Terraformation

NASA is currently developing plans for sending manned missions to Mars.  There has even been talk of establishing permanent colonies on Mars and even of terraforming the planet.  Imagine a Mars of the future with oceans, lakes, and rivers– teeming with life, and enjoying a temperate climate.  Mars could be the first experiment of the terraformation of planets throughout the galaxy which our species may one day inhabit.

But before we get too ambitious perhaps we should try our hand at terraforming some of the currently uninhabitable lands of our own planet.  About twenty percent of all terrestrial land is desert, most of which is uninhabited. Why don’t we demonstrate our terraforming prowess on a vast terrestrial wasteland such as the Sahara before we attempt to transform another planet?

The Sahara is about 3.6 million square miles, about the same area as the United States.  It has the highest sand dunes in the world– some as much as 590 feet high. The Sahara receives less than 4 inches of rain a year, and a large portion receives less than an inch.

Transforming the Sahara into lush, arable land may seem daunting, but why would anyone think that terraforming Mars will be less difficult?  The Sahara is inhospitable, arid, and hot. Mars is inhospitable, arid, and cold. If we can demonstrate that it is possible to tame the Sahara then there might be reason to believe that we could one day do the same for Mars.

Think of the challenges.  The winds of the Sahara can blow at hurricane force.  When the rains come they are torrential. Dunes drift across the landscape like waves on the surface of the sea.  And there are neither flora nor fauna in vast regions of the deep desert. How can humans improve such an immense wasteland?

The most feasible approach would be to begin at the periphery and transform sand to soil mile by mile.  Water can be extracted from atmospheric humidity. Solar power is available year round. Resources are available and can be exploited, should anyone think it worth doing.  Why do we think it is more noble to terraform Mars than to make the Sahara habitable? Millions of people could benefit today from the transformation of the Sahara. Any benefits the terraformation of Mars might return would only be realized in future generations.

Of course there are national borders to consider.  The bulk of the Sahara exists within the bounds of a number of African nations known for instability and civil war.  Perhaps the venture is just too risky to pursue.

But will it be different on Mars?  Once humans begin to colonize Mars– or any other planet– claims to national sovereignty will be made, borders will be claimed, and battles over those claims will likely be fought.  Anyone who thinks that Mars will provide a clean slate from which to build a pristine paradise simply hasn’t thought deeply about human nature.

There are a great many technologies that can be developed and tested today, here, on planet Earth for the terraformation of inhospitable lands.  We don’t need to travel to another planet to prove them out– we can do that here, now. And millions of people could benefit immediately from such a bold vision today.

Copyright (c) 2020, David S. Moore

All rights reserved

Your mixing you’re semaphores

Most struggling writers need to survive in a corporate world of hard working folks who may have talents in marketing or accounting or engineering or construction or management– but who, as a rule, wouldn’t know a pronoun from a preposition.  When I was working I often found that my inbox was cluttered with poorly written or grammatically meaningless e-mails, like this one:

I spoke to XXXX and is like you to present this document at the YYYY meeting.

Sentences lacking subjects or verbs are shockingly common, as are sentences in which the verb is of the wrong tense, like this one:

They are say the numbers are now at XXXX.

It’s generally not advisable to correct your boss’s grammar.  In fact it’s generally not advisable to correct the grammar of any of your coworkers– unless you don’t mind working with people who wish you would just die in a fiery car crash.  E-mails are often written in haste, so it’s understandable that some grammatical errors could slip by– even with spell-check and grammar highlighting. But when important business documents are written with preposterous word choices I often feel a teacher’s compulsion to make a polite suggestion.  Consider this excerpt, from an HR-written annual review document:

Demonstrates the necessary testing skills and knowledge commiserate with their role and level.

Apparently the author meant to use the word “commensurate,” meaning “in accordance with,” rather than a word which describes a form of empathy.  In my response I struck out “commiserate” and replaced it with “commensurate”, hoping that the author would realize the mistake and that the following year’s form would be corrected.  But when the next review came along, the questionnaire had the same bad wording as before.

