The critics for this week have posted on the Biblical Science Institute Facebook page in response to the geology articles here and here. I will use only their first name in the response. Note that the second critic (Dan) often quotes sections of the original article before offering his comments. The critic’s comments are in violet text, with my response in black.
Herman: No professional geologist would share these views.
Dr. Lisle: Actually, I was informed of all this information from… (wait for it…) professional geologists. I have merely summarized the peer-reviewed published research of Ph.D. geologists such as Dr. Steve Austin, Dr. Andrew Snelling, and Dr. Tim Clarey (to name a few).
Herman: Believing the evidence supports a young earth is no different than believing the available evidence supports a flat earth.
Dr. Lisle: This is the fallacy of the false analogy because there is no rational connection between the two. I could equally well say, “Believing in billions of years is no different from believing in a flat earth” and that would at least have some connection since both beliefs are inconsistent with the data, and are refuted by Scripture. In fact, the global flood requires a round earth, because you cannot have a global flood without a globe. The Bible teaches both a young earth and a round earth (Job 26:10).
Dan: “nearby lake and deposited many new layers of sedimentary rock. It then cut through them forming a canyon roughly 1/40th the scale of the Grand Canyon.”
No. It did not deposit sedimentary rocks. It deposited unconsolidated volcaniclastic ash and debris.
Dr. Lisle: Dan here reveals his ignorance of geology because the definition of a sedimentary rock is one that has “formed from the deposition and solidification of sediment.” This would necessarily include any volcanic ash and debris that was deposited and is now solid (which much of it is). As Geologist Dr. John Morris has stated, “When the eruption calmed, up to 600 feet of sediments had been deposited, full of plant and animal remains. Now the sediments have hardened into sedimentary rock…” The conditions at Mt Saint Helens were not optimal for lithification (hardening into rock), and no one is claiming that all the debris have lithified; “yet, within five years of having been deposited, these sediment layers had been lithified sufficiently for them to support near-vertical cliffs in this canyon system.”
Dan: “So we know for certain that rock layers do not require millions of years to form, nor do canyons.”
Since no sedimentary ROCKS were formed and eroded at Mount St. Helens, this is a colossal non-sequitur.
Dr. Lisle: In fact, entire systems of sedimentary rock now exist that did not exist before the Mount St. Helens eruption and as a result of it. I would like to know how Dan thinks “unconsolidated debris” can exist as nearly vertical cliffs for decades.
Dan: “The layers of strata that creationists believe were deposited during the global flood (Cambrian through at least the Cretaceous and possibly much of the Tertiary) are continental in scale. For example, the Tapeats sandstone… Nor can the Tapeats sandstone be the result of multiple small-scale floods”
Okay, so how come the Tapeats Sandstone contains abundant trace fossils? Why would invertebrates build dwelling and feeding burrows during a catastrophic global flood?
Dr. Lisle: Here Dan gives a typical straw-man fallacy revealing either a profound ignorance of creationist research, or simple dishonesty. Creation geologists have shown that the flood happened in stages; there would be periods of advancement and recession. Not all the Earth was flooded instantly and concurrently; it would take time to reach the global stage. During periods of recession or stasis organisms would do what they always do. This is obvious to anyone who has given the issue some rational thought.
Dan: “What about the other rock layers? Which of them are continental in scale? The answer is: all of them. All the Paleozoic and Mesozoic layers are continental in scope”
That’s just flat-out wrong.
Dr. Lisle: And what compelling evidence does Dan present to back up his claim? That’s right: none. Rational people have reasons for their beliefs. In any case, geologist Dr. Tim Clarey has been compiling geological data from drill sites around the world, and has confirmed that indeed Paleozoic and Mesozoic layers are continental in scale. As one example, take a look at the Sauk sequence which represents the earliest flood deposit. Dan says it’s not continental in scope, but what does the evidence indicate?
It sure looks continental in scope to me. But when you have an antibiblical bias such as Dan’s, you don’t have to worry about supporting your claims with actual evidence or taking the time to be ethical and make sure they are true. You just state your opinion as fact and that apparently settles the matter. It’s much easier to argue against the Bible when you don’t have to worry about all those inconvenient facts getting in the way.
