WHENCE THE FLOOD WATERS, The Flood and the Water Canopy Theory

by VM44 3 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • VM44

    WHENCE THE FLOOD WATERS? Skeptic (Altadena, CA) - January 1, 2001
    Tom Mciver

    Word count: 5680.


    THE WATER CANOPY THEORY has long been a mainstay of creationists. It is invoked to explain both the pre-Flood conditions described in Genesis and the scientific cause of the Flood. It also provides an illuminating example of the evolution and modification of creationist theory. Set forth in its classic form in 1874 by Isaac Newton Vail, it proposes that before the Flood the Earth was entirely surrounded by a heavy cloud cover--the Canopy--containing a whole ocean of water, which made the entire planet a lush greenhouse with uniform mild climate. The collapse of this Canopy caused the Flood.


    Immanuel Kant, in his 1755 General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, [1] proposed a cosmogony similar in many respects to Laplace's later (and more influential) "nebular hypothesis" introduced in 1796. [2] Both hypothesized gradual evolution of stars and planetary systems from nebular material. Kant posited a purely naturalistic cosmic evolution "according to Newton's principles" (though he assumed the organic domain was purposefully guided). After describing the condensation of chaotically dispersed matter into solar systems (all inhabited, he assumed), Kant suggested that the Earth developed a ring like Saturn's, formed from vapors "exhaled" by the young planet He pointed out in passing that this great vaporous ring could be used to harmonize Genesis with science--it was the "Waters Above the Firmament" and the source of the Floodwaters, demolished by God "to punish the world which had made itself unworthy of such beauty, with a Deluge."

    The Comet, written anonymously in 1869 by Haywood Guion, a North Carolina lawyer, accounted for the fabulous antediluvian conditions described in Genesis, harmonizing Genesis with Newtonian physics and astronomy, by proposing that "in the beginning" the Earth was a comet (as William Whiston had famously suggested in 1696). [3] The creation days, interpreted as ages, referred to the cooling of the molten comet, formation of its atmosphere, condensation of water vapor to form the ocean, and development of life. The new planet was a perfect sphere with a single super-continent: the "Adamland," one "great and uniform plain" with a gentle, equable climate--a perfectly harmonious antediluvian paradise. Rain--or "weather" of any kind--did not exist. An "Equatorial Cloud Ring" encompassed the globe, and a "great ocean of heated air" acted as a thermal reservoir, maintaining climatic equilibrium. The topography and climate of the Adamland allowed for unparalleled vigor and luxuriance of life-forms, explaining the gre at ages attained by the antediluvians. Adam was twice our the antediluvian population 68 times the present. During the Flood, Adamland collapsed into what is now the Pacific Ocean, and "forced up the present continents that now surround its former site." [4]

    An earlier book, The Creation and Deluge, According to a New Theory (1854), anticipated Vail's canopy theory even more directly. Maintaining that creation occurred a few thousand years ago in six 24-hour days, the anonymous author (whom I have determined to be Samuel Webb) developed a theory to accommodate biblical chronology with modern science by hypothesizing "natural" causes for biblical events, thereby "removing most of the difficulties heretofore suggested by skeptical philosophers": "The Creation was the result of natural law--there was a physical and moral necessity for the Deluge; both of which phenomena must have taken place about the time and in the way and manner described by Moses. Neither the Creation nor the Deluge was 'a miracle,' or a deviation from the known laws of Nature...." [5]

    Earth was initially molten, said Webb, surrounded by immense clouds of water vapor which froze into a great luminous ring like that encircling Saturn. The ring produced a uniformly tropical climate by a greenhouse effect. There was no rain. The Flood was caused by the collapse of this water and ice ring. The tropical antediluvian Earth had been more fit for giant reptiles than humans; hence the Flood greatly improved Earth for man Appealing to Newton's universal laws, Webb declared that other planets undergo similar developments. Saturn's rings will eventually collapse, flooding that planet Other planets (even the moon) may be inhabited. The solar system will continue to evolve, the sun's crust will cool and peel off to form new planets.

