The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I was pointed to some recently-published articles by young-Earth creationist geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling on the Answers in Genesis (AiG) web site. These make up a series called “Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood.”

The people at AiG are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I share their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, their respect for the Bible as the Word of God, and their desire to see people come to faith in Christ. However, I view their arguments for a young Earth and geological catastrophism as unnecessary Biblically, really bad apologetics, and a serious obstacle to the evangelism of scientists.

Unfortunately, few people in our churches or Christian education system have the geological background to critically analyze these arguments. The result is that people read articles like these from AiG, find them to be rather impressive, and believe that these present sound arguments in defense of the Bible. The opposite, however, is true. A vast majority of Christian geologists find the arguments for a young-Earth and the geologic work of the Flood to be untenable. It is my strong opinion that the young-Earth arguments of organizations like AiG have no place in our churches and Christian education system.

Let’s take a look at the first of Snelling’s “Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood.”

Flood Evidence Number One: High & Dry Sea Creatures

Snelling begins this article with an overview of the vertical distribution of marine fossil-bearing sediments. Marine fossils are found throughout the geologic column in places like the Grand Canyon, at elevations approaching 8000 feet (2400 m) above sea level, and even at the summit of Mt. Everest (29029 ft, 8848 m).

Most young-Earth creationists acknowledge that the marine fossils at the top of Mt. Everest were deposited at a lower elevation and then uplifted through mountain-building processes, so I’m not sure what Snelling’s point is in bringing this up. The standard geological model of deposition and uplift works perfectly fine for explaining how marine fossils ended up at the top of many mountain ranges.

In his article, Snelling brings up fossils of organisms called crinoids:

From Wikipedia: Echinoderms

Crinoid fossils (From Wikipedia: Echinoderms; Credit: Smith609 GFDL) Crinoids are echinoderms, which is the group of organisms that includes starfish and sea urchins. Adult crinoids (also known as sea lilies) looks superficially like plants. They are attached to the sea floor by a long, slender stalk, at the top of which is its body and some feeding arms surrounding its mouth. The entire organism---stem, body, and arms---is readily preserved as a fossil.

Other rock layers exposed in Grand Canyon also contain large numbers of marine fossils. The best example is the Redwall Limestone, which commonly contains fossil brachiopods (a clam-like organism), corals, bryozoans (lace corals), crinoids (sea lilies), bivalves (types of clams), gastropods (marine snails), trilobites, cephalopods, and even fish teeth.

These marine fossils are found haphazardly preserved in this limestone bed. The crinoids, for example, are found with their columnals (disks) totally separated from one another, while in life they are stacked on top of one another to make up their “stems.” Thus, these marine creatures were catastrophically destroyed and buried in this lime sediment.

His description of the Redwall Limestone is mostly correct. The Redwall Limestone is part of a layer of Mississipian age that covers much of western North America, from Canada down to Mexico. This layer has different names in different regions, such as the Leadville Formation in Colorado and the Rundle Group at Banff in Canada. These can be traced as a continuous layer either in outcrop on the surface, or in the subsurface through oil and gas wells or by seismic methods. I have not observed the Redwall Limestone in Arizona, but am familiar with its equivalent in Montana, the Madison Group. The Madison Group consists mostly of marine limestone, and contains many quadrillions of crinoid stem fragments (I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and came up with about 1016 stem fragments in a 500 x 500 km area; I know I’ve seen this figured out somewhere else before), as well as some beautifully preserved complete crinoid organisms.

In the young-Earth creationist scenario, these quadrillions of crinoid columnals had to be lying in the shallow sea before the flood, be ripped up in the early stages of the flood, be held together as a coherent package for a while during the flood with no loss or mixing with other units while Cambrian through Devonian sediments were deposited, and then deposited on the seafloor in the middle of the flood. Some of the fragile crinoid organisms would have had to stay together through all of this without disarticulating, such as the crinoid fossils illustrated to the right.

According to standard geological explanations, parts of the continents have been covered by shallow marine waters at numerous times throughout geologic history. Over time, in the absence of tectonic forces leading to mountain-building, continents are worn down to relatively flat surfaces. When sea level has risen (sometimes due to varying rates of mid-ocean ridge volcanism), these eroded continents became covered by shallow sea water. It was in one of these times that the Mississippian marine limestones were deposited on the continents. In places within these limestones, small-scale ecological distribution of organisms is preserved in the rocks (e.g. “Waulsortian mounds“, which are in some ways similar to coral reefs, but without a reef-building organism such as corals).

