It goes without saying that the title for Wednesday’s Daily (pseudo)Science Update is a bit of an exaggeration: Dead Sea Sediment Core Confirms Genesis.
The last time that style of title was used it was for Genetics Analysis of Jews Confirms Genesis, in which we were told that a genetic study showed that Jews had interbred to some degree with sub-Saharan Africans – which of course proves that one of the sons of Jacob married an Egyptian as reported in the bible, that Moses married an Ethiopian, and that Science has Confirmed Genesis.
The dead sea is a highly saline body of water located in the Middle East. It’s so saline that it was apparently previously believed that it could not shrink more than 150 metres below its present depth, a maximum of 377 metres.
However, a sediment core turned up, 235 metres down (corresponding to 120,000 years ago, I might add), a layer of pebbles probably corresponding to a time when that part of the lake was the shore, showing that at the time the lake all-but dried up.
How does this confirm Genesis? It’s a bit of a stretch, as you might expect. First, remember that the YECs compress the remaining thousands/millions of years after the sediments deposited by the Flood into the period of roughly 2500 BCE to 1 CE. They believe that the Flood caused an ice age, which produced the features we attribute to the various glaciations of the present ice age, but really fast. For some context, the Dead Sea (or whatever was there at the time) went up with the glaciations, and down with the warmer interglaciations – the drying that caused the pebble layer would have been particularly severe.
According to the Bible, in around 2000 B.C. what is now the Dead Sea used to be a plain that probably served as farmland for people of the nearby debauched city of Sodom. Genesis 14 first named the valley during the time of Abraham (then called Abram) as “the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.” So, the area was apparently a vale, or valley, but had been relabeled “the salt sea” by the time the original writings were edited and compiled, probably by Moses some 400 years after Abraham.
Which, aside from anything else, is a nice admittance of the bible not quite being the ‘unchanging word of God.’
There are a few problems here. For one, around 25 thousand years ago the area was flooded by a ‘Lake Lisan’ to the extent that it filled the whole area all the way up to the Sea of Gallile. It’s a little odd that that was never mentioned in the bible, isn’t it? It would change a lot. For more information on the ‘limnological history’ of the Dead Sea try this pdf, from which I’ve stolen the map at right (you can’t read it? Click the link). Again, you’d think somebody would’ve noticed.
Additionally, the Science NOW article being used as a reference for all this mentions that:
Most of the core is a series of black and white layers of sediment, representing seasonal variations. Dark sediments containing mud and silt from winter floods alternate with summertime sediment rich with white calcium carbonate precipitated from a seasonally shrinking lake. “It’s an absolutely phenomenal record,” Goldstein said. Overprinted on those finely detailed, seasonal layers in the core is a similar but larger-scale variation between wetter ice ages and drier interglacial warm periods. “Salt represents the Dead Sea declining and precipitating out the salt, which wasn’t happening during the ice ages,” Goldstein said.
Woah there! Varves? If they make up ‘most’ of the core, and the core was a full kilometre long, then there is probably a few more than, oh, 6000 of them? If so, how would Mr Thomas explain them?
Finally, for all this talk of “a plain that probably served as farmland for people of the nearby debauched city of Sodom,” the layer of pebbles is on top of a layer of salt, forty metres thick! Could be difficult to farm there…
So, does it ‘confirm Genesis’? No. Frankly, it does a better job of contradicting the YEC story.