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Ancient extinction: Climate change or Noah’s flood?

NASHVILLE (BP) — Research published in the journal Science ties an ancient mass extinction to global warming and predicts a similar doomsday scenario for modern humans if they don’t curb climate change. But an evangelical paleontologist says the data researchers examined actually evidences Noah’s flood.

There was an ancient mass extinction, said Kurt Wise, a paleontologist who teaches at Truett McConnell University in Cleveland, Ga. “But it was not only millions of times worse and quicker than [secular researchers] have modeled, it was an event God promised never to repeat.” The fossil records under consideration “do not in any way carry a warning about global warming, but they do carry a warning about forgetting God.”

Researchers at the University of Washington and Stanford University used a computer model in an attempt to establish the cause of a mass extinction indicated in the fossil record and dated by secular scientists at some 252 million years ago. The computer model hypothesized that volcanic eruptions flooded the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, which trapped heat and consequently warmed the oceans. Warmer oceans meant less oxygen in the water, and many species went extinct as a result, according to a Dec. 7 article in Science.

Analysis of an online database of fossils allegedly confirmed the computer model, wrote authors Justin Penn, Curtis Deutsch, Jonathan Payne and Erik Sperling.

The computer model also suggested doom in humanity’s future, the researchers wrote, if climate change continues at its present rate.

“Predicted patterns of future ocean O2 loss under climate change are broadly similar to those simulated here,” they wrote. “… These projections highlight the potential for a future mass extinction arising from the depletion of the ocean’s aerobic capacity that is already under way.”

Wise, however, said the fossil layer dated by the Science authors at 252 million years ago actually was “laid down across this planet in a few days about 4,500 years ago during the flood in the days of Noah,” described in Genesis 6-9.

The flood first “wiped out most of the species of the pre-flood seas,” Wise told Baptist Press in written comments, then began “burying animals on the land.” At the same time, “huge outpourings of lava were warming the waters of the flood.”

Amid such events, “radiometric decay was occurring millions of times faster than it’s occurring today,” said Wise, a Harvard-trained paleontologist. Radiometric decay is the process by which radioactive isotopes lose energy in geologic and archaeological materials. Scientists attempt to date specimens by determining the proportions within them of radioactive isotopes and the products of their decay, then comparing that with the known rate of decay.

Because scientists without a Christian worldview assume radiometric decay always has occurred at the same rate, Wise said, their use of radiometric dating wrongly concludes sediments from Noah’s time “were laid down a quarter billion years ago, over the course of millions of years.”

Wise agreed with the Science authors that life was “snuffed out” and global warming occurred in the process. But humans should not worry about such global warming repeating, he said.

“The rainbow reminds us of God’s promise never again to destroy the world with a flood,” Wise said. “However, it is also a reminder that God judges sin, and He will again destroy the world because of human sin — although this time He will destroy it by fire.”