The Kolbe Center responds to This Rock and Karl Keating
The founder and president of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, presents a critical view of geological catastrophism and a young earth in an article entitled, “Grand Canyon Refutes Young Earth Theory” in the July-August issue of This Rock Magazine.
Dr. Bennett, from the Kolbe Center advisory council, and Hugh Owen, director of the Kolbe Center, have organized a response along with a collection of editorial replies that were not published by This Rock magazine.
The Rocky Halls of This Rock: Rocky Theology and Science?
by Dr. Robert Bennett and Hugh Owen
It is sensible to infer that one formally trained in civil law would be most apt to be logical in reasoning about natural law, in separating fact from interpretation, true cause from probable cause. So also we expect one trained in theology and preaching the gospel publicly to be well versed in the interpretation of Scripture and the separation of literal from liberal translation. And to find both skills in one person would seem to be ideal for truly deciding issues which fill the public square, such as whether the earth is young or old, using both science and Scripture as sources.
But we all have our weaknesses, even within what are thought to be our professional strengths. By looking in the wrong places and listening to the wrong voices, perhaps being intimidated by social contacts, such a person can lose faith in the orthodox tradition of the Church and take the secular view of science to be correct, even while challenging almost every other modernist ethic.
So many people rely on and have respect for Karl Keating’s apologetics, that they are easily persuaded to accept the Old Earth proposition on his word alone. It is this danger that we address, reluctantly but firmly, in the following discussion of :
The Testimony of Rocky Halls, Karl Keating, This Rock, Jul-Aug 03.
Mr. Keating claims that some young earth Catholics, like the Fundamentalist sects, contend their position is mandated by Scripture and supported by science. He considers them mere eccentrics, but he fears they bring the Church into disrepute and would rather not be weighed down with this annoying new baggage.
Mr. Keating refers to a stereotype of Catholic “traditionalist” thought by citing the work of the Anglican Bishop Ussher of Armagh. By resorting to mind-reading he says that advocates of a young earth aren’t motivated by the earth’s age per se, but by the deconstruction of evolution and the opposition to anything that might seem to give the theory a foothold. According to Mr. Keating, we argue that evolution is false, so the earth must be young.
We are thought to be sloppy thinkers, by insisting on ‘plumping’ (sic) for the young earth hypothesis, when there is no need to. He distinguishes between evolution and Darwinism, its mechanism (the vacuous tautology of natural selection), but his argument is that rejection of evolution and Darwinism results in a problematic approach to Scripture and science by Catholic promoters of a young earth. According to Mr. Keating, we first assume that these theories are erroneous and must adopt the young earth hypothesis to justify our assumption. (Mr. Keating couldn’t be further from the mark for the case of the current writer, having spent 36 years as an Old Earth (OE) scientist, last 3 years as a Young Earth Creationist (YEC).)
He attempts a personal refutation of Young Earth (YE) belief, which is admittedly not so much scientific as affective, not so much conclusive as indicative. What then follows supplies a historical and emotional description of the impressive immensity that the Grand Canyon spectacle presents. Mr. Keating relates his seven hour descent from the rim to the Colorado River below, noting the antiquity of the Indian and prospector trails but seeing scant evidence of their erosion. Emulating Einstein, Mr. Keating engages in a thought experiment, assuming (sic) the rock erodes at one inch per century to flush out the equivalent of whole mountains of debris. His math shows a drop from rim to river of 4,600 feet would have taken 5,520,000 years to form the Grand Canyon.
Now he turns to advocates of a young earth, only 6,000 years old. This age requires an erosion rate of 920 inches per century – not at all what century-old photos show. He points out that there is not remotely enough water (now) to carve away nine inches of rock each year.
In his canyon trip reverie he knew viscerally (sic) that it was not formed recently. He says it could not have been so (remember, using a gut feeling). His eyes and aching feet were apparently proof enough. So much for the scientific method and the legal criterion of reasonable doubt. Mr. Keating’s gastric testimony convinces him that the rocky halls are far older than 6,000 years – or even a hundred times that.
Mr. Keating thinks proponents of a young earth will not accept what he says as determinative. But we wonder why, with such strong New Age evidence? He thinks a trip to the Redwall would convince us.
Kolbe Center advisors were independently inspired to challenge the article’s position with letters to This Rock. There was one private response to these but none was published by This Rock; they are all reproduced here.
Initially there were three (negative) replies that were published in This Rock; they all pointed out the similarity in the paleogeology of the Grand Canyon with the neogeology of Mt. St. Helens. It’s interesting that no positive replies were printed; were none received? It’s heartening to know that some This Rock readers noted the inconsistencies in the article and were not ‘affected’ by their obvious loyalty to Mr. Keating or his maudlin response to the Canyon spectacle. Perhaps there still exists today a “silent majority” of Catholics that are faithful to Scripture when challenged by modernist science.
The letters linked below represent a summary of the opinions of This Rock readers; they do not necessarily reflect the position of the Kolbe Center.
Karl Keating replied to these three writers:
1.The Mount St. Helens comparison is not apt. The explosion produced mud flows that … involved ash and igneous material. The Grand Canyon, by contrast, is composed mainly of sedimentary rocks, with no evidence of equivalent pyroclastic activity.
2. ..tremendous amounts of runoff in a very short time would have to run off something higher, and (nothing is higher than) the plateau at the top of the Grand Canyon. If (Noah’s) Flood carved the Grand Canyon, we would find many similar canyons elsewhere, where water flowed down mountain ranges.
3. Steven Austin’s book, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, says the gorge may have been carved by waters released from giant lakes formed after the Flood, accounting for an east-to-west flood drainage but not for the dendritic drainage observed. There are miles-long side canyons coming from the north and south.
4. Walt Brown describes himself as a mechanical engineer – there is no indication that he has any formal background in astronomy, geology, or biology.
5 He does not – and did not endorse evolution… not subscribing to the unnecessary theory that the earth is only 6000 years old.
Let’s summarily examine these erosion arguments:
- Keating: The Grand Canyon strata are sedimentary, St. Helens is ‘pyroclastic mud’.
