The Geologic Column

 

 

Sean D. Pitman, M.D.

August 2005 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grand Canyon

 

 

 

 

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Erosion Problems

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       One of the very foundations of evolution and popular science today is the "geologic column."  This column is made up of layers of sedimentary rock that supposedly formed over millions and even billions of years.  Although not found in all locations and although it varies in thickness as well as the numbers of layers present, this column can be found generally over the entire globe.  Many of its layers can even be found on top of great mountains - such as Mt. Everest and the American Rockies.  In some places, such as the mile deep Grand Canyon, the layers of the column have been revealed in dramatic display.  

        Certainly the existence of the column and its layered nature is quite clear, but what does it mean?  Is it really a record of millions and even billions of years of Earth's history? Or, viewed from a different perspective perhaps, does it say something else entirely?

       As one looks at the geologic column, it is obvious that the contact zones, between the various layers, are generally very flat and smooth relative to each other (though the layers may be tilted relative to what is currently horizontal or even warped since their original "flat" formation).  Many of the layers extend over hundreds of thousands of square miles and yet their contact zones remain as smooth and parallel with each other as if sheets of glass were laid on top of one another (before they were warped).  And yet, each layer is supposed to have formed over thousands if not millions of years?  Wouldn't it be logical to assume that there should be a fair amount of weathering of each of these layers over that amount of time?  But this expected uneven weathering is generally lacking (see illustration).1 Just about all the layers have un-weathered or at best very rapidly weathered parallel and smooth contact zones.  Long term erosion always results in uneven surfaces and this unevenness is only accentuated over time.  How then are the layers found throughout the geologic column so generally even and smooth relative to each other?  

        This general evenness and smoothness of sedimentary layers throughout the geologic column is rather odd especially considering the fact that the current weathering rate for the continents of today averages about 6cm/thousand years for the continental shelves. 2,55  This means that in less than 10 million years, the entire continental shelves of today would be washed into the oceans to be replaced by new underlying materials.  This presents a problem since very old sediments, dating in the hundreds of millions of years, remain atop all the continental shelves - wonderfully preserved despite many tens of and sometimes hundreds of millions of years of erosive pressure?

        This problem has been well recognized for some time now.  Back in 1971 Dott and Batten noted: 

 

        "North America is being denuded at a rate that could level it in a mere 10 million years, or, to put it another way, at the same rate, ten North Americas could have been eroded since middle Cretaceous time 100 m.y. ago." 62  

 

        Also, back in a 1986 article published in the journal Geomorphology, B. W. Sparks commented: 

 

        "Some of these rates [of erosion] are obviously staggering; the Yellow River could peneplain [flatten out] an area with the average height that of Everest in 10 million years.  The student has two courses open to him: to accept long extrapolations of short-term denudation [erosion] figures and doubt the reality of the erosion surfaces, or to accept the erosion surfaces and be skeptical about the validity of long extrapolations of present erosion rates." 56  

 

        Many scientists reason very old sedimentary layers can still be found relatively intact on the continental shelves because in the past they were much thicker. It is just that the layers above have been eroded away. 

        In this line of reasoning, consider that the current layer toping the region around the Grand Canyon, the Kaibab, was once buried under sediment no thicker than 2,000 meters for a total thickness of around 3,500 vertical meters of sediment measuring from the bottom Tapeats Sandstone to the topmost Brian Head Formation (Tertiary sediments).  In this light, consider the popular belief that the nearby Rocky Mountain region began its most recent uplift, via tectonic forces, some 70 million years ago, with an additional uplift some 25 million years ago that raised the Rockies up an another 1,500 to 2,000 meters.82  Yet, despite being exposed to erosion forces for some 70 million years the Rocky Mountains are still covered by deep layers of sedimentary rock. One might very reasonably wonder how much vertical erosion should be expected in such an uplifted region over the course of 70 million years?  

       Well, before the Glen Canyon Dam was built, the average sediment transport rate through the Grand Canyon was measured to be around 500,000 tons per day.68,79  With a weight of 140 pounds per cubic foot (lbs/CuFt) for sandstone, this erosion rate works out to be around 7.1 million cubic feet of erosion per day for the Colorado River Basin.  Since the Colorado River is supposed to have carved out the Grand Canyon in around 5.5 million years, how much sediment would have been removed from the surrounding Colorado River Basin in this time?  Well, if we multiply the current daily erosion rate by 365 days we get about 2.6 billion cubic feet of erosion per year.  Multiplying this number by 5.5 million years (the supposed age of the Grand Canyon) gives us around 14,000 trillion cubic feet of sediment removal from the Colorado Basin in this amount of time.  Since the Colorado River drains an area of about 200,000 square miles in size (~27.8 million square feet = 1 square mile), an average of over 2,500 vertical feet (~800 meters) of sediment would have been removed, at the current rate of erosion, in just 5.5 million years.  This is about 15cm/kyr of vertical erosion.68

         Of course, 800 meters of erosion is only the erosion that would take place in 5.5 million years since the Colorado River started forming the Grand Canyon.  But, what about the Colorado Plateau itself?  Well, there seem to be two different theories.  One theory suggests that the most recent uplift of the Kaibab Plateau (the region of the Colorado Plateau that is located right around the Grand Canyon region) started some 17 million years ago and the other suggests that the this uplift actual started some 35 million years ago. Either way, the overall uplift of the Colorado Plateau is supposed to have started a bit later at around 15 million years ago.  Some suggest that the Colorado Plateau was already uplifted a few thousand feet before it started its most recent uplift, while others believe that it was "near sea level" just before its latest uplift.83,84,85,86   Either way,  with an erosion rate of about 15cm/kyr, that's about 150 vertical meters/million years or ~2,250 meters of erosion in 15 million years averaged over this entire region. 

        This makes me wonder how the relatively young Tertiary sediments survived atop the Grand Staircase over the course of some 15 million years of erosive pressure.  Was there really over 2,000 meters of sediment covering these remaining tertiary sediments?  I mean really, a couple thousand meters of sediment was definitely removed from over the gentle dome-shaped uplift of the Grand Canyon region in a mere 5 or 6 million years while the topmost sediments of the Grand Staircase were hardly touched in 15 million years? - despite having a greater elevation and relief?  Also, if 2,000 vertical meters of sediment was removed from the Kaibab Plateau after the local dome shaped uplift, where are the side channels, around the dome, formed by the rivers that took this large amount of sediment away from this region?  As far as I can tell, there simply are no such significant pathways of sediment removal around this dome-shaped region.  Yet, wouldn't they have to be there if in fact such a large amount of sediment were in fact removed from atop this dome-shaped region over many millions of years of time?

 

 

        Beyond this, consider that the Rockies, which are thought to have started their most recent uplift during the Laramide Orogeny some 70 million years ago,85,86 are currently being uplifted at between "100-1000 cm/kyr years. . . However, the rate of uplift is being matched by the rate of erosion, with little or no change in elevation." 80  With an erosion rate of 100cm/kyr, that's 1,000 meters of erosion per million years or an incredible 70,000 meters in 70 million years. 

        So, how did the sedimentary layers last all that time in the Rockies?  Does the "folding" and volcanic ash/lava flow deposition that some have suggested really help explain away some 70,000 meters of sedimentary surface erosion as protection for those very thick layers that remain?  Even if the erosion rate were an average of only 10cm/kyr over the course of 70 million years, would there really be anything as far as ancient sedimentary layers left in the Rockies?  What is going to overcome even a bare minimum of 7,000 meters of vertical erosion?  I just don't see it . . . 

        Also note that some mountain ranges, such as the Chugach and St. Elias mountain ranges in southeast Alaska, are currently eroding at "50 to 100 times" the current Rocky Mountain rate - i.e., at about 5,000 to 10,000cm/kyr or 50,000 to 100,000 meters or erosion per million years.80 Other mountains, like the Cascades in the Mt. Rainier region in Washington State, are eroding away at a more modest 800cm/kyr.  The Himalayas are eroding away at well over 200cm/kyr.81  Yet, all of these mountain ranges still have very "old" sedimentary layers on their surfaces? Go figure?  

This problem has been recognized by geologists for some time now. Consider an outline of the problem found in a paper published by C. R. Twidale as far back as a 1976 issue of the American Journal of Science:

 

        "Even if it is accepted that estimates of the contemporary rate of degradation of land surfaces are several orders too high (Dole and Stabler, 1909; Judson and Ritter, 1964; see also Gilluly, 1955; Menard, 1961) to provide an accurate yardstick of erosion in the geological past there has surely been ample time for the very ancient features preserved in the present landscape to have been eradicated several times over. Yet the silcreted land surface of central Australia has survived perhaps 20 m.y. of weathering and erosion under varied climatic conditions, as has the laterite surface of the northern areas of the continent. The laterite surface of the Gulfs region of South Australia is even more remarkable, for it has persisted through some 200 m.y. of epigene [surface] attack. The forms preserved on the granite residuals of Eyre Peninsula have likewise withstood long periods of exposure and yet remain recognizably the landforms that developed under weathering attack many millions of years ago. . . The survival of these paleoforms [as Kangaroo Island] is in some degree an embarrassment to all of the commonly accepted models of landscape development." 57

 

Obviously, the reason why "ancient" surviving paleoforms are such an "embarrassment" to geoscientists is because landscapes, such as elevated plains, should be rapidly incised by erosion that results in a well-developed drainage system.  Even relatively low rates of erosion should completely eroded away such an elevated plain in just a few million years.  Large elevated plains covering hundreds or even thousands of square miles, therefore, should be evidence of the "youthful stage" of landscape evolution while low-lying, low relief surfaces (peneplains) would be more consistent with the "old age stage" of landscape evolution.  As Twidale suggests, examples of elevated paleoplains, to include the enormous Gondwana Surface of southern Africa (largely assigned to the "Cretaceous" age)60 and various paleoplains of central and western Australia (some assigned to "Triassic" age),61 are actually an "embarrassment" to all the commonly accepted models of landscape development.  He notes that the Davisian theory of landscape evolution offers, "No theoretical possibility for the survival of paleoforms" since there has been "ample time for the very ancient features preserved in the present landscape to have been eradicated several times over." 57 Today these paleoplains are being rapidly destroyed by downcutting erosion in stream channels.

       This is a huge problem, it would seem.  Why are the layers still there?  Besides this question, one might ask why we find such evenness and relative smoothness of the topmost Kaibab layer in the Grand Caynon region?  It seems rather strange, does it not, that so much sediment, 275 million years worth (as much as 2,000 vertical meters of sediment), could have been eroded away so evenly over the course of ~15 million years since the Grand Canyon region (the Kaibab Plateau) is thought to have started its most recent uplift.63  One might reasonably expect there to be much more uneven surfaces resulting after such a protracted time of erosion - even if there were sediment left at all in this area after that amount of time.59  The same could be said for each individual layer within the Grand Canyon that once formed the surface of the ground or ocean floor for millions of years.  How are such flat surfaces maintained over that long a time, or created in such an extensive manner as is seen generally throughout the geologic column, before the next layer started to form many millions of years later?   

        For example, the topmost layer of the Grand Canyon is the Middle Permian Kaibab Limestone. Although the Kaibab (~125 meters in average thickness) may vary in thickness by as much as 30 or 40 meters from place to place around the Grand Canyon, it is obvious, even to the casual observer, that the Kaibab is relatively even with respect to variations in its thickness and fairly smooth over its surface despite being exposed as a surface layer for thousands of square miles.  The question is,  "What happened to the thousands of meters of overlying sediment?  How did it get weathered away to leave such an even and relatively smooth Middle Permian layer on top?"  Just look at what the relatively small Colorado River supposedly did after only 5.5 million years of supposed erosive activity -  It dug a crisp mile-deep canyon with an almost "punched-out" appearance.  But, aside from the erosion caused directly by the Colorado River, what happened to the erosive forces other than the Colorado River?  

        Wind, rain, and other forces of erosion such as chemical erosion, working on the Colorado plateau over the course of millions of years would have removed a whole lot of sediment in an very uneven fashion.  Erosive forces other than the Colorado River acting over the course of such vast spans of time should have created very uneven erosional surfaces generally surrounding the Grand Canyon on all sides.  Look at the pictures of the Grand Canyon above and note the very abrupt cut that is made at the topmost edge of the canyon with the relatively flat and even surface of the surrounding Kaibab landscape. How was such a relatively smooth, sharp edge to the Grand Canyon maintained over the course of 5.5 million years? One might reasonably think that this edge should be much more uneven and weathered looking over this amount of time? The region of the Grand Canyon is itself uplifted, relative to the rest of the Colorado Plateau, with the Canyon cutting through this uplifted dome-shaped area (see diagrams).  The Kaibab surface of this dome, surrounding the Grand Canyon, is relatively smooth and even.  If the surface layers over this dome had been eroded away over the course of millions of years, might one expect a very uneven surface by now?  

           Of course, the argument is that the Kaibab is more resistant to erosion than were the overlying layers and that is why these layers were washed away in such a relatively smooth and even way.  But, where on Earth is such flat erosion occurring today?  How is such flat erosion explained over the course of millions of years?  One would think that the overlying layers would have been eroded to form deep ravines, gorges, and valleys.  Portions of the Kaibab would have been exposed for much longer periods of time than other portions of the Kaibab - perhaps millions of years longer.  Those portions that were subject to longer spans of exposure should be significantly thinner if not completely missing as compared to those areas that were protected for millions of years by overlying sediment that had not yet been eroded way.  And yet, when one looks at the exposed Kaibab today in this Grand Canyon region, it shows no significant evidence of uneven erosion.  Many areas of the Kaibab are in fact still protected by buttes and other patches of overlying sediment and yet these protected areas of the Kaibab are not significantly thicker than those areas that are exposed.  

