This online institute is designed to give a brief analysis and discussion of all scientific disciplines through the lens of a biblical world view. +++ SDG +++

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lesson #40 Volcanoes & Canyons

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #40
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  So let’s have a look at Volcanoes & Canyons.  The reason I am covering these two together is because of a unique case study that argues clearly for a young earth, and what connects these topics is one major geological event. Many people use Volcanoes & Canyons when arguing for an old earth, but they must ignore the evidence I share with you now to make such claims.

            At 8:32 and 17 seconds A.M. Pacific Standard Time on May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens at an elevation of 9677ft blasted off one half a cubic mile of material after a 5.1 RS earthquake shook its foundations.  This was no surprise to geologists because the mountain had been growing at a rate of 50 feet a day. Some 57 people lost their lives that day because they refused to heed the warnings of a geologist.  After a 20 million ton explosive blast blew off the side of the mountain, it was followed by a 550 degree, 200 mile per hour pyroclastic flow of hot steam and ash that decimated everything in its path for miles.  The mountain then spent nine hours in a state of constant eruption, spewing off another 400 million tons of explosive power. This is equal to 30 thousand Hiroshima-sized nuclear blasts at the rate of about one per second over that nine hour period.

            This event carries a lot of evidence for catastrophism which I mentioned way back in lesson 30. It gives us a lot of great evidence for a young earth and a worldwide flood and its aftermath.  This event gave geologists a whole new perspective on the deposition of sedimentary layers, and the formation of canyons, not to mention some amazing insight into the formation of polistrate fossils and coal beds. First, some quickly eroded canyons cut to a depth of some 75 feet in a very short time exposed a 25 foot layer mud flow laid down by the initial eruption. On top of that was another 25 foot layer from a pyroclastic flow of a later eruption on June 12th 1980. Then there was a 25 foot top layer from a March of 1982 eruption. Some of these 25 foot layers had multiple layers within them giving an appearance that it was laid down over great periods of time if using standard geological methods of dating sedimentation. However, these many layers are known to be from just a few events over a few years, each laid down over the course of hours or days.          

            The formation of canyons such as Step Canyon and Loowit Canyon, not to mention as many as five other smaller canyons, that were formed in a mudslide in 1982 which released the west fork of the Toutle River from its source Spirit Lake, show just how rapidly a canyon can be formed.  Some of these canyons were cut in days. Some cut through volcanic rock formations that were hundreds and even thousands of years old, giving us canyons that are 1/40th the size of the Grand Canyon.  This begs the question.... Did the Colorado river cut the Grand Canyon over millions of years or was it the rapid draining of a massive inland lake that cut the canyon in a relatively short time?  The difference in elevation of the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, especially in the section that flows north would argue for a rapid cut, not a long slow cut which is the currently held popular view.     

            And finally, this amazing event gives us some clues on how coal beds and polistrate fossils were formed.  We find fossil trees in many locations that pass through many geologic layers representing a supposed millions of years.  How is it that this tree waited millions of years to be covered without decaying? The Flood offers a much better explanation and Spirit Lake gives us a micro-example of how that happened.  Hundreds of thousands of trees were blown into Spirit Lake during the 1980 eruption, covering half of its 4 square mile surface with logs. The first insight is that the logs rubbed all the bark off of each other leaving a 3 foot thick layer of bark peat at the bottom of the lake, and many coal seams are clearly layers of coalified bark peat. Second insight is that many of the logs, being denser at the root base, started to float upright until they slowly drifted to the bottom. Later layers of sediment caused them to be held and eventually covered in that upright position within multiple layers.....a clear explanation for polistrate fossils. So maybe the supposed 27 layers of successive forest on specimen ridge in Yellowstone National Park are not successive forest but a collection of logs that floated down at different rates and were covered at different levels after a world wide flood.  A comparison of tree rings at different levels on that ridge show similar weather patterns giving evidence of the same forest, not many separated by millions of years of peat accumulation that has no evidence of roots in it.  Well, I think that takes care of volcanoes and canyons.  See you next month.
In Christ,
Pastor Portier           

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lesson #39 Dinosaurs #2

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #39
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  Our discussion on fossils has led to a discussion on dinosaurs, which may be better addressed in our biology wing. However since we have started down this road, let us give it a full treatment. 

            When discussing dinosaurs, we touch on a number of different scientific disciplines: geology, biology and even history.  In the 1500’s, a European scientific book called ‘Historia Animalium’ listed several dragons as still living but rare.  In medieval times, the Scandinavians wrote of swimming dragons, and the Vikings carved dragons as their figure heads on the front of their ships.  The story of Beowulf and the story of Saint George killing a dragon may have some basis in fact.  In 1572, Ulysses Aldrovandus reported that a peasant had killed a small dragon in northern Italy. The carcass of that "dragon" was put in a museum. Its description matches that of a Struthiomimus, a type of dinosaur. In China there accounts of family's that raised dragons to pull the royal wagons for parades.  The first dinosaur fossils were probably found in China as early as the fourth century, but they were referred to as dragon bones.  In France, near the city of Nerluc, there is record of a creature that was armed with tusks that were sharp like pointed swords, a body larger than an ox, and it would lay in wait in the river. Its description matches that of a Triceratops.  In tenth century Ireland, a large beast was described as having large iron nails pointing backwards on its tail, a head shaped like a horse, and thick hideous legs with iron claws.  This sounds a lot like a Stegosaurus.  In Scandinavia, we have medieval reports of a creature with a body like an ox, two long back legs, two short front legs, covered with scales, with monstrous jaws, and it leapt like a frog. Could this be a Dryptosaurus?  Alexander the Great even reported a dragon-like creature when he went to India. They saw a large reptile over 30 meters long that the Indians kept in a cave.  Georg von Forstner, a German submarine Captain in World War I, reported seeing with four others, a large 65 foot long crocodile-like creature writhing in the wreckage of a British steamer after they sank it with a torpedo on July 30, 1915. Many of the rock drawings by ancient peoples all over the world have a clear resemblance to large dinosaurs.  Reports exist from ships at sea like a 1970's fishing vessel that pulled up a carcass of what looked a lot like a Plesiosaur, and another that pulled up a 6 ft long eel larvae. The list of modern day discoveries like this is long.

