The role of catastrophes in scientific thinking

The cathedral was crowded; this was All Saints’ Day! Unexpectedly, the building started shaking and the parishioners tried to rush out through the arched entrance. Others were trying to escape from another church located on one side of the cathedral, while buildings several stories high rose ominously on the other side. Suddenly, moments later, the fronts of the churches and accompanying buildings came crashing down towards each other and buried all the poor souls gathered there.[i]

This was the famous Lisbon, Portugal earthquake of November 1, 1755, that destroyed over half of the town and much beyond. Three major tsunamis followed and fires burning for five days contributed to further destruction. The earthquake’s magnitude has been estimated at 8.7 and some suggest that on that day as many as 90,000 to 100,000 people perished in Europe and Africa. Its effects were unusually widespread, being noted even in the Caribbean region, thus involving three continents. While a few other larger earthquakes have been reported, the Lisbon earthquake is likely the most significant, especially because of its profound philosophical implications on humanity’s thinking. It came at a very critical time in western thought. Where was God? How could a beneficent loving God, who had sent His Son to save humanity, allow such a tragic event?

There is an abundance of literature that addresses the apparent conflict between God’s goodness and the presence of evil in the universe (theodicy).[ii] Among the more prevailing resolutions is the suggestion that (1) suffering is necessary in order for us to develop a good character. Related to this is the idea that (2) calamities such as earthquakes teach us that the principle of cause and effect prevails, the universe is rational, and good and evil have their consequences. Still another dominant view is that (3) God grants freewill, and we are allowed to make wrong choices that can have bad consequences. True freedom requires that evil be permitted. Since God has granted freewill in the universe, He is not responsible for the evil brought about by those who cause suffering in a great conflict between good and evil. (4) Others suggest that “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do!” That statement is too often correct, since the mass mortality of earthquakes could be dramatically reduced if we would construct stronger buildings. (5) The Bible suggests that God is involved in some catastrophes like the great Genesis flood. A loving God’s involvement is explained because it “grieved”[iii] God to bring on the catastrophic Genesis Flood, and He did it to save as many as He could of a humanity that had become “only evil continually.”[iv] In that context, the horrendous Flood was primarily the result of humanity’s wickedness—the consequence of the freewill that God has granted. (6) Some suggest that God is not directly involved in many natural disasters. The frequent earthquakes we experience, including the one in Lisbon, occur as the earth adjusts imbalances. The worldwide Genesis Flood could have caused a lot of imbalance in the crust of the earth that is still adjusting even today. Considering how intricate reality is, it is likely that several explanations are valid.

BIG CATASTROPHES

Lava Flow, Hawaii

FIGURE 1. Lava flowing on the island of Hawaii. Soon after this picture was taken, the tree in font of the flow suddenly burned up.

Catastrophes come in many forms and rates. One of the more exotic ones was the 1986 sudden release of a huge cloud of mainly carbon dioxide gas from Lake Nyos in Cameroon. The cloud replaced the air in the region, suffocating some 1700 people. Avalanches, landslides, hurricanes, and tornadoes (cyclones), occasionally take their toll. Likely, the most significant catastrophic agents are earthquakes, floods and volcanoes. One of my most memorable days was watching volcanic flows on the Island of Hawaii (Figure 1). I had never seen rocks form so fast! Lava pouring from fractures in India cover 500,000 square kilometers of the famous Deccan Volcanic Field, indicating widespread volcanic activity.[v] Water inundation tends to be very devastating. The greatest example is the Genesis Food that covered the whole world. Earthquakes can generate huge waves call tsunamis. In 2004, more than 250,000 perished in one day from a tsunami in southeast Asia.[vi] Waters behind the 100 meter high Teton Dam in Idaho eroded it down in less than two hours.[vii] Catastrophes like the Lisbon earthquake are commonly rapid events.

The degree of importance of catastrophes for the geologic history of the earth has been the basis of a long scientific controversy that involves deep time questions. Before the nineteenth century, in spite of the Enlightenment movement, most scientists[viii] believed the biblical account of beginnings, although there were some varied interpretations. The very dominant view was that there was a recent creation by God a few thousand years ago, followed by the catastrophic worldwide Genesis Flood. The abundant fossils, coming from the kind of organisms that live in the ocean, but that were so abundant in the high Alps of Europe, were interpreted as evidence of that astonishing Flood.

