Science in Christian Perspective



Walter R. Hearn

From: JASA 16 (March 1964): 27-28.

In this issue we begin our treatment of a controversial book, The Genesis Flood, by publishing two reviews presented and discussed at the November 1963 meeting of the New York Metropolitan Section of the ASA. One is by a theologically trained Christian educator "outside the camp of professional geologists" and the other by a Christian who is a contributor to geochronology, a geochemist on the staff of the first commercial laboratory in the world to provide radiocarbon and tritium dating as a service and now covering the full range of dating methods, including K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Th-Pb.

Both of these reviews have been edited extensively, partly to eliminate duplication between them and partly to tone them down a bit. There can be no doubt that the polemic style of the book under consideration is such as to evoke extreme reaction.from any reader seriously concerned about both Genesis and geology: one tends to be either exhilarated or enfuriated by the authors' treatment. It is doubtful that Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb will appreciate the following reviews even in their edited form; when their book received a mild but negative review by Donald Boardman, Professor of Geology at Wheaton College, in Christianity Today (Sept. 11, 1961), they replied in a letter to the editor (Ibid., Nov. 10, 1961) that the review presents "a highly biased and misleading picture of the book's content and significance."

Readers of these reviews who have not read the book may not realize that its authors argue not only for the Noahic flood as being responsible for essentially all stratigraphy observable today, but also for the recent creation of a "full-grown" earth with an apparent great age, and for the role of the Edenic curse on Adam as the explanation for the origin of all fossils. Having concluded that Romans 5:12 means that death and violence in the animal kingdom could not have existed before the appearance of man on the earth, the authors reason that fossil-bearing strata, filled with 6vidences of violent death, must have been laid down since Adam. Thus the authors have no interest in merely criticizing the time-table established by paleontology, stratigraphy, and radioisotopic dating in order to revise it or improve it; they must reject it in toto. 

In the light of their position, it is not completely clear to the book review editor why Morris and Whitcomb go to the trouble to quibble so extensively with the accuracy of dating methods. Why not assume that the methods are essentially reliable for determining the apparent age which God structured into the rocks on the particular 24-hour day of their creation? This position would be logically unassailable, as pointed out by Martin Gardner (Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Dover, 1957) in his discussion of zoologist Philip Gosse's 19th century book, Omphalos. That book was named for the Greek word for navel because Gosse thought that Adam was created as a full-grown man with a navel-a relic of a birth that had never occurred-just as the entire earth was created with all the fossil relics of a past which had existed only in the mind of God. With such a position it is not necessary to restructure geological science but merely to reject the idea that it tells us anything about the true age of the earth, which must be revealed to us, as Morris and Whitcomb say, by God in the Bible. However, with the same reasoning, as Gosse realized, we might even suppose that God created the earth only a few minutes ago, complete with memories in the minds of men, records of apparent history, scientific methods of apparent accuracy, and a Biblical record consistent with all this-all for some purpose of His own which He has not yet revealed to us. In Gardner's words, "There is no logical way to refute this as a possible theory."

Science probably appeals to most of us in the ASA as an imperfect but valid method for getting at a true picture of what God has actually done in His universe. Although each of us knows best the established prlciples and inherent limitations of the area of science in which we ourselves work, none of us should be too proud to listen to criticism of our field from those with a broader, or at least a different, perspective. Those who dwell inside the house of geological science have been in the process of remodeling it continuously ever since it was built. Now Henry Morris and John Whitcomb have come along insisting in the name of the Master Architect that the whole thing is on a shaky foundation and must be bulldozed to the ground. Detailed plans for the fine new edifice which should be built in its place, they claim, were found by them in the pages of the family Bible.