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Difficulties with the Geologic Column

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By A.W. Mehiert

Since the rise of modern scientific creationism, which received its greatest impetus with the publication in 1961 of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris, the creationist position has been greatly vindicated in that much of the evolutionary establishment has now moved noticeably away from Neo-Darwinism, thus reluctantly but tacitly acknowledging the constant creationist pressure.

While this is to be welcomed, I do feel that not enough emphasis has been placed by creationists in the field of geology, especially the validity or otherwise of the geologic column, upon which the evolutionists base their claims. It is here that we may be somewhat vulnerable because unless we can either better explain the so-called fossil succession or expose its artificiality, we can never hope to achieve that final "breakthrough." I was therefore very pleased to see the matter of fossil succession brought up in some detail in the Creation Research Society Quarterly by Woodmorappe(1),(2),(3),(4),(5) and Morton. (6),(7)

In a broad sense, the geologic column is compatible with the Flood geology model of Whitcomb and Morris, but when we get down to detail, the picture changes somewhat - e.g., why don't we find the fossils of the marine mammals, dolphins and whales in the same strata as other pelagic (open sea) forms such as the teleost fishes of the middle and late Paleozoic? These marine mammals are not supposed to have evolved until the Tertiary, which is where the evolutionist "finds" them, and points to this sort of thing as strong evidence for his theory.

We creationists must therefore apply considerable and honest criticism to the concept of the column, because that is what it largely is-a concept based on evolutionary theory.

There are two main pointers to a short-time framework for the geologic column:
1. The overwhelming number of parallelisms in the under-strata as compared to the present surface of the earth. Many writers have brought this matter to attention besides Whitcomb and Morris; the most notable being Daly,(8) Nelson,(9) and Sir Henry Howorth.(10)

If the various under-strata of the earth had at one time or another been the habitable surface of the earth for many millions of years, then we would expect to see the erosive effects of sun, wind and water on the tops of the underlying beds as manifested in the cutting of valleys and gorges in the same manner as we find on the surface of the present-day earth. Howorth, an anti-creationist, was forced to say that until he saw such evidence he felt free to reject the uniformitarian theory. One may accept that these "ancient" beds, both continental and marine, may have lain uneroded for maybe a few thousand years, but certainly not for the many millions of years alleged by the evolutionist geologists. Byron Nelson quotes the 19th century geologist George Fairholme, who stated, "This gradual passage from one sedimentary deposit to another at the point of contact is perhaps the strongest proof of the uninterrupted and aqueous deposition throughout the whole formation of the earth's strata."11)

Daly was also scathing on this matter,(12) remarking that uniformitarian geology was a history of events, most of which never happened, in time that never existed. He pointed out that many of these exquisite parallelisms cover thousands of square miles, as in the Grand Canyon area of the Colorado plateau.

I made a close inspection of the Canyon in 1983, and after examining the strata layout and consulting the detailed maps and charts at the information center, I found no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that here indeed is a classic example of Flood geology. The only erosion is that which occurred after the obviously rapid deposition of several thousand feet of sediments. If the column seen so clearly in the Canyon took several hundreds of millions of years to be laid down, then why is not erosion visible in those in-between strata? The whole area looked to me as if it had split open like a rotten watermelon, followed by a large-scale scouring out by a body of water far larger than the present Colorado, and this rapid erosion of still-soft sediments cut right through to even the "ancient" bottom rocks.

The park ranger/geologist admitted privately to me that there was no known orthodox explanation for this, nor for the missing Silurian and Ordovician deposits. A sign at the Canyon Center tells the public that how the Grand Canyon was formed still defied explanation. Every theory so far suffers from fatal objections.
2. The second proof of young strata is somewhat related to the first - the countless known cases of "deceptive" conformities (paracon-formities) -where without the slightest physical evidence, rocks of one "age" or "period" rest comfortably on beds of much older "age" (up to hundreds of millions of years in many cases). In virtually all cases the only indicator of the alleged great passage of time is the absence of the fossils that evolutionists say ought to be in between.