CATASTROPHES REJECTED

An earthquake like the one in Lisbon dramatically illustrates how rapidly some geologic changes can take place. However, just a few decades later, a few geologists were suggesting that things had gone on more slowly and for a much longer time than proposed by the biblical model of origins. In 1830 a seminal book appeared titled Principles of Geology. That book would lead to important changes not only in geological thinking, but for science in general. Written by Charles Lyell, it became very popular, running through 11 editions. One can get the gist of Lyell’s thinking from a letter he wrote to his colleague, the geologist Roderick Murchison. There he states that “no causes whatever have from the earliest time to which we can look back , to the present, ever acted but those now acting and … they never acted with different degrees of energy from that which they now exert.”[ix] The emphasis was on slow geologic changes over long geologic ages instead of rapid catastrophic changes.

Two major concepts came into conflict at this time. The traditional catastrophism view proposed that major catastrophes, usually of worldwide consequences, have been the primary agent in shaping the crust of the earth. A lot of time is not required. The new view, uniformitarianism, proposed that ordinary rates of change operating over very long periods of time, have been the important factors in forming the crust. Catastrophes are not important, but a very long time for slow changes is required. Catastrophism fits well with the Biblical model of origins, while uniformitarianism fits the model of slow development over eons of time. This new view blatantly challenged the truthfulness of the Bible. Was it not the true word of God? Much more than just geologic interpretations were at stake here.

At this same time, several geologists in England, some of whom had strongly supported the creation and Flood model of the Bible, started considering the need for long ages in the geologic layers. Also, as championed by Charles Darwin’s seminal Origin of Species, ideas about the gradual evolution of life forms over a very long time started to be accepted. Catastrophism became the equivalent of a dirty word. It was in the same category as creationism finds itself in the scientific community today: totally unacceptable. Interpretations involving major catastrophes were not allowed. Uniformitarianism won and became dogma for well over a century.

CATASTROPHES REACCEPTED

However, all was not well. Study of the rocks revealed facts that seemed to require catastrophism. In 1923, the geologist Harlan Bretz from the University of Chicago, was studying the scoured southeast quarter of the state of Washington. There was evidence of hundreds of ancient waterfalls, some of them 100 meters high (Figure 2), and lots of other evidence for catastrophic activity.

FIGURE 2. Dry Falls, one of the hundreds of ancient falls noted by Harlan Bretz in the Channeled Scablands of southeastern Washington sate. The water flowed from left to right across the picture, eroding a huge channel beyond the view to the right.

FIGURE 2. Dry Falls, one of the hundreds of ancient falls noted by Harlan Bretz in the Channeled Scablands of southeastern Washington sate. The water flowed from left to right across the picture, eroding a huge channel beyond the view to the right. Water spilled over the 100 meter cliff to the left, creating the huge plunge pool in the middle were water now stands.

Bretz dared to suggest in a geological publication[x] that a major, short lived catastrophic flood had produced this washed out landscape. But catastrophes were not allowed. To adopt a model so close to the biblical Flood[xi] implied retreating back to the “Dark Ages.” In Bretz’s own words, “the heresy must be gently but firmly stamped out.”[xii] Bretz needed special attention from his colleagues, and was offered a hearing before the Geolgocal Society of Washigton, DC. A phalanx of doubters were present to challenge the flood hypothesis. After Bretz’s detailed report, five members of the prestigious United States Geological Survey presented objections to the flood model. Two of them had not even visited the study area! Apparently, no one at the meting changed their minds, but in succeeding years more and more data from the rocks that supported Bretz’s view was discovered, and the views of this modern day Noah and his likewise unwanted flood were vindicated. For his careful work and bravery, Bretz was later awarded the Penrose Medal, the United States’ most prestigious geological award.

Another problem arose along the southern California coast. Layers of sedimentary rock, both on land (Figure 3) and offshore, showed shallow water features and fossils mixed with deep water fossils found only hundreds of meters down in the ocean.[xiii]

FIGURE 3. Layers of turbidites above Santa Paula Creek, near Santa Paula, California. Each turbidite, which consists of several layers, is in the decimeter thickness range, and was laid down by a single turbidity current.

FIGURE 3. Layers of turbidites above Santa Paula Creek, near Santa Paula, California. Each turbidite, which consists of several layers, is in the decimeter thickness range, and was laid down by a single turbidity current.

How could that be if everything was laid down slowly under quiet conditions? Furthermore, experiments in the laboratory had shown that mud flowing under water, called a turbidity current, could travel rapidly down slope, resulting in complex characteristic deposits called turbidites (Figure 4). In Figure 3, each turbidite is in the decimeter range in thickness, and several layers are usually laid down by a single turbidity current. Deposits from a single turbidite can sometimes reach 200 meters in thickness. The mystery of the shallow and deep water sources found in the same layer is resolved if, along the southern California coast, you had turbidity currents flowing from a shallow shoreline source to a deep locality where deep water organisms were picked up into the flow.

