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Experiments show that strata can violate principles of superposition (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Experiments show that strata can violate principles of superposition (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CD240:

Experiments in a water tank showed that sedimentary layers can be laid down very quickly in patterns that violate the geological principles of superposition (that layers are deposited horizontally with younger ones on top) and continuity (that each layer has the same age at every point). In particular, lamination is sometimes the result of segregation of particles according to size, not the result of successive layering; lamination deposits can be produced on slopes.

Source: Berthault, Guy, 2000 (Oct.). Experiments in stratification. Impact 328,

Snelling, Andrew, 1997.Sedimentation experiments: Nature finally catches up! Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 11(2):125-126.

CreationWiki response:

(Talk Origins quotes in blue)

1. The results of Berthault do not invalidate the principle of superposition. Newer layers still appear on top of older layers.

Clearly Talk Origins does not understand Berthault's results. What Talk Origins means by newer layers, are those that are considered newer under uniformitarian geology as described by the geologic column. What Berthault shows is that superposition can not be assumed. Superposition assumes that the layer are laid down bottom to top.


This results in equal time horizons going bottom to top such that t1 > t2 > t3.


Berthault shows that layers can be laid down sideways.


This results in equal time horizons going sideways such that t1 > t2 > t3.


This does not mean that superposition does not occur at all, since a newer sediment flows could be on top of an older one, but it means that superposition is not always the case and may not be the general case.

  • Berthault's results duplicate a case where the layers are not laid down horizontally, but the principle of superposition does not require horizontal depositional surfaces.

True, but Berthault's results show that superposition is not always true and that it may be the exception rather than the rule.

  • Berthault errs in confusing the principle of superposition with the principle of original horizontality, which was already known to have limited application.

Berthault is not confusing superposition and original horizontality, he is showing that the time horizon need not be in line with superposition. This statement not only proves that Talk Origins does not understand Berthault's work, but that they are so stuck in their uniformitarian mind set that they can not think outside the uniformitarian box.

  • Berthault's experiments only duplicate results which were familiar to sedimentologists decades earlier.

Actually the basic principles have been known since the end of the 1800's and Berthault's experiments build on those principles. Berthault's experiments studied these principles in a controlled environment. He also applied them to geology in general. The principles may be known, but they are not usually applied to general geology. Uniformitarian geology predates the discovery of these principles by about 100 years, but the uniformitarian mind set has prevented them from being applied to general geology. Berthault broke out of that box and showed that there is another way of looking at geology.

* There is nothing of significance in his work.

This is a necessary conclusion if one is incapable of departing from uniformitarian geology, but to flood geology it is quite significant. Talk Origins is showing an inability to think outside the uniformitarian box. They do not see this as significant because their mind set does not allow for any other view of geology but uniformitarianism.