Motorists driving along Interstate Highway 68 in Maryland are often intrigued by the dramatic curves and folds in the layers of sedimentary rock in Sideling Hill. It is a sight that becomes more puzzling if you reflect on it. Obviously, because of gravity, sediments always spread out horizontally; but in this cut, the layers of solid rock are not flat or horizontal, but curved up! How could that happen? Stopping at the rest area for information, you soon discover that folded rock layers like that are not rare at all: in fact, the multi-state geologic region to which Sideling Hill belongs is actually characterized by closely folded rock strata1. And numerous examples of even more extreme folded rock are found all around the globe, including in frequently visited parts of the Grand Canyon.2
Investigating further, you are told that according to the accepted historical geologic model (uniformitarianism), the six to nine mile deep layer of sedimentary rock covering the earth formed very slowly--fractions of a millimeter per year--by processes still at work today. This accumulation, therefore, required eons of time. The horizontal layers of sedimentary rock that comprise the “geologic column” reveal the history of the earth in the various strata, with the oldest rocks at the lowest levels. These layers are named according to the era in which they were presumed formed, and are the Paleozoic Era (544 to 245 million years ago, further subdivided into six to eight periods), the Mesozoic Era (252 to 201 million years ago, further subdivided into Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods), and the Cenozoic Era (65 million years ago to the present, the time in which mammals were believed to have evolved).
Geologists who have studied the Sideling Hill Road cut assert that the sedimentary rock layers (of which we can see about 810 feet) were formed during the early Mississippian Period (330 to 345 million years ago), and then folded during mountain building in the Permian or early Triassic Period, approximately 230 to 240 million years ago.1 In other words, the rock had 100 million years to harden before it was somehow forced into its present shape.
How is sedimentary rock formed? Sedimentary rock, whether sandstone, shale, conglomerates, limestone, or chert, is composed of particulate matter (sand, silt, and gravel, themselves the result of the breakup of igneous rock), together with any bits of plant or animal debris. Geologic mapping demonstrates that this sediment was swept by water over long distances before being deposited in horizontal layers. While such sediments do not ordinarily become stone today, it is believed that those which became rock were swept along and mixed with some type of cementing agent that chemically interacted with the sediments, causing them to harden into solid rock, much like the setting of concrete or plaster of Paris.
But this explanation, you realize, only makes the puzzle more difficult! If you have tried to bend a piece of plaster of Paris or concrete, let alone rock, you know that it does not flex or bend, even if you apply pressure slowly. These materials are so brittle that they fracture or crumble instead. It is hard to imagine layers of rock hardened for more than 100 million years smoothly bending or folding into the intact arrangement seen in Sideling Hill.
So what is the answer? There can be only one. The only way sedimentary layers like those in Sideling Hill could deform without fracturing is for the layers to be laid down in rapid succession, and then folded up while still as soft and pliable as modeling clay.2
But are sedimentary layers ever deposited rapidly? Yes. The volcanic eruptions of Mount St. Helens in 1980 resulted in a series of mudslides that rapidly formed 600 feet of sediment layers, which though flat, were otherwise very similar to those of Sideling Hill. Researchers found that within five years, the horizontal layers had hardened into actual rock3. With that in mind, a different scenario begins to make better sense. If during the first year after the rapid deposition of sediments there had been volcanic eruptions or geologic movements to uplift and deform the layers, they could well have bent into the curved pattern seen in Sideling Hill, because they were still soft and malleable. If the rock had become hard, however, any later disrupting forces would have crushed or pulverized the layers rather than smoothly deforming them.
What, then, if we look beyond the standard uniformitarian model spanning hundreds of millions of years, a time frame chosen mainly because it is the time required for Darwinian evolution to have occurred? How are rocks dated anyway? While radiometric methods are commonly used to date igneous rock, these methods cannot be used for sedimentary rock, itself the result of the degradation or breakup of older rocks. Sedimentary rocks, unlike igneous rocks, are dated from certain fossils found embedded within particular layers of rock. Interestingly, these key fossils are themselves dated by the geologic strata in which they are found! Obviously, this is circular reasoning, and it continues to plague evolutionists.
But are there any other historical geologic models that could explain folded rock layers, other than uniformitarianism? Consider catastrophism! What if there had been some dramatic sort of cataclysm that produced miles of uprooted sediment that covered the entire face of the planet? And what if that cataclysm had been combined with powerful eruptions and rock movements all within the period of a year, when the sediment layers were still soft?
If your mind has jumped to the Great Flood (Noah’s Flood, or the Genesis Flood), the greatest worldwide cataclysm ever recorded, you are not alone. In fact, folded rock layers are actually regarded by some scientists as one of the more obvious geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood. And there are other lines of evidence, too, including the lack of weathering or bioturbation between rock strata, the rapid burial of plants and animals, the transport of great amounts of sediment over long distances, the lack of soil between rock layers, the presence of fossils of sea creatures high above sea level, and polystrate fossils such as petrified trees that extend through multiple strata.2,3 If our eyes are open to it, there is a lot of scientific evidence!
Suppose the Bible were true after all, including the book of Genesis? Considering this may be for some a matter of personal integrity.
1. Geology of the Sideling Hill Road Cut, Maryland Geologic Survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, www.mgs.md.gov, accessed 07/20/2017
2. Snelling, Andrew A.; Rock Layers Folded Not Fractured. Answers Magazine, April-June 2009, pp 80-83.
3. Morris, John D.; Geologic Evidence for a Young Earth (p. 107), in The Young Earth, Master Books, 1998.
4. Morris, Henry M.; Uniformitarianism or Catastrophism, pp. 91-130, in Scientific Creationism, Master Books, 2012.
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