Flood geology: a house built on sand
Dr Alex Ritchie
Dr Alex Ritchie received his B.Sc. (Hons) in Geology and a Ph.D at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as a palaeontologist at the Australian Museum from 1968 to 1995 where he is currently a Research Fellow.
A recent issue of Creation Ex Nihilo features an article entitled Rock-solid for Creation -an interview with geologist Dr Andrew Snelling (CEN, Jun-Aug 1996, 18-22). As might be expected by any reader familiar with CEN, the questions posed were classic Dorothy Dixers and less than intellectually taxing, for example: "What are some of the important contributions to geology that creationists are making?" and "Evolutionists and other 'long agers' generally regard the account of Noah's Flood as being true. What evidence are they ignoring?"
The article doesn't say who conducted the "interview", leaving open the possibility that Andrew Snelling interviewed himself, posing the questions as well as providing the answers. The interview might have been more informative if another geologist had set the questions but, as we all know, Dr Snelling is extremely reluctant to expose himself to public questioning by his scientific peers.
Who is Dr Andrew Snelling B.Sc. (Hons) (Geology), Ph.D and why should we concern ourselves about his beliefs and activities? For many years Snelling has been geological spokesman for an organisation formerly known as the Creation Science Foundation (CSF) in Queensland, which has recently (Nov.1997) been renamed Answers in Genesis. Snelling is the most prominent young-Earth creationist in Australia with genuine geological qualifications and a published research record in this field.
Snelling writes extensively on geological subjects in the creationist literature and travels widely in Australia and overseas lecturing on related topics. Although his geological qualifications are always emphasised in creationist publications, it would be more accurate to describe him as a fundamentalist Protestant missionary rather than a working geologist; in creationist literature Snelling is referred to openly as a "missionary". Since the 1980s he has been geological adviser on the editorial board of Creation Ex Nihilo and he is currently Editor of the AiG's Technical Journal, a glossy publication carefully tricked out to resemble a mainstream scientific journal.
Snelling's academic qualifications are not in question, only the uses to which he has applied them since he acquired them, as I explained and illustrated in my article Will the Real Dr Snelling Please Stand Up? (the Skeptic, 11 (4), pp 12-15). Strangely, Dr Snelling has never attempted to answer, or refute my allegations. [This was true at the time of writing. However, Dr Snelling did reply to Dr Ritchie's article but NOT his allegations, see Andrew Snelling Answers Alex Ritchie].
Had I been the subject of such accusations, and if I believed the accusations to be untrue, I would either have answered them publicly, or I would have taken legal action for defamation. The reasons why Dr Snelling chose to do neither I leave readers to judge for themselves.
Why is it important that individuals such as Dr Andrew Snelling, who publicly misrepresent science, be asked to account for their actions? Lay audiences and even many science teachers lack the geological expertise to analyse skilful and deliberate misrepresentations of Earth history perpetrated by someone familiar with geological literature and technical terminology. To appreciate why Snelling's activities should concern both the geological community and educational authorities one needs to analyse his creationist writings. I suspect that most geologists never see or read these remarkable efforts and are thus unaware of the anti-scientific deception involved in them.
If we were both professional magicians it would be ethically wrong for me to reveal how such deception was perpetrated. However, because we both claim to be professional scientists, I have no hesitation in exposing Snelling's methods. Science depends on intellectual honesty, both in one's own research and in accurately reporting and using the findings of other scientists, living and dead. To be wrong in science is no dishonour; but to deliberately misrepresent one's own or other scientist's findings is the worst crime in the book!
If Snelling was a professional astronomer and used such dubious and unethical methods to "prove" that Ptolemy's crystal spheres were still a valid explanation for the cosmos, does anyone seriously believe we would consider rewriting astronomy text-books to accommodate his views? Or, if he was a medical practitioner and maintained that Harvey was wrong about the circulation of the blood, would our anatomy books have to be revised?
If these examples sound ludicrous they are no more ludicrous than a professional geologist, at the end of the 20th century, proposing that geologists world-wide have got it all wrong for the past 160 years and insisting that we must throw out our geological column and rewrite our geology textbooks to accommodate a 6 day creation 6000 years ago followed, 4300 years ago, by a one-off, year long Noah's Flood.
Every field of scientific investigation has professional bodies which are supposed to maintain standards and ethical behaviour in their discipline. In geology there are strict rules governing the qualifications of consultant geologists. It is all the more remarkable therefore that, for at least 17 years, Dr Andrew Snelling B.Sc. Ph.D (Geology) has been able to operate as a geological consultant while at the same time, in the creationist literature, deliberately white-anting the scientific discipline to which he belongs.
Most of Snelling's articles in Creation Ex Nihilo (CEN) refer to Australian geological features or formations, many of them internationally famous. I have chosen three examples from more than 50 articles by Dr Andrew Snelling in Creation Ex Nihilo, to illustrate how he skilfully selects, edits and doctors his source materials to deceive his creationist readers, most of whom probably have little or no geological knowledge.
The three examples are:
a) Ayers Rock (aka Uluru), one of Australia's most important tourist attractions
b) Mount Isa orebodies, one of Australia's richest mineral deposits
c) Lake Acraman Crater, a huge impact structure in South Australia
The origin of Ayers Rock
Ayers Rock is a major Australian geological feature and tourist attraction with a simple but fascinating history. Its origins are not difficult to understand nor to explain to a lay audience, unless, like Dr Snelling, you are constrained by a young-Earth creationist mindset in which nothing can possibly be older than 10,000 years!
Snelling's article in CEN (1984 a), under a heading "Science for the Layman", describes Ayers Rock as:a single bed or rock layer tilted so that it now stands almost up on its end. When measured, this single bed is at least two and a half kilometres (1. 6 miles) thick. . . but this is only the visible part and: . . the entire bed is in the order of some six kilometres (3. 75 miles) thick.
Snelling describes the predominant rock-type forming Ayers Rock, correctly, as an arkose. This is a coarse grit-type sedimentary rock in which the component particles, many of which are unweathered feldspars, are ragged, not smooth and rounded. But, says Snelling confidently (and incorrectly), you would not expect to find such fresh feldspars:
if Ayers Rock had been formed slowly over millions of years and had then endured further long periods of exposure to weathering at the Earth's surface. Feldspar minerals break down relatively rapidly when exposed to the sun's heat, water and air (for example in a hot humid tropical climate) and very quickly form clays.
This ignores the well-established fact that, during rapid accumulation of sediments, earlier deposits may be quickly covered, sealed off and protected from any further weathering during the processes of deep burial and consolidation to form rock. Undaunted, Snelling develops his scenario in which the feldspars turn to clay, the sandstone is weakened and then collapses as the clay is washed away. The whole explanation is a fantasy and bears no resemblance to the real world. Snelling illustrates his explanation for the origin of Ayers Rock with a sequence of four sketches.
Figure 1 shows water currents bringing in sand, supposedly from the Musgrave Ranges to the south. The sand pours into a very deep water-filled basin whose floor consists of heavily folded and eroded older rocks (age of deposition and erosion unspecified).
Figure 2 shows how a "catastrophic flood" filled in this basin by dumping:
some 6000 metres (approx. 20, 000 feet) of sand, probably in only a matter of hours, after having carried this sand some 100 kilometres (63 miles).
The clear implication here is that the basin seen in Fig 2 was at least 6000 metres deep! But this leaves Snelling with a little problem:
Since the beds are now standing vertically, it is also obvious that the sand, after being washed into the depression, and while still being compressed and hardened, was pushed up and tilted by earth movements.
Figure 3 thus depicts the "sand layers tilted late in Noah's Flood" with the waters draining off and eroding and sculpting the massive structure as they went:
Following the retreat of these flood waters, and as the landscape dried, the material in Ayers Rocks finally hardened.
Snelling thus keeps us (and Ayers Rock) in suspense with a dramatic image of a six kilometre thick deposit of poorly consolidated, gravelly sludge, tilted on its side and yet somehow miraculously standing up through all of the catastrophic, destructive events of the Flood.
