Problems with creationism

Russell Humphreys, John Baumgardner, Andrew Snelling, Steve Austin, Kurt Wise, Larry Vardiman (1994)Creationist organisations in the USA and Australia divide the geological record into pre-Flood rocks (the Archaean and most of the Proterozoic), Flood (the rest of the Proterozoic to the end of the Cretaceous or later) and post-Flood (the small fraction remaining). Animal fossils are thought to be the remains of pre-Flood animals that perished in the inundation. This view has problems more severe, and more numerous, than those which undermine the evolutionist view – not least the fact that deposits attributed to the Flood include no human fossils. We list only the most obvious:

  • Archaean rocks – interpreted as supernaturally formed at Creation – have every appearance of having originated from the mantle, either directly (volcanic rocks) or indirectly (sedimentary rocks). Nearly all of them formed under water. Their nature is impossible to reconcile with an instantaneous origin, or with the emergence of dry land from the waters gathered together at Creation. New land in the Archaean
  • The supposition that all animal fossils formed during the Flood has the consequence that Proterozoic rocks must have formed either at Creation or in the interval between the Creation and the Flood. Well-preserved sequences are many kilometres thick. However, they contain no fossils of shellfish, fish, sponges, worms etc, and clearly cannot be equated with either a single creation event or with the remains of successive pre-Flood seafloors. They do not represent normal ecosystems.
  • To attribute the last part of the Proterozoic and nearly all the Phanerozoic to the Flood is to postulate a vast amount of erosion and consequently a dramatic, global erosion surface immediately beneath this package. No such global discontinuity exists.
  • There is also no discontinuity in radioisotope dates. From the Archaean up to the present, dates become progressively younger and are uninterrupted by any hiatus representing the removal of a great thickness of rock from the antediluvian surface and its redeposition above the hiatus. The Phanerozoic itself yields progressively younger dates as one passes up through it. Thus it cannot all have formed in one event. Terrestrial crust formed by a process of accretion, sometimes gradually, sometimes episodically, over the entire span of time from the Archaean up to the present day.
  • To put it another way, terrestrial crust formed by a process of accretion, sometimes gradually, sometimes episodically, over the entire span of time from the Archaean up to the present day. It was not the result of a single creation event at the beginning of time.
  • There is no geological interval after the Archaean when the whole Earth could have been under water. While sea-levels and coastlines have certainly changed, at least parts of the continents have always been above water.
  • The average age of oceanic crust is much younger than that of continental crust. Ocean crust is continually being destroyed and renewed, as a result of volcanism at mid-ocean ridges and old ocean crust re-entering the Earth’s interior at subduction zones. None of it is older than Jurassic (see Plate tectonics (‘continental drift’)). If the present world goes back to Creation, this is problematic, since ocean crust has suffered more destruction than terrestrial.
  • Although the whole purpose of the Ark was to preserve representatives of terrestrial life so that the earth after the Flood could be recolonised, the vast majority of fossilised terrestrial animals are extinct: they have no recent counterparts. For example, not one pelycosaur, pterosaur or dinosaur is known to have survived even into the Eocene, let alone the present day. The supposed pre-Flood world and the world which succeeded it are discontinuous.
  • There is no gap near the top of the fossil record representing the world just after the Flood, barren of terrestrial animals and vegetation.
  • Burrowing (bioturbation) is a common feature of marine sediments of all ages, indicating that seafloors were being inhabited under fairly normal conditions. Sometimes beds have been roots in the White Limestone Formation (Jurassic), Woodeaton Quarry, Oxfordshireso bioturbated that the original layering is no longer visible. Fossilised roots of plants in growth position are less common (terrestrial sediments generally being less common) but where they occur show that the enclosing sediments did not form catastrophically. The photograph right shows roots from a marl bed that formed in an estuarine environment during mid Jurassic times.
  • Dinosaur and mammal bones do not appear until relatively late in the fossil record. They are accompanied by abundant evidence (tracks, burrows, coprolites) that the animals themselves were living at that level. As the sediments beneath them cannot be interpreted as “pre-Flood” sediments, their presence at these horizons, alive and going about their normal business, disproves the notion that they died in the Flood.
  • The same point applies to the occurrence of complete reef systems in the Phanerozoic (obviously not uprooted from some pre-Flood seafloor and redeposited en bloc higher up), to hardgrounds encrusted with sealilies and oysters and drilled by boring organisms, termite nests, millipede tracks, and so on. They are all remains of animals once living at those levels.

from M A Wilson and T J Palmer 2006, Ordovician bioerosion revolution

  • The fossil record is capable of being divided into very fine subdivisions. Species typically have a vertical range of 2 million years or less, including species that are geographically very widespread. Because particular species are restricted to particular points in geological time, it is evident that organisms were changing in the course of Earth history and that there must have been enough time for this to happen.
  • “Flood geology” is equally not capable of explaining the order in which fossils generally first appear (marine invertebrates and vertebrates, amphibians, land-dwelling reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals and birds, and finally humans).

In short, creationism has no more explanatory power, sad to say, than flat-earthism. Its ruling idea is that the world is less than 10,000 years old, something the world itself contradicts. The so-called ‘Flood’ is intended to cut the Gordian knot of successive geological periods, but it ends up being contradicted by the very thing creationism claims to be defending. Instead of being a cataclysmic judgement on humanity, the creationist Flood allows animals to carry on going about their normal lives, from Cambrian strata right up to the Cenozoic, while human beings are conspicuous by their absence. There are no traces of pre-Flood civilisation (ruins of buildings, artefacts, graves) in the Precambrian and no human fossils either there or in whatever rocks are assigned to the Flood period. Sustained though it is by an overwhelming desire that it might be true, the theory does not work.

Further material on topics relating to creationism: A critique of The Genesis Flood – how the creationist theory fails to satisfy its own predictions.

The Cataclysm: more than a flood – how creationism abuses key biblical texts.

Ussher and the genealogy problem – how a Creation date of around 4000 BC cannot be inferred from the Bible.