            In discussing dinosaurs, there is no good reason for us to exclude any report of dragons, dragon ingredients, or other mentions of dragons in history.  We must, of course, examine the sources of the information and admit that many ancient (non-biblical) documents are corrupted with exaggeration and embellishment.  However that does not negate the significance of these accounts and what they might reveal and add to our knowledge of extinct species of any animals including dinosaurs.  There are enough dinosaurs living today to justify such an approach (over-sized alligators, monitor lizards, and komodo dragons, the largest specimens living in very remote areas).

            So what happened to most of the dinosaurs?  Well, in this creation cursed by the fall of man, extinctions are not uncommon.  Many can be attributed to the very good earth becoming less than very good after the curse in Genesis 3, and perfect environments that once supplied all the needs of all life now made survival difficult for all life, especially the very large that need much more resources to survive, and this got worse after the flood.  But even worse in this fallen creation are fallen sinful human beings who are poor stewards of God’s creation, and when you look at even recent history over the past few hundred years, we can see the memory of large dangerous animals lingers in a large society long after they have been killed to extinction. If we simply look at the places where the largest human populations are, we find large predators like bears, large cats, and even wolves that were hunted to extinction in places like India, Europe, and North America. We have done the same thing to animals we eat to extinction or near extinction—fish, birds, large game like antelope and buffalo. Not to mention habitat we replace with our living spaces.  There is no shortage of places for us to live but we are lazy, and where we live in very high concentrations, one of the problems is a complete loss of habitat for animals. Not to mention where there are high concentrations of people, there are high concentrations of sin.  That is why God did what He did at the Tower of Babel. So I propose that we killed dinosaurs off because they scared us, but they continue in our collective conscience through accounts of large dragons.  These accounts are found in every ancient culture.  Just like you see bears depicted in a Germany or Switzerland where they haven't been for centuries, or tigers depicted in New Delhi that hasn't seen one roaming free for many years, and why the buffalo which once covered our continent, exist now only in areas reserved for them.  Stewardship is a biblical principal God calls us to apply to His creation.  God tells us in Romans 8:22: For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. This was true when Paul wrote it and it is true today.  Dinosaurs fit nicely into a biblical world view if you only take the time to put the information together.

            In closing, let’s talk about one more kind of fossil: fossilized tracks.  If you have a mud flat that is full of tracks that is quickly covered and fossilized by a softer mineral, then this can later erode away leaving fossilized tracks. I call to your attention "Taylor Trail," one of many on the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas.  On this trail is a series of 14 human footprints with at least 134 dinosaur tracks in the same layer.  If man and dinosaurs did not coexist.....then what can explain this rock solid evidence????

            Okay, next month back to more geology—Impact Craters, Volcanoes, Mountains & Valleys. We still have a few more rock formations to look at through a biblical lens.

In Christ,
Pastor Portier   

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lesson #38 Dinosaurs

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #38
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  Let’s have a look at some of the geological evidence that many extinct creatures had interaction with man.  Yes, even dinosaurs which supposedly became extinct over 65 million years ago.  This dating is a common position taken by many a Paleontologist; however, there is solid scientific evidence that calls into question this commonly held notion.

            There is no question that very large reptiles once populated the earth. The point of debate is how long ago. (I addressed the question of time in lessons 21-24.) While there were some very large dinosaurs, weighing in at an estimated 80 tons and standing 40 feet high (!), the average dinosaur was probably about the size of a small horse.  Were dinosaurs extinct 65 million years before we existed or were they part of God's creation on the day that corresponds with whether or not they flew, swam, or crawled along the ground? 

            If we examine history, we can find much evidence of the existence of dinosaurs along with man. First, let’s look at some biblical historical evidence in the book of Job, chapter 40, written about 4000 years ago, only about 300 years after the flood. In it, God describes a great beast. This great animal, called “behemoth,” is described in detail as “the chief of the ways of God,” perhaps the biggest land animal God created. Impressively, he moved his tail like a cedar tree!  This beast description best fits a large suaropod more than any other animal.  “Leviathan,” from Job 41, has a description that closely matches a Plesiosaur. Anyone familiar with sea lore knows about all the stories and drawings of sea monsters cooked up in sailors’ imaginations. However, there may be some basis in fact, as many of the sea creatures in those drawings have a striking resemblance to many known aquatic dinosaurs.