According to Snelling it was not until after the Flood waters finally subsided that:
the chemicals in the water between the sand grains formed a cementing material to bind the mineral grains together, drying in much the same way as cement in concrete dries and binds together the stones and sand mixed with it. With the final retreat of the waters from off the land, and the continued drying out of the continent, present day desert wind erosion has merely pock-marked the surface of the rock.
It would appear from this incredible chain of events that Dr Snelling has uncovered a revolutionary new technique of concrete manufacture which would revolutionise the building and construction industry, solve our balance of payments problems and, in the process, make his fortune!
Figure 4 shows a cross-section of Ayers Rock today, with its relationships to the present land surface and desert sands; the underlying folded and eroded bedrock conveniently disappears from the scene.
If a first year geology student proposed such an scenario to explain the origins of Ayers Rock, he/she would probably be failed. That such a puerile explanation could seriously be published by someone with a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D in Geology beggars belief!
Of course Snelling's explanation of the origin of Ayers Rock turns out to be that last resort of a fundamentalist creationist - Noah's Flood - which means it is no answer at all. Despite this Snelling concludes:
It is hardly surprising then that most geologists are puzzled by Ayers Rock, because the evidence there does not fit into their evolutionary story with its vast eons of slow erosion and deposition, then slow erosion again. Instead the evidence at Ayers Rock is much more consistent with the scientific model based on a recent and rapid, massive catastrophic flood, such as that of Noah's day.
I challenge Dr Snelling to name one mainstream geologist who is so puzzled by the origin of Ayers Rock that he or she has to resort to Flood geology to explain it. Snelling conveniently avoids any mention of the nearby, equally spectacular Olgas (or Katajute) composed of enormously thick, and only slightly inclined, boulder beds, or conglomerates.
For anyone interested in the real story of how Ayers Rock and the Olgas formed, I recommend a beautifully illustrated little booklet produced by the Australian Geological Survey Organisation in Canberra.
The recent, rapid formation of the Mount Isa orebodies during Noah's Flood Snelling (1984 b)
Many rocks of Precambrian age (>550 million years) contain fossils of primitive life forms (algae, cyanobacteria) with no trace of higher organisms. Creationists claim that all rocks containing fossils are the products of one universal Flood. In his explanation of the origin of the Mt Isa orebodies Snelling (1984 b) carries this argument to absurd lengths.
Some of the richest ore-bodies in Australia, at Mt Isa in north-west Queensland, occur in a great mass of severely deformed and altered (metamorphosed) rocks. One rock unit, originally shale deposits, contains abundant fossil micro-organisms, interpreted as blue-green algae. If, as maintained by Snelling and other creationists, these very ancient rocks are Flood deposits, all of them formed in less than one year, ca 2350 BC!
According to the conventional geological timescale (rejected by creationists) the Mt Isa Group, source of the rich silver-lead-zinc and copper orebodies, is Middle Proterozoic in age, deposited around 1,650 million years ago. The silver-lead-zinc and copper orebodies are distinct and separate; each is enclosed in a different kind of originally sedimentary, but now metamorphic, rock.
As in the case of Ayers Rock, to explain the Mt Isa orebodies in terms of Flood geology, Snelling must first build a case for:
a) recent formation and
b) rapid formation.
a) Snelling notes the presence of microfossils (bluegreen algae) in the shales around the Mt Isa orebodies, but remarks that:
Wherever fossils or organic matter are found in the geological column the rocks containing the fossils were deposited either by or after Noah's Flood regardless of their assumed geological age. (1984, 42).
Snelling's initial postulate, that the Mt Isa rocks are of recent origin, is thus based, not on scientific data, but solely on a belief in the literal interpretation and inerrancy of the Genesis account in the Bible, ie. on religious dogma.
b) To support rapid formation of the Mt Isa ore-bodies Snelling employs a different tactic, first exposed by Strahler (1987, p.242). He cites genuine research work on mineral deposits forming today near a sea-floor rift in the Red Sea (Finlow-Bates 1979) which indicated that a 1 cm thick layer of lead sulphide (galena) could be deposited in under 5 weeks by a 1 metre thick sluggish bottom layer (with 50 ppm of lead)moving at 1 metre/minute.