Dan: “Yet scientists routinely find C-14 in the remains of organisms buried deep in the rock strata. This also challenges the notion that these rock layers are millions of years old. How could a millions-of-years-old rock contain a thousands-of-years-old fossil?”
Another strawman. No one expects something to be completely carbon-dead.
Dr. Lisle: Here Dan reveals a profound ignorance of physics. The half-life of C-14 is only 5730 years. So if remains were only one million years old, that corresponds to 174.5 half-lives. What fraction of material remains after 174.5 half-lives? The answer is 2.91 × 10-53. For comparison, the number of atoms on Earth is estimated to be around 1050. So if the entire Earth started out as 100% C-14, after only one million years, not a single atom of C-14 would remain. So, yes, a buried multi-million-year-old specimen should not have a single atom of C-14 in it. That used to be the standard assumption among secular geologists, until they started finding C-14 in basically everything that has carbon.
Dan: Rocks and fossils are not closed systems. Many fossil-bearing formations are important aquifers, i.e. they are percolated by groundwater containing modern carbon.
Dr. Lisle: One problem with Dan’s answer here is that it does not account for the fact that we find C-14 in essentially all carbon-bearing remains, regardless of whether they are near an aquifer. Dan seems to know that this answer doesn’t work because then he immediately provides a different answer:
Dan: Besides, 14C can be formed in the subsurface by nucleogenic processes, e.g. 11B(α,p)14C, with the alpha particle coming from decaying uranium or thorium.
Dr. Lisle: Again, Dan reveals his ignorance of basic physics and chemistry. There is no significant boron in many of the samples that have detectable C-14, such as the diamonds tested by the RATE group. The most significant source of C-14 comes from the conversion of nitrogen. But this cannot account for the abundance of C-14 in supposedly ancient rocks because the nuclear cross section of nitrogen is thousands of times too small for the creation of new C-14 from uranium/thorium decay in sufficient quantities to be detectable by our instruments. In other words, the rate at which thermal neutrons produced in the earth can convert nitrogen into C-14 is infinitesimal compared to the rate at which C-14 decays; it cannot therefore act as a “recharging” mechanism as Dan claimed.
In particular, the thermal neutron flux in deep crustal granite (which can have relatively high radioactivity levels) is only 7.3 × 107 neutrons per square meter per year. Solving for the equilibrium condition in which the production of new C-14 balances the decay of C-14 yields a C-14/C ratio of 1.1 × 10-19, which is 13,000 times smaller than the C-14 measured in diamonds, and many orders of magnitude below the detection threshold of any modern instrument. So, no, C-14 cannot be formed by subsurface radioactive processes in quantities anywhere near those necessary to explain its present abundance in allegedly old remains. These computations are shown in the published results of the RATE research initiative.
By analogy, imagine that a dam burst, and began releasing all its water, yet the reservoir was still mostly full. The natural conclusion would be that the burst was very recent – only minutes ago or less. Dan’s explanation would be like saying that it actually burst millions of years ago, but it is still mostly full because there are a couple of kids near the side with squirt guns that are resupplying the water.
Dan: “The flood waters would collect sediment from the land and dump it into the sea. The sediment would settle at the lowest elevations first. So the first organisms to be buried would be ocean-dwelling creatures. And what do we find? The lowest fossil-bearing strata contain ocean-dwelling organisms. “
Yeah, that’s why find all this plant debris and pollen and drowned arthropods in Cambrian rocks. Oh, wait, there is ZERO plant debris in Cambrian and Early-Middle Ordovician rocks. No spores, and only primitive spores of liverwort affinity. And no terrestrial arthropods. Strange, innit?
Dr. Lisle: Dan seems surprised that we don’t find *terrestrial* arthropods in rock layers that formed at the bottom of the ocean. So perhaps we should explain to Dan that terrestrial organisms do not live in the ocean. Nor could plants which require sunlight live in the depths of the ocean, so logically we would not expect to find them in the lowest flood deposits. Isn’t that rather obvious? So, the kinds of comments we have seen show that Dan is not remotely interested in honest dialog.
