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Were Most of Earth’s Fossil-Bearing Sedimentary Rock Layers Deposited by Noah’s Flood? Tim Helble September 9, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Were Most of Earth’s Fossil-Bearing Sedimentary Rock Layers Deposited by Noah’s Flood? Tim Helble September 9, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Were Most of Earth’s Fossil-Bearing Sedimentary Rock Layers Deposited by Noah’s Flood? Tim Helble September 9, 2011

2 This presentation is by no means intended to destroy anyone’s faith. It may, however, cause some to re-evaluate how certain portions of the Bible should be interpreted, particularly the early chapters of Genesis. If your entire Christian faith rests on a literal six-day interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and the principles of what is popularly known as young- earth creationism, please consider not proceeding with this presentation.

3 Were most of Earth’s fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers deposited by Noah’s Flood? As is often the case, Grand Canyon will be the focus. A related question: is it just a matter of looking at the same data through two different world views and coming to two different conclusions? Images obtained from an Answers in Genesis slide

4 Keep in mind that about 75% of Earth’s land surface and almost all of the ocean bottom are covered by sedimentary rock, so whatever occurred in the Grand Canyon area also had to occur all over the planet... At the same time!

5 Young-earth advocates will say most of these layers were deposited by the global Flood

6 Early Flood Layers (1 st 150 Days) Pre-Flood/ Creation Week Rock Late Flood Layers The “Great Unconformity” Young-earth advocates Drs. Steve Austin and Andrew Snelling divide up Grand Canyon’s layers according to this scheme NPS

7 Young-earth advocates have offered alternate explanations for how several of these Grand Canyon formations were deposited, which makes for interesting discussion… and often, you might hear them say something like: “We use the same data as the evolutionists, we just come to different conclusions.” Ron Blakey

8 Callen Bentley – N. VA Community College National Park Service Looking at the Bright Angel Shale, a mainstream geologist could point out that crawling and burrowing traces have been found which indicate a relatively stable environ- ment and plenty of time for each new layer of fine sediment added to the formation to be colonized and reworked by trilobites and other primitive animals without being immediately crushed under the weight of higher layers. However, a Flood geologist could respond and say that burrows are 'escape traces' left by organisms escaping rapid sedimentation, and thus do not require long time periods to form. Same data, different conclusions, right? Ron Blakey

9 Looking at the lowest member of the Redwall Limestone, a main- stream geologist could point out that nautiloid fossils have been found next to upright Crinoid stems; which, along with the rock’s composition, indicates they died in a shallow water nearshore (ocean) environment. However, a Flood geologist could respond and say that millions of nautiloid fossils may exist in this formation, indicating a mass kill which occurred when they were suddenly buried by tons of lime mud transported by a submarine liquefied sediment gravity current. Same data, different conclusions, right? Robert Leighty (2004) Carol Hill Upright crinoid stem Ron Blakey

10 Carol Hill Looking at the Coconino Sandstone, a mainstream geologist could point out that footprints of Komodo-Dragon size reptile, smaller animals, and even spiders have been found in its beds, showing that the sand upon which they were walking was exposed to the atmosphere. However, a Flood geologist could respond and say that Dr. Leonard Brand found that amphibians in a water tank made footprints on the sandy bottom that were similar in form to those seen in the Coconino Sandstone, therefore the footprints could have been made by animals trying to escape the onslaught of Flood waters. Same data, different conclusions, right? Leonard R. Brand, Origins 5(2):64-82 (1978). Ron Blakey

11 So, at least from the perspective of an average person from a non-scientific background, it would appear that the old- earth and young-earth sides could argue until they’re blue in the face about whether Grand Canyon’s layers were deposited in less than a year by Noah’s Flood or over eons of time – some 280 million years. Based on graphics from Answers in Genesis and Steve Austin

12 Ron Blakey But suppose there were data for Grand Canyon’s layers which both sides agree on… and suppose simple math can be used on that data to show there was no way the layers could have been deposited during a year long global Flood? It turns out this can be done for a hotly disputed formation – the Coconino Sandstone… Ron Blakey Let’s see if it could have been laid down during the Flood…

13 Desert dunes can’t be formed during a global Flood, so young-earth advocates try to prove it was deposited by water U.S. Geological Survey Geologists say the Coconino’s complex cross-bed structure indicates it was formed through eolian (wind-driven) processes

14 Let’s look at a graphical procedure developed by young-earth advocate Dr. Steven A. Austin to show how the Coconino could have been deposited by flowing water during the Flood. Austin’s procedure is widely used by other young-earth advocates such as Andrew Snelling, seen here showing it at an Answers in Genesis conference. This slide will automatically transition to the next one.