- This seems disingenuous: The same erosive mechanism is present – large water volumes over a soft substrate.
- The common meaning of sediment is mud – what significant inhibition of erosion is supplied by the presence of ash?
- Is Mr. Keating a geologist? Point 4 above chides Walt Brown for being only a Mechanical Engineer?! Is a lawyer or theologian better qualified?
- If not a geologist, where are his supporting references?
- Keating: A huge runoff requires surrounding higher ground; no equivalent canyons formed at other elevated locations.
- This imposes its own presumptions on the first state of creation. Why couldn’t the Canyon have been created in situ, much as it is now? Does Mr. Keating or his modernist science sources know the initial conditions? Job didn’t, and neither do we.
- This ignores an Ice Age barrier as a storage mechanism. (details in next section).
- This ignores the rise of the land through elastic recovery of the crust as the weight of the Flood water was removed.
- Keating: Steve Austin’s theory of ice dams releasing lake water can’t explain side canyons. The canyon mainly is composed of miles-long side canyons coming from the north and south.
- Why attack Steve Austin’s theory? No writer mentioned him specifically. The writers may or may not agree with him, and in varying degrees.
- Since Austin’s name was brought up, we should mention that he has recently discovered billions of extinct nautiloid fossils in the Redwall limestone at densities of over one per square meter. Secular science says this rock formation formed slowly over geologic ages but this field evidence indicates a cataclysmic event – a dense flow of submarine debris from the east trapped and entrained the swimming nautiloids as it progressed faster than they could swim. Dr. Austin has written a detailed monograph for the National Park Service…. at their request.
- It’s evident to all visitors that the erosion is asymmetric; there is much more erosion topography on the north rim, where buttes, peaks and side canyons extend much further north of the river than south. From the north rim visitor center it is over 6 horizontal miles to the Colorado whereas the south rim road is often only 2 miles away. This erosion is consistent with huge volume flows from the north and east, as creation science authors propose.
- Keating: Walt Brown is an M. E.; not qualified here.
- Mechanical Engineering usually includes 2 semesters of fluid dynamics and a course in particle dynamics with topics on metal cutting with liquids. Seems right to us.
- So then why should we consider the theory of relativity, written by a Swiss patent officer in his spare time? This is the false elitism of the specialists – no one can understand this but the illuminati.
- This isn’t neuroscience but the interpretation of rock formations and strata. We don’t know of any GCEE degrees – Grand Canyon Erosion Engineering.
- Keating: I support an old earth but not evolution.
- Is this really a rational position? Would Mr. Keating believe in gigayears of history if the modernists were not promoting this, to the a priori exclusion of any religious interpretation? Or is a camping trip all it takes? Well then, emotion trumps logic ?!
- Has Mr. Keating made any attempt to examine the creationist counter-arguments to the science establishment? Creation science answers the modernist screed of uniformity in geological processes with the catastrophic intervention of a global flood which explains the current physical view of the Canyon with credible scenarios and results which are evident today in smaller scale floods, like Mt. St. Helens.
- If Genesis supports an old earth exegesis why has this been hidden for four millennia? To reject a literal reading of Genesis requires convincing (irrefutable?) evidence that there is no alternative, says Pope Leo XIII. Augustine would rather admit that he doesn’t understand the Word of God, than change it to suit his thinking.
- At the very least Mr. Keating should be aware of the creationist (not Fundamentalist) scientific arguments for a YE, and the myriad problems with an OE position. The Young Earth mindset has been the belief of both science and religion until the modern(ist) era.
Curt Sewell has addressed how the Grand Canyon eroded, including the problems with the conventional explanation and a creation-compliant alternative solution. The details can be found at http://www.rae.org/bits15.htm ; a summary follows.
Several geological problems must be solved:
- 1) If the Colorado river had been carrying today’s sediment load over the whole erosion history of 70 megayears asserted by the modernist geologists, this would amount to about 1500 times the volume of Grand Canyon itself; there is no trace today of such a huge delta deposit.
- A symposium of geologists (note: not young Earth Catholic traditionalists) extensively studied the western end of the canyon and unanimously concluded that this uniformitarian theory couldn’t be true because the sedimentary deposits made by the river over many millions of years couldn’t be found!
- E.D.McKee, R.F.Wilson, W.J.Breed, and C.S.Breed, “Evolution of the Colorado River in Arizona,” Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin 44 (1967) ,pp. 1-67
2) The land to the west of Glen Canyon Dam rises about 3000 feet into an elevated flatland. Instead of turning north or south, the river totally violated common sense by flowing west to cut through hundreds of miles of the vast uplifted Colorado Plateau!
3) Most geologists say the uplift occurred about 60 million years ago. But the vast Colorado Plateau was already there before the river formed the canyon….. This theory of uphill flow just doesn’t hold water.
4) In modern times, most sediment efflux comes from the headwaters region, not in the Canyon itself.
- “After a century of study, we seem, if anything, to be further than ever from a full comprehension of how the Grand Canyon has evolved.”
- R.J. Rice of Harvard Univ., “The Canyon Conundrum,” Geographical Magazine 55, 1983, pg.291. (note: definitely not a young Earth Catholic traditionalist)
A solution based on science alone, the breached dam idea has the best experimental evidence behind it, and also fits the Genesis account of the Great Flood of Noah. It has a strong parallel in the 1980 volcanic explosion of Mount St. Helens, with the breaching of the Toutle River dam producing a 1/40 scale model of the Grand Canyon.
Catastrophism is actually the oldest of many theories, part of the legends of the Havasupai Indians who are native to the Grand Canyon. Their history says the Canyon formed just after the entire world was covered by a great flood. (Mr. Keating: While in your deep reverie at the site, did you think to consult the natives on the testimony of their ancestors, who were actually there?)
The ice age following the Flood could form an ice dam three times the volume of Lake Michigan, while the continent was still covered by melting water. There is much geophysical evidence of a very heavy flow sometime in the past (including alcove side canyons).