FIGURE 4. Process of turbidite formation. Turbidites are only formed under water. In this illustration a mud source to the left, flows down the slope towards the right as a turbulent density current. As it settles to the right, different turbidite configurations can be formed, usually consisting of several to many layers.

FIGURE 4. Process of turbidite formation. Turbidites are only formed under water. In this illustration a mud source to the left, flows down the slope towards the right as a turbulent density current. As it settles to the right, different turbidite configurations can be formed, usually consisting of several to many layers.

All of this occurred around the middle of the Twentieth Century, and at that same time details of an earlier major turbidity current flow into the North Atlantic Ocean were being worked out. An earthquake along the maritime provinces of eastern Canada loosened a lot of sediment on the edge of the continental shelf, and that sediment flowed down as a turbidity current unto the abyssal plain at the foot of the continental slope. The flow ran into the hulk of the Titanic that had been there since 1912. The turbidity current also broke a number of transatlantic cables lying on the floor of the ocean. One could tell where the head of the flow was when the cables quit transmitting messages; and calculations indicated rates of travel of over 100 kilometers per hour. The turbidity current took about 13 hours to extend out 700 kilometers from its source. The resulting one meter thick turbidite had an estimated volume of 100 cubic kilometers, covering an area of 100,000 square kilometers.[xiv] The turbidite concept quickly gained momentum, and just two decades later it could be stated that “tens of thousands of graded beds stacked on top of one another have been interpreted as turbidites.”[xv]

THE DEEP MEANING

What happened during the middle of the 20th Century, is that significant data was plainly indicating that the strict uniformitarianism stance of the geologic community was wrong. Gradually other geologists dared to suggest other catastrophic interpretations, including the suggestion that an asteroid hit the earth and killed off the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period.[xvi] Based mainly on data from the rocks, catastrophism was making a dramatic return. This change has been identified as “a great philosophical breakthrough”[xvii] and it was acknowledged that “the profound role of major storms through out geologic history is becoming increasingly recognized.”[xviii] The new catastrophism is a little different from the classical catastrophism where the biblical Genesis Flood dominated. Now major catastrophes are accepted, but often a lot of time is postulated between them, thus accommodating the long geologic ages concept.

There is a deep lesson to be learned from the turbulent history of the catastophism concept of the scientific community. First catastrophism was the accepted view, then the concept was expelled from acceptable interpretations, only to be reaccepted 130 years later. The complex sociological and psychological reasons for such changes are beyond simple analysis, but we can still learn from what happened. Once a concept is thoroughly rejected by the scientific community, this does not mean that it is wrong, furthermore this does not mean the scientific community will not readopt it. While science is worthy of qualified respect, reality is above humanity’s drifting opinions.

______________________________________________________________

Ariel Roth

Loma Linda, CA

February 1, 2015

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NOTES

[i] For details of this infamous event, see Chapter 1 in Shrady N. 2008. The Last Day. New York: Viking.

[ii] For five references, see note 4 on page 321 of: Roth AA. 1998. ORIGINS: Linking science and scripture. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association. For a discussion of suffering, specifically in the biological realm, see the end of DISCUSSION No. 3, of the Bible and Science series, in the author’s web page: www.sciencesandscriptures.com.

[iii] Genesis 6:6.

[iv] Genesis 6:5.

[v]http://www.portal.gsi.gov.in/portal/page?_pageid=127,689645&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL. (Viewed 1/1/2015)

[vi] http://www.tsunami2004.net/tsunami-2004-facts/. (Viewed 1/1/2015)

[vii] http://www.usbr.gov/pn/about/Teton.html . (Viewed 1/1/2015)

[viii] At that time, those who studied nature were called natural historians or natural philosophers instead of scientists.

[ix] From Chapter 2 of the book: Hallam A. 1983. Great Geological Controversies. New York: Oxford University Press.

[x] Bretz JH. 1923. The Channeled Scablands of the Columbia Plateau. Journal of Geology 31:617-649.

[xi] A few geologists have suggest several flood events. Most of those who endorse the biblical model do not equate Bretz’s flood with the Genesis Flood, but consider it a more recent flood associated with ice age activity.

[xii] Bretz JH, Smith HTU, Neff GE. 1956. The Channeled Scabland of Washington: new data and interpretations. Geolgical Society of America Bulletin 67:957-1049.

[xiii] Natland ML, Kuenen PhH. 1951. Sedimentary history of the Ventura Basin, California, and the action of turbidity currents. Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists Special Publication 2:76-107; Phleger FB.1951. Displaced foraminifera faunas. Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists Special Publication 2:66-75.

