Lazarus Species

Since at least the time of William Smith – around the turn of the 19th century – as data have accrued, it has become progressively clearer that geologic strata contain an ordered arrangement of fossils. Trilobites are found in Paleozoic rocks, dinosaurs in Mesozoic rocks and humans in Cenozoic rocks.[i] Different mechanisms have been proposed to explain this order in the fossil record. The prevalent view today imposes a Darwinian understanding on the data. In this framework, the ordered sequence of fossils is commonly viewed as a record of life over immense periods of time. In reality, the data taken as a whole are unsupportive of this thesis. Here I explore “Lazarus species,” which illustrate the tenuous relationship between the data and the Darwinian view that order in the geologic column records an immense timespan during which organisms evolved and went extinct.

There are a number of assumptions inherent in the view that order in the fossil record supports Darwinism; some of these are not logical, are inconsistent with data, or possibly both. One of these is the assumption that the fossil record provides a record of life over time. Most would agree that fossils represent life that lived in the past, however, even if the fossil record formed over hundreds of millions or billions of years, this does not make it necessarily a complete record of when specific life forms were present or if certain life forms existed at all. Charles Darwin appears to have agreed with this view to at least some degree when he invoked “the extreme imperfection of the geological record”[ii] to explain the lack of intermediate links (missing links) in the fossil record.

While the fossil record preserves an amazing number and variety of organisms, it seems impossible that it could preserve a snapshot of all the life that existed at every moment throughout history. Normally a record of organisms, with the possible exception of some reef forming organisms and others of a similar nature, is not preserved when they die. If every organism that has lived over the course of history left a fossil, it seems that the Earth’s surface would be made of up nothing other than fossils. This raises the question of whether the fossil record is a representative sample of what was living at various times throughout history. How could this be tested for? If fossils of an organism were not being made, for whatever reason, in geologic strata below where fossils of an organism are first found, and the fossil record is the only record that we have, we cannot be certain whether or not an organism existed when lower strata were formed.

But there are methods that may hint at whether or not an organism existed before there are fossils of it. One method involves the use of molecular clocks. If molecular clocks tell time at all accurately, something that is very open to debate, then just about everything seems to have been alive long before it starts to show up in the fossil record.[iii] Determining the actual age of any particular kind of organism may be difficult to accurately estimate by any method, but there is a quite definitive way of testing whether the fossil record contains a reasonable sample of organisms living over the time it is commonly thought to have made a record of.

This is where Lazarus taxa come in. Lazarus taxa are organisms that – like the Lazarus of the Bible who Jesus brought back to life – appear in the fossil record to have gone extinct, but are found living today. If the fossil record is a representative record of taxa that were living over time, Lazarus taxa should not exist, but they do and this calls into question the assumption that the fossil record actually records the span of time over which organisms lived.

Possibly the best known Lazarus taxon are coelacanths. Coelacanth fish were thought to be missing links between fish and land-dwelling tetrapods. They disappear from the fossil record in Upper Cretaceous strata – around the same geologic level as the dinosaurs – which is thought to have been made something more than 60 million years ago.[iv] This disappearance was interpreted as an extinction event recorded in the fossil record until coelacanths were found living in waters off the east coast of Africa and in Indonesia. Clearly they were alive over the putative tens of millions of years they are thought to have been extinct; if those tens of millions of years existed at all. The only reasonable interpretation, however long the gap is between fossil and living coelacanths, is that the fossil record did not record their presence over a substantial period after they disappeared. Why assume that they did not exist before they appear as fossils in the first place?

Coelacanths were an averagely successful group of fish with easily recognized distinctive features. They first appear in Devonian strata, supposedly about 400 million years old, and are not particularly uncommon as fossils. Coelacanths’ absence in upper parts of the fossil record, in which other fish fossils are plentiful, is enigmatic. The fossil record had no trouble recording the presence of coelacanths for what is commonly thought to be roughly 340 million years, why stop making coelacanth fossils 60 million years ago? How would sediments formed over the last 60 something million years have so perfectly excluded coelacanths?

There are possible explanations. Maybe coelacanths evolved, without changing much in their morphology, into a different niche where nothing gets fossilized. Maybe the coelacanth population crashed for some reason due to changing environmental conditions and they have hung on over tens of millions of years as a very small population, unlikely to get recorded as fossils. Whatever the explanation, they illustrate the ease with which immense gaps in the record of organisms can be explained away within a Darwinian framework. Why believe coelacanths only evolved during Devonian time rather than several hundred million years before, but were not fossilized until Devonian rocks were formed? Why believe that humans or rabbits were not present when Cambrian rocks were formed just because there is no record of them? Why believe that the fossil record is a record of life over time at all?

Another example of a Lazarus species is the Wollemi pine. These towering trees, first discovered as fossils, were thought to be extinct until a small stand was found during 1994 in the Wollemi National Park near Sydney, Australia.[v] The Wollemi pine fossil record is commonly reported as spanning from 90 million to about 2 million years ago. This means these trees must have lived during the putative 2 million years fossils are absent and they appeared to be extinct. Could this possibly be a correct interpretation of the evidence? Lazarus taxa clearly illustrate the fallacy of confusing absence of evidence with evidence of absence.

Possibly the most spectacular example of a Lazarus species are modest-looking mollusks called monoplacophorans. According to common interpretations of the fossil record, monoplacophorans went extinct some 320 million years ago, yet they are living deep in today’s oceans, producing the same kind of shells found in the fossil record. These organisms are particularly problematic, as they should produce a good consistent fossil record. They apparently live in the same niche as their fossil relatives, although some fossil species may have inhabited shallower habitats. Most importantly, they produce hard shells that are more likely than soft parts to be fossilized. They are not particularly uncommon fossils in Paleozoic rocks, how could they possibly have not been recorded in 320 million years worth of sediment? It is worth noting that some fossil taxa, such as the brachiopod Lingula, appear in the fossil record in about the same geologic strata as monoplacophorans and have a fossil record that goes all the way through to the top. We find them living today. Lingula has a shell, but not a hard shell like monoplacophorans.

Lazarus species raise questions about how the geologic column formed. If organisms can disappear from the fossil record and yet still be living, how can we be sure that they were not alive long before fossils of them first formed? As Bible-believers, we don’t embrace the idea that life has been suffering and dying for millions of years. Lazarus species are one good reason that we should be thinking about mechanisms other than deep time to account for the order we observe in the fossil record. It is true; some data are well explained by invoking deep time. Of course, just about any theory explains SOME data; the trick is to elegantly explain ALL the data. It is also true that, while evidence requiring heroic explanations to maintain interpretations based on “deep time” accrues, Bible-believers also lack glib explanations for some data. However, we do have faith in a logically sufficient cause for what is observed in the creation and a historical record of the Creator’s action in nature.

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Timothy G. Standish

Geoscience Research Institute

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[i] Where exceptions are noted, they can generally be well explained in terms of transport of some kind in which fossils from one layer are eroded out and become constituents of layers that are formed subsequently.

[ii] Darwin CR. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life. 1st Edition. John Murray, London. Pg 280.

[iii] Obviously, molecular clocks are unlikely to underestimate the age of a taxon given the fact that they are calibrated based, at least in part, on fossils and it would be very hard to get a paper published claiming a taxon is younger than its oldest discovered fossil. For a discussion of this phenomenon relating to placental mammals, see http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/38858/title/Clocks-Versus-Rocks/ and http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/01/clocks_versus_r081291.html

[iv] Note that fossil coelacanths are not identical to those living today. In fact the fossil record of coelacanths is like many other groups with greater diversity in the past than at present.

[v] Currently three small Wollemi pine stands are known in the same general area.

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Was There A Great Genesis Flood?

The first book of the Bible states that following a recent creation by God, there was an astonishing worldwide Flood. In that context, the Flood would have been responsible for most of the great fossil bearing layers of the earth. However, current scientific interpretations propose that these layers slowly accumulated over billions of years thus allocating more time for the slow gradual evolution of life. The difference between these two models could hardly be greater. Figure 1 illustrates the contrastTWO MODELS copy copy in interpretations. The main divisions of the stack of rock layers covering our earth, called the geologic column, is shown to the left; the evolutionary interpretation of those layers in the middle, and the creation model to the right. Note especially that the evolutionary model is about one million times slower than the biblical model. Which model is true? They cannot both be right!

