History of the Collapse of "Flood Geology" and a Young Earth
A History of the Collapse of "Flood Geology" and a Young
adapted from the book The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence (Eerdmans, 1995) by Davis A. Young, an evangelical Christian geologist from Calvin College
Picture below right: Illustration of the building of Noah's Ark from The Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514), a native of Nuremberg, one of the most sophisticated printed books published before 1500 AD, from the Beloit College library
From the mid-seventeenth (c. 1650 AD) to the mid-eighteenth century (c. 1750 AD), a range of British mathematicians, naturalists, and clerics from the Church of England attempted to demonstrate that belief in a global biblical deluge was perfectly compatible with extrabiblical knowledge and the latest theoretical developments in mechanistic science. They maintained that the fact that such a deluge had occurred could now be established not only on the basis of biblical authority but also on mathematical and scientific grounds. Their various theories reflected different conceptions of natural theology, the roles of science and theology, and the bearing of Scripture on the interpretation of nature. Their diluvial cosmogonies provided a mainstream scientific paradigm that stimulated hard thought, biblical exegesis, widespread geological observation, and some of the earliest geological experiments.
But if these seventeenth-century cosmogonies were on the whole plausible given the limitations of the geological science of the day, they were nevertheless seriously flawed in other ways -- perhaps most notably by the fact that their proponents based them on relatively small bodies of favorable evidence and tended to ignore damaging evidence. The cosmogonists generally avoided the insurmountable problems of animal distribution and migration, for instance, and resisted determinations that geological strata are not arranged in order of specific gravity. On the other hand, the theorists were for the most part committed to providing honest scientific accounts of physical processes associated with the flood, and they resisted making appeals to miracle in order to resolve difficulties in those accounts.
In the end, the old diluvial cosmogonies fell victim to their own success. The genuine spirit of scientific inquiry that they engendered and stimulated gradually produced a wealth of geological discoveries that undercut the premises of diluvialism. All manner of different field observations indicated that geological strata could not be the remains of layers of soft sediments deposited together at the same time. Furthermore, the plethora of exegeses of the deluge account raised doubts in many scholarly minds about whether the Bible was being properly used in trying to settle questions of geological history. By the middle of the eighteenth century, few competent proponents of diluvialism remained.
The basic pattern of the attempts to accommodate extrabiblical information during this period is by now familiar. Scholars began with the assumption that the biblical flood narrative describes a literal universal deluge and then sought evidence of that event using the best scientific tools and evidence available to them. As evidence accumulated, however, their theories became increasingly untenable, and when that happened, all those who were dedicated to the truth of the matter -- scientists and theologians alike -- abandoned the discredited hypotheses and began to look elsewhere.
The Collapse of Diluvial Cosmogonies
The discovery of the New World disclosed dozens of hitherto unknown animals. Despite the serious problems raised for the concept of a global deluge by this new knowledge, Christian intellectuals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries continued to seek ways to explain the deluge in scientific terms. Even though some orthodox scholars such as Voss or Stillingfleet proposed a more restricted flood, the church at large felt little need to adjust its long-held view of a strictly literal universal flood. Christians rested secure in the belief that the calculations of respected scholars established the point that the ark could hold all known animals including those of the New World. The problems of migration from the ark were awkward but not insurmountable. There was no evidence to dispute the existence of former land bridges or to show that animals could not rapidly diversify because of environmental factors. Of course, the proposal of rapid diversification of animals after their emergence from the ark posed significant problems in its own right, since it presumes a rate of change vastly more accelerated than that presumed by any conventional evolutionary theory, and quite unaccountable in terms of any accepted understanding of biology.
Moreover, some held out the hope that animals that had been found living only in the Americas might yet be discovered closer to the Middle East in still unexplored areas of Africa or Asia. All of which is to say that at the end of the seventeenth century, there was still not enough biological evidence to convincingly challenge traditional views of the capacity of the ark.
The same was the case with geological evidence. Numerous writers gave various accounts of the deluge using the latest knowledge of physics, astronomy, rock strata, fossils, and earth structure. Although this evidence was adequate to uncover flaws in the details of various flood theories, it proved insufficient to challenge the basic thesis of a global deluge. Global diluvialism represented mainstream scientific thought in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Many outstanding British biblical commentators of the eighteenth century gave little hint of any awareness of the difficulties attendant on the discovery of the Americas. They showed even less inclination to modify their conception of the flood as derived by biblical exegesis. Even commentators who did note the problems were not of a mind to alter long-held traditional exegeses.
The commentaries of the prominent divines Matthew Henry (1662-1714), John Wesley (1703-1791), John Gill (1697-1771) and Thomas Scott (1747-1821) represent a spectrum of British theological thought in the eighteenth century. For example, in his classic Commentary on the Holy Bible (1706), the English Nonconformist minister Matthew Henry stated that the flood came 1,656 years after creation, that Noah did not need to collect the animals since they came of their own accord, and that secondary causes were probably used to supply floodwater.  Likely aware of calculations showing that rainfall alone could not have produced the requisite floodwater and possibly acquainted with the widely held views of the diluvialists, Henry wrote that the flood came from the abyss. During the flood the normal hostility between animals ceased, but afterward they reverted to true character. Henry also suggested that the tops of mountains may have been washed down somewhat by the waters and that the heat of the sun helped to dry up the waning waters. On the whole, he paid scant attention to extrabiblical evidence or to the problems that had plagued scholars during the previous century. Henry intended his commentary to be devotional and practical, and he expressly left the critical questions to Poole's Synopsis.
The great founder of Methodism, John Wesley, omitted virtually all dialogue with relevant authors and current debates about the nature of the deluge in his exegesis of the text. He simply asserted the universality of the flood, the preservation of all species aboard the ark, and the ability of waters of the deep and rains to cover the earth fully. Once the flood was over, he said, the heat of the sun exhaled some of the water, and subterranean caverns soaked up the rest.  Several years later in his journal for 1770, Wesley expressed great admiration for Burnet's Sacred Theory, commenting that its account of the flood was "highly probable. " 
In contrast, John Gill, the Baptist divine who pastored one church in Horsleydown for fifty-two years, displayed considerably more awareness of contemporary discussions. Gill believed that the flood legends of the Arabs, Chinese, Mexicans, Peruvians, and Brahmins confirmed the universality of the flood. He cited calculations by Buteo and Wilkins as establishing the point that the ark was spacious enough to have held the requisite animals and food. He maintained that plenty of source water was hiding in subterranean passages beneath such places as the Caspian and Black Seas as well as in the air. He specifically referred to one writer's assertion that "thick air is easily turned into water" and that the atmosphere might well extend as far as the moon. Gill calculated that if rain fell toward the earth at a rate of 250 miles per day, then in the allotted time of 40 days, "all the watery particles, which were 10,000 miles high, might descend upon the earth; and this alone might be more than sufficient to cover the highest mountains." Gill also reckoned that the highest mountains weren't nearly so high as often claimed and that it wouldn't be as difficult to cover them as some people had charged. 
Gill responded to concerns about animal migration by appealing to the ability of wild creatures to swim across narrow seas and to the notion that humans might have brought them across larger bodies of water in boats. And if these explanations would not suffice, he offered a backup argument:
The Anglican commentator Thomas Scott affirmed that unnamed "learned men" had shown that the ark was more than adequate to contain all the animals and their provisions. He further asserted that the ark was even large enough to have accommodated as many sinners as might have repented at the last moment. Scott dismissed as presumptuous attempts to explain the flood in terms of second causes. Yet despite his reluctance to discuss the mechanisms of the flood, he did suggest that at the conclusion of the debacle, the waters were in part evaporated "and in part ran off into the lower countries and the bed of the ocean, or sunk into caverns in the bowels of the earth." He insisted that despite the contentions of some learned men, the deluge was strictly universal and that even in his day, "traces of the deluge are found in all parts of the earth." Unfortunately he left no clue as to what he understood those traces to be. 
Generally speaking, eighteenth-century biblical commentators, like Luther and Calvin before them, made relatively little effort to engage either extrabiblical data or scientific discussions. They evidenced little sense of the difficult problems posed by the discovery of the New World and were willing to make confident assertions about the universality of the deluge on essentially textual grounds. They uncritically accepted diluvialism because it reinforced traditional conceptions of the deluge.
As the eighteenth century proceeded, however, the community of natural philosophers found it more difficult to sustain a belief in diluvialism. Despite Catcott's late efforts, mounting evidence was undermining attempts to account for all the earth's fossiliferous strata by means of a flood theory. Eventually diluvialism collapsed for both theological and scientific reasons. The stress on the theological side accumulated as individual texts of Scripture were used to support a variety of competing theories and speculations about earth history.  The fountains of the great deep (Gen 7:11), for example, had been variously understood to refer to the abyss, comets, the ocean, and water from caves. These diverse interpretations and conflicting applications of the relevant texts to scientific problems of earth history led to a growing suspicion that the texts were being used improperly, that they were being pressed into answering categories of questions they were not meant to answer. Theologically oriented naturalists began to wonder openly if the inspiration of the Bible extended to the sphere of science. Did God give Scripture as a source of scientific information, they asked, or was it a book of redemption, theology, and morals?
As the sense grew that Scripture provided no single, incontestable, infallible diluvial scenario, scholars began to back away from grandiose "biblically based" flood cosmogonies. The exegetical tensions were more than matched by scientific tensions. Many thinkers sensed that diluvialism grew too much out of speculation and too little out of empirical evidence. Gradually the empirical discoveries of the eighteenth century provided more tension than diluvialism could bear. Important developments in the study of rock strata, spectacular fossil finds, and new knowledge about animal species and their relationships to their environment all fatally undermined diluvialism.
The Rise of Stratigraphy and Geomorphology
At first, the recognition that the earth's outer skin is typically stratified was readily integrated into theories of global diluvialism. John Woodward had stressed that stratification was widespread, and he, Hutchinson, Catcott, and others explained the strata as deposits of the receding deluge. As the eighteenth century progressed, however, stratigraphy increasingly became a stumbling block for diluvialism.
Despite Steno's important work on stratification, it was not until Woodward had emphasized the significance of layering that a number of people began to describe stratified outcrops and quarries in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. For example, in 1710, Fettiplace Bellers described strata in a coal pit at Dudley, Staffordshire, and included a table of specific gravities of the strata. John Strachey (1671-1743) contributed papers in 1719 and 1725 on strata in coal mines at Mendip in Somersetshire, and John Michell (1724-1793) discussed stratification in connection with earthquakes.  Occasionally, brief letters describing unconsolidated strata in surficial deposits were also published.  By mid-century, naturalists had begun to describe and map successions of rock strata on a large scale and to classify mountains on the basis of their groups of strata. Much of that work was done in continental Europe, where scholars were considerably less constrained by the demands of natural theology or the desire to produce biblical-scientific cosmogonies than were scholars in Great Britain.
In Italy, Antonio Vallisnieri (1661-1730), a physician, professor at the university in Padua, and fellow of the Royal Society of London since 1705, concluded from his examination of Alpine strata that the marine-looking strata were too widespread to be the product of Woodward's deluge. He suggested that water would need to cover the globe for a much longer time than the year of the deluge in order to lay down all the observed strata. 
In 1740, Anton-Lazarro Moro (1687-1764), a Roman Catholic priest and naturalist, described mountains in terms of the presence or absence of stratification. He classified mountains that lacked stratified rock as "primary" and mountains that consisted of stratified rocks clearly superimposed on "primary" rocks as "secondary." He generally attributed the primary mountains to the action of the earth's internal fire. Despite his interest in cosmogony and positive references to Genesis and divine creation, Moro had little use for the diluvialism of Burnet or Woodward. According to Moro, "the deluge ought to be believed according to the Scripture, as a miracle, and not to be proved by natural rules." 
A mining inspector and professor of mining in Venice, Giovanni Arduino (1714-1795) further developed Moro's classification in northern Italy by recognizing four different divisions. Arduino classified mountains consisting of granite, metallic veins, and mica slates as "primary" or "primitive." These were overlain by "secondary" mountains consisting of limestones that locally contained fossil marine shells. Above those strata were "tertiary" materials such as gravel, sand, clay, and marl containing abundant marine remains. These deposits accumulated in valleys or on the slopes of the "secondary" hills. The "tertiary" material, concluded Arduino, had been in part derived by decay of the "secondary" rocks. Some volcanic layers were also interlayered with "tertiary" strata. The fourth category contained surface materials eroded from the mountains by the action of running water. 
German-born scientist-explorer Pierre Simon Pallas (1741-1811) occupied the chair of natural history in the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg. At the request of Empress Catherine II he led an expedition to Siberia and described primitive, secondary, and tertiary mountains based on the efforts of previous investigators and his own explorations of the Ural and Altai mountains. Pallas believed that the classification of mountains was applicable to the Alps, the Apennines, the Caucasus, and several other ranges. 
Johann Gottlob Lehmann (1719-1767), a physician, copper producer, and professor of chemistry in St. Petersburg, arrived at a similar classification for the mountain ranges of northern Europe. Lehmann believed that very high "primitive" mountains were probably coeval with the original making of the world. Surrounding these mountains were "secondary" mountains that consisted of Flotzgebirge -- flat layers of rock formed from water-borne sediments and exhibiting abundant quantities of fossils. Superimposed on these were local "accidents." Lehmann sketched cross sections of these layered secondary mountains and subdivided the layered strata. A Swedish chemist at Uppsala, Torbern Bergman (1735-1784), followed Lehmann's classification, and Georg Fuchsel (1722-1773), a royal physician and devotee of mining, published detailed maps and cross sections of Lehmann's strata. 
The classification of Lehmann and Bergman was further developed and elevated to quasi-canonical status by Abraham G. Werner (1749-1817), an outstanding teacher at the Mining Academy of Freiberg, Saxony.  Like his predecessors, Werner used the terms primary or primitive for the oldest mountains (Urgebirge). He also employed Lehmann's term Flotzgebirge. However, he introduced a new category of "transition" strata (Ubergangsgebirge) that included steeply inclined, unfossiliferous stratified slates and graywackes that lay above the primitive rocks but below the Flotz rocks. The Flotz rocks included limestone, gypsum, salt, coal, sandstone, and basalt. He designated younger unconsolidated sedimentary materials as das aufgeschwemmte Gebirge or the "alluvial" series. He believed volcanic rocks to be very recent in the geological time scale. 
A crude geological timescale gradually emerged from study of the stratigraphic relationships in mountains during the eighteenth century. Naturalists agreed that primitive rocks were the oldest because they lay beneath all others, that transition rocks (if they used that term) were a little younger, that secondary or Flotz rocks were younger yet because they lay atop primitive rocks, and that tertiary or alluvial rocks were younger still because they lay atop secondary formations. Individual strata could be distinguished within the various groupings, and their relative ages were determined by their position in a succession of strata.
The irregular boundaries that separated primitive from secondary and secondary from tertiary rocks implied that deposition had not been continuous. The discontinuities between groupings of strata implied periodic interruption by uplifts and deposition by causes other than the flood. Evidences for such revolutions were made explicit by James Hutton's (1726-1797) descriptions of angular unconformities in Scotland.  At Siccar Point on the Scottish coast east of Edinburgh, at Jedburgh, and on the Isle of Skye, Hutton pointed out the phenomenon of the angular unconformity, a situation in which relatively horizontal rocks overlie the evidently eroded edges of steeply tilted layers. Hutton argued that such phenomena were evidence for important revolutions in earth history. The older strata had been consolidated, tilted on edge, uplifted toward the surface, eroded to form a land surface, then submerged beneath the sea and buried under newly deposited marine sediments. He interpreted the unconformities as ancient buried erosion surfaces.
Naturalists and mining engineers involved in the classification schemes measured the thicknesses of strata, determined their lateral extent, and noted the regularity with which the various strata succeeded one another. Lehmann, Fuchsel, and Pallas discovered that rock strata occurred in orderly sequences, that European sequences were commonly thousands of feet thick, and that in many instances individual formations could be traced for tens or hundreds of miles. The thickness, extent, and orderliness of stratigraphic successions, unrecognized in the heyday of diluvial cosmogonies, were increasingly difficult to account for in terms of a catastrophe presumed to have been marked by chaos, confusion, and turbulence. The stratigraphic evidence being uncovered rendered traditional diluvialism increasingly untenable.
Attempts were also made to explain the surface features of the landscape. It had been widely accepted for some time that rivers eroded mountainsides, and yet there were many mountain valleys throughout northern Europe that contain no rivers or at most small streams that scarcely seemed capable of having produced any major excavation. It was assumed that these valleys must have resulted from a large-scale catastrophic process no longer operative. Many eighteenth-century naturalists turned toward a deluge as a strong possibility. Surface deposits of gravel and sand found far from any existing river system were also considered by many to be evidence of a large inundation at some point in the past. Geological evidence was thus used to push the site of the flood's action from the strata to the earth's surface.