Crinoid columns (from Wikipedia: Crinoid; credit: xxx)

Crinoid columns (from Wikipedia: Crinoid; credit: Wilson44691)

Crinoids are not really abundant in today’s oceans, but they are common enough for us to study them in their natural habitats. When they die, the stems often break up into small cylindrical segments, and the calcium carbonate portion of the stem can be preserved on the sea floor. Over time the stem fragments can accumulate to a greater depth. Snelling’s statement that it would require some sort of catastrophe to form beds of crinoid stem fragments is completely without a basis. A natural analog in the modern ocean can explain these layers easily.

To summarize:

  1. It is not necessary to posit a global flood to explain marine fossils at high elevations. Snelling knows this.
  2. Catastrophism cannot explain the fossil assemblage of Mississippian limestones such as the Redwall. It is difficult to see how this mixture of fossils (which contains more than just crinoids, as Snelling acknowledges) could have stayed together as a coherent package in a global flood.
  3. Local ecological zones are preserved at places in Mississippian limestones. Were these mounds carried by the flood and then deposited gently on the surface without breaking apart? I don’t think so.

The young-Earth catastrophist arguments of AiG might sound good to Christians without a strong science background, but this whole system simply does not work, and should not be used for apologetics and evangelism.

Up next: AiG argument #2: The World’s a Graveyard.

Grace and Peace

April 25, 2009 - Posted by | Apologetics, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | ,

16 Comments »

  1. Kevin, thanks for starting this series! I appreciate the logic and the detail. I look forward to the rest of responses.

    Teach geology to change lives!

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Brooke | April 26, 2009

  2. The flood would have to show geological evidence of deluge and buried creatures. Snelling is simply pointing out that creatures would be buried in this catastrophic event. It sounds like you just want to cling to your old earth theory. You should read up about the massive flaws in the radiometric dating methods used to justify the old earth for the evoltionist. They are relying on outragous assumptions. They way I see it – the Bible is full of numeric significance. 6 was the number given to man. Seeing as the bible says that a day is as a thousand years to God, could this be suggesting a 6000 year old earth? I know this is an assumption too, but evoltuionists so desperately want to try and prove an old earth to validate their theory. Be careful you don’t get caught up in this demonic deception. Remember that satan is the father of lies and he has carefully thought out this elaborate deception to cause man to not believe that God exists, filling scientists mind with thoughts of an old earth to give justification to his ludicrous and outlandish lies. Satan is laughing at these evoltionists and they don’t even realise it. The evidence in the Bible does not support an old earth.

    Comment by Matthew | August 26, 2009

  3. Matthew:

    Thanks for commenting.

    You are correct: if Noah’s flood had created the sedimentary rock record—though the Bible doesn’t say that it did—then it indeed would contain fossils. But:
    –Those fossils would not be sorted as they are (Cambrian, Silurian, Ordovician…). The “geologic column” is an observation of nature, and was discovered long before Darwin.
    –It would not preserve complete ecosystems in place, such as fossil reefs.
    –It would not preserve things like dinosaur footprints or nests. How could there have been terrestrial animals running around in the middle of the flood?

    Snelling’s statement that standard geology cannot explain fossils at the top of mountains is wrong, and Snelling should know better.

    Regarding the massive flaws in radiometric dating:
    –I have done radiometric dating (fission-track dating), so I do know something about the topic.
    –I have read up on the latest in young-Earth creationist thinking about radiometric dating, which is the RATE program. In some ways RATE is an improvement over previous efforts, but it still has significant scientific problems.
    –Geologists determined that the Earth had to be millions of years old long before Darwin and his evolutionary theory, and even longer before radiometric dating.

    In regards to the accusation that I have given into demonic and satanic lies:
    –Your accusation is very serious, and shouldn’t be made casually.
    –I believe in a real creation by a real God, in a real Adam in a real garden, in a real fall into sin with real consequences, and in Jesus Christ as the only solution to our sin. Is there anything satanic or demonic there?
    –Like many old Earth creationists, I believe in the inerrancy of Scriptures. Is there satanic or demonic deception in this?
    –I believe the Bible, but I try to not go beyond what the Bible says either. There are three pillars to young-Earth creationism:
    1. The “yoms” of Genesis 1 must be understood as literal, consecutive 24-hour days.
    2. There was no death before the fall.
    3. The flood covered the entire Earth and produced the sedimentary rock record.
    Each of these go beyond what the Bible actually says:
    1. There are indications within the initial passage of Genesis that “yom” isn’t necessarily to be taken literally. If you haven’t seen these, it is because you have relied solely on young-Earth sources.
    2. None of the passages cited by young-Earthers to show that there was no animal death before the fall (Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15) says anything at all about animals. They all speak of Adam’s sin resulting in human death.
    3. The flood narrative of Genesis 6-9 can easily be understood as a local flood. The word translated as “earth” can also be translated as “land.” The reference to the flood covering the mountains by 15 cubits can also be interpreted as being 15 cubits deep and covering the hills. This is just as good of an understanding of the Hebrew text as the young-Earth interpretation.

