Some scientists have tried for years to debunk Noah’s flood, and here’s the latest attempt by University of Washington geology professor, David Montgomery. The article begins by acknowledging the historicity of flood legends all over the world:
“people who live near water all over the world turn out to have flood legends. And geological inquiry tends to show that these “legends” are based on historical fact.”
But then the article goes on to state that Noah’s flood was really just a local flood and not a world-wide flood. Montgomery claims that many actual floods were the result of swollen rivers and tsunamis, and he identifies Lake Missoula as causing a number of great floods, such as Dry Falls, the Grand Coulee, and the Channeled Scablands.
Montgomery did express criticism towards early geologists who generally rejected such flood stories as mythological:
Geologists had been so accustomed to rejecting the idea that the earth’s surface had been shaped by a single great biblical flood, Montgomery concludes, that they couldn’t recognize the geological evidence of a region shaped by great non-biblical floods.
These early geologists typically held uniformitarian views (the principle that natural processes shaped the earth slowly over long periods of time), therefore it was reasonable for them to reject such Biblical thinking based prejudice because it went against their long-held beliefs. They viewed the idea of a catastrophic flood causing geological features (such as the Channeled Scabland) as a return to the dark ages of geology, and it wouldn’t be tolerated.
Montgomery, however, seems to be more critical of young-earth creationism and those who believe in Noah’s Flood today. The article states:
“his research showed that the current conflict between science and Christian religion has shallow roots. Young-earth creationism is a very new intellectual phenomenon.”
This is an odd conclusion because it goes on to explain that, for centuries, Christian Europeans predominantly accepted Noah’s flood as the cause of all visible landforms, and that it was the “standard model” of its time and the “plate tectonics of its day”. Certainly the current young earth creationist movement can be considered new, however science was developed by those who could be considered creationists, such as Francis Bacon (1561–1626), who is considered by most to be the man primarily responsible for the development of the scientific method. Some others would be Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), Johann Kepler (1571–1630) and Isaac Newton (1642–1727). Montgomery even acknowledges that “Most of the influential geologists were clergy.” So these creationist beliefs are hardly new.
It’s also a common mischaracterization to suggest that there’s a conflict between science and Christian religion. In actuality there is no conflict. That’s why Galileo, Kepler and Newton, among others, were able to do science while maintaining their Christian beliefs. The real conflict is less about science and more about philosophy and a clash of worldviews. I’d argue the conflict is about secular science vs. Biblical science, or secular philosophy vs. Biblical philosophy, not science vs. religion. The general implication is that science is real and can be trusted as truth, while religion was written by ignorant, superstitious people long ago who had no knowledge of the universal laws that govern our existence, and it no longer has any bearing on how we view the world today.
Nonetheless, Montgomery does make a very interesting argument about how the initial conflict began: he explains that the scientists of the day realized there wasn’t enough water or time for a Biblical flood.
“When people who were studying the world came up with evidence that was inconsistent with the global flood or a very young earth,” he explained, “they started to think that the interpretations one has overlain on the Bible must be incorrect.”
This is very revealing. Instead of questioning their scientific methods, assumptions and conclusions, they questioned their religious beliefs. I agree that this is where we can begin to see conflict arise, as well as the idea of compromise and the notion that the Bible needs to be reconciled with science. I suggest that if any inconsistencies are found between scripture and scientific interpretations, then we should question the science behind the conclusions, but this rarely happens; when these scientists found such inconsistencies, they didn’t question their own intellect, but instead, at some point, they were willing to question God’s Word.
In Genesis three the serpent deceived Adam and Eve, stating, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Notice that he caused them to doubt God’s word… and that doubting of God’s word continues throughout history and into today. Another example of such compromise and doubt is presented by Montgomery as he details leaders of Christian churches and their views regarding the creation “week” being a metaphor and how they tried to reconcile the Bible with what they believed about science.
Montgomery claims that the Biblical flood may be based on a Babylonian flood story, although, he acknowledges, no one really knows “whether Noah’s flood was the Black Sea flood or a Mesopotamian flood.” He also acknowledges that these claims have been seen as an attack on Christianity by some, although he seems to be confused by this; he thought Christians would be excited that evidence has been found to support Noah’s Flood as a real event. He doesn’t seem to understand that this is not so much an attack on the religion of Christianity, but an attack on God’s Word and the reliability of scripture. If scripture really is the Word of God, as Christians believe, then we can trust what’s written in it, even when it touches on matters of history, philosophy, and the sciences.
Montgomery explains that people who lived during these cataclysmic floods might have assumed it was a global event since everyone lived in a flood plain, and it would have seemed global to them. But I think this view presents a very low opinion of early man. I’d think the survivors of those local catastrophic floods would have known the entire world wasn’t flooded. They most likely would have found safety someplace that wasn’t flooded, or, even if they survived by floating on some kind of raft, they would have found other survivors who could have informed them that the entire world hadn’t been flooded. I don’t think these people were so stupid as to think that since their “world” had been flooded, then the rest of the world must have been flooded too.
Montgomery’s criticism continues with those who believe Noah’s flood may have carved out the Grand Canyon. According to his logic, it’s obvious that the layers settled out at different times and couldn’t have been created in just weeks. He believes this because he observed the canyon himself and thinks it’s obvious that it must have taken place over millions, or even billions of years. He’s also critical of the book Grand Canyon: A Different View, a Creationist book explaining that the canyon was created by Noah’s Flood only a few thousand years ago. He’s puzzled over certain claims:
“I read that the canyon itself was carved when the sediment that formed the rocks now exposed in its walls was still soft. I was puzzled that the authors did not try to explain how a mile-high stack of saturated sediment remained standing without slumping into the growing chasm — or how all the loose sand and clay later turned into solid rock. The book simply stated that, according to the Bible, Noah’s Flood formed the Grand Canyon and all the rocks through which it’s cut in under a year. There was no explanation for the multiple alternating layers of different rock types, the erosional gaps in the rock sequence that spoke of ages of lost time, or the remarkable order to the various fossils in the canyon walls. The story was nothing like the tale I read in the rocks I had spent the day hiking past.”
Actually, these claims are quite realistic. If we can observe catastrophic events that have happened in our lifetime, such as the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980, then we can begin to see how a world-wide flood could have formed the Grand Canyon. Here are some things we’ve learned since the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption:
- Rapid formation of sediment layers up to 600 feet thick resulted from the primary air blast, landslides, volcanic ash flows and air falls, steam water, and water waves on Spirit Lake.
- Rapid Erosion of bedrock up to 600 feet deep, forming two canyons on the north flank of the volcano, and formed canyons up to 140 feet deep through landslide debris and volcanic ash deposits. Plateaus and canyons resembling the Grand Canyon were also quickly created.
- Rapid formation of fossil deposits occurred with upright logs being buried, resembling Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park.
- Rapid formation of a peat layer includes sheets of bark intermingled with volcanic sediment and resembles certain coal beds in the eastern United States.
Here are several good articles detailing these events at Mt. St. Helens.
Based on this evidence, it’s easy to get a small picture what kind of impact a world-wide flood would have on the earth, such as producing all of today’s known coal beds and a rapid formation of caves. Noah’s Flood was a real, historic, catastrophic event, and I’ll close with some additional evidence:
- Fossils of sea creatures buried high above sea level due to ocean waters covering the highest mountains.
- Rapid burial of plants and animals
- Sediment transported long distances.
- Rapid or no erosion between strata.
- Many strata laid down in rapid succession.