George Young, 1777 - 1848

George Young


by David F. Coppedge

George Young was a competent geologist during the time when Lyell’s uniformitarianism was becoming accepted. Young defended a young earth and a world-wide flood. He was the author of a major work on this subject, Scriptural Geology (1838), in which he discussed evidences, philosophical and theological reasons for rejecting long ages and taking the Bible’s history of the earth seriously.

Dr. Terry Mortenson discusses George Young and his views at length in his treatise on the Scriptural Geologists, The Great Turning Point (Master Books, 2004), to which we defer for a thorough account of Young’s life, work and views. (There is a brief biography at Answers in Genesis). Suffice it for here to summarize it in these words: Young was very competent as a geologist, both in reading and field work; he upheld the study of geology as a worthwhile and profitable venture; and he wrote in a style that was both courteous and firm.

Mortenson encapsulated Young’s writings as follows:

He sought to explain the Flood and geological record by natural processes analogous to those operating in the present, though greatly magnified during the Noachian flood. In this regard he argued in a manner very similar to how all the old-earth catastrophists contested the uniformitarian interpretations of the geological data…. it is… accurate to say that he rather than generally questioning the facts themselves, Young objected to the old-earth interpretations of those facts. He also opposed the old-earth theories because he believed that they ignored significant contrary geological facts and involved alternative interpretations of Scripture which were not exegetically sound. Though he often strongly disagreed with his opponents’ geological theories, he respectfully acknowledged their contributions to the advancement of the science.

Using both geological and scriptural arguments, he attempted to provide a brief answer to every difficulty and objection to the biblical view of earth history of which he was aware. He believed that new discoveries would throw much additional light on the subject. But he hoped that his research and writings would assist future geologists to arrive at a more accurate knowledge of the structure and history of the globe.

Has George Young been vindicated in the succeeding 170 years since he wrote Scriptural Geology? Consider three findings. (1) The Cambrian Explosion problem still plagues evolutionary paleontology (see 05/10/2008, Stephen Meyer’s acclaimed book Darwin’s Doubt, and the Illustra film Darwin’s Dilemma). Darwin had hoped that subsequent findings would throw additional light on the subject, but the problem has only grown worse for the old-earth, Darwinian paradigm. (2) The discovery of billions of nautiloids buried suddenly all over the Colorado Plateau (10/05/2005) and hundreds of whales buried in diatoms (02/02/2004) are more examples of widespread catastrophic change, contrary to Lyell’s thesis, like some examples Young himself wrote about. And (3) Darwin’s own interpretation in Lyellian style of the Santa Cruz river in Argentina is now shown to be wrong; what he saw as the result of slow and gradual erosion is better interpreted as the result of a colossal flood unlike any seen today (see 02/12/2009).

It appears that Lyellian uniformitarianism was a fad that is being displaced (11/04/2003, 05/22/2003). Catastrophism is again gaining respect. In fact, geology itself has undergone several revolutions since Lyell proposed his ideas. The facts are not the problem. It was the interpretation of the observations, the naturalistic worldview, and the penchant for imagination that swept Scriptural geology from the field in the 1840s. We’ve seen that the cliqueishness of scientific societies can produce stubbornness against new ideas and impede knowledge, as it did in the case of J Harlan Bretz (see 07/25/2008 and 03/05/2008).

Geology would profit from a critical look at the failings of uniformitarianism. Why cling to a research program with so many anomalies? Why force every stratum into a geological column invented in Great Britain before the world had been explored? Of mythical risings and fallings of seas over long periods of time, Young wrote these words that bear repeating today: “The evidences exist only in the wild imaginations of some modern geologists.”  George Young believed that imagination should not have a privileged position over facts. That sounds like the genuine scientific spirit.

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