Saturday, 10 October 2015

Evidence of catastrophe is not evidence for a young Earth. Here's why.

Young Earth creationism is notorious for peddling gross distortions of mainstream science, then claiming problems with that parody of science automatically mean YEC is true. One example is the science of geology, which is parodied as a process characterised exclusively by slow, uniform change. Any evidence for catastrophe is then interpreted as evidence for a global flood and against an old Earth. The fundamental flaw in this argument is of course the assumption that geological catastrophe automatically falsifies mainstream geology. It does not, as mainstream geology has for some time accepted the reality of catastrophic events punctuating the record of an ancient Earth.

One example of a catastrophic event can be inferred from the presence of large boulders on the Cape Verde islands to the west of Africa, whose presence can only be explained by something like a tsunami hurling these large rocks uphill far from their source. As Joel Duff, writing at Naturalis Historia notes, careful investigation allows geologists to postulate how and when this occurred:
These boulders are composed of volcanic material along with marine limestone. Rock of similar composition is found well below these boulders’ current location.  If that rock from below is the source of these boulder then how did they come to be over 500 feet or more above sea level?  One hypothesis left is that they must have been pushed up there by some force.  In this case, that force was a giant tsunami. Looking 30 miles across open ocean there is another island.  That island is one large volcano and you can see from the Google map...that this volcano has all the appearance of having collapsed in the past. That collapse would have sent a wall of water toward the very location where these boulders are found.
It seems like a great hypothesis, but is there additional evidence to back of that conclusion? Yes!  Geologists set out to test this idea by dating the boulders to see when they came to be at their current positions.  In other words, when did this megatsunami happen?  By using a form of dating called cosmogenic dating they were able to estimate that these boulders had been sitting in their current positions for about 73,000 years. That dates fit within the dates, derived by several types of measures, for when the volcano had a catastrophic collapse. The overlapping dates for the collapse and the length of time these boulders have been lying in their present position is compelling evidence that these boulders were brought to the present location by a tsunami.

Needless to say, any attempt by the YECs to declare this evidence for Noah's Flood is undermined by the fact this event happened 73,000 years ago, more than twelve times older than the age of the universe according to YECs.

However, falsification of the YEC worldview, while useful in terms of adding to the avalanche of evidence against YEC, is not the main point. Rather, it is to show once again that the YEC attempts to divide science into 'observational' and 'historical science' in a desperate attempt to denigrate the scientific disciplines that destroy the entire basis of YEC, are completely without merit. As Duff notes:
Historical science or observational science?  YECs try to make a hard distinction between the two, claiming that historical or “origins” science can’t be trusted because no one was there to witness the event and these events can’t be tested by repeating the experiment.  Yes, our investigation of these boulders is generally what we would call historical science.  However, I suspect that no YEC is going to deny that these boulders are likely the result of a tsunami and they will probably agree that it was caused by a landslide on an adjacent island. Why will they agree? Not because there are any eyewitnesses nor because the Bible records this historical event. Rather they will agree because the circumstantial evidence is so strong. However, when it comes to when this occurred they will claim that dating is historical/origins science and can’t be trusted.  The evidence really is no less convincing but they can’t accept the ages so they will denounce the dates while accepting the conclusions of historical science that a tsunami did happen.
This is why YEC is a sterile intellectual fraud which has no place in our community. Full article is here.