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Many people wonder how the story of the
flood in Genesis can be reconciled with geological facts. This was a
question some of the earliest geologists attempted to answer. According
to modern geology there is no evidence
that a flood resembling the one described in Genesis has occurred.
However, leading geologists of the 18th century, including
scientist-explorers such as Peter Simon Pallas and Horace
Saussure, geologist Déodat de Dolomieu, scholars such as Jean de
Luc, prominent 19th century scientists
like Sir James Hall, William Smith, Jean Baptiste Elie de Beaumont, Sir
Murchison, and J.W. Dawson and others did not doubt that a great
destructive flood had occurred, for which they submitted a great
variety of evidence.
This article examines how the course of the geologic enterprise was
steered away from this position, and identifies some of the individuals
involved, and the basis for their decision to abandon the older concept
of a former great flood. The decline of the diluvial theory corresponds
to the rise of the glacial theory, which modern creationist
interpretations have tried to assimilate into their geologic models.
Problems with the flood models which propose a post-flood ice age seem
insurmountable, but a new theory of in
situ disintegration explanation of the drift provides a very
Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817) was appointed professor of mining at the School of Mines in Freiberg, which eventually developed into one of the leading schools of geology in Europe. He developed techniques for identifying minerals, and distinguished minerals from rocks, and considered the distribution and relations of various types of rocks. Werner called his system of interpretation 'geognosy', and developed the Neptunian theory, which claimed all rocks had been deposited in a primordial ocean, including granite. According to Davis Young, this theory was originally advanced by a French diplomat named Benoit de Maillet (1656-1738) in a work named Telliamed. Although Werner had not traveled beyond a small part of Germany, he assumed the succession of rock types he found there also occurred in other areas of the world, which his students eventually discovered, to their dismay, was not necessarily so. Lyell wrote of Werner, in Principles of Geology:
He had merely explored a small portion of Germany, and conceived, and persuaded others to believe, that the whole surface of our planet, and all the mountain chains in the world, were made after the model of his own province. It was a ruling object of ambition in the minds of his pupils to confirm the generalizations of their great master, and to discover in the most distant parts of the globe his "universal formations," which he supposed had been each in succession simultaneously precipitated over the whole earth from a common menstruum, or "chaotic fluid." Unfortunately, the limited district examined by the Saxon professor was no type of the world, nor even of Europe; and, what was still more deplorable, when the ingenuity of his scholars had tortured the phenomena of distant countries, and even of another hemisphere, into conformity with his theoretical standard, it was discovered that "the master" had misinterpreted many of the appearances in the immediate neighbourhood of Freyberg.
Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811) was a German zoologist and botanist, who was invited to Russia by Catherine II to become a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. He led an expedition to Siberia between 1769 and 1774 to study natural history. Pallas described extensive deposits in northen Asia containing the remains of extinct mammoths and rhinoceroses in the frozen ground, that were exposed each Spring along river banks, and along the Arctic coast. His reports provided strong support for the idea of a catastrophic flood that suddenly overcame the animals and carried them all northward into a colder region and buried them in sediments. In some cases even the hides and flesh were preserved. Pallas also investigated the structure of the Ural and Atlas mountains, and pointed out that the rocks were oldest at the center and progressively younger on the flanks of mountain ranges. He believed the mountains had been uplifted during “commotions of the globe”, some showing signs of recent uplift.
Horace Bénédict de Saussure (1740-1799) was professor of physics and philosophy at the academy of Geneva. He was a pioneer of geology, mineralogy and meteorology, plant anatomy and alpine botany. He explored the Alps, and changed the general attitude toward mountains, which had been one of superstition and dread, to one of knowledge and inspiration. He offered a reward to the first person to reach the summit of Mont Blanc, that was claimed after 25 years by Michel-Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmatby of Chamonix in 1786. In the company of 18 guides, Sassure reached the summit of Mont Blanc himself in 1787, the third ascent. He published his 4 volume Voyages dans les Alpes between 1779 and 1796, containing 30 years of his geological observations in support of the Neptunian theory and catastrophism. In the course of his work he had crossed the Alps fourteen times, and very few people had ventured into the mountains at that time. His books popularized mountaineering, as soon every major Alpine peak was climbed. De Saussure performed experiments on the fusion of granites and porphyries. He proposed 'geology' in place of Werner's 'geognosy' for the new science of the study of the earth. Davis Young wrote:
Recognizing the tentative, incomplete state of knowledge about the earth, the multitude of important unanswered questions about the earth's past, and the need for a reasonable theory of the earth at the close of the eighteenth century, Alpine geologist Horace Benedict de Saussure (1740-1799), professor of philosophy at the Academy of Geneva, published an agenda for future research to provide a "foundation for a theory of the earth." Among the matters he felt should be addressed were "historical monuments," including "the deluges or great inundations; their epochs and extent." In a section on "rolled pebbles," de Saussure suggested that a study of high elevation pebbles and rolled blocks "foreign to the soil which bears them" and of the large valleys nearby could yield "some indications of the direction, size and force of the currents produced by the grand revolutions of the earth." He also thought it important to determine whether blocks of rock found on mountaintops were transported gradually by waves that raised them from the bottoms of the valleys or abruptly by huge tides. De Saussure spoke for the geological community when he identified the role and effects of past floods as a significant geological issue. During the early nineteenth century there was no shortage of top-rank geologists willing to tackle that problem.
James Hutton (1726-1797) of Edinburgh developed the controversial theory about the uniformity of past causes in nature. In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh which claimed that the geological causes which had produced the earth's features, including mountains, were the same as those now in operation, acting for immense periods of time.
In his 2 volume work, The Theory of the Earth published in 1795, Hutton claimed that the sand and pebbles in the unconsolidated surface materials of the earth, as well as those contained in the Old Red Sandstone exposed along the coast of Scotland, implied long ages were involved in the formation of the earth's strata. Sand grains and pebbles, he wrote, were derived from the slow weathering and decay of older rocks. These were deposited as sediments in the sea, changed into rock by pressure and heat, and uplifted, and eroded, in an endless cycle. He claimed all the earth's rounded pebbles had been rounded by abrasion and wear during transport on land, in streams, or were rolled by waves on a beach, or by glaciers, or by other agents active at the earth's surface, and required long periods of time to form.
Hutton's writing style was dull, but his views were popularized by his friend John Playfair (1748-1819), who at one point was ordained as a parish minister, and subsequently became a mathematician. Playfair published Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of The Earth in 1802 which explained in a more readable style the concepts of Hutton's uniformitarian theory. Playfair's approach was to state his assumptions, as if presenting a theorem of geometry. Below, he presents as a 'fundamental proposition' of the Huttonian theory, the idea that rounded stones and pebbles can only be produced in a continental environment, in the bed of a river or on the sea shore. Upon this premise, the whole of uniformitarian geology depends. The acceptance of this axiom effectively ruled out a concretionary or any hitherto unknown origin for pebbles and rounded stones.
It is well known that, on removing the loose earth which forms the immediate surface of the land, we come to the solid rock, of which a great proportion is found to be regularly disposed in strata, or beds of determinate thickness, inclined at different angles to the horizon, but separated from one another by equidistant superficies, that often maintain their parallelism to a great extent. These strata bear such evident marks of being deposited by water, that they are univerally acknowledged to have had their origin at the bottom of the sea; and it is also admitted, that the materials which they consist of, were then either soft, or in such a state of comminutation and separation, as rendered them capable of arrangement by the action of water in which they were immersed. Thus far most of the theories of the earth agree: but from this point they begin to diverge, and each to assume a character and direction peculiar to itself. Dr. Hutton's does so, by laying down this fundamental proposition. That in all the strata we discover proofs of the materials having existed as elements of bodies, which must have been destroyed before the formation of those which these materials now actually make a part. Those pudding stones in which the gravel is round and polished, carry the conclusion still farther, as such gravel can only be formed in the beds of rivers or on the shores of the sea: for, in the depths of the ocean, though currents are known to exist, yet there can be no motion of the water sufficiently rapid to produce the attrition required to give a round and smooth surface to hard irregular pieces of stone. There must have existed, therefore, not only a sea, but continents, previously to the formation of the present strata.
Playfair described Hutton as a charming and simple man, but a recent biographer claims he had distributed lewd drawings amongst his friends, that were considered an embarrassment. Playfair gave an account of Hutton's interpretation of the unconformity at Siccar Point, on the east coast of Scotland, and its implication for the earth's age. He wrote a Dissertation on the Progress of Mathematical and Physical Science since the Revival of Learning in Europe that was published in the fourth, fifth and sixth editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica supplement. The interpretation of the abundant rounded pebbles and stones of the superficial deposits and ancient conglomerates which Hutton and Playfair attributed to abrasion during transport in streams, or the action of waves on a beach, or to similar processes at the earth's surface had a profound influence on many geologists in the nineteenth century, who felt that this provided them with almost unlimited time for the formation of the earth's geologic features.
Jean Andre de Luc
(1727-1817) was born in Geneva, and became
politics in Paris. In 1773 he moved to England and was appointed
reader to Queen Charlotte, wife of the English King George III. He
published Lettres physiques et morales sur les montagnes et sur
l'histoire de la terre et de l'homme in 1778, containing his views
on the formation of mountains, and interpreting the days of creation as
long periods of
indefinite duration. He accepted the biblical account of the
flood and attempted to demonstrate the
conformity of geology with scripture.
Richard Kirwan (1733-1812), a chemist and mineralogist, was Inspector of Mines in Ireland. He thought Hutton's uniformitarian views favored atheism. He was a Jesuit and considered geology to be the handmaiden of true religion. His Geological Essays published in 1799 attacked the doctrines of Hutton.
Sir James Hall (1761-1832) of Edinburgh was the first to describe the smooth, polished appearance of the rock surface under the drift, and the striations indicating the movement of rocks over it. He attributed these features to the action of great debacles of water, generated by former uplifts of the sea floor associated with earthquakes, that spilled sea water over the land. He also described the streamlined hills in the Edinburgh area, now known as drumlins, and attributed these to the same cause, the streamlining action of currents of water.
