Tag Archives: Charles Lyell

Philosophical Foundations of the Geologic Timescale: Uniformitarianism

Dear hijas,
From our last post in reviewing Dr. John Reed’s book “Rocks Aren’t Clocks: A Critique of the Geologic Timescale”, we saw that evolution is one of the foundations of the timescale. It is not the only one however. The concept of uniformitarianism that was promoted primarily by Charles Lyell in the 1830’s is also essential to the concept of deep time and the resulting timescale. Uniformitarianism used in its fullest sense means: a philosophy and method that allows science to become the arbiter of history. For Lyell, it was a mix of the methodological principle of uniformity (a principle which all scientists accept) with the gradualistic theory of history. This well-regulated past of imaginary vast eons, paved the way for Darwin and his evolutionary ideas, quite different from Biblical history, and contrary to the concepts of God creating and then overseeing the cosmos.

Reed says that “All three ideas–evolution, uniformitarianism, and deep time–are closely connected. Although many people today reject Lyell’s gradualism and are increasingly skeptical of evolution, the timescale and geologic history remain unscathed. But if all three are intertwined, the selective rejection of evolution and uniformitarianism, with no consequences for the timescale, seems schizophrenic.”

Reed then goes on to talk about James Hutton’s role in the idea of uniformitarianism. James Hutton, you remember, a Scottish natural philosopher and early geologist in the 1700’s, was called by some ‘The man who found time’. Reed says, “Hutton knew Genesis had to be discredited to make way for his deistic view of history. So he went straight for the jugular–there is nothing more basic to orthodox Christianity than ex nihilo creation and the end of the world at the final judgment; for the Bible begins with the famous words, ‘In the beginning’ and then moves immediately outside the ‘system of nature’ in the next words, ‘God created.'”
Remember mis hijas, uniformitarianism is not the same as uniformity, but the secularists like to equivocate here and make them say the same thing. They are not the same thing, however, and you shouldn’t confuse the two. ‘Uniformity’ is an essential axiom of science and is the idea that patterns in nature, or more frequently called ‘natural laws’ operate in the same predictable manner over space, time, and for the most part, scale. Because it is a statement about the nature of reality, it is a metaphysical assertion, justified only by Christian theology. ‘Uniformitarianism’, however, assumes that past causes will be natural ones like those observed in the present. This is not a scientific assertion, but a ‘philosophical’ one. Do you see the difference?

I pray that you do see the difference and that you will be able to share that difference with your friends and colleagues. Uniformity is at the heart of science, uniformitarianism is not.

With Love,
Dear ol’ Dad
Vaya con Dios mis hijas

Radiometric Dating: The Geologic Column

geological time scale

Dear hijas,

Did you realize that the geologic column came before and preceded radiometric dating and the counting and extrapolating of parent and daughter isotopes into millions and billions of years? Radiometric dating as a science didn’t come to fore until the early 1900’s, yet the geologic column and it’s eons, era’s and periods were established in the 1800’s.

Why is this significant? It was Nicholas Steno, a Christian and creationist, who in the late 1600’s introduced the idea of superposition; that rock layers (or strata) are laid down in succession, each layer representing a ‘slice’ of time, and that any given stratum is probably older than those above it, and younger than those below. The principles were simple, applying them to real rocks wasn’t.

Steno believed that those ‘slices’ of time were a result of the universal and global judgement of God in the Flood of Noah. He believed that the sediments laid down in ‘layers’ came from and were a result of this global year-long Flood. Read Genesis 6-9 again and pay special attention to the dates given in the text. Take note of when the text says a particular year, month, and day. Add up the dates. It’s a simple exercise, and yet you’ll find the floodwaters upon the earth were not just 40 days and 40 nights.

It was others then, who came after Steno, like Hutton and Lyell, who took these ‘slices’ of time, not dealing with the Biblical text which indicated a massive and global tectonic event like Noah’s year-long Flood, and inserted the idea of millions of years into the rocks. They believed that an older layer like the Cambrian must be millions of years older than a younger layer like the Pleistocene. They used present processes observed at their time for deposition and erosion of rocks and extrapolated unwarranted into an unseen past. This might seem logical to do, but this is not science, for rates may have not been the same over this unseen period of time, and there may have been one or more events that catastrophically altered these processes that they can’t and are unable to see. One of those major events was a worldwide global flood.

From a starting point of no Flood, (a wrong starting point), men like Hutton, Lyell, and others came to wrong conclusions (millions and millions of years). An incorrect starting point that there was no act of God in judging mankind on the earth with a global and universal Flood, gave wrong conclusions that there were millions and millions of years in each of the layers of the geologic column. And remember, all this before the advent and discovery of radiometric dating.

One might ask, “But doesn’t radiometric dating prove that these men were right in their millions and millions of years assumption? Who cares if radiometric dating came afterwards? It proves today that they were right”.

Not so fast. Radiometric dating is fraught with assumptions and discordances that throw the whole effort into a tizzy with questions about its reliability. Different pair elements give different dates for the same rock. But more on that in my next post.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad