And They Shall Fail to See Reality

11 August, 2008

I had an odd upbringing.  I grew up in the National Park Service.  My father has a BS in geology, and spent his career as a Park Ranger.  Any car trip, anywhere throughout the southwest United States, became, for at least part of the journey, a geologic travelogue.

His moving lectures covered erosion processes, faults and earthquakes, volcanism, deposition, and even the evidence of life throught the colours of the rocks.  I learned quickly that, despite the seeming permanence of geologic features, when one looked beyond a human life span, the rocks, mountains, canyons, and arches are impermanent.  And his explanations about uniformitarianism — the idea that the same processes at work today have been at work since the planet was formed — set my imagination free.  I pictured dinosaurs walking through the mudstones.  I saw crocodylians roaming the land.  I saw the past.

Growing up in desert areas, I was fascinated by water (still am (my favourite roads are ones which parallel rivers and creeks)).  I looked forward to the monsoon season of Northern Arizona.  I watched the skies for the thunderheads and tried to calculate the chances of a cloud providing rain and, more important, doing it over me.  I loved the gully-washers and flash floods.  I would imagine a miniature me in a kayak or raft, riding the muddy waves.

I could also watch, on a small scale, how much one storm could change the landscape.  Small rocks moved.  Oxbows formed, or were cut off.  Steep areas moved upstream.  Slow areas became wider as sediment accumulated.

Through my father’s teaching (which never seemed like teaching to me), I was able to make the cognitive adjustment from microgeology to macrogeology.  I could look at the Grand Canyon, or Walnut Canyon, or Titus Canyon, or Canyon de Chelly and see exactly the same processes, just in a larger scale.  And the idea that what I was seeing was billions of years in the making awoke a love for nature which my study of human history never extinguished.

Of course, to a creationist (young-earth variety), those previous paragraphs just prove how deluded and secular I am.  After all, god(s) created the earth and all the heavens in six days, 6,000 years ago.  The earth is designed for us, his greatest creation.  The agricultural belts of China, Europe, and North and South America were created to feed us.  The mountains to give us adventure and wonder.  The seas to feed us.  The arches, buttes, and canyons of the American Southwest to provide beauty.  The Earth exists today as it has always been, as it always will be (of course, there was the great flood, which BLs and YECs use to explain ALL geology (not to mention palaeontology)).

To a YEC, the very idea of Uniformitarianism is anathema.  The idea that the soils in which we grow wheat are a product of the glaciations of the last 10,000 to 100,000 years is heresy.  The thought that mountains are still growing (and the continents are moving) denies the permanence of the deity’s creation.  The idea that god(s) handiwork is impermanent would call into question the Biblical story of creation.

The Biblical literalists, the Young Earth Creationists, fail to see what is happening every day, in every corner of our world.  They deny reality.  Reality does not agree with their faith, so they deny reality.  At Arches National Park in Utah, reality happened on the night of August 4th, 2008.

Arches National Park consists of mesas, buttes and canyons carved into late Triassic (early Jurassic?) sandstones.  The dry, high desert means that erosion happens slower and faster — slower because there is so little rain, faster because, when it does rain, it creates flash floods.  Little vegetation grows, there is little soil, so the rocks are visible.  The action of freezing and thawing, the flash floods, and the wind has created over 2,000 arches (which explains the name of the park, neh?). 

Arches is now one arch short.  Wall Arch, along one of the more popular trails, collapsed (gravity sucks, right?).  To a comitted theist, a Biblical Literalist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, this must be an example of man’s destructiveness, man’s imperfection, as a result of Eve’s decision to listen to a snake and eat an apple.  To a naturalist, one who is willing to comprehend what the evidence shows, is willing to open the mind to reality, the collapse of the arch is a striking example of the reality of geologic processes.

The reality of Uniformitarianism stares us in the face daily.  Every landform that we see will disappear.  Just because it does not happen in our lifetime, does not mean it won’t happen.  The Old Man of the Mountain has already collapsed.  The Grand Canyon will disappear.  Yosemite Valley will fill in as the mountains around it erode.  The geysers of Yellowstone will have a short life. The Great Lakes are filling in as you read this. 

Every landform (other than the continents), including mountains, plains, seas, oceans, lakes, hills, canyons, and waterfalls, will destroyed by the same processes which created them.  And new landforms, just as wonderful, just as original, will be created.  Not through the capricious idiocy of a bronze-age deity, but through the wonders of reality.

Biblical literalists and Young Earth Creationists, may reason find you and may you accept the reality of the world.  Meanwhile, I will continue to watch the world change before my very eyes.  Naturally.



  1. Wow – those photos are something.

  2. Lovely post, (((Billy))). My dad (though a Baptist) used to do something similar with biology – every trek through the woods was accompanied by a David Attenborough-style running commentary about the animals and plants we’d encounter.

    One of the (oh, so many!) reasons I reject YECism is that it’s so small in scope. The ideas of geology, biology, astrophysics and so on are infinitely more graceful and far-reaching than, “goddidit.”

  3. But you know HE works in mysterious ways and HE made the old man go away and is filling in the Great Lakes. Why? Who are we to question HIS wisdom?

    Honestly, you can’t win. If they want to believe, they’ll excuse anything. Hell, maybe their god did that as punishment for allowing gay civil unions. I know, they’ve had it for some 8 months now, but god just got around to it. It’s a big universe to run, you know! He can’t be everywhere – oh wait a minute…

  4. () –

    Nice work. You really busted your arches on this piece.

  5. I really enjoyed this post.

    What yunshui said in this/her (?) last paragraph is absolutely right, too, and so well expressed.

  6. His

    (apologies for shameless self-linkage)

  7. All that is and all that shall be was created by God in six days and the ‘evidence’ you see is the revenant of the Great Flood as told through the only book of Truth. You’re delusions will be punished for all eternity by the One Loving God Whom all must worship or suffer eternal damnation. The ‘change’ you claim to see is just the surface, it is not reality. Reality is unchanging.

    The beautiful Wal Arch was destroyed by humanity. The sin of Eve not only put sin into mankind, but also created the imperfection of the earth which those who will not believe choose to view as evidence of geology. Geology does not exist. The continents do not move. Canyons do not get deeper. Mountains do not get high. All that is, all that was, and all that shall be were created in perfection by you’re, and mine, Lord and Master Who loves His creation.

    I pray for you’re soul and hope that you will freely accept the forgiveness of God and accept His love or be cast into the firey pit for eternal damnation.

  8. Wow. Someone got out on the dumb side of the bed this morning. “Geology does not exist. The continents do not move.” Here’s a layman’s explanation of why you’re wrong.

    Still, as the original post’s title said…

  9. Have you seen a continent move, Yunshui? I pray for you to accept the love of the All-Powerful into your heart or else be damned to eternal hell.

  10. Did you read the bit about how satellite imaging enables us to actually see the continents move? I guess I should have recognised from your original comment that you weren’t going to read anything that conflicted with your faith-head worldview.

  11. Yushui: I shall make this as clear as I possibly can. This is my last try. I have done my duty to God here. Have you, personally, seen a mountain move? With faith, it is possible. With God-hatred, the only possibility is eternal damnation by the One Loving God.

  12. …. I just went to my window and looked out. Lo and behold, a continent! Moving! So yes, I have seen a continent move (never a mountain, I’ll grant you – I’ve never actually seen a mountain in real life) – and so do you, ever time you look at the ground.

    Interestingly, let me just pass that one back to you, with all your faith, have you ever seen a mountain move (apart from geologically slowly, of course)?

    By the way, you’ll find no God-hatred here. I hate God no more nor less than I hate basilisks, unicorns and the Loch Ness Monster, and I suspect (((Billy))) and others here will agree.

  13. ….: Welcome to my blog. Aside from the rather bizarre viewpoint that geology does not exist (the study of the earth does not exist? How do we find oil, coal, gold? How do we know where earthquakes are more likely (hint: geologists find the faults in the earth which are created by (ready for this?) the stresses of continental drift)), I have to question this idea that I have to worship god(s) and accept god(s)’ love of my own free will or I will burn in hell. Sounds like an abusive boyfriend: “Love me or I will hurt you!”

    Yunshui: Thanks. You were far more polite that I (possibly) would have been (especially by the third go ’round). You’ve seriously never seen a mountain? C’mon, man, get up to Scotland on your next holiday. Or the Bighorn Range of Wyoming is very nice.

  14. Yunshui and (((Billy))), methinks that ….:’s posts are from someone trying to pull your legs. I know that there are a lot of stupid people, but these comments go beyond the pale. To me, they bear the marks of a clever comedian. If I’m wrong, my bullshit detector needs an overhaul.

  15. Frizz: Part of me says I should call Poe on “….”, but I have had enough personal (face to face voice) conversations with devoted believers that I have to (until proven otherwise) take the statements at face value. Compared to what I used to hear in a public high school in Maryland, this asshat sounds almost rational. You may be right. Poe may be visiting my blog. Of course, no one has ever gone broke underestimating the irrationality or gullibility of true believers. (Except for some of the televangelists of the ’80s (but that was more poor financial planning than lack of gullible investors)).

  16. (((Billy))): I defer to your experience. Except for a few encounters with some Jehovah Witnesses, I’ve not had any face-to-face contact with any asshat true believers. My major experiences with these types have been through reading comments they leave on various blogs.

    Hopefully I’ll never have to meet one face-to-face, but the odds of that happening are probably greater than the odds of me winning the Lottery. Just trying to reason with a couple of fairly rational JWs was enough to trip the main circuit breaker in my mind.

    Since you’re on the front lines, you need to jump in a foxhole and keep your head down.

  17. I suspect that anonymous dot fellow littering his comments here is the real thing. He can’t spell, and if there is a certain mark of the fundogelicals, it’s their virtually certain illiteracy. Of course, one could maintain that he made only a few spelling mistakes, but that could be because he’s parroting and copying what’s been force fed to him since birth. Anytime these clowns venture into any territory that requires them to actually think clearly and to write intelligibly they get into trouble.

  18. Frizz: I never thought of myself on the front line. I prefer intelligence (military definition): this is your enemy and I think they are over there; you go get them. And how have you managed not to have a face-to-face with the ubiquitous fundogelisuchus christianii? The swecies is endemic.

    Ric: Careful, Petanque boy. I have been known to have the occasional tpyo in my comments (and even in my posts (I keep forgetting that there is a spell check)). I think you are correct, though. Especially with the hit and run style: show up, make inflamatory comments, when someone calls you on the comment, defend once or twice through authoritarianist repetition, then flee. Sigh. The fact that the tactic is familiar depresses me. I need scotch.

  19. Yeah, sure, Bocce Boy, I’ve noticed you making typos. Maybe you’re one of them pretending to be the voice of scotchy reason until you’ve suckered us all into your net of fundogelicism. And to add fuel to that fire, I’ve also noticed your christlike failure to close your html markers, another sure sign.

    Having made my authoritarian inflammatory comment on your blog, I shall now flee.

    Vermouth, anyone?

  20. What christlike figure? Me, at 6 years old, hanging from a rope in Mosaic Canyon at Death Valley National Monument (now National Park?). Yeah, that’s it. I’m a proponent of evangelical naturalism.

    Vermouth isn’t even good for cooking.

  21. Shit. Can’t read. Need new glasses. I read ‘christlike failure’ as ‘christlike figure.’ For it to be christlike, I would have to do it three times: once for each god — father, son, holy ghost. Which is, of course, actually one.

  22. Speaking of Christ, saw a bumper sticker today, “JESUS CHRIST: Born to Die that You May Live.” Further proof that Xtians are totally blind to the fact that their religion is based on human sacrifice.

    Are they really any different from other religions that demanded human sacrifice to appease their gods? Methinks not!

  23. () –

    Now see, if your logic brain had been working you would have realized that christlike figures don’t need to use html tags, much less close them, and would therefore have realized the word was failure, not figure, and could have saved the expense of having to go get new glasses.

    Vermouth is not meant for cooking. It is meant for sipping at the end of a long, hard day of blogging and commenting and playing petanque. Or bocce.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: