Why I left Young-Earth Creationism

by Glenn R. Morton

For years I struggled to understand how the geologic data I worked with everyday could be fit into a Biblical perspective. Being a physics major in college I had no geology courses. Thus, as a young Christian, when I was presented with the view that Christians must believe in a young-earth and global flood, I went along willingly. I knew there were problems but I thought I was going to solve them. When I graduated from college with a physics degree, physicists were unemployable since NASA had just laid a bunch of them off. I did graduate work in philosophy and then decided to leave school to support my growing family. Even after a year, physicists were still unemployable. After six months of looking, I finally found work as a geophysicist working for a seismic company. Within a year, I was processing seismic data for Atlantic Richfield.

This was where I first became exposed to the problems geology presented to the idea of a global flood. I would see extremely thick (30,000 feet) sedimentary layers. One could follow these beds from the surface down to those depths where they were covered by vast thicknesses of sediment. I would see buried mountains which had experienced thousands of feet of erosion, which required time. Yet the sediments in those mountains had to have been deposited by the flood, if it was true. I would see faults that were active early but not late and faults that were active late but not early. I would see karsts and sinkholes (limestone erosion) which occurred during the middle of the sedimentary column (supposedly during the middle of the flood) yet the flood waters would have been saturated in limestone and incapable of dissolving lime. It became clear that more time was needed than the global flood would allow.(See http://www.seg.org/publications/geoarchive/1996/sep-oct/geo6105r1336.pdf for an article showing an example of a deeply buried karst. For a better but bigger (3.4 meg) version of that paper see http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/proceedings/97/97ng/ng97_pdf/NG4-1.PDF

One also finds erosional canyons buried in the earth. These canyons would require time to excavate, just like the time it takes to erode the Grand Canyon. This picture was downloaded from a site which is now gone from the web. It was http://ic.ucsc.edu/~casey/eart168/3DInterpretation/Deltain3d1.gif

I worked hard over the next few years to solve these problems. I published 20+ items in the Creation Research Society Quarterly. I would listen to ICR, have discussions with people like Slusher, Gish, Austin, Barnes and also discuss things with some of their graduates that I had hired.

In order to get closer to the data and know it better, with the hope of finding a solution, I changed subdivisions of my work in 1980. I left seismic processing and went into The data I was seeing at work, was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian seismic interpretation where I would have to deal with more geologic data. My horror at what I was seeing only increased. There was a major problem; the data I was seeing at work, was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian. Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. No one could give me a model which allowed me to unite into one cloth what I believed on Sunday and what I was forced to believe by the data Monday through Friday. I was living the life of a double-minded man--believing two things.

By 1986, the growing doubts about the ability of the widely accepted creationist viewpoints to explain the geologic data led to
a nearly 10 year withdrawal from publication. My last young-earth paper was entitled Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth, which I presented as the first paper in the First International Conference on Creationism. It was not well received. Young-earth creationists don't like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!

John Morris came to the stage to challenge me. He claimed to have been in the oil industry. I asked him what oil company he had worked for. I am going to let an account of this published in the Skeptical Inquirer in late 86 or early 87. It was written by Robert Schadewald. He writes,

"John Morris went to the microphone and identified himself as a petroleum geologist. He questioned Morton's claim that pollen grains are found in salt formations, and accused Morton of sounding like an anticreationist, raising more problems than his critics could respond to in the time available. Morris said that the ICR staff is working on these problems all the time. He told Morton to quit raising problems and start solving them. "Morton chopped him off at the ankles. Two questions, said Morton: 'What oil company did you work for?' Well, uh, actually Morris never worked for an oil company, but he once taught petroleum engineering at the University of Oklahoma. Second, How old is the Earth?' 'If the earth is more than 10,000 years old then Scripture has no meaning.' Morton then said that he had hired several graduates of Christian Heritage College, and that all of them suffered severe crises of faith. The were utterly unprepared to face the geologic facts every petroleum geologist deals with on a daily basis. Morton neglected to add that ICR is much better known for ignoring or denying problems than dealing with them."

Young-earth creationists don't like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!

It appeared that the more I questions I raised, the more they questioned my theological purity. When telling one friend of my difficulties with young-earth creationism and geology, he told me that I had obviously been brain-washed by my geology professors. When I told him that I had never taken a geology course, he then said I must be saying this in order to hold my job. Never would he consider that I might really believe the data. Since then this type of treatment has become expected from young-earthers. I have been called nearly everything under the sun but they don't deal with the data I present to them. Here is a list of what young-earthers have called me in response to my data: 'an apostate,'(Humphreys) 'a heretic'(Jim Bell although he later apologised like the gentleman he is) 'a compromiser'(Henry Morris) "absurd", "naive", "compromising", "abysmally ignorant", "sloppy", "reckless disregard", "extremely inaccurate", "misleading", "tomfoolery" and "intentionally deceitful"(John Woodmorappe) 'like your father, Satan' (Carl R. Froede--I am proud to have this one because Jesus was once said to have been of satan also.) 'your loyality and commitment to Jesus Christ is shaky or just not truly genuine' (John Baumgardner 12-24-99 [Merry Christmas]) "[I] have secretly entertained suspicions of a Trojan horse roaming behind the lines..." Royal Truman 12-28-99

Above I say that I with drew from publishing for 10 years. I need to make one item clear. It is true that I published a couple of items in the late 80s. The truth is that these were an edited letter exchange I had with George Howe. When George approached me about the Mountain Building symposium, I told him I didn't want to write it. He said that was ok he would write it, give it to me for ok and then publish it. Since it was merely splicing a bunch of letters together, it was my words, but George's editorship that made that article. To all intents and purposes I was through with young-earth creationist (not ism yet) because I knew that they didn't care about the data.

But eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationISM. Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology turned out to be true. I took a poll of my ICR graduate friends who have worked in the oil industry. I asked them one question.

"From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true? ,"

That is a very simple question. One man, Steve Robertson, who worked for Shell grew real silent on the phone, sighed and softly said 'No!' A very close friend that I had hired at Arco, after hearing the question, exclaimed, "Wait a minute. There has to be one!" But he could not name one. I can not name one. No one else could either. One man I could not reach, to ask that question, had a crisis of faith about two years after coming into the oil industry. I do not know what his spiritual state is now but he was in bad shape the last time I talked to him.

But eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationISM.

And being through with creationism, I very nearly became through with Christianity. I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist. During that time, I re-read a book I had reviewed prior to its publication. It was Alan Hayward's Creation/Evolution. Even though I had reviewed it 1984 prior to its publication in 1985, I hadn't been ready for the views he expressed. He presented a wonderful Days of Proclamation view which pulled me back from the edge of atheism. Although I believe Alan applied it to the earth in an unworkable fashion, his view had the power to unite the data with the Scripture, if it was applied differently. That is what I have done with my views. Without that I would now be an atheist. There is much in Alan's book I agree with and much I disagree with but his book was very important in keeping me in the faith. While his book may not have changed the debate totally yet, it did change my life.

For an example of a seismic karst during the middle of the geologic column go to


Select 'publications' from that page

Select 'Geoarchives'

Select '1996'

Select 'September and October'

Select 'pdf' from 3-D seismic reflection tomography on top of the GOCAD depth modeler
Jean Luc Guiziou, Jean Laurent Mallet and RaĆ¼l Madariaga

Scroll down to page 6-8 on the acrobat reader. These are pages 1341-1343 of the original journal.

There you will see 3d seismic data that shows evidence of a subaerial erosional event supposedly in the middle of a world wide flood!

For those who want to go to the library it is Vol. 61, No. 5
September-October 1996 Geophysics.

For more articles on this topic, visit noanswersingenesis.org.


ExFundie said...

Thanks for posting this. I've often marveled at Young-Earth believers and their ability to ignore such insurmountable mounds of evidence that are ever growing. Besides evidence from fossils and sediment in the layers of the earth's crust. You still have fossil fuel formation, Pangea, continental drift, Canyons, Caverns, and much more. I just hate that it is allowable to start with what you want the answer to be, and then to manipulate or completely fabricate data to make it right.

Telmi said...

So it was Alan Hayward's book Creation/Evolution that preempted you from becoming an atheist?

I shall have to read this book to ascertain whether it will have the effect of converting me, an atheist, into a believer. But I don't think that I can ever bring myself to believe anything about creation, or the Bible God.

You see, I have read lots of stuff that points to creation as nothing but myth; I have also read the Bible and I can never bring myself to believe in a god [the Bible God in this case] that is portrayed as a barbaric, cruel, egoistic, impotent, insane, malevolent, racist, genocidal maniac.

Jim Claunch said...


