The Flood Science Review, Part 1
Taken from the Sept. 2011 issue of the Creation Answers Newsletter
Young age creationists have studied Genesis and geology for over 50 years now, but how much do we actually know about the Flood? Can we present Noah's Flood to modern people in a convincing way? This is the question addressed in a recent project called the Flood Science Review. It is mainly since the publication of the book "The Genesis Flood" in 1961 that creationists in science and other disciplines have seriously investigated understanding the Flood account in Genesis and relating it to science. This was the now famous book by engineer Henry M. Morris and theologian John C. Whitcomb. This book is generally considered to mark the beginning of the modern creation movement. It represented the beginning of a long effort that continues today. This was the effort to rethink geology and Earth history in the light of the global Flood mentioned in Genesis. Whitcomb and Morris accepted Genesis as historically accurate and argued that there was scientific evidence to support Noah's Flood as a real event. The Genesis Flood book attempted to answer many common questions and objections people have about the Genesis Flood from both a biblical and scientific perspective. To this day much of the book is still valid, though some information in it would be considered out of date by many creationists.
Shortly after the publication of this book, in the early 1960's creationist ministries started popping up. Two of the most significant were the Creation Research Society (CRS) and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). The Bible-Science Association was another. An organization called the American Scientific Affiliation began in 1941 as a group made up of Christians in science, many of whom had a young age creation viewpoint but changed to accept evolutionary and old age thinking. This change seems to have happened about two years after the publication of Whitcomb and Morris' Genesis Flood book.
The CRS and ICR organizations have worked to foster scholarly research on issues of the Bible and science since the early 1960's. Other organizations were founded later that have had very important contributions to creation research as well, such as the Australian ministry now called Creation Ministries International, the Creation Science Fellowship (CSF) of Pittsburgh, PA and today the Answers in Genesis organization. A few other creation research and publication ministries have come out of certain church denominations, such as the Geoscience Research Institute of Loma Linda, CA, which is connected to the Seventh Day Adventist church. There are now creation organizations in a number of nations around the world, including even one or two Muslim creationist organizations. Creation organizations have not just worked to reach Christians in churches but have published peer reviewed scholarly journals so that creationists would have ways of publishing their ideas when they are rejected by the secular scientific publications. Note that I am not including in this discussion the later organizations now called the Intelligent Design Movement. Those groups do not take a position on how to interpret Genesis and generally would not accept the Flood account in Genesis as a truly global event in history. The young age creationist organizations I've mentioned (and others like them) take a stand on the inerrancy of the Bible, six literal creation days in Genesis chapter 1, a global Flood in the time of Noah, the Earth being approximately 6,000 years old, and other biblical doctrines orthodox conservative Christians believe.
Why do I tell about these organizations? Because after all the research that has been done, now is time to take stock of where the creation movement is at related to understanding Noah's Flood. A Christian organization called In Jesus’ Name Productions (or IJNP) has been working on partnering with Christians in Hollywood to create very high quality mainstream Christian feature films that are intelligently done to challenge people to believe in the God of the Bible. Their first project is a film called “The Messiah.” “The Messiah picks up where “The Passion” left off, dealing with the period from Christ's resurrection to Pentecost in the first century. For more information go to http://www.ijnp.org .
The Flood Science Review has been another IJNP project of about two years in length in which creationist theories on Noah's Flood are evaluated scientifically. This Review project has recently completed in September 2011. The goal of the Flood Science Review has been to determine if any of the models that have been researched by creationists for the past 50 years are ready for using as the basis for a Hollywood feature film and documentary on the Flood. There have been several movies done over the years on the story of Noah's Flood. But to creationists who have seriously studied questions about the Flood, all these movies are very unsatisfying. The movies done to date do not really make use of all the information we know from the Bible and science about how it may have happened. As a result of not adequately making use of creationist research, the movies come out unrealistic and unimpressive. The movies on the Flood have had other weaknesses as well. There is a need for a Flood movie that is done right.
Creationists are still today in a minority compared to the number of scientists and engineers in technical disciplines that accept evolution and an old age for the Earth and the universe. But there are probably roughly a few thousand people around the world who have graduate degrees in the sciences who have been active in some way writing or speaking out on the problems of evolution and take a young age creation point of view. Also, the efforts of creationists, including conferences and debates, radio programs, and non-technical Christian publications on creation, have had a very significant impact on public opinion.
