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Fossils sorted by a combination of these factors (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Fossils sorted by a combination of these factors (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 CH561.4:

The order of fossils deposited by Noah's Flood can be explained by a combination of hydrologic sorting, differential escape, and ecological zonation.

Source: Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Arkansas: Master Books, pp. 118-120.

CreationWiki response:

First off, Talk Origins' source is out of date. Since then, biogeographic zonation, selective preservation, and tectonic activity have been added to the list.

Biogeographic zonation.

This is simply the fact that animals that lived in the same area would tend to be found together. Those from other parts of the world would not be found with them. For example if a global flood occurred today, one would not expect to find elephants and opossums buried together.

Selective preservation.

This is the tendency for some organisms to not be fossilized in certain rocks or in a certain way. There are actually three types of fossils: imprint, cast, and mineralized.

  • Imprints are where the organism simply left an imprint on a rock.
  • Casts are where the organism left a cavity in a rock that got filled in by other material.
  • Mineralization is where the material of the bones or other body parts get replaced by minerals.

The fact that some organisms are found fossilized in some of these and not others is also a clue. Vertebrates tend to be mineralized, while plants as shells tend to leave imprints, and shells and marine invertebrates tend to leave casts. It could be that many of these were buried together, but the fossilization mode in a given rock layer preserved one type and not the others.

Tectonic activity.

By itself tectonic activity would not affect fossil order, but it could have pushed some fossils over others before the sediments hardened.

All of these mechanisms alone do not explain fossil order, nor would they if they were put together except for the random aspect of the Flood. If all of these mechanisms are treated statistically, they increase the odds of a given fossil winding up in a given location and decrease the odds of them showing up some place else.

Take fossils A,B,C, and D. If various factors significantly increased the odds of A coming first, B & C coming in the middle and D coming last, then A,B,C,D and A,C,B,D would represent the most Likely patterns.

One difficulty Creationists have with fossil order is determining exactly what that order is. The theoretical geologic column so permeates the classification of rocks and fossils that checking to see how well it agrees with reality is nearly impossible. There is no known study of the actual three dimensional distribution of fossils in the Earth's crust, which would include depth, of individual fossil finds, and height relative to sea level. While it is sometimes possible to get depth information on selected sites, in many case it is absent. Yet, so called deep fossils such as those labeled as Cambrian can be found at as little as five feet below the surface, while fossils found higher in the geologic column can be found physically deeper.

The theoretical geologic column is a uniformitarian construct that does not exist intact at any place in the world. While there are a few places where rocks have been labeled as from every period on the chart, none of these places contain the entire column. To do so the sediment would have to be 100 miles thick and there is no place on Earth where this is the case. Furthermore, none of these locations have all 34 types of index fossils. Since the theoretical geologic column is a uniformitarian construct, insisting that creationists explain it by means of the Flood is just another example of, "Your theory does not work under my theory so your theory is wrong".

Flood geology only needs to show that the Flood can explain the fossil order in any given location, not the entire theoretical geologic column of uniformitarian geology.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Even this combination of forces fails to explain many aspects of the sorting of fossils. In particular, the problems with ecological zonation are not significantly mitigated by the other two sorting methods.

First of all Talk.Origins is insisting that Flood geology try to explain the theoretical geologic column of uniformitarian geology when all that is needed is to explain local fossil order. It also ignores the fact that some fossils are proably post-flood. Furthermore, there are more than just these three factors, others include biogeogrphic zonation, selective preservation, tectonic activity and just plain luck.

2. Conventional geology explains the geological record, including its fossils, mineral content, geomagnetism, and radioisotopes. It does so in great detail and with great consistency in many, many places.

Great detail and consistency are often possible when everything is interpreted by and calibrated to one theoretical system. At least three of four areas mentioned above (fossils, geomagnetism, and radioisotopes) have enough anomolies to raise legitimate questions about "conventional geology."

  • Flood geology does not give a detailed explanation anywhere; what little explanation it offers is extremely vague hand-waving, inconsistent with observations.

Assuming for the sake of argument there is some truth to the above statement, it needs to be noted that modern creation science only got started about 1961 and has little if any of the funding available to uniformitarian geology, so Flood geology is still very much a work in progress and many areas are still under development. Progress is being made, so there are plenty of failed theories that Talk Origins can point to and say they don't work.

However the above statement is not correct. While discussions of flood geology most often deal with general concepts, the same can be said of uniformitarian geology. Sufficient research has been done in the western United States to provide a detailed explanation of the sedimentation in this area.

Flood geology is quite capable of giving detailed explanations of mineral content and geomagnetism. In fact Dr. Russell Humphreys' model of planetary magnetic fields does a much better job of explaining the magnetic fields of the other planets than the dynamo theory has any hope of doing. Considerable progress has been made in recent years with regards to radioisotopes, bringing creationists to the verge of detailed explanations of radioisotopes. Even in the area of fossils progress is being made despite the difficulty of getting around the uniformitarian assumptions that are made in classifying fossils. Flood geology explanations are not "hand-waving". They are at worst works in prgress, but that is the nature of science.

3. The geological record contains more than biological fossils. Sediment patterns also record planetary rhythms from which we can determine the length of the day and long-term changes in climate.

Neither of which stand up to objective scrutiny.

  • From these, we find that the geological record shows the moon is slowing consistent with tidal friction [see also Sonett et al. 1996],

Actually the fossils on which this claim is based would require the earth to be slowing about 67% faster than is observed to be the case. They do not show any indication of the decrease in the rate of slowing that would occur as the Moon recedes. Simply put, the claim that these fossils show the slowing of the Earth's rotation over time violates both observation and the laws of physics.

At first glance this claim looks convincing since D180.gif (a main indicator of climate change) seem to reach a peak negative right at the 100,000 year peak in the eccentricity of the Earth orbit. However, closer scrutiny shows problems with this theory. First of all theD180.gif peak negative does not correspond to the variation in the size of the eccentricity peaks. That is, smaller eccentricity peaks should produce smallerD180.gif peak negatives, and larger eccentricity peaks should produce larger D180.gif peak negatives, but they don't. Furthermore, the change in eccentricity produces a change in solar radiation of only 1–2%, which is about that of the difference over a single 11-year solar cycle, and it is too small a difference to account for the indicated degree of climate change. The result is that the apparent match up between Milankovitch cycles and climate change is at best a coincidence.

Reference: The role of the sun in climate forcing

  • These "fossils" depend only on astronomical forces; they could not be explained by the Flood

Actually it is only the uniformitarian interpretations of these fossils that depend on astronomical forces, and both sets of interpretations have problems, suggesting that the patterns have other causes.

4. There are innumerable other observations which contradict a global flood [Isaak 1998].

All such claims fall under two categories

  • Purely uniformitarian interpretations that have another interpretation under flood geology. These make up the overwhelming majority of such claims and they are just cases of "Your theory does not work under my theory so your theory must be wrong".
  • A misunderstanding of the flood and how it relates to the fossil record.

In any case the alleged contradictions result mainly from an inability to break out of the uniformitarian box. Yes, a global flood contradicts many interpretations of uniformitarian geology, but a uniformitarian interpretation of evidence is not evidence, though it is often confused for evidence.