Summary on the Flood

Alan Feuerbacher

By 1831, six years before Louis Agassiz presented his ideas on ice ages, geologists had been forced by the evidence to abandon their ideas that the deposits they had called "drift" had been formed by an earthwide flood. Almost to a man these geologists were deeply committed Christians, and they had called the deposits drift specifically because of their belief that they had drifted to their final resting places in the Flood. Science and Creationism explains this in more detail:275

Flood geology was considered and tested by early-nineteenth-century geologists. They never believed that a single flood had produced all fossil-bearing strata, but they did accept and then disprove a claim that the uppermost strata contained evidence for a single, catastrophic, worldwide inundation. The science of geology arose in nations that were glaciated during the great ice ages, and glacial deposits are similar to the products of floods. During the 1820s, British geologists carried out an extensive empirical program to test whether these deposits represented the action of a single flood. The work was led by two ministers, the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (who taught Darwin his geology) and the Reverend William Buckland. Buckland initially decided that all the "superficial gravels" (as these deposits were called) represented a single event, and he published his Reliquiae diluvianae (Relics of the Flood) in 1824. However, Buckland's subsequent field work proved that the superficial gravels were not contemporaneous but represented several different events (multiple ice ages, as we now know). Geology proclaimed no worldwide flood but rather a long sequence of local events. In one of the great statements in the history of science, Sedgwick, who was Buckland's close colleague in both science and theology, publicly abandoned flood geology -- and upheld empirical science -- in his presidential address to the Geological Society of London in 1831.

'Having been myself a believer, and, to the best of my power, a propagator of what I now regard as a philosophic heresy, and having more than once been quoted for opinions I do not now maintain, I think it right, as one of my last acts before I quit this Chair, thus publicly to read my recantation.... 'There is, I think, one great negative conclusion now incontestably established -- that the vast masses of diluvial gravel, scattered almost over the surface of the earth, do not belong to one violent and transitory period....

'We ought, indeed, to have paused before we first adopted the diluvian theory, and referred all our old superficial gravel to the action of the Mosaic flood.... In classing together distant unknown formations under one name; in giving them a simultaneous origin, and in determining their date, not by the organic remains we had discovered, but by those we expected hypothetically hereafter to discover, in them; we have given one more example of the passion with which the mind fastens upon general conclusions, and of the readiness with which it leaves the consideration of unconnected truths.'

I've presented extensive evidence that shows there are no traces of an earthwide Flood in the geology of the earth. One by one, I've shown that the Society's main arguments about geological phenomena related to the Flood do not hold up in the face of the evidence. Without a miracle, there was no source for the water. The amount of water present on earth today is insufficient to have covered the mountains, so without a miracle where could the necessary water have gone? There is no evidence that high mountains, deep sea basins, and polar ice caps formed during the last four thousand years. An earthwide tropical climate did not exist a little over four thousand years ago. Rain has been part of the weather for hundreds of millions of years. In short, there is no geological evidence the Flood occurred, and the Society's contentions about the geological evidence are spurious. The Society should take a lesson from Adam Sedgwick.

I have not proved that a Flood did not or could not have occurred -- only that if it did it had to be miraculous in every detail. It came and went without a trace, except possibly in legends and the Bible. I find this unreasonable. How could there be no geological traces of such a globally catastrophic event? With so much geological evidence in hand, it makes little more sense to believe a Flood occurred without a series of miracles than to believe the earth is flat, or the sun goes around the earth. Not surprisingly, some still believe these things, and use almost the same arguments the Society does in explaining away the evidence they don't want to believe.

For me, the Genesis account of the Flood is very hard to reconcile, not only with the physical evidence, but with the Bible's description of God as a loving creator. At the very least, it does not paint a picture of a reasonable God. Why would God destroy all animal life in addition to sinful mankind? Could it really be true of every man except Noah and seven others, as Genesis says, that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time? And why go to such trouble to make a Flood, with all its consequences for the earth and animal life? Long before knowing any geological evidence other than what the Society presented in its publications, I held an opinion similar to Isaac Asimov's, who said,276 "Whatever their sins, a more merciful deity, one might imagine, would have simply swept them painlessly out of existence with a word, and begun over again."


275 Ashley Montagu, ed., Science and Creationism, p. 134-135, Oxford University Press, New York, 1984.

276 Isaac Asimov, In The Beginning, p. 165, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1981.