Fact and Theory in Modern Geology

The creationist who faces the problem of the popular geological theory must choose one of three alternatives.

By HAROLD W. CLARK, Professor of Geology, Pacific Union College

The creationist who faces the problem of the popular geological theory must choose one of three alternatives: (I) to shut his eyes to the problem, ignore it, and thereby assure him­self a degree of comfortable complacency; (2) to take a superficial view of the problem, and by gathering a few of the facts, form what seems to him to be a satisfactory explanation of geological phenomena; and (3) to carefully check all avail­able data on various phases of the subject, sift the evidence, and attempt to set up explanations that fit all known facts.

Obviously the first two alternatives are entirely unsatisfactory. The first offers no help whatsoever in solving the relation between science and reli­gion.

The second is liable to produce a sense of false security, since the person who indulges in this sort of reasoning is unaware of the major aspects of a subject which calls for more adequate considera­tion than he has realized is possible.

The third alternative is taxing, and requires long and arduous labor, but in the long run it proves to be the only satisfactory approach to the solution of the problems.

About ten years ago, after having taught biol­ogy and geology for about two decades, I found myself faced with several unanswered questions. Immediately a systematic research program was begun, and one question after another was investi­gated.

The first question was that of the development of modern stratigraphical geology, or the science of strata and the fossils. The point for considera­tion was: When, where, and by what line of re­search did th'e current theory of long geological ages arise? This led to some surprising conclu­sions, as follows:

  1. The theory of geological ages is not proved by fossil evidence; on the contrary the fossilifer­ous strata were assumed to be very old because of a priori reasoning. In other words, long ages were taken for granted, and the fossils dated accord­ingly.
  2. The theory of long ages is not a modern one, but has been in vogue since times of antiquity. It was introduced into modern geology in 1785 by James Hutton, who took uniformity for granted.
  3. The uniformitarian hypothesis, as introduced by Hutton, and expanded by Lyell in 1830, is un­proved and unprovable.
  4. William Smith, who introduced the idea of classifying the strata by their contained fossils, did not make any claims for theoretical explanation regarding the age of the rocks. But his contempo­raries, Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison, applied his practical system to the strata and, as­suming great age for the rocks, worked out a method of determining the relative "age" of the strata by the fossils.

Sometimes in our attempt to discredit the evolution theory in geology, we have denied the reality of any fossil sequence. We have been inclined to say that a rock is Cambrian, Car­boniferous, Cretaceous, or what not, simply be­cause it contained certain fossils, and have over­looked the obvious fact that the fossil-bearing rocks do lie in systematic order.

At first this realization of the order of the fossils is disconcerting, but further investigation dis­closes the reason for the sequence; and a consid­erable array of data points clearly to a remarkably simple explanation. Suggestions made by Sedg­wick in 1831 would have, if consistently followed, opened the way to the ecological interpretation of the fossils. George McCready Price, in The New Geology (1923), made the suggestion in several places that the fossil order represents nothing more than the biological zones or provinces of the an­cient world. This clue led me to investigate the phenomena more fully. In my new book, The New Diluvialism, advertised in a recent issue of THE MINISTRY, the ecological zonation theory is illus­trated and made clear by numerous examples and diagrams.

This is only one of the problems of geology. Many readers will be interested in seeing how the vast array of scientific data can be fitted into a simple scheme without the necessity of belief in the evolution theory of long geological ages.

In conclusion, let me repeat this one excerpt which is pertinent to the present discussion:

"When, and by what proofs, may it be asked, did it become 'recognized that strata were formed at different periods in the earth's history'? Try as one may to find them, no proofs of such a hypothesis have ever been forthcoming. All uniformitarian geology, all long-age geology, rests entirely upon assumption, not on proof. Where did the ancient Chaldeans or Babylonians or Egyptians get the proof that the earth was very old? Certainly not from any of their scientific discoveries, for they knew nothing about geology. Where did the Greek philosophers get proof that the earth was old? The answer is the same. It was pure speculation, a philosophic assumption. Where did medieval philoso­phy get its proof ? Augustine took his notions directly from the Greek philosophy. Where did James Hutton obtain his proof for the continuous and successive geo­logical processes? From pure speculation, not from any geological evidence. Where did Cuvier get the proof that the succession of types in the Paris Basin were laid down during long ages? Only by assuming that deposi­tion had been uniform and regular. Where did. William Smith, Sedgwick, Murchison, and Darwin get the proofs that the stratigraphic sequence in England was the re­sult of slow, geological processes? Only by assuming, that the processes of sedimentation had always been uni­form. Where did Lyell get his proofs for uniformitar­ianism? He never gave any. He took uniformity for granted. So did all the others. The whole geological world stands indicted for 'begging the question,' as the rhetoricians say, taking for granted that the very thing to be proved is actually true, and then proceeding to build upon this assumption as if it were true. As has been said repeatedly, it should be said again: Unifornzi­tarionism is a worn-out hypothesis for which there is-not one iota of proof, either in science or philosophy.

"Now, if the stratigraphers from the time of William Smith down to the present had stuck to sound scientific principles, they would have gone to the world around them and learned the lesson it had to teach. 'Speak now to the earth, and it shall teach thee.' The local sequence of strata in any part of the world obviously and unques­tionably represents the natural order for that locality. But what about the relation between strata in different parts of the world? By going to the earth, it may be seen that today the ecological zones can be correlated in exactly the way the geologists correlate the rock forma­tions. Then it is only logical to conclude that the se­quence of fossils in the rocks is only the rernn,ant of an ancient system of ,ecological zonation."—The New Di­luvialism (Angwin, California : Science Publications, 1946), pp. 79, 80.

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By HAROLD W. CLARK, Professor of Geology, Pacific Union College

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