Once I reported to the head of the marketing department that a major promotion to be displayed at 20,000 locations was written with the word “your” where it should have had “you’re.”  You just have to wonder if those who are very well paid to produce catchy advertising phrases ever took classes in which they were asked to write sentences commensurate with their roles.

So allow me to commiserate with the many thousands of struggling writers who have had to grit their teeth when reading e-mails or corporate missives that butcher our common tongue.  It’s difficult to be polite in a world in which a command of one’s language is considered an impediment to the duties of commerce. People in the corporate world are busy and are often more concerned with selling than with the proper conjugation of the verbs they employ to that end.  To those who have found themselves in this unwelcome position I would offer the simple observation that you are certainly not alone and that it really is OK– on occasion– to correct the grammar of those corporate documents that threaten to blemish your company’s public image.

American conservatives are communists

After many decades of observing and participating in American politics I have concluded that American Conservatism is a form of Communism.  There simply is no other explanation for the behavior of American Conservatives over the last 30 years. Don’t listen to their beguiling words about limited government and personal responsibility– look at what they do.  The first impulse of conservatives, whenever they have gained power, has been to cut taxes. The advocates of this policy have long claimed that tax cuts solve every ill. They stimulate economic growth; they reduce the growth of government; and they return riches wrongly stolen from deserving citizens.  Ronald Reagan cut taxes; George W. Bush cut taxes; and Donald J. Trump has recently enacted a tax cut. The only conservative president of the last 30 years who did not cut taxes was George H.W. Bush, and he was excoriated by the leaders of his party for that failure of principle.

Each of those tax cuts was specifically tailored to benefit the super super super rich.  The argument in favor of this economic policy is that those with money to burn will invest it in high risk ventures that create innovation and, consequently , jobs.

The most dramatic change in the American economy over the last 30 years has been a massive concentration of income and wealth.  The super super super rich have become ever more rich, while the wages of the average American worker have stagnated. The portion of personal income going to the top one percent has increased from 8.9 percent in 1980 to more than 22 percent today.  And only the top two quintiles of families have seen their net worth increase between 2000 and 2011. Families in each of the lower three quintiles have actually seen their net worth decline over the same period. See inequality.org for more details.

Conservatives must certainly be aware of this massive shift of economic power.  As they have reminded us at every opportunity, conservatives have a deep and abiding understanding of economics, whereas liberals only know how to waste government funds.  Certainly they must view this most dramatic shift of the economy as a consequence of their own strivings and machinations.

Conservatives must also know of the revolutions of France, of Russia, and of China.  They must be enough aware of historical trends to know that as wealth is concentrated in the hands of an ever diminishing minority of ultra ultra ultra rich plutocrats the masses will turn to the only option available for the redress of their disenfranchisement– revolution.

Conservatives have been advocating tax cuts that have chiefly benefited the rich for the past 30 years.  Each time they achieved their goal of passing tax cuts they have claimed victory. They have repeatedly taken credit for the one governmental policy that has most influenced the structure of the American economy.  Hence they must approve of the long term impact of this their most favored policy. The only logical conclusion is that conservatives are planning for the long term. They must be arguing for tax cuts because they intend to skew the economy to such an extreme that the masses are forced to rise up in revolt.  In short, they must be planning for a communist revolution. American conservatives must be communists.

Copyright (c) 2020, David S. Moore

All rights reserved

U.S. Government is NOT democratic

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”  Famous and stirring words.  But words that leave unanswered an important question: Union of what?

The structure of the sentence is such that you would think that it is the people who are intended to be the chief beneficiaries of that more perfect union.  But a careful reading of the document shows that it was really intended to form a union of states.

