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Large collections of fossils indicate catastrophism (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Large collections of fossils indicate catastrophism (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 CC362:

There are many places where fossils occur in great numbers. These vast fossil beds indicate catastrophic rapid burial, not gradualistic conditions.


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Great numbers of fossils in one area indicate great numbers of animals dying in that area (or, in some cases, their bodies being transported there). Usually, this argues against rapid burial, because that many animals are not found together at once in life. A simpler explanation is that animals have died in the area over many years. For example, one mass burial is at the La Brea Tar Pits, which have been trapping animals for thousands of years.

This assumes that fossils are always found where the animals lived or close to where they lived. A uniformitarian geologist would have to make such an assumption since his theory provides no way of transporting dead animals over large distances. However such fossil beds are predicted by flood geology. A global flood would be capable of transporting bodies hundreds or even thousands of miles.

Most places where mass fossil beds are found do not have conditions like the La Brea Tar Pits. In most cases there is no reason to conclude that the fossils resulted from animals dying over a long time, except the requirements of uniformitarian geology. To get such fossil beds by uniformitarian methods not only requires having persistent conditions for fossilization, but it also requires having large numbers of different types of animals dying in the same area, while keeping scavengers from scattering and destroying the bones. The La Brea Tar Pits does this by preventing the bones from scattering and trapping the scavengers, but this would not be the case in most areas where mass fossil beds are found. As a result the most likely origin of mass fossil beds would be a massive large scale flood.

2. In fact, vast fossil beds are evidence against catastrophic rapid burial. One formation alone (the Karroo Formation in Africa) is estimated to contain 800 billion vertebrate fossils.

This figure is nothing but conjecture at best. The figure comes from Robert Broom. He starts with an estimated 5 visible fossils per square mile. For his next step, he seems to estimate about 1000 fossils per square mile in the top layer when those covered by sand and dust are considered. He gives no reason for why this figure might be accurate but simply assumes it. Next he multiplies the 1000 fossils per square mile by the 200,000 square miles of the formation to get 200,000,000 fossil animals at the surface. Finally he assumes a new fossil layer every 6 inches over the 2,000 foot average thickness of the formation, giving 4,000 layers of fossils to get the 800 billion figure. Of all the figures used in deriving this estimate only the 200,000 square miles of the formation and the 2,000 foot average thickness seem to have any basis in fact, the others are pure conjecture. Even the figure for the average number of visible fossils per square mile seems be a guess. The simple fact is that by making the right assumptions one could arrive at any figure for the estimated number of fossils one wants.

Even if the estimated number were correct, according to Flood geology most of the dead animals would have been funneled into the area by the Flood so this number is still not a problem.

If that is just 1 percent of the world's fossils, there must be 2100 vertebrate animals per acre, far more than we see today.

This statement makes several assumptions.

  1. That the 800 billion figure is accurate.
  2. That the area contains only 1% of the world's fossils.
  3. That the land area in the past is about the same as it is today.

If any of these assumptions are wrong, so is this figure. Even if it could be correct, all it would show is that in the past the Earth was capable of supporting more life than it does today and such is expected in Flood geology.

Fossil plant remains, such as coal, are almost 100 times more massive than living plant biomass.

  1. The pre-Flood Earth was probably capable of supporting this extra plant biomass
  2. Estimates of how of how much biomass is needed to form observed coal and oil deposits assume uniformitarian theories of coal formation, estimates based on Flood geology are considerably less.

3. Mass kills can occur through normal processes. Every year, hundreds of wildebeests drown during river crossings on their annual migration. Their bodies wash up on river banks. Collapse of the stream banks could bury many. Other local catastrophes can also kill many animals at once.

While this is true, no recent process comes even close to examples found in the fossil record such as the Karoo Formation in Africa.