The concept of the rock cycle is attributed to a Scottish physician, James Hutton (1726-1797), who studied rocks and landscapes and coastlines throughout the British Isles. Hutton's concepts were later promoted in a book entitled Principles of Geology by the Scottish geologist Charles Lyell (the book was released in 3 volumes in 1830-1833). Uniformitarianism emphasizes that all geologic phenomena may be explained as the result of existing forces having operated uniformly from the origin of the Earth to the present time. Uniformitarianism is commonly summarized: "The present is key to the past."
Hutton fearlessly debated that the Earth was very old, measured in millions of years rather than thousands of years as promoted by the religion organizations of his times.
Many scientists in Hutton's time promoted an alternative theory of catastrophism. Catastrophism is a theory that major changes in the Earth's crust result from catastrophes rather than evolutionary processes. The theory of catastrophism was more in line with religious doctrine common in the 17th and 18th centuries.
It is interesting that today, uniformitarianism still applies to most geologic and landscape features, but discoveries have show that the Earth, or large regions of it, have experience great catastrophes, such as asteroid impacts, great earthquakes, collapse of continental shelves (causing massive underwater landslides and tsunamis), super storms, great floods, or volcanic events. However, these events can be scientifically viewed within the greater context of modern geology. Uniformitarianism explains how observable processes taking place over long periods of time can change the landscape. Examples include:
* earthquakes only happen occasionally, but in an area taking place over millions of years can result in the formation of a mountain range.
* the deposition of silt from annual floods over millions of years can built a great river delta complex.
* the slow growth and accumulation of coral and algal material over time can build a great barrier reef.
An assessment of the meaning and role of uniformitarianism in natural history is demanded by: (1) the confusion it has generated for nearly two centuries, (2) the recent revolution in geology that has rejected traditional uniformitarianism in favor of neocatastrophism, and (3) the accusation by some who embrace neocatastrophism that diluvialists—failing to understand nuances of uniformitarianism—argue futilely against the straw man of Lyellian gradualism. The first level of this much-needed assessment focuses on the semantic confusion, which is significant. Some suggest that identifying four distinct definitions of “uniformitarianism” resolves all problems. However this scheme does not go far enough: though it helps clarify the issue, it is no solution. I propose a more radical step of eliminating unnecessary terms to advance conceptual clarity. Of the nine terms associated with uniformitarianism, seven can be replaced or eliminated. This proposal refutes the accusation that diluvialists do not understand uniformitarianism, showing rather that it is the accusers who misunderstand key concepts about earth’s past.
Keywords: uniformitarianism, catastrophism, neocatastrophism, uniformity, actualism, diluvialism
The idea that the laws that govern geologic processes have not changed during Earth’s history was first expressed by Scottish geologist James Hutton, who in 1785 presented his ideas—later published in two volumes as Theory of the Earth (1795)—at meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Hutton showed that Earth had a long history that could be interpreted in terms of processes observed in the present. He showed, for instance, how soils were formed by the weathering of rocks and how layers of sediment accumulated on Earth’s surface.
He also stated that there was no need of any preternatural cause to explain the geologic record. Hutton’s proposal challenged the concept of a biblical Earth (with a history of some 6,000 years) that was created especially to be a home for human beings the effect of his ideas on the learned world can be compared only the earlier revolution in thought brought about by Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, German astronomer Johannes Kepler, and Italian astronomer Galileo when they displaced the concept of a universe centred on Earth with the concept of a solar system centred on the Sun. Both advances challenged existing thought and were fiercely resisted for many years.
In Principles of Geology, 3 vol. (1830–33), Scottish geologist Sir Charles Lyell deciphered Earth’s history by employing Huttonian principles and made available a host of new geologic evidence supporting the view that physical laws are permanent and that any form of supernaturalism could be rejected. Lyell’s work in turn profoundly influenced English naturalist Charles Darwin, who recognized Lyell as having produced a revolution in science.
(c). Concept of Uniformitarianism
Uniformitarianism is one of the most important unifying concepts in the geosciences. This concept developed in the late 1700s, suggests that catastrophic processes were not responsible for the landforms that existed on the Earth's surface. This idea was diametrically opposed to the ideas of that time period which were based on a biblical interpretation of the history of the Earth. Instead, the theory of uniformitarianism suggested that the landscape developed over long periods of time through a variety of slow geologic and geomorphic processes.
The term uniformitarianism was first used in 1832 by William Whewell, a University of Cambridge scholar, to present an alternative explanation for the origin of the Earth. The prevailing view at that time was that the Earth was created through supernatural means and had been affected by a series of catastrophic events such as the biblical Flood. This theory is called catastrophism.
The ideas behind uniformitarianism originated with the work of Scottish geologist James Hutton. In 1785, Hutton presented at the meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh that the Earth had a long history and that this history could be interpreted in terms of processes currently observed. For example, he suggested that deep soil profiles were formed by the weathering of bedrock over thousands of years. He also suggested that supernatural theories were not needed to explain the geologic history of the Earth.
Figure 10c-1 : James Hutton, 1726-1797.
Hutton's ideas did not gain major support of the scientific community until the work of Sir Charles Lyell. In the three volume publication Principles of Geology (1830-1833), Lyell presented a variety of geologic evidence from England, France, Italy, and Spain to prove Hutton's ideas correct and to reject the theory of catastrophism.
Figure 10c-2 : Sir Charles Lyell, 1797-1875.
The theory of uniformitarianism was also important in shaping the development of ideas in other disciplines. The work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace on the origin of the Earth's species extended the ideas of uniformitarianism into the biological sciences. The theory of evolution is based on the principle that the diversity seen in the Earth's species can be explained by the uniform modification of genetic traits over long periods of time.
Thus, uniformitarianism suggests that the continuing uniformity of existing processes should be used as the framework for understanding the geomorphic and geologic history of the Earth. Today, most theories of landscape evolution use the concept of uniformitarianism to describe how the various landforms of the Earth came to be.
Biblical Catastrophism and Geology
Theories of catastrophism in geology are not new. Prior to the time of Sir Charles Lyell in the early nineteenth century, scientists generally believed that most geological formations had been produced by great physical catastrophes and mountain-generating revolutions. Lyell, however, taught that these phenomena could be explained by the ordinary processes of nature, acting over vast expanses of geologic time. This “principle of uniformitarianism,” as he called it, with its creed, “the present is the key to the past,” soon became widely accepted as the foundational principle of the modern discipline called historical geology.
Charles Darwin was profoundly influenced by Lyell’s concepts in formulating his own theory of evolution throughout the long ages of earth history that were provided by uniformitarianism. His book, The Origin of Species by Natural Selection, quickly became dogma throughout the sciences of both biology and geology with their supposed paleontological record of the history of life on earth during the long geological ages. This approach soon became assumed as foundational in the social sciences and economics as well as in science generally, and often in religion. Thus a superstructure of gigantic size has been erected on the Lyellian-Darwinian foundation.
However, catastrophism is not dead. The inadequacies of strict uniformitarianism have become increasingly obvious in recent years so that a great many of the more recent geologists have been promoting what they call “neo-catastrophism.” It has become generally recognized that even the ordinary processes of sedimentation and fossilization must often have at least a semi-catastrophist basis, requiring rapid deposition and burial under conditions seldom encountered in the modern world. Many geologists today are arguing for the occurrence of several large-scale geological catastrophes (region-wide floods, asteroid bombardments, vast volcanic outflows, sudden climatological shifts, etc.) as significant in deciphering earth history. In fact, more and more modern geologists are realizing that very few, if any, of the ordinary geological formations can be explained in terms of the slow and relatively steady processes of the present.
