The basic issue with which this book deals is, What attitude are we going to take toward the earth-science data which reveal the nature of the earth on which we live? This issue is of momentous importance to the teaching of Biblical creation. Evangelical Christians have traditionally taught that God is consistent and that his creation and revelations contain no contradictions. Yet we now have widespread teaching, among evangelicals, of positions on creation which are in direct opposition to vast amounts of carefully collected, non-radiometric data which show us what the sedimentary cover of the earth is like. Earth-science research centers have published thousands of high-quality reports of research projects which were carried out adhering to standard research methods which young-earth leaders endorse and profess to use themselves. The data contained in these reports which relate to age demand—if we are going to be consistent and logical—a great age for the earth.
Thus, those creationists who insist that the Bible teaches that the earth is only some thousands of years old have to squarely fact the question of whether or not God is inconsistent and illogical. These creationists usually insist that there are scientific evidences foran earth only a few thousand years old. Are we to suppose then that God has given us some few evidences in the fields of theoretical physics or astronomy which contradict the realities of what we are able to go out and observe directly in the earth's crust? How could we reply other than in the negative? God cannot contradict himself, nor has He "jumbled the evidences" in such a way that they cannot be understood by rational mankind whom He has created. The earth is full of positiveevidences for an oldearth, a number of which we have explained in Chapters 1-3 and 7-9. Therefore we should expect that any alleged evidence for a young earth will be based on one or more of the following: (a) a failure of the investigator to take all the data into account; (b) arbitrary extrapolations or hyper-uniforniitarian thinking (as in Barnes' magnetic-field decay argument); (c) inadequacy or failure of instruments with which readings were collected; (d) the use of false logic—such as the idea that if one seam of coal somewhere on the earth shows evidence that it is young, then all coal is young_or that the absence or scarcityof some particular substance in the ocean shows that there was not timefor it to accumulate; or (e) the emphasizing of some surface or near-surface rock formation which "looks young" without studying the many thousands of feet of older, fossil-bearing formations which usually lie directly beneath.
In this book we have shown that the most obvious problem in the work and activities of young-earth creationists is that their leaders have been content to neglect the vast body of scientific observations dealing with what the crust of the earth is actually like. We have extensively documented the fact that, because of this neglect, the published works of prominent creationist leaders are full of error concerning the actual nature of the geologic formations upon which they have sometimes focused their attention. Perhaps the most fundamental lack in their work has been the failure to study and understand rock lithification processes, nearly all of which require long periods of time—e.g., cementation.* Thus, practically every time they look at a layer or formation of sedimentary rock, they wrongly assume that there is no reason why it could not have been formed rapidly.
By way of review we will here list the general areasof young-earth creationist error which this work has cited from creationist sources. All of these errors are characterized by a failure to make use of available data. (We assume that in most cases the problem has been that the authors were completely out of touch with research geology. This probably excuses the authors from the accusation of "willful neglect," but it still leaves the problem of how to help the readers who have been either confused or "turned off' from believing the Bible by their errors.) The errors listed below are in the order in which they are first treatedin this book. The Glossary defines most of the technical terms used in the list. In considering this list one should keep in mind that most of the creationist leaders (commendably) refuse to invoke special miracles, e.g., during the Flood, as a means of bringing about geologic processes.
1. The assertion that the formations of rock strata in the earth grade imperceptibly into each other and do not have erosion surfaces or distinct physical boundaries ("sharp contacts") between them.Because of these and other deficiencies in knowledge of the earth's sedimentary cover, creationist leaders have badly failed in their attempts to guide the thinking of evangelical Christians concerning the nature of the earth and its past history. Creationists are thus in a state of tragic need to establish and maintain close connections with the geology profession, so that they can find out that geologic research is not just "a game," but a productive and valid way of learning the actual characteristics of the earth. The current disregard of available data of geologic research by most creationist leaders is truly incomprehensible, and is not in agreement with traditional standards of scholarship. In making use of reliable geologic institutions creationists could gain a respect for the vast amount of geologic research which they are now ignoring.
2. The assertion that unconformities never represent long periods of time unless they are worldwide, and that no worldwide unconformities exist.
3. Refusal to admit the existence of in situbiogenic deposits and structures at various levels in limestone formations—as in the Grand Canyon and throughout much of North America.
4. The assumption that great thicknesses of many types of alternating sedimentary rock layers could have retained their distinct identity (as we find them in such places as the Appalachians), without amalgamating into each other, if they had been deposited all in one flood year and then even tilted and folded. (This assumption is based on a lack of knowledge of the characteristics of the strata and of the principles of compaction, sediment movement, and fossil deposition.)