15 Austin derived this graph from an equation in “Physical Processes of Sedimen- tation” by J.R.L. Allen (1970)… And combined it with this graph, re- drawn from a 1980 paper by D.M. Rubin and D.S. McCulloch Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure Found in Grand Canyon – Monument to Catastrophe, Page 34 See also Andrew Snelling, Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Volume 2, page 1081.

16 Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure Where did Rubin and McCulloch get their data for deeper water? See: Giant Underwater Sand Waves Seaward of the Golden Gate BridgeGiant Underwater Sand Waves Seaward of the Golden Gate Bridge Current too fast here (5-6 mph) – no sand waves can form Current slower here (2-4 mph) – sand waves up to 33 ft form Situation shown: outgoing tide from San Francisco Bay

17  Then draw a line to the right through “dunes and sand waves” area XX ↔ 90 to 155 cm/sec (2 - 4 mph)  First, he assumes a 10 meter (33 ft) height for sand waves  From 10 meters, draw a line up until it reaches the curve  Note the two points where line crosses edges of “dunes and sand waves” area  Want “dunes and sand waves” area because it has cross beds NPS  Then go down from those two points to the bottom  Austin says this gives the range of water velocity needed to form 10 meter sand waves at a depth of 54 meters Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure How does it work?  Austin states this indicates the sand waves formed at a depth of 54 meters (177 feet) 54

18 1 kg per second per meter means 1 kilogram of sediment (sand) crossing a 1-meter-long line every second Another graph in the same paper used by Austin! And this one has sediment transport rates… What’s a sediment transport rate? If each man is shoveling 1 kilogram across his meter stick every second, the sediment transport rate is 1 kilogram / second / meter 1 meter

19 With this new graph, here’s what Austin’s double graph procedure should have looked like…

20 What kind of sediment transport rates would we see if the current speed was between 90 to 155 cm/sec and the depth was 54 meters? 30 We could draw a curve through that area and estimate it represents a rate of 6 or perhaps 9 kg/second/meter… But let’s give the young-earth position every possible break and estimate it would be 30 kg/sec/meter i.e., somewhere in this area of the graph

21 O.k., what area would we be moving all this sand into? And where would it all be coming from? 10 meters This was from the Answers in Genesis website. Notice the regular pattern of cross beds here. Compare to the complex pattern in the previous close-up of the Coconino Sandstone Current

22 In Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, page 36, Dr. Austin provides a map like the one below showing the area of the Coconino and correlated sandstones to the east

23 Dr. Austin says we need to look to the north for a source of sand for the Coconino Sandstone, so let’s draw a 1,000 mile long northern border. ← 1,000 miles →

24 Look at Dr. Snelling’s slide – he says the volume of the Coconino is 10,000 mi 3 and its average thickness is 315 feet.

25 How many days would it take to move all the sand from the north across that line? According to Drs. Austin and Snelling…  Coconino is an “early Flood” layer (first 150 days)  Volume of the Coconino is 10,000 cubic miles  Average thickness of the Coconino is 315 feet  Total thickness of “early Flood” layers in Grand Canyon is 4,000 feet Therefore:  Time to move 10,000 cubic miles of sand to form the Coconino is ≈ 315 ft / 4,000 ft x 150 days ≈ 12 days Not very long!

26 10,000 cubic miles of sand The big question: could enough sand be transported in 12 days through Dr. Austin’s advancing sand wave mechanism to form the Coconino Sandstone (with its complex cross beds) in Flood currents moving at speeds anywhere close to 90 to 155 cm/sec? Let’s use bars to represent the sand being transported from the north across the border, and assume 10,000 cubic miles of sand was perfectly positioned in an area to the north at just the right time during the Flood. Remember, lower and higher layers also had to be transported in the same way before and after the Coconino was deposited. North South