Whitcomb and Morris, Daly, and Nelson have covered this subject well and there is no need to go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that when we see a stratum resting on a lower bed so comfortably that in many cases one could not insert a knife edge in between, and then to be told that the two strata were, say, 50 million years apart in time, one would be justified in regarding such a time difference as a product of cuckoo-land thinking. The observable fact is that the two strata were laid down at about the same time, and the "missing" fossils are totally irrelevant.

The problem of deceptive conformities still perplexes the orthodox geologist. William R. Corliss, a non- creationist, has also noted these para-conformities,(13) and trenchantly states, "Did millions of years fly by with no discernible effect? A possible though controversial inference is that our geological clocks and stratigraphic concepts need working on." Flood geologists would agree. (Of course I am not denying the reality of real unconformities and tectonic activity.)

Reality and Validity of the Column

The geologic column really consists of two components: the actual and physical layout of stratigraphic beds and the fossils contained therein; and the conceptual or nonphysical aspect, based on the assumption of organic evolution which is superimposed (on paper or mentally) onto, and mixed into, the physical aspect. The textbook geologic column does not exist physically and totally superposed anywhere on the earth; parts of it can be found in many places, and the whole physical part can be found in a few scattered places, notably in southern Poland, but not as a superposed unit - i.e., the various parts are physically (geographically) separated over hundreds of square miles and are fused into one unit (on paper) by stratigraphic and fossil correlation.

When I refer to the physical aspect of the column, I am referring to a much broader, less well-defined succession of fossils than we see in the scientific literature. The column is built up (erroneously in my view) to the full detailed column by the conceptual aspect that I deal with in more detail below.

Who Decides How the Column is Made Up?

We must remember that the vast majority of geologists over the last hundred odd years were and are professionals mainly concerned with oil and mining exploration, quarrying, road construction and so on. They are not particularly interested in fossils or how the geologic column came about. True historical geologists are rare - there is little money to be earned this way!

The result has been that after the broad physical column itself was defined in the 19th century, the column has become more and more dominated by the paleontologists, mostly from universities and museums, who are interested in only one thing - to demonstrate the history of organic evolution through the fossils. These scientists, however well qualified and knowledgeable, are not geologists and they are usually not all that objective - that is, they do not see anything in the rocks without mentally fitting it into the evolutionary system. Most of them could not even conceive of anything other than an evolutionary viewpoint. I am not saying they are dishonest; just subjectively biased. This is where the conceptual side of the column comes in.

Physical Nature of the Column

It is true that there is a general succession of fossils beginning deep down with the Precambrian trace fossils, one-celled organisms, progressing into the Cambrian, allegedly 600 million years ago, where we find an amazing explosion of complex marine forms such as trilobites, corals, sponges, and even one or two "primitive" fish forms. No lines of ancestry lead up to the complex creatures, a problem that has baffled evolutionists since Darwin's day.

As we move up into the mid-Paleozoic we find more diverse forms, including many vertebrates such as Devonian and Carboniferous fishes, amphibians, reptiles, etc., and through the Perinian into the Mesozoic with the domination of the dinosaurs; the "primitive" mammals of the early Cretaceous; and into the Tertiary and the alleged sudden explosion of all types of mammals up into the Pleistocene apes, monkeys, and finally "modern" man.

The above broad picture is indeed a generally good precis of the physical column, although there are many, many serious, even probably fatal contradictions to which I shall refer later.

The Flood geology paradigm ascribes the general pattern of the fossil succession and fossil separation to the following physical causes (not necessarily in rank of importance):

1. Hydrodynamic sorting through water velocity and specific density of the fossil.
2. Ecological zonation, habitat, etc., e.g., deep sea, shallow sea, shoreline area, coastal plain, swamp, highland, forest, etc.
3. Biogeographical separation, e.g., organisms separated by mountain ranges, lakes, oceans, etc.
4. Mobility, intelligence, and differential escape factors.
5. Chance.
6. Preservation bias, e.g., small or large population, hard or soft parts, aerial forms such as birds, etc.
7. Tectonically Associated Biological Provinces (TABS). This is a new and exciting possibility opened up by John Woodmorappe.(14)

The concept of TABS is based on the fact that sedimentation in the Phanerozoic record is heavily influenced by tectonic activity plus the fact that the fossils are zoned both ecologically and biogeogrphically. Taken in combination as illustrated
by Woodmorappe, and linked tectonically, then biogeographic provinces will be superposed consistently resulting in biostratigraphic separation of the fossils. Woodmorappe also points out that the so-called index fossils tend to shun each other geographically, and his works have opened up a whole new vista for Flood geologists.

