[Editorís 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.
Considerable 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.]
Dr. John Ankerberg: are
talking about the scientific evidence: Does it support the theory of
evolution, does it support the theory of creation? We have as our
guest a man who is an expert in the area of geology, and specifically,
Mount St. Helens and what happened before the 1980 eruption, what
happened during, what happened afterwards. You have done some research
that has great implications concerning the theories around geology and
then the evolution/creation debate. Tell us about it, Steve.
Dr. Steve Austin: On
May 18, 1980, a catastrophic event occurred that not only shocked the
world because of its explosive power, but it challenged evolution
theory, I believe, at its foundation. That event was the eruption of
Mount St. Helens there about ten years ago. I believe the thorough
exploration of some these catastrophic events will help us understand
a little bit more about how the earth formed and help resolve this
discussion of creation/evolution that we find ourselves in.
We see the amazing
stratification that was produced rather rapidly at Mount St. Helens.
The deposit from the nine-hour eruption on May 18, was covered by 25
feet of a pumice flow on June 12, 1980. Then we had the March 19,
1982, mud-flow deposit. Each of these layers at Mount St. Helens has a
date and the spectacular thing is to look at what the volcano did in
very short order.
Ankerberg: Before we go
any further, from the top to the bottom, how many feet is that?
Austin: Oh, it must be
30 to 40 feet in thickness.
Ankerberg: Thirty to 40
feet and how long did it take for that to be laid down.
Austin: That was
deposited over a two-year period.
Ankerberg: Just 24
Austin: Yes, and
individually the middle third formed in less than a day at Mount St.
Helens, on June 12, 1980.
Now I thought, my normal
way of thinking about strata, is that each strata, each stratum level,
represents a long period of time, and an alteration between summer and
winter, or between wet year and dry year and long breaks between
strata perhaps, and so I was amazed to find that a catastrophe formed
layered deposits. I had thought that a catastrophe would homogenize
the coarse and the fine and instead it deposited out as strata. And
that challenges my notion of stratification because I used to believe
very strongly that the stratification in the earth suggested great
periods of time for those formations. I talked a little bit about that
in our last session.
Then we have another
mind-boggler at Mount St. Helens. We had new canyon formation after
1980. A new canyon mysteriously appeared after the summer of 1980.
Some mysterious process gouged out this canyon from solid rock. You
could see a waterfall coming in from the upper left, an ancient lava
flow of solid rock was gouged out along with some volcanic ash layers
underneath. And I had thought that canyon formation takes a long
period of time.
That canyon formation shows
a little bit about the implications of Mount St. Helen for other
geologic features of the earth. For example, the Grand Canyon.
Geologists have long been enamored with the notion that the Colorado
River cut the Grand Canyon over a period of tens of millions of years.
And yet, most geologists that are familiar with the geology of
northern Arizona, have pretty much discarded that explanation, that
the Colorado River cut the Grand Canyon. It may sound like heresy, but
it is nevertheless true.
Most geologist are going to
an amazing accident, some type of runaway gully erosion, or a
breaching of a lake, this could be a spillway or something like that.
Geologists realize that the Grand Canyon appeared in a geological
instant, not over an extended, long period of millions of years.
That brings us to the
question of canyon formation generally. Of course, Darwin based his
ideas of biological evolution on his thinking of geological evolution,
and his ideas of geological evolution came from his study of canyons,
like the Santa Cruz River valley in southern Argentina. So the earth
is foundational to our views of origins.
Another thing we discovered
at Mount St. Helens was the amazing destruction in a lake north of the
volcano. About 4-square mile area Spirit Lake was devastated by
enormous landslide. The landslide went into the lake and propelled the
water of the lake up onto a slope north of the volcano, the water
sloshed back into the basin, bringing all these logs into the lake.
About 2 square miles of the
4 square mile area lake is covered with logs. And thatís amazing as
weíve been watching this over 10 years whatís been happening. They
float prone on top of the lake; thereís about a million logs floating
today on the surface of Spirit Lake north of Mount St. Helens. They go
into upright position, or what are upright floating logs, and they
fall to the bottom of the lake, we believe, and have some geologic
evidence that such a thing does occur, and fall to the bottom of the
lake and in standing position.
Sedimentation is going on
rapidly around Mount St. Helens and the logs are having their root
ends buried at different levels in the bottom of the lake. Right
before our eyes, logs are becoming buried at different levels and have
the appearance of being multiple forests. If we had cut through the
rock strata layers of the earth observing the strata and the upright
petrified logs, we might assume that each layer represents a forest
with thousands of years of soil development than a mature forest. That
forest was later buried and a second forest grew on the next level
over hundreds or even thousands of years. Later grew another forest.
So repeated levels in the strata levels of the earth with upright
petrified logs might be suggested that require many thousands of
years, maybe even millions of years of earth history. Yet at Mount St.
Helens this thing seems to be going on very rapidly in the last ten
We took a sonar survey of
Spirit Lake and under the water of the lake, on the bottom of the
lake, we see evidence of standing trees. You could see the sonar
shadows being cast over the bottom by standing objects. We did this
sonar survey in 1985 and we would suggest that there were about 20,000
upright objects standing on the bottom of this lake. What would Spirit
Lake look like if you drained it? It would look like a forest standing
there. Itís a redeposited forest and since itís falling out at
different times, it might be assumed to require many thousands of
In order to investigate, we
had to go diving in Spirit Lake, there next to the active volcano.
There on the bottom we saw standing trees, very abundant, standing
there getting buried in the bottom of the lake. I got my diving buddy
on one side, we were scuba diving the lake and we tried to dislodge
these trees. I was on the other side. Some of these logs are solidly
buried in the bottom of the lake, others have just recently landed.
And we have all the conditions set up here to have a petrified forest
in the making.
You have the Petrified
Forest there at Yellowstone National Park. What more natural
interpretation than to say there is the modern forest growing in one
spot, then look nearby you will see the eroded strata layers there at
northern Yellowstone National Park. You see these upright penetrating
logs and fossilized position. Thereís the Ancient Forest, thereís a
series of forests that grew there millions of years ago. It comes
naturally to think that way. In fact, evolutionists have said that we
creationists are ignorant and uninformed because we donít understand
that in this one hill in Yellowstone, we have proof positive of
millions of years.
And yet, creationists now
are saying, well, wait a minute, we think that Mount St. Helens
provides an explanation for fossil forests elsewhere, such as at
Yellowstone. And many realize the significance of this, and there are
even creationist that have published in the geologic literature on
this particular phenomena. Upright logs might represent rapid and
catastrophic agents. One of the strongest proofs I would suppose of an
old earth, would be these petrified forest deposits.
(to be continued)
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.