Christianity and Science, Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Science, Young Earth Creationism

The Rocks Cry Out: A visual journey on a lake and its implications for the age of the earth

100_2738I recently visited Mirror Lake in Wisconsin and had the opportunity to canoe along the lake. Looking up from rowing the canoe, one is able to see exposed rock formations on either side as one goes from one major part of the lake to the other. How did this lake get here? How did the rocks erode as they show?

Two Primary Paradigms

There are two primary paradigms for interpreting the formation of the Earth. These are naturalistic or supernaturalistic. A naturalistic paradigm excludes God from the outset. A supernaturalistic paradigm may have any number of gods or spiritual forces. The reason I make the split here is because it is important to note that, regarding the ultimate origins of the universe and the Earth Christians are in agreement. God is the ultimate cause of reality.

Although we occupy the same paradigm with regards to the origin of all things, Christians are divided along a spectrum of possibilities (other paradigms) about the origin and diversity of life and species. Moreover, Christians are divided on the age of the Earth itself. Is the Earth a few thousand years old or a few billion years old? It is around this question that I shall focus here. Which subdivision of the supernaturalist paradigm better accounts for the evidence? Is the Earth “young” or “old”?

The Rocks, the Flood, and the Questions

Take a look at the photo above. The stone you see there is largely sandstone, layered upon itself. One can go up to the wall and crumble some of the rock between one’s fingers. The layers are extensive, going several dozen feet above the water level before diving below the surface. Where did all this sand come from? Why is it now here, above the ground and exposed?

Global Flood and a Young Earth

There are a number of ways to answer this question, but there is a stark difference between how the answers are given. Young Earth Creationists (hereafter YEC will refer to Young Earth Creationists, Young Earth Creationism, etc.) largely hold to the position that this sand was deposited during the Noahic Flood found in the Bible. That is, these layers of sand were deposited all at once during the great deluge which covered the surface of the earth. Other YECs hold that after the flood, some additional depositions were made by other catastrophic events, including the Ice Age.

What of the notion that nearly all this sediment was placed there by the Noahic Flood? There are immediate problems with this explanation. How is it that the layers are clearly distinct types of rock? For example, I canoed up to the rock shown in the picture and observed the fact that the rock was almost uniformly sandstone. But if the explanation for this is that the sediment was mired together in the Flood, how is it that the types of stone were so neatly parsed out? Should we not instead observe all types of different sediments congealed together? Now, a YEC might counter by pointing out that perhaps the granules were deposited according to their specific gravity, but this would be to appeal to a notion which has been proven wrong via direct observation since John Arbuthnot wrote An Examination of Dr. Woodward’s Account of the Deluge in 1697 (Montgomery, 72-73, cited below).

But there are even more problems with this explanation. If the sediments were all stirred up during a violent Flood, then how did marine animals survive? How did fossilization occur when such violent activity was taking place? What of unconformities in the rock? The issues multiply the more one considers the explanation proffered.

The alternative YEC interpretation–that some of the sediment was placed only later, during the Ice Age, runs into its own share of major difficulties.

Mirror-Lake-State-Park-Map.mediumthumbGeologic Time

Other explanations come forth via inference from principles of geology. It should be noted that the foundations of geology were largely laid down by Christians like Hugh Miller and Steno who had themselves reflected upon the Flood and its implications for geology, while also looking at the natural world.

The geology of the Mirror Lake area in Wisconsin, according to this position, was shaped over the course of very long periods of time. The sandstone was cut across during a period of glaciation about 10-20 thousand years ago, and it rests on top of millions of years of geologic processes which created other rock formations, which each have their own explanations of how they came to rest under the sandstone. The lakes themselves were formed by Dell Creek, which takes a right angle. The reason for this angle is explained by “glacial outwash” which blocked the flow of the Creek and forced it to proceed at an angle. The Creek then proceeded to flow into the area it now occupies, shaping the landscape as it moved. It is amazing to consider the time which one can observe as one travels through this area, which was carved by a Creek! For a detailed summary of the formation of the geology of this area, check out the Wisconsin Geological Survey’s report on this region.

Another Challenge for the Flood Explanation

As I canoed through the two major portions of Mirror Lake with several friends, it was interesting to consider how all the winding we experienced as we traversed could have been formed. If this area were formed by the Noahic Flood, then how could it have occurred? After all, the sediment through which it cuts is supposed to have been formed during this flood. But how did the rock get hard enough to be carved through even as it was settling? Why would not the Flood waters have simply caused a mixing of materials?

Plus, one must consider the angle that the occurs in the Mirror Lake area. Why, given fresh layers of sediment deposited by the Flood, did the waters carve out an angle? There seems to be no physical explanation for this phenomenon, granting a YEC paradigm. If the Flood accounts for Earth’s geologic past, then how does it actually explain the physical world?

YECs have sometimes contended that the great amount of pressure put on the sediments by the Flood waters would have allowed for these rocks to form quickly enough to then be carved by the Flood. But if this were the case, how did any marine life survive this extreme pressure? How did delicate fossils get preserved when so much pressure and turbulent water came crashing upon them? Again, we see the difficulties continue to multiply.

100_2741Catastrophism or Uniformitarianism?

Very often, YECs will make a distinction between their own view as catastrophism and other views as uniformitarianism. I have discussed this distinction elsewhere, but it is highly relevant for the observations I was able to make around Mirror Lake.

Generally speaking, catastrophism is the notion that catastrophes (such as a flood, earthquake, etc.) form Earth’s geologic past. WIthin the parlance of YEC, this is generally tightened to mean something more akin to the notion that catastrophes can account for the vast majority of the geologic record. Uniformitarianism is the notion that the processes we observe today were the processes which formed Earth’s geologic past.

