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Newsletter of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists

Volume 11, Number 1 - Spring 2003

The President's Column

Ward E. Sanford, U.S. Geological Survey

As your new president this year I would like to say I have always appreciated this organization and the opportunity it gives for Christian fellowship within the geologic community. I think as Christians and geologists it is easy for many of us to feel isolated between a geologic community, many who have no appreciation for Christianity, and a Christian community, many who have no appreciation for geology. This organization offers a place for those who have an appreciation for both.

I see there are some interesting sessions coming up at this year’s GSA meeting in Seattle that may be of interest to our members. One is being chaired by John Bratton of the USGS entitled “History and Future of the Relationship between the Geosciences and Religion: Litigation, Education, Reconciliation?” Another is entitled “’Noah’s Flood’ and the Late Quaternary Geological and Archaeological History of the Black Sea and Adjacent Basins”.

Although personally I hold to a regional flood interpretation for Noah’s account, I never gave credence to the Black Sea basin being a viable location. Many of you may know that I have been compiling evidence for a regional flood in the Persian Gulf that has many remarkable similarities to the Genesis account. I gave a talk on this at our ACG meeting at GSA in Toronto a few years ago. Since that time I have found additional evidence that supports this theory. I have now submitted a paper describing all the evidence to the journal Geology. If this paper gets accepted I may then turn to writing a paper for Perspectives (the ASA journal) that would put the Persian Gulf and this flood much more in the biblical context.

This summer I am joining a team with Ambassadors for Christ International to teach English as a Second Language in Romania for two weeks. We will be at a camp in the Transylvania mountains about half an hour from Count Dracula’s castle! The program is being run by an evangelical church from the northern town of Botosani. The curriculum will have a heavy biblical base. Most of the attendees will be high-school to college age, about half of who are Christians. I am looking forward to the trip.

Best wishes to all of you and I hope to see many of you in Seattle.

Yours in Christ,


The Editor's Corner

Wayne R. Belcher, U.S. Geological Survey, Henderson, Nev.

This is my inaugural issue of The News! as newsletter editor. As my predecessors have made abundantly clear, this newsletter is only as good as the quantity and quality of the material that you, the members of ACG submit. I plan to publish two newsletters per year, one in the spring (coinciding with the time period before the ASA annual meeting) and one in the fall (coinciding with the time period before the GSA annual meeting). I would also the re-name the newsletter. Please send me any ideas and I’ll pick the best one. The person who sends in the winning entry will get some appropriate prize (a book or something).

New ACG Officers Elected

As part of its business meeting held at the annual GSA meeting in Denver during Fall 2002, members of the ACG elected new officers. They are:

Ward E. Sanford (
U.S. Geological Survey
431 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
703-648-5882 (office)
703-648-5274 (fax)

David Campbell (
Dept. of Biological Sciences (Biodiversity & Systematics)
University of Alabama
Box 870345
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487

Keith B. Miller (
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
785-532-2250 (office)
785-532-5159 (fax)

Newsletter Editor
Wayne R. Belcher (
U.S. Geological Survey
160 North Stephanie Street
Henderson, NV 89074
702-564-4609 (office)
702-564-4500 (fax)

Report on the ACG Meeting Held at the 2002 Annual GSA Meeting

Denver, Colorado, October 27-30, 2002

Kenneth J. Van Dellen

On October 29, during the 2002 Annual Meeting of the GSA, the ACG held its usual gathering. Following an informal dinner, members and guests adjourned to our assigned meeting room to hear a talk by John Wagner, professor of geology at Clemson University and former president of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. The presentation, titled Teaching Geology in a Faith Based Context, was followed by the typical lively discussion, much of it centering around whether the underlying assumptions of science are religiously neutral.

Keith Miller reported there were 34 people in attendance, including 13 who were not ACG members. He notes, "The number of non-ACG members is significant because it demonstrates the importance of these gatherings in making contact with other Christians in our discipline, and in becoming more visible within the larger geological community."

The 2003 Geological Society of American Annual Meeting will be held at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle on November Colorado Convention Center in Denver on November 2 - – 5. Anyone willing to help plan the ACG meeting should contact ACG Officers Ward Sanford ( or Keith Miller (

58th Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation to be Held in Lakewood, Colorado

Jennifer Wiseman,

“The Heavens Declare the Glory of God …” –Psalm 19:1

The 58th annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation (the ACG’s parent organization) will be held at the Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado on July 25 – 28, 2003. The theme of the meeting will be “Astronomy and cosmology”. Information on the conference can be obtained from the ASA office or the program chair, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman (contact information follows).

