note: In June 1990 The John Ankerberg Show taped a series of
interviews with men from several branches of the sciences regarding
the evidence for creation. For technical reasons we were unable to air
these interview. Nevertheless, we have decided to release portions of
these interviews in a series of articles so you could read the
arguments that were being made at that timeómore than a decade ago.
effort has been made to quote the gentlemen correctly. We have
attempted to find the correct spelling of the scientific terms used.
However, the reader should keep in mind that this is a transcription
of oral interviews. Mistakes in spelling and in the technical language
should be laid at the feet of the editor.]
Ankerberg: Steve, youíve been telling us
about some of the things that caused you to doubt the generally
accepted age for the earth. What else did you find?
Austin: Iíve been involved with studying
canyons, and I used to think that canyons provided long terms of time.
At Mount St. Helens we over-flew a new canyon that formed through
solid rock after May of 1980. Mudflow of some type came through and
gouged out a canyon over 100 feet deep, eroded through solid rock in a
matter of, we think, just a few days after the summer of 1980. Does
canyon erosion require long periods of time?
But here is
one of the most amazing things that was seen at Mount St. Helens. A
valley was blocked by a large mass of landslide debris on May 18,
1980. That valley was unblocked by a mud flow on March 19, 1982, and
it made a whole series of canyons. Mud flow, basically operating in
one day, created a whole series of branching canyons. I had thought
that canyons would form slowly by slow and gradual process. Here at
Mount St. Helens, though, a rapid breaching event formed this amazing
overlooked this area, scientists looking at this new canyon that
formed since 1980, over 100 feet deep, 140 deep in places, we thought
immediately of the Grand Canyon. It is the Little Grand Canyon of the
Toutle River in the Mount St. Helens area. It has many of the same
features of the Grand Canyon: plateau land north and south, has kind
of a snaky path going through there; it has those cup-shaped side
canyons, and has those pointy-headed canyons, somewhat like the Grand
Colorado River cut the Grand Canyon? Over the years I used to believe
that the Colorado River cut the Grand Canyon. But myself and other
geologists have now pretty much junked that idea, that the Colorado
River cut the Grand Canyon over tens of millions of years. I used to
think that way, but more and more, Iím thinking of some type of rapid
breaching event to breach this plateau land. And so Iíve come to doubt
that the Colorado River cut the Grand Canyon. In fact, most of my
colleague geologists who know the area of northern Arizona well are of
the same opinion. The Colorado River didnít cut the canyon.
One of the
major problems is that thereís an uplifted plateau. How did the
Colorado River and the Grand Canyon become positioned through that
uplifted plateau in northern Arizona? The elevated area to the north
and east of the Grand Canyon, the headwaters of the Colorado River is
a lower elevation than the Grand Canyon plateau area. In a way, itís a
river that runs uphill.
As I think
about this, itís an immense problem. How did the Colorado River and
the Grand Canyon get positioned through northern Arizona? It seems
unlikely that slow and gradual erosion could do it. Rivers run around
hills, they donít run over hills. Itís a difficult problem. So, myself
and others are thinking about the Grand Canyon being formed as a rapid
breaching event, somewhat like Mount St. Helens, the unplugging of
that terrain, there north of Mount St. Helens, by mud flow. Maybe
water overtopped a dam and we could cut the canyon rapidly.
words, when it comes to some of these things that used to convince me
of great age in the rock strata layers and in the surface
configuration of the earth, I find myself doubting the notions of
great age, and especially now, thinking about modern catastrophe like
at Mount St. Helens. What modern catastrophic process can do is
thought that layers formed slowly and gradually, that each individual
layer was laid down maybe between a summer and winter season, and a
boundary between two adjacent strata would require long periods of
inactivity. Yet at Mount St. Helens, a deposit about 25 feet in
thickness formed in one day, on June 12, 1980. Hurricane velocity
flows coming out of the crater at Mount St. Helens deposited a layered
deposit. I thought that layering would form slowly and that a
catastrophe would homogenize things, and boy was I wrong! Right here
at the mountain, a catastrophe moving along at 100 mph, made thinly
layered strata. The closer you get the June 12, 1980 pumice-flow
deposit, the more layered it becomes, in fact, thinly layered
deposits. Now I thought that would require long periods.