5. The assumption that many repeating layers of fine clay particles could have been naturally laid down rapidly by moving water during the Flood, without any need for the long, quiet periods of settling demanded by physical laws.
6. The assumption that the total amounts of limestone and of fossils in the earth's sedimentary cover are so small that they could have been laid down by the Flood.
7. The assertion that most limestones and dolostones of the earth are of types which could have been deposited by direct precipitation out of seawater.
8. Refusal to admit the reality of algal stromatoids in ancient rock formations.
9. Refusal to admit that major amounts of rock are being formed in the world today.
10. Failure1 to realize what rock cementation is, and that most ancient sedimentary rock strata actually show (microscopically) the (slow) stages of cementation which occurred in the formation of the rock. Thus it is taught that the sediments of the earth rapidly became rock in some mysterious manner almost immediately after the Flood.
11. The assertion that the rock strata systems of the earth are not in any meaningful chronological order. This error is due to a failure to study the distribution patterns of the systems sufficiently to observe (a) the many geographic areas where several systems have clearly been eroded off, and (b) the effects of faulting and folding which have occurred in certain areas.
12. The assumption that the existing disagreements among sedimentary geologists concerning minor details of their research invalidates the major discoveries of sedimentary geology.
13. The statement that "there is no type of geologic feature which cannot be explained in terms of rapid formation..." (Morris, 1974 and 1985, p. 94). This shows a complete lack of knowledge of many types of geologic data.
14. The assertion that fossils are not being formed on the earth at the present time.
15. The assertion that there are and have been no naturally-occurring events which could have rapidly buried a significant number of marine and other organisms for fossilization.
16. Failure to realize that some types of fossils can be formed without rapid burial.
17. The assertion that there are no significant differences between the modern forms of life in the world, and those of the ancient Cambrian and Ordovician strata.
18. The assertion that the fossils of the earth's sedimentary cover are so mixed that the families and orders of the different phyla of fossilized animals are essentially the same in the Paleozoic rock systems as in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic.
19. The use of an "ecological zoning" hypothesis—which could possibly explain the fossil distribution in onlya few feet of thickness of sediments near the seacoasts—to justify the existing distribution of fossils in vast areas far from the sea which have 20,000 or more feet of sediment thickness.
20. Failure to include planktonic microfossils in the attempts to explain fossil distribution—resulting in further misunderstandings and erroneous statements.
21. The assumption that the beds of anhydrite and other evaporite minerals which exist deep in the subsurface, inland on the continents, show essentially the same deposi tional characteristics as the great salt deposits which are found in the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
22. The assertion that evaporite deposits do not contain organic matter.
23. Failure to observe that many of the kinds of depositional layers and structures in evaporite deposits are of types which could not have been formed either by flood waters or by brines from hydrothermal springs.
24. The assumption that coal atolls and other conical, high-relief, carbonate mounds which are found deep in the subsurface of some oil fields were not built by the corals and other lime-secreting organisms which are found within them.
25. Failure to observe that many of these reefs and other mounds have arid-coast type stromatolites naturally cemented to their sides, still in the locations in which they were formed during periods of low sea level.
26. Failure to observe that many of the deeply buried, repeating cycles of evaporite layers which often cover petroleum-producing reefs are essentially the same in content and order of deposition as sabkha cycles of evaporites on modern, arid seacoasts.
This is not a question of adopting the evolutionary theories which are embraced by most geologists. We are referring here to the need for acquainting ourselves with the data which tell us what the strata of the earth are like. One can attend the oral presentations of research reports throughout an entire four-day annual meeting of the Geological Society of America or of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, learning about the physical nature of the earth's crust, and hearing practically nothing about evolution. (Usually some papers on the subject of evolution are given, but one can easily avoid them and attend other papers being given at the same hour, if he wishes to do so.)
A decision by creationists to take additional formal courses in sedimentary geology and to participate in field trips, seminars and professional meetings with well- recognized geologists, would be the first logical step in correcting long-held views which do not correspond to reality. Such a decision, if carried out sincerely, would also make it possible to begin mending the now-widespread bad image of the Bible as a book which is hopelessly irreconcilable with the data of science. (The rise of young-earth creationism during the past two decades has effectively cultivated this misconception—because the creationists usually emphasize their belief that the Bible is opposed to most of the discoveries of earth-science research.)