Article I of the Constitution vests the legislative powers of the government in two bodies– the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Senators are apportioned two per state, so they clearly represent states, not the people. (Originally Senators were elected by state legislatures, but the 17th Amendment replaced that method with direct election by the people of each state.)

Members of the House of Representatives are elected directly by the people of each state, so it would seem to be the more democratic of the two institutions.  But there are two additional conditions that skew the House toward small states.  The first is the requirement, stated in Article I, that each state must have at least one representative.  The second concerns The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, which fixed the size of the House at 435 members.  Thanks to these two rules the House of Representatives provides smaller states with disproportionate representation.  California has a population that is almost 80 times larger than that of the smallest state, Wyoming, but it only has 53 representatives in the House.  So a voter in Wyoming has greater representation in both the House and the Senate than does a voter in California.

The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 was intended to keep the House of Representatives fixed at a “reasonable” size. It was felt that if the numbers of representatives were to increase as the population increased it would eventually result in a body too large to achieve any meaningful result.

Our Constitution was chiefly intended to protect the rights and powers of the states, not the people.  (The Bill of Rights was added after the Constitution was ratified to protect the rights of citizens.)  Because the makeup of the U.S. legislature favors small states over large states it does not represent the citizens of the United States in proportion to their numbers and therefore our government cannot be called a democracy– or even a representative democracy.

Should we regard this as a problem? Or should we just shrug our shoulders and surrender to the weight of history and accept the current order as sufficient for the purposes of government?

The chief problem with the current order is that the people of this country are not getting what they want from their government. Large majorities of the American people favor more gun controls, not less. Large majorities want abortion to be legal, and they want it to be available to those least able to pay for it. Large majorities want more to be done about climate change and about our crumbling civil engineering infrastructure.

But measures to make progress on these issues have repeatedly stalled in the U.S. Senate. And why? Because the people of states with smaller populations often perceive such issues as being inimical to their local culture. There are 9 states that have more than half of total U.S. population. That gives those states only 18 percent representation in the U.S. Senate. That’s just wrong– and it has resulted in a stagnant government that is stuck in the past.

There is only one way that this stranglehold can be broken. And that is by breaking the association between states and the way that senators and representatives are elected. As currently configured the federal government only has one elected person who represents the nation as a whole– and that is the President. All other elected officials represent localities. As a result the President alone represents the will of the people of the nation; all others represent the will of states, or of regions within the states.

I fully accept the principle that if either the Senate or the House were to grow without bound as the population increases they will reach a point where it will be impossible for the two bodies working jointly to govern. That is, there must be an upper bound on the sizes of each of the two bodies. These maximal sizes should be governed by the psychology of group dynamics, rather than by the numbers or geographical dimensions of the several states.

I propose a bicameral system of legislature with a Senate and a House, as we have today– but with the pronounced difference that the Senate would represent the people of the nation as a whole, while the House would represent local regions within the nation. States would continue to have the general protections guaranteed under the Constitution, particularly in Article IV. But the people would directly elect their representatives in the federal government irrespective of state boundaries.

Let us say, for point of argument, that we agree on an optimal number of X Senators and of Y Representatives. For the Senate, I propose that the entire voting population of the United States be divided into X units, call them “Senatorial Blocs.” Each voting citizen would be randomly assigned to one such Bloc, and each Bloc would vote to elect one Senator. This approach accomplishes the following objectives:

  • It limits the total number of Senators to X, regardless of the numbers of States in the Union, or the number of people in the voting public
  • It ensures that each Senator is elected by the same number of registered voters
  • It guarantees that the Senators would represent a national perspective, rather than a local perspective

For the House of Representatives I propose that the entire voting population would be divided into Y geographical groupings, call them “Representative Districts.” Each District would represent a geographical region of the country that contains the same number of registered voters– but these regions would be drawn irrespective of state boundaries. The voters of each District would elect one Representative to the House. The Districts should be configured as contiguous, rather than disjoint, to ensure that each District represents a locality with a distinct identity. However this principle will need to be flexible enough to accommodate special cases like Alaska and Hawaii which are not contiguous with any other geographical parts of the United States.

To see how this would work in practice, let’s suppose that the total number of registered voters in the United States is about 200 million, and that we have decided that there should only be 500 members of the House. Then each Representative District should contain a total of 400,000 voters. For some especially dense urban areas several Representative Districts would be packed in close together, while in more rural areas a region might have to span one or more state boundaries to fully encompass its allotment of 400,000 voters. The New York City metropolitan area with its more than 8 million residents might need 40 or more such districts, whereas the voters of the state of Wyoming would probably need to be grouped with those of another bordering state to form one complete district representing 400,000 voters.

This method of electing Representatives would have the following advantages:

  • It would limit the total number of Representatives to Y, regardless of the total number of registered voters or the total number of states
  • It ensures that every voter is represented by exactly one Representative
  • Each Representative would reflect the views of a geographic region of the country with a corresponding regional identity
  • Each Representative would be elected by the same number of registered voters

The conditions set forth above ensure that the two resulting legislative bodies would never grow in size beyond X for the Senate and Y for the House. And they further guarantee that the Senate would represent the perspectives of the nation as a whole, while the House would represent geographical regions with local identities. These two perspectives on the nation’s governance will, I believe, add immeasurable benefits to the long term health of the nation.

But most importantly these policies will change our mode of government to that of a truly representative democracy, since each elected Senator or Representative would be represented by the same number of registered voters as for all other Senators or Representatives, respectively.

Policies such as those outlined above could not have been implemented in 1789, as it would have required a national registry of all voters in the nation. And of course such a registry would have to be updated as voters move from one state to another, or change their names, or die, or become convicted of a crime and therefore lose the right to vote. With the technology available in 1789 it would simply have been impossible to build and properly maintain such a registry. But in today’s world of massively parallel computing systems building a registry of every voter in the country would be a relatively straightforward task. In fact, such a system would solve a number of problems that have been plaguing voting systems throughout the country. How and when to purge voters from the voting rolls? How to prevent voters from voting more than once by registering in two or more states? A national registry of all voters is by far the safest, easiest, and best way to resolve these and other security issues.

The Constitution of the United States is a marvelous construct. It represents a bold and daring break from the monarchical past. It enshrined the principle of the rule of law as an antidote to the arbitrary rule of a king. It has served as an inspiration to other nations that sought a democratic future. And in the principle of self-amendment specified in Article V it showed itself to be adaptable to the challenges and needs of the future.

But the Constitution was a product of its time. It didn’t just allow slavery to persist– it was designed to preserve slavery. It didn’t grant women the right to vote. And it was conceived as a protector of the rights of states. Only after it was ratified were the first ten amendments added as a Bill of Rights, almost as an afterthought, to protect the rights of citizens.

The Constitution followed the general pattern of the Articles of Confederation in that it was designed around States. There is certainly no need or reason to dissolve the States, as they are perfectly viable political entities that are well adapted to serving local needs. But the Legislature of the U.S. Government should represent the needs of the people of the nation as a whole, not the states in particular. And for that reason the current method of electing Senators and Representatives must change.

Written 2020-10-26

Copyright (c) 2020 by David S. Moore

All rights reserved.

The “System” is BROKEN

A recurring slogan one heard from the radicals of the 1960s was that the “system” is broken. Some of them went so far as to claim that the structure of American society is so out of whack that it can’t be repaired– it will have to be burned to the ground and rebuilt.

Although this claim was never articulated clearly enough to know what precisely was meant by the word “system,” there was plenty of evidence that the radicals were right. The Vietnam War dragged on and on because none of our leaders wanted to admit defeat. Minorities were repressed throughout the country and prominent leaders at the national level were working actively to prevent them from being treated as equals. Several cities across America were on fire due to protests over discrimination. Pollution was fouling our air, rivers, and lakes and polluting corporations were doing everything they could to prevent the government from taking action. And the US Congress seemed to be stuck in a pattern of hysteria and inaction.

At the time I reasoned that ours is a democratic government and that as the truth got out to the American people eventually they would demand action. The crushing defeat of George Wallace and his segregationist movement in 1968, the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1970, and the end of the Vietnam War all seemed to confirm my deductions.

But more recently I’ve come to realize that the 60s radicals were right all along. My mistake, I now see, was in believing that our government is a democracy. Yes, Article VI of the Constitution guarantees each state a republican form of government– and yes state Governors and Legislators are elected directly by the people. But at the national level our government is designed chiefly to represent the states, not the people. That’s why it’s called the United STATES of America, not the United People of America. The President is elected by a body that is apportioned by state. The Senate is clearly designed to represent states. And because of rules enshrined in Article I Section 2 of the Constitution and in The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 the House Of Representatives is skewed toward protecting the power of small states.

The belief that ours is a democratic form of government is deeply ingrained in American culture. It’s taught in schools, it’s repeated daily throughout all news media outlets, and it’s stated again and again as if it were an obvious truth in every political campaign.  In consequence there is no perception in the general public that anything about our form of government is truly broken. But the 60s radicals were right, even if they couldn’t articulate clearly what was wrong. It’s the Constitution itself that is broken, and our national government has almost no chance of fairly representing the will of the people until these major structural flaws in our government are fixed.

I’d like to believe that we could pass a couple of amendments and thereby put our society on a truly democratic footing. But I know that the residents of small states would never agree to give up their advantage. Perhaps a national campaign to communicate the Constitution’s inherent unfairness could succeed in stirring the people to action, but I see no evidence that any such program could get off the ground. Certainly no one at the national level is arguing that the Constitution is in need of significant revision.

So at present it appears that the most extreme radicals of the 60s– those who argued that the entire system has to be torn down and rebuilt– were right. There is simply no other way for our society to restructure the national government as a representative democracy other than to burn it all down and to hope that whatever emerges in its place will in most respects be an improvement. Large majorities of the American people want more gun control legislation, not less. Sizable majorities want abortion to remain legal. Most Americans want an improved health care system. Most Americans want the government to take the lead on climate change. And yet the US Congress can’t make progress on any of these issues because it doesn’t represent the will of the people.

The obvious problem with that view is that we have ample evidence from history that chaos more often leads to autocracy than to democracy.  The revolutionary fervor that led the French to tear down the Bastille eventually devolved into the autocratic imperialism of the Napoleonic Empire.  The Russian Revolution led to a highly stratified and oppressive nation, not the paradisal society of equals its leaders had foretold.

There are a good many non-governmental issues that have impeded progress as well. First and foremost of these, in my view, is the absolute avalanche of misinformation that pollutes the public discourse. It’s certainly a good thing to have healthy discussions about matters of public policy, but that doesn’t seem to be the least bit feasible at present. Too many of our public leaders have advocated outrageous lies and fantasies. President Trump’s many false statements about COVID19 are but one example. If you don’t even have agreement on a basic set of facts you can’t hope to have a meaningful conversation about something truly complicated like the national economy, or immigration, or climate change.

But I strongly believe that the best and surest way to solve that problem is to change the form of our national government. Why did President Trump repeatedly lie about the lethality of COVID19? He did it to set red states against blue in the expectation that doing so would juice his chances in the Electoral College. The imbalance of our national government distorts all aspects of public discourse and national policy.

If we could tomorrow change our national government to represent the people, rather than the states, it might take 50 or 100 years to know if I am right. I’m pretty sure there is no philosopher or scholar of government who could give us a definitive answer to that question today.  But the fact is that just about every other possible form of government has been tried at one time or another in the past and none has proved to be as capable of providing for the economic, social, and emotional needs of a populace as democracy.

