Asteroids of the Flood

The Tenoumer crater in the Sahara desert is just over half the age and just under twice the diameter of Meteor Crater, Arizona

It’s already time for the July Acts & Facts and John D. Morris’ geology article – An Extraterrestrial Cause for the Flood? – once again looks like a good place to start. Morris speculates that asteroid impacts could have been the cause of the Flood, though it strikes me that the opinions he advocates are neither wise nor consistent with flood geology and creationist theology in general.

He briefly discusses the “fountains of the great deep” line, claiming that they “no doubt brought to the surface enormous volumes of water and magma that had been sequestered beneath earth’s surface,” before saying:

Another geologic process may have been involved, although it is not mentioned in Scripture. Large surface features on earth seem to speak of horrific past events that no longer occur. Meteorite impact craters suggest earlier episodes of bombardment not witnessed by man, but recorded in rock.

“Not witnessed by man, but recorded in rock”? That’s crazy talk, Morris! (And define ‘no longer occur,’ if you will – meteorite impacts happen all the time.)

The best known crater is the Barringer Meteorite Crater in Arizona. Its sharp edges have not been significantly eroded, indicating that the meteor probably struck ground during post-Flood times. Other craters are too big to see at ground level and can only be detected from a high altitude or on a map. The biggest ones are discerned through sub-surface mapping and the discovery of meteorite fragments in drilling. The underground craters are encased in Flood sediments, leading to the conclusion that meteorites impacted earth during the Flood.

Many of the largest craters known are also among the oldest (because big craters last longer), and so Morris may find himself having difficulty arguing that monsters like Vredefort (~2.023 billion years old) and Sudbury (~1.850 billion years) are of flood age. Barringer crater, if you don’t know, is more commonly known as Meteor Crater, but scientists don’t tend use that name for obvious reasons.

Consider the fact that the nearby moon is literally pockmarked with meteorite craters, as are the nearby rocky planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The outer planets, consisting almost entirely of gas, would not preserve such a record of bombardment. However, their moons exhibit abundant cratering. Creation scientists have long speculated that during the Flood the solar system may have passed through a “dirty” place in space or an asteroid swarm.

Collision of an asteroid - this would probably have happened more than once a week if Morris was correct, and we're not even counting the smaller onesCraters on other rocky bodies in the solar system are massively cratered. The Earth, too, would have received the same treatment over billions of years but geologic processes here have been among the most successful when it comes to erasing their marks.

But is Morris seriously arguing that all this was done within the single flood year? Never mind that that would have melted bodies such as the moon, consider the survival of the Ark!

But wait, there’s more:

It may be that the creation week spawned such impacts, but at least the impact craters contained within Flood sediments indicate that meteorites must have hit during the Flood itself, adding to the horrors of the Flood. The impacts themselves would have wrought unthinkable damage, with super-sized earthquakes rattling the crust and towering tsunamis hurtling across the continents. Perhaps bombardment was the God-caused and God-controlled trigger that initiated the Flood, breaking open the “fountains.”

He’s also seriously entertaining the idea that they were the cause!

Tectonic movement over time - click through for an animation. One of the crationist models has the pre-flood world as pangea and then the continents all moving into place over a rather short peroid of timeWhen it comes to criticism of the more violent Flood ideas, whether the Ark would have survived or not is quite often brought up, just as I did above. It is often countered that the Ark was on the open sea, and thus in a little less danger than otherwise. Not a lot less danger however, and it would have been only marginally safer there than it would have been on a continent (though, of course, the continents were being swamped at the time – while you might be momentarily safe there it would not exactly last). Worst of all would have been the edges, the rapidly moving shoreline: asteroid impacts, along with everything else, would have caused extremely large tsunamis. The Ark, then, needs to get quickly out into the open ocean (not easy, given the Ark’s starting point and the arrangement and movement of the continents that supposedly happened during the flood – Noah would have been the only navigator in history that needed to dodge a rampaging Indian subcontinent) before the worst begins. But if the asteroids were the cause then the Ark would not have had the time to move all that way before the asteroids hit (because it was still dry until they did), and everyone would have died. The end.

Worse even than this, he thinks that said asteroids were made as part of the Creation. However if that were so then the impacts were therefore always going to happen irrespective of the Fall and God’s later whims – simply as a product of the deterministic (and entirely predictable over such a short time period) nature of orbital mechanics. I’m fairly certain that the idea that both the Fall and the Flood were planned by God from the start is heretical, YEC theology-wise. Like I said, crazy talk.

