Lead author challenges Noah’s Flood interpretation of Appalachians

Cover of GSA Today issue featuring the uplift of the Appalachians that occurred toward the end of the global Flood.
Cover of GSA Today issue featuring the uplift of the Appalachians that occurred toward the end of the global Flood.
Sean Gallen, lead author of the GSA Today paper about the uplift of the Appalachians, which I connected with Noah’s Flood has responded with the following comment. My response is interspersed.

I am the first author on the article “Miocene rejuvenation of topographic relief in the southern Appalachians”. While my coauthors and I appreciate Tas’ interest in our research, his comments and reinterpretations of our work merit clarification. I understand that most readers of this blog are unlikely to read the primary research article which is why I wanted to present rational for why Tas’ comments are incorrect. I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to Tas’ ideas. I encourage criticism and critique; however, as detailed below, there is reasonable suspicion that Tas is intentionally misleading and attempting to manipulate readers of his blog. I am simply responding to his blog post to point out critical flaws in his critique of our work that readers should find offensive. The take home message is that Tas’ reinterpretation of our work is inconsistent with the observations and finds of the study. Even without our estimates of timing, our findings argue against flooding as a mechanism for changes in the landscape, but are well described by a region that experienced uplift sometime in the past.

[Tas] Thank you for taking the time to respond to my article. I don’t think your claim that I am “intentionally misleading” is justified because it is clear to everyone that I interpret evidence from a biblical perspective, as the name of this blog says, and as I say in the article. Further, the evidence you published in your paper does support the reality of the biblical Flood, and I will deal with that below.

“I’ll post the abstract below with my lay-friendly comments interspersed”, is how the blog post opens. For those who are unaware, an abstract is the briefest summary of the research presented in the paper. It does not discuss the important details of the research, but simply touches on the main observations, arguments, and conclusions. It, therefore, should go without saying that evaluating and interpreting scientific work solely base on an abstract is inappropriate. An analogy is evaluating and interpreting the content and plot of a movie based on a movie trailer. It is impossible to do so.

[Tas] I have read your whole article and I found your abstract to be a good summary of your paper. It provided a good starting point for presenting an alternative explanation. It enabled me to keep my article short, and it ensured that I could not be accused of misquoting you.

“the idea of millions of years comes from evolutionary assumptions, which I don’t accept, and which I discuss a bit more later.”
Evolutionary observations are not the only piece of evidence used to determine that the region have been tectonically inactive for hundreds of millions of year. Radiometric dating as well as the slow and steady accumulation of sediments in ocean basins provides supporting evidence. To convincingly suggest that these age estimates are inaccurate you will need to explain those latter bits of evidence and provide evidence to the contrary. Neither of which are done in the blog post or elsewhere for that matter.

[Tas] When a new idea is presented, people will often say, “That can’t be right because of this, this and this.” In the article above I’ve provided a big-picture view of how the evidence can be explained by Noah’s Flood, and I think I showed that the processes and events are consistent with what you would expect during the Recessive stage of the Flood. Of course there will be questions from those who are used to looking at things from a different perspective. That is normal and good. You mention two sticking points here that require a lot of reading and a lot of thought, which is why I did not address them in the blog item. Concerning radiometric dating there are many articles that show that radioactive dating is not a problem for the time-scale of the Flood (See Q&A Radioactive Dating). Concerning the accumulation of sediments, the accumulation rate was not “slow” during the Flood.

“There are two competing explanations that geologists use to try to get around the problem.”
It isn’t a problem it is an observation.

[Tas] Indeed. And the purpose of your paper was to explain two apparently inconsistent ‘observations’. As you say in your paper “tectonic activity presumably ceased” but your paper solved that problem by showing it didn’t.

“One idea for the something that happened recently is a change in the climate. (Someone had to suggest that. It’s par for the course these days for climate change to be invoked somewhere.)”
The statement in parentheses is a red herring. It is intentionally and inappropriately inserted into the text to distract readers. In conflates the controversy over present-day climate change with the ice ages. In other word, the climate change referred to in our paper is the ice ages, which Tas mentions later in his blog post, and not modern climate change. It is very well documented that the ice ages had a profound and measurable impact on landscapes. This statement indicates to me that Tas is intentionally misguiding and manipulating readers, he is being dishonest.

[Tas] Attacking a person’s character by calling them “dishonest” is inappropriate among scientists. I agree the climate change reference was is a side issue. However, that is not what I focussed on.

“Here they describe the extent to which the land surface has become eroded to produce deep gorges and steep escarpments. It’s significant. And they put a time on it.”
Tas glosses over a very important part of our research in the last sentence of this quote. He does not describe to the reader how we estimated time. To estimate time we did not use fossil (evolutionary) evidence or radiometric dating. We simply calculate the volume of material eroded and divide that by the erosion rate of the landscape, which has remained slow and approximately steady over the millennia. Evidence to support the assertion of slow and steady erosion of the Appalachians comes from sediment in offshore basins and radiometric methods. It is my opinion that he either did not read the article in its entirety or he is intentionally misleading readers. I favor the latter because it is very difficult to argue that are age estimates are incorrect as they based on a simple yet effective calculation.

