C. Rulon: Science & the Genesis Global Flood

By | May 27, 2011

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College

Americans and Noah’s Flood

In 1988, a sur­vey was reported involv­ing more than 2000 col­lege students on 41 cam­­puses across the country.[i] About 40% of these students (62% in Texas from a different survey[ii]) said they believed that human life origi­nated in the Garden of Eden in the last 10,000 years, and that the worldwide flood described in Gen­esis was liter­al­ly true, and that dino­saurs and hu­mans lived at the same time. In addition, about 200 high school biol­­ogy teachers were also polled na­tionally. To the dismay of the scientific community, roughly 40% also said they be­lieved that human life originated in the Gar­den of Eden in the last 10,000 years and that the worldwide flood described in Genesis was true![iii]

Twenty years later the situation looked even more dismal. 2008-2009 polls summarized in Reports (The National Center for Science Education -May-June 2010) indicated that:

60% of the American adult public believe that all people are descendents of one man and one woman—Adam and Eve.

52% do not believe that the theory of evolution has strong factual evidence to support it.

50% believes that the Bible describes the creation of life exactly as it occurred in six days.

60% believed that there was a flood within the past 10,000 years that covered all the earth and was responsible for most of the rock layers and fossils that are seen across the world (another 15% were not sure).

Flood Geology

How can those who take the Bible as literally true pos­sibly explain the sequen­ces of millions of fossils pre­serv­ed in thou­sands of layers of rock, dating back hundreds of millions of years and there for all to see—fossil sequences that all but spell out evolution? Such visible fossil evi­dence would seem to abso­lutely disprove the biblical literalists’ claim of a cre­ation week only 6000-10,000 years ago. The answer, claim the young-earth/life creationists, is “Flood Geology”. The global flood described in Genesis: 5-6 (and referred to by Jesus [Matt. 24:37-39]) is used to explain the entire geological and fossil record on our planet.[iv]

Dr. Henry Morris (now deceased) and Dr. Duane Gish, co-directors of the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego, have maintain­ed for the last 50 years that the earth’s en­tire geo­logi­cal column containing the total 3.8 billion year fossil record can be com­­pletely explained by one world­wide cata­s­tro­phic flood that occur­red rough­­ly 4,500 years ago. [v] More recently (2002) Kurt Wise, a young-earth/life, biblical literalist creationist who actually earned a Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard University, added to the creationist flood geology literature with his book, Faith, Form, and Time.[vi]

Morris, Gish, Wise and other Christian fundamentalists with scientific training firmly believe in scientific concordism—that God’s word (the Bible) must agree with God’s works as seen in nature. Thus, the 6-day creation story in Genesis-1 is not only literally true (a day is literally a 24 hour day), but must also align with modern scientific evidence. Thus the challenge is to “scientifically” reinterpret the entire fossil record and geological history of the earth (which is there for all can see) so that it’s consistent with the 6-day creation story. If an alignment can be demonstrated, this would be powerful proof that God inspired the writers of Scripture.

Morris and Gish have claimed that before the flood there was a thick wa­ter vapor canopy in the upper atmos­phere, the oceans were very shallow and the land was much flatter than today. Also, deep in the earth were additional vast water reservoirs. They claim that the entire geological column—the thousands of sedimentary rock layers with its millions of fossils—came about quite nat­urally as a result of cata­s­trophic earth move­ments, volcanic action, erosion and sedimentation which ac­com­panied this global flood.

It happened like this: Those animals liv­ing at the lowest elevations would be buried first, followed by those living higher up. Therefore, bot­tom-dwel­ling marine orga­n­­isms would be bur­ied in the sediments first, fol­lowed by fish and then amphibians. Next to be buried would be the reptiles which lived higher up. Mammals would be buried later since their habi­tats were at still higher elevations and be­cause they had greater mo­bil­ity in escaping to higher ground. Humans would flee to the highest ground and be buried last. Thus, claim Morris and Gish, the sequence of fossils actual­­ly found in the rocks matches quite well what one might expect from a global flood. All of the so-called extinct animals showing up as fossils were just animals that had been buried with the glo­bal flood 4500 years ago as des­cribed in Genesis.

They further claim that the Flood was a geological disaster, eroding and re-depositing sediments miles thick, raising mountains, carving immense canyons and even repositioning continents. Most of the world’s high mountains were formed during the violence of the flood, thus explaining the existence of marine fossils on mountains. After the world had been covered by water for about a year, the continents rose and the ocean basins sunk along vertical faults. These new basins were now able to contain all of this extra flood water. Thus came about the face of the earth as we see it today. The fossil record, rather than being a record of evo­lution, is, according to Gish and Morris, a record of mass des­truction, death and burial by water and sedi­ments. Kurt Wise agrees with Gish and Morris on some points, but adds his own “creative solutions” on other points.

