The Creation Explanation
|The Primeval World -- Fossils, Geology & Earth History|
Geology--Gradualism Or Global Catastrophe?
We are all familiar with some of the slow processes of change on the earth's surface. Streams and rivers erode their banks, waves wage unremitting war upon our coastal shores, sand and silt produced by these agencies of erosion are transported and deposited from year to year, and volcanic eruptions and earth movements such as earthquakes occur from time to time. Some of these actions by natural agencies bring about astonishingly rapid changes in localized regions, but in general the changes we observe are quite slow, so that we only become aware of them after many years.
In mountainous areas and in places where rivers or man's construction activities have cut through the earth, we can often observe that the outer crust of the earth is built up of layers or strata of different kinds of sediments and sedimentary rock. Having studied these structures for several centuries, scientists have concluded that except for lava flows and the granite cores of some mountain ranges, the rocks were for the most part formed of sediments deposited by water action. They have also found fossils of many kinds of creatures which were once living upon the earth, as we have discussed in the first section of this chapter.
Scientists have been trying to determine what the rock structures and fossils reveal about the past history of the earth. As was suggested above, the evidence is circumstantial, and the interpretations depend to a great extent upon the presuppositions of the interpreters. Remember, the observed data of geology and paleontology have been interpreted from the standpoint of two mutually contradictory sets of assumptions. That of the secularists making up most of the scientific community may be briefly characterized by evolution, vast ages, and uniformitarianism; that of the biblical creationists by special creation, usually a shorter time scale, and catastrophism. Geological evidence will now be assessed so that we may determine which viewpoint better accords with the observed facts.
The key question to keep in mind is whether the geological data is in better accord with the principle of uniformitarianism or the principle of global catastrophism. In other words, has the history of the earth been dominated by ordinary process observed today producing changes at rates more or less the same as now observed? Or have there been periods of earth history in which global catastrophes have produced changes at rates unheard of today?