We’ve endured much turmoil during the Trump era, but much worse is yet to come. Climate change will eventually destroy most everything we love about this country. There will be literally millions of climate change refugees vying for water, resources, jobs, and living space– many from Central and South America, but a good many millions from within our own borders as well. Environmental turmoil usually results in political turmoil.  So one very likely result of the disruptions that will inevitably arise from climate change will be the very revolution that the 60s radicals sought to ignite.

Written 2020-11-15

Copyright (c) 2020 by David S. Moore

All rights reserved

Religion in the U.S. Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Amendment 1 to the Constitution of the United States

The First Amendment of the Constitution makes it clear that the United States is never to become a theocracy. The authors of the Constitution were mindful of the hazards posed by state religions of any kind, and they wanted to prevent the United States from suffering their worst effects.

Does the First Amendment protect religious beliefs, or does it protect religious practices? The wording of the Amendment seems to imply that it protects both. The phrase “the free exercise thereof” seems to encompass not just religious beliefs, but religious practices as well.

But that isn’t a plausible interpretation. Consider the following scenario. A judge, who is an ardent and practicing Catholic, is presented with a case involving a Catholic priest who is charged with pederasty. His attorney is a Jesuit who argues that the court has no jurisdiction in the case because the Vatican claims priority involving all Catholic clergy. Because the judge regards himself as a staunch Catholic, he agrees and releases the defendant to the custody of the Vatican.

Article VI of the Constitution says the following:

The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Article VI of the Constitution of the United States

So the judge described in the scenario above would be bound to regard the Constitution as the supreme law of the United States, regardless of whatever claims the Pope might make to the contrary. And the decision to turn the defendant over to the Vatican would be an act that violates the Constitution, regardless of the wording of the First Amendment.

Consider now the case of a judge who, when he is appointed, is an avowed evangelical Christian. And suppose further that after a period of some years he undergoes a spiritual transformation in which he converts to a strident form of Islam that insists on the enforcement of Islamic Law. So when he is brought a case of robbery in which the defendant is found guilty, he sentences the robber to have his right hand and left foot chopped off.

Again, the Islamic judge is bound by his oath of office to follow the Constitution, the laws of the federal government, and the laws of the several states– NOT the teachings of the Koran, or of any other religious writing.

The previous cases involve judges who render opinions in courts of law. What about private citizens? Are their religious practices defended by the First Amendment? Imagine a devout Christian who studies the old testament of the bible and finds to his delight that Jacob had two wives– Leah and Rachel. He also learns that each of these wives had a maidservant, and that Jacob fathered children by both of his wives and by their maidservants– four women in all. Jacob was renamed Israel by God, thereupon identifying him as the patriarch of the Israelites. He thereupon deduces that God must want good Christian men to follow in this practice. So he marries four women in a state that has long since outlawed bigamy.

To consider a more extreme example, suppose that a cult of the Aztec god of war, Huitzilapotchli, takes hold in this country. The Aztecs believed that the god required regular ritual human sacrifices. So the cult leader insists on performing a ritual human sacrifice every new moon in accordance with the ancient practices.

None of these behaviors is protected by the First Amendment. In fact the only religious practices which are protected are those which do not violate the secular laws of the state, and of the nation.

Written 2020-11-25

Copyright (c) 2020 by David S. Moore

All rights reserved

Was The Grand Canyon Created by the Flood?

Some Creationists claim that the Grand Canyon was created by the biblical flood. Is that true?

The waters of the flood

Before we can figure out what the waters of the flood may have sculpted we should first try to understand where the waters came from. The story of the flood (as reported in the bible) says the following:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

Genesis 7:11-12, RSV

So we now know that some portion of the waters that covered the earth came from the skies in the form of rain, and the rest burbled up from the depths. The bible gives us a very specific measure of the total amount of water that covered the earth:

And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

Genesis 7:19-20, RSV

That works out to a depth of about 6 miles across the entire planet. Let’s suppose that the waters which poured down from the skies came directly from the atmosphere, and that those waters were returned to the atmosphere when the flood waters receded.