However, the Mt Isa ore bodies are more than 100 metres thick and consist of thousands of 1 centimetre thick layers of rich ore interbedded in shale deposits over 1000 metres thick. Snelling's problem is to explain how these ore-bodies were all deposited during the year of Noah's flood. How he achieves this is a classic example of deliberate deception and lack of scientific integrity in creationist writings.
Snelling (1984, 43-44) writes:
It is not difficult to see the implications of these calculations. If we make some appropriate and reasonable changes to Finlow-Bates' parameters and then recalculate the deposition rate the result is even more startling. Consider, then, a layer of dense ore solution, 15 metres deep flowing on the sea floor at the rate of 500 metres/minute (30 km/hr, still relatively slow) carrying 1000 pp lead all of which is to be deposited within a distance of 1000m. (It should be noted that these figures are reasonable even in present day terms; the Red Sea brine pools are up to 250 metres deep : dense turbidity currents are known to have travelled thousands of kilometres down the continental slope and across he ocean floor at speeds up to between 65 and 80 km/hr  and concentrations of metals such as lead carried by ore-forming solutions are by consensus stated to be in the range X0 -X, 000 ppm, where X = 1, 2. . . . , and by analysis of residual fluid inclusions in ore and ore-related minerals have been measured as up to 10, 000 ppm . A galena bed carrying 25% lead with an average thickness of 1 cm would form in only about 20 seconds, a rate of about 1 metre/30 minutes.
The bracketed numbers - refer to mainstream geologists cited by Snelling.
To see how the trick is done compare Finlow-Bates' version (1979) with Snelling's (1984).
The total increase is therefore 15 x 500 x 20 = x 150, 000; in fact a 1 metre/30 min flow rate represents an increase of x 175, 000!
Snelling's reference to a 250 m deep brine pool in the Red Sea is irrelevant. Brine pools are stagnant, stratified concentrations of hot brine in closed depressions on the sea floor, far removed from any continental slope down which they are presumed to have slid. An ore-bearing sequence 1000 metres thick is thus miraculously explained away by lateral transport of ore for "a distance of 1000 metres".
Every step in Snelling's recalculations is deliberately contrived and concocted from unrelated observations, combined to achieve astounding, and completely unwarranted, results. The futility of the exercise is that "recent" and "rapid" are not synonymous. Even if such fanciful ore-depositing conditions had ever occurred at such speeds it could equally well have happened 1.65 billion years ago instead of just over 4000 years ago.
Snelling even has the gall to cite, as further proof of rapid ore formation, the fact that lead-isotope ratios are remarkably constant within Mt Isa orebodies. This from a man who consistently and publicly labels universally accepted radiometric methods of dating ancient rocks using radioactive isotopes as fallacious. However, even deposition of the ore over a period of 1 million years (a reasonable rate in geological terms) some 1.65 billion years ago would barely show up today within the range of standard error in radiometric dating methods applied to such rocks.
Snelling concludes with a "creationist interpretation" that all the silver-lead-zinc ore bodies of Mt Isa could have been deposited in less than 20 days (1984, 45-6). He states flatly that because:
Noah's Flood occurred approximately 4,300 years ago according to Biblical chronology, evolutionary ages for the rocks and ores at Mt Isa have to be discarded.
To support this remarkable statement Dr Andrew Snelling B.Sc., Ph.D (Geology), expert in uranium mineralisation, cites the writings of other creation "scientists" such as Slusher, Setterfield, Mathews and others "who have shown that radioactivity is unreliable as a means of dating rocks". None of the individuals cited are experts in radiometric dating.
Within a few kilometres of Mt Isa anyone can readily collect beautifully preserved, complete Cambrian trilobites (Xystridura, Lyriaspis and others) in well bedded, unmetamorphosed and almost horizontal white shales. Trilobite fossils are so abundant that the locality, Beetle Creek, is known to most Australian geology students and amateur fossil collectors. It is unlikely that Dr Andrew Snelling is unaware of its existence.
