Yet Another Failure of “Geological Column” Reasoning

Skeleton of the titanosaur Epachthosaurus at the National Museum, Prague, Czech Republic. Note the plant, a cycad, in the display. (Click for credit)

If a display of dinosaurs or dinosaur skeletons includes plants, it usually shows the dinosaurs walking among ferns or cycads, like the picture shown above. There usually aren’t any grasses in the display. Why not? Because according to the geological column, grasses and dinosaurs didn’t live at the same time. After all, dinosaurs mostly died out by the end of the Cretaceous period, which was supposed to have closed about 65 million years ago. According to You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe, grasses didn’t evolve until much later:1

Rabbits and hares appear 55 million years ago. The Himalayas begin to rise 50 million years ago. The face of the earth looks recognisably as it is now, except that Australasia is attached to Antarctica. Bats, mice, squirrels, and many aquatic birds (including herons and storks) appear during this period, as do shrews, whales, and modern fish. All major plants make their appearance and grasses evolve.

Notice how certain the author is. He is telling you the story of the history of life as if he is watching it happen. According to his “observations,” grasses didn’t evolve until about 50 million years ago, long after the dinosaurs went extinct.

This kind of certainty is rampant in evolutionary writings. For example, The Encyclopedia of Earth tells us:

The evolution and spread of grasses UNDOUBTEDLY resulted from their ability to adapt to seasonally dry habitats created as tropical-deciduous forests developed in the Eocene (58 to 34 mya, million years ago). Considering their importance and taxonomic diversity, grasses have a relatively poor fossil record. While the earliest potential fossil grass pollen was described from late Cretaceous sediments, the oldest reliable megafossil grass fossils were spikelets and inflorescences from the latest Paleocene (about 58 mya). These were PRIMITIVE proto-bamboos with broad leaves, QUITE UNLIKE the narrow-leaf modern grasses of desert grasslands and deserts. (emphasis mine)

Of course, as is often the case, current research is demonstrating just how wrong this evolution-inspired reasoning is.

Back in 2005, Vandana Prasad and colleagues published some startling results based on their examination of fossilize dinosaur dung (called coprolite). They think that the fossilized dung came from titanosaurs, such as the one pictured above. As expected, they found silica structures called phytoliths in the fossilized dung. These microscopic structures are produced when plants decay, and typically, one can identify the type of plant from the structure of the phytolith. They found phytoliths typical of the kinds of plants usually depicted with dinosaurs, but they also found phytoliths that they claimed could have only come from some form of grass!2 Since grasses weren’t supposed to have evolved back then, it was a bit of a surprise to find their phytoliths in dinosaur coprolite. After all, how could dinosaurs have eaten plants that hadn’t evolved yet?

Obviously, the same scientists have been continuing their line of research, as three of them recently published another paper (along with some other scientists) describing additional phytoliths that they say belong to some form of rice, which is in the biological “tribe” known as Oryzeae. Based on their analysis, they say:3

The new Oryzeae fossils suggest substantial diversification within Ehrhartoideae by the Late Cretaceous, pushing back the time of origin of Poaceae as a whole. These results, therefore, necessitate a re-evaluation of current models for grass evolution and palaeobiogeography.

[NOTE: Ehrhartoideae is a broader group of grasses that includes the rices, and Poaceae is the family that contains all grasses.]

In other words, the authors say that their results require that substantial grass evolution must have taken place during the time of the dinosaurs. Now the hypothesis of evolution is so plastic that it can certainly be remolded to allow for grasses to have evolved with the dinosaurs rather than with the mammals, as has been so confidently asserted for so long. That won’t be a problem. However, what I find interesting about this is that it represents just another example of the faultiness of conclusions based on the geological column.

For a long time now, evolutionists have confidently taught that dinosaurs and grasses didn’t live at the same time because there are no grass fossils in the same layers of rock as dinosaur fossils. As I have mentioned previously, however, this reasoning has already been demonstrated to be incorrect. Coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines are all found in the fossil record, but their remains are never found in the same layers of rock as human remains. Indeed, according to the geological column, they all went extinct long before human beings ever walked the face of the earth. Thus, you can obviously conclude that none of these organisms lived at the same time as human beings. Of course, that conclusion is demonstrably false, as living versions of each of these organisms can be found today.

When someone tells you that humans and dinosaurs could not possibly have existed at the same time because their fossils are not found in the same layers of rock, remind them of the dinosaurs and the grasses. The same reasoning applied to them, but we now know it is wrong. For that matter, you can remind them of coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines.

When evolutionary reasoning is tested by the data, it is rarely confirmed.


1. Christopher Potter, You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe, Harper, 2010, p. 245
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2. Vandana Prasad, Caroline A. E. Strömberg, Habib Alimohammadian, and Ashok Sahni, “Dinosaur Coprolites and the Early Evolution of Grasses and Grazers,” Science 310:1177-1180, 2005
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3. V. Prasad, C.A.E. Strömberg, A.D. Leaché, B. Samant, R. Patnaik, L. Tang, D.M. Mohabey, S. Ge, and A. Sahni, “Late Cretaceous origin of the rice tribe provides evidence for early diversification in Poaceae,” Nature Communications 2(9):480, 2011
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  1. lindy November 9, 2011 3:04 pm

    I never understand this … if evolutionary reasoning is tested by observable data and it show to not be a valid reasoning conclusion… how can scientist still respectfully as a legitimate scientist continue to teach/believe what is not supported by data? If evolutionary reasoning is science as Evolutionist proclaim it is (and science departments/textbooks teach) how can it not follow the basic model of science?

    To me Evolution should be taught in philosophy departments, not science books/departments. Is Evolution – in this way – like Creation… in that, evolution is not a science but being a belief? Isn’t Science only to deal with hypothesis that can be observed, tested/experimented, and continually questioned to keep improving, refining and accumulating knowledge. Should science not be neutral when it comes to life philosophies (such as creation and evolution)?

    And is there a way to get these topics out of science?

    • jlwile November 9, 2011 4:37 pm

      Lindy, there are a couple of issues here. First, it is a question of the data upon which you concentrate. There are some evidences for evolution, such as certain pseudogenes and the overall trend of the geological column. If you concentrate on those evidences and continue to ignore the mountain of evidence that speaks against it, you will continue to believe in evolution. I alluded to the second issue in the post. Evolution has become so plastic that it can be adjusted to fit nearly any observable. Sure…we used to think that grasses evolved with the mammals. However, we can always push the evolution of the grasses back a few tens of millions of years to allow them to evolve with the dinosaurs. If more data come out indicating they evolved 100 million years earlier, we can adjust evolution to fit that as well. In the end, if we allow evolution to be plastic enough, no amount of data will falsify it.

      I am not sure we should get evolution out of science. Part of the reason evolution is so strongly believed is that portions of it are correct. Organisms do evolve to a certain extent. What most evolutionists don’t seem to understand is that the range of an organism’s evolution is limited by the information in its genome, as experiments have demonstrated. The key is to get the science of evolution correct. What can evolution do, and what are its limits? Those are the questions that need to be answered, and they will only get answered if scientists move past the dogma and concentrate on the data.

  2. lindy November 9, 2011 5:52 pm

    I think that is a very important insight. It might take an unbias scientist that is willing to focus on the data to frame what scientific evidence is and to clearly state what scientific evidence is showing is is false about evolution. Then keeping it in its bounds. I have found when a word is used so carelessly and so broadly, it might also take calling the process another word instead of evolution to get all the emotional baggage out of the science. It does not seem like this would be hard to do. And it seems like this would get broad support from by serious Christian and non-Christian scientist that truly want to be a sound respectable scientist.

    Why is someone not able to do this? Is there something that I don’t know about that you as a scientist do… that would not allow the science community to ‘get on board’ with this idea? I think that they would be celebrating to get faith/dogma based theory out of science.

    • jlwile November 10, 2011 9:55 pm

      Lindy, I am sorry, but it seems my reply to your comment didn’t get posted. I think there are some scientists who are able to do what you suggest. Dr. Michael Behe is one such scientist, Dr. John C. Sanford is another, and Dr. Douglas Axe is another. Unfortunately, such scientists are currently in the minority. Why? Because many scientists simply thrive on dogma. Dealing with the data seriously is hard – relying on dogma is much easier. You might read a bit of Dr. Cornelius Hunter’s blog. He makes a strong case for many evolutionists relying on dogma rather than data.

  3. JL November 10, 2011 9:46 am

    Dr. Wile, I would argue that the trend of fossils in the geologic column is not evidence for evolution because the fossil order IS the geologic column. According to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, “Geologic stages are recognized, not by their boundaries, but by their content. The rich fossil record remains the main method to distinguish and correlate strata among regions, because the morphology of each taxon is the most unambiguous way to assign a relative age.” (Ogg et al, The Concise Geologic Time Scale, p. 5.) Translated, this means that the presumed age of a fossil in a fossil-bearing layer will trump any anomalous radiometric date attributed to that layer.

    • jlwile November 10, 2011 11:10 am

      JL, I am not sure that the presumed age of a fossil always “trumps” the radiometric data, because there are instances in the literature in which people have changed the assumed age of a fossil based on radiometric dating. However, I do agree that the assumption of evolution and the presumed ages of fossils are built into the standard interpretation of the geological column.

  4. Greg November 10, 2011 10:41 am

    You say: “However, what I find interesting about this is that it represents just another example of the faultiness of conclusions based on the geological column.”

    I would say this is actually an example of good science in action: New evidence prompts questions and testable hypotheses. Given enough evidence, adjustments are made to the model. That’s the way science works, right?

    • jlwile November 10, 2011 11:12 am

      Greg, you are correct that this is the way science works. New evidence can produce adjustments to the model. The question is how many adjustments should be made before you realize there is something fundamentally wrong with the model? You could argue that the geocentrists were just doing “good science” by continually adding epicycles to their model to keep it consistent with the data. What they were really doing, however, was propping up a failed model. In my mind, evolution reached that point long ago.

  5. Tim Helble November 10, 2011 7:47 pm

    Lindy – what level of education are you at right now – are a high school student, college student, or graduate student? I think if we Christians are going to say critical things about fossils and the geologic column, we should have at least read a few books on the subject like Donald Prothero’s “Evolution What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” and be able to refute them.

  6. Greg November 10, 2011 8:13 pm

    But I don’t see how this story is an example of a “failure of geological column reasoning.” All you’ve done is juxtaposed older accepted opinion with the newest findings – again, nothing surprising about that to those who understand science. With respect to propping up a model: Dinosaurs eating true grasses is not on the level of the Copernican Revolution.

    This story is only a problem for those who see science as something static rather than the dynamic process that it is. Surely you know this, but casual (non-science) readers will just see your post as another “they got it wrong” story, and you seem to encourage just that kind of misunderstanding of the process of science.

    What I mean is: Rhetorically, you use the “they got it wrong” story to then cast doubt upon the conventional conclusion that dinos and humans did not coexist. You frequently make statements here about the importance of evidence, suggesting that you’ll accept certain conclusions based on the weight of the evidence. In the case of dinos and humans, you must say that there is currently no evidence to support the idea that they coexisted. Anything else is speculation.

