Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College
Steve is currently out at field camp but would like to announce that the new and improved ACG web page is now online at:
Please check it out and forward any suggestions, contributions, comments, or criticisms to Steve. Many thanks also to Keith Miller at Kansas State University for maintaining the old ACG web page for the past few years!
An additional announcement is that the ACG will hold its annual meeting at the Denver Geological Socienty of America conference in October and we're currently working on lining up a speaker. Information will be posted on the ACG web page, and in the fall issue of the ACG newsletter, as it becomes available.
As editor of this newsletter, I found it very interesting to apply the mailing labels for the last issue of The News! It's interesting and heartening to see that there are ACG members all around the United States and scattered in other English-speaking countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa, among others. Some of us receive the newsletter at our homes while others receive it at their place of employment. Some of us teach at Christian schools, some at secular schools, some are in industry (especially the petroleum and environmental sectors), and others are apparently retired.
While reading the labels, and reflecting upon all of our positions in life, I was reminded of yeast. We all know how yeast is used as an apt metaphor in Scripture for something very small yet powerful in that a pinch of it will eventually spread throughout a whole mass of dough. Those of us who have made bread also know that it's possible to get a batch of bad yeast which doesn't do much of anything (except ruin whatever you're making).
Last year I had a temporary teaching position at a state university. While there, my wife and I spent some time visiting local churches looking for a church home (a difficult thing to do when moving into a new area and having no contacts or recommendations). When we finally decided upon a church after a couple of months, we found that another professor in my small department was an active member! I had been too embarrassed to ask fellow department members if they could recommend a local church (having just come from a department in a large university where Christianity was openly mocked) and she had been too embarrassed to ask a new faculty member if he would like to visit her church. I was reminded of this because I saw a couple of names on the mailing list of people whom I know (from participation on field trips, for example), yet had no idea they were Christians or ACG members. It's sad to know that we're missing opportunities to fellowship with each other because we often hide what we are and what we believe.
As Christians, we are all called upon to proclaim the euangellion, the good news of Christ's salvation to the world. This isn't easy to do in the academic world where other people, sometimes hostile to Christianity, may be the ones making decisions about our tenure, research funding, etc. It's not easy to know when we should openly share our faith and when we should, perhaps, hide it under a bushel. This question has increased relevance for me right now as I prepare to leave my temporary position at Calvin (an openly Christian college) for a permanent position at a secular state college.
Compared to the membership of the Geological Society of America, there aren't many of us around (~315 at last count) but strength is not always measured in numbers. I think we all have to honestly ask ourselves if we're leaven in the dough of the geology world (now there's an image for you!). Or are we a bad batch of yeast, ineffective and fit only to be tossed aside. Tough question, but God calls us to have high standards. Just some random thoughts on a beautiful June day here in Michigan.
May God's Spirit fill us all with a boldness to share the good news of Christ's salvation with our fellow geologists and watch over those of us who travel and spend time in the field this summer.
I am grateful for the years I have spent at Princeton. The University has been a fertile ground for wide-ranging intellectual pursuits and a well supplied intellectual base camp for exploration of the Earth and terrestrial planets. I immensely enjoy the enterprise of working with students to make fundamental discoveries about how the Earth works and it is all the more delightful that many of these students have become lifelong friends and collaborators.
Princeton's impact in my life has been much broader than my intellectual specialty. It's a place that touches many aspects of our lives in enduring ways. Princeton is especially close to my heart because the University community has proved to be a suitable base camp for exploring, in some rigor, the fundamentally religious issue of the meaning of life. I came to Princeton 27 years ago as a young agnostic Assistant Professor of Geology. Today I am a gray haired senior professor who is a Christian. Princeton played a central role in this transformation. I became a Christian about 20 years ago at Princeton in the Chapel to be geographically precise and it has been a quantum and lasting change. Life that takes on fundamental meaning is precious. So when Campus Crusade asked me to write down some thoughts about being a Christian and a professor, I was happy to do it.
My discovery of Christianity at Princeton is of course not like discoveries in science in which you are the first one to impress footprints, like an astronaut, on some new intellectual territory. The fundamental discoveries of Christianity were made long ago in social contexts that are for us somewhat foreign. Today personal discovery of Christianity is a well worn path to Christ. Novelty is not a virtue in this case; truth is. Millions have successfully repeated the elementary experiment with their lives. It is not an elitist enterprise, yet even Princeton professors become Christians.
