The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

A Visit to the Institute for Creation Research
Copyright © 1998 by Karen Bartelt
[Last Update: June 24, 1998]

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After the Flood: The Reality of the Flood

When was the Flood? What evidence does the ICR supply to substantiate the reality of the Flood? Although the ICR's Museum of Creation and Earth History had a model of the Ark and a large display, I did not see a date or a range of dates for this significant event. Another museum display did allude to time: "If the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are taken literally, the Creation must have been relatively recent, about 6000 to 10,000 years ago. There are no firmly documented historical accounts older than this." ICR founder Henry Morris favors a creation date of about 6000 years ago, and a Flood 1656 years later, or about 2350 BC (1993). In his recent expose of creationist geology, Donald Wise put the Flood date somewhat earlier, ca. 2500 BC (1998a:162). The book of Genesis indicates that the Flood lasted one year.

By making the assumption that the genealogies of Genesis are accurate indicators of real time, the ICR is forced to explain many geologic features as having occurred during the Flood or shortly after the Flood: "Although the main Flood effects were produced in one year, the after-effects continued for centuries. Some of these give further evidence of its actual historicity." The problems associated with a global flood have been treated elsewhere (Wise 1998a, Isaak 1998, Morton 1996). My museum experience deals only with some ICR statements concerning post-Flood catastrophism, and the quality of their supporting evidence.

Gradual draining of the floodwaters into expanding oceans, leaving high beaches and terraces around lakes and rivers everywhere. In some areas drainage occurred very rapidly, causing extensive erosion.

This statement possibly refers to terraces such as those seen near Missoula, MT, which conventional geologists consider to be evidence of an enormous glacial lake which existed around 15,000 years ago. This lake, known as Glacial Lake Missoula, drained catastrophically, causing the "Spokane Floods" which sent walls of water into eastern Washington and scoured out the Channelled Scablands. So far this is evidence that seems to be in complete accord with the ICR's description above. However, the draining of Lake Missoula created many muddy, short-lived lakes, and "Geologists working in eastern Washington have found as many as 41 layers of sediment laid down one upon the other in places that held temporary lakes during the Spokane floods. They record at least 41 Spokane floods (Alt and Hyndman 1986:50-54)" over a period of about 1000 years. When one looks at the data in greater detail, attributing these features to the aftermath of a global flood becomes problematic.

Gradual drying out of formerly well-watered regions leaving evidence of post-Flood civilizations, vegetation and drainage in present deserts of the world.

Various young-earth creationists have proposed that during the Flood year there was deposition of thousands of meters of sediment, that the Mt. Araratt volcano formed and rose 7000 feet, basaltic ocean crust formed at an incredible rate, fountains of the deep gushed floodwater, and all life was destroyed (See Isaak, 1998, for an excellent summary). How, pray tell, would one would even recognize "formerly well-watered regions"? Even if this were somehow possible, the presence of "post-Flood civilizations, vegetation and drainage" in desert areas is better evidence of climate change than of a flood.

Continued local floods, earth movements, and volcanic activity, leaving extensive recent fossil sites, lava beds, river gravels, etc.

Again, immense destruction is implied here. This poses an interesting question: Genesis 2:14 specifically names two rivers that are easily located today: the Tigris and the Euphrates. Are we to presume that the fountains of the deep blew, the vapor canopy collapsed, the oceans heated up, there was runaway plate tectonics, new ocean basins formed, massive amounts of sediment were deposited, and then when everything settled down, the Tigris and Euphrates just plopped back into their original river valleys? And let's not forget those Egyptians (previous section), whose use of the Nile predates and postdates the purported Flood.

Development of continental glaciers and glacial erosion

Because the evidence for glaciation is overwhelming, the ICR is forced to cram an ice age into the 500 years or so after the Flood (Wise 1998a: 170-1). Most geologists assert that there is ample evidence of 10-11 advances and retreats of glacial ice during the Pleistocene (ca. 1.6 million years ago to ca. 11,000 years ago), but the ICR dismisses all of this evidence as belonging to a single post-Flood ice age. What is problematic for the ICR is the ample evidence of numerous other older glaciations. The Gowganda Formation (found in Northern Michigan) is Proterozoic (considered to be between 2.1 and 2.6 billion years old by conventional geologists; most Proterozoic strata are considered to be "pre-Flood" by young-earth creationists). It consists of varved mudstones and tillites (glacial deposits), and the larger rocks contain the scratches which substantiate glacial motion. Throw out radiometric dating -- how would the ICR explain the presence of glaciers during the warm "pre-Flood" era? Glaciers are also evident in the late Paleozoic -- the Pennsylvanian and Permian -- with glacial striations and tillites occurring on bedrock in South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, and India (Levin, 1996:311, 339). In the Grand Canyon, Permian and Pennsylvanian strata are considered by the ICR to have been deposited during the Flood. How can there be moving glaciers during a world-wide flood?

The above paragraph elicited the only creationist response and some additional discussion. Cox (1998) asserted that "their (ICR's) position is that these so-called 'tillites' of earlier geologic periods are not glacial in origin, but submarine 'debris flows'." Cox dismissed the 'tillites' of tropical areas by noting "That hypothesis requires that either the poles wandered all over the earth, or the continents did so." I am incredulous that anyone still considers continental drift to be a hypothesis, and apparently so was Andrew MacRae, who responded, "What is wrong with that, given that the continents are measurably wandering right now? Furthermore, when continental positions are restored to their positions for the relevant time periods..., the areas with 'ancient glaciation' evidence...turn out to be close to the southern paleopole, and, surprise, the areas with the most extensive coal development, coarl reefs, and evaporite development happen to be close to the paleoequator (MacRae 1998)."

Ice cores provide valuable evidence concerning the duration of ice ages. Wise (1998a:171) describes ice cores in excess of 100,000 years old, and the presence, in Antarctic ice, of at least 30,000 "summer and winter bands". Brinkman (1995) details the numerous methods used to date ice cores, and describes in depth the ten independent methods used to date the Antarctic Vostok ice core at 160,000 + 15,000 years.

The ICR explains ice core data as follows:

Cylindrical Ice Cores contain dark/light layers. Near the surface they are 'annual', and can be calibrated by known events for a few thousand (?) years. At depth, the layers thin and disappear. Dating efforts rely on concentrations of 18O, volcanic gases and particulates, flow modeling, et cetera. If the environment has been constant throughout the past, these data would represent over 100,000 years of history (Emphasis mine). But if Noah's Flood is true history, more snowfall and volcanism would follow the Flood, and unusual variations in 18O, volcanic gases, and particulates would be expected. The deep layers may thus reflect intense, individual post-Flood episodes and eruptions, not annual cycles.

Note the circular reasoning here: Proceed from the literalist interpretation of Noah's Flood as "true history", and ignore the ice core data that exists. Ignore the fact that at least 30,000 of these annual cycles have been counted (and did not "thin and disappear"), and that ten independent dating methods place the base of an Antarctic ice core at around 160,000 years. Now we see the method involved in ICR science.

What about the Flood? Do mainstream geologists just blow it off as religious dogma? Hardly. There is abundant evidence of a major flood in the Tigris-Euphrates valley ca. 2800 BC (Asimov 1991:34). "At Ur there is a ten-foot deposit of sand and silt. Immediately below the flood deposit, the strata contain a characteristic form of pottery that enables comparison with that found at other sites. The pottery is dated to around 3000 BC. Above the flood deposit there is evidence of human activity being resumed along lines similar to that of the civilization that existed before." (Emphasis mine)(Officer and Page 1993:73). The Sumerian flood story predates the Hebrew flood tale by a thousand years and is closely mirrored by the story in Genesis. I would encourage anyone interested to look at this story in translation (eg Rosenburg 1988) and compare it to the Noah story in Genesis. More recently, evidence of a monumental flood into the Black Sea ca. 7000 years ago has been reported (Mestel 1997).

While there is abundant evidence of a regional flood which may account for the story of the flood of Noah, there is no geologic support for worldwide flood 6-10,000 years ago. Ignoring geologic data, misinterpreting geologic data, or torturing geologic data to fit a literal interpretation of Genesis will not make it so.

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