Hall conducted experiments on the fusion of powdered minerals at high temperature in sealed containers. He discovered that the presence of feldspar lowers the fusion temperature of quartz, and he produced artificial marble from chalk. His visits to the Alps of Europe convinced him of the reality of catastrophic events in the earth's past, and so while he accepted Hutton's uniformity principle, he objected to the idea that earth movements must always have been 'gradual' and slow. Hall wrote:
I have no hesitation in declaring my hearty concurrence in what I consider as the essence of the Huttonian Theory; I mean as to all that relates to the influence of internal heat in the formation of our rocks and mountains: But I could never help differing from Dr HUTTON, as to the particular mode in which he conceived our continents to have risen from the bottom of the sea, by a motion so gentle, as to leave no trace of the event, and so as to have had no share in producing the present state of the Earth's surface.
At an early period of life, while I imbibed from the delightful conversation of my worthy friend Dr HUTTON, the spirit of his geological views, I retained my attachment to opinions suggested by M. DE SAUSSURE's observations, which, at a still earlier period, I had acquired in the Alps, and which had been rivetted in my mind by the sight of the phenomena from which they have been inferred. The facts also observed in the Russian empire, and brought forward by Professor PALLAS, relative to the productions of the tropics, which are found upon the banks of the Frozen Sea, appeared to me of sufficient force to justify his belief, that, at some remote period, a torrent of water had swept across the continent of Asia. I have, therefore, been always disposed to combine the doctrines of HUTTON with those professed by the gentlemen just named, relative to marine inundations; and a number of facts which I have observed in this country, will contribute, I hope, to throw some additional light upon this difficult subject.
Hall argued that a series of catastrophic waves from the North Sea, such as the tidal waves that sometimes accompanied great earthquakes, could account for the streamlined hills. He suggested these floods, generated by uplift of the sea floor, eroded deep lake basins in Scotland, and that similar floods had distributed the erratic boulders scattered over many parts of Europe.
William Smith (1769-1839) introduced geological maps, and used fossils to identify rock formations. Roberts wrote:
In England, Geology came with the Industrial Revolution, as William Smith was a Canal Engineer working near Bath and in 1795 spotted that the same sequence of fossils was repeated in two valleys, thus working out the order of the strata. He then applied his methods to the whole neighbourhood of Bath. Two local clergy, Benjamin Richardson and Joseph Townsend, encouraged him to publicise his methods. The geological aspects are fairly well known at least to geologists. The theological aspects undermine a conflict scenario of Geology and Genesis and have received little attention. William Smith was no empiricist whose science was not coloured by his beliefs, as he mixed up his religion and his science. Particularly strong was Smith's belief about the Deluge, which loomed large in his explanations as the last Catastrophe to have major geological effect. During the 90s many including de Luc postulated more than one Flood. However by 1801, Smith concluded that the bulk of strata were laid down before the Deluge; "But repeated and accurate observations since have satisfied me that the Deluge we read of had no more to do with the formation of those fossils than the formation of the immense strata of solid rocks in which they are imbedded....For I verily believe that those waters did not penetrate to such a depth or disturb the strata so much as has been imagined." At the same time Smith also concluded a vastly extended age of the earth.
Until the early nineteenth century, the unconsolidated material that forms a mantle over the sedimentary rocks was assumed to be material deposited by the Noachian deluge. The material is unconsolidated, and forms a mantle over both the sedimentary and the Primary rocks, consisting of sand, gravel, and boulder-clay, in much of Europe and the northern part of North America.
The diluvial interpretation of the unconsolidated surface materials was established by Baron Georges Cuvier of Paris, and his influence extended into the 20th century. Smith and Borns write:
Cuvier was a "catastrophist." He believed that the Earth was immensely old and had suffered periodic catastrophes, such as floods, and that the extinction of some life forms and their subsequent replacement by new (but often related) forms, and accompanying changes in the geological features of the landscape, represented the true history of the world. Cuvier was an opponent of organic evolution, for he thought that any change in an organism's anatomy would render it unable to survive. Cuvier's influence on Agassiz was profound. Paradoxically, when certain geologists suggested that the most recent catastrophe in Earth's history was the Noachian Flood, it would be Agassiz who dismissed this popular theory by showing that the "flood deposits" were actually formed by glaciers.
Referring to the approach of early geologists, who were willing to contemplate former catastrophes, William Whewel wrote:
... as the geological facts were studied, the doctrine of catastrophes appeared to gain ground. Thus in England, where, through a large part of the country, the coal-measures are extremely inclined and contorted, and covered over by more horizontal fragmentary beds, the opinion that some violent catastrophe had occurred to dislocate them, before the superincumbent strata were deposited, was strongly held. It was conceived that a period of violent and destructive action must have succeeded to one of repose; and that, for a time, some unusual and paroxysmal forces must have been employed in elevating and breaking the preexisting strata, and wearing their fragments into smooth pebbles, before nature subsided into a new age of tranquillity and vitality. In like manner Cuvier, from the alternations of fresh-water and saltwater species in the strata of Paris, collected the opinion of a series of great revolutions, in which "the thread of induction was broken." Delue and others, to whom we owe the first steps in geological dynamics, attempted carefully to distinguish between causes now in action, and those which have ceased to act; in which latter class they reckoned the causes which have elevated the existing continents. This distinction was assented to by many succeeding geologists. The forces which have raised into the clouds the vast chains of the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Andes, must have been, it was deemed, something very different from any agencies now operating.
Robert Jameson (1774-1854) was professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University for 50 years, and because of his great enthusiasm, he generated considerable interest in the natural sciences. Jameson went to Freiberg in 1800 and studied mineralogy under Werner for nearly two years. He supported the Neptunian system of Werner, opposing the uniformiatrians, who upheld the Plutonist theory. He founded the Wernerian Natural History Society and built up a huge collection of mineralogical and geological specimens for the museum at Edinburgh University. He published System of Mineralogy in 1808, and Manual of Mineralogy in 1821. With Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), he founded the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal in 1819, and served as its Editor. Eventually he abandoned the Neptunian view and converted to the views of James Hutton.
William Buckland (1784-1856), professor of geology at Oxford University, was later appointed Dean of Westminster. In 1823 he identified the fossil remains of elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, horse, ox, deer, hyena, tiger, bear, wolf, fox, rodents and birds found at Kirkdale Cave in Yorkshire. In a famous passage from Vindiciae Geologicae Buckland wrote:
... the grand fact of an universal deluge at no very remote period is proved on grounds so decisive and incontrovertible, that, had we never heard of such an event from Scripture, or any other, authority, Geology of itself must have called in the assistance of some such catastrophe, to explain the phenomena of diluvian action which are universally presented to us, and which are unintelligible without recourse to a deluge exerting its ravages at a period not more ancient than that announced in the Book of Genesis.
A biography of Buckland says:
Until this time, it was commonly assumed that such remains were testimony to animals that had perished in the Flood and been carried from their original homes in the tropics by the surging waters. To Buckland, however, the great quantity of hyaena remains and the splintered state of all the bones pointed to a quite different conclusion - that the cave had actually been inhabited by hyaenas in antediluvian times, the effect of the Flood being no more than to cover bones already present with a layer of mud.
Buckland opposed the views of Neptunists like Robert Jameson. Rupke quotes a letter of Buckland to Greenough about a theory of Jameson attributing the pebbles of conglomerates to concretionary processes. The letter, dated 1817, is now in the Cambridge University Library. Buckland wrote:
In Bath I attended two lectures of a young disciple of Jameson, Dr. Galby who is very promising. He gave us Jameson's last theory of the coal formation, which is that all the substance of coal as well as the strata attending it is of chemical origin and unconnected with vegetable matter and that whin dykes are contemporaneous concretions in the rocks they transverse. The whole theory of denudation is to him terra incognita. All pebbles in every species of conglomerate are considered as contemporaneous concretions, with sundry other monstrous opinions which at this time of day astonish me in Jameson.
William Conybeare (1787-1857) and William Phillips (1775-1828), who was a nephew of William Smith, coauthored Outlines of the Geology of England and Wales, which was published in 1822. They called the unconsolidated gravels and sands spread around at the earth's surface diluvium. Young wrote that Conybeare "appealed to the same evidences for the deluge that Buckland had, asserting that a recent inundation had swept over the consolidated strata and indiscriminately covered the whole surface. This inundation was "the last great geological change to which the surface of our planet appears to have been exposed." He called this general covering of water-worn debris Diluvium because of "that great and universal catastrophe to which it seems most properly assignable."
John Fleming (1785-1857) was a pastor of the Church of Scotland, who became professor of natural history in Aberdeen in 1834. In 1826 he published a critique of the theory of Cuvier and Buckland that attributed the surface gravels to the deluge, with the title The Geological Deluge, as Interpreted by Baron Cuvier and Professor Buckland, Inconsistent with the Testimony of Moses and the Phenomena of Nature. Young wrote:
Fleming was concerned that Buckland in particular, with his high view of Scripture, had allowed his imagination to become overactive in his desire to find evidence for the flood. Fleming reminded Buckland that he had attributed the extinction of many species of quadrupeds to the deluge, whereas Scripture spoke of the preservation of at least a pair of every kind. Buckland contended that the flood was sudden, transient, virtually universal, and simultaneous, rushing about with overwhelming impetuosity, but Moses mentioned only the universality of the flood, and if anything the biblical evidence suggested that the flood was slow and gradual, inasmuch as it took forty days for the waters to rise. If the flood had been as violent as Buckland suggested, it is hard to imagine how the ark could have survived, much less landed relatively close to the point from which it first lifted off the ground as the Bible reports. Buckland said that the flood excavated deep valleys by tearing up solid rock, which would imply that prediluvian geography must have been radically different from what it is now, and yet Moses implied that the countries had the same appearance before and after the flood. If one took the biblical reference to the olive leaf seriously, one would have to conclude that the Mosaic flood was not violent enough to have disturbed the soil or trees; and the fact that Noah was able to plant a vineyard shortly after the flood further indicated that the soil had not been washed away.
Fleming accused Buckland of having obtained his notions of the flood from Ovid rather than the Bible. Himself endorsing the biblical description of a slowly accumulating, non-violent flood, Fleming disposed of all forms of flood geology, saying that he was "not prepared to witness in nature any remaining marks of the catastrophe, and I feel my respect for the authority of revelation heightened, when I see on the present surface no memorials of the event."
