Life In The Millennium

Can the geologic column be found?

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Can the geologic column be found?

Sometimes the motives of creationist researchers are challenged in an attempt to defend the concept of the geologic column. Consider, for instance, Glenn Morton’s tale of how I ‘set out to prove that the geologic column did not exist’, and then was forced to admit that it did.8 This fantasy has been picked up and repeated by other anti-creationists on the Internet without first checking what I actually wrote. The fact of the matter is, I in no sense tried to prove that the geologic column did not exist. The truth is that I already knew it didn’t! Nor was I in any way surprised to find that there are some places where lithologies attributed to all ten geologic periods can be found. I had known that long before. So had other informed creationists,9 as pointed out earlier. In fact, I said so plainly on the first page of my article.10

So, why did I do the work? As I said on the first page of the article, the aim was to measure the degree of incompleteness of the geologic column. That is why I set up the maps, tables, and graphs to show the percentages of the earth’s surface that have various combinations of the ten Phanerozoic systems in place. I thus had considered the sedimentary Phanerozoic systems not only as single, unrelated entities, but also in terms of stratigraphically consecutive combinations.
There are other ways in which Glenn Morton’s criticism of my work is without foundation. Morton11 has led his readers to believe that I had only mentioned Poland and Bolivia, and that, furthermore, I was claiming that those are the only locations on earth with the ten geologic systems in place. Actually, I specifically mentioned other potential places with the ‘complete’ column (e. g., Cuba, Indonesia, and the Himalayas).12 Morton is saying nothing new at his website when he cites additional locations where the ‘complete’ column is found and shows them on a visually-attractive world map. Note that most if not all of the locations that Morton mentions can be found on Map 15 of my article.13 These locations appear as white spots on Map 15, and include such places as northwest Russia, Siberia, the Caspian-Sea region, parts of China, the Williston Basin in the western USA, Bulgaria, Chile, Tunisia, central Mexico, and Iran/Iraq/Afghanistan. It is of course, possible that some smaller locations with ten superposed geologic systems have been lost in the level of resolution afforded by the Alexander Ronov et al. maps used in my study.
But where does Morton get his information? He cites as his source the work of the Robertson Group, a London-based oil-consulting company. I have been unable to secure a copy of this work, as it is not listed in either WorldCat or GEOREF. Thus I cannot comment on the accuracy of this source of information, nor discern whether or not its portrayal of sedimentary basins is overly schematic. Evidently, Morton is citing a proprietary source not subject to public scrutiny. But let us, for the sake of argument, grant the complete validity of what the Robertson Group states, as represented by Morton. Even then the claims are overly generalised. For example, Morton’s does not say how given strata had been ‘dated’. Which ‘geologic ages’ had been identified according to the faunal content of the strata, and which had simply been ‘guesstimated’ according to lithological similarity and/or comparable stratigraphic position with faunally-dated sedimentary formations at adjacent locations? All this is moot, however. As noted earlier, since most of the sediment is missing, Morton’s arguments are completely specious even if the Robertson Group work is thoroughly accurate and not excessively schematic in its depiction of the world’s sedimentary basins.
Finally, the number of different locations on earth with the ‘complete’ column is completely irrelevant. After all, regardless of whether there are 10 or 20 or even 50 locations on earth where all ten geologic systems are superposed, there is no escaping the fact that this still totals less than 1% of the earth’s surface. Even this 1% does not include ocean basins. When the ocean basins are included (none of which have more than a few of the ten geologic systems in place), the global figure falls to less than 0.4%.14
If this were not enough, the situation gets worse when we include the faunal basis for separating and correlating the lithologies into ‘geologic periods’. As mentioned earlier, only a small fraction of index fossils are superposed at the same location on Earth. This has been documented in my Diluviological Treatise.15 Therefore, all things considered, scientific creationists are more than justified in concluding that the standard evolutionary-uniformitarian geologic column is, in fact, essentially non-existent.