       So what happened?  These sedimentary layers are still there covering the Grand Canyon Region and the Rocky Mountains for thousands of square miles?  How were they so resistant to erosion that is currently removing them at a rather significant rate? How is the Kaibab so resistant to the expected effects of uneven erosion despite the fact that it lies exposed over a dome-shaped region around the Grand Canyon?  Even if the Kaibab has only been exposed in this region just one million years the expected erosion should have removed at least 50 to 150 meters of sediment in a very uneven way.  Why then is the Kaibab so surprisingly even in thickness and relatively smooth over its exposed surface? 59 Also, why didn't the layers that now form the Grand Staircase erode away like those that covered the Grand Canyon region?  They were also uplifted at the same time and had the same amounts of deposition before their uplift.  Yet, relatively young Miocene sediments (only 30-50 million years old) remain atop the Grand Staircase while the Kaibab layer (thought to be ~ 270 million years old) is all that is left of these layers atop the Grand Canyon region?  How is this dramatic difference in erosion rates explained?

        Some have actually suggested to me that the Kaibab layer is not at all "flat" since the northern rim of the Grand Canyon is significantly higher in elevation than the southern rim by approximately 300 to 400 meters.  Obviously though, this difference in current elevation is not do to a difference in erosion, but a difference in uplift.  The Kaibab, as well as the other layers below the Kaibab, are just as even and smoothly layered, relative to themselves, as they were before the uplift occurred.  There is just no evidence of the erosion that would be expected if vast spans of time were indeed involved in the formation of the erosive surfaces of the Grand Canyon, surrounding region, and the Colorado Plateau in general.

        Of course, it is true that much of the column is formed by marine layers that are said to represent ancient ocean beds.  The weathering of underwater sediments is not as significant as that experienced by the exposed continental plates.  However, many of these sedimentary layers are thought to have been exposed to open air and have been subjected to higher erosion rates for the past 200 to 360 million years or so (before more significant uplifts are thought to have occurred in his region some 70 million years ago) and yet these sedimentary layers remain largely intact without having been generally weathered away? - again, like a broken record I ask - How is this explained?  Even those layers that contain fossils of land animals, such as the dinosaurs, birds, and other reptiles, still have no significant weathering between their contact zones with other layers (see discussion of "paraconformities" below).  Why is this not generally recognized as an overwhelming problem for the popular paradigm? Why is it not even discussed in science journals?

        Just look at the sedimentary layers on Mt. Everest. This mountain is thought to be over 50 million years old. Yet, sedimentary layers still cover its highest peaks?  Erosion, over the course of 60 million years, translates into at least 60,000 vertical meters of lost sediment and still there are significant amounts of the geologic column on Mt. Everest?  Originally, after the warping and uplifting in this region supposedly started some 50 Ma, the thickness of the sediment above the currently exposed Ordovician layer was no more than 6,000 meters.95  Does this makes any sense?  

        Beyond this, some scientists, such as Harutaka Sakai suggest that Mt. Everest used to be much taller and thicker than it is today - about 15,000 meters tall!  But, about 20 million years ago Sakai argues that about half of it slid off, exposing the Ordovician layer that currently tops Mt. Everest at about 8,848 meters in elevation. 94   If Everest currently has an erosion rate of about 200 cm/kyr, imagine what the erosion rate would be like for a mountain nearly twice as tall?!  At just 200 cm/kyr, this works out to be 40,000 meters of erosion in just 20 million years.  An erosion rate of 200 cm/kyr is about average for the Himalayan region given the newer estimates based on 10 Be and 26Al measurements, which suggest an average erosion rate of the Himalayas of 130 cm/kyr for the lower altitudes and up to 410 cm/kyr for the steepest areas with an average in the high Himalayas of about 270 cm/kyr. 96,97 

        So, the current evidence suggests that the overlying sediment wasn't there 20 million years ago.  Basically, the Ordovician limestone
has been exposed to high-level high-altitude erosion (~200 cm/kyr) for at least 20 million years? - and it is still there?
How then can Mt. Everest really be over 60 million years old, or even 20 million years old and still have a Ordovician layer of sediment covering it as if it had hardly been touched by erosion?     

        Not only does the rate of erosion fail to match up with what we see in the geologic column, especially on mountain ranges throughout the world, but the pattern of erosion does not seem to match up either.  As mentioned earlier, erosion generally forms very uneven surfaces.  Now, look again at the pictures of the Grand Canyon in this paper and notice the crisp parallel lines between each layer.   Many claim that there are evidences of erosion in lower layers, evidences of rivers, streams, rain, etc.  However, these are generally isolated findings such as one might expect if they were formed rapidly, such as occurs with the rapid runoff of waters after a catastrophic flooding event.  The general surfaces of each layer remain extremely smooth and parallel to the other layers.  Just look at the pictures.  No one can help but note the uniformity and evenness of these layers throughout the geologic column as compared with what we see erosion  currently doing today.  Long term erosion causes non-uniformity and unevenness.59  We simply do not see this sort of expected erosion recorded in the geologic column in any sort of general way.  

        Certainly this general flatness has been noticed by geologists and there have been some models proposed that attempted to show how erosion could produce a flat or "planar" surface over extended periods of time. Perhaps the most famous is the "peneplain concept", proposed about a century ago by the well-known Harvard gemorphologist W. M. Davis. Davis postulated that, under special conditions, "flat erosion" could be achieved which would indeed form a "peneplain" (almost a plane).  The problem is that this model, which gained considerable acceptance in the early part of this century, is no longer accepted. Garner (1974, p. 12) states: "The peneplain is Davis's 'old age' landscape. It has been called an imaginary landform. Perhaps it is." One would expect that any process forming the abundant, widespread, flat gap contacts in the geologic record of the past would be well-represented on the present surface of the earth; yet, Bloom (1969, p. 98) states that "unfortunately, none are known" and Pitty (1982, p. 77) points out that "although demonstrable unconformities abound, even W. M. Davis admitted that it was difficult to point to a clear present-day example of a peneplain." 65  

        So, it seems as though the idea of long term erosion forming widespread flat surfaces is pretty much wishful thinking since it does not seem to be found anywhere in the real world.  The erosion that is recorded in the geologic column seems to be much more consistent with widespread catastrophic erosive events acting with great energy and evenness over a very short span of time.

        An outstanding example of a very large flat layer is the persistent Cretaceous Dakota Formation. The Dakota is unusually thin, usually about 30 meters thick, with a maximum up to 220 meters. It is spread over 815,000 square kilometers. How such a thin formation could be deposited over such a widespread area not only reflects unusual depositional factors, but the extremely flat topography necessary to accommodate the spread of such a thin formation. Where do we now see such flat and widespread areas on the continents waiting for the deposition of new formations? 

        Consider also the Jurassic Morrison Formation (famous for its dinosaur fossils). It covers over 1,000,000 square kilometers being spread from Canada to Texas. It is substantially thicker than the Dakota, usually around 100 meters thick. It has been suggested that it was distributed by widespread flowing water. The fossils found within it are generally oriented with respect to flow - confirmed by GPS mapping. However, ancient channels of major rivers that would help distribute the sediments over such a wide area have not been found. The Triassic Chinle Group, famous for its petrified wood, evenly covers some 800,000 square kilometers, being spread from Idaho to Texas and from California to Wyoming. 

        All these formations required not only extremely widespread flat areas to be deposited upon, but truly unusual spreading factors.  Where do we see, at present, such depositional forces at work on the continents of the Earth today?  In this line the geologist Carlton Brett, of the University of Cincinnati, has fairly recently noted: 

 

     "The realization that much of the geologic record, particularly in shallow water environments, actually accumulates as a series of catastrophic events (as expressed in Derek Ager's eloquent analogy to the lives of soldiers: "long periods of boredom and brief periods of terror") goes a long way toward explaining the persistence of certain layers. Distinctive, thick storm beds (tempestites), turbidites, deformed ("seismite") beds and, above all, widespread volcanic ash layers may provide isochronous markers. Such beds may persist over areas of many hundreds to thousands of square kilometers precisely because they are the record of truly extraordinary, oversized events."64   

 

       So, even though Brett is a firm believer in the popular notion that the geologic column represents vast periods of time, he is part of a growing number of geologists who are starting to recognize that the geologic column is generally formed, as a rule, by a series of catastrophic events.  For example, consider the comments of David Raup from the University of Chicago:

 

     ". . . contemporary geologists and paleontologists now generally accept catastrophe as a 'way of life' although they may avoid the word catastrophe... The periods of relative quiet contribute only a small part of the record. The days are almost gone when a geologist looks at such a sequence, measures its thickness, estimates the total amount of elapsed time, and then divides one by the other to compute the rate of deposition in centimeters per thousand years. The nineteenth century idea of uniformitarianism and gradualism still exist in popular treatments of geology, in some museum exhibits, and in lower level textbooks....one can hardly blame the creationists for having the idea that the conventional wisdom in geology is still a noncatastrophic one." 66

   

        Also, consider the statements of Robert Dott published in a 1982 edition of Geotimes: "I hope I have convinced you that the sedimentary record is largely a record of episodic events rather than being uniformly continuous. My message is that episodicity is the rule, not the exception. . . We need to shed those lingering subconscious constraints of old uniformitarian thinking." 67

 

       Of course, the belief is that between these catastrophic events were very long periods of relative calm.  However, if there were these very extensive periods of non-catastrophic change, where is the evidence of uneven erosion that would leave its mark after such extended periods of time? (Back to Top)

 

 

 

 

An Alternative Explanation

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        So, if the current features of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Plateau, Kaibab Plateau, and sedimentary layers are inconsistent with ancient formation and tens of millions of years of erosive pressures, what other explanation might there be?  

        Well, it seems to me that sedimentary layers and topographical features of this entire region were formed very rapidly.  The majority of the sedimentary layers were laid down in rapid succession, while the underlying layers where still relatively soft and non-lithified (not turned to hard stone yet) by a serious of massive closely-spaced catastrophic depositional events (see section on Clastic Dikes below).  Tectonic activities were very strong at this time and mountains were being built extremely rapidly.  The Colorado Plateau was also uplifted very very rapidly after the initial formation of the sedimentary layers.  

        After this formation, a massive amount of water was suddenly released in a huge runoff that covered several states, flowing from east to west.  All of the sediment over the Grand Canyon region, above the Kaibab, was removed very rapidly by an extremely wide sheet of rapidly running water.  Cedar Ridge was one massive waterfall. One can visualize this by looking from the Lake Powell region toward the Grand Canyon region in the satellite photo to the right.  Notice that there is a distinct V-shaped formation at the tip where the eastern Grand Canyon begins - pointing toward Lake Powell.  One can also recognize the deep punched-out appearance of the Canyon itself from the satellite photo as well as many of the other Canyon photos presented here. In other photos one can see the massive cliff-like faces that form a very wide valley where, in the middle, the Grand Canyon has been formed.  The Grand Canyon is actually the baby canyon in comparison to the canyon in which is sits.  

        It seems that the sheet of rushing water dissipated before it could remove all of the elevated features, such as the various flat-topped buttes, in the GC region - which still remain as isolated islands sticking up above the relative flatness of the surrounding landscape. Also, as the water rapidly dissipated and the sheet of water narrowed, the "steps" of the Grand Staircase were formed.  

        The remaining flow of water, which was still massive for a period of time (relative to today's Colorado River), carved out the Grand Canyon, as we know it today, quite rapidly - backing up on many occasions as it was blocked by lava damns which rapidly filled the Canyon and blocked water flow every now and then for a few years at a time. The massive volcanic activity was, of course, only to be expected in a time of magnificent tectonic upheaval. When these lava dams collapsed in a catastrophic manner within the Grand, within a matter of minutes according to recent research (see section "Younger with Time" below), the built up lake of water behind them was released suddenly as a 2,000 foot wall of water.  These repeated catastrophic floods, though very small in comparison to the initial catastrophes, carving out large amounts of the Grand Canyon very rapidly. 

        But, what about the fact that the Grand Canyon has many sharp horseshoe bends and turns?  How can rapidly running water form such hairpin turns - especially in solid rock?  

        For one thing, water that is flowing fast enough can eat up solid rock incredibly fast.  Even so, during the formation of most of the erosion features of this region, the sedimentary layers were not solid rock - they were still relatively soft.  The massive flooding event that carved out the Grand Staircase and then the Grand Canyon, removing some 2,000 vertical meters of sediment from over the Kaibab Plateau in a very even-handed sweep, was working on relatively soft recently deposited sediments.  

        Also, if one looks carefully at the photos of this region, especially the one taken from a satellite view, it is interesting to note that the beginning of the Canyon, at the easternmost tip, is very straight.  There simply aren't any significant twists or U-shaped turns.  It is basically just a straight shot.  It is also very crisply punched out from the surrounding landscape. The walls are very sharp and steep.  These are all features indicating very large volumes of rapidly flowing flood waters. 

