Science in Christian Perspective


(See Journal ASA 22, 91 (1970))

William A. Springstead, Pinedale, Wyoming 
Roger I. Cuffey, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania          

From: JASA 23 (March 1971): 22-25

William A. Springstead

The implications of a world wide deluge, occurring within the last 10,000 years, are thought provoking. Its existence would, of necessity, call for a critical reappraisal of some long esteemed scientific theories. Notwithstanding the dilemma, if substantiated, scientists should follow Erhard Rostlund's dictum "The task is to search for the truth wherever it is."

I stated: "objective appraisal of the nature of the Pleistocene, of necessity must modify any undeviating
quietistic views of uniformitarianism." Evidently Dr. Cuffey does not concur that the Pleistocene epoch was different from past geological epochs. At least not different enough to make an exception to uniformitarianism as a "scientific way of operating." Evidently there are fellow scientists who would differ with him.

James R. Beerbower writes: "Uniformitarianism, therefore, is a working principle essential to paleontologists, but not an invariable rule or scientific law." C. C. Simpson elucidates: "Some processes (those of vulcanism or glaciation for example) have evidently acted in the past with scales and rates that cannot by any stretch be called 'the same' or even 'approximately the same' as those of today."2 Another author concurs: "It must be admitted that movements (earth) in the past must have been very different from those of the present day, and that it is debatable how far past events can be accurately reconstructed from the present day. Few geologists would care to enter the lists decisively in favor of any of the theories."3

It is known that one glacier, for example, moved so fast that it covered the living forest. It is believed that the dome of Mt. Lassen and similar ones may have risen in less than a decade. Since 1943 Mt. Paricntin has risen over 1,600 ft. in height. Since its last major earth tremor, certain ground areas of Alaska have risen some 50 feet. Such phenomena as these cannot be called "slow, gradual rise." Many mountain ranges had large, active volcanoes during the Ice Age. Among them are those of the Cascades, Caucuses and East African ranges.
In "The Dying of the Giants" I cited several authors as support of my belief that many mountains may have been lower in elevation at the close of the Ice Age. Gansser, whom I cited, writes, "We may well recall the interesting idea ventured by B. Sahni that the earliest migrations were facilitated by a barrier of less forbidding height and steepness than the impressive Himalayas of today."4 Schneider, in his work on the Himalayas, has pointed out: "In the formation of the Himalayas we have to do with an intensity and tempo unknown to former geological times."5 The close of the Ice Age saw men migrating all over the world. Evidently some believe that earlier Himalayan mountain passes were more conducive for travel than those of today.

One school of geographers holds that man was present when the great rifts of East Africa were being developed. Several Israeli geographers hold that the present Dead Sea is no older than 12,000 years. The Dead Sea is part of the same geological rift that includes the Red Sea and East African grabens. Carl Sauer writes: "East Africa, still a land of volcanoes, was much more so at the time when the human record

Some geologists hold to the view that Mt. Vesuvius (over 3800 ft.) has risen to its present height in the last 10,000 years. It is also believed that most of the tallest Labrador mountains were submerged some time during the Pleistocene. The same was probably the case with mountainous areas of Indonesia.

The reader should be aware at this point, that there is widespread disagreement over the length of the Pleistocene Ice Age. And also aware, that the shorter its duration the more vexing and inexplicable some of its events should be considered. C. Wroe Wolf has said: "Probably at no time in earth history have more changes been produced upon the face of the earth in as short a time as during the Pleistocene epoch."7

Dr. Wm. F. Albright has stated his conviction: "One thing is certain, it is increasingly difficult to place the beginning of the first Pleistocene glaciation at more than some 250,000 years ago." Further he notes of both the Age and its fossil man: "They may both he much more recent."8 Boule and Vallois, while holding for a possible 500,000 year duration of the Quarternary, point out that a few geologists (French, Swedish, and American), adhere to a duration time of only 10,000; 30,000 and 100 - 150 thousand years respectively.9

The close of the Ice Age used to be held by some as having terminated 40-50,000 years ago. Now numerous authorities place it at 11,000 years,10 10,000 years,11 and even 8,000 years.12 Radiocarbon dating has virtually silenced the much older dating position, once so widely held. Some authorities feel that the recency of the close of the Ice Age calls for a much harder look at its time of beginning. Dating is much more untenable than many people realize.

