Basic Geology Disproves Creationism?

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Recently David Montgomery, professor of earth and space sciences at University of Washington, wrote an article for The Conversation (which prides itself on “academic rigor”). In it this evolutionary geologist boldly proclaims that even apart from the evidence for evolution “basic geology disproves creationism.” The article flows out of his book The Rocks Don’t Lie (2012).

He heads his article with a 1570 painting of Noah’s Ark that looks like a floating bathtub, completely contrary to the Bible’s description. That is just the beginning of the inaccuracies, misinterpretations, and the lack of academic rigor in the article.

He tells us that a slab of polished conglomerate rock on the wall outside his university office easily disproves the creationist view of earth history, including Noah’s Flood as a global catastrophe.

What’s a Conglomerate?

Conglomerates are rock layers composed of fine particles, sand, gravel, and boulders of various sizes that are more or less rounded, the sharp edges and corners having been eroded in the process of transport in water before being deposited and cemented together.

Geology.com tells us that “It takes a strong water current to transport and shape particles” of the size we find in conglomerates. Geologists at Imperial College London inform us that “Conglomerates are characteristic of the deposition of transported materials in high energy environments.” It also says, “Particularly thick sequences of conglomerate are deposited during orogenesis [mountain building] and are syntectonic flysch [deep marine] or molasses [shallow marine or terrestrial] deposits.”1

Noah’s Flood certainly would have produced strong water currents capable of depositing transported materials in high-energy environments over a vast area.

Noah’s Flood certainly would have produced strong water currents capable of depositing transported materials in high-energy environments over a vast area.

Montgomery says a conglomerate rock could form by heat and pressure applied to a deeply buried riverbed composed of assorted sizes and types of rock. That might explain a small conglomerate formation.

But the Shinarump Conglomerate is not a buried riverbed. It is found in the Chinle Formation (a marine deposit, judging from its fossils) of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada. It covers about 100,000 square miles and generally ranges from 50 to 100 feet thick but can be up to 350 feet thick.2 To produce such an extensive, thick deposit would require oceanic sheet erosion and sedimentation.

Generally, evolutionists (including Montgomery obviously) think conglomerates were formed slowly over millions of years by a network of braided streams. But that is because their thinking is controlled by naturalistic uniformitarian assumptions. There is no river system today that is producing a deposit like the thick and extensive Shinarump Conglomerate. When those uniformitarian assumptions are questioned and the rocks examined more closely, the evidence points to a massive sheet of rapidly moving water for the formation of the Shinarump.

Another example comes from of the Sutton Stone Conglomerate in Wales. It was carefully studied by one of the great British geologists of the 20th century, Dr. Derek Ager, who was an evolutionist committed to millions of years but in the latter decades of his career largely rejected uniformitarianism. In his last book, The New Catastrophism (Cambridge University Press, 1993), he wrote,

This [Sutton Stone] has usually been interpreted as the basal conglomerate of a diachronous transgressive sea. It has been suggested, with very little fossil evidence, that this conglomerate spans three to five ammonite zones and therefore up to five million years in time. I think it was deposited in a matter of hours or minutes.3

He then gives his geological reasons for concluding that it was deposited by a hurricane or tsunami. But what of Montgomery’s claim of how conglomerates within conglomerates are a problem for young-earth creationists?

Noah’s Flood Is Capable

Noah’s Flood would have produced very energetic waves of water. The rising floodwaters driven by tsunamis (produced by the bursting of the fountains of the great deep: Genesis 7:11) would increasingly assault the continents. Those massive waves would have eroded rock by such processes as abrasion, hydraulic action, and cavitation and then transported the varied-size rubble (mud, sand, pebbles, cobbles and boulders), depositing them elsewhere and producing a wide variety of sedimentary layers that would eventually be hardened into stone (mudstone, limestone, sandstone, conglomerates, and so on) in weeks or months during the Flood or a few years after the Flood depending on the amount of cementing chemicals in the sediments.4 Some of the sediments formed early in the Flood year would be eroded in the recessional stage and deposited again elsewhere, thus providing the slightly older conglomerates within newer ones via successive catastrophic episodes over the course of only a few months or at most a few years, not millions of years.

Heat and pressure certainly can speed up the process of turning wet conglomerate sediments into solid conglomerate rock. Far more important, however, is the cementing agent in solution in the sediment that “binds the sediment into a rock.” Hydraulic cement (available at home building supply stores) can be used underwater to fix cracks in leaky concrete walls. It sets in minutes. And of course it doesn’t take millions of years (or heat or pressure) to make a concrete freeway, which is a man-made conglomerate. Natural cementing agents are not exactly the same, but are analogous.

On the contrary, Noah’s Flood is the key to explaining most of the geological record and as such it washes away millions of years.

Montgomery says, “Embracing young Earth creationism means you have to abandon faith in the story told by the rocks themselves.” On the contrary, Noah’s Flood is the key to explaining most of the geological record and as such it washes away millions of years. We don’t need millions of years to account for conglomerates. It is significant that Montgomery makes no mention of Steve Austin’s scholarly work on the Grand Canyon and Andrew Snelling’s scholarly two-volume Earth’s Catastrophic Past. Both have earned PhDs in geology from major secular universities and have done much geological fieldwork.

Montgomery Is Wrong on Church History, Too

Montgomery’s article and his book also attempt to argue that young-earth creationism is a modern doctrine. But just as he has misinterpreted the rocks, he also has a skewed view of church history and a shallow understanding of the Bible, as Coming to Grips with Genesis demonstrates.