        Now, notice the western Canyon.  It is when one gets to the western Canyon that one starts to see more of these sharp turns and bends in the path of the Colorado River.  This seems reasonable, in the light of a catastrophic deluge model, since some of the energy of the flooding river would be used up as it traveled through the newly formed/forming eastern Canyon.  So, as the speed and energy of the river began to diminish, it would begin to form some sharp U- and S-shaped bends as it came to the western aspect of the newly forming canyon. 

        In short, all of the features of the entire Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains, to include the formation of the sedimentary layers themselves, and their erosive features, such as the Grand Staircase and the Grand Canyon, were all formed, pretty much as we seen them today, within a few hundred to a couple thousand years at most.   The sectional topics that follow seem to support this interpretation on a local as well as a more global scale. (Back to Top)

 

 

 

Younger With Time

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         Consider that by the late 1800s geologists were beginning to realize that the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon had been blocked several times and at several locations by lava dams that were built when local volcanoes spewed their molten lava into the developing canyon.  Of course, being uniformitarian in their thinking, these earlier geologists theorized that these lava dams were each slowly worn away in sequences of tens of thousands of years as water flowed over them during a total course of around 5.5 million years.70,72  For a long time now this position has been the prevailing opinion of the geological community and of scientists in general. 

        Interestingly enough though, this long cherished uniformitarian concept has been recently challenged by modern geologists who are presenting evidence that these lava dams did not erode away slowly at all.  Instead, mounting evidence suggests that these lava dams failed almost instantaneously in catastrophic events of staggering proportions.  Modern geologists are now theorizing that the sudden failure of these dams released raging torrents of water carrying up to "37 times" more water than the largest ever recorded flooding of the mighty Mississippi River.70  Of course, the reason that such massive amounts of water could be stored and released so quickly is partially due to the fact that some of the dams were very large, rising up to 2,000 feet above the river bed.  It seems that some of these larger dams lasted just long enough for very large amounts of water to build up behind them.  The formation of very large lakes behind some of these dams seems to have proceeded at a very rapid rate since there is no evidence of lakes existing in the region beyond very short periods of time.  Then, with the sudden failure of a 2,000 foot dam, a huge wall of rapidly rushing water charged through the Canyon carving out significant portions of the Canyon in very short order.70,71  But, why did these dams fail so quickly?  

        As it turns out, lava dams are inherently unstable.  This is because when molten lava meets cold river water it cools very rapidly.  This rapid cooling effect turns the lava into fragile walls of glass.  As this glass is cooled and heated it fractures quickly and easily, sometimes "explosively".  Not all that surprisingly then, recent evidence seems to suggest that many of the dams failed from the bottom up since the glass content was greatest at the base of the dams.  Also, various fault lines run through the Grand Canyon.  Active earthquakes were thought to affect the Grand Canyon region during the time of the various lava flows.  It seems then that with the help of even minor earthquakes fragile dams with glass bases supporting the enormous pressure of very large lakes would indeed fail in a catastrophic manner in very short order.70,71,72,73  

        Such a massive and sudden release of water would obviously result in very rapid erosion.  In fact, growing numbers of geologists now believe that certain portions of the Grand Canyon, once thought to be up to 5 million years old (Marble Canyon and the Inner Gorge), may be as young as 600,000 years old.70,71  Talk about getting younger with time! An 8-fold decrease in supposed age is a very dramatic reduction. How could geologists have been so far off in their dating techniques?  Some mainstream geologists are even starting to refer to the Grand Canyon as a "geologic infant."  This is especially interesting because the initial estimates were supposedly backed up by fairly reliable potassium-argon (K-Ar) radiometric dating techniques , which are now thought by some to be inaccurate in this region due to the lack of complete removal of the argon daughter product at the time of initial formation of the lava dams.72  

        Further evidence for a catastrophic model comes from USGS scientist and University of Arizona (UA) graduate, Jim O'Conner, along with UA hydrologist Victor Baker and others, who found evidence of a "400,000 cfs  [cubic feet per second] flow that occurred about 4,000 years ago." 70  For comparison, this is about the rate of catastrophic flow that would result if the Glen Canyon Dam suddenly failed.   Taking this into account, scientists have noted that, "Large sustained floods can cause rapid downcutting in bedrock.  The Inner Gorge and Marble Canyon are essentially giant slot canyons: features consistent with rapid down-cutting." 70  Also, when large dams fail catastrophically, such as Idaho's Teton Dam did in 1976, they leave distinctive profiles in soils and on canyon walls.  The water drops quickly with an exponential decay curve. Such decay curves are clearly evident in the Grand Canyon.  For this sort of catastrophe to happen the lava dams must have failed almost instantaneously - as did the Teton dam, which failed and was completely destroyed in less than 2 hours.70  

        Because the Grand Canyon lava dams were so unstable, the lakes that formed behind these dams did not have very much time to develop.  In fact, the evidence clearly shows that these lakes must have filled fairly quickly before they were drained catastrophically a short time later.  Though these lakes were sometimes very large when they emptied, they did not leave evidence of significant deltas or expected sedimentation, which would have developed if these lakes had survived longer than tens of years to a few hundred years.70,71,72

        Another interesting finding comes from the field work of Webb, an adjunct faculty member of the University of Arizona department of geosciences, hydrology and water resources.  With co-researchers Fenton and Cerling, Webb applied a  newly developed "cosmogenic dating method", developed by Cerling, to date basalt flows and other landforms in the Grand Canyon.  The technique measures how long a surface has been exposed to cosmic rays from space.  Their application of this technique to lava flows in the western Grand Canyon is thought to make this region one of the best understood in terms of the ages of volcanic features in the Southwest.  Interestingly enough, they dated some of the lava flows at only "1,300 years old." 70 

        The same thing happened to Mather Gorge and Holtwood Gorge in Pennsylvania.  These gorges were once thought to have eroded over the course of 180 million years. However, recent research (the measurement of beryllium-10 that builds up in quartz when exposed to cosmic rays) done by Luke J. Reusser, a geologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington, and other colleagues, suggests that these gorges my be as young as 13,000 years instead of 180 million years.78 That is a difference of over four orders of magnitude!

       These findings are simply devastating to long held notions of slow uniformitarian process creating the Grand Canyon and many other formations gradually over vast periods of time.  Rather, it seems abundantly clear that much if not all of the expanse of the Grand Canyon was cut out catastrophically over very short periods of time - perhaps faster and more catastrophically than even currently recognized? (Back to Top)

 

 

 

Monument Valley

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        Places like Monument Valley also pose a significant problem.  In this valley, there are formations sticking out of the ground in the middle of nowhere.  These are sedimentary formations that match the Geologic Column, and yet all around them the rest of the column has vanished. These formations are made up of horizontal layers that match each other.  Obviously the layers that make up these monuments were once connected before these intervening sediments were eroded away. 

        So, why are these formations still there?  The current explanation is that "weathering" took the rest of the column away over the course of more than 50 million years but left these small resistant portions of it in the middle of this huge valley.4   Well, how on earth did these small portions avoid any significant weathering over the the course of more than 50 million years as most current geologists believe, and yet the rest of the entire valley was weathered away?  Does this make good sense in the face of what we see happen during flooding and water runs?  After any flood on soft soil, look at the landscape and see if it does not remind you of something - like Monument Valley.  What we see at Monument Valley seems much more consistent with the idea of a huge flood, rapid sedimentation, and rapid water movement with a quick runoff and not so much with the current idea of eons of selective erosion. Also, as previously discussed, 50 million plus years of erosion in this region would remove enough sediment to wash away all the layers down to the underlying granite several times over.  The fact that such thick sedimentary layers are still covering the Colorado plateau at all after 50 million years of supposed uplift and erosive pressures is truly a mystery.

        Look at the pictures of this region again and notice that the monuments are arranged in a linear fashion and that their sides are pretty much vertical, like they were punched out with a huge cookie-cutter from the surrounding landscape. This is very similar to what we see throughout the Colorado plateau, including the Grand Canyon region.  Notice also that the intervening landscape between the monuments is relatively flat and even.  In one of the pictures there are even very large ripple marks evident in the middle of the valley.   All of this speaks to a rapid formation by an almost unimaginably huge catastrophic flood that formed these features over days to weeks.  Current orientation on a massive scale is clearly visible especially from aerial photographs of the region.  Such features simply cannot be formed gradually but clearly speak of a sudden catastrophe or shortly spaced catastrophes of magnificent proportions. 

        It is very much the same situation as we see in eastern Washington State with the formation of the Scablands.  For much of the twentieth century geologists claimed that the Scablands were formed by very slow processes of erosion over the course of millions of years of time.  Though scorned and ridiculed for many decades, J Harlen Bretz proposal that only a catastrophic deluge could have formed the Scabland features finally won the day. (Back to Top)

   

 

Arches National Park

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        Arches National Park, located in southeastern Utah, boasts the greatest density of natural arches in the world.  There are more than 2,000 of them within a 73,000 acre area. This area, once buried under almost a mile of sedimentary layering, has now been exposed by erosion.  Many of the resulting arches are quite fantastic, almost unbelievable. The longest one, Landscape Arch, spans some 306 feet from base to base!  Others are isolated, all by themselves, like lone monuments. 88  So, how on Earth were they formed? 

        According to mainstream geologists, these arches were formed by erosion over some 100 million years of time.  What happened is that very deep sedimentary layers were formed over hundreds of millions of years and then there was a local uplift in the Arches National Park region.  This uplift created deep cracks that penetrated the buried sandstone layers.  Then, over very long periods of time, erosion wore away the exposed rock in such a way that the cracks became bigger and bigger and the sandstone walls or "fins" became thinner and thinner.  Summer and winter frosting and thawing cased crumbling and flaking of the porous sandstone and eventually cut through some of the fins.  The resulting holes were enlarged into arches by further weathering. 87

        There are a few other explanations for the formation of various types of arches, but generally speaking this is the basic story.  What is most interesting to me, however, is that all of these stories involve many millions of years of erosive pressure.  The problem with this is that erosion rates are just too high for such thin-walled "fins" and delicate arches to survive more than a few tens of thousands of years.  There is just no way that such delicate structures could survive millions of years of erosion.  This is especially true when one considers that the average erosion rate in this region is around 15cm per thousand years. That is enough erosion pressure to erode all of the layers away down to the underlying granite several times over in 100 million years (see above discussion of erosion rates).  

        Beyond this, consider the uneven way that erosion works today.  Erosion does not maintain such sharp knife-like surfaces over long periods of time.  Rather, it rounds out sharp protruding surfaces and rapidly reduces the highest reliefs that are protruding above the surrounding landscape.  Note also that only the surface layers of these fins show any evidence of erosion.  What happened during the many millions of years that these layers were being formed?  Why was there no significant evidence of erosion during this time - leaving evidence of its activity in the underlying layers?  It just isn't there.  

        It all seems much more consistent with relatively rapid deposition followed by very rapid erosion in the not so distant past.  These arches and monuments are largely stream oriented with the surrounding landscape.  The lone monuments and arches in particular, in stark relief relative to the surrounding landscape, simply could not have survived long periods of time while large amounts of surrounding sediments were neatly removed by erosion forces the mysteriously left these relics untouched. Only a very rapid and massive flooding event with runoff occurring before complete leveling of all such remaining monuments is consistent with the formation and preservation of such large and delicate arches, fins, monuments, and precariously balanced boulders atop high pinnacles.  (Back to Top

 

 

 

Paraconformities

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Powerful evidence against the notion that long periods of time (thousands to millions of years) were required to form the the geological record is provided by what geologists call paraconformities. Paraconformities are places where huge amounts of time are thought to have passed, yet there is very little physical evidence to show for it. Remember that the top of each layer must once have formed the sea-floor or a land surface before being covered up by the next layer. Of course, as the surface layer, one would think that such a surface would become significantly changed by the forces of erosion over relatively short periods of time. The very next tide or rainstorm will begin working upon what came before, making surfaces uneven in various patterns common to the way erosional and depositional forces act today. Channels and gullies will begin to form. Soon, parts or sections of various layers will be completely removed .  Also, living creatures that burrow into the sediment, excavating it to build dwelling places or to feed, will mix up the neat layering lines of the original layers. This process is called "bioturbation". Bioturbation is an extremely effective way of destroying layering in sedimentary rocks by mixing up the sediment and homogenizing it.

It is easy to find modern-day examples of this. Hurricane Carla laid down a distinctive layer of sediment off the coast of central Texas in 1961. About twenty years later, geologists returned to this layer to find out what had happened to it. Most of the layer had been destroyed by living creatures burrowing into it and disturbing it, and where the layer could still be found it was almost unrecognizable.43  In the light of such modern day findings, it is very difficult to imagine how such layering of sediment found throughout the geologic column and such crisp lines between these layers could have been kept in such pristine condition for not only tens or hundreds of years, but hundreds of thousands and even millions upon millions of years of time.  And yet, throughout the geologic column, more often than not, there are missing layers representing millions of years between two perfectly fitted layers that are as flat as can be.  If the missing layer really represents millions of years of elapsed time, there should be significant evidence of erosive disruption at these junctions, but it just isn't there.  N.D. Newell, in the 1984 issue of the Princeton University Press, made a very interesting and revealing comment concerning this paraconformity phenomenon: 

 

"A puzzling characteristic of the erathem boundaries and of many other major biostratigraphic boundaries [boundaries between differing fossil assemblages] is the general lack of physical evidence of subaerial exposure. Traces of deep leaching, scour, channeling, and residual gravels tend to be lacking, even where the underlying rocks are cherty limestones (Newell, 1967b). These boundaries are paraconformities that are usually identifiable only by paleontological [fossil] evidence." 53  

Newell noted in an earlier paper that, "A remarkable aspect of paraconformities in limestone sequences is general lack of evidence of leaching of the undersurface. Residual sods and karst surfaces that might be expected to result from long subaerial exposure are lacking or unrecognized. . . The origin of paraconformities is uncertain, and I certainly do not have a simple solution to this problem." 58

 

Also, in a 1981 publication of the Journal Nature, T. H. Van Andel commented:

 

"I was much influenced early in my career by the recognition that two thin coal seams in Venezuela, separated by a foot of grey clay and deposited in a coastal swamp, were respectively of Lower Palaeocene and Upper Eocene age. The outcrops were excellent but even the closest inspection failed to turn up the precise position of that 15 Myr gap." 54

 

In the light of such testimonies, consider again such sedimentary layers as are found in the the Grand Canyon.  Note that the entire Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras (the most recent ones) are completely missing - eroded away as flatly as a pancake from the top of Arizona and yet it is known that these layers were in fact once there.  Consider Red Butte, a nearby butte that is very close to the Grand Canyon and yet contains layers that were once covering the topmost layers of the Grand Canyon and much of Arizona.  How where these layers eroded away so neatly from the rest of Arizona and over the Grand Canyon over an extended course of time and yet Red Butte remains, apparently so resistant to such powerful erosive forces?  The same question can be asked about the formations found in places like Monument Valley and Beartooth Butte (see below).  

In any case, the top layers of the Grand Canyon are classified as part of the Permian age (about 250 million years old).  The usual expectation of geologists would call for the Pennsylvanian layer to be below that, but there simply is no Pennsylvanian layer.  Millions of years of sedimentary time are completely missing with the next layer down, the top of the Redwall Limestone layer  (part of the Mississippian age dated at between 345 to 325 million years old), still as flat as a pancake with no evidence of erosion at all as a mechanism to remove the Pennsylvanian layers.  The red color of the Redwall Limestone is actually the result of being stained by iron oxide derived from the overlying Supai Assemblage.  It is very interesting that many meters of solid rock could be stained so completely and so evenly by iron oxide from overlying sediments. This phenomenon would be much easier to explain if the Redwall layers were still soft and wet when the overlying Supai layers were formed.

Below the Redwall Limestone should come the Devonian, Silurian, and Ordovician layers (totaling over 150 million years of time), but they too are completely missing except for a few small "lenses" of Devonian.  Instead, the Redwall is found resting directly and flatly on the Muav Limestone - which contains many trilobites and other Cambrian fossils.  What is even more interesting is that on the north side of the Grand Canyon there can be found several alternating layers of Cambrian Muav neatly and very flatly interspersed between layers of Mississippian Redstone!  This interbedding of two widely separated periods of sedimentary rock cannot be easily explained by popular geologists who think that these periods really did exist many millions of years apart in time. Yet, as one moves up and down the column in this location the layers flash back and forth in 200 million year jumps? The contact between the two layers is a true sedimentary contact and thus Muav Limestone was deposited on top of the Redwall Limestone. How is this sort of phenomenon explained if these layers really were separated by such huge spans of time as is popularly believed by scientists?  Rather, it seems much more consistent with rapid shortly spaced, even contemporaneous, deposition.

Another interesting paraconformity can be found at Dead Horse Point in Utah.44  Exposed by the erosive forces of the Colorado River there are two major gaps in the geological sequence - one thought to represent 10 million years, and the other 20 million years. The 10 million year gap has been traced over 100,000 square miles (250,000 sq. km). Sandwiched between these two gaps are deposits of the Moenkopi Formation, a sequence of continental deposits (important, because on land a layer is more vulnerable to gully and channel erosion). Yet again, there is no evidence of a prolonged period of erosion along the tops of these layers. They are as flat and featureless as a very large parking lot.  Then, there is the Deccan Plateau in India, which is made up of a thick pile of basalt lava flows. These basalts are thought to have been erupted throughout a period of several million years. Interestingly enough, it is well recognized that each individual lava flow must have formed very quickly because they spread out over very large distances (some can be traced over 100 miles) before they had time to cool. Each flow probably formed in just a few days, so the bulk of the geological time is thought to have passed between each eruption. The creates a problem since evidence for long time gaps between the flows is lacking. The tops of the flows are strikingly flat, implying that there was minimal time for erosion to take place between eruptions. For instance, the village of Shyampura is built on top of one of the lava flows which forms a flat plateau nearly three miles long and more than a mile wide. The level does not vary more than 50 feet over the whole area. If thousands of years passed between each eruption, then why had the lavas not been carved into dendritic patterns and conical hills that modern day erosion produces?

The Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG), located in the north eastern part of the United States (eastern Washington, northern Oregon, and western Idaho), is also quite interesting.  This basalt group is rather large covering an area of 163,700 square kilometers and fills a volume of 174,000 cubic kilometers. The vast extent and sheer volume of such individual flows are orders of magnitude larger than anything ever recorded in known human history.  Within this group are around 300 individual lava flows each of rather uniform thickness over many kilometers with several extending up to 750 kilometers from their origin.   The CRBG is believed to span the Miocene Epoch over a period of 11 million years (from ~17 to 6 million years ago via radiometric dating).47  

Now, the problem with the idea that these flows span a period of over 11 million years of deposition is that there is significant physical evidence that the CRBG flows were deposited relatively rapidly with respect to each other and with themselves.  The average time between each flow works out to around 36,000 years, but where is the erosion to the individual layers of basalt that one would expect to see after 36,000 years of exposure? The very fact that these flows cover such great distances indicate that the individual flows traveled at a high rate of speed in order to avoid solidification before they covered such huge areas as they did.  Also, there are several examples where two or three different flows within the CRBG mix with each other.  This suggests that some of the individual flows did not have enough time to solidify before the next flow(s) occurred.  If some 36,000 years of time are supposed to separate each of the individual flows where is the evidence of erosion in the form of valleys or gullies cutting into the individual lava flows to be filled in by the next lava flow?  There are no beds of basalt boulders that would would expect to be formed over such spans of time between individual flows.  

Some have suggested that the rates of erosion on these basalts was so minimal (< 0.5 cm/k.y.) that it would not have resulted in a significant change even after 36,000 years.  However, a recent real time study by Riebe et. al. to determine the effects of various climatic conditions on erosion rates of granite showed that erosion rates averaged 4cm per 1,000 years (k.y.) with a range of between 2cm/k.y. and 50cm/k.y.  What is especially interesting is that despite ranges in climate involving between 20 to 180 cm/yr of annual precipitation and between 4 to 15 °C the average erosion rates varied by only 2.5 fold across all the sites and were not correlated with climate indicating that climatic variations weakly regulate the rates of granitic erosion.48  Another fairly recent paper, by Lasaga and Rye, from the Yale University Department of Geology and Geophysics, noted that the average erosion rates of basalts from the Columbia River and Idaho regions is "about 4 times as fast as non-basaltic rocks" - to include granite.49  This suggests that one could reasonable expect the erosion rate of basalts to average 16 to 20 cm/k.y.  Over the course of 36,000 years this works out to between 6 to 7 meters (19 to 23 feet) of vertical erosion.  This is significant erosion and there should be evidence of this sort of erosion if the time gap between flow was really 36,000 years.  So, where is this evidence?

For several other such flows in the United States and elsewhere around the world the time intervals between flows are thought to be even longer - and yet still there is little evidence of the erosion that would be expected after such passages of time. For example, the Lincoln Porphyry of Colorado was originally thought to be a single unit because of the geographic proximity of the outcrops and the mineralogical and chemical similarities throughout the formation.  Later, this idea was revised after radiometric dating placed various layers of the Lincoln Porphyry almost 30 million years apart in time.  But how can such layers which show little if any evidence of interim erosion have been laid down thousands much less millions of years apart in time?  Other examples, such as the Garrawilla Lavas of New South Wales, Australia, are found between the Upper Triassic and Jurassic layers and yet these lavas, over a very large area, grade imperceptibly into lavas which overlie Lower Tertiary sedimentary rock (supposedly laid down over 100 million years later). 47   Robert Kingham noted, concerning this formation, in the 1998 Australian Geologic Survey Organization that that, "Triassic sediments unconformably overlie the Permian sequences. . . The Napperby depositional sequence represents the upper limit of the Gunnedah Basin sequence, with a regional unconformity existing between the Triassic and overlying Jurassic sediments of the Surat Basin north of the Liverpool Ranges. The Gunnedah Basin sequence includes a number of basic intrusions of Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks. These are associated with massive extrusions of the Garrawilla Volcanic complex and the Liverpool, Warrumbungle and Nandewar Ranges." 50 Now, isn't it interesting that Tertiary sediments in the Gunnedah Basin sequence, which are thought to be over 100 million years younger, exist between Triassic and Jurassic sediments?

Also, throughout the CRBG and elsewhere are found "pillow lava" and palagonite formations - especially near the periphery of the lava flows.  There are a few outcrops where tens of meters of vertical outcrop and hundreds of meters of horizontal outcrop consist entirely of pillow structures.  Also, palagonite, with a greenish-yellow appearance produced via the reaction of hot lava coming in contact with water, is found throughout.  These features are suggestive of lava flow formation in a very wet or even underwater environment.  Certainly pillow lavas indicate underwater deposition, but note that lavas can be extruded subaqeously without the production of pillow structures.  The potential to form pillow lava decreases as the volume of extruded lava increases.  Thus, the effective contact area between lava and water (where pillow formations can potentially form) becomes proportionately smaller as the volume of lava extruded becomes larger.  Other evidences of underwater formation include the finding of fresh water fossils (such as sponge spicules, diatoms, and dinoflagellates) between individual lava flows.  Consider some interesting conclusions about these findings by Barnett and Fisk in a 1980 paper published in the journal, Northwest Science:

 

The Palouse Falls palynoflora reflects reasonably well the regional climatic conditions as evidence by the related floras of the Columbia Plateau. The presence of planktonic forms, aquatic macrophytes, and marsh plants indicates that deposition of the sediments took place in a body of water, probably a pond or lake. This interpretation is supported by the presence of abundant diatoms. The general decrease in aquatic plants and increase in forest elements upward in the section suggest a shallowing or infilling of the pond or lake, perhaps due to increased volcanic activity and erosion of ash from the surrounding region. Supporting this view is the presence of thin bands of lignite near the top of the section, with a 1-10 cm coal layer just underlying the capping basalt."52

 

Now, what is interesting here is that these "forest elements" to include large lenses of fossilized wood are widely divergent in the type of preserved wood found.  It is interesting that hundreds of species are found all mixed up together ranging from temperate birch and spruce to subtropical Eucalyptus and bald cypress.  The petrified logs have been stripped of limbs and bark and are generally found in the pillow complexes of the basaltic flows, implying that water preserved the wood from being completely destroyed by the intense heat of the lava as it buried them.  

For Barnett and Fisk to suggest that the finding of such fossil remains suggest the presence of a small pond or lake being filled in by successive flows just doesn't seem to add up.  How are such ecologically divergent trees going to get concentrated around an infilling pond or lake?  Also, how is a 10cm layer of coal going to be able to form under the "capping basalt"?  It is supposed to take very long periods of time, great pressure, heat, and moisture to produce coal.  How did this very thin layer of coal form and how was it preserved without evidence of any sort of uneven erosion to eventually become covered by a relatively thin layer of capping basalt?  Also note that there are numerous well-rounded quartzite boulders, cobbles, and beds of gravel focally interbedded within and above the basalt flows.47 How did these quartzite boulders, cobbles, and beds of gravel get transported hundreds of miles when there was only enough water to form tiny ponds and small shallow lakes?  Does this make any sense?  It seems more likely that huge shortly spaced watery catastrophes were involved in formation of many of these features - concentrating and transporting mats of widely divergent vegetation and quartzite rocks over long distances before they were buried by shortly spaced lava flows traveling rapidly over huge areas.

Lava traveling rapidly under water would experience rapid surface cooling and fracturing of this surface "skin". As it turns out, entablatures and colonnades are a common structural feature of basalts. These features are named by analogy to the respective horizontal and vertical architectural structures.  Some have hypothesized that as water cools the outer "skin" of the molten lava a thin crust is rapidly formed.  Then, the large temperature gradient between the crust above and the molten lava below creates tensional stresses that crack the crust which allow water to percolate through these cracks to come in contact with more molten lava and form another crust, which then cracks . . .  and the cycle of crust formation and cracking continues.  In the end, this rapid cyclical cooling process produces a thick slab of rock with columnar jointing.47  

One other evidence of fairly rapid cooling is the finding that these basalts contain relatively small crystals.   When magma cools, crystals form because the solution is super-saturated with respect to some minerals. If the magma cools quickly, the crystals do not have much time to form, so they are very small. If the magma cools slowly, then the crystals have enough time to grow and become large. For comparison, consider that some granites contain minerals which are up to one meter in diameter!  The size of crystals in an igneous rock is thought to be an important indicator of the conditions where the rock formed. A rock with small crystals probably formed at or near the surface and cooled quickly.51

  Many other examples of paraconformities and other types of gaps in time, like these, have been described and no one seems to have a very good explanation for them.  Even as far back as 1967, Newell, a well-known geologist noted, "The origin of paraconformities is uncertain, and I certainly do not have a simple solution to this problem." It seems like it is much easier to defend the notion that there simply were no vast spans of time separating the various layers found in the geologic column.  Contrary to the popular notion that geological processes are extremely slow and gradual, the geology of the Earth shows clear evidence of being dominated by relatively shortly spaced massive watery catastrophes.  The idea that millions of years can be accommodated in the gaps between sedimentary layers does not stand up to critical scientific examination. These facts are consistent with the view that our planet has had a short but dynamic history.43  (Back to Top)

 

 

 

 

Clastic Dikes

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Clastic dikes (UK spelling; dykes) are found in many places throughout the geologic column, such as the Kodachrome basin.  A clastic dike is formed when a layer of liquefied sediment squirts up into an overlying layer or layers of sediment (see diagram).  This only happens in modern flooding and mudslides if the lower mud layer or sandy layer was still soft and recently deposited just before additional layers were added on top of it.  The extreme pressure of sedimentary layering on top of a soft layer causes the soft layer to “squirt up” at intervals through the layers above it.8  

Now, one might think that after a few million years that all the layers would be turned into solid rock.  How then could solid rock "squirt" up into overlying layers of rock?  The popular explanation seems to be that many types of sediment, such as the sand which forms sandstone, does not necessarily have to solidify just because it has been buried under high pressure for long periods of time. 69 For example, in the drilling of oil wells, unconsolidated sandy layers have been found at depths greater than 1,000 to 2,000 meters.  Of course, some of these sandy beds were filled with oil - which one might expect to contribute to the lack of consolidation of the sand in this layer.  But, the general argument is that overlying shale layers consolidate before much water can escape from the underlying sandy layers.  Thus, the consolidated shale acts as a seal to prevent water from leaving the sandy layers.  So, the overlying pressure does not compact the sand in order to aid in cementation.  The overlying layers simply "float" on a layer of water.  When some sort of disturbance happens to crack the overlying layer or layers, the liquefied sand squirts up with great force through this crack and forms a clastic dike or pipe.69  

The problem with this argument is that liquefied layers are simply not that common. In this light, it seems rather strange, when looking at the pipes and dikes found in the Kodachrome Basin and elsewhere, that these formations are quite common in certain regions.  They are found at multiple levels supposedly separated by millions of years of time.  And, some of them even have central cores of clay arising from a layer of shale.  How can a layer be preventing liquid water from getting through from underlying layers if it is itself still unconsolidated?  What is so special about these areas that layer after layer of sediment retains the ability to squirt up into overlying layers? - to include those layers made out of silt as well as sand?

Really now, it seems that a much easier explanation would be that the layers were in fact formed rapidly, one on top of the other, while they were all still soft.  The pressure of the overlying wet sediments caused many of the underlying soft layers to squirt up all over the place through various weak points in the overlying soft sediments. (Back to Top)

 

 

 

 

Lithification Rates

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        But what about all the time it takes to turn sediment, like sandstone and limestone, into solid rock (lithification)?  According to the current understanding of most scientists, the process of lithification is a very protracted one, requiring tens to hundreds of thousands of years and dependent upon certain environmental factors such as pressure, heat, chemical composition, the presence of water, and the chemical nature and saturation of the surrounding aqueous environment.  Clearly then very thick layers, such as the Redwall Limestone, the Coconino Sandstone, and many other such layers found throughout the geologic column are evidence of many millions of years of elapsed time. 

        The problem here is that there is in fact a great deal of evidence for rapid lithification found all throughout the geologic column.  Perhaps the most prominent evidence of very rapid lithification can be found in the exquisite preservation of finely detailed fossils throughout the geologic column. Some mainstream scientists have taken note and used this very argument as evidence of rapid burial and lithification in order to explain the very fine detail of certain fossils.  Consider, for example, the following abstract published in a 2002 issue of Palaios dealing with finely preserved soft tissue in T. rex fecal material:  

 

    "Exceptionally detailed soft tissues have been identified within the fossilized feces of a large Cretaceous tyrannosaurid. Microscopic cord-like structures in the coprolitic ground mass are visible in thin section and with scanning electron microscopy. The morphology, organization, and context of these structures indicate that they are the fossilized remains of undigested muscle tissue. This unusual discovery indicates specific digestive and taphonomic conditions, including a relatively short gut-residence time, rapid lithification, and minimal diagenetic recrystallization. Rapid burial of the feces probably was facilitated by a flood event on the ancient coastal lowland plain on which the fecal mass was deposited." [emphasis added] 74

 

        These findings requiring a very rapid process of lithification for the preservation of such fine fossil details are backed up by some very interesting real time experiments concerning lithification rates.  Consider the following description of one of these experiments, performed by Friedman, detailed in a 1998 issue of the journal Sedimentary Geology:

 

    "There is debate on how much time lithification takes.  Accounts of carbonate lithification say that the process is rapid, while other researchers say that lithification requires long periods of time.  Friedman tells of his account with lithification while on a visit to Joulter’s Cay, Bahamas.  On a previous year’s excursion, Friedman placed a sardine can in an area of sea-level highstands.  He found the sardine can one year later and found that it was lithified with approximately 382 g of hard oolitic limestone comprised mostly of aragonite.  The results of this have huge implications.  This proves that lithification can be a rapid process, depending on conditions." 75

        

        Interestingly enough, most sandstone is composed largely of sand-sized grains of quartz crystals cemented together by varying amounts of calcium carbonate (principle ingredient in limestone) and silica.  This calcium carbonate and silica was dissolved in the water that interacted with the quartz grains during their rapid lithification process, cementing them together into a solid rock. These minerals grow crystals in the spaces around the quartz sand grains. As the crystals fill the gaps between the sand grains, the individual sand grains are transformed into a solid rock (like the sardine can that was encased in solid limestone in just one year).  The rate of this crystalline growth is related to the rate of sandstone lithification.  As we have already learned, this rate can be and often is very rapid indeed. Also, other contaminants can be added to this solution, such as molecules of iron which gives a reddish color to the resulting sandstone, or various other contaminants which result in all the various rainbow of colors common to sandstone. 76  In any case, it is quite clear that such formations within the geologic column did not require long periods of time to lithify, but rather show clear evidence of extremely rapid, almost instant, processes of deposition and lithification over very large areas.

 

 

 

Big Horn Basin and Beartooth Butte

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Big Horn Basin and Beartooth Butte, located near Yellowstone National Park, pose yet another interesting problem.   Beartooth Butte itself is dated to be around 300 to 400 million years old.  It contains many fossils.  However, Beartooth Butte matches the same layers located much lower down in Bighorn Basin.  The standard explanation is that millions of years ago, Beartooth Butte was lifted up higher during a land upthrust.  The surrounding layers were weathered away over time, leaving Beartooth Butte as a lone formation.  However, if this scenario were true, then the layers that Beartooth Butte came from would have been solid rock before the upthrust.  If this is true, then why did this upthrust cause a warping of solid rock along the Beartooth Butte side of Bighorn Basin? 4   The Precambrian rock did not warp up during the upthrust.  So, why did the solid rock above the Precambrian rock warp upward during the upthrust if in fact it was solid - taking millions of years to form?  A more logical explanation seems to be that the layers were not solid and in fact were recently and rapidly formed just before a very rapid upthrust of the Precambrian under the Beartooth Butte location.  The water, which laid down these sedimentary layers, rapidly rushed off of the upthrusted area.  This rapid runoff of water quickly eroded the area leaving only Beartooth Butte standing to dry as the water receded.  Logically, everything had to happen quickly, and not over long periods of time as is the current popular theory for Beartooth Butte. (Back to Top)

 

 

Shale Beds

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Shale beds, such as the Yesnaby Sea Stacks and the Dougherty Gap Outcrop pictured here, are formations that are often composed of alternating layers of shale and sandstone.  The various layers range from one or two millimeters to several meters in thickness.  The layers of shale where once layers of clay that have become compressed and hardened into shale.  It is generally thought that such layers were formed over several million years by the repetitive deposits of shallow lakes, swamps, and rivers.  With the changing sea-levels due to glacial activity, the resulting cyclical drowning of these areas is thought to have resulted in the cyclical deposition of clays, silts and sands over fairly significant spans of time.  Some of these beds are in fact quite thick.  For example, the Haymond Beds average around 1,300 meters in thickness and contain thousands of layers of shale and sandstone.  However, what is especially interesting about many of these layered beds is that they contain "trace fossils". 40  

Trace fossils are the evident remains of tracks or imprints that some creature left behind even though the actual body is not there.  For example, when the shale was first formed as an organically rich clay, many burrowing creatures lived in it, filtering it for nutrients.  As they moved through it, they left trails behind.  When this clay was buried by turbiditic sand flows, the sand filled in these tunnels, trails and other impressions.  As the sand solidified, the casts of these tunnels and other markings were preserved on the underside of the sandy layer.  Since this underside of a layer is called the "sole", the preserved impressions in the clay are called "sole casts."

Many argue that these layers must have been formed over long periods of time because colonies of such burrowing creatures take time to colonize each layer of clay as it forms.  The burrows themselves take a fair amount of time to create.  Glenn Morton, a vocal geologist, comments that, "These burrows are horizontal and the animals don't seem to be digging out.  They are digging through the sediment.  And there are thousands of layers of sediment with the burrows on them." 39  Morton actually suggests that when each sandy turbidite covered a layer of clay that the burrowing creatures didn't burrow out, but died when the sandy layer covered the layer of clay.  He says, "We know that the burrowers who were buried did not survive.  If they had, they would have had to dig up through the sand to escape their entombment.  There are no burrowers going up through the sand.  And, if there had been these burrows, there should be little circular piles of sand with a central crater pocking the entire upper surface of the sand.  We don't see these." 40   

Glenn Morton is not the only one who thinks this way.  This is in fact the prevailing paradigm about how these layers must have formed.  However, there may be an even more reasonable explanation.  If these layers were in fact formed over long periods of time where each individual layer took at least a few years to form, it seems like tunneling organisms would mess up the layers.  Look at the pictures presented here.  Most of these layers are very thin, averaging only a few centimeters in thickness.  And yet, they are extremely crisp and distinct from the layers above and below.  Burrowers living in lake or ocean bottoms or swampy areas, burrow all around and cause mixing of the sediments.  Such mixing is known as "bioturbation."  However, even the thinnest sandstone units fail to show any obvious signs of bioturbation, blurring of bedding contacts, or internal bedding features. Rather they appear as homogenized small-grained sandstones clearly demarcated from the overlying and underlying layers of shale.  Further evidence suggesting a more rapid formation of the layers comes from work done by Kuenen in 1967.  Kuenen documented the differences in sand textures between interdistributary bay deposits and turbidite deposits. Using his work as a reference the sandstone units found at Dougherty Gap best correlate to turbidite emplacement based on both lithology and bioturbation.  Also, the work of Coleman and Prior gives even more support for this idea.  In 1980 they presented photographs of cores taken from a modern interdistributary bay which in no way resemble the stratigraphy or sedimentation found exposed at the Dougherty Gap site. 41 

Another interesting finding is that these layers get thicker as one move up the various outcrops.  This finding is a common characteristic of rapid turbidite deposition and is "believed to reflect the progradation of submarine fan lobes." 41  In any case, this finding is not consistent with a slow cyclic deposition over vast spans of time.

The sand in the sand layers is also, "well sorted" meaning that it probably was not deposited slowly. "Good sorting is particularly significant because the sands are found in an environment where, unless deposition is very fast, one would expect silt and clay to be contributed..." 41

Also, almost every sandstone layer exhibits some degree of sole casts on its bottom surface as well as ripple marks on its top surface.  The upper surfaces of all of the sandstone layers, no matter how thick or thin, were found to contain "asymmetric, linguoid ripples"  According to Sheehan "... these structures formed in response to unidirectional currents which occurred either contemporaneously (at the same time) or penecontemporaneously (immediately following) with sediment deposition." 41

Given all of these findings, what theory makes more sense?  Were these layers deposited slowly where each layer was created over the course of tens, hundreds or even thousands of years, or were these layers formed rapidly by successive turbiditic flows in a highly silted watery environment?  Is it reasonable for those such as Glenn Morton to suggest that burrowing creatures give evidence of a slow formation?  What about the argument that such burrowing creatures must have been killed by each sandy turbidite so that a new colony of burrowing creatures would have had to take over the next layer of clay?  This argument makes no sense at all. Since when does a few centimeters of sand kill any burrowing creature?  This argument sounds almost silly, especially if one has ever tried to bury such creatures under sand at the beach.  They simply dig out in short order.  But, what about the fact that no evidence of "escape burrows" with "little circular piles of sand with a central crater pocking the entire upper surface of the sand" can be found?  No one who considered that the tops of each sand layer shows current ripples would ask such a question because the watery current would surely have removed any such piles of sand in short order as soon as they were made. With each new sandy turbidite the burrowers would simply burrow up through the sand to populate the newly forming layer of organically rich material as it rapidly formed over the turbiditic sand flow in a heavily silted environment. More and more layers would have formed in rapid succession leaving no time for the bioturbation of lower layers. 41

We are left then with the curious findings of thin crisp alternating layers of shale and sandstone showing no evidence of bioturbation between layers and increasing layer thickness as one moves up these formations.  This sort of layering is only consistent with rapid formation and cannot be explained by the prevailing paradigm where millions of years are required to produce such shale bed formations. (Back to Top)

 

 

 

Nonconformities

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Turbidites are not the only problem.  There are also so called nonconformities located within the geologic column.  Nonconformities are aspects of the geologic column that are not expected or whose presence is not readily intuitive given the position that it is an ancient formation.  Common examples of nonconformities are the "overthrusts" that are found in many places around the world.  These areas are interesting because the layers of the geologic column are apparently in the wrong order with older layers on top of younger layers.  A famous example is the Lewis Overthrust.   First identified by Willis in 1901, this area encompassing Glacier National Park is more than 300 miles long and 15­50 miles wide, with Precambrian strata resting on top of Cretaceous. The fossils are in the wrong order. Evolutionists date the Precambrian rock at a billion years while the Cretaceous is dated at only 150 million years. The contact line between the two different strata is like a knife-edge, without significant evidence of sliding, linear tracking, or other evidences of friction or mechanical erosion between the two surfaces.  Of course it is the position of most modern geologists that this 12,000 square mile slab of rock with a thickness of 3-miles did in fact buckle-up, sheer off, and slide over the underlying Cretaceous layer for up to 50 miles.6  The sliding process is thought to have occurred slowly with only portions of the entire slab moving at any given time... like the crawling of a caterpillar.  What seems strange however is that the rock actually slid instead of warped or crumbled.  The forces required to shake and shimmy a rock of this size would crush the rock or buckle it before they would overcome the inertial and frictional forces needed to cause a sliding motion.  Also, without evidence of sliding at the contact zones between the two layers, sliding seems like a rather unlikely explanation.  Rather, the evidence seems much more consistent with an original sedimentation event that occurred in the order found. 

If this is not convincing, consider the Glarus Overthrust located near Schwanden Switzerland.  The geologic order of this overthrust is Eocene on the bottom, then Jurassic, and then Permian on top.  Of course it should be Permian, Jurassic, and then Eocene on top.    The Glarus Overthrust extends some 21 miles.  It appears that they layers have been flipped. But how does one flip 21 miles of solid rock?  Perhaps a giant fold created the flipped appearance?  If so, then erosion would have to have gotten rid of the overlying layers of the fold without damaging the underlying layers of the fold.  Also, there are no striations or linear groves at the contact zones between any of the layers to give some indication that they traveled in a linear direction over anything... like a caterpillar or otherwise.  The irregularities at the bottom of each formation have not been worn away either.  How is this explained?  In fact, it seems that the contact zones of these overthrusts found throughout the world are as crisp as the edge of a knife and yet there are preserved ridges between layers that have not been ground away or disrupted in any manner.  A fairly dramatic example can be found in the Empire Mountains of southern Arizona were Cretaceous rock is capped by Permian limestone.  The contact zone, between the layers of rock, undulates like the meshing of a gear.  If the geologic sequences of this formation were really the result of an overthrust, how did such meshwork avoid getting planed off?  There is no other erosive evidence either such as scraping, gouging, or linear striations at the contact zones.9

  One must also note the many large gaps in sediment between the layers that are present.  In the Glarus Overthrust what happened to the layers between the Jurassic and Eocene (The Paleocene and Cretaceous)?  Also, what happened to the Triassic layer that is supposed to separate the Permian from the Jurassic? 7

Also, how are some areas, such are found in the Grand Canyon, explained where different layers of the geologic column are repetitively intermixed?  For example, there can be found areas in the Grand Canyon were Mississippian and Cambrian layers alternate back and forth multiple times... like a deck of cards being shuffled.24  I find that rather non-intuitive.

There are many other similar examples that could be listed.  I just seems to me, even though I am not a geologist, that such problems have not been clearly overcome by those holding to the view of the ancient formation of the geologic column.  In fact, it seems that a rapid and catastrophic depositional event or events could explain some of these problems without near as much difficultly. (Back to Top)

 

 

 

The Coconino Sand Dunes

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However, what about those ancient desert sand dune layers in the Grand Canyon?  The popular science of today declares that the Coconino Sandstone layer (third from the top) used to be an ancient desert formed over eons of time.  It is interesting that most of the layers in the Grand Canyon are felt to have formed under water.  However, the Coconino Sandstone layer is felt to be an exception to this rule.  This theory would mean that a layer of water-deposited mud (the Hermit Shale) was followed by a layer of wind-deposited desert sand over the course of between 5 and 10 million years, and then the area was again covered by water and the Kaibab limestone was deposited.  

The Coconino Sandstone layer is quite interesting indeed.  It averages 96 meters in thickness (315ft.) and covers an area of 200,000 sq. miles to include most of northern Arizona from the Magollon Rim, northward to the Utah border.  It is up to 1,000 feet thick at its southern edge and thins to a few feet at its northern boundary.  The total volume of sand is estimates to be approximately 10,000 cubic miles.14 The sand grains themselves are fine grained, well rounded and sorted, and composed almost entirely of quartz with no silt or mud contamination, just like most desert sand is.  Also, just like in modern deserts, the Coconino Sandstone has inclined cross bedding in it.  Cross bedding in sand dunes are areas were sand from one dune are covered by sand from another dune in a different orientation (different incline).  The Coconino Sandstone is filled with these cross beds just like desert dunes frozen in time.15  The sand grains themselves show microscopic features of long exposure in dry desert conditions.  These features include frosting and pitting on the surface of the individual grains of sand.  This similarity between Coconino Sandstone and modern desert sand has strengthened the belief that an ancient desert formed the Coconino Sandstone.16  Then comes the clenching argument:  All throughout the sandstone are preserved footprints of vertebrates such lizards or other similar reptilian or amphibian creatures, as well as less common worm, spider, and arthropod trails - and even some burrows.  The vertebrate tracks have been referred to as "amphibians and/or as reptiles," but from the structure of the tracks the majority of them are most easily interpreted as amphibians however strange it might be to have a majority population of amphibians living happily in a desert environment.  This is generally explained by suggesting that the desert sands bordered the ocean or a seaside area.  The footprints are located on the preserved surfaces of the dunes and are believed to have been covered by the shifting dune sand and thus preserved for all time.17  No other fossils have been found in the Coconino Sandstone to include evidence of any plant life (which seems strange since animals and plants usually go together - even in a desert).  But, given all of these facts, it seems obvious to many that the Coconino Sandstone is in fact a preservation of a very large and ancient desert.  

The popularity of the desert origin for the Coconino Sandstone began with the work of McKee in the early 1930s.27  McKee initially focused on the physical qualities of the sandstone to support his conclusions that the dunes had been wind and not water deposited.  Later he studied the footprints and concluded that they were most likely formed on dry sand.28,29  However, according to Leonard Brand, "Sedimentary features that were formerly thought to be diagnostic of eolian deposits are now known to be non-diagnostic. Stanley et al. (1971) pointed out that "grain frosting is no longer considered a criterion of wind transport," grain size distribution statistics have been ambiguous (for the Navajo), and "it can no longer be assumed a priori that large festoon cross strata prove an eolian dune origin for the Navajo or any similar sandstone because of the essential identity of form and scale of modern submarine dunes or sand waves, as documented during the past decade" (e.g., see d'Anglejan 1971; Harvey 1966; Jordan 1962; and Terwindt 1971)."25  

  But what about the fact that the Coconino Sandstone has preserved crisp footprints in delicate detail?  Well, does such detailed trackway preservation happen in dry desert sand?  When a lizard walks or runs over dry sand, what happens?  Footprint impressions are made, but nothing near the detail and crispness that has been preserved in the Coconino Sandstone is produced.  Now, consider the likelihood that shifting sand will preserve very small and delicate footprints made in dry sand.  This seems a bit hard to imagine.  In fact, laboratory experiments in real time have shown that the level of detail found in the Coconino Sandstone is best explained by the formation of the tracts underwater or on sand that has been wetted and left standing overnight.  According to Brand's experiments the damp sand trackways that did not stand overnight always had definite foot impressions but the toe marks were rarely seen.  The dampened surface formed a crust of sand that broke apart into many small pieces when the animals walked over it.  Sometimes these pieces of crusted sand would be pushed up into a pile at the back of the footprint or be scattered on around beside the footprint on the surface of the sand.  However, if the dampness of the surface of the sand was thick enough so that it would not break up with the weight of the animal, the sand would become rather hard and resistant to track formation.  The only tracks produced on this kind of wetted sand were a series of small dimples left by the toes.   The fossilized Coconino Sandstone tracks did not match the dry or dampened sand tracks produced in the laboratory by Brand in several ways.  The dry and damp sand tracks rarely preserved toe marks or other details, while the fossilized tracks usually did preserve toe marks.  Dry sand tracks also had large ridges of sand behind them which often flowed back into the previous footprint.  Again, the fossil footprints do not have these ridges nor were jumbled pieces of crusted sand observed to be scattered around the fossilized tracks.  The proportions of the tracks were also different.  Brand noted that the dry sand tracks were longer than they were wide, but the fossilized tracks were short in relative to their width.  The tracks made in the damp sand were simply too indistinct to allow adequate measurements.

Brand also did experiments in which the slope of the sand rose above the water line.  As the animals walked up out of the water their tracks changed as they went higher and higher from the waterline.  Footprints close to the water level were poorly defined while those a little higher were crisp and clear as far as toe marks and sole impressions.  However, as the animal progressed even higher to the more firm sand, the tracks became fainter and fainter until only toe mark dimples could be discerned.  This transition effect from well-defined prints to vague toe marks or scratches is not seen in the Coconino Sandstone.  

So why did Mckee believe that the tracks found in the Coconino Sandstone were made on dry desert sand?  Mckee was heavily influenced in the formation of his desert theory by the influence of a paleontologist by the name of Peabody who told McKee that salamanders do not generally make tracks underwater but prefer to swim from place to place instead of walk.  And, even when they do walk, they are partially buoyed up by the water so that their tracks are vague at best. McKee seemed to indicate that he had experimentally confirmed these suggestions made by Peabody.  Thus, McKee (1947) concluded that the fossil tracks preserved in the Coconino Sandstone were most similar to the dry sand trackways produced in his own experiments because only in dry sand were any definite prints of individual feet formed.  What is strange though is that there is no documentation of how extensive McKee's observations were as far as observing salamanders and their swimming or walking habits while under water.  

Brand, on the other hand, documents that all five species in his study walked on the bottom sands underwater more than they swam from place to place through the water  as long as they had a sandbar or some place in the testing tank where they could rest.  Brand noted that this behavior is also observed in the field.  When walking along the sand underwater all five species selected by Brand produced distinct footprints with toe marks and occasional sole impressions all along their trackways.  Some of the prints also had ridges of sand pushed up behind them, but these ridges never extended back into the previous print.  Brand concluded that, "The underwater tracks were most similar to the fossil tracks. Underwater trackways had toe marks as often as the fossil tracks, and they were uniform in appearance the full length of the sand slope, as the fossil tracks are. Also, the proportions of the fossil tracks were most similar to that of the underwater tracks." 25  However, Brand did leave open the possibility that such trackways could have been formed on a special type of wetted sand that had been wetted for several hours (overnight in his experiments).  Based on this evidence many argue that the desert was wetted on occasion by light mists, dew, or a heavy fog.  This allowed the various creatures living in this ancient desert to make their crisp trackways, which were subsequently covered by dry sand and preserved.  Other dry-land features, such as raindrop impressions, crisp and steep leeward dune fracture faces and cracks in the sand, and the preservation of spider trackways are often cited as evidence in support of this dry-land formation hypothesis in opposition to Brand's underwater hypothesis. This dry land hypothesis quite reasonable in many respects that seem to require open air exposure, but there are still a few other very puzzling features that do not seem so consistent with a true desert-like environment or dune formation.

 What is rarely mentioned in the literature is that the vast majority of the Coconino trackways all head uphill.18  Evidently the lizards/amphibians, arthropods, spiders and other creatures living in ancient deserts did not like going downhill much at all.  Also, trackways often start and stop suddenly without evidence of sand-shift or disturbance - like the creature suddenly vanished into thin air (or swam off in the water).18, 19, 20 

McKee attempted to explain the relative absence of downhill trackways by suggesting that the animals tended to "slide" downhill, thus obliterating their own tracks in the sliding sand. One might wonder why the animals would slide downhill when they were doing do fine going uphill without the sliding problem.  Those who have ever visited areas with desert sand dunes will find that trackways on such sand dunes go every which way.  Also, one would expect that wetted sand would be much more cohesive than dry sand and preserve tracks just as crisply no matter which direction the creatures were heading.  And, just in case there was any doubt, Brand performed a few more experiments.  Brand actually went to the trouble of inducing his experimental animals to walk both downhill as well as uphill.  On underwater sand, wet sand, and damp sand, almost all downhill trails produced easily recognizable trackways.  On dry sand, the trackways of salamanders were less well defined, but still relatively well preserved, while that of lizards were still quite distinct (both walking or running slowly).  Only when running very fast did their tracks become unrecognizable.  Thus, the almost complete absence of downhill tracks in the Coconino Sandstone layers seems to remain a mystery if they are truly desert formations.  It almost seems as though the creatures were trying to escape something, like rise water levels, and that is why they were all generally going uphill?

Brand also noted one other unusual aspect of some of the Coconino trackways. On occasion, there would be trackways that would head directly across a given slope at one angle or another, but the toe marks of both the back and front feet would be pointed up the slope.  It seems unlikely that the animals that made these trackways would have walked sideways for such distances.  Some have argued that desert lizards sometimes walk sideways in order to angle themselves to reduce the absorption of heat radiated from the scorching desert sand.  The problem with this argument is that the sand was wet and therefore relatively cool - certainly not scorching hot.  Others have suggested that a strong wind blew the animals sideways.  This idea requires a very strong wind indeed to blow a relatively low profile lizard or salamander sideways in an even pattern for significant distances. Brand suggests that the more likely explanation is that these animals were walking in an underwater current, which seems at least plausible.

Also, the architecture of the Coconino sand dunes is not like that of modern sand dunes in modern deserts. The Coconino sand dunes have an average slope angle of 25 while the average slope angle of modern desert dunes is 30-34° (the resting angle of dry sand).21 Sand dunes formed by underwater currents do not have as high an average slope angle as desert dunes and do not have avalanche faces as commonly as deserts dunes do.  Some crisp avalanche faces are found in the Coconino Sandstone dunes suggesting that at least some exposure to open air occurred, but such exposure may have been intermittent and relatively brief.  Still what explanation can be given for the microscopic pitting and frosting of the grains of sand? It turns out that desert sand is not the only sand that can be pitted and frosted. The chemical process of sand cementation in the forming of sandstone can also cause pitting and frosting.22

So, it appears that the evidence does not fit the classic dry desert formation of the Coconino Sandstone layer over millions of years of time.  Many of the trackways may even have been formed underwater or at best on long standing damped sand dunes where all the creatures walked only uphill.  Ocean currents can and do make very pure quartz sand dunes with specific characteristics that match the dunes in the Coconino Sandstone.23 Heavy ocean currents can in fact amass huge quantities of sand in a very rapid timeframe. The sand dune angle found in the Coconino Sandstone layers would require a depth of water of around 300 feet and a fairly brisk current.  In such a scenario, large dunes with cross bedding can be made very quickly.

Consider also that there is no significant erosion between the Coconino Sandstone layer and either the layer above it (the Toroweap Formation) or the layer below it (the Hermit Formation). All of these layers formed like sheets of glass - one on top of the other.42 Isn't it strange that significant portions of these layers have not been weathered away to be filled in by overlying layers in an uneven way? In fact, large contraction cracks penetrating deep into the Hermit Formation (just below the Coconino layer) are filled in with Coconino sandstone.  If the Hermit Formation took millions of years to form, which would surely turn the layers in this formation into solid rock in a small fraction of this time, how did such deep cracks form in solid rock in such a way that the surface was completely flat and yet the cracks themselves were filled with pure Coconino sandstone?  One would think that if such formations and characteristics took long periods of time to form that the boundary between the Hermit Formation and the Coconino sandstone would have been blurred by "bioturbation", disturbed in an uneven way by erosion, and that the cracks found in the Hermit shale would have been filled with other contaminants besides pure Coconino sandstone.  Of course, these findings are not strange if the layers were all formed relatively rapidly by water deposition instead of over vast expanses of time (and yes, cracks do form in mud underwater as a result of cohesion of clays during "dewatering"). So, which theory has better explanatory value? (Back to Top)

   

 

Turbidites and Water Sorting

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There are some other interesting things to note about the geologic column.  Many of its layers, wherever they are found in the world, are sorted with the courser material on the bottom and the finer material on the top of that individual layer (Except in the case of underwater slumps where the material is sorted fine to course). 2 Does this sorting make sense to have happened over millions of years?  Sorting like this does not take place today except in specific circumstances.   This kind of sorting only occurs naturally in water, and specifically in underwater mudslides called turbidites.  I think it is interesting that much of the geologic column looks exactly like turbiditic layering.In fact, geologist today no longer accept the long prevailing hypothesis of uniformitarian deposition, but have opted instead for a more "punctuated" formation of much of the column.  These punctuations are generally felt to be the result of sudden catastrophic events with long intervening periods of relative quietness.  The does make some sense in the fact of the fact that turbidites create sedimentary layers almost instantly.  However, turbidite flow does not flatten or significantly disrupt lower layers.  Thus, any erosion or unevenness in lower layers will be preserved.  The fact that the layers are generally flat seems to indicate that they were already very flat before the next turbidite came along.  (Back to Top)

 

 

 

Volcanic Signatures

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Volcanic activity adds yet another twist.  Each eruption has a chemical signature.  It is known that a volcanic eruption leaves a specific chemical fingerprint in its sedimentary layer.  From the study of active volcanoes, this fingerprint is quite specific.  If the same volcano erupts at least 6-8 months later, it will have a detectable difference in its fingerprint. 4, 5, 77  Many of the sedimentary layers in the geologic column have volcanic sediment in them.  It is very interesting to note that in some places, where there are over 20 layers containing volcanic sediment (ie:  The layered fossil forests of Yellowstone National Park), there may be only three to four different chemical volcanic "fingerprints" or "signatures" among all the layers.4, 77  How can this be when each layer supposedly took thousands of years to create?  Every layer should obviously have at least one unique "signature" if not many different signatures.  But, this does not happen.  In fact, it gets even more interesting.  Many times, the signature in the bottom layer will be exactly the same as the signature found in the top layer. 4, 77 (Back to Top)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Varves

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Varves are sedimentary layers generally interpreted as being laid down in a yearly banding pattern with one varve being laid down once per year, like tree rings.  A true varve consists of a couplet of summer silt and winter clay, a period that is difficult to demonstrate.  It is thought that by counting the varves in a lakebed, one can determine a fairly accurate age for that lake bed. Ancient dates are calculated for these lake beds using varves, sometimes into the millions of years based on varve estimates.90 In the fall 1994 issue of Science Speaks, Don Stoner (1994) stated that the Green River Formation of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming "contains more than four million annual layers." He then says, "Obviously, this means that the lake existed for millions of years before it disappeared." 

This is a great theory.  It certainly sounds reasonable at first glance.  However, there are just a few problems with this theory.  If this it is true that only one varve is made per year, then how could a leaf survive exposed while it waited years and years to be completely buried?   Multiple varves are now known to form very rapidly in certain situations. 91 

Buchheim and Biaggi (1988) measured Green River Formation "varves" between two volcanic tuff beds each two to three centimeters thick.  Geologists consider each tuff bed a synchronous layer, i.e., every point on that tuff bed has the same age. The two tuff beds thus represent two different reference times. If the laminations in between these two beds are annual layers, the same number of layers should be present everywhere between the two beds. Buchheim and Biaggi found the number of laminae between the tuff beds ranged from 1160 to 1568.  Lambert and Hsü (1979) measured "varves" in Lake Walensee, Switzerland and found up to five laminae deposited during one year. From 1811, which was a clear marker point (because a newly built canal discharged into the lake), until 1971, a period of 160 years, they found the number of laminae ranged between 300 and 360 instead of the expected one per year or 160.

Some rather interesting experiments with varve formation have also been done.  Julien, Lan and Berthault (1994) experimentally produced laminations by slowly pouring mixtures of sand, limestone and coal into a cylinder of still water. Using a variety of materials, they found that laminae formed if there were differences in size and density of the materials and that the thickness of the laminae depended upon differences in grain size and density.

Fischer and Roberts (1991) state, "In some cases the observer counting varves is left in doubt as to which couplets are varves and which are subvarve units, a matter that was handled in our image analysis varve counts by arbitrarily counting only variations above the 30 micron level." In other words, they arbitrarily chose 30 microns as the minimum thickness to be used for computer analysis. However, many laminations are less than 30 microns thick. Also, many of the "varves" consist of organic layers squeezed together with very tiny carbonate laminae in between. There is no consistency in varve structure.

Geologists have suggested other causes of lamination as potential contributors to varves, including storm events, turbidites and glacial meltwater. Each one of these is aperiodic, producing laminations with no relation to annual, cyclic processes. For example, turbidity currents from melting snow or heavy rain produce extra couplets.92

Our investigations supported de Geer's first contention that sediment-laden floodwaters could generate turbidity underflows to deposit varves, but threw doubt on his second interpretation that varves or varve-like sediment are necessarily annual.  (Lambert and Hsa, p. 454) 92

 

Turbidity currents can mimic varves, especially at the end of the flow that is farthest from the source or sediment. (Hambrey) Many supposed varves are multiple turbidity current deposits and do not represent seasonal changes.

 

It is very unfortunate from a sedimentological viewpoint that engineers describe any rhythmically laminated fine-grained sediment as 'varved.' There is increasing recognition that many sequences previously described as varves are multiple turbidite sequences of graded silt to clay units...without any obvious seasonal control on sedimentation. (Quigley, p. 151) 92

 

Turbidity flows have the surprising ability to deposit silt and clay quickly in equal thicknesses. Under normal conditions, silt usually settles in a few days and clay can take years to settle.

 

As both clay and silt fractions are transported to the site of deposition at the same time, successive surge deposits are likely to have similar proportions of silt and clay. In other words, thick silt layers will have thick clay layers, and thin silt layers will have thin clay layers. (Smith, pp. 198-199) 92

 

Turbidity flows are independent of season and can continuously deposit microlaminae throughout the year, including the winter:

 

In many cases where large ice lobes or glaciers sit or float in lakes, there is year round delivery of sediments and turbidite activity occurs almost continually resulting in graded laminae that are not true varves. (Quigley, p. 152)

 How many varve-like layers form from year to year becomes anyone's guess. Wood (1947) describes peak river inflows after light rain that deposited three varve-like couplets in two weeks. Just as we have seen in many situations, e.g., stalagmite and canyon formation, strata deposition, and fossilization, time is not the essential factor for their development, although evolutionists insist that such things took much time to form. While evolutionary catastrophists admit rapid formation, they almost invariably propose long periods of tedium between catastrophic events. (Ager) 92

 

 

Steve Austin, who has done much field work at Mount St. Helens, documented in his new book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (see announcement on last page) that the volcano eruption produced 25 feet of volcanic ash varve-like deposits from hurricane-velocity surging flows in five hours.92

 

To summarize the above findings:

1). Controversy exists as to the source material comprising varves as well as the mechanism of their cyclic formation.

2). Lamination counts in historically known sections have been demonstrated not to correspond to elapsed years or counts are inconsistent.

3). There is frequently uncertainty as to how many laminations constitute a varve and the use of arbitrary minimum sizes may lead to erroneous conclusions.

4). There are many nonseasonal mechanisms for producing laminations such as storms, floods, turbidites, glacial meltwater and spontaneous segregation of dissimilar materials. All of these causes of laminar deposits indicate that varve-like laminations are a common effect of many nonseasonal processes.92

5). Various materials that decay rapidly over time, such a delicate leaves, have been found extending through many "annual" varve layers (see above photo).93

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Continental Drift

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     Now, lets take a look at continental drift or plate tectonics.  According to today's popular scientists, the continents of today were once connected in an original continent by the name of Pangea.  Pangaea, is thought to have been made up of two major landmasses: Laurasia in the north, and Gondwanaland in the south.  Very slowly, over the course of two hundred million years, the continents split apart and drifted away from each other to their present-day positions. 

        Some form of this idea has been around for about 200 years. The theory of continental drift was first proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912.  Initially it was rejected by the scientific community because Wegener was unable to propose an adequate mechanism to explain the drift.  However, in the 1950s and 1960s, interest in the theory revived with the help of a new science called paleomagnetism where bands of reversing magnetic polarity extended parallel to the mid oceanic ridges and seemed to indicate some sort of oceanic expansion.  Other forms of data seemed to support the hypothesis of seafloor spreading.  From these beginnings, the concept of plate tectonics was born.  

       There is much intuitive evidence to support this theory.  As one looks at a global map of the world, it is clear that the continents do in fact seem to fit together - like a giant puzzle.  Geologic layering and coal samples are very similar at the separation zones of the various continents.  It seems intuitively obvious that continental drift did occur and that at one time the various continents were in fact connected.  In fact, the drift is still occurring at about 2cm per year on average and in some places as much as 5cm per year.  

       But how does this drift occur?  According to the current theory of plate tectonics, the earth's outer shell, or "lithosphere", is divided into several large, rigid plates (13 major plates and over 100 "microplates") that move over a soft layer of the mantle that is known as the "asthenosphere".  At their edges or boundaries these plates touch each other and their independent movements affect each other as they slide past or into each other.  Such interactions are thought to be the cause of most of the seismic and volcanic activity on earth.  When the plates collide, they buckle and the buckling results in mountain ranges and ocean trenches.  Oceans form where the plates drift apart.   