It absolutely must be noted that this notion of either catastrophism or uniformitarianism is a false dichotomy. Note that standard geology describes the formation of the Mirror Lake region as both a series of lengthy events taking place over fairly uniform time periods (the formation of the rocks and layers of sediment themselves) and a series of catastrophic events (wherein the Wisconsin Glaciation both scoured the surface and left new deposits and later flooding from the glaciers melting helped carve a path through the area to help form much of the region). That is, there is no either/or question. It is a matter of both/and within standard geology. Catastrophes are part of Earth’s past, but they do not destroy completely the record of the uniformities which have shaped the planet.

A Linchpin? 

We have already noted briefly many problems for a YEC paradigm. Perhaps there is an even greater difficulty to be found. YECs wish to offer an explanation for the geologic past and they hold that their reading of the Bible is the most literal. But after looking into YEC explanations of how specific geological formations are formed, is it really the case that YECs are reading the Bible literally? Where does it, in the text, suggest extremely high pressures from the water, the destruction of Earth’s crust or at least its extensive modification, the formation of lakes and rivers due to the activity of the Flood, the deposition of sediments, the formation of fossils, or any number of other specific things that YECs tend to argue are results of the Flood?

It should become clear that these suggestions made by YECs are merely attempts to match their interpretation of the text with the geologic record. It is a guiding presupposition which determines all interpretation of the Bible and natural history. And, as I have argued extensively, it is a presupposition which is  misguided.


My journey along the Mirror Lake watershed was enlightening. It was as though I could observe geologic time simply by looking at the rock formations around me. Moreover, it presented me with ample opportunity for reflecting upon the varied explanations given for how all these things were formed and shaped. It seems clear to me that the YEC paradigm suffers from impossible difficulties.


Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.” I often ask questions for readers and give links related to interests on this site.

Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth– This debate was between two Christians about the age of the Earth. I found it highly informative. Check out this post, which surveys the arguments.

Answering Common Young Earth Creationist Arguments– I survey a number of theological, Biblical, and scientific arguments put forth for YEC and find them wanting.

Young Earth Creationism and Presuppositionalism– I argue that YEC is tied directly to a specific use of presuppositionalism, but that it provides an epistemological quandary by doing so.

Check out my other posts on the Origins Debate.


David Montgomery, The Rocks Don’t Lie (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012).

The Wisconsin Geologic Society.

Wisconsin DNR: Mirror Lake Geology.



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


32 thoughts on “The Rocks Cry Out: A visual journey on a lake and its implications for the age of the earth

  1. A naturalistic paradigm excludes God from the outset.

    No. This is a common caricature that is incorrect, used to suggest that some religious belief, some religious paradigm, is rejected out of hand before evidence is gathered and followed. Not so.

    Methodological naturalism is simply an epistemology, an approach to discovering how things we find in the world have come to be by evidence gathered from the world. Naturalism means it is a method of inquiry based on this principle so that claims about the world can be informed (not by untestable unverifiable metaphysical unworldly assumptions and premature conclusions drawn from our imaginings but) by mutually accessible evidence independent of personal unnatural beliefs. It is a principle that, within the context of scientific inquiry, means all hypotheses and events are to be explained (and eventually tested) by reference to evidence found here and now to inform hypothesized causes and effects and events in this world. This is important because because this is all we have to work with. You can’t work with my imaginings about my preferred supernatural causes any more than I can work with yours. But both of us can work at finding a single explanation about the exposed rock faces at Mirror Lake if we keep to a mutually beneficial framework of how sedimentation actually works in this world.

    Claims made based on assumptions outside of verification by this ‘natural’ framework are simply not productive in creating knowledge about how the world works (independent of our beliefs about it). That’s not the fault of methodological naturalism or some prior ‘paradigm’; the evidence from the world that works to create knowledge useful to both of us means that such knowledge must be independent of our contrary personal beliefs. Assuming unnatural causal effects explains nothing that is mutually practical. That’s why these other ‘paradigms’ (meaning so-called ‘other’ methods of inquiry) do not create equivalent applicable knowledge as methodological naturalism reliably does. If they did produce equivalent applicable knowledge, then the assumptions of some unnatural causal effect would be informed by compelling evidence found in the world (compelling evidence that praying to this god produces different results than praying to that god, for example) … and this is simply not the case. We have a rich history of causal effects attributed to some unnatural causal agents to be premature ‘explanations’ (godidit) that further our knowledge not one bit (physical illness deemed the work of malevolent spirits, for example); upon closer examination, we find natural (not unnatural) causes at work – not because we first assume a ‘paradigm’ of naturalism that excludes gods but – because the evidence indicates this is a useful and practical and reliable and consistent method to discovering better explanations from natural causes that work. Rejecting supernatural causal affects is a reasonable conclusion from methodological naturalism and not a philosophical premise of it.

    Posted by tildeb | June 10, 2013, 8:23 AM
    • Setting aside the notion that in this post I did not claim anything about methodological naturalism but rather philosophical naturalism, let’s dive in.

      You wrote as your conclusion: “Rejecting supernatural causal affects is a reasonable conclusion from methodological naturalism and not a philosophical premise of it.”

      Really? Let’s examine what methodological naturalism is. According to RationalWik–and let’s admit this is no friend of my position–the very first line defining methodological naturalism is: “Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method.”

      That reads to me like it is a philosophical assumption.

      Let’s look at your own defense of this contention.

      “Claims made based on assumptions outside of verification by this ‘natural’ framework are simply not productive in creating knowledge about how the world works (independent of our beliefs about it).”

      Really? Who says?