[xiv] For details and leading references see: Roth AA. ORIGINS: Linking Science and Scripture, Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, p 216-217.

[xv] Walker RG. 1973. Mopping up the turbidite mess. In: Ginsburg RN, editor. Evolving concepts in sedimentology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, p 1-37.

[xvi] Alvarez LW, et al. 1980. Extraterrestrial causes for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. Science 208:1095-1108.

[xvii] Kauffman E, as quoted in Lewin R. 1983. Extinctions and the history of life. Science 221:935-937.

[xviii] Nummendal D. 1982. Clastics. Geotimes 27(2):23.

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62 Responses to The role of catastrophes in scientific thinking

  1. SULEIMAN NUHU YUSUPH says:

    The church building as well believers are not excluded from the catastrophes. scientist believed that the catastrophe in genesis was God catastrophe which is accepted with the scripture. under that note some of the scientists accept what is been written in the scripture. this has given me a positive insight.

  2. Musa Erasto says:

    The article by Ariel Roth, had cultivated a my positive interest on the role of catastrophes in Science thinking, whereby there are evidences in different perspective such as heavy earthquakes, hundreds of ancient waterfalls, tsunami, and big catastrophes which evidences towards the global flood and other worldwide catastrophic activity. Real this is a good and recommendable article.

  3. ONESMO MABULA DANIEL says:

    It is very significant to let people know that catastrophe affects both Christians and non Christians.
    Therefore there is a need to get connected with God even if the catastrophe happen like that of genesis mentioned in the article we can be safe as Noah with his family.

  4. MASEREKA B. PAUL says:

    Though God is not the author of these catastrophes, it may be because of sin,but they can help some reasoning scientists to acknowledge God’s intervention during the flood thus refuting the view that natural laws cannot change.

  5. DANIEL MABULLA ONESMO says:

    To get connected with God is an important thing because the world today even before completely is full of dangers called catastrophe that can occur in different way,such as earthquakes, flood and more. God’s side is salvation as we remember Noah’s experience.

  6. NDAGIJIMANA Daniel says:

    Catastrophes are real though some people to some extent reject the reality. No body should question God for what happens instead we need to humble ourselves respect the laws of nature that pertain to conserving it to avoid unnecessary calamities. May God help us fix our eyes to Heaven where peace will endure for ever.

  7. Lexson Small John Meseka says:

    In this article, I read of some major calamities such as Lisbon earthquake which claims tens of thousands, major tsunamis, landslides, hurricanes etc. They are believed to be significant because they carry a profound philosophical implications. As such, the hand of God is in it to teach some lessons. It has been accepted by scientists as catastrophism view proposed. I was impressed by reading this article.

  8. What is more interesting to me here, is the re-acceptance of Catastrophes by current geologists.Also, Bretz awarded with the Penrose Medal by the Most United States prestigious geological award, is a good sign that very soon, may be, scientists will accept also the hypothesis of flood catastrophe. Also with the succession of many kinds of Catastrophes, nowadays, is a call to humanity for developing a good character.

  9. John ojung'a says:

    catastrophes are very sad tragedies when they strike.It defeats my understanding on the person to blame when they happen.Is God loosening some winds to make the remnant of catastrophe learn a lesson? Or are things out of balance on earth for such things to happen…? Science may have a lot to tell upon studies but only God has last answer for catastrophes.

  10. Isacka Ndaruhekeye says:

    The article is so interesting, Ariel Roth has shown clear and valid reasons about the catastrophic understanding of the events happened since creation. The uniformitarianism kind of understanding of the occurrence of the events seems to lose its fame. The observations and reasoning of the author about the catastrophe of the events agree with the biblical teachings about what happened in the past and what is happening now.

  11. Benjamin Ngalam says:

    Christians are not exempted in the effect of catastrophes. Some people tend to wonder how a good God allows situation like that. The idea that catastrophes are the conflict between God’s goodness and the presence of evil in the universe, it may be considered after think on how our wrong choices can lead us in that consequences. There are so many lessons to learn through catastrophes events. And those who affected let us not rush to judge them negatively or to blame God.

  12. Kamandi Ferdinand says:

    Scientific thinking on the role of catastrophes is varied. From this Article It argued that catastrophes come as a result of inattention, lack of good character, punishment from God , misuse of God given freedom of free will. Catastrophes are real and attract people to the knowledge of their real causes.

  13. Rukundo Isaie says:

    The catastrophes like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, illness, death, and others are some of the events that must not miss on the earth because they are the consequences of sin. they happen as the punishment or as a lesson to others so that they may change their character. After the fall God said to Adam…. Cursed is the ground because of you;Gen 3:17NIV. Although the scientists are discovering different things they must not deny everything by using their psychological analysis.