Evolutionists sometimes try to use Occam’s “razor” to refute catastrophism, arguing that catastrophes are less likely than uniform processes. Actually, Occam’s razor would seem to cut the other way. Since large catastrophes are now being acknowledged anyhow, it might be argued that one great catastrophe would be more likely than many such events.
In any case, the above considerations warrant the suggestion that a return to the Biblical catastrophism of the early geologists (Steno, Woodward, etc.) as the interpretive framework for historical geology is well worth considering. Modern studies in Biblical history have provided strong evidence of the Bible’s reliability and accuracy in matters of fact. Veneration of the Bible for its “spiritual value” only is therefore, inconsistent with rejection of its scientific and historical teachings. If the latter cannot be trusted—that is, statements which are susceptible to actual human investigation and proof—then how can its spiritual teachings, which are not susceptible of proof, be trusted?
And the Bible does have a great deal to say about the early history of the earth and the universe, not only in the book of Genesis, but throughout the whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments. If the Bible is what all its writers claim it to be—and what Jesus Christ and His apostles accepted and taught it to be—then it really and truly is the inspired Word of God Himself! Thus its teachings concerning Creation and other events of early history are not mere legends, but actual facts of history.
If one is willing to assume this perspective and make his deductions on that basis, he will find that the Bible presents a perfectly consistent and harmonious account of earth history with which it is possible to harmonize all the hard data of historical geology, as well as pertinent data in other fields. At least, this writer, having made a fairly extensive study of historical geology from both viewpoints, believes that the Biblical/catastrophist perspective will ultimately prove superior to its naturalistic, uniformitarian counterpart.
The objection that such a presupposition will necessarily color the conclusions derived from it is undoubtedly valid. But it should also be recognized that evolutionary interpretations are derived from similar, though opposite, presuppositions. It is pure assumption that one can only interpret all the data from the unobserved past within a naturalistic, uniformitarian model. Therefore, it is not only legitimate but also highly important that the inferences based on the Biblical presuppositions also be seriously considered and evaluated.
The Biblical Framework
The major elements of the Biblical framework, within which all data should be organized, are three great recorded facts of history. These events are: (1) the Creation (2) the Fall and (3) the Flood.
Each of these three affected the entire globe. If they really occurred, as the Bible unequivocally teaches, then to deny or ignore them locks geologists into a drastically false (or at least unprovable and very improbable) reconstruction of earth history.
The fact of a real Creation out of nothing but the power of the eternal God, is fundamental to any form of theism and especially to Christian theism. For if anything at all has really been created, that substance must necessarily have been created with some “appearance of age.” On the assumption of uniformity, on the other hand, it would always be possible to imagine some sort of evolutionary history for even the simplest created substance. Denial of the possibility of the creation of “apparent age,” (or “apparent functioning maturity”) amounts to denial of the possibility of any genuine creation at all and thus essentially amounts to atheism (which is itself a “religious” perspective).
Another very significant fact concerning the Creation is that it was accomplished by supernatural processes no longer in operation. According to the Bible, all things were created in six days, following which “God ended His work which He had made” (Genesis 2:2). Therefore the physical processes which we can now study belong to an entirely different order of things and can give us no clue whatever to the history of the Creation period this latter history can only be known through divine revelation.
This conclusion is strongly confirmed scientifically by the law of energy conservation, the first law of thermodynamics. This is the most firmly established of all scientific laws and is really the basic principle upon which all modern science is grounded. Energy, in the complete sense, includes matter, and thus really everything in the physical universe. The first law essentially confirms the fact that no creation of energy or matter is now taking place. Therefore, Creation must have been an event of the past, using processes no longer in operation. And this is exactly what the Bible says!
To some extent, therefore, in the Biblical model, the whole world was created at some time in the past, by processes unknown to us, fully functioning as if it had been doing so for some period of time. While this concept may have its limits, it should be given full consideration in the construction of a geological history or the use of any geological chronometer. For instance, the primeval ocean may have been created already saline, radioactive minerals may already have contained created “daughter” elements, light from distant stars may have been visible on earth at the instant of their creation, and so on, even as Adam was created as a full-grown man.
The second basic fact around which historical data must be organized is that of the great Curse on the earth following man’s Fall. According to the revelation given by God, the original creation was, in every respect, “very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was nothing bad, out of balance, or out of harmony—no suffering, no struggle for survival and, above all, no death in the world. According to the apostle Paul, “by man came death” (I Corinthians 15:21). When man first sinned, God pronounced the great Curse, not only on man but also on his whole dominion, the earth and everything in it. This Curse primarily involves the principle of decay and death. The “whole creation” is now in the “bondage of corruption” (that is, “decay”), according to Romans 8:21-22. There is, everywhere, a natural tendency toward disintegration and ultimate death.
This Biblical doctrine is firmly supported by the second law of thermodynamics. This law, which like the first law, is as strongly proved as any fact of science, states that, in any closed system, there is a natural increase of disorganization, or an increase in entropy (or disordered randomness).
Even in an open system, the energy (or information, or order) of the system tends to become less available, or useful, or organized. For an open system to experience an increase of order or organized complexity there must at least be an external source of both energy and ordering information acting on it.
Everything therefore at least tends to wear out, to grow old, to run down, and finally to approach a state of death. Obviously this law flatly contradicts the notion of evolution, which assumes that everything naturally tends to become more orderly and highly organized (or at least that is what has happened if evolution has really proceeded from “particles to people” over the ages, as evolutionists claim). Note that, although the sun provides a source of external energy to the earth, that in itself is not sufficient to produce an increase of order. There must also be some source of organized or programmed information. Since evolution has no such program, it seems to be impossible.
But the most significant of these facts, from the standpoint of historical geology, is that there could have been no suffering or struggle or death in the world until after man had sinned. Death is the principal effect of the Curse pronounced on the whole earth because of human sin. Consequently, the fossils of all formerly living animals now found in the earth’s sedimentary rocks must be dated subsequently to that event, the Fall of man, and the resulting global Curse. As the New Testament says: “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22).
This leads to the third basic fact in the Biblical framework. If the great thicknesses of fossil-bearing strata through the earth’s crust have been deposited only after man’s Fall, then nothing less than worldwide catastrophic deposition can possibly account for most of them. The Bible clearly describes this unique catastrophe, and we now know it as the Genesis Flood or as the Great Deluge in the days of Noah.
According to the Biblical record, it was because of the utterly and hopelessly wicked condition into which the earth’s original peoples had degenerated that God sent a cataclysmic Deluge to “destroy (them) with the earth” (Genesis 6:13). This event is described in detail in Genesis 6 through 9 and is referred to many times in other parts of the Bible and by Jesus Christ Himself. It is also recorded, in more or less distorted and incomplete fashion, in the legends of hundreds of peoples all over the world.
According to the apostle Peter, “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:6). As described in the Bible, the flood waters battered the entire globe for a year and were immensely destructive in effect. All of the processes of sedimentation, volcanism, tectonism, fossilization, etc., were extremely active during this period. No true scheme of historical geology could possibly be erected without full consideration of the tremendous geologic records that must necessarily have been inscribed in the earth’s crust by this awesome event. Geologists often attribute specific geologic deposits to local floods: a global flood necessarily would leave immense geological records everywhere. The Biblical record says that it began when, in one day “were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11), and that this continued for 150 days before “the waters assuaged” (Genesis 8:1).
Acceptance of this Biblical framework of interpretation would have very little effect on the organization and use of the vast bulk of accumulated geologic data and methodology. The descriptive aspects of the disciplines of mineralogy, petrology, hydrology, economic geology, etc., would be very little affected by the problem of whether the data of historical geology should be organized in terms of evolutionary uniformitarianism or in terms of Biblical Creationism and Catastrophism.
But there are two significant areas where changes in interpretation would be necessitated, and these are quite important. In the first place, the principle of uniformity must be modified sufficiently to accommodate the three great discontinuities of Creation, the Fall, and the Flood, and their effects. In the second place, the theory of evolution (in the sense of transmutation from one basic kind to another—that is, macroevolution) must be abandoned. Although these two concepts have never been verified experimentally or observationally, they have practically attained the status of sacred cows, and one can question their universal validity only at the risk of being charged with ignorance and religious prejudice. Nevertheless, their validity has never been demonstrated, and they are simply accepted by evolutionists as articles of faith.
In fact, there is an abundance of scientific evidence that they are not valid. Note that there has been no known instance of macroevolution in all recorded history. Neither, in the fossil record of the past, with its billions of known fossils, is there any known transitional series demonstrating macroevolution. Rather than being hindered by the rejection of uniformitarianism and evolution, it is very likely that historical geology would be greatly benefited by release from their shackles.
With reference to uniformity, it has already been noted that this principle has proved inadequate in many areas, so that a quasi-catastrophism is already quite prominent in geologic interpretation. There are many very important unsolved problems in geology, and it is very possible that the reason they have been so intractable is because of an implicit reliance on uniformity.
Often the historical interpretations of geologic features based on uniformity don’t adequately match the field data. Typical of such unsolved problems are: (1) origin of petroleum (2) origin of mineral deposits (3) cause of continental glaciation (4) cause of global warm climates (5) origin of salt beds (6) origin of vast volcanic terrains (7) origin of coal measures (8) nature of regional metamorphism (9) formation of granite (10) cause of planation surfaces (11) mechanics of overthrusting and many others.
Not one of these has yet been adequately explained in terms of present processes. Plate tectonics, which has become widely accepted by geologists in recent decades, is still controversial, but even this at least involves the quasi-catastrophic processes of spreading seafloors and shifting continents in contrast to the older uniformitarianism.
A number of important geologists today, while still committed to belief in long ages and evolution, are now saying that practically all individual geologic formations were formed in at least local catastrophes: the slow uniform processes of the present explain very little, if anything, in the geologic column and if that is the case, the present is not the key to the past!
Note also that, if every formation was laid down rapidly, and if there are no worldwide time gaps (i.e., periods of erosion) in the strata of the geologic column (a fact which is universally acknowledged), then the entire column of continental sedimentary strata containing macro-fossils (averaging a mile in depth all around the globe) had to have been laid down rapidly. Thus the great fossil-bearing strata of the globe do not constitute a record of slow evolution of life over many long geologic ages but rather a record of the cataclysmic destruction of life in one age—that is, the year of the Flood with its after-effects extending over many years. That, of course, would fit the framework implied by Biblical Catastrophism. A number of modern Biblical geologists have already made significant contributions to solving many of the problems that have proved intractable to the uniformitarian approach.
Remember also the fact that the fossil record always exhibits abrupt appearance of plant and animal types without evidence that they descended by gradual modification from other types. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “explosion” of life in so-called Cambrian rocks, below which are no possible ancestors for the array of complex life which suddenly appears. In fact, every phylum (basic body style) is found in that lowest layer, including vertebrate fish, with no new phyla introduced since then. Furthermore, once an organism appears, it remains the same either until the present or until it goes extinct. This situation is called stasis. Abrupt appearance, immediate variety of body styles and stasis argue strongly against uniformity throughout the past, but agree entirely with the expectations of the Creation/Flood concept.
The concept of evolution is even more vulnerable than that of uniformity. As already seen, it is squarely contradicted by the second law of thermodynamics. Many of the evidences commonly cited for evolution are in reality evidence of deterioration. For example, the very mechanism which supposedly causes evolution (that of genetic mutations) is actually a mechanism which almost always causes disorganization and loss of information. Natural selection then acts to weed out those creatures experiencing mutations. It is thus really a conservative mechanism tending to preserve the species from genetic harm. If any permanent change does occur in the natural state, it almost certainly must be either neutral or actually a deterioration of the species (witness the evidence of “vestigial” organs, and the evidence that most modern animals are represented in the fossil record by larger and stronger forms than those now living).
The second law is thus the basic reason why no true cases of macro-evolution have ever been observed—either in the thousands of years of human history or in the alleged billions of years of pre-human history recorded in the fossils. And the explanation for the constraints imposed by the second law can only be in terms of God’s great curse on the “ground” (Genesis 3:17) following the entrance of sin into God’s original “very good” creation.
The only semi-historical evidence for evolution is that afforded by the fossil record itself. Evolutionists claim that this record shows a gradual increase of variety and complexity of organisms with the advance of geologic time. But since the very possibility of true evolution is both denied by the Word of God and also negated by the basic laws of science, the evidence from paleontology must have been misinterpreted in seeking to make it fit the evolutionary/uniformitarian paradigm.
The idealized 100-mile thick geologic column does not actually exist anywhere in the world, but has been artificially put together by correlation and superposition of formations from many areas. The manner in which this work of developing an idealized geologic column was gradually accomplished in the past is a matter of some uncertainty and disagreement, even among creationist geologists. It has been pointed out that the crystalline rocks of the “basement” may in some localities actually constitute the land surface, and that rocks of any so-called “age” may likewise be the surface rocks in various other locations. A great variety of sequences of “ages” may appear at various localities, often with various ages missing, sometimes even with them out of sequence. In other words, the geologic column and its supposed standard evolutionary sequence of geologic ages pose many unanswered questions in the evolutionary uniformitarian context. It does seem the time is right for a serious rethinking of this whole system.
The framework of Biblical catastrophism is almost certain to prove more effective in developing a real understanding of the geological formations. In fact, as outlined above, this has to be so, since the entire column of fossil-bearing rock necessarily was formed rapidly and continually, in a great global hydraulic cataclysm, followed perhaps by many years of residual catastrophism in various regions. The Biblical descriptions of the Flood indicate a tremendous complex of events occurring during the Flood year—worldwide torrential rains, tremendous erosion, worldwide tectonic and volcanic upheavals, violent windstorms, gigantic waves and tsunamis, etc., as well as great destruction of all forms of life, followed necessarily by extensive burials in great “graveyards” of future fossil deposits. An infinite variety of depositional characteristics could thus be postulated at various times and places during the Deluge, often violent but also often relatively quiescent.
In any case, the rejection of evolution and the traditional uniformitarianism would not only be quite possible but also would probably be of great value in further geologic research. As one example of how the Biblical framework could solve a perplexing geological problem, consider the question of worldwide climatic change. The Bible suggests that there existed before the Flood an entirely different hydrologic and meteorological system surrounding and enriching the earth, producing just such a universal warm, pleasant climate as is indicated for many or most of the systems of the geologic column. Its disruption was one of the two main causes of the Flood (the other was the worldwide break-up of the “fountains of the great deep,” which were probably vast subterranean waters previously restrained under great pressure below the crust). These events may also have contributed to a sudden chilling of the climate and resultant continental glaciation.
Importance of the Question
If all of this were simply a question of geology and its interpretation, there would be little reason for anyone to press for such a radical shift in orientation as here proposed. Even if this were all, however, the possibility of an alternative type of scientific generalization would at least warrant investigation, strictly from the scientific standpoint.