27 How much sand would cross the 1,000 mile boundary in 12 days? Let’s find out. Ready… 1 Day2 Days3 Days4 Days5 Days6 Days7 Days8 Days9 Days10 Days11 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north →← Present day Coconino Sandstone → 12 Days Time’s up! At 30 kg/sec/meter, we would get: 6.3 mi 3 (26 km 3 ) Not 10,000 mi 3 12 days? 1,000 mi 3 (This is 1/10 of the total)

28 For the doubters, here are the calculations:

29 Let’s see if the sandstone layer could be formed if we had the whole year- long flood (371 days) to transport 10,000 cubic miles of sand. Time = 10 Days Time = 20 Days Time = 30 Days Time = 40 Days Time = 50 Days Time = 60 Days Time = 70 Days Time = 80 Days Time = 90 Days Time = 100 Days Time = 110 Days Time = 120 Days Time = 130 Days Time = 140 Days Time = 150 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north →← Present day Coconino Sandstone → Time = 160 Days Time = 170 Days Time = 180 Days Time = 190 Days Time = 200 Days Time = 210 Days Time = 220 Days Time = 230 Days Time = 240 Days Time = 250 Days Time = 260 Days Time = 270 Days Time = 280 Days Time = 290 Days Time = 300 Days Time = 310 Days Time = 320 Days Time = 330 Days Time = 340 Days Time = 350 Days Time = 360 Days Time = 370 Days About 196 cubic miles… is all that would be transported during the entire flood. Time = 371 Days And remember… this was only 1/10 of 10,000 cubic miles

30 Flood Geology Fails To Explain the Coconino  At 30 kg/sec per each meter along the 1,000 mile border, it would take 52 years to move 10,000 cubic miles of sand into the present day area of the Coconino Sandstone  A sediment transport rate of 48,000 kilograms per second per each meter or 32,000 pounds per second per each foot of the 1,000 mile border would be required to move enough sand across the border to form the Coconino in 12 days That’s 1,600 times greater than what a sediment transport rate of 30 kg / sec / m would give you

31  That’s equivalent to over four dump truck loads of sand crossing each meter of the 1,000 mile boundary every second for 12 days Flood Geology Refuted Using Simple Math  This is more like a giant slab of sand 84 feet high, 1000 miles wide, and 630 miles long sliding south at 2 mph.  Even if it was possible to have such a moving sand slab, it wouldn’t allow complex cross beds to be formed!

32 Calculations for previous slides:

33 Flood Geology Refuted Using Simple Math  And at least nine assumptions were made which favored the young-earth position – without them, the computed height of the moving sand slab could have been greater than the water depth! 1.Optimal positioning of 10,000 cubic miles of sand, just to the north of the present day Coconino, at just the right time during the Flood 2.Length of border crossed by “sustained unidirectional currents,” as Austin termed it, was really less than 1,000 miles kg / sec / meter – a very generous sediment transport rate. 4.Deposition not delayed by period of scouring at onset of the Flood. 5.Crossing northern boundary equated with depositing the entire Coconino. 6.10,000 cubic miles appears to be a low volume estimate. 7.No accounting for portion of the Coconino that was eroded away – e.g., at Mogollon Rim. 8.No break in deposition allocated for the channel fill formations (e.g., Surprise Cyn Formation). 9.Recent YEC efforts to attribute additional layers to Flood deposition were not considered.

34 “If you do the math, and with 10,000 cubic miles of sand being moved at that speed, you’d move it all within a matter of a few days and spread it over a 100,000 (square mile area). See? There’s no problem!” Andrew Snelling, Answers for Darwin Conference,Answers for Darwin Conference Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, February 7, 2009.

35 The output from Austin’s double graph procedure and/or the graphs themselves has been used in at least five popular young-earth books… Two young- earth videos… and at least ten young-earth web pages (click on a number below:)

36 Some comments on these findings from young-earth believing viewers:  Big problem here Tim. If Creation week and the global Flood of Noah is not responsible for what we see geologically. Then Jesus Christ didn't raise from the dead, and Adam was not a specially created being 6,000 years ago. We may as well forget it all, the naturalist win… If the math seemingly doesn't fit then the math is wrong; GOD IS NOT. Well… thank God, Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead. It’s our interpretations and theology that look like they’ve been wrong all along. And regarding the math – if you find any errors, feel free to let me know.