Most geologists today (note: who are definitely not young Earth Catholic traditionalists) agree that the Grand Coulee and the Washington scablands were formed in just this way, from the collapse of a post Ice Age glacial dam that released the waters of a smaller 500 cubic mile Lake Missoula in what is now Montana. Apparently this is acceptable to the establishment because this historical event hasn’t been connected to a Biblical event.
In the October issue of This Rock three more letters were posted on this topic-more than on any other article-which shows the importance to the readers of this Old Earth position as related to Special Creation. In reproducing the gist of the letters here, we state again that they represent the opinions of This Rock readers; they do not necessarily reflect the position of Kolbe Center.
Mr. Keating’s reply to these letters makes two points:
- Developmental or theistic evolution is within Catholic beliefs. We must believe in “creation from nothing,” citing Vat II, canon 5. The Church has no official position on temporal development of life forms, except that it was under the guidance of God, as the ultimate source of creation.
- Leo XIII is paraphrased, in Providentissimus Deus 18. We will quote directly:
52) To understand how just is the rule here formulated we must remember, first, that the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately, the Holy Ghost “Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation.”(53) Hence they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writers – as the Angelic Doctor also reminds us – `went by what sensibly appeared,”(54) or put down what God, speaking to men, signified, in the way men could understand and were accustomed to.
From the first point one would think that just creatio ex nihilo is the dogmatic content of all of Genesis. It would seem that many of the Word’s words were wasted if just that Latin phrase is “What must be believed” out of all the creation events. The specific words of Scripture only apparently have meaning when redefined by the extraordinary Magisterium.
In the second point Mr. Keating chooses to ignore, as he has done before, the words of our beloved Pope Leo in a preceding section of P.D. , which address the primacy of the literal interpretation, and the rigorous rules for opting for a secondary exegesis.
15. But he [the Biblical expositor] must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine – not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires;(40) a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate.
A final word.
As brothers in Christ in the true Church we find ourselves on much common ground with Mr. Keating as we both seek to rescue the lost sheep of the world by preaching the gospel, each in our own way. But there is deep regret that his mission includes rejection of the plain sense of the Bible as taught by the Magisterium and fancies the junk science of today’s corrupt culture. He has been given the talents by God to easily see the truth of the former and the deceit of the latter. The liberal deception of the culture of death and the homosexual agenda are as manifest to him as it is to us. But apparently on matters of creation he is influenced by materialists and some Catholic scientists who are either docile dupes of the modernists or Catholics in the sense of a “Catholic” pro-choice politician. So for a change, why not listen to science-savvy Catholics (Catholics first, scientists second) from the Kolbe Center who are informed professionals on natural facts and loyal to the Church’s immutable teachings?
In our role as Special Creation apologists we hope and pray for the opportunity to personally meet with Mr. Keating to justify our beliefs in the Word of God as given to us and the ability of reason to interpret natural facts without a modernist metaphysics.
Isn’t dialogue what apologetics is all about? Spirit, guide us!
Unpublished Kolbe Center Letters to This Rock
I was disappointed reading the article, “Grand Canyon Refutes Young Earth Theory” from the July-August issue of This Rock. My apologetics hero Karl Keating has not informed himself adequately on a very important issue. The sedimentary rock layers of the Grand Canyon did not require long ages to form. They could have been formed by a large quantity of water and sediment over a much shorter period of time. Different interpretations of the rocks are determined by philosophical presuppositions and biases and not by scientific evidence alone. A central tenet of creationist geological models is that the biblical flood played an important role in geological history. Modern evolutionary geologists, upon whom Karl Keating relied for his information, don’t believe there ever was a global flood in earth history. The reason for this is their rejection of Genesis as true history. Instead, they have adopted a belief in geological gradualism according to which the strata of the earth were formed slowly using similar sedimentation rates to those that are observed today. According to this belief, the Grand Canyon strata must have taken thousands of years to form. Alternatively, a flood of global proportions could have formed the strata and the canyon in a matter of months or years–depending on the particular flood model. A Grand Canyon formed catastrophically would certainly call into question the alleged age of the earth as determined by the proponents of geological gradualism.
Catholic apologetics can’t simply be opposed to Darwinism but must present an intellectual alternative to the naturalistic world view presented by modernists. This involves proposing models of earth history that don’t neglect God’s central role. A Catholic apostolate called the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation has been formed for just this purpose. Its members include scientists, theologians and philosophers who not only recognize the connection between evolutionary philosophy and modernism – but who provide a forum within which to discuss models of world history that preserve the traditional Catholic understanding of the book of Genesis as true history.
Mr. Edward Razz
Fr. Stravinskas is a real stand-up guy, as he lets the real Vatican II stand up to view, shattering myths of interpretation by both Catholic left and right wings. Bravo, Fr. Peter; you are aptly named, an apologetic rock.
Contrarily and sadly, Karl Keating takes a severe doctrinal left turn in the following article as he escorts us on an emotional trip through the Grand Canyon. The majestic view and minuscule evidence of erosion seen now justify a quantum leap off the rim of sound theology and science into a logical chasm. With a touch of New Age affectation, the modernist mantra of an old Earth is embraced: the secular dogma of uniformitarianism, a mouthful that implies “the present is always the key to the past.”
Mr. Keating is apparently unaware of a new breed of creation apologists, like those at the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation at www.kolbecenter.org, who have rediscovered the creation truth where it always was, in the Magisterial view of Revelation, before the waves of modernism inundated Catholic thought. The charge of irrational “fundamentalism” leveled against some “Young Earth” Catholics is not applicable to these Leonine defenders of the Catholic doctrine of creation. Indeed, the charge has been heard before and answered on Kolbe’s website.
The defenders of creation have independent and compelling arguments for special creation from Revelation—the real alternative to Darwinism, not theistic evolution—and for a young Earth from objective natural science, with no need to link the two in rejecting evolution and the old earth. Their belief in a young earth flows from a literal reading of Genesis according to the exegetical principles of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Providentissimus Deus, reinforced by the overwhelming majority of the Fathers of the Church, whose interpretations informed the orthodox Magisterial view for 1900 years. This view is now apparently all wrong—an about-face that has sowed seeds of doubt in the Catholic community as to what other errors the Rock of Peter may have endorsed in the past. For example, the Scriptural revisionists say that the Hebrew word yom, thought by the faithful for millennia to mean day, has been corrected by today’s science speculations to mean eon. Yet in Arcanum 5 Pope Leo XIII said:
We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth….
