05 The first cracks appear in my creationist belief system

I was content with the young-earth creationist view and its implications; it seemed very believable. Growing up, I had never seen any evidence of evolution within plants or animals, so it seemed reasonable that species were created instantaneously, fully formed and with the same appearance that they display today. As a youngster, I was impressed with the scientific credentials of those within the creationist camp. I remember thinking that even if they were wrong, at least I was in good company. But from time to time, cracks would appear in my otherwise solid belief system.

Winters in Quebec are long, and there is usually a lot of snow. Huge snow blowers are occasionally needed to widen the streets. In their wake, they leave clean vertical cuts through the piled snow on the sides of the roads. One winter day in my late teen years, as I walked home from school, I noticed that one could easily make out numerous horizontal layers within the larger accumulation of snow.

Having walked through many a storm to get home, I knew that not all of that snow had fallen in one storm. Days or weeks could pass between successive snowfalls. I also knew that at times between storms, some of the snow had even melted away. There was no question that the numerous horizontal laminations I was seeing represented snow that had fallen on many different occasions under differing conditions. Some storms dumped a lot of snow, others just a skiff; some during warmer conditions, others when it was much colder. The conditions under which the snow had accumulated affected its appearance.

Along the road, I could also see layers made up of snow that was packed hard and gray in color. Having watched huge snow blowers at work, I knew that these layers were the result of their exceedingly rapid and short term labor (certainly relative to the length of time it had taken to accumulate the other, non-man-made layers). Some of these snow-blower layers were very thick, but invariably they were nearly uniform in composition, occasionally displaying a jumbled stratigraphy.

A large snow blower cuts through layers of a winter’s worth of snow that accumulated at different times and under a variety of conditions. Some of the layers formed very rapidly under “catastrophic” conditions (those created by the snow blower), whereas at the other extreme, some layers accumulated slowly over much longer periods of time under calm environmental conditions. The characteristics of the layers attest to the conditions under which they formed. Therefore, snow accumulation is a good analogy for the great variety of ways in which sedimentary rocks are formed. Some form under catastrophic environmental conditions, whereas others accumulate very slowly under calm environmental conditions. Illustration by S. Godfrey.

The layers within the snow constituted, by analogy, a troubling counterexample to one of the claims of the creationists whose teachings I embraced. On the basis of my understanding of Noachian “Flood Geology”, I expected that if a flood had been global in its extent and had churned up untold trillions of tons of sediments, and that if they had been redeposited within a year or so, then the vast majority of rocks would be relatively uniform in composition — like the snow coming out of a snow blower.

I could not help wondering, therefore, why there were such a great variety of sedimentary rocks in the world, analogous to the differentiated snow layers left on the sides of the road. It seemed more likely that sedimentary rocks had been deposited the way the snow had been: on many different occasions, under differing conditions.

Several years later, still bothered by these observations, I described them in a letter to Dr. Duane T. Gish at ICR. Although I was delighted that he responded, I was not entirely satisfied with his explanation, which read as follows:

Assuming that a vast, worldwide flood took place with erosion and sedimentation occurring at intense rates, one can visualize how these vast sedimentary deposits could have been deposited quite rapidly. Dr. Henry Morris, the Director of our Institute, obtained his Ph.D. in hydraulics and he has written much on this subject including a textbook in this field.

The load that can be carried by moving water is proportional, I believe, to the fourth power of the velocity and so you can see that the load carried is critically determined by the velocity of the moving water. It is visualized that during the great flood, vast tides were sweeping back and forth across the earth. At any time when the moving waters slowed down, sediment would be deposited, of course. After a layer of sediment had been deposited, the next movement of water would carry its own load of sediment, perhaps from a different area and of a different nature, and this would be deposited once again as the water slowed down.

In this way, successive sedimentary layers could be deposited in a relatively short time. The depth of the sediment and the number of the sedimentary layers would be dependent upon the intensity of erosion and the intensity volume of the movement of the water. Dr. Morris feels that most of the present sedimentary deposits could be explained in that way.

(Dr. Duane T. Gish, personal communication, June 15, 1982.)

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