HOW A TRIP TO THE PETRIFIED FOREST NATIONAL PARK
PROVES THE BIBLICAL MODEL OF THE WORLD IS ALL WRONG.
The Petrified Forest National Park (https://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm) is located in Northeastern Arizona accessible off of Interstate 40 just east of the town of Holbrook. The Park encompasses 230 square miles of unsurpassed desert beauty along with showcasing over 200 million years of earth’s history.
There are three main features of the Park. Each, in its own way, is proof that natural history repudiates biblical ‘history’.
From the I-40 entrance, the first feature you come across is the Painted Desert.
Picture credit (above):en.wikipedia.com
The intense red soil color, locally known as the Chinle Formation, comes from sedimentary deposits that are rich in iron (hematite) and manganese (see graph below). The light gray bands were laid down by repeated episodes of volcanic activity in the region.
The entire area, known as the Colorado Plateau, which extends from the Grand Canyon to the Utah Canyonlands were created beginning about 5 million years when a massive uplift raised this area between 4,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation. Glaciers, rain and snowmelt quickly cut deep river beds in the highly erodible soil. The main drainage basin is the Colorado River.
The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are on the southwestern edge of this uplifted area.
Picture credit: livescience.com
For you geology geeks, here is a cross-cut stratigraphy of the Petrified Forest area:
Picture credit: nationalparkstraveler.org
What, you might be asking, does any of this have to do with the Bible?
The Bible would have us believe that God created the Earth roughly 6,000 years ago and the only major alteration to our planet since then was the Great Flood of Noah. *Author’s Note – the Bible doesn’t specifically state the Earth is 6,000 years old (or any age for that matter). That approximate number was calculated by numerous theologians during the Christian era, but most famously by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (Ireland), who in 1650, used a literal translation of the Bible to estimate that Creation took place on Oct, 23, 4004 BCE. The Church has vigorously and staunchly defended this chronology for a millennia or more.
In rebuttal, I suggest the reader start by checking the dates of the rocks of the Chinle Formation in the graph above – 201 to 228 million years old. This by itself completely shatters the notion of a “Young Earth”.
I also couldn’t help but wonder why, if God created the Painted Desert, he painted this desert and not most deserts, especially those deserts that were obviously most important to God, such as the Negev (near Jerusalem) or the Arabian Desert (around Mecca). Both of these places are considered among the holiest places on Earth.
Negev Desert Arabian Desert
Those deserts are boring! No color, no paint. Just sand and gravel. Yet, these deserts are near the places where God supposedly spoke to Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. Why not spiff them up too? If any desert deserved to be made special by “painting” it, it was the Negev and the Arabian. Meanwhile, at the same time, there were people living in the Painted Desert. But they did not worship the One God of the Bible, in fact, they had no idea who He was and they still got the prettiest desert.
The second major feature of the Petrified Forest National Park are the ruins of Pueblo Culture dwellings and ceremonial centers (kivas) at Puerco Pueblo. These ruins are dated to 1250-1380 CE. Archeological evidence indicates that the area at that time was much more moist and verdant with streams that ran through the valleys. Petroglyphs left by those Native Americans show symbols of shorebirds fishing for fish and frogs. Today, the Petrified Forest Park receives less than 11 inches of rain a year on average and the only running steams are when sudden downpours create temporary “gulley washes”.
But the Pueblo culture, also referred to as the Anasazi, dates back to at least 100 CE and is believed to be closely related to the earliest known American culture, the Clovis culture. The Clovis culture is most readily identified by the development of advanced stone tools, in particular, distinctive arrowheads known as Clovis points. Clovis points have been found in 1500 different locations around the U.S. with the oldest dated 13,500 years ago in New Mexico and Texas, then, within a few centuries, the points show up in diverse places from Florida to Pennsylvania (Smithsonian.com).
Picture credit: insider.si.edu
What’s the ‘point’ you ask? Here was a relatively advanced established culture, living half-way around the planet from the Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization, 9,000 years before the Biblical ‘Garden of Eden’ and the supposed first humans on Earth. How do we square the Clovis people with Adam and Eve? How did they survive the Noahan Flood?
The simple answer is the Bible was not, and could not, have been written by God. The Creator of the Universe would have known better. He would have told us that He didn’t create the first man out of mud 6,000 years ago. And that the story of Adam and Eve is quaint but false. He would have told us, with much greater accuracy, how old the Earth was, and the Universe too for that matter. He would have explained that over the billions of years of Earth’s history there had been tens of millions of different species of life and that 99% of all life He created has since become extinct. (God is Pro-Death!).
No, God didn’t write or divinely interpret the Bible. Impossible. The only author capable of producing such a flawed, contradictory, factually inaccurate piece of (mostly) fiction, are humans.
The third major feature of the Petrified Forest National Park are the Petrified Forests. There are actually fossilized remains of several ‘forested’ areas, most are many miles apart: the Blue Forest, the Jasper Forest, the Crystal Forest and the Rainbow Forest. The petrified trees that now lay broken and littered all through the southern end of the park have been age-dated to 200-225 million years ago. Once again, a date way off the Biblical charts.
But that’s not all. The most common tree found in the park is Araucarioxylon arizonicum, a coniferous tree found in low lying, swampy, tropical areas of the Triassic period that grew upwards of 9’ in diameter and 200 feet tall. Yes, I said tropical. At the time these trees lived, Arizona was a tropical region, perhaps 10-12 degrees above the equator. Due to continental drift and plate tectonics, the crustal plate carrying Arizona has drifted in a general northwesterly direction (a few millimeters a year on average) over those 200 million years to its current latitude, at the Park, of 35 degrees.
Illustration credit: www2.palomar.edu
The Bible says nothing of plate tectonics. It implies a static Earth, one that doesn’t move, change or rotate. With the exception of the Great Flood and an occasional earthquake or volcanic eruption, the Biblical Earth is supposed to look, more or less, exactly the way God made it 6,000 years ago. It should not be possible then for dry, deserty, high altitude (ave. 5400’ above sea level) Arizona to have ever been a low-lying, swampy tropical forest, should it? But the facts on the ground and in the soil say otherwise.
There was no way for the human authors of the Bible to know any of this. To them, and their people, the mysteries, unknowns and unexplainables of Earth and life on Earth could only have represented the work of God. There was no other explanation. And that explanation has sufficed for thousands of years and become ingrained in the human psyche.
Modern science has produced a new model of our Earth. One that completely contradicts the Ancient/Religious/Biblical model. To best understand the Scientific Model, one needs to be literate, reasonably educated and to have skills of independent thinking that allow this new model to at least be possible. Sadly, most people still lack one or more of these skills or are afflicted with apathy or sloth. For them, it’s just so much easier and requires much less brain power to simply say God did it.
To accept the Scientific Model of the World also threatens the sanctity of Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology. As Sam Harris, author/neurosurgeon/atheist, so succinctly put it in his book “Letter to a Christian Nation”: “Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals or it isn’t. Either Christ was divine, or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the basic doctrine of Christianity (and Judaism and Islam – my addition) is false. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the history of Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion.” “The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn’t.”
It can’t be both. I highly recommend a visit to the Petrified Forest National Park. While you’re standing amidst 200 million year old fossilized trees, archeological remains from ancient civilizations and surrounded by the awe-inspiring vistas of the Painted Desert; try to reckon with yourself, Is the Bible the word of God or isn’t it?