A friend sent me a link to the following article, “Why The ‘Biblical’ Ice Age is a Creationist Myth”, and I felt challenged to provide a creationist response. At first glance, the author (unknown) is clearly hostile towards young earth creation science, ridiculing the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis directly. He accused them of being arbitrary, cherry picking Biblical texts, fabrication, abandoning their own models, intellectual dishonesty, and being anti-science. Wonderful.
Based on such an emotional response, I suspected that once I researched the subject I’d find the author guilty of the very accusations he hurled at these creationist organizations, and I hope to demonstrate that that’s clearly the case over the course of several posts.
The article is fairly technical, delving into a geologic phenomenon known as isostatic rebound, specifically in relation to the Ice Age. Isostasy refers to the way the earth’s crust can be compressed by surface mass and then elevated once pressure is released. So post-glacial isostatic rebound occurred when large sheets of ice covering the land and compressing the surface began to melt, allowing the land to readjust.
It’s interesting that once the author explains how isostasy works, he asks why- if Noah’s Flood were really global- shouldn’t we find isostatic rebound everywhere on earth? He insists that a one-year long flood wouldn’t constitute a long enough duration for the earth’s surface to be compressed. So he ends up answering his own question: if a one-year global flood isn’t long enough to cause isostatic rebound, then that explains why we don’t find isostatic rebound everywhere on earth. So far we’re on the same page.
I think the point he was trying to make is, therefore, if the creationist model is correct, then we shouldn’t have satellite images showing isostatic rebound in places where continental ice sheets advanced during the last glacial maximum. By his reasoning, an ice age lasting a few centuries isn’t long enough to cause those satellite effects. However, he claims, we actually do observe isostatic rebound precisely predicted by the conventional secular model.
To answer these objections, there are a number important points to consider: first we need to understand what the creationist model is. Second, we need to understand the secular model he adheres to. And a third point is to note there’s no real consensus with either model. This isn’t an argument about settled science, as the author seems to imply. Both models are being reshaped as new evidence comes to light; that’s the nature of science. Paradigms change with better solutions and interpretations of the data.
The secular model, for example, recognized only four Ice Ages until the 1970’s; after that they abandoned their own model and began to recognize anywhere from 30 to 58 different ice ages (separated by interglacials). The creationist model, on the other hand, hasn’t changed much and basically recognizes only one Ice Age, which occurred during the Pleistocene- a geological period characterized by widespread glaciation- and lasting about 700 years.
Scientists (both secular and creationist) estimate that about 30% of the land on earth was covered by ice during the most recent Ice Age, including almost all of Canada and the northern United States. The end of the ice age is considered the period when world temperatures began to rise, triggering the retreat of the ice. Evidence used to identify the Ice Age includes geologic features, such as sediment deposits and moraines.
Creationists contend that secular scientists have misinterpreted the data in order to come up with many ice ages. In fact, the evidence for only one Ice Age is very strong, while evidence for multiple Ice Ages is weak. We know, for example, the earth was fairly warm prior to the Ice Age; there’s sedimentary evidence suggesting there were no cold-weather environments or glaciation prior to the Ice Age, with the exception of Antarctica and some high mountain ranges.
Secular science doesn’t have a definitive number of ice ages that have occurred in the past, and they can’t provide a satisfactory answer as to what causes ice ages. There are over 60 different theories to choose from. But of course there are popular models to explain a trigger mechanism, including an increase in volcanic activity.
As for how many ice ages have occurred in the past, remember that secular scientists abandoned a verified number of four ice ages in the 1970’s in favor of many ice ages. They rejected worldwide evidence from glaciology for a complicated and assumption-ridden astronomical model in relation to oxygen isotope ratios from sediment on the ocean floor and coiling in sea shells.
The astronomical model they rely on uses the Milankovitch mechanism, which is based on “cyclical past changes in the geometry of the earth’s orbit.” Supposedly, what causes repeated ice ages is a decrease in solar radiation as a result of changes in the earth’s orbit every 100,000 to 40,000 years. Scientists take deep-sea cores and match wiggles in variables, which they believe to represent an ice age. But one problem with this model is that the decrease in sunshine is too small for these deep sea cores. According to Didier Paillard, “there is [sic] no significant orbitally induced changes in the radiative [sunshine] forcing of the Earth in this frequency range (the “100-kyr Problem”)” In addition, based on current observation rates, the secular model is unable to satisfactorily explain recent ice ages; their explanations contain serious flaws, including the fact that there would need to be a cooling of more than 50 degrees in summer temperatures in the northern United States along with a massive rise of snow for thousands of years. David Alt of the University of Montana admits, “Although theories abound, no one really knows what causes ice ages.” The belief in multiple ice ages is merely based on assumptions and circular reasoning, such as the ability to make the evidence fit the paradigm through manual calibration, not any kind of objective truth that is self-evident or plain to all. Without such circular reasoning, the Milankovitch mechanism wouldn’t work.
In reality there’s no good reason to believe in in multiple ice ages. Instead the physical evidence can be interpreted as deposits from a single ice sheet advancing and retreating over a short time. Today we know ice sheets are very dynamic, so we don’t need hundreds of thousands or millions of years for multiple ice ages over long periods of time. According to Gravenor and Bayrock, for example, “Although it is generally recognized that Alberta has been glaciated more than once, no buried soils or other evidence of any long period between glacial deposits have been found.” In other words, the evidence in Alberta points to one ice age.
So the author of this article demonstrates a lot of arrogance, tossing around accusations when the model he adheres to contain significant flaws. Does he wish to dogmatically tell us exactly how many ice ages he believes in, and how and why he’s accepted this arbitrary number along with the duration of each one? Or can he tell us with certainty that the dynamic advancing and retreating of a single ice sheet over time produces complex sedimentation that can be differentiated from a completely separate ice age thousands of years apart without circular reasoning or bias? Does he understand the astronomical model well enough to explain how the coils in sea shells provide irrefutable evidence of many ice ages in spite of the criticism offered by other secular scientists? And when the evidence shifts, will he admit that his previously held belief was wrong? And if he was wrong about many of his beliefs, is he willing to accept that, just maybe, the creationist model could be correct?
I’ll end Part One here and respond to some of the other criticisms in Part Two, where I’ll get into some of the Creationist mechanisms triggering an ice age.