      Unfortunately, it seems to me that these points are fairly central to your argument. First, that claims made outside of your definition of natural are “not productive in creating knowledge…” Okay. Justify that premise. As it stands, it is a bare assertion. Second, your conclusion simply mis-states what methodological naturalism is. I don’t really know how to argue against it, because your conclusion is pretty clearly false. Methodological naturalism just is a philosophical presupposition. It’s pretty shocking to see you argue that from a method which cannot–in principle–investigate supernatural claims to the conclusion that supernatural entities are nonexistent. But hey, even if you reject my reasoning, I just maintain the definition that your own secular friends use in which, at the outset, they admit that methodological naturalism is an a priori commitment before any investigation occurs.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 4:55 PM
      • Yes, there is much confusion about what methodological naturalism means, which is why I explained it as a necessary component of the method used in science. Of course, many philosophers will insist that such a productive methodology properly belongs to them, although few if any do philosophy using it. As Lerner points out succinctly (Lawrence S. Lerner is emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at California State University), “If one believes that natural laws and theories based on them will not suffice to solve the problems attacked by scientists – that supernatural and thus nonscientific principles must be invoked from time to time – then one cannot have the confidence in scientific methodology that is prerequisite to doing science. The spectacular successes over four centuries of science based on methodological naturalism cannot be gainsaid.

        And this is why I pointed out its usefulness in producing knowledge that works reliably and consistently well for everyone everywhere all the time. In comparison, the method of invoking supernatural causal effects as a causal explanation has produced none. All it has produced is pseudo-explanations that only give the appearance of answers suitable only within the context of the particular brand of faith such ‘explanations’ serves. What supernatural methodology does not produce is belief-independent knowledge. But, J.W., by all means, prove this blanket claim wrong. Please! All I can do is point to the absence of knowledge supernatural acceptance in methodology has yielded.


        Because methodological naturalism (MN) is not a philosophically based doctrine but a practice fully informed by what works in reality, we can easily dismiss the bizarre notion that it simply a philosophical presupposition. Said another way, if MN was a philosophical presupposition (equivalent to the current host of supernatural methods that rely on it as a presupposition) that worked equivalently ‘well’ as faith-based claims do untethered to reality as its arbitrator and adjudicator, it would be a demonstrably failed method unworthy of any claim for independent confidence of the method. That’s why I went to the trouble of explaining how and why MN is a conclusion – because it works independently from the beliefs of those who use it – and not something that must be philosophically accepted at the outset. I even gave an example how the supernatural as a causal agent within the purview of MN (prayer) could be demonstrated that you utterly ignored in your rush to condemn the correction you so badly require. You do not understand methodological naturalism as it is exercised by thee and me every day. And we use it because it works and not because thee and me first accept a philosophical premise that it does.

        Posted by tildeb | June 10, 2013, 8:13 PM
      • “What supernatural methodology does not produce is belief-independent knowledge. ”

        But then you ask me to “prove this blanket claim wrong.”

        I truly cannot believe this is a serious attempt at reasoning. I may as well say “You’re wrong! Prove my statement wrong!” All you have done is assert that I am wrong. I see no argument here. You made the claim. The burden of proof is upon you. I find it astounding that you would be reduced to this bald assertion and then challenge me to prove it wrong. I see no reason to even attempt to do so. I may as well say “There is no mind independent reality. Prove me wrong!” Fortunately, discourse does not proceed in that fashion, and I am not about to engage in it.

        Finally, you continue to press that methodological naturalism is “not a philosophically based doctrine” and back this up by asserting that it is “a practice fully informed by what works in reality.”

        Tell me, why should I care about what “works in reality”? Your definition of reality; your definition of “works”; the notion that I should care about reality; the notion that reality has any ties to my experience; and the very concept of something that “works in reality” are all based in metaphysical claims. In fact, your entire comment is 100% grounded in philosophical reasoning. Nowhere in your argument have I seen one appeal to the natural world. You haven’t said: “Photosynthesis; therefore, methodological naturalism.” Instead, you have appealed entirely to metaphysics to make your claim. Again, let me stress this point as much as I possibly can: At no point in your argument have you appealed to the natural world in order to support your philosophical claim. The irony here is that you even specifically say that it is an epistemological stance! You wrote, “Methodological naturalism is simply an epistemology…”


        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 9:02 PM
      • One last point. You wrote: “All I can do is point to the absence of knowledge supernatural acceptance in methodology has yielded.”

        Again: According to whom?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 9:06 PM
      • Look, J.W., you don’t have to reject belief in god to turn to your environment (what I call ‘reality’) to find your misplaced cell phone. This is methodological naturalism at work, and you – and me and everyone else – use this method because it works. You don’t assume an a priori belief to first reject the supernatural any more than scientists do every working day. Nobody sane turns to prayer seeking some mystical revelation to guide how we search for answers about the real world; you – like me and everyone else – use MN. In this sense I made the observation that

        “What supernatural methodology does not produce is belief-independent knowledge.” (Such as the location of the cell phone.)

        But then you ask me to “prove this blanket claim wrong.”

        Correct: show me one bit of knowledge produced by believing in supernatural causal effect. Just one that stands on its own merit, accessible to verification by both thee and me as well as everyone else. (In comparison, I can show you knowledge from methodological naturalism hard at work in a practical technology you are using at this very moment that merits confidence as ‘knowledge’ because it works independent of any beliefs we may have.) Without providing an example of knowledge based on causal evidence in favour of supernatural effect, there is no reason to think any method that doesn’t start and end with naturalism deserves any confidence at all. Claiming supernatural causation without such compelling evidence of effect independent of our beliefs is equivalent in all ways with delusional thinking because the claim is not arbitrated by reality, and therefore the claim/explanation/answer does not stand on its own merit. To hold such a claim to be true in spite of this epistemological failure, in spite of a special exemption you allow from independent arbitration, is a guaranteed method to fool one’s self about the environments in which we must function. Respecting claims that allow for this exemption from independent verification is the very definition of what constitutes delusion and separates it from accurately reflecting reality.

        “Claims made based on assumptions outside of verification by this ‘natural’ framework are simply not productive in creating knowledge about how the world works (independent of our beliefs about it).”

        Really? Who says?

        You do… or you would exercise some method other than MN to find your phone. But you don’t. You are the one who relies on MN and the knowledge it produces to function in your environment. You just don’t want to admit it in your quest to allow rationalized wiggle room for your preferred yet unverified faith-based beliefs to be presented as a legitimate method to MN to produce what you only believe to be equivalent knowledge. It’s not, though, is it?

