©2002  by Gerard Wakefield
(This article may be copied for educational purposes only.)

"Evolutionary Assumptions Negated by Mount St. Helens"

One of the bedrock assumptions of the theory of evolution is that Earth’s history entails an extremely slow development over long periods of time. Evolutionists believe that, once the earliest life forms appeared on the planet, it took eons of time for the entire world to be populated by animals. It is this assumption that forms one of the most frequent arguments critics make against the Genesis flood story: if a great flood had completely destroyed life on earth and left the surface of the planet devastated, it would have taken many thousands of years for the animals that emerged from the ark to spread out, multiply, and repopulate the desolate planet.

Scientists studying the aftermath of the Mt. St. Helens eruption have found that this assumption is fundamentally incorrect. In the twenty years since the volcano in Washington state erupted, Creation scientists have used the blast area as a test case for the veracity of the Genesis account of the flood, discovering that our planet’s various geological formations could easily have been formed as a result of rapid, catastrophic flooding rather than from millennia-long, gradual processes, as evolutionists claim. Now, old-earth evolutionists have finally begun to catch up to Bible-believing scientists and are discovering that their basic belief in long-term, gradual processes of nature is wrong.

The May 2000 issue of National Geographic featured an article on this change of heart, referring to the Mt. St. Helens aftermath as "a crucible of creation" (Findley 112). The article, entitled "Nature on Fast Forward," noted that the rapid recovery of plant and animal life in the blast area "is a miniature fast-forward version of what happened over vast time frames of our planet’s infancy, from primordial soup to the first wind-borne seeds" (Ibid.). Despite the blatant old-earth bias exhibited in that statement, the article continued to report how surprised scientists were at the rapid recovery of the blast area:

‘All of us were surprised at the rate at which this landscape was colonized again,’ says ecologist David Wood. ‘We were thinking, Gosh, how long is it going to be before anything comes back here?’ Within just a few years scientists found flora and fauna pioneering in the niches created by the eruption’s various geologic disturbances (Ibid. 114 [italics original]). The Mt. St. Helens explosion not only demonstrated the scientific plausibility of an extremely rapid post-flood recovery of plants and animals, but of a catastrophic formation of geological features as well. The article quoted monument scientist Peter Franzen, who commented on the fact that Loowit Falls reshaped the north slope of the volcano into a canyon with surprising rapidity: "You’d expect a hardrock canyon to be thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years old. But this was cut in less than a decade" (Ibid. 121). The article also noted that, because of the eruption, "new lakes in the upper Toutle [River] watershed [were] created by deposits of mudflow debris across side canyons" (Ibid. 124).

The New York Times also took a candid look at how the Mt. St. Helens blast has shattered old-earth evolutionary assumptions. The article noted that the eruption has

radically changed the way that biologists look at the creation and recovery of natural landscapes.

In 1980, researchers say it was dogma among ecologists that nature creates and recreates ecosystems in an orderly fashion with predictable parades of species rolling in: the early pioneering species first, which alter the environment, making possible the arrival of the second wave of species and so on, until the final array of plants and animals is in place.

By providing the perfect laboratory to test such ideas — more than 200 square miles of newly devastated terrain — Mount St. Helens has turned that theory upside down. Biologists have discovered instead the unpredictability of recolonization and the pivotal importance of chance in the rebuilding of biological communities.

‘We knew very clearly what was going to happen afterward,’ said Dr. Jerry F. Franklin, a forest ecologist at the University of Washington, ‘and we were very clearly wrong’ (Yoon D5).

Agreeing with National Geographic that the blast area "is unrivaled as a model for ecosystem recovery" (Ibid.), the Times went on to report just how wrong scientists had been all along to presume a certain model for the re-population of a post-catastrophic environment: According to the neat logic of ecological theory, mosses and lichens, able to survive the harshest conditions, should have been the first to take hold in these ruined places. Then wildflowers and other herbs should have come in, followed by deciduous trees and finally conifers like the firs and hemlocks. And recolonization should have rolled inward from the edges where life remained unharmed to the core of the devastation.

Instead, what created the new landscape was not this set of rules but the organisms that were lucky enough to survive the blast (Ibid.).

The previously-mentioned Dr. Franklin was quite candid in admitting how wrong his assumptions had been. He even used a Biblical reference in his confession of bad evolutionary science: St. Helens was the epiphany where finally the scales fell from our eyes and we said, ‘Oh my gosh, we haven’t been thinking clearly. The most important things we need to think about are the legacies left in the landscape. The richness of the legacy of organisms that was there, the rapidity with which recovery occurred and the incredible diversity of ways in which organisms were able to survive — it just astounded us (Ibid.). What Creation scientists have known all along is finally beginning to dawn on their evolutionist counterparts: pre-determined old-earth assumptions are not substantiated by the scientific evidence. Rather, the objective, observable facts demonstrate that the Biblical model for catastrophism and natural recovery is more scientifically plausible, while the Darwinian assumption of necessary eons of time is based on no evidence at all.


Findley, Rowe, "Mt. St. Helens: Nature on Fast Forward," National Geographic 197, no. 5 (2000).

Yoon, Carol Kaesuk, "As Mt. St. Helens Recovers, Old Wisdom Crumbles," New York Times, 16 May 2000.

Investigating Genesis - Main Page