Those Bad Flood Geology Arguments

Those Bad Flood Geology Arguments March 24, 2006

Over at In The Agora, in the comments on Eric’s post replying to me about slavery and the Bible, a commenter named lawyerchik1 has cut and pasted a bunch of arguments for a global flood from the ICR. Like all flood geology arguments, they require serious ignorance of geology and the evidence in order to be viewed as the least bit compelling. Let’s take them one by one.

Further, all the mountains of the world have been under water at some time or times in the past, as indicated by sedimentary rocks and marine fossils near their summits. Even most volcanic mountains with their pillow lavas seem largely to have been formed when under water.

I’m always amused by this argument. Yes, the rock that makes up mountains is sedimentary and many mountain ranges have sedimentary layers at or near the top that have marine fossils within them. And yes, this means that those layers were in fact deposited underwater. Does this mean they were deposited by the flood? Of course not. This is very common argument among young earthers and it needs a careful and detailed account of why it’s so completely wrongheaded.

If the layers in which those marine fossils are found were deposited by the flood, that means that those mountains could not have been there when the flood occured because almost all of the strata that make up a mountain will be marine (but not all, there may also be terrestrial sandstone sediments, for example). If all those sedimentary strata that make up the mountain’s rock were deposited by the flood then that means the mountain itself was deposited by the flood. But….the Ararat mountains, which we know had to exist before the flood occured (because the Ark allegedly landed on it before the waters had receded) is also made up of sediments with marine fossils in them. Big problem for flood geology. Where did those pre-flood sediments come from? Clearly, then, the mountains must have pre-existed the flood.

The second possibility is that they were deposited at a much lower level, in many cases below sea level, and then uplifted through tectonic activity to their present height. And in fact, this is what happened. We see it around us today in mountain ranges all over the world. The Himalayas are still rising as one tectonic plate continues to slowly slide under another beneath southern Asia. But if these sediments were deposited by the flood, that would mean that all of the mountain ranges of the earth have been lifted from the surface to their present height in just the last 4500 years, which is clearly absurd. If they were being pushed up that fast, the heat released and the mind-blowing earthquake activity would render the area around every mountain range completely inhabitable. Yet we have records of civilizations existing in mountain and river valleys going back well over 4500 years ago and they’ve been inhabited continuously.

So yes, these sediments were deposited on the ground, essentially. and then later uplifted by tectonic activity to form mountain ranges. But this has been going on for hundreds of millions of years, not 4500 years. Speed up that activity enough to make it happen in such a short period of time and those areas could not possibly be inhabited. And surely if every mountain range of the world had risen that quickly, it would have been noticed by someone.

Most of the earth’s crust consists of sedimentary rocks (sandstones, shales, limestones, etc.). These were originally formed in almost all cases under water, usually by deposition after transportation by water from various sources.

Yes, most of the earth’s surface (not crust) consists of sedimentary rocks and most sediments are deposited underwater (when not underwater, erosion is more likely than deposition due to wind). But most sediments are not, as she seems to think, due to being transported by water. Some types of sediments are of course deposited by the movement of water, such as the deposits that collect at river deltas that are easily identiable when we encounter them.

But other types of sediments require marine environments that don’t move much if at all, like lake beds or sea beds. Some sediments can only be deposited in tranquil marine environments over very long periods of time. Limestone, for example, is deposited primarily in shallow marine environments where the calcium carbonate can leech out over vast periods of time (this is how coral reefs, which are almost 100% calcium carbonate, are formed). It can also be deposited in deep marine environments, but there the limestone is made up of the shells of microscopic animals that build up on the bottom as they die over extremely long periods of time. In neither case are such sediments transported there, they must build up over very long periods of time in tranquil waters.

Shale is another sedimentary rock that must form in tranquil environments over long periods of time, because they are very fine grained and moving water will suspend such small particles in solution and they can’t settle out. It’s really only conglomerate deposits that are deposited by moving waters, for obvious reasons. The point is that each type of sedimentary rock requires a different type of depositional environment, including many that simply cannot occur in a year-long global flood.

The assigned “ages” of the sedimentary beds (which comprise the bulk of the “geologic column”) have been deduced from their assemblages of fossils.

This is patently false. The assigned ages are determined by radiometric dating of igneous intrusions between sedimentary strata.

Fossils, however, normally require very rapid burial and compaction to be preserved at all. Thus every sedimentary formation appears to have been formed rapidly – even catastrophically – and more and more present-day geologists are returning to this point of view.

This is also false. Fossils do not require rapid burial to be preserved, it depends entirely on the environment. In some cases, a dead body that later fossilizes is indeed buried rapidly, or was already “buried” when it died (like trilobites, which lived in the mud of shallow marine environments). But there are lots of other ways that a fossil can be preserved as well, such as when an animal dies in a volcanic eruption and is covered in ash or buried in volcanic sediments. An animal that dies and settles to the bottom of an anoxic marine environment could lay there without decay for vast periods of time while slowly being buried in sediments settling to the lake or sea floor (this is why marine fossils are so much more common than terrestrial fossils).

