Thursday, January 11, 2018

When the Andes Came Up – Part I

Recently a comment was received that an answer would be too long for our comments section; besides, the information we feel is far too important to relegate it to that portion of our blog. The reason is, that much of the determination of the location of the Land of Promise hinges upon an understanding of the difference between “man’s time” and “God’s time,” and therefore, the difference between “man-made science,” and “true science,” or, if you will, between “fact” and “fiction.” And that fiction has worked its way into the public conscience and is considered by most people as “fact,” when in reality it is not. 
   The comment received had several parts, and stated in full: “First, just to clarify, are you saying that the entire Andes mountain range (and the country of Brazil) rose out of the water in three hours? To clarify, the Andes, of course, was not under water as it sounds like you are saying. But you must not be saying that. The Andes rose and land around the Andes rose including lands in Brazil. That caused the Amazon basin to eventually drain and be above water except for the giant Amazon river and its tributaries. It is well known that the Andes rose over time. The question is when E.R.
    Response: First of all, among geologists and nearly all science, mountains rise over long periods of time, meaning millions of years. That, of course, is the belief of most of science, and is connected to a belief that the Earth is 4.55 billion years old, which is an opinion not shared by this blog.
Second, it should be kept in mind that no one was around for millions of years to see whether that is how mountains rose or not. The fact that micro measurements are seen today is no guarantee that it is the way things happened in the past, yet that is the current stance of the field of geology, and of most geologists today. This idea stems from Charles Lyell’s opinion developed during the Scottish Enlightenment of the early 19th century, who stated that “the present is the key to the past (and, therefore is the key to the future),” meaning that observation of current geologic processes can be used to predict future geologic events.
    This, of course, stems from the belief of William Whewell, a British naturalist of the 18th century, who proposed in contrast to catastrophism (sudden cataclysmic events, such as Creation, Noah’s Flood, etc. that had been the basis of all thinking, including scientific, prior to that time) the theory of Uniformitarianism—which is the belief that the processes affecting Earth today are the same ones that affected it in the past.
    In geology, this is the doctrine suggesting that Earth’s geologic processes acted in the same manner and with the essentially same intensity in the past as they do in the present and that such uniformity is sufficient to account for all geologic change. This, of course, has led to the concept of “relative dating,” which is the science of determining the relative order of past events (the age of an object in comparison to another), without necessarily determining their absolute age, meaning the age is estimated.
    Of course, all of this is merely guesswork. Take for an example, the idea that a site has been dated by radiocarbon dating, dendro-chronology or tree-ring dating, or potassium-argon dating—however, since absolute dating methods are not always useful, that is the particular circumstances to which they apply do not exist at every site, archaeologists employ relative dating techniques. This means they place assemblages of artifacts in time, in relation to artifact type similar in form and function within “layer cake” type arrangement of deposits called strata, with the “older” layer beneath the “latest” or “newer” layer. Despite the well-known fact that stratigraphic sequences in the field are often unreliable, the system is still employed.
    This leads us back to the idea that while there are certain things that can be known about the past, when going back before man existed and make claims about events is another matter, requiring an understanding as to how such ideas came about.
    Third, this leads us to a need to understand how the geologic column (4.55 billion year old Earth) and a belief in what today is called uniformitarianism was established among the wise of the Earth, who, according to Paul are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
    Paul went on to add, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). In this case, “itching ears” is described as “those who have ears itching to hear something new.” That is, people interested in their own opinions will surround themselves, or listen to others’ ideas, because they have an interest in hearing something different, something new, something not harmonious with the teachings of the past, or not consistent with God’s teachings.
    It seems clear that we are, today, in that situation which Paul described nearly two thousand years ago.
    So how did this “new” idea come about that promotes a theory of gradualism, that is, the extremely slow develop of earthly processes that take billions of years to achieve? Originally, man connected events seen around him to the Biblical history of Earth’s events. As an example, when a prominent theologian, Irish biblical scholar Bishop James Ussher in the mid-1600's work, Annals of the World, counted the ages of people in the Bible and proclaimed that Earth was created in 4004 B.C., geologists tried to work within a time frame that encompassed within that six thousand years.
    At the time, the Flood of Noah, accepted by all, was the foundation for what later became known as catastrophism, the sudden, catastrophic happening of the removal of all life, the sudden burying and compacting of geologic—the study of the earth’s physical structure and substance—arrangement seen on the Earth, and the subsequent action of receding waters carving out sudden deep canyons, gorges, valleys and gulfs. This resulted in a prevailing geologic theory of the time that all the rocks on the Earth were formed from sediments during a great flood.
    The famed European scientists of the time had a very strong tendency of interweaving their studies of the Bible with their studies of natural science. When it came to Earth's history, they looked to the biblical story of the great flood to help them understand the geologic events of the past.
    Early geologists, including William Buckland, a paleontologist, Georges Cuvier, a zoologist, and Adam Sedgwick, a geologist, claimed that catastrophism was a sound scientific theory, and that its argument that Earth’s features—including mountains, valleys, and lakes—primarily formed and shaped as a result of the periodic but sudden forces as opposed to gradual change that takes place over a long period of time.
    Cuvier, who lived in France at the turn of the century, was in a time in history where learned men looked to the Bible for their studies of natural science. When it came to Earth's history, they looked to the biblical story of the great flood to help them understand the geologic events of the past. He noted in the geologic fossil record a lot of mysterious gaps; that is, certain species would show up for long periods of geologic time and then suddenly disappear. Combined with his impressions of the violent natural disasters recounted in the Bible, Cuvier's observations made him believe that most of Earth's history was characterized by geologic catastrophe, which emerged and spread among scientists of the day as the theory of catastrophism.
    This theory held that Earth's features were mostly accounted for by violent, large-scale events that occurred in a relatively short amount of time. So, a species that went extinct was probably killed off by a giant natural disaster. An impressive mountain range was probably formed by worldwide earthquakes and eruptions.
    Cuvier and other scientists of that period believed that most major features of the land we see today were established a very long time ago by very dramatic events. These events would not at all resemble the small-scale natural disasters we experience in our time. The drama was over, immortalized in religious texts, never again to be seen on such a huge scale.
    However, along came James Hutton, in the last half of the eighteenth century, a Scottish geologist, chemical manufacturer, and agriculturalist, who theorized that a continuing process formed and destroyed the rocks and soils of earth, not some catastrophic event. He believed that the process was long and drawn-out and didn't believe that there was anything happening long ago that wasn't still happening on Earth today and stated that “the present was the key to the past.”
Speaking about the natural history of the earth, Hutton was quoted saying “we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.” Hutton’s theory was based on granite, which makes up the bulk of the continents, was igneous rock, and that igneous rocks could form at any time when slowly cooled. Hutton's paper also described sedimentation as the weathering of rocks by a variety of external forces, such as wind, water, and ice. These sediments are then brought to the ocean by rivers and deposited on the seabed. Over time, the lake bed and seabed sediments are uplifted and once again subjected to weathering, continuing the never-ending process.
    Hutton demonstrated that unconformities, missing layers of the geologic record, in sedimentary layers were ancient erosion surfaces, and that a set of rocks separated by an unconformity must have formed by the deposition of the first layers, followed by the uplift and erosion of those layers, and further followed by deposition of a second set of layers.
    This interpretation demonstrated that new rocks can form to replace those that have eroded away, which chipped away at the prevailing theory that all the rocks had been formed at once during a great flood.
    Thus, the belief in catastrophism, which had been the theory that the Earth had largely been shaped by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope, such as Noah’s Flood, and other Biblical events, lost out to Hutton’s theory of gradualism.
(See the next post, “When the Andes Came Up – Part II,” for more on this idea as to where and when the idea that the Earth was billions of years old originated)

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