Evidence of an Old Earth, Part II

God’s Other Word

The more than 30% of Americans who claim they believe in a 6,000-year-old-earth do so out of a religious conviction. As described before, this religious dogma comes from the notion that the Bible must be taking literally in all cases, although the Bible never says it is to be taken that way. This has taught conservative Christians to distrust all authorities outside their religious social group, but to believe everyone who is in it, no matter how little knowledge or evidence they have. While the Christian sees the Bible as inspired by God, and nature (I will nature interchangeable with reality), as a direct result of his creative act. Therefore, nature is more than just inspired.

This has taught conservative Christians to distrust all authorities outside their religious social group, but to believe everyone who is in it, no matter how little knowledge or evidence they have.

J. Michael Jones

There have been sects within Christianity, such as some of the Gnostics of the early church, who believed that a lesser god created nature. Some believed Satan did so. But this was not the rule. This is one of the issues that separates Christianity from eastern forms of religion such as Hinduism or Buddhism, because the latter two believe that nature, is an illusion to escape. This is one of the key reasons I say that I can respect a Buddhist and a Hindu, but I have no respect for those, such as Richard Rohr, who try to combine those religions with Christianity. If you try to combine systems with diametrically opposed fundamental presuppositions, you must eventually give up your aspirations for truth, which is a disaster. At that juncture you will lose all your basis—not just for truth—but later, for morals, for meaning, and hope. But I digress.

As I said before, when there is a disagreement between God’s inspired word and his creative word or act, then one, or sometimes both, are being misinterpreted. In this case, when we are looking at the age of the earth, when God’s creative word is overwhelmingly clear about a very old earth, yet the written word, which is open to human interpretation, can be taken as a very young earth, it demands that the written word be re-interpreted to agree. However, among these conservative Christians, they still demand that the written word dominates over the creative word, even though that written word in this case is open to interpretation and the creative word is obvious, then it suggests to me that the written word has taken a life of its own, as an idol. I’m not addressing this from an atheist viewpoint because, not because I’m ignoring my atheist readers, but I’ve never met an atheist who believes in a 6,000 year-old-earth. This is a religious problem.

Rock Strata

Many types of rocks, especially the sedimentary types, form in layers or strata. This is different from the seasonal or annual layering that was discussed in the last article. Rock strata are produced when a particular type of conditions exist for a very long time (millions of years) and suddenly something changes, where those conditions are no longer in effect.

One example is where a shallow warm sea is precipitating limestone at the bottom of that sea. Most of the time this is from a biological process, where huge coral beds die and change into limestone under pressure over long periods of time, along with the lime-based shells of microorganisms. Limestone can precipitate directly out of lime-rich seawater without a biological process. But when that sea dries up, and the already-formed limestone then appears above water, that process abruptly ends. This leaves a stratum of pre-limestone, that can then be overlaid by other sedimentary or even volcanic rocks and through time and pressure become limestone. Some limestone strata are more than 5 kilometers thick. In the normal process of coral growth and deposits, or the deposition of micro-skeletons and shells, it would take many millions of years to form a limestone strata that thick.

Other types of strata are produced by other sedimentary rocks. For example, if an area of earth is very dry and turns to desert, over long periods of time you would have thick layers of sand build up. The sand itself from a very long process of erosion of rocks (taking millions of years). Then, if climate suddenly changes and the area becomes wetter, the sand could be overlaid by thick layers of organic soil. As these new layers compress the sand, over long periods of time, that sand can turn to a stratum of sandstone.

Many layers or strata are formed from mud. This is a wet soil, at the bottom of body of still or slow-moving water, or in a swamp-like location. After millions of years these layers can grow quite thick. Then if there is a sudden climate change, where it becomes dryer, or where a shallow sea floods the area, or where volcanic ash or lava covers it, that layer of mud can turn to shale.

James Hutton (1726–1797), was a Scottish intellectual, farmer, and naturalists. He is considered the father of modern geology. He was the first to study rock strata and conclude that it must have taken millions of years to form. Before Hutton, the earth was assumed to be six thousand years old, due to church tradition.

