Evolution is a Fact #25 - Deep Time

by cofty 11 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • cofty

    In the 18th century the calculations of Archbishop James Ussher regarding the age of the earth were still accepted without question. According to Ussher god made the earth at 6pm on the evening of Saturday 22nd October 4004 B.C.

    This naive certainty was to become a victim of the Scottish Enlightenment and the brilliant mind of James Hutton.

    Having qualified as a medical doctor in 1749 Hutton returned to the family farm in Berwickshire not far from where I am typing this now. He became fascinated with geology and wrote that he had "become very fond of studying the surface of the earth, and was looking with anxious curiosity into every pit or ditch or bed of a river that fell in his way".

    In 1788 he presented a paper to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in which he described a continuous cycle in which the surface of the earth is constantly being eroded and the products deposited in the sea. There it is compacted into bedrock and later folded and uplifted by volcanic activity and eventually worn away into sediment once again. He concluded with the memorable phrase that "we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.

    He knew that these processes required eons - orders of magnitude greater than Ussher's 6000 years. What he was proposing was "Deep Time".

    It was a beautiful idea but also a controversial one and he needed some physical evidence to back it up.

    In 1788 Hutton set out on a boat trip down the Berwickshire coast with this friends John Playfair and Sir James Hall. When they came across a location known as Siccar Point Hutton knew he had discovered the proof he had been looking for. He later commented that "the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time".

    I visited Siccar Point a few years ago and took this photograph.

    What James Hutton had found is a feature that geologists call an "unconformity". The vertical layers of rock are made of sandstones called greywackes. We now know that these were laid down on the floor of the Iapetus Ocean in the Silurian Period around 430 million years ago. These layers were buckled and lifted up by the movement of continental plates. Over the next 65 million years the rock was eroded by wind and tide. It is this gap that is the "unconformity". Layers of mudstone were the first to go leaving behind the divided layers we see in the picture.

    During the following geological period of the Upper Devonian 370 million years ago rivers began to deposit the sediment that became the red sandstone lying in horizontal layers above the greywacke. A second lifting event pushed the rocks back above sea level and tilted it into its present position. Erosion then sculpted the formation exposing millions of years of geology.

    Siccar Point is to Hutton - the father of modern geology - as the Galapagos Islands are to Darwin. Hutton provided the world with a vision of "Deep Time" and made subsequent ideas about the gradual evolution of species possible.

    Evolution is a Fact - Index #1-20

    Evolution is a Fact #21 - Footprints in the Sand
    Footprints at Laetoli show our Australopithecus afarensis ancestors were bipedal 3.6 million years ago.

    Evolution is a Fact #22 - The Hillocks of Hiss
    A vestigial feature if the human ear shared by 10% of the population demonstrates our evolutionary history.

    Evolution is a Fact #23 - Faunal Succession
    The consistent sequence of fossils found in the rocks can only be explained by evolution.

    Evolution is a Fact #24 - The Origin of Your Inner Ear
    How the bones that reptiles eat with became the bones that we hear with.

  • Landy

    Bryson's book 'A short history of nearly everything' has a fair amount on Hutton and geology. An interesting and entertaining read.

  • cofty

    Hutton also found a similar unconformity at Jedburgh in the Scottish borders.

    Here is a drawing of the feature from 1787

    In 2006 this sculpture by Max Nowell was installed in Lothian Park at Jedburgh close to the Abbey. It beautifully illustrates the geology.

  • Bonsai
    Thanks Cofty. I find these threads so interesting. These topics are swirling around in my mind as I stroll around the base of an extinct volcano near my house. I think geology and paleontology are going to be my next hobby.
  • Heaven

    Excellent read cofty.

    The Grand Canyon in Arizona, U.S.A. is another example of 'deep time'. It is an "excellent record of three of the four eras of geological time, a rich and diverse fossil record, a vast array of geologic features and rock types, and numerous caves containing extensive and significant geological, paleontological, archeological, and biological resources. It is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world."

    For those of us who were raised to believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old, these actual monuments of 'deep time' are there, right in front of us, as evidence that this religious theory is bogus.

  • Island Man
    Island Man


    You should do one on the development of different languages. There are striking parallels between the development of different species and the development of different languages. Incidentally, creationists ascribe both to divine intervention. But the reality of the development of new languages within recent human history - English, Spanish, French, etc - exposes the folly of the Babel story and it also serves as a practical test case or mirror of how evolution works.

    For example the segment from 2:30 to 2:50 in the following video, which speaks about the ability to intercommunication among neighboring Romance language dialects is very much reminiscent of the ability to interbreed among neighboring species in phenomenon known as ring species.


  • rocketman
    Interesting, as all the posts in this series are, Cofty. Of course, aside of Young Earth Creationists, this doesn't apply much to JWs, who accept that the Earth is billions of years old. But a worthy read nonetheless.
  • cofty

    Thanks Rocketman.

    I'm not sure whether the Watchtower still teach that the creative days were 7,000 years long or if they have dropped that nonsense now. Does anybody know?

    The vertical layers of greywacke from the Silurian Period at around 430 million years ago and the horizontal red sandstone of the Upper Devonian at 370 million years ago all contain fossils showing that life on earth was not first created 49,000 years ago.

    Remember that Hutton had no way to date the layers but the evidence that the process took millions of years convinced the theists of his day.

    Ten Questions for Creationists...

  • smiddy


    I think you and many other posters confusing the 7.000 years of a creative day as was taught by Jehovahs Witnesses back when I became a witness in 1960 with the creation of the universe as being only 49,000 years And many then get the idea JW`s taught that the earth is only 6000 years old .

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Jehovahs witnesses taught that humans have only been on this earth for 6000 years since Adam and Eve were created not that the earth was created 6000 years ago .(maybe age has wearied some that they get confused with what the WT did actually teach)

    What I was taught in 1960 the statement in the bible "In the beginning God created the heavens and earth"

    That is the universe which includes the earth.

    Gen1:1 Is just a general statement of fact (according to the Bible) Which could have taken place millions/billions of years ago . Gen1:2 then jumps to when God turns his attention to preparing the earth for human habitation.,that now has the 7000 year of one creative day .(which of course is still BS)

    So Gen.1:1 could have taken place millions or even billions of years ago , the creative days of 7000 years each only applied to God Jehovah turning his attention to his purpose respecting the earth to prepare it and have it habitated with humans.

    It has annoyed me no end to see this often misconception relayed here by well meaning folk but we do need to get our facts right when we challenge what JW`s have taught in the past.

    By the way I love your evolution posts I have learnt so much.and am still learning.

  • cofty

    Thank you for that Smiddy.

    I have added number 39 here...

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