37 More comments… A wall of water ground up land surfaces into sand, silt, and clay particles and deposited them in 1000’s of sedimentary formations all over the Earth with no sign of larger chunks, without interfering with deposition of other formations that are upstream and downstream at the same level? Sounds like the geologic equivalent of musical chairs. Does this person know that clay forms through chemical processes, or that Earth’s sedimentary rock covers nearly 75% of the land and almost all of the ocean floor and has a volume of over 100 million mi 3 ? chemical processes  Your credulity is no different to that leveled at J. A. Bretz in the 1940s when he postulated the Missoula flood. He was told that such a thing was scientifically impossible… You are not considering a wall of water perhaps several hundred meters high, 1000s of kilometers long, traveling at incredible velocities, consistently grinding up land surfaces and redepositing them elsewhere? If 50 cubic miles of basalt can be eroded from one third of the state of Washington and redeposited elsewhere in a few days by one small glacial lake (Missoula), then how much can be eroded by entire oceans?

38 More comments… Actually, I used Austin and Snelling’s data as a starting point. Maths can be fudged according to my a priori assumptions? All that were used were math and units conversion techniques learned in 9th grade. Perhaps the multiplication table was different in the past, like the speed of light and nuclear decay rates?  Once again you are failing to get outside of your actualistic box. Maths can be fudged according to one’s a priori assumptions. You need to stop thinking ‘little’ geology. Start thinking ‘big, big’ geology. Your problem is that you are confined to a paradigm which you will simply not give up. You are trying to answer questions using your paradigm as the starting point. This won’t work.

39 More comments…  So you want me to look at a paper about flume tanks and sand waves in San Francisco Bay! That's nice Tim, but there is an obvious disconnect in terms of scale with the global flood! Their graphs (as reproduced by Austin) go to 100 meters, but what happens in even deeper water? Even aside from scale, are the flume tanks reproducing all the other conditions from the flood (the details of which no-one is privvy to). Just as an example of the almost infinite possibilities, what about a general sand wave producing current frequently superimposed by tsunami or other wave events? (I do note that when I'm in the surf, each wave lifts up, and transports an enormous load of sand - almost fills the pockets of my bathers!) The water depth and flume tank size are irrelevant – it’s the sediment transport rate that matters. Also, tsunamis produce chaotic sediments – and then only in shallow water. BTW – I believe this fellow’s bathers would be a bit heavier if he caught a wave transporting sediment at 32,000 lbs per second per foot!!!

40  …with your claim that a massive volume of sand sediment could not have been moved into place and had cross bedding... I would simply like to see the size of the laboratory that you proved experimentally that such is impossible!!... To be anywhere near convincing to me, it would have to be larger than the earth, and you would somehow have to have inside info on exactly every process that God used. More comments… The size of the “laboratory” is irrelevant… if you have 10,000 cubic miles of sediment and want to transport it across a 1,000 mile line in 12 days, the sediment transport rate has to be a constant 32,000 lb / sec / ft. Actually, Austin’s estimate of the water speed necessary to deposit fine sand as underwater cross beds was just about right. You then want to increase the sediment transport rate by a factor of at least 1,600 – possibly as high as 10,000 or more – and still think there is a way cross beds could form? At the same time other formations are being deposited all over the planet? If you can’t steal sediment from a nearby formation, where did the sediment come from – did it rain down from space? Then there’s the small issue about how the Coconino’s cross beds don’t look anything like those formed underwater.

41 These people are clearly not grasping the gravity of the problem…  There are two major points to this presentation that every young-earth believer must deal with: First, Austin’s graphical procedure for explaining underwater formation of cross beds clearly does not allow near enough sand to be transported to form the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days. Second, the sediment transport rate required to form the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days would be so absurdly high as to prevent the formation of even the simplest cross beds.

42 It’s not just huge waves that would be needed. Sediment must be continuously and simultaneously transported at absurdly high rates everywhere on the planet, for the entire duration of the Flood – not just where a wave happens to be breaking. Gravity of the problem (continued)

43 Let’s review. Austin was arguing that the cross-bedded Coconino Sandstone was formed by underwater sand waves. To form cross beds, the current detaches individual grains of sand, lifts them from the top of the sand wave, and deposits them somewhere ahead of the sand wave… as shown in this video:  The sediment transport rate for this drawing from the Answers in Genesis article would be somewhere between 2 and 20 lbs/sec/footAnswers in Genesis article

44 Now, if you want to superimpose some kind of miraculous transport of sediment at rates of at least 32,000 lbs/sec/ft on top of that sand wave-forming process – fine! But what happens if even a fraction of that floating slab of sediment reaches the bottom? You just killed the formation of cross beds. You can’t have it both ways!