    Like Kant before them, and Vail afterwards, both Guion and Webb advocated an evolutionary development of the Earth and the solar system, but relied on catastrophes for crucial changes. Like Kant's, Vail's Canopy Theory was explicitly evolutionary with respect to the physical--but not the biological--realm. Kant used this cosmic, non-organic evolutionism to explain the relatively stable state of the present universe, rather than seeing it as an ongoing process (though, like Newton's system, it was soon interpreted as such).


    Isaac Newton Vail, a Quaker, was born in Ohio in 1840, where he taught school, later becoming an oil and gas prospector. In 1874 he published a pamphlet called The Waters Above the Firmament. Vail argued that God made all planets according to the same plan, and that all undergo similar evolutionary progression. "The Lyellian principle of uniformity then must apply in the development of all worlds," he declared, extrapolating rather liberally. Like other planets, Earth began as a rapidly rotating molten mass. Water vapor and other substances in gaseous form, repelled from the molten surface, swirled high above the early earth. The planet's rotational momentum caused these massive vapor clouds to remain suspended in orbit, forming into immense rings such as Saturn still possesses. These vaporized materials sorted themselves in layers, with heavier substances in the lower rings and water, the lightest, above. Gradually, as the rings lost rotational momentum, they began to spread outward from the equator. Eventua lly, after gravitating to the poles, the rings (now canopies) successively collapsed, thus forming in "successive installments" all Earth's geological strata. The collapse of the last and lightest ring, composed of water, produced the biblical Flood.

    Although Vail claimed his theory had "nothing to do with the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace," that was obviously its inspiration. As Vail's namesake Isaac Newton was inspired by the fall of an apple to the realization that heavenly bodies obey the same laws of gravity as objects here on Earth, Vail was inspired by conviction that the sky had fallen in ages past, as history, geology and the Bible all revealed, and he concluded that all planets go through the same developmental stages as Earth.

    Newton was a biblical literalist, but his science stood on its own merits, while Vail's theory remained intrinsically wedded to biblical interpretation. Vail genuinely thought his "Canopy" or "Annular" (Ring) Theory, which he explicitly termed "evolutionary," was superior to orthodox science in that it could successfully explain all hitherto puzzling geological phenomena. He advanced it, however, primarily to defend a literal reading of Genesis. God, during Creation, separated the "waters above the firmament" from the "waters below." The "firmament" is the atmosphere; the "Waters Above" must of necessity be the Canopy. [6]

    His "chief effort," Vail said, was to show that Noah's Flood and the Ice Ages were "caused by the progressive and successive collapse of great world-canopies of aqueous vapor, which were the last remnants of a Saturn-like Ring System, or a Jupiter-like 'Cloud Ocean.'" The collapse of the Water Canopy explained the Flood "scientifically." Moreover, the pre-Flood Canopy could be used to account for all the marvelous antediluvian conditions described in Genesis. The sun was concealed from view but it illuminated the Canopy, which diffused its light to Earth's surface. The "greenhouse roof" of the Canopy made the whole Earth a "greenhouse world." Temperature and climate were equalized by the evenly diffused solar heat. There were no storms, nor even rain. According to Genesis, "God had not caused it to rain upon the earth"; it was watered instead by "a mist from the earth." There was no "weather," nor real seasons; instead, perpetual spring and uniformly warm worldwide climate. This greenhouse climate explains the fabulous longevity (900+ years) of the antediluvian patriarchs and the gigantism of antediluvian life.

    All geological deposits and strata could be explained as collapse of earlier rings containing once-vaporized materials in aqueous solution. Vail, who was involved with the Karg oil well (a spectacular 1885 gusher that turned Findlay, OH, into a boom town), credited his oil and gas prospecting success to his knowledge of the formation of deposits.

