Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology, Part 3

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September 15, 2012 Tags: Earth, Universe & Time

Today's entry was written by Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology, Part 3

This is the third in a four part series taken from Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth's scholarly essay "Christian Geologists on Noah’s Flood: Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology".

In Part 2 of this series, we concluded by noting that, as Christian geologists willing to consider the possibility, we find no compelling evidence that the earth’s geological features can be explained by a global Flood. Here we consider three lines of evidence: global salt deposits, the order of deposition of sediment layers in the Grand Canyon, and the sequence of fossils in geological strata.

Salt Deposits

There are many places around the earth with layers of salt, some thousands of feet in thickness. Just off the southern coast of the United States in the Gulf of Mexico, thick salt deposits sit beneath thousands of feet of sediment (Fig. 1). These deposits lie within the layers that are said to have been deposited by the Flood.

We understand how salt beds form. At locations such as the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, or at the Dead Sea at the border of Israel and Jordan, salt is actively forming. Salt beds form when water is evaporated. During evaporation, the concentration of dissolved ions increases until the water cannot hold the salt in solution anymore and mineral salt begins to form. If a presently unknown or poorly understood process could produce salt without evaporation, as argued by young-earth advocates1, it would quickly dissolve as soon as it came into contact with flood water, just as the salt from your saltshaker rapidly dissolves when added to water or moist food.

One might argue that the waters from the Flood could have evaporated to leave behind the salt deposits we see today, but there is a serious problem. The thousands of feet of sediment on top of the salt is also said to be from the Flood, meaning the flood waters cannot have evaporated to produce the salt and still be present and violent enough to transport thousands of feet of sediment to the same location. In other words, a single flood cannot be called upon to explain both the salt and the overlying sediment. For those who wish to argue that natural processes could have been vastly different during the Flood, there are at least two replies. First, under such a scenario, there is no point in Flood Geology studies any more than in normal studies, for nothing could be gained by the study of unknowable processes. A more important question, however, would be to ask why God would alter natural processes just to make Flood sediments look like they are not flood sediments. What would the purpose be? (We will revisit this thought later.)

Grand Canyon: Order of Deposition

The Grand Canyon is made up of a sequence of layers that defies any reasonable attempt to explain by a single flood. The alternating layers of limestone, sandstone and shale each form in unique environments. If these deposits were formed at different times under various sea-level stages, it is quite simple to explain the different grain sizes and rock types as a function of depth and distance from the shore line. If explained with a single catastrophic flood that abided by God’s natural laws of physics and chemistry, logic must be stretched beyond the breaking point.

As a very simple observation, consider instructions given in virtually every gardening book. A good soil will have a mix of sand, silt and clay. To determine the quality of your soil, you take a handful or two, put it in a clear container, add water and shake it up. When you stop shaking, the coarse grained material will settle out first resulting in a sequence of layers: sand on the bottom, then silt, then clay. You can readily see how much of each you have by the thickness of each layer.

This is informative of what we see in flood deposits. As moving flood waters slow down, finer and finer grained sediment settles out resulting in a “fining upward” sequence. If most of the Grand Canyon layers were laid down by the Flood, then we should see the same thing – a “fining upward” sequence. Instead, we see a series of alternating layers of fine and coarse grained material, with smaller-scale alternating layers within the larger ones (Fig. 2). Increasing the violence of a flood does nothing to negate the standard order of deposition. Repeated surging of flood waters across the surface likewise offers little explanatory power; in this case we might expect successive layers, each with their own “fining upward” sequence, but such is not what is observed. Further, the Grand Canyon includes multiple layers of limestone, which are never found in flood deposits of any magnitude. Even in floods as massive as one thought to have catastrophically deluged the once dry Mediterranean Sea basin with thousands of feet of water – limestone beds are conspicuously absent.

Fossil Sequence

If a massive flood were responsible for the fossil record, what would we expect to see? If the Flood was violent enough to rip chunks of rock up from the earth and move entire continents (standard Young Earth claims)2, then it should be obvious that life forms from every imaginable niche would be tumbled and mixed together (Fig. 3a). We should find numerous examples of mammoths mixed with triceratops, and pterodactyls mixed with sparrows. Ferns and meadow flowers should be found in the same deposits, along with trilobites and whales. Further, we should find all major life forms still living today, for Genesis 7:8-9 is clear in stating that all terrestrial animals were preserved on the ark.