    I am not going beyond the Scriptures in any of these (and the young-Earthers do). So where am I slipping under the influence of Satan or his demons?

    Comment by geochristian | August 26, 2009

  4. Matthew,

    I would like to echo Kevin’s point — please be very careful about labeling old earth Christians being caught up in demonic deception. We are simply looking at all the evidence God placed in his creation, and realizing that it all points to an old earth. As Kevin is trying to point out in these “Six Bad Arguments” series, we have found “ceation science” to be severely flawed. I used to be a young earth supporter, or at least a young earth sympathizer, and even went to YEC supporting churches (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Christ Community Church Tucson, and Calvary Chapel Salt Lake City) for a long time. To me, creation science is an attempt to invent an entirely new kind of science which is reverse-engineered from quotes mined from scientific journals and books and perhaps a few field observations at select locations, all under a constraint that is well-stated in Answers in Genesis’ Statement of Faith: “No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.”

    Regarding the RATE project, please consider reading the following articles in past issues of Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith:

    1. How Old Is It? How Do We Know? A Review of Dating Methods – Part One: Relative Dating, Absolute Dating, and Non-radiometric Dating Methods, by Davis Young http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2006/PSCF12-06Young.pdf

    2. How Old Is It? How Do We Know? A Review of Dating Methods – Part Two: Radiometric Dating: Mineral, Isochron and Concordia Methods, by Davis Young http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2007/PSCF3-07Young.pdf

    3. How Old Is It? How Do We Know? A Review of Dating Methods – Part Three: Thermochronometry, Cosmogenic Isotopes, and Theological Implications, by Davis Young http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2007/PSCF6-07Young.pdf

    If you don’t read anything else, at least consider reading “The Testimony of a Formerly Young Earth Missionary” by Dr. Joshua Zorn at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/zorn.html

    Tim

    p.s., Kevin – Crinoids are actually very common. I’ve seen them all over the place scuba diving in the Coral Sea and in Fiji.

    Comment by Tim Helble | August 26, 2009

  5. Tim:

    Thanks for the clarification on crinoids. They are locally common today, but uncommon enough that most people are not familiar with them. They were certainly much more abundant in late Paleozoic seas, as evidenced by limestones that are composed largely of disarticulated crinoid fragments.

    Comment by geochristian | August 26, 2009

  6. [...] via: McGill U, Geochristian and Black River [...]

    Pingback by Living Fossils: 10 Plants & Animals With Staying Power | WebEcoist | December 29, 2009

  7. If I’ve read the right article, Snelling’s first argument is based on his claim that the standard geologic explanation for the mountain uplift is fundamentally false.

    I’m no geologist, so I found your reply of “The standard geological model of deposition and uplift works perfectly fine” rather inadequate.
    I tend to think that if the model works as well as you assert, then you wouldn’t have had much trouble quickly detailing why.

    I’m a YEC that loves a bit of criticism, but I must admit that your failure to address the core of Snelling’s number 1 argument in your critique has left me a little underwhelmed.

    Comment by Timmmo | May 14, 2010

  8. Timmmo – the rest of the post had multiple places where it is described exactly how the model works and how it describes perfectly well the way marine fossils are on mountains.

    What part did you miss? It seems like he did put up several quick details of why the traditional model works just fine.

    Comment by WebMonk | May 20, 2010

  9. Your comment on the crinoid fossils is incorrect and misleading. Many of the crinoid fossils were not “held together.” Snelling says himself they were broken apart. It is misleading to state that all crinoid stems would have done the same thing, as different flood events, pre-deluge formations and landscapes, and different sediment introduction would have caused a vared amount of turbulence.

    The fact that almost all of the depositions Snelling tells us of are limestone is very telling. They all expose the modern fallacy of “calm marine conditions” and the disintegration of corals and other calcitic biota premised to form the lime mud. If one compares the even soft bodied preservation to the Chingjang limestone and the Cambrian biota it contains, one will see it does not matter at what “time” the limestone was deposited, it was deposited quickly. Soft tissue does not preserve on the bottom of the ocean, as it will be quickly eaten, or decay.