The Advent of Neptunism
Scholars are often reluctant to abandon a cherished theory no matter how flawed it might be until a more satisfactory theoretical framework becomes available. The demise of diluvial cosmogony during the eighteenth century was facilitated not only by the collection of new stratigraphic data but also by the emergence of neptunism as an alternative way of viewing the earth's history. Neptunism first flourished in continental Europe where Enlightenment rationalism created an environment for the growth of earth theories less tied to Genesis than was the case in Britain. Only later did neptunism catch on in Great Britain and America.
The fundamental thesis of neptunism was that the bulk of the earth's geological features could be accounted for in terms of the gradual diminishing of an ocean that covered the infant globe at creation. The theory had roots in the speculations of Descartes and the classical Greeks, but it did not begin to enjoy widespread acceptance until the eighteenth century, following the publication of a volume entitled Telliamed by a well-traveled French diplomat named Benoit de Maillet (1656-1738). Geological observations he made during his frequent travels in the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean led de Maillet to postulate that rock formations had been laid down in a gradually lowering ocean over the course of millions of years. 
French savant and director of the botanical garden in Paris Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), linked the theory of the recession of the ocean together in one grand cosmogony with his comprehensive explanation of biological and geological phenomena in terms of the gradual cooling of the globe from an originally incandescent state over a period of tens of thousands of years.  The suspicions that the British naturalists Lhwyd, Ray, and Hooke entertained in their letters that the earth was more than six thousand years old were made shockingly explicit by de Maillet and Buffon. And the Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) viewed both the occurrence of fossils far inland from the sea and the raised marine terraces along the Scandinavian coasts as evidence of a past diminution of the ocean. 
The neptunist theory received a definitive treatment by Werner. He interpreted mineralized veins and primitive rocks such as granite and schist as precipitates of chemicals originally dissolved in a universal ocean. Most neptunists agreed that primitive rocks were chemical precipitates, but Werner also believed that many of the stratified rocks, particularly those of a crystalline nature such as basalt, were also chemical in origin. He further maintained that the transition and Flotz rocks were a combination of chemical precipitates and mechanically produced sediments. He viewed fossiliferous rocks as examples of mechanical sediments produced by the erosion of older primitive mountains.  Other neptunists regarded most of the layered Flotz rocks as mechanically derived sediments deposited on the surface of primitive mountains and subsequently tilted. Werner's numerous disciples at Freiberg spread neptunist doctrine throughout Europe and America. Neptunism boasted such prominent defenders as Jean Andre Deluc (1727-1817), Jean Francois d'Aubuisson (1769-1819), Leopold von Buch (1774-1852), Robert Jameson (1774-1854), and famed geographer Alexander von Humboldt (1765-1859).
Although neptunism largely replaced diluvialism as an explanation for the formation of layered rocks, interest in the Noachian flood was hardly dead. Diluvialism may have been dying out, but many scholars continued to believe that there was scientific evidence for the flood. Diluvialists such as Woodward, Whiston, Hutchinson, and Catcott had maintained that the biblical flood deposited the rocks now categorized as secondary and tertiary, or transition, Flotz, and alluvial. Neptunists variously attributed the formation of at least secondary and some tertiary deposits (or at least transition and Flotz deposits) to the action of a shrinking ocean that predated the biblical flood, but some of them still attributed tertiary or alluvial materials composed of gravel, sand, clay, and peat to the flood. Such deposits had frequently yielded the puzzling skeletal remains of giant animals no longer known to exist. Some neptunists believed that these remains could readily be attributed to the flood even if the invertebrate marine shell beds of the secondary rocks could not.
Discoveries of Vertebrate Remains
In 1728, Hans Sloane (1660-1753), the president of the Royal Society of London, summarized several of these peculiar animal finds.  Issues of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London frequently contained notices of "strange bones," teeth, or horns that had accidentally been encountered during the digging of wells or excavation for building foundations.  Particularly intriguing were a growing number of discoveries of teeth, tusks, and bones belonging to a strikingly elephant-like creature.  Some of the discoveries were in Europe, but reports of remains of an elephant-like creature kept trickling in from the frozen expanses of Siberia.
Picture below right: Wooly Mammoth (mammuthus primigenius, Late Pleistocene) -- This well known mammoth was a cold climate dweller equipped with a thick layer of fat for insulation, and an exterior of long black hair. It was smaller than most mammoths (9 ft or 2.7 m high), and had a hump of fat behind its domed head. It fed on low tundra vegetation in which it scraped away snow and ice with its ivory tusks. Several well preserved remains have been found in Siberia and Alaska and cave paintings in Spain and France show depictions of the Wooly Mammoth as seen by early humans. The mammuthus primigenius went extinct only about 10,000 years ago. Drawing by artist Josef Moravec of Prehistoric World Images.
In a 1692 Siberian expedition, Ysbrand Ides, Peter the Great's envoy to China, not only encountered tusks and bones but saw remnants of a partially preserved carcass embedded in frozen ground. Ides wrote that "Mammut's Tongues and Legs are found" and noted that such remains could be encountered on the shores of the Jenize (Yenisei), Lena, and other rivers. One of his companions found a head when a frozen piece of riverbank collapsed. Most of the flesh was rotten. Ides recounted an old native belief that the mammoths "continually, or at least by reason of the very hard Frosts, mostly live under Ground, where they go backwards and forwards," and they died when they came in contact with air. In contrast, said Ides, the Russians believed that there were elephants in the area when the climate was warmer before the deluge. After the flood, the air became cold enough to freeze them, and their "bones have lain frozen in the Earth ever since, and so are preserved from Putrefaction till they thaw." Ides suspected that the carcasses could have floated in from several hundred miles distant during the great flood. 
Additional Siberian mammoth finds were reported in the early eighteenth century. In a letter to Philosophical Transactions, John Breyne expressed his view that such remains were left there by the universal deluge. When several large bones and a tooth were dug up in the Hudson River valley of North America, Puritan leader Cotton Mather attributed them to an antediluvian giant. In 1739, elephant tusks, molars, and bones were discovered in a marsh near the Ohio River in Kentucky. A 1765 expedition to the site now known as Big Bone Lick turned up huge amounts of skeletal material, and two years later an account of some of the tusks and grinders was presented to the Royal Society of London. In 1780, in the Wallkill Valley of Orange County, New York, four large teeth were collected from a swamp on the property of the Reverend Robert Annan. Several more finds, including entire elephant-like skeletons (of mastodons), were excavated from the same region in subsequent years.
In 1796, Thomas Jefferson acquired remains of a huge skeleton with claws that had been recovered from a cave in western Virginia. Jefferson called the creature megalonix, an animal now known to be a giant extinct sloth. In the meantime, Siberia continued to yield frozen carcasses of rhinoceros and mammoth, some of which were studied by Pallas. One of the more impressive finds was made by Shumakhov in 1799 in the delta of the Lena River when he noticed a strange looking mass within the frozen ground. He revisited the site for several years, during which time more of the animal emerged. During the fifth year, the carcass thawed completely and slid down to the river bank. The tusks were chopped off and sold. Drawings of the creature came into possession of M. F. Adams, a zoologist member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who hustled off to the Lena delta in 1806 to see the carcass for himself. The trunk, tail, and one ear were gone, but one eye still kept its color. Soft parts, except for the skin on the head, one foot, and the side on which the animal lay, had been completely destroyed by wild animals and dogs. The animal, a male, had been well fed and fat. The hide preserved on the ground was covered with thick hair.  Remnants of the beast were returned to the St. Petersburg museum.
In the long run, the discovery of most far-reaching significance took place in 1797 at Hoxne, England, when a series of flint implements were found in a layer of gravelly soil. The discoverer, John Frere (1740-1807), reported that the implements "lay in great numbers at the depth of about twelve feet, in a stratified soil" and were associated with "some extraordinary bones, particularly a jaw-bone of enormous size, of some unknown animal." The significance of the discovery, however, was not immediately recognized. 
Neptunism and the Flood
Despite the growing belief that primitive, secondary, and most tertiary rocks must have formed prior to the deluge, perhaps during long ages of creation, neptunists nonetheless had room for the deluge. After all, the fossil remains of most of the monstrous animals discovered during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had come from swamps, marshes, and gravels that formed subsequent to most tertiary formations. Not all neptunists worked out specific deluge theories, but predictably closer links between neptunism and Scripture (and particularly the Noachic flood) were forged in the British Isles. The ideas of Richard Kirwan (1733-1812) are illustrative. Kirwan, a chemist and mineralogist, Inspector of Mines for Ireland, and eventually long-time president of the Royal Irish Academy, discussed the topic of the deluge in a lengthy article.  He suggested in neptunist fashion that the original sea had retreated through rifts in the crust until a few centuries before the deluge, an amount of time necessary for the rocks formed from the universal ocean to become sufficiently hardened to withstand the shocks they would undergo during the ensuing catastrophe.
What, asked Kirwan, were the geological proofs of the deluge? Having "proved" that at the time of the creation, no mountains reached higher than 8,500 feet, he argued that shells found at higher elevations than that could only have been left there by a subsequent inundation. He found further evidence for a flood in the fact that the fossil remains of organisms that dwell in widely disparate and distant climates were mixed promiscuously with each other in the rocks. Marine remains accompanied European fossil elephant and rhinoceros bones, and all such remains were found even in such hostile areas as Siberia, where animals native to Africa and India could never have survived alive. Kirwan argued that the remains must have been swept into the harsher regions over great distances from their native habitats by an enormous inundation.
Kirwan rejected previous explanations of a universal deluge. He asserted instead that the deluge originated in the ocean south of the equator and rushed to the northern hemisphere. It was forceful enough, he said, to carry the carcasses of animals such as elephants from the southern countries and marine species from southern seas to high latitudes beyond 45 deg N, where their remains can now be found in surficial deposits. The force of the flood must have traveled northward, he reasoned, because no remains of animals native to the north are found in the southern lands. Moreover, he contended that traces of a violent shock or impression from the south were perceptible in the shapes of the mountains. Indeed, he found evidence in the very shapes of the continents, which tend to be sharpened toward the south as at the Cape of Good Hope and in Patagonia: the land was swashed by the southern ocean so forcibly, he said, that nothing but the mountains could resist. Finally, an inundation from the southeast would also have been necessary to drive the ark northwesterly toward Armenia.
Kirwan envisioned the great southern ocean surging northward with irresistible impetuosity against a continent that at one time likely united Asia and America. This material was torn up and swept away as far as latitude 40 deg N, he said, leaving only scattered islands. The progress of the surge was checked by the mountains of China, Tartary, and the west American coast. Sweeping into China, the torrents picked up the soil covering what is now the Gobi Desert and pressed on toward the north polar regions. Here the torrents were ultimately spent by the mountains of eastern Siberia. But on the way these huge torrents dashed over the mountains "bearing over them the vegetable and animal spoils of the more southern, ravaged or torn up continents" to the plains of western Siberia, where the remains were deposited.
The bed of the Atlantic Ocean was also scoured by the water. As evidence, Kirwan called attention to the similarities in shapes of coastlines on the opposite sides of the Atlantic and asserted that "the depression of such a vast tract of land cannot appear improbable when we consider the shock it must have received, and the enormous load with which it was charged."  The concussion of water also rent the basaltic masses along the Scottish and Irish coasts into pillars, he said.
Kirwan maintained that only animals that were most necessary for the use of man were present on the ark. Since the "ravenous animals" would have posed a threat to the immediate survivors of the deluge, Kirwan proposed that carnivores were probably created after the flood and after the "graminivorous" animals had greatly multiplied. He likewise attributed the animals of America and of the torrid and frigid zones to a subsequent creation. Kirwan further suggested that prediluvial vegetables gave off such vast quantities of oxygen that the atmosphere before the flood was much purer than now, perhaps explaining the greater longevity of the antediluvians. After the flood, however, the surface of the earth was covered with putrefying animals and fish which absorbed oxygen and supplied only "mephitic" and "fixed" air, thus bringing the atmosphere to its present state. He conjectured that domestic disturbances within Noah's family induced him to move, along with those closest to him, to "the regions he inhabited before the flood, in the vicinity of China, and hence the early origin of the Chinese monarchy." 
The widespread opinion that the world's stratified, fossiliferous rocks could be accounted for in terms of the action of a biblical global deluge had faded. Nonetheless, nearly a century later, orthodox Christian naturalists were still largely committed to a universal flood, a flood that accounted only for surficial phenomena, including surface gravels, vast deposits of marine shells, and graveyards of vertebrates. The hardened stratified deposits were now generally regarded as having formed much earlier than the flood, in all likelihood at the time of creation. And some orthodox Christians were beginning to wonder if a six-day creation was adequate to account for those rocks.
Developments in Biogeography
Further adjustments were also being forced by growing knowledge about animal and plant distribution. The eighteenth-century expeditions such as Captain Cook's voyages to the Pacific were continuously adding to the list of organisms, pushing it well beyond the 500 birds, 150 quadrupeds, and about 10,000 invertebrates that had been catalogued by John Ray in the seventeenth century. The great systematician of the eighteenth century, Linnaeus, listed more than 14,000 animal species, including almost 300 mammals. Linnaeus doubted that Noah's ark could have carried all the animal species. Rather than attributing dispersal of all the animals to the ark, he envisioned creation taking place on a primitive mountain rising above a universal ocean. "Each pair of animals was created in a particular climatic belt in association with the other species designed for such conditions." Reindeer and arctic lichens existed at the summit; tropical palms and monkeys lived at the base. Every plant had its proper soil and every animal its proper climate, and "the mountain was an entire world in miniature."  In standard neptunist fashion, Linnaeus had the animals spread out to their ultimate environments and latitudes as the universal ocean shrank and exposed more land.
Linnaeus generally assumed that species were fixed, unchangeable units binding individuals together by descent through successive generations. He argued that the number of individuals in a species is constantly increasing, so if we work backward, we can trace each species to one set of primeval parents created by God. Linnaeus further stressed the notion that the function and structure of an organism is indissolubly linked to the environment for which it was adapted. Every species inhabited its own definite place. Linnaeus objected to the notion of a universal deluge on the grounds that it would have upset the God-ordained stability of creation. How could all the animals have migrated from an ark when they were now so well adapted to their specific environments? For example, how could a reindeer, so well adapted to the bitter cold of the far north, survive a trek from the ark to the tundra of Scandinavia?
Buffon accounted for animal distribution in terms of his theory of the cooling of the globe. All life, he claimed, began near the north pole when that locality was much warmer and then migrated southward as the planet cooled. The southward movement of organisms into the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa led to increased isolation as animals were cut off from one another by wide oceans.  In the first detailed review of mammal distribution, a little-known zoologist, Eberhardt A. W. Zimmermann, a late eighteenth-century professor of mathematics and physics in Brunswick, dispensed altogether with the concept of a common dispersal center. He dismissed Linnaeus's idea of original created pairs existing in the same place on the ground that the first pair of lions would quickly have devoured the first pair of sheep, goats, and other species, and would ultimately have starved because they had eaten the first pair of everything else. Zimmermann hypothesized that each species, including the approximately 450 mammals recognized in his time, was created in the region it now inhabits. The climate that prevails now in each region would also have prevailed at the time of species creation. Thus whole environments were created at once. 
Summary of Eighteenth-Century on the Flood
Despite the considerable body of scholarship pertaining to the capacity of the ark, the worldwide distribution of animals, and diluvial cosmogonies, some of the more important biblical commentators of the eighteenth century failed to interact significantly with that scholarship. Matthew Henry, Thomas Scott, and John Wesley gave little attention to extrabiblical information and were generally content to support traditional views with naive, sweeping, unsubstantiated assertions or by invoking miracle. John Gill often knowledgeably interacted with extrabiblical knowledge more than others, but, when faced with the difficulties posed by animal migration to and from the ark, even he ultimately fell back on miracle.
Discoveries made after these commentators wrote rendered the case for a global deluge still weaker. For example, eighteenth-century scholars increasingly came to appreciate the very close dependency of species on their habitats. Ultimately this awareness exposed a fatal flaw in theories depending on any sort of natural migration of animals over long distances. It is possible for only a very few species to migrate over long distances; the absence of appropriate food, water, and climate renders such journeys impossible for most animals.
Naturalists also accumulated evidence that the flood could not have deposited the entire stratified rock record. They increasingly concluded that if the flood left behind geological evidence, it must have been confined to various surface features and deposits. Coupled with this shift in understanding of the deluge's effects was a growing sense that the earth must have experienced a history longer than the traditionally supposed six thousand years. As significant quantities of physical evidence accumulated, many of those who grappled with it felt a need to reconsider traditional interpretations of the biblical texts relevant to earth history.
