CHAPTER 3: A Conflict in Biblical Interpretation

Patten, Morris, Whitcomb and others had acquired from God’s gift of the rainbow to mankind a remarkable insight into the nature of the world before the Flood, one that integrates the various difficulties in Genesis into a single, self-consistent, and information-rich body of text. These people may differ in their view of the mechanism behind the disasters, but on the major point they are in full agreement: these enormous events actually happened. The Flood occurred when mankind was upon the earth, it was universal, and it was of such a catastrophic nature that it changed the regime under which the climate was influenced.

Patten’s book did not enjoy the same wide public following as did Velikovsky’s books. Even to a largely Christian audience it contradicted the standard interpretation of Genesis, regardless of how shallow and information-poor that interpretation is. Perhaps many Christians were merely indifferent to the entire subject. For a time the more secular-minded Velikovsky, unlike Patten, did enjoy a broader audience for his best-seller books. But what he really wanted was scientific recognition on the order of his peers and sometime associates Einstein and Freud. This he failed to achieve. His popularity was short-lived, having been squelched by his scientific peers who clung to the uniformitarian mindset which insisted that the features of the world had been shaped by infinitesimal changes occurring over vast durations of time. He died a disillusioned man, realizing that in the absence of scientific acceptance of what to him was the obvious truth, his fickle public had returned to what he considered to be false beliefs.

Velikovsky, Patten, and the other modern catastrophists were by no means the first to see a pattern of sudden and violent upheaval in the evidence of soil, rock, mountain and bones. They were preceded by an impressive array of geologists, physicists, and philosophers whose speculations on the enormity of the events that shaped the surface of our planet extended back in time from at least 30 A.D. and continued on until the end of the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, except perhaps for William Whiston and Isaac Newton, virtually all of these scholars were preoccupied with the effects rather than the cause. In failing to look to the sky for answers as to how these things might have taken place, they left the door open for the uniformitarians which followed them to claim that the catastrophes could not have happened at all. The more close-minded uniformitarians were not interested in finding mechanisms for disasters. They had their own agenda, and it was in sharp conflict with any notion of catastrophe.

Perhaps that is one reason why little is known of the contributions of these men in the field of natural history outside of a few Christian circles. Their works have instead been dismissed without real thought by mainstream science, which greatly prefers to view Scripture as mythical, in conflict with science, and consequently irrelevant to the daily order of our lives. When a scholar such as Patten comes along with a reasonable interpretation based on an assumption of Biblical truth, he is casually rejected. Because of this rejection many Christians, in glossing over the Genesis text or applying an allegorical interpretation to them, have also turned away both from a viable understanding of the book of Genesis and an intuitive acceptance of the veracity of Scripture.

What is so significant about the rejection by the scientific community of these scholars’ contributions is not that their notions or their development violated established scientific principles. It was not that at all, for these concepts dovetail remarkably well with known facts regarding geology and the other earth sciences. The larger reason for our ignorance of these writers is that their concepts violated the current belief system within the ranks of the scientific establishment. That is the most important reason why the catastrophic authors’ heartfelt contributions fell on deaf ears. They violated what we perceive as the constant order of nature, which as we insist has remained unchanged since mankind inhabited the earth. God anticipated this mindset, equating it with a system of false beliefs based on a self-serving, sinful nature, for we read in II Peter 3:3-7 that:

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

As Peter clearly implies in this remarkable forecast of modern man’s belief system, central to uniformitarian thought is the dogmatic notion that God does not exist. When and how did this uniformitarian notion come into the minds of men?

Quite arbitrarily and with no logical or observational basis whatsoever, uniformitarianism demands that observations of the earth’s features and geological history be interpreted exclusively in terms of processes that can be observed in the present. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the application of the uniformitarian notion to geology, having been presented in 1795 by James Hutton, was expanded upon by Charles Lyell. Neither of these gentlemen had the benefit of formal training in the physical sciences, large domains of which themselves were in their infancy. Nevertheless, their views eventually came to be accepted as axiomatic within the earth sciences with precious little justification.

Unfortunately, most of us do not realize how intellectually shaky are the foundations of the commonly accepted view of the earth’s geological history. Nor do we appreciate that these foundations are now in the process of collapsing, unable to bear the weight of new evidence acquired through modern scientific techniques and engineering marvels.

Throughout the nineteenth century and all but a decade of the twentieth, the uniformitarian paradigm was accepted without question within the mainstream scientific community. The politic of success required those of its members who hoped to achieve a measure of stature within that community to thoroughly embrace the uniformitarian principle. Their unquestioning adherence to this doctrine successfully shut out the free discourse of catastrophism for the better part of two centuries. Increasingly throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, however, our rapidly-developing technology was furnishing information from both earth and space that surprised rather than confirmed, clashing rather dramatically in each instance with the uniformitarian paradigm. By the decade of the 1990s, the notion of strict uniformitarianism had succumbed, albeit without grace, to the more reasonable admission that catastrophe indeed had a hand in shaping the features of our planet. Among the first to rip apart the uniformitarian curtain were the Alvarez team, who, in linking the extinction of the large reptiles with a worldwide layer of iridium ash, found the cause in the enormous crater off the Yucatan peninsula. Now, as we look to Venus and Mars and the asteroids and Jupiter and our own moon, we find further evidence, and that in abundance, of the contributions of catastrophic events to the present state of the planets in our solar system.

Even into the twenty-first century, moreover, most mainstream researchers yield most grudgingly to the acceptance of catastrophic events in the past, still insisting without justification upon the scheme of dating established at the beginning of the modern era of the natural sciences and based upon the uniformitarian mindset. In this dogged resistance that denies the scientific spirit, they misuse the dating tools with which our technology has provided them. Mainstream science continues to claim, utterly without logical justification, that all such catastrophes took place in the remote past, being separated from our own time by millions of years. But the surface of our moon does not support this presumption of great antiquity. Nor does Venus, nor Mars, nor the two thousand known earth-crossing asteroids that are catalogued to date. Nor does our own atmosphere, with its present weather system.

The heat engine that drives the earth’s weather system is sufficiently well-understood by modern science that weather forecasting, supported by computer technology, has become an increasingly successful engineering art. Fuelled by the enormous temperature differential between equator and poles, this engine creates the clouds, wind and rain that cycle fresh water about the earth. In none of the scientific principles that explain our weather can be found a mechanism to produce such a drastic systemic change as the Bible indicates. This lack of a currently observable mechanism, coupled with the uniformitarian mindset, has been a significant driving force behind the current widespread treatment of the Flood as largely mythical. Those who adhere to the mythical stance fail to appreciate that it is not the lack of a mechanism that would have prohibited the Flood from having occurred, but rather their own lack of either interest or comprehension. In their stubborn, myopic, and rather unscientific refusal to look beyond the existing regime in their search for a cause, they excluded without justification several readily understandable potential physical causes of the Flood.

A half century has passed since the uniformitarian scientists summarily dismissed Immanuel Velikovsky. Their rebuttals, which in their tantrum-like behavior offered precious little in the way of logic, invariably failed to address the contradictions to their paradigm that his facts represented. They ignored, for example, the odd circumstances surrounding the demise of the mammoths. Entire islands in Siberia are formed of the battered and flash-frozen remains of the extinct wooly mammoth, the flesh of which can still be eaten today. These unfortunate animals died in the midst of a violence so sudden and profound that the food in their stomachs, food that is inappropriate to the latitude at which they are found, remained preserved without decay. They disregarded the odd situation in eastern Washington State, where in the past century ice has been found sandwiched between layers of igneous rock. They failed to explain the origin of Halley’s Comet, its youth manifest in its rate of disintegration. They remained mute to the public in explaining the surface of Mars, with its rifts and craters and evidence of past water that now is nowhere to be found. They failed to tell us why our own moon is pocked with craters of such recent origin that its surface lacks the expected dust.

Significantly, Velikovsky made several predictions which necessarily followed from his catastrophic thesis. Among these predictions, which contradicted the scientific wisdom of the day, were statements about the temperature of Venus and its retrograde orbit, the devastation of the surface of Mars, remanent magnetism on the moon, and the importance of electromagnetic effects in planets and interplanetary space. All of these predictions turned out to be correct, and they represented surprises, even shock, to the scientists who learned of their truth. It must be remembered that it was after Velikovsky challenged the scientific community with his predictions that space probes established the very hot surface temperature of Venus, its retrograde rotation, the Van Allen Radiation Belt surrounding the earth, the intense electromagnetic activity of Jupiter, the past violence on the surface of Mars, the remanent magnetism of moon rocks, and many other facts regarding our solar system, such as Martian water, about which the experts failed to anticipate.

When the Venera probe first radioed back the Venusian temperature, the scientists were so surprised at its magnitude that they passed it off as a failed temperature sensor. When other probes confirmed the values, the experts belatedly came up with the greenhouse explanation, which has since been found to be thoroughly inadequate in light of the fact that the planet radiates more heat than it receives from the sun.

[to be continued]


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