Over the years, this ministry has taken groups of people on what we call the “Canyonlands Tour” more than 30 times. A highlight of that trip is visiting the Grand Canyon. Looking into the Canyon, we see the various layers of rock, with each layer having a different set of properties. The study of Grand Canyon stratigraphy shows God’s design that allows us to live on this planet.
The materials in the layers (strata) of Earth all come from the molten material that made up the planet at its origin. Molten material solidified into granite. The red orthoclase material weathered out of the granite first, producing clay. Feldspars containing vital elements like iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium came out of the granite, leaving quartz behind. The quartz became sand, and the other elements became soil, limestone, and all the other materials we see in the strata today.
As we stand on the edge of the Canyon, we can see the alternating layers of the Grand Canyon stratigraphy. We see sandstone (made of quartz), shale (made from mud), conglomerate (made from gravel), and limestone (a chemically precipitated rock made slowly in an area of quiet water). Deep within the canyon, we see layers tilted at an angle, indicating catastrophic geologic activity. Below that, we see rocks that have been altered by heat and pressure (metamorphic rocks). At the very bottom, we see the original volcanic granite from which all of this was formed.
We gaze in awe at the history of Earth before our eyes, and we marvel at God’s wisdom in design to prepare this incredible planet on which we live.
For many years science has studied the formation of the Grand Canyon. No single event produced the carving of the canyon. The north rim is higher than the south rim because the whole area has been bowed into what is called a monocline. Such flexing weakens rock just as bending a stick will weaken it at the point of maximum bending. In addition to bending and cracks which weaken sections of rock, water in the area is flowing toward the sea. The Colorado River flows in a path that wanders and winds through the area scouring its bed as it goes. Streams flow into the Colorado flow along the faults through weakened rock materials carving deeper and deeper. All of these things contribute to the formation of the Grand Canyon.
Another obvious contributor is time. How much time did it take to carve the canyon? Some science books will point out that the Colorado River is currently eroding one-half foot of rock every 1,000 years. Then they suggest that if you take the 5,000 feet of vertical rock missing from the canyon and divide it by .5 feet, it would take 10,000 of the 1,000-year-periods. In other words, it would take 10,000,000 years to carve the canyon.
What is wrong with that estimate? Well, first of all, the river is in granite now, which is harder than the sedimentary rocks above it. More important is the assumption that the volume of water in the canyon has been constant. In the past, glaciers melted, producing massive volumes of water in the canyon. Today with the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell controlling the flow (except in a simulation of spring floods), no such volume takes place. Estimating the time required to carve the canyon based on present erosion rates is a self-evident case of bad science.
Another example of bad science comes from creationists who point to Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington as an indication of the time required. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 blowing out massive amounts of ash, scoria, pumice, and other extruded volcanic rocks. Erosion produced vast canyons on the flanks of the mountain in a few years. Those who say that proves large canyons can be carved in a short time are overlooking the fact that the volcanic rocks are relatively light, easy to erode, and highly porous. To make comparisons between the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens is like comparing butter with steel. (For more on this, click HERE.)
So how long did the formation of the Grand Canyon take? No one can answer that question, just as no one can tell you the date of Genesis 1:1. Only those willing to add to the Word of God will give a date. Many denominational creationists will do this to defend their human creeds and traditions, but I suggest that it is a dangerous thing to do.
If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to visit two locations in the United States. One of them is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the other is Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. They are both very impressive; however, they have a big difference. Mount Rushmore and DNA have something in common that the Grand Canyon does not.
The Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore are both made of stone, and both are very complex. The Grand Canyon is much larger, but Mount Rushmore demonstrates specified complexity while the Grand Canyon does not. The specified complexity of Mount Rushmore indicates that natural forces did not create it. It is evident that some intelligence has acted on the granite of that mountain to give it specified features. By contrast, the complex features of the Grand Canyon did not require the direct act of intelligent agents, but only natural forces.
How do I know that Mount Rushmore was acted on by intelligence? First, I recognized that the shape of the mountain is very improbable and highly complex. It doesn’t look like any mountain I have ever seen before. But then, the Grand Canyon is also very improbable and highly complex, and it is not exactly like any canyon I have seen before. More than that, I recognize that the patterns on Mount Rushmore match something that I have seen before—pictures of some US presidents. Very few people would argue with my idea that this mountain shows design by intelligent beings while natural forces can explain the Grand Canyon without requiring the direct action of intelligent agents.
So what do Mount Rushmore and DNA have in common? In recent years, scientists have unlocked the secrets of DNA. We know that the base sequences of DNA are very improbable and contain a highly complex set of instructions. The nucleotide base sequences specify the complex synthesis of proteins in three dimensions. Those who are familiar with computer programming recognize that there are “design patterns” in DNA. There is more than just complexity; there is SPECIFIED complexity to accomplish a complex task. Intelligent people write programs for computers to perform tasks, such as to create an animation of the synthesizing of a protein. Would it not require intelligence to arrange the base sequences in DNA to synthesize actual complex proteins in three dimensions?
