EDITOR’S NOTE: In late June, we published an article on the scientific evidence indicating that the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years (and not by a single, recent flood event, as young-earth creationists claim). That article was adapted from a newly released book, The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth. We at BioLogos cannot recommend this book highly enough as a clear demonstration of why the ancient age of the Earth is not only based on good science, but is also occasion to praise our creator God. Today’s article is the final chapter of the book (Gregg Davidson is the primary author, but see complete list of contributors below the article). We think its message applies not only to “Flood Geology” but to the entire science and faith conversation.
At the beginning of this book, it was noted that Young Earth [creationism] or flood geology adherents often claim that we are all looking at the same data but that our different worldviews cause us to “see” the data as evidence for vastly different and conflicting processes. The underlying assertion is that we are all practicing good science but are arriving at different interpretations of the data because of the biblical or humanistic “glasses” each person wears. Adherence to the Bible is said to draw attention to the natural evidence that supports an Earth of a very limited age, and rejection of the Bible causes one to see only the natural evidence of great age. However, the preceding chapters illustrate something quite different.
For each subject addressed in this book, when the data are considered in their totality and allowed to take us wherever they lead—without foreknowledge of the answer or a predetermined outcome—we are invariably led to a history of the canyon that extends back millions of years. A recent age for the canyon can only be imagined by deciding on 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 in. Herein lies the difference between science and flood geology—science goes where the data leads, flood geology does not. By deciding in advance what the answer to the question will be, flood geology does not study nature to discover what processes have been at work or what events may have transpired (or for that matter, what God actually did). Rather, flood geology starts with an answer and studies nature only to find those ways that fit with the predetermined model. In this respect, flood geology is the antithesis—the very opposite—of science.
The debate does involve separate worldviews, but not in the way flood geology advocates describe. True science is practiced by those whose worldview stipulates that nature is understandable, that processes at work today on planet Earth can be used to inform us of what may have happened in the past, and that the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry have not, and will not, change over time. These views are not inherently secular, for they developed under the historical influence of Christian philosophy, when science was deemed possible because of the guidance and sustenance of nature by a logical, consistent, and unchanging God. Science is thus practiced by the religious and nonreligious alike.
Contrary to the doctrine of flood geologists, the worldview of flood geology is not distinguished from other worldviews by its adherence to the scriptures found in the Bible. Rather, its distinguishing characteristic is adherence to a particular way of interpreting select passages within the Bible—accepted as fact, without considering any conflicting evidence within or outside the Bible. As a result, all data from nature must be force-fit into the accepted-truth model, no matter how convoluted the resulting story may become.
The message of flood geology is that what is observed in nature today cannot be used to inform us of what may have happened in the past, that fundamental laws of physics and chemistry cannot be assumed to be well understood, and—critically—that nature cannot be trusted to tell its own story. In this regard, flood geology is not only unscientific, it is unbiblical. The first chapter of Romans states that the Creator’s divine nature is manifest in His physical creation—in nature. If nature cannot be trusted to tell a truthful story, what does that say about flood geologists’ conception of God?
Is Flood Geology an Alternative to Modern Geology?
If the basis for evaluating the plausibility of a suggested history of the Grand Canyon is physical evidence, flood geology falls short. Where flood geology’s explanations appear strong, closer scrutiny invariably finds that critical observations or data that conflict with a global deluge have simply been left out of the discussion. A truly viable alternative must take into account all available data, not just the data that fit the model. The flood geology claim of being “as good as” the prevailing scientific view is hollow.
The Grand Canyon provides overwhelming evidence that the Earth is old. Our collective hope is that all who read this book will have the chance to explore the canyon firsthand, to revel in the grandeur of its landscape, and be awed by the incredible story preserved in its layers. Not an imagined history, but the history told by the creation itself.
Does It Really Matter?
Consider for a moment the days of Galileo, when accumulated evidence began to suggest that the Earth was not stationary at the center of the solar system. What would have happened if Galileo and his colleagues had bowed to the accepted wisdom of their society—whether from Ptolemy, the contemporary understanding of select verses from the Bible, or the views of ancient scholars? What if they had simply sought ways to shoehorn their findings into a model in which the Earth was the center of the universe? Assuming all subsequent researchers followed suit, the outcome—the answer to our question—would have been chilling. Every time we follow the directions of our GPS systems, check out the stunning imagery on Google Earth, or watch a TV program via satellite, we are using things that would not exist, had those early scientists failed to allow the data to take them, unfettered, wherever it led. Launching satellites into space, sending men to the moon, and viewing images from Mars are entirely dependent on the acceptance and understanding of a Sun-centered solar system. Galileo could not have dreamed of a handheld GPS unit, but its very existence traces its lineage directly to his insight and persistence. Science has to be allowed to go where the data leads.
The preceding paragraph touches only on technological advances. What about religious views and sentiments? It is equally important here to allow creation to freely communicate its story. Imagine the effect, during the four centuries since Galileo, if every new celestial observation was forced into an Earth-centered view based on the assumption that biblical verse like Psalm 104:5 (“He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved”) was intended for instruction on the workings of nature? Believers would understandably become increasingly suspicious not only of natural observations, but more importantly, of God’s role in creating and sustaining His creation. Many would eventually feel compelled to leave the faith altogether in the mistaken notion that science and the Bible are hopelessly at odds. Flood geology marches its adherents inexorably down this road. Science, as described in the pages of this book, does not.
Does it matter? It certainly does! Truth always matters.