Any of the above or combinations thereof can yield fossil succession of the order we see in the rocks, but now I wish to present my main theme - the conceptual part of the geologic column. Put briefly, this means that because of bias or contradictions in the physical part of the column, the paleontologists have placed many fossils in the (paper) column, corresponding to where they think the fossil ought to be. This conceptual aspect of the column is just as important, if not more important, than the physical part. The textbook column is therefore very different from what is actually found in the rocks.

I give a classic example from The Evolution of Life,(15) by a well-known geologist, E.C. Olson, Professor of Geology, Chicago University. In the Siwalik region of India, certain primates, carnivores, pigs, etc. are found that supposedly belong to the Miocene (25 million years ago). However, in the same deposits we also find the ancient horse Hipparion, which is supposed to belong to the Pliocene (15 million years ago). Olson gives the arguments about how this could happen and then finally admits that there is no solution to the "problem." But then, on the weight of majority opinion, it is decided that the age is indeed Miocene, even though this calls for a very early origin of the horse Hipparion. The only reason for this is that the other fossils out-number the horse form!

Hipparion is an "out-of-place" fossil, and the paleontologists are extremely reluctant to have the fossil where it is because it contradicts their concept of evolution. I could give many more serious examples of contradictions in the fossil record. Woodmorappe(16) lists over 240 cases of "out-of-place" fossils, fully referenced.

Paleontologists can also be very confusing because if there is no other way out, they will, very reluctantly, allow an organism to have a longer stratigraphic range than previously known. The reason for the reluctance is that too much of this sort of thing plays havoc with their fossil succession and the geologic column. Woodinorappe(17) quotes evolutionist Muir who admitted, "in any kind of ecologic study, false conclusions could be drawn while the havoc that reworking could play with the stratigraphy is immense." The reader can draw his own conclusions.

Woodmorappe again(18) quotes evolutionist Hass who stated: "The recognition of a mixed fauna is chiefly dependent on one's knowledge of the true stratigraphic range of each kind of discrete conodont." Who can say with certainly what the "true" stratigraphic range of any fossil is?

Some of the severe problems faced by the paleontologists are mentioned constantly by Prof. Olson.(19) They are not really problems, but "explanations" invoked to circumvent certain contradictions or inexplicable findings in the rocks. They include convergent or parallel evolution; polyphyletic evolution; the poor and spotty fossil record; features that appear and reappear over and over again, and so on. Some of the real problems for them are living fossils showing no change from their supposedly ancient brethren, skipping fossils that appear only here and there in the various ages, leaving no trace that they ever existed in "ages" where they are not found, variation within types, sometimes of considerable magnitude.

Using Olson's work as a basis, we find countless contradictions. On page 35 he observes that it is rather remarkable that there is a fossil record at all. On page 49 he complains that only a "very small fraction" of the life of the past has been preserved. He generally complains of the "poor and spotty" record, but this does not stop him from giving us countless examples of detailed lineages of various alleged evolutionary progressions. Taking all of the above into account, these lineages exist only in the mind, for how could he so confidently give us assuredly correct lineages?

What has happened, of course, is that by mistaking lateral variation within a kind for vertical evolution between types, one can give any sort of lineage one thinks might be right. What Olson does, of course, over and over again, is to demonstrate micro-evolution (adaptive lateral variation within types to a creationist). He cannot do more because he is at once faced with the absence of transitional forms between types.

When it comes to macro-evolution, evolutionists bring in lots of imagination as well as their own opinions. A good example is that of the alleged reptile-to-mammal transition. The following five experts have exhaustively examined the fossils for the transition:

1982-Dr. Tom Kemp, Zoologist, Oxford University
Museum.(20)
1966-Dr. Alfred Romer, famous vertebrate paleontologist.(21)
1965-Dr. E.H. Colbert, American vertebrate paleontolgist.(22)
1966-Prof. E.C. Olson, Chicago University.(23)
1978-Crompton and Parker, American paleontologists.(24)

After detailed consideration of the various synapsid and therapsid reptiles, they all draw up their own generalized lineages (generalized because of so many different fossils and so many missing links), and come to somewhat different opinions as to which general type of mammal-like reptile gave rise to the "first" mammals!