        If you seriously consider that what works in reality to be irrelevant to claims of knowledge made about reality, then your cognitive functioning is impaired and you should make no claims about reality whatsoever. Your faith-based belief claims are thus rendered by you to be equivalent in analogy to the imaginary dreams of butterflies… but you don’t think this is so or you wouldn’t bother to write these posts.

        I respect knowledge and I respect how reality arbitrates knowledge claims. I don’t respect attempts to discredit by intellectual slight-of-mind to fraudulently belittle a method that you yourself know works to produce independent verifications of reality claims, and that it is important to the notion of intellectual integrity to be honest enough to respect knowledge over and above beliefs contrary to it. It matters very much… if one is the least bit concerned with figuring out how reality really works. You appear interested in figuring out the sedimentation of the rock faces, so this means you are interested. You could make something up like Jake (predigested pulp from AIG long discredited by reality) and presume that the imaginary model works because it comports with prior faith-based beliefs… but I’m suggesting that these pseudo-explanations and pseudo-answers are worthless in terms of equivalent knowledge produced by MN until the claims are arbitrated for verification by reality. Without this verification process, the faith-based belief model is just so much fluff. So why the evasion tactics, J.W., when it comes to respecting a method that can reliably show us how this sedimentation occurs aas well as successfully locate the missing cell phone? After all, let us not conveniently forget that you – like I and even Jake – use this methodological naturalism all the time every day to function in our environments (while you somehow manage to keep a straight face and announce the method to be metaphysics from top to bottom!) and yet – suddenly – it’s too ‘secular’ a method for you to respect? How truly bizarre!

        Posted by tildeb | June 10, 2013, 10:44 PM
      • Okay, I’m just going to make a few points.

        You seem to be very confused about what a supernaturalist paradigm requires. It is not an appeal to divinity to explain everything. Your portrayal here is at best misleading. It is not methodological naturalism to go looking for my cell phone. I do not need to appeal to the supernatural in order to explain everything. I don’t see why you seem to be hinting at that. Methodological naturalism is–as you have explicitly said–an epistemology. It is a way of investigating reality. It is, as I have already demonstrated, one which excludes a priori the supernatural. Your hand waving will not get you around that. Yet for some irrational reason, you seem to think that a method of investigating reality which excludes God at the outset can somehow yield a logical conclusion that that method is itself the only way to yield truth about reality. The circles you continue to run are mind-boggling.

        “You do… or you would exercise some method other than MN to find your phone. But you don’t. You are the one who relies on MN and the knowledge it produces to function in your environment. ”

        I find this absurd. Again, you seem to think that if one is not directly praying, they are going about their lives using methodological naturalism. I find this to be blatant obfuscation. I do not think this is an honest debate based on statements like these.

        You wrote: “show me one bit of knowledge produced by believing in supernatural causal effect. Just one that stands on its own merit, accessible to verification by both thee and me as well as everyone else. ”

        Again, I can’t take this seriously. You are claiming to be all about the natural world, but then appeal to purely philosophical arguments. It would be funny if it were not so sad. Note that you here define knowledge. You write that it is something that “stands on its own merit, accessible to verification by both thee and me as well as everyone else.” Fascinating. So again: tell me, where in the natural world did you find this principle? Was it spelled out in the genetic code?

        And I will not allow you to avoid this blatant hand-waving. Once more, you wrote: “prove this blanket claim wrong.” I’m sorry. I am not dealing with children in a playground. I am not required to prove every ridiculous notion that you come up with wrong. In fact, I’m waiting for you to attempt any justification of your principles.

        One more point. You continue to act as though you yourself have universal knowledge. You wrote: “All I can do is point to the absence of knowledge supernatural acceptance in methodology has yielded.” I am very surprised that you think yourself capable of universal knowledge. In fact, I am even more shocked that you think yourself better than billions of religious believers who claim to have knowledge of their beliefs over thousands of years. But, perhaps I should not be shocked. Your position is essentially just an appeal to the limits of your own knowledge. Anything you yourself reject is obviously false, on your arguments. After all, your main argument so far is “prove me wrong!” Baffling.

        The bottom line is that you are as much a philosopher as anyone else. I am very unimpressed by the arguments made here.

        I’ll let you have the last word. I’m not going to continue such an absurd dialogue. I am not conceding here. I simply rest my case. I see no need to continue to rebut someone whose primary arguments are arguing philosophically that he needs no philosophy and saying “prove me wrong.” Really, there is no need to waste my time any more. Feel free to have the last word, but I won’t let you take advantage of it to drop thousands of words off your soapbox. Attempt to justify your claims or move on.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 11, 2013, 4:37 PM
      • J.W., i commented only in response to your assertion that “A naturalistic paradigm excludes God from the outset.”

        I said this wasn’t true. I said that in order for us to gain knowledge about stuff like how sedimentation reveals something about geologic history, it serves no purpose to include supernatural consideration because this doesn’t produce knowledge about the natural world. I said later that you don’t ‘exclude God from the outset’ to find a missing cell phone any more than scientists ‘exclude God from the outset’ to find explanations for any phenomena found in nature. The exclusion is not done first as you mistakenly insist; it is done (and you are as guilty of this as any of us) because it doesn’t advance knowledge about whatever natural concern we are questioning. A natural ‘paradigm’ (that I have taken to mean an epistemological methodology) is the default position because it produces results that consistently and reliably works (for everyone everywhere all the time regardless of any other beliefs about the world). If a supernatural paradigm worked (that I have taken to mean an epistemological methodology), then we would use it! But there isn’t a single technology, application, or therapy that works from using a supernatural paradigm! This is why I have asked you to provide merely a single example to grant this different epistemological methodology any knowledge value at all! You resist doing so not because the request is unreasonable but because you have no example to offer. And you have no example because there are no examples; supernatural methodology doesn’t work! Never has. Never will. And this is the case because claims made about supernatural causation are simply that: claims unsupported by any applications, technologies, and therapies that work. This is not my problem. This is a significant shortcoming to anyone anywhere at any time who suggests that supernatural agencies have a causal effect in this natural world. The fact remains (until shown otherwise) that they don’t… or we would have evidence from the natural world to support it (unless the supernatural causal evidence looks identical to its absence). And that’s why I gave the example of prayer to show a means by which a supernatural agency could provide such evidence. But, alas, even this is lacking.

