# Creationist astronomer calculates age of the Flood from Utah arch collapse

This article, How Long Have Arches Been Around?, by Dr. Danny Faulkner, describes creationist “research” into geomorphology. It is laughably bad, even for creationists. Natural arches and bridges are aesthetically interesting, but are only a tiny part of some geomorphology studies.

In this piece, Dr. Faulkner* extrapolates backward to “show” that arches in Arches National Park, Utah, have formed since Noah’s Flood, about 4,500 years ago. He claims this timeframe because of

• Biblical literalism. Employees of Answers in Genesis must sign a Statement of Faith that posits that the earth and universe are 6,000 years old, and that most geology is a result of Noah’s Flood, approximately 4,500 years ago.
• An exponential rate of arch collapse. Faulkner states he doesn’t use a linear decline in numbers of arches because no arches would remain after 4,500 years. No consideration is given to the possibility of much longer time scales, or changes in climate and erosion rates. Change in regional climates over time is ignored, possibly because the young earth creationists at AIG cram the nearly 2 million years of Pleistocene glacial maxima into a single ice age of only 200 years after the Flood.

Conveniently, AiG uses this denial of the Pleistocene to also ignore evidence for past climate changes and the evidence scientists use to support anthropogenic climate change in the present. Faulkner has invented his model by assuming that an exponential model is the best for arch collapse, and then he fits things assuming the rate is 43 arches in 29 years.

However, his scholarship is abysmally shoddy. Conceivably, it would be possible to make a plot of cumulative arches lost vs. time. This would be a more accurate method for modeling. However, Faulkner just assumes the loss rate was constant (a cumulative arches-vs.-time chart would show the accuracy of that assumption).

He also seems to assume that the collapse of arches in Utah is related solely to the minerals cementing the sandstone that the arches are formed from. He doesn’t document any effort to examine records to see if any collapses were associated with long term climate changes, intense storms, seismic events, vandalism, and innumerable other possible causes.

Faulkner also assumes a uniform rate of arch formation. He then uses his model and that assumption to show that, in his view, there would have been an implausible number of arches if the Earth were as old as earth scientists claim.

All his equations are a smoke screen, an appeal to look like scientific research when religious apologetics is what is actually being presented. In short, this is a parody of how science is actually done. The 4,500 year time frame and the Flood are required by AIG’s peculiar version of a “Biblical Worldview,” which is more than a bit of a science stopper and a weird excuse to start with creationist conclusions and work backwards.

Dr. Faulkner oddly discusses Kentucky arches in Red River Gorge in addition to Arches National Park, but cannot do a similar calculation for the Kentucky arches, as arch collapse here in Kentucky has not been documented. The reported observations in Kentucky are another smoke screen in the article, basically a non sequitur. The discovery/documentation rate of arches in Kentucky has no bearing on their rate of formation or collapse (and the same holds for Utah).

Dr. Faulkner’s apparent assumption of the evolution of arches from formation to collapse is naive. Surely, the height, span, and dimensions of the suspended material are factors to consider. Not all arches are formed in the same fashion: some are formed by wind or water erosion; some by collapse. Not all arches are in the same topographic position: some are isolated and exposed on points; some are parallel to cliff faces. The relationship to and importance of natural fracturing differs among arches. If Dr. Faulkner considered these factors, he didn’t document his efforts. Our assumption is that he was unaware of these complications or deliberately chose to ignore them (and didn’t document why he did so).

The nonscientific method used by Answers in Genesis “researchers” results in the publication of materials that don’t reflect reality very well; yet AiG’s conclusions are held by millions of our fellow citizens. Faulkner’s piece is a dazzle-them-with-sciency-sounding-stuff faux research that confirms AIG and their audience’s preexisting biases. The public deserves better. It should be part of our job as earth scientists to do a better job of explaining science to the public

*Faulkner’s Ph.D. is in astronomy; he works as a researcher for Answers in Genesis. He has some family ties to the region and occasionally has led paid AIG creationist hiking tours of Red River Gorge and its arches.

Appendix. If you are interested in Kentucky geology, here and here are field guides to the Red River Gorge area written by geologists (and you can use these guidebooks to visit the public sites for free!). The Kentucky Geological Survey has a project and map service dedicated to Kentucky arches for the hiking public. (Arches on private land are generally excluded from this database.)