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Were Most of Earth's Fossil-Bering Sedimentary Rock Layers Deposited by Noah's Flood?


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This presentation uses the Coconino Sandstone to evaluate the question of whether it is quantitatively reasonable for sedimentary formations to have been deposited by Noah's Flood.

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Were Most of Earth's Fossil-Bering Sedimentary Rock Layers Deposited by Noah's Flood?

  1. 1. Were Most of Earth’s Fossil-Bearing Sedimentary Rock Layers Deposited by Noah’s Flood? A Look at the Coconino Sandstone Tim Helble July 29, 2017
  2. 2. This presentation is by no means intended to destroy anyone’s faith. It may, however, cause some to re-evaluate how certain portions of the Bible should be interpreted, particularly the early chapters of Genesis. If your entire Christian faith rests on a literal six-day interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and the principles of what is popularly known as young- earth creationism, please consider not proceeding with this presentation.
  3. 3. Were most of Earth’s fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers deposited by Noah’s Flood? As is often the case, Grand Canyon will be the focus. A related question: is it just a matter of looking at the same data through two different world views and coming to two different conclusions? Images obtained from an Answers in Genesis slide
  4. 4. Keep in mind that about 75% of Earth’s land surface and almost all of the ocean bottom are covered by sedimentary rock, so whatever occurred in the Grand Canyon area also had to occur all over the planet… At the same time!
  5. 5. Young-earth advocates will say most of these layers were deposited by the global Flood
  6. 6. Early Flood Layers (1st 150 Days) Pre-Flood/ Creation Week Rock Late Flood Layers The “Great Unconformity” Young-earth advocates Drs. Steve Austin and Andrew Snelling divide up Grand Canyon’s layers according to this scheme NPS
  7. 7. Young-earth advocates have offered alternate explanations for how several of these Grand Canyon formations were deposited, which makes for interesting discussion… and often, you might hear them say something like: “We use the same data as the evolutionists, we just come to different conclusions.” Ron Blakey
  8. 8. Callen Bentley – N. VA Community College National Park Service Looking at the Bright Angel Shale, a mainstream geologist could point out that crawling and burrowing traces have been found which indicate a relatively stable environ- ment and plenty of time for each new layer of fine sediment added to the formation to be colonized and reworked by trilobites and other primitive animals without being immediately crushed under the weight of higher layers. However, a Flood geologist could respond and say that burrows are 'escape traces' left by organisms escaping rapid sedimentation, and thus do not require long time periods to form. Same data, different conclusions, right? Ron Blakey
  9. 9. Looking at the lowest member of the Redwall Limestone, a main- stream geologist could point out that nautiloid fossils have been found next to upright Crinoid stems; which, along with the rock’s composition, indicates they died in a shallow water nearshore (ocean) environment. However, a Flood geologist could respond and say that millions of nautiloid fossils may exist in this formation, indicating a mass kill which occurred when they were suddenly buried by tons of lime mud transported by a submarine liquefied sediment gravity current. Same data, different conclusions, right? Robert Leighty (2004) Carol Hill Upright crinoid stem Ron Blakey
  10. 10. Carol Hill Looking at the Coconino Sandstone, a mainstream geologist could point out that footprints of Komodo-Dragon size reptile, smaller animals, and even spiders have been found in its beds, showing that the sand upon which they were walking was exposed to the atmosphere. However, a Flood geologist could respond and say that Dr. Leonard Brand found that amphibians in a water tank made footprints on the sandy bottom that were similar in form to those seen in the Coconino Sandstone, therefore the footprints could have been made by animals trying to escape the onslaught of Flood waters. Same data, different conclusions, right? Leonard R. Brand, Origins 5(2):64-82 (1978). Ron Blakey