Anti-logic — 1% is more significant than 99%

To rescue the situation, anti-creationists have argued that the 1% of the earth’s surface where the lithologies of all ten geologic periods can be found simultaneously is somehow more significant than the remaining 99% where they are not superposed. Consider the contortions of facts and logic this entails. Morton makes an enormous leap when he claims the 1% means the geologic column exists.16 Of course, as noted earlier, this misrepresents Morris and Parker, myself, and other creationists. And, again, it completely ignores the fact that only 16/100 to 16/200 of the column are actually present in any one spot — not to mention the palaeontological factors which, as discussed above, make the geologic column even more artificial than appears at first.

Glenn Morton also made the extravagant claim that the finding of ten superposed Phanerozoic systems is ‘an important prediction’. Actually, as everyone who has studied the development of the geologic column knows, the geologic systems were constructed on an ad hoc, deductive basis. Nowhere in the 19th century geologic literature, at least to my knowledge, is there a hint of a claim that an eventual find of ten superposed systems is a necessary phenomenon for validating the (presumed) reality of the geologic-age system. If such a citation from the early geologic writings exists, I would gladly be corrected. Until and unless such a citation can be produced however, I think that we best treat this claim with the proverbial grain of salt.
Let us consider this claim in a different way. Assume for a moment that it had been established that there was no geographic location on earth where ten geologic systems were found superposed in a quasi-complete column. Would the failure of this supposed ‘prediction’ have caused uniformitarians to reject the validity of their geologic column? Not likely! The claim that finding ten superposed geologic systems is ‘an important prediction’ is clearly false.
Some anti-creationists have calculated the extreme improbability of ten such systems ever being deposited by chance during the Flood. Such a calculation is patently absurd, because creationist scientists do not believe that the order of fossils in the stratigraphic record (and hence the ten-named geologic periods) is entirely (or even primarily) the result of chance processes during the Universal Deluge. And, of course, any mixing of organisms during the Flood has already been accounted for by evolutionists by such things as long-ranging fossils (which are thereby not used as index fossils), and ‘reworking’ rationalizations, etc.

Measuring lithological succession globally

Some readers of both my Essential Nonexistence and Diluviological Treatise articles10 have questioned the relevance of overlays to measure the lithological succession of Phanerozoic systems (in the former), as well as the succession of types of fossils (in the latter). Their objections revolve around the fact that strata are three-dimensional and interlayered with other strata.

To begin with, I had taken the three-dimensionality of the strata into account by tacitly accepting, as a given, the superposition of lithologies ascribed to different geologic periods. That is, when I considered a map of Ordovician strata and one with Cambrian strata, I assumed that, where the two systems occur in the same geographic locality, Ordovician strata always overlie Cambrian strata (and never the reverse).
As for the lateral continuity of strata, it had been argued that, since strata overlie each other not only directly, but also through a series of overlaps (much as the tiles of a gabled roof), therefore strata should be counted as stratigraphically superposed. This would be analogous to the uppermost tile on a gabled roof being reckoned successionally higher not merely over the immediately-underlying tile, but also over all of the successively-shingled tiles going down to the base of the roof. However, strata change in character laterally, and so cannot be treated as tiles on a roof. This is why long-distance correlations of strata should not empirically count as superposition.17 I later addressed this perennial objection in more detail in my Clarifications Related to the ‘Reality’ of the Geologic Column article,18 focusing on such things as so-called time-transgressive lithologies, so-called facies changes, etc. That is, presumed horizons of geologic time cut across lithologies, and, reciprocally, different adjacent lithologies can be ascribed to the same geologic age. Thus, for instance, the same sandstone can be partly Cambrian and partly Ordovician. Conversely, a Cambrian sandstone can grade laterally and/or vertically into a Cambrian shale. Since lithologies are not consistent with presumed units of geologic time, their shingling relationships cannot count as an evidence for time-based stratigraphic successions.

