A New Resource for Creationism: “The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth”

A helpful book has just been published. I ordered The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? from Amazon, and it arrived a few days ago. The book delves into the geological features of the Grand Canyon, and compares how these features are explained by conventional geology and by the Flood geology of young earth creationism. The title of the book positions it as a response to the earlier Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe by young earth creationist Stephen Austin.

The authors and editors are professionals in geology or related sciences, so they know their facts. They are also evangelical Christians. They understand the good intentions of young earth creationists, but they correctly point out that young earth creationism is based on a particular literalistic interpretation of the Bible. The book gives a brief history of conservative Protestant views of geology over the past several hundred years, noting that nearly all Christians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including a number of authors of “The Fundamentals” (~1910-1915) which defined fundamentalist beliefs at the time, were comfortable with an old earth.

Here are the bios of the four editors, as shown on Amazon:

Carol Hill is the author of scientific articles on the Grand Canyon published in Science, Journal of Hydrology, Geosphere, and other journals, as well as Christian apologetics articles for Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith. She has been featured both on NOVA and National Geographic’s Naked Science.

Gregg Davidson is the Chair of Geology & Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. He has written a number of articles and the book When Faith and Science Collide. Davidson is an active national speaker on the subject of faith and science with Solid Rock Lectures.

Wayne Ranney is a former park ranger, geologic speaker and tour guide, and author of several books, including Carving Grand Canyon.

Tim Helble worked as a hydrologist in the National Weather Service (NWS) for twenty-seven years. Before his NWS career, he held a half-year seasonal position at Grand Canyon National Park, helping to develop a water resources plan for the Park.

These four, plus seven additional authors, wrote the twenty chapters of the book. The chapters are grouped in five parts. The first part provides an overview of modern geology and of Flood geology. The book then provides an accessible explanation of how rocks and rock layers have formed over time. Roughly half the volume is devoted to this tutorial which is understandable by practically anyone who can read. This is one of the best introductions to geology I have ever seen. This section alone would make this book a worthwhile purchase, even if one had little interest in creationism. Topics here include:

– Sedimentary rock types (sandstone, shale, limestone) and how they form

– Inferring the original depositional environment of sedimentary rocks. For instance, the presence of raindrop prints in a sandstone rock layer shows that the surface of the moist sand at that spot was above the water level when the raindrops fell.

– Inferring the relative dates of various rock layers. For instance, in most cases if rock layer B overlies layer A over a wide area, it is likely that layer A was deposited first, and then B was deposited on top of A. If a thin vertical slab of granite or other igneous rock is found protruding through both layers, it is likely that this resulted from a later intrusion of magma. Slippage of rock layers along faults can complicate the analysis, but can also furnish additional clues as to the geological history of a region

– Radioactive dating of rocks; plate tectonics; fracturing and bending of rocks

– Various fossils found in the Grand Canyon, including pollen and spores and preserved footprints of animals

Finally, this book compares how conventional geology and how the Flood geology of young earth creationists explain the specific features found in the Grand Canyon. Some of these features include the sequences of different fossils, erosional surfaces between some rock layers, the formation of caves within rock layers, the overall topography of the Canyon, and evidence that one major rock layer was deposited as desert sand dunes. It is concluded that the approach of mainstream science, involving known physical processes operating over many millions of years, provides a better explanation than a single, year-long global Flood.

A Visual Feast

Besides superb textual content, the book is a visual feast. Lush pictures appear on nearly every page — panoramas of the canyon, tighter shots of individual formations, and zoomed-in photos of details of rocks and of fossils. I found it downright fun to just leaf through it. Besides nice photos, there are many professional-quality diagrams and tables to illustrate geological principles.

I cannot adequately convey the visual quality of the book here, but to give the flavor I snapped a photo of part of the front cover, and then opened at random to a page and took another picture. Here they are:

Part of cover of "The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth"

Part of cover of “The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth”

(Top half of front cover above; a random page below. Click on pictures for a more detailed view.)

Part of page 71 of "Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth"

Part of page 71 of “Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth”

In trying to reach hearts and minds, this visual appeal is important. Often the young earth creationist publications have large, compelling photos of interesting animals or rock formations, which unfortunately seem to give authority to the accompanying text.

Concluding Thoughts

The Grand Canyon is an engaging spectacle, which also displays the effects of geological processes over millions of years. One of the first articles I wrote for my blog here,  Grand Canyon Creation , dealt with this subject. I found that the diversity of large, visible geological features gave useful handles for discussing the representations of young earth creationists.

The authors of The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth cover the most essential issues with an economy of words. They address the specific claims made by young earth creationists regarding various features of the Canyon, in enough detail to clearly demonstrate the inadequacies of Flood geology. By first laying a strong foundation of basic geology, the book enables the reader to assess the more controversial questions.

My experience, and the experience of others, indicates that no amount of physical evidence will change the mind of a dedicated young earth creationist. His position is based on a religious commitment, which is the lens through which he views everything. This is not particularly unusual or pathological – we can see the same psychology of bias confirmation at work in hard-core political liberals or conservatives, and in some fans of a failing sports team, where a person will emphasize the facts which support their views, and deny or spin away the rest of reality.  (An article by Paul Braterman gives some helpful discussion in this regard).

Thus, it is not realistic to hope that the facts presented in this book will have an effect on someone who has already bought into Flood geology. However, there are many evangelical Christians who have not firmly made up their minds, and who genuinely want to be on the side of truth. This book might well be appreciated by them. Also,  this book could be influential with high school and college students, even from conservative backgrounds .

Although the notion of a changing set of organisms over time in the fossil record (faunal succession) is clearly presented, there is little or no mention of evolution in the book. That word does not even appear in the index. There seems to a deliberate policy of sticking to the most incontrovertible evidence for an ancient earth, without bringing up the more controversial topic of biological evolution. I think that is wise. To accept full evolution, including the development of humans from some primate common ancestor, may be just too much for many folks to take in one step. If someone sees the truth of an old earth and the faunal succession in the rock layers, however, that creates an opening for them to perhaps accept evolution somewhere down the road. That was the way it worked for me.

The bottom line: This is an ideal book to make available to someone who is trying to evaluate the validity of young earth creationism or to home schooling parents. It might also get students excited about geology, even if they have no particular interest in the creationism controversy.


About ScottBuchanan

Ph D chemical engineer, interested in intersection of science with my evangelical Christian faith. This intersection includes creation(ism) and miracles. I also write on random topics of interest, such as economics, folding scooters, and composting toilets. Background: B.A. in Near Eastern Studies, a year at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a year working as a plumber and a lab technician. Then a B.S.E. and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Since then, conducted research in an industrial laboratory. Published a number of papers on heterogeneous catalysis, and an inventor on over 80 U.S. patents in diverse technical areas.
This entry was posted in Age of Earth, Fossils, Grand Canyon Geology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A New Resource for Creationism: “The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth”

  1. Pingback: Why are some Christians Young Earth Creationists? | Letters to Creationists

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