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Mt. St. Helens, Flood Geology, Modern Geology, The Age of the Earth

Question: 1. What about Mt. St. Helens? Creationists often use this as proof that layers of sediment can be produced quickly. Thus, to the creationists, the global flood could have created the layers quickly.
Mount St Helens and Flood Geology

ED: Just because some layers form quickly does not mean they all did.

Point One, Modern Geology

The movement of rain-water and lake-water down the slope of Mt. St. Helens to form layers of sediment does not explain how all of the earthʼs geological formations originated. There are plenty of formations that were not “underwater” when they formed, including ancient desert layers of windblown sand, ancient dry mud cracked layers, ancient dried dung found in the geological record, ancient fossilized nests of dinosaurs and burrows of land dwelling creatures, ancient paleosols (had to have been exposed to air), ancient dried mineral layers (like when a salty shallow inland lake dries up, leaving a layer of concentrated salt crystals), as well as trackways left by creatures walking around on land, like amphibian tracks, dinosaur tracks, reptile tracks, bird and mammal tracks, found at different heights throughout the geological record, sometimes such tracks are found at different heights directly above each other in the same geological formation, so we know creatures were walking around on land during all the different geological epochs.

You can shake up a jar of water mixed with soil and allow it to settle into layers because the most dense rock settles first (hard pebbles and sand), then the less dense rock particles settle, and finally the least dense rock particles settle (like fine clay particles that stay suspended longer in water). However, the density of rocks found piled in layers round the world can vary from layers that have the smallest lightest particles on top of the most dense rocks — to the reverse situation. From that alone, geologists guessed that the geologic column was not laid down instantly, nor even in a single year, but that the divisions between certain layers relected unknown but lengthy periods of time. For instance, you can put light chalk particles and light coal particles in a jar and shake it, and they would intermingle to a noticeable degree, BUT in nature the coal seams of Kent do not intermix with the white chalky cliffs of Dover, there is a very real division between the two, implying that the coal was laid down and hardened at one time, and then, later the little microorganisms that lived in the sea and sucked calcium from the water to make their tiny microbial shells, lived and died and formed the chalk seams above the coal seams — With A Time Interval Between The Two Events.

Also… geologists (who were Christians) discovered and proposed “the geological column” in the late 1700s and early 1800s (before Darwinʼs “Origin of Species” was published) based not only on the existence of layers and their unique contents of particular minerals or fossils, but based on the relative orders of those layers, especially when examined in large flat basins of undisturbed strata, implying that the strata were laid down in that relative order without the ground being lifted or bent out of shape or mixing things up immensely. And that same relative order was verified to exist over and over again in strata in Britain and in Europe, in fact, round the world. So especially when large flat undisturbed regions of earth were examined, the relative order of the geological column was vindicated hugely. Today, large flat basins of strata have been drilled round the world, many of which contain representative layers of rocks and fossils from all of the major geological epochs In The Exact Order Predicted Ages Ago by the original discoverers of “the geological column.” When less than the total number of geological epochs is represented, the Relative Order of the layers remains the same, as predicted. Neither does the absence of some representative layers alter the Relative Order of the layers that remain, and that relative order still matches what is predicted by “the geological column.”

Even in cases where the land is “faulted” or “bent” such as near rising volcanic mountains or where continents collide and push the land around them into mountainous shapes, the geological epochs may be turned “upside down” and hence the order of the strata is reversed, but in such cases where strata from numerous epochs are bent and heavily folded they still remain in the assumed relative order, only in reverse. Neither are such cases of “out of order strata” found in large flat undisturbed basins, and that is after countless deep core drillings of regions round the world have been examined.

Note on the “worldʼs biggest example of out of order strata,” The Lewis Mountain Overthrust

Henry Morris in The Genesis Flood claimed rightly that the largest region of “upside down strata” was in the region of the “Lewis Mountain Overthrust,” he wrongly claimed that there was no evidence of genuine “overthrusting.” Yet there was plenty, there were the rising mountains of that region. And in fact, plenty of evidence of faults and thrusts and bent land. And the “upside down strata” in that case were examined by geologists who determined that the lower rocks were “younger and uncooked by extreme pressure and heat” while the rocks on top were “older and cooked by more extreme heat and pressure,” which means that originally they were not in that order, but the older cooked rocks were originally beneath the younger uncooked ones. The Institute for Creation Researchʼs own experts in geology/paleontology (Drs. Austin and Wise) both admitted this and gave up trying to defend Morrisʼ use of the “Lewis Mountain Overthrust” to try and refute the order and existence of “the geologic column.”

Point Two, Is The Flood Story Literally True?

There are Evangelical scholars who opt for a reading of the “Flood” that is less than “worldwide.” See the NIV Application Commentary On Genesis by Watson, available at any major Christian bookstore. Itʼs an excellent commentary, at least for evangelicals, since it incorporates modern knowledge of the ancient Near Eastern world and tries to build a bridge between that knowledge and a truly evangelical understanding of Scripture. Watson teaches at Wheaton, an evangelical Christian institution. I read his commentary two weekends ago, couldnʼt put it down.

When the Bible speaks of the “whole world” it employs an ethnocentric view of the Hebrewʼs (and early Christianʼs) own little portion of the world being equivalent to “the whole world.”

The famine was over all the face of the earth… And all countries came unto Egypt to Joseph to buy corn; because the famine was so sore in all lands.
- Genesis 41:56,57

[The Lord said to the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert] “This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee."
- Deuteronomy 2:25

I have set my king upon the holy hill of Zion. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [as slaves] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.
- Psalm 2:6,8,9,12

[Jesus said] “The Queen of the South [i.e., the Queen of Sheba] came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon."
- Matthew 12:42 (The Queenʼs residence, being probably on the Arabian Gulf, could not have been more than twelve or fourteen hundred miles from Jerusalem. If that is the “uttermost parts of the earth” then it is a small world after all.)

All the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom.
- 2 Chronicles 9:23

A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
- Luke 2:1

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
- Acts 2:5

A great famine all over the world took place in the reign of Claudius.
- Acts 11:28

Paul the apostle wrote:

Their voice [of first-century proclaimers of the Christian Gospel] has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.

The mystery is now manifested and. has been made known to all the nations.

The gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world.

The gospel. which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul was made a minister.
- Romans 10:18; 16:25-26; Colossians 1:5-6,23

But “Their voice” (of Christians proclaiming the Gospel) had only reached a handful of churches in the Roman Empire when you wrote the above verses. The Gospel had not reached, nor been proclaimed in “all the earth,” nor “to the ends of the world,” nor “to all nations,” and certainly not “in all creation under heaven,” not like you said it “has” and “was.” (Even today, Southern Baptists claim that something like three billion people on earth still havenʼt heard “the Gospel,” at least not “the Gospel” that the Southern Baptists preach.)

The early church father, Irenaeus, maintained Paulʼs “big talk” when he wrote: “Now the Church, spread throughout all the world even to the ends of the earth;” “…even though she has been spread over the entire world;” “Anyone who wishes to see the truth can observe the apostleʼs traditions made manifest in every church throughout the whole world.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.10.1, 1.10.2, 3.3.1-2) Not a very big “world,” mind you, leaving out most of Asia and Africa, not to mention the continents of Australia, North America and South America.

If an all-wise God had inspired the Bible He would have been able to give its human authors a few inspired geography lessons, just to show them how big the earth really is. Instead the Bible contains the same exaggerated ethnocentric speech common for its day and age.

