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The rocks don't lie : a geologist investigates Noah's flood (2012)

por David R. Montgomery

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A MacArthur Fellow presents a surprising perspective on Noah's Flood and how the mystery of the Bible's greatest story shaped geology.
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Many theologians and natural philosophers have long interpreted the biblical story of Noah’s flood as a foundational event that fundamentally shaped and altered the history of the Earth. Geomorphologist David Montgomery through the examination of a wide variety of flood and creation stories across centuries, provides an enthusiastic and valuable recounting of the history of geology and how the advances in science have consistently faced opposition from the guardians from those that view Noah’s Flood as the framework that all geological observations must fit. And how through the work of Steno, Playfair, Buckland, Sedwig, Hutton and Lyell, that the burgeoning science of geology was able to shape and convince both theologians and the most Christians that the Rocks Don’t Lie. That the earth is much older than the chronology laid out in a literal interpretation of the Bible; that we can use the evidence before us to reimagine how the world came to be and that information can inform us about our place in the world.

The Rocks Don’t Lie is not a blow by blow take down of Noah’s flood. (The Geologic Column does that well enough on its own) Instead it is a history of thought. How we progressed from ‘natural philosopher’s’ and their pontificating about how the Earth came to be based on the Creation myth told in the old testament. To the beginnings of an actual science that examined the actual rocks for evidence of a global flood and how when the evidence pointed in a different direction, they went that way. Forming new theories and ideas about the Earth that would come to reshape our understanding of the world. There has always been push back theologians that argued for literal interpretation of Bible. And geology has always been the hardest sticking point when trying to get the evidence to fit within their predefined framework. Not to say geologist haven’t bee dogmatic in our own ways detrimental to the advancement of science. But science as a tool has always pushed for better evidence and more comprehensive explanations of that better explained the evidence. Even Noah’s flood has be seriously examined and attempts to explain how large regional floods throughout the world can explain how these stories ended up in a testament of a people trying to make sense of their own history and the world they found themselves living in. There’s whole sections of this book dedicated to how the Hebrew can be interpreted differently and how ancient myths from around the world are similar but very different in key ways that don’t jive with global event.

For the most part Montgomery is even handed and gentle in his rebuke of the flood myth, even when giving an overview of the more recent resurgence of the creationism movement. He’s even level headed about the Creation Museum, which I consider a feat. Montgomery’s the Rocks Don’t Lie is a decent overview of the evolution of flood geology and how uncovering the evidence of the rock record has decimated that particular interpretation of events. ( )
  stretch | Sep 3, 2020 |
I don't know anything about geology, but this was fascinating and made me want to learn more. ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |
For some reason, there was something about the structure of Montgomery's sentences that was giving me a hard time getting into a reading groove. Then, on the road-trip to and from Kansas this winter, I started reading this aloud to Andrew, and from then on I was in love.

So, it's no secret that literal "scientific" readings of Genesis make me cranky. I've read a lot of refutations of young-Earth creationism from a biology/evolution point of view. And of course some of those have incorporated a little bit of geology -- usually the fossil record, with a tiny bit of tectonic plate theory thrown in. But my understanding of radiometric dating was kind of hazy, and my understanding of how different rocks are forms was stuck at a fourth-grade level. Plus, I've heard many times that the presence of flood stories in almost every culture was an overwhelming argument for the existence of a massive, worldwide flood in Earth's history. So a book subtitled A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood? I knew I had to read it.

This is not a skewering of the creationist position (though that happens a few times along the way.) It's far more interesting than that. It is a story of the history of geology, and how the positions of both the scientists and religious leaders were shaped by the search for evidence of Noah's flood. The form of the story so closely parallels the development of biology & the theory of evolution -- starting out with scientists who were also men of God -- looking to better understand "God's other book," nature, in order to better understand God. Only the names and specific discoveries have changed.

And happily, I feel like I have a much better grasp of those discoveries. A more concrete understanding of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. A much better understanding of radiometric dating. And a new favorite trump card for any literalist debate: mammoths.

Oh! And the quotes! Montgomery pulls the best quotes from Galileo, Thomas Paine, even Saint Augustine!

Fabulous. ( )
1 vote greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
The book was very educational. I didn't like the section on Biblical Criticism which comes off simplistic but as simplistic as some Biblical experts discuss geology.

The true geology portions are extremely interesting as is the discussion about scientific bias against other scientists who propose theories that contradict establishment thinking. I think Montgomery handled the apparent conflicts between the Bible and the geological record in a way that respected religion (and it's contributions to geology). Although the book encourages Christians to consider geological evidence related to Bible events, it resonates with old-earth creationists, not a young-earth view. ( )
  RhodesDavis | Aug 11, 2014 |
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For my parents, Dave and Toby, with thanks for encouraging me to think.
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All around the world, mythology and folktales address the origin of topography, the form of the land itself.
As a geologist, I've had plenty of surprises in the field, but I never expected that an excursion to a remote corner of Tibet would lead me to a new appreciation for the biblical story of Noah's Flood.
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