Scientific response

There is no phy­sical evi­dence at all for a global flood in the last 4,500-10,000 years, a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed scientifically. The fallacies and contradictions found in all “flood geology” models are overwhelming and are explored in depth at http://ncse.com/cej/1/1/fatal-flaws-flood-geology

The following points are a quick summary:

a. No geological mess is found: If a catastrophic global flood had actually occur­red in the last 4,500-10,000 years, it would have left an exten­sive mess of boulders, stones and other sedi­ments over the surface of the entire earth at that time. These flood sediments could be thousands of feet high and the fossils found in these sediments would be in a to­tal chaotic mess.[vii] But this is not what is found at all. Instead, the millions of fos­sils discovered are found in thousands of different out-croppings of sedi­men­­tary rock layers and are in a neat and order­ly ar­rangement that all but spells “evolu­tion”. For example, there are sequences of fossils found in successive rock layers that make it look just like mam­mals evolved from ancient rep­tile-like verte­brates and that humans evolved from ancient ape-like primates. There are thousands of such examples.

For example, consider the hominid fossil record. A catastrophic global flood, claim physical anthropologists and historical geologists, can not explain why Australopithecus was buried first, then Homo habilis, then Homo erectus and fin­ally Homo sap­iens, not to men­tion why Australo­pithecus, Homo habilis and Homo erectus would even exist in the first place? (Creationists like Gish explain away these finding by claiming that apes lived lower down and so were buried first and that Homo erectus was already human, while Australo­pithecus and Homo habilis were merely apes.)

b. Fossils not sorted hydraulically: Contrary to the claims of Gish and Morris, fossils are not sorted in the fossil record according to their ability to escape rising flood waters. If they were, we would expect to see slow-moving species like sloths, turtles and frogs near the bottom of the fossil record and fast-moving species like the veloci­raptors and other predatory dinosaurs near the top, along with ancient fish. But the fossil record reveals nothing like this. A sloth has never been found in older rocks than a dinosaur. Also, if many of the slow moving snakes, frogs and turtles could have made it to the top before being buried by sediment (which the fossil record tells us they did), why couldn’t many of the numerous and quite agile dinosaurs also have made it to the top? Yet not a single dinosaur has been found in the last 65 million years of sedimentary rock layers, or a single mam­mal-like reptile in the last 150 million years. Also, whales (found in the same marine habitat as fish) do not appear in the fossil until much, much later than fish. Birds do not appear until after the flying reptiles. The fossil record is the story of evolution.

c. No evidence of humans: Also, surely one would expect to find some evi­dence of humans—their bones, homes, iron tools, weapons, grave yards, etc.—throughout all the sediments left by the flood. After all, most humans would have lived at lower elevations near lakes and oceans. Homes and grave yards can’t flee to the top and a great many humans would have drowned, or been killed and buried at lower elevations. Yet, not a single piece of solid evidence has ever been found for humans existing ex­cept at the very top of the geological column.

d. Fossils and sedimentary layers are not just 10,000 years old: The fos­sils discovered are not just 4,500-10,000 years old. Most are from millions to hundreds of millions of years old. They are also of organisms that went extinct at widely dif­fer­ent times, not all at once, as would have happened with a global flood. There are thousands of consistent dates using radio-isotopes that span several billion years and con­clusively show that the fur­ther down one goes in the geological column, the older the rock layers are. (Today’s high-tech dating tech­nolo­gies can date fossils to within ±10% of the actual time of their for­ma­tion.) In addition, different mountain ranges on the earth have widely different dates of formation. The Appalachians are much older than the Rockies, which are much older than the Sierra. (Wise explains this away by suggesting that the radio-isotopes used to date fossils decayed at a much faster rate during the flood, thus giving the appearance of rock layers much older than they actually are. But, there is no evidence for his hypothesis and considerable evidence against.)

e. Fossils quite different: Genesis tells us that Noah took specimens of every type of living air-breathing animal aboard the ark.[viii] From these survivors came all the plants and ani­mals we have today. So the kinds of animals found today should be roughly the same as the kinds that existed prior to the flood just 4,500-10,000 years ago. Yet, nearly all of the fossils found in the geo­logical column are quite different from the ani­mals and plants found today. In fact, the more ancient the fossils, the more different most look from animals living today. Furthermore, contrary to a literal reading of Genesis, there are no fruit trees, flowering plants and grass found in the rock layers containing the amphibians and early reptiles. Flowering plants, including fruit trees and grass won’t evolve until much, much later.

f. Fossilized sand dunes: There are numerous fea­tures on our planet that can’t possibly be explain­ed by a global flood, such as the fos­silized, wind-blown sand dunes found in Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and numerous other areas across our planet.[ix]

g. Additional questions: Flood geology also fails to answer many, many more questions, such as:
—If the flood was fresh water, why didn’t all of the salt water fish and invertebrates die and vice versa? Was it because the ark also contained very large fresh and salt water aquariums?

