Creation Science Articles
Creationist Misuse of the
Green River Formation
Copyright 2003 G.R. Morton. This can be freely
distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made.
Answers in Genesis recently published an article concerning the
Green River Formation on their web site. The article, by Paul
Garner, purports to show how the Green River formation can be
deposited by a global flood.. The article can be found at:https://answersingenesis.org/geology/catastrophism/green-river-blues/
This article is a response to the nonsense on that paper.
on Green River Formation
One needs some
background on the regional geology in order to understand the
issues. The Green River Formation lies in southwestern Wyoming,
northwestern Colorado and extreme northeastern Utah. It is found in
three different ancient lake basins. The first is Lake Gosiute which
consists of the Green River Formation found in the Green River
Basin, the Washakie Basin, and the Sand Wash Basin (all of which
used to interconnect but presently don't due to erosion). The Green
River Formation is also found in the ancient Fossil Lake in the
Fossil Basin, which lies to the west and which does not connect up
with Lake Gosiute. As we shall see there is even paleontological
evidence that these basins never connected. Finally the Green River
Formation is found in Lake Uinta in the Uinta and Piceance Basins to
the south of the map. These three ancient lakes were separated from
each other and when speaking of the Green River, one must be careful
to distinguish where one is talking about. Blindly applying
discoveries from one ancient lake to another or to the Green River
in general leads creationists to erroneous conclusions. Below are
two maps showing the location of these basins. The first is from
Bradley (1929, p. 89) and shows a more regional view. The second
(modified from R. Sullivan, 1985, p. 914) zooms in on Fossil Lake
and Lake Gosiute.
of the Green River Formation varies between each basin and within
each basin. The thickest parts of the Green River Formation in Lake
Gosiute are in the neighborhood of 200-2600 feet. But this is not
all the sediment found in these basins. There is approximately
30,000 feet of sediments in these basins (variable of course; see
McPeek, 1981, p. 1080 Fig 3), 28,000 of which underlies the Green
River Formation. This is important to know when one is trying to
explain the Green River Formation as the result of a global flood
because both the Green River Formation and the underlying sediment
must be flood deposited rocks. The flood must have deposited 28,000
feet of sediment before the Green River Formation was deposited!
was the first to publish extensively on the Green River Formation
(or at least was the most influential). He noted that the formation
has rhythmic laminations in four different rock types. These are:
"organic marlstone or low-grade oil shale, moderate-grade oil shale,
rich oil shale, and fine-grained limy sandstone" (Bradley, 1929, p.
95). He noted that the various types of lamina show varying rates of
deposition. He notes that the varves "range in thickness from 0.014
millimeter in the beds of richest oil shale to 9.8 millimeters in
the fine-grained sandstone. The average thickness, weighted
according to the quantity of each type of rock in the Green River
formation, is about 0.18 millimeters." (Bradley, 1929, p. 96). He
placed the rates of deposition in a table showing the rates of
deposition of the various types of laminated rocks (Bradley, 1929,
calculated how long it would take the Green River Formation to be
deposited in the Piceance basin at Parachute Creek in Garfield
County, Colorado. He writes:
|Time to accumulate 1 foot
|Sandstone, fine grained
|Moderate oil shale
|Rich oil shale
that this part of the Green River has 13 million layers. Depositing
this many layers in a one year global flood is problematic,
especially when one considers the nature of the material being
deposited. Bradley (1929, p. 100-101) tells us:
"This section is about 2,600 feet thick and consists of about 7
per cent of fine-grained sandstone, about 76 per cent of
marlstone and closely related rocks, about 13 percent of oil
shale that will probably yield between 15 and 35 gallons of oil
to the ton, about 4 per cent of oil shale that will yield more
than 35 gallons to the ton, and a negligible quantity of algal
limestone and oolite. The rates of accumulation already assumed
are as follows: Fine-grained sandstone, 1 foot in 250 years;
marlstone and related rocks, 1 foot in 2,000 years; oil shale
yielding between 15 and 35 gallons to the ton, 1 foot in 4700
years; and oil shale yielding more than 35 gallons to the ton, 1
foot in 8,200 years. According to these rates the Green River
epoch is estimated to have lasted about 6,500,000 years."
(Bradley, 1929, p. 107).
a 5 micron diameter will require many days to settle out of the
water. Thus, each organic-rich layer is in itself evidence of
several days duration. The table below is reproduced fromhttp://www.civil.mtu.edu/~nurban/classes/ce503c/1999/proj1bsol.html
The table is
based upon a similar density to what we find in the Green River
Formation, the inorganic particles are 2.5 g/cc and the organic 1.05
g/cc. Given that Bradley said that the carbonate particles were 5
microns and the organic particles were around 50 microns we see from
the table below that such particles settle at 1.9 meters/day and 5
meters per day, respectively
"The greater part of the organic matter presumably came down as
a rain of minute planktonic organisms which might have ranged
from 1 or 2 microns to several millimeters in maximum dimension,
though if an analogy with Lake Mendota in Wisconsin is
significant it might be inferred that most of the organisms were
less than 60 microns in diameter. . . ."