    • jlwile November 10, 2011 9:12 pm

      Greg, it is clearly an example of a failure of geological column reasoning. Using geological reasoning, it has been confidently asserted that grasses evolved with the mammals and not the dinosaurs. This conclusion has been shown to be wrong. Thus, geological column reasoning failed. Please note that had this idea been expressed as an opinion, that would be one thing. However, it was not. It was confidently expressed as fact. In fact, paleontologists were as confident of this as they are that dinosaurs and people never lived together. Given that the grasses conclusion was based on the same reasoning, as was the conclusions about the coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines, and they were all demonstrated to be incorrect, it is reasonable to assume that the conclusion about dinosaurs and people could be incorrect as well.

      I agree that dinosaurs eating true grasses is not something on the level of the Copernican Revolution. However, it does show how similar evolution is to the geocentric view – both have to add epicycles in order to keep them consistent with the data.

      Contrary to your claim, I actually encourage people to understand science. Nowhere do I even suggest that science is static. In fact, if you spend even a bit of time reading this blog, you will see that I constantly talk about how science changes and how that makes it interesting. I give a realistic view of science, which includes discussing when it uses faulty reasoning, such as geological column reasoning.

      I am using this “they got it wrong” story to demonstrate specifically what it does demonstrate – that geological column reasoning is faulty. That’s why evidence is important. The evidence clearly shows that reasoning based on the geological column is faulty. In fact, the evidence has demonstrated that several times.

      Because I am so committed to the evidence, I don’t ignore data simply because it disagrees with my preconceived notions. Thus, I cannot say that there is no evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans. For example, you can read several articles (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) that discuss the evidence. Is it conclusive? Of course not. However, to claim there is no evidence is simply incorrect!

  7. John Miller November 11, 2011 12:54 am

    Could this information possibly be used to support the theory that tyrannosaurus at least at one time was herbivorous?

    • jlwile November 11, 2011 7:43 am

      John, I am not sure that this information would affect that view. According to the geological column, there were plenty of plants to eat when the dinosaurs were around, regardless of whether or not grasses are included. There has been a long-running debate in paleontology about whether Tyrannosaurus was a predator or scavenger, but I don’t know of any paleontologists who think he was an herbivore.

      If you are talking about the idea that before the Fall, all animals ate plants, this discovery has no bearing on that. Young-earth geologists think that these layers in the geological column were laid down by the Flood. Thus, the Fall had happened long ago, and by the time these fossils were laid down, there were carnivores and omnivores in abundance.

  8. Greg November 11, 2011 10:21 am

    It looks like you are most upset by what you see as the arrogance of some scientists who over-confidently claim this or that as if it is the last word on that topic. Clearly that happens, but you know (as a scientist) that any statement of current consensus is provisional, subject to change with additional evidence. This nuance is often lost as science is discussed with general audiences and you are not exactly clearing that up with your “fact” vs. “opinion” comments.

    Maybe it’s a difference in perspective. You want to use this story to sow seeds of doubt in your readers’ minds about other matters of current consensus (dino/humans). I see this story as just a good example of science in action. My fear is that your approach further erodes confidence in the actual process of science rather than helping people understand it properly.

    • jlwile November 11, 2011 1:48 pm

      Greg, I am not sure why you think you have to ascribe emotions or motives to me. My only motive is to educate people about science. That’s why I wrote my textbooks, and that’s why I keep this blog. I absolutely agree that any statement of the current consensus is provisional. However, as you well know, many science students and most people do not understand this. They are falsely taught all sorts of scientific “facts” that are far from factual. Thus, it is important for those of us who want people to properly understand science to show how science works. My highlighting this example of how something that was thought to be a scientific “fact” is now understood to be incorrect highlights this nuance, which helps to clear things up in most people’s minds.

      It is definitely a difference in perspective, but not the way you characterize it! In fact, I don’t care to “sow seeds of doubt” in anyone’s mind. As an award-winning science educator, my job is to teach people how science works, and that’s exactly what this story does. This approach will most certainly not erode anyone’s confidence in science. When people properly understand how science works, they will have more confidence in it. In fact, my approach to science has turned many science-haters into science lovers. Many of these new science-lovers often go on to study science in university, and they are typically very successful in it. Since I am helping people learn how science works, I am helping them have confidence in it!

  9. JL November 11, 2011 11:40 am

    Interestingly, CMI just posted this morning a link to a recent article in the Journal of Creation by Mike Oard, detailing the discovery of amber with the molecular chemistry of angiosperms in presumed 320-million strata.( As Oard points out, this is problematic because, as Dr. Wile noted, grasses were supposed to have evolved with mammals.

    • jlwile November 11, 2011 1:57 pm

      Interesting comment, JL. I wrote a blog post about that study when it was published. If you read the comments, you will see that one commenter was so threatened by the obvious conclusion of the data that he tried to dispute what I wrote, even after I communicated with one of the authors involved, who supported my interpretation!

  10. Kevin N November 11, 2011 1:00 pm

    The discovery that there were grasses (or grass-like plants) in the Late Cretaceous does not in any way undermine the concept of the geologic column.

    1. The geologic column (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian…) is based on careful and repeatable observations of the order in which fossils appear in sedimentary strata. I would almost be willing to say that the column is itself an observation; a fact of nature that needs explaining. It is refined from time to time, but it would take something much more serious than a few grass phytoliths in Cretaceous coprolites to overturn it. It would take something on the order of finding wooly mammoths embedded in Ordovician glacial deposits, or dinosaur footprints in Cambrian beach sands.

    2. In undisturbed strata, fossils always occur in the same order. For example, in the Williston Basin of North Dakota and surrounding areas, there are sedimentary rocks from each period, starting with the Cambrian, and going up through the Quaternary. This is repeated in many deep sedimentary basins throughout the world, and the layers are always in the same order. The geologic column is not a figment of geologist’s imagination.

    3. To find phytoliths in Upper Cretaceous rocks is not all that revolutionary. Grass was already known from the Late Paleocene or early Eocene, so the date is pushed back from 55 million years to 65 million years (roughly). In any case, grasses were not a dominant plant in the Cretaceous.

    4. It would be helpful to know whether or not the Cretaceous grasses were of the same genera as Paleocene/Eocene grasses.

    5. Refinement goes on, both in terms of fossils and time.

    6. Most mainstream YEC geologists (as opposed to the vocal fringe of the YEC movement) recognize that the geologic column is in some sense real, and rather than trying to dispute the overall order of the fossils, they try to come up with alternative explanations, such as ecological zonation and floating vegetation mats. These have been, in my mind, a complete failure.

    7. I am not writing about evolution, but about the nature of the fossil record as expressed in the geologic column.

    8. All of this worrying about the geologic column on the part of young-Earth creationists is completely unnecessary because the Bible does not tell us how old the Earth is, and it does not say that Noah’s Flood created these sedimentary rocks.

    Grace and Peace.

    • jlwile November 11, 2011 2:21 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Kevin. I really appreciate your input, but I will have to disagree with most of what you wrote. First, this study most certainly does undermine the concept of the geological column. Like the coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines, this shows that reasoning based on the geological column is sometimes faulty. In answer to your specifics:

      1. The geological column is most certainly not an observation. It is a model that is built assuming the general process of evolution (be it God-guided, progressive, or naturalistic). I agree that these data are not enough to overturn it. They simply show once again how faulty the reasoning based on it can be.

      2. Please don’t mix two statements here. You first claim that “fossils always occur in the same order,” and then you refer to the Williston Basin of North Dakota as an example of the geological column from the Cambrian through the Quaternary. However, as I am sure you are aware, the Williston Basin does not show fossils succession in each layer. It does contain layers that have been assigned to all the major eras, but those assignments depend on the overall model. They do not come just from observations of those geological strata.

      3. You simply don’t know whether or not grasses were a dominant plant in the Cretaceous. Before 2005, you would have claimed they didn’t even exist in the Cretaceous. The two studies discussed in this post show that not only did they exist, they were already well developed and not primitive. For all we know, they might have been dominant back then. The only thing we know based on these studies is that they were not a major food source for the particular dinosaurs studied.

      4. Read the report. Paleocene/Eocene grasses were thought up until now to be very primitive. The report tells us that the phytoliths indicate the plants aren’t primitive at all, but that major diversification had already taken place. Thus, these are not the same genera.

      5. That is most certainly true. The question is, when does “refinement” turn into epicycles? The geocentrists could claim that their model was just being “refined.”

      6. Most mainstream YEC geologists recognize that the geological column is a model that is based on the assumption of some kind of evolution. What they try to do is to explain the actual sequences and fossils found in specific regions. In other words, they try to explain the real data. To me, that is a more reasonable approach.

      7. I am also writing about the nature of the fossils, and they indicate that there is something wrong with reasoning that is based on the geological column.

      8. Of course the Bible doesn’t say how old the earth is. As I am sure you are aware, I make a point of that. However, to say that this kind of scientific investigation is unnecessary is utterly false. There are some clear problems with the current interpretation of the geological column, and the responsible scientific thing to do is to understand why. Perhaps it’s because the column needs more refinement, or perhaps it’s because the column is not a good model. The only way to know is to collect as much evidence as possible.

      Thanks again for commenting. It is always good to hear another view.

  11. J.S. November 11, 2011 3:18 pm

    In my opinion, this blog is the best place on the Internet to find reasoned and respectful discourse between opposing points of view on the origins issue, as illustrated by the discussion between Kevin N & Dr. Wile. I would just add that the quote I posted earlier from the ICS shows that the fundamental assumption upon which the geologic column is built is that of universal common descent of all organisms. Without common descent, the order of the fossils in the column could be attributed to a number of mechanisms, including, but not limited to biogeographical zonation.

    • jlwile November 12, 2011 8:30 am

      J.S., thank you so much. That’s precisely what I am trying to do here.

  12. Kevin N November 11, 2011 3:44 pm


    The geologic column is not built on evolutionary assumptions, but on real rocks, and the concept dates back to the late 1700s, well before Darwin. You will not find fossiliferous sedimentary rocks in undisturbed sequences that are in the scrambled order Ordovician–Miocene–Triassic–Devonian. For whatever reason (Flood or hundreds of millions of years of Earth history) the fossil packages occur in the general order of the geologic column, and this order is consistent.

    The Williston Basin illustrates this beautifully. Not every single layer is fossiliferous, but those that are occur in the correct order, and those that are not can be traced laterally to layers that are fossil-bearing.

    This is not epicycles upon epicycles. The concept of the geologic column is not teetering under the weight of Kuhnian anomalies. It would take something like human fossils in Jurassic rocks, or fish in the Proterozoic; and grass in the Cretaceous will not cause a paradigm-shifting crisis.

  13. Kevin N November 11, 2011 4:05 pm

    Being that the Cretaceous phytoliths appear to be from genera other than the Paleocene/Eocene phytoliths, it looks like we could have a new index fossil. Whatever grass was around in the Cretaceous wasn’t around in the Paleocene. Sounds like a confirmation of the geologic column concept.

    • jlwile November 12, 2011 8:32 am

      Kevin, I appreciate your point of view. I agree that the concept of the geological column dates back to the late 1700s, but so does the concept of evolution. Immanuel Kant developed a view of common descent, as did Erasmus Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. The first two did most of their work in the late 1700s, and Lamarck spanned from the late 1700s to the early 1800s.

      The geological column is, indeed, built on evolutionary concepts, as your second comment demonstrates. You (incorrectly – see below) indicate that these grasses might be “index fossils” for the Cretaceous. What is an index fossil? It is a fossil that is assumed to have evolved in a specific era and then died out at a specific time. This allows the geologist to identify the era the stratum supposedly represents by the presence of the fossil. Index fossils work only in an evolutionary framework.

      I agree that there is a general order to the fossils in the specific regions in which they are laid down, and that order is roughly consistent from place to place. However, that does not mean the geological column is an observation. Since there is no place on earth that contains all the major layers complete with their fossils, the geological column itself is model, and the Williston Basin illustrates this beautifully. You cannot conclude the general order of the fossils just from the Williston Basin. To get the order of the fossils, you must compare the Williston Basin to the specific other parts of the world that contain the fossils that are missing in the Williston basin. This, of course, make it a presumption-laden model, not an observation.

      You might not see this as epicycles upon epicycles, but it is appearing more and more like that to me. Add these data to the coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines, stratigraphic leaks, reworked specimens, and vertebrates in the Cambrian, and it seems to me that epicycles are being added upon epicycles just to preserve the model.

      I appreciate your desire to save the geological column, but these phytoliths are definitely not new index fossils. This is why they demonstrate the faultiness of geological column reasoning. The phytoliths are indicative of the Oryzeae tribe, which is the rices. Thus, these are modern grasses and cannot be used as index fossils for the Cretaceous! This is why the authors say that their results require a reevaluation of the evolution of grasses. Unlike geological column reasoning demands, the grasses in the Cretaceous were not primitive.

  14. Greg November 11, 2011 9:11 pm

    While honestly trying to figure out what you really mean by “geological column reasoning”, I think I see the source of our misunderstanding in your response to Kevin where you say: “The geological column is most certainly not an observation. It is a model that is built assuming the general process of evolution…”

    You might want to check some sources on that. William Smith’s work in England in the 1790’s and early 1800s was precisely about observing the regularity of the layers of rock and their associated fossils and became the foundation of modern Geology – a full generation before Darwin. In fact it was the very consistency of those layers and their fossils that allowed Smith to predict where coal or other minerals might be in his day. The modern form of that model still serves coal/oil/mining interests today because, like all good models, it is based on world-wide observations of the geological column, has been well tested and has predictive features that actually find gas/oil/minerals.

    So for me, echoing Kevin, the geological column (and the stuff in it) is a fact to be explained. From your comment, it sounds like you think it isn’t actually a real thing, something you could observe, but just an idea imposed by evolutionary thinking. Is that right? If so, how do you square that opinion with the history of geology where observations of (and conclusions about) the geological column clearly precede evolutionary theory?

    • jlwile November 12, 2011 8:37 am

      Thanks for your comment, Greg. You might want to check some sources on evolution. As I mentioned to Kevin, Immanuel Kant developed a view of common descent, as did Erasmus Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. The first two did most of their work in the late 1700s, and Lamarck spanned from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. The geological column and evolution were developed together, and evolutionary concepts are a fundamental part of the model.

      I agree that the geological column, which you admit is a model, has made some successful predictions. It has also made some abysmal failures, as detailed it the post. The presence of vertebrates in the Cambrian is another abysmal failure of the model. This is why it is important to question the model. If the model produced only successes and no failures, that would be one thing. It clearly has not, which means it is far from the solid model that you desire it to be.

  15. Greg November 12, 2011 6:33 pm

    You have it backwards. Historically, the observations of the geological column, faunal succession, etc., came before any evolutionary reasoning about them.

    After a detailed review of the history of geology and how Christians have dealt with questions about the age of the earth, Young and Stearly say this: “Research by thousands of biostratigraphers during the past 200 years has verified that a well-defined order to the fossils occurs through the succession of strata. Contrary to the repeated claims of many contemporary seven-day creationist authors, the ordering of the fossil record is not a fiction born of a desire to prove Darwinism. The record first came to view through the hard labor of many, including numerous Christians, a generation prior to Darwin.” (The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological evidence for the age of the earth. 2008. p 242.).

    If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. It covers a lot of ground historically and technically, but it should appeal to someone like yourself who is interested in evidence.

    • jlwile November 13, 2011 1:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Greg, but you don’t seem to understand the timeline properly. As I mentioned, evolutionary concepts predated Darwin by well over 50 years. Since the quote you gave admits that the ordering of the fossil record only predated Darwin by a generation, it is clear that evolutionary concepts came first. Of course, this is obvious, since the geological column model relies on index fossils, which require evolutionary thinking.

      I have read The Bible, Rocks and Time and the book it was based on, Christianity and the Age of the Earth. While much of the theology and history presented in the book are reasonable, the authors do not do a good job of describing Flood geology and thus make their case seem airtight, even though it is full of holes. I strongly recommend Rock Solid Answers by Mike Oard and John Reed. That will help clear up the misconceptions promulgated by Young and Stearly.

  16. Kevin N November 12, 2011 8:43 pm

    To find a fish-like vertebrate (with a notochord and simple spine) in Cambrian rocks isn’t any more revolutionary than finding grasses in the Cretaceous. This is all just tinkering with a well-established (and well-justified) geologic concept. None of this has any impact on the fact that there are consistent patterns in the stratigraphical record. Dinosaurs are in the Mesozoic (with perhaps a few stragglers surviving into the Paleocene); they are not found in the Silurian. That is a world-wide, consistent observation. Show me an elephant in Devonian rocks, and I will throw the geologic column into the garbage heap.

    I used the Williston Basin as an example where all of the periods from the Cambrian through the Quaternary are represented, but there are plenty of other areas. Glenn Morton ( ) has listed 25 sedimentary basins from around the world that also have the complete set of periods, and they are always in the same order. (Glenn Morton used to be a young-Earth creationist, wrote several articles in the Creation Research Society Quarterly in the mid-1980s, had a crisis of faith when he realized that Flood geology quite simply did not work, but by God’s grace kept his faith, unlike many others who have gone through the same thing).

    • jlwile November 13, 2011 1:27 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Kevin. I agree that both vertebrates in the Cambrian and modern grasses in the Cretaceous are on the same order of magnitude, but I obviously disagree on what they show. I quite clearly remember in both high school and university being taught that only simple invertebrates were in the Cambrian. This, of course, was backed up by all sorts of observations. Now we know that contrary to those observations, complex invertebrates and vertebrates are in the Cambrian. This, then, is another clear example of the faultiness of geological column reasoning. You might call this “tinkering with a well-established” concept, but I expect the geocentrists thought that’s what they were doing.

      I agree that dinosaurs are not (currently) observed in the Silurian. However, grasses were not observed in the Cretaceous, vertebrates were not observed in the Cambrian, and coelacanths, tuataras, and wollemi pines are not seen in the Quaternary. However, we know that grasses are in the Cretaceous, vertebrates are in the Cambrian, and coelacanths, tuataras, and wollemi pines lived during the era that supposedly is represented by the Quaternary. It’s not clear whether or not elephants would be expected in Devonian rocks in any model of geology. The real question is whether or not the traditional model of the geological column is reasonable, and the evidence tells me that it is not.

      I agree that there are many places where several layers of rock exist, and those layers have been interpreted as representing the Cambrian through the Quaternary. However, that interpretation is not clear from the individual places. It is only possible using many places and evolutionary assumptions.

      I know Glen Morton’s story. The problem is that you find “conversions” going both ways. For example, you can read Roger G. Sigler’s story in Persuaded by the Evidence: True Stories of Faith, Science, and the Power of a Creator by Doug Sharp and Jerry Bergman. He was a geologist who went from the old-earth position to the young-earth position. The actual evidence is more important to me than how others have reacted to it, and I find the evidence stacking against the traditional interpretation of the geological column.

  17. Greg November 14, 2011 10:46 pm

    Jay; You’ve been very patient with my comments so just two last things from me and I’ll go back to lurking:

    a) I’m sorry you don’t find Young and Stearly’s scholarship convincing, but really, given the evidence (and if you’ve read any biographies of Smith), it does not seem likely that Smith was reading Kant (!), let alone being influenced in any way by pre-Darwinian speculations about evolution. The point that Y&S and other historians make (strenuously) is that the early stratigraphers were largely Christian and approached their observations of the geological column assuming a flood and a young earth. It was the evidence they collected that necessitated a theory to explain it all. Since then, some theories have done that better than others.

    b) Getting back to “geological column reasoning,” what you *really* are objecting to is evolutionary thinking applied TO the geological column. The layers, the fossils, all taken together (yes, in mosaic since we don’t see the whole column in one place) IS the geological column – it really exists – and it constitutes the data for which there needs to be a unifying theory. You think evolutionary theory does not explain those features adequately and would rather substitute another theory, that of a young earth, world-wide flood, etc. You could even say that YEC is a kind of “geological column reasoning” since you look at the same rocks and the same fossils but interpret their meaning in an entirely different way. I mean, look at what happens at the Grand Canyon: Here’s a big chunk of geological column and your choice of two different kinds of “tours” to view it! – tours that will tell you about the Canyon through the lens of young-earth/flood geology and tours that will tell you about the same features through the lens of standard geology. Two different methods of “geological column reasoning”, one geological column.

    So if you want to disagree with evolutionary theory as applied to (or inferred from) the geological column, fine. Just don’t mislead those you want to educate about the *fact* of the column itself. It really exists and we’re all trying to figure out what it means.


    • jlwile November 15, 2011 8:08 am

      Greg, I enjoy the dialogue. I think you are incredibly wrong about a number of issues, but that’s what makes the dialogue interesting. In answer to your points.

      a. We have no idea whether or not William Smith read Kant. However, that’s not relevant. Having spent a great deal of my life in research, I know that you don’t have to read a person to learn what he or she thinks. Researchers get together and talk about the newest ideas all the time. All Smith had to do is have discussions with people who did read Kant, and he would know about this new idea that was clearly “up and coming.” It is almost certain that he did this, since Kant’s view was directly applicable to geology, and geologists talk about such views all the time. I find it odd that you found Young and Stearly’s quote so convincing, when it was really just about the geological column appearing before Darwin. Now that I have demonstrated that evolutionary concepts clearly predated the geological column, you suddenly don’t find the timeline nearly as convincing.

      I agree that most of the early geologists were Christians. Interestingly enough, however, William Smith was not. He was a vague theist and thus probably didn’t even believe in a worldwide Flood. As a result, I expect an evolutionary explanation for how we all got here was very appealing to him, which is probably why evolution is so deeply embedded into the geological column, as evidenced by the concept of index fossils. In addition, geologists at the time didn’t understand enough about sedimentation to realize that the Flood is a good explanation for the geological strata we see all over the earth. After all, “laboratories” of catastrophism like Mt. St. Helens had not been analyzed, so they had no idea how easily flowing floodwaters lay down strata of rock. As a result, they went with a uniformitarian approach. Guided by evolutionary concepts, the geological column was then constructed. The point is that now we understand catastrophic deposition well enough to see the broad strokes of how the Flood can explain the geology we see from region to region. We have also seen enough failure of geological column reasoning to realize that there is something wrong with what those geologists have come up with.

      b. The geological column as it appears in textbooks most certainly does not exist. There is nowhere in the world where you see all the major layers containing the fossil succession, as you admit. Thus, it is not real. It is a model. You think it is an accurate model, and I can see why. However, I think its lists of failures show it to be a poor model, and at least some PhD geologists agree with that assessment. Yes, I think the YEC model (and it is also a model) is a better one, as I think it follows the evidence more closely. I would disagree, however, that I use geological column reasoning, because I don’t think that model is accurate. Instead, I strive to understand the geological structures as they actually exist in different parts of the world. That’s not the geological column. That’s the actual observations, and I think trying to follow the actual observations leads to fewer problems than trying to follow a model that has already racked up so many failures.