            It is easy for us to look at ancient documents like The Anglo Saxon Chronicle and say all of their descriptions of dragons and other massive beasts are either imaginative or fiction.  But there is sufficient fossil evidence in the British Isles to at least give credit to the chroniclers and to suggest that maybe what they describe as dragons are actually dinosaurs. It makes more sense to say it is a mixture of truth and imagination, than to say it is pure imagination because we decide with theoretical science based on unprovable assumptions that man never lived with dinosaurs.  This type of evidence exists all over the earth. Some Aborigines have reported a dinosaur like creature that matches the description of a Struthiomimus.  Marco Polo visited Madagascar and saw a huge bird 9 feet tall (now extinct). In 1649, there were reported sightings of “flying dragons” in Europe.  Sioux Indians saw a huge flying creature that got struck down in a storm. When they found the remains several days later, it had large claws on its feet and wings. It had a long bony crest pointing backwards on its head, and it had a wingspan of over 18 feet. What they called the “thunderbird,” could this be what we call today  a Pteranodon. 

            Ancient explorers and historians reported seeing flying reptiles in Egypt and Arabia that match the description of Rhamphorhynchus. The Greek researcher Herodotus wrote: “There is a place in Arabia, situated very near the city of Buto, to which I went, on hearing of some winged serpents; and when I arrived there, I saw bones and spines of serpents, in such quantities as it would be impossible to describe. The form of the serpent is like that of the water-snake; but he has wings without feathers, and as like as possible to the wings of a bat.”  There is also a sketch drawn in Egypt, by the Naturalist Pierre Belon, of a flying reptile.

            There are a lot of references to dragons throughout history. These creatures are probably based on real, living dinosaurs that are described correctly, or they have been described with the combined features of several dinosaurs, or they may be based on a real dinosaur with imaginative exaggerations. The 1973 World book Encyclopedia, under the catigorory of "Dragon" says,  “The dragons of legend are strangely like actual creatures that have lived in the past. They are much like the great reptiles which inhabited the earth long before man is supposed to have appeared on earth. Dragons were generally evil and destructive. Every country has them in its mythology.”  Is it possible that they are extinct because they were terrifying and could have been hunted for food? We have caused the extinction of many animals—why not dinosaurs?

            I have run out of space and still have much to say about fossils and the large beasts that produced them; so we will continue this discussion next month.

In Christ,
Pastor Portier

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lesson #37 Fossils

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #37
Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  So let’s have a look at fossils. We will examine how they form and what we can learn from them.  This is a massive data base of collected evidence consisting of millions if not billions of specimens that are clear evidence of the existence of hundreds of thousands of species of plant and animal life, many of which have become extinct, while an even greater number still exist today.

So how do we get fossils?  Most fossils are from the rapid burial of a plant or animal which  protects the specimen from disturbance.  Oxygen deprivation limits the decay and biological activity such as things feeding on the carcass. The sediment layer must remain intact long enough for the buried creature to be replaced over time by minerals in the sediment. It is also important that the biomass of the creature not be exposed to excessive heating or compression because this would destroy the structure needed to form a fossil.  That all being said, one can see how a world-wide flood would provide nicely for a vast collection of fossilized plant and animal life.  Or in the words of Ken Ham, "billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth."

When we speak of fossils, many assume and assert that vast amounts of time are required but science has proven other wise.  Decades or centuries are all that is required.  There are images online of common everyday items that have become “fossilized.”  (Simply Google for images of fossilized ham, hat, car keys, bells, or even a clock mechanism!) Now some of these things are not fossilized but they are encased in solid rock that did not take millennia to form.  In 1994, scientists studied the fossils of shrimp that were in the stomach of a fossil fish found in Brazil.  They found a way to create similar fossil shrimp in only 4-6 weeks.  The article reporting this research said that in only a few weeks, they managed to mimic a mineralization process that takes millions of years in nature.  If they can do it, why can't nature do it?  The point is that permineralization (the process that creates fossils) does not need millions or even thousands of years to happen.

Most of the fossil evidence for life appears in the Cambrian explosion.  It is called this because life suddenly appears in the Cambrian layer which is dated at 580 million years by popular science. (see Lessons 21 to 24 if you want to review the topic of dating methods.)  It follows clear logic that if the world were covered by a catastrophic world-wide flood, you would expect to find   "billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth." Possible connection with the Cambrian explosion???  Makes sense to me.

  This mass of evidence for millions of species is lacking something if we all have a common ancestor.  This tree has no trunk and not branches but only leaves.  If you have evidence in the fossil record of hundreds of thousands of species and not a single example of a theoretical ancestor, would it not make more sense to conclude that all the variety in life that we see in the fossil record and current life is the result of instant appearance on the earth?  This is what you would expect to find if a Creator spoke all that is into existence.

