Over at the Worldnutdaily, Janet Folger has a column defending young earth creationism. Naturally, it’s just filled with preposterous claims. I’m not going to bother responding to all of them, but I want to look at the claims about geology and paleontology because it provides a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the utter absurdity of young earth creationism and flood geology to explain the evidence. She writes:
And what about the fossil record? If the account of Genesis is true, and the flood really happened, the fossil record would be very explicit and predictable. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, explains it this way. If there was a great flood, you would expect the fossil record to reveal “billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water all over the earth.” What we find in the fossil record is: billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water all over the earth. What do you know?
This claim is just plain silly. Whether those layers were deposited in a single global flood event or over the course of 4 billion years, there would still be billions of dead things buried in them. But flood geology requires three things that mainstream geology does not:
1. That all of those fossil-bearing strata be deposited underwater.
2. That all of the billions of dead things had to be alive at the same time when the flood occurred.
3. That all of the other events that we see evidenced within those strata – volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, meteor craters, tracks and burrows, terrestrial events, etc – also had to occur within the single year of the flood. And underwater.
These three requirements for flood geology all prove to be fatal to the claim. Let’s take a look at them one at a time and see why. We’ll start with the first problem:
Many fossil bearing strata at all levels of the geologic column could not have formed underwater
Creationists love to talk about how floods form “layers”; what they rarely tell their followers is that different types of layers – geologists call them strata – require different types of depositional environments. In the geological column you will find a wide variety of sedimentary formations – limestone, shale, sandstone, and many variations of each. Each of these requires a different type of depositional environment; importantly, none of them can form in the midst of a flood.
Limestone and shale are both marine sediments, meaning that they form underwater (but in very different types of marine environments). Sandstone formations can be deposited both underwater (subaqueous dunes) or on land (eolian dunes), just as one would expect; after all, we see large formations of sand underwater, near the water as dunes, and far away from the water as deserts. And when we encounter sandstone formations throughout the geologic record we can tell which one of these environments they were deposited by examining them in some detail.
Most of this examination is perfectly logical. For instance, it’s obvious that different types of animals live in a desert sand dune than live in an underwater environment. Thus, we expect different types of tracks, burrows and fossils to be found in them. And we know beyond any reasonable doubt that many of the sandstone formations around the world were terrestrial formations formed as deserts. Many such large desert formations, called ergs or sand seas, are easily identified throughout the geologic column at various levels. Flood geologists are at a loss to explain how such strata could possibly have formed in the middle of a global flood.
And even those formations that do form underwater are difficult to explain by reference to flood geology because they could not possibly have formed during a raging flood. Some sediments can only be deposited in tranquil marine environments over very long periods of time. Limestone, for example, is deposited primarily in shallow marine environments where the calcium carbonate can leech out over vast periods of time (this is how coral reefs, which are almost 100% calcium carbonate, are formed). It can also be deposited in deep marine environments, but there the limestone is made up of the shells of microscopic animals that build up on the bottom as they die over extremely long periods of time. In neither case are such sediments transported there, they must build up over very long periods of time in tranquil waters.
Shale is another sedimentary rock that must form in tranquil environments over long periods of time, because they are very fine grained and moving water will suspend such small particles in solution and they can’t settle out. It’s really only conglomerate deposits that are deposited by moving waters, for obvious reasons. The point is that each type of sedimentary rock requires a different type of depositional environment, including many that simply cannot occur in a year-long global flood.
Let’s move on to problem #2:
All of the organisms found in the fossil bearing strata could not have been alive at the same time
And I’m not just talking about all the big animals found as fossils. Many geological formations, like some limestone and chalk formations, are formed of the dead bodies of microscopic animals and they form over enormously long periods of time. We have enormous deposits of chalk around the world, particularly in Europe (the famous White Cliffs of Dover are the best example). These sediments are made up of coccoliths and calcium carbonate that accretes together at the bottom.
Coccolithophores live near the top of the water and when they die, their calcium carbonate shells slowly settle to the bottom and over vast periods of time large deposits form. We find deposits in Europe that are hundreds of feet thick, which would require millions and millions of years of calm, tranquil environment to accumulate. Now think about this: according to flood geology, all of this had to form within only a few months, which means all of the organisms whose dead bodies make up the chalk formation had to be alive at the same time.
But these organisms are incredibly tiny, less than 1000 angstroms typically, so if enough of them were alive in the oceans to form a layer hundreds of feet thick, there would have been no ocean at all – the water would be so thick that you wouldn’t have to be Jesus to walk across it. That would have killed off every other form of life in the ocean, for crying out loud. But this is the type of reasoning you have to engage in if you want to compress hundreds of millions of years of geological activity into just a single year.