—What happened to all of the dino­saurs that sup­posedly inhabited earth only 6000 years ago? (Some creationists maintain that they weren’t allowed on the ark because they “were a mixed-up species that represented the scrambling of God’s crea­tion by the emergence of evil into the world.”)

—After the flood reced­ed, how did all of the marsupials end up in Aus­tralia and the lemurs in Madagascar and the wombats in Tasmania, and the penguins in Antarctica, and on and on? In fact, how did they all get to the ark and squeeze into it in the first place? Just more miracles in a list of many miracles neces­sary to make Flood Geology float? Believers have published a rich array of solutions for how all the animals and plants could fit. Rationalists have shot them all down. Cynics ask: “Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just zap all the bad guys in the first place instead of doing this whole ark-flood thing?”

The questions go on and on. In the meanwhile, earth science has exploded in knowledge and understanding. Today, almost all features of the earth can be scientifically explained by conventional, non-miraculous geology.

Flood geology is not optional!

Flood Geology is not an optional or minor feat­ure of the young-earth creation model. Rather, it is the only way in which the Genesis-1 creation story can be reconciled with the fossil record. Yet, the more one considers Flood Geology as the mech­a­nism to explain the fossil record, the more one realizes that it’s a total and dismal failure. Yet, Christian fundamentalists are locked in. They con­tinue to insist that the global flood had to have occur­red because the Bible said it did—and not just the flood, but Noah’s ark as well.

“…the reason for insisting on the uni­ver­sal flood as a fact of his­tory…is that God’s Word plainly teaches it! No geo­log­ical diffi­cul­ties, real or imagined, can be al­lowed to take prece­dence over the clear state­ments and necessary infer­ences of scripture.”

—Dr. Henry Morris

This issue of human evolu­tion vs. the instan­­taneous creation story in Genesis, along with the global flood and Noah’s ark, are critical theo­log­i­cal issues for most conservative/fundamentalist Christians. Few scienti­fic dis­coveries have upset them more. Evo­lu­tion reduces their creation stories to mere myths. Cen­tral bib­lical beliefs such as the Bible being God’s literal word, free of error, the purpose­fulness and dignity of hu­mans, the drama of our cre­ation and fall, plus original sin and, thus, the need for a sav­ior—all of these are ser­i­ously threatened in the minds of most conservative Christians by the scientific finding that humans evolved from ancient apes over the last 5-7 million years. Their literature is clear: “No Christian can accept the teachings of evo­lution. If he does, he goes against God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and every born-again believer! Any person who thinks he can accept and be­lieve in the theory of evolution and the Bible at the same time, is treacherously deceived by Satan, because Satan has been a deceiver from the beginning.”

In conclusion

If the Book of Genesis did not exist, then neither would Flood Geology. Flood Geology is not science, but a concerted attempt to make the data fit a religious belief. It is distressing to think that at a time when rational critical thinking skills are need­ed more than ever before, some 60% of Americans have reject­ed the last 150 years of outstand­ing scientific dis­coveries in favor of an an­cient creation myth.

The choice between a literal inter­pre­tation of Genesis and the findings of science is a choice between scien­tific facts, prin­ci­ples, laws and theories known to be true beyond all reason­able doubt on one side, and the reject­ion of rationality in favor of Authoritarian Revealed Truth on the other.


Humans and dinosaur footprints

Creationists claim that fossilized human footprints have been found next to dinosaur prints in Texas, thus proving that the radio-isotope dating techniques are seriously flawed. Yet, a scientific investigation of these so-called man-prints around the Paluxy River in Texas revealed only sloppy observa­tions, wishful think­ing and even fraud. The cre­ation­ists had selected their “human foot­prints” from among hun­dreds of irregu­lar shaped eros­ion holes, plus partial footprints from a small, three-toed di­no­saur. In a few cases, two extra toes had been “added” to these three-toed prints. In other cases only blurry photographs existed of al­leged human prints that had mysteri­ously disappeared.[x] Such scientific exposure didn’t stop the crea­tio­n­ists, of course. They went on to build a “foot­print” museum display, write articles for tens of thou­sands of chur­ches and make a movie titled “Footprints in Stone” that was viewed across the coun­try.[xi] In 1994, there was even a spe­cial on television in which these “man prints” were still being high­light­ed. This was more than 15 years after the prints were totally dis­cre­dited by scien­tists.