[Tas] I’m pleased to see you use the phrase “how we estimate time” because all ‘ages’ are estimates. They are all based on assumptions, as you are well aware. In your case, you used rates of erosion from Ahnert’s relationship to obtain a rate of mm of erosion per thousand years. However, Ahnert’s relationship is only valid in the post-Flood period. It is not valid for the Recessive Stage of the Flood. I notice that you compared the rate with the beryllium-10 estimates, but these beryllium estimates do not apply in Recessive Stage either.

“The sequence of events that unfolded during the biblical Flood easily explains what the authors have found.”
This statement cannot be any more wrong. It is entirely inconsistent with the data we present. Flooding would actually be more similar to the climate change hypothesis that we disprove in our paper. The flooding hypotheses would suggest that the rivers become very erosive as waters recede into the ocean. The climate change hypothesis suggests that the rivers become more erosive due to cooler and more rapidly fluctuating climate (ice ages). Evidence from the river and surrounding landscape, however, are inconsistent with either of these models for change. Further, we show compelling evidence that the landscape was uplifted. In other words, even if the timing of landscape change were wrong, the observations support uplift, not flooding, as the mechanism for change. Our research would actually argue against flooding. Tas misses this central point of our research either due to preconceived notions of how to explain our results or his general lack of knowledge about geology. In either case, it is clear that his is attempting to manipulate readers.

What is discussed above makes the following statements in Tas’ blog regarding time moot. Tas offers no observations or evidence to support his claims on his chronology of events. I encourage Tas to make some observations, collect some data, and support his statements. This is how science works. Claims supported by observations, data, evidence, and facts.

[Tas] The unfolding of the Recessive Stage of the biblical Flood is vastly different from the ‘climate change’ scenario. The Recessive Stage of the Flood involved the rising of the continents and the lowering of the ocean basins. You say I should provide evidence. Well, I point to your paper because that is exactly what you have found—epeirogenic uplift. The Recessive Stage began with a high base level (high sea level), and the base level dropped during the progress of the phase. There are papers on creation sites that discuss and quantify these things.

It seems to me (I’m speculating here) that the paleorelief level you mention in your figure 3 would represent the level as the Recessive stage transformed from the Abative phase to the Dispersive phase, perhaps a bit after. (These may seem like jargon terms, but as a geologist you would find it helpful to become familiar with them.)

“The biblical Flood provides a coherent model and elegantly explains the geological evidence in the Appalachians published in this recent GSA Today paper.”
It does not. It is actually inconsistent with observations in the region and a similar hypothesis (climate change) is disproven in the paper (see above for more details).

[Tas] As I said above, the climate change hypothesis does not represent the Flood scenario.

“When we examine the shape of the landscape (i.e. geomorphology) we have a powerful tool for understanding the sequence of large-scale geologic events and their relative timing.”
I agree with Tas here; however, it is unclear whether or not he is capable of carrying out such tasks.

[Tas] Yes, we agree. But resist the temptation toward ad hominem. 🙂

“stimulates ideas for how to explain the evidence that is being uncovered”.
It would be more helpful if Tas spent time collecting evidence rather than attempting to explain the work of others.

[Tas] I appreciate the evidence you have published. You would know that a very important role is that of the scientist who collects data from others and synthesises it.

In closing, I want emphasize again that I am not opposed to Tas’ ideas. I do, however, take issue with someone who intentionally misleads and feeds misinformation to readers, as Tas has done in this blog post. The reason why I responded to his post was that he misrepresents and incorrectly reinterprets our data and leaves out important details of our work. Tas is one of two things: 1) guilty of intentionally trying to manipulate readers, or 2) inadequately trained and incapable of evaluating geologic literature. In either case, content posted in his blog is untrustworthy and unreliable. I caution readers to take his posts with a grain of salt.

[Tas] Now, now, it’s inappropriate to attack a fellow scientist’s training, ability and integrity.
However, I am more than happy for readers to critically evaluate what I am proposing. Understanding the geological effects of Noah’s Flood is a work in progress and it will only be strengthened by rigorous debate. I don’t think your term “grain of salt” is a good one; it suggests to me that the ideas should be dismissed without proper consideration. Instead, I would encourage readers to critically evaluate, read widely, picture the processes, and come to their own considered conclusions.

So I thank you Sean for your reply and the opportunity to engage.

