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Flood geology

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Flood geology is the study of the Great Flood from a scientific perspective. Creationary scientist develop models for the flood which use the historical accounts in the Bible (primarily chapters 6 to 9 of Genesis) as a framework, and fill in details with geological information. The presumption is that God initiated and perhaps terminated the Flood with miracles, but that the details of the process proceeded largely according to the laws of physics, so that they can be investigated using scientific methods.

Contents

Outline

The water

Flood geologists are essentially unanimous that after the flood the waters drained into the oceans. This would require a vertical tectonic sinking of the ocean basins and a raising of the continents, as suggested by Psalm 104:8 (NASB). The Earth's surface today has enough water to cover the globe to a depth of approximately 2.7 kilometres8,858.268 ft
1.678 miles
2,700 metres
if the surface was completely smoothed out. The fulfillment of Genesis 7:19-20, which states that "all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered ... to a depth of more than fifteen cubits" would thus require a different surface topography from today's Earth, where the difference in height between the abyssal plains of the oceans and the highest mountains in the Himalayas is about 12 kilometers39,370.08 ft
7.456 miles
12,000 metres
. Thus flood geologists believe that the pre-flood world was a much flatter place than now, with no ocean trenches nor mountains as deep and high as now.

There has been more speculation about the exact source of the water. Genesis 7:11 speaks of "the springs of the great deep" and "the floodgates of the heavens", so it is generally agreed that there was a combination of rain and subterranean water. The atmosphere is not capable of holding the the amount of water required without temperatures and pressures hostile to life, and water coming from orbit or outer space would gain so much energy falling to Earth that it would also boil many times over. For this reason most flood geologists today see the bulk of the water coming from a subterranean source. Since both water and rock are very nearly incompressible, simply opening a water-filled underground cavity, no matter how great the pressure, would not expel a significant fraction of the water. To bring the water to the surface, at the very least the covering rock would have to collapse into the cavity. To raise the water above the level of the pre-existing land would require large-scale vertical tectonic movement similar to that required to collect the flood water after the event.

Tectonic activity

Many flood geologists also believe that there was a single pre-flood landmass that broke up during the flood. This idea was first mooted by Antonio Snider in the late 1850s, partly on the basis of the account in Genesis.

Geophysicist John Baumgarder believes that runaway subduction, as would be the case with the supercontinent splitting apart during the year of the flood, is a more realistic model for explaining the flood than slow plate movement, although the idea has unresolved problems.

Erosion and sedimentary deposits

Floods are often quite violent events. If the waters of the Great Flood rose 3,000 meters3 km
9,842.52 ft
1.864 miles
in 150 days, that would be nearly 1 meter100 cm
3.281 feet
39.37 inches
per hour. To cover 1000 kilometers621.37 miles
49,709.695 chains
horizontally at the same would require a speed of 0.3 km300 metres
984.252 feet
328.083 yards
656.169 cubits
14.913 chains
/hr, or correspondingly higher if the water flowed in channels. This would not necessarily require violent movement of water, particularly if most of the water came from below, but flood geologists generally assume that the Flood was in fact very violent. Part of the reason for this is that they believe the Flood was accompanied by massive tectonic activity, and that the large majority of the geologic record was laid down by the floodwaters, either in the initial deluge or when the water ran off the continents afterward.

Boundaries of the Flood in the geological column

Rocks are found throughout the world in "formations", layers of rocks possessing similar properties. It is a general and intuitive principle of geology, with occasional exceptions, that the higher formations were laid down after the lower formations. By careful comparison of the formations in a given region, the formations and their order can be pieced together, even if they are not all present throughout the region. Certain types of fossils are found to be common over much of the world, but to be confined to certain formations. Evolutionary geologists use these "marker fossils" to correlate the formations across continents and build up a global "geological column". Radioactive dating and other markers like the iridium layer at the K-T boundary are also used in this process. Some flood geologists believe the global layers and their order as presented in the geological column are a valid representation of global geological events, while emphatically rejecting the absolute ages assigned by evolutionary geologists. Other flood geologists, while recognizing that the geological column is partially based on real correlations, believe that so many exceptions exist that the concept sometimes hinders understanding of the geological history of the Earth more than it helps.[1]

Whether the geological column has global or only regional validity, one of the most important questions to be answered by flood geology is how the formations correspond to the events described in the Bible, especially which formations were deposited during the Great Flood. The lowest possible estimate of the fraction of the geological column attributable to flood deposits is essentially none of it, since some flood geologists consider the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary to mark the beginning of the Flood,[2][3] while others believe the end of the Flood occurred earlier than this.[4] The highest possible estimate of the fraction is essentially all of it, since some flood geologists believe that no primordial rocks survived the Flood,[5][6] while others believe the last Flood deposits are found in the Pleistocene,[3][7][8] which would leave only 0.015%[note 1] of all deposits not attributable to the Flood.