Dr. Cuffey writes: "The late Pleistocene extinctions took place gradually over a period of many 'thousand years, and not all at the very end of Pleistocene times." This seeming refusal to agree with numerous authorities is puzzling. Carl Hubbs writes: "Radiocarbon dates confirm the fact, evident to Darwin and Lyell, that extinction was mainly a post glacial event,'13 The Quarternarists, Wright and Frey were cited: "Why did the most conspicuous extinctions occur so late and after the last glaciation?"14 The preface of "Pleistocene Extinctions: The Search for a Cause" points out: "The pattern of extinction at the end of the Pleistocene did happen 'overnight' in a relative sense-in New Zealand and perhaps in North America in less than 1,000 years-in roughly 1 300th of the estimated time for the longevity (duration) of a species of mammals."15 Dr. Romer has pointed out: "No adequate explanation has ever been given for this mass extinction of large North American mammals." Concerning man he writes: "He certainly played little direct part in killing of these large beasts."16

Several necessary facts must be kept in mind. One is, that ordinarily fossil finds represent only an infinitely small number of the species that existed. Another is that it takes a catastrophe to create good fossils. And the third is that ordinarily, mammal fossils are due to extermination by either man or geological disturbances. When writers speak therefore of "mass extinction", only one of the two factors are involved. Let me cite two examples. The finding of some thousands of horse bones in France is thought to be by reason of human agency. The discovery of a thousand mammoth skeletons at Predmost is thought to be by either earth or glacial activity.

Carl Sauer notes: "The ancient hunters and the ancient game animals seem to have left the scene together."17 Were hunters the main reason for the extinction? How many hunters were present in the Americas 10,000 years ago? N. J. Berrill points out: "All these extinctions coincided with the presence of man." Later he postulates: "Men may have been the victims as well as the beasts."18 J. J. Hester notes: "Of the species that became extinct, Early Man hunted only two to any great degree-mammoth and bison."19 Significantly mammoth molars are the chief mammal find in Florida. From a seeming inexhaustible supply, around 50,000 mammoth tusks have been found in Siberia over the last few centuries. The numbers of early man in Europe at this time were probably few.

Concerning the unusual size of many of the Pleistocene mammals, authority is not lacking. Sonia Cole writes: "Giants are particularly characteristic of the Pleistocene in Africa."23 Romer states: "The Pleistocene giants include representatives of almost every order of mammals."21 Kurten comments: "A number of the animals are now considerably smaller, on an average, than their ancestors at the end of the Pleistocene: Successive samples indicate that dwarfing has proceeded continually during the last 10,000 years or more."22

I cited authority for extensive marine transgression in Western Siberia during the Quarternary. An American team, Richards and Fairbridge write: "Occurrence of glacial-marine deposits in the Yenisei region of the West Siberian lowland is firmly established. Fossils and the character of the Quarternary rocks in which the fossils were found prove that these rocks were formed by the concentrated action of a transgressing and regressing sea, and by glacial deposition."23 Encyclopedia Britannica notes that during the lee Age: "The Caspian was once again linked with the Black Sea by way of the Manych depression of the Northern Caucuses."24 Alimen cities evidence of a "marine gulf" penetrating up the Rhone "as far as the region of Lyon."25 The areas involved would he extensive. West Siberia, for example, is a flat level plain some 90,000 miles in size.

Genesis 7:11 (Ferrar Fenton translation) reads: "On that day all the depths of the Great Ocean were heaved up." Such language not only provides a second major source of deluge water; but strongly infers up heaval of the ocean bottom, in order to release the subterranean water sources. One is reminded of the conviction of the Christian archaelogist, Dr. M. F. Unger. Contending for a world deluge he wrote: "Nothing less than such a cataclysmic disaster can satisfy the scope of the Genesis passage." 25

Genesis 8:4 implicitly records: "And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat." Does this geographic mention refer to the two Ararats or to nearby lower mountains? Both Ararats rise from a base of about 8,800 feet. If the ark landed on mountains nearby, only half as high, it would need a flood depth of over four thousand feet. And a flood of that depth would cover more than three fourths of today's world.

