Problems with creationism

Russell Humphreys, Andrew Snelling, John Baumgardner, 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. Listed here are only the most obvious:
  • Archaean rocks – interpreted as supernaturally formed at Creation – have every appearance of having originated from the mantle, either directly (igneous rocks) or indirectly (sedimentary rocks derived from erosion of igneous rocks). Nearly all of them formed under water. Their nature is impossible to reconcile with an instantaneous origin. New land in the Archaean
  • Most creationists suppose that the bulk of the Proterozoic, being devoid of animal fossils, formed either at Creation or in the interval between the Creation and the Flood. They contain no fossils of shellfish, fish, sponges, worms etc. However, since sedimentary sequences in the Proterozoic can be many kilometres thick, it is unclear how they formed. There are no remains of successive pre-Flood seafloors.
  • 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. This is because all the clastic (non-carbonate) sediments identified as Flood deposits had to have derived from pre-Flood rocks. 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. Today’s terrestrial crust formed over the entire span of time from the Archaean up to the Cenozoic. It cannot all have formed in one event at the beginning of time.
  • There is no geological interval after the Archaean when the whole Earth was under water. While sea-levels and coastlines have certainly changed, large parts of the continents have always been above water.
  • Evaporites are deposits of minerals (e.g. salt, potash, gypsum) that precipitated out of seawater. Such minerals are highly soluble and usually precipitate only where the containing basin is cut off from surface overflow and ocean water seeps into the basin as groundwater. Such deposits can be up to 4 km thick. They occur in quantity at various periods, notably in the early Palaeozoic and the Mesozoic (subdivisions of the Phanerozoic). There is no way these could have formed if the whole earth was under 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 (Plate tectonics (‘continental drift’)). If the present world goes back to Creation, this is problematic, since ocean crust has suffered more destruction than terrestrial crust has.
  • 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 sauropod 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 land just after the Flood, barren of animals and vegetation.
  • roots in the White Limestone Formation (Jurassic), Woodeaton Quarry, OxfordshireBurrowing (bioturbation) is a common feature of marine sediments of all ages, indicating that sea- floors were being inhabited under fairly normal conditions. Some beds have been so 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). Did animals escape to higher ground?

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 defend. Far from 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 the rocks 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:
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.