Pre-flood/flood boundary

Most creationists consider the pre-Flood/Flood boundary, to lie at or before the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary. Below this boundary, fossils are rare and consist mostly of single-celled plants and bacteria. Above this boundary fossils, including animals, are plentiful. It is therefore natural and common, but not compulsory, to assume that animal fossils are absent in the rocks below this level because the rocks were created before the fifth or sixth day of creation, when animals were created. There is, however, some evidence for primitive animal fossils in Precambrian layers, especially soft-bodied burrowing organisms during the Ediacaran, the last period before the Cambrian. In addition, fossil stromatolites, apparently formed slowly by colonies of green algae, are found in abundance throughout the rocks of the Proterozoic Eon, and a smaller number of stromatolites thought to have been formed by blue-green bacteria are found well into the Archaen Eon.[9] On the basis of these fossils, some creationists argue for placing the boundary farther into the Precambrian.[10][11][12][13][14]

The Precambrian contains many thick formations of volcanic and sedimentary rocks, which creationists usually assume to have been formed by extraordinary processes during the week of creation. The period between creation week and the Flood, 1656 years according to the biblical chronology, is believed to have had a mild climate (and possibly no rainfall[15][16]), so that erosional processes would have been slower than today and not able to build up a significant thickness of sediments.[5] On the other hand, producing those sediments during creation week by processes we are familiar with today, only accelerated by hundreds of billions of times, would have created conditions that precluded survival of the plants and animals created toward the end of the week.[5] This argument would speak for assigning the pre-Flood/Flood boundary to even lower levels, possible to the very bottom of the Earth's crust. There is lively debate among flood geologists as to which of these factors are decisive and which have alternative explanations. There is not yet any general consensus on where the boundary between pre-Flood and Flood formations lie.

Flood/post-flood boundary

There is even more debate among flood geologists over the location of the Flood/post-Flood boundary. On the one side are flood geologists who emphasize various formations and features that appear not to have been created during a year-long flood.[7][17] These include

  • desert sand dunes[17]
  • deeply weathered 'palaeosols'[17]
  • continental basalt lava flows with signs of being laid down in air, not under water[18][17]
  • dinosaur nests with intact eggs[19][17]
  • animal tracks and burrows[17]
  • fossil forests with upright trees including roots[17]
  • termite nests[17]
  • dung balls made by dung beetles[17]
  • beds with at least two generations of oysters[17]
  • a starfish bed spread over 70 km²[17]
  • carbonate hardgrounds (seafloor lithified while still exposed to marine waters, often hosting a unique fauna and flora adapted to the hard surface)[17]

Since many of these features are found at many locations in the geological column (and at many geographical locations), they have led some flood geologists to assign the lowest possible formations to the end of the Flood (and the highest possible formations to the start of the Flood).

On the other side are flood geologists who emphasize the apparent time required to produce the observed formations without excessive catastrophism. In order to produce deposits in a few thousand years that under uniformitarian assumptions would require at least tens of millions of years, the erosion would have to be, very roughly, ten thousand times greater than currently observed. Flood geologists from this school believe that such conditions are practically catastrophic and cannot easily be reconciled with descriptions of the environment since the Flood based on historical sources, including the Bible. They believe that at most a volume of deposits that uniformitarian geologists attribute to several hundred thousand years can plausibly have been deposited since the Flood. Among the factors they consider to come to this conclusion are[7]

  • global sediment and post-Flood erosion (It would take thousands of years of continual downpour to wash away the volume of sediments found.)
  • volcanism and climatic impact (Production of igneous rocks must also be accompanied by acid rain and dust.)
  • changes in the global sea level (Job 26:10, Psalm 104:9, and Jeremiah 5:22 indicate a God-given bound on the sea.)
  • formation of the Mountains of Ararat (The marine sediments in the area must have been laid down before the end of the flood.)
  • the formation of fossil fuels (The organic material must not only have time to grow, but must also be gathered and buried without a catastrophic flood.)