What we actually observe is far different (Fig. 3b). There is an orderly sequence where trilobites only occur in very old rocks, dinosaurs in later beds, and mammoths in still later layers. Organisms like flowers and ferns are present together in more recent deposits, but only ferns with no flowers are found in older deposits. Some readers will recognize this as an example from the “geologic column” and be tempted to discount it as a fabrication. For those thinking this way, consider what Henry Morris had to say in both editions of Scientific Creationism:

“Creationists do not question the general validity of the geologic column, however, at least as an indicator of the usual order of deposition of the fossils…”5

If we revisit the Grand Canyon for a moment, is it not striking that there is not a single dinosaur, mammoth or bird in the entire exposed sequence? Not one. To find these, you have to go to younger sediments found in deposits outside the canyon that have not been fully eroded away yet. How could such a lack of mixing be possible if the Flood was violent enough to move continents?


Dr. Gregg Davidson is chair of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi and conducts original research in geochemistry and hydrogeology, often employing radiometric dating methods to determine the age of groundwater and sediments. In 2009 he published a book about his keen interest in integrating a lifetime of studying geology with his firm conviction about the infallibility of God’s Word, When Faith & Science Collide – A Biblical Approach to Evaluating Evolution and the Age of the Earth.
Dr. Ken Wolgemuth is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Tulsa and a Petroleum Consultant teaching short courses on petroleum geology and “Geology for the Non-Geologist.” Over the last 10 years, he has developed a keen interest in sharing the geology of God’s Creation with Christians in churches and seminaries.

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wesseldawn - #72803

September 15th 2012

Thank you Gregg, for this well-written and logical essay. The evidence against a global flood is overwhelming.

I think that many scientists with Christian biases have been concerned with making science fit with the Bible. In days gone by when knowledge of geological processes was minimal the old ideas were never challenged but it’s evident that those times are changing.

Not that I think it in any way dimishes the scriptures as being infallible, it merely proves that something is obviously wrong where interpretation is concerned.


Dee - #72806

September 15th 2012

The problem with using the ‘fossil record’ as evidence against the global flood is that it ignores the evidence from those areas of the world that contain bones from humans and animals mixed together via a catastrophe and which come from animals thought long extinct but are contemporary with each other.

These fissures and caves tell a different story than the one evolutionists like to tell and shows that the evolutionist is wrong.

The next problem for the evolutionist is that there has only been 1 global flood and not one of the survivors documented the observed destruction so that modern man may look at their words and compare the destruction between a global and local disaster.

Then another problem for the evolutionist is that they assume how things should be and cannot verify their assumptions.  Since the evolutionary porcess does not repeat itself it is difficutl for the evolutionist to produced observed and repeatable evidence to verify what they claim took place.

They cannot place upon creationists and biblical flood supporters criteria that they cannot follow themselves.  The above article asks why would God alter natural processes ...etc… He didn’t. it is just that the unbeliever assumes they are correct in their analysis and forget that there was more taking place than just a flood, but most people who reject the global flood like to ignore the other events taking place that helped alter the geographic design of the earth.

The last problem for the evolutionist is that their ‘physical evidence’ is far too limited for them to draw any real conclusions and their assumptions come from a non-objective source—their unbelief.  Thier conclusions are already pre-drawn and not honest thus their words can be dismissed as they have a non-religious agenda.


David Buchanan - #72811

September 15th 2012

Dee

Paragraph 1,2 - Would you care to cite such evidence so that its validity could be examined?

Paragraph 3 - If none of the of the survivors documented anything, then how do we have the story of the flood?

Paragraph 4 - Once again, you don’t actually describe the examples. About which assumptions are you referring? The assumptions about the age of the planet and the age of the universe are actually verified quite well through multiple streams of evidence which are consistent with each other.

Paragraph 5 - Quite an accusation “like to ignore the other events taking place that helped alter the geographic design of the earth”.  Really?? Examples would be in order here.

Last paragraph - Actually the ‘physical evidence’ is considerable and is growing rapidly. You appear to be accusing the authors of unbelief. Do you really want to do that? The opening clause of the last sentence is also a rather dramatic accusation, for which you have presented no evidence.


D.U. Litz - #72820

September 16th 2012

There are no fossil record examples of dated prehistoric animals mixed with modern (or even early) humans that I know of. An example would be finding humans in the same layer as a dinosaur.

If this has happened, please give proof


g-rock - #72807

September 15th 2012

The authors write:

“We understand how salt beds form… Salt beds form when water is evaporated.”

 

Yes, but how did the salt get in the water in the first place?


wesseldawn - #72826

September 16th 2012

This is a fair question. Salt is a naturally occurring mineral. 

http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/223/salt-of-the-early-earth


g-rock - #72866

September 17th 2012

If salt can be generated by volcanic activity, why should we assume that salt beds must come from evaporated sea water?