These trilobite beds date from the Middle Cambrian, around 520 million years ago, and they rest directly, and unconformably, on older metamorphic rocks such as those containing the Mt Isa orebodies. Clearly a long time gap separated the deposition of the ore-bodies and their later deep burial and subsequent metamorphism, followed by major uplift and erosion. Then, and only then, could the burial of myriads of trilobites in shallow Cambrian seas have taken place.
If Dr Snelling is correct then these Middle Cambrian trilobites lived, died and were buried post Noah's Flood. Would Dr Snelling like to hazard a guess at their date in Biblical terms (ie. post-2350 BC) and tell us what it is?
Impact craters and Flood Geology
The recent recognition of a 600 million year old giant impact structure, the Lake Acraman crater, in the Gawler Ranges, South Australia and its probable association with a sheet of shattered debris in the Flinders Ranges, represents one of the most exciting Australian geological discoveries of the last 10 years.
In an article entitled Found - More Giant Meteorite Impact Structures Dr Andrew Snelling (1990) came up with an unusual new twist on the timing and possible results of such impacts. He noted that one of the trends in modern geology is the "increasing re-recognition of evidence for catastrophism in the rock record."
Snelling related how, while studying satellite images of Australia, George Williams, an exploration geologist, noted an unusual, circular, large-scale structure around Lake Acraman, a salt lake in the Gawler Ranges of South Australia. Williams later visited the area and found shattered and deformed volcanic rock typical of high velocity meteorite impact sites.
At about the same time Vic Gostin and other geologists from University of Adelaide were mapping in the Flinders Range, 300 km east of Lake Acraman. They found a thin, distinctive layer, up to 40 cm thick in places, of volcanic rock fragments embedded in mudstone. The debris layer occurred in Late Proterozoic (or Precambrian) rocks, around 600 million years old.
When Williams and Gostin compared notes they realised they were dealing with different aspects of one dramatic event, the impact of an enormous meteorite and the ejecta sheet of debris thrown clear by it. Later, a similar debris layer was discovered 450 km northwest of the Acraman crater, considerably extending the known range of the ejecta sheet which has now been traced for over 250 km, north to south, in surface exposures and in boreholes.
The Lake Acraman crater is now recognised as one of the largest in the world, at least 35 km wide and several km deep at the time of impact, but the final collapse structure may have reached 90 km in diameter. It is estimated that a crater of this size and depth could be caused by the impact of a meteorite 4 km in diameter. The energy released would have been the equivalent of between 50 -100,000 hydrogen bombs! This information, and much more, is reported quite accurately by Snelling in the early part of his article (1990, 34-36).
However, an alert reader, especially one with some geological knowledge, might well be puzzled by Snelling's phraseology every time a geological age is mentioned. In the extracts below all the emphases are mine, not Andrew Snelling's.
Before discussing Williams' Acraman crater, Snelling refers to the evidence for a meteorite impact which coincided with the extinction of the dinosaurs:
at the end of the so-called Cretaceous period (p. 34).
The Acraman crater was:
presumably caused by an asteroid or comet that hit the Earth during the so-called Late Proterozoic.
It landed in the Gawler Ranges which:
consist mainly of volcanic rocks dated conventionally at about 1600 million years.
The evidence for the impact ejecta comes from Gostin and colleagues who:
were carrying out research on so-called Late Proterozoic sedimentary rocks in the Flinders Ranges where they found a debris layer of "volcanic rock fragments embedded in mudstones" (conventionally regarded as 600 million years old).
Snelling cited the discovery of an equally large impact crater on the ocean floor off Canada, in the continental shelf 200 km SE of Nova Scotia. This underwater crater, 45 km wide and 2. 7 km deep, is:
well-preserved and buried by 510 metres (1673 feet) of so-called Tertiary and Quaternary (geologically quite young) marine sediments, beneath 113 metres (370 feet) of ocean water.
After further discussion Snelling concluded that:
conventional dating suggests that this occurred only 51 million years ago.
He then noted that:
The recent discovery of these two extra-terrestrial (meteorite/ comet) impact structures from such widely separated locations geographically . . . and conventionally timewise (600 million and 51 million years ago respectively) dramatically portrays a more violent history for the Earth than evolutionary theories have until recently been promoting.
