Posted by: paulgarner | October 25, 2010

The top five challenges for creationist geology

Over the five decades since The Genesis Flood was published, creationist geology has made real progress. We now have the outlines of a comprehensive Flood model in catastrophic plate tectonics (CPT), a model for the post-Flood ice age, and we’ve even made some advances in our understanding of radiometric dates, regional metamorphism and granite plutonism. However there’s still a lot more to do. Here’s my list of the top five areas of creationist geology that need more attention and work. I’m sure you can think of others.

  1. Solving the heat problem. Billions of years worth of nuclear decay occurring in a few months (as proposed by the RATE project) would have generated enough heat to melt the earth’s crust. Add to this the total replacement of the ocean floor by catastrophic plate tectonics, the cooling of large igneous plutons, the thermal effects of extraterrestrial impacts during the Flood, and you can see the difficulty. This is a significant and, as yet, unresolved problem for young-age creationist geology. Can we find a mechanism (preferably not ad hoc) that would have allowed this heat to be removed or dissipated in some way?
  2. Explaining biostratigraphy. Creationists have proposed that much of the fossil record represents the sequential preservation of ecological communities during the Flood. But detailed reconstructions of what those communities were like and how they were transported and buried have yet to be developed. Kurt Wise has made some important first steps in reconstructing a pre-Flood hydrothermal biome and floating forest biome based on Upper Precambrian to Upper Palaeozoic faunas and floras, but much more remains to be done.
  3. Unravelling the Precambrian. Archaean and Proterozoic rocks seem to have a lot of ‘history’, in terms of sequential geological events, and there is no real consensus within creationism about how they should be interpreted – see, for example, the discussion by Dickens and Snelling and the response by Hunter. There is a need for further progress towards the reliable classification of these rocks as Creation Week, pre-Flood or Flood deposits, to enable us to make better sense of the story they’re telling us.
  4. Pre-Pangaean plate tectonics. CPT has shown tremendous promise as a model for understanding the mechanism behind the global Flood. However, John Baumgardner’s modelling of the break-up of the continents starts with Pangaea (an Upper Palaeozoic supercontinent), rather than Rodinia (which more probably approximates the continental configuration at the beginning of the Flood). There is a need to update the modelling to accommodate more than one phase of runaway subduction, or an earlier episode in which the earth’s lithosphere was decoupled from the underlying mantle and rotated rather than an episode of true plate tectonics.
  5. In situ structures apparently requiring time. Throughout the geological record we find structures that appear to have required more time to form than would have been available during the Flood. Examples include biogenic reef-like structures and carbonate hardgrounds with well preserved faunas of encrusting and boring organisms. More research is required to understand how such features could have formed rapidly during the few months of the Flood.

No doubt critics will jump on a list of ‘unsolved problems’ like this and conclude that the task is hopeless, that creationism is nothing more than an exercise in wishful thinking and that it creates more problems than it solves. I disagree. Supposedly intractable problems have a habit of being solved by further research, and my faith commitment to the scriptural record makes me think that this work is worth doing. I hope that the creationist community will choose to focus its attention on this kind of research rather than on poking holes in evolution. If we do, we face the exciting prospect of answering some of these questions (and no doubt raising lots of others). If we don’t, we’ll still be facing exactly the same issues in ten, twenty or thirty years time. There’s a job to be done – let’s find a way to do it!

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