Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 3)

This is part three of a six-part series examining supposed evidences for a global flood that have recently appeared on the Answers in Genesis web site.
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, 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.
Part one examined the young-Earth creationist (YEC) argument that fossils at high elevations are proof of a global flood.
Part two examines the YEC argument that sedimentary rocks that contain dense accumulations of fossils can best be described by the action of Noah’s Flood.
Part three — this article
Part four looks at the YEC claim that long-distance transport of sand grains can only be explained by Noah’s flood.
Part five looks at unconformities and the boundaries between geological formations. The young-Earth crowd claims that there is no evidence for weathering and erosion between layers, which is simply not true.
Part six looks at whether or not layers must be soft rather than lithified in order to fold. Laboratory and field evidence indicate that solid rocks really can fold.
Credit: USGS
Stratigraphy of Grand Canyon National Park showing the position of the Tapeats Sandstone and Redwall Limestone.Credit: USGS

Flood evidence number three” from Answers in Genesis is called “Transcontinental Rock Layers.” In this article, young-Earth creationist Andrew Snelling describes sedimentary rock layers that cover large areas of continents, and tries to show that the vast extent of these layers is evidence for a global flood.

His first example is the Tapeats Sandstone, which forms the base of the Paleozoic record in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This formation is of Cambrian age, and sits unconformably above Precambrian sediments of the Grand Canyon Group. The main part of the Tapeats is composed of a very clean quartz sandstone. Almost all of the mineral grains in this sandstone are well-rounded quartz; there are very few grains with different composition, and there is very little clay in between the grains. This is typical of a well-worked sandy beach or eolian (wind-blown sand) environment.

Sandstones analogous to the Tapeats Sandstone form a continuous layer at the base of the Cambrian sediments in much of North America. In Montana this layer is known as the Flathead Sandstone, in Colorado it is the Sawatch Sandstone, in the Midwest it is the St. Simon Sandstone, and in New York it is the Potsdam Sandstone.

Snelling discusses the Tapeats Sandstone as follows:

The lowermost sedimentary layers in Grand Canyon are the Tapeats Sandstone, belonging to the Sauk Megasequence. It and its equivalents (those layers comprised of the same materials) cover much of the USA (Figure 3). We can hardly imagine what forces were necessary to deposit such a vast, continent- wide series of deposits. Yet at the base of this sequence are huge boulders (Figure 4) and sand beds deposited by storms (Figure 5). Both are evidence that massive forces deposited these sediment layers rapidly and violently right across the entire USA. Slow-and-gradual (present-day uniformitarian) processes cannot account for this evidence, but the global catastrophic Genesis Flood surely can.

Snelling actually understates the extent of these very similar basal Cambrian sandstones. Derek Ager, in his influential book The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record describes this as a feature of global, not just continental, proportions:

Even more remarkable than the basal Ordovician quartzite is the one that is found, almost all over the world, at the bottom of the Cambrian. […] Perhaps all that it is safe to say in this context is that very commonly around the world one finds an unfossiliferous quartzite conformably below fossiliferous Lower Cambrian and unconformably above a great variety of Precambrian rocks. This is true wherever one sees the base of the Cambrian in Britain, it is true in east Greenland, it is true in the Canadian Rockies and it is true in South Australia. In fact it is even more remarkable than this, in that it is not only the quartzite, but the whole deepening succession that tends to turn up almost everywhere; i.e. a basal conglomerate, followed by marine shales and thin limestones. In the northern Rockies one can even recognize at this level the “Pipe Rock’ of the Scottish Highlands–a bed full of borings known as Skolithos.

(Ager, The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, 2nd edition, p.11).

[a few explanations: 1. For our purposes here, quartzite is a very-well cemented or slightly metamorphosed sandstone. 2. Skolithos is a trace fossil interpreted as worm borings or tubes]

The standard geological explanation of these Cambrian sandstones is that they were deposited in a shallow marine to intertidal environment. The Skolithos worm borings are consistent with this explanation, as are the variety of sedimentary structures (e.g. cross bedding) that are found in these units.