Yesterday, we talked about the Teays River and how, like other rivers, it brought water into dry areas. (To read yesterday’s post, click HERE.) The map above shows the approximate path of the river and its tributaries. But we didn’t tell you what happened to the Teays River.
As glaciers came southward across North America, they buried the river and its tributaries with massive amounts of sand and gravel. In the process, the river’s flooding and flowing impounded massive quantities of water. The Teays still exists today in water stored underground. I can drill a well 12 feet (3.7 m) in my back yard and hit potable water. The agricultural blessing of the Teays has made the Ohio River Valley fertile and has allowed cities to exist in areas that are not blessed with great surface water. What happened to the Teays River is still affecting our lives today.
In addition to the benefits we mentioned yesterday, the flooding of rivers also spreads diverse plants and the wildlife that feeds on them. The biggest watermelon I have ever eaten I found on an island on the White River near Spencer, Indiana. A friend of mine who enjoyed it with me recognized the species of melon, and we eventually found the patch that it came from some 75 miles upstream. In our trips through the Grand Canyon, we have frequently found plant life not native to Colorado thriving on sand bars in the canyon. When our river here in Michigan flooded in February of 2018, a layer of black soil was laid down in my yard and the woods on the edge of my property. Now there are dozens of plants growing in that soil which are not native to Michigan. Animal life of all kinds eat many of those plants.
Rivers are the cleaners of both the land and the water. One interesting part of living on a river is watching what floats by – a log, a tree, human junk, and all kinds of minerals. When the river dumps its load in a delta or an alluvial fan, the minerals become available for human use. In the Colorado Plateau, an ancient river carried and deposited logs containing uranium. The water moved those logs and impregnated them with uraninite, a mineral used to obtain precious uranium for nuclear materials. In my college studies in geology and mineralogy, we learned how to “read” a river and use that information to locate critical materials for technology.
It is essential that we take care of our rivers. We need to understand rivers and recognize God’s design in creating a planet molded and shaped by flowing water. What happened to the Teays River was caused by ancient glaciers that carved the land and created the Great Lakes. What happens to our rivers today depends on us and our stewardship of what God has given us.
We often hear from young people who have been taught something in a Bible class or sermon or a religious publication or video that they know cannot be true. Many creationists and creationist groups lack training in the fields in which they claim to be experts, and they are relying on ignorance of their hearers. When smart young people hear something they know is incorrect, it gives them a reason to reject the church and perhaps reject God’s existence.
A classic example of this is shown in explanations of the Grand Canyon. Many writers try to explain away the formation of the Grand Canyon by saying that the Flood of Noah did it. They say the Flood formed the Canyon in a short time just a few thousand years ago. They claim that the Flood laid down the sediments, and when the water swept off the land, it carved the Grand Canyon.
As an Earth Science teacher in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana, I taught young people about petrology — the study of rocks. Knowing how rocks were formed enabled scientists to find resources such as copper, oil, marble, iron, and certain gems. We can now synthesize some of these materials by copying the methods by which they were formed in the Earth’s past. Relying on ignorance would not allow us to find or synthesize these materials.
We know that the deposition of materials and subsequent erosion by the Flood did not form the Grand Canyon. The dominant rock in the Grand Canyon is limestone. Children taking Earth Science courses learn that limestone is a chemical precipitate. Quiet waters produce it over a long time. Most of us know about rock candy in which a solution of sugar crystallizes to create the candy. Limestone produced by a similar process, as is halite, dolomite, and gypsum. These are chemically precipitated rocks, never deposited in moving water.
A recent headline in a creationist journal reads, “Rapid Limestone Deposits Match the Flood.” A young person told me that she didn’t want to hear anything else from the Church because the statements in the journal were clearly not true. She doubted anything the Church said was true as a result. She also pointed out other problems. The Canyon is not just one rock type. It has alternating layers of different materials produced by different climates and processes. There are desert-produced sandstones, conglomerates which are produced by running streams, salt deposits produced by evaporation, and lavas that flowed across the top of the rock layers below them and were not injected as sills.
Perhaps the most argued event in the Old Testament is the flood of Noah described in Genesis. For the past several days we have been examining some of the questions people have. Today we will look at two modern misconceptions about the flood.
Did the Ark come to rest on Mount Ararat? The answer to that question is “no!” Genesis 8:4 says that the Ark came to rest “upon the mountains of Ararat” which is not modern day Mount Ararat. This is of little interest except that the claims of some people that they found the Ark on modern-day Mount Ararat are clearly erroneous.
