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The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood
The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood
David R. Montgomery
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012
320 pp., $26.95

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Science in Focus: Rodney L. Stiling


The Rocks Don't Lie, Part 2

Strong on earth science; weaker on history.

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The career of Flood Geology, since the late 19th century, stands as an essentially American story, and Montgomery retells it reasonably well. Absent from his story, however, is the critical American geological preface to all this in the significant work of American geologists Benjamin Silliman, Edward Hitchcock, James Dwight Dana, and others, who, while devout and sincere Christians, had already successfully worked out systems for understanding the earth as unspeakably ancient and the Genesis Flood as limited and regional, while still affirming the truth of the Bible. The loss of this view later in the century represents a serious episode for thinking people to consider, especially in view of the important work of John William Dawson, Arnold Guyot, and George Frederick Wright later in the century in integrating modern theoretical geology with adaptive interpretations of the Bible. These latter players are also missing from the narrative.

The worthy and valuable service that Montgomery performs here is one of orientation and overview, most especially for "general audience" readers (his stated target) new to these discussions. His volume stands thus both as a précis of the issues and as an introduction to the vast literature on this subject. Montgomery does invite his readers (via the "Sources" at the back) to the larger corpus, and interested readers should next move directly to the substantial work of Ronald L. Numbers, Davis A. Young, Martin J. S. Rudwick, Nicolaas A. Rupke, Janet Browne, and Charles Coulston Gillispie, for openers. (Sadly, these last three important scholars do not appear in the list.)

A "fresh approach," as promised on the dust-jacket? Perhaps. Here stands a highly accomplished geoscientist situated at a state university who is taking seriously the intellectual history of an interesting (if bizarre) claim about the very history and material constitution of the physical earth. And he does so in a genial, chatty (almost jaunty), and casual tone (lots of contractions, first-person recollections, witty turns of phrase)—almost as if he would actually like to keep the faith-and-science conversation going. Now that would indeed be fresh. And most heartily welcome.

Rodney L. Stiling teaches history of science at Seattle Pacific University.

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