Poor Pope Leo lived in the pre-modern era and didn’t know that the orthodox belief of the Church on literal interpretation of the Genesis “day” would be revised by Biblical critics and by well-meaning but misguided Catholic apologists. He only had the Spirit to guide him.
Young earth scientists avoid misinterpretation of the fossil record evidence of the Great Flood and false dating of rocks by rejecting the metaphysical premise of science modernists: immutable physical laws static forever, without exception. Defenders of the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation reject evolution as totally alien to Revelation and the nature of man, implying the existence of original sin, death and decay before the Fall. The defenders of creation reject evolution by positive mutations as unproved myths, for which a specific process capable of testing has not even been proposed. Darwinism has all the value of yesterday’s newspaper, its specific predictions to date: Zero. Support of evolution is a house built on sand, not one founded on rock—the rock of faith in Genesis, endorsed by the rock of ages.
Why fret that the young earth position will bring the Church into disrepute, when every day brings news of more clerical sex scandals, triggered by rejection of orthodox doctrines like biblical inerrancy? Why not anguish instead over misguided apologetics that chooses the speculation of materialists over common sense and the Word of God? We have no fear of the world’s disdain; the Lord foretold that we would be mocked in His name, even as He was.
- The true history of the Grand Canyon cannot be uncovered by observing present-day natural processes. Indeed, a recent geological event highlights the danger of an uncritical faith in uniformitarianism. We invite the author to go 800 miles northwest to Mt. St. Helens and reflect on the “Little Grand Canyon,” 100 feet deep, lined with multiple strata, a small version of the Grand Canyon only 2% of its size. Imagine that this canyon was formed over millions of years by a trickle of water slowly slicing through the sediments. Then let reality set in: The canyon was formed in a few months by a huge mudslide after the eruption, followed by water flowing from the melting snowcap runoff. The strata layers in the mud were exposed in less than a day! Pick up a rock from the lava domes that formed there. Then realize that modernist claims to prove terrestrial ages in gigayears by radiodating rocks were made to look quite foolish when geology labs dated these very lava rocks from the mountain as having been formed up to 3 million years ago! These rocks were undeniably formed 20 years ago… Yet wasn’t the author concerned that “young earth” Catholics would bring the Church into disrepute?
Rather than conjuring up the irenic reflections described in the article, an orthodox believer in the patristic understanding of Genesis would wonder at the power of the global deluge recorded before his eyes in the walls of the Grand Canyon. He would tremble in awe at the visible proof of the Father’s wrath at sinful mankind and at the power of His mighty hand, unleashed in Noah’s Flood, gouging out this awesome scar using only the first matter of creation—water!
Incorporating evolutionary propaganda with “visceral” apologetics—completely divorced from objective faith and reason—can only produce an ineffective type of apologetics—an inevitable harbinger of future apologies.
Dr. Robert Bennett
In the July/August 2003 issue of This Rock, founder and president of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, says that advocates of a young earth (i.e., an earth 10,000 years old, or less) are akin to those who “garner for themselves Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame.”1 As Mr. Keating opens his piece, besides his pejorative use of a quotation from Andy Warhol, he sprinkles his introductory paragraphs with caustic words such as “fundamentalist,” “eccentricity,” “new baggage,” and other such verbiage. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that Mr. Keating is hardly qualified to draw the grandiose conclusions he reaches in his article. He has little or no science background or training, and he doesn’t advertise a theological degree.
Mr. Keating admits in his August 12 “e-letter” that because of his expose on the age of the earth “some of This Rock’s readers of the article threw up their hands and declared that Keating has sided with atheists and secularists and has gone over into the evolutionist camp.” Although Keating never denies that he is in the evolutionist’s camp, he tries to diffuse the complaints by contending that, even if evolution was not correct, “we still don’t need to believe in a young earth.” By shifting the burden away from evolution to the age of the earth, Keating thinks he can save face in front of his nervous audience, but at the same time, he creates enough doubt about a literal interpretation of Genesis that his reader finds himself the victim of a clever shell game.
Interestingly enough, This Rock magazine has made a trademark for itself in the last 20 years with a feature entitled “The Fathers Know Best.” In this feature, Mr. Keating shows that when the Fathers were presented with passages of Scripture that non-Catholics insisted on turning into symbols they doggedly adhered to the literal interpretation, no matter how absurd it appeared to their critics. For example, Catholics have been ridiculed for centuries for adhering to literal interpretations of such passages as Matthew 26:26 (“This is my body”), or others such as John 3:5 (“unless you are born of water and the Spirit”) or John 20:23 (“whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven”). Despite the criticism, for 2,000 years the Catholic Church has never changed her belief about those passages. Why? Because that’s what was handed down to her by the unanimous consent of the Fathers of the Church. When it comes to the earth’s origins, however, suddenly Mr. Keating gets cold feet. Even though ALL of the Fathers believed in a young earth, and none of them espoused a theory of evolution, Mr. Keating feels not the slightest compunction in dismissing their testimony.
Moreover, rather than admit to his audience that he is rejecting the Fathers’ testimony on the origins question, Mr. Keating forces another shell game on his readers. He puts the blame for belief in a young earth on Anglican bishop James Ussher who, according to Mr. Keating, “tallied the ages of the people names in Genesis…and worked backward from known dates in ancient history.” Thus, Mr. Keating makes it appear as if this is all a Protestant invention. From the carefully selected information in his article, his readers would never know it was the Fathers of the Catholic Church who, after the ancient Jews, were the very ones who adopted the literal reading of the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, fifteen hundred years before Ussher was born (1581-1656).
