Mount Mannen1 in Norway, 320 km northwest of the capital Oslo, has made headlines more than once, even here in Finland, where I live. But not because of its respectable 1,300 m (4,300 ft) height, since nearly 300 peaks in Norway exceed the 2,000 m (6,500 ft) mark.2 It is because it is regarded as an ‘unstable mountain’.3
Mannen has been closely monitored since 2009 as part of an emergency preparedness service; authorities are prepared for a massive landslide of up to 100 million cubic metres.4 This would be bad news for the Rauma Line—a railway operating in the danger zone.5 It is estimated that it would take only a small fraction of the potential slide—‘only’ 2 million cubic metres—for the debris to cross the valley and likely devastate buildings and damage the Rauma Line.4
In October 2017, a Finnish news headline that read, “A mountain is collapsing over houses in Norway”,6 went on to say that the “collapse can occur at any time”. They were expecting around 180,000 m3 to be ‘sliced’ from the mountain, forcing the authorities to evacuate people and close the railway.
With a high risk of collapse from the heavy rains of the preceding week, the authorities tried to speed it up by pumping even more water into crevices in the mountain.7 After over 200,000 litres had been pumped in, the largest boulder to date broke off the mountain late at night, with a rumble that apparently lasted “two minutes and was heard kilometres away”.8
Dissatisfied that the size of the slide was insufficient to resolve the problem, Norway’s chief geologist Lars Harald Blikra blamed the failure on weak water pressures and subzero temperatures.7 He reported that “crevices are still growing fast”.7
Nevertheless, a day later authorities concluded that Mannen was no longer in imminent danger of collapse, so the evacuated people could return to their homes.9 So it seems that Mannen is stabilized for now, but no one knows for how long.
This was not the first time Mount Mannen had thus troubled geologists. BBC News reported in 2014 that “geologists were left stumped” after a similarly predicted rock slide did not occur.10 At the time, the mountain was ‘moving’ 1.5 cm (0.6 inch) per day, and the NRK (Norway’s public broadcaster) even set up webcams to monitor developments. Chief geologist Blikra acknowledged then that they were struggling to read the mountain’s movements, and stated: “I’m unsure of what’s happening. It’s difficult to understand the dynamics up there.”10
People tend to regard mountains as more or less permanent fixtures, so they are generally surprised when they undergo rapid changes.11 One big factor in this surprise is the way in which the philosophy of uniformitarianism is deeply interwoven into modern culture. Any discussion of geological features always involves the assumptions of this philosophy, such as ‘deep time’ (the idea that geological features are almost incomprehensibly old).
Geologists and the general public are of course aware that catastrophic changes do happen, like volcanoes, landslides and earthquakes. But in geological thinking at both professional and lay level, the dominant notion is that changes in the earth take place on very long timescales.
Those who developed and promoted this ‘slow and gradual’ philosophy of uniformitarianism did so in very conscious opposition to the biblical description of a global cataclysm—the Flood of Noah—which would have done a tremendous amount of geological work in a very short time.12 This rejection of the Flood led directly to the idea of evolution over billions of years, with death and struggle a natural part of life, rather than the result of man’s rebellion.
As CMI’s publications often point out, when reconstructing the past geological history of the planet, we are not dealing with observable, repeatable (experimental) science. The sort of science which must be used requires all manner of inferences and assumptions to be applied, so is very prone to worldview-driven speculation.13
In the case of Mannen, geologists have access to live data—present observations and measurements of the mountain. And still they are perplexed regarding what is happening—or not happening. We saw the frank 2014 assessment by Norway’s head geologist that he was ‘unsure of what was happening’ and that the dynamics were ‘difficult to understand’. And the more recent events at Mount Mannen indicate that not much had changed three years later—and this was just one mountain.
How much more then should humility be the order of the day for secular geologists to acknowledge the difficulties in unravelling the dynamics of the entire history of our planet—without direct observations or measurements even being possible.
As creationist geologists have found, the Genesis Flood has tremendous explanatory power in understanding all manner of puzzling landforms and structures. It also makes great sense of the huge deposits of well-preserved fossils all around the globe. But it can only do so if we are willing to drop our slavish dependence on philosophies developed in opposition to the living God (the Bible calls it being willingly ignorant [2 Peter 3:3–5] of the Genesis Flood). We need to take seriously the true and trustworthy history recorded in the Bible’s book of beginnings.