      I think the bulk of your confusion lies in equating the geological column with individual geological formations. The Grand Canyon, for example, is not the geological column. It contains only a few of the geological column’s layers, and only certain types of fossils. I agree that a uniformitarian looks at the Grand Canyon one way and a catastrophist looks at it another way. But if we are looking at just the Grand Canyon, we are not looking at the geological column. We are looking at a specific series of rocks, which contain a specific series of fossils.

      I am not misleading anyone. In fact, I am afraid that you are. In this very comment, you admit that the geological column is a mosaic, because it doesn’t exist in any one place. Thus, it is not a “fact” as you claim later in this same comment. As you admit, it is a model. As I make clear, that model has produced a number of failures, which makes it reasonable to question the model’s reliability.

      God Bless!

  18. Tim Helble November 15, 2011 5:58 pm

    You don’t have to look very far to see that evolutionary thinking preceded Darwin. As I recall, he devoted an entire chapter to the subject in “The Origin of Species.”

    • jlwile November 16, 2011 8:32 am

      Tim, Darwin doesn’t devote a chapter of The Origin of Species to previous evolutionary musings. In fact, some say that he didn’t give his predecessors enough credit for how they shaped his views. I am not sure I agree with that, but he most certainly didn’t spend a lot of time discussing those who had come up with evolutionary concepts before him.

  19. Kevin N November 16, 2011 1:04 am

    Certainly there was discussion of evolutionary ideas before Darwin, but the relationship between the acceptance of biological evolution and the development of the geological column was a two-way street.

    To one degree or another, biological evolution is true, and this is reflected in the column. An example of this would be the horse evolutionary series, that some young-Earth creationists (e.g. Todd Wood) now admit is valid. If this is the case, then evolution influenced the geological column not because of the influence of pre-Darwin evolutionists, but because horses and ammonites and trilobites really did change over time. So evolution (not evolutionary thinking) influenced the nature of at least parts of the column.

    Because there are evolutionary trends apparent in the column, the column itself influenced the development and acceptance of Darwin’s theories. The observation (!!!) that fossils occur in a certain order, or the inference that the fossils somehow reflect the history of Earth, helped to convince most scientists that organisms had indeed changed over the course of Earth history.

    To find some organisms that “break the rules” of the stratigraphic column, such as ancient organisms (e.g. Coelacanths) that are found alive today, or organisms that we now know appear before we thought they did (e.g. grasses) does not negate the overall patterns found in the geological column. The fossils that stick to the “rules” far outweigh those that do not.

    These patterns are often very specific. Certain ammonites have very narrow vertical ranges in the geologic column, being restricted to specific subdivisions (ages) of the Jurassic and Cretaceous. So, while ammonites are found throughout these two periods, specific species (and often families) are often restricted to to certain ages, such as ammonite species/genera/families that are only found in the Bathonian or Oxfordian ages of the Jurassic.

    How would this work in Flood geology? Somehow, a species of ammonite would have to be suspended in the water, waiting for just the right time to be deposited over widespread areas. There couldn’t be any mixing of species in the water column. Kimmeridgian species (or in some cases families) would always have to be deposited before Portlandian species, and never the other way around.

    I think young-Earth creationists are doing the equivalent of rejecting gravity because they observe helium balloons floating upwards. They see exceptions to what has been presented as facts (e.g. no grass in the Mesozoic) and fail to see both the overall trends and intricacies of the record.

    • jlwile November 16, 2011 8:25 am

      Thanks for your comment, Kevin. I absolutely agree that the relationship between the geological column and evolution is a two-way street (evolutionary concepts are embedded in the geological column, and geological column reasoning is embedded in evolution), but that’s far from your initial position that the geological column contains no evolutionary reasoning. It clearly contains a lot of evolutionary reasoning.

      I also agree that to some extent, evolution is true. Creatures do adapt to their changing environment, causing what can be large, phenotype changes. However, what experiments have clearly demonstrated is that there is a limit to biological change, just as young-earth creationists have always said. That limit shows major evolutionary changes are not possible, which invalidates much of the reasoning that exists on the admitted two-way street between evolution and the geological column.

      I also agree that there are far more fossils that “stick to the rules” of geological column reasoning than those that break them. However, a model’s validity isn’t based on whether or not it works most of the time. A model’s validity is based on how well its predictions are born out by the data, and that’s where the geological column fails – sometimes quite spectacularly. Some of its predictions have been falsified by the data, as this study and others clearly show. Thus, at the very best, it is only partly correct, but that’s far from the fact that you claim it is. When a model’s predictions are falsified by the data several times, it is not only scientifically reasonable, it is scientifically necessary to question the model’s validity. That’s what I am doing.

      Your mischaracterization of Flood geology is unfortunate. In Flood geology, there is absolutely no problem with certain species of ammonites having a very narrow range in the fossil record. Remember, in Flood geology, the pattern of fossils represent the pattern of the floodwaters rising. Fossils don’t float around waiting to be fossilized. Most of them are immediately trapped in sediment due to the violently rising floodwaters. Since we know that species are often isolated to one depth or height (marine biologists call this “vertical zonation”), we would expect that the rising floodwaters would trap certain species at certain levels and not others. This is the problem with the way most old-earthers treat Flood geology. Rather than giving it a fair hearing, they mischaracterize it and then claim that because their mischaracterization doesn’t work, Flood geology doesn’t work. In fact, real Flood geology has a lot of promise when it comes to explaining the geological structures we see today, even though old-earther mischaracterizations of Flood geology do not.

      I find it very strange that you equate the geological column to gravity. Gravity is a well-understood phenomenon that has been characterized mathematically and subjected to repeated experiments. The predictions of the mathematics associated with gravity are regularly born out by the data. They don’t lead to false beliefs. What about the geological column? It is a model based on interpretation of events that can never be repeated. Also, its conclusions are often falsified by the data, showing that its reasoning leads to false beliefs. That’s a big difference. If the geological column were like gravity, I most certainly wouldn’t be questioning it.

      Please note that a rising helium balloon is not an exception to gravity. Once again, this is a mischaracterization that only tends to confuse people. Since the time of Newton, the mathematics associated with gravity have predicted that a helium-filled balloon will rise. In fact, the mathematics of gravity tell you exactly how quickly a helium-filled balloon will rise. Once again, while the predictions of gravity’s mathematics are not falsified by the data, some predictions of the geological column are falsified by the data. This makes it unreasonable to question gravity but very reasonable to question the geological column.

  20. Tim Helble November 16, 2011 3:59 pm

    O.k., Jay – we might be splitting hairs. I got out my paperback copy of “The Origin of Species” and the entire chapter “Historical Sketch” at the front of the book seemed to me to be a summary of the previous work of biologists, taxonomists, and such leading up to Darwin’s theory of evolution. In the eyes of a lot of YECs (and certainly the most influential ones), the people doing that previous work would be “evolutionists,” because they didn’t accept 6-day creation. You may be right that Darwin didn’t give his predecessors enough credit for how they shaped his views.

    • jlwile November 16, 2011 4:21 pm

      Tim, I think I just misunderstood you. The “Historical Sketch” isn’t a chapter. It is a preface. It appears before the introduction. As its title implies, it really is just a short sketch. However, it does make it clear (as you indicated) that even Darwin admits there were evolutionary thinkers before him. He starts his sketch with Buffon but passes over him. His real discussion starts with Lamarck, who was writing in the very early 1800s. His critics claim that he did not spend nearly enough time on this historical sketch and therefore did not give adequate credit to those who shaped his views.

  21. Tim Helble November 16, 2011 7:51 pm

    Jay – Thanks for straightening me out. I should have checked the book before saying it was a chapter. Changing subjects a bit, I see you and Kevin are having a lively discussion about Flood geology – I was wondering if you support Answers in Genesis’ view on how the Flood started as depicted in their video:

    I guess included in my question would be whether you support the whole idea of catastrophic plate tectonics?

    • jlwile November 16, 2011 8:16 pm

      Tim, I personally think that AiG confuses man’s interpretation of the Bible with what the Bible actually says. The Bible says that God opened the fountains of the deep and opened the floodgates of the sky in order to initiate the Flood. AiG has interpreted that to produce the video you linked. While that video is certainly consistent with what the Bible says, it isn’t the only possible interpretation. I have no idea what the Flood looked like, because the Bible doesn’t give enough details about the Flood to determine that.

      I do think that Baumgardner’s view of catastrophic plate tectonics has a lot going for it. Whether or not it is the correct model of plate tectonics is yet to be determined, but I think it has a lot more going for it than the standard interpretation of plate tectonics.

  22. Kevin N November 16, 2011 10:30 pm


    I did say that the geologic column was not constructed based on evolutionary assumptions. I’ll stick by that statement. William Smith was not out to prove evolution, even in some vague sense. He examined strata on Great Britain and observed that certain fossils occurred in certain layers, and that many of these were found only in those certain layers. Other workers extended the work to France, Europe, and then the rest of the world, and found the same trends in their locales. We could go to the same locations and confirm their observations.

    I also said that there is a two-way street between the development of evolutionary theory in the nineteenth century and the growing understanding of the existence of the geologic column. I’ll stick with that statement as well, and the two statements are not contradictory. Smith (and other early stratigraphers) may not have been looking for evolution, but evolutionary trends were there in the fossil record, whether in bivalves, brachiopods, corals, ammonites, or a host of other organisms. Many young-Earth creationists would not deny that these trends exist, but would call them examples of microevolution.

    Is there a limit to biological change? I’m inclined to think there is, based on the presence of gaps in the fossil record at the higher levels of taxonomy. But that is not the point here. There are specific trends, with some abrupt steps, in the stratigraphic record, and this is in need of an explanation. I believe the explanation is that it reflects the history of life over hundreds of millions of years. The debate about how much of that history was shaped by biological evolution of some form is a different issue.

    I will stick by my insistence that the geologic column is an observation, not an inference. Is the present biogeographical distribution of organisms (e.g. most marsupials are in Australia) an inference or an observation? Is the worldwide distribution of precipitation an observation or an inference? In both of these cases, one can go out and make measurements and draw maps. Could there be a pygmy kangaroo species that has escaped detection in the Congo? Yes. Would it destroy the concept of biogeographical distribution? No, it would only modify the concept. The same is true for the geologic column. One can go out and map sedimentary layers, and the patterns of fossil distribution are the same across continents and around the world. Nothing I have read from the young-Earth geologists has either seriously challenged this, or offered a reasonable alternative.