The Fathers Against the Greek Evolutionists:
Not only did the Fathers not opt for an old earth or espouse evolution, they were in direct opposition to the Greek philosophers and academicians who, as Washington Times book reviewer Charles Russeaux states, (commenting on Jack Repcheck’s new book on dating the earth):
Seeing seashells on Malta’s mountains led Xenophanes to formulate his ideas of geological change in the earth fifth century BC and earned him the title “Father of geology and paleontology.” About 600 years before Christ, Anaximander theorized that humans evolved from fish.2
Hence, long before Darwin, the Greeks had been espousing the theory of evolution for quite a while. Seeing these kinds of teachings among the Greeks, the Fathers wasted no time in denouncing them.3 The best critic of the Greek evolutionary ideas was St. Basil of Caesarea. He writes concerning the Greeks:
Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world. Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules…by their union formed the nature of the visible world. Atoms reuniting or separating, produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies owing their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion…Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that all was given up to chance.4
Having similar experiences with the Greek scientists, Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235), writes:
But Leucippus, an associate of Zeno…affirms things to be infinite, and always in motion, and that generation and change exist continuously….And he asserts that worlds are produced when many bodies are congregated and flow together from the surrounding space to a common point, so that by mutual contact they made substances of the same figure and similar in form come into connection; and when thus intertwined, there are transmutations into other bodies, and that created things wax and wane through necessity…”5
- Thus St. Basil concludes:
- The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor. It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another.6
Hence, in this instance, Mr. Keating keeps intellectual company not with the Fathers, but with the Greeks whose ideas were condemned by the Fathers. In any case, since Mr. Keating is offering a new twist in the Creation/Evolution debate, that is, that “one does not need to posit a young earth to argue against evolution,” he insists that:
If evolution could not have occurred over the last 6,000 years, is there some dynamic that insists it likely would have occurred if the time in question were 60,000 years or six million years or six billion years? Even if one works from the position that evolution is a false theory, there is no evident reason to plump for the young earth hypothesis.
What Mr. Keating casually dismisses, of course, is that for the last 1900 years Catholics have used the testimony of Scripture as the basis for why they believe the earth is a few thousand years old, and most of them did so without any recourse to the theory of evolution. They simply believed Scripture’s testimony as it was handed down by the Fathers and medievals. But dependence on Scripture and patristics doesn’t seem to be in Mr. Keating’s repertoire. Jaded as he is by the modernist hermeneutic and theoretical science, Mr. Keating’s “Bible” has become the Grand Canyon – or at least, HIS interpretation of the Grand Canyon.
Keating’s Trip to the Grand Canyon:
We find that Mr. Keating’s whole tirade against “fundamentalists” and “Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame” seekers is centered on one trip he recently took to the Grand Canyon. He writes:
In the part of the Grand Canyon where I was, the drop from the rim to the river was 4,600 feet, or 55,200 inches. If one inch were lost per century, it would have taken 5,520,000 years to form the Grand Canyon. (This is within an order of magnitude of the figure geologists give. For my purposes here, this rough approximation is sufficient). Now consider advocates of a young earth. They claim the earth is only 6,000 years old. If so, for the Grand Canyon to be as deep as it is, it would have to have been worn away not at one inch per century but at 920 inches per century.
- Later in another paragraph he elaborates:
- Lying in my sleeping bag, staring up at the Redwall, contemplating the massiveness and solidity of it all, I knew viscerally that what I saw was not formed recently. It could not have been. I did not have to engage in the thought experiment to realize that, of course. The hike from rim to river and back again contained its own internal testimony. Anyone with open eyes and aching feet had a proof that was strong even if not syllogistic. I had no need to know with exactitude how old the earth is, but the rocky halls about me testified that it is far older than 6,000 years – or even a hundred times that.
Although Mr. Keating tries to distance himself from evolutionists, nevertheless, he must adopt their arguments on the formation of the Grand Canyon, for that is all he has to depend on. Consequently, Keating will find himself in line with the theory of James Hutton (d. 1797) and Charles Lyell (d. 1875) who postulated that the rate of erosion and sedimentation in past time was the same as it is today. Otherwise known as “uniformitarianism,” it is the belief that since the beginning of earth’s existence, all natural processes have remained relatively constant and unchanged. The opposing view is catastrophism, which is held by many biblical scientists. (Even a few secular scientists have adopted at least portions of it).7 It is their view that grand edifices such as the Grand Canyon were formed by sudden and cataclysmic disruptions in the earth’s normal processes. The most likely of these cataclysms is the world-wide deluge recorded in Genesis 7-9, which according to the Genesis genealogy, happened between 4500-7000 years ago, and which formed its characteristic rock structures in a matter of days or weeks.
Assuming, as they did, that uniformitarianism was correct, Hutton and Lyell calculated the age of various strata around the world from known rates of sedimentary deposition. There was one problem, however. Their calculations were hypothetical, since all the differing stages of strata deposits that they assumed as evidence for their theory were never found together in one geological formation. Deciding to ignore this anomaly, evolutionists proceeded to date rock strata based on the principle of superposition, that is, that lower strata were older than higher strata, even though they had no proof that this was correct.
The upshot? If uniformitarianism is wrong, then Mr. Keating’s dependence on long periods of erosion to explain the formation of the Grand Canyon is wrong. Since there is no proof for uniformitarianism, then, as much as Mr. Keating wants to distance himself from evolutionists, he still sinks with their ship. We will see how this develops as we examine the rest of Mr. Keating’s article.
How Was the Tonto Group Formed?
- Later in his article Mr. Keating describes his visit to the Tonto Platform of the Grand Canyon. He writes:
- Other layers are made of debris or sharply eroded, softer rock and are caned at about 45 degrees. The Tonto Platform, about a thousand feet above the river, is the closest one comes to the horizontal, but it undulates constantly and is never truly level…At an elevation of about 3,000 feet, the scrub-covered Tonto Platform – which is nowhere really level – allows one to traverse the Grand Canyon more or less horizontally. The Tonto Trail…runs for about 92 miles.
For the record, evolutionists believe that the Tonto edifice of the Grand Canyon was formed during the 70-million year Cambrian period, since it contains many fossils associated with the “Cambrian explosion.” But again, this is all based on the unproven and anomalous theory of uniformitarianism. Evolutionists have found no fossils before or after the Cambrian period, and the fossils in the Cambrian period appear without any evidence of preexisting ancestral forms.