Nevertheless to be an intellectual and a Christian I think rightly demands a certain hard-nosed intellectual honesty. There are intellectual issues surrounding religion and they should be confronted, even though being a Christian is not centrally an intellectual exercise. It is an experience of relationship, more like being married. For some, it's an arranged marriage within the family, which is not in principle bad. But in my case cultural or family religious tradition did not play a major role, in contrast for example with William F. Buckley. My cultural inheritance and tradition was more than anything lively discussions and debates at the dinner table summer squalls punctuated by expectant calms while our parents sent us to the encyclopedia to "get your facts straight." This family inheritance of testing ideas against each other and against any facts that could be brought to bear was a good and rich one. It was not a sterile skepticism, but a wrestling for the truth combined with a good measure of wrestling for the wrestle. This tradition was key in my becoming a scientist (my brother became a philosopher of science) and ultimately a Christian. The bottom line for me was not how I felt about religion or the Universe or anything else, but how do I find out the way things are.
I recently read a book published in the UK called "Scientists as Theologians" by John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge theoretical physicist who I know and respect. Early in the book he makes the point that science and theology share a certain commonalty in the face of a skepticism of any knowledge of reality. Science and Christianity, like any human enterprise, of course involve significant social and political phenomena that may cloud our vision of reality, but the bottom line for both is the belief that it is possible to attain important explanations of human experience that correspond with some true similarity to what is actually going on in the Universe, a viewpoint of critical realism. I fully agree, although we should not underestimate the subtleties of self deception. But I think the attitudes of mind that have helped me successfully step out into the unknown in science have, with some appropriate adjustments, served me well in exploring Christianity.
Exploring the way things are can take us into worlds that may violate common knowledge or simple intuition. For example, Polkinghorne states that the ideas surrounding Christ that Jesus Christ is both God and human, the resurrected Creator who atoned for our sins "are mysterious ideas, uncongenial to the secular twentieth century mind. They arise in Christian thinking, not from an obscurantist urge to mystify, nor from a fanciful propensity to speculation, but from the struggle to do justice to actual Christian experience. They represent ideas that have to be struggled with precisely because of their theological indispensability. I do not think these concepts can be abandoned in accommodation to the supposed needs of a scientific age. Theology has its own necessary concepts just as quantum physics has its own necessary concepts. Neither can submit to the banalities of common sense. After all, a scientist expects a fundamental theory to be tough, surprising and exciting."
Christianity makes fundamental claims about the nature of our existence that are tough, surprising and exciting. These are claims that can ultimately only be tested by submitting your life to Christ. It's not a spectator sport. I'm grateful that Princeton is a place where I've had the freedom to pursue the truth of these important claims.
Organizers: Patricia H. Kelley, Jonathan R. Bryan, and Thor A. Hansen
Narrated in the third person for the most part, Noah's Flood is a popular account of the discoveries of past and present investigators of the flood stories that seem to share a common thread in many of the world's ancient cultures and beliefs. The book also paints a provocative picture of the destruction of the theoretical Euxine Lake (Black Sea) cultures by catastrophic flooding, and attempts to trace the resulting Diaspora back to its roots through the work of archaeologists and linguistic scholars.
The first five chapters are spent establishing a background of prior discoveries by Rawlinson, Smith, Wooley, Layard, and others in archaeology and Assyriology. We are also informed of the investigations into and eventual acceptance of the concept of glacial ice ages by the scientific communities. On the heels of these historic efforts we are launched into a descriptive narrative of the investigations of the Bosporus by the research vessel Chain and of the Mediterranean by the Glomar Challenger. The evidence and conclusion that the Mediterranean was at one time a desert and was then again flooded by the waters of the Atlantic rushing through the Gibraltar straits is of course discussed along with Ryan's presence on the Challenger for parts of the investigation. It is not until the eleventh chapter that the book finally gets into the reason that we first picked it up the investigations into the Black Sea by Ryan and Pitman.
Owing to the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Russian scientific efforts entered into a new spirit of cooperation with weste rn researchers. This opened an avenue of investigation to Ryan, Pitman and others which resulted in internationally cooperative seismic and coring efforts in the Black Sea. In this manner it was discovered that the Black Sea had at one time been a fresh water lake which drained to the Sea of Marmara during the onset of the Younger Dryas. As this last ice age progressively advanced, the climate became colder and drier. Evaporation in the Euxine Lake exceeded refilling by the shrunken rivers that fed it, and the lake's levels began to drop. The channel (presently the Sakarya River) by which it had drained to the Sea of Marmara in the mean time choked with silt sealing it forever as a conduit between the Black Sea and the lakes and seas to the west.