The Madison Limestone at Gates of the Mountains, Montana. The Madison Limestone is equivalent to the Redwall Limestone of the Grand Canyon. Credit: Richard I. Gibson

Snelling also uses the Redwall Limestone of the Grand Canyon as a example of a sedimentary rock unit that covers a very large area:

Another layer in Grand Canyon is the Lower Carboniferous (Mississippian) Redwall Limestone. This belongs to the Kaskaskia Megasequence of North America. So the same limestones appear in many places across North America, as far as Tennessee and Pennsylvania. These limestones also appear in the exact same position in the strata sequences, and they have the exact same fossils and other features in them.

Unfortunately, these limestones have been given different names in other locations because the geologists saw only what they were working on locally and didn’t realize that other geologists were studying essentially the same limestone beds in other places. Even more remarkable, the same Carboniferous limestone beds also appear thousands of miles east in England, containing the same fossils and other features.

Again, Snelling is understating the extent of these Mississippian Limestones. Similar limestones can be found not only throughout the American and Canadian West, but up to Alaska, into the Midwest, and in continental Europe and the Himalayas (Ager, pp. 7-8).

Snelling’s conclusion is that the only way to explain extensive layers like these is by invoking Noah’s Flood. He states that these layers could have only been deposited rapidly in a very short time. But there are a number of problems with Snelling’s explanation of these sediments:

    1. Snelling, like other young-Earth creationists, uses the wide extent of these units as evidence for large-scale, or even global-scale processes. I think that the opposite may be true: that the scale of these units works against the catastrophist explanation. For example, the fact that much of the North American continent (as well as large portions of other continents) is covered by the Cambrian Tapeats Sandstone and its equivalents means that all of the other Flood sediments—let’s say the rest of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic—had to already be in suspension in the waters above the pure-sand Tapeats:


  1. While all of these sediments were in suspension, according to the AiG/Snelling model, there could have been no mixing of sediments of different ages. There was no mixing of Ordovician with Silurian, or Paleozoic with Mesozoic.
  2. Likewise, there could have been no mixing of sediments from different sedimentary environments. Reef sediments (complete with intact ecological zonation: fore reef, back reef, breaker zone, etc.) couldn’t have mixed with beach sediments, deep water sediments couldn’t have mixed with intertidal sediments, and marine sediments couldn’t have mixed with non-marine sediments.
  3. Additionally, there could never have been any kind of turbulence that would place rock units out of order. The sequence isn’t Cambrian-Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian in one place, and Cambrian-Devonian-Silurian-Ordovician in another place.
  4. The boulder and cobble-bearing layers (conglomerates) of the Tapeats and its equivalents tend to be near what seem to be islands that stuck up above the sea, and the size of the grains decreases with increasing distance from the source areas. The rock types of the grains matches that of the islands. These are, therefore, local features; not the result of a global flood. The conglomerate layers likely originated during storms. (Additionally, the conglomerate layers don’t always occur at the base of the Cambrian sandstones as Snelling states).
  5. Snelling really gives no evidence in his article that these various units were deposited rapidly over large areas. He gives a few examples of rapid deposition on a smaller scale, such as the preservation of supposed water-laid dunes in the Coconino Sandstone (which most geologists interpret as wind deposits, not water deposits), but provides no evidence that catastrophism is the dominant means of deposition of any of the rock units he describes. Local deposition may be catastrophic for a short period of time, as in storm conglomerates, but it is a wild extrapolation to say that the entire geologic column was deposited rapidly, and there is plenty of evidence that it wasn’t.

The standard geological explanation of the Cambrian sandstones is that the sand was first blown around on the barren continental surface. This lead to exceptional rounding of the grains, distinctive microscopic textures on the sand grains, and a winnowing of virtually all clay. Eventually the sand was blown into shallow seas that covered large portions of the continents. Here the sand was reworked by various currents, as indicated by ripple and dune features (sedimentary structures) preserved in the sandstone. Actual deposition did not occur over the entire continent at once, but shifted as sea levels rose throughout the time of deposition. This explanation works well, is consistent with a variety of field and experimental data, and doesn’t require that all post-Tapeats sediments already be in suspension while the Tapeats and its equivalents were being deposited.

