The Geologic Column: Evidence for Evolution, or Noah’s Flood?

The Standard Geologic Column is a hypothetical model of historical geology based on Charles Lyell’s classic book Principles of Geology, published in 1830.   Rejecting the biblical catastrophist worldview (Noah’s Flood), Lyell devised a new interpretive framework that rejected God, rejected the Bible’s record, and presupposed that presently observed processes were “the key to the past.”  Perhaps because rejecting the biblical view also meant rejecting the moral constraints of the Bible, Lyell’s uniformitarian view rapidly became popular.  It soon attracted the particular attention of Charles Darwin, who was happy to discover vast periods of time to make his atheistic model of evolution seem plausible.
According to the evolutionary view, the earth is at least 4.5 billion years old, and the 6-8 mile thick blanket of sedimentary rock that covers the earth only gradually accumulated over millions of years.  Layers in the “geologic column” are dated by certain index fossils, and reveal the evolutionary history of the earth just like the rings of a tree.  After 150 years of this view dominating geology, no one questions the beautifully illustrated charts of the standard geologic column1.  The bottom of the chart generally has pictures of trilobites and other “primitive” sea creatures, and as the column ascends, arrows point to evolving fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and finally man, standing at the top of the evolutionary tree.
Now consider the sedimentary layers of an actual cliff along the James River in Virginia (pictured). The most obvious feature is a wide fossil layer containing vast numbers of fossilized shellfish, as well as fossilized shark teeth.  Paleontologists examining the strata confidently assure us that the fossils are 60 million years old. But how do they know that? Sedimentary rock cannot be dated by radiology or other independent methods. As it turns out, paleontologists date fossils by geologic strata, which in this cliff are believed Devonian.  Geologic strata such as Devonian, however, are themselves dated by index fossils.  Since according to the evolution model, sharks evolved 60 million years ago, the strata must be 60 million years old.  In other words, the age of the fossil is calculated using circular reasoning!  There is no objective way to know the age of the fossils.
Unfortunately for Lyell’s uniformitarian theory, a tremendous body of research has occurred since 1830. Rather than supporting his faith that gradual, steady processes occurring normally today were what produced the geological features observed (uniformitarianism), the evidence instead suggests that most geological features were the result of catastrophe.  As a result, many geologists now prefer the term “actualism”, a term that allows for geologic catastrophes.
In his excellent chapter on the geologic record, Dr. Tasman Walker presents some of the geologic evidence which not only conflicts with the “old earth” uniformitarianism required for evolution, but clearly points to a vast, worldwide catastrophe such as depicted in Noah’s Flood.2 
First of all, many phenomena reflected in sedimentary rock do not require millions of years at all: the rapid deposition and hardening of sediment during the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption made that clear.
Second, many features of the geologic column point to very rapid deposition, including: non-eroded ripple marks; the lack of soil formation or bioturbation (signs of plant and animal life) between layers; undisturbed bedding planes; polystrate fossils such as trees extending through layers; and clastic dikes, folded rock layers, and other signs of soft-sediment deformation3. 
Third, some geologic findings simply cannot be explained from an old earth uniformitarian perspective.  These include: mass animal graveyards such as seen in the Dinosaur National Monument, in which many skeletons display the characteristic “dead dinosaur posture” indicative of being buried alive; fossil jelly fish, something Darwin thought impossible; rapid experimental diamond and opal formation; rapid formation of stalactites and stalagmites; rapid petrification of wood within seven years; and rapid experimental formation of coal within 1-9 months. Other evidence for catastrophe rather than uniformitarianism includes: thick sandstone formations; transportation of boulders over great distances; vast sedimentary blankets which maps show cover thousands of miles; and increasing evidence that wide granite formations were formed rapidly2.
But what if our absolute faith in the conventional evolutionary geologic model is shaken?  Is there any alternative to millions of years of gradual, uniformitarian deposition of sediment over the globe, together with the spontaneous generation of life, and evolution from fish to man?
Yes, there is.  According to Dr. Walker, the ancient biblical account explains the evidence far better than the evolutionary model of the standard geologic column.  When viewed with an unprejudiced eye, the sedimentary strata actually fit very well into the violent, worldwide description of Noah’s Flood.  Many phenomena, including the vast coal deposits, polystrate fossils, and the high pressures seen in gas and oil deposits are also best explained by a young earth and a catastrophic biblical deluge. 
Biblical geologists looking at the geological layers suggest that the most violent part of Noah’s Flood must have been initially, when masses of land were broken up, and enormous volcanic and tectonic upheavals occurred in the crust and mantle.  In their scientific model, sediments were transported by continent-wide water flows, deposited in fine layers, and then subjected to massive continental erosion, and shaped by the receding waters.  Dr. Walker and others propose that the geologic column actually represents various stages in the Flood Event, including the Inundatory Stage and the Recessive Stage2.  While biblical geologists do not claim to have all the answers, Flood Geology has now clearly returned as a realistic scientific model.  
The interpretation of the geological column, whether biblical or evolutionary, is not merely a scientific model of academic concern.  It is a matter of great moral implications, which is perhaps why it is so hotly, even violently contested.  And how can it be ignored, when having an accurate worldview is the most important thing that determines success in the real world? What if the Bible were true, after all, and the Christian worldview were the accurate one?
G.M. Horning
1.      Rhodes, Frank.  Geology: A Golden Guide. The Golden Press; New York, 1972, page 152.
2.      Walker, Tasman. The Geologic Record, in Evolution’s Achilles Heels, Robert Carter, editor, Creation Book Publishers, 2015

3.      Morris, John D. Geologic Evidence, in The Young Earth, Master Books, 1998.


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