    Vail assumed spontaneous generation, saying he could not "conceive of matter in a nebulous condition, which is not yet pregnant with life." The annular system was "a region of microscopic life and infusorial forms." The rings teemed with life, seeding the earth's surface with new forms as they collapsed. The Canopy was the "cradle of infant life" where the "life-germs" of the different species in the geological record had been incubated:

    If we admit that each ring-section necessarily held its own peculiar life-germs, and each succeeding one germs one step nearer perfection in the goal of life, as demanded by their position in the system, how the confusion vanishes!... If we spurn these conclusions...we are compelled to admit either numberless specific and especial creations, or a most unreasonable and unphilosophic evolution of one species from another... Is it not more reasonable, and in the line of law, that man should arise from his own especial organisms in his own environment, a germ of God's right-hand planting, than that he should descend from the little moneron of the eozoic seas by innumerable sudden starts through countless millions of years in the specific organisms of a thousand environments, as the oyster, the ammonite, the fish, the bird, the ape, etc., etc., to the illustrious Darwin? I am not willing to admit that that great man, to whose memory the world owes a debt it cannot pay, came through such a line of descent when a mo re philosophic and intelligent one is open to my view. [7]

    Vail maintained that memories of the Canopy are everywhere preserved in ancient literature, myths, and legends: "thought petri-fications" or "canopy fossils" from ages when the Canopy covered the skies, ancient "misread" records which he reinterpreted in light of his theory. "I call witnesses not alone from the wreck of ages [the geological record], for, indelibly impressed on the human mind, is the human memory of world-tragedies which link the race with the reign and fall of vapor sides." Noah's Flood manifests all the traits of the collapse of the last great Canopy ring.

    I think that Vail may have been influenced by Webb's 1854 Creation and Deluge. Though I have never seen Webb's book mentioned in any creationist literature, there are reasons to believe Vail saw it. Webb was apparently determined to remain anonymous: five different authors are credited by the few libraries which have his 1854 book! These include Hector Orr (the book's publisher), Charlotte Wheeler (daughter of the evangelist Bickersteth), Joseph Gales (political editor and Washington DC mayor), and Hayward Wetherald (Webb's brother-in-law, also a Quaker abolitionalist). With the help of Evelyn Timberlake of the Library of Congress I was able to confirm Webb's authorship. Webb presented copies to Philadelphia-area libraries, and Vail may have seen one when he attended Westtown, a Quaker school near Philadelphia, around 1860. Webb himself, I discovered, had earlier attended Westtown, according to school archives. In his journal Vail says he first taught the "Annular" theory in 1868. In 1887 Vail moved to Pasad ena, California, where his brother had just founded the Pasadena Star newspaper, prospecting for oil in the Los Angeles area, convinced that vast petroleum deposits from the Canopy must have drifted to Southern California. He expanded his 1874 pamphlet into a book, The Earth's Annular System, the final edition appearing in 1912. [8] In 1895 Vail began the Annular World journal to promote his theory, and in it, and his book Eden's Flaming Sword, he offered $1,000 to anyone who could refute the Canopy Theory. [9] (In 1897 the prize was claimed by "Koresh"--Cyrus Reed Teed--in his own journal The Flaming Sword, but Vail refused him. Koresh led a millennialist community committed to belief that the Earth is hollow, and that we live on the inside surface.)


    Captain R. Kelso Carter; a teacher at Pennsylvania Military College and member of the Methodist Holiness movement, wrote an introduction to the 1888 edition of Vail's book and promoted Vail's theory in his own Alpha and Omega. [10] Carter admitted (as Vail did not) that the Canopy Theory was inspired by the nebular hypothesis. Though he followed Vail's reconstruction of Earth history faithfully, he differed in his approach to End Time prophecies. Carter noted that although Vail "sturdily contended for the plain, literal sense of the Creation record" in Genesis, he "naively" dismissed the Book of Revelation as non-literal.

    Carter remedied this with a detailed "scientific" description of the End, asserting that the Canopy would be restored at the millennium. He predicted it would be set at a lower altitude, however, since it will be required to disintegrate after 1,000 years rather than the 1,656 year Creation-to-Flood span of the original Canopy. Carter also explained the incident of Noah's intoxication after the Flood, when Noah "planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken" (Gen. 9:20-21). Noah was unaware that the radically different post-Flood environment had transformed his grape juice; previously, Canopy conditions had prevented fermentation.