  11. 11. So, at least from the perspective of an average person from a non-scientific background, it would appear that the old- earth and young-earth sides could argue until they’re blue in the face about whether Grand Canyon’s layers were deposited in less than a year by Noah’s Flood or over eons of time – some 280 million years. Based on graphics from Answers in Genesis and Steve Austin Ron Blakey
  12. 12. But suppose there were data for Grand Canyon’s layers which both sides agree on… and suppose simple math can be used on that data to show there was no way the layers could have been deposited during a year long global Flood? It turns out this can be done for a hotly disputed formation – the Coconino Sandstone… Ron Blakey Let’s see if it could have been laid down during the Flood…
  13. 13. U.S. Geological Survey Geologists say the Coconino’s complex cross-bed structure indicates it was formed through wind-driven (eolian) processes
  14. 14. Sand can’t be transported by wind-driven processes during a global Flood, so young-earth advocates try to prove the Coconino Sandstone was deposited by water Kelso Sand Dunes, CA Brennan JordanBruce Perry
  15. 15. Young earth advocates say the cross beds were formed during the Flood by advancing underwater sand waves water flow Answers in Genesis For example, see video
  16. 16. Let’s look at a graphical procedure developed by young-earth advocate Dr. Steven A. Austin to show how the Coconino could have been deposited by flowing water during the Flood. Austin’s procedure is widely used by other young-earth advocates such as Andrew Snelling, seen here showing it at an Answers in Genesis conference.
  17. 17. Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure Found in Grand Canyon – Monument to Catastrophe, Page 34 See also Andrew Snelling, Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Volume 2, page 1081.
  18. 18. Austin derived this graph from an equation in “Physical Processes of Sedimen- tation” by J.R.L. Allen (1970)… And combined it with this graph, re- drawn from a 1980 paper by D.M. Rubin and D.S. McCulloch Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure
  19. 19. Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure Where did Rubin and McCulloch get their data for deeper water? See: Giant Underwater Sand Waves Seaward of the Golden Gate Bridge Current too fast here (5-6 mph) – no sand waves can form Current slower here (2- 4 mph) – sand waves up to 33 ft form Situation shown: outgoing tide from San Francisco Bay
  20. 20. First, he assumes a 10 meter (33 ft) height for sand waves From 10 meters, draw a line up until it reaches the curve Austin’s Flood Velocity Estimation Procedure How does it work? Austin states this indicates the sand waves formed at a depth of 54 meters (177 feet) 54
  21. 21. Then draw a line to the right through “dunes and sand waves” area XX Note the two points where line crosses edges of “dunes and sand waves” area Want “dunes and sand waves” area because it has cross beds NPS
  22. 22. ↔ 90 to 155 cm/sec (2 - 4 mph) NPS Then go down from those two points to the bottom Austin says this gives the range of water velocity needed to form 10 meter sand waves at a depth of 54 meters
  23. 23. 1 kg per second per meter means 1 kilogram of sediment (sand) crossing a 1-meter-long line every second Another graph in the same paper used by Austin! And this one has sediment transport rates… What’s a sediment transport rate? 1 m eter If each man is shoveling 1 kilogram across his meter stick every second, the sediment transport rate is 1 kilogram / second / meter
  24. 24. With this new graph, here’s what Austin’s double graph procedure should have looked like…
  25. 25. What kind of sediment transport rates would we see if the current speed was between 90 to 155 cm/sec and the depth was 54 meters? i.e., somewhere in this area of the graph
  26. 26. A generous sediment transport rate for a current speed between 90 to 155 cm/sec and a depth of 54 meters 30 We could draw a curve through that area and estimate it represents a rate of 6 or perhaps 9 kg/second/meter… But let’s give the young-earth position every possible break and estimate it would be 30 kg/sec/meter
  27. 27. 10 meters Current This was from the Answers in Genesis website. Notice the regular pattern of cross beds here. Compare to the complex pattern in the previous close-up of the Coconino Sandstone O.k., what area would we be moving all this sand into? And where would it all be coming from?