What one expert rules out as being too specialized, another considers as in-line evolution. Because of the large differences between most of these fossils, it is virtually impossible for these experts to "unravel" proper lineages, and parallel and convergent evolution are resorted to frequently. The huge gaps between the types cause them to generalize. The reptile-to-mammal transition is supposed to be the best example of the origin of a major class, but the best the evolutionists can do is to say that there is a trend, but the so-called trend exists really only in the mind.

Romer, however, was candid enough to admit to the 40-million-year "no man's land"(25) when the transition to mammal was taking place, and he goes on to say that "our knowledge of the transition is poor."
________________________________________

One may accept that these "ancient" beds, both continental and marine, may have lain uneroded for maybe a few thousand years, but certainly not for the many millions of years alleged by the evolutionist geologists.
________________________________________

Another well-known expert, Prof. G. Ledyard Stebbins, was more direct in his 1971 work Organic Evolution when he admitted outright, "The fossil ancestry of the first primitive mammals is completely unknown." The trouble with most of the experts is that they interpret the fossil evidence in the light of their theory.

Index Fossils

When the paleontologists correlate their fossils, they usually use index fossils - short range taxa "known"(!) to have existed in only one short period of the past over most of the globe. In view of the fact that some fossils skip periods or ages (such as the Coelacanth fish), how can any paleontologist ever be certain as to the exact time range of any fossil - index or otherwise? Many times they have had to reluctantly readjust the range of various forms. When they correlate their fossils with others in the same general area, they are still subject to problems of separating their preconceived evolutionary ideas from reality, which is why the record has so many contradictions, and the situation grows worse when the correlation is extended to areas hundreds or thousands of miles away, even on other continents.

The process involves incredible contortions when the experts are confronted with different suites of fossils, different stratigraphic sequences, different ecosystems. Their subjectivity comes to the fore, and evolutionary concepts take pride of place. (They can't conceive that evolution may not be the only explanation.) Thus the textbook paper column becomes more and more different from reality.

Taxonomic hairsplitting - giving new names to already-known species that have unexpectedly turned up in "wrong" formations - is fairly common, and is often connected with the mistaking of variation within types for vertical evolution. Also involved is much speculation as Olson(26) admits, "We determine the nature of transformations by tracing them, but how they are traced depends upon the particular lines of descent that we envisage, and these are often speculative."

What more proof do we need? Another device used by evolutionists to get around the physical evidence is called overthrusting, where, because the fossils are not in the "right" order, the evolutionist turns huge mountains upside down even where there is no physical evidence of the alleged overthrust. I am well aware that there are many cases of genuine overthrusts, but these are mostly small and the evidence is there to be seen. Once again the paper column differs from physical reality, but even with all the manipulative devices used by the paleontologists to adjust the column in the face of contradictions and puzzles, they still cannot get down to the basic problem - the virtual total lack of intermediate fossils that would finally establish the origin of the major taxa, the classes, phyla and orders.

As Boucott(27) is forced to admit, "One of the most vexing properties of the fossil record has been its obvious imperfections, this imperfection is most frustrating as it precludes any real possibility for mapping out the path of organic evolution owing to an infinity of "missing links" once above the family level it becomes very difficult in most instances to find any solid paleontological (fossil) evidence for morphological inter-grades between one suprafamial taxon and another." (That is, between orders, classes and phyla, etc.). What Boucott is really doing is placing the blame for the lack of proof for evolution on the fossil and geological record instead of on the theory. I can understand Dr. Boucott's frustration, but he has only himself and his fellow evolutionists to blame.

