What a Catastrophe

From Issue: R&R Volume 25 #11

On September 20, 2005, PBS stations around the country aired a program titled “Mystery of the Megaflood,” in which they explored plausible causes for the geological features found in the region 200 miles east of Seattle known as the scablands. In an informative article about the show, the scablands are described as “a vast region of weird terrain, including gorges hundreds of feet deep, enormous pits, huge boulders scattered as if dropped by giants, undulating hills that look like huge ripples, strange layers of silt and ash, and a ‘waterfall’ five times wider than Niagara—but without any water” (“NOVA: Mystery…,” 2005). The puzzling thing about this area is that there is no river running through it that could have caused these features to have formed over millions of years, nor is there any indication that a glacier moved over the landscape.

In the 1920s, a geologist named J. Harlan Bretz suggested that neither a slow-eroding river nor glacial activity caused the massive geological features. “His fieldwork convinced him that the Scablands were not the result of slow geological weathering but of an enormous catastrophe that had taken place almost overnight when a titanic flood engulfed the region” (“NOVA: Mystery…”). His ideas were largely rejected, because they did not jive with the then-prevailing notion known as uniformitarianism—that the present is the key to the past and geologic features are the result of long periods of uniform transformation. Yet, recent research suggests that Bretz’ catastrophic conclusion fits the facts much more sufficiently.

Modern-day geologist Vic Baker has done extensive work on the scabland project. In an interview with NOVA, Baker states that he believes a huge ice dam that held the waters of Lake Missoula burst and caused a megaflood that devastated the landscape. In fact, Baker says that he believes this type of flood happened several times in this area. When Baker was asked about floods in other areas, he mentioned large areas of flooding in Canada, Asia, the Altai and Sayan Mountains in Siberian Russia, as well as areas in China and Mongolia. He stated that the flooding in these regions was “comparable in magnitude, though perhaps not in volume, to the Missoula floods” (“Fantastic Floods,” 2005).

Looking, then, at the NOVA program, we have evidence that the scablands were formed by massive flooding, not by slow-working uniformitarian processes. We also have evidence that other areas around the world, from the Rocky Mountains to Russia and China, were similarly affected by megaflooding that was “comparable in magnitude.”

Of course, anyone familiar with the biblical account of Noah’s Flood would certainly be led to wonder about the possibility that all these various “floods” might not have been localized, but were due to one worldwide, massive inundation. Is it not interesting that geological features and landscapes that uniformitarian geologists once insisted must be the product of millions of years of tranquil, uniform processes are being reevaluated and assigned catastrophic causes? When statements like Baker’s, about massive flooding around the globe, are coupled with the fact that over 200 legends have surfaced in hundreds of cultures throughout the world that tell of a huge, catastrophic flood (see Lyons and Butt, 2003), the plausibility of a world-wide flood comes sharply into focus.

Near the end of the discussion of the scab­lands, NOVA asked Baker if there were still many unsolved mysteries in the formation of geological landscapes. Baker commented: “Some people think science is the collection of facts and truths and everything about the world. Absolutely not. Science is about raising questions about the things we don’t know and being very sophisticated about pursuing those problems” (“Fantastic Floods”). Unfortunately, one of the most important questions that the geological sciences should raise often is ignored because of its religious implications. Is there geologic evidence of a global flood? In truth, the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!” The apostle Peter focused on this issue some two thousand years ago when he wrote: “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:5-6, emp. added). With more and more geological evidences piling up pointing to a global flood, it is becoming increasingly obvious that those who refuse to recognize it as a fact are willfully ignoring that evidence.


“Fantastic Floods” (2005), [On-line], URL:

Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2003), “Legends of the Flood,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologetics­

“NOVA: Mystery of the Megaflood” (2005), [On-line], URL: ttp://


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