Science in Christian Perspective
Letters to the Editor
Pro and Con van de Fliert
From: JASA 22 (March 1970: 35-38.
First, let me congratulate you on the tremendous Journal ASA for September and a general improvement in ASA over the past year or so. Particularly, van de Fliert's article and Garrett Hardin's article with comments.
David L. Dye
1608 Ilaiues Place NE Albuquerque, New Mexico 87112
I especially appreciated van de Fliert's article. I find about as little virtue
in presenting arguments to establish the infallibility of the Bible
as I do trying
to prove the existence of God scientifically. I take these matters on faith. So
I trust God and use the Bible. Since people have generally given up trying to
prove God's existence, I think we may have reasonable hope that they will one
day give up trying to prove the validity, infallibility, authority, spiritual
power or whatever of the Bible. But until we reach that point, men like van de
Fliert serve us well.
Pastor, Tn-Cities Christian Reformed Church Pasca, Washington 99301
I greatly enjoyed the refutation of Morris and Whitcomb's debacle by van de Fliert.
James It. Moore
908 Country Lane Mount Prospect, Illinois 60056
For several years now we non-geologists have had to defend truth with
geological knowledge while the geologists in the A.S.A. either chose to remain
silent or else were in such a small minority that their voices were
Dr. van de Fliert's article exposing the fatal flaws of Whitcomb's and Mortis' book on flood geology was a most welcome and long overdue breath of fresh air.
I would like to add these facts to his scholarly article:
1. Professor Kane, Chairman of Geology Dept., Ball State University, indicated to me that none of the geologists approving Whitcomb and Morris's hook have been involved in geological research in at least 2 and probably more likely 3 or 4 decades. This, he said, he can vouch for by personal knowledge of the geologists themselves as well as of the research literature. He said that they are essentially "arm-chair geologists."
2. On Whitcomb's third visit to Ball State University (Fall, 1967), several geologists, anthropologists, biologists, and archaeologists pointed out to him some of the more obvious errors in the book. Not once in the lii hour meeting did he admit to the need for any correction in spite of overwhelming evidence from those research scientists to the contrary. However, it is encouraging to note that so far as many students were concerned, the meeting had beneficial results as they testified that no one had taken the trouble before to point out the dangerous grounds upon which flood geology rests.
3. The book's testimonies by non-geologists such as plant breeders, civil engineers, chemists, and the like are irrelevant to the primarily geological problem, are misleading to laymen, and appear somewhat (probably unintentionally) dishonest to be included.
It is pitiful to see so many of our fellow conservatives resort to intellectual dishonesty, browbeating, pseudo-pietism, and even hatred-all in the name of Christ and fundamentalism. It would seem that they feel that the end justifies the means.
It was good to see the testimonies of geologists Cuffy, Tanner, and Boardman regarding the article. May God give courage to other geologists in the A.S.A. to stand up and he counted for the faith!
Thomas Key Department of Biology Oglethorpe College Atlanta, Georgia
I appreciate very much the attention devoted to our book1 by Professor van de
Fliert2 since most professional geologists have ignored it. However, I regret
that he allowed himself to resort to emotional language in his
"flagrant nonsense", "extremely dangerous", "pretended
scientific value", etc.). One evidence that evolutionary uniformitarianism
is a religion rather than a science is the fact that its advocates
react emotionally whenever a fellow scientist questions it.
We agree completely with most of Professor van de Fliert's paper and are puzzled as to why so much that is in agreement with THE GENESIS FLOOD is included in a polemic against it. In many instances it seems to me that he is battling a straw man of his own preconception-like those evolutionists who forever are attacking the supposed creationist doctrine of fixity of species.
Thus we have always stressed the uniformity of natural law as a basic principle in science. Similarly we recognize abundant evidence of extensive earth movements in the past, including overthrusting, folding and other remarkable tectonic features which we do not see occurring at present. As a hydrologist and
hyraulics engineer, I certainly believe that the same basic principles of hydraulics operating at present were in effect when the ancient lands and rivers were eroded and the ancient sediments were deposited. Furthermore we recognize the value of the standard geologic column as a taxonomic device and the fact that strata usually occur in the accepted order and that paleontologic criteria of identification are generally valid.