However, there is much more at stake here than simply a matter of geologic interpretation. The philosophy of evolutionary uniformitarianism has penetrated very deeply into nearly every aspect of human life. Evolution has become fundamental in the treatment of psychology, sociology, political science, economics, philosophy—even religion. It was the cornerstone of Dewey’s educational philosophy. Through Nietzsche’s adoption and application of Darwinism, evolution became eventually the quasi-scientific basis of Fascism and Nazism. Karl Marx adapted and extended the concept of evolution in developing the Communistic system, and Communism today is grounded squarely on the theory of evolution. This is true, in fact, for socialism in all its forms, as well as for every other anti-Christian system of the present day, including all the modern New Age and occultic movements.
Jesus said: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:18). The modern fruit of the evolutionary philosophy—Communism, Nazism, progressive educationism, materialism, existentialism, Freudianism, behaviorism, hedonism, and the rest—warrants a very serious and critical look at the nature of the tree itself.
Modern geologists could render a uniquely important service to the world by re-examining, critically, the paleontological foundation on which rests this gigantic structure of evolution and its bitter fruits. A renewed recognition of the reality of Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the sovereignty of the Creator in the history of the earth and in the lives of men, could serve a mighty evangelistic and purifying purpose in the world in these latter days.
Summary – Uniformitarianism vs Catastrophism
Uniformitarianism explains that processes that happen today (erosion, weathering) happened in the same way and at the same rate since the beginning of time. That means geologic time is extremely slow. Catastrophism explains that all geologic processes happened all at once (volcanic eruptions). Thus, this is the key difference between uniformitarianism and catastrophism. However, modern scientists have a more integrated view of geological events, reflecting acceptance of some catastrophic events along with gradual changes.
1. “Uniformitarianism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Mar. 2021, Available here.
2. “Theories of Geological Evolution: Catastrophism vs Uniformitarianism.” Study.com, Available here.
1. “Siccar Point red capstone closeup” By dave souza – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
Uniformitarianism is commonly oversimplified where stated in geological textbooks as "the present is a guide to interpreting the past" (or words to that effect). This explanation, however, is not correct about the true meaning of uniformitarianism. In order to understand uniformitarianism, one must examine its roots in the Enlightenment era (c. 1750&ndash1850) and how the term has been distorted in meaning since that time.
Geology is an historical science, yet the phenomena and processes studied by geologists operated under nonhistorical natural systems that are independent of the time in which they operated. It is clear from the insights of one of geology's founding fathers of the Enlightenment era, James Hutton (1726&ndash1797), that he understood this fact very well. In Theory of the Earth (1795), he stated: "In examining things present, we have data from which to reason with regard to what has been and, from what has actually been, we have data for concluding with regard to that which is to happen thereafter." With his book, Hutton popularized the notion of "examining things present. with regard to what has been," but gave the concept no specific name. Hutton did not use the term uniformitarianism and used the word "uniformity" only rarely.
Charles Lyell (1797&ndash1875), one of geology's founding fathers from later in the Enlightenment era, wrote about the subject matter of uniformitarianism (but did not use that specific term) in his widely read text, Principles of Geology (1830). Partly in response to strident criticism that his notions about geology did not conform to Biblical edicts about supernatural catastrophic events, Lyell developed a much more radical and extreme view of the subject matter of the "uniformity of nature." Careful reading of what Lyell laid out in his discussion of the "uniformity of nature" shows that he embraced both the concept of Hutton, which can be summarized as a uniformity of known causes or processes throughout time, and his own separate view that there must be a uniformity of process rates. The latter, more radical aspect of Lyell's "uniformity of nature" was intended to be a statement of general principle to counter the catastrophist interpretations of the past set forth by geologists of the day who were more inclined to look to the scriptures for their geological interpretations. In Lyell's view, a strong notion of uniformity of rates precluded divine (i.e., catastrophic) intervention.
In 1837, the name uniformitarianism was coined by William Whewell (1794&ndash1866) as a term meant to convey Hutton's sense of order and regularity in the operation of nature and Lyell's sense that there was a uniformity of rates of geological processes through time. It is Whewell's definition that became the most common definition of uniformitarianism.
Lyell's work was influential, and he succeeded in imbuing generations of geologists with the notion of a dual foundation for "uniformity of nature." This dual foundation encompassed both uniformity of causes and uniformity of intensity. The former view is more commonly called actualism, and the latter, gradualism. In large part, the presence of Lyell's strongly defended gradualism succeeded in freeing nineteenth century geology from the firm grasp of Biblical preconception and allowed it to develop as a legitimate science.
One of the most elegant statements about actualism was made by John Playfair in his book, Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory (1802). He said: "Amid all the revolutions of the globe the economy of Nature has been uniform, and her laws are the only thing that have resisted the general movement. The rivers and the rocks, the seas, and the continents have been changed in all their parts but the laws which describe those changes, and the rules to which they are subject, have remained invariably the same." Actualism is not unique to geology, as it is really a basic and broad scientific concept of many fields. Even though Playfair mentions laws, it is, of course, nature itself that is constant, not laws that have been written by people in order to try to predict nature.
The other side of Lyell's "uniformity of nature," i.e., gradualism, has no such elegant prose behind it. It has been referred to in inglorious terms by some of the leading minds of our time as "false and stifling to hypothesis formation," "a blatant lie," and "a superfluous term. best confined to the past history of geology." In other words, gradualism is no longer considered a valid idea.
Because uniformitarianism has this historical component of uniformity of process rates (i.e., gradualism), many writers have advocated its elimination from the geological vocabulary. Others argue that should be retained, but with careful notation about its historical meaning. Some writers ignore this historical debate and continue to tout the term uniformitarianism as the most basic principle of geology. The range of misguided meanings of this term from some recent geology texts includes definitions that span the gamut from something near the nineteenth century meaning to the assumption that the Earth is very old, to the logical method of geologic investigation.
Careful analysis of geological texts and recent scientific articles shows that there are at least 12 basic fallacies about uniformitarianism, (such as those explained by University of Wisconsin Geology Professor James H. Shea), which are perpetuated by some writers. These are:
- Uniformitarianism is unique to geology.
- Uniformitarianism was first discussed by James Hutton.
- Uniformitarianism was named by Lyell, who gave us its modern meaning.
- Uniformitarianism is the same as actualism, and should be re-named actualism.
- Uniformitarianism holds that only processes that are currently active could have occurred in the geologic past.
- Uniformitarianism holds that rates and intensities of geologic processes are constant through time.
- Uniformitarianism holds that only non-catastrophic, or gradual processes have operated during geologic time.
- Uniformitarianism holds that Earth's conditions have changed little over geologic time.
- Uniformitarianism holds that Earth is very old.
- Uniformitarianism is a testable hypothesis, theory, or law.
- Uniformitarianism applies to the past only as far back as present conditions have existed on Earth's surface.
- Uniformitarianism holds only that the governing laws of nature are constant through space and geologic time.
Through historical analysis of uniformitarianism, one is able to see how these twelve common conceptions are false and misleading. Most scientists argue that uniformitarianism should be kept in its proper historical perspective in the future, and that a more specific term like actualism might supplant uniformitarianism in places where the word is meant to convey strictly the modern concept of uniformity of causes.
I – FOSSILS, STRATA, AND THE FLOOD:
Although this section duplicates portions of our earlier chapter, Fossils and Strata, the duplication is considered necessary, for we will now correlate the fossil and strata evidence with the worldwide Flood. Without doing so, it would be more difficult to properly assess the relationships, implications, and impact of the Flood.