Geological model

One geological model that has gained some acceptance in flood geology is that of Tasman Walker.[20]

Event/Era Stage Duration Phase
New-world era 4000 years Modern
300 years Residual
Flood
event
Recessive 100 days Dispersive
200 days Abative
Inundatory 30 days Zenithic
20 days Ascending
10 days Eruptive
Lost-world era 1700 years Lost world
Creation
event
Formative 2 days Biotic
2 days Derivative
Foundational 2 days Ensuing
0 days original

Walker says of his model, "The aim of the model is for all component parts such as each event, era, stage, and phase, to relate to a geologically significant process with easily identifiable starting and finishing criteria as described in the Bible. In this way it should be possible to correlate the model with the geology in the field."[20]

Water dynamics

The Bible describes the start of the flood with the words "all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights."[21] So the flood was not caused simply by gentle rain and a gradual rising of water levels, but apparently in large part by the release of subterranean water under pressure. This release of water and its subsequent flow across the landscape would have been accompanied—at a minimum—by considerable erosion followed by deposition of the eroded material. More likely, it was accompanied by considerable geological activity, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. There was enough water released that "The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered."[22] Robinson explains this as "the sea flooded the land not so much because its level rose, but because the land sank—as a result of the emptying of the reservoirs deep beneath it."[23]

Turbidity currents, underwater sediment-lain currents, would result from earthquake activity, burying everything in its path.

With water covering the entire earth, massive currents would develop, powered by the Coriolis force caused by earth's rotation.[24] These currents would have been rapid enough to transport massive quantities of sediment, but they would also have resulted in some areas of land being exposed for short periods of time. Depending on the varying speeds of the currents, they could have alternatively deposited the sediment load they were carrying, or eroded freshly-deposited or hard-set deposits.

Then the continents would start to rise and the ocean basins sink, causing the water to flow off the continents in massive sheets, into the newly-deepened ocean basins. These sheets of water would have planed off land surfaces, leaving flat "planation surfaces" even where strata was tilted.[25][26] As the water levels dropped, channels would form, carving out valleys in the flat surfaces. Today these valleys carry rivers and streams, but the rivers and streams are there because of the valleys, not the other way around.

Fossils

Fossils can only form under certain conditions, which are rapid enough that they are buried quickly and deeply so as to prevent decay, including from bacteria. For well-preserved fossils, they also must not be so violent that they tear the organism apart. Extensive fossil beds, and exquisite preservation of many fossils, indicate that these conditions have at least occasionally occurred on a large scale. With many different stages of the flood, burial would have occurred in different ways and places.

There is a certain amount of order found in the fossil record, a fact refered to as fossil succession. Creationists have proposed different factors to account for this order, in particular ecological zonation, hydraulic sorting, and differential escape. Ecological zonation, for example, is the idea that the first creatures to be buried would be creatures living on the sea floors, with more mobile creatures, including land creatures and birds, buried later, and therefore higher up in the fossil record. That this mechanism by itself would not be sufficient to explain the fossil succession is illustrated, for example, by the fact that insects and amphibians are found two systems deeper than any oysters, and pines (which often grow at high elevation) are found 4 systems lower than mangroves (which always grow on the coast), at least according to the mainstream interpretation of those fossils.

Evidence

Evidence can be interpreted in more than one way; it doesn't "speak for itself". However, evidence can often be more consistent with one view than another. Evidence that creationary geologists point to as being more consistent with the creationary view than the secular view includes the following.

Deformed rocks

There are many instances of grossly twisted strata, called folds, where the rock is not fractured. It would appear very unlikely that layers of rock could be bent to such shapes without fracturing. This supports the idea that the layers were still soft sediments when bent, but this means that the multiple layers which secular geologists would normally claim to be laid over a long period of time were bent together and therefore must have been laid in a short period of time before they had time to set hard.

Rapid layer formation

Modern observations, including in the aftermath of the explosion of Mt. St. Helens, show that multiple fine layers, normally considered by secular geologists to be laid at the rate of one layer per year, can be laid very quickly, such as over the space of a few hours.

Polystrate fossils

There are numerous examples of fossils, particularly tree trunks, extending vertically through several different layers, including coal seams.[27] This is consistent with the layers being deposited over a short period of time, yet the layers are no different than many other layers claimed to be buried over much longer periods of time. Derek Ager:

...we cannot escape the conclusion that sedimentation was at times very rapid indeed and at other times there were long breaks in sedimentation, though it looks both uniform and continuous.[28]

Coal seams

Brown coal sitting directly on white clay at Yallourn open cut mine.

Coal seams, usually claimed by secular geologists to have been formed from vegetable material accumulating on the floor of swamps, are often found sitting directly on clay without any signs of the soil in which the swamp material grew. This is consistent with the creationary view that such coal seams can be formed by vegetation being washed into place during the flood.