    I have not mischaracterized Flood geology as it now stands. They propose all sorts of mechanisms to explain the nature of the geologic column (which is in itself an acknowledgement on their part that the geologic column really exists and needs explanation). Those mechanisms include vertical ecological zonation, horizontal ecological zonation, and floating vegetation mats. Vertical zonation (which you referred to) can play a role in the distribution of fossils over localized areas. Species A which is found in shallow water is found in Layer 1, while Species B, a deeper water type, is found in Layer 2. Layers 1 and 2 might grade into one another laterally, or they may be deposited one on top of the other as sea level changed. But in the Flood geology scenario as currently held, massive sheets of water were moving to and fro across continents. Somehow there was no turbulent mixing, so all of the Kimmeridgian (second to the last age of the Jurassic) ammonites stayed together, and were always deposited beneath the Tithonian (last age of the Jurassic) ammonites. “Real Flood geology” doesn’t work any better than its earlier versions, and it doesn’t hold much promise for explaining the geologic column.

    I have mainly been writing about the details of the geologic column, but Flood geology fails miserably at explaining the broad features of the stratigraphic record as well. Consider the Grand Canyon and dinosaurs. Flood geologists say that the Paleozoic section of the Grand Canyon (basically all of the horizontal layers that make up the bulk of the strata that is exposed in the canyon) was deposited by the Flood. The problem I want to focus on for now is that dinosaur fossils (as well as birds, mammals, ammonites, and a host of other groups) are completely absent. By the time the last of the Grand Canyon layers were deposited the continents had been deeply scoured by the initial stages of the Flood, and then many thousands of feet of sediments had been deposited over most of the surface of the continents. Where were the dinosaurs hiding all of this time? Isolated peaks? Floating vegetation mats? If they were all huddled together on isolated peaks, how did they all get distributed around the globe to leave footprints, build nests, and so forth, in the Mesozoic rocks that are stratigraphically higher than the Grand Canyon rocks? If they were on floating vegetation mats (which later became coal), how did every single one of them stay on those mats? There are no dinosaur fossils in the Paleozoic. And how did they, once again, get off the mats and go wandering around the continents leaving footprints and building nests? And why did only non-dinosaur bearing vegetation mats run aground in the Paleozoic?

    Flood geology simply does not work, and I am frustrated that it is presented to the church and the world as Christian apologetics.

    • jlwile November 17, 2011 12:49 pm

      Kevin, I appreciate your point of view, but your major points are simply not correct. The geoogical column is most certainly not an observation, as there is no place on earth where you can go to view all the layers and the succession of fossils. Thus, it is a model – a mesh of the geological features of many individual regions around the globe. As such, the order of fossils in this model must be inferred. How is it inferred? With evolutionary assumptions. Nowhere have I stated that the geological column was constructed to PROVE evolution. That is another mischaracterization. What I have shown quite clearly is that evolutionary views predated the geological column, and those views were ASSUMED in order to produce the geological column. That’s the two-way street. The geological column seems to support evolution, only because evolution was assumed in order to produce it in the first place. The history and the science are quite clear on this point.

      I am glad that you have looked at the data enough to realize that there is a limit to biological change. However, I am not sure that you have truly appreciated what this means. In order to produce the geological column, the basic story of evolution is assumed. Since the limits of biological change show that the basic story of evolution is incorrect, it is reasonable to conclude that a model which assumes it is also incorrect. Add that to the data which show the predictions of the model are at least sometimes faulty, and it is a scientist’s duty to question the model.

      You ask, “Is the present biogeographical distribution of organisms (e.g. most marsupials are in Australia) an inference or an observation?” It is an observation, and that observation is subject to change. You ask, “Is the worldwide distribution of precipitation an observation or an inference?” Once again, it is an observation, and that observation is subject to change. However, these two observations are fundamentally different from the geological column. No one tries to mesh the biological organisms in Australia with those in the United States. In fact, the differences are studied. No one tries to mesh the precipitation in Australia with that in the United States. Once again, the differences are studied. However, the geological column does just the opposite. It tries mesh the geological features in Australia with those in the United States and all the other regions of the globe to produce one, unified geological system. To do this, of course, the geological column must ASSUME an underlying order of fossils. As soon as you require underlying assumptions, you are no longer working with an observation. You are working with a model.

      You say, “Nothing I have read from the young-Earth geologists has either seriously challenged this, or offered a reasonable alternative.” That does not surprise me, because despite your protestations, you most certainly do mischaracterize Flood geology. I am not surprised that mischaracterizations of Flood geology aren’t convincing to you. In your previous post, for example, you said, “How would this work in Flood geology? Somehow, a species of ammonite would have to be suspended in the water, waiting for just the right time to be deposited over widespread areas.” That is a blatant mischarcterization. Find me a single Flood geologist who uses this explanation for the distribution of ammonites. You won’t be able to find one, because your statement is a severe mischarcterization of what Flood geologists say.

      You further mischaracterize Flood geology by saying, “They propose all sorts of mechanisms to explain the nature of the geologic column (which is in itself an acknowledgement on their part that the geologic column really exists and needs explanation).” That is most certainly not true. Flood geologists have no desire to explain the nature of the geological column, because they understand that it is a model based on false assumptions. They use the term, not because they believe it exists, but because they wish to conform to the standard jargon, much like they use terms like “Cambrian” without believing that a stratum represents a specific era of time. Instead, they use “all sorts of mechanisms” (none of which you acknowledged in your first mischaracterization of Flood geology) to explain the features of the geology in individual regions of the earth. Why do they use “all sorts of mechanisms?” Because there are all sorts of individual regions (each with their unqiue properties) and all sorts of different things happening in a worldwide Flood. Because Flood geologists are more realistic than standard geologists, they understand that you should not cling to simple explanations which the data show don’t work!

      You continue your unfortunate mischaraterization of Flood geology by saying, “But in the Flood geology scenario as currently held, massive sheets of water were moving to and fro across continents. Somehow there was no turbulent mixing, so all of the Kimmeridgian (second to the last age of the Jurassic) ammonites stayed together, and were always deposited beneath the Tithonian (last age of the Jurassic) ammonites.” That is certainly not true. Sometimes, there were massive sheets of water moving to and fro across continents. However, as would be expected in any global rise of waters, there were also times of gentle water flow as well. For example, a Flood geologist has published a very convincing explanation of the vertebrate footprints in the Coconino sandstones based on the assumption that during that stage of the Flood, the sandstone sediment was covered in water flowing at a low current. That explanation ended up suriving peer review in two secular geology journals (Brand, L., Field and laboratory studies in the Coconino Sandstone, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 28:25–38, 1979 and Brand, L. and Tang, T., Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: Evidence for underwater origin, Geology 19:1201–1204, December 1991.) My point is not to argue whether or not Brand’s explanation is correct. It is simply to show that you are once again mischaracterizing what Flood geology entails. No Flood geologist says that “massive sheets of water were moving to and fro across continents” during all stages of the Flood or all regions of the earth.

      Once again, Flood geology is actually very promising in explaining many of the geological features around the globe; however, mischaracterizations of it don’t do nearly as well. Unfortunately, mischaracterizations are commonly found in many writings, including your posts here.

      I am not sure why you expect dinosaur fossils in the Grand Canyon. It’s not like dinosaurs were evenly spread throughout the globe. It’s quite possible that there were few dinosaurs, mammals, birds, etc. in that region of the earth when the Flood struck. I can go to parts of the earth now that have such a low population of mammals and reptiles that if a flood passed over those areas, no fossils of the creatures would be left. In addition, animals like birds, mammals, and repties are able to move away from rising floodwaters. They were probably not “huddled together” on isolated peaks, but the waters probably did herd them together into different areas, depending on where they were initially and how good their mobility was.

      I understand that you think Flood geology fails miserably, but that’s not what the data indicate to me. It’s also not what the data indicate to other scientists, including some geologists. To me (and to some geologists) the data indicate that geological column reasoning is what fails miserably. I have no doubt that this leads to frustration on your part. You are obviously very committed to the geological column model, and I am sure it pains you each time the data show it to be faulty. I am also sure it pains you to see that Flood geology is convincing enough to many people and scientists (including some geologists) that it is gaining a foothold in science. However, if you are really right, you have no worries. The data will eventually vindicate your model. Of course, the data currently indicate to me that you are wrong and that Flood geology is a much better explanation for the actual geology and paleontology that are observed. I guess time and further investigation will tell which of us is correct.

  23. JL November 17, 2011 11:19 am

    A good book for anyone who wants to understand the different perspectives on the geologic column held by creationist geologists is “The Geologic Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology” ( Another way to learn about current issues in Flood geology would be to browse the article archives of the Journal of Creation (,or the Creation Research Society Quarterly (, or better yet, subscribe to both journals. Andrew Snelling also has a high quality technical journal available online:

    • jlwile November 17, 2011 12:49 pm

      Thanks, JL. Those are, indeed, excellent resources.

  24. Tim Helble November 18, 2011 2:17 pm

    Jay – I’m going to join in with Kevin here and ask, by what mechanism do you think animals such as the amphibians in Brand and Tang’s experiments could have made footprints in Coconino sediments in an underwater environment consistent with the formation of the Coconino’s famous cross beds? Do you have an explanation for how the Coconino’s cross beds were formed?

    • jlwile November 18, 2011 3:10 pm

      Tim, I think you missed my point. As I said, I am not trying to argue that Brand and Tang are right. I haven’t studied the Coconino Sandstone formation enough to know the ins and outs of the debate surrounding how the sediments were laid down or how the footprints were made. My point was just that these are Flood geologists, and they are not proposing “massive sheets of water” “moving to and fro across continents.” Thus, for Kevin to make it sound like that is the only mechanism used in Flood geology is a clear mischaracterization.

  25. Tim Helble November 18, 2011 4:11 pm

    Jay – flood geologists would have to be proposing massive sheets of water or total inundation, since they argue that all of the Grand Canyon’s layers form the Tapeats Sandstone on up (some 4,000 feet of layers) were deposited by the global flood. That would leave only a matter of days to deposit each layer.

    • jlwile November 19, 2011 7:27 am

      Tim, Flood geologists do propose massive sheets of water and total inundation, but not at all stages of the Flood. That’s my point. By saying that massive sheets of water are the only sediment-laying mechanisms, Kevin was mischaracterizing Flood geology.

  26. Kevin N November 19, 2011 12:01 am

    Jay — I’ve written a lengthier response on my blog. Blessings to you brother.

    • jlwile November 19, 2011 7:30 am

      Kevin, for some reason, pingbacks don’t post here. For those who want to read Kevin’s lengthier response, you can find it here.

      Thanks for the conversation, Kevin. It is important for people to read both sides of the issue. God Bless!

  27. Kevin N November 19, 2011 10:25 am

    Jay — I think Tim is correct. In the YEC Flood scenario, the massive sheets of water came before the shallow (but still deadly) waters that deposited the Coconino. The Coconino critters (as well as all of the dinosaurs and mammals that are stratigraphically higher) had to have some way of surviving the early Flood, and in large numbers.

    • jlwile November 19, 2011 10:47 am

      Kevin, I did not say that Tim was incorrect. As one would expect in a worldwide Flood, there would be different kinds of hydrological events in a given region, depending on the dynamics of the situation. And yes, shallow water can, indeed, be deadly. The point is that by saying (as you did) that there was only one kind of hydrological event, you were mischaracterizing Flood geology.

