Dinosaurs    Flood   Intermediates    Living fossils


Introduction   What is the geological column   What rocks are sedimentary and how are they formed?   Neo-catastrophism   Problems associated with the geological column   Traditional view, life forms in different strata   Suggested reading and videos

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Introduction The geological column as depicted below (see Figure 2) is an idea, not an actual series of rock layers (Parker, 2001). Nowhere do we find the complete sequence, but still the geological column does represent a tendency for fossils to be found in groups and those groups to be found in a certain vertical order (Parker 2001). 

The geological column consists of layers of sedimentary rock, for more details go to What is the geological column. There are two main theories as to how these rock layers were formed, the Uniformitarian viewpoint and the catastrophist viewpoint and both these are described below.  

The uniformitarian viewpoint is that the layers of sedimentary rock have always been laid down at a similar rate to what we see today, e.g. very slowly. Thus, a given thickness of rock must relate to thousands or millions of years time, based on today's rates. 

The catastrophist viewpoint is that sedimentary rock layers can be laid down very quickly and creationists tend to believe that the rocks of the geological column were laid down largely as a result of a global flood as told in the Bible. 

Three quarters of the earth's continental surface is composed of sedimentary rock, that is rock that has been laid down in water (Baker, 1996). It is this type of rock in which fossils are found. Fossils in certain strata may be know as index fossils. This is because their presence can be used to "date" the rocks that they are in.

Figure 1 (left). A sequoia stem and alder leaf fossilized in sedimentary rock.

"To qualify as an index fossil, a particular fossil species must be found buried in rock layers over a very wide geographical area, preferably on several continents. On the other hand, the same fossil species must have a narrow vertical distribution, that is, only be buried in a few rock layers. The evolutionist interprets this as meaning that the species lived and died over a relatively short time (perhaps a few million years). Therefore, the rock layers containing these fossils supposedly only represent that relatively short period of time, and thus a ‘date’ can be assigned accordingly on every continent to the rock layers where these fossils are found. The ‘date’ relative to other index fossils and rock layers is, of course, determined by the species’ position in the evolutionary ‘tree of life" From Geological conflict

Radio-active dating techniques can only be performed on igneous rock and only in rare cases can the fossils themselves be dated by radioactive dating techniques (Baker, 1996). Thus the dating of rocks by fossils and vice versa involves circular reasoning that the theory of evolution is true.

"The intelligent layman has long suspected circular reasoning in the use of rocks to date fossils and fossils to date rocks. The geologist has never bothered to think of a good reply, feeling that explanations are not worth the trouble as long as the work brings results. This is supposed to be hard-headed pragmatism." O'Rourke 1976, American Journal of Science.  

How long did these strata take to form?

It would be easy to think millions of years. However, the bottom layer formed in 6 hours on 18th May 1980, the middle layer was formed on 12th June 1980 and the top layer by mud flow in March 1982, following the eruption of Mt St Helens.

Picture taken from Institute of Creation research and Answers in Genesis video "Geological evidences for rapid strata formation."

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What is the geological column? The geological column can be illustrated by the chart in Figure 2. The types of rocks that make up the geological column are what is know as sedimentary rocks

Figure 2. Geological column - traditional view


Such charts (Figure 2) are drawn with the oldest rocks at the bottom. The rocks that contain identifiable fossils are divided into eras, named according to the presumption of evolution and the idea that depth indicates age. The oldest era of distinct fossil life is called Paleozoic (meaning "ancient life"), followed by Mesozoic ("middle life"), and finally by Cenozoic ("recent life"). 

Notice the belief in a succession of life forms. Eras are divided into periods, named for the geographical regions where they were first found and studied. The periods are further divided into epochs, but we usually hear of named epochs only in the most recent Cenozoic era. 

This classification system for Figure 2 is based on the theory of uniformitarian principles, first proposed by James Hutton in his "Theory of the Earth" in 1795. This was developed further by Charles Lyell in "Principles of Geology," first published in 1830. That book had a profound influence on Charles Darwin; he read it several times while on the Beagle cruise. Darwin mentioned in several of his writings how it excited him and changed his entire outlook on life, giving him the ideas that led to his theory of evolution. 

The above paragraph was largely taken from the Revolution against Evolution web site, and the page Uniformitarianism and the Geologic Column with kind permission from Dan Janzen.

"The column is supposed to represent a vertical cross-section through the earth’s crust, with the most recently deposited (therefore youngest) rocks at the surface and the oldest, earliest rocks deposited on the crystalline “basement” rocks at the bottom.  If one wishes to check out this standard column (or standard geologic age system), where can he go to see it for himself?  There is only one place in all the world to see the standard geologic column. That’s in the textbook! ... almost any textbook, in fact, that deals with evolution or earth history.  A typical textbook rendering of the standard column is shown in Figure 44.  This standard column is supposed to be at least 100 miles [160 km] thick (some writers say up to 200 [320 km]), representing the total sedimentary activity of all of the geologic ages. However, the average thickness of each local geologic column is about one mile (in some places, the column has essentially zero thickness, in a few places it may be up to 16 or so miles [25 km], but the worldwide average is about one mile [1.6 km]).  The standard column has been built up by superposition of local columns from many different localities." (Morris and Parker, 1982 - Emphasis in original). From The geological column: Does it exist? To top

What rocks are sedimentary and how are they formed? Sediments may be rock particles such as mud, sand or pebbles which are usually deposited in the sea by rivers and waves. They can also be remains of living things such as plants and animals which may give rise to coal. The weight of the overlying sediments will compact those found below. Over time, the compacted sediments become sedimentary rocks. Sometimes, these sedimentary rocks may be uplifted as a result of plate movements forming mountain, e.g. The Himalayas.

Figure 3. Examples of sedimentary rocks from Rock hounds web site. Please click on each rock for more details.

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LIMESTON.JPG (15047 bytes)

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CONGLO.JPG (14166 bytes)

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There are in the main two theories about how sedimentary rocks are formed. Either slowly over millions of years or quickly by a Biblical type flood or a succession of floods. The slow process is  know as uniformitarianism and the quick process is known as catastrophism. The fossils represent animals that died within these sediments, were buried and became fossilised.

The two definitions below are largely taken from the infoplease® encyclopaedia.



Uniformitarianism doctrine proposes that changes in the earth's surface that occurred in past geologic time are referable to the same causes as changes now being produced upon the earth's surface. E.g. sediments are being laid down very slowly now, so they must have always been laid down slowly. Thus, a certain thickness of sedimentary rock must denote millions of years of time. The theory of uniformitarianism was first proposed by James Hutton in his "Theory of the Earth" in 1795. This was developed further by Charles Lyell in "Principles of Geology," first published in 1830. That book had a profound influence on Charles Darwin; he read it several times while on the Beagle cruise. Darwin mentioned in several of his writings how it excited him and changed his entire outlook on life, giving him the ideas that led to his theory of evolution, and the millions of years that he needed. Catastrophism, in geology, is the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these cataclysms the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed. The theory, popularly accepted from the earliest times, was attacked in the late 18th cent., notably by James Hutton.

Catastrophism, however, was more easily correlated with religious doctrines (e.g., the Mosaic account of the Flood) and remained for some time the interpretation of the earth's history accepted by the great majority of geologists (Whitcomb and Morris, 1998). 

Creation scientists still think that the geological evidence points towards a global flood

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Neo-Catastrophism. Because of objective evidence, a new group of evolutionary geologists called neo-catastrophists has arisen (Parker, 2001). People who hold to such view accept that the fossil bearing deposits were formed by catastrophes of some sort, even if they do not accept the Biblical concept of a global flood. To top

Problems associated with the geological column. There are many problems associated with the traditional uniformitarian approach to the geological column and it is not intended to present all these in detail.  However, the main objections are that:-. 

(a) Fossil specimens form very quickly. If a plant or animal just dies and falls to the ground it rapidly decomposes or is eaten. Evolutionists and creationists agree that the best conditions for forming fossils are flood conditions (Parker, 2001). However, the uniformitarian concept of rock layers being laid down slowly over millions of years does not correlate with the vast numbers of fossils found in some areas. For example, the Karoo beds of Africa contain the remains of perhaps 800 billion vertebrates. If sediments were laid down slowly, the animals would have rotted, not fossilised.

(b) Polystrate trees. These fossilised trees can be seen to extend though thousands or even millions of years of rock strata, which suggests that these trees were buried quickly and not by a slow process taking millions of years. Some fossilised animals can also be seen extending though supposedly millions of years of strata (Parker, 2001).

(c) Misplaced fossils. Evolutionist believe that land plants did not appear until over 100 million years after the Cambrian trilobites died out, yet over sixty genera of woody pant spores, pollen and wood itself have been recovered from the lowest "trilobite" rock from around the world (Parker, 2001).

(d) Missing or misplaced strata. There are numerous examples of strata of rock either missing or being misplaced (Parker, 2001). To top

Fossil strata - another explanation. Dr Gary Parker in his book Creation facts of Life proposed that the different rock strata generally contain certain type of fossils because they represent animals that share the same ecological niche rather than a given time period. For example, trilobites are not found with dinosaurs because even if they both lived today, they would not be found together. If the vast majority of fossils were formed by a global flood, then one would expect the various strata of rocks to represent different ecological niches.

Dr Gary Parker in his book Creation facts of Life states that "Thus, a walk though the Grand Canyon, then, is not like a walk through evolutionary time; instead it's like a walk from the bottom of the ocean, across the tidal zone, over the shore, across the lowlands and into the upland regions". To top

Traditional view, life forms in different strata. Below is a brief description of the organism types generally associated with the above strata (Whitcomb and Morris, 1998) and the time periods that these strata are thought to represent according to traditional uniformitarian geology.

Pre-Cambrian - c. 500 million to 1.8 billion years ago - Primitive water dwelling plants and animals.

Paleozoic era - c. 200 million to 500 million years ago.  

Cambrian - All sub-kingdoms of invertebrates animals represented. Brachiopods and trilobites common.

Ordovician - Earliest known vertebrates. Graptolites, corals, cephalopods, brachiopods, and trilobites abundant. Oldest primitive land plants.

Silurian - Earliest known land animals. Primitive land plants. Rise of fishes. Brachiopods corals and trilobites abundant.

Devonian - First known seed plants. Great variety of boneless fish. First evidence of amphibians.

Mississippian - Rise of amphibians. Culmination of crinoids

Pennsylvanian - Earliest know insects. Spore plants abundant.

Permian - Rise of primitive reptiles. Earliest cycads and conifers. Extinction of trilobites. First modern corals.

Mesozoic era - c. 70 million to 200 million years ago.

Triassic - Earliest dinosaurs, flying reptiles, marine reptiles and primitive mammals. Cycads and conifers common. Earliest ammonites.

Jurassic - First (reptilian) birds. First of highest form of insects. First (primitive) angiosperms.

Cretaceous - Modernised angiosperms and insects abundant. Foraminifers profuse. Extinction of the dinosaurs, flying reptiles and ammonites.

Cenozoic (Tertiary) - c. 12 to 70 million years ago. Rise of mammals and development of highest plants. 

Cenozoic (Quarternary) - c. 25,000 to 975,000 years ago. Rise of modern plans and animals and man. To top

Suggested reading, videos and talks


An Ice Age Caused By The Genesis Flood, by Michael Oard.

Darwinism And The Rise Of Degenerate Science, by Dr Paul Back - A chapter is devoted to the age of the Earth.

Darwin's Enigma, by Luther Sunderland

Evolution, The Fossils Still Say No, Dr Duane Gish.

Genesis Flood, by J. C. Whitcomb and H. M. Morris.

Grand Canyon: Monument To Catastrophe, by Dr. Steven Austin.

In six days, by fifty different scientists.

Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, by John Woodmorappe.

Sea Floor Sediments And The Age Of The Earth, by Dr. Larry Vardiman

Studies in Flood Geology, by John Woodmorappe.

Thousands not millions, by Don De Young.

On-Line articles

After devastation ... the recovery

Can Flood Geology Explain Thick Chalk Layers?

Flood models: the need for an integrated approach

Global flood. The online home of Dr. John Baumgardner's work related to the Genesis flood.

How Could Saltwater and Freshwater Fish Survive the Flood?

Oil and Flood Geology

Noah’s Flood Questions and Answers

Noah's Flood - Where did the water come from?

The origin of old-Earth geology and its ramifications for life in the 21st century

The (second) greatest catastrophe of all time

Was the Flood global?

On-line videos

The three videos below are in the Christian Answers web site, with permission for linkage requested.

You-Tube on Geological column

ch10-thumb.gifThe Fossil Record: Intermediate Links
2:54 mins.

ch11-thumb.gifArchaeopteryx: A Feathered Reptile?
1:06 mins.

ch12-thumb.gifThe Ape-Man: Missing Link
2:26 mins.

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