    The fact that so much fossil bearing limestone covers the earth, which fossils I emphasize are many times well preserved ichofossils and soft tissue, argues for the pre-existence of perhaps silt like lime mud throughout the earth, or under the earth before the flood.

    Also, the fact that geology still insists that these large depositions were slowly deposited in theorized “anoxic” conditions (so as to preserve the fossils), while ignoring the fact of the abundant biota, is a glaring example of the bandwagoning effect that can happen to entire countries (Nazi Germany). It is clear the modern explanations of fossil preservation held up by geology and paleontology are self-contradictory.

    Comment by Steve Gaddis | August 14, 2011

  10. Steve:

    Thanks for your comment, and for visiting The GeoChristian.

    When I first wrote about crinoids being “held together” I was not referring to individual organisms remaining articulated, but to the entire ecosystem staying together as a package, which I find to be a major problem for the YEC geological story. Rather than being scattered by the forces of a global cataclysm, the crinoids stayed together in both a lateral and vertical sense to remain a part of the Redwall Formation.

    Individual crinoid organisms should be disarticulated whether in the standard geological explanation, or in the YEC catastrophic scenario.

    Your impression that modern geologists teach that all limestones form in “calm marine conditions” is false. Many modern lime muds form in relatively calm conditions, such as in parts of the Bahama Banks, and many ancient limestones appear to bear similar features to these. But there are also clastic limestones, formed from fragments of fossils that have been transported on the sea floor by various currents (e.g. turbidity and storm currents).

    Most fossils, such as the crinoids we are discussing, were not deposited under anoxic conditions. Anoxic conditions do occur in certain environments, such as in some ocean basins and soil horizons, so to dismiss this as a mechanism for preserving soft tissues is not a strong argument against and old Earth.

    I don’t think I’ve stated anything that is “incorrect and misleading,” nor am I on any “bandwagon.”

    Grace and Peace,
    Kevin N

    Comment by geochristian | August 14, 2011

  11. If millions of years were true then why did God say “very good” when he was done with Creation? If death was there before man sinned then God must be sadistic. To have death in the world and say very good…… Not a very nice God to begin with.

    If death existed before man sinned then Creation should not GROAN because of man. Here are a few versus that says Creation groans because of man’s disobedience: http://www.openbible.info/topics/creation_groans

    Therefore,
    (1) God is sadistic. He brought in death before man sinned. Before anything happened he allowed death, pain & suffering into the world. Therefore, the nature of God should be questioned.
    (2) If Adam’s disobedience was only for man then the Bible should not blame Adam for the death of Creation.

    Even Richard Dawkins, renowned evolutionary biologists states that one cant fit evolution, millions of years & the Bible.

    You should also want to check this out: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur.html

    Comment by iperennial | January 25, 2013

  12. iperennial,

    In regards to the goodness of creation and animal death before Adam’s sin, please consider the following:

    1 — Young-Earth creationists teach that there was no animal death before the fall of Adam. However, none of the passages used as evidence of this (Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15) actually say anything about animal death.

    2 — Both the Old Testament and New Testament speak of the goodness of creation, even after Adam’s sin. Psalm 104 is a retelling of Genesis 1 (with events in the same order: light-heavens-earth-waters-animals-birds-humans), and speaks of predation as being part of God’s provision within nature with no hint that there is anything wrong with this (also see Job 38:39). 1 Tim 4:4 tells us that God’s creation retains its goodness in the present age.

    3 — Romans 8 states that the creation is groaning, but it does not say that this “groaning” is animal death. Instead, it says that this groaning is because the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons (or children) of God. One of Adam’s roles in Genesis 1 was that he was to have dominion over the creation, which meant that he (and his descendants) were to be wise and careful stewards or gardeners. The groaning of creation is not so much that animals die, but that mankind is not in its proper place within and over the creation, resulting in environmental degradation rather than healing. This flows much more naturally out of Romans 8 than does the YEC interpretation.

    4 — In light of my first three points, one can conclude that the YEC “animals did not die before the fall” argument is more of a “If I were God, this is how I would do it” argument rather than one based on what the Bible actually says.

    5 — The fact that Richard Dawkins agrees with young-Earth creationists isn’t a really good argument for young-Earth creationism.

    Thanks for visiting The GeoChristian and for your comment.

    Comment by geochristian | January 26, 2013

  13. [...] Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 1) — Fossils at the top of Mount Everest are not evidence for a global flood. Most fossil-containing layers, such as crinoid-rich Mississippian limestones, are extremely difficult to explain using young-Earth creationist flood geology. How did all of those fossils stay together in an ecological package in a global flood? [...]