This will be a very interesting meeting with several plenary speakers and panels, including:

Dennis Danielson -- University of British Columbia, Assoc. Head of English; Editor, The Book of the Cosmos

Eilene Theilig -- NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Project Manager, Galileo Mission to Jupiter

Deborah Haarsma -- Calvin College, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Author, Speaker, and Worship Musician

Plus a panel of leading-edge researchers in astronomy and cosmology.


There are also several special sessions that deserve special attention, including:

Our Faith and Science at Work and at Church: Panel discussion on practical issues for following Christ as a scientist in the context of the laboratory, the classroom, and the local church

Newest Discoveries in Astronomy and Cosmology

Divine Action in Nature

Bioethics and Stewardship: Human Population and Global Climate Change

Considering Earth as a Privileged Planet

Technology Development from a Christian Perspective


Contributed Talks, Student Papers, and Posters

There will also be a very interesting selection of FIELD TRIPS, on Friday:

The Earth has a History: Geologic Field Trip

High Altitude Ecology Field Trip

National Center for Atmospheric Research Field Trip

Red Rocks Dinosaur Ridge Field Trip

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Field Trip

Spouse Field Trip to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail (Saturday).

Meetings of the Affiliations, Commissions, Fellows, Local Area Chapters, etc. will occur.

Finally, there will be special receptions and Activities for Early Career Scientists.

Also, worship times and good fellowship together.

For more information contact:

American Scientific Affiliation
PO Box 668,
Ipswich, MA 01938-0668 USA

Jennifer Wiseman, Ph.D.
Phone: 410.516.6539

Student/Early Career Events at the July 2003 ASA Annual Meeting

Johnny Lin,

There will be several activities for student/early career scientists at the 58th ASA Annual Meeting this summer (July 25-28). These include:

Sat. lunch: An icebreaker and time to meet other students and early career scientists.

Sat. evening: Ice-cream reception.

Mon. afternoon/evening: Trip to explore Denver!

Details regarding the lunch and ice-cream reception have yet to worked out. Here are some details regarding the Monday trip:

What: Explore the sights and sounds of Denver! There's a lot of flexibility about what to do, but some ideas include the Denver Mint, the 16th Street Promenade, the Museum of Nature and Science, an "only in Denver" dinner (read: buffalo, Rocky Mountain oysters), etc.

When: From the close of the conference, Mon. July 28 through the end of the evening. Feel free to join us for the entire afternoon/evening or just a part of it!

Cost/Transportation: Since this is informal it'll be pay as you go. Depending on interest, we'll rent cars as needed.

If you are interested in joining the Monday trip, please contact Johnny Lin via e-mail ( or on the first day of the conference.

GSA Topical Session on Geoscience and Religion to be Held at Seattle Annual Meeting

John F. Bratton,

Do you have experience in the evolution-creation wars? GSA approved the topical session submitted by John Bratton, entitled, "History and Future of the Relationship Between the Geosciences and Religion: Litigation, Education, Reconciliation?," as Topical Session No. 39. This session will examine how the relationship between geosciences and religion started, major battles, and what hope there is for peace in the near future. Presentations by scientists (religious or not), educators, historians, and theologians are welcome.

Geoscientists, particularly those involved in education, have often encountered opposition from religious organizations and religiously-motivated individuals. People of faith (including practicing geologists) have often felt threatened by scientists and/or their discoveries as well. This session will examine the recent and more ancient history of some of these interactions, with the intention of putting the current situation in perspective and providing insight that may help reduce conflict and open more constructive dialogue in the future. Because all of geoscience education must take place in the context of the larger society, it is important for educators to be respectful of religious beliefs of students and colleagues, while still being able to present clearly and fully the scientific merits of modern geology.

John encourages everyone to be thinking of presentations you might like to contribute. The abstract deadline is not until July 15 (see the GSA website for more information on abstract submittal, Contact John if you think you might submit an so he can assess interest.

