Blasting away at Mount St. Helens

on June 28, 2005

Last month, an anti-AiG guest column appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the largest circulation newspaper in AiG-USA's "backyard." While AiG and its future Creation Museum have been recent targets of several letters to the editor and guest commentaries in local and national newspapers, what made this column rather unusual was the attempt by an evolutionist to use scientific evidence to argue against AiG.

That pro-evolution guest column (on the Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington State, USA, which occurred 25 years ago last month) follows. Unfortunately, the Enquirer did not choose to print a rebuttal submitted by creationist Ph.D. scientist, Dr. John Whitmore of Cedarville University, Ohio, USA. Many Enquirer readers were probably taken in by what appeared on the surface to be a convincing "gotcha" critique by this evolutionist of a key AiG belief regarding the geology of our planet.

First, here's the commentary that blasted AiG.

"Anti-evolution 'facts' easily debunked"

Ken Ham and his Creation Museum ("Ministry uses dinosaurs to dispute evolution," May 22) would be laughable if they were not so well-financed and expert at using misinformation and rhetorical techniques to spread their arcane beliefs. Ham preys upon the public's lack of scientific knowledge to gain their acceptance of his brand of fallacious pseudo-science.

One of my favorite examples is his insistence that the Grand Canyon was carved in a matter of days by the biblical flood of Noah. He justifies this idea by pointing to the eruption of Mount St. Helens and the subsequent development of a canyon hundreds of feet deep carved by lahars (mudflows) along the Toutle River in the days after the initial eruption. Ham states that if the Toutle River could cut through hundreds of feet of rock in just days, the Colorado River could have cut the Grand Canyon relatively quickly. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? What he doesn't tell you is that the material through which the Toutle carved its canyon wasn't rock at all. It was the pulverized remains of what was once the peak of Mount St. Helens.

What difference does that make? You can easily model it for yourself. The consistency of the rocks at the Grand Canyon is equivalent to hardened concrete, some much harder, some a little softer, but generally speaking, concrete is a pretty good model. The consistency of the deposit that the Toutle cut through was that of what you find in a bag of dry concrete mix - powder, sand and gravel - like you get at the hardware store.

Dump the concrete mix in a pile on the ground, take a pressure washer and point it into the dry mix. Lo and behold, the water washes away the concrete mix easily, just as the Toutle was able to wear rapidly through the deposit at St. Helens. Next, point the pressure washer at a hardened, cured concrete surface. You will quickly find that the pressure washer cuts the concrete little, if at all. Now bear in mind that the erosive power of floodwater is orders of magnitude less than the intense, focused energy of a pressure washer.

This is just one example of how easily the "science" of the creationist movement can be debunked. I hope readers will examine Ham's evidence with a critical eye and not take their version of "facts" as gospel.

(Peter B. Lask of Hanover Township has a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's in paleontology from the University of Cincinnati.)

Taken at face value, the guest column by Mr. Lask, who possesses some scientific credentials, comes across as authoritative and convincing. But let's have a Ph.D. scientist interpret the evidence resulting from the Mount St. Helens blast in the best way.

-----Original Message-----
From: John H. Whitmore
To: [email protected]
Subject: AiG: Grand Canyon vs. Mt. St. Helens

Dear Editor:

Mr. Peter Lask's guest column (May 26) was a failed attempt to refute the scientific theories presented by Answers in Genesis and its future Creation Museum.

As an Associate Professor of Geology (who just returned from a week of research in the Grand Canyon), I find the AiG argument quite convincing that the Grand Canyon could have been carved in a relatively short amount of time by a large amount of water. This is the "breached dam" theory, where a massive amount of water in northeastern Arizona and Colorado catastrophically breached a dam and rushed out to carve the Grand Canyon. If Mr. Lask were familiar at all with the geological literature, he would realize that breached dams have been accepted as a scientific explanation for canyon topography in many other areas. The best known example (accepted by all geologists) is the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington State (covering more than 15,000 sq. mi.). Here, an Amazon-like river catastrophically cut out the topography (in solid rock) in about two weeks time from a breached dam in Idaho during the Ice Age.

Contrary to Mr. Lask's contention, a similar process also carved out parts of a canyon system after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Mr. Lask, if he truly knew the geology of that area, would realize that in 1982, mud flows carved out canyons up to 150 feet deep; and not just in the softer, easier-to-penetrate "pulverized remains" of the mountain, but in hard, welded volcanic tuff. Incredibly, it happened within a day!

It's a shame that Mr. Lask claims that AiG deals in "misinformation" when he himself has misrepresented the scientific evidence at Mount St. Helens. It's also a shame that Mr. Lask resorted to words like "laughable," "preys upon" and "pseudo-science" to describe AiG and its beliefs. Count me, a Ph.D. scientist who has visited and studied all of these above mentioned areas, as one who applauds AiG's work.


Dr. John H. Whitmore
Associate Professor of Geology
Cedarville University
251 N. Main St.
Cedarville, OH 45314

It's encouraging to know that are so many Ph.D. scientists working today who reject molecules-to-man evolution and its long-ages timetable, and instead accept the biblical teachings of Genesis creation and a young earth. For a partial list of such scientists, see Creation scientists and other biographies of interest.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.