Creationism and the Flood

By Michael Ward

When one hears the word "creationism," it spawns thoughts of a literal six-day creation of the universe, the Earth, and all life. However, this has not always been the belief of a majority of creationists. Until the last hundred years or so, most religious leaders admitted that one could reasonably interpret long ages of creation instead of 24-hour days (Numbers 1992:x). It was after the 1920's that a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis started to become popular and a movement for the strict interpretation of the Bible began. By interpreting the scriptural account of creation literally, the apparent billions of years of geologic history must be squeezed into, at most, a few thousand years. This paper will attempt to give an outline of what some young-earth creationists believe happened during the Flood of Noah.

One general model for Biblical creation involves the earth being created by God in six literal days with the appearance of having an older age. For example, soil would need to have been created in order for plants to grow; starlight would have been created in what would appear to be mid-transit in order to be seen on Earth from millions of light-years away; Adam would have been created as a human old enough to be able to move, eat, and drink by himself. Another proposed model, however, suggests that instead of being created with all aging already complete, the earth was created with a youthful appearance, and during the time that the waters of Noah's Flood covered the entire surface, drastic changes were made to the earth so that its features thereafter gave an appearance of ancient age (Wise 2002:189).

Scientists believe that the earth is ancient, in part, because of the successive layers of different fossils in sedimentary rocks and the many diverse layers of rock. One major problem that has plagued the young-earth creation model is the large amount of apparent geologic history. The fossil record, for example, consists of hundreds of distinct layers with distinct fossils that have been interpreted to represent different periods of history. In 1902 George McCready Price introduced the concept of "Flood Geology" in his book Outlines of Modern Christianity and Modern Science, which claimed that all the geologic features attributed to long ages were actually formed during Noah's Flood (Numbers 1992:xi). John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, in a rebuttal against a paper proposing something similar to a day-age interpretation of Genesis written by Bernard Ramm, essentially refined the flood geology model originally proposed by Price and presented it "like an updated version of The New Geology" (one of Price's detailed proposals of flood geology; Numbers 1992:202). The problem with Flood Geology is that it is difficult-if not impossible-to put forth a scientifically sound model for what would have happened during Noah's Flood to create the geology visible today, especially when the model involves supernatural events (ie. miracles). But using the Flood of Noah to explain the fossil record set the stage for using the Flood as an explanation for many other geologic features in the decades that followed. In a recently released book, the RATE team has announced that they have scientific proof that supports the theory of Flood Geology. However, a lengthy critique of the team's summary book written by Dr. Kevin Henke could seriously undermine their findings.

In his book Faith, Form, and Time, Kurt Wise proposes the theory of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. This theory states that when the earth was created, the crust was solid, but the rock at the bottom of the ocean (oceanic crust) was colder than the rock that makes up the continents (continental crust). Prior to the Flood of Noah, the state of the entire crust was "balanced critically on the edge of catastrophe" (Wise 2002:189). Suddenly the colder oceanic crust slipped below the continental crust into Earth's mantle, exposing the ocean to the hot mantle. The water flashed to steam and shot into the atmosphere, which cooled and came down as rain. At the same time, the oceanic crust began sinking down through the mantle to the core, pushing mantle material out of the way and forcing hot mantle up to the surface where its high temperature, the cold water, and lower pressure would cause it to expand and cool. This mantle material would be pushing up where the oceanic crust used to be, eventually raising ocean levels to the point where the entire globe was covered.