        This helps explain why you – someone willing to believe in supernatural causal effect in this natural world – do not utilize or rely on this supernatural epistemological methodology in your dealings with this world in any practical way. You do not ‘exclude God from the outset’ to utilize a wholly naturalistic methodology to find your cell phone. You utilize the methodology that allows for supernatural causation only when it is theologically convenient to do so… which just so happens to align perfectly with areas of concern that have nothing whatsoever to do with practical knowledge that works. But rather than accept responsibility to choose to use a ‘naturalistic paradigm’ because it works to find your phone, you try to do a drive-by smear of those who utilize exactly the same method in, say, knowledge about sedimentation, to ‘exclude God from the outset’ as if it were a philosophical premise of some anti-religious doctrine when it is nothing more and nothing less than what you yourself use as a reliable and consistent methodology that works on a daily basis. A naturalistic paradigm is the only paradigm that works to produce knowledge about the natural world and the sooner you understand why this important to respect, the sooner you will appreciate why this paradigm – and not the supernatural one you allow to have effect – necessarily and fully informs what it means to speak truth to power, to ‘always have a reason’ that withstands the full brunt of superstitious nonsense.

        Posted by tildeb | June 11, 2013, 7:00 PM
  2. Great post. This is the kind of thing that I can share with my mother, for example, who tends to adhere to a YEC position. She and the rest of my family recently attended the AIG museum in Kentucky…

    I liked that you wrote the post around simple observations that you physically observed. Anybody is free to walk outside and make similar observations!

    I too enjoy being outside and on the water. My fiance and I regularly kayak on the Tuscarawas River here in Ohio (and other local tributaries). Here’s a pic I shot from my vessel of some curious dairy cows:

    Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | June 10, 2013, 10:30 AM
  3. I’m interested in knowing your answer when presented with polystrate fossils that extend multiple geological layers. As well, there is evidence of rocks that have been “folded” so that the layer is not straight. Rocks don’t bend easily, as is obvious, so the logical explanation would be incredibly high pressure. The more pressure you have, the more heat you have. The great heat causes the rocks to melt into liquid so that they can then be “folded.”
    Bioturbation is also not witnessed in many of these layers as they should be. If the layers were to be laid down over millions or billions of years, you’d see in just about every layer evidence of areas where roots dung in or organisms like worms borrowed. This is not so for many geological layers, meaning, we don’t see a lot of evidence for life living on the surface–we see plenty of evidence of organisms inside the layers being buried rapidly (i.e Flood!)
    We have plenty of tissue samples from organisms that supposed lived millions of years ago–you’d think after a million years or so that the tissue would be eaten up by scavengers or decomposers.
    I respect your insight into the subject of the age of the earth–you presented your evidence well and in no way were mean or disrespectful to people that did not share your views. I appreciate that.
    Your distinction of supernatural and natural at the beginning had me thinking–the Flood began by a supernatural being. The flood waters covered above even the highest mountains. Scholars have theorized that two of every kind of animal (and seven clean) could fit on the ark based on the dimensions–the USS New Jersey was build based off the dimensions in Gensis. We cannot forget the role of the Supernatural God that we can both agree is omnipotent and our Creator.

    Posted by Jake Doberenz | June 10, 2013, 3:54 PM
    • Rocks folding is not evidence against long periods of time. Again, old earth models do not exclude catastrophic events. Moreover, as noted in this debate, stones can even bend under their own weight or the weight of other stones on top of them. Regarding fossils: again, these are aberrations which can be explained through uplift or other methods.

      Your explanation for rocks bending was this: ” the logical explanation would be incredibly high pressure. The more pressure you have, the more heat you have. The great heat causes the rocks to melt into liquid so that they can then be ‘folded.'”

      Note that this begs the question: how did any sea creatures survive under this “incredibly high pressure” and the “great heat” which would have been coming from the seabed?

      I’m not sure I can interact with the bioturbation argument with my own knowledge. I do think, however, that it is an issue which is overblown from the young earth perspective. See, for example, this response. Just a few problems: there are layers of rock throughout the sediment which show rainfall. But of course, these layers were covered by the Flood on a young earth model, so how did these other layers get rained upon? Meteor craters are shown through many layers: again, these would have been under the Flood. The author of that article raises several more issues with the young earth perspective.

      Regarding the animals on the Ark. I’m wondering what calculations/scholars you are citing. As people like Davis Young have pointed out, many YEC calculations remain steeped in the assumptions from early geologists who were attempting to make these same arguments in the 17-19th centuries. Consider this: there are six to ten million (or more!) species of insects on the earth. Many of these have highly specialized diets. Were there gardens upon the Ark in order to help species which live in symbiotic relationships with acacia trees or mushrooms? Moreover, what of all the fish again? And frankly, the estimates which squeeze all the animals onto the Ark must also consider things like the necessity of food of vastly different sorts for all these creatures.

      What of turtles? Seals?

      What of the fish which according to the model you have presented, would have to survive the extreme heat and pressures of the seabed?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 4:45 PM
      • Are you denying the existence of an ark? Denying the existence of Genesis 1 through 11?

        Posted by Jake Doberenz | June 10, 2013, 4:48 PM
      • I’m a bit confused as to why you would infer that from what I wrote.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 4:56 PM
      • I’m inferring that based on your comment, not your article.
        You are doubting that an ark could sustain life, and questioning what would happen to the fish–or the turtles. Unless you were being purely open-minded, it seems as if you doubt the existence of an ark. I speculated that since you are an OEC and believe the Creation Week was mostly a misunderstanding or a glorified metaphor, that that may apply to the Flood–and may extend to the most controversial parts of Genesis, Genesis 1 through 11 (up to the Tower of Babel).
        Notice the question marks–I asked a question, not inferred your beliefs.
        And what about polystrate fossils?

        Posted by Jake Doberenz | June 10, 2013, 5:01 PM
      • I do not deny the existence of Genesis 1-11. I can clearly open my Bible and see those chapters in it. Nor am I denying that there was an ark. I am not sure why you are saying it was not an inference, considering that you said “I’m inferring that…” However, that doesn’t really matter. Thus, they do exist. What I am denying is that the young earth view = the only possible Biblical view.

        Regarding polystrate fossils, the young earth critique here forgets that old earth positions are not purely uniformitarian. I pointed this out explicitly in the post because it is a common mistake. It is perfectly possible for various catastrophic events to have caused these without having the young earth flood model be true. It does not work as evidence against an old earth. For a longer explanation (not mine) see here.

        Now that I have answered your questions, perhaps you can deal with the difficulties I presented with your own view. I realize that your own comment brought up a very large number of issues, so let’s just focus on one at a time. First: How did the fish survive if there was so much heat/pressure in the ocean that it would turn rock molten? Second [I realize I am cheating here and introducing one new facet]: How did the fish survive given the fact that fish need specific salinity levels in order to live? If the Flood covered the face of the planet, then how did fish live with the salinity levels?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 5:12 PM
      • It’s like the difference between the bottom of the ocean and the top–what would you rather swim in? The lower ocean levels bare the weight of all the other water, thus the bottom of the ocean has way more pressure than the top. If the water levels rise above the mountains and de assume the ocean depths are about the same as they are know, the pressure on the bottom would be even more extreme than the pressures today. The fish could escape to the higher levels of the ocean to avoid the extreme pressures pushing down on the earth. Keep in mind, marine life is the most common fossil we find today, so many of them were killed in the flood.
        Let me assign a random non-scientific number to ocean pressure. The deepwater fish we find today are adapted to an ocean pressure of, let’s say 10. During the Flood, because of the build-up of water on top of water, say the deepest parts of the ocean are now a 25! Well, those ocean pressure of 10 fish could easily travel farther up from the 25 pressure area to the 10, thus surviving in their natural environment, more of less. Those are my theories.
        The Institute for Creation Research offers more:
        MY passion is biology, and the way I see it, God created animals with large genomes with many genetic possibilities. We see specification when those genetically large organism lost information as they split into the many different species today (Was the ancestor of some kinds of a fish a SUPER-FISH with the ability to tolerate the sediments and such in the water?)
        There are possibilities.

        Posted by Jake Doberenz | June 10, 2013, 5:45 PM
      • Thank you for interacting at that level. I’m curious though: you wrote “Keep in mind, marine life is the most common fossil we find today, so many of them were killed in the flood” but then you also wrote: “Was the ancestor of some kinds of a fish a SUPER-FISH with the ability to tolerate the sediments and such in the water?”

        Why were there so many species of fish that we observe in the fossil record that do not live today if modern fish were descended from a “SUPER-FISH”? Why appeal the text, but then allow for the killing off of massive numbers of species of fish? It doesn’t say anything about “every kind…. except the fishes”!

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 9:04 PM
      • Jake, if I may, I’m curious on your opinion of this recent article on Christianity’s future interaction with science.

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | June 10, 2013, 6:26 PM
      • Believe me, I’ve been pushing for Christianity and Science integration literally since 6th grade. It just happens to be, science supports a young earth.

        Posted by Jake Doberenz | June 10, 2013, 6:42 PM
      • Why don’t most scientists agree with your position then? I mean…it’s not even close.

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | June 10, 2013, 7:10 PM
      • Oh, don’t make me start my lecture on the history of science and how many of the scientific concepts that seem plain as day today, a minority believed in the past.
        You cannot say because there is a majority, they are right. The majority of scientists reject a God and side with evolution and natural selection. I don’t claim to know your views on that, but as a young earth creationist I treat scientists as fallible men and women, who all to often are short sighted, they misinterpret, and they leave things out. Science is the making and breaking of ideas. Scientists are wrong (Edison was wrong what, a 1000 times with the lightbulb?)
        Plus, you just made a logical fallacy. ( As the website states about the Bandwagon Fallacy: “The flaw in this argument is that the popularity of an idea has absolutely no bearing on its validity. If it did, then the Earth would have made itself flat for most of history to accommodate this popular belief.”

        Posted by Jake Doberenz | June 10, 2013, 9:15 PM
      • I didn’t commit a fallacy. I merely asked you why the majority of the scientific community disagrees with you. I’m not a scientist but I tend to agree with their assessment. I never claimed their assessment is “correct” by virtue of the fact that it’s a majority.

        You said:

        “…how many of the scientific concepts that seem plain as day today, a minority believed in the past.”

        How is this relevant? I think this statement betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of how science works.

        Are you implying that the minority of ID “scientists” are pushing a position that should be plain as day to the rest of the scientific community?

        Science, in it’s most fundamental sense, is based on observation, hypotheses, and testable evidence. AKA, the Method. Based on observation, hypotheses, and tested evidence, an overwhelming majority of scientists hold the position that the Earth is around four-and-a-half billion years old. I mean, Google gets it:

        So, again, this is based on tested observations of the evidence. My questions remains, then, why so many professional observers (AKA scientists in relevant fields) are drawing incorrect conclusions, in your opinion. And it isn’t close. At all. While that doesn’t make them “right,” it certainly deserves an explanation.

        Also, your caricature of mainstream science as anti-God is patently false. There are many scientists who believe in an Old Earth, evolution by natural selections, and other “secular” theories who are Christians. Francis Collins comes to mind.

