On January 11, Google celebrated the 374th birthday of Nicolaus Steno by featuring a colorful doodle of rock layers on its homepage.1
Steno provided principles that are still maintained by today’s geologists, though they were not tested experimentally until recently. While he was correct about many things, those experiments have refuted one of Steno’s principal assertions, casting doubt on the evolutionary history that has been built upon it.
While working in Italy in 1669, the Danish-born anatomist, naturalist, and Catholic priest summarized his ideas about how rock layers formed and how fossils came to be in them. At the time, many naturalists reasoned that what looked like seashells and bones in the earth—today called fossils—were produced by the earth, since they could not fathom that the middle of land masses could ever have been covered by an ocean.
Steno rightly maintained that fossils of marine organisms were from creatures produced in the seas but then transported inland by muddy, watery torrents during Noah’s worldwide Flood.2 So, although The Christian Science Monitor posted an article titled “Nicolas Steno: The saint who undermined creationism,” it is not Steno’s original ideas that undermine a creationist model of earth history, but those of later thinkers who selected certain of those ideas on which to build a non-biblical history.3
Steno was known as the “father of stratigraphy,” which is the science of deducing the relative times when rock layers were deposited. He asserted four axioms related to rocks and fossils, one of which is now called the Principle of Superposition. Steno wrote:
At the time when any given stratum was being formed, all the matter resting upon it was fluid, and, therefore, at the time when the lower stratum was being formed, none of the upper strata existed.4….
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