In conclusion I would like to say this. Science, by its nature, is based on skepticism and demands evidence. Scripture, by its nature, must be accepted by faith and that based upon divine revelation. The reverent scientist needs to be aware of both, but they cannot be held in equal esteem. Scientific evidence is limited, accumulative and subject to constant re-evaluation. Scripture's revelation, while varying in degree as to interpretation, is static, and to strain its interpretation is to arrive at absurdity. I enjoyed writing "The Dying of the Giants". As an untrained layman I am only too aware of its shortcomings. If it creates enough discussion to provoke some trained scientists to further research, I will obviously be amply rewarded. I trust I am not lacking in humility when I re-echo the statement of the controversial Robert Ardrey: "Truth is peering in my window and I cannot ask him to go away."


lSearch for the Past, James R. Beerbower, Prentice Hall, Inc., N.Y. 1964, P. 7,
2This View of Life, G. C. Simpson, Harcourt, Brace and World, p. 132.
3Larousse Encyclopedia of the Earth, Leo Bertin, Prometheus Press, N.Y. p. 197.
4Gealogy of the Himalayas, Augusto Gansser, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., 1964, N.Y. p. 261.
5Mount Everest, Hageo Dyenforth Von Haimendorf Schneider, Oxford Press, London, 1963, p. 72.
6Land and Life, Writings of Carl Sauer, Edited by John Leighly, UCLA Press, 1963, p. 291.
7This Earth of Ours, C. Wroe Wolfe, Boston University Press, 1949, p.
8"Digging Into Man's Past," William F. Albright, in An Outline of Man's Knowledge of the Modem World. Lyman Bryson, McGraw Hill, Basic Book Co., N.Y. 1960, p. 207.
9Fossil Men, M. Boule, H. V. Vallois, Dryden Press, N.Y. 1957, p. 61, 65.
10Digging for history, Edward Bacon, Forward by Wm. F. Albright, John Day Publ., 1960, 1961, p. 3.
11The Story of Geology, Jerome Wyckoff, Golden Press, N.Y., 1960, p. 11.
12The World of Ice, James Dryson, A. Knopf, N.Y. 1962, p. 6.
13Zooegraphy, Carl Hnbbs, Editor, Wn. D.C., 1958 p. 396,
l4The Quarternary of the United States, H. E. Wright, Jr., David G. Frey, Editors, Princeton, 1965, p. 520.
15"Plcistocene Extinctions," The Search for a Cause. P. S. Martin and H. E. Wright Jr. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1967, preface VI.
16The Procession of Life, Alfred S. Romer, The World Pub!. Co., Cleveland and N.Y., 1968, p. 255.
17Land and Life, Writings 0f Carl Sauer, Edited by John Leighly, UCLA Press, 1963, p. 209.
18Inherit the Earth, N. 3. Berrill, Dodd, 1966 (copyright renewed), p. 40.
19Martin and Wright, Op. cit. p. 181. Writing of J. J. Hester.
20The Prehistory of East Africa, Santa Cole, MacMillan Co., N.Y., 1963, p. 89.
2lVertebrate Paleontology, A. S. Homer, University of Chicago Press, 2nd Edition, 1945, p. 569.
22"The Rate of Evolution," Bjorn Knrten, in Science in Archaeology, Bothwell and Higgs, Basic Books, Inc., N.Y., p. 219.
23Annotated Bibliography of Quarternary Shorelines, H. C. Richards and II. W. Fairbridge, Academy of Natural Sciences, Phila. Pa., Special Publ. 6, 1965, p. 168.
24Encyelopedia Britannica, Vol. 4, 1961, p. 965.
25"The Quarternary," Kalervo Rankama, Editor: The Quarternary of France, Marie Henriette Alimen, Vol 2, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., N.Y., 1967, p. 134.
26Archaeology and the Old Testament, Merrill F. Unger, Zondervan Pub. House, Grand Rapids, Mich., 2nd Edition, 1954, p. 61.

Roger I. Cuffey, 

The extinction of some large mammals toward the end of the Pleistocene Epoch suggested to Springstead (1970) that a world-wide deluge or flood was a reasonable scientific possibility; however, a number of facts contradict his conclusion (Cuffey, 1970). Springstead's present rebuttal requires further comment, although my earlier critique (Cuffey, 1970) adequately treats some of the points which he raises as well as his general methodology in these matters.

