Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Little Problems of Flood Geology

Today's Washington Post ran an article about an annual "field trip" that Liberty University Biology majors take to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum (under the auspices of a required "Creation Studies" course), along with the broader phenomenon of creationists visiting science museums.

Maybe I should cut the creationist museum-goers some slack, given I've mused before about the dubious pleasures to be had of paying a call at Orlando's "The Holy Land Experience" (getting a good chuckle with my wife and sisters as we drove past and I made some rather blasphemous suggestions for photo ops), or perhaps federal convict Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind's Pensacola-based "theme park" (what is it with Florida and nutty creationists, by the way?)

Still, though, I find creationists on a field trip to see fossils and scientific proofs that basically ruin their entire worldview to be something of an odd happening. What really baffled (and irked, I must admit) me, though, about the article was the "paleontologist" Dr. Marcus Ross, who holds a doctorate in geosciences yet claimed that the Smithsonian's timeline of 630 million years of the dinosaur fossil record isn't true: as a young-earth creationist (YEC), he holds the view that almost all fossils were laid down in the Flood (of the Noah's Ark story) just 4,000 years ago.

This so-called "Flood geology" exposes one of, if not the most damning, flaws in creationism in that it is heavily contradicted by evidence from almost all branches of science, and the "scientific" hypotheses YECs propose in support of Flood geology are without fail easily and completely falsified. To read the Abrahamic Flood mythology as anything but allegory--and mind you, creationists must do just that or see creationism collapse like the house of cards it is--is sheer folly and worthy of every bit of scorn which can be heaped upon it.

First, there's the problem of the fossil record, which under Flood geology supposedly was laid down during the bliblical flood. Creationists avow that a principle they call "hydrologic sorting" would account for the order of fossils in the thus-deposited strata, which is problematic in several ways. It represents a typical creationist misunderstanding of evolution (to the point of it being a straw man view of evolution, in fact): creationists think evolution says things go from simple to complex over time (evolution says no such thing). Too, it shows the downright wrong thinking that because dinosaurs are prehistoric, they as huge organisms would thus be "sorted" and be at the lower levels of fossil strata, whereas more recent organisms which are smaller would, by density, end up progressively higher up in the fossil record. (To see why this is so ridiculously wrong, consider that the giganticism of the dinosaurs' eras was abnormal, and far older fossils such as those of the trilobites with which every grade schooler is familiar are both smaller and located deeper in the fossil record--so how did the largest fossils end up in the middle, so to speak?)

Second, Flood geologists invariably get tangled up in the amount of water which would have had to fall to cover all the land on Earth as described in Genesis. You see, accepting that Mt. Everest was covered by water over its peak (or else was somehow pushed up by the weight of all that water, a favored alternate argument by creationists) requires a heck of a lot of H20.

So they try to explain that problem away by claiming the weight of the waters as well as the sediments which would shortly become our fossil record pushed down the sea beds and pushed up the mountains--a concept which boggles the mind in addition to requiring the suspension of known physical laws.

Then, there are the myriad problems of where did the waters of the Flood come from, and where did they go? The favored "vapor canopy" theory and related notions of giant ice comets exploding in the atmosphere simply fail laughingly with any scrutiny whatsoever, resulting in such nonsense as pressure cooker conditions that a Venusian would envy. Literal readings of the Bible lead to notions of subterranean upwellings (again, where did all that water come from?) which defy all scientific plausibility.

I often wonder why creationists don't simply abandon the flood mythology as a literal, historical incident and instead look at it through the lens of allegory, and its likely origins in very localized but severe floods of the river plains of early civilizations? Surely for people who didn't travel more than a few miles, such floods would seem to be global, not to mention the poetic license and hyperbole employed in crafting narratives based on such events. Because, as described above in short detail, the flood mythology and its associated "geology" simply fails, contradicting both itself repeatedly and also several laws of physics and the observed geography of the Earth.

I suppose creationists feel that if any part of the Bible isn't taken literally, then their entire case for special creation is thereby weakened--ignoring the forest for the trees when you consider what a laughingstock is made of their "theories" by unbending insistence on literalism.

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