       Initially those who first proposed this idea of continental drift were thought to be crazy. However, with discoveries of paleomagnetism and other evidences, such as the rather obvious puzzle-piece match of various continents, the theory quickly gained popularity. By the mid-1970s, almost 90% of western geologists believed in the validity of plate tectonic theory.   Despite its problems, plate tectonics became so popular that it suppressed all other potential hypothesis of earth dynamics. Not everyone was pleased by this.  In fact, even some of the proponents of plate tectonics have themselves admitted that a "bandwagon atmosphere" developed, and that data that did not fit into the model were not given sufficient consideration,33 resulting in "a somewhat disturbing dogmatism".34  McGeary and Plummer acknowledge that "Geologists, like other people, are susceptible to fads."32,35 

        Fad or not, the popularity of plate tectonic theory is undeniable and this popularity is felt by some to be limiting the exploration of any other possible theories as belief in plate tectonics is so strong that it is difficult to get any other hypothesis published if it seems to move against this paradigm.32 This popularity is maintained despite the fact that, "When plate tectonics was first elaborated in the 1960s, less than 0.0001% of the deep ocean had been explored and less than 20% of the land area had been mapped in meaningful detail. Even by the mid-1990s, only about 3 to 5% of the deep ocean basins had been explored in any kind of detail, and not much more than 25 to 30% of the land area could be said to be truly known.36 Scientific understanding of the earth's surface features is clearly still in its infancy, to say nothing of the earth's interior." 32  

       The fact of the matter is that scientists are finding certain aspects of the earth's crust that simply are not easily explained by the theory of plate tectonics as it currently stands.  Some of these problems are more readily apparent than others.  Perhaps one of the more easily discernable problems is one that involves the maintenance of fit of the continents over the course of 200+ million years of drift since Pangea.  Consider that over relatively short time periods, erosion, deposition, and sedimentary river delta deposits change edges of landmasses significantly.  For example, three hundred years before Christ, Ephesus was a seaport city on the coast of the Aegean Sea in Asia Minor.  Within only 800 years, the city was no longer a port city, but an inland city.  The historian Pliney said that, in ancient times the sea used to wash up to the temple of Diana [in Ephesus].  The reason for this regression of the sea is that the relatively small rivers of Cayster and Meander run near the city.   Over the years they deposited so much sediment that the land extended some several miles in a relatively short time.  Today Ephesus is located about five miles inland. 

With all the erosion and on all the various continents and rivers depositing deltas like the ones at Ephesus, should the continents not, over a 200+ million year period, loose the shape of their ancient coastlines?  Currently, according to the US Army Corp of Engineers, the United States coastlines are in serious danger.  The Louisiana coastline is being lost at a rate of at least 25sq. miles per year.  Both the eastern and western United States are being eroded at rates fast enough to warrant millions of dollars spent on coastal erosion prevention at an annual cost of around $500 million.  Florida alone spends over 8 million dollars annually on coastal erosion prevention.11  In just over 50 years, some of the coastlines in Washington State have regressed over 300 meters.12  The coastline of Texas is being eroded at a rate of between 1 and 50 feet per year depending on location.13  At the Eastern side of the continent, the landmark lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, built more than 1500 meters (5000 feet) inland in 1879, was threatened with collapse because the coastline had been eroded to such an extent that the lighthouse had to be moved some 1,600 feet inland (in 1999) to save it. 89 At this particular point the sea has been moving in at a rate of a mile in 150 years, (once around the earth in less than four million years). The same is true for the eastern and western coastal countries of Africa who depend on the stability of their coasts for tourism.  Japan is spending billions of dollars to preserve its coasts from erosion.  Every coastal country in the world is worried about erosion.  

So, knowing this, let us be very conservative and say that an average coastline changes only one centimeter per year.  This would not be enough erosion to worry anyone right?  However, how much change would that be in 200 million years?  The change would be two thousand kilometers (1,200 miles) . . .  Enough to erode (or deposit) half way through the United States!   This does not appear to be the case though.  The coastlines of the various continents still match up very well - not to mention the fact that the continents themselves have not been washed away within this time.  I mean, judging by the current rate of erosion, Louisiana would have been subjected to 5 billion square miles of erosion/deposition in 200 million years.  That is more than 300 times the size of the entire North American Continent (15 million square miles)!  That is actually fifteen times more land than the entire surface area of the Earth itself to include that covered by water (317 million square miles)!  

Now, I am not saying that rates of erosion do not fluctuate and change, but it seems fairly obvious that with even minimal amounts of continental erosion, the continents of today would not match up so easily if they really had separated from each other over 200 million years ago.  The evidence does not appear to fit the theory - not even close.  An extremely rapid continental drift in the recent past seems much more likely.  A great deal of sudden energy would be required to cause such a rapid and global continental drift.  Such a sudden release of energy would most likely cause incredible global catastrophe.  Massive floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes would occur suddenly on a global scale. (Back to Top)

 

 

More Problems with Plate Tectonics

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Of course, these are not the only problems with the theory of plate tectonics.  Consider the following comments by David Pratt detailing a few potential flaws with the theory:

 

 

    Plate tectonics -- the reigning paradigm in the earth sciences -- faces some very severe and apparently fatal problems. Far from being a simple, elegant, all-embracing global theory, it is confronted with a multitude of observational anomalies, and has had to be patched up with a complex variety of ad-hoc modifications and auxiliary hypotheses. The existence of deep continental roots and the absence of a continuous, global asthenosphere to "lubricate" plate motions, have rendered the classical model of plate movements untenable. There is no consensus on the thickness of the "plates" and no certainty as to the forces responsible for their supposed movement. The hypotheses of large-scale continental movements, seafloor spreading and subduction, and the relative youth of the oceanic crust are contradicted by a substantial volume of data. Evidence for significant amounts of submerged continental crust in the present-day oceans provides another major challenge to plate tectonics. The fundamental principles of plate tectonics therefore require critical reexamination, revision, or rejection.32

 

Pratt goes on to challenge many of the basic tenets of the plate tectonic theory to include the most fundamental concept of plates sliding over the lubricating asthenosphere.  It seems as though the lithosphere, which makes up the solid plates, averages 70 km thick beneath the oceans and at least 125 to 250 km thick beneath the continents.  However, recent seismic tomography of the oldest parts of the continents have very deep roots that extend to depths of around 400 to 600 km with no asthenosphere beneath them.  Certain geologists have publicly recognized that these findings cast serious doubt on the original lithosphere-asthenosphere model of thin plates sliding over a lubricating layer.32  As it turns out, the plates are not really solid, intact, plates at all, but are instead composed of broken-up pieces of various shapes, sizes, structure, and strength.   Based on this problem Pavlenkova concludes:

 

 "This means that the movement of lithospheric plates over long distances, as single rigid bodies, is hardly possible. Moreover, if we take into account the absence of the asthenosphere as a single continuous zone, then this movement seems utterly impossible." She states that this is further confirmed by the strong evidence that regional geological features, too, are connected with deep (more than 400 km) inhomogeneities and that these connections remain stable during long periods of geologic time; considerable movement between the lithosphere and asthenosphere would detach near-surface structures from their deep mantle roots."


       The very process or "driving force" of plate movement is also coming under fire.  It has long been theorized that the driving forces of plate movements are deep convection currents that well up beneath the mid-ocean ridges and then circle back down beneath the ocean trenches.  The problem with this theory is that the mantle appears to be horizontally layered.  Such convection currents do not seem to be consistent with such layering.  It was hoped that seismic tomography would give clear evidence of such convection-cell patterns.  However, seismic tomography has actually provided strong evidence against the existence of convection currents that are large enough and strong enough to move continental plates.  In fact, many geologists now think that the small upper layer mantle convection currents that do exist are the result of plate motion rather than its cause.32

Currently, the favored mechanisms used to explain plate movements are the "ridge-push" and the "slab-pull" methods.  The slab-pull is thought to be the "dominant" mechanism.  It refers to the gravitational sinking of the subducted slabs as they slide under the edges of continental shelves.  Of course, subduction does not happen for the edges of plates that are largely continental because continental crust cannot be subducted due to its relatively low density.  This is a problem because subduction cannot be used to explain the movement of certain massive continental plates such as the Eurasian plate.  The reason for this is because the plates themselves are not internally strong enough for forces along their edges to be transmitted across the entire plate. In other words, pulling or pushing forces would crush or fracture the crust before the forces could be transmitted to the rest of the plate. It is somewhat like trying to pull a train engine with dental floss.

The theory of subduction has other problems as well. For example, the mid-ocean ridges, where new crust is thought to be produced, total 80,000 km in collective length. However, only about 40,000 km of ocean trenches and "collision zones" exist. It seems like crust is being produced in more areas than it is being subducted. Where then does the rest of it go? Certain specific examples are also interesting, such as the African plate. Africa is allegedly being converged on by plates spreading from the east, south, and west, yet it exhibits no evidence whatsoever for the existence of subduction zones. Antarctica, too, is almost entirely surrounded by alleged "spreading" ridges without any corresponding subduction zones. Also, if subduction has been occurring over 200+ million years, one might expect that a lot of oceanic sediment would be scraped off the ocean floor and piled up against the overlying plate, filling up the trenches. This might seem like an obvious expectation, except for the fact that it is not observed in real life. The ocean trenches do not have enough sediment in them if subduction has truly occurred in these areas over the course of millions of years. Scholl and Marlow (1974), who support plate tectonics, admitted to being "genuinely perplexed as to why evidence for subduction or offscraping of trench deposits is not glaringly apparent."32 In order to maintain their theory, plate tectonicists have had to resort to the notion that unconsolidated deep-ocean sediments can easily slide under overlying plates without being scraped off or leaving any other significant trace behind. Also, these trenches often show a very low level of seismicity and often have flat-lying sediments at their bases that are not angled as if they were being subducted.32

The hypothesizes directional movements of the plates themselves are also being questioned using "space-geodetic techniques" such as "very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), satellite laser-ranging (SLR), and the global positioning system (GPS).  Some scientists claim that these instruments have unequivocally supported the theory of plate tectonics.  As it turns out, some of the measured movements do seem to verify certain predictions of plate tectonic theory.  However, many of the results have shown no definite pattern, and have been confusing and contradictory.  For example, Japan and North America do appear, as predicted, to be approaching each other, but the central South American Andes seem to be keeping a constant distance from both Japan and Hawaii (they are predicted to be separating).  Also, surprisingly, trans-Atlantic drift has not been demonstrated.  It seems rather that the North America and western Europe are not moving as rigid units, but show significant intraplate deformation or movements.  Also, geodetic surveys across the "rift zone" between Iceland and East Africa have failed to show the theorized widening postulated by plate tectonics. (Back to Top)

 

 

Paleomagnetism

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But what about paleomagnetism? Most geologist believe that paleomagnetism confirms the predictions of plate tectonic theory. Paleomagnetism is a study of the magnetic properties of the earth's crust. What is especially interesting is that along the mid-oceanic ridges, there is a parallel "zebra-striped pattern" of alternating magnetic stripes or bands where one strip is oriented in one direction while the strip next to it is oriented in a different or even reversed direction. The theory is that as these rocks cooled during formation, the magnetic polarity of the Earth at that time was preserved in the rock like a taperecording. After the polarity was established in the hardened rock, reversals in the Earth's polarity would not change the polarity in the solid rock. Thus, only in newly forming or liquid rock would the molecules be able to line up with the current polarity of the Earth. In this way, magnetically oriented bands of rock would be formed where the oldest bands are farthest away from the mid-oceananic ridge where new crust formation is thought to occur along a spreading fault. The pattern of these lines seems to outline the movements of various plates quite well...

However, there seem to be just a few problems with paleomagnetism. One would think that as the sea-floor spread out from the ridge that the alternating "normal" and "reversed" magnetic bands would extend vertically all the way through the crust. Vertically drilled cores have shown that this is simply not the case. The surface pattern of alternating bands of magnetic polarity is not preserved as neatly in the rocks below the surface. Interestingly enough, the magnetic polarity changes back and forth as one moves down the core samples. This finding seems to disprove the theory that the oceanic crust was magnetized entirely as it spread laterally from the magmatic center.32 Some scientists are even suggesting that magnetic reversals were formed very rapidly.38

Consider also the theory that the oceanic plates must be relatively "young" as compared to the continental shelves. Since the oceanic crust is continually made by the mid-ocean ridges and then moves outwards to be subducted under other plates, the youngest rocks will be closest to the ridges and the oldest will be those rocks farthest from the ridges. The problem is that "shallow-water deposits ranging in age from mid-Jurassic to Miocene, as well as igneous rocks showing evidence of subaerial weathering, were found in 149 of the first 493 boreholes drilled in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. These shallow-water deposits are now found at depths ranging from 1 to 7 km, demonstrating that many parts of the present ocean floor were once shallow seas, shallow marshes, or land areas. From a study of 402 oceanic boreholes in which shallow-water or relatively shallow-water sediments were found, Ruditch (1990) concluded that there is no systematic correlation between the age of shallow-water accumulations and their distance from the axes of the midoceanic ridges, thereby disproving the seafloor-spreading model... There is evidence that the midocean ridge system was shallow or partially emergent in Cretaceous to Early Tertiary time. For instance, in the Atlantic subaerial deposits have been found on the North Brazilian Ridge, near the Romanche and Vema fracture zones adjacent to equatorial sectors of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, on the crest of the Reykjanes Ridge, and in the Faeroe-Shetland region... Geological, geophysical, and dredging data provide strong evidence for the presence of Precambrian and younger continental crust under the deep abyssal plains of the present northwest Pacific. Most of this region was either subaerially exposed or very shallow sea during the Paleozoic to Early Mesozoic, and first became deep sea about the end of the Jurassic." 32

There are many other problems detailed by Pratt as to why the current theory of plate tectonics may in fact be fatally flawed.  A link to his paper can be found below for those who are interested. (Back to Top)

 

 

Conclusion

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It seems then that the popular theories of geology and the formation of the geologic column may in fact have significant flaws that might be better explained by a relatively sudden global catastrophe or closely spaced series of very large catastrophes.  At least it seems like the door is open to this possibility as well as to the idea that the geologic column may not represent billions of years of earth's history, but may in fact have been formed rapidly. (Back to Top)

 

 

                                                                                 

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