Nineteenth-Century Developments, the Rise of Diluvial Catastrophism
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the interpretation of the geological strata had changed radically. Virtually no established geologist thought that the thick sequences of stratified sedimentary rocks so evident in quarries, cliffs, and mountains had anything to do with the flood. Neptunists attributed stratification to deposition of sediments from a shrinking primeval ocean. Others suspected that rock strata represented deposits laid down in successive interchanges of land and sea, possibly over long periods of time before the advent of human beings. Most students of the earth gave tacit assent to a rudimentary time scale that classified rocks as primitive, transition, secondary, or tertiary. Great thicknesses of strata, many evidently deposited on the sea bottom, strongly implied that the earth's pre-human history extended far beyond a few thousand years. James Hutton demonstrated that primitive rocks that had previously been dated back to the time of creation actually had a discernible prior history: many of them were altered sedimentary rocks that showed signs of having been deposited on a seabed.
Geological unconformities gave evidence of extensive histories involving the consolidation of strata, uplift and tilting, and severe erosion of the tilted rocks before deposition of the next sequence of strata. Discoveries of several unconformities within thick stacks of sedimentary rocks and various other observational and experimental findings accumulated to suggest that the earth was really quite ancient. The vast majority of naturalists readily agreed with John Playfair's 1802 assessment that "though there be in it no data, from which the commencement of the present order can be ascertained, there are many by which the existence of that order may be traced back to an antiquity extremely remote." 
Students of geology were now mapping secondary and tertiary strata in detail. In southern England, for example, the engineer of the British canal system, William Smith (1769-1839), worked out the stratigraphy of much of the secondary sequence during the last decade of the eighteenth century. In the first decade of the following century, Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and his colleague Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847) at the French Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris did the same with tertiary strata in the Paris basin. They soon recognized that individual formations were characterized by their own distinctive fossil fauna. And Cuvier recognized that the Paris basin sequence contained alternating marine and terrestrial deposits, the former containing fossilized invertebrate shells and the latter containing fossilized vertebrate quadruped remains. Both the regular distribution of fossils and the alternations between marine and terrestrial remains made it difficult to reason that the deluge could have produced the earth's consolidated fossiliferous sedimentary rocks.
Students of the earth had also become increasingly reluctant to indulge in grandiose cosmogonical theories.  Even so, the presumption of a vast deluge was still common among late eighteenth-century naturalists. Leading geologists of the early nineteenth century on the Continent, in Britain, and in America still had no difficulty in attributing many surficial geological features to catastrophic diluvial action. Recognizing the tentative, incomplete state of knowledge about the earth, the multitude of important unanswered questions about the earth's past, and the need for a reasonable theory of the earth at the close of the eighteenth century, Alpine geologist Horace Benedict de Saussure (1740-1799), professor of philosophy at the Academy of Geneva, published an agenda for future research to provide a "foundation for a theory of the earth." Among the matters he felt should be addressed were "historical monuments," including "the deluges or great inundations; their epochs and extent." In a section on "rolled pebbles," de Saussure suggested that a study of high elevation pebbles and rolled blocks "foreign to the soil which bears them" and of the large valleys nearby could yield "some indications of the direction, size and force of the currents produced by the grand revolutions of the earth." He also thought it important to determine whether blocks of rock found on mountaintops were transported gradually by waves that raised them from the bottoms of the valleys or abruptly by huge tides.  De Saussure spoke for the geological community when he identified the role and effects of past floods as a significant geological issue. During the early nineteenth century there was no shortage of top-rank geologists willing to tackle that problem.
Georges Cuvier, scientist-administrator extraordinaire who firmly established the disciplines of both vertebrate paleontology and comparative anatomy, was a professor of zoology at the College de France who also held an influential post in the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle.  He was also a nominal Protestant who, according to his biographer Dorinda Outram, viewed Protestantism as "a series of opportunities rather than as a body of belief." His handling of the issue of the flood, says Outram, was not motivated by any deep spiritual attachment to Scripture. In his Essay on the Theory of the Earth, an introduction to his monumental multi-volume work on fossil vertebrates, Cuvier proposed that the secondary and tertiary strata had been formed during successive sudden catastrophes caused over long ages by "repeated irruptions and retreats of the sea." 
The idea of multiple catastrophes was suggested by fragmented and overturned strata, the presence of heaps of debris and rounded pebbles found among the solid strata, and the carcasses of large quadrupeds that had been partially preserved in surface deposits of the northern regions. Cuvier maintained that natural catastrophes had caused the permanent extinction of several large mammals such as the mammoth. Cuvier asserted on zoological grounds that the most recent of these catastrophes could not have been very ancient, consistent with the existence of many traditions, including that of Moses, that the globe had suffered a recent catastrophe. Cuvier fully agreed that
Cuvier stopped just short of an explicit identification of this recent catastrophe with the Mosaic flood.
George Bellas Greenough (1778-1855), a student of Werner, member of Parliament, and one of the founders and first president of the Geological Society of London in 1807, also stopped short of such an identification. In A Critical Examination of the First Principles of Geology, issued in 1819 when he was president of the Geological Society, Greenough addressed the problem of the great displaced blocks that were scattered across the face of Europe. He maintained that if seas, rivers, or collapsing lakes could not transport such exotic blocks, then "the only remaining cause, to which these effects can be ascribed, is a Debacle or Deluge." 
To account for the bones and tusks of elephants found in Siberia, Pallas proposed that the deluge had swept over the Alps and the mountains of Tartary during a period of tremendous eruptions that he believed produced the Moluccas, the Philippines, and other volcanic islands in the Indian Archipelago. Greenough had difficulties with Pallas's hypothesis, however. He doubted that the bones could have traveled from the Indian Ocean to Siberia without fracture or abrasion, for instance. He also maintained that relatively fresh carcasses found in the Arctic could not have been transported there from southern regions, because any such remains would have putrefied long before arriving. Moreover, the bones of the elephants were mixed with the bones of such decidedly northern species as the ox, buffalo, elk, and horse. Greenough also wondered why volcanic eruptions would have caused deluges to take a northern rather than southern course, and he questioned whether the volume of water involved would have been adequate to produce the presumed disruption. "The rising of these islands could displace only a quantity of water equivalent to their bulk," wrote Greenough, and such a quantity would not have been able to surmount the mountains of Asia. Greenough also rejected a proposal of Sir James Hall (1761-1832), early geological experimentalist and good friend of James Hutton, to account for the granite blocks dispersed over the Jura mountains by a debacle. 
Despite problems with the various hypotheses, Greenough believed that the widespread distribution of alluvial sand and gravel proved that the same inundation had affected all countries, as did the universal occurrence and distinctive symmetry of mountains and valleys. Moreover, he maintained that the direction in which the waters of the deluge flowed could be ascertained by an examination of the orientations of "bowlder-stones, mountains, valleys, promontories, and escarpments."  The timing of the geological deluge was a crucial issue, however, for identifying the deluge that Greenough believed had left its mark on the earth's surface features with the biblical deluge. He found no evidence that might help to determine whether the geological deluge occurred before or after the creation of man. There existed only the negative evidence that no human skeletal remains nor "implements of art" had been discovered either in the regular strata or in the diluvian surficial deposits. 
A more difficult matter was the cause of the deluge. Greenough suggested that a transitory cause foreign to the solar system, "capable of inundating continents, and giving to the waters of the deep unexampled impetuosity, but without altering the interior constitution of the earth, or deranging the sister planets" was needed. Greenough recalled Halley by looking favorably on the possibility of a cometary or meteoritic shock to the earth. 
Diluvial catastrophism was firmly established when William Buckland (1784-1856) was inaugurated as professor of geology at Oxford in 1819. Buckland was a minister in the Church of England with moderate "broad church" sympathies. As indicated by his advocacy of the gap theory for Genesis 1 (i.e., the belief that a long period of time occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, between the initial creation and the state of formlessness of the earth), he did not insist on strict biblical literalism. Buckland was very sensitive to two matters: (1) the flood played a much smaller role in reconstructions of geological history than it had a century earlier despite the considerable attention still paid to it, and (2) geology was increasingly charting its own course and paying less heed to theological assertions about the alleged demands of scriptural texts. In his landmark Oxford inaugural lecture, Buckland sought to allay the suspicions of the theologically conservative university authorities that geology might be hostile to revealed religion by painstakingly demonstrating the compatibility of geology and religion, particularly with regard to the flood. Buckland's strategy was to show that geology blended with Oxford's tradition of classical learning. As Nicolaas Rupke observed, in Buckland's inaugural "the diluvial theory became the linchpin by which modern geology attached itself to the carriage of the Anglican tradition of learning and the clerical purpose of an Oxford education." 
Buckland conceded some slight difficulties in efforts to harmonize geology and Christian faith, but he maintained that there was harmony on the most essential points, including the deluge. He virtually equated the hypothesized geological inundation with the deluge of Moses and optimistically pronounced that
Just what were those "decisive and incontrovertible" grounds? Buckland argued that the shape and position of hills and valleys as well as the confluence of streams into a main trunk favored the flood. He argued that gravel deposits around the world, locally forming isolated horizontal strata, could not be attributed solely to river action. Moreover, the unfossilized organic remains of animals identical to species now in existence found deposited in the gravels pointed to a deluge. The two great points of the relatively late appearance of the human race and the universality of a recent deluge, said Buckland, were "satisfactorily confirmed by every thing that has yet been brought to light by Geological investigations." Young Professor Buckland, however, had no doubt whatever that the thick successions of stratified, fossiliferous rocks underlying surface gravels were not produced in the deluge but were rather deposited in a slow and gradual manner during successive periods of both tranquillity and great disturbance. In some cases, said Buckland, these strata had been produced from the destruction of more ancient consolidated rocks and then violently uplifted prior to the deposition of the more modern strata. Although the deluge had sculpted and destroyed the consolidated strata, the strata themselves could not have been formed in "the single year occupied by the Mosaic deluge." According to Buckland, the antediluvian continents were fundamentally the same as those of the present.
Buckland's inaugural address exerted considerable influence on a variety of geologists, including his friend William Conybeare (1787-1857) and William Phillips (1775-1828), coauthors of the highly respected Outlines of the Geology of England and Wales. Conybeare was an early member of the Geological Society of London, one-time fellow at New College, Oxford, and dean of Llandaff. Like Buckland, he was an Anglican minister with centrist affinities, a readiness to look kindly on non-literal scriptural interpretations, and a willingness to cooperate in matters of science with those outside the Church of England such as his coauthor Phillips, a Quaker. Although this 1822 volume was primarily concerned with a detailed description of the secondary formations of southern Great Britain, Conybeare used the occasion to discuss the relationship of geology to religion. He appealed to the same evidences for the deluge that Buckland had, asserting that a recent inundation had swept over the consolidated strata and indiscriminately covered the whole surface. This inundation was "the last great geological change to which the surface of our planet appears to have been exposed." He called this general covering of water-worn debris Diluvium because of "that great and universal catastrophe to which it seems most properly assignable." 
In the meantime, in 1821, a bone-filled cave was discovered at Kirkdale in Yorkshire. As one of the cave's first explorers, Buckland found what he took to be further confirmations of a universal deluge.  The exploration of caves for fossils had recently taken on considerable importance. Buckland had already examined a few, but the remains of Kirkdale provided the occasion for compiling a vast catalogue of physical evidence in support of a recent global flood. Buckland placed on a sound empirical, systematic basis the flood catastrophism expressed by Cuvier and implicit in the thought of many contemporary geologists. Following the publication of a synopsis of his findings in Philosophical Transactions, Buckland published his great work Reliquiae Dduvianae in 1823. Not quite identifying his universal deluge with that of the Bible, Buckland's dedicatory letter to the Lord Bishop of Durham observed that the conclusions of his work afforded the "strongest evidence of an universal deluge" and expressed the hope "that it will no longer be asserted, as it has been by high authorities, that geology supplies no proofs of an event in the reality of which the truth of the Mosaic records is so materially involved." 
Also included was a brief chapter containing evidence showing that the inundation had occurred at high elevations. Buckland argued that "granite blocks drifted from the heights of Mont Blanc to the Jura, and the bones of diluvial animals found by Humboldt on the elevated plains of South America" showed that all the high hills and the mountains under the whole heavens were covered when the last great physical change affected the surface of the whole globe.  Buckland came as close as possible without specifically identifying the geological and biblical floods.
In Reliquiae Diluvianae Buckland summarized the results of the discoveries at Kirkdale and several other British and European caves. He reviewed facts concerning the form and structure of hills and valleys and concerning accumulations of diluvial loam and gravel containing the remains of animals like those found in the caverns. All of these facts, said Buckland, cast light on the earth's state prior to the "last great convulsion" affecting its surface and "affording one of the most complete and satisfactory chains of consistent circumstantial evidence I have ever met with in the course of my geological investigations." 
In Kirkdale cave, Buckland had discovered a great abundance of hyena bones and excrement as well as bones of tigers, bears, wolves, foxes, weasels, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, horses, oxen, deer, hares, rabbits, water-rats, mice, ravens, pigeons, larks, ducks, and snipes. The bones, some of which had been gnawed, were embedded in crystalline material on the cave floor and in red mud overlying the crystalline material. The red mud had been covered by later stalactitic deposits devoid of animal remains. Buckland concluded that the gnawed bones were those of animal carcasses that had been dragged into a lair of hyenas. He contended that the red mud covering the assemblage of extinct vertebrate species had been washed into the cave by the deluge and hence he maintained that the stalactitic material covering the mud was postdiluvial. Buckland cited the limited stalactite deposits over the mud and the presence of undecayed bones as evidence that the mud layer was introduced no earlier than the time inferred by Cuvier -- that is to say, the time that had "elapsed since that great and universal inundation which has overwhelmed the earth" was about five or six thousand years. 
In the latter part of the book, Buckland discusses the dispersion of the bones of extinct elephants, deposits of loam and gravel, and diluvial evidences around the world. The book also carries an appendix in which he argues that the flood was responsible for the excavation of river valleys. Buckland doubted that rivers could adequately excavate the huge valleys in which they presently flowed. Unlike Kinvan and Pallas, however, Buckland insisted that the great deluge must have swept out of the north, since boulders on the surface and in gravel deposits of Europe and North America had been transported from identifiable sources to the north.
As the years passed, Buckland backed away from the views he so eloquently set forth in Reliquiae Diluvianae. In a footnote in his contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises, Buckland observed that subsequent discoveries showed that many of the animals he had previously described had existed
Although he still endorsed the notion of great deluges, Buckland pointedly distanced himself from identifymg the geological and biblical deluges, and he also attributed the extinct cave animals to a time prior to the creation of man. Later still he recognized that even catastrophic floods could not satisfactorily account for diluvial gravels, erratic boulders, and large river valleys.
During the years in which Buckland's catastrophic deluge dominated much geologic discussion, particularly in Great Britain, important field investigations were conducted in the Auvergne region of central France, a region previously explored by Guettard, Desmarest, Montlosier, von Buch, and d'Aubuisson. Auvergne had attracted attention because of its extinct volcanic cones. The nature of these volcanoes and their associated rocks became a major problem because of controversies over the nature and origin of basaltic rock. Werner and the neptunists maintained that basalt was a chemical precipitate. Hutton, Playfair, Hall, and others who belonged to the vulcanist party suspected that basalt might be a volcanic rock. Naturalists were eager to compare the Auvergne rocks with basalts of disputed origin in Scotland and Ireland. They began to recognize that there had been a long succession of volcanic events in Auvergne, including eruption of basaltic lava flows from the cones. Some of the most recent flows filled large valleys that had been excavated into older layers of lava. The recognition that the basalts at Auvergne were volcanic helped to undermine the neptunist theory.
In his early field investigations of the Auvergne area, Oxford's professor of chemistry Charles Daubeny (1795-1867) another associate of Buckland and enthusiastic advocate of the diluvial origin of valleys, classed different lava flows as either postdiluvian or antediluvian. He suggested that if Buckland was correct in attributing the excavation of valleys to the Mosaic deluge, then "the modern volcanoes of Auvergne must all have been posterior to the latter event," since valleys in the older lava flows (presumably scoured by diluvial waters) were filled with more recent lava flows. 
