I wrote about dinosaur footprints a few weeks ago here and here. I had recently attended a young-Earth creation seminar where the speaker used very questionable examples of “human” footprints in Permian and Cretaceous rocks as evidence that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.
Many of these “human” footprints turn out to be forgeries. A scientist can easily tell a genuine footprint from a fake one. One way I mentioned before is to examine the thin layers (laminations) in the sediment beneath the footprint. If the footprint is genuine, the weight of the animal will have depressed the layers beneath the impression:
Freshly deposited sediments contain a lot of pore space, and are easily compressed.
On the other hand, if the footprint is a forgery, the carving will cut across the layering, with no compression of the layers beneath:
This is illustrated by the following photos from the Jurassic Morrison Formation, near Red Rocks Park west of Denver:
These are believed to be sauropod (picture “brontosaurus”) footprints, seen from the side (top photo) and from below (bottom photo). The size and distribution of the bulges suggest this interpretation, and the layering is depressed beneath each of these features, as discussed above.
Using this kind of evidence, geologists (including Christian geologists, even those associated with the Institute for Creation Research) have rightfully rejected every instance that has been suggested for human footprints in very old rocks.
The very presence of these footprints speaks against the whole flood-geology model advocated by young-Earth creationists. The following footprints are also exposed west of Denver:
This one exposure, in the Cretaceous Dakota Formation, has hundreds of footprints. Other Mesozoic locations have thousands of footprints, such as the “Dinosaur Dance Floor” recently described from the Jurassic of the Utah-Arizona border.
Based on multiple criteria, geologists seek to determine the type of environment these features formed in. The Dakota Formation footprints shown above are interpreted to have formed in a coastal environment, based on the types and distribution of sediments, sedimentary structures (such as ripple marks), fossils, and trace fossils (such as worm burrows). The Morrison Formation sauropod footprints, on the other hand, were deposited in a stream channel. Again, the type and distribution of sediments, sedimentary structures, and fossils help geologists to make this type of interpretation.
Young-Earth creationists insist that all of these sediments formed in Noah’s flood. (Now the Bible doesn’t say that the sedimentary rocks were deposited in Noah’s flood, but that is a bit off topic for now). Let’s examine what it would take for these rock layers I have been discussing in Colorado to be a product of the flood. Here’s what would have had to have happened:
- The flood covers all the Earth, eroding the continents down to their roots. Most erosion, according to this model, would have had to have happened early in the flood.
- At this point, the world-wide ocean was a slurry of water, sediments, and fossils.
- Deposition of thousands of feet of sediments, representing Proterozoic through Triassic rocks.
- Deposition of some Jurassic sediments. Then some dinosaurs go walking around. Then some more deposition. Then some more dinosaurs–a bunch this time–go wandering around. Then some more deposition of sediments. Then more dinosaurs trotting along the beach. Then more sediments. Wait, how did these dinosaurs all survive the previous part of the Flood?
- Deposition of thousands of feet of sediments on top of all of this.
- Lithification of the sediments (changing from soft sediments to solid sedimentary rocks).
- Uplift of the Rocky Mountains, tilting up these layers to a steep angle (they aren’t horizontal anymore).
- Erosion to expose the rocks.
Multiply this by hundreds of sites worldwide. Add other considerations, such as the presence of complete dinosaur nests in the Cretaceous of Montana and other places. Did dinosaurs have time to make nests, lay eggs, and for those eggs to hatch, right in the middle of the flood?
In the young-Earth flood model, dinosaur footprints shouldn’t even exist in mid-flood sediments. But they do, in large numbers in some places.
The reason that I take the time to write about this is the gospel. For us to present young-Earth creationism as apologetics, and as a necessary part of Christian faith, actually works against the spread of the Kingdom among many groups, such as scientists. This is placing, as I have written before, an unnecessary and tragic stumbling block, keeping people from being open to Christianity. Let the foolishness of the message of the Cross be the stumbling block, not our bad arguments in defense of the Bible.
Grace and Peace
Photos by Kevin Nelstead