words, the more I study about geology, the more my notions of slow and
gradual process in geologic age come into question. I have learned
that I need to have an open mind when it comes to thinking critically
about the origin of geologic features. And in the process, Iíve grown
to dispute evolutionary theory in my thinking. The earth is
foundational to evolution and biological evolution. And here I am
questioning some of the most unchallengeable things that are supposed
to the foundation of evolutionary theory.
Youíre accepted as one of the authorities on Mount St. Helens, and yet
some your friends who are Christians, such as VanTil, and those up at
Calvin College, have specifically criticized those who would take this
position, that the geological time strata in the Grand Canyon and in
other places would suggest a younger earth age. What would you say
back to those fellows?
Some people take the opinion that the strata
of the Grand Canyon represent long periods of geologic time as oceans
came slowly over northern Arizona and deposited lime mud, clay-mud and
sand. Then alternations of these oceans, the rise of the land up and
down, over long periods of time created the stratification that we
see. I think it can be explained as well in a rapid catastrophic
immediately brings to mind something like Noahís flood. Here in the
Grand Canyon we might have geologic agents on a catastrophic scale.
And there are indications of that. Some evolutionists would respond to
my assertion that catastrophe did play an important part in the
strata, by admitting that. They would say, yes, those strata, some of
them formed rather rapidly, maybe even a matter of minutes like at
Mount St. Helens, but that there are long erosions surfaces between
strata, so-called unconformities. They say thatís evidence of missing
millions of years.
But as I
look at some of those erosion surfaces, I find myself doubting that
there are millions of years between rock layers. I think we need to
admit that the strata generally show rapid deposition. Fossils,
structural indicators in the rocks represent rapid deposition. We find
ourselves, I find myself, doubting individual geologic ages. And some
of those erosion surfaces look somewhat doubtful to me.
Why? Why do they look doubtful? Because there are other scientists
that have staked their reputation that there is erosion in the Grand
Canyon in some of those strata, right at the top.
I believe there are erosion surfaces between the strata layers of the
Grand Canyon. I donít think thatís in dispute by geologists. The
question is how much time is assigned to those erosion surfaces?
Evolutionists imagine great intervals of geologic time as the ocean
floor is uplifted and formed the continent and then the whole
continent is beveled down and some of the rock layers in the Grand
Canyon were removed to destroy the fossils. And then the whole area
was dropped down below sea level millions of years later and another
strata layer was deposited.
expect to see soil profiles, and even deep weathering, and even cave
development and deep channeling along some of those surfaces. And what
you see pretty much is a flat, horizontal contact. In some of the
formations in the Grand Canyon, they have actually been described as
conformable strata, no evidence of erosion between the strata. Yet
lately some of those same strata elsewhere have been discovered to
have 750 feet of other formation in between. Therefore, there must be
great periods of time between what appear to be flat-lying, horizontal
erosion-free strata sequences in the Grand Canyon. I marvel at the
amazing amount of erosion thatís occurred in the canyon. Yet it seems
to have left little evidence of geological ages in between.
What are the implications of what youíre saying? If thereís other
evidence such as Mount St. Helens, in other words, if thatís what took
place in other areas of the earth, what implications does this have
now for evolution and creation?
We live in an age of discovery, and I believe that a proper
investigation of these processes which have affected the earth will
lead to great vistas of understanding. We need to pursue this subject
aggressively and develop this whole new field of understanding of
geology. I think we need to do that rigorously.
Dr. Steve Austin, received
his B.S. (Geology), University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 1970; M.S.
(Geology), San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, 1971; Ph.D.
(Geology), Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 1979.