Were the Huge Columbia River Basalts Formed in the Flood?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
Often skeptics of creation/flood/young earth thinking scoffingly claim that no evidence for the Flood exists. Even though most geologists have abandoned old-style uniformity in favor of a grudging acceptance of major catastrophism, they still deny the global, year-long, cataclysm of Noah's day described in Scripture. I like to ask them, "What sort of evidence would you be prepared to accept? Obviously, we can't observe that past event, but if such a world-restructuring flood occurred, what would you expect to result from it?" For most skeptics, no evidence would persuade them. Their rejection of the Noahic Flood, as an outworking of God's holy wrath on sinful men, is for philosophical reasons—"religious" reasons, irrespective of scientific evidence.
When considering non-repeatable events of the past, we are limited to scientific "predictions," not predictions of the future, but predictions of the evidence. Reasoning from the Scriptural record, I "predict" that when we examine the geologic results of the Flood, we will see that the geologic strata were deposited by catastrophic processes, operating on a regional scale. These large-scale results would dominate the rock record. My uniformitarian colleagues would predict the record would be dominated by the rather slow and gradual geologic processes possible today, operating on a local scale. Once both sides have made their predictions, the evidence can be evaluated as to which one is the better fit. That one is more likely correct.
Consider the Columbia River Basalt Group of lava flows in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. This series of lava flows was stacked one on top of another in rapid succession and covers an area of some 65,000 square miles and with a volume of about 40,000 cubic miles. This dwarfs the largest historic lava flow, which occurred in Iceland in 1783, and covered an area of about 200 square miles with a volume of less than 3 cubic miles. One can scarcely envision such eruptions, producing a veritable "lake of lava" thousands of times larger than anything witnessed by modern men. The molten material flowed from several locations along linear cracks in the earth's surface, but even this deposit is dwarfed by other much larger basalt deposits which have been recognized.
Occurring in layers stratigraphically below the Columbia River Basalts are thick layers of water-deposited, fossil-bearing, sedimentary rock, obviously deposited by the Flood itself. Thus, Flood advocates interpret these mega-eruptions of basalt as probably occurring during the very last stages of the Flood or in the years of readjustment to follow, as Earth's systems regained the relative equilibrium in which we now find them. Surely this was a fearful time.
Obviously such large-scale volcanism does not match uniformitarian predictions regarding the past. Yet it does match the creation/flood/young earth prediction of catastrophic processes operating on a regional scale during and immediately following the Flood. While neither side can directly observe the past, the Biblical, "Back to Genesis" model is the one that predicts the evidence, and, is thus, from a scientific perspective more likely correct.
Cite this article: Morris, J. 2004. Were the Huge Columbia River Basalts Formed in the Flood? Acts & Facts. 33 (5).