Buckland and his fellow catastrophists habitually attributed the existence of river valleys and canyons, gravel beds, mud in caves, and extinct animals to the action of the flood. The diluvialists said that river valleys had been carved by the tremendous power of the flood as it drained off the surface of the earth, but Fleming, like Hutton and Playfair before him, argued that the sinuous shapes of canyons and valleys and the fact that they gradually widen owing to the existence of tributaries mirrors the shapes of modern stream channels, which we know were produced solely by the streams themselves. It was clear to Fleming that ancient canyons and valleys were carved out by the long-continued action of running water rather than by a stupendous but brief flood. Flood waters might erode loose soil and loosen boulders, said Fleming, but there is no way they could have carved deep valleys out of solid bedrock.
In the previous paragraph Davis Young implies that the position advocated by Fleming, Playfair and Hutton was correct, but they limited processes in geology to those now in operation a priori.
Charles Lyell (1797-1875), who had been one of Buckland's students, commented on the geologic significance of the flood in volume 3 of his Principles of Geology (1833), and contrasted Buckland's violent, catastrophic diluvial interpretation with his more 'tranqil' approach. While not actually denying the flood, he viewed the scriptural account as mythological, and not subject to scientific investigation.
According to one school, of which De Luc in former times, and more recently Dr. Buckland, have been zealous and eloquent supporters, the passage of the flood worked a considerable alteration in the external configuration of our continents. By the last-mentioned writer the deluge is represented as a violent and transient rush of waters which tore up the soil to a great depth, excavated valleys, gave rise to immense beds of shingle, carried fragments of rock and gravel from one point to another, and, during its advance and retreat, strewed the valleys, and even the tops of many hills, with alluvium.
But we agree with Dr. Fleming, that in the narrative of Moses there are no terms employed that indicate the impetuous rushing of the waters, either as they rose or when they retreated, upon the restraining of the rain and the passing of a wind over the earth. On the contrary, the olive-branch, brought back by the dove, seems as clear an indication to us that the vegetation was not destroyed, as it was then to Noah that the dry land was about to appear.
Jean Baptiste Elie de Beaumont (1798-1874) presented a theory proposing contemporaneous uplift of parallel mountain ranges at the French Academy of Sciences in 1829. The theory suggested the elevation of mountains was accompanied by diluvial erosion. With Armand Dufrenoy, de Beaumont produced the first detailed geologic map of France in 1841. Lyell rejected Elie de Beaumont's theory of the elevation of mountains as being too violent. Such ideas did not fit Lyell's purpose, which was to explain the earth's geologic features by appealing only to "causes now in operation." Lyell wrote:
Our readers may also have been astonished at the high antiquity assigned by us to the greater part of the European alluviums, and the many different ages to which we refer to them, as they may have been taught to consider the whole as the result of one recent and simultaneous inundation. Lastly, they may have felt some disappointment at observing, that we attach no value whatsoever to the hypothesis of M. Elie de Baumont, adopted by Professor Sedgwick, that the sudden elevation of mountain-chains has been followed again and again by mighty waves desolating whole regions of the earth, a phenomenon which, according to the last-mentioned of these writers, has 'taken away all anterior incredibility from the fact of a recent deluge.'
For our part, we have always considered the flood, if we are required to admit its universality in the strictest sense of the term, as a preternatural event far beyond the reach of philosophical inquiry, whether as to the secondary causes employed to produce it, or the effects most likely to result from it.
Lyell wrote, regarding the flood, "... it is the opinion of some writers, that the earth's surface underwent no great modification at the era of the Mosaic deluge, and that the strictest interpretation of the scriptural narrative does not warrant us in expecting to find any monuments of the catastrophe, an opinion which is consistent with the preservation of the volcanic cones, however high their antiquity." Lyell suggested that the unconsolidated sands and gravels were due to floating icebergs that had "drifted" it around at the surface of the sea and deposited it as the ice melted during an extended period of time when the land was submerged. From his theory the diluvium came to be known as drift.
Lyell visited North America in 1841. In Travels in North America he described the drift gravels he saw in New England, which he thought were very similar to that of northern Europe. He reported on the presence of scratches on boulders and on bedrock, and mentioned the occasional large erratic boulders embedded in the drift and on its surface, while noting that most of the drift pebbles were of local origin. Lyell's interpretation assumed a former cold period, for the production of icebergs, and avoided the more violent aspects of the diluvial theory. He wrote:
There is here, as in Sweden, so great an extent of low country remote from any high mountains, that we cannot attribute the effects above described to true glaciers descending in the open air from the higher regions to the plains. If we adopt the glacial theory, we must suppose the country to have been submerged, and that the northern drift was brought here by large bodies of floating ice, which, by repeatedly running aground on the bottom of the sea for thousands of years, and forcing along the sand under their enormous weight, polished and furrowed the rocky bottom, and on the melting of the ice, let fall their burden of stones or erratic blocks, together with mud and pebbles.
Evidence for former submergence of the land was provided by raised shorelines, and in some regions, by the presence of marine shells on hills, as noted in the following excerpt from the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.
... Sir C. Lyell evolved the drift theory to explain the widely spread phenomenon of transported blocks, boulder clay and the allied deposits; in this he was supported by Sir H. de la Beche, Charles Darwin, Sir R. I. Murchison and many others. According to the drift theory; the transport and distribution of erratic blocks, &c., had been effected by floating icebergs; this view naturally involved a considerable and widespread submergence of the land, an assumption which appeared to receive support from the occasional presence of marine shells at high levels in the drift deposits. So great was the influence of those who favored the drift theory that even to-day it cannot be said to have lost complete hold; we still speak of drift deposits in England and America, and the belief in one or more great submergences during the Glacial period is still held more firmly by certain geologists than the evidence would seem to warrant. The case against the drift theory was most clearly expressed by Sir A. C. Ramsay for England and Scotland, and by the Swedish scientist Otto Torell.
Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was professor of Natural History in the university at Neuchatel, Switzerland. He had studied under Cuvier, and was famous for his work on the fossil fishes. Agassiz believed that the earth's geologic record showed a series of catastrophes which had destroyed the earth's creatures, followed by the creation of new species, and that the life existing now represents a complete break between the present creation and those which precede it. Whereas Cuvier identified the last catastrophe with a great flood, Agassiz identified it with an ice age. In 1837 he proposed that vast ice sheets once covered much of the northern hemisphere, and had distributed the diluvial gravel and sand, scratched bedrock over which it passed, and reshaped the land surface. Agassiz presented this theory at the Glasgow meeting of the British Association in 1840. He described the action of glaciers and the deposits associated with them. With Buckland he toured Scotland and the evidence they saw convinced Buckland that the glacial explanation proposed by Agassiz was correct. In 1846 Agassiz traveled to Canada, arriving at Halifax, where he discovered striations on bedrock and other features that he attributed to ice. From Canada he traveled to the United States where he lectured on natural history and his theory of an ice age. He later studied the drift phenomena in New England, and published a series of articles on geology in The Atlantic Monthly. In 1887 these were republished as Geological Sketches. Agassiz wrote:
The glacier was God's great plough; and when the ice vanished from the face of the land, it left it prepared for the hand of the husbandman, The hard surface of the rocks was ground to powder, the elements of the soil were mingled in fair proportions, granite was carried into the lime regions, lime was mingled with the more arid and unproductive granite districts, and a soil was prepared fit for the agricultural uses of matt. ... Therefore I think we may believe that God did not shroud the world He had made in snow and ice without a purpose, and that this, like many other operations of His Providence, seemingly destructive and chaotic in its first effects, is nevertheless a work of beneficence and order.
Although for a few months Lyell supported the glacial theory, he rejected it in favor of the iceberg theory. The iceberg theory was also preferred by Charles Darwin. Lyell regarded the glacial theory as too 'catastrophic', however in later editions of his book he quietly abandoned his iceberg interpretation.
Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) was Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge. He opposed the views of the scriptural geologists in the 1820s and 1830s. As a clergyman who originally believed the Diluvial Theory, but came to reject it, he was a key figure in the history of geology and influenced its rejection of any evidence for the flood. A biographer writes:
Sedgwick's own geological views were generally catastrophic -- he believed that the history of the Earth had been marked by a series of cataclysmic events which had destroyed much of the Earth's life. In this belief he followed Cuvier, and he was opposed to Charles Lyell's models of slow, gradual geological change and a more or less steady-state Earth. However, Sedgwick was interested in the possibility that at least some of the "catastrophic" changes implied by the rock record might be shown to be gradual. He originally followed his collegue William Buckland in believing that the uppermost Pleistocene deposits had been laid down by the Biblical Flood, but retracted this belief after many of these deposits turned out to have been formed by glaciers, not floods. Sedgwick also did not object to evolution, or "development" as such theories were called then, in the broad sense -- to the fact that the life on Earth had changed over time. Nor was he a young-Earth creationist; he believed that the Earth must be extremely old. As Darwin wrote of Sedgwick's lectures, "What a capital hand is Sedgewick [sic] for drawing large cheques upon the Bank of Time!"
However, Sedgwick believed in the Divine creation of life over long periods of time, by "a power I cannot imitate or comprehend -- but in which I believe, by a legitimate conclusion of sound reason drawn from the laws of harmonies of nature." What Sedgwick objected to was the apparent amoral and materialist nature of Darwin's proposed mechanism, natural selection, which he thought degrading to humanity's spiritual aspirations. His letter of November 24 went on to state:
This view of nature you have stated admirably; tho' admitted by all naturalists & denied by no one of common sense. We all admit development as a fact of history; but how came it about? Here, in language, & still more in logic, we are point blank at issue-- There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. Tis the crown & glory of organic science that it does thro' final cause, link material to moral. . . You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it--& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.