  28. Tim Helble November 19, 2011 11:22 am

    Jay, I think you’re dodging the issue. People who endorse Flood geology seem to need astounding rates of sediment deposition when it is convenient for their explanations, but at other times they need very slow or nonexistent rates of deposition at other times when it is convenient for their explanations. Mike Oard, the co-author of the book you recently endorsed — Rock Solid Answers — actually makes it even tougher for your case. He argues that the entire 13,000 feet of the Grand Canyon Supergroup were also deposited by the flood, in addition to the 4,000 feet of Grand Canyon layers that Austin and Snelling classify as “early flood” and 4,000+ feet of Grand Staircase layers that Austin and Snelling classify as “late flood.” Oard also believes some of the Cenozoic layers above the Grand Staircase layers are also Flood deposits. In the scenario of Austin and Snelling (the two big Kahunas of Flood geology), there are 150 days to deposit the 4,000 feet of Grand Canyon layers. They say the average thickness of the Coconino is 315 feet, so that leaves about 12 days to deposit the Coconino. If you buy what Oard says (and you did endorse his book), you have only perhaps 2-3 days to deposit the Coconino. That doesn’t leave much time for the Coconino sediments to be exposed for animals to walk around and leave their tracks. Also, the animal tracks are at different levels of the Coconino – so there had to be multiple breaks in deposition. Speaking as a hydrologist, things like this are why Flood geology simply doesn’t add up.

    • jlwile November 19, 2011 11:35 am

      Tim, I am not dodging the issue. I am saying that I haven’t studied the Coconino Sandstone much. Thus, I can’t comment on it with any reasonable seriousness. That’s not dodging the issue – it’s just being honest. Also, this post is not on Flood geology. I have been indulgent with Kevin’s mischaracterizations and your questions simply because I enjoy the conversation. However, I am not going to try to comment on things that I have not studied. Please also note that I did not “endorse” Oard’s book. I simply said that if you read it, you will see how Young and Stearly mischaracterize Flood geology.

      I have no doubt that there are serious issues with Flood geology, just as there are serious issues with the traditional interpretation of the geological column.

  29. Jordan November 19, 2011 8:39 pm

    Having some familiarity with the literature on Late Cretaceous fossil plants, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize reconstructions of Late Cretaceous fossil ecosystems as having a basis solely in “geological column reasoning”. Most Late Cretaceous communities are reconstructed without grasses because the local palaeobotanical records themselves show that grasses simply weren’t a part of most palaeocommunities. For example, the known palaeoflora of the upper Campanian Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta is listed here:
    There’s not one record of grass present, even after 100 years of prospecting (this is pretty typical of most Late Cretaceous palaeofloras of North America). Are we not therefore justified in reconstructing this palaeoecosystem without grass? It isn’t that grass CAN’T be there based on “geological column reasoning”; it’s that we simply don’t see it in the fossil record. If grasses were a major component of Late Cretaceous ecosystems, why don’t we find them more often? I think you’re really overstating your case by insisting that we must throw the baby out with the bathwater and do away with a model that has held up to scrutiny for hundreds of years, especially in light of the fact that the age of grasses has only been pushed back a few million years or so. I’d be more inclined to agree with you if we found in situ grasses in the Ordovician or humans in the Cretaceous, but as it stands, we’re talking about some pretty trivial stuff.

    • jlwile November 20, 2011 9:44 am

      Jordan, I didn’t mean to critique the reconstructions themselves. Obviously, you should not include things with dinosaurs unless there is fossil evidence that they might have been together. As I thought I made clear, I was discussing the geological-column reasoning that says if two fossils are not found in the same basic stratum, they could not have existed at the same time. That kind of reasoning has been demonstrated to be faulty by this study and others.

      I can understand why you think that these kinds of studies shouldn’t be used to undermine the geological column. However, I think your comment illustrates the problem beautifully. As you say,”There’s not one record of grass present, even after 100 years of prospecting.” Nevertheless, it now appears that dinosaurs ate grasses, and not only that, the grasses were fairly “modern” in the evolutionary scheme. To me, that specifically shows that just because two organisms are not found in the same stratum of the geological column, that doesn’t tell you whether or not they lived at the same time.

  30. Jordan November 20, 2011 1:59 pm

    Dr. Wile, I still think you’re overstating your case. What the coprolites show is that some sauropod dinosaurs in Late Cretaceous India ate grass. But the way you come across, you’d have us believe that all dinosaurs everywhere ate grass over the entire course of their existence. And while it’s true that the grasses pertain to the extant clade Poaceae, it’s pretty clear from the fossil record that they were not as widespread as they are today. In other words, while grasses may have been diverse in the Late Cretaceous, they were evidently neither abundant nor widespread. If you want to argue otherwise, how do you account for the fact that grasses are absent from nearly all Late Cretaceous fossil localities?
    My apologies if I’m misunderstanding you. To be honest, I’m having a hard time grasping your argument because I get the impression that you’re caricaturing the claims of palaeontologists. The reason why palaeos thought grasses first evolved in the Cenozoic is because grasses were only ever known from the Cenozoic until recently. Now we know better thanks to additional fossil evidence. But that doesn’t therefore make it more likely that we’ll one day find humans and trilobites in the same strata, and it certainly doesn’t invalidate the distinct order to the fossil record that we’ve noted for centuries. Your argument is akin to an atheist saying that we must discard the Bible because some Christians once used it to argue against the existence of the antipodes. Non sequitur.

    BTW, I think every participant in this thread should read the following because it applies directly to what we’re discussing:

    • jlwile November 21, 2011 7:34 am

      Jordan, I think you are reading things I haven’t written into this blog post. Nowhere do I come close to asserting that “all dinosaurs everywhere ate grass over the entire course of their existence.” In fact, I make it clear in my piece that the data are only for what are thought to be titanosaurs. What I do assert (which is quite true) is that paleobiologists have confidently assured us that if any grasses existed with the dinosaurs, they were incredibly primitive. However, what these data indicate is that very modern grasses existed with the dinosaurs. This is why the authors themselves state, “These results, therefore, necessitate a re-evaluation of current models for grass evolution and palaeobiogeography.”

      Perhaps you are having a hard time grasping my argument because you are reading into it things that are not there. I don’t ever expect to find trilobites and humans in the same strata. In my view, trilobites are in certain strata because of where they lived (at the bottom of the ocean). Humans are in certain strata because of where they lived and how they could escape rising waters. Since humans never lived at the bottom of the ocean, I don’t expect to find their fossils mixed in with trilobite fossils.

      The argument is not a non sequitur. It is a completely scientific argument. A scientist evaluates a theory based on the predictions that the theory makes. The prediction of geological column reasoning, as you so clearly made in your previous post, is that since we don’t see dinosaur and modern grass fossils in the same strata, they could not have existed at the same time. This study contradicts that prediction, which casts some doubt on the standard theory of the geological column.

  31. J.S. November 20, 2011 2:29 pm

    The preservation of tracks and traces in the rock record, while problematic for flood geology, is even more problematic for conventional geologists. I live near a beach, and while I see many animal tracks every time I take a walk there, they don’t last very long under the attack of wind and water. Under uniformitarian assumptions of equivalence between modern and paleoenvironments of deposition, there should be no preservation of trace fossils, because of their fragility and ephemeral nature. If the Coconino was truly wind deposited, the problems of trace fossil preservation are only magnified. Other enigmatic features of the Coconino are its tremendous thickness and lateral extent, which are very different from currently observed aeolian environments.

    As you point out in your excellent textbooks, Dr. Wile, the true test of a hypothesis is how much of the data it can account for. As a Christian, I don’t have to reject the hypothesis of a literal interpretation of Genesis because God, by His very nature, could have created the world in any manner He so desired. As a geologist, it just appears to me that data such as preserved tracks and traces and extensive thicknesses and lateral extent of sediments are more consistent with the hydraulic conditions that would have been produced by the catastrophe described in the Flood account.

    • jlwile November 21, 2011 7:38 am

      J.S., I am not a geologist, but I do agree with you. While there are problems with both Flood geology and uniformitarian geology, I find that the overall nature of the geological record is more aligned with the predictions of Flood geology.

  32. Jordan November 21, 2011 10:03 am

    Thanks for clearing that up, Dr. Wile. I still don’t think it follows, though, that we must do away with the entire geologic column simply because we’ve found some evidence for grass at the end of the Cretaceous. Kevin does a thorough job of explaining why in his blog response to you.

    I’m a bit confused about why you wouldn’t expect to find humans and trilobites in a flood deposit, though. Sure, humans live on land and trilobites lived in the sea. But wouldn’t a flood tend to mix those things up? Just look at the tsunami that recently devastated Japan and all the debris it washed out to sea. Don’t you think some of that stuff might sink down to the bottom? The shores themselves were littered with a mix of terrestrial and coastal marine life. That’s what floods do; they mix things up.

    You also seem to think that differential escape can explain the order of the fossil record, but why? Restricting ourselves to land animals, would you argue that sloths could escape better than Velociraptor? Or that tortoises could escape better than pterosaurs? I understand that you’ve just admitted that there are some serious problems with Flood geology, and the differential escape apologetic strikes me as one of them. If you think the discovery of Cretaceous grass should lead us to abandon the geologic column, why don’t the shortcomings of Flood geology lead you to abandon your interpretation of the Flood account?

    • jlwile November 21, 2011 10:44 am

      Jordan, I don’t say that we should abandon geological column reasoning just because of the grasses. This study is just one of several that show the faultiness of such reasoning. Kevin’s explanation doesn’t come close to explaining why we should continue to work with such a faulty system. He simply makes excuses for why he thinks it’s okay to add epicycles to geological column reasoning in order to preserve it in spite of what the data seem to say.

      You are probably confused about why I don’t expect to find humans and trilobites together because you have not educated yourself on real Flood geology. Instead, you have probably just read mischaracterizations about it. Flood geologists understand that fossilization occurs when things are rapidly preserved. A flood will, indeed, mix a lot of things together, but those things don’t get fossilized. It’s the stuff that’s rapidly buried that gets fossilized, and because that stuff is rapidly buried, it is not mixed with other things.

      You are also mixing terms here. It is not just rapid escape that explains the apparent succession of fossils, it is also ecosystem. Sloths and velociraptors occupied different ecosystems, so even discounting rapid escape, you would not expect them to be fossilized together. I see the shortcomings of Flood geology to be sure. The problem is that there are even more shortcomings with uniformitarian geology and the myriad of assumptions that it entails. Consider J.S.’s comment above. He is a geologist, and while he points out that there are problems with the Flood interpretation of the Coconino system, the uniformitarian interpretation has even more problems. I don’t know enough about the Coconino system to know whether or not that is true, but I can say that overall, that’s exactly what I see. The problems with the Flood interpretation of geology are real, but the problems with the uniformiarian interpretation are more severe. Thus, I could ask you why the problems with the uniformitarian view haven’t caused you to abandon it.

  33. Tim Helble November 21, 2011 4:11 pm

    I see the Coconino Sandstone keeps popping up in posts here. Let’s set aside the trackways question for the moment and focus on the question of whether it’s even possible to form a single regional sedimentary formation in a matter of days. As a hydrologist, I used to think there was a 1/10 of 1 percent the flood geology explanation for Earth’s sedimentary layers is correct, until I ran the numbers for myself. A summary of my findings is provided at:

    These results were published in the ASA’s journal “Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith” in March 2011. All the big name flood geologists have seen the article and nobody has yet commented on it. The article should be available fairly soon on the ASA’s website at:

    • jlwile November 21, 2011 11:23 pm

      Tim, thanks for posting the links. Unfortunately, the slides are very hard to follow. I hope the paper is more clear. Any experienced scientist should know that well over a few months often pass between challenge and reply, especially if peer review is involved. Thus, even if no one else besides the person commenting on your post has commented, that means very little. I do appreciate the fact that you have added to the discussion, and I do hope that Flood geologists critically analyze your argument. As a side note I did see that Dr. Todd Wood has commented on this already.