I would like to wrap up our fossil discussion with one more point that this mass of evidence makes very clear.  While many of the species in the fossil record are extinct, the bulk of them are not.  The fossils are given different names, but they are identical in every way to their modern counterpart. Here is a brief summary of fossils that have living counterparts today: Vertebrates contain living fossils in all three fish groups, both major amphibian groups, all four reptile orders, most bird orders, and all three mammal types.  Five-sided animals contain living fossils in all five major classes. Exoskeleton species contain living fossils in all major aquatic arthropods, all major insect orders, all major arachnid orders, and all major myriapod (centipede and millipede) classes. Shellfish contain living fossils in all five major shellfish classes. The same can be said for both major classes of Segmented worms, all three classes of Sponges and both hard and soft Corals. I only went through that long list to point out that we have fossils of every major class of living thing today.  This shows that the attempt in the scientific community to separate the living creatures from their fossilized ancestors is designed to foster an evolutionary view of life.  However a biblical world view would expect to see evidence of all current life to be reflected in the fossil record with all things looking the same as when they were created 6000 years ago.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

SMBI #36 Ancient Lakes

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #36
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  We have a lot to cover this month as we continue our discussion of the Ice Age and its effect on the earth. 
            First, let’s examine the question of areas that are now desserts like the Sahara and the Middle East, which were once very green, but are now very dry, and how that might be connected with large inland lakes that no longer exist.  Shorelines and evidence of sea life confirm they once existed in these areas.  The North American continent had many of these massive lakes after the flood.  They even have names such as Lake Agassiz which once covered the center third of Canada.  Lakes Missoula and Bonneville once covered vast regions of the western US.  The Great Salt Lake is a mere puddle compared to the massive lake of which it was once a part.  These are just a few examples. If you start to do some research on prehistoric lakes and land elevations below sea level, you will find dozens of lakes, and sea salt being collected in areas hundreds of feet below sea level in places where there is no historical record of water.  Sea salt hundreds of miles from the nearest sea makes clear there was once a sea there.  The Ice Age played a major role in filling some of these lakes.  How did these lakes drain? Some were drained quickly cutting massive canyons, and others just evaporated over hundreds or even thousands of years.  We know this for two reasons. First, there is evidence of animal and human life on the ancient deserted shore lines of many of these lakes.  Secondly, there is evidence that the main reason the vast desert regions of the earth are so dry is because of sustained dry weather cycles.  Being cut off from the ocean, these lakes could not sustain their water cycle and when the water evaporated, it was carried to other places.  After hundreds of thousands of years, these lakes became dried-up basins that we know today by such names as Death Valley or the Great Rift Valley.      

            Another strange phenomenon to consider in conjunction with the Ice Age is mass extinctions of disharmonious associations, like wooly mammoths, hippos, musk ox, reindeer, giant beavers, saber tooth cats, all living in places like Great Briton.  All became extinct over a relatively short time, a few hundred years or so.  A mixture of harsh weather conditions and lack of food would logically follow during a 500-year or so cooling, ice-expanding part of the Ice Age.  Many of the animal kinds that got off the ark probably did not make it past the first thousand years.

            Ice cores are used to argue for an old earth.  Many measurements of these cores are used to calculate old ages like mass spectrometry, electroconductivity, deuterium excess, and CO2 levels.  These dating methods all have unprovable assumptions just like Carbon 14 and other dating methods discussed last year.  Ice cores have rings and it is still argued by many that each ring signifies a layer of summer ice followed by winter snow.  When you examine the numbers from this method, you can see why all old earth ice core dating methods "melt down".  One of the deepest ice core samples ever drilled was 10,000 feet deep and contained 135,000 layers.  Well, if you need millions of years, that won't do you much good. That is why they use chemical methods to make the deepest layers microscopically thin. 

            Here is a little better way to calculate the ice core data. Ice and snow layers are not representing years but are warm and cold indicators.  Therefore, you can get multiple layers depending on the weather patterns. We have a great example in two P-38 aircraft that crash-landed on the ice cap in 1942.  They were both recovered in 1990 and after 48 years the planes were 263 feet deep under hundreds of layers of ice and snow.  At an average cover rate of 5.5 feet per year, the ice cap is only about 1824 years old using our oldest ice core of 10,000 feet.  However, we must account for the lower layers being compressed at some reasonable rate making them thinner.  Using this data makes it very easy to estimate the current ice cap to be approximately 3600 to 4300 years old.

            I thought I would spend a little time on global warming—so here it is.  Weather comes in cycles, sometimes warm and sometimes cold.  In my lifetime, we saw cooling in the 1970's and warming in the 1990's. We should be good stewards of our environment, but I think it is a little misguided to think we have any great influence or control over our weather patterns.  That wraps up the Ice Age.  Next month: Fossils.

In Christ
Pastor Portier

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lesson # 35 Ice Age & Glaciers

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #35
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  We will examine Ice Ages today.  The last major geophysical event to take place on earth was an ice age.  Now the uniformitarian models for ice ages are all sadly lacking in sound plausible theories for anyone to latch on to and say this is the predominate theory or theories.  There are currently dozens of theories that are all fraught with algorithmic holes or unobservable and improvable assumptions.  So first let's dispense with the currently accepted models of 30 ice ages that have as their only basis the need for time and flawed ice core assumptions which I will address later.  While we are at it, let’s also dispense with the more popular predecessor of 4 major ice ages. Let's imagine for a moment one ice age and when we do this, we will find that all of the problems that other models suffer from evaporate, because a model that has one ice age following a world wide flood around 4300 years ago and taking about 500 years to peak and about 200 to melt to our current ice levels, actually fits very nicely with both observable glacial geology, strange mass extinctions, and the biblical narrative.
            So we now jump into a discussion that spends most of its time arguing for the biblically harmonious explanation and less time on disproving the currently popular, albeit weak, models.  It is always good to start with scripture, and a good text to start this discussion is Saint Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica which says in chapter 5, verse 21, but test everything; hold fast what is good. This is taken a bit out of context but is a good research principal all the same.  First let’s acknowledge that the worldwide temperature went down and glaciers advanced from about 1350 to 1850 in what is often called the little ice age.  This however was not an ice age in the sense we are speaking of.  It was simply a 500-year cooling period in a worldwide cooling and warming cycle that has existed since we were kicked out of the garden around 6000 years ago…give or take a few decades.  This could lead to a global warming discussion but that will have to be put off to another lesson.