Interestingly, one does not at all have to go to the Bible in order to find the concept of a worldwide Flood.[i] That idea is overwhelmingly dominant in the folk literature of the world. The number of references from that literature for different kinds of worldwide past calamities is listed in Table 1, and shows that flood stories are six times as common as any other kind of past worldwide catastrophes. The most likely explanation for such pervasiveness is that the Flood actually occurred.

While the scientific community overwhelmingly rejects the biblical account of a worldwide Flood, a significant amount of scientific data fits better with that account than with a model of slow development over billions of years. In considering the scientific data, we are especially interested in sedimentary rocks. They are the dominant ones and water is usually involved in their deposition into sedimentary layers that often harbor fossils. Geologists usually group these layers into larger units called formations. Many of the formations on our continents are incredibly widespread and tend to be of somewhat even thickness. The contrast between these huge unique flat sedimentary deposits and the dominantly irregular topography of the surface of our present continents is striking. There is no way, under present conditions, to spread such sedimentary deposits, which are relatively thin, over major parts of our present continents. Very flat surfaces are required to start out with, and major forces are needed to spreFive Formationsad the sediments over such huge areas. Some of these deposits are conglomerates[ii] that required very high energy transport over very wide areas. The arrows in Figure 2 point to five formations in the western United States. The surface area of each formation in square kilometers is: Frontier 300,000; Mowry 250,000; Dakota: 815,000; CedMorrison Mapar Mountain-Burrow Canyon 130,000; and Morrison 1,000,000. This latter formation extends from New Mexico into Canada (Figure 3). This is data that is very much more like what would be expected from a worldwide catastrophic Flood, as layer after layer of sediments were quite rapidly and extensively deposited on top of the other. It is not what would be expected for deposits formed slowly by ordinary localized geological processes over billions of years, as now generally postulated by the geological community.

It is not just the geologic formations that are widespread, but within these formations you have smaller units, called beds, that also represent extremely flat anBook Cliffs Castle Gd widespread depositional forces as expected for the Flood. The arrow in Figure 4 points to the flat layer called the Castlegate Sandstone of the Price River Formation. As you travel east from Price Utah, near where it originated, into Colorado, you can follow that sandstone unit for 160 kilometers. Another example is seen in coal seams where thin layers of grainy sediments called partings  can be found (Figure 5). These are in the centimeters range in thickness but can be incredibly widespread. Coal Parting, Castle Gate originalSix partings that extend over 1,500 km2 are reported from coal mines in Kentucky.[iii] In the Grand Canyon, 17 characteristic horizontal key marker layers are reported in the 100 meter thick Muav Limestone (Figure 6, just below the lowest arrow). These marker layers are dominantly a meter or less thickness, and all but one spreads over 50 GC South Rim, red arrows, white legend sp okto 150 kilometers.[iv] Some geologists recognize the incongruity between present limited depositional patterns of local floods and what is actually seen in the rock record. Sedimentologist Carlton Brett, who does not endorse the Flood, comments:

“… beds may persist over areas of many hundreds to thousands of square kilometers precisely because they are the record of truly, oversized events.”

“The accumulation of the permanent stratigraphic [rock layers] record in many cases involves processes that have not been, or cannot be observed in modern environments. … there are the extreme events … with magnitudes so large and devastating that they have not, and probably could not, be observed scientifically.”

“I would also argue that many successions show far more lateral continuity and similarity at a far finer scale than would be anticipated by most geologists.”[v]

When you start studying the incredibly widespread distribution of the geologic layers, you soon begin to realize that the conditions for their deposition are often strikingly different from what occurs for present local geological activity, and that widespread distribution is as would be expected from the catastrophic Flood described in the Bible.

Adding further evidence for rapid deposition, as expected for the Flood, is that where significant parts of the geologic column are missing between layers, the evidence for the deep erosion expected over millions of years of no deposition postulated by geologists is missing. [Flat Gaps Challenge Long Geologic Ages] For instance, between the Morrison and the Cedar Mountain Formations  (Figure 2), layers representing a postulated 20 million years of evolutionary time are missing at this locality. During that time, an average of 600 meters of erosion of the surface of that gap would be expected.[vi] Erosion as seen in modern environments is dominantly irregular, however, the contacts between the two formations mentioned above are incredibly flat permitting one thin formation to be laid on top of the other. These flat gaps, which are found in numerous localities around the world, provide rather convincing evidence that the long geological ages never occurred.[vii] Figure 6 (above) illustrates three examples of flat gaps (called paraconformities or disconformities) between the layers of the Grand Canyon. At the lowest arrow, the Ordovician and Silurian periods of the geologic column are missing, yet the contact line is incredibly flat in most of the Grand Canyon. During the 100 million years assumed for that flat gap, one would expect an average of 3 kilometers of erosion. For comparison, note that the Grand Canyon is only 1.5 kilometers deep.

There are other major features of the geologic layers that favor the Flood. Our continents literally float on top of heavier rocks, and this keep them above sea level so we have dry land to live on. However, when you look at the rock layers (sediments) on the continents, more than half of them come from a marine environment.[viii] For example, two thirds of the layers in the Grand Canyon (Figure 6, above) are limestones and shales of marine origin. What is so much material of ocean origin doing on the continents? This is as would be expected from a worldwide Flood as the oceans flooded the continents and deposited marine sediments well onto the interior of the continents. Furthermore, study of the Paleozoic sediments over the North American continent indicates that their direction of transport was almost consistently orientated towards the southwest on a continental scale.[ix] This coherent large-scale direction is as would be expected for a major worldwide catastrophic event such as the Flood, but not at all for slow deposition over the long geologic ages, as rivers, streams and currents would deposit sediments in all directions.

Geologists recognize the anomaly of abundant marine sediment deposition on the continents and explain it simply by postulating that in the past, the oceans were higher or the continents were lower thus facilitating inundation from the sea resulting in immense flat limestone layers. In proposing this, they are inadvertently suggesting what we would expect from the great Flood described in the Bible; the continents were under water! The noted paleontologist Norman Newell who endorses the long geologic ages also recognizes the difference between the sedimentary record of the present and the past and references three other supporting geologists when he states:

“Search for present day analogues of paraconformities in limestone sequences is complicated by the fact that most present configurations (topography, chemistry, circulation, climate) are strikingly unlike those that must have prevailed when the Paleozoic and Mesozoic limestone seas spread over immense and incredibly flat areas of the world (Shaw, 1964; Currav, 1964; Irwin 1965; McGugan, 1965b).”[x]

These “immense and incredibly flat” areas of the world are what would be expected from the great catastrophic Flood, but not from slow local deposition of sediments as the continents slowly moved around and up and down over billions of years as postulated by geologists who do not conceptualize the biblical Flood.

CONCLUSION

There are many interpretations about the amount of time involved with the formation of various parts of the geologic record of the earth. A long list of local interpretations on both sides of the Bible-science controversy could be presented.[xi] Unfortunately, at present, the scientific community does not accommodate the biblical model of the Flood in its journals and textbooks. Instead these publications have many endorsements for the long geological ages but not for the biblical model. The Flood question is not approached from the perspective of a level playing field. However, one does not have to abandon science in order to believe the Bible. The incredibly widespread flat sedimentary formations and the layers within them, the lack of evidence for long ages at the flat gaps between sedimentary layers, and the abundance of material from oceans on the continents are powerful worldwide factors that very much favor the Flood model of the Bible. This is data that is difficult to explain outside the biblical model of origins.

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Figure Legends

TABLE 1. Number of references to various kinds of past worldwide calamities from the folk literature of the world. FLOOD STORIES (WORD)

FIGURE 1. Two leading interpretations of the geologic layers. The geologic column (sequence) is given at the left, the long ages geologic interpretation in the middle and the recent creation interpretation at the right. Note the very different time scales for the two interpretations.

FIGURE 2. Five formations from the Mesozoic as seen just north of Vernal, Utah.

FIGURE 3. Map of the western United States showing the distribution of the Morrison Formation.

FIGURE 4. View of the Book Cliffs east of Price, Utah. The arrow points to the flat tan Castlegate Sandstone that extends for 160 kilometers.

FIGURE 5. Coal seam in the Blackhawk Formation north of Helper, Utah. The arrow points to a sedimentary parting within a coal seam. The thickness of the seam is around 40 centimeters.

FIGURE 6. View of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River from the South Rim. Arrows point to major gaps. Putative duration of gaps designated in millions of years (Ma), and expected erosion given in meters. Note the flat contacts across the layers, indicating little erosion and little time.   ________________________________________________________________

Ariel A. Roth

July 2, 2014

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[i] For examples and references see: Roth AA. 1998. Origins: Linking Science and Scriptures. Review and Herald Publishing Association, p 303-307.

[ii] For examples of some widespread conglomerates see: Stokes WL. 1950. Pediment concept applied to Shinarump and similar conglomerates. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America 61:91-98.

[iii] Austin S. 1979. Evidence for marine origin of widespread carbonaceous shale partings in the Kentucky No. 12 Coal Bed (Middle Pennsylvanian) of Western Kentucky. Geological Society of America, Abstracts With Programs 11(7):381-382.

[iv] McKee ED, Resser CE. 1945. Cambrian History of the Grand Canyon Region. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 563:26-28.

[v] Brett, CE. 2000. A slice of the “Layer Cake”: The paradox of “Frosting Continuity.” PALAIOS 15:495-498.

[vi] For calculations and references on rates of erosion see: Roth AA. 1998. Origins:Linking Science and Scripture. Review and Herald Publishing Association, p 263-267.

[vii] For further explanation and more examples see DISCUSSION 16 and or VIDEO 13 on the authors webpage www.sciencesandscriptures.com, Also: Roth A. A. 1988 “Those Gaps in the Sedimentary Layers”, Origins 15:75-92 (http://www.grisda.org). For a briefer version and more discussion points see A. A. Roth. 2009. “Flat gaps” in sedimentary rock layers challenge long geologic ages. Journal of Creation 23(2):76-81. The topic is also discussed in Roth AA. 1998. Origins: Linking Science and Scripture. Review and Herald Publishing Association, p 222-229.

[viii] Shelton J. S. 1966. Geology illustrated. W. H. Freeman and Company, p 28.

[ix] Chadwick AV. 1993. Megatrends in North American paleocurrents. Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists Abstracts With Programs 8:58.

[x] Newell ND. 1967. Paraconformities. In Tichert C, Yochelson L, editors. Essays in paleontology and stratigraphy. Department of Geology, University of Kansas Special Publication 2, p 355.

[xi] For some examples, see DISCUSSIONS No. 8 and 9, Questions About a Recent Creation, and Scientific Data that Favors a Recent Creation, on the authors’ webpage: www.sciencesandscriptures.com [link?]; Roth AA. 2012. The Genesis Flood and the geological record. In Ball BW, editor, In the Beginning: Science and Scripture Confirm Creation. Pacific Press, p 220-237; Roth AA. 2011. Can I Believe in a worldwide Flood? In Gibson LJ, Rasi HM, editors, Understanding Creation: Answers to Questions on Faith and Science. Pacific Press, p 123-132; Chapters 12-15 in Roth AA. 1998. Origins: Linking Science and Scripture. Review and Herald Publishing Association.

Posted in Catastrophism, Genesis Flood, Geology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Glaciations and the Geologic Record

Glaciations are defined as periods of temperature reduction in the Earth’s climate which result in the onset or expansion of continental and polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers.

Does the geologic record preserve evidence for the occurrence and extent of former ice ages? What kind of information is used to make these inferences? The answer to these questions has the potential for influencing our models of the Earth’s climate through time and can surely offer insight in formulating creationist interpretations of the rock record.

The Cenozoic glaciation

The Earth as we see it today is characterized by the presence of large ice caps and extensive alpine glaciers. However, there is widespread evidence that the volume of ice has considerably decreased in the relatively recent past.

Conventional climate reconstructions suggest that the Cenozoic interval, from the Oligocene upwards, was punctuated by periodic oscillations of alternating glacial and interglacial[1] stages (Zachos et al., 2001). The last of these glacial culminations (called Last Glacial Maximum, LGM) is thought to have occurred (in standard conventional geology) at 19 ka[2] before present (Yokoyama et al., 2000). During the LGM, large ice sheets covered northern Europe, Canada, and the northern part of the United States and Russia (CLIPMAP, 1981; Peltier, 1994) and the increase in ice volume resulted in the lowering of sea level down to about 130 m below present sea level (Lambeck et al., 2002).

Evidence of glacial activity

The LGM produced the more accessible and better preserved traces of glacial activity, offering fresh examples of geological features indicative of glacial environments. These include:

a) Glacigenic deposits

During glacial advance, sediment accumulates at the glacier edges or is deposited at the base of the flowing ice mass. Sediment is also deposited during glacial retreat, when melting ice drops its sedimentary load, which can be further reworked by meltwater discharge. Overall, glacigenic deposits are characterized by a chaotic mixture of fine and coarse sediment, which is called till or, when lithified, tillite.
An interesting type of glacigenic deposit is represented by erratic boulders. They consist of large fragments of rocks (up to several meters in diameter) transported by glaciers along remarkable distances (up to several hundreds of kilometers) and subsequently abandoned after melting of the supporting ice.

When an ice-sheet extends beyond the limit of continental land, it forms an ice shelf floating on the surface of the water. Melting of the ice shelf causes disruption into numerous individual icebergs which can then travel many hundreds of kilometers before melting or capsizing. These icebergs may contain large-sized rocks that are dropped on the sea bottom as the ice melts, thus their name dropstones.

b) Glacigenic landforms

Erosive and depositional processes related to glacial activity can create very distinctive landforms. In mountain areas, for example, the effects of erosion related to multiple advances and retreats of alpine glaciers can create valleys with a characteristic U-shaped profile. There are other typical glacigenic landforms less familiar to the general public but known with their own specific name, such as drumlins, eskers, kettle holes, and kames.

c) Glacigenic abrasion structures

Rock fragments enclosed at the base of a flowing glacier can generate linear grooves on the bedrock, often parallel, which can be used to reconstruct the flow direction of a glacier. Not only the bedrock but also the rock fragments sliding on it can bear marks of abrasion. Ice flowing over an irregular hard substrate usually rounds the irregularities forming asymmetric undulations called roches moutonnées. Over time, intensive abrasion will further level the irregularities and create a roughly planar striated pavement.

d) Indirect evidence of glaciation

Glaciations determine changes in the Earth’s system (such as sea level drop for storage of water in ice caps) likely to leave a trace in the geologic record. Therefore, reconstructions of past ice ages can be based on indirect evidence of climate change (Stokstad, 2001). This evidence includes variations in abundances of chemical elements in ice cores and lacustrine and marine sediments, markers of drop and rise in sea level, and changes in fossil content.

Ancient glaciations and the geologic record

Most of the above-described features related to glacial activity have been identified in different positions of the stratigraphic column, in successions preserved over the five continents. Although dating of these successions is not always easy, glacigenic-like features seem to cluster over four intervals (besides the Cenozoic). Therefore, it is usually concluded that the Earth experienced at least four major periods of glaciation in addition to the Cenozic one (Fig. 1).

However, it should be noted that unlike the record of the Cenozoic glaciation, the evidence for older ice-ages is less definitive and relies on more assumptions. This is partly due to the fact that geological processes (such as plate tectonics) have disrupted and altered the record of past events, and partly to the existence of alternative mechanisms that can produce features analogous to those described from glacial environments. With older successions, where data are more limited and fragmentary, dismissing the role of these alternative mechanisms in favor of a glacigenic scenario may prove to be problematic. For example, till-like deposits are also known to be produced from sedimentation of submarine mass flows (Oard, 1997) and this mechanism has indeed been proposed to reassess the origin of deposits formerly interpreted as glacigenic (Arnaud & Eyles, 2002; Rice, 2004; Eyles & Januszczak, 2007). Even dropstones, which are often considered one of the most reliable indicators of glacial processes, can be emplaced by mechanisms different than ice rafting, such as vegetational rafting and submarine mass flows (Bennet et al., 1996; Donovan & Pickerill, 1997).

Deposits of the two oldest glaciations, especially the Neoproterozoic glaciation (Fig. 1),intervals of glaciation pose an additional problem in their climatic interpretation. Paleogeographic reconstructions based on paleomagnetic data (e.g., Kilner et al., 2005) indicate that part of these deposits were located at tropical latitudes at the time of their formation. This has led some researchers to hypothesize a Neoproterozoic “Snowball Earth” entirely covered with ice (Hoffman et al., 1998; Bodiselitsch et al., 2005), a scenario which is not completely accepted by other researchers (McCall, 2006; Allen & Etienne, 2008).