But the point of the discussion in THE GENESIS FLOOD (and not discussed by Professor van de Fliert) is that there are a great number of exceptions to the usual order in which the supposed physical criteria of overthrusting, reworking, etc., are not present, and that there are a great many geologic features which (on consistent uniformitarian principles) could not possibly be correlated with geologic phenomena actually observed by modern geologists, either quantitatively or qualitatively (e.g., regional volcanic terrains, continental glaciation, mountain-building, peneplain formation, fossil graveyards, incised meanders, regional alluviation, submarine canyon formation, and many others.) It seems to many of us that such things as these absolutely demand catastrophism of some sort, though within the framework of uniform natural law.
In the decade since THE GENESIS FLOOD was written (though I do not mean to suggest any connection) a significant reaction of orthodox geologists has emerged against the older uniformitarianism, with an increasingly frank recognition that local or regional catastrophism is fundamental in geologic interpretation. I have discussed this trend to some extent in two other papers.3,4 Of course there is still as much antipathy as ever to the idea of a worldwide cataclysm such as the Biblical Flood.
In the book we attempted, in an exploratory way, to see how the actual observed data of geology and other sciences could be harmonized with the Biblical record of the Flood. We repeatedly stressed in the book that our proposed geologic interpretations are tentative and subject to revision with further study and evaluation. However, the one point we insisted on was that the basic Christian presupposition of the inerrancy and perspicuity of the Genesis record must he maintained. If this is not done, then the remaining system may possibly be theistic, but it can be neither Biblical nor truly Christian.
Now it is this fundamental requirement which not only van de Fliert but all other critics of THE GENESIS FLOOD have studiously ignored. Critics invariably dwell on certain supposed flaws in our geological perspective (e.g., our alleged failure to recognize the real nature of the geologists' concept of uniformitarianism, the supposed impropriety of documenting our ease with quotations from men who don't agree with it, our alleged ignorance of the fact that there really are some examples of overthrusting, re-working of sediments and faunal mixing and other phenomena whose universal applicability we questioned, etc.), but they always pass by the much more important and fundamental fact that the written Word of God uneqicoealltj teaches that there was a world-destroying cataclysm in the days of Noah!
This reaction of course is to be expected from non-Christian geologists, to whom the Biblical record is utterly irrelevant anyhow. But it is disheartening and puzzling when evangelical scientists, who insist that thet still believe in the divine authority of the Bible, also completely ignore this powerful Biblical evidence for the worldwide cataclysm, as presented in THE GENESIS FLOOD and many other places. That this is a fair statement of the situation has been thoroughly confirmed in a recent study5, by a man trained in both science and theology, who has analyzed all the reviews and criticisms of THE GENESIS FLOOD since its initial publication.
Professor van de Fliert admits, in fact, that "our scientific world picture has become different from that of the authors of the Bible."5 To him, therefore, the fact that the writer of Genesis (as well as job, David, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, and even Christ Himself) believed in a global Flood is of no importance. He feels this issue can he settled simply by saying that "the Bible is not a scientific book." He even thinks (and one is almost startled to encounter this kind of circumlocution in a serious scientist and Christian) that to apply the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy to matters of historic fact is "a colossal overestimation of science."
Atheistic scientists and philosophers, on the other hand, reason much more directly. To them, if the Bible is unreliable when it deals with matters of human observation and experience (i.e., science and history)as it does with great emphasis and frequency-then it is surely not worth trusting when it attempts to treat intangibles such as sin and salvation, heaven and hell-and God!
Available space for this communication does not allow for a rebuttal to Professor van de Fliert's criticism of our discussion of hydrodynamic sorting as a partial explanation for the lithologic and paleontologic divisions in the strata of a sedimentary exposure, or of the highly uncertain growth rates and subsequent histories of ancient coral reefs, or of other geological problems. I can only say that he has not at all settled these questions.
But this is not the important thing. I again acknowledge that there are many, many problems in geology for which we do not yet have adequate answers in terms of the Biblical framework, even though we can at least see in a general way how many of the data can be reinterpreted to correlate with it. There are even more serious problems, on the other hand, for the dogmatic evolutionist and uniformitarian.
The real crux of the matter, however, is "What saith Scripture?" In THE GENESIS FLOOD, as well as in our other writings, Dr. Whitcomb and I have maintained, with a considerable number of straightforward Biblical arguments, that the Bible teaches a recent special Creation of all things and a worldwide Flood, and that there is no permissible interpretation of the Bible which can accommodate evolution and the geological ages. No one has answered these arguments to date.
How, for one example, can we harmonize the concept of a billion years of random variation, struggle for existence, natural selection, evolutionary dead-ends and extinctions without number, disease, confusion, disorder, decay, slaughter and death; with the fact of a God of perfect wisdom, order, power and gracewho could easily have created all things complete and perfect from the beginning (as He has revealed in His Word), but who according to the consistent evolutionist and uniformitarian, chose the tortuous route of evolution instead? This is a serious theological problem, one that cannot really be settled by a quip or a platitude.
It seems to me that each evangelical scientist and theologian owes it to the Christian community to do one of two things: (1) develop a sound Biblical exegesis of the fundamental chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-11), consistent with the rest of Scripture, which will clearly warrant his acceptance of the geological ages and the general evolutionary world-view; or else (2) develop a re-interpretation of the observed facts of geology and other sciences to correlate with the facts of Biblical revelation concerning primeval earth history, centered in special Creation, the Fall, and the Flood.
There can be only confusion and danger in continuing to embellish the superstructure when the foundation has been destroyed.
1John C. Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry M. Morris: THE GENESIS FLOOD (Nutley, N. J., Presbyterian and Re
formed Pobi. Co.) 1961, 518 pp. 14th printing (paper back), 1969.
2J. R. van de Fliert: "Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of Geology," Journal of the American Scientific
Affiliation, Vol. 21, September 1969.
3"Science Versus Scientism in Historical Geology," Quarterly of the Creation Research Society, Vol. 2, October 1965.
4"Sedimentation and the Fossil Record: A Study in Hydraulic Engineering," Quarterly of the Creation Research Society. Vol. 2, December 1967.
5Charles C. Clough: A Calm Appraisal of THE GENESIS FLOOD. Th. M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1968, 196 pp. This study is summarized in the Creation Research Quarterly for September 1969.
6van der Fliert, op. cit., p. 80.
Henry M. Morris Professor of Hydraulic Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia 24060
I have been a pastor for more than forty years. During that time nothing has grieved my heart more than to see a young man start out with great promise and later end up a shipwreck.
I have enjoyed the privilege of being an Associate Member of A.S.A. during most of its history. At the beginning it promised to do what I and many others had prayed for a long time, namely, to bridge the widening gap between science and the Bible. For some years you did well, But the past few years there has been a gradual drifting. To me you reached the ridiculous in the recent article, "The Three Storied Universe."
Now you come forward with the article, "Fundamentalism and Fundamentals of Geology," by van de Fliert. All of his arguments are what you find in the average book on the subject. Mostly he vented his spleen on Morris and Whitcomb along with all the rest of us who still believe in the Bible as offering reliable historical facts as well as promises.
It is this kind of dividing reason (or futile effort) from faith that is causing most of the tragedy of our day. Of course, van de Fliert shows an abiding faith in his assumptions, his limited experiments, and conclusions. This is placing a Mighty faith in human reason and judgment. No wonder he shunts his faith in God and his word out into some mystical realm where reason can ask no questions nor expect any answer.
In my judgment this is a perfect example of the Escape from Reason (Journal ASA, 21, 54 (1969) )
that Francis Schaeffer recently wrote so well about. This is a true picture of modem man-and a professed Evangelical Christian not only lends aid but defends it.
J. Vernon Wheeless
Pastor, Rice Temple Baptist Church Houston, Texas 77025
J. R. van de Fliert faults Morris and Whitcomb (The Genesis Flood) for dogmatism. It is true that they might have presented their case in a less judgmental way. However, van de Fliert then proceeds to be just as dogmatic for the historical geology approach, allowing no possibility that Morris and Whitcomb might be correct. This is strange, when in the same article he is able to speak of the "poor state of our scientific knowledge today . . which will change tomorrow!" (p. 69) One then reads with wonder such statements as:
...this idea ... was soon to be shown false by evidence accumulated as the science of geology began to grow" (p. 70).
"There is no doubt about the answer in the present state of our knowledge... (p. 73).
"This basis makes it possible indeed to say that the broad lines of present-day historical geology are correct, and are to be accepted as a well established fact" (p. 80).
Van de Fliert may be correct, but the very fact that there are
geologists) today who
hold such a view, should call for a little more caution. Morris is faulted because he is not a geologist; it is true, this is not his main field. However, he is trained in geology, and he is so listed in the American Scientific Affiliation Directory.
Criticism, yes. Solid, first-hand research, yes. But dogmatism and stone-throwing, from either side, no. That will get none of us anywhere. Nor does it seem to me to he in the best Christian spirit.
Vernon A. Raaflanb Box 188 Nipawin, Saskatchewan