            So why are we discussing the ice age under the topic of geology?  Because our earth is covered with geological evidence of that geophysical event.  Geologic formations exist that can only be explained by the ice age, much of it associated with glaciers: glacial till, moraines, lakes, scratches, U-shaped valleys, and erratic boulders. We can understand each of these formations while also reviewing a sound theory for how the ice age came to be.

            Following the flood in around 2300 BC, the oceans were much warmer due to volcanic and plate tectonic activity.  This led to greater evaporation which led to greater cooling, combined with the high levels of particulates in the atmosphere which provided for further cooling.  These two things would have been sufficient to start a steady cooling trend that in approximately 500 years, depending on which models and variables you plug in, could easily develop ice sheets and glaciers onto the Eurasian and North American continents, down to the latitudes where we know they once existed because of the geological formations that we can observe:
            - Glacial till: the mixed rock matter caused by glaciers breaking off and carrying and mixing sediment from various sources of various sizes.  Glacial till is often found on top of sedimentary rock, not found covered by layers of sedimentary rock.  This is what you would expect to find if the ice age followed a worldwide flood which is responsible for many sedimentary rock layers.
            - Glacial moraines: ridges of mixed glacial till pushed into place by a glacier, giving evidence of where the sides and ends of glaciers were before melting.  If the ice age started melting back around 1800 BC and reached close to current levels around 1600 BC, then we would expect to see these formations as we do today showing evidence of only about 3600 years of erosion.
            - Lakes, long striations or scratches, and U-shaped valleys.  All three of these are evidence of glacial activity. Many lakes in North America and Eurasia can be attributed to the extreme weight and land-moving ability of glaciers. Rocks of all sizes and large rock surfaces show the scratches and scoring that you would expect to see when tons of rock and ice flow for years over a hard surface. Normal erosion leads to V-shaped valleys, but when large glaciers create valleys, they scrape to the bedrock.  Therefore U-shaped valleys can be attributed to glaciers.
            - My favorite glacial geographic formation is erratic boulders.  These boulders, some larger than houses and weighing tons, are located in some cases hundreds of miles from the closest formation that contains that kind of rock.  So we have three main theories about how they got to their current location: they floated there inside an iceberg, were carried there inside a glacier, or during the melting of a large glacier were washed to that location in a violent and powerful flash flood following the breaking of an ice dam. Part or all of these processes can easily explain the existence of erratic boulders.

            I seem to have run out of time and still have not addressed some other important ice age questions.  Next month I will address how areas that are now deserts, like the Sahara or parts of the Middle East, were once very green, with evidence of large (now dry) deep  inland lakes, and mass extinctions of disharmonious associations like wooly mammoths, hippos, musk ox, and reindeer. We will discuss ice cores and I also need to briefly address global warming.

Lots to cover in coming lessons!
See you next month,
Pastor Portier      

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lesson #34 Plate Tectonics

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #34
Welcome back class. Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology. It is generally agreed that the bulk of earth quake and volcanic activity on earth is the result of tectonic plate movement. Plates coming together, spreading apart or sliding against each other, forming subduction trenches and mountain ranges, oceanic ridges and unstable fault lines. From the prospective of a world-wide flood taking place 4300 years ago, we can see these events as small after shocks from catastrophic plate tectonic action that would have been an integral part of that event. More on catastrophic plate tectonics in a moment, but first a little history on this subject…

Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish cartographer and geographer in the 1500's, is generally recognized as the creator of the first modern atlas. He is also believed to be the first person to imagine that the continents were joined together before drifting to their present positions. In 1912 the meteorologist Alfred Wegener described what he called continental drift. A fifty-year debate started that would end in the theory of plate tectonics. The basic premise of this theory is that present continents once formed a single land mass called Pangaea, that drifted apart. The cotenants of low density (on average 15% less dense) are granite floating on a sea of denser basalt. Supporting evidence for this idea can be seen by simply dove-tailing outlines of South America's east coast and Africa's west coast, and matching the rock formations along these edges, and this process can be repeated on virtually every coastline. The debate of course is not whether or not the drift is happening but on the span of time from Pangaea to our current global configuration. The question so often boils down to time.  When we come to that question I will always refer you back to lessons 21 through 25. on my blog

With the advent of sonar in World War Two giving a detailed map of the sea floor, and later discoveries dating the bulk of the sea floor as younger than most of the fossil layers on the earth, we begin to get a very homogeneous view of our world’s lithosphere. We now come to a point in the discussion when an understanding of catastrophic plate tectonics can be helpful. The best way to do that is with the computer aided TERRA program which shows, mathematically, just how such a high speed catastrophic plate shift could take place. So this is not some computer generated graphic. We are talking about accepted algorithmic formulations that account for and explain how our lithosphere flows and moves.