Having set the scene, and sown seeds of doubt in the minds of his readers about the age of the Acraman and other major impact craters, Snelling plays his trump card, quoting from a man who:
has already caused "waves" with his theories about terrestrial impacts, because he believes they are responsible for every geological feature on Earth.
This remarkable individual is an American, Mark D. Butler, "a geophysicist with more than 50 years of experience in the oil industry." I have to admit, to my everlasting shame, that I had never heard of this revolutionary thinker in Earth Sciences!
Snelling (strangely) does not cite an original source for Butler, only a secondary source, Shirley (1989b). According to Snelling (1990, 37) Butler believes that:
there is no subsurface energy source capable of sustaining for 4.5 billion years enough power to create new landforms and mountains, cause earthquakes and volcanoes, or renew the continental uplifts." Butler "doesn't argue about the existence of "plates", faults and other geological features, he just reinterprets the energy source that causes them. Butler maintains that all geological phenomena are "created immediately" when an extraterrestrial body slams into the Earth. A basin is created with its centre at the point of impact, and the impact's force "instantly" builds mountains and uplifts continents. "Excluding the erosional and depositional effects energised by sunlight," he says, "no time in a geological sense is involved in the creation of any of the Earth's geomorphs. The sum total of all the combined meteor impacts since the beginning of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago may add up to only a few days."
Snelling noted (p. 37)that:
Naturally, large impacts are needed to elevate continents and that Butler had pinpointed some of these. For example he (Butler) says that the Hawaiian Islands' meteorite impact which occurred in the mid-Miocene (about 15 million years ago according to conventional geological dating, and had a radius of about 64 km (40 miles), created the East Pacific Basin, made the Rocky Mountains in the USA and elevated the African continent when a portion of the crater shock front penetrated through the Earth's core. The mid-Atlantic Ridge he (Butler) believes was created simultaneously with the uplifting of Africa.
One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry to find this sort of cretinous nonsense proposed by someone with a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D in Geology, as a serious explanation for some of the Earth's major geological structures or "geomorphs".
Having established, at least to his own satisfaction, that all giant impact craters on Earth are not only rapid but recent, Snelling introduces Noah's Flood into the equation:
The information generated by investigations of, for example, extraterrestrial impact craters does show that the catastrophic geology of the biblical Flood model is a feasible alternative both in the time-frame involved, and in the geological work achieved within that time-frame.
Snelling's dilemma is that many large impact craters have now been identified on Earth and must be explained away by creationists:
Indeed, investigations in the past two decades have seen the number of impact structures identified on Earth increase to more than 120 divided about equally between those with surface expression and those that are buried and new structures are being discovered at a rate of about five per year.
Snelling's problem is that:
According to the biblical description of the early Earth, there is no hint of any devastation/catastrophe that would suggest any impact cratering of the Earth's surface in those early days. Although the events of the Creation week were geologically "catastrophic" in that the Earth was formed, a landmass developed and was uplifted from under the initial globe-encircling waters, and varied landforms were generated, the Flood and its aftermath are the logical biblical candidates for the time-period upheavals when the Earth was impact cratered. . . . Indeed, as Butler has suggested, such impact cratering could account for sedimentary basin formation, mountain building continental uplift, volcanism, and more, even in only a matter of a few days, while the Flood waters would do their erosion and depositional work to fill basins, making rock layers which would then be up-lifted/folded into mountains etc.
So, not all trends in modern geology should be viewed negatively by Bible-believing Christians. The discovery and investigations of extraterrestrial impact craters on the Earth is potentially opening up a whole new panorama of feasible mechanisms and processes that would satisfactorily explain how the catastrophic geological developments and the time-scale portrayed by the biblical account of Noah's Flood could have given us the geological features that we see on Earth today. Yet again its a matter of stripping the data of their evolutionary implication and seeing them fit neatly into the Biblical framework for Earth history.
When Andrew Snelling talks of "stripping the data of their evolutionary history" he presumably means editing out anything suggesting a great age for the Earth. The two articles by Shirley (1989a, 1989b) quoted by Snelling as his source of information on impact craters, provide a good example of Snelling's "data stripping" technique.