Morris’ article concludes:

Locked as we are in the present, we can hardly comprehend such a cataclysm and, certainly, cannot reconstruct it—we can only stand in awe of His great power as we study its results.

At least he has the anti-science, anti-curiosity part nailed down.


Name/Location Crater
Diameter
Asteroid
Diameter
Ishim/Kazakhistan 350 20.8
Aredefort/South Africa 140 7.4
Sudbury/Ontario, Canada 140 7.4
Popigia/Tayrmyr, Siberia 100 5.0
Puchezh-Katunk, Russia 80 3.9
Manicouagan/Quebec, Canada 70 3.4
Siljan, Sweden 52 2.4
Kara/Nenetsia, Russia 50 2.3
Charlevoix/Quebec, Canada 46 2.1
Araguainha/Dome, Brazil 40 1.8

His article also contains a table of “Earth’s Largest Impact Craters,” which is “Modified from Austin, S. 1993. Mount St. Helens Field Study Tour Guidebook. Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 47,” and which I have reproduced to the right (all numbers in kilometres).

You’ll notice a few odd things about it – it seems to be rather out of date. First, what’s “Ishim” crater? A newspaper article from 1976 indicated that it was being explored by the Soviets after being spotted from an American satellite, and that it is centred on Like Tengiz. It can be found in an atlas of “Confirmed, proposed and rejected impact structures” on MapAtlas.org, which gives some information, though it may not be exactly reliable (there are multiple entries for the same crater, and none of them seem to be in the right place. The few other places where it is mentioned give varying diameters, as high is 700 km in one case. While craters of that size no doubt exist in some place (probably eroded beyond recognition) Ishim may actually not be one of them, being missing from most lists.

Second here is ‘Aredefort,’ a likely misspelling of Vredefort – the worlds largest confirmed crater. It’s actually a bit larger than 140 km across, more like 160. Next should be the famous Chicxulub crater, at 150+ km, but for some reason it’s missing here (the list may simply be too old). Beyond Sudbury and Popigai (Morris’ list has it misspelled as ending in ‘-gia’), things get rather erratic. In addition, estimates for impactor sizes seem to have been adjusted down a bit in the last few decades. Is this really the best he could do for a list of impact craters?

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10 thoughts on “Asteroids of the Flood

  1. I wonder what he would make of the fact that if we put all the crater impacts together in that short a period we would be left with a molten surface of the earth. Surely he doesn’t interpret the Flood as being the world covered with molten lava!?

    This kind of speculation reminds me a lot of Walter Brown’s “In the Beginning” (http://www.amazon.com/In-Beginning-Compelling-Evidence-Creation/dp/1878026097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341268266&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+beginning) which argues the craters on the moon are from the crust of the earth shooting off when the fountains of the deep blasted out (not doing any harm to Noah, of course).

    I unfortunately tugged this line for quite a while before investigating further. Brown’s hypothesis, I think, is the strongest YEC argument to date. That alone should be discouraging for thoughtful YECs, because it seems to physically impossible (to give it a lot of benefit of the doubt).

    Thanks for your article. Another reminder as to why I’m glad I no longer am entrenched in the YEC camp.

  2. YECs having a two-stage crater spike (creation week, flood time) has been around for at least two decades. They need it to make sense of the lunar cratering record and ghost craters. I recently did a two-part podcast episode mini-series on this, episodes 40 and 41. The YEC-only part is in 41 – http://podcast.sjrdesign.net/shownotes_041.php if you’re interested. On that shownotes page, you can also find links Faulkner’s model for this as well as a follow-up by another creationist. It gets fairly convoluted.

    Also, note that most of the oldest craters are largest not only because they’re harder to remove, but also because most of these largest craters formed during the first ~billion years of solar system history.

  3. A somewhat historical perspective: ever notice that among creationists, there is so much focus on the flood as opposed to stories like the Tower of Babel, etc.?

    Well, in the 18th century when the modern study of geology began, it was also the colonial era, when Europeans became much more exposed to cultures and religions in the places that they were colonizing. And as it turned out, many of these cultures had their own flood story, and so many Europeans interpreted this as corroborating evidence of the Genesis flood. So the modern tendency among many creationists not only to interpret that story literally, but also to try to prove it more than any other story in Genesis, is a legacy from the colonial era.

    • It is an odd choice now that I think about it, yes. And to think that they now uphold it as a core tenant of Christianity…

    • I’ve noticed that groups like the ICR seem to have made Young Earth Creationism into a religion of its own.

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