Created: September 9, 2015
Revised:Synopsis Sept 2017      

The Creation Narrative of Science and the Bible
 

Dr. David C. Bossard

Dr. David C. Bossard
Biographical Information


VII.
Creation of Dry Land
Creation Day Three

 
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,  and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth;  and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas:  and God saw that it was good.

As a scientist, these words stand out from the Genesis account with a clarity (perhaps perplexing clarity!VII.01a) and profundity that is second only to the creation of light in Day One. The mental image is exactly right: out of water, dry land  arose.VII.01 And again, as with Day One, the accuracy of these words was only understood by geological scientists within the past century, when the concept of tectonic plate movement was accepted as true based on overwhelming evidence
VII.07, after many years of sometimes disparaging opposition to the lone scientist who first suggested it.VII.02  It even appears to be true that the present continents began in "one place"VII.03(called Pangaea) although that may be reading too much into a short statement.

The setting at the start of Day Three is this—both CNS and CNB agree. The primordial earth was covered in a global ocean, with no permanent land to break the ocean surface. A smooth crust had recently (in geological terms) formed on the hot, molten earth. There was a gaseous atmosphere, mostly nitrogen (as today), with a lot of water vapor, some carbon dioxide, but almost no oxygenVII.04.  As the earth slowly cooled over millions of years, the water vapor precipitated out of the atmosphere and formed a global ocean that covered the smooth crust to a depth of over 1000 feet.

I say "smooth": the nearby orbiting moon constantly wrenched the Earth's thin crust with strong tidal forces, daily distorting its shape. Ocean tides were sometimes hundreds of feet high -- tidal forces a hundred times more powerful than is experienced today.VII.05  Violent volcanic activity accompanied the wrenching of the crust. Volcanic cones frequently broke the ocean surface, but the exposed cones quickly washed back into the sea because of the monstrous tides, mocking the "dry land" that had briefly been exposed.

Nonetheless, over time, regions of focused volcanic activity resulted in a slight distortion of the smooth crust, and led to extensive tidal shallows, formed from the washed debris of the volcanoes. Here is where the first life began, as described above.

Still, there was no permanent dry land. Over time, massive, slowly moving currents developed in the mantle -- the viscous rock below the crust.VII.06 These currents dragged the crust, which broke into a number of large plates. The plates collided or separated under the tug of the mantle currents. Lines of volcanic activity today  trace out these plate boundaries.VII.09 At the collision points, one plate thrusts under the other, and melts as it plunges into the molten upper mantle. The lighter molten material crystallizesVII.10, forming granites. This process forms permanent dry land because the granites that form the base of the continents float over the denser magma that forms the ocean floors and upper portion of the mantle.

The process of continent formation has always been very slow, and it continues today. When the "greening of the land" commenced, dry land had been forming for over 3 billion years.VII.11




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FOOTNOTES VII. FOLLOW

[*fn]VII.01a The mental picture seemed all too clear to the theologians, and it seemed to contradict what was thought to be known about how nature works.
St. Augustine (about 315 AD) remarked,
"Now, where were the waters gathered if they had originally covered the whole earth? When some were pulled back to lay bare the land, to what region were they brought? If there was some bare portion of the earth where they could be gathered, dry land already was in evidence, and the waters were not occupying the whole. But if they had covered the whole, what place was there in which they might be gathered so that dry land might appear?" St. Augustine Ad Lit. I.12.26 (415 AD); H.D.M. Spence-Jones,  The Pulpit Commentary (1890) (a popular protestant commentary) on Gen. 1:9 "The retirement of the waters from its surface, is to reverse the ordinary processes of nature"; C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical commentary on the Old Testament (1869) on Gen. 1:9: "But of this we have no physical explanations... By the divine act of naming the two constituents of the globe [that is, the land and the waters], and the divine approval which follows, this work is stamped with permanency." The sense of the commentators is perplexment upon perplexment. And believe me, the theologians felt it! The correct solution, that is, the rising of the land above the ocean surface was apparently too preposterous to be contemplated, and yet that is exactly the correct solution, which scientists generally accepted only in the 1950s.