The Work of Johannes Walther:
Other secular scientists have proposed a different scenario. A few years after the work of Hutton and Lyell came the geological studies performed by Johannes Walther in the latter nineteenth century. Walther began his studies by examining sedimentary deposits that stretched from land to ocean. To test a hypothesis, Walther drilled out a vertical cylinder of sediment midway in the advancement. He found that the various layers in the cylinder were in the same order as the leading edge of the advancement into the ocean. From this evidence he reasoned that the layers were being laid horizontally (not vertically, as Hutton and Lyell had proposed).
Walther performed the same testing in the bay of Naples. He found that after drilling out a vertical column of sediment, it revealed the same sequence of layers as the sediments lying horizontally. He concluded that Hutton and Lyell’s theory (i.e., that layers on the top were forming later than the layers on the bottom) was wrong. After Walther, however, little experimentation was done to exploit his discovery.
In 1965, however, the American geologist Edwin McKee found evidence of Walther’s horizontal sedimentation in one of the branches of the Colorado River after it overflowed its banks from a torrential rain. The stratified layers reached a thickness of twelve feet in only forty-eight hours, and showed the same particle sorting and bedding planes as in all other sites previously investigated by Hutton and Lyell. Hutton and Lyell would have had to interpret McKee’s evidence as interruptions in sedimentation wherein one stratum would have hardened before the next layer was placed on top, but, of course, this type of hardening would be impossible within the space of forty-eight hours.
Horizontal sedimentation was also confirmed by experimental evidence from coastal marine floods. In the 1970’s and 1980’s several teams of scientists bored vertical columns in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To their amazement, they found that their samples confirmed Walther’s theory. Thus, not only were layers of sediment being laid horizontally in bays and beaches, but also in the deep sea. Germane to our topic is the fact that the same tests were performed on the Grand Canyon, and with the same results–the deposits showed evidence of having been laid down horizontally, not vertically.
With this evidence in hand, various other scientists set out to confirm or deny this intriguing phenomenon. In the 1994 publication, Grand Canyon: A Monument to Catastrophe, geologist Stephen Austin offers an explanation by citing the work of sedimentologist D. M. Rubin on the relation between hydraulic conditions and stratified structures in San Francisco Bay, which Rubin had originally published in Sedimentary Geology. Rubin found that with a certain speed of current, depth of water, and size of sedimentary particles, a specific sequence of layers was formed. Austin also refers to Jay Sufford’s work in Sedimentary Petrology, which summarized a series of thirty-nine flume experiments on the relations between hydraulics and stratification, and which found the same results as Rubin.8
To his amazement, Austin discovered the same sequential depositing of layers in the sedimentary rocks of the Grand Canyon as those in Rubin’s experiments. One of these was the 800 kilometer sample of the Grand Canyon, which Keating recognized as the Tonto Platform. It comprises three layers which extend east to west. The upper layer is made of limestone; the middle layer of clay; and the lower layer of sandstone. As predicted by Walther, the same sequence of layers is found side-by-side as those found from top to bottom.
From this evidence, Austin determined the hydraulic conditions which would have been necessary to form the horizontal layers observed in the Tonto Group. Austin found that a velocity of water moving at two meters per second, and causing the water to rise nearly 2,000 meters above the ocean level, would have been sufficient. He further found that all this could happen within a matter of two days (not millions of years). Not surprisingly, the velocity of the water needed to build the Tonto Group corresponded precisely with the velocities discovered in the thirty-nine flume experiments performed by Jay Sufford.
How Was the Grand Canyon Formed?
Thus, sedimentation normally occurs as follows. Advancing water travels at differing velocities. Heavier or coarser particles deposit before lighter particles in a fast-moving current. As the water level increases, the speed of the current decreases, and at that point the sediments deposited are proportionately finer, yet all of the particles would be deposited at or near the same time, resulting in the sandstone-clay-limestone sequence we see in the Grand Canyon. During the point at which the river or ocean arrived at its maximum level there would be little or no current. The finest particles would deposit at a rate of about 2 centimeters per day. (This, of course, shows that superposition does, indeed, occur, but not over millions of years). This process would be interrupted when, as the waters began to subside, the current reappeared.
The curious feature about the layers in the Grand Canyon, and all other sedimentary depositions, is that the layers are almost perfectly bordered against one another. That is, you see a few vertical feet of limestone layer with hardly any variation in the width of the layer extending for hundreds of feet. The next layer of clay, or sandstone, is just as perfect. That doesn’t happen very easily with vertical sedimentation dependent on the bottom layer hardening before the top layer is added. Conversely, it occurs quite easily in horizontal sedimentation.
Moreover, it is quite unlikely that erosion over millions of years could have produced what we see in the Grand Canyon, for erosion is not locale specific. It erodes all that it touches uniformly without distinction. Cataclysms, on the other hand, are locale specific, as well as possessing the tremendous forces necessary to make dramatic changes in the landscape (as we see in the Grand Canyon), and they do their damage in a matter of days or weeks, not millions of years.
As for the huge gorges in the Grand Canyon, they would have been formed as the water from the cataclysm began to recede. As it recedes, it creates velocities of current that are sufficient to cut deep gorges into the lightly-packed sediments deposited during initial stratification. This does not happen today on a similar scale because the sediments, over thousands of years, have become hardened, and thus relatively resistant to effacing.
I say “relatively resistant” to effacing, because not too long ago we had even more proof that gorges the size of those in the Grand Canyon can be formed in a very short time. In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted. The most remarkable things have happened in the years following the eruption. In the May 2000 issue of National Geographic, geological scientist Peter Frenzen writes concerning a canyon cut by the water flow created by the eruption: “You’d expect a hard rock canyon to be thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years old, but this was cut in less than a decade.” Not only were the geologists shocked, but ecologists were just as surprised. Ecologist David Wood writes: “All of us were surprised at the rate at which this landscape was colonized again. We were thinking, Gosh, how long is it going to be before anything come back here?” The rest of the article answers the question: “Within just a few years scientists found flora and fauna pioneering in the niches created by the eruption’s various geological disturbances.”9
In conclusion, apparently unknown to Mr. Keating, there is abundant experimental evidence to suggest that the Grand Canyon was made in a matter of weeks or a few years, and not over millions of years. Conversely, since the stratification theory used by evolutionists has never been proven experimentally, only assumed, they can raise few legitimate objections to these findings. As a result, their whole theory of the geologic column, including the multi-millions of years separating the Cambrian from such periods as the Jurassic or Pleistocene, will have to be discarded until they can provide experimental results to support their geological speculations.10 In the meantime, I wish to thank Mr. Keating for allowing me to make this evidence available to the public.
- Robert A. Sungenis, M.A.
- Catholic Apologetics International
Not being a scientist, the inadequacy of your science is understandable, but when you use it to provide evidence to your readers of the multi-million age of the earth, you are doing both a disservice to them and to the Church. Remember, Karl Keating is President of Catholic Answers and what he says is considered as authoritative.
Ironically, despite what you say, your article was about “how quickly or slowly the strata of the Grand Canyon were deposited”. Although you did not discuss it, it was “germane to your topic”. What Berthault was discussing was not the formation of the Grand Canyon, but the deposit of sediments from the basement or metamorphic rocks of the area to the top of the plateau in which the Canyon is found. The sedimentological approach is from bottom to top of the plateau. Yours is from top to bottom. The Canyon was formed during a regression of the waters which covered the entire continent. The nature of the unconsolidated sedimented rock allowed the Canyon to be dug as a function of the current velocity of the retreating water.
The dogmatism of James Akin and yourself on the age of the rocks has, despite your protests to the contrary, inevitably led you to support the evolutionary paradigm, which depends upon the geological time-scale and the fossils it dates. So sure you both are, of the accuracy of that scale that you are obliged to go along with the evolutionary progression of the fossil evidence. Of course you will disagree, as Teilhard de Chardin vigorously denied that his views supported pantheism. But they did. Evolutionary theory is based upon the fossils, and the date of fossils upon the date of the rocks. The principles upon which the time-scale was constructed have been invalidated by Guy Berthault’s experiments, and the epochs of time given by the scale are no longer there to support evolution.
Untied to the evolutionary rationale, one can look with unbiased eyes at what the Church says on the subject. James Akin is led by his dogmatism to reject Genesis I-3 as history, the commentaries of Church Fathers on six days creation, and to embrace higher biblical criticism of the most modernist variety. Obviously if there were three million years between Adam and Abraham, the Fathers and the1909 PBC got it wrong, and the basic doctrines of the Church including Original Sin, the Immaculate Conception and Redemption are in question.
I’m afraid, Karl, you have traded in your orthodoxy for a bowl of pottage.
—– Original Message —–
- From: Karl Keating
- To: Peter Wilders
- Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2003 7:54 PM
- Subject: RE: Your July/August 03 ‘This Rock’ article
You entirely missed the point. My article was not at all about how quickly or slowly the strata at the Grand Canyon were deposited. I did not discuss that issue at all. The article was about how quickly or slowly the rock was worn away.
Whether the deposition occurred over millions of years or over mere months was not germane to my topic (and therefore the Henke-Berthault exchange is irrelevant to what I was saying). I started with the fact of preexisting rock and asked how long it might have taken to produce what we now see.
While I do not accept evolution, I also do not accept the theory that the Earth is as young as 6,000 or 10,000 years. To protect against the former one need not posit the latter. That is a mistake in logic being made by some Traditionalist writers who are known to both of us.
You have a persistent tendency to read what you wish into the writings of people who do not say things precisely as you would say them or who find some of your assertions ill-reasoned. This makes it frustrating to discuss anything with you, which is why I have not always responded to your e-mail messages.
From: Peter Wilders
Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2003 8:59 AM
To: Karl Keating
Subject: Your July/August 03 ‘This Rock’ article
Your article “The Testimony of Rocky Halls” is based upon inadequate data. Experimental research in sedimentology has shown that the principles of sedimentology upon which (perhaps unwittingly) your article is based are invalid. The result is that the multi-million years attributed to the geological formations to which you allude are not supported by current sedimentological data.
The support for this statement can be found in the publication by the Russian Academy of Sciences last year in their journal ‘Lithological and Mineral Mineral Resources’ by Guy Berthault.
Berthault’s work has been attacked recently on the web by a secular scientist teacher of geology, Kevin R. Henke, Ph.D.. Henke uses some of the arguments in your article. Berthault’s response is indicative of the grave lack of scientific knowledge in this area. I attach copies of the exchange for your information.
Unfortunately, the evolutionist bias of ‘This Rock’ which has been evident for some years, has now surfaced with James Aikin’s January piece dismissing Genesis I as symbolism, and in yours under reference (despite your protests to the contrary).
Sincerely – Peter
P.S. you may be interested in reading Berthault’s latest article (August 03 awaiting publication) entitled “Misleading Geological Column”. If so let me know.
1 This Rock, “The Testimony of Rocky Halls: A Grand Canyon Trek Gives Lie to the Young Earth Hypothesis,” July/August 2003, pp. 20-24.
2 Washington Times, August 17, 2003, in article titled, “Did he know the age of the Earth?,” p. B7.
3 In his Hexameron, Basil gives a long list of Greek writers advocating the evolutionary hypothesis (Homily 1, NPNF II, vol. 8, p. 53). Likewise, Basil dismissed the allegorical interpretation of Origen as “old wive’s tales” (The Hexameron, Homily 3, 2). Hippolytus also tells of his struggles against the Greek ideas of evolution in The Refutation of All Heresies, “Ch. X: Leucippus and His Atomic Theory.” Hippolytus also critiques “Thales, Founder of Greek Astronomy;” “Pythagoras on his Cosmogony and the Transmigration of Souls”; Empedocles on “Causality”; Heraclitus on his “Theory of Flux”; Anaximenes on the idea of “Infinite Air”; Anaxagoras on his “Theory of Mind and Efficient Cause”; Parmenides on his “Theory of Unity,” and many other Greek philosophic and scientific ideas.