John Bontius - #74342

November 12th 2012

Salt got into the water then as it does now, the rivers bring the minerals down from the land. The earth had 5 billion years to do it

John


a.m.sibley - #72822

September 16th 2012

The diagrams above present a misleading picture. We know that mammals and birds were present in the Jurassic alongside theropod dinosaurs according to papers written in secular science journals. Today birds, mammals, and reptilian forms such as crododiles still exist. Some old forms are extinct, it is true, and there does seem to be a change in the balance of power today, from reptile to mammal, but similar animals were present in each.

On a broader point, the reason I came to accept the reality of a global Flood, and reject standard geology, is because of a basic incoherence in the standard geological narrative. Terrestrial animals and plants are buried rapidly in marine sediment, alongside marine animals, including both vertebrates and invertebrates, in conformable layers extending for 100 of metres thickness. Neither Lyell’s gradualism, or neo-catastrophism cannot explain the lack of scavenging and lack of erosion if the layers were buried over millions of years in periodic floods. It is true that there are few major non-conformities, but why so much conformity? Rapid deposition in a depth of moving water can explain the evidence, as even Steno (in de Solido in the 1600s) observed through experimentation as layers naturally form according to differences in momentum flux of grains of sand or clay.

 


D.U. Litz - #72823

September 16th 2012

Evolution doesn’t say that types of animals won’t be found in different periods. But when you can find humans with dinosaurs that we consider dated to a certain period in the rock strata, then I’ll believe you.

In order to hold your narrative we must reject various proven dating methods


Francis - #72830

September 16th 2012

I have some questions I hope someone will help with.

Question 1: This applies to the above statement “There is an orderly sequence where trilobites only occur in very old rocks, dinosaurs in later beds, and mammoths in still later layers. Organisms like flowers and ferns are present together in more recent deposits, but only ferns with no flowers are found in older deposits”. Non-flowering plants supposedly evolved about 360 million years ago, but their flowering cousins not until about 130 million years ago.  Bees supposedly evolved 80 to 130 million years ago. (Great timing, Mr. Bee!) But then, they discovered evidence of bees from a period allegedly 100 million+ years earlier! http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/23/science/which-came-first-bees-or-flowers-find-points-to-bees.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

What did these bees pollinate for 100 million+ years before the nectar of the gods was available?

 

Question 2: Dinosaurs roamed the earth in a period allegedly 250 mya to 65 mya. This time period includes that of the advent of flowering plants. Do we have examples of dino and daffodil deposited together (i.e. side-by-side)?

 

Question 3: Does more than one continent have sedimentary rock bearing fossils of about the same presumed age?

 

Question 4: This follows up on g-rock’s question. How did the thousands-feet-thick salt layer under the Gulf of Mexico form? That is, what was the step-by-step process and timing that lead to this salty swath?

 

Question 5: Some here have tried to make a Biblical case that Noah’s flood was local/regional. They say that the local region was the whole world, as far as these ancient and ignorant people were concerned. They say that the Genesis account doesn’t mention “global” or “world-wide”. Has anyone here likewise made the case that the seas of Genesis 1 were just local (e.g. referred only to the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean)? If not, why not?


Paul Seely - #72835

September 16th 2012

D.U. Litz,

I would like to contact you personally, but have not been able to locate your contact information. If you are willing, please send such info to me at Evangelical Reform, 1544 SE 34th Ave., Portland, OR 97214   Thank you.


D.U. Litz - #72836

September 16th 2012

I don’t mind posting one of my email addresses

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


D.U. Litz - #72904

September 18th 2012

dizzlegoat7 @ yahoo . com


Francis - #72838

September 16th 2012

I look forward to the results of the coming cabal.


D.U. Litz - #72847

September 17th 2012

That made me laugh


Francis - #72843

September 16th 2012

Fossils don’t speak for themselves, and neither do the rocks in which they’re found. We use “interpreters” - supposedly sophisticated, scientific, reverse-soothsaying systems.

Hypothetically, suppose you had a sophisticated, scientific system. It’s like a GPS that pinpoints your location on earth. You realize it’s not perfect, but just about everyone agrees it’s very good and can be relied upon for reasonably accurate results. Now suppose you’re not sure where you are. However your handy system says you’re located in New York City, around Times Square, +/- 3 miles. You feel much better, because you’re now reasonably certain you know where you are. As you head out looking for a Broadway show, you accidentally hit the “update” button on your device. It beeps with some worrisome news: you’re actually located 3,000 miles away, at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The Broadway show will have to wait.

Not a good feeling.

