More Creationist Research
PART Ia: GEOLOGICAL RESEARCH
by DUANE T. GISH, Ph.D.
Creation Research Society Quarterly 25(4):161 March, 1989
Creationist research in the past 14 years is reviewed as it was in the first decade of the Creation Research Society (Gish, 1975). Part I is a review of geological research and Part II (to appear in the next Quarterly) is a review of biological research.
A review published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly 12:34-46 described the research that had been published in the Quarterly through Volume 10. The present review describes the research published in the Quarterly through March 1988, completing nearly 25 years of publication. This review has been restricted to those articles which describe bench-type or field type research. This restriction has caused the omission of some extremely significant and interesting theoretical research by Dr. Thomas Barnes, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Texas, El Paso (Barnes, 1975; Barnes and Upham, 1976; Barnes, Pemper and Armstrong, 1977; Barnes, 1980; Barnes and Ramirez, 1982a; Barnes, et al., 1982b; Barnes, 1983) and some interesting and productive mathematical research by Dr. David Rodabaugh (1975a, 1975b, 1975c, 1976) among others.
One of the many false charges leveled at creation scientists is that there are few biologists among them, that the creation science movement is dominated by engineers. This has been the consistent claim, for instance, of John Patterson, a bitter anti-creationist engineering professor at Iowa State University (Patterson, 1982, pp. 55-8). Actually, the largest category of membership of the Creation Research Society with advanced degrees in science are biologists and biological research papers constitute one of the largest groups described in this review, followed closely by geological research papers.
While in Europe in the spring of 1975, Clifford Burdick, a consulting geologist, visited thrust formations near Loch Assynt, in Northern Scotland, and the Glarus formation, near Schwanden, Switzerland. Burdick (1975, pp. 155-6) confirmed that the Scottish formations, the Moine, Ben More, and Glen Coul, which extend typically over a little more than five miles, are indeed thrusts. In contrast to these findings, his investigation of the Glarus formation confirmed Walter Lammerts' assessment (1972, pp. 251-5) of this formation that it reveals no evidence of overthrusting. The Glarus formation had been designated as an overthrust, not on the basis of any physical evidence for thrusting, but solely on the order of the fossils. Burdick quotes Billings (1955, p. 131) as saying:
"Parts of some of the great overthrusts in the Alps are so
devoid of slickensides, gouge, and mylonite, that they passed unnoticed and were for a time mapped as sedimentary contacts. It was only after paleontological evidence was obtained ... that the existence of the great faults was recognized."
An overthrust is claimed because the Verrucano, a coarse-grained arkosic schist, said to be Permian, overlies slate, described as Eocene, which evolutionists believe to be about 200 million years younger than the overlying Permian.
Although both the Verrucano and the slate are metamorphic, indicating heating, there is no evidence of sliding or other such motion. Just above the slate are two rather thin layers of limestone with a thin laver of water-deposited clay showing no signs of disturbance. As Billings has pointed out, and as confirmed by Lammerts and Burdick, there is none of the usual telltale signs of overthrusting at the sharp contact line.
Burdick concludes his assessment by stating:
"I suggest that the Glarus formation shows a complex petrologic history of depositions, metamorphism, folding, erosion, fresh deposition, and more regional metamorphism. There are marked unconformities, but no signs of thrusting; only signs of readjustment after the folding."
Burdick (1974, pp. 56-60) also has reported his reinvestigation of the so-called Lewis Overthrust. His original report had appeared in CRSQ 6:96-106. On the basis of his research, Burdick maintained that the usual evidences for overthrusting - mylonite, breccia, and slickensides - were missing. He concluded, therefore, that this may not be a true thrust.
