In practically every instance, when a person who believes in evolution is confronted with the evidences for creation, as far as plants and animals are concerned, he will reply, "But what are you going to do with the geological evidence?" This seems to be the line of evidence that to most minds cannot be answered without recourse to long ages of geological time. In this article we shall sketch, very, very briefly, the main lines of evidence that support the Genesis record of a universal catastrophe. Before we can do so, however, we must note, also briefly, how the present theory of geology arose, and what facts are involved in the question of long ages versus Flood action.
1. When, and how, did the present theory of long ages of geological time arise?
The idea that the earth is millions of years old was introduced into Christianity, as we have already pointed out in the second article, in the fifth century A.D. But it did not take on scientific significance until the beginning of the nineteenth century. About that time William Smith, an English canal engineer, noted that wherever he went in England, certain fossils were associated with certain identifiable rock strata. In 1815 he published the first geological map of England, which showed the distribution of the different outcrops, as marked by their fossils, and about the same time he published a small guide to the fossil-bearing rocks. This marked the beginning of the science of stratigraphy, or the practice of identifying the rocks by their contained fossils.
In the 1830's Sir Roderick Murchison, of the British Geological Survey, and Adam Sedgwick, professor of geology at Cambridge University, carried out studies on the lower sedimentary rocks of Wales and western England. At that time the most important rocks of England were the Coal Measures, which, as their name indicated, were the source of much of the coal used in that country. Below these lay a mass of red sandstone, known as the Old Red Sandstone, and below that a mass of unknown strata. Sedgwick and Murchison divided these lower rocks into three separate parts, on the basis of their fossil contents. The upper part they called Silurian, and the lower part they called Cambrian, but the middle region they disagreed upon. Later a compromise was effected, and it was named Ordovician. Then, the Old Red Sandstone was named Devonian, and another layer of like material lying above the coal was named Permian. Thus there was set up what was called the Paleozoic, or "old-life" system of strata. In similar manner the rocks lying above the Paleozoic were classified by their fossil contents, and the whole series of British rocks became systematized.
In a few years, studies were made on the rocks of the continent of Europe and eastern America, and it was found that the sequence of the fossils in these regions was practically the same as in England. Thus the science of stratigraphy was developed.
This, in short, is the history of the popular theory. Now, the pertinent question faces us:
2. Do the rocks, as the geologists know them today, actually lie in systematic order, or are they arbitrarily named by the fossils without respect to their positions?
Half a century ago, when Adventist scholars first began to take an interest in this problem, we might have been excused for concluding that the whole theory of the sequence of the strata was an arbitrary matter. Today, on the other hand, there is evidence from thousands of oil wells, as well as from mines and extensive field explorations all over the world. Because of the great mass of accumulated data, anyone who is familiar with the details of recent reports will be forced to the conclusion that there is some definite validity to the general theory of stratigraphic relationships. A few illustrations will be given to help make the matter dear. (If the reader is not familiar with the commonly accepted scale of classification, he should refer to the table given here, as we study the question.)
(See PDF for the Geological Classification as Commonly Accepted)
In New York the whole series is complete from the Cambrian to the Pennsylvanian, and this holds good generally for the Appalachian region, and much of the Gulf region as far as Texas. In New Mexico nearly every period is represented from Cambrian to Pleistocene. The mountains of the Wind River Range in Wyoming have representatives of every period from bottom to top, and all in correct order. In any of these we may check, we find the typical "index fossils" by which these formations are identified anywhere. Thus it seems to be a general principle that the fossils are in some kind of systematic order.
These examples from North America might be multiplied as we check in other parts of the world. The Northern Hemisphere has very much the same arrangement; however, the Southern Hemisphere contains different groups of fossils, although in their general grouping they resemble those of the north.
3. Are there not places where the fossil sequence is out of order?
Yes, but these cases are of two categories. Either they are in the mountain areas which show evidence of terrific distortion that has thrown the layers out of the usual position for that particular region, or else they are of the nature of alternating deposits, or "recurring faunas." The latter are usually an alternation of terrestrial and marine faunas, and are generally supposed to be due to a repeated series of ernergences and submergences owing to changes in level of the seashore. Such an alternation could, incidentally, be explained just as readily by alternate deposit of sediments by the waters of the Flood sweeping back and forth.
4. What are the actual physical evidences from the rocks?
There are many, and we shall divide them into three groups.
A. Evidences from sedimentary that indicate violent action of water.
These are so abundant that only a few of the most outstanding can be mentioned.
Take, for instance, the region lying north and east of the Grand Canyon. Here is a basin two hundred or more miles across, with nearly flat strata, which show evidence of having been washed into place from some unknown source to the east. The peculiar feature of the layers is that they are usually thin, and show that they were deposited by some terrific wash that carried sand, gravel, and small boulders clear across the basin in shallow water. No such action has been known in recorded history.
If we look east of the Rockies the evidence is still more striking. From Canada to the Gulf of Mexico the high plains, reaching from 100 to 200 miles eastward from the east face of the mountains, appear to be made up largely of outwash from the mountains. The sediments have been deposited in braided channels, such as are produced by heavy floods. They contain pebbles that are well waterworn, and which are of dimensions up to 8 by 10 or 12 inches. They have come a distance of 150 to 200 miles, and have not been transported by ice.
In western Texas the sediments of the upper portion of the rocks alone, comprising a small part of the total, are of such quantity as to have required a mountain range 300 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 5,000 feet high, to furnish enough material to produce them. In southern Texas cobbles 6 or 8 inches in diameter were carried 100 miles or more. Some of the pebbles of southeastern Texas have been carried from west Texas or New Mexico.
These are only scattered illustrations that might be multiplied indefinitely if we had the space to describe them.
B. Evidences from vulcanism, or the outflow of molten material.
The earth has seen, at some time in the past, tremendous outpourings of molten material; and this was not all in the supposedly dim ages before life existed on the earth. Many gigantic outflows of lava have occurred during and after the time of the deposition of the fossil strata. Here are a few of the most striking examples.
In the Columbia Plateau, in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, there are 200,000 square miles of lava flows, with depths varying from 1,000 to 5,000 feet. Washington and Oregon alone have 50,000 to 60,000 cubic miles of lava flows. The Deccan Plateau of India consists of 200,000 square miles of lava. But perhaps the most striking of all is the great mass of volcanics in Africa. Practically the whole continent south of the Sahara is a mass of volcanic materials. These were poured out beneath water, and have undergone terrific distortion. Their deposit was accompanied by the deposit of sedimentary rocks of many kinds. The sediments and the volcanics have been mixed together, broken, upheaved, remelted, and in fact, have undergone about every violent change known to be possible with geological forces. The picture of the formation of the continent of Africa is that of stupendous forces—forces beyond our ability to comprehend. If the reader wishes to get a better idea of this situation, he should read Du Toit's description of it in his Geology of South Africa.
Besides these vast accumulations of volcanic matter, there are thousands of smaller flows and local volcanoes all over the world that testify to a time of great violence. But we must pass on to other evidences.
C. Evidences of earth movements, or tectonic disturbances.
Bucher, in his book, The Deformation of the Earth's Crust, points out the fact that the mountains of the earth, in their entirety, are the result of worldwide stresses that have acted on the crust as a whole. He says that they all took place at the same time. This is very interesting data.
Practically all the mountains of the earth lie in belts running for hundreds of miles, or even thousands. They are made up largely of sedimentary materials that have been laid down in basins of water and later upheaved. During the deposition and the upheaval volcanic forces were at work in many places, so that vast amounts of lava were mingled with the sediments. Terrific erosion has taken place during and subsequent to the uplifting of the sediments, thus leaving the mountain summits carved out of an original contour that once extended hundreds or thousands of feet higher than the mountains now stand.
In many cases this upheaval was accompanied by terrific distortion of the sediments. Let us take one outstanding example, that of the east face of the northern Rockies. Beginning in the vicinity of Jasper, Alberta, the front ranges are thrown into huge folds a mile or more high. As we proceed further south, these folds become steeper and steeper on the eastern side, until eventually they break, and in the vicinity of Banff they have slipped eastward over the broken edges. This condition occurs as far south as Colorado. Not only are the mountains involved, but from Alberta through Montana there is a belt underlying the plains where the pressure from this great movement has caused a great distortion of the fiat sediments, and has thrown them into a series of minor folds, slices, and broken fragments.
In one area in Glacier National Park the line of contact between the two layers that were involved in the displacement can be seen clearly for a distance of six miles along the mountainside. Here, for a hundred feet or more on either side of the contact line, the rocks are ground to fragments, sometimes to powder, and are distorted, twisted, and "drag-folded" by the action of one mass on the other. A park ranger, describing the situation, remarked that this must have been the most spectacular earth movement ever known. Possibly so, yet there are other areas of the earth that seem to have undergone even greater distortion.
The Great Rift Valley of Africa is a part of a series of troughs that run from the Dead Sea to Lake Tanganyika. In the latter region the trough is 8,000 feet deep, from the bottom of the lake to the top of the cliffs. This great rift is 4,000 miles long, or one sixth of the circumference of the earth. Its scale is so tremendous that geologists are at a total loss to explain it.
Vast as is this Great Rift Valley, there has recently come to light another earth movement that bids fair to overshadow it. Geologists have reported that they have discovered a great crack in the earth's crust that extends for about two thirds of the distance around the earth. Details are not yet available, but if this proves true, it will be another proof for the great catastrophe.
These are only a few of the facts that support the idea of a universal Flood. Diluvialism, or belief in the Deluge, might well become a science of Deluge geology, as some now fondly call it, if more attention could be given to these evidences from the earth whose significance geologists have strangely failed to evaluate. Space forbids further discussion, but if any reader cares to pursue this study in more detail, the writer would be glad to suggest sources for study.