    George Prentiss promoted Vail's theory in The Ages of Ice and Creation (1915), emphasizing that God created by means of unchangeable natural laws. Life arose from inanimate matter, and continues to do so today, declared Prentiss, citing instances of spontaneous generation, and quoting cases cited by Vail of living organisms falling out of the sky in vast numbers and entombed in rock. As Canopy rings collapsed, resulting in Ice Ages, floods, and drastically altered environments, new forms of organisms arose spontaneously, "suddenly and in vast numbers."

    Once initiated by God, life develops "always and invariably thru what we may term natural ways and means." God "has not delegated His work to evolution nor any other power;" rather, "whenever the earth's changing conditions call for new forms of life, He in His wisdom promptly creates the needed forms of life," which are not descended from previous forms. The same applies to mankind, though Prentiss recognized a dilemma: "as the Creator does nothing miraculously nor in contravention of natural laws, the question at once arises, How, then, were the first human beings that appeared on the earth nurtured and cared for during their embryonic and baby state?"

    For a solution to this dilemma, Prentiss appealed to Ernst Haeckel's illustrations of comparative embryonic development. The great German apostle of evolution showed that various stages of human embryonic development are virtually identical to stages of other organisms, and then claimed that this proved that human embryos "recapitulate" their evolutionary ascent. Prentiss rejected Haeckel's evolutionary conclusion, turning the argument around by proposing that Haeckel's embryonic stages are not phylogenetic recapitulations, but re-enactments of the ontogeny of the first "created" humans. These first humans, like other animals, arose spontaneously in water and went through a fish-like stage of existence, later emerging from the water to breathe air, then developing into fully human form. [11] Prentiss also averred that the races of mankind are "not descended from a common ancestry."

    The Jehovah's Witnesses enthusiastically adopted Vail's Canopy Theory. Their 1914 Photo-Drama of Creation, a multi-media show with recorded narration, slides, and moving pictures that featured the Canopy Theory, was seen by some 10 million people, and a book version is still sold. [12] It integrates the Canopy Theory into the Witnesses' scheme of seven 7,000-year Day/Ages of Creation. The rings coalesced during the first Day/Age above the molten Earth; they began to fall in the second Day/Age, producing the geological strata, which then caused the Earth's surface to buckle in the third Day/Age. Collapse of the final ring, of pure water, caused Noah's Flood.

    The Witnesses' J. F. Rutherford promoted the Canopy Theory in his 1927 book Creation. [13] "Jehovah God," said Rutherford, commenced an "increase of light upon his great work for the benefit of man about the year 1874 A.D."--referring to publication of Vail's pamphlet. Rutherford presented Vail's theory in the context of the Witnesses' 7,000-year-long Day/Ages of Creation. According to the Witnesses' popular book Did Man Get Here By Evolution Or By Creation?, [14] the Bible explains that "a vast water canopy was suspended high above the Earth, and its fall caused a global deluge in the days of the man Noah, who wrote an eyewitness account of the event." The Canopy shielded the Earth from cosmic rays, reducing the formation of carbon-14, thus making radiocarbon-dated antediluvian objects appear older than they really are.


    Flamboyant anti-evolutionist proselytizer Harry Rimmer embraced the Canopy in The Harmony of Science and Scripture (1936), stating the Earth was surrounded by a "protecting lens of ice that made the whole world an Eden of tropical splendor." [15] A Gap Theory advocate who also (inconsistently) endorsed Flood Geology Rimmer praised Vail but spoke of the Canopy's collapse only in relation to the Flood. Rimmer published The Canopied Earth by Howard W. Kellogg, which introduced many creationists to the Canopy Theory. [16] Kellogg assumed that earlier rings and Canopy layers collapsed eons before the Flood, in the Gap prior to Gen. 1:2. The last of the canopies hung over the Earth as the Six Day re-creation of Gen. 1:2 began. Kellogg proclaimed that the Canopy, which created and maintained the Edenic conditions of the pre-Flood Earth, would be restored at the millennium, quoting Isaiah's prophecies of the abolition of day and night and replacement of the sun with the light of the Lord.