Sedgwick publicly announced he had abandoned the diluvial theory in 1831, in an address to the Geological Society of London:
There is, I think, one great negative conclusion now incontestably established -- that the vast masses of diluvial gravel, scattered almost over the surface of the earth, do not belong to one violent and transitory period. It was indeed a most unwarranted conclusion, when we assumed the contemporaneity of all the superficial gravel on the earth. We saw the clearest traces of diluvial action, and we had, in our sacred histories, the record of a general deluge. On this double testimony it was, that we gave a unity to a vast succession of phaenomena, not one of which we perfectly comprehended, and under the name diluvium, classed them all together....Our errors were, however, natural, and of the same kind which led many excellent observers of a former century to refer all the secondary formations of geology to the Noachian deluge. Having been myself a believer, and, to the best of my power, a propagator of what I now regard as a philosophic heresy, and having more than once been quoted for opinions I do not now maintain, I think it right, as one of my last acts before I quit this Chair, thus publicly to read my recantation.
George Young (1777-1848) was a student of John Playfair at Edinburgh University, before taking a degree in theology. For 42 years he was pastor of the Presbyterian chapel in Whitby, North Yorkshire. He published A Geological Survey of the Yorkshire Coast in 1822 and in 1838 he published Scriptural Geology, in which he criticized Lyell's assumption of the uniformity of the rate of geological changes in the past. He claimed that many of the creatures represented in the lowest strata were identical to living types, while many of those in the topmost strata were extinct.
Terry Mortenson considered Young to be the most capable of the scriptural geologists. He wrote:
In his two books on geology, Young gave the most thorough analysis of the geological record done by any Scriptural geologist. He also answered in a gracious and respectful, yet challenging way, the specific geological and theological arguments of the leading old-earth geologists. He contended that the rocks and fossils gave abundant evidence that most of the geological record was the result of Noah's Flood and that therefore geology did not prove that the Earth was millions of years old.
Young argued that most fossils had been drifted in ocean currents far from their source, and become buried in sediments. He showed that the fossil fishes that exhibited little evidence of having decayed required sudden burial. He wrote:
It is well known that scarcely any substance decomposes more speedily than fishes; so that when we find fossil fishes in a high state of preservation, we may be sure that the strata containing them were deposited so rapidly as not to allow them time to become putrid, till they were safely encased in their present matrix. Now, the fossil fishes in the carboniferous strata, in the magnesium limestones, in the lias, in the oolite, in the chalk, and in some of the tertiary deposits, are often found in the finest condition, with no part of their structure injured; while we know that fishes left dead on the beach, or on the banks of rivers, begin to decay in a few hours. . . . The proper cause of their fine preservation was their being so suddenly entombed in the strata.
Young pointed out that the manner in which the fossils were buried was evidence of a violent catastrophe. He wrote:
Now, when we see fossil animals, such as the large saurians of the lias, crushed and broken, as under an enormous weight, it is plain that the strata containing them must have been formed so quickly that the lower beds had not come to harden before the weight of the new strata over them was sufficient to crush them. Illustrations of this occur in great numbers, both at Lyme Regis and at Whitby. Thus, the great crocodile in the Whitby Museum has evidently been crushed by the super-incumbent strata; the effect of pressure being visible, both on the head and the body, the bones of the one leg being practically sunk into those of the other. A fine specimen of ichthyosaurus in the Museum gives similar indications of violent pressure, the whole being crushed into a flat mass, and the ribs of the one side pressed across the spine, so as to form an angle with the ribs of the other side. . . . The elegant curvature of the spine shows that it was not the dead carcass of the animal that was embedded in the strata; it was not in the flaccid state of a dead and stranded fish, but must have been suddenly entombed alive; and, writhing in the agonies of death, it has twisted its body into its present handsome shape. . . . Similar instances have been noticed among the fossil fishes of Germany.
In 1841 Sir George Mackenzie presented a paper at the Royal Society of Edinburgh proposing that a volcanic eruption 'somewhere to the North West of the British Islands' had taken place in the 'Icy Sea' causing water and ice to flood over a submerged Britain and drop cargoes of gravel and boulders. The following year a paper that argued for the former existence of glaciers in Britain after the deluge, produced by the chilling effect of increased moisture in the atmosphere, was read by Edinburgh physician James Stark.
John Pye Smith (1774-1851), a divinity tutor at Homerton College, London, supported the idea of a limited deluge with few geological effects. He defended geologists against the attacks of conservative Christians and the scriptural geologists. His book On the Relation between the Holy Scriptures and Some Parts of Geological Science was published in 1841. He argued that the rounding of pebbles and boulders in the drift implied "a very long time of rubbing and grinding by currents, eddies, and tides at the bottom of the sea." Gravels and grooves in bedrock in Europe and North America, and erratic boulders were attributed to local deluges.
James David Forbes (1809-1868), a student of Jameson, became professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He investigated heat conduction and the flow of glaciers. He determined that glaciers flow as a viscous body or an imperfect fluid, that is urged down slopes of a certain inclination due to the mutual pressure of its parts. He considered glacier dynamics and their proposed former extension two 'very distinct questions' and in his review paper published in 1842 he remained undecided about the validity of the ice age. Most of his papers dealt with existing glaciers and he traveled to Switzerland and Norway to obtain accurate data. Between 1842 and 1850 he contributed twenty-three articles on glaciers to the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, which at the time was dominated by papers related to the glacial theory controversy. Forbes was at one time a friend of Louis Agassiz, but they became bitter enemies over disputes about priority in their discoveries.
Hugh Miller (1802-1856) was a creationist who wrote several popular books on geology, but he found no geologic evidence to support a global flood; he deferred to the leading paleontologists, and embraced the glacial theory of Agassiz. In 1840 Miller became editor of a newspaper called The Witness, published for evangelical members of the Church of Scotland. In one of his first articles in that publication, entitled The Chaotic Period, Miller identified the glacial period with the darkness mentioned in Genesis 1:2. He wrote:
This chaotic system, if we may so term it, is immensely developed in the north of Scotland. The system abounds in travelled masses of rock, some of them from twenty to thirty tons in weight, and we believe it is now generally held, that the grand agent in transporting these from their native seats in the original rock must have been ice.
Miller’s hesitancy in embracing Agassiz’s period of ‘intense cold’ is less in evidence once he committed his ideas on the subject to print. It was Miller’s reading of Genesis that helped furnish him with an answer to how such cold could have occurred. Miller asked the question, ‘Might not the period of ice have been also a period of darkness!’ The second verse of the first chapter of Genesis records such darkness and in Miller’s interpretative scheme, such darkness divided the long prehistorical geological past from the present creation, accomplished in six literal twenty-four-hour days.
In The Testimony of the Rocks (1857), p.324, Miller refers to Fleming's opposition to catastrophic events and says that most geologists had dismissed evidence of a world wide flood. He wrote:
No man acquainted with the general outlines of Palaeontology, or the true succession of the sedimentary formations, has been able to believe, during the last half century, that any proof of a general deluge can be derived from the older geologic systems, -- Palaeozoic, Secondary, or Tertiary. It has been held, however, by accomplished geologists, within even the last thirty years, that such proof might be successfully sought for in what are known as the superficial deposits. Such was the belief of Cuvier, -- a man who, even in geologic science, which was certainly not his peculiar province, exerted a mighty influence over the thinking of other men. "I agree with MM. Delue and Dolomieu in thinking," we find him saying, in his widely famed "Theory of the Earth," "that if anything in geology can be established, it is, that the surface of the globe has undergone a great and sudden revolution, the date of which cannot be referred to a much earlier period than five or six thousand years ago." ... For a season, geologists of high standing in our own country, such as Buckland and Conybeare, followed Cuvier so far as to hold, that the superficial deposits bore evidence everywhere of a great cataclysm, the last of the geologic catastrophes; and which might be identified, they believed, with the Noachian Deluge. Against this view one of the most distinguished Scottish naturalists, Dr. John Fleming, raised a vigorous protest as early as the year 1826, and conclusively showed that no temporary flood could have produced the existing appearances. And so thoroughly were his facts and reasonings confirmed by subsequent discovery, that the geologists of name who had acquiesced, wholly or in part, in the Cuvierian view, read in succession their recantations: Dr. Buckland in especial, who had written most largely on the subject, and committed himself most thoroughly, did so a very few years after: nor does the hypothesis of Cuvier appear to have been since adopted by any writer of scientific reputation.
Rather than any "subsequent discovery," it was the flood of rhetoric and confusion that the early geologists encountered, that caused some to shift their positions, and take opposite sides. There was strong support for catastrophism on the one hand, while on the other hand the ancient conglomerates and abundance of pebbles and rounded stones seemed to require a great age of the earth. Great controversies raged over the reality of the flood, and the ice age, during the 19th century. Miller ridiculed the ideas of the scriptural geologists like Granville Penn, who interpreted the mammoths of Siberia described by Pallas as evidence for the deluge. Shortly before the book containing the above quotation was published, Miller committed suicide.
Geologist Andrew MacRae writes:
Hugh Miller (1802-1856) was a 19th-century Scottish geologist whose best known work in science is probably his description of the Devonian fossil fish of Scotland in his book "The Old Red Sandstone". His other major works include "Footprints of the Creator" and the book that is excerpted here, "The Testimony of the Rocks". Miller had no formal training in geology, but he had a great amount of experience in the field, particularly in the Devonian rocks of Scotland where he lived, and where his initial interest in geology was stimulated by his work as a quarryman at a young age. His books were quite popular at the time, not the least because while a geologist, he was a fervent believer in the Christian Bible, and extensively involved its interpretation in his discussions about geology -- more so than some of his contemporaries. Although a creationist, Miller did not believe in a global Noachian flood. He believed that the flood was of only local extent, probably somewhere in the Middle East or Central Asia. He found the geological evidence completely inconsistent with the interpretation of the Earth's geology as the product of a global flood. To this extent, he was no different from almost all other geologists of his day. A few scientists of his period believed that evidence of the Noachian flood might still be found in the "superficial deposits", most of which geologists now assign to the Quaternary Period (and interpret as glacial in origin in Europe), and that, therefore, Noah's flood might be a geologically recent event that was still of global extent. But Miller also refuted this interpretation on the basis of the geological evidence.
