Science in Christian Perspective
The Transformation of a
Glenn R. Morton,
The Woodlands, TX 77382
From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 52 (June 2000): 81-83.
I became a Christian in my sophomore year of college. The people who had led me to the Lord immediately began my discipleship. They taught me to evangelize and they taught me what they felt a Christian should believe. But most importantly they were a loving family of believers which was a welcome oasis for someone like me whose home life had been less than familial. Thus, when I was told that Christians must believe in a young-earth and a global flood, I went along willingly. I believed. Being a physics major in college I had not taken any geology courses. I knew there were physics problems, but I thought I could solve them.
When I graduated from college, physicists were unemployable since NASA had just laid off many. I did graduate work in philosophy, and then decided to leave school to support my growing family. After six months, I found work as a geophysicist working for a seismic company. Within a year, I was processing seismic data for a major oil company.
This was where I first became exposed to the problems geology presented to the idea of a global flood. I would see extremely thick (30,000 feet) sedimentary layers and wonder how the flood could have deposited all that sediment and still given time for footprints to be formed if it was all deposited in one year. One could follow beds with footprints from the surface down to those depths where they were covered by such thicknesses of sediment that much time would have been required. I would see buried mountains which had experienced more than ten thousands of feet of erosion, which required more time than a single year. Yet, my belief system required that the sediments in those buried mountains had to have been deposited by the flood. I would see karsts (sinkholes due to limestone erosion) and salt sandwiched in the middle of the geologic column (supposedly during the middle of the flood). Yet the flood waters would have been saturated with limestone and incapable of dissolving lime. And salt can only be removed from the ocean waters by evaporation. It was inconceivable that salt could be deposited during the Flood. It became clear that more time was needed than the global flood would allow. But my faith in the young-earth interpretation told me that the data were not to be believed.
Over the next several years, I struggled to understand how the geologic data I worked with everyday could be fit into a biblical perspective. I published more than twenty items in the Creation Research Society Quarterly toward that goal. I would listen to the discussions that the Institution of Creation Research (ICR) had with people like Harold Slusher, Duane Gish, Steve Austin, and Tom Barnes, and with some of their graduates whom I had hired. Nothing worked to explain what I saw.
In order to get closer to the data and know it better, with the hope of finding a solution, I changed subdivisions of my work in 1980. I left seismic processing and went into seismic interpretation where I would work more closely with geologic data. My horror only increased. The data I was seeing at work was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian. Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. No one could give me a model which allowed me to unite into one cloth what I believed on Sunday and what I was forced to believe by the data Monday through Friday.
Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. In general, they were not interested in discussing the difficulties and they did not want to read any material that contradicted their cherished position. But then I too was often unwilling to face the data or to read books like Kitcher's Abusing Science, (Philip Kitcher, Abusing Science: The Case against Creationism, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982) which argued against young-earth creationism. I would have eagerly isolated myself from geologic data, but my job would not allow it. I preferred darkness of self-deception to the light of truth. Yet, day after day, my job forced me to confront that awful data. And to make matters worse, I was viewed by my fellow young-earth creationists as less than pure for trying to discuss or solve the problems.
By 1986, the growing doubts about the ability of the widely accepted creationist viewpoints to explain the geologic data led to a nearly ten year withdrawal from publication. My last young-earth paper was titled "Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth," which I presented as the first paper at the First International Conference on Creationism. I showed the geologic and seismic data with which I was working.
The talk was not well received. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, and the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data! One person, claiming to have worked in the oil industry, came to the stage to challenge me. His challenge was insignificant and his claim of having worked in the industry was false. I was bothered by a Christian making false claims.
It appeared that the more questions I raised, the more they questioned my Christianity. When telling one friend of my difficulties with young-earth creationism and geology, he told me that I had obviously been brainwashed by my geology professors. When I told him that I had never taken a geology course, he then said I must be saying this in order to hold my job. Never would he consider that I might really believe the data. This attitude that the messenger of bad news must be doubted amazed me. And it convinced me that too many of my fellow Christians were not interested in truth but only that I should conform to their theological position. To all intents and purposes I was through with young-earth creationists (not -ism yet) because I knew that they did not care about the data.
During the next ten years, I published little of value for the creation/evolution area. I was still a young-earth creationist but I did not know how to solve the problems. In the late 1980s, very long baseline interferometry measurements disproved most of my young-earth articles by measuring the slow drift of the continents showing that much time would be required to move the continents to their present position.
Eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationism. Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology had turned out to be true. I took a poll of all eight of the graduates from ICR's school who had gone into the oil industry and were working for various companies. I asked them one question, "From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true?"
That is a very simple question. One man, who worked for a major oil company, grew very silent on the phone, sighed, and softly said, "No!" A very close friend that I had hired, after hearing the question, exclaimed, "Wait a minute. There has to be one!" But he could not name one. No one else could either.
Being through with creationism, I was almost through with Christianity. I was thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that if the earth were not young and the flood not global, then the Bible was false. I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist. During that time, I re-read a book I had reviewed prior to its publication. It was Alan Hayward's Creation/ Evolution (Triangle, 1985). Although I had reviewed it prior to its publication in 1985, I had not been ready for the views he expressed. He presented a wonderful "Days of Proclamation" view which pulled me back from the edge of atheism. Although I believe Alan applied it to the earth in an unworkable fashion, applied differently, his view had the power to unite the data with the Scripture. That is what I have done with my views. Without that I would now be an atheist. There is much in Alan's book I agree with and much I disagree with, but his book was very important in keeping me in the faith. While his book may not have changed the debate totally, it did change my life.
It was my lack of knowledge that allowed me to go along willingly and become a young-earth creationist. It was isolation from contradictory data, a fear of contradictory data and a strong belief in the young-earth interpretation that kept me there for a long time. The biggest lesson I have learned in this journey is to read the works of those with whom you disagree. God is not afraid of the data.