Posted by: paulgarner | May 21, 2009

After the flood

At the end of the flood, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat. Diorama in Answers in Genesis' Creation Museum

At the end of the flood, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat. Diorama in Answers in Genesis' Creation Museum

In The New Creationism (Garner 2009), I touched upon what life must have been like for Noah and his descendants after the global flood. The former world had been destroyed and they must have faced much that was unfamiliar. The landscape had been utterly transformed – lakes, rivers, mountains, and even the continents and oceans, were different. Furthermore, the upheaval of the flood had brought about ongoing geological and climatic instability. This was now a world of explosive volcanoes, devastating earthquakes and whirling hurricanes.

There was also rapid biological change as the baramins diversified to produce many new varieties and species. The horses are a good example. The fossil remains of about 150 species of horses are found buried in sediments laid down in post-flood times. A baraminological study suggests that these species belong to the same baramin, which means that they probably arose from one pair of ‘horses’ which Noah took on board the ark (Cavanaugh et al 2003).

For those who would like to learn more about the way in which creationists have been able to reconstruct the post-flood world based on the insights provided by the Bible and science, Kurt Wise gives a lovely overview in a talk entitled ‘The Post-Flood Period: The Arphaxadian Epoch’ – parts one, two and three. The October-December 2008 edition of Answers magazine also provides some helpful articles on similar themes – geologist John Whitmore on continuing catastrophes, biologist Todd Wood on horse fossils, and atmospheric physicist Larry Vardiman on post-flood climates.

Together these resources provide a fascinating insight into what must have been a wild time in the history of the earth.

References

Cavanaugh D. P., Wood T. C. and Wise K. P. 2003. Fossil Equidae: a monobaraminic, stratomorphic series, in: Ivey, R. L. Jr. (editor), Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, pp.143-153.

Garner P. A. 2009. The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theories on a Biblical Foundation. Evangelical Press, Darlington.

Vardiman L. 2008. A dark and stormy world. Answers 3(4):78-81.

Whitmore, J. 2008. Continuing catastrophes. Answers 3(4):70-72.

Wood T. C. 2008. Horse fossils and the nature of science. Answers 3(4):74-77.

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Responses

  1. Where did all that water come from and go to?

    • The ocean basins. See here and here.

  2. Paul:

    I appreciate your blog and what you are trying to do. I view you as part of the better side of young-Earth creationism, which is trying hard to move past some of more unsupportable of the YEC arguments.

    However, I still think that the obstacles to YEC are real and insurmountable. I read what you wrote about the horse series (and the AiG article on horses as well) and am convinced that it just doesn’t work. Here are some of my objections:

    1. The rate of evolution needed to go from Hyracotherium to Mesohippus to Merychippus to Pliohippus to Equus (or whatever other path one presents) in just a few centuries after the Flood is extreme, to say the least. The changes between these organisms is not just a matter of changes of size, but also significant changes in their limb bones and teeth.

    2. The AiG article says “The lowest horse fossils are found in early post-Flood sediments. These horses were small browsers, perfectly designed for eating underbrush in the warm, subtropical forest that covered North America soon after the Flood.” One problem here is sedimentation rates. In the western United States, where the horse series is preserved, the thickness of Tertiary sediments is often hundreds of meters. How did a “subtropical forest” develop during a time when the sedimentation rate averaged perhaps a meter or more per year? How did browsers/grazers survive?

    3. There is also a problem of ecological succession. The subtropical forest not only had to develop in a time of ultra-high sedimentation rates, it had to do so without a well-developed soil as a starting point. Being that this would be an instance of primary succession, rather than secondary succession, the forest would have taken decades (or centuries?) to mature to the point that is preserved in the fossil record. But the soil couldn’t have developed as more sediments were continually added.

    4. In the wild, post-Flood world that you advocate, how did the proto-horse (Hyracotherium or whatever) migrate all of the way from Ararat to Nebraska?

    5. Microevolution needs variation to work with. Variation is a property of populations, not of individuals or a pair of individuals. Where did the variation come from to allow the rapid diversification of horses in just a few centuries?

    Objections #1-4 all fall into the “Too many events, too little time” category that, in my mind, plagues young-Earth creationism.

    With respect,
    Kevin N

    • Kevin, thank you for your comments about my blog. I’m pleased that you discern something different about the approach I’m trying to take, even if you end up still disagreeing with me. That’s okay!

      On your specific points about the horse series, I agree that it’s pretty radical to envisage going from Hyracotherium to Equus in just a few decades to centuries after the flood. Let’s be clear – we’re talking about more than microevolution here. In addition to the overall increase in body size, there are also major trends in skull proportions, dentition, limb structure, and relative brain size. How were such changes effected so rapidly? Conventional mechanisms are too slow, so creationists need to develop some novel proposals of their own. In my book, I briefly discuss Todd Wood’s AGEing hypothesis which suggests a role for mobile genetic elements. You can read more about that here and here. This model helps to address the matter of where the variation came from to allow rapid diversification.

      As for precisely how – and how quickly – ecosystems might have recovered after the flood, that’s an area where we still need some original research. The early post-flood period seems to have been warm and wet, which would have provided ideal conditions for the rapid spread of subtropical forests across North America. But there are so many unknowns. How soon after the flood did the Eocene epoch begin (when the horses first appear in the record)? Does the geology of the Cenozoic basins in the western USA demand that sedimentation rates were high continuously and everywhere? How fast might appropriate soils have developed? These are some of the questions I’d like answers to. Another point you didn’t raise, but which is pertinent to the kind of questions you’re asking, is how rapidly mammal populations might have multiplied after the flood. Whitmore and Wise (2008 p.455) have suggested that small species like Hyracotherium might have had shorter generation times and larger litters than their modern descendants. With regards to the dispersal of organisms after the flood, a particularly helpful contribution is the paper by Wise and Croxton (2003) about rafting on vegetation mats. Rafting seems to explain a high proportion of the major biogeographic patterns (perhaps 90% or more) without reference to ad hoc mechanisms, and has the potential to explain how terrestrial mammals came to be globally distributed within perhaps a century of the end of the flood.

      References

      Whitmore J. H. and Wise K. P. 2008. Rapid and early post-Flood mammalian diversification evidenced in the Green River Formation, in: Snelling A. A. (editor), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh and Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, pp.449-457.

      Wise K. P. and Croxton M. 2003. Rafting: a post-Flood biogeographic dispersal mechanism, in: Ivey R. L., Jr. (editor), Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, pp.465-477.


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