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Dave Matson Young Earth Geologic Column Assumes Evolution

Dr. Hovind (G2): The entire geologic column is based on the assumption that evolution is true.

G2. If Dr. Hovind would take the trouble to do a little reading from something other than creationist publications he would not make such an outrageous statement. I believe he has confused the use of index fossils with evolution. One creationist editor, more mellow than his unfortunate statement suggests, who shall remain anonymous, phrased the argument thus:

Unfortunately the geologists date the rocks as the paleontologists tell them to. Then the paleontologists use the geologists’ dates as evidence for the age of the fossils! That’s not science. That’s just a game played by dishonest scientists!

The passage might have come out of one of Henry Morris’ books, except that Morris usually avoids crude slander.

Perhaps Dr. Hovind is not aware of the fact that by 1815 the broad outlines of the geologic column from Paleozoic times onward had been worked out by people who were mostly creationist geologists. The relative order of the strata was first determined by the principles of stratification. (The principle of superposition was recognized as early as 1669 by Steno.) Reverend Benjamin Richardson and Reverend Joseph Townsend were a couple of early geologists. By 1830 Lyell’s famous textbook, Principles of Geology, came out. The captain of the H.M.S. Beagle, a very strong Bible believer, made it a point to have a copy of Lyell’s book for the ship’s library. Obviously, even Lyell was not pushing evolution at the time. Such was the age of the great creationist geologists!

The principle of faunal succession in the geologic record was established by direct observation as early as 1799 by William Smith. By the 1830’s Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison established a correlation between the various types of fossils and the rock formations in the British Isles. It was found that certain fossils, now referred to as index fossils, were restricted to a narrow zone of strata. Studies done on the European continent soon demonstrated the universal validity of index fossils. That is, an index fossil corresponded to a very specific point in the geologic column. Once the worth of index fossils had been established on the basis of stratification studies, they could logically be used to extend the correlation of rock formations to other continents. At this point in time they were simply a useful tool for correlating rock formations.

One can hardly accuse these pioneers of evolutionary prejudice. Nearly a halfcentury would pass before Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, was published! By then, the relative ages (order) of the geologic column had already been worked out in some detail. Radiometric dating would later confirm the relative ages of the strata and tie them to absolute dates. (Far from being a rubber stamp, radiometric dating would go on to revolutionize our understanding of the Precambrian.) Thus, it became possible to date strata directly from index fossils.

Note that evolution has nothing to do with how the index fossils are used to date strata! Any kind of object clearly restricted to a specific point in the geologic column would do just fine. If green dice were found only in the middle Ordovician strata, they would make excellent "index fossils." Evolution should be seen as an explanation of the faunal succession, a succession which was worked out long before evolution dominated the scene. Evolution, working in tandem with geologic ages, can explain why we have index fossils, but evolution is not needed to make the index fossils useful for dating strata.

While we’re on this subject, you might wish to know the odds of arranging the Precambrian era, the seven geologic periods of the Paleozoic (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian), the three periods of the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous), and the two periods of the Cenozoic (Paleogene, Neogene or Tertiary, Quaternary) in their proper order by pure chance. Your chances are 6.2 billion to one of getting the right order for all thirteen. And, when you consider that each period can also be divided into "upper, middle, and lower," the odds of arranging them in the correct order by pure chance become astronomical. Radiometric dating has passed that severe test! It has correctly placed the Cambrian between the Precambrian and the Ordovician, the Ordovician between the Cambrian and the Silurian, the Silurian between the Ordovician and the Devonian, and so forth. (See Topic A1 for claims of bad dates.)

Creationists, on the other hand, must explain to us how sediment and rock laid down in a mere year can yield such fantastic, orderly differences in radiometric ages. This poses a fatal problem whether one believes in the accuracy of radiometric dating or not! One would think that the flood sediments (gathered from the four corners of the old antediluvian world) and their associated igneous rock (formed during the flood) would all register very little radiometric age. At the very least we would expect random fluctuations if the radiometric methods were totally at sea. Why should the percentage of lead to uranium in zircon crystals (the key to ordinary uranium-lead, radiometric dating) depend on which geologic period they are found in? If most of the geologic column were created during Noah’s flood, would it really matter whether a zircon crystal was found in Cambrian strata or Cretaceous strata, in Jurassic strata or Tertiary strata? Noah’s flood might just as easily deposit the same crystal in one place as another.

Thus, we have a mystery. Pressure has nothing to do with it, and zircon crystals all have about the same density as their total lead content is small. Just what is it that a Cambrian stratum has which a Cretaceous stratum lacks? What does the Jurassic strata have that the Tertiary strata do not? If rock type mattered then we would expect a zircon crystal’s lead content to vary dramatically within the Cambrian or Cretaceous strata according to their local rock types. No, that’s not what we observe. How about neutrinos or cosmic rays? Neutrinos penetrate the earth so easily that they would affect all strata more or less equally, to the extent that they affect anything at all. Cosmic rays, on the other hand, don’t penetrate that far into the earth to begin with, so we can rule them out. The depth of burial, itself, has little to do with our mystery. In some parts of the world the Cretaceous is found deeper than is the Cambrian in other parts of the world. The depth at which either is found can vary dramatically. In the Grand Canyon area the Cambrian lies beneath a huge column of strata; in California’s Mojave Desert portions of the Cambrian are exposed at the surface.