  14. I gained insight from this article, catastrophe has a world wide effect, this is majorly cause by earthquake, flood, and Volcano.Their occurrence bring changes to the shape of the earth. For there is the principle of cause and effect. So, some scientist consider the long age in geologic layers formation, and origin of species the gradual evolution of life are part of this happenings. As such catastrophe become a fearful event.

  15. Zetti Batista Ndolah says:

    Although some scientists geologists do not accept the reality of catastrophes by using different scientific and philosophies, there are many evidences which shows that they are real happening in every day life. What is needed is to be humble and accept that there is a supernatural power that is above all human scientific understanding controlling the world. It is important to respect science because it helps to know the wonderfulness of God, but honer and glory be to God the controller of all universe.

  16. BEATUS GREYSON MLOZI says:

    Endurance matters a lot the truth will at last stand! Once a concept is thoroughly rejected by the scientific community, this does not mean that it is wrong, further more this does not mean the scientific community will not readopt it. While science is worthy of qualified respect, reality is above humanity ‘s drifting opinion. The author has tremendously blessed my heart.

    • Mutimanwa Tchaka Dieudonne says:

      The article talk about catastrophes at many places of the world that can appear as an break out volcano, an earthquake or a tsunami. People try to make God responsible of the catastrophes but this not real; a part the flood that God allowed to save the humanity that was going continual in the evil, catastrophes can be caused by the earth adjusts imbalances. The author shows how some geologists reject the Biblical theory of Flood but efforts that are made by Christians geologist to justify the fact are appreciable. We congratulate Bretz who defend the case before the United States’ geological award.

  17. Daniel Kimoti says:

    How challenging can scientists who rely on empirical studies fail to acknowledge instant catastrophes even after they happen before their own eyes? The devastation and havoc caused by the Lisbon earthquake, the recent 2004 Tsunami in Asia, how can they be alluded to gradual long time gradual events? It is encouraging that this theory is fast vanishing after Bretz”s findings. Scientists should approach every study with an open mind rather than being tied to Darwinian old theories.

  18. This article is helpfull to me. That is interest in it is to see how geologic researchers are dealing to discover the evidence of biblical story of universal flood. We must have faith to the divine intervention in the world. The uniformitarianism theory of slow geological changes over long geologic ages must not deny the catastrophic theory sustained by the Bible and recent geologic discovers.

  19. I appreciate the scientists for trying to answer the why? When? and How? questions,but the reality is that God’s interventions always to bring turbulent. the geological uniformitarianism principle has not been reliable. As Bible readers we see a virgin giving birth, a cursed tree dieing, Peter walk on water-law of gravity doesn’t work, Israelites dying in numbers, and the flood case. God who established the natural laws has power over the when he wants to do something in the universe. The challenge comes to those who don’t believe in God.

  20. Samson Onyango says:

    The issue of catastrophes can not be overlooked this are events that have been into the world from the days of Noah when people were only thinking about sin, catastrophes remind mankind that finally the world will come to an end. As we know wages of sin is death and the gift of God is eternal life. so catastrophes are results of sin to everyone, the righteous and unrighteous, it is also signs of nearing the second coming of Christ. final they are rapid not slow that is why you can find focils in the rocks that were buried rapidly.

  21. Ssenuuni Daniel says:

    Roth’s article is very important because, it is possible to know God, if we base our knowledge and trust Him according to His word. The Bible gives evidence that, He is the supreme God. As Catastrophic changes occur we still marvel the able hand of God. It is good from a scientific point of view that, scientists have seen some discoveries and agreed corresponding to the Biblical account. I am so moved by this article because it has good message.

  22. Jeliko J. Kasiba says:

    God is love, always wants His people to love with free will, not by fearing some thing to happen. Catastrophes like earthquake, tsunami etc, is ready to occur any time. We need to prepare our life all the time, because we don’t know what type of catastrophes and when will crept to us. This scientific thinking, is bringing us more closer to think about what is written in the bible.

  23. Daniel Ochar Ndiegi says:

    Go made man with freewill of choice. Some of the bad choices he made may have been the cause of the cosmological catastrophes such as the global flood, earthquakes,tsunami etc, as the bible says”God has made man up right,but they sought out many schemes”(Ecc 7: 29 ). Although scientists do not believe in some occurrences of the catastrophes but historical and scientific evidences prove the reality.

