story of Don Batten).
I'd encourage you to read again carefully the summary of the masses of evidence for the Flood, which was included in the article along with links to other articles where you could obtain more detail. I'd encourage you to try to look at the geological evidence from this biblical perspective.
A. E.
Great article! Praise God! The truth stands even if only a few have ears to hear. Keep up the good work!
David C.
For evolutionary biologists to admit that there was indeed a global flood would be to admit that one of the oldest and most controversial accounts in the Bible were true. That might just be too much for them to do.
Todd B.
Great article! It took me years to understand what the sedimentary rocks actually are and why the fossils are there and what caused them to become fossils. The secular explanation in college was lacking at best. But this all boils down to a "heart" issue. If there was a world wide flood, that gives the Bible more validity...there's a God..and if there's a God...people are accountable.
John P.
Can someone (or more than one) give me what they consider to be the top five (several) evidences of a young (6000 years +/-) earth?
Tas Walker
By far the most reliable, accurate and objective evidence for the 6,000-year age of the earth is provided by the Bible, given that it is a historical document. This is the same method by which we determine dates in history, such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August AD 79, the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, and the United States Declaration of Independence ratified on July 4, 1776.
However, you are probably looking for so-called 'scientific' evidence for a young earth, but you need to be aware that all such methods are based on incomplete data, dependent on multiple assumptions, highly subjective, and driven by personal belief systems.
This article, 101 evidences for a young earth and universe, provides not five but 101 evidences, plus it discusses the philosophical issues behind such techniques.
Peter B.
I love this article, though remember first their eyes must be opened to Jesus Christ before they consider the possibility of being wrong. Watching an astronomy program, I noticed a serious mathematical error. Basically that a star system was I think 13 billion light years away, where the universe is supposed to be 14.6 billion years old. That would of course mean that the star system had travelled 13 billion light years in 1.6 billion years. And they hope to find even older systems? If you follow this through to its logical conclusion you will realise what they are hoping is that they will find a star system 14.6 billion years, meaning that the universe was created almost instantly and promptly organised itself. When will they see?
Gavin B.
Damien S makes a very good point. The evidence suggests a global flood, on face value. Evolutionary geologists refuse to believe in the flood not because of any evidence, but because they don't want to believe the Bible. If the flood wasn't in the Bible (hypothetically speaking), they would probably look at the evidence and say that it pointed to a global flood. They see the evidence for floods in Mars, but can't see it on earth as they don't want to believe the Bible.
Richard G.
This is an excellent article. Should we be giving a trifle more time and effort to pointing out the tricks, fallacies and clever lies foisted on to an ignorant and shallow-thinking public by evolutionists?
Leakey, in Time Magazine, said, "Geologists agree", or whatever the exact quote was. Cunning use of words covering up a deceptive lie. He ignores those who disagree. Dawkins goes elephant hurling, and says antievoltionists are idiots. Agumentum ad hominem (attacks on a person but ignoring that person's arguments.) are cunning and effective because most people are shallow and swayed too easily, and many people are desperately and only clutching for straws to help them hold on to a philosophy that lets them continue to beat their wife and generally do what they like. Our pearls are trampled upon by swine. Let's go all out to evangelise sincere or honest people or those who will repent and become such.
R. D.
So, yet another anticreationist piece which purports to be the latest and greatest attack on the paradigm... and as with almost every single one of them, it doesn't even engage with, never mind counter, any recent creationist work. Same old tactic of using the false dilemma of "creationist vs. geologist" (or "biologist" or whatever the field is). Same old dishonest failure to acknowledge their axioms while hypocritically pointing-out the creationist's axioms. Same old nonsense claim that the creation\flood paradigm was discarded by the majority because of new evidence, rather than because of the shift in metaphysical views caused by the grotesquely-misnamed "Enlightenment".

One small gripe - I always prefer the term "naturalistic geologist" to "evolutionary geologist", since this avoids another red-herring tactic of the usual "evolution is only about biological organisms, there is no such thing as an evolutionary geologist". Calling these people naturalists is entirely accurate and addresses the real issue, namely, the metaphysical outlook.

It'd also be great if Dr. Walker had mentioned his brief but illuminating article about the shift in mainstream geological outlook from Hutton and Lyell's uniformitarianism to the new paradigm of "actualism" ("neocatastrophism" as some call it), that is, the article "Polystrate Fossils".
Damien S.
How many evolutionary geologists would believe in a global flood if Genesis wasn't written?
Tas Walker
In Noah's day almost all people believed the Flood would not happen. In our day most people believe it did not happen. Genesis is the key to make sense of the geological evidence.
Peter N.
Good clear article. It shows how evolutionary bias causes clouded thinking that refuses to face contrary evidence.

However, I can hear evolutionists quoting:
"In order to see how the evidence looks from a Flood perspective one has to discard uniformitarian presuppositions, and this means ignoring the dates" - and claiming that it means " … ignoring the evidence" or " … ignoring the facts". Hence I suggest rewording, to prevent misrepresentation, to something like:
"In order to see how the evidence looks from a Flood perspective one has to realise that uniformitarian dating is a house of cards that ignores contrary evidence."

Hmm, the geological column is a shaky pillar of geology - a house of cards! We pray for its collapse.

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