In 1650 James Ussher had published his book, Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origin of the world, where he carefully predicted the dates of creation and Noah’s flood (at 6,000 years and 4,000 years respectively). Others had done the same, but he was more precise. This was based on an interpretation of genealogies and other historical events. Again, I will repeat, nowhere does the Bible say how old the earth is, and while YEC (young earth creationists) claim that only their position is “Biblical” it really has nothing to do with the Bible, but church tradition, the same basis for the medieval church’s belief that the earth was at the center of the solar system. After Ussher, these dates of the young earth were written in the margins of Bibles and was taken as seriously as the Biblical texts in many cases.

At the time that James Hutton came onto the scene, it was assumed in Christian Europe and the north America, that the earth was static, being created by God in the same state that they could observe. While people could witness sudden geological changes, floods, erosion, volcanic equations, it was assumed that things were otherwise unchanged since creation or Noah’s Flood.

There are more than 107 unique rock strata based on the unique collection of life forms present within them ( Geologic time scale – Wikipedia ). For example, trilobites, an ancient shrimp-like creature, lived over 300 million years, and can be found in deep sea deposits that span 45 or more of these rock strata, however, many other life forms are found in only one or a few strata. It is the unique community of life forms that define and date a stratum.

These layers do not all appear at one place. It takes certain conditions (for example a shallow warm sea) to produce certain stratum so all 107 didn’t form in all locations. Even when many of the strata are present, often they are not exposed in a particular location, or were so exposed they have long eroded away. In some places, such as where I live in the Pacific northwest, the layers have been so jumbled by volcanic and other factors, that the layers are rarely seen, and when they are, they are twisted or even running vertical. The Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the world to view the layers, but even the Grand Canyon has only hast about twenty of the 107 layers. The other layers, which would have been above the rims of the canyon, have eroded away over time or never had the right conditions to form there.

Today the YEC say you must believe, ( wink, if you are a good person and on God’s side ), that everything you see in the rock formations were either from the original creation event 6,000 years ago—or more likely—from the catastrophic event of Noah’s flood. That flood, according to the YEC, had rains and springs that came forth for 40 days and 40 nights, was worldwide, covering even the Himalayas, and then persisted for about a year before dry land re-appeared. They claim that these layers, such as the Grand Canyon, were created by this world-wide flood. I would like for you to consider what this would mean.

Of the Grand Canyon’s twenty or so layers, there are ten major ones based on rock types. The YEC claim the Grand Canyon was created in a matter of days, weeks or months, while the scientists claim that it was created over a billion years. The YEC claim that Noah’s flood covered the entire world and sediments from this sea settled on the bottom, creating the layers that you see. Then, as the water drained away, it eroded out deep gorges, such as the Grand Canyon. To the layperson, this might make sense, but to the scientist, it is nonsensical.

My state has an huge area that was gouged out by one of the world’s greatest floods. It did indeed scourge the land and remove as much as 400 feet of rock and soil, over days or weeks, but it looks nothing like the Grand Canyon (to the scientists at least) and has totally different rock formations. But the YEC say that the rocks were laid down and then scourged away over weeks, because they were still soft, wet mud.

Now imagine the Grand Canyon as 6,000 feet of mud at the bottom of Noah’s flood, and as the water drained away, it cut the canyon. Cutting a canyon that deeply within soft new mud of that height would have to violate all laws of civil engineering for this to have happened. Fifty feet of soft mud is unstable if exposed on the side.

The Grand Canyon’s Strata

The major ten layers of the Grand Canyon include (the top and youngest first):

  • Kaibab Limestone
  • Toroweap Limestone 
  • Coconino Sandstone
  • Hermit Shale
  • Supai Group (a mix of sandstones, shales, and limestones)
  • Redwall Limestone
  • Muav Limestone
  • Bright Angel Shale
  • Tapeats Sandstone
  • Vishnu Schist

Now, let’s think about how each of those layers are formed. At the very bottom is the Vishnu Schist. This is a volcanic rock and is the oldest in the Grand Canyon, dating to about 2 billion years ago per radio-isotope dating and correlation with other geological factors. I will discuss rock dating later. The second layer, Tapeats Sandstone, as the name implies, is a sandstone. Sandstone, based on research, takes at least 1,000 years to form. It starts with deep deposits of sand, either a desert or a large beach area. That loose sand itself was the product of thousands of not millions of years of large rocks being eroded down to particles the size of the sand’s a grains. Then, the sand is compressed by layers of different types of deposits above them. That pressure takes another long period of thousands or millions of years before the sand turns to stone. The YEC claim the whole process happened in a matter of weeks. I, therefore, have a challenge for them. Take a band of thirty feet of sand and compress it, using the same amount of pressure that they think that mud and other layers above the sand was compressing the sand during Noah’s flood. Then, check it in a year. I can guarantee that it would still be sand. Check it in one hundred years, or a thousand, an it would likely be the same. If not, if it is sandstone, write a paper and change the world.

I will take a sidebar to discuss one of the YEC claims regarding the Grand Canyon. In 1990, when I was just leaving evangelicalism, I became interested in one of the YEC groups, The Institute of Creation Research (ICR). As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I was so involved with ICR that I because an usher at one of their conferences in Marquette, Michigan. It was during that conference, when I heard so much bizarre and outrageous misinformation that I mumbled out-loud, “This is bullshit!” I no longer respected the “scientists” at ICR because of how they mishandled the truth, like grossly misrepresenting the mainstream scientists. I will mention again, while the Bible says nothing about the age of the earth, it has almost 500 references to the value of truth, the harm of lies, and the wrongness of bearing false witness.

(There is a psychological factor, that I witness as an evangelical, that believes, since we are on God’s side, working for him, we have the right to take liberty with the truth. The end’s justifies the means. This is it is okay to support dirty politicians, if they are doing God’s work. This is where religious groups get into trouble.)

One of the things brought up at that conference, and the YEC continue to use to explain the Grand Canyon, is the volcanic eruption of Mount Saint Helens. During that eruption, the mountain had periods of extreme ash production, followed by a low, then another burst of the eruption. The volcano is still in a very slow eruption. These bursts of ash blown from the crater, settled back down on the mountain and surrounding land. In a matter of days, feet of layered ash was formed on the mountainside (each layer representing one of the burst of the eruption). Then, as the glacier-clad mountain shed its ice and snow from the heat, huge walls of water poured down the mountain, gouging out canyons, about 1/100th the size of the Grand Canyon., In some places, as it cut through the thick layers of ash, it created miniature models of the Grand Canyon (pictured below). Just do a Google search for “Mount Saint Helens and the Grand Canyon” and you will see pages after pages of articles by the YEC using this to prove the Grand Canyon was created in days, not millions of years.

Mount Saint Helens’ Ash Canyon-YEC’s “Proof” that the Grand Canyon was formed in Days

This argument is absurd. Mount Saint Helens is the first mountain I’ve climbed, where I had to get a mountaineering permit. I am very familiar with its ash, having to climb or hike through it as your approach the summit. It is a lot like talcum powder, sometimes like a fine sand. The mechanisms for creating theses layered canyons at Mount Saint Helens makes sense. Put down 50 feet of soft, layered ash (layered because of the sequence of eruptive burst), then flood it, and you will get something that looks like a miniature Grand Canyon. But the rock and layers of the Grand Canyon are totally different; it is nowhere similar besides a similar look with a casual glance. If this is the basis of comparison, then you should use a photo of the apple butter stack cake that my mother used to make. Once a piece is cut out of the cake, it also looks a little like the Grand Canyon. That cake took her 8 hours to make, thus it must prove the Grand Canyon could be produced in 8 hours. Pure absurdity.

Apple Butter Stack Cake, Proof that the Grand Canyon was Created in 8 Hours (tongue-n-cheek)

Now back to the real Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon was not made of soft volcanic ash. I’ve mentioned the first two layers of the real canyon, starting from the bottom, is Vishnu Schist and Tapeats Sandstone. Vishnu was created by slow cooling over hundreds if not thousands or even millions of years. Tapeats Sandstone, which was laid down on top of the schist, takes millions of years for it to create the sand, then to compress it into stone, then thousands or millions more years for water erosion to cut through it.

I suggest another experimental science project for the YEC. Create a 100-foot bed of wet clay. Then compress it for a year and see if they have shale. That’s an easy experiment and would rock the world of geology if it were true.

J. Michael Jones

The next major layer coming up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon is Bright Angel Shale. Shale is thick layers of mud that have turned into rock. It takes millions of years for the process of sedimentation and compression to turn it to rock. But to get mud, you first need clays and other soils and that takes long periods to create. As I mentioned, it takes very long periods of time for rocks to erode to sand, but clay has an even finer grains of rock. Mixed in with the rocky minerals, clays have organic materials from microbes, dead plants, dead animals, and animal poop. It takes long periods of time for clays to form, but I’m sure the YEC say that the clay was created just before Adam and Eve were created. So, I won’t waste my time here. But they do claim that the mud settled at the bottom of Noah’s flood and then in a matter of weeks, the mud magically turned to stone.

I suggest another experimental science project for the YEC. Create a 100-foot bed of wet clay. Then compress it for a year and see if they have shale. That’s an easy experiment and would rock the world of geology if it were true.

The next layer in the Grand Canyon is Muav Limestone. Now the YEC really get into trouble here.

The Muav Limestone in the Grand Canyon is about 400 feet thick and is estimated to have taken over 500 million years to form. While all limestone is made from calcium carbonate, that calcium carbonate comes in many different sources. It can be created by huge growths (over millions of years) of corals, calcium carbonate precipitated directly out of seawater even without living forms directly involved, or from microorganism or larger animals with calcium carbonate shells that accumulate at the bottom of that sea. The Muav Limestone seems to be of the latter kind, but mostly on the microorganisms with shells. For enough microorganisms with shells to die and create a 400 foot bed of calcium carbonate, it would take hundreds of millions of years. Then, for that deposit to be compressed into limestone would take millions of years more. Then, which I have not mentioned so far, for the Colorado river to erode through these beds to create the Grand Canyon will take millions of years.

The YEC will say that these time periods that I’m using are made up by the “evollutists” to deceive people. That is not true. It is the sober observation of geological science and the processes that are involved. No radioisotope (which I will discuss later) are involved with these numbers.

I considered if I should address each of the remaining major layers. However, since we have covered the main types, ingenesis, sedentary, and limestone, I will just ask you the reader to extrapolate and apply to each of the seven other strata, because the processes would be similar for each one. I will mention that the Redwall Limestone is even thicker than the Muav Limestone. The Redwall limestone was made in a shallow warm sea (if Noah’s flood was caused by rain, then it would have diluted the seas and may still be saline, but at a lower level than the present oceans) and created by the accumulations of shells of larger marine life, than the Muav Limestone. So, if this was laid down during Noah’s flood, how in the hell did it happen? Can you imagine how long it would take to create a 800 foot deposit of seashells at a normal rate of deposition? Do the math. It would take millions of years. Then, to turn those shells into rock, you must apply pressure (would probably had to start with more than 1,000 feet of shells that would compress down to 800 feet) to the thick muck of calcium carbonate for a very long time, millions of years.

I have another science experiment for the YEC. First, fill a tank with the maximum number of shellfish it will hold and observe the accumulation of dead shells at the bottom. After a year, maybe the bottom will be covered with at thin layer. But, since you are so sure this happened in one year, wait and watch until you have a pile that’s 800-1000 feet thick. Then compress those shells and wait for them to turn to limestone. You say it was done in a year, so this experiment can easily fit into a year. I guarantee you, that after a year, you will have a wet pile of shell fragments (and wholes) that do not resemble limestone at all. But if you are correct, and it is bonafide limestone, once again you will rock the geology world.

Because this is getting long, I will put off my next topic until next time, which is related to strata, and that is unique life forms fossils found in each stratum. I will say, I’ve heard the YEC say in lectures and debates that the reason you find simpler life forms near the bottom of the Grand Canyon and more complex ones closer to the top is that the more complex life forms were better swimmers. This represents a profoundly oversimplification of reality. Maybe fitting for a kindergarten class, but not any thinking adults.

As always, thanks for reading. Please give your grace for typos as I wrote this in a haste and didn’t have time to proof-read because it is a gorgeous day here in the Pacific Northwest, and I want to enjoy it.

Mike

Published by J. Michael Jones

J. Michael Jones is married to Denise and is the father of five successful adult children, scattered around Washington state and Minnesota. He had a 38-year career as a physician associate, until he was forced into retirement by multiple myeloma in 2019. During his career, he waw a headache specialist at Mayo Clinic, and in the pacific northwest, and worked as a generalist in a variety of locations overseas, including Abu Dhabi, Oman, Cyprus, Egypt, Pakistan twice, Nepal, and Afghanistan's Khyber Pass. He has always loved to think and write, publishing seven books and countless journal articles. After retirement he has focused on his fiction writing including his coming book, The Stones of Yemen.

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