I know that most Creation Scientists are now shying away from teaching the “Canopy Theory.” What I seem to mostly read is that they can’t make a “computer model” work. 2 questions. 1. Isn’t it somewhat arrogant (for lack of a better word) to think that we know all of the variables involved with something like this, and to be able to input it all into a computer? I can’t help but think about something like the bumblebee, that science still says “shouldn’t be able to fly,” but yet there they are in my back yard. 2. The fact that 70% of the earth’s surface is water helps the earth to maintain a more consistant temperature, which in turn allows us to survive here. Before the flood, most of this water was deep under ground. What mechanism (or system) do you propose to help the earth maintain it’s temperatures without all that water, if not a canopy? Thank you all so much for your ministry, and keep up the good work! God Bless you.
—J.M., U.S.

Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis. I understand your concerns regarding the traditional canopy model,1 and when it comes to all the variables you are absolutely right. The canopy models had some problems (for example, solar radiation would have to decrease by around 25%.)2

In brief, the canopy models gained popularity thanks to the work of Joseph Dillow, and many creationists have since researched various aspects of this scientific model. The canopy model was developed from an interpretation of the “waters above” in Genesis 1:6–7 when discussing the firmament (or expanse).

Genesis 1:6–7
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament (expanse) in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament (expanse), and divided the waters which were under the firmament (expanse) from the waters which were above the firmament (expanse); and it was so.

From these verses, scientific models were developed and modified to help deal with problems that arose. These models included ideas about the earth’s temperature, atmospheric color, as well as oxygen concentration (to attempt to explain ancient man’s longevity).

The proposed models have this canopy fading into history at the time of the Flood. Researchers thought it could have provided at least some of the water for the Flood and was associated with the “windows of heaven” mentioned along with the fountains of the great deep at the onset of the Flood (Genesis 7:11).

Currently, the pitfalls of the canopy model have grown to such an extent that most researchers have abandoned the model. For example, if a canopy existed and collapsed at the time of the Flood to supply the rainfall, the latent heat of condensation would have boiled the atmosphere! And a viable canopy would not have had enough water vapor in it to sustain 40 days and nights of torrential global rain.

Biblical Problems

Aside from the scientific analysis, there may be a much bigger issue at play: if the canopy really was part of earth’s atmosphere, then all the stars, sun, and moon would have been created within the earth's atmosphere.

Why is this? A closer look at Genesis 1:14 reveals that the “waters above” may very well be much farther out—if they still exist today. The entirety of the stars, including our own sun (the greater light) and moon (lesser light) could not possibly be in our atmosphere, since they were made “in the expanse.”3

In Genesis 1, some have made distinction between the expanse in which the birds fly (Genesis 1:20) and the expanse in which the sun, moon, and stars were placed (Genesis 1:7). This is not a distinction that is necessary from the text. From the Hebrew, the birds are said to fly “across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” Looking up at a bird flying across the sky, it would be seen against the face of both the atmosphere and the space beyond the atmosphere—the “heavens.” The proponents of the canopy model must make a distinction between these two expanses to support their position, but this is an arbitrary assertion that is only necessary to support their view and is not described elsewhere in Scripture.4

Genesis 1:14–15
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament (expanse) of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament (expanse) of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.5

There is also another problem.

Psalm 148:4
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens!

The psalmist wrote this in a post-Flood world in the context of other post-Flood aspects. So, it appears that the windows of heaven still exist at this point (see also 2 Kings 7:2, 19 and Malachi 3:10). And this is complemented by:

Genesis 8:2
The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.

This verse merely points out that the two sources were stopped and restrained, not necessarily done away with. These two verses suggest that the windows of heaven remained after the Flood. The canopy model would have to explain when and how they suddenly dissipated, and without any basis for this in Scripture.

Temperatures

To answer the question about how the earth regulates its temperature without a canopy, consider that it may not have been that much different than the way it regulates it today—atmosphere and oceans. Although there may have been much water underground prior to the Flood, there was obviously enough at or near the surface to sustain immense amounts of sea life. We know this because nearly 95% of the fossil record consists of marine organisms. Was the earth’s surface around 70% water or not before the Flood? That is a question researchers still debate over.

A canopy, on the other hand, would cause major problems for the regulation of earth’s temperature. A canopy would trap and retain heat that would normally radiate to space.

Biblical Models

Answers in Genesis continues to encourage research and the development of scientific models. However, a good grasp of all biblical passages that are relevant to the topic must precede the scientific research and model. The canopy model may have a glimmer of hope still remaining, and I will leave that to the researchers, but both the biblical and scientific difficulties need to be addressed thoroughly.

I pray this helps clarify.

Bodie

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Footnotes

  1. This is not to be confused with canopy models that have the edge of water at or near the end of the universe (e.g., white hole cosmology), but instead the models that have water canopy in the atmosphere, e.g. like those mentioned in The Genesis Flood or The World that Perished. Back
  2. For more on this see “Temperature Profiles for an Optimized Water Vapor Canopy” [PDF] by Dr. Larry Vardiman, a researcher on this subject for over 25 years at the time of writing that paper. Back
  3. The winged creatures were flying in the face of the expanse (Genesis 1:20; the NKJV accurately translates the Hebrew), and this helps reveal the extent of the expanse. It would likely include aspects of the atmosphere as well as space. The Bible calls the firmament “heaven” in Genesis 1:8, which would include some of both. Perhaps our understanding of “sky” is similar to this as well. Regardless, this does not affect that the stars are in the expanse, and this means that any canopy, which is beyond the stars, is not limited to being in the atmosphere. Also, 2 Corinthians 12:2 discusses three heavens, which are likely the atmosphere (airy heavens), space (starry heavens), and the heaven of heavens (Nehemiah 9:6). Back
  4. Some have argued that the prepositions in, under, above, etc. are not in the Hebrew text but are determined from the context, so the meaning is vague. It is true that the prepositions are determined by the context, so we must rely on a proper translation of Genesis 1:14. Virtually all translations have the sun, moon, and stars being created in the expanse, not above as the canopy model would require. Back
  5. See also Genesis 1:17. Back