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Origins. Hebrew scriptures

Conflicts between the Bible's
flood story and the fossil record

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Background:

The theory of evolution requires a very old earth -- billions of years of age. A main part of this theory is the belief that fossil-bearing rock layers were laid down over an interval of hundreds of millions of years. Fossils thus represent evidence of the evolution of various species over a very long interval.

Many creation scientists are young-earth creationists. They interpret the Genesis account of creation as describing an young earth -- one which is only 6,000 to 10,000 years of age. A main component of this theory is that the flood of Noah, as described in Genesis 7, laid down layers of sediment that later hardened into the fossil bearing rock layers that we see today. This took only 150 days, and ocurred circa 2349 BCE according to the Schofield Reference Bible, in Genesis 7:24.

Most North American adults are quite certain that one of these theories is right and the other is wrong. They might assume that there are some indicators in the fossil records and/or in the rock layers which will indicate which is correct.

There appear to be two indicators that the flood is not the source of the fossil bearing sedimentary rock. We have never been able to find a valid rebuttal to either indicator. Of course, one may be found in the future.

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A conflict based on the number of fossils observed:

Creation scientists teach that the fossil remains of land animals which have been found trapped in the many rock layers were all actually alive at the time of Noah's flood. These few generations of animals all drowned. Some turned into fossils and were trapped in the layers of sedimentary rock which were laid down during the 150 days of the flood.

With our present knowledge, it appears impossible to harmonize this belief with the actual number of fossils in existence.

Robert Schadewald wrote:

"Robert E. Sloan, a paleontologist at the University of Minnesota, has studied the Karroo Formation [in Africa]. He asserts that the animals fossilized there range from the size of a small lizard to the size of a cow, with the average animal perhaps the size of a fox. A minute's work with a calculator shows that, if the 800 billion animals in the Karoo formation could be resurrected, there would be twenty-one of them for every acre of land on earth." 1

That is, if all of the fossils of animals in the Karroo Formation had been alive at one time, were drowned during the flood of Noah, and ended up evenly spaced around the entire land surface of the earth, there would be 21 animals per acre. 2 A very conservative estimate is that there are about 100 fossils elsewhere on earth for each fossil in the Karroo Formation in Africa. Thus, assuming that all of these animals were evenly distributed, there would have been over 2,100 living animals per acre of land  - "ranging from tiny shrews to immense dinosaurs" when the flood hit. This is clearly impossible.

To make the creation science story even more unlikely, only a small percentage of animals ever form fossils when they die. Assuming that 1 of each 1,000 land animals is fossilized, (an outrageously high number) then there would have been about 50 land animals per square feet of land wandering around at the time of Noah. The Earth would have been packed "wall-to-wall" with creatures. Animals would have been stacked on other animals to form multiple layers. Even if, as many creation scientists believe, the land area on earth Earth was much greater than it is today -- that is, closer to 100% than to 25% -- the number of animals alive at the time of Noah would have had to be enormous -- massively beyond the ability of the Earth to support.

To make the creation science story even more unlikely, animals could not be evenly distributed around the entire land mass. This means that the piles of animals covering some areas would be even deeper.

Scientists have concluded that the world's fossils came from millions of generations of animal life spread out over many hundreds of millions of years. Since all of the fossils were formed over a very long interval, then only a very tiny fraction of the animals would have been alive at any one time. The Earth could and apparently did accommodate them all.

John Woodmorappe, writing in the CEN Technical Journal, 4 traces the 800 billion figure back to Robert Broomwho estimated that the Karoo Formation covers a area of about 200,000 square miles, with an average of about 5 animal fossils exposed to view on the surface per square mile. Broom writes:

"For every fossil that is exposed to view there must be 1,000 hidden by dust and talus. ... there would be in the Karroo [Karoo], if the wind-blown sand and dust could be removed, 200,000,000 fossil animals exposed to view."