Diluvial catastrophism also spread to America. The outstanding chemist and mineralogist Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864) of Yale, a devout Congregationalist, contributed greatly to the establishment of American geology through his teaching, public lecturing, personal research, and founding in 1818 of the American Journal of Science, a still-thriving periodical that is devoted almost exclusively to geology.  Among other things, he brought out an American edition of a textbook by British geologist Robert Bakewell to which he appended a lengthy essay on the consistency of geology with sacred history.  Silliman flatly rejected the old idea that the bulk of stratified rocks could have been the work of a global deluge. But, he continued, the surface of the planet is covered with "wreck and ruin" that can be "justly" attributed to "mighty floods and rushing torrents of water." Nor were these surface phenomena restricted to Europe; "we must charge to moving waters the undulating appearance of stratified sand and gravel, often observed in many places, and very conspicuously in the plain of New Haven, and in other regions of Connecticut and New England," wrote Silliman. He attributed to "diluvial agency" both "bowlder stones" and the vast deserts of sand in South Africa, the Sahara, Arabia, Germany, Russia, and at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
Silliman maintained that denuded valleys, fossilized bones and skeletons of extinct species, and many beds of oyster shells were probably the result of diluvial action. He believed that the tusla of the extinct elephant that had been found in northern Asia were deposited there by a deluge that drowned and buried the bodies of whole races of animals. Nothing could be more violent, destructive, and overwhelming than the universal deluge of Genesis, he said, and "certainly upon the face of the earth are every where recorded, in legible characters, the necessary physical effects of such a debacle." But there were some difficulties. Silliman suggested that some gravel deposits could have been produced by local floods, and he suspected that the universal flood would have been much too short to accomplish the rounding of boulders. Like Cuvier and Buckland, Silliman did not explicitly equate the geological with the Noachic deluge, but he did claim that it was legitimate to compare the two.
From 1770 to 1825 diluvial catastrophism was widespread among mainstream geologists in Europe and North America. Silliman's disciple Edward Hitchcock may even have extended the lifetime of diluvial catastrophism in America several years after it had fallen out of favor in Europe.
The Collapse of Diluvial Catastrophism
Despite its popularity among geologists and a British and American lay public eager to see biblical revelation corroborated by science, diluvial catastrophism began to crumble upon closer inspection. As already noted, Buckland gradually abandoned his early views. Perhaps the most perceptive of those taking a closer look at the approach was John Fleming (1785-1857), a capable naturalist who ultimately became professor of natural history in Aberdeen in 1834 and an evangelical, Calvinistic pastor of the Church of Scotland who participated in the disruption of 1843 to join the Free Church of Scotland. In a series of articles published during the 1820s in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Fleming advanced several arguments against diluvial catastrophism.
In an initial poke at current diluvial speculations, Fleming criticized the tendency of naturalists to blur the distinction between the genus and species of fossil remains. "We are so impatient to speculate," he charged, "that we do not stop to inquire, whether the bones found in a fossil state belong to the living species, or to a member of the same genus only, now extinct."  Assuming that many fossil remains resembling modern tropical animals must themselves have lived in tropical regions, naturalists got into trouble by speculating that "these organic remains must have been brought into their present situation, by some violent means, from tropical regions, or that our country once enjoyed the warmth of a tropical climate." Fleming argued that the "unbroken state" of the remains rendered the violent transportation idea absurd, and astronomy ruled out the climate change hypothesis.
Fleming vs. Cuvier and Buckland
An example of the speculative tendency concerned the fossil elephants of Europe, Asia, and America. As amply demonstrated by the anatomical studies of Cuvier and others, these extinct elephants were a different species from those now living and could well have been native to northern countries. In fact, the Lena River delta carcass discovered in 1799 was covered with more than thirty-six pounds of thick, lengthy hair, which certainly seemed to suggest that it was "not a native of a tropical climate, but an inhabitant of a cold region." This particular species of elephant was suited to live in Siberia, said Fleming, and the Siberian climate was basically the same when the mammoth lived there as it is now. Where was the need for a cataclysm?
Fleming also trained his critical guns on Buckland's Kirkdale cave. While defending Buckland's identification of the cave as the den of an extinct species of hyena, Fleming questioned his identification of the red mud as a diluvial deposit. Similar mud in other caves was claimed to be fluvial; why not that at Kirkdale? Fleming also wondered why the deluge was so selective in drowning the hippopotamus but allowing the ox and horse to survive. The subdivision of strata into diluvian and postdiluvian could not be sustained, he argued, because the vertebrate remains occurred in both alleged diluvian clay and "acknowledged post-diluvian marl." The flood should have indiscriminately consigned all British quadrupeds to a "watery grave" but instead targeted precisely those animals that "in all ages must have been most eagerly sought after by the huntsman, and such as his efforts would, long before this period, have annihilated." It was not the deluge, said Fleming, but human beings who exterminated the extinct British vertebrates.
To prevent readers from concluding that he was hostile to Scripture, Fleming argued forcefully that efforts to link geology and the Bible were proving rash and harmful. Of course, the works and the words of God must give consistent indications of his government, "provided they be interpreted truly." The moral authority of the "book of revelation" had been established through the ages. But interpreters of the book of nature, said Fleming, "have been few in number, their field of observation too limited, and their prejudices too obvious, to permit any high value to be attached to their theoretical deductions." Geology would fare better, he thought, if its practitioners were "more disposed to examine the structure of the earth, and the laws which regulate the physical distribution of its inhabitants" and less eager to identify their conjectures with popular truths. Furthermore, he asserted that the interests of revelation would be better served if believers would not exhibit such "morbid earnestness" to gain support for their creed from the sciences but would rather calmly acknowledge the fact that
Fleming intensified his assault in 1826 when he wrote "The Geological Deluge, as Interpreted by Baron Cuvier and Professor Buckland, Inconsistent with the Testimony of Moses and the Phenomena of Nature."  Fleming was concerned that Buckland in particular, with his high view of Scripture, had allowed his imagination to become overactive in his desire to find evidence for the flood. Fleming reminded Buckland that he had attributed the extinction of many species of quadrupeds to the deluge, whereas Scripture spoke of the preservation of at least a pair of every kind. Buckland contended that the flood was sudden, transient, virtually universal, and simultaneous, rushing about with overwhelming impetuosity, but Moses mentioned only the universality of the flood, and if anything the biblical evidence suggested that the flood was slow and gradual, inasmuch as it took forty days for the waters to rise. If the flood had been as violent as Buckland suggested, it is hard to imagine how the ark could have survived, much less landed relatively close to the point from which it first lifted off the ground as the Bible reports. Buckland said that the flood excavated deep valleys by tearing up solid rock, which would imply that prediluvian geography must have been radically different from what it is now, and yet Moses implied that the countries had the same appearance before and after the flood. If one took the biblical reference to the olive leaf seriously, one would have to conclude that the Mosaic flood was not violent enough to have disturbed the soil or trees; and the fact that Noah was able to plant a vineyard shortly after the flood further indicated that the soil had not been washed away.
Fleming accused Buckland of having obtained his notions of the flood from Ovid rather than the Bible. Himself endorsing the biblical description of a slowly accumulating, non-violent flood, Fleming disposed of all forms of flood geology, saying that he was "not prepared to witness in nature any remaining marks of the catastrophe, and I feel my respect for the authority of revelation heightened, when I see on the present surface no memorials of the event."
Buckland and his fellow catastrophists habitually attributed the existence of river valleys and canyons, gravel beds, mud in caves, and extinct animals to the action of the flood. The diluvialists said that river valleys had been carved by the tremendous power of the flood as it drained off the surface of the earth, but Fleming, like Hutton and Playfair before him, argued that the sinuous shapes of canyons and valleys and the fact that they gradually widen owing to the existence of tributaries mirrors the shapes of modern stream channels, which we know were produced solely by the streams themselves. It was clear to Fleming that ancient canyons and valleys were carved out by the long-continued action of running water rather than by a stupendous but brief flood. Flood waters might erode loose soil and loosen boulders, said Fleming, but there is no way they could have carved deep valleys out of solid bedrock.
Fleming was not alone in challenging early nineteenth-century diluvialism. Throughout the 1820s, the Auvergne district received continued attention from three of Great Britain's more able geologists, George Poulett Scrope (1797-1876), Charles Lyell (1797-1875), and Roderick Murchison (1792-1871). Upon careful investigation of the valleys and lavas, all three of them concluded that the action of rivers and streams over a long period of time was perfectly capable of excavating the valleys. Bucklandian deluges were unnecessary. Indeed, if a great torrent had swept over that part of Europe, then the cinder cones from which some of the older lava flows had emanated should have been disrupted or even swept away altogether, and they had not been. 
By 1830, many geologists were having second thoughts about a single universal deluge and were taking another look at the physical evidence. Authorities began to issue public recantations. Cambridge's Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), like his friends Buckland and Conybeare a "broad church" Anglican with perhaps stronger evangelical leanings, had also been an early advocate of diluvial catastrophism. Yet, upon retiring from the presidency of the Geological Society of London in 1831, Sedgwick announced his abandonment of the deluge theory:
Sedgwick suggested that geologists had been too hasty in referring all superficial gravel to the action of the Mosaic flood, on the grounds that no trace of humanity had been recovered from those deposits. Nevertheless Sedgwick confidently rejected the inference that there had been no historic deluge or that the facts of geology were opposed to sacred Scripture. Not a word in the Bible or the traditions justified looking to mere physical monuments as the intelligible records of the event, he said. Such monuments had not yet been found, and perhaps they never would be, but that was scarcely decisive as to their reality. To cover all bases, Sedgwick affirmed that, although certain traces of a great diluvian catastrophe within the human period had not been found, it had been shown that "paroxysms of internal energy, accompanied by the elevation of mountain chains, and followed by mighty waves desolating whole regions of the earth, were a part of the mechanism of nature." Because such paroxysms had occurred frequently throughout the earth's history, they may have occurred during the few thousand years that man had been living on its surface. Sedgwick triumphantly concluded that "we have therefore, taken away all anterior incredibility from the fact of a recent deluge; and we have prepared the mind, doubting about the truth of things of which it knows not either the origin or the end, for the adoption of this fact on the weight of historic testimony."
Greenough issued a similar recantation in 1834, acknowledging that he once held the "not hastily formed" opinion based on the best available geological data that the entire globe had been covered by a general deluge.  But now, better acquainted with "physical and geological nature," he had been convinced otherwise. He acknowledged his debt to Lyell for bringing together a vast mass of evidence suggesting that if a deluge had swept over the entire globe five thousand years earlier, its traces could "no longer be distinguished from more modern and local disturbances." Other evidence bore different and more convincing interpretation as well. What he had viewed as "diluvial" elephants and other animals could probably be better referred to two or three distinct epochs, he granted, and the stone blocks found in the Jura Mountains, northern Germany, northern Italy, and England "are not the waifs and strays of one, but of several successive inundations."
What had Lyell said to convince Greenough of his error? In the final volume of his epochal Principles of Geology issued between 1830 and 1833, Charles Lyell, a deist, poured plenty of cold water on current diluvial thinking. In a chapter on the geology of the Eocene Epoch, he reviewed the geology of the Auvergne region and then took up a discussion on the "supposed effects of the flood."  Lyell noted that contemporaries who used the terms antediluvian and postdiluvian with respect to the volcanoes of Auvergne assumed "that there are clear and unequivocal marks of the passage of a general flood over all parts of the surface of the globe." He rejected that view as incompatible with the evidence, but he did leave the door open for a localized deluge. He contended that a flood extending to the whole of that part of the earth inhabited by human beings might have occurred had there been both "extensive lakes elevated above the level of the ocean" and "large tracts of dry land depressed below that level" in a given region. Lyell postulated that if the waters of Lake Superior, situated six hundred feet above sea level, were to be set loose "by the rending or sinking down of the barrier during earthquakes," the entire valley of the Mississippi, with its huge population, would be deluged. A similarly catastrophic flood might be induced by the depression of part of Asia, he suggested. The "great cavity" of western Asia has an area of 18,000 square leagues, and a "considerable population." The lowest parts in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea are three hundred feet below the level of the Black Sea. In that area floodwaters could cover hills rising three hundred feet above the plain, and if deeper depressions had existed at some earlier time, then even loftier mountains might have been covered in a flood of the region.
Although Lyell recognized that the majority of older commentators held to the geographical universality of the flood and that both Deluc and Buckland had eloquently and zealously supported the notion of a great flood that "worked a considerable alteration in the external configuration of our continents," he expressed agreement with Fleming that the biblical narrative did not "indicate the impetuous rushing of the waters, either as they rose or when they retreated." For Lyell as for Fleming, the survival of the olive branch seemed a clear indication that vegetation had not been destroyed in the deluge. Lyell confessed reluctance to talk about the flood at all because of the sensitive nature of people's feelings about the subject. He concluded his "digression" by asserting that he had always considered both the causes and effects of the flood to be in the preternatural category "beyond the reach of philosophical inquiry." And he warned those who were anxious to point out "the coincidence of geological phenomena with the occurrence of such a general catastrophe" that they must neglect "no one of the circumstances enumerated in the Mosaic history, least of all so remarkable a fact as that the olive remained standing while the waters were abating." Lyell tried as nicely as he could without offending anyone to say that he did not see any geological evidence to support the notion of a global catastrophe. Indeed, he found that "the strictest interpretation of the scriptural narrative does not warrant us in expecting to find any geological monuments of the catastrophe," a conclusion consistent with the preservation of the volcanic cones of Auvergne.
Summary of Early Nineteenth-Century on the Flood
Naturalists of the early nineteenth century accumulated a great deal of information that led to changes in their view of earth's history and the role of the Noachic deluge in it. They all paid scrupulous attention to the full spectrum of available geological information and adjusted their ideas in response to that information. Many of them were orthodox Christians, and yet they felt no need to distort the evidence they encountered in order to sustain their belief in the biblical deluge. One finds no appeal to miracle on the part of even the most ardent advocate of the deluge, William Buckland. The premier geologists were persuaded that existing geological evidence supported the notion of a global or at least continental deluge. Every one of them rejected the old diluvialism which attributed the deposition of fossiliferous secondary and tertiary strata to the flood, however. They identified only surface deposits as the effects of the deluge.
Even that view collapsed, however, because of the importance that these men placed on extrabiblical evidence. Buckland, Sedgwick, and others ultimately abandoned nineteenth-century diluvialism when it became clear that gravels, valleys, polished rocks, cave deposits, and the like could no longer be satisfactorily understood as the result of a giant deluge. Because the Christian naturalists of the era were unafraid of God-given evidence, they recognized that extrabiblical information provided a splendid opportunity for closer investigation of the biblical text in order to clear up earlier mistakes in interpretation. Biblical expositors of the period were more reluctant to grapple with extrabiblical data in so forthright a manner, as we will see.
The Coming of the Ice Age -- the Frozen Flood
The diluvial explanation of gravels, boulders, and wide river valleys had suffered a fatal setback by 1840. Although James Hutton and John Playfair had described before 1800 the effects of glaciation, their work attracted little attention. Unaware of their contributions, Ignatz Venetz (1788-1859), a civil engineer, and Jean de Charpentier (1786-1855) a mining engineer whose father had been a professor at Werner's Freiberg Academy, undertook careful investigations of glacial phenomena in the Alps during the 1820s and 1830s. Charpentier recognized that erratic boulders, gravels, and sandy drift in the mountains had been deposited by melting glaciers and that broad U-shaped valleys were excavated by advancing ice. He also realized that Swiss glaciers had been larger in the past.
In 1836 a brilliant young Swiss naturalist, Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) a student of Cuvier and professor in the College of Neuchatel who was already renowned for pioneering studies on fossil fish, was given a guided tour of glacial phenomena in the Rhone River valley by Charpentier. Aware that Charpentier explained Swiss erratics and gravels as glacial deposits, Agassiz was skeptical at first but quickly became an enthusiastic convert. He immediately undertook extensive field research throughout Europe and the British Isles and had already gleaned sufficient information by the summer of 1837 to create a sensation with a lecture before the Swiss Society of Natural History announcing that vast ice sheets had covered the northern continents all the way to the Mediterranean Sea during the Pleistocene epoch. 
Not unexpectedly, William Buckland was extremely interested in Agassiz's startling hypothesis. Hoping to discount Agassiz's new ideas, Buckland participated in one of the most significant field trips in history in October 1838. Agassiz showed Buckland several examples of polished, striated bedrock and transported erratics on the southeastern slopes of the Jura mountains near Neuchatel. Together they examined glaciers in the Alps. Buckland received a firsthand lesson in the capabilities of flowing ice and was convinced that alpine glaciers had once been much more extensive. He informed Agassiz that he had seen similar phenomena in Scotland and England and had attributed them to diluvial action, but he now realized that flowing ice accounted for such features much more satisfactorily than an aqueous catastrophe ever could. Buckland had become a glacialist. Lyell soon followed.
Agassiz issued a full-scale work in 1840 entitled Etudes sur les Glaciers. He, Buckland, and Lyell also gave important papers in late 1840 before the Geological Society of London on the evidence that glaciers had covered Scotland, Ireland, and England in the distant past, pointing out: the widespread occurrence of moraines, shoreline terraces of ancient lakes, and striated and polished bedrock. General skepticism reigned. Many believed that the action of icebergs swept over land accounted for some of the features more effectively than the action of glaciers. In a few years, however, Agassiz's theory of a great continental ice sheet prevailed because it explained so much about the erratics, polished rocks, gravels, and wide valleys that had been previously puzzling in the context of the deluge hypothesis. A scant two decades after his inaugural lecture, Buckland had completely repudiated diluvial catastrophism and had warmly embraced the concept of a great ice age. In Rupke's words, Buckland "saw glaciation as the 'grand key' to the diluvial phenomena." Many of his contemporaries eventually followed. 
Development of the Geological Time Scale
While the great debates over the flood and glaciation were going on, geologists were also occupied with detailed mapping and subdivision of the simple geological time scale inherited from the eighteenth century. By the mid-1800s, the time scale had become highly refined.  The subdivisions were worked out primarily in the British Isles and western Europe, where thick successions of fossiliferous strata abounded. The secondary rocks of England were fruitfully subdivided. These rocks consisted of a very thick series of strata that had first been mapped by William Smith. In a book issued in 1822, William Conybeare and William Phillips carefully described, refined, and extended the sequence and lumped the strata into groups of related units. For example, they defined the succession of strata including a prominent formation in Scotland and western England known as the Old Red Sandstone and the overlying formations including the Coal Measures as the Carboniferous Order because of the abundance of coal in the succession.
During the latter 1830s, Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison mapped and described a terrane of rocks that lay beneath the Old Red Sandstone in Devonshire and labeled it Devonian.  Sedgwick and Murchison also mapped the "transition" rocks of Wales over a period of years.  Despite bitter disputes about how to classify these strata, the geological community ultimately recognized a Cambrian and Silurian system in these strata. Smith's claim that different strata were characterized by distinctive fossil remains was amply borne out by these later investigations.
Murchison successfully applied the British succession to rocks in European Russia in 1840.  There he recognized rocks that he assigned to the Silurian, Devonian, and Carboniferous systems on the basis of their fossil content. Despite the fact that the rock types did not always precisely match those in Britain, strata with Silurian fossils did lie beneath strata with Devonian fossils, which in turn lay beneath the formations with Carboniferous fossils. On another trek toward the Urals the following year, Murchison found another group of strata with unfamiliar fossils above the Carboniferous units. He named this series Permian after the nearby town of Perm.
Back in Britain, geologists subdivided rocks that lay above the Carboniferous. Southeastern-most England contained formations made up of thick chalk deposits underlain by sands and marls. These chalks were traced across the English Channel into France and Belgium, where they had been designated the Cretaceous Terrane in 1822 by Jean Baptiste Julien d'Omalius d'Halloy (1783-1875). Beneath the British chalk and marl are various limestones. Because of the abundant spherical pellets known as oolites in many of the limestones, the entire series was first known as the Oolitic, but eventually the term Jurassic was applied because the rocks contained similar fossils and occupied the same stratigraphic position as limestones in the Jura mountains. Rocks beneath the limestones and overlying the Carboniferous rocks correlated with so-called Trias strata in Germany and were eventually identified as the Triassic.
Even tertiary strata were subdivided. In the third volume of his Principles of Geology (1833), Lyell described rocks of the Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene epochs. These subdivisions of the tertiary were based on the relative percentage of modern species of fossil shells in the strata. The term Quaternary was employed by 1829 to describe alluvial, lacustrine, and volcanic material overlying consolidated Tertiary beds in France. The term Pleistocene also was applied to Quaternary deposits to describe formations overlaying Pliocene deposits -- what Lyell had earlier termed later Pliocene deposits.
By the early 1840s, a detailed geological time scale had been worked out on the basis of successions of superposed sedimentary strata distinguished by characteristic fossils. The primitive, transition, secondary, and tertiary gave way to the Precambrian, Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary, and the Tertiary was subdivided into Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene strata.  These rock sequences could be traced all across Europe and were always found to occupy the same relative order. Although strata of a given system might be missing locally, rocks were never found out of sequence where the strata were clearly in a right-side-up position. Rocks containing Triassic fossils were always found lower than rocks containing Jurassic fossils, for example, and rocks containing Silurian fossils were always found lower than rocks containing Devonian fossils.
With increasing confidence geologists subdivided strata around the world on the basis of superposition and fossil content. They also found that rocks belonging to different periods were often separated from one another by erosional surfaces known as unconformities, indicating that periods of uplift, tilting, and erosion had occurred several times during the deposition of a given sequence of sedimentary rocks. Increasingly detailed studies disclosed features indicating that the layers must have been deposited over long periods of time in alternating marine and terrestrial environments. In the face of the wealth of new data, no reputable geologist any longer attributed the consolidated fossiliferous strata to the action of the flood.
New Paleontological Discoveries
While they were engaged in their detailed mapping and subdivision of strata and expansion of the geologic time scale, naturalists were also discovering spectacular fossilized "dragons," monstrous marine and terrestrial vertebrates that made the extinct elephants appear tame by comparison. Some of the most impressive remains were encountered in the Jurassic and Cretaceous beds of southern England by Mary Anning (1799-1847), who at the age of eleven found a skeleton of an Ichthyosaurus, a sleek, sharp-toothed, fast-swimming marine reptile. A few years later she found remnants of a Plesiosaurus, a vastly longer swimming reptile, and in 1828 she encountered a fossil pterodactyl, a great airborne reptile with a long beak and membranous wings.
Picture right: Pterosaur (Pterodactylus kochi), upper Jurassic, approx 150 million years old
Cuvier also described finds of Jurassic and Cretaceous vertebrates, including a pigeon-sized pterodactyl and a fierce fifteen- to twenty-foot-long marine lizard that Conybeare had named Mosasaurus. Remains of a variety of extinct species were discovered in the Stonefield Slate not far from Oxford. Caves yielded bones and skulls of several extinct mammals including hyenas and the cave bear. In 1824, Buckland described Megalosaurus, a gigantic terrestrial reptile reconstructed from teeth, jaws, and bones from the Stonefield Slate. Cuvier estimated that the creature had been about forty feet long. Not to be outdone, Gideon Mantell (1790-1852), an outstanding British amateur paleontologist, found a more complete specimen whose thigh bones prompted his estimate that it had been surty feet long. Mantell had also collected crocodile and plesiosaur teeth and bones. In 1822, Mantell's wife found the earliest specimens of Iguanodon, and years later, Mantell described another extinct lizard, Hylaeosaurus.  One of the great collectors of the era was anatomist Richard Owen (1804-1892) of the Royal College of Surgeons, arguably England's premier paleontologist of the rnid-nineteenth century.  Owen described and reconstructed skeletons of several great extinct lizards and in 1841 proposed the establishment of a new "suborder of Saurian Reptiles, for which I would propose the name of Dinosauria."  He also described several extinct South American mammals.
By 1850 numerous small extinct land animals had also been described. Fossil kangaroos were found in Australia. Fossil sloths were found in the Americas. The rapidly expanding list of newly recognized extinct land animals inevitably raised a variety of questions in connection with the biblical account of the flood. The first major issue concerned the contents of the ark. By this point, it had really ceased to be an issue for established geologists, who were altogether convinced by a weight of evidence that seemed both incontrovertible and compelling. They were accustomed to interpreting Jurassic and Cretaceous strata as deposits that had been formed millions of years before the advent of human beings. But for laypeople, theologians untrained in the physical sciences, and non-professional "scriptural" naturalists who worked from outdated geological theory or otherwise continued to think of fossiliferous strata as flood deposits, the issue was extremely problematic. Those who insisted that all species of all land animals had been preserved on the ark now had to include among them not only lions and bears but also mastodons, mammoths, giant sloths, pterodactyls, megalosaurs, iguanodons, hylaeosaurs, and a host of other extinct mammals. The prospect of an ark with pairs of forty-foot-long monsters aboard stretched the limits of credulity.
The most obvious way to avoid the problem was to assume that God had eliminated such beasts in the catastrophe, but that involved a departure from a strict literal interpretation of the biblical account, which states that God preserved at least two of every kind of beast in the ark. To this day, this problem is not faced squarely by proponents of flood geology.
A second issue related to animal migration. Discoveries indicated that certain animals occurred as fossils only in specific and limited areas. Fossil kangaroos, for example, were found only in Australia, and fossil sloths were found only in the Americas. The problem of migration thus became doubly severe for those who wished to preserve a literal reading of the biblical text: they not only had to argue that kangaroos found the means to migrate from the ark to Australia after the flood but they also had to argue that kangaroos had found a way to migrate from Australia to the ark before the flood. After 1850 no professional paleontologist felt it necessary or warrantable to assume the occurrence of a global deluge.
Despite the unceasing deluge of discoveries in the early decades of the century that devastatingly annihilated the global deluge theory, a few writers resisted the tendency of geologists to develop theories apart from a recognition of Mosaic history. Some objected to Buckland's restricted brand of diluvialism. Some sought to update the diluvialism of Woodward and Catcott. For the most part, as James R. Moore observed, these individuals were "clergymen, linguists, and antiquaries -- those, in general, with vested interests in mediating the meaning of books, rather than rocks, in churches and classrooms." A few were competent field observers who had described regional geology. In any event, reflecting an undying attachment to biblical literalism, England spawned a reactionary movement of "scriptural geologists."  The "scriptural geologies" of such people as Granville Penn, George Young, George Bugg, Joseph Sutcliffe, George Fairholme, Sharon Turner, and William Kirby were typically marked by a strict adherence to literal readings of the flood narrative -- until they chose to make exceptions.  They typically proceeded by forcing selected geological data into the historical framework they believed to be supplied by a literal interpretation of Genesis; along the way, they typically ignored a sizable amount of problematic geological and paleontological data.
Perhaps pride of place among the scriptural geologies belongs to A Comparative Estimate of the Mineral and Mosaical Geologies, published in 1822 by Granville Penn, a toweringly self-assured and prolix writer. He argued at some considerable length that, contrary to the assertions of the neptunists, primitive rocks could not have formed by precipitation and crystallization from an initial chaos; rather, as Moses taught, they had been created in situ by God. "We would be sure to reason unphilosophically and falsely," Penn asserted, if we were to conclude that a piece of granite had formed by aqueous solution or igneous fusion simply because it looked as though it had been formed by water or fire. Primitive formations were made "in correspondence with the laws which [God] was then about to establish," said Penn, "and in anticipation of effects and appearances which were thenceforward to be produced only by the operations of those laws." 
Penn also spoke directly to the issue of the flood. The problem with "mineral geology," he said, was that it rejected the Bible's revelation of "a great universal revolutioni1 that God had brought about "by the operation of water." On the third day of creation, a first revolution suddenly deepened the ocean bed, violently allowing water to rush in. A second revolution 1,656 years later depressed the exposed land area and raised the former sea bed, submerging what had formerly been dry land and rendering the former seabed habitable. This was the Noachic flood.
True Mosaic geology allowed for these two revolutions only, said Penn. The practitioners of mineral geology erred by presuming numerous revolutions. Scripture provided a true chronological order of geological events consisting of a first formation, a first revolution on the third day of creation, a long period of relative calm, and a second revolution during the flood. Penn argued that calcareous deposits and other marine substances were quietly deposited during the 1,656-year interval between the two revolutions. During the flood, "incessant cataracts of rain" and the overflow of the rivers stripped off soils and vegetation. Vertebrate remains and the bulk of stratified rocks were distributed by eddies, tides, and the continuous flux and reflux of currents. Equatorial animals were transported to northern sites by the flood. Human beings, on the other hand, would have been clustered together and drawn "into the vortex created by the conflux of the two seas meeting from the opposite hemispheres on the subsidence of the last intervening land; and would thus have been immediately carried downward with violence, into the profundity of the new sea." 
Despite insisting on strict adherence to the Bible concerning other points, Penn asserted that the ark had not in fact carried representatives of all the earth's animals. He stated that the extinction of animals such as the mastodon was divinely ordained as part of God's plan of renovation. He also affirmed that since vegetation could not have survived a devastating year-long flood, God must have created postdiluvial vegetation just like the original vegetation. 
Penn recognized that his thesis had other difficulties as well. He wondered, for example, why the rivers of the garden of Eden had familiar names if the surface of the postdiluvian earth were wholly new. His solution was to resort to the exegetical subterfuge of postulating that the description of the rivers was a "parenthesis" inserted into the direct thread of the history for the purpose of illustration. "The fluvial description introduced into the four verses, cannot therefore be regarded, critically, as any part of the Mosaical history," he wrote, and so had "no weight" to affect the strong evidence of the Mosaic history of the destruction of the primitive earth by the deluge. Even the most enthusiastic biblical literalist found it increasingly difficult to devise scientific theories without abandoning literalism at key points.
Another reactionary effort was tucked in an appendix to the Bridgewater Treatise written by William Kirby, a biologist of modest accomplishments and one-time president of the Royal Society.  He admitted that his knowledge of geological science was limited, and his work bore it out. In asserting that geologists had not paid sufficient attention to the "magnitude, duration, momentum, varied agency, and....consequences" of the biblical flood, he betrayed an apparent ignorance of the fact that the field had been dominated by various flood theories during the previous 150 years but that all reputable professionals had long since abandoned diluvialism. His assertions were all badly dated -- he named abyssal waters, torrential rain, and volcanoes as sources for the flood, for instance, and cited the abundant fossils in stratified rocks as clear evidence of the action of the diluvial waters -- and in general he sought to attribute far more effects to the flood than any geologist was prepared to.
One of the most influential scriptural geologists was George Fairholme, whose masterwork New and Conclusive Physical Demonstrations Both of the Fact and Period of the Mosaic Deluge was issued in 1837. Fairholme lamented the fact that belief in a universal deluge was vanishing and that such scholars as Sedgwick and Buckland had recanted their earlier diluvialism. Despite the growing body of evidence to the contrary, Fairholme optimistically announced that evidences of a general deluge had recently assumed "the character of complete demonstration....by a mass of exclusively physical testimony." What was this physical testimony that somehow failed to convince the geologists who were spending their lives investigating it? Undaunted by the widespread knowledge of the existence of unconformities, conglomerates, and steeply tilted strata of constant thickness, Fairholme forwarded the untenable claim that the sedimentary rocks contained no evidence of great age and were deposited rapidly and continuously in a moist state so that each individual stratum was unconsolidated when the next layer was deposited on top of it.
Ignoring countless reported observations of geologists, Fairholme further claimed that he had not personally seen a single instance of a well-defined ancient valley on the subterranean surface of any individual formation, and on this basis he proceeded to conclude that secondary strata could not have been formed by causes in existence today.  To support his assertion that the deluge occurred only a few thousand years ago, Fairholme calculated from the rate of recession of Niagara Falls that the river began to flow there only five thousand years ago. Since North America is underlain by aqueous sedimentary rocks that now form dry land, he said, the continent must have emerged from the sea at that time. When the land rose, Lake Erie began to overflow its basin, and the Niagara River began to carve out the falls.  Such assertions were quite unsupportable on the basis of the science of the day, much less thereafter.
Early Nineteenth-Century Theological Responses to Scientific Developments
How did leading theologically conservative commentators assess the accumulation of geological, biogeographical, and geomorphological evidence in the early nineteenth century? In commentaries on Genesis and dictionary articles on the flood, we encounter a broad spectrum of approaches ranging from those of Charles Simeon to Edward Robinson. At one extreme, Charles Simeon (1759-1836), founder of the low church party in the Church of England, completely avoided all the thorny problems and all interaction with other writers in his Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible (1833). Assuming the universality of the flood to be unproblematic, Simeon was concerned only with the moral and spiritual applications of the flood story to the lives of individual believers and to the life of the church. At the opposite extreme was Edward Robinson (1794-1863), founder of the journal Biblical Repertory and professor of biblical literature at Andover and Union Theological Seminaries. Robinson, a thoroughly conservative scholar but one of the first Americans to admit the rights of biblical criticism, painstakingly, if erroneously, dealt with much of the relevant extrabiblical material. 
Most nineteenth-century commentators continued to assume the literal historicity and universality of the deluge. Some assigned a date to the deluge by extrapolating from genealogies and other chronological markers in the biblical text. Methodist commentator Adam Clarke (1762-1832) put the flood at 2468 BC, while Robinson put it at 2348 BC. Courses on the chronology and history of the biblical books formed an important component of American seminary curricula of the period, and William Hales's massive multi-volume work A New Analysis of Chronology and Geography, History, and Prophecy filled an important niche as a resource. Hales (1747-1831) was an Irish chronologist, a professor of Oriental languages at Trinity College, Dublin, and later the rector of Killashandra. His work originally appeared in three volumes between 1809 and 1812, and a second four-volume edition appeared in 1830 just prior to his death. Hales's study included a table of suggested dates for the onset of the deluge ranging from the Septuagint's 3246 BC to the 2104 BC of the Vulgar Jewish Computation. He preferred 3155 BC himself.