  34. Tim Helble November 22, 2011 9:25 am

    Thanks, Jay – You’re a real trooper to put up with postings from people like me. I saw Todd’s posting on Feb. 18 and emailed him an early copy of my presentation that day. The six lines on his Feb 17 posting didn’t really constitute comments on the content of my article. Also, his statement “Paul Garner, John Whitmore, and Ray Strom have been working on this very issue for several years now…” is misleading, because none of those three people have done any work on evaluating the quantitative feasibility of depositing the Coconino (or any other formation) in a matter of days. For that matter, no Flood geologist has ever done so. Garner, Whitmore, and Strom are essentially nibbling around the edges of the Coconino using the “science by exceptions” approach employed by many YECs, ignoring the ten-ton elephant presented by the Coconino’s cross beds.

    As for the peer review process on my article — as things go in the PSCF, comments usually appear within two quarterly issues and the third issue since spring just came out. The PSCF article by Hill and Moshier entitled “Flood Geology and the Grand Canyon: A Critique” came out in June 2009 and Flood geologists have never commented on it. I’ve been told their approach is to ignore such critiques. For Flood geologists, all they need to say is “the Flood did it” and that is sufficient for the vast majority of their target audience.

    I’d dispute your assertion that “the slides are very hard to follow,” but then I’m biased. :-) I did have some non-scientists review them and incorporated their suggestions to make it more understandable.

    • jlwile November 22, 2011 2:53 pm

      Tim, I am not being a “trooper.” I am honestly trying to have a dialogue here. Of course, the dialogue would be more enjoyable without all the terrible mischaracterizations of Flood geology and young-earth creationists in general, but I have come to expect such mischaracterizations. I do have to correct them, however.

      First, Wood’s post did, indeed comment on the content of your article. He had a link that makes clear that Greg Neyman hadn’t even bothered to read an article he tried to critique. Once again, this is a common practice among those who demonstrate contempt for alternate views of geology. He then notes that you admit that Greg Neyman is the “originator of the idea” of your article. This is a direct comment on the content of your article, and it puts the article in a bad light. After all, what if Neyman had done the same thing with the Snelling and Austin works you are critiquing? Of course, I have not read the article, since I don’t have access to it. Thus, I don’t know whether or not Wood’s characterization is accurate. However, it is most definitely a direct comment on the content of your article.

      Second, you claim, “none of those three people have done any work on evaluating the quantitative feasibility of depositing the Coconino (or any other formation) in a matter of days. For that matter, no Flood geologist has ever done so.” That is, of course, 100% false, and you should know that. Those three people are participating in original field research on the system. The research is looking at the rocks to see if it is feasible that they were laid down by water. That, of course, is the first step in trying to quantitatively assess the issue. The data will also give them information on flow velocities, etc., which obviously are necessary in making quantitative estimates. In addition, the very slides you linked (which are definitely hard to follow) seem to be attacking a procedure by Austin, where he specifically estimates sediment accumulation rates. Thus, at least one other Flood geologist is working on the problem, contrary to your direct mischaracterization.

      Third, you mischaracterize Garner et. al.’s work as “science by exception.” It most certainly is not. It is science by data collection. You might not like the data they are collecting, but to malign it unfairly does not help make your case. Indeed, just based on the mischaracterizations in your most recent post, I am concerned that the paper upon which your slides are based is just a collection of mischaracterizations, as is common in such literature.

      Fourth, you claim that you have been told that Flood geologists simply ignore critiques. You might have been told that, but even a modicum of research on your part would show that is utterly false. I actually read the young-earth literature, and I do so honestly. As a result, I understand that a large part of creationist literature is composed of responses to critiques. Of course, since Flood geologists are in the minority, it often takes a while to respond to all the critiques out there, and if the articles you cite contain the kind of mischaracterizations that appear in your comment, I am not sure why a Flood geologist would dignify them with responses. I hope those papers don’t contain such mischaracterizations.

      Fifth and most egregious of all, you claim that “the flood did it” is enough to satisfy a Flood geologist’s target audience. That is also 100% false, and once again, you should know that. If “the flood did it” really is enough for their target audience, why are they spending so much effort in field studies and publications that are specifically designed to show exactly how the flood did it? I know what you are trying to do, of course. You are trying to malign young-earth creationists by characterizing us as accepting anything attributed to the Flood. I could do the same thing by characterizing your target audience as accepting anything that follows “The majority of scientists say.” However, I don’t like to mischaracterize those with whom I disagree. Thus, I do not claim that this is true of your target audience.

      Once again, I do enjoy the dialogue. However, I do not enjoy the mischaracterizations, so I would ask that you not engage in any more of them.

  35. Jordan November 22, 2011 12:28 pm

    First, I’m afraid I’m still having a difficult time understanding your position, Dr. Wile. Let me see if I can pin you down, though. Your problem doesn’t seem to be so much with the existence of the geologic column, per se. You would agree with most biostratigraphers that there’s a definite order to the fossil record, whereby the deepest rocks preserve colonial bacteria, followed by the sequential upwards appearance of various arthropods, fish, plants, tetrapods, mammals, etc. You agree with Kevin’s point that lines of correlation between different sections of strata do not overlap, attesting to the robustness of this pattern. Your problem isn’t with the geological column itself, but with the idea that this order is a product of time. You think that there’s good evidence that, say, the humans at the top of the column and the trilobites near the bottom of the column were contemporaneous, that the reason why they do not overlap is because they simply inhabited different biomes, and that most of the geological column was deposited more or less over the course of a year. Is that right? If so, I have some follow-up questions.

    Second, I’m still confused about your characterization of Flood geology. You say that mixed faunal assemblages cannot fossilize because they cannot be buried rapidly. Can you please explain to me why this is? Why can’t an assemblage of organisms become mixed and then buried, or buried while being mixed? After all, we see this in turbidites all the time.

    Third, I still have to wonder whether your ‘different ecosystem’ apologetic holds up to scrutiny. After all, some organisms traverse ecosystems quite readily. Think birds, bats, and butterflies. These things regularly fly between different ecosystems. Why would you expect faunas to be fixed within their ecosystems in the wake of an oncoming flood when so many of them readily move between ecosystems? Or what about those giant vegetative mats that supposedly floated all the animals around during the Flood and distributed them to their present-day locations? Surely that would facilitate ecosystem mixing. Again, I can’t help but think about all that trash that’s currently floating its way over to the west coast of North America from Japan.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that the uniformitarian-catastrophist dichotomy that’s being tossed around here is a bit of a strawman. Modern geologists readily accept instances of catastrophism when the evidence is there (e.g., bolide impacts, catastrophic flooding, volcanism, etc.). I’m happy to admit that there are problems with blanket uniformitarian geology. But then again, no modern geologist subscribes to blanket uniformitarian geology. The geologic record is universally accepted as having been deposited by slow, cyclic and catastrophic processes alike.

    • jlwile November 22, 2011 3:26 pm

      Jordan, as I said before, I have no doubt you are having a hard time understanding my position. I doubt that you have honestly read much about Flood geology, so I doubt that you understand what is standard in the field. There is no need for me to be “pinned down.” In fact, I have been very clear from the beginning that I most certainly do not accept the existence of the geological column. I accept that in specific regions of the earth, there are specific layers of rock, and those specific layers produce a fossil succession in specific orders for those regions. However, the global geological column is based on the assumption that the layers represent eras of time and that the general fossil pattern as given by evolution is true. Using those assumptions, the geological column is constructed. Since the data show me that those assumptions are suspect, I find the geological column suspect as well.

      Organisms tend to rot long before they fossilize. Thus, they need to be buried rapidly. If they are buried rapidly, they won’t be mixed. They will tend to stay in the sediment in which they are buried. To be mixed, then need to float around, which will make them much more likely to decompose and not fossilize. Thus, if I find a fossil, the most likely scenario is that it was buried (or preserved in some other fashion) rapidly.

      Some organisms do, indeed, move between ecosystems. However, you discussed finding humans and trilobites together. That kind of ecosystem mixing doesn’t happen, which is why I don’t expect to find a human in the Cambrian. Now remember, as I have patiently explained before, ecosystem separation isn’t the only thing that separates the fossils in a given region. However, it is one of the mechanisms, and it is the specific mechanism that tells me why there will never be a human fossil found in the Cambrian.

      Floating vegetation mats will, indeed, support some animals, and even old-earth geologists use them to explain certain fossils. However, you would not expect diverse populations on floating mats. Even if the population of a floating mat started out as diverse, you would expect one kind of organism to become dominant and either kill or push off the competitors. Once again, then, that would lead to rather homogeneous populations being fossilized, if the mat were buried later. Please note that this very reason is used by old-earth geologists to explain why, for example, hoatzins and other specific species (like caviomorph rodents, platyrrhine primates, etc.) got to South America and not a wider range of African species.

      I agree that uniformitarians use catastrophic ideas from time to time (and vice-versa), and anyone who reads the Flood geology literature would know that. However, there is clearly no false dichotomy. Uniformitarian geologists use catastrophism as the exception to the general rule of uniformitarianism, while Flood geologists use uniformitarianism as the exception to the general rule of catastrophism. Thus, the dichotomy is real, and it is based on the general rule.

  36. Tim Helble November 22, 2011 3:59 pm

    Hi Jay – my email is entered on your blog site. Send me a message and I’ll be glad to email you my PSCF article. Got to differ with you on a few things. The section in Austin’s book “Grand Canyon Monument to Catastrophe” did not deal quantitatively with sediment transport at all. Sediment transport is characterized in terms of mass (or weight) per unit width (perpendicular to the direction of flow) per unit time. The graph in my presentation which shows sediment transport rates was taken from the paper by Rubin and McCulloch that Austin used. Austin used another graph from their paper, but he did not use their graph with sediment transport rates. And I would also dispute what you have about the Garner research you link to – they are not dealing with sediment transport modeling, which requires very sophisticated mathematical simulation. Studying flood current speed is not the same thing at all. And the speed they will come up with won’t be that different from Austin’s. The whole point of my article and presentation is that such a current speed couldn’t transport near enough sand to form the Coconino in a matter of days or indeed, over the entire duration of the Flood.

    I know you’re not always an Answers in Genesis defender, but go to any AiG creation conference (and I’ve been to many), or a conference put on by any other young earth creation ministry, or the Creation Museum (I’ve been there three times) and you will indeed see that “the flood did it” is sufficient for their target audience.

    Please continue to study this flood geology issue closely. As one of my young earth believing friends told me, go where the data takes you. And no matter what you find out, Jesus is still Lord and Savior.

    • jlwile November 22, 2011 4:15 pm

      Tim, I most certainly agree with your young-earth friend. We should, indeed, follow the data where they lead, and regardless, Jesus is still Lord and Savior.