Was the Grand Canyon caused by the flood laying down strata and then carving the canyon by erosion? The answer to that question is also “no.” The rocks in the canyon are not of one deposition and are not flood strata. Floods leave a tangled mess of debris. The majority of rocks in the Grand Canyon are limestone which is a chemically precipitated rock. The limestone is interspersed with conglomerate, shale, desert deposits of sandstone, and some volcanic deposits. A flood would produce none of those except shale.
Do fossils in the Grand Canyon verify the flood? No, a flood produces a tangled mess of all kinds of remains of plants and animals. The rock layers in the Canyon have different animals at different layers. Each animal or plant grouping is a function of the environment in which they lived. That is not what a flood would do.
The question is not whether the flood happened, but rather what a flood would do and what remains from the flood. There are dozens of flood layers in the stratigraphy all over the American southwest, but which one might be related to Noah’s flood cannot be determined.
Yesterday we began to tell you about last month’s Canyonlands Educational Tour. It was a week of learning about how God works. In the canyonlands area, we can see God’s engineering skills.
Our trip was a bus tour with 50 people participating. We departed from Flagstaff, Arizona. That area allows us to study the basic rocks from which all other rocks were made, and that is volcanic material. Our analysis of elements in space and the minerals in Earth’s crust show us that all rocks are made of materials found in the interior of the Earth. For example, granite is made up of quartz which breaks down into sand and makes sandstone. Orthoclase is another constituent of granite, and it weathers to produce clay which is a major part of shale. Visiting Sunset Crater (pictured) and seeing the volcanic mountains surrounding Flagstaff allows us to understand the method by which God produced all other rocks.
In the first session of our trip on Sunday evening, before we departed, we pointed out the one basic assumption that underlies our entire trip. That assumption is that God is not a magician who does everything by slight of hand and magic. We see God’s engineering skills as He uses natural processes to produce things in the creation. The Bible tells us that “God planted a garden” (Genesis 2:8) not that He waved a magic wand and a garden appeared. When God created man’s body in Genesis 2:7, he “formed man of the dust of the earth.” The Hebrew word used to describe that process is yatshir which is a word denoting something an artist might do in creating a work of pottery from clay.
God did not “zap” the Grand Canyon into existence with all its many kinds of rocks and embedded fossils. Many religious people want to have God “speaking” these things into existence. The Bible indicates that God commanded the creation elements indicating that other agents were doing the actual work. In our twenty-first century mentality of rejecting scams and con-artists, it is important not to put God into the role of being a trickster. God did His creating process in such a way that we can discover the processes. That is the reason the Bible says we can “know God exists through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). In Proverbs 8, wisdom personified speaks of God’s engineering skills.
We see the evidence of God’s engineering skills in the creation processes, and we read the Scriptures that tell what happened. Our approach to all of the evidence and the Scriptures is that they MUST agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between the scientific evidence and what the Bible says, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. There has been plenty of both.
One month ago, on Sunday, September 9, 2018, we began our thirty-sixth Canyonlands Educational Tour. Since 1968 we have been taking what I call field trips into the Grand Canyon and the areas that surround the Grand Canyon. That includes Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National District including Lake Powell, Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and the areas that surround all of those places.
My constant companion and technical expert has been Alan Doty from Sedona, Arizona. He holds advanced degrees in geology and has been a well-known figure in the area and an active Christian. Alan has made over 300 trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and was the first to climb Isis Temple. His knowledge of the area is second to none. Our trips into this area have included four boat trips on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, ten bus trips in which we spend a day at each of the sites of interest, and 16 hikes into points of interest in the canyonlands area. We have prepared field trip guides and have conducted studies and lectures on all of the trips.
Why do we do this? The Does God Exist? ministry is dedicated to providing evidence to convince thinking people that science is a friend of faith in God, and that science and the Bible do not conflict. As educators in the public schools, we have seen a great deal of bad science and bad theology combine to destroy the faith of many young people. There is no area where more bad science and bad theology have been promoted than in the canyonlands area.
Not understanding the evidence and not taking the Bible literally have led to a major source of conflict for many people. By taking the Bible literally, I mean looking at who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how people of the time would have understood it. Having a week of concentrated study in one of the greatest natural science laboratories on Earth is a wonderful way to combat bad science and bad theology. It is also our hope that participants will go back home and use what they have learned in our seminars to build the faith of people in their home congregations. At the same time, we want to prepare them to combat the efforts of local skeptics to discredit the Bible and destroy faith in God.
Today is the final day of the 2018 DOES GOD EXIST? Canyonlands Tour. The pictures are of Bryce Canyon and Alan Doty who has served as a guide along with John Clayton. They have been making these educational tours for several years. The purpose of the Canyonlands field trip is not just entertainment. We want to help people understand the history of how God has crafted the Earth He created to make it a suitable home for people. We also want to show that science and faith are friends, not enemies. This video is from an earlier journey to the Canyonlands. We share it here so that John can tell you why he believes these trips are important.