Hundreds of Adventist teachers took an all-day field trip
to the Grand Canyon — and got a first-hand science lesson on why the Biblical
flood rather than an evolutionary process lasting 2 billion years created the stunning
site in the U.S. state of Arizona.
More than 400 people piled into buses in St. George, Utah,
on Wednesday for a three-hour drive to the Grand Canyon.
The outing was part of a 10-day International Conference on
the Bible and Science, which opened Friday and showcases a number of leading
Adventist and non-Adventist creationists.
The conference, sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist
Church, aims to build the faith of Adventist educators and equip them with the
latest scientific evidence that supports teachings from the Bible that God created the Earth in six literal days about
6,000 years ago.
To this end, organizers decided to hold the conference near
the Grand Canyon so participants could get a first-hand look at a site used by creationists and non-creationists alike to justify their positions on the
“This is one place where you see a dramatic landscape that
is the result of what happened in the flood,” said Leonard Brand, a leading
Adventist paleontologist who has studied the Grand Canyon for four decades and
acted as a tour guide Wednesday.
“We can best understand the origins of the Grand Canyon that
way,” he said. “There aren’t any good explanations if we don’t understand it in
Non-creationists and creationists agree on two general
points about the Grand Canyon: It was eroded out by water, and it formed
because the surrounding area rose up to form a broad mountain or a high plateau.
But non-creationists say it was the Colorado River that
carved out the 277-mile-long Grand Canyon over millions of years. They say that
the exposed red, yellow and brown ribbons of rock that measure about a mile
deep reveal a lengthy record of Earth’s history, and that each layer of rock
represents millions of years.
Brand, a professor at Loma Linda University, offered five
reasons to back up creationists’ view that the canyon is the result of a flood
that devastated the world some 5,000 years ago.
“How was the Grand Canyon carved?” Brand, holding a
microphone in the front seat of Tour Bus No. 7, asked a group of 43
participants as they neared the canyon. “What was the water source for all the
He said he saw problems with the popular view that the
Colorado River could have formed the canyon if given enough millions of years.
He said that many scientists believe that the canyon was created over a
relatively short period of 17,000 years to a few million years. But even
100 million years would hardly be enough time for the river to
actually accomplish the mammoth task.
“We think that the best explanation is the canyon was carved
out by the Genesis flood: a massive amount of water that covered the whole area
and moved rapidly, carving out the canyon very quickly,” Brand explained in an
interview on the sidelines of the tour. “That seems more promising than all
those theories about how a river carved it out gradually over millions of
Another feature of the Grand Canyon that is puzzling for
standard non-creationist theories involves the many side canyons that jut out
from the main canyon, Brand said. Most of those side canyons lack a source of
water to cause their erosion, raising questions about how they were
“Again, this is easier to explain if you have a massive
amount of water flowing over the canyon and carving it out,” Brand said.
Backing up this theory, scientists have replicated the form
of the Grand Canyon in laboratory experiments by covering a large area with
water and then lowering the water level as the water drains off, “cutting canyon
shapes like we see in Arizona,” he said.
The layers of rock in the Grand Canyon that many scientists
say represent millions of years of the Earth’s history also contain
contradictory evidence, Brand said.
Non-creationists say a sandy desert once covered the area of
the Grand Canyon, and a layer of Coconino sandstone is what remains of the
desert dunes once blown in by the wind.
But the Coconino sandstone contains fossil animal tracks
that research shows could only have been formed by animals that were walking
underwater, not on wind-blown sand, said Brand, who has carried out extensive
studies into the tracks and presented his findings at the conference earlier
“The animal tracks are best explained as underwater, as
would be in the Genesis flood,” he said.
Low in the Grand Canyon is another curious rock formation: a
meter-thick layer of limestone with many Nautiloids, the hard shells of an
ancient, extinct animal that was related to squids. A massive flow of water and
sediment seems like the only way to explain how such a large layer of
Nautiloids accumulated in one layer, and spread for several hundred miles.
“You wouldn’t accumulate fossils in one layer like that
through a slow process over long periods of time,” Brand said. “That’s got to
be a layer that was washed in there all at once and fairly rapidly.”
The Grand Canyon’s rock formations that cover thousands and,
sometimes, hundreds of thousands of square miles represent a fifth piece of
evidence pointing to a catastrophic flood, Brand said.
“You have one layer of sandstone that is uniform over
thousands of square miles,” he said. “Nowhere in the Earth can you see sediment
being deposited that way in rivers or lakes today.
“So what happened in the
past is very different from what is happening now,” he said. “It takes a special geological
process to explain it, and the flood is an excellent way to explain it.”
Some of Brand’s remarks
reiterated what other speakers have presented at the conference, which opened
Friday and showcases a number of leading Adventist and non-Adventist creationists.
Perhaps the repetition was a
good thing. While attendees dutifully jotted down notes during the presentations
at the Dixie conference center, many of the Brazilians, Russians and Ukrainians
seated on Tour Bus No. 7 on Wednesday seemed more excited in seeing the Grand
Canyon than listening to a tour guide.
As soon as the bus arrived
at the Grand Canyon’s north rim, the passengers sprang out and started snapping
pictures of the breathtaking panorama of cliffs rippling off into the distance
under a blue sky.
“My impression of the Grand
Canyon is of awe,” said Urias Echterhoff Takatohi, a physics professor at
Centro Universitário Adventista in São Paulo, Brazil.
This was his second visit to
the canyon, but he said he was no less impressed than the first time, also
during an church-organized trip.
Romica Sirbu, director of
the education department for the church’s Romanian Union Conference, said he
saw the God of creation in the rocks.
“The lesson for me from the
Grand Canyon is God is magnificent,” he said.