Shirley's articles appeared in the Explorer, published by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. The AAPG Explorer is a newspaper-style newsletter, not a refereed scientific journal. It is not widely available in Australia and I encountered some difficulty in locating a copy. I doubt whether many readers of Creation Ex Nihilo would even bother to try, probably trusting in the integrity of the author not to mislead them. Being of a more sceptical turn of mind I decided to check out Dr Andrew Snelling's original sources.
Shirley (1989a) is a straightforward review of known terrestrial impact craters and recent developments leading to the recognition of such craters. Snelling's account is basically accurate.
Shirley (1989b), on the other hand, is a one-page report on an idiosyncratic theory proposed by Mark D. Butler that "all geologic phenomena are created immediately when an extraterrestrial body slams into he Earth." Butler's theory thus challenges virtually every commonly held belief about the way that the Earth formed and the processes that continue to change our planet.
However, far from creating "waves" with his theory Butler has, to date, been spectacularly unsuccessful in persuading anyone to publish his paper. The outline of his hypothesis, as related by Shirley, indicates why no self-respecting geological publication would accept it. While this may be difficult for Mr Butler to accept, it is nevertheless a fact of life that the history of scientific progress is littered with ingenious, but incredible, theories which failed to gain general acceptance.
Whatever our views on the merits of Butler's hypothesis he does not deserve the calculated misrepresentation employed by Snelling. Unsuspecting readers of Snelling's account might be excused for thinking that Butler accepts and supports the suggestion that the Earth's surface was completely recreated during the year-long Noah's Flood - with a few giant extraterrestrial impacts thrown in for good measure. We must assume that Snelling relied solely on Shirley (1989b) as a source, since Butler complains that he could not "get anyone to consider publication of my paper."
A careful reading of Shirley's account of Butler's views reveals no mention of Noah's Flood or anything comparable. Butler's theory of the "life-cycle" of a crater basin clearly requires enormous periods of geological time. Butler refers to "the birth of the Earth 4. 5 billion years ago" and noted that, while it only takes about 60 million years for erosion to reduce the continents to sea level, "there must be a continual renewal of energy, which in large part must be drawn from the meteor impact process, to sustain he existence of the continents."
Snelling's juxtaposition of Butler's views (on possible impact formation of sedimentary basins) with his own creationist views on Flood Geology is thus blatantly dishonest. Although the formation of major impact structures is unquestionably rapid, it does not necessarily follow that they have to be recent, as required by Snelling's Flood Geology.
Once again Dr Andrew Snelling demonstrates a remarkable ability for "stripping the data of their evolutionary interpretation" in order to make them "fit neatly into the biblical framework for Earth history." Others, less charitably, have described such methods as "lying for God."
Nearly 10 years ago, in the Sydney Morning Herald, I publicly challenged Dr Andrew Snelling, geological spokesman for the creationist movement in Australia, to a public debate on a subject close to his heart - Noah's Flood - the Geological Case For and Against. Although I have repeated my challenge several times since then, Dr Snelling has declined to defend the creationist cause in front of his scientific peers, although he is more than ready to do so in front of lay audiences.
I throw out another challenge, this time to the geological community and to the national organisations governing professional qualifications. If any geologist were to be caught salting a deposit, falsifying results or engaging in other forms of behaviour likely to bring his/her discipline into disrepute, they would be promptly dealt with by their peers.
In my opinion it is equally abhorrent for anyone claiming to be a professional geoscientist to indulge in deliberately misleading and deceptive conduct aimed directly at lay audiences and especially at young people. Dr Snelling's main aim in life, presumably for deeply held religious reasons, is to show that no scientific evidence (from physics, chemistry, biology, palaeontology, geology, astronomy, etc.) that implies a great age for the Earth can be accepted. His only alternative is a six day Creation event and Noah's Flood - take it or leave it.
To "prove" this, Snelling is apparently prepared to misquote, misrepresent and falsify genuine scientific data. How long will it take before he is required to justify his behaviour before his professional and scientific peers? How many young Australians will he turn off science before he is called to account for his actions?
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