As stated in the article, creationists expect to find only aquatic organisms in the earliest flood deposits because they would be found in the lowest areas – the ocean floor. Unlike the evolution model however, we expect to find even very complex organisms at this bottom layer. Of course, this is just what we find. If evolution were true, then we should find only the very simplest organisms in the “oldest” layers, not complex ones. Instead, we find complex creatures such as nautiloids, brachiopods, (aquatic) segmented worms, clams, starfish, and such – very complex creatures with specialized parts that work together. The sudden appearance of all these complex creatures in the bottom (flood) layer is so surprising to evolutionary dogma that they often refer to it as the “Cambrian explosion.” But it is a rather boring result for creationists because it is exactly what we expect – complex ocean dwelling organisms. So Dan’s statement is another straw-man.
By analogy, if I were to resort to such straw-man argument I might say, “If evolution were true, then we should find monkey heads on people, and birds with frog legs in the fossil record. But there is ZERO evidence of such!” But that would not be true to what evolutionists believe. Ethical people do not intentionally misrepresent the position of their opponents as Dan has done.
Dan: “The Cambrian system contains fossils of clams, worms, sponges, starfish, fish, as well as marine organisms that are now extinct such as trilobites. What do all these organisms have in common? They live in the ocean. They would be the first to be buried, and therefore found in the lowest strata – which is exactly what we find.”
But somehow, we don’t find myriads of other creatures that normally live in the ocean. No bony fish. No sharks and rays. No decapod crustaceans. No whales. No mosasaurs.
Dr. Lisle: Dan has listed some aquatic creatures many of which are very strong swimmers. Now let’s do what Dan failed to do: let’s engage our brains. Let’s think through whether it would be reasonable to expect strong swimmers to be buried first in the lowest layers in the flood, or whether the slower creatures might be buried first. Wouldn’t you expect strong swimmers to evade sediment that was falling upon them? Or would they just stay there and allow sediment to bury and kill them? I would expect strong swimmers to be found – typically – in higher layers than slow swimmers. Furthermore, Dan does not know his paleontology, because there are indeed types of bony fish found in the Cambrian, such as ostracoderms and haikouichthys – both of which are thought by paleontologists to have been slow swimmers.
Decapod crustaceans include creatures such as lobsters. Lobsters live on the continental shelf, i.e. near the water’s surface. Likewise, crabs can live on land, or otherwise in shallow coastal water, less than 200 feet deep. And many other decapod crustaceans are freshwater creatures (crayfish). So we’ll leave it to Dan’s keen mind to see if he can figure out why creatures that don’t live anywhere near the ocean bottom would typically not be buried there.
Dan: No planktic forams. No diatoms. No coccolithophores. No ammonites.
Although most of these are not strong swimmers, neither are they typically ocean-bottom dwelling creatures. Plankton would include organisms such as algae, which photosynthesize sunlight and therefore cannot survive more than a few hundred feet below the ocean surface. You won’t find them in the deep. Likewise for diatoms, coccolithophores, and ammonites. Again, we must ask why Dan continues to straw-man the creationist position by saying that we should expect to find fossils of creatures that do not live in the ecological zone in question. Unsurprisingly, we find the first flood layer full of mostly slow, low ocean dwelling creatures. What we do not find is any evidence for evolution.
Dan’s comments reveal one of the most common problems seen in evolutionist circles: a failure to read any significant creation technical scientific literature. Most evolutionists simply do not do their homework and instead mindlessly repeat the common claims spouted in the evolutionary echo chambers.
Paul: Lisle’s ignorance of basic geology…
Dr. Lisle: It would have been helpful if Paul had given an example to back up his claim. But he didn’t. So it amounts to a question-begging epithet fallacy.
Paul: …is embarrassing for those of us who follow Christ. (Whenever non-Christians observe Christians publishing unsupported nonsense, many of them will assume that Christians are either ignorant of the evidence or are simply dishonest.)
