Creation Scientist Compares Divine Miracles to Gallagher Routine.

A long time ago, I read a brief passage somewhere that I can’t remember, about a nineteenth century creation scientist whose name I can’t recall. I’ve wanted to find information about him again for years, but he’s hard to google for reasons I will make clear. Tell me, can any of you recall hearing about this man:

This forgotten creation scientist was searching for proof of the great flood. As best I recall, he had proposed a theory involving most of the Earth’s water being suspended in the upper atmosphere until a meteorological chain reaction caused it to all precipitate in short order.

He was criticised by fellow creationists for insisting that there had to be a scientific explanation for everything in the bible, rather than simply allowing Yaweh to have initiated the deluge at his discretion. The creation scientist answered with a colorful story, which I shall attempt to reproduce:

The problem when trying to google for information that might lead to this guy is that everybody used clockmakers as metaphors for God when arguing philosohphy, and crackpot theories about the flood are a dime a dozen. Usually I just get links to arguments about dualism vs. reductionism or essays about the evolution ‘controversy’.

I am fascinated by the tale of this divided man who apparently insisted on dedicating himself to an impossible task; and I think some of his points could be used in a rational argument for the compatibility of evolution with the existence of a god, without having to resort to that ‘intelligent design’ crap, which could have interesting results against a contemporary creationist.

Creationist: “Life could never arrise from random chemical reactions; the odds are ridiculously low.”
Creationist Debater: “Are you saying God’s not smart enough to figure out a way to make it work?”

Has anybody heard of anyone that could be him?

Is it possible that you’ve mixed up the writings of several creationist scientists? I can’t see how the various things you describe match any single creationist. I first thought of George McCready Price, but I don’t seem to see anything he wrote that mentions “master clockmakers”. He was early twentieth-century, not nineteen-century, in any case. I thought about Philip Henry Gosse, author of Omphalos, but his theories don’t match what you’re describing. At least he’s nineteenth-century though. There was a creationist named Henry Morris who had a theory like the one you describe, with a vapor canopy over the atmosphere, but he’s mid-twentieth-century. Furthermore, the clockmaker analogies for God actually peaked before Darwin published his theories, so it wouldn’t be typical for a creationist to use such an analogy.

Incidentally, I would recommend that you not put an approximate quotation in a box labeled “Quote”. The Quote box has a very specific use. Someone could waste a lot of time looking for an exact quotation matching the one that you just guessed at.

Alright, you have some very good points. First of all, it is very definitely possible I am mixing the work of two or more writers. I think I already knew that, but I should have made it clear in the post. Whatever I was reading was about the history of creationism in general; it covered a lot of people over a lot of time periods. At one point a passage mentioned somebody telling a story; the essence of the story has stayed with me, but everything else is very fuzzy.

I am, however, almost certain that whoever told the story was defending a flood theory; obviously this makes sense anyway because the clock story is about a disaster. Whether or not it was the ‘vapor-canopy’ theory I am much less sure. Realistically, I might have got the vapor-canopy bit from somewhere else in that text or another; my guy might have been talking about geological evidence or something else flood-related.

As for the date, ‘nineteenth-century’ is honestly just a guess based on my remembered sense that whoever the passage was discussing had been dead for awhile. Again, I should have been much clearer on just how half-remembered this story is.

I apologize if I used the quote box improperly; I just wasn’t sure how to set off an anecdote from the text. I considered using italics, but that seemed even worse.

As for creationists not typically using clockmaker metaphors, that is exactly why I think I can’t get anywhere near this guy the many times I’ve tried to google for him. I’m not sure he actually used the adjetive ‘master’, but the phrase ‘appointed hour’ stands our fairly strong in my head. Regardless, I can’t find him. The obscure story may simply not be anywhere in Google’s database.

Thanks for the three names, though. That’s a better starting point than I have been able to come up with. I’ll go find some stuff by them an look for references.

The goofball theory you’re referring to is called the “canopy theory” by creationists. I’ll do some searching and see if I can find out who originated it.

Ok, so the Canpy Theory was originated by someone called Issac Vail.

A search on “Isaac vail clockmaker” turns up nothing useful, though.

OKay, I am remembering a Stephen Jay Gould essay. He was examining (I believe) pre-Hutton geology, possibly in the same collection as his great essay on Steno. It definitely had to do with the recognition of deep time.

One Natural Philosopher had a complicated scenario with the ashes of Eden floating atop the world ocean, until the ocean broke through in Noah’s Flood. Sounds similar to at least part of what you remember.

Let me see if I can dig the right volume out of the library…

I’ve just had an email from Bonzer, telling me that he’s found where the quote’s from. His computer’s on the fritz at the moment, so he can’t access the boards from home.

The quote is from Thomas Burnet in The Sacred Theory of the Earth back in 1680:

He wasn’t suggesting anything directly related to subsequent “canopy theories”, since he was envisaging the waters emerging from beneath the earth, much as DrFidelius recalled.