Furthermore, if the Bible is speaking in exaggerated ethnocentric fashion when it speaks of “all the earth,” “to the ends of the earth,” “from the uttermost parts of the earth,” “all the inhabited earth,” “in all creation under heaven,” “under all the heavens,” and, “every nation under heaven,” then what about the statement, “everywhere under the heavens” that appears in the tale of the Flood of Noah? (Gen. 7:17, “The water prevailed. and all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.”) Might not the phrase, “everywhere under the heavens,” be another exaggeration to make the Hebrew version of the Flood story (which they stole from the Sumerians/Babylonians) appeal to the ethnocentrism of their own culture? After all, the Hebrews changed the name of the storyʼs main protagonist and changed the mountain upon which the boat eventually rested, just to suit their culture. In fact, the story of “the Flood” was altered by each culture that adopted it as the story moved eastward, including the name of the protagonist and the name of the mountain that he and his cargo landed on.

Having run across so many instances of exaggerated ethnocentric speech in the Bible one wonders what is to become of the central Christian boast, the exaggeration par excellence, namely that Jesus died for the sins of “the world?” Believers from every sacred tradition boast that their beliefs affect “the world,” or must be taken utterly seriously by “the world.” Must they? I find that I cannot take seriously many instances in which Biblical authors exaggerate about the extent of a famine, a census, the distance to a queenʼs residence, the extent to which a message has been spread, the extent of a flood, etc. Furthermore, it appears that “orthodox” Christian doctrines and theology arose via exaggerating the importance of some parts of the New Testament above others (as well as by exaggerating the importance of some interpretations of those sayings above rival interpretations). So each group of Christians believed that the verses they focused on (and their interpretations of those verses) were “centrally” important.

A final exaggeration worth mentioning, this time of “flat earth” proportions:

The devil took him [Jesus] up into an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.
- Matthew 4:8

Shown “all the kingdoms of the world” from an “exceedingly high mountain?” I suppose so, if the mountain was “exceedingly high” and the earth was flat. Two verses in the book of Daniel echo an equally flat presumption, “I saw a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.” (Daniel 4:10-11) Instead of an “exceedingly high” mountain as in Matthew, Daniel pictures a tree “whose height was great.” Funny how such flagrantly flat-earth verses appear in both the Old and New Testaments. “Bible believers” will of course reply that such verses are only “apparently difficult” to explain, and not the “real truth” as they see it. But it is the “apparent difficulties” that remain in the Bible, as it was written, and they will always remain there, regardless of all the ingenuity employed in explaining them away.

Christian Men Of Science And The Age Of The Earth

By the 1850s Christian men of science agreed the earth was extremely old.
See, “Reasons Why ‘Flood Geology’ Was Abandoned in the Mid-1800s by Christian Men of Science”

Such men included:

  • Reverend William Buckland (head of geology at Oxford)

  • Reverend Adam Sedgwick (head of geology at Cambridge)

  • Reverend Edward Hitchcock (who taught natural theology and geology at Amherst College, Massachusetts)

  • John Pye Smith (head of Homerton Divinity College)

  • Hugh Miller (self taught geologist, and editor of the Free Church of Scotlandʼs newspaper) and,

  • Sir John William Dawson (geologist and paleontologist, a Presbyterian brought up by conservative Christian parents, who also became the only person ever to serve as president of three of the most prestigious geological organizations of Britain and America).

All of these giants of the geological sciences rejected the “Genesis Flood” as an explanation of the geologic record — except for possibly the topmost superficial sediments, though Adam Sedgewick and Buckland later abandoned even that hypothesis:
Neither were their conclusions based on a subconscious desire to support “evolution,” since none of the above evangelical Christians were evolutionists, none became evolutionists, and the earliest works of each of them were composed before Darwinʼs Origin of Species was published.

Lake Suigetsu

Lake Suigetsu in Japan has had many of its 45 thousand layers individually carbon-dated, and each layer as you descended was older than the one above by approximately one year, going back 45 thousand years:
Lake Suigetsu and other important data about lake varves:

Paleoclimate Records and Young Earth Creationism

And speaking of “layers,” there are ice cores with layers of ice going back even further than 45 thousand years:

Ice Cores

Evidence of an old-earth is also provided by ice cores, i.e., not just the numbers of distinct layers of ice found in the deepest known ice cores but also via analyzing the individual peculiarities of each individual layer of ice in such cores, which was definitely NOT all laid down together at once, nor in a very short period… Speaking of such evidence, has Young Earth creationism finally met the “tiny mystery” that it cannot explain away? As I stated above, there already exist evidence for an earth older than the one pieced together by simply adding the genealogies of the patriarchs of Genesis together. Such evidence includes individually carbon-dated tree rings from overlapping series of trees whose rings reach back over 10,000 years. And thereʼs individually carbon-dated varve layers in a lake in Japan that reach back in time continuously for even greater periods, i.e., for tens of thousands of years. Now thereʼs ice cores that reach back 40,000 years as well, which are perhaps even more difficult to explain away than the evidence already mentioned above. See the information on such cores provided in the letter below, submitted by a Christian who is also a professional glaciologist.

From: Andrew Ruddell
(a Christian and also a professional glacialogist — E.T.B.)
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 4:17 AM
To: [email protected]

To Drs. Meyer and Murray,
What a great web site you two have created!

Good to see someone taking both the Bible and science seriously. Along with you guys, I believe that God does not need falsehood to prop up his kingdom. While science operates under his lordship it must operate in the realm of reason to achieve the benefits he intends for humanity. When such “reason” is used as a basis for belief it becomes speculative as we see in “creation science,” then we run into all sorts of problems such as scholasticism, gnosticism, etc. Godʼs Kingdom can only come by faith when and where he wills. It doesnʼt come any quicker by us “bearing false witness.”

My past career was a science teacher then a glaciologist (following a PhD at Univ of Melbourne -working on the New Zealand glacial retreat due to recent warming, then several years working on the Antarctic Ice Sheet) and now doing a BTh/BMin to go into the ministry.

Attached below is an email sent to Answers In Genesis following the dubious claim that the Greenland ice sheet is only about 2,000 years old. I believe an article similar to my comments exists (Seely, P.H., “The GISP2 Ice Core: Ultimate Proof that Noahʼs Flood Was Not Global, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55(4):252-260, 2003.) The Answers in Genesis people are currently working on a “rebuttal” of the Seely article, which I also look forward to seeing.

Sincerely in Christ,

Feel free to use the following material (no need to give acknowledgements). Other material exists elsewhere (Don Lindsayʼs web site, Todd Greene, etc). The Oard article below has some glaring misquotes and I believe that Dr Weiland is out of his depth, but they are brotherʼs in Christ and I believe that we must work positively and objectively with them.

Summary letter to the editor of Answers in Genesis for publication:
Age of Greenland ice core
Dr Wielandʼs articles in Creation 26(1) and 19(3) claim that the 3 km Greenland ice core (GISP2) is younger than that determined by glaciological analysis, and represents only about 2,000 years of accumulation. This conflicts with the established age of at least 40,000 years obtained by the counting of annual layers using visual stratigraphy by Meese et al. (1997) to a depth of 2340 m. This method is independently supported by conductivity and particulate variation, and volcanic fallout. The method used by Dr Wieland is much lower because it appears to have not adequately considered the substantial inland decrease in accumulation rate, its density variation, or the rate of strain thinning in the GISP2 ice core. Is this correct?

Reference - Meese, et al. 1997 J. Geophys. Res. 102(C12):26,41126,423.
Andrew Ruddell
Adelaide, Australia.
And a slightly more detailed version for Dr Carl Wieland given below. I would be interested in his comments.
An age of only 4,000 years for the Greenland Icesheet has been proposed by Wieland (1997, 2004). This is considerably less than the age given by Alley et al (1997) and Meese et al (1997) for the GISP2 ice core. Meese et al. (1997:26,413) state that:

  1. ‘The visual stratigraphy was a consistent parameter throughout most of the core’ (i.e. 77% of core depth).
  2. Using visual stratigraphy 44,583 annual layers can be counted with an estimated error of 5-10%.
  3. The visual stratigraphy is independently supported by ECM and LLS measurements.
  4. The summer stratigraphic horizon ‘was chosen as the definitive annual layer marker’.
  5. Stratigraphy is determined from depth-hoar layers (which are easily distinguished from melt features).
    The dating of the core is supported by volcanic fallout from the Saksunarvatn eruption about 10,300 years ago and another event (‘Z2’) about 52,200 years ago (Zielinski et al 1997). More recent eruptions have been identified as well (Clausen et al 1997, Zielinski et al 1994).
    The study of Meese et al (1997) has been meticulously undertaken and is able to provide a reliable age for the Greenland ice sheet of at least 40,000 years. The age given by Dr Wieland is much lower, because his method does not adequately consider:
  1. The substantial inland decrease in accumulation rate (in water equivalent).
  2. The rate of strain thinning with depth (even for the section with visual annual layers).

    Furthermore, it should be noted that:

  3. The dating does not depend on isotope variations as stated by Wieland (1997). Although these also give ‘a distinct seasonal signal’ in the upper 300m.
  4. Borehole and ice radar measurements indicate that the worldʼs two ice-sheets are kilometers thick rather than ‘hundreds of meters thick’ as stated by Wieland (2004, p 20).


  1. I was wondering if you could shed some light on the disparities (1-4) that have been outlined above (I have found similar problems in an article on the same topic written by Oard 2001).
  2. I am also interested to know if your articles are peer-reviewed by scientists appropriate to this topic.
  3. Has a critique of the Greenland ice core dating been submitted to the relevant journals such as ‘J.Glaciology’, ‘Annals of Glaciology’ or J.Geophys.Res.?
    Thank you for your consideration of my submission. My colleagues and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely, Andrew Ruddell

11 Feb. 2004.


  • Alley, R.B. et al., Visual-stratigraphic dating of the GISP2 ice core: Basis, reproducibility, and application. Journal of Geophysical Research 102(C12):26,36726,381, 1997.
  • Clausen et al. A comparison of the volcanic records over the past 4000 years from the Greenland Ice Core Project and Dye 3 Greenland ice cores. Journal of Geophysical Research 102(C12):26,70726,723, 1997
  • Meese, D.A., Gow, A.J., Alley, R.B., Zielinski, G.A., Grootes, P.M., Ram, K., Taylor, K.C., Mayewski, P.A. and Bolzan, J.F., The Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 depth-age scale: Methods and results. Journal of Geophysical Research 102 (C12):26,41126,423, 1997.
  • Oard, Michael J. Do Greenland ice cores show over one hundred thousand years of annual layers? Subsequently published in: TJ 15(3):3942, 2001.
  • Wieland, Carl Ice-bound plane flies again. Creation 26(1):20-21, Dec 2003 Feb 2004.
  • Wieland, Carl The Lost Squadron: Deeply buried missing planes challenge ‘slow and gradual’ preconceptions. Creation 19(3):1014, JuneAugust 1997.
  • Zielinski et al. Record of volcanism since 7000 BC from the GISP2 Greenland ice core and implications for the volcano-climate system.
  • Science 264, 948-952, 13 May 1994.
  • Zielinski et al. Volcanic aerosol records and tephrochronology of the Summit, Greenland, ice cores. Journal of Geophysical Research 102(C12):26,62526,640; 1997.

Greenriver Formation

In geological formations containing millions of layers like the ancient fossil lake deposits of the Green River formation you can find the markings and prints of reptiles, water fowl, and mammals at different sedimentary horizons, showing they walked around the lakeʼs ancient shores, not to mention the fossilized nests of the ancient water fowl found along the shore lines.

Guy Berthault Has Formed Some Layers In The Lab In Minutes.

But Guy Berthaultʼs experiments do not invalidate that layers can and have been laid down far more slowly, as slowly as one layer per year as observed in modern day lakes in Europe and Japan where varves are observed being formed.

