This post is the final submission in an ongoing series of posts relating to Geology.
Rabbi Slifkin writes:
Two comments are in order.
Prior to the eighteenth century, geology did not exist as a historical science. The world was universally agreed to have been created several thousand earlier by God, using a dramatic process that could not be fathomed by mortal man…Additionally…it was assumed that the Deluge had wreaked havoc upon the world subsequent to creation.
But in 1793, a canal digger by the name of William Smith made a startling discovery, as described in the superb book The Map That Changed The World. He found that the same strata of rock are always found in the same order of superposition, and they always contain the same fossils. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Certain types of rock contained certain types of fossils that were unique to those beds. The layers of rock always appeared in the same order. This pattern held true everywhere that Smith checked…And thus the Meiselman theory was abandoned, and the modern science of geology was born.
First of all, the "Meiselman theory" was not yet abandoned. The early geologists were all catastrophists. They believed that the superposition of strata occurred rapidly and was caused by major geological upheavals in earth’s past such as the biblical deluge. Only later was the science of geology harnessed in the service of the nascent theory of evolution. It is important to understand that the neat superposition of strata one on top of the next is not any more consistent with evolutionary theory than it is with "catastrophe theory".
Second of all, contrary to Rabbi Slifkin’s claim, the significance of William Smith’s discovery cannot be understated. Smith checked in England. That’s it! England, at its longest point, is less than 400 miles long. The fact that the strata are uniform in this relatively small geographical locality is entirely insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Yes, Smith’s discovery launched the current branch of science known as Historical Geology but as this science progressed, it was discovered that Smith’s observations did not necessarily hold true in other localities. One hundred years later, in the late 1800’s, professional geologists already knew that Rabbi Slifkin’s statement "the layers of rock always appeared in the same order" was simply false! But the apikorsus of evolutionary dogma is so insidious, so pervasive, so ubiquitous, and so all-encompassing, that even well informed laymen such as Rabbi Slifkin still believe, 120 years later (!), that the layers of rock always appear in the same order.
Rabbi Slifkin continues to write:
And therein lays the rub. This paragraph constitutes the very essence of what is wrong with Rabbi Slifkin’s assumptions about science and all those who follow in his path. These assumptions have been the bane of our mesorah! They have even managed to lead astray some of the greatest of our nation. Yes, geology is an extremely useful science and yes it is not an ivory tower philosophy. But it depends which branch of geology is being discussed. "Historical Geology", as Rabbi Slifkin calls it, has nothing to do with the billion dollar industries Rabbi Slifkin makes reference to. These industries utilize operational geology.
Geology is an extremely useful science; it's not an ivory-tower philosophy. All kinds of industries and activities, as well as those investigating natural disasters, employ geologists. Because geology works. The patterns that are found in the rocks, the processes that are inferred from them and are still seen happening today, can all be relied upon to be applicable universally - throughout the planet, and throughout history. Billion-dollar industries prove it so! The constancy of nature over long periods was not an assumption - it was a discovery.
Operational science is governed by an entirely different set of rules. Its theories must be tested. The results must be confirmed. Its conclusions must be based on empirical evidence. These industries, by definition, are incapable of relying on ridiculous, unproven (and actually false) assumptions such as the uniformity of rock beds over the globe. Industrial geology could care a wit if Rabbi Slifkin’s claim that "Certain types of rock contained certain types of fossils that were unique to those beds" was true or false. It is simply irrelevant to their branch of scientific endeavor.
The truth is Evolution has invaded practically every branch of science, from paleontology and geology to biology and chemistry. Even physics and astronomy have not been spared. Its theories have sullied practically every academic field with the possible exceptions of fields such as mathematics and computer science. The result is that Evolution has managed to generate a whole new branch of science. This branch of science is referred to as "historical science". (I adopted this term from ID author and scientist Stephen Meyer)
The academic world tries its hardest to conflate these two branches of science – operational science and historical science – and thus blur the distinction between them. By doing this they generate the false assumption that just as operational science is proven so is historical science. Just as operational science is dependable, so is historical science. If Rabbi Slifkin understood, truly understood, the fundamental distinction between these two branches of science, he would think twice before investing all of his faith in the materialistic, ivory-tower philosophies of the "global scientific community".
If frum Jews understood the inherently speculative nature of the historical sciences, many of the anti-masoretic "reconciliations" offered by people like Rabbi Slifkin would become obviated. If frum Jews understood the true philosophical underpinnings of historical science, they wouldn’t hesitate to scoff (our forefather’s name, Yitzchak – he will scoff) at the materialism of the savants. If they understood the categorical lack of scientific evidence which typically attends the origins-based sciences, they wouldn’t even dream of abandoning their mesorah in favor of science or distorting the verses of the Torah in the service of needless apology. The problem is, most people don’t understand and unfortunately, even when informed, are incapable of breaking free of their preconceived notions. As one of my esteemed colleagues is frequently in the habit of stating, "people simply don’t know how to think".
This concludes our treatment of the evidence, or lack thereof, for evolution from the science of geology. Comments are encouraged.