Originally, during the 18th and early 19th centuries, the fossils and the sedimentary rock that contained them were widely viewed as being remnants of the Mabul, the Great Flood of Noah. Later, due to the great influence of Baron George Cuvier, the foremost expert of his day, the various strata containing fossils of extinct marine and land creatures were subsequently viewed as the results of major catastrophic events, unrelated to the Mabul, that violently buried these life forms, which occurred many years before the events recorded in the Torah. By the mid-nineteenth century, the catastrophic interpretation of the fossil record, which was widely accepted during the 18th and up until the first third of the 19th century, was supplanted by a wholly different approach, that which is called uniformitarianism. Uniformitarianism implies that the geological record was created not by catastrophe, such as sudden massive floods or the outpouring of lava as the earth suffered periodic convulsions, but by the same slow processes that we see today. In the words of the father of uniformitarianism, the eighteenth century Scottish geologist, James Hutton, “the present is the key to the past.” The man most responsible for the acceptance of this new paradigm, was Charles Lyell, the nineteenth century author of the classic work on uniformitarianism, “Principles of Geology.” It was Lyell’s work that most influenced Darwin to create his new theory on the Origin of Species. Today, geology has begun to move away from Lyell’s orthodox uniformitarianism. Despite much resistance, it is commonly accepted today that the dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the earth through some sort of cataclysmic event. And many view the extinction of 95% of all of the species at the end of the Paleozoic Era, at the end of the Permian period, as being the result of some sudden catastrophic event. Our own eyes have witnessed the power of just one volcano eruption. In 1980, Mount St. Helens, in Washington State, erupted and created geological strata up to 600 feet high. Within five years they had hardened to rock. The volcano toppled 150 square miles of forest in six minutes. Its mudflow eroded a canyon system as deep as 140 feet. Later on, a small creek was found running through it. As one author pointed out, had this eruption occurred a couple of centuries ago, a modern uniformitarian geologist, inspecting these features, might conclude that the strata had formed over eons, and that the creek had carved the canyon, similar to what they say about the Grand Canyon. This lecture explores the evidence of the great catastrophes that shaped the earth’s surface as well as the evidence that the modern dating system and the standard interpretation of the fossil record are in need of correction.
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