August 1, 2017

Good and Bad News About the Biblical Flood

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review

Below is the third report on the North-American Division Faith & Science Conference, which took place in St. George, Utah, United States, from July 6-13.—Adventist Review

“If you believe in the biblical flood, let me tell you that I have good and bad news for you,” said Loma Linda University Biology and Paleontology Professor Leonard Brand at the beginning of his presentation on that precise topic. Brand is a seasoned researcher in taphonomy—a branch of paleontology that studies the processes of fossilization and geological factors that influence the preservation of fossils. In his discussion, he developed what he had hinted in a previous presentation.

“There is evidence that either favors or challenges [the Seventh-day Adventist] short time understanding of origins and the Flood,” said Brand as he set out to compare and assess some of them.

First, said Brand, we must remember that from the start, naturalism thinks in terms of millions of years. And we should never underestimate the role played by a worldview in shaping scientists’ conclusions. “Evidence plus worldview equals conclusion,” he said. “And after you choose a worldview, all evidence will be interpreted that way no matter what.”

Short Time Periods

“Much evidence does not support millions of years,” said Brand. Among other reasons, he mentioned some of the geological evidence for short time periods, the issue of “missing time,” and examples of fossil preservation.

“Geologists acknowledge that, for instance, there is a sediment mass spreading all the way from Canada to Mexico,” Brand said. “How can you spread sediments in such a vast area? You can’t, unless the past was very different from the present.” A global worldwide flood could very well explain it, he said.

The same applies to “missing time,” or those gaps in the record which show that no significant time passed between events that should be far apart, according to a naturalist understanding of earth history.

And what about well-preserved fossils? “Researchers have found, for instance, crocodile poop in five different layers,” said Brand. “All of it speaks about mass mortalities and rapid burial, not about long processes taking million of years.”

The Bad News

What Brand called “the bad news about the flood” refers to unanswered questions, those issues where satisfactory answers have yet to be found.

The two major issues challenging an Adventist understanding of the time and scope of the flood are, according to Brand, the geological model currently used, and radiometric dating, which in their current form, seem to suggest much longer periods. Adventist scientists acknowledge that radiometric dating seems to tell the order in which strata were deposited, even though the dates provided by this method must be, according to them, inaccurate.

“We have some unanswered questions, but naturalists have many more,” said Brand. “We need to keep analyzing the evidence.”

Conference attendees expressed that they valued this approach to a discussion of the possibility and implications of the biblical flood. It is an approach that makes sense, they said. It presupposes the reliability of the Genesis account, while continuing to sort out the evidence.

“In the past, creationists often tried to ‘poke a hole,’” said Andrews University Assistant Professor of Church History John Reeve. “Now we are humble; we acknowledge we don’t have all the answers. I found it a very positive approach.”

A fourth and last report on the Faith & Science Conference will share how fossil preservation makes a compelling case for the biblical flood as told in Genesis, and what contribution Adventist scholars can make to this ongoing discussion.