Dr. Gish and whale evolution

In the early 1970s I debated Dr. Gish at Long Beach City College. At that time, the scientific hypothesis for whale evolution (based on a few fossil frag­ments, plus comparative anatomy, embryo­logy and physio­logy studies) was that whales were closely related to the order of mammals that included the cow, deer, hippo and pig. In response, Dr. Gish showed a slide of a half-whale-half-cow cartoon to loud laughter. But since then an ever increasing number of discovered fos­sils has clearly shown the evolu­tion of whales from a four-legged land mam­mal. In 1989, a 45 mil­lion year old whale fos­sil with small hind legs and feet was found in the sands of Egypt.[xii] A short time later, a small 50 million year old fos­sil semi-aquatic pre-whale named Pakicetus was found in Pakis­tan with both mammalian fore­arms and hind­ limbs.[xiii] Since then, even more transitional fossils have been found. Furthermore, molecular evidence now indicates that the closest living relative to the whale is the hippo, with the whale lin­eage splitting off from the hippo lineage about 54 million years ago.[xiv] All of this fossil evidence devastates a literal reading of Genesis-1 and can’t be explained away with a global flood.


Genesis 9:12-13 tells us that after the flood waters receded, God created the rainbow as a token of the covenant between Him and Noah. The implication is that rainbows didn’t exist before then. But this would be impossible unless the fundamental laws of electro­mag­ne­tism and quantum mechanics were different prior to the flood. But they couldn’t have been without cata­clys­mic effects throughout the universe.[xv]

Noah’s ark

Has scientific evidence for Noah’s Ark ever been found? No. Yet, every few years, an expedi­tion leaves for Mt. Ararat (a 17,000-foot-high mountain in eastern Turkey near the Russian border) to look for the ark. Followers are spurred on by fraud­ulent photos, wood frag­ments and even “docu­men­­ta­ries” on prime-time tele­vision. They are told that if they can just find “proof” of the ark, it will prove to the world evolution is a monstrous lie.

[i]American Scientist, Sept. 1988

[ii]Skeptical Inquirer, Fall, 1986. (Survey of over 400 college student at the Univer­sity of Texas in 1986.)

[iii]Eve, R. & Dunn, 1989, Skep­tical Inquirer, pp. 260-263.

[iv]Other New Testament references to the Flood include Heb. 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5 & 3:6. The Genesis flood story was likely adapted from the earlier Babylonian Gilga­mesh Epic where Enlil, ruler of the gods, wanted to wipe out humanity with a great flood. But another god, Ea, warned the human, Utanapishtim who built an ark, thus saving himself, his family and both tame and wild animals. There is also a similar ancient Greek myth where the world becomes so wicked that the god Zeus causes a great rain to fall and a flood to cover the earth. When it pass­ed, only two humans were left. These global flood myths arose in the Middle East after melting glaciers, about 7,500 years ago, raised the level of the oceans and sent the Mediter­ranean Sea pouring through a collapsed natural dam across the Bosporus Strait, thus inundating a freshwater lake and creating the Black Sea (Discover, Jan. 1999, p.69).

[v]Gish, D. 1978 (1985), Evolution, The Fossils Say No!. Morris, H., 1974, Scientific Creationism. Whitcomb JC Jr, Morris, HM., 1961, The Genesis Flood.

[vi] http://members.cox.net/theoutlet/A%20Review-Summary%20of%20Wise%27s%20Faith,%20Form%20and%20Time.pdf

[vii] For what we would expect to see if the earth had experienced a global flood within the last 10,000 years see http://www.creationism.ws/what_if_flood.htm.

[viii] Genesis 6:19-21; 7:2, 3, 8, 9, 15. Actually there are two slightly different flood stories written by two different authors and patched together in Genesis by a third person. As a result, God commands that Noah take 2 pair of all living creatures onto the ark (Genesis 6:19), but also that he take 7 pair of the clean and 2 pair of the unclean (Genesis 7:2).

[ix] http://ncse.com/cej/1/1/fatal-flaws-flood-geology

[x]For evidence against the prints being human, see Cole, J. and Godfrey, L (ed.) 1985, Creation /Evo­lution 5 (1). Also see Milne, D. 1982, American Biology Teacher, May.

[xi]Morris, H, 1980, Tracking Those Incredible Dino­saurs and the People Who Knew Them. ICR, 1981. “Acts and Facts,” Sept.

[xii]Discover, May 1991.

[xiii]Reports, National Center for Science Education 2001; 20 [5]: 33-41.

Gingerich et al., Science 2001, Sep 21; 293: 2239-2242.

Thewissen, J. G. M., et. al., 1994, “Fos­sil Evidence for the Origin of Aquatic Loco­­­motion in Archaeocete Whales. Science 263:210-212.

Berta, A., 1994, “What is a Whale,” Science 263: 180-181.

[xiv] Dawkins, 2004; Luo, Z., Nature 2000; 404: 237-7.

[xv] Free Inquiry, Summer 2001, p. 59.

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