The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth

The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth July 1, 2016

Since the Ark Encounter is opening in seven days as a tourist attraction dedicated to the promotion of pseudoscience and the twisting of the Bible, I have decided to offer an alternative seven days of better views of creation scientifically, scripturally, and morally, ones that provide honest and accurate information, and thus do not mislead readers into thinking that it is necessary to choose between faith and the acceptance of the conclusions of science.

Let’s start with the multi-author volume The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth, which asks directly whether Noah’s flood can explain the Grand Canyon. Unlike many other books on “flood geology,” or indeed geology in general, this book is sized and otherwise designed to be a coffee table book. It is full of photographs and other pictures, offering both a big picture and an up close look at what it is that is being claimed by young-earth creationists, and why their interpretation of the evidence is in fact a deliberate and implausible distortion of the evidence. This book would be worth buying for those photos and images alone. It combines breathtaking pictures with informative charts. And so if you would happily have a book about the Grand Canyon on your coffee table, it would be a good idea to get this one. Anyone can appreciate the images, and unlike photographic tourism kinds of books, this one also explicitly tackles pseudoscientific and pseudoscriptural claims that are frighteningly widespread in our time.

The text of the book covers important topics. From the introduction, no holds are barred, and the claims of YEC and flood geology, such as that there was no death before the Fall, as well as more specifically that the Grand Canyon was formed (along with all sedimentary rock on Earth) by Noah’s flood, are raised explicitly and unflinchingly. The third chapter, for instance, offers a beautiful survey of the different rock formations that are to be found in the Grand Canyon, which are explored further and from a variety of perspectives in subsequent chapters. The diversity of kinds of rock makes perfect sense as explained by mainstream geology, while the attempt of flood geology to have the same cataclysmic event account for all of them is shown to be implausible. In paying attention to the large rock formations and supergroups, small details are not ovelooked, such as the kinds of fossils found in various strata, and the evidence from lava flows and layers of ash for the time frame of the formation and history of the canyon. Chapter 12 highlights the evidence from bent and broken rock strata, but also the evidence we have from around the globe of what the impact of actual flooding looks like in the geological record, and how it differs from the characteristics of the Grand Canyon as a whole, a subject to which chapter 16 returns. Chapter 13 charts the changes in animal fossils as one moves upwards through the geological column, while chapter 14 does the same with plants. Chapter 20 brings it all together in a piece that reflects the collaborative effort of all the authors of the volume, emphasizing that we are not dealing with the same evidence interpreted through the lens of two different worldviews. On the contrary, the evidence all points in one direction, and “A recent age for the canyon can only be imagined by deciding in such an answer in advance, carefully selecting bits of data that can be construed to fit the preconceived model, and ignoring data that do not fit” (p.207). The chapter also highlights the fact that flood geology starts with a viewpoint built from specific interpretations of select passages in the Bible, ignoring other evidence even within the Bible itself, and adopts a stance about the untrustworthiness of creation’s testimony to the Creator that is at odds with the teaching of the Bible itself (p.208). It’s conclusion is poignant: “Does it matter? It certainly does! Truth always matters” (p.209).

The book highlights something that would have been patently obvious to most young-earth creationists if they had ever bothered to think about it. Almost all people who adhere to young-earth creationism, and make assertions about the Grand Canyon, have never studied the evidence in enough detail to actually draw a legitimate conclusion about the topic. This is shamefully hypocritical, given that they are almost all fundamentalists who deride people from other religious traditions for believing things on the basis of teaching of authority figures, rather than examining the evidence for themselves. And so this book invites young-earth creationists to recognize that, like those they criticize, they too have been duped, and provides a great opportunity to study the evidence for themselves.

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