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Noah vs. reality: where does the evidence point?

Noah vs. reality: where does the evidence point? October 7, 2021

Let’s continue with our critique of the young-earth Creationist movie “Is Genesis History?” (part 1 here).

Undercutting uniform change

Our next expert is paleontologist Kurt Wise. He has a PhD in geology from Harvard. In high school he used scissors to cut from a Bible everything that, if taken literally, would contradict science. He said about the resulting corrected Bible, “I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two.”

The movie doesn’t give this background on Wise, but he has made clear that his allegiance lies with the Bible, not with science.

If all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.

Well, at least he lays his cards on the table. Evidence is clearly not what he uses to support his worldview.

Back to the movie: the Creationist’s dilemma is acknowledging the great change during earth history (mountain formation, volcanism, erosion, and so on) but not having enough time to do it in, assuming today’s rates of change. The solution is to imagine that today’s rate of change is much less than it had been. (Just hope that no one asks for an explanation for or evidence of this change.)

Or, you can play the Bible card, as he does. 2 Peter 3:3–6 anticipates Bible naysayers. These naysayers will ask about the promised second coming. They will say that geology doesn’t show the rapid change Creationists need, but they forget that God’s great building (Creation) and destroying (Flood) projects are part of history as well. Nothing like that happens today; therefore, the present is no guide to judging the past.

Of course, as objective evidence, New Testament quotes are useless. Further, drop the agenda-driven constraint of squeezing all the geological events and evolution of life into only 6000 years, and the problem goes away.

Mechanisms of the Flood

Next up is Marcus Ross, a paleontologist at a museum in Tennessee. He talked about the mechanism of how the Flood would deposit the animal carcasses, but he didn’t answer what seems to be the obvious question. If we ignore evolution and suppose that all animals lived together before the Flood, why aren’t animals from the same ecosystem buried together? Since hippos live in rivers and wetlands, the Creationist should expect hadrosaurs and similar water-dwelling dinosaurs to be fossilized alongside them. Hippos and hadrosaurs are both large animals from watery environments, so we should find them in the same rock layers. Show me the fossils.

This parallels the famous response by biologist J. B. S. Haldane. When asked what could destroy confidence in the theory of evolution, he said, “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.” The fossils created by the Flood should provide countless examples of the coexistence of all life. We see none. Score another one for evolution.

Back to our paleontologist. As an example of evidence for a global flood, he pointed to the distribution of fossils of mosasaurs (large aquatic reptile predators) across the map of the earth.

[Mosasaur fossils] are globally distributed and they’re distributed on continents. So, looking at these things, you’re saying, ‘What is it that has the power or capacity to take the marine world and throw it on top of continents in such a violent and destructive manner?’ And the Flood makes perfect sense for this.

Huh? The Flood is magic! It should be the explanation of last resort. We don’t need to imagine mosasaurs swept onto continents by a global flood. Conventional science explains mosasaur fossils just fine—they lived and died in many parts of the world’s oceans for 20 million years. Land rose, and seas became part of continents, and those fossils are found far from the ocean. Where’s the problem?

It’s like the discovery of fossilized sea life in the limestone on top of Mount Everest. What was once a sea bed is now at the top of the world.

Ross likes the Cambrian Explosion, because Creationists imagine that the rapid diversification of animals into new phyla that happened during this 25-million-year period is impossible to explain through evolution. He said that this comes from “conventional paleontology” (perhaps he meant “reality-based paleontology”). But that won’t work—he wants to agree with paleontology when it suits him so he can choose factoids here and there, like picking flowers for an arrangement. Is he on board with “conventional” paleontology or not? He can’t dismiss its foundational tenets but then sift through its conclusions for bits he can use to support his argument.

The discovery of Tiktaalik, a plausible transition between fish and land animals, is a popular example showing how evolution works. Knowing the date that such an animal would’ve lived, paleontologists found exposed sedimentary rock of the right age on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada. They searched, and bingo. Duplicate that with Creationism.

And we shouldn’t get overexcited about the Cambrian Explosion. Yes, most of the animal phyla developed during a relatively small period, but that’s about it. Dramatic speciation had to wait millions of years for the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (more here). The Cambrian Explosion was remarkable, but so were other periods.

He ends by stating that the savage dinosaurs that embody the Age of Dinosaurs for most of us are the result of “the Curse.” These are Flood-era animals, not Eden-era animals.

This raises more questions. Did these animals evolve between Eden and the Flood? What did they look like in Eden? Since we still live in a fallen world, why don’t we have equivalently scary animals today?

See, kids? This is what happens when you don’t follow the evidence.

Mechanisms of fossilization

Arthur Chadwick is a taphonomist, a scientist who studies decaying organisms over time and how fossilization works. With a Wyoming fossil deposit as background, he noted that a dead coyote would be quickly scavenged, leaving its bones scattered. He demanded to know what could explain the intact skeletons that he was digging up, implying that a Flood would do nicely.

Yet again, where’s the puzzle? There are lots of ways to preserve an intact (or moderately so) carcass from scavengers. Ash from a sudden volcanic eruption buries animals intact. The slow part of a river bend collects and quickly buries animals that died and were carried downstream by a flood. Deep water in lakes. Peat bogs. Marshes. Swamps. Tsunamis. Landslides.

He concluded by attacking conventional science. Evolution is imposed with an agenda; it’s not coming from the data. And he assumes “the historical record of Genesis.”

None of this was backed up with evidence. Quelle surprise.

To be concluded in part 4.

[Does God ever appear?]
We only ever seem to get the monkey,
never the organ grinder.

And the monkey always says,
“This is what I say my god wants.”
— commenter epeeist

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 5/3/17.)

Image from Kevin Walsh (license CC BY 2.0)

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