– Sean

8 Responses

  1. Mark Howard

    It’s interesting to watch how non-creationist scientists so easily, and without investigating, will engage in defamation of character. Tas’ expertise goes beyond well beyond the knowledge of the authors of the article he reviews (one of whom accuses him of lying and/or ignorance), because Tas not only fully understands the standard geological interpretations and arguments, but he is also among the most knowledgeable flood geologists, completely aware of the numerous problems associated with standard dating assumuptions. It would behoove Sean to familiarize himself with the well researched creation literature before so boldly, and wrongly, attacking a reviewer’s background and evidence base.

  2. Ray S.

    Looking at the dialogue, it becomes so apparent once more that our model of earth history is so vastly different than the evolutionary geologist’s. Our completion of the study on the Coconino reveals that one’s biases have a huge outcome on conclusions, and in the case of the Coconino, it’s very hard to see how most previous researchers completely missed some of the most glaring observational evidences, but they did. We discovered 33 scientific, geological evidences in the Coconino that support a sub-aqueous depositional model, and even with some of this evidence staring them in the face, they refuse to accept it. It really does make one wonder.

  3. Milan R

    Thanks for your greatly written article on the Appalachians, including the commented response of the authors. I appreciate your effort, knowing those discussions are so time – demanding. Please do keep me on your list!

  4. Andy M

    Well done Tas – Much impressed that:

    a) evolutionists are so concerned that they look at the web site and take your comments seriously (well done)! and
    b) I think you have done a great job using this GSA article.

  5. Terry Egolf

    Thomas Kuhn observed when two people are discussing an observation from two mutually exclusive paradigms, that even though they use the same words or concepts, they have completely different meanings, and the speakers talk through each other without comprehending what the other says.

    The difference here is that Tas, like many of us who had a secular education in geology before salvation and then received a new basis for another scientific paradigm from Scripture, knows what the words mean from both paradigms, and can easily switch sides in an argument. But we know that only one side has true presuppositions, and so the data makes a lot more sense from the Flood geology paradigm.

  6. Stephen Ray Hale

    Though I was a Christian at the time I once took on the concept of evolution, I was already two years in College studying geology before I changed my concept on Evolution – rather a theistic approach to it. The usefulness in the candor of my professors was that it actually set up the warning lights that all was not understood of natural processes beyond that we can observe today. I re-examined the definition of science and am now of the mind that it is a bit questionable to apply observations of processes and rates of things happening today, things that are TRUE knowledge (Science = knowledge in the Latin), to that we observe, forensically, of the vast graveyard that makes the terra firma we mostly stand upon. There is a caveat to my statement and it applies to why Christians pretty much developed the process of what we call the scientific method. When we apply our knowledge to the forensic evidence of the already stated strata, we are applying the point of reference we have confidence in of today’s processes and rates from which we can judge whether or not such things were happening in the past. Our current knowledge of processes and rates is our bench mark. To interpret with a presumption that what we observe forensically is a result of processes and rates that occur today is indeed a presumption fraught with logical errors, namely that such processes and rates actually occurred in the past, based on what we really know today. The search for knowledge, is, of course, not a new philosophical occupation, but the Christians who developed the scientific method, pretty much desired to elevate this search out of the esoteric guilds and societies that were not transparent to the public, to make it a bit more respectable and even less mysterious, compared to “SECRET” knowledge meant to entice members into this or that society, even religion. We have not been selfish, and should not be condemned for us to graze in the scientific literature of today for that which helps us understand our own Christian/Biblical worldview. In fact, when rightly applied, our science actually helps us discover the “finger of God” , and by now, most of us are sufficiently matured to not consider every unknown thing a work of God outside of Nature or that set of processes and rates which we currently understand as the nature of the Universe. But when we see the “finger of God” we can look in amazement at the awe inspiring Creation of God, and realize that though our being is found in this relative speck of dust in our Universe, it is not arrogant to understand that the vastness of space in this Universe only but enhances our awe of that Creator who happens to be GREATER than that which we now observe. That is why the world has no excuse when it is free to observe and deny the Creator that must have crafted this Universe.

  7. Kenneth Kirkham

    As a new Christian I am looking at everything I have “learned” over 68 years with new eyes. Although science was my “religion” for most of my life I am now presented with Creation as science and my mind is exploding. Areas of supposed truth that have been taught as being absolute are crumbling and areas that left more questions than answers are being reveled with surprising clarity.

    I very much appreciate this site’s discussions. Keep up the open conversations that help expose ideological positions in comparison.

  8. radaractive

    It is a sad-but-true tendency of Darwinists to attack the source (ad hominem) when they reply to well-presented arguments. Usually this is a resort of the side with less evidence. Good job keeping your dialogue civil here.

    Darwinists are doing a LOT of research that winds up being great evidence for creation. Two examples would be Gerhart and Kirschner’s work on Facilitated Variation in organisms, which actually supports a designed reproductive system, and Mary S’s T. Rex, which opened the floodgates to other fossil finds actually having flesh and blood remains.

    Tas, as you review such work you also help all of us “in the fight” and perhaps now and then even cause a guy like Sean to rethink some of his suppositions?