Dr. Lisle: Oh the irony! Paul is absolutely right about those people who claim to follow Christ, but who spout unsupported nonsense and are ignorant of evidence or simply dishonest. But then again, Paul’s own claims are an example of this as illustrated below.
Paul: Isn’t it sad how so many Young Earth Creationists deplore Uniformitarianism and then they post “101 Evidences for a Young Earth” and virtually every one of their arguments is based upon uniformitarian reasoning?
Dr. Lisle: Paul reveals here his profound ignorance of basic logic and argumentation, for he clearly does not understand the basic principle of the reductio ad absurdum. The reductio ad absurdum is one of the most powerful forms of refuting a faulty position; it does so by assuming the (false) position for the sake of hypothesis to show that it leads to a contradiction or some other absurdity. That which leads to absurdity must itself be absurd. So, by assuming – for the sake of hypothesis – the old-earth assumption of uniformitarianism, and showing how this logically leads to age estimates that are incompatible with an old-earth, the initial hypothesis (old earth / uniformitarianism) is thereby refuted. It is really not that difficult to understand.
The reductio ad absurdum is very powerful because it cannot be countered except by relinquishing the hypothetical starting assumption (uniformitarianism in this case), which is foundational to old-earth philosophy, and would leave it without any justification. I am frequently disheartened by the lack of basic reasoning skills in people like Paul. It is a very sad indictment on our modern education system.
Paul: (I pointed that out to Jason Lisle a few years ago and he got all flustered and sputtered about it.)
Dr. Lisle: Paul’s comment here simply isn’t true. I’m disheartened by Paul’s ignorance (and the fact that he apparently STILL does not understand basic logic and the reductio ad absurdum after having it explained to him), but I am not flustered at all. I recognize that some people are simply unable or unwilling to learn basic thinking skills.
Paul: Let’s stick to the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ and avoid mixing in pseudo-science nonsense that only creates unnecessary stumbling blocks to the salvation of those who understand science.
Dr. Lisle: I agree with Paul’s statement wholeheartedly, and would add “and logic.” But I wish Paul would follow his own advice and become educated in science and logic. Stop teaching old-earth nonsense which – let’s face it – is pseudoscience. Old earth theology indeed creates unnecessary stumbling blocks to salvation because it presents a false Gospel, one in which death is not the penalty for sin, but a natural part of God’s creation. Old earth theology makes God into an ogre who enjoys tormenting His creations; He supposedly created through a bloody and horrible process of trial-and-error, full of disease, suffering, and needless bloodshed. Who would want to serve a god like that? It is certainly not the God of the Bible.
Paul: Jason Lisle continues to impede the progress of the Great Commission by substituting his pseudo-science for the pure message of the Gospel.
Dr. Lisle: Oh, the irony. The same Bible that teaches the Gospel also teaches that God created in six days (Exodus 20:11) and flooded the entire earth (Genesis 7:19-23). If God lied or was confused about creation and the flood, as Paul seems to think, then how can we trust that God is right about salvation? As Jesus put it in John 3:12, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Paul would do well to reflect on Christ’s words.
Moses wrote (by God’s inspiration) the account of creation in six days and the global flood. If people refuse to believe Moses, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31). The history of Genesis is foundational to understanding what the Gospel is: redemption from the Fall. The bad news is that Adam literally sinned against God as recorded in the history of Genesis, which brought death into the world. We are descended from Adam and have inherited His rebellious sin nature, and we need salvation. The Gospel is that Christ took our place on the cross, paid the penalty for sin (death) on our behalf, and offers salvation to all who trust in Him. The Great Commission is not accomplished when we water down God’s Word to make it compatible with the latest secular pseudo-science, such as evolution or deep time. The power of God’s Word is not revealed by Christians who teach “you don’t have to believe these parts of the Bible.”
 Morris, J. 2007. Why Does ICR Study the Mount St. Helen’s Eruption? Acts & Facts. 36 (5).
 Snelling, A. 2009. Earth’s Catastrophic Past, ICR, Dallas, p. 598.
 Image from http://www.icr.org/article/grappling-with-megasequences
 Snelling, A., et al. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Volume II, ICR, Dallas, p. 615-616