The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications
Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr.
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970
489 pp., hardcover
Henry M. Morris is widely regarded as the father of modern Young Earth Creationism (YEC), His landmark study The Genesis Flood, which he coauthored with biblical scholar John C. Whitcomb, and first published in 1961, remains controversial to this day. Francis S. Collins, himself an evangelical Christian, says "For anyone familiar with the scientific evidence, it is almost incomprehensible that the YEC view has achieved such wide support, especially in a country like the United States that claims to be so intellectually advanced and technologically sophisticated" (The Language of God, p. 174). As one might expect, the critique of atheistic evolutionists is even less kind.
But is Young Earth Creationism really all that ridiculous? It might be worth our while to go back and take a second look at the book that started the controversy. How well do Morris and Whitcomb's arguments hold up fifty years later?
|Henry M. Morris (1918-2006)
The strongest part of their argument is their critique of geological uniformitarianism, the idea that the various strata of sedimentary rock were laid down gradually over long periods of time. They note that the theory is based on a gratuitous assumption, that it cannot adequately account for much of the geological data, and that the evidence in fact points to some form of geological catastrophe. The massive fossil graveyards, and the extensive oil and coal deposits, all point to widespread catastrophic flooding.
So far, so good. There are, however, some problems, and the authors frankly acknowledge these in the last chapter of the book. Chief among the difficulties are the problems with dating. Among other things scientists use the half-lives of radioactive materials to calculate the age of the earth, and the results thus obtained indicate much longer periods of time than are allowed for in the authors' hypothesis. Morris does his best to counter the evidence, suggesting, among other things, that the rates of radioactive decay might be variable. In the case of Uranium-238, however, this is certainly not true. Interestingly, Morris and Whitcomb never demonstrated from the Bible that a young age for the earth is required.
Morris could not say for sure what natural causes might have precipitated the Flood. He did argue that a thick water vapor canopy surrounded the earth during antediluvian times, and that something caused the vapor canopy to condensate, causing heavy rainfall. "When finally that 'something' happened, whatever it was – possibly the passage of the earth through a meteorite swarm or the sudden extrusion of large amounts of volcanic dust into the air – the vapor blanket was condensed and precipitated. As the Scripture describes is, 'the flood-gates of heaven were opened,' and torrents of rain fell all around the earth for forty days and forty nights!" (p. 258). What Morris did not know at the time, but we now know, is that just such an event has been identified. It is now believed that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by an asteroid striking the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The effects are believed to have been similar to those described by Morris. Here again, though, the main problem is dating. Most scientists think that the "K-T Extinction Event" took place some 65 million years ago, whereas the first identifiably human species is not thought to have appeared until only 2 million years ago. If, however, the fossils are young, having been buried quickly in a catastrophic deluge, there might not be an actual discrepancy in dates.
Morris and Whitcomb researched the subject thoroughly, stated their conclusions carefully, and addressed the problems honestly. Their criticisms of mainstream geology are telling. Even if we cannot agree with all of their conclusions their work should not be dismissed lightly. Science is strengthened, not weakened, by criticism, no matter from what quarter.
In light of the recent discussion about global warming Henry Morris' comments on the subject are of interest. As noted above, Morris believed that before the Flood the earth was covered by a thick water vapor canopy, and had a uniformly warm, tropical climate as a result. During the Flood, the vapor canopy precipitated. This, he believed, caused temperatures to drop, bringing on the Ice Age. In the course of the discussion Morris noted that CO2 levels in the atmosphere effect global temperatures, and made this observation: "The problem of atmospheric contamination by fossil fuels has also come in for consideration, since the burning of coal and oil during the past century has added measurably to the amount of carbon dioxide in the carbon cycle" (p. 373). And he wrote this in 1961! He cited an article by Dr. Gilbert Plass that appeared in Scientific American in 1959. It is certainly something worth thinking about!
Science and Scripture
The Age of the Earth:
Here, Here, and Here.