  28. 28. In Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, page 36, Dr. Austin provides a map like the one below showing the area of the Coconino and correlated sandstones to the east
  29. 29. Dr. Austin says we need to look to the north for a source of sand for the Coconino Sandstone, so let’s draw a 1,000 mile long northern border. ←1,000 miles →
  30. 30. Look at Dr. Snelling’s slide – he says the volume of the Coconino is 10,000 mi3 and its average thickness is 315 feet.
  31. 31. How many days would it take to move all the sand from the north across that line? According to Drs. Austin and Snelling… Coconino is an “early Flood” layer (first 150 days) Volume of the Coconino is 10,000 cubic miles Average thickness of the Coconino is 315 feet Total thickness of “early Flood” layers in Grand Canyon is 4,000 feet Therefore: Time to move 10,000 cubic miles of sand to form the Coconino is ≈ 315 ft / 4,000 ft x 150 days ≈ 12 days Not very long!
  32. 32. 10,000 cubic miles of sand 10,000 cubic miles of sand Let’s use bars to represent the sand being transported from the north across the border, and assume 10,000 cubic miles of sand was perfectly positioned in an area to the north at just the right time during the Flood. Remember, lower and higher layers also had to be transported in the same way before and after the Coconino was deposited. North South
  33. 33. 10,000 cubic miles of sand The big question: could enough sand be transported in 12 days through Dr. Austin’s advancing sand wave mechanism to form the Coconino Sandstone (with its complex cross beds) in Flood currents moving at speeds anywhere close to 90 to 155 cm/sec? North South
  34. 34. How much sand would cross the 1,000 mile boundary in 12 days? Let’s find out. Advance the next 12 slides in rapid succession ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone → (This is 1,000 mi3 – 1/10 of the total)
  35. 35. 1 Day ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  36. 36. 2 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  37. 37. 3 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  38. 38. 4 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  39. 39. 5 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  40. 40. 6 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  41. 41. 7 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  42. 42. 8 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  43. 43. 9 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  44. 44. 10 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  45. 45. 11 Days ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone →
  46. 46. ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone → 12 Days
  47. 47. ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone → 12 Days Time’s up! At 30 kg/sec/meter, we would get: 6.3 mi3 (26 km3 ) Not 10,000 mi3
  48. 48. For the doubters, here are the calculations:
  49. 49. ← “Sand pile” to the north → ← Present day Coconino Sandstone → About 196 cubic miles… is all that would be transported during the entire Flood. Time = 371 Days And remember… This started as only 1/10 of the 10,000 mi3 What if we had the whole year-long Flood to deposit the Coconino Sandstone?
  50. 50. Flood Geology Fails To Explain the Coconino  For a sediment transport rate of 30 kg/sec per each meter along the 1,000 mile border, 6.3 mi3 would be transported in 12 days, which is only 1/1,600 of the amount needed to form the 10,000 mi3 Coconino Sandstone in that time.  At 30 kg/sec per each meter along the 1,000 mile border, it would take 52 years to move 10,000 cubic miles of sand into the present day area of the Coconino Sandstone
  51. 51. O.k. – what kind of sediment transport rate would be needed to deposit the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days?
  52. 52. Computations for sediment transport rate needed to deposit the Coconino in 12 days
  53. 53. Flood Geology Refuted Using Simple Math  A sediment transport rate of 48,000 kilograms per second per each meter or 32,000 pounds per second per each foot of the 1,000 mile border would be required to move enough sand across the border to form the Coconino in 12 days  That’s 1,600 times greater than what a sediment transport rate of 30 kg / sec / m would give you  And remember, that 30 kg / sec / m was a high estimate!