45  As Dr. Austin stated, if the water is moving too fast, sand waves can’t form – no cross beds!  If the sediment transport rate is too large (especially if it is too large by a factor of 1,600+), no cross beds!  Sediments affected by tsunamis display chaotic (totally jumbled) characteristics, not thin, even layers. Cross beds would be out of the question.

46 If the volume, thickness, and extent is known for any sedimentary rock formation on the planet, the same kind of mathematical calculations could be performed as were done here for the Coconino Sandstone, with the same result. Flood Geology clearly fails the test.

47 But do cross beds formed by underwater sand waves look anything like those formed through eolian (wind-blown) processes?

48 Cross Beds Created By Water Flow  Animation Guy Berthault Answers in Genesis USGS Brazos River, TX

49 Cross Beds In Actual Sand Dunes John S. Shelton E. D. McKee Bruce Perry Diane M. Burns

50 You be the judge – which type of cross beds look more like what we see in the Coconino Sandstone? Tim Martin, Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD), Universities Space Research Association

51 After Austin, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe, 1994 Old-Earth Conclusions Young-Earth Conclusions Two interpretive frameworks: And what do you think… Is it just a matter of looking at the same data, but coming to different conclusions?

52  Dr. Austin has recently proposed a new mechanism for redistribution of sediments across the earth during the global Flood: submarine liquefied sediment gravity currents  Austin now maintains that “Such currents were likely the major transportation agent for sediment during the global flood.” See: A follow-up note…

53  The submarine liquefied sediment gravity current mechanism identified by Austin still provides an insufficient explanation for how Earth’s sedimentary rock layers could be deposited during a year-long global Flood, because it doesn’t explain how strata could accumulate simultaneously all over the Earth at extremely high rates – can’t just focus on the Grand Canyon area.  Even if it were possible for submarine liquefied sediment gravity currents to transport enough sediment into northern Arizona to form the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days, the required deposition rate wouldn’t allow the formation’s famous cross beds to form.  Plus, the words of Austin (and others such as Andrew Snelling) in many published documents require the Coconino’s cross beds to form through the advancing sand wave mechanism!

54 Given the angles of the cross beds, trackways from land animals, absence of marine fossils, and failure of the Flood geology explanation, it is clear the Coconino Sandstone was formed slowly by a vast sand dune system… and a global Flood had no role in laying down this or any other Grand Canyon rock layer. Death Valley, CA

55 “The belief that Earth's sediments, with their fossils, were deposited in an orderly sequence in a year's time defies all geological observations and physical principles concerning sedimentation rates and possible quantities of suspended solid matter.” Science and Creationism - A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd Edition, Page 8 End of Grand Canyon at Lake Mead during 1983 Flood

56 For more information, see: Sediment Transport and the Coconino Sandstone: A Reality Check on Flood Geology by Timothy K. Helble, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), Vol. 63, No. 1, March Click here for abstract on ASA website (full version becomes available on this site in early Until then, click here or here for text only version.here

57 A version of this presentation with full animation capabilities, along with several other presentations and materials on young-earth creationism, are available at: Good blogs and websites where the problems with young earth creationism are discussed: Answers in Creation: Old Earth Creation Society: The GeoChristian Blog: Letters to Creationists Blog: Questioning Answers in Genesis Blog:

58 Some excellent online books describing the errors of young-earth creationism (particularly Flood geology), are: NEGLECT OF GEOLOGIC DATA: Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist WritingsNEGLECT OF GEOLOGIC DATA: Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings by Daniel E. Wonderly God’s Time-Records in Ancient SedimentsGod’s Time-Records in Ancient Sediments by Daniel E. Wonderly A New Look at an Old EarthA New Look at an Old Earth by Don Stoner Some excellent videos: Lesson 8/16: Geology and Earth HistoryLesson 8/16: Geology and Earth History by Gordon Glover

59 American Scientific Affiliation: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: God and Science: Beyond Creation Science: Affiliation of Christian Geologists: The Biologos Forum: Other locations on the web where information can be obtained on the intersection between science and the Bible are:


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