Since there is known to be a global continuity of sedimentary formations in the geologic column (that is, there is no worldwide “unconformity,” or time gap, between successive “ages”), and since each unit was formed rapidly, the entire geologic column seems to be the product of continuous rapid deposition of sediments, comprising in effect the geological record of a time when “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

This isn’t just false, it’s downright silly. As explained above, it simply isn’t true that each sedimentary unit was formed rapidly. Indeed, most sedimentary units (limestone, shale, chalk, etc) cannot be formed rapidly. Think about just chalk for a moment. We have enormous deposits of chalk around the world, particularly in Europe (the famous White Cliffs of Dover are the best example). These sediments are made up of coccoliths and calcium carbonate that accretes together at the bottom.

Coccolithophores live near the top of the water and when they die, their calcium carbonate shells slowly settle to the bottom and over vast periods of time large deposits form. We find deposits in Europe that are hundreds of feet thick, which would require millions and millions of years of calm, tranquil environment to accumulate. Now think about this: according to flood geology, all of this had to form within only a few months, which means all of the organisms whose dead bodies make up the chalk formation had to be alive at the same time.

But these organisms are incredibly tiny, less than 1000 angstroms typically, so if enough of them were alive in the oceans to form a layer hundreds of feet thick, there would have been no ocean at all – the water would be so thick that you wouldn’t have to be Jesus to walk across it. That would have killed off every other form of life in the ocean, for crying out loud. But this is the type of reasoning you have to engage in if you want to compress hundreds of millions of years of geological activity into just a single year.

It is also significant that the types of rocks, the vast extent of specific sedimentary rock formations, the minerals and metals, coal and oil found in rocks, the various types of structures (i.e., faults, folds, thrusts, etc.), sedimentary rocks grossly deformed while still soft from recent deposition, and numerous other features seem to occur indiscriminately throughout the various “ages” supposedly represented in the column. To all outward appearances, therefore, they were all formed in essentially the same brief time period.

This may be the dumbest argument on this issue I’ve ever heard. The logic is completely reversed. The fact that we find all sorts of geological features happening throughout various points in the geological record is, in fact, strong evidence against the notion that the whole record was formed by a single event. The world as it is now has a huge variety of depositional environments, from deserts to ocean, from mountain ranges to lakes, from rivers to savannahs and much more. The world in a global flood has one depositional environment – deep water.

But there are many types of geological features that cannot form underwater, like terrestrial sandstone (desert) environments. Yet we find desert sandstones at various levels of the geologic column all over the world. In the middle of the Grand Canyon sediments, all of which a flood geologist must claim were deposited by the flood, you find the Coconino sandstone, which is a terrestrial sandstone. It’s actually about 2/3 of the way up the sequence, sitting atop about a mile of sediments requiring different depositional environments and buried by yet more marine sediments.

Now, a flood geologist has a difficult time explaining how, in the middle of a global flood, a terrestrial desert environment suddenly popped up, complete with burrows and trackways of terrestrial animals (what were they doing walking around in the middle of a global flood that was supposed to drown them, especially after the deposition of a mile of sediments that had to be deposited in just a few months time – meaning sediments were being deposited at a rate of several feet per day).

In addition, at all levels of the geologic column you can find features that could not possibly have been laid down during a flood – mud cracks (which require drying by the sun), meteoritic craters, dinosaur nesting sites (were they raising their young underwater?), glacial deposits, river channels, burrows, footprints or terrestrial volcano sediments. All of these things can only be formed at the surface, not underwater, yet we find examples of them at every single point in the geologic column somewhere around the world. There is simply no way that the entire earth was ever covered with water at the same time.

The fossil sequences in the sedimentary rocks do not constitute a legitimate exception to this rule, for there is a flagrant circular reasoning process involved in using them to identify their supposed geologic age. That is, the fossils have been dated by the rocks where they are found, which in turn had been dated by their imbedded fossils with the sequences based on their relative assumed stages of evolution, which had ultimately been based on the ancient philosophy of the “great chain of being.”

More nonsense. This notion of circular reasoning is one of the most annoying creationist arguments. In fact there are two types of dating and they act as a check on one another. What we call “index fossils” are used to determine the ages of a rock formation in the field, where one has no access to radiometric dating. But this can only be done because of the correlation of those index fossils with strata of a particular age. If a given organism is found only in strata that dates to the middle Devonian, then when you come across such a fossil on a dig you would surmise that the formation you are digging in dates to the middle Devonian.

But it doesn’t stop there. You then want to find an absolute date for the strata and you gather samples that allow you to date it radiometrically. This is a crucial check on the validity of using the index fossils – if the rocks do not, in fact, date to the middle Devonian, then something is clearly wrong. But the fact that the radiometric dates always end up confirming the assumed age, this acts as a double check on the dating in the field. Relative and absolute dating work as a perfect double check on one another.

All of these arguments are just plain bad, but they are incredibly popular among those with no knowledge of geology. I could easily provide another dozen reasons why a global flood is impossible as an explanation, but I think I’ve provided enough for now.

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