The Capacity of the Ark
Discussions of the ark's capacity, frequently based on appeals to seventeenth-century calculations, were often stunningly out of touch with the latest knowledge. Adam Clarke was justly famed throughout England as an outstanding Wesleyan preacher, scholar, and churchman, and it has been said that the scholarship in his massive Bible commentary is "marked by an amazing openness" regarding difficulties and points of detail in the biblical text. He gives evidence of some acquaintance with the science of his day as well, although he appealed to John Arbuthnot's calculation of ark capacity and adopted the common argument that the number of animals was much less than commonly perceived. He acknowledged that later discoveries had established a greater number of species than were known to Arbuthnot or John Wilkins (whose calculations he also warmly approved), but he blithely proceeded to state without demonstration that "the whole of these would occupy but little room in the ark." He failed to deal in any way with the issue of the larger number of extinct animals that had turned up in the fossil record, in the end simply affirming confidently that the "capacity of the ark, which has been made an objection against Scripture, ought to be esteemed a confirmation of its Divine authority." 
Edward Robinson made his observations concerning the ark's capacity in his updated 1832 American edition of the Dictionary of the Holy Bible, a massive work originally compiled in 1730 by eighteenth-century French Roman Catholic scholar Augustin Calmet (1672-1757). Robinson, according to Jerry Wayne Brown "the one American scholar to achieve an international reputation in biblical studies before the Civil War," was especially careful to bring material on philology, interpretation, and geography up to the highest standards of contemporary scholarship. Yet in the matter of the flood narrative, Robinson apparently relied on Calmet's antiquated arguments, for, like Clarke, he wrote that the number of animals on the ark was not so great as generally believed, used outdated estimates of the number of known species, and made no mention of extinct mammals. His estimates were scarcely larger than those of Ralegh and Wilkins despite the explosion of knowledge about the world's animals. Although acknowledging that "modern discoveries have augmented the variety of species of beasts and birds," he claimed that "the number of them is not sufficiently great to annul the argument he has adduced." He went on to endorse the outdated argument that the number of species increased substantially after the flood as well: "The innumerable varieties of species now known, are greatly the effect of climate, of food, of habit, whether roving or domesticated, and these would allow for considerable deductions from the general mass of creatures in the Ark." 
Hales claimed that the ark could have carried 20,000 men with provisions for six months plus 1,800 cannons and associated military stores. Could we then doubt its ability to contain eight people and 250 pairs of four-footed animals? Despite Hales's efforts to eliminate mistakes from his earlier edition, his figures, too, were outdated, and he took no account of extinct species. 
Methodist minister Joseph Sutcliffe had not only written books on scriptural geology but also published a commentary on the entire Bible. Offended by a lecture suggesting that the ark would not have been able to hold pairs of all the world's creatures, Sutcliffe responded by opting for a cubit not less than thirty inches long, forgetting that an enlarged cubit solved nothing if all the animals were correspondingly larger.  The ark, he thought, "must have been equal to ten or twelve first-rate ships of war." Although claiming John Wilkins as one of the best writers on the capacity of the ark, Sutcliffe himself made no estimate of the number of known species.
The German evangelical Lutheran Heinrich A. C. Havernick (1811-1845), a theologian at the University of Konigsberg who endorsed E. W. Hengstenberg's conservatism on questions of Old Testament authorship and unity, confidently asserted that "excellent mathematicians" had shown that the ark could contain more than 6,600 kinds of animals: "this fact has remained till now unrefuted, as from its nature it cannot be otherwise." 
While Clarke accounted for the ark's capacity in naturalistic terms, he appealed to miracle to account for how the pairs of animals were brought in an orderly fashion to the ark and how the carnivores lived in peace with the other animals for a year. Robinson granted that a quick migration of animals to the ark from the extreme heat of Africa or the coldest parts of the North might well have proved fatal to them but argued that they could have escaped that fate had they migrated by "insensible degrees" or been bred there. Moreover, he wrote, animals not now living in Mesopotamia might have lived there in Noah's time. Havernick wanted to solve the problem the same way. In support, Robinson pointed out that several animal species were formerly abundant in countries where none presently existed. He knew that fossils of the hippopotamus, wolf, and beaver had been recovered from England, and he knew that cranes and storks had formerly bred in England as well as Holland. Despite Robinson's awareness of some contemporary paleontological discoveries, he failed to recognize that various American and Australian animals had no fossil counterparts in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East.
Theories of the Flood
Several commentators believed that physical evidence plainly pointed to the flood, but virtually all were acquainted at best only with outdated science. In his inaugural address at the opening of the Presbyterian Princeton Theological Seminary in 1812, founding professor Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) urged those preparing for gospel ministry to become scientifically literate. Noting that "natural history, chemistry, and geology have sometimes been of important service in assisting the Biblical student to solve difficulties contained in Scripture," Alexander stressed the importance for the "advocate of the Bible" to attend to truth in all its forms. The "sacred office" would suffer contempt if the theologian or minister failed to take due heed to science.  We should not be surprised, then, to find that in his teaching about the biblical flood, Alexander appealed to both tradition and physical evidence. The tradition of the flood "has been handed down through successive generations in almost every country," he said, and is attested in the physical record as well: "We find traces of the deluge in every part of the world, such as marine substances on the highest mountains." The fact that bones and relics of sea and land animals are "promiscuously mingled together in many parts of the earth....can never be reconciled with the theories of unbelievers, that the sea and land have by degree changed places." 
Alexander quoted no sources, so we do not know where he received his ideas. His writing suggests that he thought that fossils in stratified rocks on mountaintops were the result of the flood, however, which would have put him decades out of touch with the best geological thinking, but he may have had in mind the geomorphological and paleontological evidence in surficial deposits to which some late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century naturalists had appealed.
Adam Clarke contended that an immense quantity of water occupied the center of the antediluvian earth. As this burst forth at God's command, "circumambient strata" sank and filled the "vacuum occasioned by the elevated waters." God could have used lightning to convert the whole atmosphere into water had he wished to do so. As it was, the "incessant glare of lightning" and the "continual peals of thunder" added "indescribable horrors" to the scene. The rain and the abyss together were sufficient to overflow the earth and "to dissolve the whole terrene fabric" as "judicious naturalists" had supposed. Clarke appealed to the outdated works of John Ray and John Woodward, who, he said, had "rendered it exceedingly probable that the whole terrestrial substance was amalgamated with the waters, after which the different materials of its composition settled in beds or strata according to their respective gravities." He was not concerned with long-standing objections that existing strata are not ordered in anything like ascending specific gravities; he maintained that any such anomalies could be attributed to disruptions introduced by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. As Woodward had shown, every part of the earth bore "unequivocal evidence of disruption and violence." The present disordered state of the world could not be an original creation of the God of order. The globe everywhere bore the "marks of the crimes of men, and of the justice of God." The most recent geologist to whom Clarke referred was Richard Kirwan, apparently unaware of the fact that Kirwan disagreed with Woodward's assertion that all sedimentary rocks could be attributed to the flood, he completely overlooked the work of such recent geologists as Buckland, Sedgwick, and Fleming.
Chronologist William Hales specifically adopted Kirwan's idea that the main current of deluge waters came from the south and cited as evidence the deep indentations in the southern coasts of Asia, Africa, America, Ceylon, and Madagascar. He argued that the universality and northerly course of the deluge were also evidenced by the abundant fossils in the Alps and Pyrenees, bivalves high in the Andes, skeletons of rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses in Siberia, and frozen mammoths in Siberia. Despite Buckland's compelling argument for a northerly source of the deluge, Hales concluded that "we have no longer room to doubt of the northerly progress of the cataracts of the deluge from high southern regions." The fact that Hales cited invertebrates in stratified rocks as examples of flood relics shows that he, too, was appealing to substantially outdated theory. 
Isaac Voss's local flood hypothesis bothered Edward Robinson. He wondered how Voss could know that parts of the world outside the Near East were uninhabited at the time of the flood. Why would such a "prodigious ark" need to be built? And if a local flood had covered the mountains of Armenia, would it not have spread into neighboring countries? But Robinson was also aware of the difficulties of universality. The greatest problem as he saw it was the quantity of water needed, and he resolved it with an appeal to the subterranean abyss. But what of the cold that would have affected Noah and the animals at the great heights to which they would have been elevated by the waters? Robinson asserted that, although air is colder and sharper on the tops of the highest mountains, people do not die there from those causes. In any event, he thought it likely that the colder air would have been raised yet higher by the rising envelope of flood water, so that the ark's passengers probably "breathed nearly, or altogether, the same air as they would have ordinarily breathed a thousand or twelve hundred paces lower, that is, on the surface of the earth." Robinson liked Burnet's theory but wished that he hadn't gone to such extremes. He thought it credible that the state of the globe before the deluge was different from that of the present. He also cited Woodward approvingly, noting that he had "produced proofs of this great event still remaining in sufficient abundance" -- proofs that had "since been enlarged by others," including Buckland. Like Clarke, Robinson seemed unaware that Woodward's views had long since been discredited and he failed to grasp the fact that Buckland's flood was totally different from Woodward's.
Sutcliffe theorized that God increased the powers of gravitation at the time of the flood, causing the seas to rush onto the land in increasingly high tides until the mountains were washed and "the latent rocks presented their shaggy cliffs." Sutcliffe was evidently familiar with the views of Whiston and Halley, because he specifically rejected them, arguing that the waters that overflowed the mountains were held there neither by the laws of gravity nor by the approach of a comet. He was probably more comfortable with the views of Woodward, Catcott, and Penn, as suggested by his repeated references to the flux and reflux of tides that stratified the earth and left the "world of plants and trees, which once grew in the warmer climates, deposed in our coal-fields" along with numberless "plants of which botany is now ignorant."  Havernick asserted that "remains and traces of a deluge" indicated its universality, but he failed to identify those remains. 
The Landing Site of the Ark
Discussions of the landing site continued to be important. While agreeing that the ark landed in Armenia, Clarke disputed claims that the ark remained on Mount Ararat, because nothing of the kind was to be seen there. Contradicting his comments elsewhere, Robinson expressed skepticism that Mount Ararat was the landing site for Noah on the grounds that the cold would have destroyed any person who "should have the hardihood to persevere." He adopted the older tradition that the ark came to rest in the mountains of Kurdistan. Sutcliffe observed that the existence of the ark was attested in antiquity by Abydenus, Berossus, and Herodotus and suggested that the ark finally came to rest on Mount Ararat, the elevation of which he estimated at eight thousand feet above sea level. 
Summary of Early Nineteenth-Century Theological Responses
Early nineteenth-century Christians had an obvious desire to claim the support of science or natural history for their understanding of the biblical flood story. While the exact relationship of the deluge to surface deposits was still being debated, there was no doubt among leading geologists that the sedimentary rock pile was caused by interchanges of land and sea acting over long periods of time, not by a single brief deluge. Geologists knew that sedimentary layers had consolidated prior to deposition of succeeding layers, and they recognized that deposition had been interrupted by episodes of uplift and erosion. The discoveries of the remains of mammoths, giant sloths, and various terrestrial dinosaurs in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries made it clear that the world had formerly been populated by a large number of now extinct animals. The difficulty of imagining how all these beasts (and especially the many enormous ones among them) could have entered the ark and survived there for a year presented further challenges to a literal reading of the biblical flood narrative. In addition, the explosion of knowledge of new species of animals and their fossil distribution militated against the assumption that they could all have migrated across the globe to and from the ark.
The "scriptural geologists" had to ignore a vast amount of compelling evidence in order to sustain the traditional view of the flood. Whether in ignorance or by design, many commentators cited as authoritative the writings of naturalists a century or more out of date. Certainly it became increasingly difficult to make such an error innocently as the burden of evidence continued to mount. And, in fact, as the nineteenth century wore on, "scriptural geology" and flood geology schemes in general began to disappear from the scene as Christians began to face the growing extrabiblical evidence honestly and to seek ways in which they could affirm both the truth of the physical record and the truth of the biblical narrative.
The Popularizers of Geology
During the first half of the nineteenth century, geology throughout Europe and America became an increasingly professional enterprise. Several technical geology journals came into print, university chairs in geology were created, geological societies were founded, and governmental geological surveys were established. Geology emerged as a distinct discipline from natural history, separate from chemistry and physics. Students of the earth came to be identified as geologists rather than natural philosophers or natural historians. Geology developed its own methods of investigation and became less tied to the demands of biblical exegesis and the interests of orthodox Christian theology. In Martin J. S. Rudwick's words, geologists gradually "excluded as unscientific almost all that had previously made the earth rich in cosmological meaning: the origin of the earth, its ultimate fate, and, above all, the origin and early history of mankind."  Technical literature evidenced little concern to relate geological discoveries or theories to biblical texts. Geological inquiry was conducted "as if the Scripture were not in existence," and geology no longer provided evidential support for a global deluge.
Because of the increasingly technical character of geology, few biblical scholars or clergy had either access to or time to read such professional journals as the Edinburgh Philosophical Transactions or the Geological Society of London Quarterly, or presidential addresses of the Geological Society. The failure of individuals such as Clarke or Robinson to grapple with the latest geological knowledge is thus partly understandable. At the same time, ordinary Christians seemed to know enough about developments in the field to realize that contemporary geologists were abandoning support for a global deluge. Indeed, many British clergy in particular, including the "scriptural geologists," came to view geology as an "infidel science" dedicated to undermining Christian orthodoxy. In this unsettling context, an invaluable service was performed by theologically orthodox popularizers of geology.
Several Christian geologists, professional and amateur, as well as some geologically knowledgeable theologians, wrote eloquently for the Christian community to introduce them to earth history and to convince them that, far from posing any threat to Christianity, recent discoveries harmonized beautifully with Scripture properly understood. These writings, presented in a manner accessible to Christian clergy and theologians, exerted a profound influence among theological conservatives.  James R. Moore has argued that the interval between 1832 (the date of the publication of Lyell's Principles of Geology, which arguably marked the point at which the field of geology was professionalized) and 1860 (the date of the publication of Essays and Reviews, which arguably marked the point at which the field of Old Testament scholarship was professionalized) witnessed the "efflorescence'' of scriptural geologists and the harmonizers. He remarked that in Germany an older division of labor had left the reconciling of the findings of geologists and biblical scholars to a few conservative theologians, whereas in Great Britain and America it was the geologists who did the harmonizing.
In what follows we will examine the opinions of three major popularizers -- England's John Pye Smith, America's Edward Hitchcock, and Scotland's Hugh Miller.
John Pye Smith (1774-1851), a divinity tutor in the dissenting Homerton College in London, established his conservative credentials early in his career by challenging German biblical criticism. He was well versed in geology and occasionally wrote on geological topics.  A landmark set of Smith's lectures was issued in 1840 under the title On the Relation between the Holy Scriptures and Some Parts of Geological Science. Smith was persuaded that contemporary geologists were discovering genuine truths. He maintained that geologists were honorable and that Christians were wrong to accuse them of being heretics simply because their claims seemed to contradict traditional interpretations of some Scripture passages. Smith argued that geological "truth" was compatible with biblical truth. He devoted much of his book to showing the compatibility of geology and the Genesis 1 creation account using a novel version of the restitution or gap interpretation, but he also devoted two chapters to the flood. Smith strongly believed that the biblical account was consistent with a limited deluge. Adopting an argument that would become a staple of local flood advocates, Smith wrote,
Smith was convinced of the historicity of the flood, citing the "histories and traditions" of all nations as adequate proof that the cataclysm was "indelibly graven upon the memory of the human race." But he was surprised that so many scholars saw some logical connection "between the universality of historical tradition, and a geographical universality of the deluge itself." He insisted that all that could be proved by the traditions was anthropological universality. Smith discussed examples of British drift that had often been cited as evidence of the deluge and asserted that such formations had probably been deposited before the creation of man. Writing before acceptance of the glacial hypothesis, Smith suggested that the rounding of pebbles and boulders in drift required "a very long time of rubbing and grinding by currents, eddies, and tides at the bottom of the sea." He attributed the blocks of Alpine rocks now found in the Jura mountains as well as gravels and grooves on outcrop surfaces in North America and Europe to several local deluges. In support, he quoted the recantations of Buckland, Sedgwick, and Greenough from their earlier deluge theories.
Smith inferred that the occurrence of most diluvial phenomena in the northern hemisphere was "adverse to the admission of a deluge simultaneous and universal for every part of the earth's surface." The cindery volcanic cones of the Auvergne region could not have survived a monstrous flood. Either the Auvergne volcanoes had formed since the deluge, which he doubted, or else the "deluge did not reach to this part of the earth."
Regarding biogeography, Smith conceded that past calculations of the capacity of the ark worked so long as the number of animal species was on the order of four hundred, but he rightly charged that recent calculations generally showed "the most astonishing ignorance of every branch of Natural History"; the catalogue of known species at that time included more than a thousand mammals, five thousand birds, and two thousand reptiles.  There was no way that pairs of all these animals could have fit on the ark, said Smith. And then there was the yet greater problem of accounting for the transportation of the animals to and from the ark. He dismissed a variety of ostensible solutions and in general expressed ridicule for
He denounced as fanciful the "scriptural geologies" of Penn, Fairholme, Young, and Kirby.
