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Uniformitarian assumption is untenable (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Uniformitarian assumption is untenable (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CD200:

The evolution model is associated primarily with uniformitarianism, but evidence of catastrophism makes the uniformitarian assumption untenable.

Source: Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 91-100.


CreationWiki response: As this claim is worded, Talk Origins is using a Straw Man. They have condensed nine pages into a single sentence, and one that does not accurately represent the content of the nine pages.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Modern uniformitarianism (actualism) differs from nineteenth century Lyell uniformitarianism. [Snip]

Geologists today no longer subscribe to Lyell uniformitarianism. Starting in the late nineteenth century, fieldwork showed that natural catastrophes still have a role in creating the geologic record.

Morris points this out in the cited pages, so this is further evidence of Talk Origins' use of a Straw Man in this claim.

However, natural catastrophes are not consistent with creationist catastrophism, such as "Flood geology." First, they are much smaller than the world-shaping events proposed as part of the creationists' catastrophism.

This is not entirely true. Flood geologists recognize plenty of post-Flood natural catastrophes. Sometimes the only disagreement with uniformitarian geologists is when a particular local natural catastrophe occurred. Furthermore, the fact that uniformitarian geologists interpret a feature as resulting from a given type of local natural catastrophe does not necessarily eliminate it as resulting from part of, or along with, a global flood. Uniformitarian geology and Flood geology are two different theoretical systems, and as such the interpretation of one cannot be used to invalidate the other.

More to the point, they still represent processes observed in the present. Meteorites, glacial melting, and flash floods still occur regularly, and we can (and do, as in the examples above) extrapolate from the observed occurrences to larger events of the same sort. The scale of events may change, but the physical laws operating today are key to the past.

However, there is a point where the scale of an event can become so large and complex that it cannot simply be scaled up from smaller counterparts. Such is the case with the Genesis Flood.

Even the simplest model for a global flood, where the water just floods the Earth and then drains away, is dynamically different from even the largest of local floods. The effects of tides and currents would be different without dry land, so even modeling such a global flood based on the oceans would be problematic. The global flood described in the Bible is much more than this simple case, and extrapolating its results from local floods will not work. In fact, the Genesis Flood was more than a single catastrophe—it was a number of catastrophic events combined. So trying to find evidence for the Genesis Flood by looking at local floods is close to futile. This is one reason why uniformitarian geology and Flood geology produce such different interpretations from the same evidence.