      I understand that you don’t like what Austin did, but since you are using Austin’s and Snelling’s work in your slides, it is clear that their work relates directly to what you are talking about, which is a quantitative approach to sediment accumulation. Once again, then, you were clearly mischaracterizing them and their work.

      I am not sure what AiG conferences you go to, but I have been to many, and “the flood did it” is most certainly not sufficient for the target audience. Indeed, I distinctly remember a Ken Ham talk at a homeschooling conference where a group of students challenged him on several Flood-related points, and he quickly had to agree to put the group in touch with a geologist, since they were challenging him on several points and it was (understandably) beyond his expertise. I contacted one of the students later on (I knew her personally), and Mr. Ham had done what he had promised, and the student group was satisfied with the geologist’s answers. If “the flood did it” had been enough, there would have been no need for the geologist to answer the students. I find this kind of questioning to be the rule at young-earth creationist events. Indeed, if your false mischaracterization were correct, the Flood geologists would not spend so much time doing research to answer such questioning. Since they do, your mischaracterization is quite obviously false. Once again, I would ask that if you continue commenting on my blog, you stop unfairly disparaging those with whom you disagree.

  37. Kevin N November 23, 2011 12:57 am

    If I have mischaracterized YEC Flood geology as it applies to the geologic column, it is only because I have tried to keep my comments reasonably brief. I understand that many Flood geologists divide the global Flood into an erosive or scouring phase at the beginning, a time of massive deposition of mostly Paleozoic rocks, a dissipative stage represented perhaps by Mesozoic rocks, and often a post-Flood residual catastrophic stage that deposited many or most Cenozoic rocks. I understand that different mechanisms have been proposed, with various depths and current strengths. I also understand that the Flood is presented as a complex event, and while mechanism A occurred in one location, mechanism B could have been in action elsewhere. Everything I have written here regarding Flood geology has been in this context. I think there are a number of problems with this model, but I have presented it fairly, even if a little incompletely.

    One point I attempted to make is the extreme difficulty of envisioning how Permian reptiles (Coconino Sandstone footprints) or Mesozoic dinosaurs survived the initial catastrophic erosive and depositional events of the Flood. The Coconino, for example, is underlain by a couple thousand feet of earlier Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The same goes for many dinosaur-bearing layers. Somehow, in the whole YEC scenario, these organisms survived the earlier, most severe parts of the flood that deposited these layers, and did so in large numbers. The Paleozoic layers cover much of the continents, so they didn’t survive anyplace where there are Paleozoic rocks. The two mechanisms that are held forth are that they survived on islands that escaped the early parts of the flood, or that they survived on floating vegetation mats. Are there other proposed mechanisms (other than the simplistic mammals-outran-reptiles mechanism)? If they survived on islands, those islands would have had to have been many hundreds of miles away from where the organisms eventually left footprints; someplace where there was no deep scouring of the pre-Flood crust or deposition of the widespread Paleozoic sediments. If they survived on floating mats, then how did they get off of those mats only in their correct stratigraphic location? No dinosaurs got off in the Pennsylvanian by mistake.

    I would hope that you can see why I think this simply does not work and should not be presented as Christian apologetics.

    I’ll conclude with a quote from young-Earth geologist Dr. Steven Austin regarding the geologic column:

    “Misconception No. 1. The geologic column was constructed by geologists who, because of the weight of the evidence that they had found, were convinced of the truth of uniformitarian theory and organic evolution.

    “It may sound surprising, but the standard geologic column was devised before 1860 by catastrophists who were creationists. Adam Sedgewick, Roderick Murchison, William Coneybeare, and others affirmed that the earth was formed largely by catastrophic processes, and that the earth and life were created. These men stood for careful empirical science and were not compelled to believe evolutionary speculation or side with uniformitarian theory. Although most would be called “progressive creationists” in today’s terminology, they would not be pleased to see all the evolutionary baggage that has been loaded onto their classification of strata.”

    • jlwile November 23, 2011 8:52 am

      Kevin, I am glad that your knowledge of Flood geology goes deeper than your previous posts indicated. The most important thing you wrote is that the “Flood is presented as a complex event, and while mechanism A occurred in one location, mechanism B could have been in action elsewhere.” Unfortunately, your previous comments did not indicate this and, as as result, they mischaracterized Flood geology considerably.

      I can understand your misgivings about Flood geology. However, contrast that with other geologists who have severe misgivings about your interpretation of geology. You highlight some problems with Flood geology, and that is fair. This post highlights problems with your interpretation of geology, but somehow you don’t think it’s fair. You are concerned that a view of geology that is not yours is presented as an apologetic. Other geologists are concerned that what they see as an unworkable interpretation of geology is being forced on Christians simply because a majority of geologists happen to agree with it. You both have concerns, but somehow you present your concerns as legitimate and the other geologists’ concerns as irrelevant. That’s unfortunate, to say the least.

      I think Dr. Austin’s quote is correct, especially what he says at the end. Sedgewick, Murchison, and Coneybeare would definitely not be happy with what modern old-earth geologists have done with their careful work. Sedgewick, Murchison, and Coneybeare stuck to the data and did not try to interpret the geological column with unwarranted assumptions. Today’s interpretation of the geological column is far, far different from theirs, mostly because the geological column as you promote it requires evolutionary reasoning.

      I also wish you had continued quoting Dr. Austin. Note what his myths #4 and #5 are:

      Misconception No. 4. Strata systems always occur in the order required by the geologic column.

      Hundreds of locations are known where the order of the systems identified by geologists does not match the order of the geologic column. Strata systems are believed in some places to be inverted, repeated, or inserted where they do not belong. Overturning, overthrust faulting, or landsliding are frequently maintained as disrupting the order. In some locations such structural changes can be supported by physical evidence while elsewhere physical evidence of the disruption may be lacking and special pleading may be required using fossils or radiometric dating.

      Misconception No. 5. Because each strata system has distinctive lithologic composition, a newly discovered stratum can be assigned easily to its correct position in the geologic column.

      Sandstone, limestone, dolomite, shale, chert, salt, conglomerate, coal and other rock types are not diagnostic of specific strata systems. Therefore, a rock’s physical appearance cannot, with certainty, distinguish the system or strata level to which a rock may belong. The sequence of rock types is more useful, but hardly an infallible guide to correlation. Thus, the Cambrian System on an intercontinental scale is typically composed of quartzose sandstone, overlain by glauconitic sandstone with dark-brown shale, overlain by impure, light-brown limestones. The correlation of “Cambrian” strata is further strengthened by the presence on an intercontinental scale of an unconformity (surface of erosion) at or near the base of the system. Each rock type is not distinctive of the Cambrian, and neither is the unconformity, but the sequence may be.

      This, of course, demonstrates that your contention that the geological column is an “observation” is incorrect. Instead, it requires a lot of assumptions and even some special pleading to get the job done.

  38. Rio December 4, 2011 10:25 pm

    I am a new Christian and I am 17 years old and I have been believing in evolution almost all my life until these last months. As I was reading the Bible I came to Job and in Job 40 and 41 it talks about these creatures and I’m sure that it is talking about dinosaurs. Also in other parts in the bible it talks about the serpents in the air and the great creatures of the sea. I did research on the internet and archeologists have found cave drawings with dinosaurs on it, also they found and old grave yard in Peru I think, they found pictures of the T Rex and other dino creatures in the graves which tells me that dinos and humans lived together at some point. Does this disprove evolution and is this a valid point that the earth is young, also do u believe that dinos and humans could have lived together.

    • jlwile December 5, 2011 7:30 am

      Rio, I do think that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, although they certainly didn’t live together. After all, people don’t live with lions or many other wild animals, even though they exist today. There are a number of cases of ancient artwork depicting dinosaurs, and I think they provide evidence that people saw dinosaurs alive. At the same time, however, I wouldn’t say such evidence disproves evolution. After all, one could explain such evidence away by saying they are either modern forgeries or the fanciful imaginings of ancient people that just happened to look like dinosaurs. One evolutionist has even tried to say that a particular ancient stone drawing of a sauropod dinosaur is just a mix of unrelated symbols and some stains. I don’t find such “explanations” convincing, but others do.

  39. Kevin N December 5, 2011 6:44 pm

    A number of Bible-believing scholars look at Job 40 and 41 and see something other than dinosaurs in the text. The simplest interpretation of Behemoth (Job 40) and Leviathan (Job 41) is that they are a hippopotamus and crocodile, respectively. The dinosaur interpretation promoted by young-Earth creationists is not without significant problems, and is certainly not how the Hebrews would have read the text.

    • jlwile December 5, 2011 9:30 pm

      Kevin, I really do appreciate your comments, but the idea that Behemoth is a hippo and Leviathan is a crocodile is the most strained interpretation possible. Do you know any hippo that “bends his tail like a cedar” (Job 40:17)? Of course not. Do you know any crocodile that “raises himself up” (Job 41:25)? What crocodile has a neck that “lodges strength”? (Job 41:22) You may be right that no Hebrew would read those Scriptures as indicating dinosaurs, but I expect that’s because the ancient Hebrews knew nothing about dinosaurs. However, we know for a fact that no ancient Hebrew (or anyone else who is not forcing his interpretation on Scripture) would read these verses as describing a hippo or crocodile, because they don’t even come close to describing such mundane creatures.

  40. Kevin N December 6, 2011 2:24 am

    Jay — many conservative biblical scholars (outside of YEC circles) don’t take the dinosaur interpretation too seriously. The ESV Study Bible has some excellent notes on this —

    • jlwile December 6, 2011 8:07 am

      Kevin, I understand that many conservative Biblical scholars don’t take the dinosaur interpretation too seriously, but that’s because they are not allowing the Scriptures to speak for themselves. Instead, they are forcing their interpretation on the Scriptures. The ESV study Bible’s notes are a perfect example of this. Anyone who has studied this issue even briefly knows that “Behemoth” is a transliteration, not a translation. The Hebrew word (which really just means “beast”) is used 189 times in the Old Testament, and for the other 188 times, it is translated into a recognizable animal, like “cattle,” because the translation is clear from the context or description. However, translators had no idea what creature was being described in this passage, so they simply converted the word into English. For the ESV explanation to be correct, you have to believe three absurd things: (1) The translators failed to understand the Hebrew well enough to see that this description is of a mundane beast that people knew about. If they had, they would have translated it accordingly, as they did in the other 188 cases. (2) The Bible used euphemisms for sexual words here, when throughout the rest of the Bible, sexual words are used explicitly. (3) If Behemoth “was conceived as a symbol of sensuality and sin,” as the ESV study notes indicate, then the Bible is saying that God created sin, as God is telling Job that Job doesn’t understand things because Job wasn’t there when God created things like Behemoth.

      For Leviathan, the ESV gives no attempt at justification at all. It simply says it “may be the crocodile.” Once again, it is clearly not a crocodile, since no crocodile “raises himself up” or has a neck that “lodges strength.”

      In addition, there is no way these are mythical creatures, which is another suggestion that the ESV makes. God is telling Job that He made them. God doesn’t make mythical creatures.

      If you don’t want to believe Behemoth and Leviathan are dinosaurs, that’s fine. But please don’t try to make them into mundane creatures that everyone has seen. The Scriptures simply do not allow for that. If they did, the translators would have translated the creatures appropriately, as they did in all the other cases. Also, please don’t make them mythical beasts, as God does not create mythical beasts.