That brings us to problem #3:
There are many features found at all levels of the geologic column within the fossil-bearing strata that simply cannot have formed underwater.
Throughout the geologic column at all levels you can find features that could not possibly have been laid down during a flood – mud cracks (which require drying by the sun), meteoritic craters, dinosaur nesting sites (were they raising their young underwater?), glacial deposits, river channels, burrows, footprints or terrestrial volcano sediments. All of these things can only be formed at the surface, not underwater, yet we find examples of them at every single point in the geologic column somewhere around the world.
Let’s look at dinosaur nesting sites, which have been found all over the world. Perhaps the best example is in Montana at what is now called Egg Mountain. This formation contains an extraordinary number of dinosaur nests containing fossilized eggs and the fossilized remains of their parents as well. Why is this a problem for flood geology? Well, because that formation sits on top of a mile of sediments below it, sediments allegedly deposited by the flood, and it is around 80 million years old, so it would then have been covered by more alleged flood sediments as well. One has a hard time imagining how a group of dinosaurs were alive and going about their day, peacefully building nests to hatch their young on solid ground, in the midst of a global flood that had already deposited thousands of feet of sediment below them. They must tread water really, really well.
Another feature that simply cannot be explained by flood geology is the order of appearance of animals in the fossil record. They try to explain this by reference to ecological zoning, claiming that based on the environments they lived in the order of the fossils would look just like it is – animals along the shoreline buried first, mammals up in the mountains buried last, with smarter animals making it to higher ground and living longer, etc.
There are many problems with this claim. I’ll let Stephen Jay Gould point out many of them, as he did so brilliantly in an essay called Genesis vs Geology:
Since God created with such alacrity, all creatures once must have lived simultaneously on the earth. How, then, did their fossil remains get sorted into an invariable order in the earth’s strata? To resolve this particularly knotty dilemma, creationists invoke Noah’s flood: all creatures were churned together in the great flood and their fossilized succession reflects the order of their settling as the waters receded. But what natural processes would produce such a predictable order from a singular chaos? The testable proposals of “flood geology” have been advanced to explain the causes of this sorting.
Whitcomb and Morris offer three suggestions. The first — hydrological — holds that denser and more streamlined objects would have descended more rapidly and should populate the bottom strata (in conventional geology, the oldest strata). The second — ecological — envisions a sorting responsive to environment. Denizens of the ocean bottom were overcome by the flood waters first, and should lie in the lower strata; inhabitants of mountaintops postponed their inevitable demise, and now adorn our upper strata. The third — anatomical or functional — argues that certain animals, by their high intelligence or superior mobility, might have struggled successfully for a time, and ended up at the top.
All three proposals have been proven false. The lower strata abound in delicate, floating creatures, as well as spherical globs. Many oceanic creatures — whales and teleost fishes in particular — appear only in upper strata, well above hordes of terrestrial forms. Clumsy sloths (not to mention hundreds of species of marine invertebrates) are restricted to strata lying well above others that serve as exclusive homes for scores of lithe and nimble small dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
The very invariance of the universal fossil sequence is the strongest argument against its production in a single gulp. Could exceptionless order possibly arise from a contemporaneous mixture by such dubious processes of sorting? Surely, somewhere, at least one courageous trilobite would have paddled on valiantly (as its colleagues succumbed) and won a place in the upper strata. Surely, on some primordial beach, a man would have suffered a heart attack and been washed into the lower strata before intelligence had a chance to plot temporary escape. But if the strata represent vast stretches of sequential time, then invariant order is an expectation, not a problem. No trilobite lies in the upper strata because they all perished 225 million years ago. No man keeps lithified company with a dinosaur, because we were still 60 million years in the future when the last dinosaur perished.
But this is only half the problem. When you begin to look closer at the order of appearance you find that within particular groups of organisms, they are also sorted perfectly by characteristics that have nothing to do with where they lived or would have been buried. For example, trilobites – our most common form of fossil life – are sorted perfectly according to traits like the complexity of their eye and the number of sutures on their shell, traits that would have no effect at all on how they would be sorted in water.
This is only the beginning of the problems. One could literally go on all day listing them, from the evidence of terrestrial volcanic eruptions smack dab in the middle of the strata allegedly deposited underwater (we can tell the difference between lava emitted by eruptions underwater and and that from terrestrial eruptions; the later form pillow basalts, the former do not) to the hundreds of major meteor craters found at all levels of the geologic column. Flood geology is a patently ridiculous idea that conflicts with all of the geological evidence. It can only be advocated out of sheer ignorance or rank dishonesty.