FOSSILS AND ROCK STRATA:
Above the molten rock at the center of our planet is a mantle of black basalt, from which flows the lava which issues forth out of volcanoes. Above that basalt is to be found the light-colored, coarse-grained crystals we call granite. This is the basement rock of the world and undergirds all of our continents. At times this granite is close to the surface, but frequently a large quantity of sedimentary rock is above it.
The sedimentary rock that overlays the granite was obviously laid down by a gigantic flood of waters, and is characterized by strata or layers. The strata are composed of water-borne sediments, such as pebbles, gravel, sand, and clay.
“About three-fourths, perhaps more, of the land area of the earth, 55 million square miles [142 million km2], has sedimentary rock as the bedrock at the surface or directly under the cover of the mantle-rock . . The thickness of the stratified rocks range from a few feet to 40,000 feet [121,920 dm] or more at any one place . . The vast bulk of the stratified rocks is composed of shallow-water deposits.”—*O.D. von Engeln and *K.E. Caster, Geology (1952), p. 129.
Within that strata is to be found billions upon billions of fossils. These are the remains— or the casts—of plants and animals that suddenly died. Yet fossilization does not normally occur today for it requires sudden death, sudden burial, and great pressure.
“To become fossilized a plant or animal must usually have hard parts, such as bone, shell or wood. It must be buried quickly to prevent decay and must be undisturbed throughout the process.”—*F.H.T. Rhodes, H.S. Zim, and *P.R. Shaffer, Fossils (1962), p. 10.
The sedimentary strata (also called fossil-bearing strata or “the geologic column”) were laid down at the time of the Flood. There are no fossils in the granite, for that rock was formed prior to the Flood.
We would not expect to find fossils in granite since the astounding information given in chapter 3, Origin of the Earth, reveals granite to be “Creation rock,” antedating the Flood. We there learned that, back in the beginning, granite came into existence in less than three minutes!
MILLIONS OF ANIMALS SUDDENLY DIED:
The quantity of fossils in the sedimentary rocks is enormous.
“At this spot [in Wyoming] the fossil hunters found a hillside literally covered with large fragments of dinosaur bones . . In short, it was a veritable mine of dinosaur bones . . The concentration of the fossils was remarkable they were piled in like logs in a jam.”—*Edwin Colbert, Men and Dinosaurs (1968), p. 151.
Scores of other instances of immense “fossil graveyards” could be cited. Vast quantities of plants and animals were suddenly buried. So many fossils exist that one researcher made a carbon inventory,—and found that at the present time—most of the carbon in our world is locked within the fossils in the sedimentary strata!
There must have been an immense quantity of living plants and animals before the worldwide Flood occurred. Evidence indicates that, back then, our world had no deserts, high mountains, few or no oceans, and plants and animals flourished even near the poles. So the world would have been filled with vegetation and animal life.
MOST SPECIES ARE ALREADY EXTINCT:
Some great natural catastrophe occurred earlier in history, for most of the species which have ever lived are no longer alive!
“Natural selection not only brings new species into existence—if it does—but also eliminates species, and on a colossal scale. It is calculated that 99 per cent of all the species which have ever existed are now extinct. So perhaps it may be more instructive to discover why species vanish than why they appear.”—*G.R. Taylor, Great Evolution Mystery (1983), p. 86.
“There is no need to apologize any longer for the poverty of the fossil record. In some ways it has become almost unmanageably rich, and discovery is outpacing integration.”—*T.N. George, “Fossils in Evolutionary Perspective,” in Science Progress, January 1960, p. 1.
WHY FOSSILS ARE SO IMPORTANT—The term, “evolution,” means that species change gradually into different species. If such species changes are occurring today, the transitional forms should be seen. If it has occurred in the past the fossil record will show the transitional forms.
It is of interest that evolution bases its case on the fossils. This is because there is no evidence that evolutionary processes are occurring today. Therefore the Darwinists must consider the fossils to be their primary evidence that it has ever occurred at all.
“The most important evidence for the theory of evolution is that obtained from the study of paleontology [fossils]. Though the study of other branches of zoology, such as comparative anatomy or embryology, might lead one to suspect that animals are all interrelated, it was the discovery of various fossils and their correct placing in relative strata and age that provided the main factual basis for the modern view of evolution.”—*G.A. Kerkut, Implications of Evolution (1960), p. 134.
“Although the comparative study of living plants and animals may give very convincing circumstantial evidence, fossils provide the only historical, documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more and more complex forms.”—*O. Dunbar, Historical Geology (1960), p. 47.
But just as there are no transitional forms today, there are none in the past either! At the present time, all we have are distinct plant and animal kinds. No transitional species are to be found. (We will frequently refer to these basic types as “species,” although man-made classification systems vary, sometimes incorrectly classifying sub-species or genera as “species.” See chapter 11, Animal and Plant Species for more on this.)
In that great window to the past—the fossil record—we also find only distinct plant and animal kinds, with no transitional forms. With the exception of creatures that have become extinct (plants and animals which are no longer alive today, such as the dinosaurs), all fossils of plants and animals which did not become extinct are just like those living today (stasis). Only distinct species are to be found there are no halfway, or transitional, species (gaps). Thus there is NO evidence of evolution in the fossils.
In *Kerkut’s statement, quoted above, it is “the placing” of the fossils in the strata that provides the evidence of evolution. All the Darwinists have to base their case on is placement, not transitional forms. But what caused that placement?
The slowest-moving creatures were buried first after that, the faster-moving ones. As the waters of the worldwide deluge rose higher and still higher, they first covered the slowest-moving water creatures and buried them under sediment.
Then the slower-moving land creatures were covered and buried under sediment. Then the more agile creatures (both water and land) were covered. In the fossil-bearing sedimentary strata we frequently find this arrangement, with the smaller creatures in the lower strata and the larger ones higher up.
Yet even the smallest creatures are complex. Just beneath the lowest stratum, the Cambrian, we find no fossils at all! This is both an astonishment and a terrible disappointment to the evolutionists. The lowest-level life forms in the strata are complex multi-celled animals and plants.
“It has been argued that the series of paleontological [fossil] finds is too intermittent, too full of ‘missing links’ to serve as convincing proof. If a postulated ancestral type is not found, it is simply stated that it has not so far been found. Darwin himself often used this argument—and in his time it was perhaps justifiable. But it has lost its value through the immense advances of paleobiology [the study of animal fossils] in the twentieth century . . The true situation is that those fossils have not been found which were expected. Just where new branches are supposed to fork off from the main stem it has been impossible to find the connecting types.”—*N. Heribert-Nilsson, Synthetische Artbildung (1953), p. 1168 [Director of the Botanical institute at Lund, Sweden].
Each twig on the imaginary plant and animal “family trees” is a distinct plant or animal type, either extinct or like what we have today (although frequently larger). But there are no intermediate life forms to connect the twigs! There are no branches and no trunk, only “twigs.” The rest of the tree is imaginary.
RAPID FORMATION OF IMMENSE DEPOSITS:
Nowhere on earth today do we have fossils forming on the scale that we see in geologic deposits. The Karro Beds in Africa, for example, contain the remains of perhaps 800 billion vertebrates! But such fossils are not forming today. A million fish can be killed in red tides in the Gulf of Mexico, but they simply decay away they do not become fossils. Similarly, debris from vegetation does not today become coal. In order for fossilization to occur, the vegetation would have to be rapidly buried under an
extremely heavy load of sediment.
