Mount St. Helens nudging geologists to change their minds, creationist says

by Jerry Pierce , posted Tuesday, June 02, 1998 (20 years ago)

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)--Though secular geologists do not concede the Genesis flood occurred, growing numbers of scientists believe geologic wonders such as the Grand Canyon formed from a catastrophic event and much more rapidly than the millions of years previously thought, geologist John Morris told an audience at Oklahoma City's Heritage Baptist Church May 24.

Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, lamented, however, educators have been slower to accept such possibilities than most scientists.

"We're winning -- except for the millions of schoolkids who are being indoctrinated into this wrong (evolutionary) way of thinking," said Morris, who holds both master's and doctoral degrees in geological engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

Traditionally, most geologists have studied the Earth through the principle of "uniformity," which views the past strictly on what is visible in the present, Morris explained.

The Bible, however, teaches what Morris refers to as "catastrophism" -- that throughout history God-induced catastrophes such as the flood have greatly altered the Earth.

Using a uniformitarian model, geologists taught the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon from millions of years of water erosion.

But after studying the geological effects of Mount St. Helens' volcanic eruption in 1980, scientists are rethinking traditional theories, Morris said. "They're saying, 'No, that river would never carve the Grand Canyon, but something catastrophic and very recent.'"

For several months leading up to Mount St. Helens' eruption, hundreds of scientists gathered in Washington State, waiting for the volcano to blow. When it did, 4 billion cubic yards of glacier water, lava, rock and debris rolled downward at 90 miles per hour and deposited, like layers of pancake batter 600 feet thick and as far as 20 miles away, Morris said. During nine hours of eruptions, 150 square miles of forest were devastated. More than 50 people died.

Searing heat mixed with water and volcanic gases created massive steam explosions from beneath the layered debris, creating what later became canyons, or "steam pits," as Morris called them.

These canyons, Morris said, mirror what geologists have seen in rock formations worldwide, including the Grand Canyon. Fossilized plants, trees, animals and ocean life are visible in layer after layer of rock. Just five years after the eruption, Morris said he observed that layers of sandy deposits had hardened to sandstone.

"In one afternoon, we got to see what scientists believed took millions and millions of years of unobserved history to form."

Because of the large scientific presence at Mount St. Helens, "there's no question what happened here. It's a question of how to apply it.", Morris noted, "Mount St. Helens caused the field of geology to become more catastrophic in its view. Evolutionists started to realize that catastrophic mud flows may have laid down the layers in the Grand Canyon."

Another thing Mount St. Helens provided for creationists such as Morris was a small-scale view of what might have happened to the Earth during and after the flood.

Morris stated when "all the fountains of the great deep" were opened up, as mentioned in Genesis 7:11, oceanic volcanoes and earthquakes pushed huge amounts of water and debris over land at incredible force.

"When you think of Noah's flood, think of massive underwater mud flows -- incredible dynamics beyond our comprehension," he said.

What resulted, among other things, Morris believes, is the Grand Canyon ("a whole big stack of pancakes over a mile thick") where clamshells, fish and ocean-floor sediment are embedded in rock layers.

"Did anybody see the Grand Canyon form? (Creationists) see the same evidence, yet we know great amounts of water came through (the canyon) in a short period."

Mount St. Helens also provided ammunition against what Morris called "the classic evolutionary argument against the Bible" -- Specimen Ridge at Yellowstone National Park.

At Specimen Ridge, petrified forests are found standing upright (in growth position but not growth location) in rock formations at various elevations. Previously, scientists had theorized these petrified trees were from various time periods -- the higher the rock layer in which the petrified tree was embedded, the more recent the era.

Since the layers in which these hardened trees are found took millions of years to form, evolutionists argued, the Bible couldn't possibly be accurate in calculating the Earth's age at a few thousand years.

But at Mount St. Helens, hundreds of trees were found floating upright through the volcanic sludge with enough of their root systems still in place to keep them from toppling over -- a striking similarity to the trees at Specimen Ridge.

Morris said the massive volcanic flow at Mount St. Helens lifted the trees from their deepest roots and carried them miles from their growth locations.

He theorizes the trees at Specimen Ridge landed there after underwater mudslides carried them during the flood.

In fact, Morris said, after the National Park Service finally allowed a geological team to study the tree rings at Specimen Ridge, they found evidence the trees were the same age and had experienced the same weather patterns at the same time.

"These trees grew together," he said.

The National Park Service, Morris noted, has even removed markers that explained to visitors that the trees' ages differed by eras.

"The point is," Morris said, " God's Word is true and we can trust it -- even when we talk about ancient history."

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