Implications for creationist models

Although at least some of the evidence for past glaciations could be explained by invoking alternative processes, Precambrian ice ages (i.e., the Paleoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic ice ages, Fig. 1) are potentially not in conflict with creationist views of Earth history. It is possible that before the creation of life the planet was at least partially covered by ice. Similar conditions are observed on Mars, a planet of the solar systems with polar ice caps (Picardi et al., 2005). On the other hand, deposits attributed to the Ordovician and Permo-Carboniferous glaciations (Fig. 1) are enclosed within the Paleozoic rock record, where fossil-bearing sediments document coeval existence of many forms of life on Earth. Therefore, these two ice-ages are more difficult to accept in short-chronology creationist models, especially if the Paleozoic rock record is viewed as deposited during the Genesis flood.

The chronology of past ice-ages is also an aspect where creationists differ with geologic models based on radiometric ages of millions or hundreds of thousands of years. Some attempts have been made at framing at least the Cenozoic glaciation in a short-chronology model (Oard, 1990).

Independently of the dating and preferred interpretation of Paleozoic glacigenic-like deposits, both creationist and non-creationist geologists agree that the Mesozoic is a portion of the stratigraphic column with no indications of glacigenic features (Fig. 1) whereas the Cenozoic preserves convincing evidence of glacial activity. This stratigraphic distribution of glacial deposits is consistent with creationist models that associate Mesozoic deposits with the peak of the flood and consider Cenozoic deposits as mostly post-flood. Glacial activity would not be expected in an advanced stage of the flood, whereas a climate deterioration leading to glaciation could be triggered in the recovery phase subsequent to the flood and extending into the present.

The Cenozoic glaciation is thought to have been characterized by cyclic fluctuations that can be globally correlated (e.g., Zachos et al., 2001). These fluctuations between glacial and interglacial conditions have been explained as resulting from variations in orbital parameters of the Earth (e.g., Maslin et al., 1998; Huybers & Wunsch, 2005; Roe, 2006), happening over time scales of 100 ka (eccentricity), 40 ka (obliquity) and 20 ka (precession). These time ranges are problematic from a short-chronology perspective, and creationists have motivation to search for alternative processes that could account for this global cyclical signal within a much shorter time scale.

In conclusion, careful study of modern glacigenic deposits and structures is important for the interpretation of past glacigenic-like deposits. At the same time, creationists approach evidence for glaciation in the geological record with an eye open to explore alternative interpretative hypotheses compatible with short-chronology models of the history of the Earth.

[1] The term “interglacial” is used to indicate a warm period with reduced ice caps between two cold periods with extensive ice cover.

[2] ka = 1,000 years

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Ronny Nalin, PhD

Geoscience Research Institute

May 29, 2014

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References

Allen, P.A., Etienne, J.L., 2008. Sedimentary challenge to Snowball Earth. Nature Geoscience, v. 1/12, p. 817-825.

Arnaud, E., Eyles, C.H., 2002. Glacial influence on Neoproterozoic sedimentation: the Smalfjord Formation, northern Norway. Sedimentology, v. 49, p. 765-788.

Bennett, M.R., Doyle, P., Mather, A.E., 1996. Dropstones: their origin and significance. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol., v. 121, p. 331-339.

Bodiselitsch, B., Koeberl, C., Master, S., Reimold, W.U., 2005. Estimating duration and intensity of Neoproterozoic snowball glaciations from Ir anomalies. Science, v. 308, p. 239-242.

CLIPMAP Project Members, 1981. Geol. Soc. Am. Map Ser. MC-36.

Donovan, S.K., Pickerill, R.K., 1997. Dropstones: their origin and significance: a comment. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol., v. 131, p. 175-178.

Eyles, N., Januszczak, N., 2007. Syntectonic subacqueous mass flows of the Neoproterozoic Otavi Group, Namibia: where is the evidence of global glaciation? Basin Research, v. 19, p. 179-198.

Hoffman, P.F., Kaufman, A.J., Halverson, G.P., Schrag, D.P., 1998. A Neoproterozoic snowball Earth. Science, v. 281, p.1342- 1346.

Huybers, P., Wunsch, C., 2005. Obliquity pacing of the late Pleistocene glacial terminations. Nature, v. 434, p. 491-494.

Kilner, B., Mac Niocaill, C., Brasier, M., 2005. Low-latitude glaciation in the Neoproterozoic of Oman. Geology, v. 33/5, p. 413-416.

Lambeck, K., Esat, T.M., Potter, E.-K., 2002. Links between climate and sea levels for the past three million years. Nature, v. 419, p. 199-206.

Maslin, M.A., Li, X.S., Loutre, M.F., Berger, A., 1998. The contribution of orbital forcing to the progressive intensification of northern hemisphere glaciation. Quat. Sci. Rev., v. 17, p. 411-426.

McCall, G.J.H., 2006. The Vendian (Ediacaran) in the geological record: Enigmas in geology’s prelude to the Cambrian explosion. Eart-Sci. Rev., v. 77, p. 1-229.

Oard, M.J., 1990. An Ice Age Caused by The Genesis Flood. Institute for Creation Research, San Diego. 244 pp.

Oard, M.J., 1997. Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, Arizona. 130 pp.

Peltier, W.R., 1994. Ice age paleotopography. Science, v. 265, p. 195-201.

Picardi G., Plaut, J.J., Biccari, D., Bombaci, O., Calabrese, D., Cartacci, M., Cicchetti, A., Clifford, S.M., Edenhofer, P., Farrell, W.M., Federico, C., Frigeri, A., Gurnett, D.A., Hagfors, T., Heggy, E., Herique, A., Huff, R.L., Ivanov, A.B., Johnson, W.T.K., Jordan, R.L., Kirchner, D.L., Kofman, W., Leuschen, C.J., Nielsen, E., Orosei, R., Pettinelli, E., Phillips, R.J., Plettemeier, D., Safaeinili, A., Seu, R., Stofan, E.R., Vannaroni, G., Watters, T.R., Zampolini, E., 2005. Radar soundings of the subsurface of Mars. Science, v. 310, p. 1925-1928.

Rice, A.H.N., 2004. Glacial influence on Neoproterozoic sedimentation: the Smalfjord Formation, northern Norway – discussion. Sedimentology, v. 51, p. 1419-1422.

Roe, G., 2006. In defense of Milankovitch. Geophys. Res. Lett., v. 33, L24703, doi:10.1029/2006GL027817.

Stokstad, E., 2001. Myriad Ways to Reconstruct Past Climate. Science, v. 292, p. 658-659.

Yokoyama, Y., Lambeck, K., De Deckker, P., Johnston, P., Filfield, L.K., 2000. Timing of the Last Glacial Maximum from observed sea-level minima. Nature, v. 406, p. 713-716.

Zachos, J., Pagani, M., Sloan, L., Thomas, E., Billups, K., 2001. Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present. Science, v. 292, p. 686-693.

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Sociobiology and Creation

Picture a ground squirrel who spots a predator and gives an alarm call.  The call alerts other squirrels who run for cover, but the call attracts the predator to the one giving the alarm.  This unfortunate squirrel may give its life to protect its neighbors.  How could this altruistic behavior, assisting other individuals at the expense of the calling squirrel, result from evolution?  This seems contrary to natural selection, which will select for genes that advance the interests of each individual with no regard for taking care of other individuals.  It is expected that the most successful squirrel will listen to other individual’s alarm calls, but not give any of its own calls.

When I was in graduate school at Cornell there was a lot of discussion of how evolution can explain altruistic behavior.  The evolution process of natural selection should eliminate altruistic behavior, and yet it appeared that we do see altruistic behavior in nature.  A few years later an answer was proposed by E. O. Wilson1.  Sociobiology was evolution theory applied to behavior.  Sociobiology answers the squirrel’s dilemma with the process of kin selection.  This theory expects that, for example, ground squirrels are most likely to give alarm calls if they are living close to relatives who carry many of the same genes as the individual who gives the alarm call.  That way even if the calling squirrel dies it has protected those who share many of its genes, including the genes favoring giving alarm calls to protect relatives.  The result appears altruistic, but the “altruistic” behavior only persists in situations in which the behavior is really not altruistic, but is selfish.  It protects, on the average, those others who share its genes, but not unrelated individuals.

This theory became the dominant explanation for behavior of humans as well as other animals.  It has been used to explain rape (not necessarily evil, but just an alternate way to pass on one’s genes), adultery (maximizing the passing on of a successful male’s genes), why babies don’t resemble too closely their parents (to make adultery easier to get away with), and many other behaviors.  It explained why some animals, like male African lions, sometimes kill all the young lions in their pride.  This happens when a new male takes over the leadership of the pride.  It kills the offspring of its rival, so that it can more quickly father its own young.  This theory has been quite successful in explaining the behavior of animals.

How can we fit this together with belief in a wise Creator?  This may seem like a dilemma, but it actually fits quite well with the Bible story of a world created very good, without evil and suffering, that is later victim of the results of sin.  The sin was believing Satan instead of God, which essentially gave Satan permission to spread his destructive influence across the earth.  The result was suffering, death, and the beginning of mutation and natural selection.  We don’t know what change brought about genetic mutations and the resulting natural selection, but these influences have been seen in nature through history.  Geneticists tell us that the human genome is degrading at the rate of one to several percent each generation2.  There is evidence that behavior is partly influenced by genes, so mutations could cause behavioral change.  No wonder the apostle Paul groaned because what he didn’t want to do, he did, and what he wanted to do, he did not do.  I suggest that human behavior has been affected by mutation and selection, and that is one reason why we tend to be selfish and behave badly.

Think of what that means for a Christian believer in creation.  The theory that all life is the result of evolution attempts to explain the origin of all animal behavior by mutation and natural selection, and this has prevented the origin of genuine altruistic behavior.  In either naturalistic evolution or theistic evolution rape and other selfish behaviors were part of God’s plan; part of His process of creation.  But the Bible describes life forms, including humans, being created perfect and they later became subject to destructive changes, apparently including mutation and natural selection.  In this view God is not responsible for the suffering and selfishness so prevalent in this world.

In both of these concepts, evolution and creation, life has been subject to mutation and selection through thousands of years, but they have very different beginning and ending points.  The conventional evolution theory begins and ends in a selfish, brutal competition for life.  In this process natural selection usually prevents the rise of unselfish, altruistic behavior.  In the biblical creation account, altruistic behavior was probably very common in other animals as well as humans, but mutations through the ages have resulted in much loss of altruistic tendencies.  We humans are damaged as well as the rest of the creation, but we can seek God’s gracious help in moving farther toward the unselfish, altruistic life that He intends for us.  The ultimate solution is the restoration of God’s plan that we can look forward to in a world recreated as it was in the beginning.

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Leonard Brand

Loma Linda University

11 April, 2014

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References

1 Wilson, E. O.  1975.  Sociobiology:  The New Synthesis.  Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

2 Sanford, J. C.  2005.  Genetic Entropy and & The Mystery of the Genome.  Lima, New York: Elim Publishing.

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Fossil evolutionary intermediates

Creationists and evolutionists have disagreed over intermediate fossils for decades.  An intermediate fossil is one that seems to be an evolutionary transition between two groups of organisms.  If all life was the result of evolution, there must have been innumerable intermediates that existed, and many of these should still exist as fossils.  If this were true, and if we could view a video of the history of life we would see a continuous series of life forms, gradually changing from one type to another.

According to the biblical description of creation, within a week all the major types of life were created.  Then perhaps evolutionary changes (microevolution and speciation) occurred within each of these created groups, but major groups, like worms, crabs, reptiles, birds, and humans did not evolve from common ancestors, and evolutionary intermediates between the major types never existed.  Notice that in this creation concept there are two categories of evolution: some evolution (adaptation) did occur, at least within groups of species.  However, larger scale evolution, e.g. evolution of reptiles from amphibians or pterosaurs from other reptiles, did not occur.  Which of these two options does the evidence support?  I won’t try to answer this in detail (this is a blog, not a book), but will consider some reasons why I think the fossil record leaves considerable room for debate over the nature of the fossil record of presumed intermediates.

First of all, there is abundant reason why creationists do accept microevolution and adaptation of organisms to changing environments as very real processes.  It would be no surprise if fossil intermediates at this level were common.  The odd thing is that they are not numerous as fossils.  In the fossil record the most common picture is that one fossil species disappears from the record and another appears, without evidence of evolution from one to the other.

The bigger issues arise when we consider intermediates between the higher categories, such as orders, classes, and phyla (loosely described as body plans) of organisms.  There is generally a lack of fossil intermediates between most of these groups.  But there are a few cases in which there are fossils described in the literature as intermediates.  This is where most of the controversy arises.  The most prominent of these presumed intermediates are between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, therapsid reptiles and mammals, dinosaurs and birds, and between terrestrial mammals and whales.  I will suggest reasons why it may be difficult to determine with any finality whether these really are transitional forms or not.  The first reason is the evidence that the earth once had a much wider variety of creatures than those that survived to the present day.  In addition to those groups that are extinct, other groups have many fossil forms but few living representatives.  The Creator was not stingy with variety of life forms.  This may be a reason why some presumed intermediates, like Archeopteryx and others may not be evolutionary intermediates, but simply evidence of a greater diversity of original organisms.

For some groups there is no discussion of intermediate forms, because there are none.  The first fossil bats and pterosaurs (flying reptiles) are fully developed flying animals, and there are no intermediates.  Perhaps this is because flight requires a whole suite of integrated structures, so they will either be fully flying or not flying at all.  Thus it is all or nothing – there were no forms that were partly flying and thus no intermediate fossils.  Other body forms, like amphibians and reptiles are not radically different in their structural requirements, and there can be a variety of types, not so different from each other.

In other cases there are fossils that seemed to be good intermediates, but new fossils changed the picture.  For example there are a number of forms considered to be transitional forms between fish and amphibians.  Then good fossil amphibian tracks were found lower in the geologic record, dating by radiometric methods at about ten million years older than any of the intermediates.  Whether or not it is assumed that the radiometric dates are valid, this leaves the interpretation of the intermediate fossils in question.

One more thing I have observed is that creationists and non-creationists emphasize the observations that fit their views best.  If a few fossils can be interpreted as evolutionary intermediates the creationists emphasize how little evidence there is for intermediates.  Meanwhile the non-creationists emphasize the presence of these intermediates and how important they are.  Neither of these conclusions is significant unless there is some type of quantitative evaluation of the abundance of intermediates.

The fossil record of presumed intermediates has puzzles and unanswered questions for everyone.  They don’t provide good reasons to change one’s views of the history of life.  The best approach is to wait and see what new evidence will turn up in time.

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Leonard Brand

Loma Linda University

April 2, 2014

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Change in Species – Biblical or Not?

Many kinds of animals appear designed for predation and violence, in contrast to what one would expect based on the biblical description of Edenic peace. It seems that animal species must have changed in major ways since the creation, but is this idea compatible with biblical teachings? Many people have asked this question, wondering whether changes in species point to evolution rather than creation. I will show here that change in species is a part of the biblical story and does not imply the general theory of evolution.

When God completed His work of creation at the end of the sixth day of that first week,[1] He declared that everything was very good. Plants were provided as food for the animals, so there was no need for predation, violence and suffering. This picture of an original peaceful kingdom contrasts sharply with what we observe in our world today, where every kind of animal seems engaged in a struggle for existence, resulting in conflict, injury, starvation, disease and death. Creationists have discussed this question for hundreds of years, and have proposed a reasonable general explanation.

As scientists have studied the mechanisms of inheritance in organisms, they have discovered that the genome seems designed to allow genetic variation. Biologists have tended to focus on mistakes in copying of genetic information, called mutations, to explain genetic variation. There is no question that mutations occur. However, calculations of the frequency of mutation, the proportion of beneficial mutations, and the probabilities of a beneficial mutation being preserved strongly suggest that mutations are an entirely inadequate explanation for the variation seen among organisms.[2] Some other mechanisms must be involved.

In recent decades, molecular biologists have discovered that genes are not, as was once believed, merely a simple sequence of nucleotides in a strand of DNA. Instead, genes are made up of subunits, called exons, that can be combined in different ways to produce different genes –  a process known as exon shuffling. A DNA sequence may interact with other sequences on the same or different chromosome. Reserve copies of genetic information may be used to correct errors when they do arise. Some evidence suggests that environmental signals may trigger gene interactions that result in beneficial genetic  changes. While some genetic changes appear to be random, others appear to be designed to be helpful to the survival of the species.

These advances in science have enabled creationists to come to a better understanding of how creatures that were originally designed for a peaceful environment could adjust and survive in a world where violence and predation are ubiquitous. Mechanisms for non-random, beneficial genetic changes suggest pre-planning and intelligent design, consistent with the biblical record of earth history. Such changes have enabled species to survive through environmental changes, but the mechanisms that enable helpful changes also make possible changes that result in violence and suffering.

Some creationists have objected to the idea that species might have changed significantly since the creation. One objection is that the Bible speaks of different “kinds” of animals, each of which should “reproduce after their own kind.” Indeed, the Bible does speak of different kinds of plants and animals. The account of creation day three indicates that different kinds of plants were created on that day. Likewise, the accounts of creation days five and six indicate that numerous kinds of organisms were created – filling the seas and sky with diverse kinds of creatures on the fifth day, and filling the land with diversity on the sixth day. However, the phrase “after their kind” is not referring to reproduction at all, but to creation – indicating a diversity of kinds that were created together. For example, the creation statement for the land animals is “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind” (Genesis 1:24). This is a statement about creation, not reproduction. The statement says nothing about whether the animals would or would not change. The point that is important in this discussion is that diversity was already present from the beginning of creation. It did not derive from long ages of cumulative changes in species.

People have always known that individuals of a species differ from each other, and can infer that this variation reflects differences based on changes from the parents of the individuals. However, the idea that such changes are not significant comes from Greek philosophy, not from the Bible. The Bible states that significant changes occurred as a result of sin. Among these changes are production of thorns and thistles and loss of limbs in snakes (Genesis 3). According to Romans 8,[3] the entire creation groans under the curse and is subject to decay, waiting for restoration.

Although some changes in species have resulted in violence and suffering, other changes have been beneficial. As animals dispersed across the surface of the earth after the flood, they would unavoidably encounter diverse habitats. In order to spread out across the earth’s surface, they must necessarily be able to adapt to different environmental conditions. Changes that facilitated such dispersal and adaptation to local environments would be beneficial changes. We see the results of this type of change in the different species of dogs, bears, cattle, mice and other types of creatures that are clearly closely related but live in different habitats. The process of change is beneficial in general, despite the distortion that sometimes resulted in violence.

There is nothing unbiblical about the idea that species have changed in significant ways. What is unbiblical is the notion that such changes are responsible for creating all the various kinds of plants and animals that populate our world. It seems clear that the major groups of organisms have separate origins, and have not evolved from a common ancestor. However, this does not mean that species have not changed significantly since the creation. We should re-examine the phrase “after its kind” and recognize that it refers to the creation of many different kinds of organisms during creation week, but does not address the question of whether they change or not. This biblical teaching of created diversity, followed by corruption due to sin, is incompatible with the general theory of evolution, but it does help explain how the diverse kinds of creatures that God created for a world without predation, violence and suffering could survive and provide the diversity of living organisms we all observe in our present world of violence and death.

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Jim Gibson

Geoscience Research Institute

March 17, 2014


[1] Genesis 1:31-2:1.

[2] Sanford, J. Genetic Entropy. Lima, NY: Elim Publishing, 2005.

[3] Romans 8:20-22.

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PROTOLOGY AND THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH: A BRIEF HISTORICAL SURVEY

The Adventist Church emerged during a historical period of great epistemological turmoil, especially relating to protology (i.e., the study of beginning––creation, the day of rest, and flood––Gen 1-11).[i] Since its establishment in 1863, Adventism has believed in biblical protology, but valued both the positive outcomes of the Enlightenment and Scriptural authority. The purpose of this essay is to trace how Adventists have maintained their belief in biblical protology since the inception of the church.[ii] Methodologically, I have chosen to create this short historical survey from the perspective of a dialogue between mainstream science and theology instead of approaching the subject from the perspective of warfare between mainstream science and theology.[iii]

A Brief Historical Background

In the years following the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the works of some key Enlightenment thinkers[iv] helped to unsettle the notion that the Christian church had the final word on which sources of knowledge were authoritative and should be embraced by society. First throughout Europe and subsequently in America, liberalism contributed to the spreading of the principles of the Enlightenment (i.e., rationalism and empiricism). Human reason and empirical data in a naturalistic framework became the norm to determine what should be considered true knowledge about protology.

In theology, liberalism facilitated the rejection of theological foundationalism in order to promote the principles of Enlightenment.[v] Thus, while the proponents of theological foundationalism insisted that Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) should be considered the moderator source to evaluate knowledge about protology, the proponents of liberalism insisted that human reason should have priority over Scripture as the source of true knowledge. Feeling the pressure that came from the proponents of liberalism, Friedrich Schleiermacher­­ suggested that the only way to preserve the significance of theology in epistemology was to accommodate the interpretation of Scripture to the findings of modern science.[vi] The theological world followed his lead.

According to Ronald Numbers, “by the late nineteenth century even [some of] the most conservative Christian apologists readily conceded that the Bible allowed for an ancient earth and pre-Edenic life.”[vii] By the year 1870, after American scientists accepted “the broad outlines of organic evolution,” Christian thinkers in America grew divided in relation to these issues,[viii] and by the end of the nineteenth century, three groups of Christians coalesced: the “liberal proponents of evolution” (LPE), who chose to embrace evolutionary theory;[ix] the “conservative opponents of evolution”[x] (COE); and the “conservative proponents of evolution” (CPE), who followed Charles Hodge’s advice to interpret Scripture in the light of modern science.[xi] With this context in mind, I consider this question: how did Adventists maintain their belief in biblical protology?

The Adventist Response

Adventism entered the scene of American religious life during a period of epistemological turmoil in the mid-nineteenth century when foundational beliefs about Scripture were under heavy attack. In relation to protology, German higher criticism helped to accelerate the spreading of Darwinism among Protestants and non-Protestants, and the biblical worldview of origins fell out of favor.[xii] Adventism, however, grew strong and sought to develop an epistemological understanding that embraced the acquisition of knowledge through reason while upholding Scriptural authority. Instead of adopting a method of accommodating the interpretation of Scripture to the interpretation of nature, or simply dismissing mainstream science as incompatible with the biblical view of creation, like fundamentalists did,[xiii] Adventism sought to embrace mainstream science and theology as complementary enterprises. Adventists perceive both nature and Scripture as God’s revelations to humankind, and believe that since both issued from the same author, they should agree.[xiv]

How did Adventists sought to embrace mainstream science and theology as complementary enterprises? On the one hand, Adventists have insisted repeatedly on the need for theology to be built upon the sola-tota-prima Scriptura principles, emphasizing that Scripture should be the rule of the Christian faith. Expressing her views on this subject, Ellen White wrote, “I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice.”[xv] For mainline Adventists, it is through Scripture alone that knowledge about the relationship of the natural and the supernatural realms coalesces intelligibly. And when addressing the question of how Christians should interpret the biblical account of creation, White said, “But the infidel supposition, that the events of the first week required seven vast, indefinite periods for their accomplishment, strikes directly at the foundation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. It makes indefinite and obscure that which God has made very plain.”[xvi] Ellen White believed that the biblical account of creation should be read and interpreted literally.

On the other hand, this literal interpretation of biblical protology did not mean that Adventists were alienated or unaware of the positive outcomes of the Enlightenment, or that mainstream science had brought new challenges for the students of Scripture. As a matter of fact, Adventist theologians noticed the importance of showing that the correct interpretation of Scripture through theology and of nature through science would show that Scripture and nature were in harmony.[xvii] Ellen White says:

God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high, and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science, but the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other.[xviii]

Building on this premise, George McCready Price[xix] recognized the challenges of the scientific evidence coming from geology, and proposed a two-stage biblical creation in an attempt to show how the biblical account of origin and the data collected from nature could be brought into harmony. In spite of rejecting the alleged sequence of the fossil record as proof for ancient life on earth and conclusive evidence for macroevolution,[xx] Price thought that the age of the rocks surrounding the fossils could be brought into harmony with a biblical concept of young life on earth. Price suggested in his theory of two-stage biblical creation that God had created the entire universe first (Gen 1:1), and then after eons had returned to give shape to the earth and to create life on earth.[xxi] Price explains:

And it may be well to remember that the record in Genesis has not put the least direct limit upon our imaginations in accounting for the manner of our world’s formation. It only says: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This, be it clearly understood, and as other writers have so clearly pointed out, was before the six days of our world’s creation proper began. The six literal days of creation, or peopling our world with life forms, begin with verse 3. . . . How long it had been formed before this we are not told, and whether by a slow or rapid process we have no information.[xxii]

In essence, while most conservative Christians had accepted that the Bible allowed for ancient inorganic matter and pre-Edenic life on earth,[xxiii] Adventists like Price insisted on preserving the integrity of the biblical text, and accepted only ancient inorganic matter on earth (not life). Price’s approach to biblical protology gave rise to what became known in America as “creation science.”[xxiv]

After Price, many Adventist scientists gained prominence among the COE. Among these scientists we find Harold W. Clark, Frank L. Marsh, Harold G. Coffin, Ariel A. Roth, L. James Gibson, and Arthur V. Chadwick. Due to space constraints, only some of the contributions made by Clark, Marsh, and Coffin will be described further.