It required massive flood conditions to do all that burying. An immense worldwide catastrophe occurred in the past. It produced the Sicilian hippopotamus beds, the fossils of which are so extensive that they are mined as a source of charcoal the great mammal beds of the Rockies the dinosaur beds of the Black Hills and the Rockies, as well as in the Gobi Desert the fish beds of the Scottish Devonian stratum, the Baltic amber beds, Agate Spring Quarry in Nebraska, and hundreds more. None of this fossil-making is being done today. It only happened one time in history—at the time of the Flood.
Frequently the fossils in these beds come from widely separated and differing climatic zones, only to be thrown together in disorderly masses. Nothing but a worldwide Flood can explain this. And those fossils had to be rapidly buried. *Pinna explains why this is so.
“In fact, when an organism dies, the substances that compose its soft parts undergo more or less rapid decay, due to such factors as attack by bacteria and erosion by water destructive agents as quickly as possible . . And the sooner that this consolidation occurs, the more likely it is that the organism will be preserved . . there are also certain layers, such as those formed from extremely fine-grained calcareous rocks, which have consolidated so rapidly as to permit the preservation of the most delicate structures of many organisms.”—*G. Pinna, The Dawn of Life, pp. 1-2 [Deputy Director of the Museum of Natural
History in Milan, Italy].
In spite of these facts, there are still science writers who imagine that when an animal falls into mud, tar, or water—and dies,—it becomes a fossil! But such an idea is only fiction.
“We can easily imagine the predicament which led to the fossilization of the three individuals [three fossil birds] so long ago. They were probably forced into reluctant flight by some pursuing reptilian predator, only to flop down on the water and mud from which they could not rise.”—*R. Peterson, The Birds, p. 10.
PRECAMBRIAN VOID—The lowest stratum with fossils in it is called the “Cambrian.” It has a great wealth of over a thousand different types of creatures—all complex and multi-celled marine animals.
“At least 1500 species of invertebrates are known in the Cambrian, all marine, of which 60% are trilobites and 30% brachiopods.”—*Maurice Gignoux, Stratigraphic Geology (1955), p. 46.
Above this are the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian, and they all include sea creatures similar to those in the Cambrian. It is not until the Permo-Carboniferous that the first land animals are encountered. The worldwide fossil strata give abundant evidence of a great flood of waters that covered the earth. Below the sedimentary strata, with its hoard of fossils, we find the “Precambrian period,”—and no fossils. (Some scientists claim that a few are there, others say they are not sure, while still others maintain that there are absolutely no fossils below the Cambrian.)
The sedimentary strata with their billions of fossils are both a powerful effect and evidence of the Flood. The Precambrian lack of fossils is an additional evidence of it. Evolutionists point to these strata with their fossils as proof of evolution. But throughout the fossil rock we should find transitional—evolving—types of plants and animals. In addition, at the bottom below the Cambrian should be the types that evolved into those in the Cambrian.
“One can no longer dismiss this event by assuming that all Pre-Cambrian rocks have been too greatly altered by time to allow the fossils ancestral to the Cambrian metazoans to be preserved . . Even if all the Pre-Cambrian ancestors of the Cambrian metazoans were similarly soft-bodied and therefore rarely preserved, far more abundant traces of their activities should have been found in the Pre-Cambrian strata than has proved to be the case. Neither can the general failure to find Pre-Cambrian animal fossils be charged to any lack of looking.”—*W.B. Harland and *Rudwick, “The Great Infra-Cambrian Ice-Age,” in Scientific American, 211(1964), pp. 34-36.
“Why should such complex organic forms (in the Cambrian) be in rocks about six hundred million years old, and be absent or unrecognized in the records of the preceding two billion years? If there has been evolution of life, the absence of requisite fossils in the rocks older than the Cambrian is puzzling.”—*G.M. Kay and *E.H. Colbert, Stratigraphy and Life History (1965), pp. 102-103.
FOSSIL TREES—Polystrate trees are fossil trees which extend vertically through several layers of rock strata. They are often 20 feet [60.9 dm] or more in length. Often the entire length of each tree will be preserved, along with the top and bottom. Such a formation would easily be explained by the Flood, but impossible to be fitted into the theory of uniformitarianism, which says that the rock strata are like tree rings, and have slowly been forming over the last two billion years. Each stratum supposedly took millions of years to form.
There is no doubt that those trees were quickly covered by the strata, otherwise each tree would have decomposed while waiting for a hundred thousand years of strata to form around it. From bottom to top, these upright trees sometimes span “millions of years” of strata. Quite obviously, both the trees and sediments around them were moved into place and deposited at the same approximate time.
Many will recall the explosion of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Research was done at the site shortly afterward and it was discovered that the explosion filled Spirit Lake with logs, many of which were floating vertically, due to the weight of their roots. This helps explain what took place at the time of the Flood, as trees were washed into an area and then, while floating vertically in the water, were covered by a rapid deposit of sediment.
As a result of upheaval of ground, combined with successive depositions of sedimentary layers, there are instances in which vertical trees are to be found at more than one level. Given the chaotic conditions at the time of the Flood, this would be understandable. Fossil trees have been found horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and upside down.
COAL AND OIL:
Most geologists agree that coal came from ancient plants, and oil came from ancient marine animals (primarily the soft parts of invertebrates, but also fish). Neither coal nor petroleum is naturally being formed today. None of it is found in Pleistocene (ice-age) deposits, but instead was quickly laid down during the Flood, before the glacial ice flows began.
“Petroleum occurs in rocks of all ages from the Cambrian to the Pliocene inclusive, but no evidence has been found to prove that any petroleum has been formed since the Pliocene, although sedimentation patterns and thicknesses in Pleistocene and recent sediments are similar to those in the Pliocene where petroleum has formed.”—*Ben B. Cox, “Transformation of Organic Material into Petroleum under Geological Conditions,” Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, May 1946, p. 647.
Why did no petroleum form after the Pliocene era? This is a mystery to evolutionist geologists, but it is no problem to Flood geology.
From the beginning of the Cambrian to the end of the Pliocene was when the Flood occurred.
“The apparent absence of formation of petroleum subsequent to the Pliocene must be explained in any study of the transformation of organic material into petroleum.”—*Ibid.
(Some oil deposits have been found below the Cambrian level, but it was afterward learned that they seeped there from fossil-bearing strata above.)
Great masses of vegetation, that became the coal we use today, were quickly laid down. Because of Flood conditions, other things were also deposited in those coal strata:
(1) Marine fossils (tubeworms, corals, sponges, mollusks, etc.) are often found in coal beds.
(2) Large boulders are found in them.
(3) Fossil trees are found standing on an angle or even upside down in coal beds.
(4) Washed-in marine sediments will split a coal seam into two.
(5) Sediment “under-soils” will frequently be under them.
(6) Strata of deposited limestone, shale (hardened clay), or sandstone will be found in between coal deposits. These strata are often found scores of times in seams of coal.
Evolutionists maintain that oil and gas require millions of years to form, and could not be rapidly produced from vegetation, as Flood geology would require. But recent experiments have shown that petroleum can be quickly made:
“There is great promise in a system being developed by government scientists that converts organic material to oil and gas by treating it with carbon monoxide and water at high temperature and pressure . . By using the waste-to-oil process, 1.1 billion barrels [131 billion liters] of oil could be gleaned from the 880 million tons [798 mt] of organic wastes suitable for conversion [each year].”—*L.L. Anderson, “Oil from Garbage,” in Science Digest, July 1973, p. 77.