"It is reasonable to believe that the precipitation of
carbonates accompanied the sedimentation of the remains of
plankton organisms. And if the assumptions are made that
organisms and carbonate grains began to settle from the same
water stratum, that the particles of both sorts of material
settled as spheres, that the carbonate grains averaged about 5
microns in diameter (their present size), and that the organisms
averaged about 50 microns in diameter and had an average
specific gravity of 1.05, then the variables of Stokes law show
that the carbonate grains, despite their small size, must have
settled many times more rapidly than the lighter organic matter.
Consequently there would have been complete separation of the
constituents into two layers even in shallow water."
This is very
difficult to reconcile with the global flood's rapid deposition. As
we shall see, to account for the Green River Formation in a global
flood one needs to create 4.7 layers per second.
With this as a
background we can now evaluate Paul Garner's article.
Settling velocity (m/d)
Settling velocity (m/d)
the critics (who in any case err by relying on the incomplete data
of fallible scientists, rather than the infallible God who knows all
data) leave out some vital information that sheds light on the
origin of 'varves'. As long ago as 1961, creationists were pointing
out features of the Green River Formation that were difficult to
reconcile with the conventional varve interpretation.5
For instance, well-preserved fossils are abundant and widespread
throughout the sediments. According to two conventional geologists:
several things wrong with the above. First, the catfish are limited
in areal extent to the center of Lake Gosiute. They are not found
everywhere. Fossil Lake has no catfish whatsoever. Paul Buchheim
writes (Grande and Buchheim, 1994, p. 45):
. . .
fossil catfish are distributed in the Green River basin over
an area of 16,000 km2 . . . The catfish range in length from
11 to 24 cm, with a mean of 18 cm. Preservation is
excellent. In some specimens, even the skin and other soft
parts, including the adipose fin, are well preserved.6
differences are indicative that the two lakes were indeed separated
when the Green River was formed. Because of this, one simply can't
take an observation applicable to one part of the Green River
Formation and use it everywhere.
thing wrong with Garner's statement is that fossil catfish are not
found even throughout all of the Lake Gosiute deposits. As shown on
the map above, the catfish are known from the deeper parts of the
Lake Gosiute, i.e., the parts of the lake furthest from shore. This
is an important factor to remember because the fossils are arranged
in an areal fashion which fits with a lake deposit, not with a
global flood. One knows that the fossil catfish spent a lot of time
in the lake because they left lots of catfish coprolites (fossilized
dung) in the layers of the Green River Formation. Buchheim and
Surdam (1977, p. 198) note that these fish coprolites are extremely
numerous at between 100 and 350 per square meter averaging 1
centimeter in length. To concentrate fish coprolites at this density
over the reported area of 16,000 sq. kilometers seems to defy any
catastrophist interpretation of the beds.
Garner is pleased to claim that the catfish are incompatible with
the idea of a lake deposit, he totally ignores the fact that the
deposit is totally incompatible with a global flood and its
requisite transport of sediment and fossils. Buchheim notes in the
article that the fish couldnot have been transported. Buchheim and
Surdam (1997, p. 198) write:
"It is important here to mention certain fishes lacking in the
F-1, F-2 and Warfield Springs deposits (and all of the Fossil
Butte Member deposits, as far as we know), because of their
abundance in the Laney Member Green River Formation deposits of
neighboring Lake Gosiute. Most conspicuously there is an absence
of suckers (Catostomidae) and catfishes (Ictaluridae and
Hypsidoridae) from the Fossil Lake deposits, two major groups of
bottom-dwelling fishes that are abundant in the Lake Gosiute
deposits. No sucker has ever been reported from Fossil Lake. The
first author previously reported catfishes as being extremely
rarely known from Fossil Lake based on a photograph of a single
partial specimen (probably from near shore F-2). But neither of
us has ever seen another trace of catfish from the Fossil Lake
deposits in the field or in any museum. Thus, catfishes were
probably not a normal part of the fauna. Also lacking in the
Fossil Butte deposits but common in the Laney Member deposits is
the clupeid Gosiutichthys and the percopsid Erismatopterus
although these families (Clupeidae and Percopsidae) are
represented in Fossil Lake deposits by Knightia and Amphiplaga"
While I don't
have a catfish from the Green River in my collection, I do have some
Green River fish which show similar fleshy features as described
above. It is shown below.
"The abundant and widespread occurrence of skeletons of bottom
feeders, some with soft fleshy skin intact, strongly suggests
that the catfish were a resident population. It is highly
improbable that the catfish could have been transported to their
site of fossilization. Experiments and observations made on
various species of fish have shown that fish decompose and
disarticulate after only very short distances of transport."