        So, anyway…

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | June 11, 2013, 8:49 AM
  4. We have observed catastrophic events depositing layers of defined strata when geologists presumed that a homogonized mass would result. For example, Mount Saint Helen’s, where in a matter of hours at least 17 layers of strata formed in certain areas. This is not an attempt to match the geologic record to a biblical interpretation, rapid strata formation is a scientifically observed geological phenomenon. Doesn’t it seem sensible to explore models using actual observed phenomena?

    Posted by aperson | June 10, 2013, 6:54 PM
    • There are a few problems with this argument. First: Mt. St. Helens is a volcano, not a flood. Second: geologists acknowledge catastrophism. I emphasized this in the post for a reason. It is not either catastrophism or uniformitarianism in modern geology; it is both and. Unfortunately, a YEC can only appeal to catastrophism in order to explain the geologic history of our planet, and so cannot constrict a holistic picture out of all the evidence.

      Third: suppose it were possible for a global flood to layer all (or most; some YEC models utilize the Ice Age for some of the sediment) the sediments down which are now visible across the planet. How did this occur? If any of the sediment found formed at a “uniformitarian” rate, we already have an earth that is too old. Thus, YECs must (and do) appeal to catastrophic events which preceded/went on during the flood. These models run into their own difficulties, and I tried to present some of these issues in this post. Unfortunately, I can’t cover the entire range of YEC models; but here are a few individual problems.

      1) How did fish survive the mixing of all the sediment?
      2) Granting the dominant YEC paradigm, the entire surface of the earth was reformed during the Flood. How did the Ark manage to survive this turbulence?
      3) Again, granting ^, the pressures involved would have heated to the point that the oceans boiled or at least got extremely hot; again, fish? Ark?
      4) Why are their species in the fossil record of the Flood which are no longer alive if all the animals were aboard the Ark?
      5) Why do we not observe animal migration in the fossil record? That is, if all animal ‘kinds’ were aboard the Ark, why are some ‘kinds’ only found in certain geographic regions, without a trace of their migration?

      These problems could be multiplied indefinitely. I am not trying to make myself smart in saying this, so please don’t take it that way: I have studied this topic for several years, and have long desired to remain someone who maintained a YEC view. However, I simply do not see it standing up to the natural sciences or to Biblical evidence. Consider this: How many of the pieces of modern YEC models are actually found in the Bible? As I pointed out in this post: Where does the Bible mention the sediments being layered by the Flood? Where does it mention the fossil record being explained by the Flood? How about the pressure of the ocean?

      These are all extra-biblical models overlaid upon the text.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 10, 2013, 9:21 PM
      • I don’t know that these types of questions are as damning as you may suppose. We’ve proven to be pretty bad at determining truth through skeptical analysis. (Let’s not land on the moon, it will have billions of years worth of dust!) I could multiply my own questions about evolution indefinitely too, but eventually we will arrive at the point where we say God had a hand in preserving the earth. In fact, the fine-tuning argument is exactly that. So now that we grant God’s Divine role in guiding and preserving creation, I see no reason to reject catastrophism based on questions of boiling oceans and muddy waters.

        Posted by aperson | June 11, 2013, 6:05 AM
      • The moon argument is worth reassessing (even AiG has dropped it).

        I’m not sure what questions about evolution would do to my own position. Frankly, I’m a bit curious that very often YECs tend to assume if I am not YEC I am some kind of Darwinian Evolutionist–which I am not. Note also that this doesn’t solve the problems for the YEC position. Instead, it is an example of the tu quoque fallacy: “Your position has problems too!” does not equal “My position is coherent.” Again, though, I am not a Darwinian Evolutionist.

        Is your argument then that God took care of all these things through miracles? It should be noted that if that is the case, we would still have a physical record which should align with this miracles. Indeed, the entire point of YECs presenting arguments as they do regarding the sedimentation, etc. is to show how the rock record can line up with a young earth. I find it very interesting that time and again, once the problems with the YEC position begin to mount, YECs turn instantly to the miraculous. I’m not saying that is an invalid way to turn (though again, many of the miracles would themselves have effects on the records found in stone); what I’m saying is that YECs who take this route have essentially given up the task of concordism. That is, they have conceded that the scientific difficulties presented from investigation of the natural world are such that the YEC paradigm cannot be maintained alongside natural history.

        That is exactly the point I’m trying to make. YEC does not align with the natural record. You may feel free to appeal to divine intervention which is not at all discussed or even hinted at in the Bible, but that does nothing to salvage the fact that the YEC position has been reduced to that appeal instead of being able to align with the scientific evidence.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 11, 2013, 8:06 PM
  5. Quickly skimming your article, I was reminded that the rocks, vegetation, animals on the east coast of South America have parallels on the west coast of Africa, continent to continent. A catrastophe like the flood with the deep erupting from volcanic activity would certainly account for that as well. Evolutionary processes-contintental drift a few inches a year for eons, would not work, since the living things would have migrated or been carried in a different direction than east and west. Not sure if the South Atlantic bottom has similar rock formations as the continental coasts, but I am willing to believe that is true.

    Posted by Gary Nagy | June 12, 2013, 1:57 PM
    • There are several avenues of science involving the history of what we now call South America and Africa. Plate tectonics (from which you mention continental drift) has nothing to do with evolutionary theory per se, but because the two are mutually compatible explanations for geologic history (in other words, they align perfectly with the physiological evidence each area has produced) it is understandable to make this connection. But the icing on the cake, so to speak, comes from studying the genetic lineage of plants and animals that just so happens (and by the greatest of coincidences) to align perfectly with the explanations produced by each scientific branch of inquiry, namely, plate tectonics with the similarities we find in flora and fauna.

      Conversely, we do not find evidence for a global flood. Where there should be compelling geographical and geological and paleontological evidence for such an event, there isn’t any; instead, we find compelling evidence from overlapping subjects of inquiries that demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the earth is very old… in the neighbourhood of 4.54 billion years and different areas have weathered quite differently. Local floods? Sure. But at very different times and different durations and different depths that conflict directly with a global event.