Sir John William Dawson (1820-1899) was born at Pictou, Nova Scotia. He studied natural history and geology under Robert Jameson in Edinburgh. He was appointed superintendent of education in Nova Scotia, and was principal and professor of geology at McGill University in Montreal from 1855-1893. He rejected the glacial theory of Agassiz, saying that glaciers cannot transport boulders to locations higher than their source. He attributed the drift materials and the erosion of the lake basins in North American to an "Arctic Current" when the land was submerged. He connected the extinction of large mammals with the deluge, which he considered a real geologic event. In the appendix to The Story of the Earth and Man Dawson wrote:
A point on which Dawkins insists, and which he has admirably illustrated, is the marked distinction between the old paleocosmic men of the gravels and caves and the smaller race, with somewhat differently formed skulls, which succeeded them, after the great subsidence which terminated the second continental period and inaugurated the modern epoch . . . This race, scattered and overthrown before the dawn of authentic history in Europe by the Celts and other intrusive peoples, was unquestionably that which succeeded the now extinct paleocosmic race, and constituted the men of the so-called neolithic period, which thus connects itself with the modern history of Europe, from which it is not separated by any physical catastrophe like that which divides the older men of the mammoth age, and the widely spread continents of the post-glacial period from our modern days.
A most important speculation, arising from the facts recently developed as to prehistoric men, is the possible equivalency with the historic deluge of the great subsidence which closed the residence of paleoeosmic men in Europe, as well as that of several of the large mammalia. Lenorment and others have shown that the wide and ancient acceptance of the tradition of the deluge among all the great branches of the human family necessitates the belief that, independently of the Bible history, this great event must be accepted as a historical fact, which very deeply impressed itself upon the minds of all the early nations. Now, if the deluge is to be accepted as historical, and if a similar break interrupts the geological history, separating extinct races from those which still survive, why may we not correlate the two? The misuse of the deluge in the early history of geology, in employing it to account for changes that took place long before the advent of man, certainly should not cause us to neglect its legitimate uses when these arise in the progress of investigation. It is evident, if this correlation be accepted as probable, it must modify many views now held as to the antiquity of man. In that case, the modern gravel and loess on plateaus and in river valleys, far above the reach of the present floods, may be accounted for, not by the ordinary action of the existing streams, but by the abnormal action of currents of water, diluvial in their character. Further, since the historical deluge cannot have been of very long duration, the physical changes separating the deposits containing the remains of paleocosmic men from those of later date, would be in like manner accounted for, not by the slow process of subsidence, elevation and erosion, but by causes of a more abrupt and cataclysmic character. This subject the writer has referred to in previous publications, and he is glad to see that prominence has recently been given it by so good a geologist as the Duke of Argyll in a late number of the Contemporary Review.
Dawson saw no basis for making a distinction between the Quaternary
and the Tertiary. In a comment following the reading of a paper by James
Southall at the Victoria Institute in 1880, Dawson wrote:
It will be observed that a consideration
of the distribution of the
postglacial gravels, the character and extent of the post-glacial
and the faunal changes between the post-glacial and the recent periods,
lead me to infer that a submergence of the land occurred at the close
the postglacial period, and that it is not improbable that this
may have been that otherwise known as the historical deluge. Further,
it is impossible to suppose that the great submergence of the land of
Northern Hemisphere, to an extent known to have exceeded 4,000 feet,
the post-glacial age, nor that second submergence, which followed it,
have proceeded at the slow rate of modern changes of level, it seems
to admit an abrupt or paroxysmal character for these great changes of
relative levels of land and water in the later Tertiary time, and thus
to modify very much the estimates of the absolute antiquity sometimes
to post-glacial, or Palaeocosmic man, who, as I have elsewhere argued,
becomes, on the views above stated, the representative of the
Dawson's son George Mercer Dawson, also a geologist, surveyed the Canada-US border and explored western Canada. He believed that the plains area had been submerged below the sea and was recently elevated, but accepted the theory of an Ice Age, and the glacial interpretation of the drift.
Sir Henry H. Howorth (1842-1923) of Manchester was the author of The History of the Mongols from the 9th to the 19th Century in 4 volumes, and several other historical works, as well as The Mammoth and the Flood and The Glacial Nightmare and the Flood. In these and in his 2 volume Ice or Water (1905), Howorth argued vigorously against the glacial theory, and defended the diluvial theory of the distribution of the drift by a catastrophic flood. He claimed the drift phenomena and the burial of land animals such as the mammoths was evidence for the flood. But his work was ignored by most geologists. William Boyd Dawkins wrote in an obituary (Man, Sept 1923 pp. 138-139):
"The Mammoth and the Flood" and "The Glacial Nightmare and the Flood" are vigorous and interesting attacks upon what the author called "the extravagant development of the glacial theory," but they do not affect the principles laid down by Hutton and Lyell, nor has he made a case for the restoration of the old geological view that physical changes in the earth have been the result of sudden catastrophes. Still less can we accept the old Bucklandian explanation of the surface deposits over a large part of Europe and Asia having been formed by a flood of the Noachian type.
George F. Wright (1850-1921) was a minister who studied geology throughout his life, and he taught a glacial geology course at Oberlin College, Ohio. He surveyed the glacial drift border in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Ilinois for the United States Geological Survey. His book The Ice Age in North America (1889) went through six editions. He suggested that the strand lines from glacial lakes, and spillways, and clay and silt deposits that overlie the drift materials over large areas was evidence for the flood described in the Bible. In The Ice Age in North America Wright makes reference to a connection between the evidence for post glacial flooding and the biblical flood.
Much may also be said to support the theory, alluded to by Professor Claypole, connecting the traditions of the destruction of large portions of the human race by a flood with the extermination of species naturally brought about by the conditions accompanying the floods which closed the Glacial Period.
Although perhaps there was a lot that could be said to support the theory, Wright was very brief, at least in his text book on the Ice Age. Recently, his idea that the flood may be connected with the evidence of high shorelines and so-called proglacial lakes in America was revived by James T. Teller, a geologist at the University of Manitoba. Teller claimed in 2002 that the catastrophic draining of Lake Agassiz could have raised sea levels about 0.5 m., which drowned low lying areas of the Persian Gulf, and gave rise to the stories of massive floods such as the flood recorded in Babylonian history and in the Bible.
Wright presented the idea that ice sheets had produced the drift phenomena as an established fact. In the Preface to The Ice Age in North America, (1896, p. xxix) he wrote: "The Glacial age of North America is no longer a theory, but a well-defined and established fact." In the early 19th century he seems to have rejected "the antiquated Uniformitarian geology of Lyell and Darwin" and argued for the special creation of man in the manner described in Genesis.
The rather tenuous identification of the geologic effects of the deluge with the evidence of post-glacial flooding in America by Wright and others was ignored by most creationist authors in the 20th century. George McCready Price suggested alternatives to the glacial theory of Agassiz in The New Geology (1923) and in his other books, and Alfred Rehwinkel rejected it The Flood (1951).
John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris in The Genesis Flood (1961) adopted the idea of a post-flood ice age. Harold W. Clark in Fossils, Flood and Fire (1968) also supported the idea of an ice age after the flood, and several others adopted this position, such as An ice age caused by the Genesis Flood (1991) by Michael J. Oard. A post-flood ice age is the position currently supported at creationist web sites such as Creation Ministries International, The Revolution Against Evolution, Institute for Creation Research, The Biblical Creation Society and others. Arthur Custance was a Canadian scientist who argued in Science and Faith (1977) that the extinction of Pleistocene animals such as mammoths indicated a world wide catastrophic event, that he identified with the Noachian flood.
Belief in a former ice age is probably the greatest source of confusion amongst those looking for evidence for a great flood in the period before man's civilization developed. Note that the basic idea of the glacial theory is that ice accumulated in temperate lands in low elevations, and eroded the rocks over which it traveled, gouged lake basins, streamlined hills, striated bedrock, deposited the drift sands, gravels, and boulder clay over it, melted, the meltwater accumulated in vast proglacial lakes, their levels recorded by successive strand lines as periodically the ice dams burst, sending catastrophic floods over various areas. All this is supposed to have happened, according to creationist writers who believe in a post-flood ice age, after the flood! Henry Morris wrote in 1989:
The Ice Age is believed by evolutionists to have started about two million years ago and terminated about 11,000 years ago. Most creationists, on the other hand, believe the Ice Age began soon after the Flood and continued for less than a millennium.
During this period, a great continental sheet of ice, centred somewhere in the north-east Canada-Greenland region, swept down over North America, reaching into what are now the States of Wisconsin, New York. etc., and leaving effects in the form of great moraines (mounds of unsorted sand. gravel and boulders), scratches and grooves on bedrock, etc. A similar ice sheet swept over northern Europe. In the Rockies and other mountain chains, permanent ice caps rested on the summits and extensive valley glaciers descended almost to the plains below.
But surely it would take too much time for all that to happen, to fit their short time span. For the stones and pebbles to become rounded by abrasion, each one would have to be transported a considerable distance at the bed of a stream or in the sole of the ice.
Like the wooden horse that the Greeks left behind when they sailed from Troy, that the Trojans gratefully dragged into their city, the glacial theory has been incorporated into Christian attempts at geologic interpretation, but it implies the doctrine of James Hutton about the mechanical abrasion of all the rounded pebbles and boulders of the drift, and requires that these stones and pebbles were exposed at the surface for a period sufficient for them to be rounded during transport.
Given the vast volume of drift, how could so many stones and pebbles and boulders have traveled far enough, and been in conditions favorable for abrasion and rounding at the bed of a stream sufficiently long enough to be rounded smooth, in such a limited period of time? In Frozen in Time Michael Oard claims the post flood the ice age reached its peak in about 500 years, (Chapter 9) and melted in 200 years (Chapter 10). A review of the book can be found here.
In the area of Southern Ontario bounded by Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and by the border of the Canadian Shield between Georgian Bay and the eastern end of Lake Ontario, the mantle of drift is on average between 50 m. and 100 m. thick, and in places the bedrock is buried by more than 300 m. of drift. One such area is in the buried Dundas Valley, which lies at the western end of Lake Ontario, and another deep section occurs in the Oak Ridges Moraine, a line of hills of gravel and sand north of Lake Ontario.