False Claims About Fossilization
further criticizes the idea that a normal lake could produce the
fossils when he writes:
one example where fossilization didn't work, one from an environment
which isn't even a lake, and then erroneously applies it to what
happens in a lake. I will give an example which contradicts what
Garner is saying. I ran into this fascinating account of lake
preservation a few years ago. Cotton et al.(1987, p. 1125) write:
"Experiments by scientists from the Chicago Natural History
Museum have shown that fish carcasses lowered on to the muddy
bottom of a marsh decay quite rapidly, even in oxygen-poor
conditions. In these experiments, fish were placed in wire cages
to protect them from scavengers, yet after only six-and-a-half
days all the flesh had decayed and even the bones had become
Cotton et al.
(1987, p. 1126) note the condition of the bodies and attribute it to
the low water temperature.
"On 29 Aug. 1983, a lake freighter entered the Duluth, Minnesota
harbor. While proceeding to dockage under windy conditions, the
captain ordered an anchor be dropped to assure stability. Later
when the anchor was raised, the crew was surprised to find an
Oldsmobile Toronado impaled on the flukes. The badly damaged and
flattened automobile contained the bodies of an adult male and
female. The bodies were not easily removed because they were
partially compressed and trapped by the flattened automobile
body. The time and means by which the automobile was crushed is
unknown. It is known, however, that ships commonly lower anchors
weighing many tons in the area from which the vehicle was
retrieved. It is likely that anchors had previously struck the
automobile resulting in the observed damage."
"Both the vehicle and the deceased persons contained in it were
reported missing on 30 Aug. 1978, and, therefore apparently had
been submerged exactly five years in the ship canal of the
lay on the bottom of a lake for 5 years and were still undecayed.
The same process could have taken place with the fish. Thus, Garner
has specifically avoided citing examples where tissue preservation
has occurred, he gives the totally erroneous impression that
fossilization in lakes doesn't and can't occur.
"After five years of immersion, these bodies presented the
appearance of a superficial shell of adipocere material encasing
visceral organs demonstrating a high degree of retention of
gross anatomic features but with substantial effacement of
histologic structural details."
claims that the discovery of birds in the Green River formation is
terribly problematic for the conventional interpretation. This is
absolutely silly and Garner doesn't bother to tell his readers any
information about the birds or what was found with them.
birds are found on the shore facies of the lake. This is where they
should be found. Secondly, they left numerous footprints, which
proves that the waters of Garner's imaginary flood, were no deeper
than the legs of the birds. Below are 2 photos courtesy of Bob
Elsinger who showed me this fossil at his home in Aberdeen
(4-25-03). He kindly e-mailed me the photos; the first is normal
footprints, the second is an upper slab showing casts of bird
footprints. The birds in this Soldier summit example were small.
Their feet were no larger than Bob's wedding ring. Surely one can't
reasonably believe that there was a global flood going on at this
time. The water depth is hardly that expected of a global flood
which deposited 30,000 feet of sediment beneath the Green River.
Moussa (1968, p. 1435)notes of the tracks found in the Green River
formation in Lake Uinta,
There are also
mammalian tracks. Moussa (1968, p. 1435-1436) writes:
"The bird tracks are probably those of wading and swimming
birds, are of different types, and they show a considerable
range in size. Some tracks show a partly developed web, and most
of them show a hind toe. According to R. L. Zusi of the U.S.
National Museum (written communication, 1965), the bird tracks
shown in Plate 177, figure 3, and Plate 178, figures 3 and 5,
'are almost certainly sandpipers, and perhaps plovers, of at
least three species."
which obviously was in a shallow water, lake edge position also has
sedimentologic features suggestive of a lake environment and not a
global flood. Moussa (1968, p. 1436) writes:
"The Soldier Summit fossil track horizon also contains mammal
tracks which appear to have been made by three-toed mammals;
however, these are extremely rare and have been found at three
localities only. One locality in the western wall of the canyon
of White River in the NE1/4NE1/4 sec. 16 T. 10 S., R. 8 E., has
yielded many well-preserved mammal tracks. According to Clayton
Ray of the U. S. National Museum, 'It appears that the tracks
were made either by a small, three-toed horse, or perhaps a
tapiroid, although it would be difficult to identify them with a
are consistent with the edge of a lake, not a global flood. How on
earth are rain-drops and mud-cracks to be preserved when the entire
world was under water?
bird site, the sedimentologic features further support the lake
interpretation. McGrew and Feduccia (1973, p. 163) describe another
site which has flamingo-like birds:
"Mud cracks and probable rain-drop impressions are common
features in the track-bearing horizon, and very rarely the rocks
are ripple marked. The ripple marks are of the oscillation
"The area was probably a part of a near-shore shelf area in the
Eocene Uinta Lake, and at that time the lake was apparently
characterized by a rapidly vacillating water level."