Today there are many voices around us from different groups with various agendas. There is confusion about the Bible and many are asking if we can still believe the Bible. There have been many challenges from science to the Flood account in Genesis. Many young people have been persuaded they do not need to take the Bible seriously because science has "disproven" the Bible. One of the portions in the Bible criticized and dismissed the most is the Genesis account of Noah's Flood. There are many reasons someone may come to doubt the Bible, and so dealing with the Flood issue is not the only answer people need in order to believe the Bible. But in the light of modern science, there is a great need for a coherent view of how Noah's Flood took place so that it can be presented to people in a credible way. The Bible is not a book of cleverly written myths or a book of fables. People do make their own choice of what to believe, but that does not mean finding answers to the questions does not matter. If you think of Noah's Flood as a children's story it may not have much impact on your thinking, but if you realize that right under our feet and in rocks all around the world there is evidence for a global Flood that really happened, then that drives home how the Bible is true to the real world.
The Flood Science Review
In the Flood Science Review, there was a group of authors, who have published books or articles or other materials on the Flood or about aspects of the pre-Flood Earth. There was also a list of people chosen to evaluate the materials from the authors. These were known as Panelists. I was one of the ten panelists evaluating the work of the authors. There was a long process of the Panelists asking questions of the authors (all in writing) and getting the author's responses. There was then a author-to-author round where the authors evaluated each other's ideas.
Here is a list of the authors in the Flood Science Review and the models they are known for:
Dr. Davis Young and Dr. Ralph Stearley
Davis Young is a Christian geologist who seems to take Genesis as metaphorical but accepts evolutionary geology and an old age for the Earth. He has written a book that is meant to be an answer to creationist Flood geology, which accepts Genesis as describing a real event. This book was evaluated for the Review but Dr. Young and Dr. Stearley did not participate in the discussion.
Dr. Carol Hill
Carol Hill is a geologist who takes the view that Noah's Flood in the Bible was not global but was a local flood that affected part of the ancient world. Hill has written articles arguing against believing in a global Flood. She views the Genesis Flood account as describing more the known world rather than the entire planet being flooded. Dr. Hill also did not participate in the discussion.
Dr. Larry Vardiman
Dr. Larry Vardiman (atmospheric scientist) has been a staff of the Institute for Creation Research and a faculty for the ICR graduate school. He has done research on the so called "Vapor Canopy" concept that was often promoted by creationists in the past. Unfortunately, Dr. Vardiman was not able to participate actively in the Review project because during much of the time he was fighting cancer, which he now has recovered from. But he provided materials on the Vapor Canopy theory. The Vapor Canopy concept was put forward to explain the idealic climate of the world before the Flood and to be a source of water for the 40 days and nights of rain during the Flood. The Vapor Canopy concept has very limited support today from creationists in the sciences, but it was considered in the Review.
Dr. Carl Baugh
Dr. Carl Baugh (archeology and theology) has promoted a view of the pre-Flood Earth that includes a solid crystalline canopy in Earth's atmosphere, which collapsed during the Flood. Baugh believes the Hebrew word "raquia," translated "firmament" in the King James Bible in Genesis 1 must mean a solid material. Genesis 1 refers to a separation between waters above an "expanse" or "firmament" and waters below an expanse. He thus attempts to propose various possible exotic materials that might be candidates for this solid material in the pre-Flood Earth atmosphere. He also proposes that this solid canopy collapsed in Noah's Flood, causing ice to fall onto Earth's surface, as well as the rain. His view also involves nuclear processes in Earth's interior causing Earth to expand after the Flood. Baugh also proposes that there was one supercontinent that split up into todays continents after the Flood ended. Dr. Baugh did participate in all of the Review.
Dr. Walter Brown
Dr. Brown (engineer) has a well known book called In the Beginning that develops what he calls the Hydroplate Theory of the Flood. Dr. Brown participated but left the project before its completion. This model proposes that Earth was made with a layer of water under Earth's crust and that pressure and heat built up in this "hydroplate" that made it break open at the beginning of the Flood. Brown proposes the break up of the hydroplate was extremely powerful, and was able to not only put water high into Earth's atmosphere to cause rain but to also eject water and rock into space. He believes the water and rock ejected into space made its way out to the asteroid belt and beyond that in the solar system, forming comets. Thus Brown sees craters, asteroids, and comets all across the solar system as forming as a result of the explosion of the hydroplate on Earth at the time of Noah. Brown believes the buried mammoths frozen into the permafrost in Siberia were buried by ice early in the Flood that fell onto them from space after the water erupted out of the hydroplate. Brown also incorporates a change in Earth's tilt at the Flood. Brown proposes the continents splitting up during the Flood, but by a mechanism very different from accepted ideas in geology from Plate Tectonics. Dr. Brown participated in the first three rounds of the Panelist-Author discussions in the Review.