Berthaultʼs Failure To Invalidate Modern Geology

For more details about Berthaultʼs failure to overturn modern geology read the articles, further below, several of them by a professional geologist who was a former young-earth creationist Christian who wanted an earth as young as possible, but who became an old-earther instead.
Speaking of former young-earth geologists, I personally know three former young-earth geologists who became old-earth geologists, one even studied with John Morris of ICR, and there is even an association of old-earth Christian geologists linked with the Evangelical Christian American Scientific Affiliation (visit the ASA website). Compare that with the fact that both young-earth groups, ICR and AiG, only list 8 degreed geologists (with either a Ph.D. or an M.S.) on their websites. Guy Berthaultʼs views vs. Those of Other Christian Men of Science and Expert Sedimentologists

The evidence for an OLD earth presently includes:

  1. Individually dated tree-rings in two or three separate tree-ring series, stretch back 12,000 years. (Even Young-earthers like Aardsma, formerly with the Institute for Creation Research, have admitted that the evidence from individually dated tree-rings in two totally separate tree-ring series on two different continents, demonstrates the reliability of C-14-dating stretching back 12,000 years in time).

  2. Individually (C-14)dated varves in a lake in Japan, stretch back 40,000+ layers. (Green River varves have not been individually C-14 dated, but that would be an interesting experiment to perform since there are over 2 million layers per ancient fossil lake in that region, and all toll, when you count the layers of all the fossilized lakes in that region, noting the lowest and highest layers in each lake and how the time overlaps in each lake, there are over 6 million layers.)

  3. Deep ice cores feature 100,000 layers of ice — each layer having its own distinctive isotopic signature (and other types of layer-distinctive signatures as well), stretching back over 100,000+ layers. Latest core drilled was two miles deep and contained 700,000 layers of ice.

  4. Evidence of extremely slow sea-floor spreading over a 100,000,000 years. New sea floor is seen forming today from molten rock that emerges from a ridge that runs right down the middle of the Atlantic ocean. On each side of that mid-Atlantic ridge, new molten rock continues to emerge, then it cools and hardens, and the date of cooling (as well as the direction and strength of the earthʼs magnetic field at the time it cooled) is sealed inside the rock in the iron crystals that harden there. Then the next strip of molten rock emerges from the mid-Atlantic ridge, cools, and hardens, as the continents on either side of the Atlantic ocean continue to drift slowly apart from each other. Thus are formed distinctive strips of sea-floor rock that run all the way from the middle of the Atlantic ocean (where the youngest radiometrically strips are) to the shoreline (where the oldest radiometrically dated strips are found). Such strips of rock along both sides of the mid-Atlantic ridge reflect over a hundred million years of sea floor spreading that occurred as the continents of North and South American slowly drifted away from Europe and Africa.

Moreover, the radiometric dates that stretch from the middle of the Atlantic to the shoreline, agree with independent measurements (both land based and satellite based) of the present rate of movement of North and South America away from Europe and Africa. In both cases, the expected time it would take for the continents to move apart at their known present rates of speed are the same.

Even Young Eartherʼs agree that if you try, as they have, to explain the evidence for extremely slow sea-floor spreading simply by speeding up the process and imagining that the continents zipped into their present positions in a mere “year,” that hypothesis would require a MIRACLE to cool the molten rocks down instantly and in distinctive stages — because if the continents “zipped” along, then the rocks and their radioactive isotopes would have run together like soft butter spread on microwaved bread, neither would the sea floor rocks exhibit the crystallization patterns that rocks exhibit that have cooled under conditions of much lower temperatures and pressures, which is what the sea floor rocks presently exhibit. Moreover, after the continents had ceased “zipping” along but slowed to their present extremely slow speeds, what odds would there be of achieving the same MATCH between the known range of radiometric dates of sea-floor rocks from the middle of the Atlantic to the shoreline, AND the present speed of the continentʼs moving apart from one another today? What a coincidence! The strictly scientific odds look far better that the “continental zip” hypothesis is wrong, and the continents took over a hundred million years to separate, and at the same rate they are presently separating.

The evidence of an old-earth is enormous and defies the “odds.” There are thousands of individually dated tree rings — tens of thousands of individually dated lake varves — a hundred thousand distinctive layers of ice — and, sea-floor rocks formed in succession and having hardened over successive periods stretching back over a hundred million years.

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