The TERRA model was invented by Dr. John Baumgardner, who may not be the most well-known young earth creationist in science, but he is probably the most qualified. Baumgardner holds a Ph.D. in Geophysics. He is employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the most prestigious research institutes in the country. He has developed the program called TERRA that models plate tectonics (the drift of "continental plates," sections of the earth's crust that float on the magma beneath). Dr. Baumgardner's computer program is the leading program for modeling plate tectonics. Amazingly, depending on what initial date is programmed in, it will allow for both a young and old earth. So how did a young earth creationist wind up in such a pivotal role in science? Dr. Baumgardner was an electrical engineer before he became a geophysicist. While doing a stint in the military, he became a Christian through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. He realized that arguments for evolution were being used as a battering ram against young Christians, so he decided to do something about it. Picturing himself as David going to slay Goliath, he went back to school for his Ph.D. in geophysics. While there, his doctoral thesis was developing TERRA, which became for him an instant step into the spotlight and has become the industry standard for testing theoretical models of the lithosphere.

That all being said, the program accounts for all the variables: pressure, temperature, density, volume--turning the globe into a algorithmic lava lamp of sorts. When you plug in a theoretical Pangaea, account for the instability of silicate minerals, which leads to rapid deformation when they are exposed to the critical amounts of pressure and heat (sorry for all the scientific lingo), what you get is a clear scientific model that shifts from Pangaea to something very close to our current continental configuration in months and years not centuries and millennia. That is as thorough a treatment that this theologian can provide on plate tectonics. Next month we will have a look at Ice Ages, maybe some lone large boulders, and if we have some time, we might even get to canyons.

In Christ

Pastor Portier

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lesson #33 Sedimentary Rock

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #33 
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology.  So lets have a look at some of that sedimentary rock shall we. Sedimentary rock is one of the greatest pieces of geological evidence that begs the question...where did all this stuff come from and how did it get here and get deposited in this fashion. In the famous words of Ken Ham, What would you expect to find if there was a world wide flood? "Billions of dead  things buried in rock layers  laid down by water all over the earth." and that is exactly what we find plants and animals buried and fossilized in sand, mud, and lime that were deposited rapidly by water in rock layers all over the earth. Based on the description of the Flood in Genesis 7–8, there are a number of geologic evidences that testify to the Genesis Flood.

            Fossils of sea creatures high above sea level due to the ocean waters having flooded over the continents.  We find fossils of sea creatures in rock layers that cover all the continents. For example, most of the rock layers in the walls of Grand Canyon (more than a mile above sea level) contain marine fossils. Fossilized shellfish are even found in the Himalayas.  Being thrust upward by plate tectonics is only a partial explanation of how all those sea fossils got to all of our mountain ranges. again a flawed estimation of time is needed to make it work. 

            Rapid burial of plants and animals. We find extensive fossil “graveyards” and exquisitely preserved fossils. For example, billions of nautiloid fossils are found in a layer within the Redwall Limestone of Grand Canyon. This layer was deposited catastrophically by a massive flow of sediment (mostly lime sand). The chalk and coal beds of Europe and the United States, and the fish, ichthyosaurs, insects, and other fossils all around the world, testify of catastrophic destruction and burial, which can clearly be seen in how they were preserved and the final position they are in when they were quickly buried alive.

            Rapidly deposited sediment layers spread across vast areas. We find rock layers that can be traced all the way across continents—even between continents—and physical features in those strata indicate they were deposited rapidly. For example, the Tapeats Sandstone and Redwall Limestone of Grand Canyon can be traced across the entire United States, up into Canada, and even across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The chalk beds of England (the white cliffs of Dover) can be traced across Europe into the Middle East and are also found in the Midwest of the United States and in Western Australia. Inclined (sloping) layers within the Coconino Sandstone of Grand Canyon are testimony to 10,000 cubic miles of sand being deposited by huge water currents within days.

            Sediment transported long distances. We find that the sediments in those widespread, rapidly deposited rock layers had to be eroded from distant sources and carried long distances by fast-moving water. For example, the sand for the Coconino Sandstone of Grand Canyon (Arizona) had to be eroded and transported from the northern portion of what is now the United States and Canada. Again the volume and time measurements lean in favor of a rapid erosion not a slow one over millions of years.

            Rapid or no erosion between strata. We find evidence of rapid erosion, or even of no erosion, between rock layers. Flat, knife-edge boundaries between rock layers indicate continuous deposition of one layer after another, with no time for erosion. For example, there is no evidence of any “missing” millions of years (of erosion) in the flat boundary between two well-known layers of Grand Canyon—the Coconino Sandstone and the Hermit Formation. Another impressive example of flat boundaries at Grand Canyon is the Redwall Limestone and the strata beneath it.

            I Have no knowledge of the rock formations I site here so I would like to thank the Answers in Genesis Website for the bulk of this summary and further acknowledge that these geologic evidences were elaborated on by Dr. Steve Austin at the Institute for Creation Research in his book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, pages 51–52 (Institute for Creation Research, Santee, California, 1994).  These are trust worthy peer reviewed documents and for the rock enthusiast out there they are a must read.

            That will wrap up sedimentary rocks and rock types for that matter. so I think we will continue next month with plate tectonics.  Ice Ages, canyons and fossils will have to wait in line.

Have a blessed spring
Pastor Portier

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lesson 32 World Wide Flood

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute Lesson #32

     Welcome back class. Please get settled in and take a hold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in geology. As we start our a discussion on rock types, plate tectonics, Ice Ages, canyons and fossils, we need to do this in light of a world-wide flood—a perspective long since abandoned by those who think themselves more learned than God's Word. There was a time when the words Antediluvian (before the flood) and Prehistoric (before any recorded history) were common words to be used in all forms of scientific discussion. They were used together because they covered a similar time frame around 2300 BC to 3200 BC.