What then, asked Smith, should we make of the flood? The idea of creation and annihilation of the waters was ruled out by the language of Scripture, and "we are not at liberty thus to invent miracles," since the Bible had already assigned two natural causes. Smith suggested that the biblical terms excluded "the idea of a sudden and violent irruption" and presented the idea of a gentle elevation and later subsidence "so that the ark was lifted, floated, and borne over the awful flood" in a "calm and quiet" manner.
Smith assumed that the human race had not spread far from Eden. The human population was small and "in a course of rapid progress towards an extreme reduction, which would have issued in a not very distant extinction." Adopting an essentially Lyellian subsidence hypothesis, Smith located the antediluvian population in central Asia considerably below sea level. In addition to tremendous rain, he supposed an elevation of the floor of the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean or else a subsidence of the inhabited land of central Asia. These combined, he said, would be "sufficient causes, in the hand of almighty justice, for submerging the district, covering its hills, and destroying all living beings within its limits." Drainage would be effected by a return of the seabed to its previous level or by uplift of some tracts of land.
Finally Smith reminded his readers that the orthodox seventeenth-century clerics Poole and Stillingfleet had concluded that the Bible spoke of a localized flood on biblical grounds without the benefit of any geological findings.
Very influential on American attitudes toward the flood was Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864), student and friend of Benjamin Silliman, a Calvinistic Congregationalist theologian, president of Amherst College, founding member of the National Academy of Sciences, and expert on New England geology.  On numerous occasions, the geologist-theologian took up his pen to elucidate the bearing of geology on Christian faith. According to Stanley Guralnick, Hitchcock saw it "as his task to assure the world, especially any skeptics of science, that every finding of geology could then be corroborated in revelation, so that there was never any contradiction between the two accounts of nature."  Because Hitchcock wrote for theological and ecclesiastical journals, he had a major impact on the thought of theologians and pastors. In one of his early efforts, Hitchcock irritated theologian Moses Stuart of Andover Theological Seminary by noting the unsettled character of the exegesis of Genesis 1 and asking whether geology might not "put into the interpreter's hand the clue that will disentangle all difficulties." Eager to guard an increasingly professionalized exegesis against any infringement of its rights by science, Stuart said that he was unable "to see how the discoveries of modern science and of recent date, can determine the meaning of Moses' words." Undeterred, Hitchcock addressed the topic of the flood in a lengthy article that appeared in The American Biblical Repository, an organ of Congregationalist Andover Seminary, in three parts in 1837 and 1838. 
In the first part, Hitchcock reviewed the biblical story and extrabiblical flood traditions. Although some of his contemporaries regarded many of the traditions as unrelated, Hitchcock believed that they all originated in the deluge of Noah because many of the gods and demigods resembled Noah and his sons, the ark was alleged to have been involved in heathen worship, and the dove, raven, and rainbow were all featured in ancient mythology.
In the second part, Hitchcock reviewed the history of ideas regarding the historical and geological deluges. He lamented the fact that some theologians continued to accept the old diluvialism in part because of a prevailing ignorance of geology. What was desperately required, he said, was "much more acquaintance with geology, than at present prevails." He rejoiced that at least some advances toward the truth had been made in the previous fifty years. Hitchcock understood why people once believed that fossiliferous stratified rocks were the product of the deluge, but he failed to understand how Kirby, Penn, and Fairholme could continue to espouse such discredited views. "That such opinions should be advanced" by so able a scientist as Kirby, said Hitchcock, simply confirmed the fact that he knew very little geology. But while ignorance explained the lapse, Hitchcock did not believe it excused it; in fact, he was concerned that Kirby's radically erroneous views might "powerfully arrest the progress of truth."
Hitchcock dismissed the work of Penn and Fairholme as "physico-theology modernized." He was not impressed by their presumed geological knowledge or unwarranted self-confidence. Mincing no words, he charged that their knowledge of geology was obtained mostly by reading. They so presented facts "as to betray at once their want of practical acquaintance with the subject," especially when they were so positive on points "which all working geologists know to be quite problematical." He vehemently objected to the practice of accusing geologists of atheism simply because they "imputed the changes in the earth's condition to secondary causes." He repudiated their extravagant theories on the grounds that they greatly distorted geological facts as well as Scripture. Hitchcock flatly rejected the view that primary rocks were created "just as we find them," that secondary rocks were deposited between the creation and the deluge, and that tertiary and diluvial strata were deposited by the deluge.
Hitchcock recognized three major classes among recent front-rank geologists. The first denied any universal or general deluge, the second believed a general deluge had taken place before the creation of man and believed that the Mosaic deluge was probably a more restricted event, and the third believed that traces of several extensive deluges could be found and that the last of these might have been the Noachic deluge. Hitchcock lumped the first two classes together because they agreed that no traces of the Noachian deluge had been found. He argued that their position did not necessarily conflict with revelation, because the Mosaic account did not require that traces of the deluge remain permanently. It would in fact be unreasonable to expect to find traces of the Mosaic deluge among the fossiliferous secondary or tertiary rocks.
For one thing, a tumultuous deluge would have torn up the earth's surface, sweeping detritus elsewhere, but the fossiliferous rocks generally appear to have been deposited in quiet water and are arranged with great regularity. For another, a year-long flood could not have produced the immense numbers of fossils that had been found. Furthermore, most fossils were not identical to existing species of animals and plants, and "organic remains become more and more unlike living beings" as we go deeper in a pile of strata. If all animals except those spared on the ark had been killed and "entombed by the agitated waters of a deluge," the "existing races" should be found "as often at the bottom as at the top of the fossiliferous rocks." Hitchcock saw no escape from the force of the evidence unless one maintained that there was an entirely new creation of species that were mostly different from those destroyed by the deluge.
Hitchcock went on to argue that deluge currents would have removed softer parts of the surface, abraded the harder parts, and produced thin deposits. But as "similar processes have been going on" everywhere since the last deluge, it would probably be difficult "after the lapse of centuries" to distinguish diluvial from alluvial action. Traces of Noah's deluge might easily be obliterated. If so, however "the fact argues nothing against the scriptural account." The absence of traces of the biblical flood should cause no alarm, said Hitchcock, because geology furnished presumptive evidence in favor of the occurrence of such a deluge -- the view of the third class of geologists. Hitchcock marshaled three lines of evidence to support the Bucklandian conclusion that "the phenomena of diluvium prove a powerful rush of water from the north over the northern hemisphere." First, "boulders and diluvial gravel are found almost uniformly in a southerly direction from the rocks from which they have been detached." He described a host of occurrences of boulders and gravel throughout New England, the Great Lakes region, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Although not yet a convert to the ice age theory about to burst on the scientific world, Hitchcock granted that masses of ice might have participated in the diluvial transport by carrying larger boulders to their present locations. After all, would not "a rush of water over our continent from the Arctic regions" have swept along icebergs? But he maintained that the vast accumulations of diluvial sand and gravel bore "the marks of the action of water." Hitchcock attributed the rounding of the boulders to the action of streams that existed prior to the last cataclysm.
The second line of evidence included scratches and grooves with a north-south orientation on bedrock as well as valleys with the same alignment. Hitchcock asserted that these features, with which he had become thoroughly acquainted in his study of New England's topography, had led most intelligent men to "feel as if there could not be much doubt respecting the occurrence of a general deluge in the northern hemisphere in comparatively modern times." Hitchcock third line of evidence focused on the animal remains found in caverns and fissures. Relying heavily on Reliquiae Diluvianae, Hitchcock could not "explain the phenomena in any other way, than by admitting the occurrence of such a catastrophe."
But then he raised the big question. Was this alleged deluge identical with that described by Moses? He listed three major reasons not to equate the two floods. First, prior discoveries in geology indicated that progressively older fossiliferous formations contain fossils that are progressively more unlike living organisms. Thus the great preponderance of extinct species among the fossils in the diluvium implied some degree of antiquity. Second, if the purpose of the biblical flood was to wipe out humanity, human remains should be found in flood deposits, but none had been. The only way to escape the force of that argument was to limit antediluvians to central Asia, a region "whose diluvium has been as yet little explored." Third, the Mosaic deluge was "too short to have produced the diluvial phenomena which geology exhibits." Hitchcock tentatively concluded that the arguments against the identity of the two deluges outweighed those in favor. Even so, he insisted again, "no presumption is derived from geology against the truth of Moses' history of the deluge." To the contrary, there was a presumption "in its favor even on the most unfavorable supposition."
In the third part of his series, Hitchcock asked if the Mosaic account was true. After reviewing six major objections to the Mosaic chronology, including the argument from biogeography, he argued that the biblical account was true and that a localized deluge sufficiently satisfied the demands of the text. He maintained that appeals to miracle solved no problems associated with the flood, and commented that God generally didn't operate through miracle anyway. Hitchcock cautiously endorsed the theory of French geologist Elie de Beaumont (1798-1874) that the sudden catastrophic uplift of mountain chains generated great waves that washed over the continents and that tremendous volcanic eruptions simultaneously triggered torrential rains.  If such conclusions were admitted, "every reasonable man will allow, that the Mosaic account of the deluge stands forth fairly and fully vindicated from all collision with the facts of science." Realizing that some people wanted to claim more positively that "geology strikingly confirms the Mosaic history," Hitchcock urged his readers to consider the matter unsettled.
In 1851 Hitchcock again tackled the flood in Religion of Geology, a work that included a condensation of his three articles with slight shifts in emphasis and a conclusion in which he summarized arguments in favor of a local flood. Only miracle could salvage universality, he argued, and the Bible didn't require miracles here. The problems with universality included the sources of such a vast quantity of water, the difficulty of providing for the animals in the ark, the distribution of the animals and plants on the globe after the flood, and the probability that vegetation would have been destroyed. No provision was made for seeds on the ark, and so presumably a new plant creation would have been required, a point to which the biblical text did not speak at all. Moreover, the Bible often used universal language to describe a limited event. Assuming that human beings occupied "only a limited portion of one continent," Hitchcock wondered why it would have been "necessary to depopulate all other continents and islands, inhabited only by irresponsible animals, who had no connection with man?" He called on Bishop Stillingfleet, Matthew Poole, and John Pye Smith for support. Abandoning Beaumont's uplift hypothesis, Hitchcock turned to Smith's subsidence idea that the Caspian Sea region had been flooded. He speculated that volcanic eruptions caused by vertical movements of the Indian Ocean seabed might have condensed enough water vapor to yield forty days of rain.
Hitchcock concluded that even though newer interpretations of the biblical narrative did not seem to be "the most natural meaning," yet if geological facts "unequivocally require such an interpretation to harmonize the Bible with nature," then "science must be allowed to modify our exegesis of Scripture." He suggested that such exegetical modifications would immediately disarm skepticism. And he insisted that the Bible still stood as an immovable rock amid the "conflicting waves" even though no trace of the deluge event remained in nature. Hitchcock had not completely swung over to Moses Stuart's point of view, but, despite his continued allegiance to natural theology and harmonization, his catastrophism had become more placid and he was less concerned about a literal match between Scripture and geological details.
Surpassing both Smith and Hitchcock was Hugh Miller (1802-1856), a highly respected and devout Presbyterian who was gifted with an elegance, grace, wit, and clarity of written expression matched by few. In his capacity as editor of Witness, the voice of the evangelical wing of the Church of Scotland that ultimately formed the Free Church of Scotland during the Disruption of 1843, Miller gained a reputation as a zealous, eloquent, and trusted defender of Christian orthodoxy.  In earlier years, Miller had been a stonemason, and he honed his talents for geological observation during years in the quarries. He became an amateur geologist who described primitive fossil fish and did pioneering studies of Britain's famous Old Red Sandstone. Miller was highly respected by leading scientists including Agassiz, who wrote a long commendatory introduction to the American edition of Miller's Footprints of the Creator. Miller was indeed an effective popularizer of geology. His reputation for theological soundness and his facility with the pen enabled him to reassure Christian believers that geology posed no threat to orthodoxy. Among the harmonizers, Hugh Miller may have been first among equals. 
Like Hitchcock, Miller attributed the deluge traditions to a historical flood event that was burned into the consciousness of the race. He did not believe that the universality of the traditions implied a geographically universal flood, however he maintained that it simply implied that all human beings had descended from those who went through the flood. Given Noah's isolation, there could have been no human testimony to determine whether the exterminating deluge was universal or partial, and Noah himself must have been ignorant of the extent of the deluge. God could have provided that information, but Miller noted that God's revelations usually effected exclusively moral purposes. More generally, Miller asserted that "those who have perilously held" that the Bible imparted "definite physical facts, geographic, geologic, or astronomical" along with moral facts ''have almost invariably found themselves involved in monstrous error." Because the extent of the deluge was a physical question that had no more moral implications than the shape or the age of the earth or the motions of the heavenly bodies, there was no need to reveal such information. Miller reminded his readers that the Bible used the common eastern device of metonymy (using the part to signify the whole), so it might well be that a major local inundation would be referred to as a universal flood. He also reminded his readers that Poole and Stillingfleet had adopted a local flood on solely biblical grounds.
In a clear appeal to extrabiblical data, Miller asserted that with respect to the flood as with respect to other biblical references to matters of physical science, "the limiting, modifying, explaining facts and circumstances must be sought for in that outside region of secular research, historic and scientific." He believed it essential that the church stay as well acquainted with such research as the enemies of the faith did. From research "much valuable biblical illustration" had been derived. He warned against ignorance of extrabiblical data, chided those who were content to solve scientific problems with the Bible alone, and showed that extrabiblical data had frequently corrected erroneous interpretations of the Bible.
In sum, plain men quite properly learned the way of salvation from the Bible, but every time they "sought to deduce from it what it was not intended to teach -- the truths of physical science -- they have fallen into extravagant error."  And if such error is casually or, worse, boldly or even belligerently endorsed, it must necessarily mar the overall credibility of the church.
To account for the apparently universal biblical language, Miller asked his readers to think about the impressions an observer would receive during sudden subsidence of the land or uplift of the seabed. An observer on a boat would be unaware of the cause of what was happening. If subsidence occurred, an intelligent witness could testify to "the persistent rise of the sea, accompanied mayhap by rain and tempest." The witness would testify that "it had been flood without ebb, as if the fountains of the great deep had been broken up" for many days. But the observer would "depart perilously from his position as a witness-bearer" if he claimed, when his boat floated above a hill eight hundred feet in elevation that all hills with the same elevation everywhere were also covered. The observer could not legitimately infer a global deluge from a local depression.
Miller joined Smith and Hitchcock in discounting the old diluvialism. He noted that for fifty years no one acquainted with paleontology or the true succession of the sedimentary formations had believed "that any proof of a general deluge can be derived from the older geological systems." Geologists had looked for traces of the deluge in surficial deposits, but John Fleming had clarified the difficulties of that endeavor, and many diluvialists had recanted. Miller also discounted Granville Penn's assertion that the flood had swept mammoth carcasses across the globe on the grounds that the mammoths were now known to have been native to the areas in which their remains were found. The remains of many extinct species that were once thought to have been transported great distances before being deposited in caves were likewise later determined to have been native to Europe.
Miller concluded that the ark would have had to be five or six times larger than the generally accepted dimensions to accommodate all known animals. Not only had there been many discoveries of new species but naturalists had also come to recognize that many different kinds of animals that had formerly been classified as a single species were in fact distinct species. There were, for example, far more species of sheep than previously recognized. Miller also reminded his readers that the Bible spoke of at least seven of each clean animal being on the ark, a fact overlooked in many of the older calculations.
Miller laid out the biogeographical evidence in more detail than anyone else had before. The migration of the wild animals to the ark would have involved "a miracle nowhere recorded," he maintained, and the burden of proof for such a miracle lay on those who asserted a universal deluge. Setting aside the issue of whether carnivores could have ceased being carnivorous during the flood time, Miller noted that of "the creatures that live on vegetables, many are restricted in their food to single plants, which are themselves restricted to limited localities and remote regions of the globe." Many insects had no wings and feeble locomotive powers, some gnats could live for only a few hours or days after losing their wings, and other insects lived only upon single plants. Getting all the animals to the ark posed staggering difficulties, and getting them all back after the flood posed equally staggering difficulties.
How would the insects have returned, for instance? As wingless grubs? Miller warned his opponents that "the expedient of having recourse to supposititious miracles in order to get over a difficulty insurmountable on every natural principle, is not of the nature of argument, but simply an evidence of the want of it."
Vastly expanded knowledge of the fossil record made the biogeographical argument far more persuasive than it had been only a century earlier. Animals in various parts of the world had been preceded by similar animals. The sloths of South America had been preceded by the extinct megatherium, known only from fossil remains. The kangaroos and wombats of Australia had been found as fossils only in that region. The birds of New Zealand were found as fossils only in New Zealand. The problem of the migration of species to and from the ark could not be evaded by recourse to an interchange of land and sea. Miller claimed with devastating logic spiced with biting humor that, on the supposition that a continuous tract of land stretched between South America and Asia,
One would need miracles for even less well-traveled species. How could Great Britain and Ireland have been restocked with their original inhabitants? While "the red deer and the native ox might have swam across the Straits of Dover or the Irish Channel," such an effort would have been "far beyond the power of such feeble natives of the soil as the mole, the hedgehog, the shrew, the dormouse, and the field-vole."  But the biological distribution problem was even more serious. Freshwater fish and mollusks would have been killed. Given the spawning habits of salmon and trout, would not the flood have destroyed them? Invertebrates of the shores would be destroyed. Few of the more than 100,000 species of plants or their seeds could survive submersion in water for a year. Without another miracle, three quarters of the globe's vegetation would necessarily have perished.
Miller professed puzzlement that learned, respectable theologians would accept "any amount of unrecorded miracle" rather than admit a partial deluge. Could they not see that the controversy was not between Moses and the naturalists but between the readings of different theologians? Since all of natural science was arrayed against the theologians who held a global deluge, and inasmuch as "there has been always such a marked economy shown in the exercise of miraculous powers," Miller concluded that theologians who held that the deluge was coextensive with its moral purpose were on the right track. His quarrel lay "not with Moses or the truth of revelation....but with the opponents of Stillingfleet and of Poole."
Chastising those who ignored geology as baseless speculation, Miller vigorously insisted that Christians had to pay attention to the discoveries of the science of geology. Individuals unacquainted with geology placed themselves "in positions greatly more perilous than they seem to think, when they enter on the field of argument with men who for many years have made it a subject of special study." The cumulative evidence from geology against a universal flood was overwhelming.
Where did Miller locate his partial flood? Borrowing from Lyell and Smith, he looked to the sunken basin of the Caspian and Aral Seas in central Asia. He supposed that if a trench-like strip between the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Finland were depressed, "it would so open up the fountains of the great deep as to lay under water an extensive and populous region." The vast plains around the Caspian, laden with salt and sea shells, "show that the caspian Sea was at no distant period greatly more extensive than it is now." If "the land began gradually to sink," Miller speculated, "slowly and equably for forty days together, at the rate of about four hundred feet per day," a rate less than twice the rate at which the tide rose in the Straits of Magellan, such a rise would render itself only as "a persistent inward flowing of the sea." One could further envision "some volcanic outburst coincident with the depression" that would affect the atmosphere, causing "heavy drenching rains" to descend the whole time. Although the rains would add little to the volume of the flood, they would appear to an observer as one of the flood's main causes and would add to the terror by swelling the rivers. By the end of the fortieth day, an "area of about two thousand miles each way" would have "sunk in its centre to the depth of sixteen thousand feet -- a depth sufficiently profound to bury the loftiest mountains of the district." As "the contours of its hills and plains would remain" as before, "the doomed inhabitants would see but the water rising along the mountain sides, and one refuge after another swept away, till the last witness of the scene would have perished, and the last hill-top would have disappeared." 
Summary of the Popularizers of Geology
The contemporary church would benefit immensely from a rediscovery of the compelling writing of Smith, Hitchcock, and Miller. The specific exegeses of Genesis espoused by these individuals may be open to criticism, but it is to their credit that they viewed the growing body of extrabiblical evidence devastatingly opposed to the traditional ideas of the deluge not as a threat to faith but as an occasion for reaching a better understanding of Genesis. Their considerable success in influencing late nineteenth-century conservative theology can probably best be attributed to the fact that they were very evidently committed to truth in both the realm of science and the realm of faith. On the one hand they had practical experience in geology and were familiar with the leading geological scholarship of the day, and on the other hand they had impeccable orthodox credentials and made good use of formats that were readily accessible to theologians. Hitchcock reached the theologians through frequent contributions to theological journals, while Smith and Miller gave lectures and wrote popular books for an era that was fascinated by the issues of science and religion. Altogether they made it difficult for their contemporaries to remain ignorant of the fundamentals of geology or to evade its implications for their reading of the biblical narrative.
Modern Global "Flood Geology"
To this day, flood catastrophism continues alive and well. Articles on the flood appear regularly in Creation Research Society Quarterly, for example. For the most part the proposals lack empirical control and fail to engage or test the hypotheses of other flood geologists.  Flood geology has proved to be a marvelous illustration of the unlimited human capacity both to offer and embrace unchecked speculation.
One might expect that those who endorse a strict literalistic interpretation of the flood narrative (involving the complete destruction of human and animal life not preserved on the ark and the significant reordering of the earth's surface features) would be inclined simply to reject the relevance of extrabiblical data, given the fact that such data seem clearly and overwhelmingly to deny that such a planet-altering flood ever took place. One might expect that such individuals would instead make appeals solely to the Word of God as the complete and final authority in all such matters and that they would denounce extrabiblical evidence as superfluous and misleading. And yet the proponents of flood geology have moved in the opposite direction, not only showing a substantial interest in extrabiblical evidence but actually elevating it to the status of apologetic proof.
The issue for flood geologists is not whether extrabiblical evidence is relevant to biblical interpretation but rather how to interpret that evidence. Having already employed, without benefit of external evidence, a hermeneutic that demands a literal interpretation of the Bible, flood geologists are prepared to do anything but accept the mainstream scientific evidence that flatly refutes their claims that the earth is geologically young and that a global deluge deposited the fossiliferous strata. They have thus been forced either to appeal to miracles or to construct elaborate theories that manipulate the extrabiblical data to fit their view of what must be true.
The appeals to miracle have been made mostly in the context of arguments for a young earth (e.g., in claims that God created the world in such a way that it simply has the "appearance of great age"). The flood theories themselves have been characterized more by speculation ungrounded in valid data or by the selective use and mishandling of "the real facts of science." The typical twentieth-century flood geologist has paid great attention to the ark, to deluge traditions, and to stratigraphy and paleontology but has largely ignored the overwhelming contrary evidence from anthropology, comparative mythology, archeology, biogeography, petrology, and geochemistry. Among their ranks, only Whitcomb and Morris (authors of The Genesis Flood, 1961) have attempted to address the serious problems posed by biogeography and anthropology. The few flood geologists who have sought to deal with stratigraphic and paleontological evidence have on the whole been poorly informed in those fields. Most have lacked substantial experience in field geology, have not been well acquainted with relevant scientific literature, and have generally tended to view geological data in a fragmented fashion, isolated from the larger context of regional geology. 
Their work is broadly characterized by untested or untestable speculations that have a more solid grounding in the imagination than in God's creation. They assert confidently but without support that these speculations are the "real facts of science," and then they propose that these "real facts" constitute an apologetic for the Bible literally interpreted.  In the process, they effectively divorce the Word of God from any connection to God's actual created handiwork.
In recent decades, the flood geologists have devoted more energy than any other group to discussion of the biblical flood. Because most flood geologists have expressed a commitment to the infallibility of the Bible, God's revelation, and salvation through Christ alone, conservative twentieth-century evangelicals (who are already isolated from the broader academic community and a bit suspicious of higher intellectual endeavors) have generally been receptive to their pronouncements on scientific matters as well, especially since the alternatives have seemed implicitly to threaten their understanding of Scripture. And since mainstream evangelical scientists have done relatively little to educate the laity about the degree to which flood geologists have failed in both their understanding and their treatment of scientific data and technical literature, the latter have been able to exert an unwarranted force in evangelical thinking.
As we have seen, the idea of a universal deluge was the settled interpretation of the church for nearly seventeen centuries, but that changed as a body of compelling evidence undercutting that interpretation gradually accumulated. The cumulative pressure of general revelation can be ignored only so long. Christians must always be ready to reexamine even settled interpretations when a wealth of external data call these interpretations into question. God may be trying to tell us something!
This case study of the flood suggests the need for more humility and less dogmatism in interpretation. The arrogant attitude displayed by some commentators who have lacked appropriate scientific knowledge, especially in this century, is appalling. Christians must also be cautious in using extrabiblical data for apologetic purposes, since their data may eventually be supplanted by better information that demands a different interpretation. There is danger in basing an apologetic for our interpretations on a presumed agreement of the Bible with science.
In response to the growing body of evidence regarding the flood, many Christian scholars seem to have waited until the last possible moment to accept the idea of a local flood. Indeed, a large segment of the evangelical church still seeks to support a belief in a global flood by resisting, distorting, or misinterpreting relevant extrabiblical evidence. It is, of course, easy to find fault in hindsight. And as the church has been singed from time to time by overeager scholars who have rushed to construct the most tenuous hypotheses on the slenderest threads of evidence, some caution is understandable. It is also understandable that long-held traditional ways of interpreting the Bible may easily become equated with what God is actually saying, and, of course, the church is reluctant to part with what it thinks God is saying! And yet many Christians have come to dread all scientific evaluations of the created world because they perceive in them a threat to the authority of the Bible and the certainty of personal salvation.
A large segment of the evangelical church has unfortunately locked itself into a biblical hermeneutic that requires a global flood and a recent six-day creation and that prevents it from dealing responsibly with God's creative work. I submit that there is something inherently flawed in any hermeneutic that prevents us from reading God's handiwork properly and that repeatedly puts us at odds with the established conclusions of a scientific community that is composed not just of opponents of Christianity but also of confessing Christians.
Some Christians delight in contrasting the infallible Word of God (that is to say, the Word of God infallibly interpreted by them) with the fallible ideas of sinful human beings and on that basis reject scientific conclusions they do not like. Scripture does oppose purely human philosophies, human pride, and human sin. But does the Bible oppose everything human? Science is a human endeavor that requires the input of fallible humans, but that hardly means that it is anti-Christian, and it certainly does not prevent Christians from accepting and using the results of science. Even the most doctrinaire advocates of a literal reading of Genesis 1-11 are selective in their objections to the findings of the scientific community.
How many of them deny that the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way around, for example? How many object to the science that made high-tech electronics, manned missions to the moon, or modern drugs possible? When so many scientists of such a diverse array of worldviews are able to achieve a virtual consensus regarding a given body of evidence, we had better pay attention. When for the past two centuries thousands of geologists from around the world, including numerous Bible-believing Christians, insist from a lifetime of experience in looking at fossiliferous rocks that those rocks are extremely old and had nothing to do with a global deluge, then the church must listen. Commentators who dismiss or disparage that body of geological knowledge solely on the grounds of their commitment to a principle of interpretation might do well to question their commitment to truth in a larger sense. Is it likely that they will arrive at a sound understanding of what God is saying in the biblical text if they reject a sound understanding of what God is saying in the created order? The extrabiblical data pertaining to the flood have been pushing the evangelical church to develop a better approach to the flood story and indeed to all the early chapters of Genesis.
Just what are those extrabiblical data? In summary, several centuries of effort to locate physical remnants of the biblical deluge have completely failed. Any physical evidence that has been claimed to support a global flood has eventually been demonstrated to have a different explanation. The idea that the flood deposited the world's stratified rocks has been thoroughly discredited by numerous lines of evidence. Many of the individual strata give evidence of having been deposited in such non-flood environments as rivers, beaches, deltas, lakes, glaciers, deserts, and shallow oceanic platforms. Many strata, such as lake deposits and fossil reefs, contain abundant indicators of very slow deposition under environmentally sensitive conditions quite incompatible with a catastrophic deluge. Many strata are overlain by fossil soils and separated from higher strata by erosional breaks that could only have been produced over extensive lengths of time. The fossils themselves are arrayed in progressive order in the geologic column. Many of the organisms lived in environments utterly unlike flooded terrains. Radiometric dating of volcanic ash or lava flows interbedded with fossiliferous strata show that they are millions of years old. Some large masses of igneous rocks injected into the strata took hundreds of thousands of years to cool and crystallize. Many fossiliferous rocks have been metamorphosed, indicating extreme burial that could not possibly have occurred during a year-long deluge.
The evidence is also arrayed against views that confine the action of the flood to the globe's surface features. Most of the gravels, sands, boulders, smoothed U-shaped valleys, and surface grooves and scratches have been amply demonstrated to be the result of continental ice sheets rather than a flood. We now know that the frozen mammoths and their friends did not perish in a major catastrophe only a few thousand years ago involving a radical climatic change. These animals were well adapted to life on the harsh tundra and died individually over a period of thousands of years in accidents that were catastrophic only to them. The rubble-drift deposits of southern England and the Mediterranean (and scarcely evident at all in the Middle East) are most likely the result of downslope soil movements during the ice age. The views of the deluge propounded by Buckland, Sedgwick, Prestwich, and Wright are also incorrect.
In addition to the wealth of geological evidence opposing the possibility of a global deluge, a variety of biogeographical evidence also counts conclusively against such an event. For one thing, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that human or animal populations were ever disrupted by a catastrophic global flood at any point in the past. Indeed, all the evidence indicates continuous occupation by these populations of points around the globe into the exceedingly distant past. Human beings have been in North America for at least twelve thousand years and in Australia for at least thirty or forty thousand years, long before the biblical deluge could have occurred by any consistent reading of the textual evidence of the Bible.
Furthermore, a literal reading of the flood narrative requires us to presume that representatives of tens of thousands of different species left their natural habitats and restricted supplies of food, made their way from all the distant and isolated parts of the globe, crossing oceans, arctic wastes, and any number of hostile environments to arrive at the ark, that these vast numbers of creatures somehow all boarded the craft, which (presumably) already held enough food to sustain them for a year, and then after the retreat of the floodwaters all made the journey back to their respective habitats to replenish the earth. Commentators who maintain that fossils were laid down in the flood must apparently also assume that representatives of all the species in the fossil record, including dozens of species of dinosaurs, were also aboard the ark. Is a literal reading of the flood narrative really so sacrosanct as to induce us to entertain such bizarre scenarios?
Picture below right: a humorous look at Noah's Ark -- "Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's Ark...." (a) Don't miss the boat. (b) Remember that we are all in the same boat. (c) Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark. (d) Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big. (e) Don't listen to critics. Just get on with the job that needs to be done. (f) Build your future on high ground. (g) For safety's sake, travel in pairs. (h) Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs. (i) When you're stressed, float a while. (j) Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals. (k) No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.
We need to find an interpretation of the text that does not commit us to a globe-covering catastrophe. Surely the text itself provides clues to a better understanding. Doesn't the fact that the text suggests that Mesopotamian geography was not rearranged by the flood nor the topsoil displaced suggest that it was not a globally catastrophic event? Given the frequency with which the Bible uses universal language to describe local events of great significance such as the famine or the plagues in Egypt, is it unreasonable to suppose that the flood account uses hyperbolic language to describe an event that devastated or disrupted Mesopotamian civilization -- that is to say, the whole world of the Semites?
I do not consider it a violation of the integrity of the biblical text to suppose that the biblical flood account uses a major Mesopotamian event in order to make vital theological points concerning human depravity, faith, and obedience and divine judgment, grace, and mercy. The evangelical church serves no good end by clinging to failed interpretations of the Bible and refusing to explore new directions. Christian scholars have an obligation to lead the way toward a renewed reverence for God's truth wherever it can be found. Conservative scholars must develop a more aggressive attitude toward creation and encourage the church's youth to enter not only the pastorate, mission work, and theology but also such fields as the natural sciences, archeology, anthropology, and the social sciences.
If anything, Christians should be preeminently motivated to investigate the intricacies of God's created order, confident that a better grasp of both God's Word and God's works will be forthcoming. If the fruits of that improved understanding are to be communicated to the Christians in the pew, their preachers will have to do the communicating. And this means that the theologians and commentators who educate the preachers have an obligation to consult more frequently with Christian scholars in other disciplines before making pronouncements on matters in those areas.
What marvelous insights into Scripture might await the church if from now on the theologians and exegetes would work side by side with biologists, archeologists, anthropologists, geologists, linguists, astronomers, sociologists, and paleontologists! In a world of burgeoning knowledge about ancient literature, languages, civilizations, culture, and customs as well as about the workings of God's creation, biblical scholars must engage in dialogue with other representatives of the intellectual world they profess to want to influence with the good news --
Davis A. Young, evangelical Christian geologist from Calvin College
 Henry, Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol 1 (1706; reprint,
Fleming H. Revell)
adapted from the book The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence (Eerdmans, 1995) by Davis A. Young, an evangelical Christian geologist from Calvin College
AnswersInGenesis on Noah's Flood
The Waters of the Flood by Hugh Ross
Back to Philosophy Articles
Back to Home Page
About | Apologetics | Philosophy | Spirituality | Books | Audio | Links