He notes that:

"The fossiliferous beds are of great thickness. In some areas they must be 4,000 - –5,000 feet [1,200 - –1,500 m] thick; in others perhaps only 2,000 feet [600 m]. It would be a very conservative estimate that would put the average thickness at 2,000 feet [600 m]. ... I thus estimate that in the whole Karroo [Karoo] formation there are preserved the fossil remains of at least 800,000,000,000 animals.’ 5

The area of the formation is known. The number of exposed fossils is apparently based on his experience in the field. The ratio of the number that are hidden by dust and talus to the number exposed is an estimate of unknown accuracy. The value for the depth of the fossil bed is conservative. If the ratio of hidden to exposed fossils is in error by a factor of, say, 10, then this would reduce the total number of animals from 800 billion to 80 billion. The conclusion would be the same: the fossils must have accumulated over hundreds of millions of years, not in a few generations.

We have not been able to find a convincing rebuttal for this conclusion by a creation scientist . This may be a "killer" observation that makes a major part of the young-earth creationism an untenable theory.

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A second conflict based on the lack of mixing of fossils:

The theory of evolution and the the beliefs of young-earth creation scientists are in conflict over the distribution of species within the fossil record:

bullet If creation science is correct, then the fossils and sedimentary rocks were formed quickly during the 150 day flood. Fossil-containing rocks which are closer to the surface will contain generally larger animals of all the species that have ever lived, while the deeper rocks will tend to contain more smaller species of animals. That is because the smaller animals would presumably drown first with the rising water level, while larger animals could survive longer before dying, and travel further from the rising flood waters. But there would be the occasional fossil from a large animal mixed in with the smaller animals deep in the fossil record. Remains of ground-hugging plants would tend to be in the deepest layers of rocks; larger trees would be in rocks closer to the surface. But there would be the occasional fossils of a fallen tree that would be trapped in a deep layer of sedimentary rock among "ground-huggers".

If you looked long enough, you would find (for example) the occasional dinosaur mixed in with human remains. You would find a Jurassic Cycad (an extinct tree) mixed with some more modern Maple trees. Trilobites would be found everywhere. As Charles Pellegrino stated:

"As we dug deeper and deeper beneath Thebes, everything would be the same; we would find hand axes, clams and dinosaurs mixed together all the way down."3

In addition, as you excavated through layers of rock, you would occasionally discover signs of human habitation at the bottom layer -- cities, towns, villages, cornerstones, etc. -- which were covered first by the flood. Scientists would find shaped rocks that were once part of buildings; remains of campfires; fabricated tools; fabricated timbers, graves, corner stones, etc. at the bottom of the fossil record.

bullet If the theory of evolution is correct then the fossil record and sedimentary rocks were formed over many hundreds of millions of years, as species evolved. One would expect to see that deeper rocks would contain more primitive forms of live, and shallower fossils would be of more highly evolved species. The tens of thousands of geologists and paleontologists working over the past centuries would never find a single Jurassic Cycad fossil mixed in with a Maple tree fossil in the same rock layer. That is because Maples emerged during the more recent Cretaceous era when the Cycads were long extinct. Dinosaurs would never be mixed with the remains of humans, dogs, cats and other modern mammals. Only a primitive, small mammalian species would be found together in the same rock layer with Dinosaurs. The first human evolved tens of millions of years after the last dinosaur apparently died. And no mammals or dinosaurs at all would be found in the same rock layer as trilobites (an early form of life that was long extinct before the arrival of the dinosaurs). There would be no signs of human habitation at the lowest layer; only very primitive life forms. In fact, there are probably at least 1 million pairs of species that would never be found together in the same rock layer.

Many tens of thousands of geologists and paleontologists have been studying rocks and the fossils that they contain for centuries. They have found that the species of fossils in the rock layers do not resemble the scenario required by the flood of Noah. They match exactly the scenario required by the theory of evolution.

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References:

  1. Robert Schadewald, "Six 'Flood' Arguments Creationists Can't Answer," Creation/Evolution IV, (1992, Summer), Pages 12 & 13:
  2. One acre is approximately equal in area to a square 209 feet by 209 feet. A detached house lot measuring 60' x 100'in a suburb of North America is about a seventh of an acre.
  3. Mark Isaak, "Problems with a Global Flood," at: http://members.shaw.ca/
  4. John Woodmorappe, "The Karoo vertibrate non-problem: 800 billion fossils or not," Ansers in Genesis, CEN Technical Journal, 14(2), 2000. Online at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/
  5. R. Broom, "The Mammal-like Reptiles of South Africa," H.F.G. Witherby, (1932), Page 309.

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Copyright © 1996 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2010-NOV-07
Author: B.A. Robinson
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