Remember: the Bible doesn’t say that the sedimentary rock record was laid down by Noah’s Flood. Organizations like Answers in Genesis do a considerable amount of arm waving and wild extrapolation in order to make the rocks fit their model, but this is completely unnecessary.

Up next: Flood Evidence #4: Sand Transported Cross Country.

With love for the body of Christ.

9 thoughts on “Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 3)

  1. Virginia Peterson

    Thanks for doing these articles – I don’t have the detailed knowledge to always see where they’re wrong.

    By the way, I just ran across this from something about the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada:

    “The Shinarump Conglomerate, lower stratum of the Chinle Formation, formed from small, rounded pebbles of chert, quartz, red-brown jasper, quartzite, limestone, and dolomite, deposited during flood runoff.” How do you get all those different kinds of rocks formed, hardened and re-eroded to make that particular layer during the Flood?


  2. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment.

    You are right, a conglomerate like the Shinarump Member of the Chinle Formation in the Southwest US is difficult to explain as being formed in a short period of time by something like Noah’s Flood. The Shinarump contains clasts (fragments) from older sedimentary rocks, which implies that they had already been lithified (or solidified). But if they were lithified, and if rapid deposition was occurring, how were they then eroded? Many problems of Flood geology can be summed up with the phrase “too many events, too little time.”


  3. Rod

    Beyond the inconsistencies between the existing geologic record and new earth creationism is a question I find hard to answer: What sort of God would make his creation appear to be billions of years old if it wasn’t, particularly if that appearance would cause doubt among those who read His Word literally?

    Or perhaps a simple application of Occam’s razor: If the world looks like it is billions of years old, perhaps it is.

    A geologic record consistent with a six thousand year old world would certainly be tidy for Christians, but we must seek truth first.


  4. I call him a fraud based off the facts that his views match up to what he wants based off his faith and beliefs instead of the truth and facts. His goal is to make a profit off of his books and DVD’s. His “facts” are mixed with “falsehoods” to deceive people for a profit. Whether he does it intentionally or not this is what he does. He is basically a snake oil sales man, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is making money off selling people what they want to hear about the history of the earth.


  5. Below is just a brief synapses for the “facts” he presents with a true geologic rebuttal from me.

    1 Dr. Snelling presents lines of evidence that both confirm the biblical account of the global Flood and cannot be explained by evolutionary models. Includes fossils high atop the Himalayas, the movement of the continents during the Flood, and more. Marine fossils are also found high in the Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountain range, reaching up to 29,029 feet (8,848 m) above sea level. For example, fossil ammonites (coiled marine cephalopods) are found in limestone beds in the Himalayas of Nepal. All geologists agree that ocean waters must have buried these marine fossils in these limestone beds. So how did these marine limestone beds get high up in the Himalayas?

    1 This is a very flat earth old world belief that the flood must have washed these up so high. Fossils are high atop the Himalayas due to plate tectonics. The Indian plate over millions of years has slid up and hit the Eurasian plate pushing the crust of the earth up and the rocks that were once on the bottom of the ocean are now the top of mountains in the solid bedrock. A flood would not create rock fossils in limestone layers like this, thin layers over millions of years are laid down at the bottom of oceans. As weight builds atop they are compressed and over time turn to stone and fossils. These layers were laid down flat in layers in the bottom of the ocean and have now been metamorphicly bent and twisted up to the top of the mountain as the two plates push against each other and continue to push. Sorry these fossils were laid down at the bottom of the ocean first, turned to fossil and stone, and have been moved over time (millions of years) to their current location. Link to USGS (United States Geologic Survey) with better explanation.

    The Himalayas are still growing every year they push higher as the Indian plate continues to move north. All the plates of the earth crust continue move around. See this about plate tectonics for more information:

    The plates of the earth over 100’s of millions of years move around. There are also Fossils of ferns and dinosaurs in Antarctica from when this plate used to be up near at the equator.

    Just ask the Hawaii chain of islands these were formed over millions of years as the pacific plate has slid to the north and west making island after island for millions of years. Just ask California who in a few million years part of it will slowly slide up and out into the ocean where the san Andréa’s fault lies. Earthquakes volcanoes around the ring of fire of the pacific these are all facts and proof of plate tectonics and the age of the earth.

    2 This presentation reveals the failed attempts of evolutionists to account for millions of years of earth history and points to the true biblical age of the earth.

    2 The earth is truly over 4.6 billion years old and the universe at best current estimate around 14 billion years old. Life has been on earth according to the fossil record for over 500 million years, first as small organisms and over the course of the last 500 million years have evolved and created everything around us out of star dust! Here is a good geologic time chart for example:…is_highres.png here is a good timescale map of the earth for better idea.


  6. 3 Radiometric dating does not prove the earth is billions of years old. Using simple illustrations, Dr. Snelling examines the anti-biblical assumptions of radiometric dating and equips viewers with information to counter the arguments.

    3 Good explanation of the age of the earth from the USGS and how it is dated. The earth basically washes away layers and recycles its rocks over billions of years. Is also why we do not have all the meteor craters as you see on the moon mars etc. erosion wears mountains down and washes away, deposits and reforms.

    4 Dr. Snelling explains how radiohalos hidden in the crystals that make up rocks unlock a biblical understanding of radiometric dating and the age of the earth.

    4 This is a his only concept and has no scientific make up or validity. This is his word only and only his method that he has come up with it is not scientifically valid or true and also does not exist as any testing method used by any geologist. (Snake Oil anyone?)

    5 Grand Canyon offers some of the most breathtaking vistas in the world, but did the tiny Colorado River really carve this massive feature? Dr. Snelling explains the formation of the canyon in light of the global Flood of Noah’s day, not slow and gradual processes.

    5 The grand canyon was created during the last 5 million years…d-canyon.shtml The rock layers in the canyon are much older and were laid down when that part of the usa was actually shallow sea. This area has slowly risen up along with the rocky mountains and as the Colorado river has carved down through the layers. During the glacial periods (about every 100,000 years) there is plenty of water to wash down the canyon to carve it even deeper.

    One of the biggest issues I have is the inconsistency of his methods data and the vast amount of proof for these processes that he is not sharing and ignoring. Take any historical geology class at a local college and you will learn the true history and age of the earth and its processes for yourself and know the truth. I studied geology and have a degree myself in Geology so I know.

    I would rather look at a great flood story as ancient stories that have been passed on by our human ancestors from back before written language generation to generation. And there is no possible way for two of every creature on earth to fit on the ark, There are over 8000 species of ants alone not to mention the numbers of animals in far reaches of the earth that science continues to find and the 1,000,000’s of plant and insect species. Believer’s think they can invoke a miracle whenever they get stuck in an apparently illogical corner. I am a logical thinker and logic makes sense to me stories with half truths are hard to swallow and believe. Of course they say that takes Faith but when Faith also believes in lies is it true?

    When people believe blindly in what is written down so long ago and they are so stubborn in these views to not be able to change their beliefs based off of facts this is not a good thing and leads to war and conflict. Science and faith used to be hand in hand until things were written down in stone. The time when the world was flat and the earth was the center of the universe is basically the equivalent of today’s creation vs. evolution battle. That type of 6000 year old earth Creation is a flat earth science. I can dig in my back yard and find glacial deposits from the last ice age over 15,000 years ago.

    I personally have basically the same view as this book and have before it was ever even written. This view is perhaps the best book I am still reading I suggest you read it and open your mind and heart instead of being caught up with something that was written before people could understand and translate the correct story. God has slowly evolved us over millions of years from the dust of stars to being able to look up at the stars and thinking about them. We are basically the universe woken up and aware of itself.

    Thanks you for listening I know my belief may be far from your own but I am open to learning the truth about the earth and its history are you?


  7. Pingback: Six bad answers to questions raised in Genesis are still six bad answers « Fr. Orthohippo

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