  54. 54.  That’s equivalent to over four dump truck loads of sand crossing each meter of the 1,000 mile boundary every second for 12 days Flood Geology Refuted Using Simple Math
  55. 55. Flood Geology Refuted Using Simple Math  This is more like a giant slab of sand 84 feet high, 1000 miles wide, and 630 miles long sliding south at 2 mph  Even if it was possible to have such a moving sand slab, it wouldn’t allow complex cross beds to be formed! Note: This graphic is actually to scale. The water depth is 54 meters (177 feet) as calculated using Austin’s double graph procedure, the sand waves are 10 meters (33 feet) high, and this “bar” at the bottom is how high a sand slab would be (25 meters or 84 feet) if it was moving south at 1 meter/sec (2 mph)… about the same speed as the water! 1 meter/second (2 miles/hour)
  56. 56. Flood Geology Refuted Using Simple Math  And at least nine assumptions were made which favored the young-earth position – without them, the computed height of the moving sand slab could have been greater than the water depth! 1. Optimal positioning of 10,000 cubic miles of sand, just to the north of the present day Coconino, at just the right time during the Flood 2. Length of border crossed by “sustained unidirectional currents,” as Austin termed it, was really less than 1,000 miles. 3. 30 kg / sec / meter – a very generous sediment transport rate. 4. Deposition not delayed by period of scouring at onset of the Flood. 5. Crossing northern boundary equated with depositing the entire Coconino. 6. 10,000 cubic miles appears to be a low volume estimate. 7. No accounting for portion of the Coconino that was eroded away – e.g., at Mogollon Rim. 8. No break in deposition allocated for the channel fill formations (e.g.,, Surprise Cyn Formation). 9. Recent YEC efforts to attribute additional layers to Flood deposition were not considered.
  57. 57. “If you do the math, and with 10,000 cubic miles of sand being moved at that speed, you’d move it all within a matter of a few days and spread it over a 100,000 (square mile area). See? There’s no problem!” Andrew Snelling, Answers for Darwin Conference, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, February 7, 2009 and Thomas Road Baptist Church, February 14, 2009.
  58. 58. The output from Austin’s double graph procedure and/or the graphs themselves has been used in at least five popular young-earth books… Two young- earth videos… and at least eleven young-earth web pages (click on a number below:) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
  59. 59. Some comments on these findings from young-earth believing viewers:  Big problem here Tim. If Creation week and the global Flood of Noah is not responsible for what we see geologically. Then Jesus Christ didn't raise from the dead, and Adam was not a specially created being 6,000 years ago. We may as well forget it all, the naturalist win… If the math seemingly doesn't fit then the math is wrong; GOD IS NOT. Well… thank God, Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead. It’s our interpretations and theology that look like they’ve been wrong all along. And regarding the math – if you find any errors, feel free to let me know.
  60. 60. More comments…  Your credulity is no different to that leveled at J. A. Bretz in the 1940s when he postulated the Missoula flood. He was told that such a thing was scientifically impossible… You are not considering a wall of water perhaps several hundred meters high, 1000s of kilometers long, traveling at incredible velocities, consistently grinding up land surfaces and redepositing them elsewhere? If 50 cubic miles of basalt can be eroded from one third of the state of Washington and redeposited elsewhere in a few days by one small glacial lake (Missoula), then how much can be eroded by entire oceans? A wall of water ground up land surfaces into sand, silt, and clay particles and deposited them in 1000’s of sedimentary formations all over the Earth with no sign of larger chunks, without interfering with deposition of other formations that are upstream and downstream at the same level? Sounds like the geologic equivalent of musical chairs. Does this person know that clay forms through chemical processes, or that Earth’s sedimentary rock covers nearly 75% of the land and almost all of the ocean floor and has a volume of over 100 million mi3 ?
  61. 61.  Once again you are failing to get outside of your actualistic box. Maths can be fudged according to one’s a priori assumptions. You need to stop thinking ‘little’ geology. Start thinking ‘big, big’ geology. Your problem is that you are confined to a paradigm which you will simply not give up. You are trying to answer questions using your paradigm as the starting point. This won’t work. More comments… Actually, I used Austin and Snelling’s data as a starting point. Maths can be fudged according to my a priori assumptions? All that were used were math and units conversion techniques learned in 9th grade. Perhaps the multiplication table was different in the past, like the speed of light and nuclear decay rates?
  62. 62. More comments…  So you want me to look at a paper about flume tanks and sand waves in San Francisco Bay! That's nice Tim, but there is an obvious disconnect in terms of scale with the global flood! Their graphs (as reproduced by Austin) go to 100 meters, but what happens in even deeper water? Even aside from scale, are the flume tanks reproducing all the other conditions from the flood (the details of which no-one is privvy to). Just as an example of the almost infinite possibilities, what about a general sand wave producing current frequently superimposed by tsunami or other wave events? (I do note that when I'm in the surf, each wave lifts up, and transports an enormous load of sand - almost fills the pockets of my bathers!) The water depth and flume tank size are irrelevant – it’s the sediment transport rate that matters. Also, tsunamis produce chaotic sediments – and then only in shallow water. BTW – I believe this fellow’s bathers would be a bit heavier if he caught a wave transporting sediment at 32,000 lbs per second per foot!!!
  63. 63.  …with your claim that a massive volume of sand sediment could not have been moved into place and had cross bedding... I would simply like to see the size of the laboratory that you proved experimentally that such is impossible!!... To be anywhere near convincing to me, it would have to be larger than the earth, and you would somehow have to have inside info on exactly every process that God used. More comments… The size of the “laboratory” is irrelevant… if you have 10,000 cubic miles of sediment and want to transport it across a 1,000 mile line in 12 days, the sediment transport rate has to be a constant 32,000 lb / sec / ft. Actually, Austin’s estimate of the water speed necessary to deposit fine sand as underwater cross beds was just about right. You then want to increase the sediment transport rate by a factor of at least 1,600 – possibly as high as 10,000 or more – and still think there is a way cross beds could form? At the same time other formations are being deposited all over the planet? If you can’t steal sediment from a nearby formation, where did the sediment come from – did it rain down from space? Then there’s the small issue about how the Coconino’s cross beds don’t look anything like those formed underwater.
  64. 64. These people are clearly not grasping the gravity of the problem…  There are two major points to this presentation that every young-earth believer must deal with: First, Austin’s graphical procedure for explaining underwater formation of cross beds clearly does not allow near enough sand to be transported to form the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days. Second, the sediment transport rate required to form the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days would be so absurdly high as to prevent the formation of even the simplest cross beds.
  65. 65. It’s not just huge waves that would be needed. Sediment must be continuously and simultaneously transported at absurdly high rates everywhere on the planet, for the entire duration of the Flood – not just where a wave happens to be breaking. Gravity of the problem (continued)
  66. 66. Let’s review. Austin was arguing that the cross-bedded Coconino Sandstone was formed by underwater sand waves. To form cross beds, the current detaches individual grains of sand, lifts them from the top of the sand wave, and deposits them somewhere ahead of the sand wave… as shown in this video:  The sediment transport rate for this drawing from the Answers in Genesis article would be somewhere between 2 and 20 lbs/sec/foot
  67. 67. Now, if you want to superimpose some kind of miraculous transport of sediment at rates of at least 32,000 lbs/sec/ft on top of that sand wave-forming process – fine! But what happens if even a fraction of that floating slab of sediment reaches the bottom? You just killed the formation of cross beds. You can’t have it both ways!
  68. 68.  As Dr. Austin stated, if the water is moving too fast, sand waves can’t form – no cross beds!  If the sediment transport rate is too large (especially if it is too large by a factor of 1,600+), no cross beds!  Sediments affected by tsunamis display chaotic (totally jumbled) characteristics, not thin, even layers. Cross beds would be out of the question.
  69. 69. If the volume, thickness, and extent is known for any sedimentary rock formation on the planet, the same kind of mathematical calculations could be performed as were done here for the Coconino Sandstone, with the same result. Flood Geology clearly fails the test.
  70. 70. But do cross beds formed by underwater sand waves look anything like those formed through eolian (wind-blown) processes?
  71. 71. Cross Beds Created By Water Flow  Animation Guy Berthault Answers in Genesis USGS Brazos River, TX Brazos River, TX
  72. 72. Cross Beds In Actual Sand Dunes John S. Shelton E. D. McKee Bruce Perry Diane M. Burns
  73. 73. You be the judge – which type of cross beds look more like what we see in the Coconino Sandstone? Tim Martin, Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD), Universities Space Research Association
  74. 74. After Austin, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe, 1994 Old Earth Conclusions Young Earth Conclusions Two interpretive frameworks: Is it just a matter of looking at the same data, but coming to different conclusions? And what do you think…
  75. 75. A follow-up note…  Dr. Austin has recently proposed a new mechanism for redistribution of sediments across the earth during the global Flood: submarine liquefied sediment gravity currents  Austin now maintains that “Such currents were likely the major transportation agent for sediment during the global flood.” See:
  76. 76.  The submarine liquefied sediment gravity current mechanism identified by Austin still provides an insufficient explanation for how Earth’s sedimentary rock layers could be deposited during a year-long global Flood, because it doesn’t explain how strata could accumulate simultaneously all over the Earth at extremely high rates – can’t just focus on the Grand Canyon area.  Even if it were possible for submarine liquefied sediment gravity currents to transport enough sediment into northern Arizona to form the Coconino Sandstone in 12 days, the absurdly high rate of deposition wouldn’t allow the formation’s famous cross beds and animal tracks to be formed.  Plus, the words of Austin (and others such as Andrew Snelling) in many published documents require the Coconino’s cross beds to form through the advancing sand wave mechanism!
  77. 77. Given the angles of its cross beds, existence of trackways from land animals, absence of marine fossils, and total failure of the Flood geology explanation, it is clear the Coconino Sandstone was formed slowly by a vast sand dune system… and a global Flood had no role in laying down this or any other Grand Canyon rock layer. Death Valley, CA Conclusion
  78. 78. Conclusion And when the young earth speakers tell you that most of Earth’s fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers were deposited by the global Flood… They aren’t telling you the truth!
  79. 79. “The belief that Earth's sediments, with their fossils, were deposited in an orderly sequence in a year's time defies all geological observations and physical principles concerning sedimentation rates and possible quantities of suspended solid matter.” Science and Creationism – A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd Edition, Page 8 End of Grand Canyon at Lake Mead during 1983 Flood
  80. 80. For more information, see: Sediment Transport and the Coconino Sandstone: A Reality Check on Flood Geology by Timothy K. Helble, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), Vol. 63, No. 1, March 2011. Click here for pdf version
  81. 81. For more information on this subject, see: The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? Available at Grand Canyon National Park book stores, Amazon,, etc.
  82. 82. A version of this presentation with full animation capabilities is available at: Flood/Rock_Layers_deposited_by_Noah_Flood.pps Good blogs and websites where the problems with young earth creationism are discussed: The GeoChristian Blog: Old Earth Ministries: Age of Rocks Blog: Old Earth Creation Society: Letters to Creationists Blog:
  83. 83. Some excellent online books describing the errors of young-earth creationism (particularly Flood geology), are: NEGLECT OF GEOLOGIC DATA: Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings by Daniel E. Wonderly God’s Time-Records in Ancient Sediments by Daniel E. Wonderly A New Look at an Old Earth by Don Stoner Some excellent videos: Lesson 8/16: Geology and Earth History – Gordon Glover
  84. 84. American Scientific Affiliation: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: God and Science: Beyond Creation Science: Affiliation of Christian Geologists: The Biologos Forum: Other locations on the web where information can be obtained on the intersection between science and the Bible are: