The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood

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Overview

How the mystery of the Bible's greatest story shaped geology: a MacArthur Fellow presents a surprising perspective on Noah's Flood.
In Tibet, geologist David R. Montgomery heard a local story about a great flood that bore a striking similarity to Noah’s Flood. Intrigued, Montgomery began investigating the world’s flood stories and—drawing from historic works by theologians, natural philosophers, and scientists—discovered the counterintuitive role Noah’s Flood played in the ...

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The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood

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Overview

How the mystery of the Bible's greatest story shaped geology: a MacArthur Fellow presents a surprising perspective on Noah's Flood.
In Tibet, geologist David R. Montgomery heard a local story about a great flood that bore a striking similarity to Noah’s Flood. Intrigued, Montgomery began investigating the world’s flood stories and—drawing from historic works by theologians, natural philosophers, and scientists—discovered the counterintuitive role Noah’s Flood played in the development of both geology and creationism. Steno, the grandfather of geology, even invoked the Flood in laying geology’s founding principles based on his observations of northern Italian landscapes. Centuries later, the founders of modern creationism based their irrational view of a global flood on a perceptive critique of geology. With an explorer’s eye and a refreshing approach to both faith and science, Montgomery takes readers on a journey across landscapes and cultures. In the process we discover the illusive nature of truth, whether viewed through the lens of science or religion, and how it changed through history and continues changing, even today.

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Editorial Reviews

Daily Beast
“An excellent example of how a serious, even sympathetic, engagement with religion need not threaten reason or compromise scientific integrity.”
American Scientist
“The Rocks Don’t Lie traces the history of the field of geology through the thinking that progressively debunked the great-flood myth and left behind, temporarily, what would be resurrected 150 years later as Creationism. . . . The Rocks Don’t Lie intertwines geologic history and the author’s own field trips in an engrossing way. . . . Montgomery also shows flashes of considerable wit. . . . That’s just a taste of what’s in store for readers of this delightful volume. I came away far more enriched than I had expected to be.”
Wall Street Journal
““[Montgomery’s] arguments are spirited and compelling, but his most novel conceit is to frame this intellectual history of geology by giving special attention to Noah’s Flood.”
New Scientist
“We can only hope that [Montgomery’s] book will be received with the same open-mindedness with which it was written.”— Martin Rudwick
Scientific American
“Thought-provoking.”
Seattle Times
“Fascinating, exquisitely researched and comprehensive.”
Martin Rudwick - New Scientist
“We can only hope that [Montgomery’s] book will be received with the same open-mindedness with which it was written.”
New Scientist - Martin Rudwick
“We can only hope that [Montgomery’s] book will be received with the same open-mindedness with which it was written.”
Publishers Weekly
Many theologians and scientists within the Christian tradition have long interpreted the biblical story of Noah’s flood as a worldwide event and a foundation for determining the geological age of the earth. In this rich, animated narrative, geologist Montgomery points out that theologians have often bent an amazing array of geological evidence to support a literal interpretation of Noah’s flood. But what does the Earth itself tell us? Using the evidence he finds in the various strata of rocks in a roadbed in Kentucky, Montgomery contends that the “440 million-year-old, trilobite-bearing limestone” is clearly not a chaotic, mixed-up product of an earth-churning flood. The rocks formed when an ancient “proto-Atlantic Ocean” led to the formation of a thick pile of sediment that gradually accumulated layer by later—stretching from Newfoundland to Alabama. Moreover, plate tectonics shatters the myth of a global flood by explaining the sequences, ages, and assemblages of rocks we find throughout the world, as well as the global distribution of topography. Brilliant and provocative, Montgomery’s exploration of scientific and theological understandings of Noah’s flood vibrantly opens our eyes to the marvels of ancient rocks that are far grander than ourselves. 20 illus., maps. Agent: Elizabeth Wales, Wales Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Ray Olson - Booklist
“Starred review. Though Montgomery obviously knows his science, he also knows how to write, so this isn't just history of science. It's literature.”
Booklist
“Starred review. Though Montgomery obviously knows his science, he also knows how to write, so this isn't just history of science. It's literature.”— Ray Olson
Library Journal
Many recent books have sought to reconcile (or tear apart) the relationship between religion and science, usually written by scientists or Christian leaders. Usually, the scientists depricate religious views as myths and fairy tales, while the religious writers bash opponents as godless manipulators of the evidence. Montgomery (geomorphology, Univ. of Washington; Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations) offers a thorough critique of creationist worldviews (including Noah's flood) while treating his opponents with respect, reflecting on both ancient and modern debates and demonstrating that Christians have been arguing among themselves about these subjects for millennia. He admits that geologists have often stifled dissent and stubbornly rejected the idea that massive floods could have ever occurred, discounting such ideas as myths though there have, in fact, been many throughout human history. These catastrophic events likely inspired the famous stories of floods found around the globe, Montgomery concedes. VERDICT The combination of historical study and humility on behalf of geology makes for an extremely persuasive work. Highly recommended.—John M. Kistler, Washington, PA
Kirkus Reviews
Geology and history bring the relationship between science and religion into focus. For MacArthur Fellow Montgomery (Geomorphology/Univ. of Washington; Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, 2007, etc.), the science of geology provides a way to understand the relation between the Bible and the conception of nature coherent with modern science. "No other story," he writes, "has had as profound an influence on geology as that of Noah's Flood." Further, theologians have always manipulated geologic records to support literal interpretations of scripture. The author presents his view that "geologic time" provides a frame for "an entirely new creation story," which remains unfinished and ongoing, and he advocates the rebuilding of cooperation between science and faith. Examining a wide variety of flood and creation stories across centuries, Montgomery provides an enthusiastic and valuable recounting of the history of geology and how the advances in science have consistently faced opposition from the guardians of so-called religious authority, based on a literal reading of the Bible. The immense chronological spans and what is now known about the origins of the Earth and universe provoke the bitter opposition of the creationists. Montgomery insists that faith and science "can peacefully coexist," and his extensive documentation shows that the revival of creationism, as it exists today, has nothing to do with either science or faith. A forceful rallying cry for people of goodwill to join together to develop an alternative to the dangerous irrationalism that afflicts so many Americans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393346244
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/22/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 218,966
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David R. Montgomery is a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington in
Seattle, where he lives. The author of Dirt and King of Fish, he was a 2008 MacArthur Fellow.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Buddha's Dam l

Discovering evidence for an immense Tibetan flood shows the author that folktales can have an element of truth.

2 A Grand Canyon 15

A hike out of the deepest hole in North America reveals Earth's antiquity and fundamental problems with the creationist view of earth history.

3 Bones in the Mountains 31

Early Christians see evidence for Noah's Flood in fossils and rocks.

4 World in Ruins 53

Seventeenth-century savants lay the foundation for modern geology through imaginative theories of how God triggered the Flood.

5 A Mammoth Problem 79

Recognition of fossils as the bones of extinct animals invalidates grand Flood theories.

6 The Test of Time 93

An eighteenth-century Scottish farmer discovers geologic time and Christians reinterpret Genesis to accommodate an ancient world.

7 Catastrophic Revelations 115

Nineteenth-century geologists refute the idea of a global flood as the most recent of a series of world-shattering catastrophes.

8 Fragmented Stories 143

An introverted Englishman zealously reassembles cuneiform puzzles, proving that the biblical flood story is a Babylonian hand-me-down.

9 Recycled Tales 161

Scholars uncover the evolution of the Bible as anthropologists probe the roots of flood stories around the world.

10 Dinosaurs in Paradise 179

A trip to the Creation Museum sheds light on the twentieth-century resurrection of creationism.

11 The Heretic's Flood 201

A geologist rediscovers grand catastrophes and creationists refuse to believe geologists have discovered Noah's Flood.

12 Phantom Deluge 225

Modern creationists recycle seventeenth-century ideas to explain geological problems and miss the plate tectonics revolution.

13 The Nature of Faith 247

The greatest story never told-the way we read earth history shapes how we see the world.

Notes 259

Sources 265

Acknowledgments 277

Index 281

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A Provocative Consideration of Noah's Flood

    Montgomery weaves his personal experience, the history of geology, biblical interpretation, and the interaction of science and Christian faith into a provocative and illuminating consideration of the Noah’s Flood narrative and its interpretation. He counters current Creationist claims in a balanced and respectful manner and highlights how questions from the Church spurred on geology and how geology spurred on theology and biblical interpretation. His consideration of flood legends across the globe with respect to geological events possibly related to the legends points to a multifaceted, informed understanding of human collective memory, culture, and understanding (including scientific understanding). This book is wonderfully written, though a bit redundant, and is readily accessible with little geologic, historical, and biblical background necessary. For those adept in these areas, the book is a nice review of the basics and certainly easily informs one on the less familiar areas. I highly recommend the book for those interested in the Creationist view, historical geology, the interaction of faith and science, the history of science, and flood legends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Montgomery tells how various individuals and cultures attempted

    Montgomery tells how various individuals and cultures attempted to explain Noah's flood, and along the way discovered the science of geology. He also explores the flood stories told by many cultures and offers explanations that involve local flood events, which are very likely, as opposed to a global flood which lacks evidence. The narrative flows well, making for a quick enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    Great

    Thiss was a great book. I enjoyed it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    Hello - not released yet.

    Please note publication date: 8/27/2012.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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