But What About the Geological / Fossil Record? (Origins Debate: Part III)

But What About the Geological / Fossil Record? (Origins Debate: Part III)

Part III in the series: Highlights of the Los Alamos Origins Debate

John R. Baumgardner, Ph.D. Asides and media by Nicholas Petersen

Just as there has been glaring scientific fraud in things biological for the past century, there has been a similar fraud in things geological. The error, in a word, is uniformitarianism. This outlook assumes and asserts the earth’s past can be correctly understood purely in terms of present day processes acting at more or less present day rates. Just as materialist biologists have erroneously assumed material processes can give rise to life in all its diversity, materialist geologists have assumed the present can fully account for the earth’s past. In so doing, they have been forced to ignore and suppress abundant contrary evidence that the planet has suffered major catastrophe on a global scale.

Only in the past two decades has the silence concerning global catastrophism in the geological record begun to be broken. Only in the last 10-15 years has the reality of global mass extinction events in the record become widely known outside the paleontology community. Only in about the last 10 years have there been efforts to account for such global extinction in terms of high energy phenomena such as asteroid impacts. But the huge horizontal extent of Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary formations and their internal evidence of high energy transport represents stunning testimony for global catastrophic processes far beyond anything yet considered in the geological literature. Field evidence indicates catastrophic processes were responsible for most if not all of this portion of the geological record. The proposition that present day geological processes are representative of those which produced the Paleozoic and Mesozoic formations is utter folly.

What is the alternative to this uniformitarian perspective? It is that a catastrophe, driven by processes in the earth’s interior, progressively but quickly resurfaced the planet. An event of this type has recently been documented to have occurred on the earth’s sister planet Venus1. This startling conclusion is based on high resolution mapping performed by the Magellan spacecraft in the early 1990’s which revealed the vast majority of craters on Venus today to be in pristine condition and only 2.5% embayed by lava, while an episode of intense volcanism prior to the formation of the present craters has erased all earlier ones from the face of the planet. Since this resurfacing volcanic and tectonic activity has been minimal.

There is pervasive evidence for a similar catastrophe on our planet, driven by runaway subduction of the pre-catastrophe ocean floor into the earth’s interior2. That such a process is theoretically possible has been at least acknowledged in the geophysics literature for almost 30 years3. A major consequence of this sort of event is progressive flooding of the continents and rapid mass extinction of all but a few percent of the species of life. The destruction of ecological habitats began with marine environments and progressively enveloped the terrestrial environments as well.

Evidence for such intense global catastrophism is apparent throughout the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and much of the Cenozoic portions of the geological record. Most biologists are aware of the abrupt appearance of most of the animal phyla in the lower Cambrian rocks. But most are unaware that the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary also represents a nearly global stratigraphic unconformity marked by intense catastrophism. In the Grand Canyon, as one example, the Tapeats Sandstone immediately above this boundary contains hydraulically transported boulders tens of feet in diameter4.

That the catastrophe was global in extent is clear from the extreme horizontal extent and continuity of the continental sedimentary deposits. That there was a single large catastrophe and not many smaller ones with long gaps in between is implied by the lack of erosional channels, soil horizons, and dissolution structures at the interfaces between successive strata. The excellent exposures of the Paleozoic record in the Grand Canyon provide superb examples of this vertical continuity with little or no physical evidence of time gaps between strata. Especially significant in this regard are the contacts between the Kaibab and Toroweap Formations, the Coconino and Hermit Formations, the Hermit and Esplanade Formations, and the Supai and Redwall Formations5.

The ubiquitous presence of crossbeds in sandstones, and even limestones, in Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and even Cenozoic rocks is strong testimony for high energy water transport of these sediments. Studies of sandstones exposed in the Grand Canyon reveal crossbeds produced by high velocity water currents that generated sand waves tens of meters in height6. The crossbedded Coconino sandstone exposed in the Grand Canyon continues across Arizona and New Mexico into Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. It covers more than 200,000 square miles and has an estimated volume of 10,000 cubic miles. The crossbeds dip to the south and indicate that the sand came from the north. When one looks for a possible source for this sand to the north, none is readily apparent. A very distant source seems to be required.

The Navajo sandstone. The crossbedding in the Coconino Sandstone is very similar. Photo courtesy of Ian Juby.

The scale of the water catastrophe implied by such formations boggles the mind. Yet numerical calculation demonstrate that when significant areas of the continental surface are flooded, strong water currents with velocities of tens of meters per second spontaneously arise7. Such currents are analogous to planetary waves in the atmosphere and are driven by the earth’s rotation.

This sort of dramatic global scale catastrophism documented in the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and much of the Cenozoic sediments implies a distinctively different interpretation of the associated fossil record. Instead of representing an evolutionary sequence, the record reveals a successive destruction of ecological habitat in a global tectonic and hydrologic catastrophe. This understanding readily explains why Darwinian intermediate types are systematically absent from the geological record – the fossil record documents a brief and intense global destruction of life and not a long evolutionary history! The types of plants and animals preserved as fossils were the forms of life that existed on the earth prior to the catastrophe. The long span of time and the intermediate forms of life that the evolutionist imagines in his mind are simply illusions. And the strong observational evidence for this catastrophe absolutely demands a radically revised time scale relative to that assumed by evolutionists.

  1. [8] R. G. Strom, G. G. Schaber, and D. D. Dawson, The Global Resurfacing of Venus, Journal of Geophysical Research, 99, 10899-10926, 1994. ↩︎

  2. [9] S. A. Austin, J. R. Baumgardner, D. R. Humphreys, A. A. Snelling, L. Vardiman, and K. P. Wise, “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History,” pp. 609-621; J. R. Baumgardner “Computer Modeling of the Large-Scale Tectonics Associated with the Genesis Flood,” pp. 49-62; “Runaway Subduction as the Driving Mechanism for the Genesis Flood,” pp. 63-75, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Technical Symposium Sessions, R. E. Walsh, ed., Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, 1994. ↩︎

  3. [10] O. L. Anderson and P. C. Perkins, “Runaway Temperatures in the Asthenosphere Resulting from Viscous Heating,” Journal of Geophysical Research, 79, 2136-2138, 1974. ↩︎

  4. [11] S. A. Austin, “Interpreting Strata of Grand Canyon,” in Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, S. A. Austin, ed., Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA, 46-47, 1994. ↩︎

  5. [12] Ibid., pp. 42-51. ↩︎

  6. [13] Ibid., pp. 32-36. ↩︎

  7. [14] J. R. Baumgardner and D. W. Barnette, “Patterns of Ocean Circulation over the Continents During Noah’s Flood,” Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Technical Symposium Sessions, R. E. Walsh, ed., Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, 77-86, 1994. ↩︎

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