and (1973, p.
fossil bird concentration occurs 104 feet below the base of the
basal oil shales of the Laney Shale Member of the Green River
Formation in a grayish-green silty claystone. The site is in the
S 1/2 sec 24, T 25N, R. 102 W. "
Lake Nakuru is
an African lake with lots of flamingos. This site also has evidence
that the flamingos weren't washed in to place. They are found with
hundreds of thousands of their coprolites. McGrew and Feduccia
"Many fragments of aquatic turtle shells and crocodile bones
plus fish remains attest to the aquatic environment, and an
extensive mud flat submerged under a few feet of water is
indicated. Judging from the large number of algal encrusted logs
and branches the expanding waters probably drowned a forest. A
similar situation exists on Lake Nakuru."
Thanks to Bob
Elsinger who provided this picture, you can see what the flamingos
are like on Lake Nakuru. Thousands of birds would leave millions of
feces which would turn into coprolites in the future. This is what
happened at Lake Gosiute. And it didn't happen in a global flood! In
the picture below, each pink dot is a big flamingo.
And a close-up
The site was a
nesting locale. McGrew and Feduccia further(1973, p. 164) note:
"Modern flamingos are primarily filter feeders, and the main
diet consists of algae and microorganisms obtained from the
water and bottom muds. Occasionally, however, flamingos will
take a variety of small mollusks, crustaceans, worms and small
fish. Stomach contents usually include an abundance of organic
There is suggestive evidence that the Green River Birds had
somewhat similar habits. Within the matrix of the bird quarry,
and mixed among the bones were hundreds of small clay pellets.
At first these were thought to be coprolites left by small
carnivores. Their abundance and composition, however, seemed
contrary to that interpretation. The mystery may have been
partially solved when we discovered almost identical pellets on
the shores of east African Lakes where hundreds of thousands of
interesting case of a bird track was that of a duck- or goose-like
bird which left evidence of it nibbling (eating). The site was 20
miles south of Provo, Utah. Bruce Erickson (1967) reports that in
addition to this track others at slightly different levels
(according to the varves) are also found. He writes (Erickson, 1967,
"That the Green River flamingo locality was a nesting site is
proven by the abundant egg shell fragments found among the
Here is a
picture of the duck-like prints from Erickson, 1967.
acknowledges that birds nested throughout Green River time in Fossil
Lake. They studied three different Presbyornis nesting sites and
found that they spanned 160 meters of vertical rock. They also
commented that such nesting sites are quite common in the shore
facies of the Green River Formation. His team writes (Legitt,
Buchheim and Biaggi, 1998):
"One varve may have a thickness of only a few millimeters. In
places it is probable that the like thicknesses of nonvarved
sediments accumulated at similar rates. Tracks found at various
levels then, where vertical separation is only a few
millimeters, are not likely to have been made by one individual
but rather by different individuals during different
times--probably during following or previous seasons depending
on whether they are above or below respectively in the sequence
of layers. The suggestion arises that this 'zone' so productive
of tracks, represents an established habitat for certain species
of birds and was frequented year after year."
It takes time
for a bird to nibble and they don't do it when terrified for their
life during a global flood. To believe that the Green River
formation is the deposit of a global flood requires one to believe
that the fish, with their coprolites, and birds, with their
coprolites, eggshells and footprints, were washed into place and
arranged so that the catfish are in the center of a circular area
surrounded by birds and animal tracks. It is perverse to think that
God could have caused a flood which would create deposits which are
arranged so that they look like they were not from a global flood.
"Autochthonous Presbyornis sp. (Aves: Anseriformes) eggshell
from three Eocene Fossil Lake sites is strong evidence for
multiple avian nesting sites within Fossil Basin. Two of these
nesting sites (the Bear Divide and Warfield Creek sites) occur
near the base of the lower unit of the Fossil Butte Member of
the Green River Formation. The third nesting site (the Powerline
site) occurs near the top of the upper unit of the Fossil Butte
Member. The Presbyornis nesting sites span Green River Formation
time in Fossil Basin."
Caddisflies on the Banks of Lake Gosiute
One of the
most amazing finds on the edges of Lake Gosiute are bioherms made up
of microbial deposited carbonate on caddisfly larval cases. A
bioherm is a buildup of organic material, usually in domal-shaped
structures. Some of the caddis-fly bioherms are 9 meters tall and 40
meters in diameter (Leggitt and Cushman, 2001, p. 378). These
features are found in a linear trend, 70 kilometers (44 miles) along
what was at the time the northern edge of the lake. These bioherms
consist of caddisfly pupa cases interlaminated with stromatolite
forming microbial-caddisfly couplets. Leggitt and Cushman (2001, p.
caddisfly larval cases are not randomly arranged within the cores of
the columns, but are arranged with the long axes of the cases
parallel to each other and normal to bedding. Each bedding plane is
one case thick (i.e., about 1 cm). Cases are closely packed and
almost touch each other. The smaller caudal end of the slightly
tapered case is almost always directed downward (or inward toward
the column core). All cases are similar in length (1 cm) and
diameter 2.5 mm)."
How do such
things form? Drysdale 1999, p. 146) observed:
general, Cheumatopsyche larvae collect locally available detrital
mineral and vegetable particles and bind them together with silk to
form a retreat, an approximately cylindrical tube within which the
animal lives and which is anchored to the substratum by silk
strands. Calcium carbonate deposited over the anchor points must add
considerable stability to these retreats, reinforcing them against
erosion during spate conditions. At the opening of the retreat, an
elaborate silk net is spun by the larvae to strain food particles
from the water column."
of these caddisfly larval cases indicates that time was required for
the deposition of this part of the Green River. While it is doubtful
that the stromatolite/caddisfly couplets represent a yearly deposit,
the fact remains that a global flood would have a great deal of
difficulty collecting such small items and arranging them so that
their tiny ends all point towards the center of a circular column
and do this over and over so that layer after layer can be
deposited. Below is a figure from Leggitt and Cushman's article.
And the YEC
must explain why the Flood did this over and over only in a line
along the north shore of a deposit which would be interpreted as a
lake long after this deposition and not deposit such things anywhere
else in the area. One must have a truly flexible mind to hold that
such things are deposited by a global flood.
While I don't
have an example of a caddisfly pupae interlaminated in a
stromatolite, I do have a picture of a green river stromatolite
which a friend cut and polished for bookends. You can see the major
banding, but what the photo won't show is the even tinier daily
banding of the stromatolite in which small layers of limestone are
deposited each day.
of the Eocene Lakes
shows that he has not investigated alternative possibilities when he
criticises the varves based upon the work of Buchheim and Biaggi.
Garner asserts (1997):
it look as if secular geologists are coming to the conclusion that
there are no varves in the Green River. This is not at all the case.
Furthermore, Garner fails to honestly inform his readers that
Buchheim's work is in Fossil Lake, the smallest of the ancient lakes
and this is an important aspect of what the researchers observed. It
is true that they observed more laminations near the shore than out
in the lake's center. But they should have and that is what Garner
fails to tell his readers.
was about 18 miles long and 12 miles wide. It is found at the
Utah/Wyoming border. Gosiute is found to the east of Fossil lake and
was 200 miles in diameter. Here is what happens: A small rainfall
would produce a small amount of sediment running into each of the
lakes. The sediment settles out within a few miles from the shore.
But since Fossil lake was so small, the storm laminae never settled
out in the short 6 mile distance from shore. Thus Fossil lake would
have annual layersplus storm layers. Storm runoff would affect the
layer count preferentially nearer the shore.
It would look
might not produce much sediment and only produce an additional layer
near the shore. This explains Buchheims' observations. Buchheim and
Biaggi (1988) were able to measure 1089 laminae in the centre of the
basin and 1566 laminae in the basin margin. This is rain-storm
laminae plusannual laminae near shore and only annual laminae in
basin center. Indeed Buchheim (1994, p. 8), acknowledges this aspect
of the problem (but Garner doesn't):
"Creationist suspicions about the validity of the varve
interpretation were confirmed in a study by two geologists
published in 1988.9
Near Kemmerer in Wyoming the Green River Formation contains two
volcanic ash (tuff) layers, each about two to three centimetres
volcanic ash layer is an example of what geologists call an
'event horizon', because it is laid down essentially
instantaneously by a single event, in this case a volcanic
eruption. The two ash layers are separated by between 8.3 and
22.6 centimetres of shale layers."
the standard interpretation is correct, then the number of shale
layers between the ash layers should be the same throughout the
Green River basin, since the number of years between the two
eruptions would be the same."
"However, the geologists found that the number of shale layers
between the ash beds varied from 1160 to 1568, with the number
of layers increasing by up to 35% from the basin centre to the
basin margin! The investigators concluded that this was
inconsistent with the idea of seasonal 'varve' deposition in a
Buchheim doesn't appeal to an unworkable global flood hypothesis to
explain the difference in the number of varves. Elsewhere Buchheim
and Loewen present geochemical evidence that the edges of Fossil
Lake were less saline than the center. This is as it should be if
Fossil Lake were really a lake rather than a global flood deposit.
They write (Buchheim and Loewen,2001, p. 1116):
"Fluvial inflow, rich in calcium, mixed with the alkaline lake
water, and calcite was immediately precipitated; a greater
amount nearer the margins of the lake. This explains why laminae
tend to be thicker nearer the lake margins. Larger inflow events
(related to local storms as well as seasonal factors) would
result in lake-wide deposition of carbonate laminae, whereas
smaller inflow events would result in laminae deposition only
nearer the margins. This explains the greater number of laminae
per synchronous unit nearer the lake margins."
One of the
most important things in the above is the change in del 18O around
the edges of Fossil Lake. This occurs because when water evaporates,
molecules containing 16O are preferentially evaporated. This makes
rain water higher in 16O and lower in 18O so when it rains, and the
rainwater runs into the edges of the lake, the waters along the
shore are lower in 18O than those waters further out. Since the
water is used by organisms to create the carbonate, organisms along
the shore use waters light in 18O. To create this areal pattern in a
global flood where the waters are mixed, would be highly improbable.
Even if the
laminations of Fossil Lake can't be considered varves, they can't be
rapidly deposited. Buchheim found a fossil fish, which had died,
been buried in the sediment and then animals burrowed into the
sediment through the fish. The picture is below (modified from
Buchheim, 1994, Figure 7).
What do the
burrows look like in vertical succession? (modified from Buchheim,
1994, Fig 6)
What is clear
above, the burrow can't be dug until all the layer it digs through
have been deposited. Thus, the burrows show an interruption in the
deposition while the burrower digs.
back to the question of the varves, it must be noted that the center
of Lake Gosiute, unlike Fossil Lake, is 100 miles from shore. That
far from shore, storm laminae are highly unlikely. Thus, the varves
reflect yearly deposition. This is why the data that we see in
Gosiute showing long periodicities is so important and not bothered
at all by Buchheim's work. But non-geologists don't know that citing
Buchheim and Biaggi is really a case of bait and switch.
Here is what
it looks like y=yearly layer s=storm layer (from rain runoff)
"The vertical trends in the dolomite-dominated upper unit are
complicated by lateral facies trends that indicate a lateral
salinity-gradient. The facies trends can be identified by
calcite-dolomite ratios, stable-isotope ratios, TOC, evaporite
content, and paleontologic variations within a single
time-synchronous bed. In some beds, laminated dolomicrites and
evaporites grade shoreward into laminated and bioturbated
calcimicrite containing fossil fish. Carbonate del 18O values
decrease shoreward. These features clearly demonstrate a
shoreward freshening within Fossil Lake."
Shore center of lake
Out in the
center of Gosuite, 100 miles from shore, the layers are uniform in
thickness but near shore and in the small Fossil lake, the storm
layers are found. Out in the center of Gosiute, storm laminae are
missing, as they should be.
Now, if that
is the case, and the central Gosiute laminae are truly yearly, we
should be able to find the signature of the solar cycle and other
astronomical parameters in the varve thickness. The reason for this
is that the orbital parameters of the earth and the solar cycle
itself affect the weather patterns which affect rainfall and
temperature. As the rainfall and temperature varies, sediment influx
to the lake varies and thus the varve thicknesses vary. Do we find
periodic variations in the varve thickness? Yes!
Roberts, and Fischer examined short cores from the middle of Lake
Gosiute. They write (1991, p. 1155):
Ripepe and Roberts examined long sections of the Gosiute Green
River, they found periodicities which fit the variations of the
earth's long period orbital variations. They write (Fischer and
Roberts, 1991, p. 1147):
"On the premise that sequential changes in varve thickness offer
a proxy for climatic variations, we investigated varve thickness
in three core segments from the distal lacustrine oil shales
(Tipton and Laney members) of the Green River Formation, by
means of an image analysis program. Of two strong bimodal
periodicities one, at 4.8-5.6 years, is interpreted as an El
Nino type (ENSO) phenomenon of atmospheric dynamics, while the
other, at 10.4-14.7 years, is interpreted as the sunspot cycle,
originally recognized in this formation by Bradley (1929,1931).
Weaker periodicities may exist at ca.8 and 33 years - the latter
also recognized by Bradley. Taken in conjunction with the work
of Bradley (1929,1931) and of Crowley et al. (1986), this
suggests that some but not all of the oil shale of the Green
River Formation is truly varved and can be used to infer
cyclicities are also found in the deposits of Lake Uinta. Crowley,
Duchon and Rhi (1986) performed Fourier analyses on cores from there
and found both ENSO (5.4 year) and sunspot (10.4 year) cycles. The
young-earth creationists simply must ask himself why would God
create a flood which would deposit layers with these types of
cyclicities. Garner certainly doesn't tell us why. He says:
"Creationist geologists need to investigate the issue more
closely..." which is clearly true.
But there is
one more piece of evidence which confirms that the Green River
Formation took millions of years to be deposited. The evidence comes
from radioactive dating of the tuffs which are found occasionally in
the formation. They represent almost instantaneous events in the
geologic column. It only takes a few weeks for most of the ash from
a volcano to fall from the air. These tuffs parallel layering. If
the Green River was a rapidly deposited formation the ash should be
spread out over many many laminae. It isn't. Why do I say that?