Over time, the Flood model has had hypothesis after hypothesis added to what could have happened during the brief time that water covered the earth or shortly thereafter. One of these hypotheses is that what geologists call the "Ice Age" occurred as the flood waters receded. Ice ages are problematic to explain with the creation model, especially since there is evidence for many of them. Price lightly touched upon the subject when he wrote his original proposal of the effects of the Flood (Numbers 1992: 82). Whitcomb and Morris (1961:243) inferred from Scripture and from the geologic record that the climate before the Flood was mild and warm due to the water in the atmosphere ("water above [the sky]," Genesis 1:7). The Flood changed the entire climate of the Earth, and during the time that the climate was adjusting itself to its new state, parts of the world-mainly the poles-could have frozen, and snow may have fallen in places around the globe for the first time (Whitcomb and Morris 1961:292). They proposed that instead of four or more periods of glacial advance over North America, which would be hard to explain in a young-earth timeframe, that there was only one period during which glaciers advanced and retreated across the continent (Whitcomb and Morris 1961:295-296).

Creationist Michael Oard has proposed that some of the Ice Ages that scientists cite are not actually true Ice Ages. Some large deposits of proposed glacial origin he believes to be the deposits of a gigantic landslide. According to Oard, during the few hundred years it took for volcanic activity to die down after the Flood (the result of massive tectonic activity), the oceans were much warmer due to the increased volcanism and new, hot oceanic crust, while the atmosphere was cooler due to the large amount of ash and dust in the air blocking sunlight. This led to increased evaporation and snow accumulation in the mid and high latitudes (Oard 2005:41). He estimated that in as little as 174 years, enough snow could accumulate in North America to reach glacial maximum-the greatest extent of the ice (Oard 2005:41).

Another source of data that has plagued young-earth creationism is the results of radiometric dating, which suggests that the earth and the solar system are about 4.6 billion years old. Using the decay rates of certain radioactive elements and the amounts of certain isotopes in a rock, scientists can calculate approximate age of the rock. The results of radiometric dating are generally regarded as very accurate because the decay rates are constant and measurable, and the results for a particular method of dating are generally consistent when the estimated date is within the accurate range of that method. Some creation scientists are challenging radiometric dating by claiming that decay rates have not been constant, as traditional scientists assume. In attempting to explain when and why decay rates would have increased, some creationists have added yet another hypothesis to the Flood model. A group of creation scientists formed a group called "Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth" (RATE) to study the potential of increased decay rates during the Flood. They propose that during the Flood, decay rates were highly accelerated to give rocks the radiometric "appearance" of old age. The group shows no real reason as to why decay rates would have increased, but they proposed that the increase would have occurred during the Flood and then been reduced back to normal levels soon afterward.

Creationists propose that during Noah's Flood, the sea floor sank into the mantle, disturbing the mantle so that the continents were thrown around on top of the mantle, crashing into each other and forming mountains, and eventually ending up where we see them today. The water that covered the earth cooled the exposed mantle to form new oceanic crust at the bottom of the oceans (Wise 2003:194). While this was occurring, decay rates were increased, according to the RATE team. After water levels dropped, the climate was in turmoil; due to the natural rebalancing, the polar regions and much of North America experienced a dramatic increase in precipitation and freezing temperatures, causing massive glaciers to build up quickly. Over the course of perhaps several hundred years, the glaciers built up and retreated, creating the glaciated landscape in North America that can be seen today (Oard 2005:41-42).

By trying to use current scientific and geologic findings, flood-model creationism has developed into a much more comprehensive model than when it was first proposed nearly one hundred years ago. It has expanded well beyond the scope of the Genesis Flood account, where no mention is made of fossils, ice ages, or decay rates, and it has become a catch-all explanation for any evidence that creationists cannot otherwise explain. It is hard to convince the science community of the validity of the Flood Model of Creation for the very fact that it relies on scientifically untestable supernatural events as the ultimate foundation of the model.

  1. Numbers, Ronald L. 1992. The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 458 p.
  2. Oard, Michael. 2005. The Frozen Record: Examining the Ice Core History of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets. Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, California, 199 p.
  3. Vardiman, L., A. A. Snelling, and E. F. Chaffin (eds.). 2005. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Volume II: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, California, 818 p.
  4. Whitcomb, John C. and Henry M. Morris. 1961. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 518 p.
  5. Wise, Kurt. 2002. Faith, Form, and Time. Broadman & Holdman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 287 p.