Science of Canyons and Flood
Geologists are scientists who deal with the earth’s physical structure and substance, its processes, and its history. My scientific degree is not in geology, but I have read extensively about geology and have observed geological features while traveling throughout North America. We can see the geological features and processes as they exist now, and can speculate about their past history. With modern technology geologists can examine the earth, and can measure the rate at which the earth is now changing. We have learned a lot about the earth from geological observations and research.
What we know about the current earth gives indications of changes that occurred in the past. We also like to know when past changes occurred, which requires making assumptions about the past or having historical records. A current uniformitarian assumption is that past rates of change have always been the same as measured currently.
The uniformitarian assumption gives wrong ages when it does not take into account catastrophic changes.
For example, a river is eroding a canyon deeper at a very slow rate. Assuming that rate always existed, simple arithmetic shows the canyon started being formed millions of years ago. That method of estimating times is widely accepted as fact since it is consistent with evolution theory requiring millions of years for life to develop. But in fact there are both gradual changes and rapid catastrophic changes occurring in the earth. The uniformitarian assumption gives wrong ages when it does not take into account catastrophic changes. We can only see the results of the combination of both types of past changes.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular geological features in the United States. The National Park Service informs visitors that the canyon took millions of years to form based on the assumption that the erosion rate has always been the same low rate as it is now. But geologists have no data for erosion rate a thousand years ago, let alone for millions of years. Let’s look at known facts relative to canyon formation.
I will first describe my early observations and experiments with canyons. When my brother and I were young and we were camped by the ocean or lake, one of our favorite activities was digging holes in the beach, piling the sand on the low side to make a dam, and then using our toy pails to fill the hole with water to make a little pond. When we added enough water so it began trickling over the dam, that trickle rapidly became a torrent which quickly eroded the dam making a canyon to the bottom of the pond. That experiment was very reproducible. No matter how hard we packed the sand in the dam, it always quickly produced a canyon when the water overflowed. That demonstrates a geological principle of canyon formation.
Does that experimental result in beach sand apply to the formation of actual canyons? Back in 1980 the news media reported the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the northwestern USA. That caused ice, snow, water, rocks and dirt to slide down the mountain into Spirit Lake, raising the water level and causing the water to overflow its bank. The initial small flow rapidly became a torrent as erosion began. The dirt and stones in the water quickly ground their way through volcanic rock strata. The canyon by Mount St. Helens was produced in a little over a day. That phenomena was the same as our beach ponds overflowing. Canyons are produced rapidly by catastrophic events. I read of a geologist who applied standard uniformitarian geological dating methods to estimate the age of that canyon. The result was millions of years. He concluded that using the standard dating method was wrong because it did not agree with recorded history of the event.
When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon, I visualize the canyon being formed rapidly the same way as observed on the beach and at Mount St. Helens. Scientific logic starts with known data to understand the unknown. It is logical to assume the Grand Canyon was formed in the same manner as the one by Mount St. Helens, but on a larger scale. The central part of North American is mostly flat. Geologist tell us the flatness is due to that large area being covered by water in the past. At some point the level of that large body of water rose so that it began overflowing its bank in what is now the southwest USA. Based on known phenomena, that could result in rapid erosion producing the Grand Canyon a mile deep while draining the North American lake or sea. That raises the question, is there any historical information to support such a scenario?
Ancient people groups and cultures around the world have accounts of a major worldwide catastrophic flood that wiped out life except for one family and pairs of animals who survived in a boat. Some stories mention their god destroying life to punish human wickedness. Moses heard the flood accounts from both his Hebrew ancestors and from his Egyptian education. He had the benefit of being inspired by God when he wrote Genesis.
The Samarians recorded their flood legend on a stone tablet that still exists. It is almost identical the account written by Moses, Scholars debate which account was copied from the other account. A more reasonable explanation is that each people group received their account of the flood by its being passed down from their ancestors, all of whom were descendants of the few flood survivors. They all started with the same account. Such historical information from many people groups and cultures indicates that there was a catastrophic worldwide flood during human history. The Biblical account identifies Noah and his family as being the survivors on the Ark along with pairs of each kind of animals.
Such an historical flood would account for central North America being covered with water, and the Grand Canyon was formed probably toward the end of the year-long flood. The combination of both geological data and historical data provide the answer for how the Grand Canyon was formed. Such a catastrophic event is more reasonable than the standard uniformitarian assumption that canyons form very slowly over millions of years.
That takes us to the next question, when did it occur?
Biblical genealogy tells us when Noah lived, so that would be when the flood occurred. I read a book by a man who spent years digging through ancient European archives. He discovered some old genealogies written before Christianity came to Europe. He found genealogies for the ruling classes of five countries. They traced their ancestors back to Noah. One or two of them went all the way back to Adam. Those genealogies showed how long ago Noah and Adam lived. They are similar to ages from the Biblical genealogies. They all put Noah as living about four to five thousand years ago.
Geologist tell us there is evidence that in the past there was one land mass that broke apart to make several continents and plates. Genesis says “Let waters be gathered together in one place so dry ground may appear.” That is singular, which means one ocean and one land mass. Geology and Genesis are in agreement. Then God sent the Flood to punish humanity for its evilness. The flood waters were accompanied by the crust of the earth being cracked into several plates. That would be accompanied by massive volcanos and earthquakes as the plates were moving rapidly. This would produce huge tsunamis washing back and forth across the continents and laying down several layers of sediment rapidly, not gradually over millions of years as claimed by uniformitarian geologists and evolutionists.
When I was in eighth grade, I looked at the world maps on the wall. Africa and South America looked like pieces of a puzzle that would fit together. I raised my hand and proposed that in the past those two were one land mass. The teacher responded by saying that was impossible because what we see today is just the way God created the earth. To me that was naïve. I had hiked in mountains and seen rocks fall from cliffs to the rock ruble at the bottom. Obviously, God did not create that rock ruble in its current location. A decade or more later, I read in Popular Science that a geologist discovered that the strata in western Africa and eastern South America were identical. He proposed that the two were once one land mass and that the crust of the earth had cracked apart. That was the start of the science of tectonics, the movement of segments, called plates, of the earth’s crust. My eighth grade theory was validated.
The rate of movement of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres away from each other is measured as a tiny fraction of an inch per year. Conventional geologists assume that rate has always been constant. The two hemispheres are crust plates moving apart. The plates are solid earth floating on the fluid interior of the earth. It takes energy to keep something moving at a constant rate. When you are driving your car at a constant speed, and you stop providing energy by taking your foot off the gas pedal, your car slows down. Scientists have not found any source of energy to keep the plates moving at a constant rate. That is called a mystery. Did the crust plates always move at their current slow rates, or did the catastrophic breaking up of the earth’s crust during the Flood result in rapid movement initially?
You may remember something of fluid dynamics from high school physics about solid objects floating in liquids. Here is a personal experience with that aspect of physics. My brother and I found a log about 10-12 feet long and a foot and a half in diameter floating in a lake. We pulled it to our swimming area. We had fun pushing it as hard as we could. It would initially move rapidly making waves and then slow down. When it appeared to be stopped I would get in front of it to push it back; but it was still moving very slowly and had enough momentum energy to push me backward. The earth plates are now moving very slowly with no known source of energy to keep them moving. By analogy, when the earth plates broke apart they must have had a high velocity and then slowed down over the years. The plates still have enough momentum energy to keep moving at the current observed slow rate. There are physics equations that could be used to calculate how long ago the plate movement started. But that requires knowledge of the initial velocity, the mass of the plates, and the viscosity of the fluid medium beneath them. None of these are known, so that time cannot be calculated from geological data. The historical accounts of when the flood caused the earth crust to crack are described above.
The existence of fossils all over the earth is strong evidence of a massive worldwide flood catastrophe. If very slow sedimentation produced the strata observed in the earth, there would be no fossils since dead creatures would decompose long before they were buried. Fossils are formed when creatures are completely buried rapidly before they have time to decompose, as occurred during the Flood.
A deep strata contains no fossils, indicating it was present before the Flood. The next strata contains many kinds of small creatures that were the first to be drowned and buried by Flood sediment. Larger creatures are in higher strata that were formed as the water got deeper. The existence of fossils shows that those layers of strata were formed rapidly, and not gradually over millions of years as claimed by evolutionists and uniformitarian geologists. The fossils in several strata do not show the sequence of living things gradually evolving; but show the sequence in which creatures were drowned and rapidly buried in several strata produced by a series of the huge tsunamis during the Flood. Thus, the many fossils that have been, and are being, discovered show what kinds of creatures were living just before the Flood. All creatures currently living are descended from those kept alive on the Ark or boat built by Noah. Fossils are clearly NOT showing that creatures gradually evolved over millions of years.
People are fascinated by dinosaurs which evolutionists claim lived and went extinct millions of years ago. That is not true. Fossils show dinosaurs were living at the time of the Flood when they were drowned and the tsunamis buried them in sediment. Dinosaurs’ fossils contain soft tissue which proves they could not have been buried more than a few thousand years ago. After the Flood they spread throughout the world and interacted with people. There a many legends of people encountering dragons and pictures of them on cave walls throughout the world. In the book of Job a behemoth description sounds like a dinosaur. The facts do not support the evolutionists’ claims about dinosaurs.
Where plates collide with each other, one plate slides on top of another producing mountains. That is readily seen in the Rocky Mountains. The west side of the mountains slope upward. The east side shows ragged cliffs showing several strata of sediment that were laid down under water. The lines between the strata are usually straight. But I have seen strata that are bent or folded west of Whitehorse, Canada. The bend showed no cracks in the rock, indicating that the mountain rose up while the strata was still soft before it solidified into rock. This means the initial rapid movement of plates during the Flood produced mountains soon after the tsunamis produced the strata. This is all consistent with a major upheaval of the earth during the Flood having occurred rapidly and recently during human history.
In conclusion, the geological data are consistent with the Biblical and other cultures’ narratives about a worldwide catastrophe occurring a few thousand years ago that produced the fossils that are currently being found. These data do not support the theory of evolution or the uniformitarian assumption of conventional geology.
I have written this article to reassure Christians that they can trust the entire Bible as providing accurate world history. Since the Flood is a scientifically verified historical event as described in the Bible, the Biblical claim that God created everything can also be accepted as fact. Claims by scientists that the Flood did not occur and millions of years gradually produced geological features and living things are to be rejected since there is no scientific evidence to support them. And they should not be used to misinterpret the Bible in trying to make it compatible with such a false world view.
This evaluation of earth geological data and historical accounts shows they are consistent with and support the Biblical account of the Noah Flood. I hope this will encourage people to believe the Bible provides an accurate and reliable account of world history, that all of God’s Word is true, and that human speculations that contradict the Bible must be false.
Giving God the glory for creating everything,
Dr. William N Vanderkooi, PhD