My "seeming refusal to agree with numerous authorities" about when the Pleistocene extinctions occurred is readily explained. Simply stated, when seen in the entire context of the paleontologic literature regarding these matters, Springstead's quotations mean something very different from what he interprets them
I echo Springstea's call for further research, but urge those heeding this call to concentrate their efforts in directions which break new ground in this field, rather than in the direction of trying to revive defunct and erroneous ideas, to mean. Such unintentional misinterpretation frequently affects the output of any of us when working outside his own immediate field of expertise and specialization (Cuffey, 1970, p. 93, insert).

The Pleistocene extinctions are only part of the over-all history of life, world-wide, during the last several million years of the Cenozoic. They must therefore not be treated in either temporal or geographical isolation, but must be considered in relation to events transpiring from Miocene time onward and occurring in Europe and Africa as well as in New Zealand and perhaps North America. In particular, I wish further to emphasize the fact that extinctions occurred through out a long period of late Cenozoic time, not as a sudden and concentrated wave at the end of the Pleistocene (as Springstead's quotations can be misinterpreted to imply). A number of organisms died out at various times within the Pliocene (Leopold, 1967, p. 204, 211; Martin, 1967, p. 82, 84). Others became extinct early in the Pleistocene (Martin, 1967, p. 82, 84, 85); moreover, "in the oldest Pleistocene (Villafranehian) a successive extinction of many evolutionary lines occurred. . ." (Kowalski, 1967, p. 351). Later in the Pleistocene, as the ice sheets waxed and waned, "particular species died out during different glaciations" (Kowalski, 1967, p. 352; also note Martin, 1967, p. 82, 85, 86). Some of the large terrestrial herbivores, and the carnivores and scavengers depending on them, became extinct only about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene (Martin, 1967, p. 83, 84, 95); as Edwards points out (1967, p. 143), their conspicuousness results in the fact that "our present view of the late-Pleistocene extinction rate is therefore exaggerated ...." Finally, still other species have died out only in the last few centuries (Kowalski, 1967, p. 361-363; Martin, 1967, p. 102-105; Martin and Guilday, 1967, p. 5-6). Thus, in summary, extinctions took place gradually and over an extended period of many thousands of years during late Cenozoic times. Consequently, there is no paleontologic basis for believing that a major catastrophic event, such as a world-wide flood, is recorded in the rocks; Springstead's main thesis is simply not consistent with the available evidence.

As far as the actual causes of the Pleistocene extinctions are concerned, at least three can be recognized as having been critically important in particular situations. Sometimes, extinctions have been caused by change or disappearance of a habitat, due to climatic changes caused by glacial advance or retreat (Kowalski, 1967, p. 354, 356, 357). Other extinctions have resulted from destruction of habitats due to the agricultural activities of early man (Guilday, 1967, p. 122; Kowalski, 1967, p. 361). Still others have resulted from the direct influence of the hunting activities of early man (Martin, 1967, p. 75, 102-105, 115; Walker, 1967, p. 431-432).
Springstead's present rebuttal reflects some of the common and widespread misunderstandings of uniformitarianism as a working principle or attitude of the modern earth scientist. Van de Fliert (1969) gave
an excellent extended discussion of uniformitarianism which is well-worth reading in connection with the present notes. Let me elaborate very briefly, however, on a few points raised by Springstead's rebuttal.
Uniformitarianism, as used by the modern practicing geologist, is simply the attitude that the kinds of processes and events which we see operating today were responsible, over long periods of time, for shaping the earth and the organisms living on it, unless convincing evidence to the contrary exists. As Beerbower (quoted by Springstead) says, uniformitarianism is indeed a working principle or attitude, rather than an invariable rule. Geologists agree that these kinds of processes and events can (and sometimes did) operate at different intensities than today's, as Springstead's quotation of Simpson's comment implies; however, difference in rates or scales certainly does not invalidate the practical use of uniformitarianism. In fact, although many seem not to realize this, even such a different event as a brief world-wide flood would leave unmistakab!e evidence from which uniformitarian principles would correctly interpret the actual historical event. (The reason modern geologists do not accept a recent world-wide deluge is that there is no such evidence for it, as well as much evidence inconsistent with its ever having occurred.) To return to Spring stead's rebuttal, the examples cited-in which geological processes are shown to have operated with noticeable results within relatively short periods of geologic time-are all clearly well within the uniformitarian scope of action, in spite of his implication to the contrary. In particular, note that some geological processes -such as explosive volcanic eruptions, ground movements due to earthquakes, and large floods resulting from sudden breaking of natural (or artificial) dams or levees-produce dramatic effects on a local or regional scale. These are therefore sometimes loosely referred to as "catastrophic", but are nonetheless fully uniformitarian in character; quoting descriptions of such events certainly does not disprove uniformitarianism.