The mantle of drift reflects the composition of the bedrock it overlies. Where it overlies the granitic rocks of the Canadian Shield, the boulders and pebbles in the drift are composed of granite or gneiss. Where it overlies limestone, the majority of boulders are limestone. Where the drift overlies the Queenston Shale, its boulders are typically red or green indicating its derivation from the shale. The ice sheets of Agassiz's theory seem unable to explain the mantle of drift in the area of Southern Ontario south of the Shield boundary. For ice to erode bedrock, the mantle of drift must have been removed, to expose bare rock to the ice, but where did it go? There is nowhere such a huge volume of stones and pebbles could be stored while the hypothetical ice sheet attacked and broke up the rock beneath. The mechanism by which they became rounded is not explained. If the base of the hypothetical ice sheet was clogged with a thick layer of stones and pebbles, there could be no erosion, as the layer of rocks would protect the bedrock from the ice.
Since the composition of the drift changes within a few kilometers of the Shield boundary, most of the rounded rocks and pebbles of the drift would have had no exposure to mechanisms of abrasion at the ice-rock interface, or in subglacial streams. The area required for the rounding by transport and abrasion of the huge volume of pebbles and stones derived from the Paleozoic sedimentary rocks is missing.
James Hutton had assumed that all the rounded stones and pebbles of the earth were worn during transport, and were derived from larger rock fragments broken away from previously solid sedimentary or igneous rock masses. The earth's sand and gravel, Hutton insisted, was derived from previously existing rocks, which in turn may have formed from sediments derived from the breakup of still earlier rock strata; "everywhere evidence may be seen that the present rocks of the earth's surface have been in great part formed out of the waste of older rocks." This was fundamental premise upon which uniformitarian geology was built. Hutton's doctrine about the origin of sand and rounded stones and pebbles is also the premise underlying the glacial interpretation of the mantle of drift covering much of the northern parts of North America and Western Europe. The agents of transport and abrasion are considered to be former continental ice sheets and the streams that resulted from their melting. Oard's theory of a post-flood ice age incorporates the essence of Hutton's doctrine about the formation of rounded stones and pebbles by abrasion during transport, and implicit uniformitarianism.
Since the glacial interpretation of the drift assumes Hutton's theory, every single rounded pebble in the drift would need to have been exposed to the waves on a beach, or rolled at the ice-rock interface in the sole of an ice sheet, or be tumbled in the bed of a stream, for a long, long time, to become rounded and smoothed, as that is how the rounded stones are explained in the glacial theory. But there is insufficient space for that to occur. The area required for the rounding of the stones and pebbles is many times the area that is covered by the drift. It is a crucial problem that the glacial theory fails to explain. Even allowing long ages of time for it, the area available is too small. Agassiz called the ice sheets "God's great plow" but it does not explain how the stones came to be rounded and smooth. The problem is especially evident in the case of the stones and pebbles in the drift immediately south of the border of the Shield, which were derived from the Paleozoic sediments. There is no room for them all to have been exposed to the air, or in a stream bed, or underneath the ice, so they could be rolled about for sufficient distances for them to become rounded.
The post-flood ice age interpretation implies enormous populations of Pleistocene animals somehow must have spread around the earth during the proposed ice age. The populations presumably multiplied from the survivors of the flood. This includes hippos in England such as those discovered by William Buckland, and cave lions, giant elk, camels, giant beaver, mammoths, mastodon, bison, etc. What is most curious is that many of the large Pleistocene mammals became extinct. Their remains were buried in the cave fill in the caves of Europe and North America, and in caves and fissures in many other parts of the world, including islands, as well as in the drift in all those areas, and in sediments overlying the drift gravels. Morris wrote:
During the centuries of the Ice Age, many of the great animals that had come off the Ark, though they survived and proliferated for a time, eventually were unable to cope with the drastic changes in climate and environment and became extinct. As the ice later retreated and the rainfall patterns changed, many of the pluviated regions became arid and still other animals died out. The great cataclysm of the Flood, followed by the smaller related catastrophes of glaciation, volcanism, and eventual desiccation, drastically changed the character of the earth and its inhabitants.
Most creationists believe the Ice Age began soon after the Flood and continued for less than a millennium. During this time, a great continental sheet of ice, centred somewhere in the northeast Canada-Greenland region, swept down into North America (reaching what is now Wisconsin, New York, etc.). A similar ice sheet swept over northern Europe.
The extinction of numerous large mammals associated with the closing of the Pleistocene era seems out of place after the flood, as it implies their preservation on the ark of Noah was in vain. In an article on the extinction of the mammoths, Robert F. Helfinstine quotes the following by Sir Henry H. Howorth: "A great catastrophe occurred by which the mammoth and its companions were overwhelmed over a large part of the earth. This catastrophe involved a brief but widespread rush of water which not only killed the animals but also buried them under continuous beds of loam and gravel." Helfinstine, who apparently accepts the theory of a post-flood ice age, writes, "The big question is 'When did it happen?' Based on Biblical history, the event happened after the Flood of Noah. Not all people agree with this conclusion." Of course there is no mention of such a world-wide catastrophic event following the flood in the Bible.
Creationists Ken Ham, Carl Wieland and Jonathan Sarfati support the post-flood ice age theory in The Answers Book published in 2000. They cite Oard's claim that the mammoths were buried and frozen towards the end of the post-flood ice age, and note that "this means that there would be some 600 years for the populations of animals, including mammoths, to build up after the Flood. With a conservative population doubling time of 17 years, consistent with living elephant generation times, a pair of mammoths off the Ark could produce a population of over a billion in 500 years." But were no mammoths or mastodons drowned in the flood? Were they rare in the antediluvian world? These animals are characteristic of the middle to late Pleistocene.
There were several varieties of mammoth; Kurten and Anderson
recognized four species in North America, Mammuthus meridionalis,
Mammuthus columbi, Mammuthus jeffersoni, and Mammuthus primigenius.
They wrote: "These taxa represent a series of
more or less successional populations." Some of these also occur in
Europe and Asia. Other taxa include
armeniacus, imperator, j. exilis, m. nebrascensis. Kurten and Anderson
cite Osborn, who recognized 16 taxa in North America. Which of these
represent the antediluvial mammoths? Similar questions surround the
occurrence of other extinct Pleistocene animals.
A little thought by creationists could easily resolve this dilemma; why would fossils of many of these Pleistocene animals occur in sediments supposed to have been laid down after the flood? They ought to be in the flood sediments, not those deposited after. They should not have survived the flood at all, except for a small population. But the facts of geology and paleontology are not kind to those who want a post-flood ice age.
That is only a small part of the problem, though, as there are also numerous internal inconsistencies in the glacial theory of Agassiz. For example, ice is supposed to have scratched and gouged the bedrock in areas it over-rode, to manufacture the drift, and cause patterns of striations on bedrock. While the bedrock under the drift is striated, it is not streamlined. The ice is thought to have shaped the surface of the drift into streamlined forms where drumlins and flutings are present, but the drift itself is supposed to have been deposited when the ice melted. If the ice sheet had melted, how could it over-ride its own debris and cause streamlined landscapes? The sequence of events is wrong, since an ice-sheet would not be able to streamline the surface of the drift if it had already melted, and deposited its debris. This is a flaw in the theory, that those proposing a post flood ice age are stuck with.
If somehow the proposed ice sheet reformed after melting, and streamlined the drift, this last ice sheet left no deposits! No drift deposits were laid down over the drumlins after the streamlining process occurred. This is another problem for the glacial theory that those who defend a post flood ice age inherit.
Also, the unconsolidated fill of caves often resembles the drift
mantle but it is not
attributed to glaciers. The problems accounting for rounded stones and
pebbles in cave fill are similar to those encountered in explaining the
formation of the rounded stones and pebbles in the drift, as there
is no room for them to become exposed at the surface and rounded during
transport within the caves. In some caves the problem is compounded
further by the presence of a floor of calcite over clay fill consisting
of sand, clay, and gravel with pebbles and boulders similar to those of
the drift outside the caves.
Clastic dikes in unconsolidated sand and gravel that is attributed to sedimentation in glacial environments are anomalous. How could unconsolidated sand open up into fissures, to be filled with sand and gravel? So-called "flow" structures in the dikes are anomalous, also the fact they pinch and swell. Sand or gravel pipes encounter similar objections. They are vertical structures which transect the cross strata in unconsolidated sands and gravel. How could these have formed in unconsolidated sand in the conventional interpretation? There would have to be excavation, and refilling of deep holes, with smooth, round sides, but the surrounding sand would surely have collapsed.
Lack of bumpiness in cross strata of the drift sand and gravel, in the vicinity of boulders or pebbles, is anomalous in the glacial interpretation. This was overlooked by early geologists who assumed the cross strata formed in an environment of fast currents. In the sedimentary environment of meltwater streams, boulders deposited in the sands would have caused turbulence in the current, resulting in directional effects in the sediments, such as lee-side tails or "current shadows" which would result in bumpy strata where boulders are present.
Distinctness of the cross strata of the drift where boulders are present is also anomalous in the glacial interpretation. The laminations formed when these same sands are redeposited as sediments in flumes or in river deposits are much less distinct, due to turbulence effects, and do not have the smoothness that characterizes the cross strata in the original drift.
The continuity of the mantle of drift gravel and sand over wide areas limits access to underlying bedrock surface once deposition occurs. Bedrock must be exposed to the sole of the ice sheet for its erosion, so if ice attacked bare rock to manufacture the drift, and boulders and pebbles were transported in streams or in the sole of the ice sheet, where was the mantle of drift gravel stored in the meantime?
The enormous thickness of the drift in several areas presents another kind of problem. Examples are the Dundas Valley at the western end of Lake Ontario, more than 300 meters deep, the Oak Ridges Moraine, north of Lake Ontario, and other areas in Michigan and New York reaching similar depths. Since in some of these cases the bedrock is below sea level, how were the pebbles rolled about by the meltwater? There would be no drain for the meltwater to flow to. So the mechanism for rounding of the pebbles in the deep bedrock canyons is lacking in the glacial interpretation.
The composition of most boulders and pebbles in drift gravel resembles that of local bedrock, but this is a serious problem for the glacial interpretation where possible bedrock sources are limited. Describing the boulder clay of Scotland, A. Geikie wrote (Text-book of Geology p. 1692-1693):
In those areas which served as independent centres of dispersion for the ice-sheet, bowlder-clay partakes largely of the local character of the rocks of each district where it occurs. Thus in Scotland, the clay varies in color and composition as it is traced from district to district. Over the Carboniferious rocks it is dark, over the Old Red Sandstones it is red, over the Silurian rocks it is fawn-colored ... The great majority of the stones in bowlder-clay are of local origin, not always from the immediately adjacent rocks, but from points within a distance of a few miles.