In the summer of 1973, geologists Malcolm Fargher and Walter Peters accompanied a field trip sponsored by the Bible-Science Association. Fargher had reported the existence of slickensides and other physical criteria in the vicinity of the thrust contact, suggesting that the Lewis Overthrust might be a true thrust. In October of 1973, Malcolm Fargher accompanied Burdick on a reinvestigation of a number of points of contact. Most geologists assume that the Lewis Overthrust is a true thrust, because Cretaceous shale is overlaid with Precambrian Altyn dolomite, which is assumed to be more than 500 million years older than the Cretaceous. To illustrate the fact that in all such cases evolutionary geologists would assume that an overthrust must have occurred, Burdick quotes Nicholson (1897, p. 40):
"It may be said that in any case where there should appear to be a clear and decisive discordance between the physical and paleontological (fossil) evidence as to the age of a given series of beds, it is the former that is to be distrusted rather than the latter."
Burdick reports his reinvestigation of the contacts at Marias Pass, Dry Creek, at Two Medicine, Roes Creek, Cut Bank, and Crowsnest Pass. At Marias Pass, there is a definite unconformity, where the underlying Cretaceous shale has been faulted, with a westward dip of about 45deg. Burdick could find no evidence, however, of differential movement at the point of contact between the underlying Cretaceous shale and the overlying Altyn dolomite, such as gouge, breccia or slickensides. At the Dry Creek, at Two Medicine contact, the overlying Altyn dolomite had been deformed to the point of brecciation. The crushing and brecciation was local, however, with no gouge layer or other evidences of a giant thrust between the Precambrian and Cretaceous formations. Apparently the dolomite had been crushed and brecciated before it could be moved, the force required to break it up being far less than the force required to move this mammoth block of rock.
At Roes Creek, there appeared to be no evidence of thrusting
between the underlying black Cretaceous shale and the overlying
buff-colored rock. Burdick agreed with Fargher, however, that
the overlying rock was neither Belt Series Altyn dolomite nor
Cretaceous shale. At the Cut Bank contact, the contact line is
razor sharp, with no gouge or brecciation in the overlying
Altyn dolomite, as had been the case at Dry Creek. At Cut Bank, the underlying Cretaceous shale had been severely broken and brecciated, thus providing precisely the reverse of the situation at Dry Creek, where the overlying Altyn dolomite had been broken and brecciated. Burdick points out that if the severe breakage and brecciation of the underlying Cretaceous shale had been caused by overthrusting of the overlying Precambrian Altyn dolomite, both surfaces would have been brecciated, with gouge and slickensides. In the absence of such physical evidences, Burdick concluded that this contact provided no evidence for thrusting.
Crowsnest Pass is located along the highway at the Continental Divide at the British Columbia-Alberta boundary. Burdick reports that here the overlying Precambrian Belt Series, Altyn dolomite, lies conformably over the Cretaceous shale with a sharp contact, although the beds lie at about a 40deg angle. There is a slight brecciated seam of an inch or two between the beds, as would be expected from differential movement due to folding, but there is no evidence of a thrust-fault, according to Burdick.
Burdick closes his report with the following statement by R. C.
Emmons, geologist at the University of Wisconsin:
"Under-thrusting and upwelling appear to have bypassed the usual period of scrutiny, into one of intransigent acceptance, and are widely invoked, though unestablished in the geologic literature, as for example is overthrusting. Both vagrant concepts have assumed a sacrosanct status under geophysical husbandry that denies communion to opposition.."
Another alleged thrust fault is the Heart Mountain formation in Wyoming. This area had been studied by Burdick (1977, pp. 207-10), and he reports that he could find no evidence for overthrusting. With the so-called Heart Mountain Thrust, Madison (Mississippian) limestone is found overlying Tertiary limestone, or dolomite. Since the Mississippian is supposedly more than 200 million years older than the Tertiary, according to uniformitarian geologists, they must assume that the presumedly older formation came to rest on top of the presumedly younger formation by overthrusting. Burdick cites reports of other geologists who failed to find the usual evidences expected for overthrusting for Heart Mountain, but who nevertheless persist in believing in an overthrust on account of the fossil evidence.
Burdick reports that the whole area has been severely folded and deformed. Southwest of and adjacent to Heart Mountain, the strata have been so severely deformed that in places they rest on the edge. The contact of the Madison on Heart Mountain with the underlying bed is covered with limestone rubble. Some geologists have interpreted this rubble as tectonic breccia caused by thrust movement. Burdick noted, however, that this rubble is no different from the erosional rubble all around the steep sides of the mountain. Where the underlying sandstone was exposed, it did not show brecciation or mylonite. Burdick found definite evidence of fault action at Heart Mountain, but it involved normal, or vertical fault action rather than overthrusting. He thus discounted the generally accepted idea of thrust-faulting at Heart Mountain and interpreted the formation as a normal fault at the apex of an anticline.
Charred Branch from the Paluxy
Frederick P. Beierle (1979, p. 87) reported the finding of a charred tree branch in the Cretaceous limestone of the Paluxy River bed near Glenrose, Texas. This is the site, of course, of the controversial reports of the discovery of alleged human tracks near those of dinosaurs. In the company of Wilbur Fields, Rex Hess, and others, Beierle and his co-workers found the charred branch embedded in the Cretaceous rock about 200 yards downstream from dinosaur tracks in the same formation. The branch was seven feet long and about two inches in diameter. They are of the opinion that the limb had fallen into soft limestone, perhaps from a tree that had been hit by lightning, the limestone hardening after completely encasing the smoldering limb, leaving the limb half-burned.
The Thornton Quarry Deposits
The Thornton Quarry, located in a massive limestone deposit containing a high concentration of fossil corals, crinoids, brachiopods, and other shallow marine organisms, is the world's largest commercial limestone quarry. The limestone is believed by evolutionists to be about 400 million years in age (Silurian). Based upon a limited literature search and a few field trips to the site, geologist David B. D'Armond (1980, pp. 88-105) has published a preliminary report in which he presents evidence contradicting the generally accepted notion that the limestone deposit of the Thornton Quarry is an ancient fossil coral reef. D'Armond suggests that this deposit was formed due to catastrophic wave-action generated during the Genesis Flood.
D'Armond's interest in this alleged fossil reef was aroused during the several fossil-hunting field trips to the site sponsored by then-existent Institute for Creation Research Midwest Center. The Thornton Quarry is located just to the south of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Material Services Corporation (a division of General Dynamics) regularly allows field trips and fossil hunts into the area under company supervision. The Thornton deposit is one of dozens of similar deposits in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, as well as in several locations in eastern Canada. Geologists describe these deposits as part of a wedge-shaped fossil coral reef archipelago positioned offshore from an ancient shoreline. D'Armond is severely critical of the description of the Thornton deposit by Jerome Ingels (1963, p. 405), who believed this to be a fossil reef.
As D'Armond describes, a modern reef exhibits the following
characteristics: 1) distinct and highly ordered growth structure
in the core: no bedding present; 2) shallow dipping, bedded
talus slopes on flanks of the core; 3) a high percentage of
reef-forming algae (50-80%); 4) solid, anchored, hard bedrock as
initial foothold and growth points; and 5) a V-shaped growth
profile of the reef as a whole
D'Armond rejects Ingels' claim that the Thornton deposit is a fossil reef, for the following reasons: 1) there is no solid footing for reef growth; 2)the "reef core" does not exhibit growth structures; 3) red calcareous algae, the main reef-builder, is totally missing; 4) flank deposits are too steep for the underwater angle of repose, and the "core" could not be the source of deposits that are stratigraphically above the core, nor the dome-like structure; 5) actual exposed reef shape does not correspond tomodern reefs; 6) similar massive shallow-water limestone deposits are not occurring in today's reefs; and 7) the ubiquitous fossil "tar" depicts rapid and complete burial of animals before they could decay-unlike the slow processes of a reef.
In a very extensive and detailed analysis of postulated
catastrophic effects that would have been produced by the
Genesis Flood due to the deluge, tsunamis, storm surges, tidal
waves, and earth movements and convulsions, D'Armond synthesizes
a working hypothesis for the formation of the Thornton "reef"
deposit and the underlying strata. According to D'Armond's
"... the massive Cambrian and Ordovician strata underlying Thornton, including the St. Peter Sandstone formation, is primarily a mid-Flood deposit. Plant and animal materials, along with sediments broken loose by earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and other forces, were deposited in final form by the massive tidal action of the Flood during the months of deepest inundation. judging from the direction of transport and deposition ascribed by modern geologists to the sediments underlying the Thornton "reef" deposits, it appears that this direction may be interpreted as being the result of tidal wave fronts driven by the Coriolis effect, which created massive tidal currents that swept over shoal areas and Canadian Shield area into deeper basins. Thus the deep underlying massive sediments may be relegated to the action of tidal waves and currents in the CatastrophicWave Action Model. Tidal waves and currents would also be primarily responsible for massive limestone deposits derived from chemical precipitation occurring with rapidly changing temperature, pH and chemical precipitation, while longer periods of deposition would greatly increase the chances of contamination by other materials.
"Following the mid-Flood deposition attributed to tidal effects, a rapid emergence of continental land masses started to occur, triggering additional violent crustal movements which, in turn, caused large numbers of tsunamis to sweep over newly emergent shorelines. The newly formed Silurian deposits, being uplifted, became a shoreline area capable of receiving coral reef fragments torn loose and transported by tsunami-type waves. The source area for these reef materials could have been actual antediluvian reefs growing on Precambrian basement rocks in the general area of present-day Hudson Bay. It could also be that the very large area of reef deposits embedded in the Paleozoic sediments on the southern edge of Hudson Bay are actual reefs, with footholds on the underlying Precambrian, that were in place before the Flood. At any rate, the allochthonous reef deposits at Thornton and elsewhere along the archipelago, are most probably the result of tsunami wave deposition.
"It is also during this time that the great wind of Genesis 8 would have been in operation, and thus storm surge deposits also could have been expected in the area. Such deposits might be represented by the material piled on top of the Thornton reef blocks, causing moderate anti-clinal dips throughout the area. The continuing emergence of the continental land masses would have uplifted these deposits, and probably would have caused steepening of the angles of dip to their present attitudes. And finally, a thin layer of Pleistocene sediments covered the area as a result of a brief glacial period."
I believe that this extensive coverage of D'Armond's working hypothesis is desirable, in order not only to present adequately D'Armond's interpretation of the Thornton deposit, but also to call attention to his Catastrophic-Wave Action Model. Readers are urged to read D'Armond's paper and to critique his model. Although D'Armond's study on the possible origins of the Thornton Quarry deposits is only preliminary, it does establish firmly that these deposits do not constitute a fossil reef, and that, while the conclusions of his study are hypothetical, it should be noted that a satisfying synthesis of the Thornton deposits can be made from the known facts.
Palynology Studies in the Grand Canyon
Dr. George Howe published the initial paper (1986, pp. 99-104) in a series on Precambrian pollen in Grand Canyon formations. Interest in this subject was stimulated by a report by C. L. Burdick that he had isolated pollen grains of various land plants from rocks of late Precambrian Hakatai shale while doing graduate work towards a Ph.D. (subsequently denied) at the University of Arizona under Gerhard Kremp, beginning in 1964. Burdick (1966, pp. 38-50) finally published the results of his work without support of Kremp. In his paper, Howe presents a thorough review of Burdick's work and subsequent work by others at the University of Arizona and by Arthur V. Chadwick of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California. The latter workers claimed they could not repeat Burdick's results and attributed Burdick's results to contamination. Howe's review includes excerpts from extensive correspondence and the comments of those involved. It provides an insight into what happens when results are obtained which are incompatible with current evolutionary thinking.
It was decided at a Creation Research Society meeting in April, 1983 that fresh samples from the Grand Canyon should be collected and analyzed by both the Burdick and the Chadwick-Doher methods, every possible effort being made to exclude contamination. A chemist, G. T. Matzko, agreed to carry out the pollen extractions according to both procedures.
The second paper in this series was published by W. E. Lammerts and G. F. Howe (1987, pp. 151-3). As noted in the first article in this series, claims have been made that Burdick's recovery of pollen grains from the Precambrian Hakatai shale was due to contamination of present-day pollen picked up either during collection and transportation of the samples or by infiltration into the samples prior to collection. Lammerts and Howe therefore undertook to assess the rate at which pollen grains will contaminate exposed slides in order to determine whether or not pollen contamination might occur routinely in the laboratory or in the field.