    Carl Theodore Schwarze, a civil engineering professor at New York University and Plymouth Brethren member, was influential in popularizing the Canopy Theory. In The Harmony of Science and the Bible (1942), Schwarze combined the Gap Theory with a modified Canopy Theory. [17] Satan once ruled over "intelligent and powerful creatures that inhabited this earth before Adam"--fallen angels, or demons. Unlike Vail's Canopy, which evolved with the primeval earth, or Kellogg's, which existed during the Gap, Schwarze's Canopy was not created until after the Gap. Schwarze's version is thus a bridge between the "evolutionist" old-earth versions and the canopy of modern young-earth Flood Geology. When God blasted the Earth's surface prior to the Six Day re-creation, water remained suspended above the stratosphere "where it solidified into ice, miles in thickness, forming an oblate spherical canopy around the Earth," producing the worldwide greenhouse effect. Unlike Vail's multi-layered ring-and-canopy system, Schwarze's Canopy collapsed but once, causing the Flood and Ice Age.

    Schwarze further developed his single-collapse Ice Canopy version in The Marvel of Earth's Canopies. [18] He suggested that the Canopy was shattered when a tremendous explosion blasted material out of the Pacific basin into orbit, where it became our moon. (The blast also sank Atlantis.) After the future destruction of the world, the Canopy will be restored in all its glory.

    Henry Morris, first exposed to the Canopy Theory in 1941 by Irwin Moon's "Sermons from Science," supported the pre-Flood Canopy in The Genesis Flood. [19] Morris explained in detail how the Canopy accounts for the wondrous conditions of the antediluvian world. The Canopy inhibited atmospheric circulatory patterns, preventing winds and storms. There was no rain; the land was watered by rivers, springs, and increased condensation caused by Canopy vapors and pressure. The Canopy shielded the Earth's surface from cosmic radiation, preventing biological deterioration and promoting the fantastic longevity and luxuriant, gigantic growth described in Genesis. God accomplished the Flood by collapsing the Canopy the same waters which formerly protected the world and produced its marvelous climate became the agent of its destruction.

    In a monograph from Morris's Institute for Creation Research, Harold Slusher repeated Rutherford's argument that the Canopy, by shielding the Earth from cosmic rays, greatly slowed the rate of carbon-14 formation, and that therefore antediluvian radiocarbon dates which do not correct for this are far too old. [20] The Morris/ICR version of the Canopy Theory has been widely promoted by fundamentalists.

    Joseph Dillow elaborated on Morris's Canopy arguments in The Waters Above, an impressive-looking volume with a foreword by Morris praising it as "scientific creationism at its best." Based on Dillow's dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary under prominent fundamentalist Charles Ryrie, it was inspired in part by retired University of Tennessee physics professor Roger Rusk (brother of the former Secretary of State). Dillow's Canopy explanation provides an instructive example of the creation-science approach to mirades--relying on natural law as much as possible, and resorting to miracles only when necessary. The Creation account in Genesis is clearly a straightforward historical narrative, says Dillow; hence, factual and scientific propositions can be derived from it, and scientific predictions made on the basis of it:

    We readily admit that Genesis does not teach the existence of a pre-Flood vapor canopy. Moses simply says that God placed a canopy of liquid water above the ancient atmosphere. However, if scientific laws today existed then, it is necessary that God turned that water into vapor, even though Moses does not tell us that He did this. [21]

    As a literal liquid ocean could not be maintained above the atmosphere without appeal to further miracles not indicated in the Bible, Dillow assumed the Canopy was in vapor form, and constructed a non-miraculous, natural-law model for its maintenance and effects. Dillow's Canopy contains the equivalent of 40 feet of liquid water, which increased atmospheric pressure to about twice the present level. The pre-Flood atmosphere contained three times the current amount of carbon dioxide, 10 times the ozone, and a greater partial pressure of oxygen, significantly increasing metabolic rates. The Canopy's water fell to earth during the Flood; the bulk of the Flood water, however, came from breakup of the subterranean Waters of the Deep. For Dillow, the Canopy functions more as an explanation for the antediluvian conditions described in Genesis than it does as a source of Flood waters.