[*fn]VII.01 Obviously "dry land" does not mean "arid", but that it is not underwater and is designed to stay that way.

[*fn]VII.02 Alfred Lothar Wegener (November 1, 1880—November 1930) first proposed continental drift in 1912. See the remarks from paleos.org.

[*fn]VII.03 The modern continents began as a super-continent called Pangaea. See the Wikipedia articles on plate tectonics and Continental drift.

[*fn]VII.04 An oxygen environment is a strong indication of life's presence, which is, of course, absent on the newly-formed early earth. The universe is strongly reducing [= has excess hydrogen] and so any extra-terrestrial planets can be expected to have reducing (oxygen-free) atmospheres—unless, of course, life is present. From the viewpoint of chemistry, oxygen likes to combine with hydrogen to form water, and with many other elements, to form oxides—particularly at the high temperatures of the early earth. So, free oxygen is "unnatural" and would not remain long in the earth's atmosphere, except that it is constantly renewed by plant life. The Mars Rover searched without success for methane (CH4) as a marker of life (although a marker if life is present, methane could be formed by non-biological processes, as on Titan, a moon of Saturn). See "NASA Curiosity Rover Detects No Methane on Mars", Science News, 22 September 2013.

[*fn]VII.05 The assertion that life began as "extremophiles" who lived deep in the ocean is, in my view, implausible. For one thing, the genetic makeup of these extremophiles is more advanced than that of "ordinary" surface life, which indicates to me that it is a later development, derived from surface life. I am confident that in time, genetic (cladistic?) studies will confirm this. On the other hand, the first life (see the previous chapter) lived in very warm waters—perhaps near the temperature at which milk is pasteurized.

[*fn]VII.06 There is no consensus among scientists as to when, how and why these currents formed. There are a number of plausible ways that this might happen, but the precise details are not yet agreed upon. Certainly heat convection—the movement caused by cooling—was involved, and the tug of the moon following the tidal distortions, would nudge the currents to take an east/west orientation.

[*fn]VII.07 The evidence for tectonic plate movement comes, in the first instance, from evidence that the world's landmass fit together like matching pieces of a puzzle. This fact was known for many years. The detailed mapping of the ocean basins (largely made public in the National Geographic maps of bottom topography, produced in the 1960s) confirmed this. Also the fossil and geologic strata confirm that at one time the continents were once joined, as evidenced by similar fossil species and strata appearing in, for example, the western African and the eastern South American strata. The times of separation can be estimated through the use of radioactive isotopes. See also remarks on tectonic maps in the note below.

VII.08  [*fn]VII.08 Note for VII.08

[*fn]VII.09 The volcanic lines that mark these crust boundaries were well-known in the 19th century, but the interpretation was not known. See Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (8th Ed. 1850), Chapter 33 and Plates VI: Map of Volcanic Band in SouthEast Asia, a plate produced in 1832. The mountain ranges worldwide also trace out the upthrust effects of the boundary collisions.

 [*fn]VII.10 This process is called fractionation or fractional crystallization, also magma differentiation or Igneous differentiation. In essence a mixture of molten minerals (the magma) crystalizes with like materials forming crystals (the granites) that have a density lower than the original molten mixture.


 [*fn]VII.11 Tectonic maps over geologic time are available at number locations. See Christopher R. Scotese, The Paleomap Project, in particular the Pangea Animation (200 Mya to present). Other animations: see   Earth Through Time (290 Ma to Present), Paleogeographic Maps, and  Mollewide Plate Tectonic Maps. See also the Paleogeographic Atlas Project of the University of Chicago, and the palaeos.com maps. The fact that scientists can form these maps of the distant past is a remarkable example of how God has invested his Creation with a silent speech that proclaims his glory and handiwork. These maps result from a close analysis of fossil formations worldwide and correlation of index fossils which identify and date particular geologic periods. One such marker is the minute conodonts which were the "teeth" of early chordates that lived between the Cambrian and Triassic periods (520-200 million years ago) and are extensively studied in petroleum exploration.


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