Tag Archives: uniformitarianism

Philosophical Foundations of the Geologic Timescale: Uniformitarianism

Dear hijas,
rocks-arent-clocks
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.'”
uniformitarianism
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

The Philosophy Underlying Secular GeoHistory’s Timescale

Dear hijas,
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I still hope you’re reading when you have time. I want to pick up in Chapter 4 of Dr. John K. Reed’s book “Rocks Aren’t Clocks: A Critique of the Geological Timescale.”
rocks-arent-clocks

What I think we must understand in all this is that we are talking about two opposing worldviews: the Christian worldview versus the secularist worldview (naturalism). God sees men and women in either one of two camps: 1) in Adam, or 2) in Christ. We are either in Adam, unregenerate and dead in our sin and trespass, or under grace in Christ and regenerate to a new life in Him. The Christian worships and serves the Creator, the non-Christian worships and serves herself as the creature (Rom. 1:25). Those are the only two options, and you can’t be half in one and half in the other. It’s an either/or proposition.

When it comes then, to secular geohistory and its billion and millions of year timescale, we must seek to understand from a philosophical viewpoint what the foundations are upon which this timescale was built. If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll remember that I’ve said that things started to change in this regard in the late 18th century with the Age of Enlightenment. The late 1700’s and early 1800’s are considered to be the start of this new field of geology and the development of its timescale. To our point then, Reed says,

…the timescale possesses a burden of bias stemming from hidden philosophical foundations…stratigraphers use science as a fa├žade to mask philosophical commitments of the naturalistic worldview.

We must remember that naturalism presents itself, to those who can see through its scientific facade, as a religion. As a religion, there are philosophical underpinnings. So, what are the underpinnings or foundations of naturalism’s geologic timescale? Reed says “there at least three ideas closely tied to naturalism that form the foundation of the timescale”:

1) Evolution
2) Uniformitarianism
3) Deep Time

So, let’s take the first one in our list above: evolution. How is evolution an underpinning of the timescale? Reed explains,

The timescale is all about the sequential ordering of a chronology of the past. Arranging any group of objects in a specific order requires a key. This key must contain something in common with all the pieces to be able to unite them into a common group…What is the ‘key’ that allows sequential ordering of different rock layers? It’s not the kind of rock because most rock types are present in most eras. Limestone can be Proterzoic or Paleozoic. Its not the thickness of the formation or the thickness of the beds that make up the formation. In fact, it’s not any physical property. Instead, it is their age–an intangible span of time. What then is the key to assigning discrete time spans to particular formations? Consult any stratigraphic text, and you will see that it is evolution.

geologic timescale 1
It is the changes in fossils, from a progression of simple to complex inherent in evolution, that date strata. “In other words”, Reed says, “the key that allows geologists to assign one layer to one age and another layer to another age is the evolutionary stage of their respective fossil contents…Evolution is the clock by which the rocks are calibrated and arranged in the timescale”.

Reed concludes,

Thus, evolution is crucial to the timescale. How we understand the nature of evolution then affects how we see the timescale… Evolution and the timescale are thus linked by their mutual symbiotic dependence on naturalism. Evolution needs enough time for gradual transformative progress on the biological side, and the timescale is the key to its chronology. That symbiosis is cemented by a mutual antipathy to biblical history. A past without God must explain existence and diversity of life in both present and past. Evolution claims to do so, within the deep time provided by geologic history.

We’ll look at the other foundations in my next post.

With love I remain,
Dear ol’ Dad
Vaya con Dios mis hijas