  24. Msafiri Isaac Mtenzi says:

    It has been a good experience to learn that,the geologists who rejected the concept of catastrophism and hence rejecting the catastrophe that took place during Noah’s day, are now are now realizing that catastrophism can be a reality. We see, that time can also tell. I am glad that in this matter science and the bible have met. Events like the earthquake of Lisbon, tsunami and other modern catastrophes are indications that these things happened even in the past. I understand that, there are some issues that are not yet to be understood at the moment but one day they will be known. The word of God will stand forever.

  25. Okello Robinson Ogwal says:

    The world has experienced a number of catastrophic events. Geologists have explained it in the past that natural events were responsible for formation of the current earth situations through very slow and gradual processes. However, Christian scientists have proved with tremendous scientific evidences that it was a catastrophe responsible and many are now accepting. Nevertheless, nature is also responsible to some extent.

  26. Richard Rusoke says:

    There are questions asked by a human being why things happen the way they happen and will never get correct answers from their fellow human beings(theodicy).Geologists have reasons and factors where they base to explain catastrophic events and have limitations.God uses nature to show his justice,majesty power and his creative authority and no natural law that is above him.

  27. Lutebekela Amos says:

    Catastrophic agents like earthquakes, floods, and volcanoes, depicted by the author of the article Ariel Roth; should be the tragic events reminding humanity how this world is not conducive for stay. They are the ringing bell, calling humanity to look upon God for salvation.

  28. Joseph Lusega says:

    When sin permitted in this world, people separated by God, Catastrophes like accidents, flood earthquakes and death occurs. Some geologists try to explain by using their own theories and other Scientists theories and put God aside. But we thank God, Others believe that catastrophes beyond the knowledge of man must be intervened by God the Creator of the earth.

  29. Habte Angaw Getahun says:

    I learned from the reading catastrophe can happen in the interaction of God, or it can happen within the consequences of evil did of in the universe, when the human kind violets the natural law. The other thing is that the strict uniformitarianism stance of the geologic community was wrong; because uniformity is not always worked constantly it differs from situation to situation

  30. Philip M. Ndikumwami says:

    According to the article, catastrophes have been viewed as agents in shaping the crust of the earth, this being one of their roles. Catastrophism fits well in the Biblical mode of origins. This is different from uniformitarianism which takes the model of slow development over a aeons of time the idea which challenges the Biblical truths.

  31. Paskwale Pacoto Okeny says:

    The attempts by scientists to accept that earthquakes, flood and volcanoes as being catastrophic has been challenged for long. Uniformitarianism had won the approval of many scientists for over 130 years. It was a matter of time: when you started something good though many opposed keeps on; you may be a little light in the midst of darkness. Such was the experience of geologist Hartan Bretz. who stood for the concept of catastrophism, and latter on was awarded for his hard work.

  32. Ilunga wazenga Emile says:

    For me the problem of catastrophism is not about traditional or new view but it is about the consequence of sin and God is not responsible for that. since sin entreated the world, it permitted all kind of event on the world and all catastrophic events are possible.

  33. BANI, JACOB FRUNGUS RANGO says:

    Though the degree of importance of catastrophes for the geologic history of the earth has been basis of a long scientific controversy, with all these stratification of rocks, and the sequence of fossils therein, evidence of sudden geological changes and episodes of extinctions caused by catastrophes such as massive volcanic outpouring , violent earth-quakes, widespread flooding provided an explanation that could be only attributed to divine intervention as result of sin. The author has put it right.

  34. Robert Young Marcello says:

    I think the reacceptance of Catastrophism 130 years later could prove that not only the Biblical account is trustworthy but also the long scientific controversy on time questions could be avoided because Catastrophism could fit well with the Biblical model of origins. The catastrophes do not require a lot of time in shaping the crust of the earth; and still God cares despite its profound implications on human lives.

  35. Leonard Tumbu Njoye says:

    Neither catastrophism nor uniformitarianism can be whole reliable in giving us the origins of this planet earth. None of these two can reliably explain what happened in the genesis flood. There is a sense in which each may be true and another in which each may be altogether untrue. No wonder catastrophism came at first and gained the scientific strength. But scientists got reasons to cast contempt on it. Yet some of them have embraced it again. In case of earth’s origins both catastrophism and uniformitarianism may be essentially wrong. God created our planet wholly differently. He alone knows better how he did it. While science has many good things to give to us, we may have full trust in what the bible provides even if it may not be acceptable in any scientific channels of doing things.

  36. Duandro Katchuraki John says:

    The catastrophe event is not only for who do not believe in God but it is the business of all of us. If the science is investigated to know his effect deeply it is for our advantage because it is a danger for our planet Earth where we as long as we breathe again. As his effect is harmful for us no one is free as it was the case in Europe and Africa during the time of Lisbon catastrophe. So it cannot discourage us to our God as long as He direct all event in the nature.

  37. Mulugu Fataki Fidèle says:

    The role of catastrophes as I read it, catastrophes when they touch humans and kill some among them, those who remain alive ask so many questions to know where God was, and why He allows this? God is not far from us, but those events help us to remember that this world is woeful one, we have the world where we shall be without pain. All these tragedies will not be there, and God will rejoice his people for ever.

  38. NIYONIZIGIYE EPIMAQUE says:

    This article is an eye opener for those who put all their trust in Science and reject the revelation from the Bible. Sometimes, Scientists may go astray regarding some realities, and follow their opinions. Therefore, I do believe in classical catastrophism of the Bible flood, rather than a uniformitarianism requiring millions and billions of years for a geological formation to take place.

  39. Duandro Katchuraki John says:

    The catastrophe event is not only for who believe in God but it is the business of all of us. If the science is investigated his effect deeply it is in our advantage because it is a danger for our planet Earth where we live as long as we breathe again. As his effect is harmful for us so no one is free as it was the case in Europe and Africa during the time of Lisbon catastrophe. So it cannot discourage us to our God as long as He direct all event in the nature.

  40. Nelson Olum says:

    After reading the article on “The Role of Catastrophes in Scientific Thinking.” I conclude that neither Christians nor Scientists would prefer sudden disaster of immense proportions that has severe consequences, often accompanied by destruction of assets and loss of life.However,both have a lot to say but the answer remains with the supernatural being.

  41. Kilunda itengo says:

    This article is helpful to me. However, according to me the catastrophe is the result of the sin. Being christian or not does not exclude the catastrophe to strike people. God is not the author of the catastrophe but the sin that we have done provoke the different catastrophe. I am happy to see the scientist for trying to answer the different questions for example why, when, and How.

  42. Olivier Kayitare says:

    Having read this article what is interesting to me is that the Noah’s flood story is real. The rest is the interpretation conflict about rate, duration, space covered, what is the causer,… of catastrophic and i think that the conflict will always be there as well as the researchers are doing their work.

  43. Hindi, William Kabi Oliver says:

    In the article, I read that catastrophes are real, especially such as tsunamis,earthquakes though they are bad God’s hands are still there so as to teach us some lessons. though the scientists may have many things to tell and prove for studies,they have limitations but interesting has the finally answers for all the catastrophes.

  44. Godebo Negash Petros says:

    Number of assumptions are posted from the article as the response of catastrophic calamities from the earth quack, flood and other volcanic eruptions. However, non of them are fall on the position of Biblical position. These all calamities are happening as the result of fall on sin. on the other hand the assumption of uniformitarianism is totally opposes the truthfulness of the Biblical. in both cases God is there to control all according to His power.

  45. Elizabeth Khonje says:

    According to the reading, I have noticed that catastrophes like floods, earthquakes and deaths among others take place on earth. I trust that they all started after the fall of man as a consequence of sin. Catastrophism is equated to a dirty word, and categorized as creationism finding itself in the scientific community today: totally unacceptable. At the end of it all God will intervene and end up all catastrophes.

  46. Micah Agalo says:

    I have learnt through this article we need to see the power of God through the natural calamities as the earthquakes.Humanbeings however learned cannot provide any solution to the problems of man.God is ever in control.

  47. Niyonagira Alexis says:

    I was taken catastrophes on the negative side only because they are among the consequences of sin. Now I discovered that they can play a role to facilitate scientists to believe in God. The author shows how the study on catastrophes can lead us to think about the past and present in the biblical perspective. A good understanding on this allows also to think that end of this world is really sure.

  48. Genemo Geda Turi says:

    I grasped great lesson from this article. It is believed that God is slow to anger, yet there is a limitation of patience to distract pride of natural man. I remember the time of day of Noah when “everything on earth that breathed died” universally at the time when Lord saw “how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time.” The same will be the fate of the scientific community and the rest generation if they do not follow God’s will.

  49. Joseph Mogaka Nyasani says:

    I personally concur with Ariel Roth’s opinion against uniformitarianism and Darwin’s scientific concepts which indicates that all catastrophes are as a result of gradual development over eons of time, thereby challenging the trustworthiness of the Bible’s explanation of the flood as a God’s instantaneous punishment of the antediluvian because of their wickedness. Off course catastrophes come as a result of gradual breaking of the environmental laws. Nevertheless, the flood phenomenon does not fit this school of thought. It should be remembered that though a concept may be thoroughly rejected by scientists does not mean that it is wrong, for it may be re-accepted later on with further research. Therefore while science is worthy of qualified respect, reality is above humanity’s drifting opinions.

  50. Muvunyi Charles says:

    As human being we always asked, “If God is so good, why is his world so bad? If an all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-just, and all-powerful God is running the show, why does he seem to be doing such a miserable job of it”? Geologists have used their intelligence to explain the catastrophic manifested in this earth; but we know that as human being, our reasons have limitations. If there are situations like this where we must trust even fallible human beings with our lives, where we must trust what we hear, not what we see, then it is reasonable that we must trust the infallible, all-seeing God; but do not see from our reason or experience. We cannot know all God’s reasons.

  51. HESBON OMUNE says:

    This article by Ariel Roth is very interesting ,for it is clear that catastrophes have been experienced in parts of the world from times memorial. The earthquakes, hurricanes ,tsunamis ,have killed many thousands of people like the Lisbon earthquake cited here.Some have associated the divine hand of God dealing with sin in such catastrophes like the Genesis Flood.Yet no one can say explicitly that God is directly involved in many natural disasters. Due to our limitations we may not understand ,probably scientific explanations may be given room but some will be divinely revealed in the future eternal life.However, there is a lesson to be learned from this turbulent history of catastrophic events as Roth puts it. It may be a warning sign to the people dwelling in the world.

  52. Fromsa Gadisa Mute says:

    It is interesting to see that after along rejection the role of catastrophes in science has got recognition by modern scientists. it acceptable because it depicts that change has occurred in nature and that notion is contrary to the notion of uniformitarianism and catastrophes also gives evidence to the involvement of supernatural act through the law of nature like global flood in Genesis.

  53. HESBON OMUNE says:

    This article by Ariel Roth is very interesting ,for it is clear that catastrophes have been experienced in parts of the world from times memorial. The earthquakes, hurricanes ,tsunamis ,have killed many thousands of people like the Lisbon earthquake cited here.Some have associated the divine hand of God dealing with sin in such catastrophes like the Genesis Flood.Yet no one can say explicitly that God is directly involved in many natural disasters. Due to our limitations we may not understand ,probably scientific explanations may be given room but some will be divinely revealed in the future eternal life.However, there is a lesson to be learned from this turbulent history of catastrophic events as Roth puts it. It may be a warning sign to the people dwelling in the world.

  54. RUTTOH JOHN says:

    The reality in geological time has been grossly misrepresented on the walls of contemporary science by deceptive shadows of evolutionary uniformitarian time value. But catastrophes which are taking place more rapidly are indicators that life on earth is not always the same. Again there is enuogh indication that there is one who is in control of events on earth.

  55. Evans Mong'are Ooga says:

    The article by Ariel Roth about catastrophes is timely trying to address how and why they occur. when these catastrophes happen, earthquakes, floods, tsunami they get all people believers and unbelievers alike. Can we blame God for them? this is a good article to read, to know where science places these catastrophes and God.

  56. Douglas Agoga O says:

    Catastrophic events are real events and cannot be disputed or be dismissed so easily. Avalanches, landslides, hurricanes, and tornadoes (cyclones), occasionally take their toll. Likely, the most significant catastrophic agents are earthquakes, floods and volcanoes. When this things happen God is fully aware of all these catastrophes.

  57. aruya peter ontiri says:

    There is a great need to learn from the document that the catastrophes that have happened before do not support the gradual rather a long time geological formation. Right from the biblical flood, the Lisbon earthquake, all are against the long time geological formation. I am in support of the fact that the formation of geological layers as expressed did not take a long time to form.

  58. That catastrophe could be dropped and readopted after 130 years is once again a confirmation of the supremacy of the divine over finite humans who in this case were forced to swallow the bitter pie over Noah flood. A good job by Dr Roth there

  59. Paul Mageto says:

    There is a deep lesson to be learned from the turbulent history of the catastophism concept of the scientific community.Major catastrophes are accepted, but often a lot of time is taken between them, thus accommodating the long geologic ages concept. One thing is clear, suffering is necessary in order for us to develop a good character and God is fully aware and still loving.

  60. JAKECH TUKIKO OTIENO says:

    It has not been understood how the loving God could allow almost 250000 to lose their lives as a result of Tsunami,likewise most of the Kenyans ask where was God when the Alsabab massacred the Garrisa university and killed 147 Kenyans. These catastrophe God allows so that we may actually know that he cares Despite the odds that we shall continue to experience so that we can understand the magnitude of evil, and what disobedience has caused to humanity. In God’s agenda death was not His vocabulary.but immortality was conditional if at all he chose obedience.otherwise God does not have bad plans with us see Jer.29:11,1Thess.5:16-18.

  61. Pingback: What is the evidence for a large asteroid impact at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary? | Geoscience News

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