Here is an instance in which recently formed coal occurred:
“Petzoidt (1882) describes very remarkable observations which he made during the construction of a railway bridge at Alt-Breisach, near Freiburg. The wooden piles which had been rammed into the ground were compressed by overriding blocks. An examination of these compressed piles showed that in the center of the compressed piles was a black, coal-like substance. In continuous succession from center to surface was blackened, dark-brown, light-brown and finally yellow-colored wood. The coal-like substance corresponded, in its chemical composition, to anthracite [hard coal], and the blackened wood resembled brown coal.”—*Otto Stutzer, Geology of Coal (1940), pp. 105-106.
“From all available evidence it would appear that coal may form in a very short time, geologically speaking if conditions are favorable.”—*E.S. Moore, Coal (1940), p. 143.
PROBLEM OF GRADED BEDDING:
Geologists maintain that the sedimentary strata was gradually laid down over hundreds of millions of years. But various aspects of the strata indicate it was laid down rapidly under alluvial conditions. Rapid transport of various materials by water appears to have been the cause.
One example of this is graded bedding. In the strata we will find a layer of coarse pebbles and small stones, with smaller pebbles above them, grading off above to still finer materials such as sand. Below this graded bedding will be another graded bedding where the process has been repeated as another collection of sediments was washed in.
“The phenomenon of graded bedding (coarse conglomerate on the bottom, with finer material graded upward) is difficult to explain on the basis of uniformity, but not on the basis of Genesis 8:1-3 where we are told that the Creator dried up the flood-waters by strong winds that drove the waters by a “going and returning.” This process, too, would more readily account for interbedding, the repetitive alternation of certain layers, in some instances as many as 150 strata. Uniformitarian geology offers no satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon.
“Then there is the matter of disconformities, that is, a sudden change in fossil types with no accompanying change in the physical composition of the rock formation, or the appearance of fossils separated by a tremendous time gap. This is not accounted for in uniformitarianism. If the deposition had been uniform, as claimed, such disconformities should not have occurred. The perplexing occurrence of so-called ‘older fossils’ above ‘younger fossils’—which paleontologists try to account for by thrust faults, can much more readily be accounted for by accepting the occurrence of worldwide volcanic and seismic upheavals such as accompanied the Deluge. In fact, the mere presence of vast numbers of
fossils is explainable only if plants and animals were suddenly inundated, trapped, and buried in moving masses of sediment. It is almost impossible to explain how organisms could have been transformed into fossils if they had simply perished and had remained exposed to the decaying process of air, sun, and bacteria.
“There are so-called fossil graveyards in which is often found a rich conglomeration of organisms. One such found in Eocene lignite deposits of the Geiseltal in central Germany, contains more than six thousand remains of vertebrate animals together with an even greater number of mollusks, insects, and plants. So well-preserved are many of these animals that it is still possible to study the contents of their stomachs. It is easy to imagine how these could have been deposited by the swirling and receding waters of a great flood, but not how this could have happened under uniformitarian conditions.”—H.R. Siegler, Evolution or Degeneration—Which? (1972), pp. 78-79.
UNITY OF THE STRATA:
Basic to evolutionary theory is the concept that each stratum was laid down during a period of millions of years while the other strata were laid down in other epochs or eras. All of the strata are said to have required two billion years to form.
In contrast, the evidence indicates that the fossils in each strata were laid down rapidly rather than slowly. But, in addition, there is also evidence that each stratum was deposited at about the same time as all the other strata!
The primary difference is that each layer has somewhat different fossils in it, but this too would easily be explained by a gradually rising flood that washed in, and then quickly buried great masses of plants and animals. One layer and then the next was rather quickly laid down by the Flood.
Two of the most important boundary points in the geologic column are the Paleozoic to Mesozoic, and the Mesozoic to Cenozoic.
Careful research by *Wiedmann in Germany has revealed that there is no observable time break
between these, the two most obvious divisions in the geologic column!
“The boundaries between eras, periods and epochs on the geological time-scale generally denote sudden and significant changes in the character of the fossil remains. For example, the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic periods of the Mesozoic era (about 180 million years ago) was supposedly marked by spontaneous appearance of new species . . A reassessment of the data by Jost Wiedmann of the University of Tübingen in the Federal Republic of Germany, gives a clearer picture of evolution at the boundaries of the Mesozoic (225 million to 70 million years ago). He concludes that there were no worldwide extinctions of species or spontaneous appearances of new species at the boundaries.”— Report of the International Geological Congress at Montreal: “Fossil Changes: ‘Normal Evolution,’ ” in Science News, September 2, 1972, p. 152.
This is an important point that *Wiedmann brings to the attention of the scientific world. While most evolutionists maintain that the geologic column slowly formed amid the peace and tranquility of uniformitarian ages, there are other evolutionists who declare that there must have been a succession of several catastrophes that accomplished the task. But *Wiedmann carefully analyzed the two principle boundaries in the column—and discovered that “no worldwide extinctions of species or spontaneous appearances of new species” occurred at these boundaries. This is important. The entire geologic column is an integral unit and was all rapidly laid down at about the same time.
Here are some additional reasons why this is so:
(1) Rapid or no Fossils. Each stratum had to be laid down rapidly, or fossils would not have resulted.
(2) Rapid or no Rocks. The physical structure and interconnections of the strata require rapid deposition in order for them to form into rocks.
(3) No Erosion between Strata. Each strata was laid directly over the one below it, since there is no trace of erosion between them. Each strata was formed continuously and rapidly, and then—with no time-lapse erosion in between—the next strata formed continuously and rapidly over that. And on and on it went.
(4) Layers not Worldwide. There are many “unconformities,” where one stratum ends horizontally and another begins. But there is no worldwide unconformity instead one stratum will gradually grade imperceptibly into another, which thereupon succeeds it with more continuous and rapid deposition, without a time break at any point.
(5) Generally no Clear Boundaries. There is rarely a clear physical boundary between strata formations. Generally they tend to merge and mingle with each other in a zone of considerable thickness.
STRATA SEQUENCE AND OVERTHRUSTS:
If evolutionary theory were correct, each layer of the cake would be quietly set in place on top of the preceding one over a span of long ages.
But instead we find “disconformity” and “overthrusts.” A “recent stratum” which should therefore be near the top, will be underneath several “older strata.”
This can easily be explained by the turbulence of a single worldwide Flood which laid down all the strata within a relatively short time.
But evolutionary theory is totally baffled by such a situation. So its supporters have invented the theory of “overthrusts.” As we mentioned in chapter 12, the Matterhorn—one of the highest and most prominent mountains in Switzerland—is supposed to have moved horizontally many miles from some distant place. Evolutionary theories about rock strata require such a hypothesis. Either the mountains pack up and move to other lands, or evolution dies a sickening death.The entire Matterhorn rests on top of what is theorized as “younger strata,” therefore it is said to have hiked over the hills to its present location. The same is true for the Appalachians, which climbed up out of the Atlantic onto the North American continent. They arrived before the Pilgrims!
But, in reality, overthrusts are but another effect of the Flood. For example, at one point, some land animals and plants were covered by Flood-borne sediments. Then, from some distant location, waters with fish were carried in and deposited in a pile of sediment above the land creatures. And so it went.
A related problem is that, although the very bottom stratum should always be the Cambrian,— in actuality, many different strata are found at the bottom!
“Further, how many geologists have pondered the fact that lying on the crystalline basement are found from place to place not merely Cambrian, but rocks of all ages?”—*E.M. Spieker, “Mountain-Building Chronology and Nature of Geologic Time-Scale,” in Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, August 1956, p. 1805.
How do you solve a problem like that? Amid the confusion of a worldwide deluge, and bursts of massive earth movements and hurricane winds, all kinds of strata patterns could occur. Flood theory can solve questions that evolutionary theory cannot answer.