Harold W. Clark (1891-1986) was the first SDA to earn a graduate degree in biology.[xxv] After spending time “studying glaciation in the mountains of the West,” Clark became convinced that “ice had once covered large portions of North America, perhaps for as long as fifteen hundred years after the flood.”[xxvi] Then, Clark introduced the theory of “ecological zonation,” arguing that this interpretation could work as “a substitute for the commonly accepted theory of geological ages. In other words, an ‘age’ of time would be replaced by a ‘stage’ of Flood action.”[xxvii] Ecological zonation proposes that whatever sequence there is in the fossil record “is due to the burial of ancient life zones or habitats that lived contemporaneously, and not to the succession of life throughout long ages of time.”[xxviii]

Besides introducing glaciation to Adventist views, Clark also thought that microevolution was compatible with biblical protology. Clark said, “When one considers these problems in relation to science and religion, he faces a perplexing situation.” On the one hand, there is “a voluminous literature assuming that . . . all change means evolution. This attitude is so generally accepted that anyone who dares deny the validity of the conclusions is branded as ignorant and uncultured.” And, on the other hand, there are those who let their antievolutionary convictions blind them to a point where they unjustifiably ignore most––if not all––“scientific data that one almost wonders if the accusations of the evolutionists against creationists might not be true.”[xxix] As a solution to the impasse, Clark pointed out how microevolution was a well-documented fact in hybridization, and that some were suggesting “it is possibly the only way new species are ever formed.”[xxx] Clark asks, “Should we believe that they [i.e., the different types of rabbits, sparrows, etc.] were all created just as they are now? No, it is rather easy to understand how variation within the Genesis ‘kind’ could have resulted in all these different species.”[xxxi]

Following in the footsteps of Clark, Frank Lewis Marsh (1899-1992) joined “in advocating post-Edenic speciation.”[xxxii] According to Numbers, Marsh “became the first Adventist to earn a doctoral degree in biology.”[xxxiii] Throughout his career, Marsh wrote about post-Edenic speciation and pled with his “‘brother fundamentalists’ not to equate limited variation with evolution.” Reviewing Marsh’s Evolution, Creation, and Science, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) wrote in the American Naturalist that “Marsh had written what he had previously thought to be impossible: a sensibly argued defense of special creation.”[xxxiv]

Another Adventist, Harold G. Coffin, made a great contribution with studies that ended up favoring a recent catastrophic event as the mechanism that shaped the earth’s surface. A paleontologist with a PhD from the University of Southern California, Coffin uncovered evidence in different parts of North America, Europe, and Asia that supported the biblical account of a global flood (Gen 6-8) a few thousand years ago.

For example, Coffin notices that the average rate of erosion (about one foot every 5,000 to 10,000 years) used by conventional geologists to explain the current configuration of the earth’s surface is insufficient to explain why tall mountains still exist in many locations around the globe. He explains that when applied conservatively––one foot every 5,000 years––the average rate of erosion should be responsible for eroding about one mile of sediments from the mountains every 25 million years. The bottom line is this: if gradual erosion is the mechanism responsible for the formation of the earth’s surface, a period of 10 to 20 million years should have turned tall mountains into low hills; since this is not the case, another mechanism––a global cataclysm––must have affected the surface of the globe in recent years. Coffin concludes, “Tall mountains, lakes not filled with sediments, and well-preserved fossils in their original burial sites indicate that the surface of the earth is not as old as frequently claimed.”[xxxv] These observations, among others, raise questions about whether the conventional geological time scale provides the best model to explain the formation of the earth’s surface.

Besides participating in the science and theology dialogue by presenting scientific evidence favoring a recent creation of life on earth and the recent formation of the earth’s surface through a global catastrophe, Adventists also have looked seriously at the biblical and theological evidence of the creation and flood. Some of the scholars who participated in these efforts are Richard M. Davidson, John T. Baldwin, Jacques Doukhan, Gerhard Hasel, Randal Younker, and Jiri Moskala. Again, due to space constraints, I will mention only some of the contributions made by Davidson and Baldwin.

As far as the biblical evidence goes, Richard M. Davidson has recently dealt with the question of the meaning of berēšît (“In the beginning”) in Genesis 1:1 from an exegetical standpoint. Davidson explains that when dealing with the biblical account of creation, questions have been raised in relation to the “when” of creation. To put this in the context of the science and theology dialogue, mainline scientists have rejected the biblical account of creation because conventional science requires deep time for the formation of inorganic matter on earth, and this seems to be in conflict with the biblical time scale.

Davidson, however, shows exegetically the harmony that exists between the book of Scripture and the book of nature. After a careful analysis of the Hebrew text, Davidson concludes that the biblical evidence favoring the absolute beginning of the universe (including inorganic matter on earth) sometime before the creation week is very persuasive. The biblical evidence he presents rests on the grammatical structure of berēšît (“In the beginning”), which, Davidson concludes, is better understood as an independent clause in the absolute state.[xxxvi] Davidson’s conclusion is remarkable, because it allows theologians and conventional scientists to agree that inorganic matter in the universe (including inorganic matter on earth) is very old, perhaps billions of years old, without compromising the literal interpretation of the days of creation in Genesis 1:3-2:4a.

From the theological point of view, John T. Baldwin has responded to the claim that associating the biblical account of a recent, literal, seven-day creation and a global flood with historical reality is a sacrifice of the intellect.[xxxvii] Baldwin shows in Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary that the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is far from being a sacrifice of the intellect: in fact, it is essential to maintain the univocity of the biblical metanarrative.[xxxviii] Baldwin, who won a John Templeton Foundation prize in 1994, explains that biblical eschatology is contingent to biblical protology. He insists that the language used to describe divine action in the latter (Gen 7:11, Exod 20:11) is implied in the former (Rev 14:7),[xxxix] which suggests the need for interpreters to preserve biblical univocity.

In addition, Baldwin has shown how the use of evolutionary theory to interpret the fossil record in the geological column undermines the biblical doctrine of atonement. This is because evolution places “death for seeming millions of years prior to the first human sin.”[xl] If this were true, death would be no longer a consequence of sin (Rom 5:12), but a necessary mechanism for progression. Consequently, the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross would be nothing more than a mere event in the history of Israel, without any theological meaning or value. How can theology address this problem? Baldwin says:

The global deluge geologically establishes the needed causal connection between human sin and all death by burying animals into the geological column subsequent to Adam’s sin, thus confirming the truth of the biblical claim that all death is the wage of sin. In this fashion God’s global flood corroborates the fact that the death of Jesus constitutes the wage of sin, one that he bore salvifically for human beings.[xli]

Conclusion

The epistemological turmoil of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is not over, and there is still much work to be done. Although mainstream science and theology have improved their understanding of their objects of study (i.e., nature and Scripture), the philosophical impasse between naturalism and supernaturalism continually insists that these two disciplines should not overlap. Yet Adventists have attempted to study nature and Scripture as overlapping magisteria.

Throughout the history of Adventism, Adventists have tried to establish a productive dialogue between mainstream science and theology. Their approach has been one that engages mainstream science and theology as companions, not as enemies, in the search for true knowledge.  For this reason, Adventists have refused to join Schleiermacher in claiming that science had proven wrong the biblical teaching of creation.[xlii] Instead, Adventists saw in this epistemological turmoil an opportunity for both mainstream scientists and theologians to seek greater knowledge about their fields, and to see how nature and Scripture complement each other. I think Leonard Brand explains the mainline Adventist approach well when he says, “We establish the most constructive relationship between science and religion when we allow findings in each of these fields of knowledge to challenge us to analyze the other more carefully.” Brand concludes, “I believe that this feedback process can improve our understanding of both fields. Conflicts between the two force us to dig deeper in both as we seek for genuine resolution that does not relegate either to a secondary role.”[xliii]

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Sergio L. Silva

SDA Theological Seminary (PhD Candidate)

January 20, 2014

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References

[i] After the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) the search for a foundation of knowledge intensified, causing many to renounce their belief that Scripture is a reliable source and a foundation of knowledge. This debate over whether Scripture or Science should be considered the ultimate source of knowledge is what I am delineating as the epistemological turmoil of the mid-nineteenth century.

[ii] The term “biblical protology” is a reference to the study of origins (creation, Sabbath, flood, etc.) as described in Genesis 1-11.