     It is generally agreed that true writing of language (not just numbers) was invented separately in at least two places: Mesopotamia around 3200 BC and Mesoamerica around 600 BC. It is debated whether writing was developed completely independently in Egypt 3200 BC and China around 1200 BC, or whether the appearance of writing in either or both places was due to Mesopotamian influence. It is also generally agreed that the biblical flood account happened around 2300 BC. Whether or not scholars believe a world-wide flood happened, there is not disagreement in what it claims in the narrative and that the approximate date of that event is around 2348 BC. Was writing invented before the flood? Well, if you check the dates, it appear so, however there is room for doubt—but remember that the only evidence we have of written language before 500 BC is carved in some hard surface and the bulk of historical writing evidence does not really start showing up until after the flood date above.

     So why does any of this matter and what does it have to do with geology, you may ask. In its early days, geologists did use words like antediluvian and prehistoric. However in the 19th century, when the age of the earth debate took off, the bulk of the scholastic community started talking in millions and billions of years. Because of this, we will have to approach geology as outsiders, because we question the assumptions of dating methods. We will do something geologically bold: we will approach the topic with our own assumptions. We will assume that God spoke all there is into existence and He is an eyewitness to all that has happened in history. We have a record of that from creation to the flood in the first nine chapters of Genesis. We further know these accounts to be true because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ referred to them as historical fact.

     That being said, let’s jump into the subject of rocks. We know if we remember from our school days, that rocks fall in three basic categories. Igneous rocks, crystalline solids which form directly from the cooling of magma. Sedimentary rocks form when the small particles of pre-existing rocks combine due to pressure, chemical, or organic processes. Finally, metamorphic rocks form when pressure and temperature changes the properties of the rock. As we look at these rocks, we will see that they can clearly be understood in a young earth setting. First, we can acknowledge that all of the old earth evidence from igneous and metamorphic rock is primarily based on flawed dating methods mentioned in Lessons 21 to 24. You may wish to review those lessons on this blog

     There is some evidence for a young earth in metamorphic rock—evidence like Carbon 14 contained in rocks that are supposed to be much older than Carbon 14 can have existed. However most of the young earth evidence will be found in different types of sedimentary rock. For example, coal is a very hard sedimentary rock formed by compressing biomass (organic material such as plants). It too is supposed to be millions of years old, but in many cases contains C14. Diamonds while not a rock but an mineral, are much harder than coal, and also have been found to contain C14. Sedimentary rock is where we find most of our young earth evidence, so let’s examine some of that. Rocks do not normally bend; they break because they are hard and brittle. But in many places we find whole sequences of strata that were bent without fracturing, indicating that all the rock layers were rapidly deposited and folded while still wet and pliable before final hardening. For example, the Tapeats Sandstone in Grand Canyon is folded at a right angle (90°) without evidence of breaking. Yet this folding could only have occurred after the rest of the layers had been deposited, while the Tapeats Sandstone remained wet and pliable. This is clear evidence that many strata were laid down in rapid succession, not slowly over long periods of time. We still have a lot more sedimentary rock to discuss, so we will see you next month.
 In Christ,
Pastor Portier

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lesson #31 Our Geological Place in the Universe

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #31
Our Geological place in the Universe
            Welcome back class.  Please get settled in and take ahold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can continue our study in the geology. Although astronomy (the study of stars) is a separate field of science, panning out and taking a broader look can be beneficial in understanding the earth and its geology.  It may seem a bit odd to start our study of what the earth is made of in the vastness of space, but nothing exists in a vacuum and that includes the earth.  A perfect vacuum is only theoretical, just like absolute zero is theoretical.  The vastness of space is hard to fathom and equally difficult to fathom is that all that space is full of particles—photons, gravitons, dark energy, space dust.  There really is no such thing as empty space.  Space is full of particles of every size, the large spheres that burn are called stars and the ones that are not on fire are called planets.  Meanwhile moons, asteroids, comets and meteorites fill out the sphears, particles and clusters in-between.  That being said, the universe is estimated to contain some 100 to 300 sextillion stars and the number of planets is theorized to be greater.  Over 99% of the matter in the known universe is hydrogen and helium, leaving less than one percent of the rest to all the heavier elements (the stuff the earth is made of):  iron (32.1%), oxygen (30.1%), silicon (15.1%), magnesium (13.9%), sulfur (2.9%), nickel (1.8%), calcium (1.5%), and aluminum (1.4%); with the remaining 1.2% consisting of trace amounts of other elements.

            The current estimated age of the universe is 13.7 billion years, an estimate that is flawed and leaves more questions than answers.  The universe is full of young blue stars.  It is posited that new stars are forming all the time.  However, this has NEVER been observed, not once!  Planets like Neptune and Uranus have a high gravitational strength that is puzzling based on known rates of gravitational decay.  If our sun is billions of years old, it should currently rotate about once every three hours, but it currently rotates once every 25 days.  Our sun is also relatively calm compared with most other stars and when it does send out a flair or a CME, (coronal mass ejection), the radiation is absorbed and deflected by our magnetic field.  This is what causes the phenomena called the aurora borealis.