If the Flood caused the sedimentary rock strata, with their billions of fossils, then the following points would be expected—and, upon examination of the fossils in the strata—they all prove true:
(1) Animals living at the lowest levels would tend to be buried in the lowest strata.
(2) Creatures buried together—would tend to be buried with other animals that lived in the same region or ecological community.
(3) Hydrologic forces (the suck and drag of rapidly moving water) would tend to sort out creatures of similar forms. Because of lower hydraulic drag, those with the simplest shapes would tend to be buried first.
(4) Backboneless sea creatures (marine invertebrates), since they live on the sea bottom, would normally be found in the bottom strata.
(5) Fish would be found in higher strata since they can swim up close to the surface.
(6) Amphibians and reptiles would be buried higher than the fish, but as a rule, below the land animals.
(7) Few land plants or animals would be in the lower strata.
(8) The first land plants would be found where the amphibians were found.
(9) Mammals and birds would generally be found in higher levels than reptiles and amphibians.
(10) Because many animals tend to go in herds in time of danger, we would find herd animals buried together.
(11) In addition, the larger, stronger animals would tend to sort out into levels apart from the slower ones (tigers would not be found with hippopotamuses).
(12) Relatively few birds would be found in the strata, since they could fly to the highest points.
(13) Few humans would be found in the strata. They would be at the top, trying to stay afloat until they died following which they would sink to the surface of the sediments and decompose.
In the above 13 points, we have a solid Flood explanation for what we find in the sequence of fossils in the geologic column.
Yet, lacking any other evidence to bring forward, it is that very sequence of fossils placement which evolutionists declare to be the primary evidence that animals have “evolved”
from one another!
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE “GEOLOGIC COLUMN”:
Compare the following analysis with the two-page chart near the beginning of chapter 12, Fossils and Strata:
Recent (Holocene)—Glaciers melt. Evidences of human civilization.
Pleistocene—The Flood waters conclude their receding from the continents. Fossils, strata, and petroleum are no longer being formed. The ice age begins.Pliocene—The Flood has ended. First mountain building begins, as continents begin rising, ocean basins dropping, and oceans filling. If this had not occurred, everything today would be under water. Some strata forming continues.
Miocene—First large numbers of birds buried. First evidence of volcanic lava.
Oliogocene—First of the very agile monkeys and apes buried.
Eocene—First faster animals (such as horses) buried. No more slow animals (including dinosaurs).
Triassic—First strong land animals buried (slowest dinosaurs).
Mississipian—First land animals buried (slow ones, such as small reptiles).
Silurian—First land plants laid down.
Cambrian—Flood begins. Fossils and strata begin. Slowest creatures buried. But plants float up to higher levels.
Precambrian—Prior to the Flood. No sedementary strata or fossils.
A more complete explanation of the above chart is given in the pages which follow.
1.38: Uniformitarianism - Geosciences
Hutton published a book outlining his concept of "Geology" but was not very skilled in written explanations. His work was later clarified in a book by Playfair and then restructured in the classic "Principles of Geology" by Charles Lyell (1797 - 1875).
Lyell's views differed somewhat from Hutton's. He was the first to expound the idea we know today as Uniformitarianism, often summarized in the statement "the present is the key to the past".
We interpret "the present is the key to the past" to mean that the same processes and laws in operation today were operating throughout the history of Earth. Lyell interpreted the idea more strictly, he also assumed that processes operated at the same rates in the past as they do today. He rejected the idea that Earth history was dominated by catastrophic events, he favored gradualism.
We now know that Earth history, although dominated by gradual processes, was punctuated with catastrophic events such as mass extinction's (perhaps caused by comet impacts, periods of dramatic climate change or intense volcanism). For dramatic example, in July of 1994 the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter! But such events are a natural process that are expected.
Criticism of uniformitarianism [ edit ]
By young-Earth creationists [ edit ]
Uniformitarianism has come under much criticism from young Earth creationists and such types, who posit that natural law has changed over time specifically, that it has been altered by God for the purpose of resolving some messy inconsistencies of observed phenomena with the Honest-To-God Truth TM found in Genesis.
An example is the challenge against radiocarbon dating taken up by the people of the RATE committee which in condensed form follows this format:
- Scientist: By measuring the decay of carbon-14 in organic material, one can ascribe dates to fossils up to 60,000 years old.
- Creationist: That contradicts the biblical account of creation, so it's false.
- Scientist: But the radiocarbon dates line up perfectly with dates we know from other sources back 4,000 years.
- Creationist: You're working from the false premise of uniformitarianism. The truth is that the rate of radioactive decay changed during the Great Flood, so hundreds of thousands of years' worth of radioactive decay happened in a few days. ΐ]
- Scientist: Er, that level of radiation would have generated enough heat to vaporize the Earth and nukeNoah.
- Creationist: Oh, ye of little faith. Do you not see that God also expanded the universe at the same time to keep
everythingonly the radioactive elements cool? Α]
Other criticisms [ edit ]
Another criticism takes the milder approach of positing that it is a very big step to assume that in the few thousand years humans have been observing natural law, they have captured with any accuracy the principles by which the universe has operated for some 13 billion years.
This shortcoming is illustrated in a story about Charles Babbage. In order to make a point about miracles, Babbage would set his Difference Engine to wind from 2 to 4 to 6 to 8 to 10 to 117 his point being that a supposed "miracle" (the departure from an arithmetic progression) might only be the operation of some higher natural law hitherto unknown (i.e., God did not need to meddle with the gears in the Difference Engine for the departure to happen).
Uniformitarianism is a good and useful principle, but it can be taken too far. Stephen Jay Gould tells a story of an early professor of his who took uniformitarianism to such an absurd extreme that he insisted the rate of erosion remained uniform over time (a claim that uniformitarianism never made -- it rules out processes, not changes in the rate of processes). When J Harlan Bretz [note 1] raised his theory of the Missoula Floods, it was proper that such a bold claim should be challenged but other geologists, in the name of uniformitarianism, not only dismissed the theory out of hand but refused to even look at the evidence Bretz offered. Shaving off the beard is good barbering shaving off flesh is not.
Answering criticisms [ edit ]
These criticisms may be answered by pointing out that a large number of predictions based on uniformitarianism (in astronomy, for example) have turned out to be very accurate, and thus there is absolutely no harm in assuming uniformity.
In addition to the fact that uniformitarianism as an assumption works, its premise is also a reasonable one when we shave its beard. To postulate that mechanisms and rates were different in the past would require a researcher to determine not only what those mechanisms were but why they are different from the mechanisms in operation today. Creationists will often claim that radioactive decay was different during "Creation Week", thus fudging the numbers to come up with any age they like, although not one shows any evidence of why they were faster or how the rates changed. Not to mention the side effects of extremely enhanced rates, such as where they claim millions of years radioactivity could happen in days, releasing enough energy to blow apart the planet (as mentioned above). On the other hand, the structure of rock strata, cratering and weathering and many other factors that scientists have looked at support uniformitarianism. Creationists are left with their one main handy escape hatch: Goddidit!
Modern uniformitarianism, unlike conceptions that existed in earlier times, accepts that exceptional and extreme events, unknown in the time frame of humans, may have occurred in the past. Examples include the Messinian Salinity Crises (during which the Mediterranean Sea closed and almost completely dried up), the almost unimaginably extreme volcanism of the American West during the mid-Cenozoic, and the astoundingly huge floods emanating from glacial lakes during the Ice Ages.
However, Occam's Razor rules, and such events are to be invoked only when no more mundane ("uniform") explanation covers the observed facts. In this sense, uniformitarianism is an application of Occam's Razor to natural processes.