[iii] For information see Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 2 vols. (New York, NY: D. Appleton & Company, 1896).

[iv] E.g., (1) In 1605 A.D. Francis Bacon proposed to remove purpose from biological studies (Francis Bacon and Thomas Markby, The Advancement of Learning (London: Macmillan and Co., 1898); (2) In 1635 A.D. in Descartes’ famous turn to the subject (René Descartes and others, Discourse on Method, The Focus Philosophical Library (Newburyport, MA: Focus, 2007); (3) In 1748 A.D. Hume challenged miracles in David Hume and Charles William Hendel, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1st ed., The Library of Liberal Arts 49 (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill Educational, 1955). (4) In 1771 Semler separated the concept “Word of God” from Scripture in his On the Free Investigation of the Canon Joh Salomo Semler and Heinz Scheible, Abhandlung Von Freier Untersuchung des Canon, Texte zur Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte, Heft 5 ((Gütersloh): Mohn, 1967).

[v] For information on this discussion see Nancey C. Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda, Rockwell Lecture Series (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 11-35.

[vi] I will use the term “modern science” and “science” interchangeably to describe science as a discipline and not as a philosophical concept. Thus, science in this essay is a reference to the achievements of various scientific fields (e.g., medicine, cosmology, physics, etc.).

[vii] Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, 1st ed. (New York, NY: A. A. Knopf, 1992), x.

[viii] Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 180-181.

[ix] The “liberal proponents of evolution” (LPE) are individuals who choose to adopt “higher criticism” as part of their hermeneutical method to read and interpret the Bible. That implies that LPE’s theology is subjected to the propositions of science (as commonly understood). In this sense, the early chapters of Genesis, the biblical accounts of miracles, and the incarnation of Christ and his resurrection, were viewed as the product of Jewish culture instead of the product of inspired revelation.

[x] I use the term “conservative opponents of evolution” (COE) to refer to any individuals who choose to accept a simple, literal reading of the biblical account of creation. In this sense, when the text says, “for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth” (Exod 20:11), a COE understands that the creation week described in Genesis 1:3ff, occurred sometime six to ten thousand years ago, in a period of six literal, consecutive days, of approximately twenty-four hours. The conclusion of a short period of time since creation (6-10 thousand years) is based upon the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11.

[xi] The term “conservative proponents of evolution” (CPE) refers to any individual who accepts Darwinian evolutionary theory and claims to read the Bible on a literal fashion, but chooses to accommodate his/her views to whatever challenges science may bring to the literal reading of the biblical text. Thus, when the text says “in six days,” if the letter of the text conflicts with geological assumptions, for example, a CPE understands the word “day” (יומ) to render the meaning of a long age, accommodating the biblical text to geological assumptions.

[xii] Michael J. Oard and Tas Walker, Flood by Design: Receding Water Shapes the Earth’s Surface (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008), 20. Colin W. Mitchell, Creationism Revisited (Grantham: Autumn House, 1999), 17–33. Additional information on the history of the creation and evolution dialog can be found in John C. Greene, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought, rev. ed. (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1996). For a critical view on this subject, see Norman Cohn, Noah’s Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996).

[xiii] Raymond A. Eve and Francis B. Harrold, The Creationist Movement in Modern America (Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1991), 49. In relation to biblical protology, fundamentalists actively participate in the Young Earth Creationism movement (YEC). Independently of mainstream science providing reliable evidences in favor of an old universe, fundamentalists insist that because the genealogies in Scripture seem to account for the beginning of human life on earth some six to ten thousand years ago, that the entire galactic universe was created about the same time in six literal days. A good example of this theologically fundamentalist understanding is found in the belief statement of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), Principles of Scientific Creationism. It says: “The record of earth history, as preserved in the earth’s crust, especially in the rocks and fossil deposits, is primarily a record of catastrophic intensities of natural processes, operating largely within uniform natural laws, rather than one of gradualism and relatively uniform process rates. There are many scientific evidences for a relatively recent creation of the earth and the universe, in addition to strong scientific evidence that most of the earth’s fossiliferous sedimentary rocks were formed in an even more recent global hydraulic cataclysm.” Institute for Creation Research, “Principles of Scientific Creationism,” Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/tenets/ (accessed April 10, 2012). Emphasis supplied. See also Institute for Creation Research, “Principles of Biblical Creationism,” Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/ tenets/ (accessed April 10, 2012).

[xiv] Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: Prolegomena (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2003), 191.

[xv] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, 3 vols. (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1958), 3:28.

[xvi] Ellen G. White, The Spiritual Gifts, 4 vols. (Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1858), 3:191.

[xvii] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1890), 114.

[xviii] White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 115. See also Gulley, Prolegomena, 192.

[xix] George McCready Price is the author of more than twenty books and dozens of articles. He is considered the founder of a worldwide movement known as creation science. For more information see Numbers, The Creationists, 72-101; Harold W. Clark, Crusader for Creation: The Life and Writings of George Mccready Price, A Destiny Book, D-110 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1966).

[xx] Macroevolution in the context of Darwinian evolutionary theory, suggests that simple life forms changed into complex life forms through a process of natural selection during millions of years.

[xxi] Thomas P. Arnold has compiled into one creation theory––entitled Two-stage Biblical Creation––that which he regards as the biblically supported arguments given by some ten theories (i.e., model) of creation. He has failed, however, to recognize the works and contributions made by Price as a key proponent and precursor of biblical creation in two stages. For more information see Thomas P. Arnold, Two Stage Biblical Creation: Uniting Biblical Insights Uncovered by Ten Notable Creation Theories (Arlington Heights, IL: Thomas Arnold Publishing, 2008), 339-426.

[xxii] George McCready Price, Outlines of Modern Christianity and Modern Science (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1902), 112. See also Richard M. Davidson, “The Biblical Account of Origins,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 14, no. 1 (2003). For a revised version of this article see Richard M. Davidson, “Genesis Account of Origins,” in UNKNOWN,  (Silver Springs, MD: Biblical Research Institute, Forthcoming).

[xxiii] Numbers, The Creationists, x.

[xxiv] Numbers, The Creationists, xi. See also Margaret Wertheim, “Does the Bible Allow for Martians?,” The New York Times (1996). http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/11/ weekinreview/does-the-bible-allow-for-martians.html (accessed 08/12/2013).

[xxv] Numbers, The Creationists, 123.

[xxvi] Numbers, The Creationists, 124.

[xxvii] Harold W. Clark, Fossils, Flood, and Fire (Escondido, CA: Outdoor Pictures, 1968), 58. For explanations on Clarks’ ecological zonation see, Clark, Fossils, Flood, and Fire, 51-60.

[xxviii] Clark, Fossils, Flood, and Fire, 59.

[xxix] Harold W. Clark, Genes and Genesis (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1940), 6-7.

[xxx] Clark, Genes and Genesis, 90, 91.

[xxxi] Harold W. Clark, Genesis and Science (Nashville, TN: Southern Publication Association, 1967), 13. See also Clark, Genes and Genesis, 60-106.

[xxxii] Numbers, The Creationists, 129.

[xxxiii] Numbers, The Creationists, 129.

[xxxiv] Numbers, The Creationists, 131.

[xxxv] Harold G. Coffin, Robert H Brown and L. James Gibson, Origin by Design, Revised ed. (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2005), 366-367.

[xxxvi] Others have claim that berēšît is a dependent clause in the construct state, and that it should be translated as “In the beginning, when. . . .” For more information see Richard M. Davidson, “Back to the Beginning: Genesis 1–3 and the Theological Center of Scripture,” in Christ, Salvation, and the Eschaton, ed. Daniel Heinz, Jirí Moskala and Peter M. van Bemmelen,  (Berrien Springs, MI: Old Testament Publications, 2009), Footnote #8, 9.

[xxxvii] John T. Baldwin, Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital to the Doctrine of Atonement (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000), 9.

[xxxviii] Baldwin, Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital to the Doctrine of Atonement, 22-25.

[xxxix] Baldwin, Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital to the Doctrine of Atonement, 19-23, 25-28.

[xl] Baldwin, Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital to the Doctrine of Atonement, 110.

[xli] Baldwin, Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital to the Doctrine of Atonement, 115.

[xlii] Friedrich Schleiermacher and Friedrich Lücke, On the Glaubenslehre: Two Letters to Dr. Lücke (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981), 61.

[xliii] Leonard Brand and David C. Jarnes, Beginnings (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2006), 7.

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