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Is the geological record compatible with a young earth?
A response to Dr Chris Walley

In June 2002, Dr Chris Walley issued a challenge to young earth creationists (YEC) in the letters page of the monthly Christian newspaper, Evangelicals Now. Chris Walley is a Christian and a professional geologist who accepts the conventional millions-of-years time scale.

According to Dr Walley, young earth creationists claim "that the sciences of geology, palaeontology, astronomy (and much of archaeology) are completely wrong." This, of course, is a caricature of our position. Many young earth creationists are active scientists and enthusiasts for their chosen fields of study. There is no question of us being anti-science, though it is certainly true that we question many of the assumptions of conventional geology, and the long-age framework in which the scientific data are usually interpreted.

However, Chris' central challenge was his suggestion that no professional geologist would deny that "the rock record requires that the age of the earth be very old". In response to this claim, the July edition of Evangelicals Now carried a page of letters, including two from Biblical Creation Society committee members (Paul Garner and Dr John Peet). It was pointed out that, contrary to Chris Walley's assertion, there are many young earth creationists with good qualifications in the earth sciences, actively engaged in research, and contributing to the peer-reviewed literature of geology. Their research, much of it published in mainstream journals, includes numerous topics of direct relevance to the origins debate. There are several Fellows of the Geological Society in membership with UK creationist organisations. Furthermore, the Biblical Creation Society runs an Earth Science Group, with an annual meeting and field trip.

It was also pointed out that we do not find the assumption of long ages necessary, or even useful, in our field studies. We have presented - in our literature and at our meetings - many case studies showing the viability of alternative perspectives in explaining geological evidences. This is not to say that there are no outstanding problems with young-age models, but we believe that they are, at least in principle, explicable within a biblical framework of recent creation and geological catastrophism.

In his "reply to young earthers" in the latest issue of Evangelicals Now (August 2002), Chris Walley has issued a fresh challenge to YECs - to publish in Evangelicals Now our explanations of fossil reefs, coal, chalk, or evaporite deposits. While we are not sure that Evangelicals Now is an appropriate forum for such a specialised discussion, that does not really matter because studies of this kind are already available elsewhere. Here is a small selection of citations from the literature, with some annotations. We do not necessarily agree with all the interpretations or views expressed in these papers. Nevertheless, they serve to demonstrate that YECs are not ignoring the geological challenges mentioned by Chris.

Fossil reefs

D'Armond DB. Thornton Quarry deposits: a fossil coral reef or a catastrophic flood deposit? A preliminary study. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1980;17(2):88-105. A case study of a Silurian reef complex outlining a catastrophist interpretation.

Hodges LT. Fossil binding in modern and ancient reefs. Origins (Geoscience Research Institute) 1987;14(2):84-91. Draws attention to marked contrasts between ancient and modern reefs. Available on the web.

Nevins SE. Is the Capitan Limestone a fossil reef? Creation Research Society Quarterly 1972;8(4):231-248. A field-based re-interpretation of a classic Permian reef complex.

Nevins SE. Reply to critique by Daniel Wonderly. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1974;10(4):241-244.
Wonderly DE. Critique of 'Is the Capitan Limestone a fossil reef?' by Stuart Nevins. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1974;10(4):237-241. A dialogue between an old earth and young earth geologist about the Capitan reef complex.

Roth AA. Fossil reefs and time. Origins (Geoscience Research Institute) 1995; 22(2):86-104. A review of alternative interpretations of reef deposits that do not require long ages. Available on the web.


As a result of their field studies, creationists Austin and Scheven have developed catastrophist models for the origin of coal beds involving transport of vegetation.

Austin SA. Depositional environment of the Kentucky No. 12 coal bed (Middle Pennsylvanian) of western Kentucky, with special reference to the origin of coal lithotypes. PhD thesis, Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University. 1979.

Scheven J. Karbonstudien - neues Licht auf das alter der Erde. Neuhausen-Stuttgart Haenssler-Verlag. 1986.

Nevins SE. The origin of coal. Institute for Creation Research Impact Article #41. 1976. Available on the web.

Scheven J. The Carboniferous floating forest - an extinct pre-Flood ecosystem. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 1996;10(1):70-81.

Scheven J. Floating forests on firm grounds: advances in Carboniferous research. Biblical Creation 1981;3(9):36-43.


Tyler DJ. A post-flood solution to the Chalk problem. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 1996;10(1):107-113. Proposes a catastrophist scenario for chalk production and cites (and critiques) some earlier creationist articles on chalk.


Nutting DI. Origin of bedded salt deposits: a critique of evaporative models and defense of a hydrothermal model. MS thesis, Department of Geology, Graduate School, Institute for Creation Research. 1984. Develops a catastrophist model for salt deposition from hydrothermal brines.

Wilcox FL, Davidson ST. Experiments on precipitation brought about by mixing brines. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1976;13(2):87-89. Demonstrates that mixing of brines can lead to the formation of salt layers without any evaporation being involved.

Paul Garner (2002)


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