Another day, another paper. At least that’s how it seems with some people! Readers of this blog will know that Phil Senter has been expending a lot of effort addressing creationist claims lately, with papers about Lucy, vestigial organs, the Kachina Bridge “sauropod” and dinosaur baraminology (parts one and two). Now he has taken on Flood geology in the latest Reports of the NCSE (Vol. 31, No. 3, pp.1-14, 2011).
In his contributions on baraminology, Senter has been trying to show that creationist methods yield results that are actually incompatible with creationist presuppositions. His latest paper likewise seeks to turn the tables on creationists by drawing attention to competing claims in their own literature about which rocks were formed during the Flood and which were formed before or after. He writes:
Several Flood geologists have presented geologically sound reasons why strata assigned to specific parts of the geologic column cannot have been deposited during the Flood year or at least during the part of it when the entire planet was under water, hereafter called the PWS (period of worldwide submergence). In fact, compilation of such studies shows that together Flood geologists have eliminated the entire geologic column as having any record of a PWS. Here, I review the evidence against a PWS record that has been presented by the Flood geologists themselves.
Basically, he draws on extensive citations from the creationist literature to document the presence in the geological record of subaerial deposits (e.g. desiccation cracks, continental basalts, dinosaur nests, eolian sandstones), low energy deposits and deposits requiring time (e.g. chalks, hardgrounds, reefs, stromatolites) and evidence of the diversification of terrestrial animals (e.g. dinosaurs, mammals). In this way, he sets creationists debating the stratigraphic positions of the pre-Flood/Flood and Flood/post-Flood boundaries against one another, and concludes that Flood geology has, in effect, falsified itself.
Speaking frankly, I found this perhaps the least satisfying of Senter’s recent contributions for a couple of reasons. First, to make his case Senter uncritically assumes that the conventional interpretations of the geological features described are correct and, to be fair to him, in doing so he is mostly following the lead of the creationists he cites. But I think that such interpretations demand careful investigation and it is not always wise to take them at face value. Second, I think this kind of analysis tends to miss the wood for the trees. The “big picture” of the stratigraphic record is of widespread sedimentary units of marine origin blanketing the continents and displaying evidence of rapid accumulation and long distance transport. That fits well with Flood geology and is much harder to explain by reference to modern day depositional environments. It is that bigger picture that provides the framework in which I seek to understand the features discussed in Senter’s paper.
What next from Fayetteville, I wonder?