    Various Canopy models have been debated in the Creation Research Society Quarterly. In one--the liquid water model--rapidly rotating water formed a Saturn-like ring over the equator. [22] Another argued that science and the Bible require a second, postFlood canopy because God prohibited rain for some time after the Flood but evaporated its waters with a great wind, which must have formed another canopy. [23] Another model proposed a combined water and ice canopy composed of large water globules suspended about two kilometers over the equatorial region, and clouds of ice fragments over the polar regions about 2,200 kilometers high. [24] Yet another model proposes pockets of super-saturated vapor. [25]

    Atmospheric physicist and meteorologist Larry Vardiman is ICR's Canopy specialist, developing mathematical Canopy models based on Morris's and Dillow's work. In The Sky Has Fallen, Vardiman pointed out that the Canopy could have existed in any of four phases: liquid water (cloud droplets), ice (equatorial rings of ice particles), vapor (surrounding the Earth above the atmosphere), or ionized molecules (maintained by electromagnetic forces in much higher belts above the Earth). [26] Following criticism that energy released by a Canopy collapse would result in temperatures far too high for life, Vardiman suggested a 1.7 foot limit for the amount of water in the Canopy, and an ICR masters thesis hypothesizes an ice layer atop a vapor Canopy which reduced the heat. [27] Another creationist, however, calculated that collapse of a Canopy containing even two feet of water would increase terrestrial temperature from 60[degrees] F to 110. [28]

    In The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch, [29] Donald Patten contended that the antediluvian Earth was completely surrounded by a water vapor Canopy at an altitude of between five and ten thousand feet, similar to Venus's heavy cloud cover. Influenced by Flood Geology, Velikovsky, and earlier cosmic catastrophists such as Whiston, Patten argued that the Flood was caused by the close approach, in 2800 BC, of a comet which became the planet Mercury. Earth's gravitational force disintegrated an ice moon of this cosmic invader into fragments, half of which fell to Earth as rain. The rest formed a great ice ring around the Earth, then descended to the surface at the magnetic poles as a tremendous ice dump, collapsing the Canopy. The major component of the Flood was not the water from the cloud canopy, but extra-terrestrial water from the comet's ice satellite and immense tidal waves resulting from the comet's gravitational pull.

    Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?, by Bible Science Association-endorsed lecturer Emil Gaverluk and Jack Hamm, [30] draws generously on Velikovsky and von Daniken. The ancients, they claim, possessed awesome knowledge, employing laser beams, nuclear fusion, "force-field levitations," and "matter-antimatter collisions." Earth was a giant greenhouse, a lush and perfect paradise. Genesis Man beheld the "amazing sight of a crystal ring shining like diamonds in the deep blue sky": the Ice Canopy, a shimmering, scintillating curtain in which gem-like crystals shone like "giant reflectors in synchronous orbit."

    But arrogant mankind communicated with evil extraterrestrial spirits who, lured to Earth, assumed physical bodies to cohabit with Earthlings. Earth, despoiled by evil, was destroyed by the Flood, caused by collapse of the Canopy which was perhaps triggered by explosions of nuclear devices levitated above the atmosphere. The Canopy will be restored at the millennium.

    Rev. Carl Baugh, best known for his Paluxy "manprint" claims (human co-existence with dinosaurs), proposes a 10-20 foot Ice Canopy suspended 11 miles above the Earth. Raqiya, the Hebrew word translated as "firmament," he notes, means "metal beaten into a thin sheet." Baugh hypothesizes that the Firmament is a sheet of hydrogen compressed to a solid state with near-metallic properties--"crystalline, transparent, fiber optic, super conducive and ferromagnetic"--set in the middle of the Canopy and transmitting by fiber optics those solar frequencies most beneficial to life. The "morning stars [that] sang together" at creation (Job 38:7) were energized radio waves which, hitting the Ice Canopy at a certain angle, produced sound "amplified by the crystalline firmament canopy." [31] A thermonuclear explosion triggered the Flood, ripping the Earth's seams apart more than two miles per second. The blast ejected water 70 miles high, shattering the Canopy.