Dr. John Baumgardner
Dr. Baumgardner (geophysicist) has done research on the model called Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. He has published technical papers on this and been in various video presentations related to the Flood. Dr. Baumgardner worked for years at Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico. He is well known for his sophisticated supercomputer simulations of the Earth's mantle. He has shown through geophysical computer simulations how it would be possible for continents to split up in a matter of weeks or a few months like in the Flood account in Genesis. Baumgardner accepts many ideas from standard geological thinking on Plate Tectonics theory, except that he has the processes taking place over a period of weeks instead of millions of years. This involves the pre-Flood ocean floor rock sinking down under the continents in the Flood. The continents thus split up and separate starting at the beginning of the Flood in this model. They do this from two effects, first the fact that they are pulled down at the edges and secondly that material under the continents moves like a conveyor belt, making the pre-Flood ocean floor rock subduct below the continents and sink down to Earth's molten core. The processes at the mid-ocean ridges in the ocean floors leads to molten material coming up into deep fissures on the ocean floor when the subduction starts. This leads to ocean water being strongly heated in the fissures and causes a powerful water jet out of the ocean. This leads to the rains of the Flood. Catastrophic Plate Tectonics also is argued to explain many other things about the Earth such as how mountains formed after the Flood and the location of many volcanoes and earthquakes in the world today. Dr. Baumgardner did participate in all of the Review.
Mike Oard (meteorologist and geologist) has published many papers in creationist journals as well as several books. Oard participated in the entire process. In the Flood Science Review he first reveals his own Flood model referred to as Impacts and Vertical Tectonics. This model integrates a number of concepts from Oard's technical papers and books. Mike Oard proposes that there was approximately 36,000 impacts from space that took place beginning at the start of Noah's Flood. (Note that I have also argued for impacts taking place during and after the Flood but I have not tried to make that part of a Flood model. I wrote a paper with Mike Oard about the Chesapeake Bay impact crater. So I agree with some of Oard's ideas.) Oard believes the impacts set off tectonic processes in the Earth that tended to level the planet and cause vertical movements of the ocean floor and continents. There is indeed enough water on the Earth that if the Earth were leveled in its topography, the water could cover the Earth. Oard makes use of this but adds that there may have been a sort of inversion of preflood ocean floor elevating to be continents and preflood continents becoming ocean floor. Some details on Oard’s model are not yet worked out as this is a very new model of the Flood. Rain in the Flood in this model would come from the vast quantities of water that would be ejected into the Earth's atmosphere by the many impacts into the ocean. (Note that I wrote a technical paper about this effect, but not to propose a Flood model.) Oard rejects most of the proposals of Plate Tectonics over millions of years and Catastrophic Plate Tectonics over a period of weeks. Mr. Oard did participate in all of the Review.
Philip Budd (geologist) has written a self-published book on his model of the Flood known as Collapse Tectonics. This is a lessor known idea that has not been published in well known creationist publications. Budd participated in the entire process. Collapse Tectonics keys on the way God first created the Earth. Philip Budd proposes Earth was created with no "oceans" per se but with large bodies of water dispersed around a single supercontinent. Earth's interior would have been created with what geologists call "vugs." These are pockets of lower density material within higher density rock. The vugs contain minerals with lower melting point than the rock around them. These vugs were unstable at creation because of the large amount the easier-to-melt mineral material in them. There is much in Budd’s proposal about various types of magma that were created in the Earth in the beginning and what happened to those materials. Thus from the time of creation to the Flood, minerals and rocks in Earth's mantle, under Earth's solid crust, were separating from each other.