For the youngearth creationist, this is an unsolvable mystery, a mystery with parallels in each of the radiometric clocks used by geologists. The potassium-argon, rubidium-strontium, samarium-neodymium, luteium-hafnium, rhenium-osmium, thorium-lead, and the two uranium-lead dating methods all point to the same amazing fact. The ratio between tiny amounts of radioactive elements and their decay products have this uncanny ability to determine which strata a rock will appear in! What is this magic ingredient that each of the geologic periods have which affects rocks and zircon crystals so? For those who believe that each of the geologic periods were laid down in days or weeks by Noah’s flood, the mystery has no intelligent answer. For the rest of us, the answer is as plain as daylight. The answer to our riddle is time. The Cambrian has simply been around a lot longer than the Cretaceous, and the radioactive uranium in its zircon crystals has had more time to decay into lead. The same radioactive elements in different geologic periods will have decayed by different amounts.

Even creationists realize that time is the only answer, but they give that answer a strange twist. They imagine that the radioactive elements decayed much faster in the past! Such claims are mere flights of fantasy with no basis in fact or theory (see Topic R2 ). Among other things, a creationist must believe that zircon crystals, placed by Noah’s flood in this or that layer of the geologic column, had not yet developed their differences in lead content! Had zircon crystals been formed at different times before Noah’s flood, consequently being "aged" differently by this "faster" decay rate, then one must explain how the flood sorted them into the correct strata. The flood has no means for putting the older crystals (with the correct percentage of lead) in the Cambrian and the younger ones (with the correct percentage of lead) in the Cretaceous. We are led to the absurd conclusion that each zircon crystal began to be "aged" differently by this "faster" decay rate only after being deposited by the flood! Before being laid to rest in the geologic column, each of our zircon crystals has been aged equally by the decay process, meaning hardly at all as we must account for those crystals in the most recent "flood strata." In other words, this approach postulates a decay rate which, before Noah’s flood, hardly "ages" any of our zircon crystals. But, as soon as a zircon crystal is buried by Noah’s flood it begins to "age" in earnest while its brothers and sisters, still floating around in the flood, remain virtually untouched by the decay rate!! Finally, the last of them are deposited by Noah’s flood and only "age" a tiny bit before the decay rates are reduced to the present level! This approach leaves us in the backwaters of fantasyland.

If our zircon crystals were not washed into place by Noah’s flood, then perhaps they were formed as each stratum was deposited. Chunks of magna somehow got buried or intruded here and there as the sediment fell out of the flood. Our zircon crystals then formed in this magma as it quickly cooled, thus beginning their "aging" at about the time they were buried. After the last flood layer was laid down, the decay rates became normal. Unfortunately, this cute answer is not without its own fatal flaws. Aside from the usual problems associated with monkeying around with the radioactive decay rates (see Topic R2), a creationist must believe that a mere year (the maximum time, give or take a few days, between the first and last flood sediments) "aged" those zircon crystals in the Cambrian to a considerable degree. Thus, the decay rate must have been phenomenally high when Noah’s flood began. But, if that were true then those zircon crystals which had formed in the Precambrian basement rocks, being up to 1656 years older than Noah’s flood by Dr. Hovind’s reckoning, being subjected to that phenomenally high decay rate, would have no uranium left at all! Their radiometric ages would be measured in trillions of years by today’s scientists, which is definitely not the case!

A few calculations will put the above point in a better perspective. Based on the present decay rate of U-238, the Cambrian period began about 570 million years ago. Since then the amount of uranium-238 has been reduced to 91.544% of itself by radioactive decay. From the creationist viewpoint almost all of this decay had to occur during the year of Noah’s flood. Had the decay rates remained high after the flood, the zircon crystals in the more recent strata (the last strata laid down by Noah’s flood) would have "aged" considerably, which is not the case. Furthermore, the zircon crystals had to be created during Noah’s flood in order to be "aged" according to the strata in which they were associated. Therefore, at the time of Noah’s flood the decay rate had to be such as to reduce the amount of uranium-238 to 91.544% of itself in one year. If we generously take that decay rate, with no thought of increasing it further as we look even further back into the past, we can calculate how much uranium-238 had to be present 1656 years before Noah’s flood, when the earth was created according to Dr. Hovind. It turns out that the amount of uranium-238 needed is 3.47 x 10^63 times the amount of uranium-238 around at the start of Noah’s flood! That is to say, and mildly at that, if our entire solar system were made of uranium-238 the quantity would not even begin to suffice.

There is nothing like a few calculations to bring out the absurdity in creationist thinking! They must now do more than simply assume that the decay rate was higher in the past, an assumption that may have seemed reasonable to the intelligent (but scientifically ignorant) person. They must now assume that the decay rates were low before Noah’s flood, that they became phenomenal high during the year of Noah’s flood, and that they dropped to normal after Noah’s flood. Such tailor-made assumptions will impress only idiots and fanatics, and there is yet another problem worth mentioning.

Some of the material that has been radiometrically dated, whose dates fully conform to the accepted ages of the associated strata in the geologic column, come from large masses of once-molten rock. Those samples could not possibly have cooled down in the course of a mere year no matter what. Consequently, any "aging" done on any crystals from such a source had to occur, by creationist thinking, after Noah’s flood. Only then were those crystals formed. However, as indicated above, the year of Noah’s flood is the only time slot available for such "aging" to occur! Thus, even the tailor-made assumptions, to which a few desperate creationists might be inclined, come to naught.

In summary of these latter points, radiometric dating has passed a severe test whereas young-earth creationism flounders, in hopeless knots, on the basic facts of the geologic record.

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