Interesting Articles

Gordon Winder, professor emeritus of the University of Western Ontario, has written two essays on topics of interest to members of the ACG. The first is a FACTS sheet on the age of the earth and the second is an essay on how speciation, the basic principle of biological evolution, can be understood in Genesis. Both resources would be good resources for our members that are teaching Sunday school since both address Scriptural concerns. Readers can request these essays via e-mail from Gordon at

Moon Lectures, Labs, and Memories

Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College, IL

I recently returned from the moon. This semester I decided to devote nearly two weeks of my Historical course to the early solar system and lunar geology: six lectures and two labs. Why? The moon and meteorites contribute vital information about the early history of the earth and solar system. The story of lunar exploration leading to the current theory of the moon’s origin is interesting, instructive and not well known to the current generation of students. But for me, it was a lot of fun.

Preparing new lectures required doing some catch-up reading on the status of lunar science. The Internet is a bountiful resource of data and imagery. I downloaded scores of images of craters, landing sites, moonwalks, moon rocks, maps and graphics for PowerPoint presentations. Last summer I read Don Wilhelms’ memoir, To a Rocky Moon, an exhaustive history of lunar exploration. I have read most of the astronaut autobiographies and have a collection of books and videos on the topic.

The lectures introduced the students to the geography of the moon, craters, rocks, tools and techniques of lunar fieldwork, the moon’s interior, and its origin. Students were given glasses to see enhanced 3D images from orbit and the surface (My class looked like they were watching a matinee of “Attack of the Highland Breccia”). I told them stories about the scientists who were part of the lunar exploration program- men like Gene Shoemaker and Jack Schmidt. During one class we watched an episode from the excellent HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, about geological training for the Apollo 15 mission. One lab involved making craters by dropping projectiles from various heights into a sand box (we plotted impact energy vs. crater diameter and depth). We also made layered sand box models and created higher energy impacts using a slingshot to observe the resulting deformation and ejecta deposits. The second lab was a practical study of lunar stratigraphy using a collection of telescopic and orbital imagery of the Mare Imbrium region (including the Apollo 15 landing site at Hadley Rill). I required my students to read two chapters from The New Solar System, an excellent introductory textbook on planetary science.

Actually, this was a return trip to the moon for me. I spent most of my childhood in low earth orbit. Alan Shepard’s first American spaceflight was broadcast over the PA system in my kindergarten classroom. Rockets immediately became the toy of choice. Cardboard boxes were converted into space capsules or “mock-ups” in which I trained relentlessly. Electric motors pulled models of spacecraft beneath my bedroom ceiling, painted black and speckled with stars. At age eleven I was blessed to meet Neil Armstrong, shortly after his Gemini 8 mission (which nearly killed him and Dave Scott when thrusters started spinning their craft out of control). I took a photo of Mr. Armstrong and sent it to him at NASA. To my surprise he returned a personal note and photos to encourage my “man in space hobby.” Then he went to Tranquility Base.

Moon rocks paved the road to my career in geology. I made a shallow sandbox in which each Apollo landing site was duplicated so that the progress of moonwalks could be traced as I watched them on TV. Apollo 17 was launched during my senior year of high school, which my kind and encouraging parents allowed me to witness in person with my uncle from Florida. By this time I had already applied to colleges with the intention of studying geology. Sadly, cancer claimed my father’s life just before high school graduation. I considered delaying my freshman year at Virginia Tech to remain at home. A neighbor of ours was an acquaintance of Apollo Astronaut Jim Irwin, who by that time had retired from NASA and had started a Christian evangelistic ministry called High Flight. One day a letter arrived in the mail from Mr. Irwin, urging me to continue with the plans that my parents and I had worked out in the past. “On some occasions, these decisions will be very difficult, but Christ always remains with us and helps us through such times if we but ask Him to,” he wrote.

Thirty years have past since Apollo 17 and the last boot-prints on the moon. By the time I was a college sophomore, I convinced myself to concentrate on earth rocks. That is how things worked out, and God has blessed me with a wonderful career exploring planet earth. I know other geologists who share a similar story. Still, we remain moonstruck. The glory of the Apollo missions and the wonder of doing fieldwork on the moon can motivate another generation of geology students.

Suggested Reading and Resources

Don Wilhelms, To a Rocky Moon - A Geologist’s History of Lunar Exploration, (1993, Tucson, Arizona University Press, 477p.)
Beatty, Petersen, Chaikin, eds., The New Solar System 4th Edition (1999, Cambridge, Sky Publishing, 421p.)
James B. Irwin, To Rule the Night (1973, New York, A. J. Holman Co., 251p.)
Lunar Image Catelogs -
Moon Rocks and Soil-
Top Ten Results from Lunar Exploration -
Tutorial on Remote Sensing - Section 19 (units 1-6) on Lunar Science-


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