    Modern "creation science" versions radically transformed the Canopy from Vail's original "evolutionist" conception--of a canopy forming from molten proto-Earth, and changing from ring to true canopy, then depositing its constituent layers one at a time over geological ages--into young-Earth versions in which the Canopy was created instantaneously when God separated the Waters Above from the Waters Below. This young-Earth Canopy remained unchanged until brought down by God to trigger the Flood and end the Edenic conditions it produced. Some "creation science" theorists, however, now dismiss the Canopy as scientifically untenable, pointing out that it literally can't hold water, and seek different "scientific" causes for the Flood and antediluvian conditions. Others continue to uphold it, appealing to it to dismiss concern about global warming. Since the Canopy, they reason, produced literally Edenic conditions by greenhouse effect, we should welcome rather than fear greenhouse effects caused by burning of foss il fuels.

    Meanwhile, Vail's original evolutionist conception has been revived by Donald Cyr of Santa Barbara, CA. Since 1968 Cyr has kept the Vailian tradition alive in his magazine Stonehenge Viewpoint, reprinting Vail's works, debating his ideas, and comparing his Canopy Theory with modern creation-science versions. [32] In 1944, Cyr, an engineer, theorized that Saturn's rings were ice, and later hypothesized that Earth was surrounded by a "Crystal Veil" of ice. While an editor at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab, he came across Vail's work, which he saw as support for his own theories. Vail's daughters entrusted his papers to Cyr (who in turn left them to Earlham College). Cyr interpreted megaliths, stone carvings, and mythic symbols from all over the world as depictions of the awe-inspiring atmospheric conditions and residual effects of the Canopy. Recently, Cyr claimed further support for his Vailian interpretations and ice canopy in astronomer Louis Franks theory that Earth is under continuous bombardment by small ice comets (thousands daily), which formed our oceans over the ages. [33] Frank's theory is highly controversial, but some scientific evidence--notably NASA photos of possible ice comets over Earth's atmosphere--may support it.

    So reflections of Vail's "evolutionist" Canopy may survive, in highly attenuated form, if sustained by ice comets. Many creationists, for their part, remain convinced that the static young-Earth Canopy, in existence from Creation to the Flood, provides a scientific explanation for their literalist interpretation of Genesis, and expect that it will be miraculously restored at the soon-coming millennium.

    Dr Tom McIver received his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from U.C.L.A. in 1989. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for the study of the religious aspects of racist belief systems. He is the author of Anti-Evolution: A Reader's Guide to Literature Before and After Darwin (Johns Hopkins, 1992). He has published articles on creationism in various scientific and educational journals, including "The Protocols of Creationism: Racism, Anti-Semitism, and White Supremacy in Christian Fundamentalism," in Skeptic, Vol. 2, #4. He has recently completed a book on the origins and variety of creationism.


    (1.) Kant, Immanuel. 1968 [1755]. "Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens." In Kant's Cosmogony (Willy Ley, ed.). New York Greenwood.

    (2.) Laplace, Pierre. 1796. Exposition du Systeme du Monde. Paris: Cercle-Social.

    (3.) Whiston, William. 1978 [1696]. New Theory of the Earth. Reprint ed. New York Arno Press.

    (4.) [Guion, Haywood W.] "A Cometite." 1869. The Comet: or, The Earth, in Her Varied Phases. New York: E.J. Hale

    (5.) [Webb, Samuel]. 1854. The Creation & Deluge, According to a New Theory. Philadelphia: H. Orr.

    (6.) Vail, Isaac Newton. 1988 [1874]. The Waters Above the Firmament. Reprint of 1874 ed., Santa Barbara, CA: Stonehenge Viewpoint.

    (7.) Vail, Issac Newton 1912. The Earth's Annular System. Pasadena, CA: Annular World Co. Earlier editions variously tided.

    (8.) Ibid.

    (9.) Vail, Issac Newton 1897. "$1,000 Reward for Refutation of Annular World Theory." Annular World 2(23):16.