      Using exactly the same geological techniques to date rock strata, for example, and the sediments they sometimes contain to find this this age, we have developed at the cost of billions and billions of dollars technologies and applications that work for everyone everywhere all the time, from medical radiography to nuclear reactors, from mining to resource exploration. These dating processes work. Of that there can be no doubt. To suggest that all of this is incorrect because it is based on some misguided faith in ‘evolutionary processes’ rather than knowledge adduced from explanations that have been tested and shown to be true is beyond the scope of rational discourse… except for cherry picking this bit that only seems to fit with a global flood but not that bit that stands contrary to it. This is the failure of methodology by YECers. Furthermore, denial of the explanation that fits all the evidence in all avenues of inquiry out of some misguided sense of piety shows a willingness by such a denier to take an oath against understanding how reality works in the name of sustaining a faith-based belief that is simply not true.

      Posted by tildeb | June 12, 2013, 4:49 PM
    • Thanks for your comment, Pastor Nagy!

      I would point out that it is possible for a Global Flood to fit into some pieces of physical evidence. My point is that it does not account for all the evidence, and indeed that a young earth model has far too much counter-evidence to stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, as I hope to show, the young-earth model here does not actually account for the evidence.

      I am not convinced that this point would even count in favor of a Global Flood theory, for how did these plants get onto other sides of an ocean, when that geology was itself allegedly shaped by the Flood? For if that were the case, then these living creatures – in particular animals – could have only come from the Ark. How, then, did they migrate over land all the way from wherever the Ark landed to the other side of South America without leaving evidence of their migration? Moreover, the Flood theory you put forward has “deep erupting from volcanic activity” which is itself presumably part of the Flood (though, I should note this is not found in the Bible). If that is the case, then these plants and animals could not have simply been covered by massive amounts of water and then blown up by volcanoes only to emerge unscathed on opposite sides of an ocean. They simply must have migrated from the Ark. But then why would there be evidence of them on either side of the ocean, but not everywhere in between where they must have traveled in order to get there?

      Again, according to YEC models, the geology of the earth was (almost) entirely shaped by the Flood. But if this is the case, there is no way to account for the very types of issues you brought up. The animals could not have just been peaceably deposited there by a Flood which erupted volcanoes all over the earth while simultaneously depositing enough water to cover the face of the entire planet. Their point of origin would have had to have been the Ark, which begs the question: why no evidence of their migration?

      On the other hand, this evidence lines up with what would be expected from processes like plate tectonics, for the plate on which SA rests is moving away from the plate on which Africa rests (see picture). On this model, then, there is movement exactly east/west and so would be predicted to have similar fossil evidence on west Africa/East South America. I will admit plate tectonics is not an area I have explored as much as I need to, but I think this should suffice to show how neatly it fits into an “old earth” model.

      Although Tildeb and I clearly do not agree on many things, I think his portrayal of the evidence is fairly strong. We have multiple lines of evidence regarding the dating of these events which can be independently confirmed. In fact, we have done so with empirical evidence (as opposed to historical science) in the case of the Hawaiian Islands (as outlined by Davidson in debate). Thus, I do not think that a young earth model accounts for these features better than old earth models.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 13, 2013, 1:29 PM
    • Plate tectonics does directly support biogeography, which is a fascinating study still in relatively early days, but we do have very compelling geological evidence of a proto-atlantic ocean that fits snugly into migrations and speciation of local flora and fauna (later to be separated by a vast ocean).

      A recent piece of evidence that shows the power of genetics to help explain this biogeographical distribution involves the Falkland Island wolf – now extinct – genetically traced to a more northern Argentinean wolf species here, which itself traces its migration to (and speciation from the northern lupus rather than foxes (which was previously assumed)… indicating the hypothesis for a land bridge at a specific geological time… later confirmed by radiometric dating of identical ordered rock layers (even if various geographical regions examined contained bent or distorted or inverted layers) subjected to a catastrophic event (comet impact crater) in the Caribbean! A catastrophic event does not necessarily eliminate excellent evidence but adds a new layer, so to speak.

      In other words, for the explanation of a very old earth earth to meet critical review, it must address all this evidence succinctly, which it does more and more with every passing year. This is very cool. We simply don’t find a similar species of, say, a northern wolf on a south Atlantic island; instead, we find is a very distant cousin and a chain of intermediaries linking the two in the correct order AND in the correct geological time frame AND in the correct geographical locations. This is how evolutionary theory works in practice: by making predictions of what we should find, where we should find it, and in what age of rock we should look. And that’s something remarkable to have developed!

      In comparison to this ongoing successful explanation that keeps on giving us knowledge, we find no evidence (and it would take only one piece) to support a global flood and no evidence to support migration from a single (if general) geographical source of flora and fauna. But around the globe in every case we find island biology to link up without fail to that found on the nearest continent, creating vastly different biospheres between island biospheres separated by vast distances than what we should expect to find from a source of a single ark load of kinds of critters and plants. Kangaroos, for example, are strictly an Australian critter found neither in Mexico nor Norway, but if they disembarked with armadillos and caribou, then they should be distributed differently than the way they are found to be. Multiply this example by millions of geographically specific species (with very specific environmental needs), and you begin to grasp the size and scope of the error made by YECers. The ‘explanation’ put forth for a young earth of, say, 10K years fails at every turn to account for the way the world is (and stands in direct conflict with every branch of science used to inquire into the physical and biological and chemical world we inhabit). Offering some kind of miraculous Poof!ism to cover up each of these glaring discrepancies between young and old earth explanations renders this creationist answer to be no explanation at all (and certainly not science) but a generic round theological peg used to fill millions of square scientific holes. YEC’s inadequacy as an explanation is obvious.

      Posted by tildeb | June 13, 2013, 3:26 PM

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