There would also have been water trapped in Earth's interior from creation (indeed even today there is water inside Earth's mantle). This water was released to the surface at the time of the Flood, and eventually led to formation of our oceans. By the time of the Flood, the separation of the various minerals in the mantle made the surface unstable and there were faults and fissures that broke open causing volcanic eruptions and water to erupt out through the crust. This water eruption and volcanism caused the Flood rains. Budd believes the surface of the Earth would have been safe and stable from creation until the Flood for Adam and Eve and other life on Earth, though great changes were going on under Earth's surface. Much of Earth's surface would have broken up and sunk (or collapsed) as a result of volatile and low density material being released from deep in the mantle. Some areas sank more than others and water flowed over the continents due to the Earth movements and the sinking surface. After some weeks todays continents were lifted up due to material from deep in the mantle being pushed up under the continental plates. Thus, this model incorporates a more vertical type of tectonics (rather than horizontal motion and subduction under the continents) but not related to impacts from space. Budd also rejects Plate Tectonics and Castastrophic Plate Tectonics. Budd proposes that the continents lifted up late in the Flood. He also says there were large lakes on the continents after the Flood because the outer edges of the continents uplifted more than the interiors. This led to much erosion and deposition of sediments from water movements after the Flood. Thus, Budd argues that sedimentary rock and fossils formed mostly after the Flood. He would argue that life and any fossils of the pre-Flood creatures would have been destroyed by being pulverized or melted during the Flood. Mr. Budd did participate in all of the Review.
Note that in Philip Budd's model, he attempts to explain everything from known physical processes, without any supernatural miraculous intervention by God after creation. In Budd's model everything proceeds as a result of how Earth was created. The other models all allow for some supernatural intervention in various ways to explain certain details. Baumgardner proposes God supernaturally caused some rapid cooling of the ocean floor at the mid-ocean ridges. Oard allows for the possibility God miraculously protected the Ark from being hit by an impact. Most of the models generally view Earth as made to be stable and safe for life at creation, but God intervenes into history at the time of the Flood to carry out judgement. Budd's model is different in that it deliberately avoids supernatural intervention after creation.
A minor point to add is that there are a few other proposed Flood models that were considered by the Panelists in the Flood Science Review. They were studied and voted on by the Panelists. The models of Mike Oard and Philip Budd were thus voted in to be made part of the Review process by the Panelists. Other models were voted out of the Review process.
The Panelists and Conclusions
I will not list all the Panelists by name here. Part 2 will have more details on the Panelists and my perspective on the Flood models. I would say that all the Panelists put a great deal of time and effort into the project. The Panelists were made up of a group of people with various backgrounds in science and engineering. Their college degrees were predominantly in engineering, geology, and physics. They were also of different backgrounds in terms of what ideas they supported before the project began and what their areas of expertise were. The Panelists and Authors did not know which panelist was who in the discussion rounds but they did have a list of all panelist names. The Panelists were given, I would estimate, over 1,500 pages worth of content to study from the authors. I personally studied more than was provided to us, such as in checking references and looking for research from the scientific literature to corroborate the authors.
There was a careful selection process for choosing the Panelists in which the authors had input. Each Panelist did a phone interview with the Authors. After studying the materials, each Panelist was also asked questions about the material by the author to verify their understanding of the content. Panelists participated in five different rounds of asking questions of the Authors and getting the Authors’ responses. Following the end of the Panelist rounds, there was a round where the Authors wrote comments on the other Authors models and had opportunity to respond to the other Author's’ comments. Then finally the Panelists wrote a summary of their evaluation of each Author's model.
The moderator of the entire process was Joe Bardwell, from In Jesus’ Name Productions. He wrote a final conclusion for the project. All of this discussion was written and is recorded in an ebook (over 1600 pages long) that can be downloaded by anyone who makes a donation of any size to the ministry of IJNP on their website. Their website is http://www.IJNP.org. I would encourage you to make a donation and download the ebook to help support this important ministry effort.
The moderator's conclusion was that at the present time, none of the models examined in the Review were complete enough to be a basis for a high quality Hollywood-level film at this time. IJNP does remain committed to making a Flood movie and intends to work with creationist scientists in further research to prepare for “The Flood” movie.
In evaluating the models, there were six of ten panelists who believed Catastrophic Plate Tectonics was currently the most defensible model. I was one of these six. There was much geological evidence addressed in the Review that shows problems with evolutionary science and an old age view of Earth history. But there is still a need for more research to fill in gaps in explaining the Flood "from start to finish." Much progress has been made on explaining particular aspects of the Flood. You can say that the science on Noah's Flood currently has multiple working hypotheses that are competing models. This is a healthy thing because this is how science actually proceeds toward finding answers. Even apart from there being a Flood movie, the Flood Science Review has been an important project that supports the truth of the Bible, including the early chapters of Genesis. Look for more on the Flood Science Review in Part 2 of this article.
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