Figure 2. It has been argued that strata should be counted as stratigraphically superposed because strata can overlie each other through a series of overlaps like the tiles of a gabled roof. However, strata change in character laterally over long distances and the horizons of supposed geologic time cut across lithologies. So regional overlapping cannot be empirically counted as superposition.
It was for these, and similar, reasons, that I had concluded that the interlayering of strata, and lateral continuity of the same, do not constitute independent evidences for the validity of the geologic column. This fact also implies that the series of overlays, as performed for the previous study, is in fact a valid approach for assessing the degree of the non-existence of the geologic column. So does the superposition of fossils instead of the superposition of time-designated strata.

Saving an old earth — non-deposition and erosion

‘Missing’ geologic periods are routinely blamed on non-deposition and/or erosion, and I have already exposed the circular reasoning used behind such premises.19 However, since these arguments come up over and over again, I will deal with them once more.

Periodically, we also hear the claim that ‘missing’ geologic periods are expected because the earth was never ‘depositional’ everywhere at the same time. After all, it is said, even today the entire earth’s surface is not undergoing deposition of sediment.20 Such arguments, while superficially logical, can only beg the question about the earth’s age and the ability or otherwise of sedimentary environments to prograde all over the earth within a given long-time period. Without first assuming the validity of the geologic column, and using it as a tool to find times as well as areas of non-deposition, there is no way of independently knowing anything about ostensible long-term areal trends in sedimentary deposition. That is, without the complete geologic column as a reference, who can possibly know how much of the Earth’s surface has been depositional simultaneously in any period of several tens of millions of years (i. e. the average duration of a geologic period)?
Thus, having used the geologic column to determine the geographic regions of non-deposition, the uniformitarians then complete the circle of reasoning by arguing that non-deposition accredits the 99%-incomplete geologic column. Clearly they are simply presupposing the great antiquity of the earth because that is the answer they want. An analogous line of reasoning holds for the presumed removal, by erosion, of previously-deposited strata. Let us now more closely examine how the claims of ‘missing’ rock do in fact beg the question. As Watson points out:
Is it circular to think of a process that would remove some rock, and then to use the absence of the rocks to argue that the process was in operation in the past? No, not if the argument is coupled with further evidence that the rocks were in fact once there.’21
In most locations on earth, there is no independent evidence for non-deposition and/or erosion of presumably once-existing strata. Usually, erosional removal is simply assumed for a given geographic region because rocks assigned to one geologic period (or more) are regionally absent.
It is also important to realise that the maps in the Essential Nonexistence article22 already account, to a considerable extent, for those locations on earth where there is independent geologic evidence of the erosional removal of rock. After all, these maps are not only lithologic maps but also paleogeographic ones. The thinnest category of sedimentary lithologies (0–100 m) on the originally-redrawn Ronov et al. maps thus includes the onetime coverage, by sedimentary rocks, of geographic regions for which only outliers exist as evidence of the former coverage. For example, the Ronov et al. maps show the City of Chicago covered by Devonian and Carboniferous rock. This is in spite of the fact that there are no Devonian and Carboniferous strata underlying Chicago at present, with the exception of a few inliers, such as the Devonian and Carboniferous ones in the Des Plaines Disturbance. These in fact demonstrate that the two systems had in fact once covered all of Chicago but had subsequently been eroded away. Thus, the maps, which I have used in the previous study, already account for the empirical evidences of rocks of a given ‘age’ once having been present in geographic regions beyond their present regular occurrence.

  1. The nonconformity where stratified rock rests on nonstratified rock

  2. The angular unconformity where stratified rock rests on tilted and eroded strata

  3. The disconformity where parallel strata are present below and above but where discordance of bedding is evident

  4. The paraconformity where no discordance of bedding is noticeable. Paraconformities are proposed between strata for the sole reason that appropriate index fossils are absent from the intervening geologic system. Paraconformities usually show no evidence of subaerial exposure or the supposed millions of years between strata.

Figure 3. (After Steven A. Austin, Ed., Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, ICR, Santee, CA, p. 43, 1994). Four types of field evidences for periods of erosion and nondeposition:
Beyond this, with the exception of angular unconformities, there is little or no solid independent evidence for an erosional removal of once-deposited sedimentary systems. Thus, following the statements by Watson above, most of the ‘missing’ ages, which are the rule for the earth, are in fact based upon circular reasoning.

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