What great intellectual pain you have experienced! I think your focus on this one issue of young earth combined with your area of scientific expertise has brought the truth of Christianity down to a list of scientific facts and their proper interpretation. If the young earth crowd was right it would back up an inerrancy of Scripture hermanutic and that is the whole issue. It is not young earth but an inerrant scripture that is at issue in all this. For years I championed the inerrancy of Scripture as I thought that Christianity stood or fell with that authority. I still believe that but no longer believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. The struggle you had with your scientific perspective as its facts faced the silly young earth theory is just one of hundreds of different contrasts between reality and fundamentalism. The real universe and the one described in the books of Moses are certainly two different ones. Scientists were killed for saying what was true until many years later the church was forced to accept the truth of the facts and of course looked for a better interpretation of Scripture. Sad for the scientists they killed. The crusades, witch burnings, the slaughter of native Americans in the millions by Christians all with the blessings of the church that declared them non-persons. Slavery, misogony, and genocide all approved in Scripture. About 25 dying and rising gods all prior to Jesus born on December 25th, in a cave, of a virgin, many crucified and risen after three days is a common pattern in the ancient world. Paul speaks so very little of any historical Jesus. The accounts of the passion and resurrection in the four gospels can hardly be reconciled as the same event. Was it Galilee or Was it Jerusalem where Christ met with them after the first Easter? Just recently we see a new tablet that mentions a Jewish Messiah raised to life after three days. It was SO common. Why are Mithra, Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis and on and on pagan religions with this same pattern down to the communion of bread and wine but Christianity is historical? Does prayer really do miracles when 99 out of 100 die of cancer but 1 is "cured" and tauted as proof of miracle when perhaps also 1 athiest out of 100 who did not pray was also well? The statistics are the same across the board. Would you pay $100 to touch a lucky horseshoe if you had cancer? No? Well what about its power when 1 of 100 who touch it sees the cancer removed? See the horseshoe worked! No one speaks of the 99 who die. The Enlightenment said authority and faith are not the basis of truth but instead fact and experience. Truth is to be authority and not authority our Truth. The Pope did not like that. The Protestant leadership did not like that either. Is authority truth or is fact and experience true? Does the bread and wine really transubstatiate into the body of Christ? Authority says so but your eyes doubt it. Which is true? An anthropomorphic God is at best a space alien with lots of power. The whole thing becomes a Cartoon figure. A rational person simply can not accept that Man upstairs God. Tillich gives some room with God as the Ground of Being rather than just one more creaturly being but Tillich's God is not only unknown but unknowable. Well if unknowable who can say if "he" exists or does not "exist". Such a god makes no practical difference in the world in which we live BUT the silly antrhopomorphic god is not worthy of consideration by modern man. The ethics of Yawaeh in the OT are simply abominable by any standards of civilized people today. Being more powerful might make you feared but it does not make you honestly respectable if you dash children, encourage genocide, accept slavery, et al. Let's don't even mention the injustice and brutality of hell. The fundamentalists ignore all this alone with all the many contradictions in Scripture and give contorted explanations that simply do not pass common standards of logic. Truth casts them out of court. All in all we are left to choose tradition,authority, family sentametality, unsupported wishes or Truth. You know too much to accept the young earth theory. As others have learned too much there are many other things they can not accept as true. Love is good, mercy is good, compassion is good but we do not need Scriptures affirmation or orthodox theology to make those things true. They are true to your own experience. Sometimes it is best to leave childish things behind when we are no longer children. I noted that those who disagreed with you about young earth did not attack your arguments...they attacked you with ad hominem arguments. You were an atheist, you were not faithful, you were this and you were that. How sad they imagine that answered your facts. I would encourage you to read some literature from the other side The God Dillusion by Richard Dawkins,Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett,Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, the book Loosing Faith in Faith by the Ex pastor Dan Barker. Once you have all the information from those inside the Christian camp and those outside the Christian camp spend time in prayer or just good old thinking and choose the TRUTH. I for one can say there are many athiests that know the Christian information front to back but few Christians who are well read in atheism. In Africa faith is great but not so much at Harvard. Why might that be? I can say I respect believers who have done their due diligence on both sides of the aisle. Among those who have almost none are fundamentalists. I question what Christianity is left once one has left both Scripture(Protestants) and Pope(Catholics) behind. The Truth can set you free but from what? Perhaps legalistic fundamentalism and also the dark ages and their residue.

Telmi said...

Jim Claunch,

That's an excellent post, and educative.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I'm so glad you shared your ideas and experience with us.

Your post outlines the age old clash between science and religious belief and is reminiscent of the personal struggle of Johannes Kepler, who in the end finally had to choose hard data over his religious beliefs.

Sadly, I'm afraid that the large majority of believers who see your post will write it off as the work of Satan. They'll just have to work it out for themselves.

By the way, I was also a physics major in school. I am now working as a high school math/science teacher. The subject of creationism vs. evolution has never come up in my classes, but the ctitical thinking and respect for science that is engendered in my classes will, hopefully, help students make their own decisions on this subject.

Keep up the good work.

Irving A Gonzalez said...

I am not sure if any book will ever make me a believer again but if I happen to trip into one and I can finally concieve the idea of a god, it definetly wont be the Biblical God

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