The events of the Pleistocene are closely related to the events of the late Cenozoic as a whole, and are quite well understood in terms of modern uniformitarian geologic thought (Flint, 1957; Dunbar and Waage, 1969, p. 431-446; Kay and Colbert, 1965, p. 557-603). In particular, many regions of the earth's crust covered by the large continental ice sheets were depressed by the load of the ice. The ice melted away (about 10,000 years ago) quite rapidly compared to the rate at which the earth's crust could rebound upward to its preglacial
elevation. Consequently, sea waters came in and briefly submerged such areas (like coastal New England, Canada, and Siberia) until crustal rebound carried the land back above sea level (a process still underway in some regions). This submergence, however, is quite different from the kind of world-wide cataclysmic flood which Springstead suggests might have occurred (and for which geologic evidence does not exist). Also, the dating of the Pleistocene-while obviously capable of further refinement-is not nearly so controversial or uncertain as Springatead seems to have concluded (Flint, 1957, p. 272-301; Coon, 1962, p. 221-227, 309-318, 577-579).

Springstead is certainly correct in emphasizing our requirement to search for and accept the truth regardless of where it is to be found. Moreover, geological truth is indeed peering in through our window. However, it seems to me to be saying that all the evidence supports the ideas and conclusions of modern geology, rather than those of flood geology. I echo Springstead's call for further research, but urge those heeding this call to concentrate their efforts in directions which break new ground in this field, rather than in the direction of trying to revive defunct and erroneous ideas.


Coon, CS. 1962, The Origin of Races; Knopf, New York; 724 p.
Coffey, R.J., 1970, Critique of "The Dying of the Giants": Journal ASA 22, p. 93-96.
Dunbar C.O., and Waage, KM., 1969, Historical Geology, 3rd ed.; John Wiley, New York; 556 p.
Edwards, WE., 1967, The Late-Pleistocene Extinction and Diminution in Size of Many Mammalian Species: p. 141154 of Martin and Wright, 1967.
Flint, R.F., 1957, Glacial and Pleistocene Geology; John Wiley, New York; 553 p.
Gnilday, J.E., 1967, Differential Extinction during Late-Pleistocene and Recent Times: p. 121140 of Martin and Wright, 1967.
Kay, M., and Colbert, E. H., 1965, Stratigraphy and Life History; John Wiley, New York; 736 p.
Kowalski, K., 1967, Pleistocene Extinction of Mammals in Europe: p. 349-364 of Martin and Wright, 1967.
Leopold, E.B., 1967, Late-Cenozoic Patterns of Plant Extinction: p. 203-246 of Martin and Wright, 1967.
Martin, P.S., 1967, Prehistoric Overkill: p. 75-120 of Martin and Wright, 1967.
Martin, P.S., and Guilday, J.E., 1967, A Bestiary for Pleistocene Biologists: p. 1-72 of Martin and Wright, 1967.
Martin, P.S., and Wright, HE., Jr., eds., 1967, Pleistocene Extinctions-The Search for a Cause; Yale Univ. Press, New Haven; 453 p.
Springstead, WA., 1970, The Dying of the Giants: Journal ASA 22, p. 91-97.
Van de Fliert, JR., 1969, Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of Geology: Journal ASA 21, p. 69-81 (with insert comments by Boardman, Coffey, and Tanner).
Walker, A., 1967, Patterns of Extinction among the Subfossil Madagascan Lemuroids: p. 425432 of Martin and Wright, 1967.