Lammerts and Howe used various conditions in their experimental procedures, using clean ordinary slides, and slides coated with vaseline, scotch tape, and water; collecting points near pollinating pine trees on breezy and quiet days, near sunflower and pollinating corn plants, and under an oak tree; overnight exposure to an office near pine trees; and on a laboratory table with 86 hours of exposure. The effect of wind, as should be expected, was very important. In 10 minutes, on a breezy day, 27 pollen grains were collected near a pine tree on two slides, but no grains were collected on two slides at the same location a quiet day. Lammerts and Howe concluded that the chance of contamination by airborne pollen during slide preparation and during field work is extremely low. Whatever pollen might blow into a laboratory on a windy day quickly settles to a desk top or the floor, where it sticks; therefore, they state, it would seem that reasonable care in cleaning the table, slides, and cover slips, would render unnecessary positive pressure and filtered air supplies.
The third publication in this series was authored by G. F. Howe, E. L. Williams, G. T. Matzko, and W. E. Lammerts (1988, pp. 173-82). They reported their efforts to determine whether fossil pollen grains could be recovered from the Precambrian Hakatai Shale, as Burdick bad reported, or whether negative results would be obtained as reported by University of Arizona workers and Chadwick. Samples were collected from rock exposures of the Hakatai Shale, Hermit Shale (The Hermit Shale is Permian), and Supai Group (The Supai Group includes Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks). Hermit Shale was examined in addition to Hakatai Shale to see if pollen grains could be recovered from other shales and the Supai Formation was included as a control.
Rock samples were taken after chipping back several inches from the exposed surfaces of rocks which had no obvious seams or cracks, and were collected directly into plastic bags, every precaution being taken to prevent contamination. Samples were sent to G. T. Matzko for processing and pollen extraction in the chemistry laboratory at Bob Jones University. Some samples were given washes with dilute hydrochloric acid followed by water washes; some were given only water washes; and two samples of the Hakatai Shale were given dilute hydrochloric acid washes followed by digestion in dilute hydrofluoric acid, and then were given two water washes. From samples of loose material of Hakatai Shale recovered from two different locations, given either the hydrochloric acid and water washes or just water washes, fossil pollen grains were recovered on 8 of 15 slides, and from loose material from two locations of Hakatai Shale given the acid wash, hydrofluoric acid digestion, and water wash, fossil pollen grains were found on 8 of 10 slides. Photographs of the slides, taken by George Howe, and scanning electron photomicrographs, taken by E. L. Williams, were sent to an experienced palynologist for examination. This palynologist was not aware of the source from which the samples had been obtained. This was done so that objective analyses could be obtained from an expert in the field not associated with the CRS group. According to his best judgment, pine pollen, Ephedra-like pollen, angiosperm-type pollen, fungal spores, and possible algal cells were present on some of the slides. Howe and his co-workers concluded that these results support Burdick's claims of having discovered fossil pollen grains of gymnosperms and angiosperms in the Precambrian Hakatai Shale. This would, of course, refute the belief of evolutionists that the Precambrian sedimentary material was laid down hundreds of millions of years before pine trees (gymnosperms) and flowering plants (angiosperms) existed on the earth.
Howe and co-workers suggest the possibility that the reason Chadwick and the University of Arizona workers failed to confirm Burdick's findings was because these workers may have exposed their samples to prolonged digestion with hydrofluoric acid. L.
I. Doher, who had developed the method used by Chadwick and the other workers, had pointed out that hydrofluoric acid has a corrosive effect on pollen and spores, and recommended that the sample not be exposed to the acid any longer than necessary, and should be washed with water immediately after disaggregation with hydrofluoric acid. The CRS group plans to pursue further research which will involve additional extracts from their rock samples, with a more extensive examination of the Supai and Hermit materials.
... Part Ib