Dr. W.J. Arkell(28) in 1957, writing about the ammonites, discussed difficulties in stratified lineages: "It is difficult to be sure that our choice of
____________________________________________

Because of bias or contradictions in the physical part of the column, the paleontologists have placed many fossils in the (paper) column, corresponding to where they think the fossil ought to be.
____________________________________________

individual fossils is not guided by preconceptions of what we are looking for." Unfortunately, many paleontologists do just that - allow their preconceptions to rule, even over hostile physical evidence. Fossils that don't fit in with the evolutionary expectations are either ignored or mentally put somewhere else. That the paleontologists are and have been very subjective is admitted by Valentine,(29) who wrote, "The assignment of groups of organisms to taxonomic categories involves a large element of subjectivity."

The successional discrepancies that often threaten to disrupt the neat lineages built up over the years are handled in various ways. Woodmorappe(30) gives a number of examples whereby the previously "known" stratigraphic ranges of various fossil forms have had to be altered in the compelling light of later discoveries and only after a considerable time had elapsed because of the strong reluctance of the paleontologists to alter them. The case of the belemnoids is described by Woodrnorappe: it took 120 years after the original find in 1843 before the professionals were willing to admit that these Triassic forms did in fact exist as far back as the Devonian. Out of place fossils again!

With the availability of all the above-mentioned devices, it is not surprising that the paleontologists can draw up "authoritative" stratigraphic and phyletic lineages and family trees as has been done so often in Olson's work.(31) If the reader is skeptical of such mismanagement of the fossils, let him study the exhaustive works of John Woodmorappe above. As I have shown, the lineages and family trees are only in the textbooks, not in the rocks.

The basic problem, the missing transitionals, still remains - they are missing, not because they haven't been found yet, but because they never existed in the first place. Francis Hitching of the Royal Institute of Archaeology(32) admitted in 1982: "The curious thing is that there is a consistency about the fossil gaps; the fossils are missing in all the important places."

In John Woodmorappe's work(33) he tells us that 42% of earth's land surface has only three or less geologic periods represented at all. We also find that a significant percentage of rocks from every geologic period do not overlie the rocks of the next "oldest" geologic period - e.g., only 51.6% of Cretaceous rocks overlie those of the Jurassic. Furthermore, some part of every geologic period rests directly upon Precambrian deposits.

These facts should cause uniformitarian geologists to ponder their significance. The column is not nearly so straightforward and precise as the uniformitarians would have us believe. That there is some degree of playing fast and loose with the evidence is confirmed by Hitching(34) when he admits in discussing certain problems in the evolutionary theory: "The efforts to teach the facts of evolution within the straitjacket of a single theory have led repeatedly to fudging and fixing the evidence. The biggest casualty, all too often, has been the truth." Hitching (still an evolutionist) goes on in Chapter 8 of his work to give some examples of such practices.

When evolutionists do "demonstrate" a so-called lineage as in Olson,(35) they can establish nothing more than micro-evolution (lateral adaptive variation within a type). In the above particular case, Olson shows us nothing more than trivia - small changes in sizes and shapes of teeth in the "Permian" reptile Cotylorhynchus. When he tries to demonstrate the origin of major categories,(36) he is forced to admit to using speculation(37) because of the absence of the necessary intermediates.(38)

Hitching(39) again has something to say about supposed intermediates: "Most of them are simply varieties of a particular kind of creature, artificially arranged in a certain order to demonstrate Darwinism at work, and then rearranged every time a new discovery casts doubt upon the arrangement."

It is of course to be admitted that Flood geology, still young in its modern form, does not have all the answers, but the uniformitarian, I believe, has much the harder task in trying to demonstrate organic evolution in a situation where he is faced with very serious if not fatal contradictions in the geologic record, as well as with the absence of the transitional forms he so desperately needs. To call the twin theories of evolution and uniformitarian geology "scientific," in the face of the hostile physical (and missing) evidence, whilst decrying creationism as merely religious, requires a great degree of hypocrisy and nerve on the part of the orthodox scientific establishment.

Copyright © 1996 Bible Science Newsletter. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839 FOley, MN 56329
800-422-4253 www.creationmoments.com

Footnotes: 

NOTES

1. Woodmorappe, J. 1978. The cephalopods in the Creation and the Universal Deluge. Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ) 15(2):94-112.

2. Woodmorappe, J. 1980. An Anthology of Matters Significant to Creationism and Dituviology, Report 1