4 The Hexameron, Homily 1, NPNF II, vol. 8, p. 53.
5 The Refutation of All Heresies, Ch. X: Leucippus and His Atomic Theory. Hippolytus also critiques Thales, Founder of Greek Astronomy; Pythagoras on his Cosmogony and the Transmigration of Souls; Empedocles on Causality; Heraclitus on his Theory of Flux; Anaximenes on the idea of “Infinite Air”; Anaxagoras on his Theory of Mind and Efficient Cause; Parmenides on his Theory of Unity, and other Greek philosophic and scientific ideas.
6 Ibid. St. Basil was, without doubt, the greatest patristic authority espousing the six-day special creation model. At one point he calls Origen’s attempt to allegorize Genesis as “dreams and old wive’s tales” (The Hexameron, Homily 3, 2).
7 Dr. Kevin Henke has developed the theory of “Actualism,” which states that “the geologic record is the product of both NATURAL catastrophes (like local floods, landslides, earthquakes, meteorite impacts, and hurricanes) and slow and gradual processes (such as lakes drying up over long periods of time and precipitating salt deposits).” But those who advocate Actualism invariably deny that one of those catastrophes was the Noachic flood recorded in Genesis (e.g., Dalrymple, Hubbert, et al).
8 Geologist G. R. Morton offers a critique of Austin’s book on the web home.entouch.net/dmd/grandcanyon.htm, but it is all based on uniformitarian geology, with gives no room for catastrophe to explain unusual formations in the earth’s rock structures. As a result, secular geologists can never prove their arguments. Since they refuse to accept Scripture’s information that, whatever uniform processes existed, they were interrupted by the Great Flood, they can never come to the truth. The bottom line is that Scripture gives information about the earth’s past that men, of themselves, simply do not know.
9 National Geographic, May 2000, pp. 117, 121.
10 The information for this analysis was taken from the material published by the Geological Society of France, 1993, and Julien Lan and Guy Berthault, “Experiments on stratification of heterogeneous sand mixtures,” CEN Technical Journal 8 (1):3750, 1994; Guy Berthault, “Experiments on lamination of sediments,” CEN Technical Journal 3:2529, 1988.
This Rock – September
The musings on erosion sound perfectly plausible if we assume that all environmental processes have remained the same since creation (uniformitarianism). Using visceral knowledge sounds like Mormon testimony for the truth of their claims.
Evidence from Mount St. Helens and elsewhere demonstrates that huge canyons can be formed rapidly as a result of catastrophic conditions. A mud flow after the Mount St. Helens eruption formed a 1/40-size “scale model” of the Grand Canyon in just five days.
Instead of a long time and a little water why not a lot of water and a short time?
Exploring a theory and the evidence that both supports it and contradicts it, cannot cause the Church disrepute.
…very disappointed that you have stepped into an area in which you have no expertise and have made comment on things that are so important to the spiritual lives of many.
For you to give an unlearned opinion on this subject just reinforces the anti-faith teaching that goes on.…it would be better to teach both evolution theory and the theories of a young earth. There is enough geological evidence that can be interpreted both ways to cause grave doubt to anyone who accepts the teachings of either side at face value.
Have you not seen the pictures of the canyons 100 feet deep that were carved in a matter of hours at Mount St. Helens?
To be embarrassed by “young earth theories” …. I believe can be detrimental to the faith of many.
Stick to apologetics – an area of your expertise.
Karl Keating … has really upset me with his article. He doesn’t display knowledge of any of the changes in geology since Mount St. Helens and how that has changed drastically the view of how fast major changes take place.
Walt Brown, a former NASA scientist, has a whole textbook …showing how the Flood produced much of the world we see.
…much work done on the geology of the Grand Canyon (shows) how it was formed by catastrophic action very quickly, not over “billions and billions” of years.
.. pushing the theory of evolution and the long age of the universe (does) more damage .. to the foundations of belief and faith than almost any other single thing in the modern world.
Get to know more of the “creation by design” science and further understand Genesis before you start claiming that those who are on this path are doing damage to the faith.
I am really shocked that you would take such a position.
This Rock – October
...don’t think these “Ussherites” will change their minds until they hike down to the bottom of the Inner Gorge and touch the metamorphic/foliated Vishnu Schist, estimated (sic) to be 1.2-2 billion years old. At that point, common sense will hopefully kick in. (…. a new common sense measurement method: dating by touching ??)
All created things have …. the appearance of age as soon as they are created. … The earth could have been created as a homogeneous mass or with layers and uneven mixtures of various rocks and metals, as a smooth sphere, or with current topography or a combination of these.
your conclusion of an old earth tends to channel God’s creativity along a specific mindset. … the Colorado River would have to start out as wide as the span across the top of the canyon and then narrow to where it is today.
… I was dismayed at the attitude you display in “The Testimony of Rocky Halls”. … you demonstrate the degree to which your beliefs have been influenced by modern science.
… are we to accept the evidence of our eyes over the inerrancy of Scripture? (And I believe it is the inerrancy of Scripture that is at stake in this debate.)
Contrary to your assertion that belief in a young earth is new, eccentric, and damaging to the Church, the literal interpretation of Genesis was held by the Church Fathers and has been taught by our faith for over 1,900 years.
…the men of science, from Darwin on down, have had an agenda… to find an explanation for the world exclusive of God… (an) atheistic search, not for truth but for justification of their beliefs.
… perhaps you missed the growing body of evidence that contradicts the current vogue of extreme age of the earth as well.
… you have [the logic] backwards. …Today we have been so inundated with this “science” (evolutionary geology) that even most Catholics, you included, dare not question it lest they appear backward, ignorant, fundamentalist, or superstitious.
the old-age theory is new, conveniently based upon assumptions that cannot be proven but can, however, be questioned.
Catholic teaching bids we consider first a literal interpretation of Scripture – there is no compelling reason not to do so with Genesis or to make amazing linguistic imaginings in an attempt to make evolution and the “truth” in Scripture compatible.