            There are other unique qualities of earth found in no other (known) planet that make it uniquely habitable in accord with Isaiah 45:18 "He formed it to be inhabited!" Our earth’s 23.5 degree tilt does more than give us seasons—it provides the proper warming to give us two large temperate zones on either side of the equator, making most of the earth’s land surface habitable.  Our earth’s size provides for proper gravity, with the abundance of water and a moon to keep its oceans from becoming stagnant.  These are all key ingredients to a perfectly balanced sphere in an otherwise chaotic universe.  The question of whether or not there is extraterrestrial life is not addressed in scripture.  If God wanted to create life somewhere else, he certainly could have; but when we consider the little we know of this universe and its inhospitable and extreme hostility toward even the extremist of known life forms, it is statistically highly unlikely that life as we know it could exist anywhere else. 

            In understanding the physical nature of the earth, early science first got many things wrong.  Then it caught up with God's word, and finally in many cases, rejected God's truth and started creating its own.  There are some interesting examples. Isaiah 40:22 “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth” could be understood as saying sphere, as biblical Hebrew lacked the word sphere.   However, the scientific community once held the earth to be flat, and so too did the early church, but this was man's error, not God's or His word.   Jeremiah 33:22 “the host of heaven (stars) cannot be numbered.  Numerous ancient astronomers claimed to have identified all the stars. The last time this claim was made was by Ptolemy and the number was 1100.  Job 26:7 “He .....hangs the earth on nothing.”  The scientific community once held that the earth rode on the back of a large beast.   1Corinthians 15:41 “star differs from star.” Science once held that all stars were the same. It also once proclaimed that light was fixed, air was weightless, and wind blew only straight,  Job 38:19-20 "Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?”   Job 28:25 “When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure.”  Ecclesiastes 1:6 “....around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.”  Science once claimed that the ocean floor was flat, and that it was fed only by rivers, streams and rain.  Jonah 2:5-6 “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountain” and  Job 38:16 "Have you entered into the springs of the sea.”  Many of these references are poetic in nature, but they carry a strange knowledge of the way the world is when man had little or no understanding in this area of science. I'm just sayin :- )  

            Well, enough of our view from space. Next month we will start a discussion on rock types, plate tectonics, Ice Ages, and canyons & fossils and we will do so in light of a world-wide flood—a  perspective long since abandoned by those who think themselves more learned than God's word. Thank you for visiting the Institute.  See you next month.            

In Christ, Pastor Portier

Saturday, January 21, 2012

SMBI #30 History of Geology

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #30
History of Geology
            Welcome back class.  We hope you have enjoyed your trip through the biology wing of the Institute. Please get settled in and take ahold of your pick point rock hammer and hand lens so that we can begin our study here in the geology wing of the Institute.  The study of geology is a broad and interesting field which may require most of this year to examine. 

            First, let’s define geology.  This is the field of science that studies the solid Earth, the rocks it is made of, and the processes by which the rocks we have today came into existence. Geology can give us insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics and the history of life (found in fossils and even foot prints).  Geology is used to locate mineral resources and to provide safety by giving warnings for earthquakes and volcanic activity.  This is a major academic discipline and is also a hobby for those who enjoy collecting rocks and fossils.

            Geology dates back at least to ancient Greece when Theophrastus (372-287 BC) wrote the work Peri Lithon (On Stones). While study on this field has a long history, what we consider modern geology probably did not start until the 1600's when a number of individuals from a number of countries formalized the field of study.  Much of 19th-century geology revolved around the question of the Earth's age. Estimates varied from a few 100,000 to billions of years.  By the early 20th century, radiometric dating was used to determine the Earth's age to be 2 billion years and in recent decades, that estimate was changed to 4.5 billion.  These estimates are of course flawed by assumptions which I addressed back in the biology wing in Lessons 21 through 24. The most recent advances have led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960’s.

            We all have the same rock evidence to examine and there are good scientific methods on both sides of the old earth / young earth discussion, even though the old earthers claim our position is not science at all.  So who is closed-minded: those who are willing to dialog on the subject or those who dismiss the opposition without even looking at the evidence?  We all evaluate the evidence with preconceived notions, and if you hold old earth preconceived notions, you will draw old earth conclusions.

            I will not be able in this summary format to do justice to the vast field of geology. I will however be able to present a rational observation of the world’s geological composition that is in keeping with young earth biblical worldview.  We do not have to check our brain at the door to do this. The purpose of any field of study is to explore, identify, or classify the evidence in order to understand what is possible for us to understand as fallible human beings.  That all being said, let’s put our foot in the big pool that is molten geology.

            There are two very different approaches to the study of geology: uniformitarianism, the older of the two disciplines which was the dominant view until recent decades; and catastrophism, which has been coming in to favor in recent decades.  Uniformitarianism is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe.  This position is very conducive to the old earth position that developed during its peak of acceptance.  In recent decades however the view of Catastrophism has been coming into vogue. Uniformitarianism is still the dominate view.  Catastrophism is the theory that the Earth has been affected in the past by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope.  It is less burdened by timelines and in many cases does a better job of analyzing the rock evidence.

            So in the coming months, we will examine the rock evidence and see how in many ways it really is a clear reflection of the biblical record.  Get ready for some field trips to impact craters, volcanos, mountains and valleys as we explore flood evidence, water and wind erosion, glaciation, plate tectonics, canyons, fossils and rock formations of every kind and composition.  Thank you for visiting the Institute.  See you next month.              

In Christ, Pastor Portier