    Pingback by Six bad answers to questions raised in Genesis are still six bad answers « Fr. Orthohippo | January 31, 2013

  14. With all due respect brother, your statement above in point 3 of # 12 is not correct. Romans 8 clearly states in verse 21 “because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”(NKJV). Therefore the creation itself was subjected to death and decay because of sin. This includes animals. Notice the creation itself (which includes animals) will once again enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God. This is clearly liberty from death. You are splitting hairs, and with no basis to do so, when you make statements to the effect sin only brought death to mankind. Clearly, Romans 8:20 shows the creation was also subjected to futility (death, decay) specifically because of the sin of man. Verses 22-3 tells us the creation groans and labors waiting for “its” liberation which is separate from “our” groaning within ourselves waiting for our redemption. Also, we see in Isaiah 11:6-9, in the Millennial Kingdom, all enmity between animals (and man) will be done away with in a partial restoration because, as the Holy Spirit says, “they will not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain”. The only reason you or anyone believes in this nonsense of an ancient earth with animals dying is because, primarily, you do not know the Lord your God as you should. He is LIFE and not death. In the end as we are told in Revelation, He will put all death under His feet because it is His enemy. God will not even have animals to die. Death of any kind is a thing to be annihilated by Him. In the fullness of His presence there is no death of any kind. This is why God the Father will not come down until Jesus has put all enemies under His feet. But you must have death before sin, else what you believe is dealt a mortal blow.
    And secondarily, you believe in billions of years because you believe what you see and what science says over what the Word of God says. You make the bible bow to science. But when science is found to be wrong, then what? It is as YEC say, its a matter of authority.

    Comment by Scott Bradshaw | October 27, 2013

  15. […] via: McGill U, Geochristian and Black River […]

    Pingback by Natural Earth’s Living Fossils | Natural Earth | November 27, 2013

  16. I find the arguments for and against your article intriguing and informative. The problem with some aspects of science is that they are based on assumptions–one could argue that even Creationist – based science is based on an assumption–> that God’s Word is inerrant and does not contradict.

    The geologic column is a poor example for an argument.as there are very few, if any, 100% complete samples. Most samples are missing layers, and then compared with other samples from other points around the world in hopes of finding the information that is missing. From what I understand, and please correct me if I’m wrong as my understanding isn’t nearly as detailed as yours, layers in the geologic column are dated based upon “known” fossil ages, which are dated via radiometric dating (K-Ar being the most widely used) under the assumption that gases do not escape through rock pores, fissures, and the like. It is the “circular” type of dating methods that the AiG has issues with, from what i understand. It is something that any scientist should question, quite honestly, regardless of whether your background is Christian, Atheist, Muslim, or whatever. The problem is that those who question the methods are silenced or laughed out of their profession because it does not coincide with what the devil wants man wants to believe. Remember: Galileo was jailed because he professed the earth moves around the sun. ((if my memory serves me correctly, I should add)). He was ridiculed for thinking different, and today we know that he was correct.

    Now, the problem I have with Christians who believe in old-earth dating is this: old-earth/evolutionary dating is contradictory to creation. You cannot believe in evolution/old-earth ages AND be a Christian because you are saying that you only believe in part of the Bible, not the entire Bible. A true Christian believes the entire Bible to be inerrant, non-contradictory, inspired words of God, not just parts of it that suit him or her and their ideals. If you take a look at the genealogy of man from the day he was created… you can see that man’s time on earth is very very short–not hundreds of thousands of years, but shorter. The Bible tells you this, if you take the time to study and follow the ages of births/deaths in Genesis, clear as day–man has not been on earth as long as evolutionists/long-age earth believers think they have been. This, for a Christian, is the first red alert that evolution/long-age can not be possible. This genealogy is the basis for the idea that earth is young–because God tells us it is through his chosen representatives on earth.

    I’m not saying science is bad, or this branch is better than that one. I love science, my boys love science, it’s a very intriguing topic in general that does the best it can to explain what God has created, and has made some very fascinating discoveries/connections. What I am trying to say is that “you cannot serve two masters”. You cannot say that you believe in the Bible’s accuracy, and then also say that you believe in man’s accuracy even more. I understand that in many branches of science, you must set aside personal beliefs, however, you must choose which master to serve–God or man–and you will be rewarded by your choice. Keep in mind that we live on God’s creation, but the world is controlled by the devil, who masquerades as light.

    **I am not trying to question the strength of anyone’s faith, only to remind us all that we can only serve one master so be wise about which one to serve.**

    Comment by Melissa | June 14, 2014


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