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Friday, April 18, 2014

Yet Another Failure of “Geological Column” Reasoning

Posted by jlwile on November 9, 2011

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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80 Responses to “Yet Another Failure of “Geological Column” Reasoning”
  1. jlwile says:

    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!

  2. Kevin N says:

    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.

  3. jlwile says:

    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.

  4. Tim Helble says:

    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.

  5. jlwile says:

    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.

  6. Jordan says:

    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.

  7. jlwile says:

    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.

  8. Jordan says:

    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:

  9. J.S. says:

    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.

  10. jlwile says:

    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.

  11. jlwile says:

    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.

  12. Jordan says:

    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?

  13. jlwile says:

    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.

  14. Tim Helble says:

    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:

  15. jlwile says:

    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.

  16. Tim Helble says:

    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.

  17. Jordan says:

    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.

  18. jlwile says:

    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.

  19. jlwile says:

    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.

  20. Tim Helble says:

    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.

  21. jlwile says:

    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.

  22. Kevin N says:

    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.”

  23. jlwile says:

    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.

  24. Rio says:

    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.

  25. jlwile says:

    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.

  26. Kevin N says:

    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.

  27. jlwile says:

    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.

  28. Kevin N says:

    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 —

  29. jlwile says:

    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.

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