Until creationist leaders are able to establish an effective relationship with research earth-science, and to replace or thoroughly revise all of their publications which deal with the age of the earth and universe, it will be necessary for persons desiring reliable information on the nature of the earth to go directly to the literature of earth science and astronomy. In doing this we will have to use caution, realizing that it is the actual scientific data which we mainly want. Some scientific articles contain interpretations which are colored by an assumption that all things have come into being without the creative power and wisdom of God. However, it is very possible to use the data presented and disregard the objectionable interpretations. (But in the research papers which are devoted to a study of the sedimentary cover of the earth, interpretations which express an atheistic or agnostic bias are very rare.) Therefore, Christians who sincerely wish to know the real nature of the earth's crust are not facing an impossible problem. Reliable information on this subject is now much easier to obtain than it has been at any time since Adam and Eve lost their proper relation to God—and it is information in which Bible-believing Christians can truly rejoice.
Daniel E. Wonderly
AN EXAMPLE OF THE GRADING OF
FORMATIONS INTO EACH OTHER
(Compare discussion following Figure 2 of this book)
Sedimentary geologists now frequently use a model such as the following for explaining the deposition of those geologic formations which show a grading of one formation into another. This model is based on observations of present-day deposition on modern continental shelves where the results of marine transgression* and regression are evident.* Take for example a sequence of four formations. On the bottom, Formation A is a fine-grain dark limestone. Formation B is a shale or claystone, and Formation C is a siltstone. On top, Formation D is a coarse-grained sandstone with low angle cross laminations. Between C and D there is a one foot thick zone of mixed sand and silt, such that sand content increases and silt content decreases upward from C to D. All other boundaries in the sequence are also gradational.
For many years, geologists looked at sedimentary strata such as A through D as layers in a cake. "Layer-cake stratigraphy" holds that each formation represents a horizontal time slice. That is, lines connecting equal age in the strata would be parallel to bedding, and thus no two formations could have been deposited synchronously. As discussed below, this is often an unreasonable assumption.
It is helpful to try to imagine the basin in which Formations A through D might have been deposited. Along the coast we encounter beaches of coarse-grained sand forming deposits much like Formation D (but keep in mind that the beach sands form a narrow coastal zone and Formation D extends as a layer over tens of miles). Out in slightly deeper water, the sediments become less coarse, containing silt-sized grains (like Formation C). In deeper water where waves and currents no longer move sediment, clays are deposited (like Formation B). In the deepest part of the basin, many miles from shore, the only material being deposited is pelagic-organism tests (skeletons) which settle to form a limey ooze on the seafloor (like Formation A). Thus, from the coast to the deepest part of the basin, there are different sediment zones which grade laterally from one to another. The seafloor, therefore, represents a time-line that is continuously being buried. If there is a great supply of sediment being introduced into the basin, it will begin to fill. As it fills it will begin to subside, due to both the weight of the sediment and to thermal properties of the underlying crust. If the subsidence rate is slower than the sedimentation rate, the basin will fill rapidly. As the sea level drops, such as in regression during an ice age, the shoreline would necessarily move some distance seaward, causing each sediment zone to move accordingly seaward. During a gradual sea level drop, the movement of the coastal zone would produce a sheet-like deposit of sand with "new" beach being deposited seaward of "old" beach. Furthermore, the "new" beach would be forming on top of sediments that were deposited in deeper water. Continued gradual regression would create a vertical succession of layers that were deposited in continuously shallowing water (i.e., Formation A at the base and D at the top). Time-lines in the layers would be subparallel to bedding and cross-cut gradational layer boundaries. This principle, that sedimentary sequences observed vertically are also found laterally, is known as Walther's Law of Succession of Facies.*
This explanation of gradational contacts in vertical sequences teaches us much about sedimentary analysis. Careful stratigraphic analysis not only reveals regional sediment distribution and correlations, it also reveals how ancient basins were filled by sediments. Volumes of sediments introduced, sea level fluctuations, tectonic movements, and basin subsidence are among the factors which determine the stratigraphic sequences that fill basins. "Flood geologists" might argue that we cannot employ uniformitarian principles to interpret ancient deposits. The fact is, however, the geologists routinely compare ancient sediments with modern sediments, right down to microscopic details. It is even possible to estimate the current velocities which formed ripple marks in sand stones (Blatt, Middleton and Murray, 1972, ch. 4). Petroleum geologists routinely chart the courses of ancient streams and reconstruct the paleogeographies of ancient shorelines (Matthews, 1974). With careful stratigraphic analysis they can predict the whereabouts of reefs and other porous rocks in the subsurface that contain petroleum and natural gas (Wilson, 1975). In addition to misunderstanding the basic principles of sedimentation and stratigraphy, young-earth creationists have yet to propose a convincing alternative explanation for even common stratigraphic sequences, within their Flood-geology and limited-time framework. (Stephen 0. Moshier, personal communication, 1985.)
1In this and succeeding
to" items, a failure to realize or to observe is regarded as an error because
results, in each case, in the young-earth creationist author's
a position which is in violation of the real condition as it exists in
the crust of the earth.