He attempts to use Augustine and Aquinas as proof of the novelty of young-earth creationism. But as discussed here, Augustine didn’t know Hebrew, and his Latin translation of Genesis 2:4 was faulty, leading him into confusion about the creation days and into thinking that creation was in an instant. He certainly didn’t believe in long ages of creation. Furthermore, he believed that Adam was created less than 6,000 years before himself, that the pre-Flood patriarchs lived about 900 years, and that the Flood was global and catastrophic.

Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae is confusing at points (due to his considerable dependence on Augustine) as he discusses various views about Genesis 1 and tries to harmonize them. But he believed that the creation days were literal,5 that plants were created before the sun, moon, and stars,6 that God ceased creating on Day Seven,7 that Adam was made literally from dust,8 and that Eve was made literally from Adam’s rib.9

In his discussion of the early development of geology, he says many of the pioneers in the science were “clergy dedicated to reading God’s other book—nature.” My PhD research focused on the origin of old-earth geological theory in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and on a group of writers called the scriptural geologists. Not surprisingly, in his book Montgomery makes no mention of my thesis or this 2004 published version of it, nor does the Wikipedia article on “Flood geology” (which Montgomery refers to) nor the article on the “scriptural geologists.” As I document,10 those early clergy-geologists who claimed there was no conflict between God’s inspired Word and their old-earth theories never made any significant attempt to show just how the Bible could be harmonized with millions of years. They essentially ignored what Genesis actually says and asserted on their own authority that there was no conflict as they promoted their exegetically impossible gap theory, day-age theory, local flood theory, and peaceful global flood theory. And those early old-earth geologists were interpreting the rocks on the basis of demonstrably false, anti-biblical, naturalistic philosophical presuppositions, as I explain here and here.

The young-earth, global Flood interpretation of Genesis 1–11 was Christian orthodoxy for the first 1800 years. But most of the church compromised with millions of years in the early nineteenth century and it wasn’t until after the publication of The Genesis Flood in 1961 that many Christians once again began to realize that God’s Word indeed teaches young-earth creation and that when stripped of the naturalistic assumptions the scientific evidence does not prove millions of years. And this revival of young-earth creation in the church has been globally gaining strength and depth ever since through biblical and scientific research.

Conclusion

The real conflict is between the clear teaching of the Word of God and the religion of atheism.

That slab of rock near Montgomery’s office most definitely has not proved his thesis. But his article has demonstrated his blindness to the naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions controlling his (and his evolutionary colleagues’) geological interpretations and his shallow understanding of church history and obvious rejection of Scripture. His book The Rocks Don’t Lie reveals the same deficiencies.

Montgomery concludes, “A key point that gets lost in debates over the modern perception of conflict between science and religion is the degree to which this is actually a conflict within religion over how to view science.”

There is no conflict between “science and religion” by which Montgomery obviously means science and Christianity. In fact, modern science (as a method of discovering truth about the physical world) was born in the biblical Christian worldview. No, the real conflict is between the clear teaching of the Word of God and the religion of atheism/naturalism that took control of modern science about 200 years ago leading to the blind acceptance of millions of years and evolution. It is a conflict of worldviews. Stripped of naturalistic interpretations of the scientific observations, the evidence from the physical world powerfully confirms the literal truth of Genesis 1–11, which teaches young-earth creation. Most scientists are suppressing the truth about God (revealed in creation, their conscience and the Bible) because of sin and unrighteousness in their souls, so they are without excuse before Him (Romans 1:18–20, 2:14–16). They need to repent and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. As they believe His Word, they will know the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:31–32) and they will receive eternal life and be saved from the judgment to come (John 5:24).

Footnotes

  1. “Imperial College Rock Library,” Imperial College London, s.v. “Conglomerate,” https://wwwf.imperial.ac.uk/earthscienceandengineering/rocklibrary/viewglossrecord.php?Term=conglomerate.
  2. Charles G. Evensen, “The Shinarump Member of the Chinle Formation,” in Black Mesa Basic (Northeastern Arizona), R.Y. Anderson and J.W. Harshbarger, eds., New Mexico Geological Society 9th Annual Fall Field Conference Guidebook, 95–97, https://nmgs.nmt.edu/publications/guidebooks/downloads/9/9_p0095_p0097.pdf.
  3. Derek Ager, The New Catastrophism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 120. He explains in the preface why other geologists had a different interpretation: “For a century and a half the geological world has been dominated, one might even say brainwashed, by the gradualistic uniformitarianism of Charles Lyell. Any suggestion of ‘catastrophic’ events has been rejected as old-fashioned, unscientific and even laughable” (p. xi).
  4. John Whitmore, “Aren’t Millions of Years Required for Geological Processes?,” in The New Answers Book 2 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008), 229–244, https://answersingenesis.org/geology/arent-millions-of-years-required-for-geological-processes/.
  5. Summa Theologiae, First Part, Question 74. He says of Genesis 1:5, “The words ‘one day’ are used when day is first instituted, to denote that one day is made up of 24 hours. Hence, by mentioning ‘one’, the measure of a natural day is fixed.”
  6. Ibid., Question 69.
  7. Ibid., Question 73.
  8. Ibid., Question 91.
  9. Ibid., Question 92.
  10. Terry Mortenson, The Great Turning Point (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004), 200–202.

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