With the end of the Younger Dryas the ice began its retreat northward. Due to the slower crustal rebound along the retreating edge of the Eurasian ice sheets, massive lakes captured the resulting melt water. This was channeled westward along the depression boundary to eventually drain into the North Sea. The Euxine Lake thus deprived of the regenerative northern waters continued to drop to a level that would eventually reach some 400 feet below present sea levels. In the mean time, fed by torrents of melt water, global sea levels were rising. Eventually reaching a level that corresponded to the elevation of the upper reaches of what had been an insignificant river channel, the Bosporus, the stage was set for the most significant catastrophe in the history of man, the flooding of the Euxine Basin. The flood waters amounted to at least ten cubic miles per day or two hundred times that of Niagara Falls. This gouged a channel through the Bosporus 280 feet wide and 475 feet deep and resulted in a rise in the lake level of some six inches per day. The book goes on to describe how the inhabitants would have reacted, where they would have gone, and archaeological, anthropological, and linguistic evidences of the Diaspora resulting from the flood. The book concludes with an epilogue that quotes Gilgamesh.
Noah's Flood is illustrated by some good line art throughout yet none of the seismic sections, core log diagrams, charts, or bathymetric maps are included. While the drawings are good, a photograph or two would have done much to improve the contents. That the book was written for a popular audience may justify the lack of data or more complex cartographic illustrations however.
The references to the flood and origin (Eden) stories in Gilgamesh are misleading. While Noah's Flood is Biblically titled, little credit is given to a Hebraic origin for either story. The accepted date for the Summerian flood of Utnapishtim who reigned in Shurrapak a brief distance north of Ur in the early third millennium BC and that of the Black Sea are over two thousand years apart. However, it has been the traditional position by many twentieth century scholars that based on the discovery of the Gilgamesh epic written in cuneiform on clay tablets that the Sumerians were the originators of the flood and Eden stories. Pitman and Ryan cite a study that proved that such tales may be preserved orally through countless generations, yet no effort was made to point out that the tales or epic form may have been adapted from any other cultural source. Ample evidence exists that the epic was adopted by whatever culture happened to rule the region at the time. It is easy to imagine the Sumerians adapting this and other popular stories of the time to their own history, culture, and mythos. It is also noted that people of the region may have known the approximate location for the traditional site of the Hebrew Eden well into the first millennium BC (2 Kings 19:12 and Isaiah 37:12). However since the book dwells on the Sumerian tales this is not pointed out.
While the geologic theory in Noah's Flood is based on some very good science, it is still a book written in a popular style. Also, the cultural explanations of the Diaspora in the latter part of the book contained some dated information mixed with assumptions. Here perhaps in stretching to make a point the book in fact over reaches cautious speculation. Having read the original paper and viewed their video which was both entertaining and a more technical presentation, I found the book a bit of a disappointment.
Any ACG members wishing to contribute an appropriate book review for The News!, or to comment on this review, are invited to e-mail the newsletter editor at email@example.com.
Examination of enhanced SIR-C images (P-46500 December 21, 1995 and others) have revealed well defined lake bottom detail. Radar theorists speculate that such bathymetric features are visible due to a phenomena called backscatter whereby otherwise undetectably slight surface variations represent bottom details due to hydraulic responses to currents flowing over these structures. Detectors measure returning energy which was not lost due to the backscatter phenomena.
SIR-C images over the Dead Sea have revealed a large remnantal delta structure within the lake and to the west of the present Jordan River outlet. The delta covers approximately one sixth of the area of the north basin. River channels are visible as well that are associated with other tributaries entering the Dead Sea. These often trend 45 to 90 degrees away from current bottom gradients and exhibit mature meander patterns. The dominate drainage pattern established by the river channels exclusive of the delta area is from the west and generally to the southeast terminating in the vicinity of the Lisan Peninsula and along the east bank. Extending through the south basin, across the peninsular neck, and then into the north basin is a well defined and broad lineament possibly representing a narrow yet deep rift valley lake contemporaneous with the river channels.
Analysis of seismic data and a lake level study obtained from the Geologic Survey of Israel and the University of Tel Aviv indicate that based upon observed drainage patterns the delta may not be exclusively associated with the Younger Dryas as previously thought, but continued to develop for quite some time afterward.
Around 14,000 years before present (ybp), the lake level of the Dead Sea reached a high point of about 160 meters below sea level (mbsl). The Younger Dryas was then presumably responsible for a sustained drop to 700 mbsl around 11,200 ybp. Afterwards the lake rebounded to about 285 mbsl around 8,300 ybp and maintained itself close to this level and throughout the Paleolithic Wet Phase until about 7,000 ybp. During the next 500 years the lake level again dropped reaching an elevation of approximately 400 mbsl at 6,500 ybp. A stable period unusual for the Dead Sea then occurred that lasted until about 4,800 ybp. This period is characterized by a slight drop of no more than 20 meters by 6,200 ybp and then a slight but steady rise terminating some time between 4,800 and 4,700 ybp with a sudden increase to about 300 mbsl around 4,350 ybp. The lake level then dropped quickly back down to 400 mbsl some time between 3,800 and 4,000 ybp.
Drainage patterns within the lake when compared to present gradients indicate that in places the bottom of the lake has dropped some 250 to 300 meters since these patterns were established. Due to ongoing siltation which may have proven significant during the Neolithic Wet Phase it is unlikely that the patterns would still be in evidence after the lake reached its lowest point in 11,200 ybp. It is also presumed that the network of rivers would require a significant period of relative stability in order to manifest a mature system pattern as is evident in the images. This was not available based on lake level data during the Younger Dryas, and in fact only one such period exists, that being the 1,800 year long period between 6,500 and 4,700 ybp. This calls into question whether the Dead Sea actually fell to 700 mbsl around 11,200 ybp. It would suggest instead that samples obtained for that level originated at a higher elevation and that possibly the lake level and gradient for that time might be similar to that suggested for the 6,500 to 4,800 ybp interval. The bottom subsequently dropped due to a combination of rotational movement along transverse faults, rift movement and massive salt withdrawal to feed diapirs located under the Lisan peninsula and along the west and northern banks.
The well defined delta preceded at least some of the myriad river channels. Within the main course of the delta channel at least two courses are visible which originated from a prior course of the Jordan and which served to widen the channel. It is therefore likely that based upon the extent and thickness of the large delta feature that it developed while the topography of the lake bottom was still relatively flat but the lake level was dropping due to a transition from a wet to a dry phase. This would fit the lake level data for the transition from the Neolithic Wet Phase to the beginning of the 6,500 to 4,700 ybp dry period.
If the hypothesis that many of the observed submerged river systems and the delta developed subsequent to the Neolithic Wet Phase can be proven through additional studies then a similar scenario to that proposed by Pitman and Ryan for the Black Sea during the Younger Dryas may be proposed. This being that during the Neolithic Wet Phase populations in the Mideast expanded and moved out of the river valleys and lake basins due to the increased availability of food and areas conducive to farming. With the abrupt end of this phase they returned to settle on the margins of lakes and in the deltas and river valleys where irrigation practices would be of benefit. This would have concentrated populations from the surrounding drier regions within the Dead Sea Basin.
Biblical corroboration of the Dead Sea flood plain might be found in Genesis 13:10 "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar" (at the time Lot was north of the Dead Sea and Zoar is located by tradition on the south bank). It would also be natural to compare a flood plain covered by meander scars and channels to either the Nile delta or its lower courses. To the inhabitants for the period from the end of the Neolithic Wet up to about 4,800 ybp the basin would have for the most part been a well watered plain.
Another feature is evident that is mentioned in Genesis 14:1-3 "And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations; That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea." Mt. Siddim is on the west bank of the south basin. SIR imaging has revealed a river valley adjacent to the mountain and beneath the present manmade evaporative basins.
Considering the vast number of meander scars and channels evident in the area of the Dead Sea and the implied gradient required for their formation, the question we must now ask is not where was the Plain of the Jordan, but where was the Dead Sea during the Younger Dryas and during the 6,500 to 4,700 ybp dry period?
We are hereby soliciting volunteers to be considered as official ACG speakers. If you are interested, please submit your vita and a list of talk titles with brief summaries for consideration. The vita of the speakers bureau members will be made available to potential host organizations. Also, feel free to indicate any limitations on your availability. Proposals should be sent to ACG c/o Keith B. Miller, Department of Geology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506-3201, or by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that this will develop into a significant ministry of the ACG. It would provide an opportunity to have an influence beyond our own specialized community. Please prayerfully consider this opportunity to serve the ACG and the broader Christian community.
Talk.Origins is an Internet newsgroup devoted to an always contentious, and often abusive, discussion of origins (primarily creation/evolution issues). While the newsgroup is, in my opinion, best left unvisited by those lacking masochistic tendencies, the Talk.Origins archives are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in reading the many interesting, usually well-written, and documented refutations of common young-earth creationist arguments archived at this site.
The essays are grouped into several catagories - FAQs (frequently-asked questions), Must-Read Files, Evolution, Creationism, Age of the Earth, Flood Geology, Catastrophism, and Debates. I often find myself steering people (especially students) interested in creation/evolution issues to this web page.
The Affiliation of Christian Geologists
PurposeThe Affiliation of Christian Geologists was formed in 1989 to:
MembershipMembership in the Affiliation of Christian Geologists is international and open to all who can assent to the purpose (above) and principles of the ACG and who have the required educational or professional background in geology or related sciences. Membership is currently $10.00 / year for regular members and $5.00 / year for students.
ACG Activities and Publications
More InformationVisit the ACG web page at http://www.wheaton.edu/ACG/
For membership information contact:
To join the ACG mailing list, send an e-mail message to email@example.com with a single line in the body of the message requesting subscribe firstname.lastname@example.org.