Because to deposit 30,000 feet of sediment in 1 year requires an
average rate of 82 feet per day. The 2,600 feet of Green River for
which Bradley calculated the duration, would require 32 days for
deposition--thirteen million layers in 32 days. That is a rate of
4.7 layers per second over 40,000 square kilometers. Not only is
that an impossible rate and area over which to control the
uniformity of deposition, it also violates the laws of physics. As
we saw above, Stokes Law determines how rapidly the sedimentary
particles can fall through the water column and they can't fall fast
enough to make 4.7 layers per second. Remember it takes the
carbonate particles a day to fall 6 feet (1.9 meters).
If on the
other hand, the laminae are yearly, then the depositional rates
measured by the dating should match the average yearly varve
thickness. What do we find?
and Bryant (1989) have dated the tuffs and their data can be used to
determine the average sedimentation rate. O'Neill (1980) reports the
following information on the pages of his thesis listed at the
The cyclicities discussed are developed at seven levels.
High-frequency cycles in the Tipton and Laney members include
the annual cycle expressed in varving (1), the grouping of
varves into El Nino (ENSO)-type (5.8) year cycles (2), their
grouping into sunspot cycles (3), and their grouping into
30-year cycles(4). Low-frequency cycles from the Milankovitch
frequency band are seen in the Tipton and Wilkins Peak members,
and include the precessional 20 ka cycle (5) and the ca. 100 ka
eccentricity cycle (6). Cycle categories 1,5, and 6 are
discussed here, while 2,3 and 4 are dealt with the Ripepe et
note that 150 feet separates the two tuffs.
calculate a sedimentation rate of .0157 mm per year. This is not far
off of the rates for the rich oil shale cited by Bradley. Thus both
radioactive dating and sedimentological analysis, and Fourier
analysis indicate that the Green River Formation took millions of
years to be deposited.
The upper part
of the Green River formation contains tuffs, the lower portion
doesn't. Bryant has dated a series of tuffs from the Uinta part of
the Green River. He started with tuffs well above the Green River in
the Duchesne formation which overlies the Uinta formation, which in
turn overlies the Green River. The column looks like:
|Big Island Tuff
|49.4 +/- .4 m.y.
Duchesne River Fm
Uinta Fm (no tuffs)
Green River fm
|Starr flat mbr
|32.2 myr +/- 2.8
|36.7 myr +/- 3.9
|28.7 myr +/- 2.0
|33.7 myr +/- 5.6
|32.9 myr +/- 4.5
|Dry Gulch Creek mbr
|33.0 myr +/- 3.4
|34.5 myr +/- 4.4
|37.6 myr +/- 1.9
(After Bryant, 1989, p. j11,j14)
But when tuffs
from the larger stratigraphic section are examined, one clearly sees
that, in general, the radioactive dates get older as one goes lower
in the local stratigraphy The +/- are the error bars on the
radioactive date. So before you say that the dates are 'out of
order' realize that the error bar means that there is a 68% chance
that the true date lies between the age one standard deviation below
and one above. For the 33.7 myr +/- 5.6 myr means that there is a
68% chance that the true age lies between 39.3 and 28.1 Myr.
When we focus
in on the Green River, there is 600 meters separating the 37.6 myr
date from the level of the 43.9 million year date (Bryant, 1989, p.
J12). That is an average depositional rate of .1 mm per year. Once
again, radioactive dating supports the concept that the laminations
are yearly varves.
|43.9 myr +/- 5.4
|42.3 myr +/- 2.0
think that the Green River Formation can be claimed to be
post-Flood, which is a tactic often taken by creationists when
facing a terrible difficulty, this tactic won't solve their
problems. Allowing for 4,000 years to deposit the Green river means
that 8.9 layers per day must be deposited for that entire time
(there are 13 million laminae and 1.46 million days in 4,000 years).
The young-earth creationists can not point to anywhere on modern
earth where laminae of this type are being formed that rapidly over
such a large area. Claims that the Green River might be post flood
also require someone to decide where the flood/post-flood boundary
is in the geologic column of Wyoming. No young-earther has defined
this boundary in any satisfactory basis.
of the Green River formation points to long periods of deposition.
The coprolites of fish and birds, algal encrusting of logs,
footprints, variations in laminae thickness consistent with known
weather patterns, sunspots, and Earth orbital parameters.
Radioactive dating confirms the depositional rates which indicate
yearly varves. The young-earth creationist, like Garner, can sit on
the fence and throw rocks at the geological explanation, but he
can't explain any of these features. The young-earth creationist
must ask himself the following set of questions if he is to be
1. Why were
the flood waters on layer after layer the depth of a bird leg as
indicated by the footprints?
2. How were
catfish able to leave so many coprolites on the layers if this is a
rapidly deposited formation?
3. Why would
God imprint orbital parameters and sunspot cycles on the thicknesses
of the laminae?
4. Why do the
radioactive dates seem to verify the slow depositional rates?
5. How could a
bird take the time to nibble the lake floor during a global flood?
6. How are
raindrop impressions preserved under the waters of a global flood?
7. Why did God
produce a flood deposit which exactly matches the areal distribution
seen in lakes? Did God deceive us?
8. Why do the
oxygen-18 values decrease around the edges of Fossil Lake as would
be expected of a modern lake?
young-earth creationist must also ask him- or herself why the
young-earth authors never tell him what I just told him.
Wilmot H., 1929, "Varves and Climate of the Green River Epoch," in
USGS Professional Paper 158, p. 87-110
et al, 1989, "Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene Sedimentary Rocks and
Isotopic Ages of Paleogene Tuffs, Uinta Basin Utah," USGS Bulletin
Paul, 1994, "Paleoenvironments, Lithofacies and Varves of the Fossil
Butte Member of the Eocene Green River Formation, Southwestern
Wyoming," Contributions to Geology, University of Wyoming,
H., and Robert Biaggi, "Laminae Counts Within a Synchronous Oil
Shale Unit: A Challenge to the "Varve Concept," article No. 18279
referenced in GSA ABSTRACTS & PROGRAMS, 1988, v. 20, no. 7, pg. 317
H., and Mark A. Loewen, 2001, "The Climate of Eocene Fossil Lake
(Green River Formation, Wyoming) as determined from Vertical and
Lateral Facies Trends," AAPG Bulletin, 85:6:1116
Paul, and Ronald C. Surdam, 1997, "Fossil Catfish and the
Depositional Environment of the Green River Formation, Wyoming,"
E. et al, 1987, "Preservation of Human Tissue Immersed for Five
Years in Fresh Water of Known Temperature," Journal of Forensic
D., and Claude E. Cuchon and Jaeyoung Rhi, 1986, "Climate Record in
Varved Sediments of the Eocene Green River Formation," Journal of
Geophysical Research, 91:D8:8637-8647.
Russell N., 1999, "The Sedimentological Significance of Hydropsychid
Caddis-Fly Larvae (Order: Trichoptera) in a Travertine-Depositing
Stream: Louie Creek, Northwest Queensland, Australia," Journal of
Sedimentary Research, 69:1:145-150.
Bruce, 1967, "Fossil Bird Tracks from Utah," Museum Observer,
reprinted in William A. S. Sarjeant Terrestrial Trace Fossils,
Hutchinson Ross Publishing Co., 1983), p. 140-146.
Alfred G., and Lillian T. Roberts, 1991, "Cyclicity in the Green
River Formation (Lacustrine Eocene) of Wyoming," Journal of
Sedimentary Petrology, 61:7:1146-1154
1997, "Green River Blues," Creation, 19:(3):18-19
and H. Paul Buchheim, May, 1994, "Paleontological and
Sedimentological Variation in Early Eocene Fossil Lake,"
Contributions to Geology, University of Wyoming, V. 30
Leroy, and Robert A. Cushman, Jr., 2001, "Complex
Caddisfly-dominated bioherms from the Eocene Green River Formation,"
Sedimentary Geology, 45:377-396
Leroy, Paul H. Buchheim, and Robert E. Biaggi, 1998, "The
Stratigraphic Setting of ThreePresbyornis Nesting Sites: Eocene
Fossil Lake, Lincoln County, Wyoming," in Vincent Santucci and
Lindsay McClelland, editors National Park Service Paleontological
National Park Service Technical Report
McGrew, Paul O., and Alan Feduccia 1973, "A Preliminary Report on a
Nesting Colony of Eocene Birds"25th Field Conference Wyoming
Geological Association Guidebook, pp 163-165
McPeek, L. A.,
1981. "Eastern Green River Basin: A Developing Giant Gas Supply from
Deep, Overpressured Upper Cretaceous Sandstones," AAPG Bulletin,
Moussa, Mounir T., 1968, "Fossil Tracks from the Green River
Formation (Eocene), Near Soldier Summit, Utah," Journal of
William Arthur, 1980 "40Ar 39Ar ages of Selected tuffs of the Green
River Formation: Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah." M.S. Thesis, Ohio
Maurizio, Lillian T. Roberts, and Alfred G. Fischer, 1991, "Enso and
Sunspot Cycles in Varved Eocene Oil Shales from Image Analysis,"
Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 61:7:1155-1163
Did you know that you can be a Christian,
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earth creationism to old earth creationism. To learn more
about old earth creationism, see
Old Earth Belief,
or check out the article
Can You Be A
Christian and Believe in an Old Earth?
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