    (10.) Carter, Russell Kelso. 1894. Alpha and Omega: or the Birth and Death of the World. San Francisco: O.H. Elliott.

    (11.) Prentiss, George. 1915. The Ages of Ice and Creation. Chicago: Common Good.

    (12.) Scenario of the Photo-Drama of Creation. 1914. Brooklyn, NY: Int'l Bible Students Assoc.

    (13.) Rutherford, Joseph Franklin. 1927. Creation. Brooklyn, NY: Int'l Bible Students Assoc. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Soc.

    (14.) Did Man Get Here By Evolution Or By Creation? 1967. Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Soc.

    (15.) Rimmer, Harry. 1936. The Harmony of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

    (16.) Kellogg, Howard W. The Canopied Earth. Los Angeles: Research Science Bureau.

    (17.) Schwarze, Carl Theodore. 1942. The Harmony of Science and the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    (18.) Schwarze, Carl Theodore. 1957. The Marvel of Earth's Canopies. Chicago: Good News.

    (19.) Whitcomb, John, and Henry Morris. 1961. The Genesis Flood. Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed.

    (20.) Slusher, Harold. 1981 [1973]. Critique of Radiometric Dating. El Cajon, CA: Inst. Creation Research.

    (21.) Dillow, Joseph. 1981. The Waters Above: Earth's Pre-Flood Vapor Canopy. Chicago: Moody Press.

    (22.) Udd, Stanley. 1975. "The Canopy of Gen. 1:6-8." Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(2):90-93.

    (23.) Peterson, Everett H. 1981. "The Necessity of Canopies," Creation Research Society Quarterly 17(4):201-4.

    (24.) Johnson, Gary L. 1986. "Global Heat Balance with a Liquid, Water and Ice Canopy." Creation Research Society Quarterly 23(2):54-61.

    (25.) Jorgensen, Greg S. 1992. "Fundamental Physics of a Water Vapor Canopy Atmosphere." In Proc. Twin-Cities Creation Conference (Minneapolis).

    (26.) Vardiman, Larry. 1986. "The Sky Has Fallen." In Proc. First Int'l Conf. Creationism Vol. 1 (Pittsburgh).

    (27.) Rush, David Earl. 1990. Radioactive Equilibrium Temperature Profiles Under a Vapor Canopy. MS thesis: Inst. Creation Research.

    (28.) Walters, Tracy W. 1991. "Thermodynamic Analysis of a Condensing Vapor Canopy." Creation Research Society Quarterly 28(3):122-31.

    (29.) Patten, Donald. 1966. The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch. Seattle: Pacific Meridian.

    (30.) Gaverluck, Emil, and Jack Hamm. 1974. Did Genesis Man Conquer Space? Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

    (31.) Baugh, Carl. 1989. Panorama of Creation. Oklahoma City, OK: Southwest Radio Church.

    (32.) Cyr, Donald. 1985. "A Comparison of Canopy Models (Revised)." Stonehenge Viewpoint No. 65:40.

    (33.) Frank, Louis A., with Patrick Huyghe. 1990. The Big Splash. New York: Birch Lane Press.

    Citation Details

    Author: Tom Mciver
    Publication: Skeptic (Altadena, CA) (Refereed)
    Date: January 1, 2001
    Publisher: Skeptics Society & Skeptic Magazine
    Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Page: 76

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    Is it possible for you to provide a bulleted list of the major points being made?



  • VM44

    Hi Doug,

    The article is not really that long. Probably best to print it out for offline reading.

    I posted it because it talks about Isaac Newton Vail who promoted the Annular Ring Cloud Canopy theory for the origin of the Flood that both Russell and Judge Rutherford endorsed in their books.

    Rutherford's Creation book even has a cross sectional drawing of the earth and the rings and mentions Vail specifically!

    Isaac Newton Vail, it turns out, wasn't even a scientist, but was simply a person who was more infatuated with his own ideas rather than really wanting to find out how the world works.


  • My Struggle
    My Struggle

    This was the first thing that I ever questioned about the WT doctrine.......AHH memories : )

Share this