Maybe that’s how these scientists felt when they found that their dating of rock formation could be off by a factor of 1,000x.

http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/40/10/903.abstract

 

Or what if you had another system that gives not locations but times. And you rely on this system for all kinds of things. Then one day you find some of the times provided by your system could be significantly off. Like by a billion years. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3321819.stm

 

A billion years not enough? How about up to a 4 billion year discrepancy? http://bulletin.geoscienceworld.org/content/119/1-2/65.abstract

(You may need to lookup Archean, Pleistocene and Cenozoic.)

 

Not a good feeling.


Peter Hickman - #72865

September 17th 2012

Francis, perhaps you are exceptional in not ‘feeling good’ in the light of new discoveries.


Francis - #72871

September 17th 2012

Peter Hickman,

Maybe if I knew as much as you I’d change my mind. But after about nine years of looking, I’m not there yet.

Perhaps you can help me.

Would you like to expound on what for you is the one most impressive new discovery?


Francis - #72931

September 19th 2012

I posted my questions and comments over two and a half days ago. I was hoping to get some substantive responses and answers by now.

The emptiness and silence reminds me of my nine-year investigation into evolution.

I got nothing.


Matthew Heywood - #73062

September 24th 2012

Question 1: This applies to the above statement “There is an orderly sequence where trilobites only occur in very old rocks, dinosaurs in later beds, and mammoths in still later layers. Organisms like flowers and ferns are present together in more recent deposits, but only ferns with no flowers are found in older deposits”. Non-flowering plants supposedly evolved about 360 million years ago, but their flowering cousins not until about 130 million years ago.  Bees supposedly evolved 80 to 130 million years ago. (Great timing, Mr. Bee!) But then, they discovered evidence of bees from a period allegedly 100 million+ years earlier! http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/23/science/which-came-first-bees-or-flowers-find-points-to-bees.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

What did these bees pollinate for 100 million+ years before the nectar of the gods was available?

A.  The literature indicates the earliest known fossil bee did not pre-date flowers.  However, one should keep in mind that there is a wide variety of insects, even in the modern world, some of which might for sake of argument resemble a bee whilst being in fact a wasp, and so on.  I do not know whether the bee in question was clearly the same species as our honey bees.   Of course, species do not incrementally grade into eah other as Darwin suggested (the proposition is absurd) but there is a clear staged revelation of life as shown by both the fossils and the Bible. please visit my internet publications.  Search under Philip Bruce Heywood Questions Arising Species Origins or look under creation theory.  I run the leading publication under that search term.  

Question 2: Dinosaurs roamed the earth in a period allegedly 250 mya to 65 mya. This time period includes that of the advent of flowering plants. Do we have examples of dino and daffodil deposited together (i.e. side-by-side)?

A. Probably not daffodil or indeed most garden flowers—they are mostly very recent.  Certainly, flowering plant fossils are found in the same beds as dino’s. Flowering plants appeared near the end of the dino’s run. (However, it has not been unequvocally proved, nor can be, that all dino’s concked it at the end of the Cretaceous.)  Flowering plants got crancked up during the late Cretaceous.  

 

Question 3: Does more than one continent have sedimentary rock bearing fossils of about the same presumed age?

A. Yes.  I live in Australia and logged drill core here for a Geological Survey.  Fossils such as foraminifera and pollen (microscopic) spread widely and show up around the world. However, faunas and floras do tend to vary from continent to continent and to get a good correlation across large distances requires considerable expert attention to fossil study. It doesn’t happen overnight. 

 

Question 4: This follows up on g-rock’s question. How did the thousands-feet-thick salt layer under the Gulf of Mexico form? That is, what was the step-by-step process and timing that lead to this salty swath?

A. I am an Australian, but presume it was evaporation.  Same thing I believe happened when the Mediterranean was cut off and dried out, (repeated evaporation events, as in modern salt production) yonks ago.  If such things had not happened, the oceans would have become too briney to allow much life.  Providence. 

Question 5: Some here have tried to make a Biblical case that Noah’s flood was local/regional. They say that the local region was the whole world, as far as these ancient and ignorant people were concerned. They say that the Genesis account doesn’t mention “global” or “world-wide”. Has anyone here likewise made the case that the seas of Genesis 1 were just local (e.g. referred only to the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean)? If not, why not?

A. No specific seas are mentioned in GENESIS 1. The term is   general in meaning.  What is mentioned in GENESIS 2 are topographic features which exist today (such as the Tigris & Euphrates) which makes unscriptural mincemeat out of ‘flood geology’.  The bible is reliable. How could an olive tree have survived Ken Ham’s flood joke?  


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