In some cases, such as the Yallourn brown coal deposits in Victoria, the coal includes trees of a type that doesn't grow in swamps.

See also

Notes

  1. This number is based on the ages that evolutionary geologists assign to the rocks: about 3.0 billion years for the oldest regions of stable continental crust, and 450 thousand years for the center of the Middle Pleistocene. A more appropriate measure would be the volume of rocks in the various formations, but those figures are more difficult to obtain.

References

  1. Michael Oard, The Geological Column Is a General Flood Order with Many Exceptions. bibliographic_info
  2. Steven A. Austin and Kurt P. Wise, The Pre-Flood/Flood Boundary: As Defined in Grand Canyon, Arizona and Eastern Mojave Desert, California. Presented at the Third International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 18–23, 1994. Published in: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, R.E. Walsh (Ed.), pp.37–47, 1994.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Steven Austin, John Baumgardner, D. Russell Humphreys, Andrew Snelling, Larry Vardiman, and Kurt Wise, Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History. October 27, 2010.
  4. Michael J. Oard, Defining the Flood/post-Flood boundary in sedimentary rocks. First published: Journal of Creation, 21(1):98–110, April 2007
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Max J. Hunter, Is the pre-Flood/Flood Boundary in the Earth's Mantle?. CEN Tech. J., vol. 10, no. 3, 1996, pp. 344-357
  6. Steven Robinson, Flood/post-Flood boundaries within the global stratigraphical record: Steven Robinson replies. First published: TJ 17(3):52–55, December 2003.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Roy D. Holt, Evidence for a Late Cainozoic Flood/post-Flood Boundary. CEN Tech. J., vol. 10, no. 1, 1996, pp. 128-167.
  8. Carl R. Froede, Jr., and John K. Reed, Assessing Creationist Stratigraphy with Evidence from the Gulf of Mexico. First published in CRSQ—Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 2, September 1999.
  9. Carl R. Froede, Jr., Precambrian Plant Fossils and the Hakatai Shale Controversy. CRS Quarterly, Volume 36(3):106-113 December 1999.
  10. Snelling, A. A., 1983. Creationist geology: the Precambrian. Ex Nihilo, 6(l):42 - 46.
  11. Snelling, A. A., 1991. Creationist geology: where do the Precambrian strata fit? CEN Tech.J., 5(2):154-175.
  12. Carl Froede Jnr., The pre-Flood/ Flood boundary: scholarship and clarification. CEN Technical Journal 14(2) 2000, pp. 63—68.
  13. Kurt P. Wise and Andrew A. Snelling, A note on the pre-Flood/Flood boundary in the Grand Canyon. Origins, Number 58 (2005), pp. 7-29.
  14. Barry Setterfield, Some Areas of Disagreement with the Australian/American Creationist Societies. November 2010.
  15. Walt Brown, Did It Rain before the Flood?. Online edition of In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood. Copyright 1995–2008.
  16. Arnold C. Mendez, Sr., Was there rain on the earth BEFORE Noah's Flood?
  17. 17.00 17.01 17.02 17.03 17.04 17.05 17.06 17.07 17.08 17.09 17.10 17.11 Steven J. Robinson, Can Flood Geology Explain the Fossil Record?. CENTech. J., vol. 10, no. 1,1996
  18. Paul Garner, Continental Flood Basalts Indicate a pre-Mesozoic Flood/post-Flood Boundary. bibliographic_info
  19. Paul Garner, Where is the Flood/post-Flood Boundary? Implications of Dinosaur Nests in the Mesozoic. bibliographic_info
  20. 20.0 20.1 Walker, Tas., Biblical Geology, May 2005.
  21. Genesis 7:11-12
  22. Genesis 7:18-19
  23. Steven J . Robinson, Can Flood Geology Explain the Fossil Record?, Journal of Creation 10(1), 1996, p.32-69.
  24. Baumgardner, John R. and Daniel W. Barnette, Patterns of Ocean Circulation Over the Continents During Noah's Flood, Third International Conference on Creationism, 1994.
  25. Oard, Michael, It’s plain to see: Flat land surfaces are strong evidence for the Genesis Flood, Creation 28(2):34–37, March 2006.
  26. Oard, Michael J., The remarkable African Planation Surface, Journal of Creation 25(1):111–122, April 2011.
  27. Morris, John D., The Polystrate Trees and Coal Seams of Joggins Fossil Cliffs Impact No. 316, October 1999.
  28. Ager, D.V., The New Catastrophism, Cambridge University Press, p. 49, 1993, quoted in Walker, Tas., Polystrate fossils: evidence for a young earth, Creation 29(3):54–55, June 2007.
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