Question: If we were to extract all of the water vapor currently held in suspension in the atmosphere and dump it all over the surface of the earth, how deep would the resulting ocean be?

Answer: About 1.5 inches. That’s a far cry from 6 miles. (https://www.livescience.com/how-much-water-earth-atmosphere)

The atmosphere just doesn’t have the capacity to store even one tenth of the six mile depth of water that covered the planet. The only way to increase the atmosphere’s holding capacity would be to greatly increase the temperature of the atmosphere– to several hundred degrees. Furthermore, that much water in the atmosphere would massively increase its density– to about the same pressure that would be found at the bottom of a 3 mile deep ocean. That’s about three tons per square inch! That’s simply not survivable.

At this point we don’t even know where the water that rained down on the planet for 40 days and 40 nights came from. So let’s assume that half of the 6 mile depth of water was due to the rains that fell from the sky, acknowledging that we still don’t know how the atmosphere could have held that much water, and that the rest of the water surged up from below the surface of the earth. We will further assume that the water that fell from the skies was returned to the atmosphere (by an unknown mechanism), and that the water that burbled up from the depths returned to the depths. And we shall conjecture that the waters that returned to the depths carved the Grand Canyon as they receded.

The fossil record

Creationists claim that the entire fossil record was created by the flood. They say that the waters of the flood rushed across the face of the earth and dissolved all of the loose dirt, clay, mud, gravel, and topsoil, along with the bodies of all of the people, animals, and plants that were killed by the flood. Then as the waters calmed, the materials held in suspension settled into neat layers arranged by “hydrological sorting,” a fancy phrase meaning “in order of natural buoyancy.” When the waters receded those nice neat layers were perfectly preserved, as seen in the walls of the Grand Canyon, and in many other such geological formations around the world.

The above narrative means that at the time the waters of the flood receded, the entire surface of the earth would have been covered in a thick layer of mud. As water rushed across the mud on its way to disappear into the depths, it wouldn’t have carved nice neat walls in the mud. When massive torrents of water rush across a landscape of mud, the mud just collapses. So the result would not have been the carving of a canyon with crisply defined walls– it would have been a massive undifferentiated pile of mud. And after the water had receded the mud would have leveled out to form a plain– which is literally the opposite of a canyon.

Another question: Why did the mud of Arizona get carved into a canyon, rather than, say, the mud of central Texas? Texas is pretty flat, and there aren’t many examples of canyons across vast stretches of the Lone Star State. But if the creationist narrative about the creation of the fossil record is true, then at the time that the waters of the flood receded, the mud of Texas should much the same composition of the mud of Arizona. There shouldn’t be any reason why a canyon would have been carved in Arizona but not in Texas.

Unless, of course, there was a drain somewhere in northern Arizona and the waters of the flood rushed toward that on their way back down to the depths. But when water rushes down a drain it creates an eddy– a whirlpool– and the Grand Canyon definitely does not look as though it was carved by a whirlpool.

A true flood geology

The simple fact is that the Grand Canyon isn’t a flood geology– it’s a river erosion geology. For an example of a true flood geology the place to look would be Eastern Washington State in a region known as the Channeled Scablands. As settlers traveled through this region they saw that the land consisted chiefly of exposed bedrock with little or no soil. They called the region a “scabland” because it was land that was unsuitable for farming.

The Channeled Scablands were formed by dozens, perhaps hundreds of floods that happened at the end of the last ice age, between 15,000 and 14,000 years ago. The waters of a glacial lake named Lake Missoula were held back by an ice dam that repeatedly broke over a course of many hundreds of years, releasing more water than is contained in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie combined. Those waters rushed across Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington, scouring the surface down to bedrock and pushing the accumulated soil, gravel, clay, and rocks to the south and west. These floods are known collectively as the “Lake Missoula Floods.” Some of these floods resulted in volumes of water that would have been ten times greater than the sum of all of the rivers of the world combined.

The region of the Channeled Scablands, which is 9 times the area of the Grand Canyon, is populated with a number of geological features that are characteristic of flood geologies, none of which are to be found in the Grand Canyon.

Coulees

The Channeled Scablands has more than 140 geological formations known as coulees. These are large gullies that were carved by water– in a region where there is presently no source of water. The Grand Coulee is more than 60 miles long. These very distinctive formations can be seen throughout the region. There is not a single coulee to be found in the Grand Canyon– because the Grand Canyon does have an obvious source of water: the Colorado River.

Kolkes

A kolke is a giant conical divot that has been carved by water out of bedrock. There are hundreds of kolkes across Eastern Washington. The colloquial term for them is “potholes.” Washington State even has a state park named “The Potholes State Park.” Kolkes were formed when water several hundred feet deep rushed across the land at 45 to 60 miles miles per hour. The rushing water created whirlpools that drilled into the bedrock, creating conical divots that later filled with rainwater to create small, isolated lakes.

Ripples

When water rushes across a landscape it can form ripples in the land. Beachcombers are familiar with this phenomenon– as can be seen in the following photo:

Ripples in beach sand

But the ripples of the Channeled Scablands are immense– some 30 to 40 feet high and 100 feet apart. Here’s a photo (taken from Google Maps):

Ripples of this type can be found throughout the Scablands, proving once again that rushing water was the mechanism that formed them.

Erratics

As the waters of the Lake Missoula floods raced across the landscape they scooped up dirt, clay, mud, gravel, topsoil– and boulders. All of this material was deposited downstream in huge piles, and many of the boulders were simply dropped at points along the way. Such boulders are called “erratics” because they originated far from where they were found. Erratics can be found throughout the region. Some erratics may have been carried on or within icebergs that flowed downstream with the rushing waters.

Flood Bars

The waters of the Missoula Floods pushed huge amounts of soil, rock, and other material south and west. Some of this material was pushed as far south as the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Regions where the material was dumped by the floodwaters are known as “flood bars,” and they can be found throughout the region.

Further information

The Missoula Floods have been thoroughly studied and documented, and research on the geological history of this region continues. The Ice Age Floods Institute’s web site at https://iafi.org/ is an excellent resource for further background information. The Institute’s web site includes links to many other sources of information about the ice age floods. Be sure to view the interactive map, as it is annotated with dozens of detailed notes about the Missoula Floods.

Conclusion

The story of the flood in the bible is a ridiculous story. It would have been impossible for the atmosphere to hold any significant percentage of the six mile depth of water that supposedly covered the earth– unless the temperature of the atmosphere were raised to ??? degrees. I seriously doubt that even the most strident of creationists would expect us to believe that.

The mechanism that creationists would have us believe by which the floodwaters carved out the Grand Canyon is every bit as ridiculous. It doesn’t account for the fact there would have been nothing to distinguish the geology of northern Arizona at the time from that of Dallas. Why didn’t the waters of the flood carve a grand canyon near Dallas? Because the flood story in the bible is a fairy tale, not an historical narrative.

The Grand Canyon is a river erosion geology, not a flood geology. The Channeled Scablands of Washington State are the best example of a true flood geology to be found anywhere in the world– but floods of this dimension undoubtedly happened elsewhere at the end of the last ice age. As the ice age glaciers melted it would have been natural for lakes to form at the southern boundaries of the glaciers. It would certainly have been possible for ice dams that held back the waters of such lakes to collapse, just as did the dam of Lake Missoula. And that could mean that there are other as of yet unrecognized flood geologies that have a history similar to that of the Channeled Scablands just waiting to be discovered.

Copyright (c) 2022 by David S. Moore

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