Uniformitarianism and the Flood

Totally "uniformitarian"...What’s this strange sensation on my hand? It feels…warm. Though the power of deduction it can only be the radiation from a certain nuclear furnace, located more than 90 million kilometres away yet powerful enough to cast shadows. That can mean but one thing: spring is in the air! Oh, and September is here, and with it a new edition of Acts & Facts.

John D. Morris’ article, Observing Creation, has got little to do with this change in the seasons – not least because the challenger in the far-distant lands in which he abides is not spring but autumn (or, in the rather theologically appropriate local parlance, ‘fall’), and we all know where that leads. Instead, our monthly dose of scriptural geology concentrates on the more mundane, blending the old “historical science” canard with an attack on the concept of uniformitarianism. It’s always nice when creationists remind us how out of date their straw men really are.

Morris opens:

Creation and evolution studies are limited to observations in the present, but both speculate about unseen events of the long ago past. Mainstream scientists typically use the principle of uniformitarianism to guide their study, assuming that past processes were the same as those possible today and that “the present is the key to the past.” Creation scientists unapologetically employ the Word of the Creator, the Bible, to guide their investigation into the past. Scripture doesn’t give us all the details, and so there is much room for research. But revelation is the true key to the past.

There are some interesting juxtapositions here. Morris concedes right off the bat that claiming that observational science is only speculation puts “creation science” in the same boat as their opponents. However, he then goes on to say that creationists can still do research to fill up all those holes that the Bible never tells us about – ironically, judging by his July article, said ‘research’ really is just making things up as they go along.

The phrase “the present is the key to the past” doesn’t actually differentiate between the mainstream and the crank wing all that well on its own. Modern scientists are perfectly prepared to operate with theories involving whole-planet glaciations, supervolcanoes, asteroid impacts, and other processes and events that we can only observe in the present in miniature and/or at a distance on alien worlds. To have a truly diametrically opposed world view to that of geologists today (at least in this matter) creationists would have to argue along the lines of “the flood involved processes that we can neither know nor envision, so stop asking stupid questions,” but the students of Henry Morris know full well that that isn’t going to cut any mustard. Instead, the processes that they give the credit to for their Flood are well within the realms of conception – at least when it suits – and tend to be exaggerated forms of phenomena that we can observe in the present, but in miniature. They are known, after all, for pointing at things like cavitation and saying ‘that would have happened in the Flood, but bigger.’ The real difference is the huge compression of time that they add in, along with the supernatural aspect and the supposed ‘eyewitness record.’

In the next two paragraphs Morris appears to make the flawed ‘entropy began with the Fall’ claim:

According to Scripture, in the beginning things were, to God’s eyes, “very good” (Genesis 1:31). They must have been very different from things today, because in our world things are not always so good. They were certainly without sin, and thus without the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23), which is death. Creation was perfect in every respect in a perpetually optimum state of operation, working under a similar but different set of laws from that of today.

The first instance of disobedience to God and the rejection of His authority over creation resulted in the Curse of Genesis 3, which ruined the original perfection of all things. Today, all living or inanimate things undergo a ubiquitous deterioration, continually spiraling in on themselves. We still observe hints of the original perfection, but only hints, marred by sin and its effects.

You simply cannot have a ‘perpetually optimum state of operation,’ nothing would work – Adam and Eve could not eat the apple, they would be unable to hear the serpent…

Most of the rest of the article is spent trying to draw ‘curtains,’ effectively saying ‘you can’t know anything about that thing you say didn’t even happen, nyah nyah nyah, we win.’

How things operated in the beginning, we can only imagine. Thus, the confidence we have in present natural law must not be over-applied into the past before the present laws of nature were fully enacted—before God’s “very good” creation was altered by man’s sin and the resulting penalty. It’s almost like a curtain was drawn between then and now, and we can only see through it dimly.

A similar curtain was drawn at the time of the great Flood of Noah’s day, an episode during which present processes were operating, but at greatly altered rates and intensities and on wide scales. Catastrophic flood and tectonic processes acted on regional—if not continental or global—scales, while today’s uniform processes affect only local areas (stream and lake beds, beach fronts, tidal zones, hurricane paths, etc.). The great Flood permanently altered the entire earth.

But we should be able to see clear evidence of these curtains, and yet in most cases all we hear is “you can’t explain that, it must have been the Flood.” Positive cases tend to fall flat, from Polonium halos to magnetic fields.

The Flood’s survivors were promised there would never again be such a flood. The Flood of Noah’s day was totally out of our experience, and we can hardly imagine it. The imprint it left cannot be avoided and can be seen everywhere on the planet.

Yes, Morris tries to claim that “we can hardly imagine it,” and yet that’s never stopped him.

In total, three curtains have been drawn over the past. The first was drawn at the end of the six days of creation, when God “finished” His creating and making, at which time He prohibited further creation or annihilation of either matter or energy. He seldom thereafter used creative processes, and we have no access to them. The second was at the Curse, when He initiated the death of all living things and deterioration of all non-living systems. Finally, the third curtain was evident at the great Flood, when processes used were acting at greatly accelerated rates, scales, and intensities—“off the scale” of today’s processes.

Uniformity can address none of these three world-altering episodes and, thus, cannot arrive at ultimate truth. Furthermore, if we ignore these great historical events, we cannot expect to arrive at truth regarding earth’s history.

True uniformitarianism is not practised anymore – it would be unable to cope with much of what is now known about Earth’s history. Geologists are not shackled to that dogma and are as such perfectly able to determine the ‘truth.’ If their findings don’t agree with what’s in your holy book, well, shucks to be you then.

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3 thoughts on “Uniformitarianism and the Flood

  1. The trouble with this optimum operation thing is that it’s an unsuccessful admixture of Hebrew and Greek thinking.
    Perfection in old Jewish thought is not a state it is a process – things were perfect because they were proceeding the way they were meant to even if that implied that the state of things at any given moment was far from perfect.
    Greek perfection was a state that could not be moved from without going downhill – like the only way to go from the north pole is south.
    The whole notion of this perfect world ruined by sin and redeemed at the cross is not OldTestament theology at all it is secular Greek thinking pasted onto the text.
    The problem with dealing with fundamentalists is that not only is their science screwed up their theology is crackers as well.

  2. The essence of Creationism is almost total denial of any kind of historical science. Might as well throw away geology because it shouldn’t work one bit if any of their junk reasoning was true.

  3. Young-Earth creationists like those in the ICR portray “uniformitarianism” as a principle which holds that physical processes in the past all proceed at uniform RATES (namely, the rates we see them proceeding at today — once upon a time YECs portrayed this explicitly, now they still do so only mostly just implicitly); but this is another straw man of uniformitarianism as embraced by modern empirical science (heck, we see rainfall and erosion occurring at different RATES today, for example) which actually is the principle that physical processes in the past were governed by the SAME “LAWS” of physics or nature that we observe them being governed-by today, and today we know that most (but not all) physical processes do occur at widely varying rates (except for example radionuclide decay of unstable elemental isotopes, whose rates measurably vary within very tiny ranges [if at all] under very wide-ranging physical environments/”stress”).

    That historically geological and ecological catastrophes have occurred is NOT a breach of the principle of uniformitarianism which guides genuine empirical science today. We should try to help YECs understand this every chance we get (they may not all listen, but in my experience as a long-time creationist watcher/debater, occasionally some do).

    You do an EXCELLENT job of highlighting how YECs deny that empirical science can shed light on unwitnessed past events and then how THEY proceed to try to do JUST EXACTLY THAT their own selves but only using the selective “just so” stories that they like.

    SCIENTIFIC creationism just simply ISN’T!

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