Flood geology

Flood geology (also creation geology or diluvial geology) is a pseudoscientific attempt to interpret and reconcile geological features of the Earth in accordance with a literal belief in the global flood described in Genesis6–8. In the early 19th century, diluvial geologists hypothesized that specific surface features provided evidence of a worldwide flood which had followed earlier geological eras; after further investigation they agreed that these features resulted from local floods or from glaciers. In the 20th century, young-Earth creationists revived flood geology as an overarching concept in their opposition to evolution, assuming a recent six-day Creation and cataclysmic geological changes during the biblical flood, and incorporating creationist explanations of the sequences of rock strata.

Attempt to reconcile the geological features of the Earth with a literal belief in the global flood described in Genesis
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Thomas Cole – The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge – 1829, oil on canvas

In the early stages of development of the science of geology, fossils were interpreted as evidence of past flooding. The “theories of the Earth” of the 17th century proposed mechanisms based on natural laws, within a timescale set by the Ussher chronology. As modern geology developed, geologists found evidence of an ancient Earth, and evidence inconsistent with the notion that the Earth had developed in a series of cataclysms, like the Genesis flood. In early 19th-century Britain, “diluvialism” attributed landforms and surface features (such as beds of gravel and erratic boulders) to the destructive effects of this supposed global deluge, but by 1830 geologists increasingly found that the evidence supported only relatively local floods. So-called scriptural geologists attempted to give primacy to literal biblical explanations, but they lacked a background in geology and were marginalised by the scientific community, as well as having little influence in the churches.

Creationist flood geology was only supported by a minority of the 20th century anti-evolution movement, mainly in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, until the 1961 publication of The Genesis Flood by Morris and Whitcomb. Around 1970, proponents adopted the terms “scientific creationism” and creation science.[1][2][3]

Proponents of flood geology hold to a literal reading of Genesis 6–9 and view its passages as historically accurate; they use the Bible’s internal chronology to place the Genesis flood and the story of Noah’s Ark within the last five thousand years.[4]

Scientific analysis has refuted the key tenets of flood geology.[5][6][7][8][9] Flood geology contradicts the scientific consensus in geology, stratigraphy, geophysics, physics, paleontology, biology, anthropology, and archaeology.[10][11][12] Modern geology, its sub-disciplines and other scientific disciplines utilize the scientific method. In contrast, flood geology does not adhere to the scientific method, making it a pseudoscience.[13]

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Animals boarding Noah’s ark, 1846 painting by Edward Hicks.
Main article: History of geology
The Ark Encounter, Kentucky, 2016 representation of Noah’s ark, operated by Answers in Genesis, a young Earth creationist organization.

In pre-Christian times, fossils found on land were thought by Greek philosophers, including Xenophanes, Xanthus and Aristotle, to be evidence that the sea had in past ages covered the land. Their concept of vast time periods in an eternal cosmos was rejected by early Christian writers as incompatible with their belief in Creation by God. Among the church fathers, Tertullian spoke of fossils demonstrating that mountains had been overrun by water without explicitly saying when. Chrysostom and Augustine believed that fossils were the remains of animals that were killed and buried during the brief duration of the Genesis flood, and later Martin Luther viewed fossils as having resulted from the flood.[14][15]

Other scholars, including Avicenna, thought fossils were produced in the rock by “petrifying virtue” acting on “seeds” of plants and animals. In 1580, Bernard Palissy speculated that fossils had formed in lakes, and natural historians subsequently disputed the alternatives. Robert Hooke made empirical investigations, and doubted that the numbers of fossil shells or depth of shell beds could have formed in the one year of Noah’s Flood. In 1616, Nicolas Steno showed how chemical processes changed organic remains into stone fossils. His fundamental principles of stratigraphy published in 1669 established that rock strata formed horizontally and were later broken and tilted, though he assumed these processes would occur within 6,000 years including a worldwide Flood.[16]

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