Examples of locations where this is a problem for the glacial theory occur near the boundary of the Canadian Shield. The pebbles in the drift overlying Paleozoic rocks resemble local bedrock, although the source rocks are limited to those present within a few kilometers. Beyond the border of the Shield there are no more Paleozoic source rocks available to the ice sheet. Detailed lithologic study by Cogley et. al. showed few of the boulders or pebbles had been transported across the Shield boundary, yet the variety in the composition of the pebbles is enormous, far greater than that of the source rocks. These characteristics of the drift support an in situ disintegration theory rather than a glacial interpretation. There is too much variety in the composition of pebbles and boulders in the drift for the glacial interpretation to work.
The rounded pebbles abraded by
rolling among other pebbles and stones on a beach obtain a dull
surface texture due to multiple impacts as they are
rolled around by the waves. The pebbles in the drift from where they
were eroded don't exhibit the same
dull surface texture, but are usually quite smooth. The rounded shape
of drift pebbles is attributed to abrasion such as by being rolled
about in streams, or by waves on the beach, or by transport in
glaciers, but this observation suggests some other process must have
caused the rounding of the pebbles in the drift.
Concentric structure in pebbles and boulders of the drift, that are supposed to have been rounded in a glacial environment, discredits the notion that they were rounded by mechanical abrasion during transport. The concentric features are usually attributed to weathering by geologists, but is more likely an indication of the concretionary origin of the pebbles and boulders. Concretions within boulders in the drift are problematic in the glacial interpretation; how could a glacial environment generate concretions in boulders? Neither can the existing burial environment explain it. Some are surface concretions.
Quartz veins in pebbles and boulders of the drift are common, but quartzite is generally harder than other rock materials, so would have resisted erosion, but pebbles with quartz veins often show no indication of preferential wear of the softer section, as would be expected if the rounding was caused by abrasion and wear during transport.
"Rafts" of bedrock or megablocks, sand balls, clay balls and similar structures in the drift are anomalous if these were formed in a glacial meltwater environment, as they are unlikely to have been transported by either water or ice, and are evidence for in situ formation of the drift.
Icebergs don’t sink, so the quantity of rock debris in them is limited. This implies that not much drift migrates upward through glaciers and ice sheets. Thus, the drift thickness, on average between 50 and 100 m. in certain areas, presents a problem for the glacial interpretation. Where could it be stored, while the ice attacked the bedrock underneath?
Crossing striation patterns on bedrock show little erosion of
has occurred, as the first set of scratches was not removed by the ice
that formed the second set.
Why have no glacial geologists figured out how drumlins were formed? They have failed to come to any consensus. Sir James Hall described the formation of streamlined hills in the vicinity of Edinburgh in 1812. He attributed them to catastrophic currents caused by uplift of submerged areas in the sea. The writer's disintegration theory explains their variety of composition.
Existing glaciers and ice sheets build prominent end moraines of
angular debris that mark their maximum extent, but instead of being a
prominent, continuous ridges of debris across the
country, such as a former ice sheet would cause, the drift border thins
out so gradually the border is difficult to find in many areas. In
large areas of Illinois and Wisconsin the former existence of ice is
R.F. Flint says the history of the Illinois-Wisconsin area is a "matter for debate". In Glacial and Quaternary Geology, p. 489 he wrote, "Early studies failed to find drift over its surface; it was therefore called the Driftless Area... Later opinions have been divergent. The part of the area that lies in Illinois is still held to be driftless... The larger part that lies in Wisconsin has been claimed to have been mostly or entirely covered by ice during an Early Wisconsin glaciation... The matter remains unresolved." Between the areas supposed to have been glaciated and the so-called 'unglaciated' region there is no prominent ridge marking the drift boundary, but the scenery changes gradually. Maps showing the extent of glaciation are a bit misleading as they usually show a definite boundary, which is not well defined in reality. There are numerous reports of supposed glacial evidence, such as scratches, drift deposits, erratics, etc., south of the drift border as it is mapped in standard text books. There are also other driftless areas within the area that is supposed to have been glaciated, such as Rockwood, and Mount Nemo in Southern Ontario.
History knows nothing of an ice age, although most cultures have
preserved traditions of the flood. Wouldn't there have been some record
preserved, if a vast ice sheet had extended over much of Europe and
North America in the time of man? Dozens of scholarly studies have been
done on the flood
traditions, but no studies have reported any ancient myths or even
so much as a rumor of an ice age.
Are stones and the pebbles of the drift better rounded in upper layers? In the glacial interpretation, those at the base of the drift layer should be more angular, not having been transported as much. But that is not observed.
Fragile rock pinnacles and stacks along the Niagara Escarpment are anomalous, as these areas should have suffered maximum wear and tear from ice sheets. Would an ice-sheet over-ride mountain ridges, streamlining hard quartzite rock, and generate smooth, polished rock surfaces, as well as striations? These phenomena occur on Silver Peak in Killarney Park, Ontario.
The orientation of drumlins north of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is anomalous, as the hypothetical glacier must have reversed its flow, returning to its source. The drumlin fields at Guelph and Woodstock contain drumlins which indicate the agent of streamlining flowed towards the northwest, which contradictes the expected behaviour of ice sheets spreading radially from their central regions.
Everywhere around the Great Lakes, the drumlin orientations indicate flow was out of the lakes, towards higher ground! In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the flow direction in many cases was from out of the sea!
Sand grains in the drift include fragile particles, rounded rock particles, and crystals, including thin blades and flakes, and crystal facets that show no sign of abrasion or wear. These are incongruous for a glacial environment where bedrock was being broken up by ice and boulders grinding over it.
Giant current ripples in drift areas usually referred to as 'rogen moraine' cannot be due to ice, as ice does not cause ripples. However these features would be expected in an environment of fast currents. The patterns of ripples are often associated with drumlins.
Ice motion would be at maximum near the perimeter of an ice sheet, and zero in center. But the evidence for streamlining and flutings is abundant at center, for example in northern Saskatchewan.
The center of ice accumulation in North America is unlikely to have occurred in lowlands around Hudson Bay, as postulated in the glacial theory, but would be more likely in areas of high elevation, such as the Rocky Mountains. The patterns of flow indicated by drumlins and flutings in northern Saskatchewan, northern Manitoba and south eastern Northwest Territories suggest flow from the Hudson Bay area, but these patterns were probably caused by flow of displaced sea water generated by uplift of submerged areas in Hudson Bay rather than flow of a continental ice sheet.
Lake basins would likely have been filled up with deposits from melting ice sheets, but the Great Lakes and other lakes along the perimeter of the Canadian Shield have only limited quantities of drift in them.
Regarding the theory of multiple ice ages, (4 of them are commonly invoked), a question that I have about the successive "glacial advances" is, how was the drift in the 3 subsequent layers produced, if the bedrock was covered up with the first layer? How could the hypothetical ice sheet have eroded its bed under the layer of drift deposited during its previous advance?
All the above problems and questions concerning the hypothetical ice age apply to Oard's theory of a post flood ice age, in some cases presenting problems far more acute than in the conventional theory which allows one or two million years for ice sheets to develop, accomplish their effects, and disappear.
In the past few decades a renewed interest in the catastrophic floods associated with the melting of hypothetical ice sheets has resulted in a considerable literature that presents detailed evidence on the effects of catastrophic floods, marks of high water levels, tilting of the earth's crust, and erosion effects on a grand scale, over much of North America, as well as in Asia, and Scandinavia, in the North Sea, and the English Channel and other areas. These are the best preserved features of the landscape and were caused by the most recent geologic events. In North America the high strand lines can be attributed to submergence rather than ice dams, and the catastrophic flooding could have been caused by uplift of the land when it was submerged, as displaced water flowed to surrounding areas. There is a lot of potential for re-interpretation of this kind of evidence with this approach.
But if one is going to adopt this approach, how does one account for the drift, with its unconsolidated gravel, clay, and sand, that forms a mantle over sedimentary rocks over much of the northern areas of North America and Europe? I suggest the uplift of submerged areas generated currents, that eroded the sediments, and the effect of unloading and release of vertical stress caused a disintegration of bedrock along with numerous chemical changes, including crystallization, formation of sand, and concretion development, the concretions becoming pebbles as the rock disintegrated. This disintegration process resulted in the formation of boulders and pebbles in situ and is the origin of the mantle of drift. The disintegration process penetrated down from the surface to various depths, up to 300 meters in some areas. It caused the buried valleys that occur in the bedrock under the drift in southern Ontario, such as the buried Dundas valley.
Every difficulty with the glacial interpretation mentioned above has an easy explanation with the in situ disintegration interpretation.
The in situ disintegration explanation of the drift is also a key to understanding the excavation of lake basins, such as the basins of the Great Lakes. The disintegration of sedimentary rock due to erosion of overburden made excavation of the drift material from rock basins by currents far more effective, and the erosion in turn promoted disintegration. Unloading was accompanied by further isostatic uplift, which put more currents in motion, etc., making for an effective mechanism for the erosion of lake basins and for the removal of sediments from the Shield areas. The material was transported towards the coasts and redeposited. The disintegration mechanism also has applications in explaining the origin of fjords, and potholes.
As an example, the formation of the gorge of the Niagara River is readily explained by a process of in situ disintegration as the land was elevated at the end of the flood. In the post-flood ice age theory, the erosion of Niagara Gorge requires a complicated, unlikely sequence of events, including catastrophic flooding after the alleged ice age. There is evidence for marine submergence of the Great Lakes area, above the drift, as numerous whale and walrus remains have been discovered in Michigan, along with many whale teeth. Charles Lyell argued that an immense period of time was indicated by the denudation that is represented by the Niagara Escarpment, and by the retreat of Niagara Falls from the edge of the Escarpment, as the gorge was eroded. In Travels in North America, v. 1 p. 46, Lyell wrote:
The next inquiry into which we are naturally led by our introspect into the past history of this region, relates to the origin of the Falls. If they were once seven miles northward of their present site, in what manner, and at what geological period, did they first come into existance? In tracing back the series of past events, we have already seen that the last change was the erosion of the great ravine; previously to which occurred the deposition of the freshwater deposit, including fossil shells of recent species, and the bones of the Mastodon. Thirdly, of still older date was the drift or boulder formation which overspreads the whole platform and the face of the escarpment near Queenston, as well as the low country between it and Lake Ontario. Fourthly, the denudation of the line of cliff or escarpment, in which the table-land ends abruptly, preceded the origin of the drift. I shall endeavour to show, in a subsequent chapter, when speaking of Canada, that this drift was of marine origin, and formed when the whole country was submerged beneath the sea. In the region of the Niagara it is stratified, and though no fossils have as yet been detected in it, similar deposits occur in the valley of the St. Lawrence at Montreal, at a height nearly equal to Lake Erie, where fossil shells, of species such as now inhabit the northern seas, lie buried in the drift.
Map of the Niagara River gorge from the Falls to the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, from Geological Survey of Canada Memoir 46. The buried St. Davids gorge is an extension of the Whirlpool Rapids Gorge. At the Whirlpool the Niagara River makes a 90 degree turn to the right. The buried St. Davids gorge is named after the village of St. Davids located on the lowlands north of the escarpment. The inset diagram shows a cross section of the Niagara Gorge at the railway bridge, where drilling revealed the presence of drift extending well below the present river.
The glacial explanation of the Niagara Gorge requires that this section of the gorge, as well as the St. Davids gorge, were excavated down to the bedrock, and then refilled with drift containing rounded boulders and pebbles having a composition resembling local bedrock. This drift was then eroded by the existing river, and the talus blocks were then deposited over it.
The in situ disintegration explanation says the region was swept by powerful currents from the northeast generated by uplift of the submerged Canadian Shield. These currents excavated the basin of Lake Ontario and removed the sediments that once extended out over the lake basin, which now terminate at the Niagara Escarpment. Disintegration of the rock occurred in response to unloading and lower pressure, forming drift gravels and sands in place. The gorge was formed where disintegration penetrated deeper along joints. Much of the Niagara gorge may have been originally drift-filled. Where the Niagara River eroded unconsolidated drift, it would occur much more rapidly than erosion of a gorge out of solid rock.
Lyell presented a summary of his view of the sequence of the events that caused the gorge of the Niagara River. He avoided the more significant question of the manner in which the Great Lakes were excavated, and to this day, uniformitarian geologists have been unable to explain it in a satisfactory manner. The excavation of lake basins, streamlining of sediments, and formation of the drift, are all related to the effects of tectonic uplift when the region was submerged, in the disintegration theory. The role of in situ disintegration in the formation of the Niagara Gorge is discussed along with Lyell's theory below. Lyell wrote (Travels in North America v. 1 p. 47):
The first event then to which we must recur is the superficial waste or denudation of the older stratified rocks, all of which had remained nearly horizontal from the era of their formation beneath the sea to a comparatively modern period.
The denudation of the Silurian and older rocks that once extended out over Lake Ontario is a crucial question in the history of the Great Lakes region. The mode by which it was accomplished is the key for understanding the geology of Southern Ontario, the Canadian Shield, and the Great Lakes area. Lyell was an advocate for uniformitarianism, and since he restricted past causes to those now in operation, he attributed the missing strata which once extended over Lake Ontario to long ages of erosion. But that would not account for the excavation of the Great Lakes. The alternative, suggested by the tilted strata in the region, and by the uplift of the underlying Canadian Shield which is indicated, and by the deep lake basins, is that the denudation was caused by rapid currents generated by a series of vertical uplifts when the land was submerged. Catastrophic currents generated by these uplifts swept over the Great Lakes area, eroding lake basins, and streamlining the surrounding land into patterns of drumlins, which also occur on the bottom of Lake Ontario. Lyell continues:
They at length emerged slowly, and portions of their edges were removed by the action of the waves and currents, by which cliffs were formed at successive heights, especially where hard limestones were incumbent on soft shales.
Lyell's idea of slow elevation is refuted by the evidence for fast currents provided by streamlined landforms and by the depth of the lake basins, some extending below sea level, which cannot have been caused by river erosion. Rivers that empty into the Great Lakes in present conditions tend to fill them up and form deltas. No sediments are being removed at the outlets. Neither does continental glaciation account for the excavation of lake basins, as merely postulating a former ice sheet or glacial 'lobe' in a lake does not explain how the lake basin formed. Lyell wrote:
After this denudation the whole region was again gradually submerged, and this event took place during the glacial period, at which time the surface of the rocks already denuded were smoothed, polished, and furrowed by glacial action, which operated successively at different levels.
Lyell's scenario requires the land was submerged while the original sediments were deposited, raised again for their denudation, and again submerged. These postulated vertical movements of the continent are entirely unnecessary, as the initial denudation due to catastrophic currents, and the resulting in situ disintegration can explain the formation of the drift. Striations on bedrock can be explained by lateral movements of the drift due to expansion after the disintegration occurred. Lyell wrote:
The country was then buried under a load of stratified and unstratified sand, gravel, and erratic blocks, occasionally 80, and in some hollows more than 300 feet deep. An old ravine terminating at St. David's, which intersects the limestone platform of the Niagara, and opens into the great escarpment, illustrates the posterity of this drift to the epoch when the older rocks were denuded.
Burial of the country by a mantle of drift, a process required in both Lyell's theory and the glacial theory, is also rendered entirely unnecessary, as the process of in situ disintegration explains the formation of drift in place. The buried St. David's gorge stretches from the Whirlpool to the edge of the escarpment. To explain the formation of this buried gorge in the post-flood ice age theory requires the excavation of the gorge, either by the glacier, or by meltwater, followed by the replacement of the excavated drift, as the drift remaining in the gorge has a characteristic feature; most of the pebbles in it are red or green in color like the underlying Queenston Shale from which it was derived. But how could these pebbles have been rounded? Neither the glacial environment, nor the subsequent meltwater environment seems able to explain it.
The origin of the St. David's buried gorge is easily explained by the penetration of the surface of disintegration to various depths, and by the propagation of the disintegration along joints. Not only the St. David's gorge, but the upper gorge of the Niagara River can be explained as the products of in situ disintegration. There is drift below the talus layer at the level of the present Niagara River, which was discovered during the construction of the railway bridge in the 1920's. This can be explained by the disintegration process forming the gorge, that was initially filled with drift, some of which the river subsequently eroded. Talus from the walls of the gorge covered the drift in the bottom of the gorge and now protects it from further erosion. Lyell wrote:
The period of submergence last alluded to was very modern, for the shells then inhabiting the ocean belonged, almost without exception, to species living in high northern, and some of them in temperate, latitudes.
The submergence was real, although it is denied in the modern glacial interpretation, as ice dams and proglacial lakes are invoked instead. This is discredited by the presence of marine fossils in Michigan already referred to. Lyell wrote:
The next great change was the re-emergence of this country, consisting of the ancient denuded rocks, covered indiscriminately with modern marine drift. The upward movement by which this was accomplished was not sudden and instantaneous, but gradual and intermittent. The pauses by which it was interrupted are marked by ancient beach-lines, ridges, and terraces, found at different heights above the present lakes. These ridges and terraces are partly due to the denudation and re-arrangement of the materials of the drift itself, which had previosuly been deposited on the platform, the sloping face of the escarpments, and in the basins of the great lakes.
Rather than submergence, elevation, repeated submergence, and re-elevation as Lyell here postulates, it was the initial elevation of the land when it was submerged that generated currents that eroded the sediments that once stretched out over Lake Ontario. The currents caused the denudation Lyell referred to in his first stage. The removal of overburden initiated the in situ disintegration that formed the drift as the rock was exposed to reduced pressure. The changed conditions caused compaction and initiated chemical alteration and diagenesis of the sediments, including a disintegration process that converted the sediments to sand and gravel in situ. The currents that eroded the sediments also formed patterns of drumlins and excavated the lake basins. Disintegration to various depths resulted in drumlins of varying composition in close proximity. There are drumlins composed of drift, drumlins of bedrock, and drumlins partly composed of drift and partly composed of bedrock all having the same form and orientation.
Disintegration of the rock due to removal of overburden promoted the deep erosion of lake basins. Where the drift produced by disintegration was eroded by currents the process propagated more rapidly, so the erosion of rock basins enhanced the disintegration.
The sediment eroded from lake basins was removed and redeposited, possibly in the continental shelves. The land was not elevated in one sudden motion, but there were numerous uplifts involved which spilled the currents in different directions. The drumlins north of Lake Ontario indicate a flow towards the north or northwest, probably due to uplift of the highlands in western New York and the area south of Lake Erie. The drumlins in northwestern New York indicate flow direction was towards the south. As the land was raised above sea level flow was diverted eastward down the Hudson Valley, and also towards the southwest. Only one series of elevations of the land is required, rather than multiple up, down, up, down earth movements such as Lyell invoked. He wrote:
As soon as the table-land between Lakes Erie and Ontario emerged and was laid dry, the river Niagara came into existence, the basin of Lake Ontario still continuing to form part of the sea. From that moment there was a cascade at Queenston of moderate height, which fell directly into the sea. The uppermost limestone and subjacent slate being exposed, the cataract commenced its retrograde course, while the lower beds in the escarpment were still protected from waste by remaining submerged.
The Niagara River gorge was probably eroded for much of its length in a buried drift valley similar to the St. David's buried gorge. Initially there were five cataracts over the escarpment, as there was drainage of a vast area when the land emerged from the sea. The scale of the uplifts gradually decreased in intensity over a few centuries.
In summary, for anyone looking for signs of a former flood, the concept of ice ages is really unnecessary. Worse, a post flood ice age makes no sense at all. The glacial theory, after all, is impotent for explaining drumlins, and useless for accounting for the origin of the Great Lakes, and fails to account for extinctions of many large mammal species, and does not even account for how ice can exist for hundreds of thousands of years through the hot Canadian summers, at low altitudes and low latitudes. The flood approach allows us to reinterpret the evidence from the Pleistocene. The in situ disintegration explanation of the drift in the environment of the flood is potentially a great benefit for science and for our gaining an understanding of our world.
To review an on-going discussion on the above article and related issues go here.
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