Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
In Andrew Snelling's second article in a series on flood evidences, he argues that the number of fossil graveyards found in rock layers are evidence of a global flood.1 Snelling notes that if all the high hills and mountains were covered by water, and all life died, "we expect to find rock layers all over the earth filled with billions of dead animals and plants that were buried rapidly and fossilized in sand, mud, and lime." Since scientists find these fossils, they are proof of a worldwide flood. Of course, he fails to mention that if slow and gradual evolution were true, we would also find billions of dead animals and plants in the fossil record. So, does the fossil record support both a young and old earth, or does it only support one viewpoint?
Snelling starts out mentioning that billions of fossils are found in graveyards where they had to be buried rapidly. As a geologist, I agree that these graveyards exist. However, Snelling is making the assumption that the graveyards are buried rapidly. It is clear that this does occur in the fossil record, but not all the time.
Snelling's first proof is the Redwall Limestone, which contains billions of nautiloids in a 7 foot thick segment of this formation. He claims that this would require "24 cubic miles of lime sand and silt,
If there were a large group of nautiloids and other creatures living in the ocean, as they died, they would fall into the sediment, and accumulate over time. Given the absence of any turbidite features, and the absence of any physical mechanism to move the slurry, they must have accumulated over time.
Snelling continues by listing several other fossil-rich rock formations, beginning with the fossils of Montceau-les-Mines. These fossils included marine creatures, amphibians, spiders, scorpions, and reptiles. Without any other evidence, one would suspect that we have both land-dwelling and marine organisms in the same rock layer. However, when you realize that sea levels rise and fall, the rock units also move with the sea level. This is called transgression and regression. Thus, you can have land and marine organisims in one section of rock. Even more important, though, is the fact that Montceau-les-Mines also contains raindrop impressions. How could sediment that is underwater during Noah's flood have raindrop impressions? Also, the same unit contains mud cracks, indicating a dry, sun-baked surface.2 This completely negates any young earth argument that this rock formation is from Noah's Flood, because you cannot have a desert condition in the middle of the Flood.
Next Snelling mentions the fossils of the Mazon Creek area in Illinois. This supposed graveyard contains ferns, insects, scorpions, and tetrapods along with marine organisms. Again, it appears that land based animals and plants are buried with marine creatures. This time, Snelling is right, but not because of the flood, but because of the environment where the deposition occurred. Three hundred million years ago this area was a mixture of swampy lowlands and shallow marine bays. Rivers passing through the swamps emptied into the marine bays. Plants and animals that died were washed into the bays by the river systems, where they mixed with the dead marine organisms. Since mud was constantly being brought in by the rivers, they were buried relatively quickly. As they decomposed, the action of the bacteria produced carbon dioxide, which combined with iron to form siderite (ironstone). This made a protective cover around the fossil, thus leading to their excellent preservation. Hence, we have a perfectly logical, old earth explanation that fits very well with the data.3
The next location mentioned is the Florissant Fossil Beds of Colorado. (This location is a national monument.) Snelling mentions the well preserved bees and birds. The deposition of sediment is the result of volcanic eruptions and ash fall, resulting in rapid burial. It's hard to have an airborne volcanic ash from an underwater volcano during Noah's Flood! Of course, the young earth creationist could claim that this eruption started at the beginning of the Flood, before the waters covered the area. However, there are many layers beneath this one that are supposed to be flood deposits. Once again, the old earth explanation fits the facts much better.
The Green River Formation is the next unit. Snelling mentions alligator, fish, birds, turtles, mammals, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, and palm leaves. The GRF was a series of three land-locked lake basins, into which flowed rivers, which had the effect of depositing many land organisms into the lake. The GRF fossils represent several million years of sediment deposition. Although young earth creationists frequently argue against the Green River Formation, their arguments don't provide any scientific reasons do doubt their age of approximately 48 million years.
He briefly mentions a whale and a possum buried together, and says they had to be buried catastrophically. Actually, all that had to happen was for the possum to die and be washed to sea in a river. Large ammonites in Britain's chalk are also mentioned, however, chalk beds present an even bigger problem to the young earth model, as the nature of the Flood would have prevented chalk formation. To end this section, he throws out that "more than 7 trillion tons of vegetation are buried in the world's coal beds." True, but irrelevant to his discussion. He doesn't try to explain this one for some reason. It is just a fact thrown out there to dazzle the uninformed reader.
In this section Snelling gives examples of fossils that have excellent preservation, which he says proves that they were rapidly buried by catastrophic flood conditions. Geologists agree that many fossils are rapidly buried and are preserved in excellent condition, in many cases during floods. Geologists recognize that there have been catastrophic flooding events throughout the millions of years of geologic history. Geologists look at these events as individual, localized features within the geologic rock record, whereas young earth creationists point to them as evidence of a single global flood. However, these individual, local floods are separated in the rock record by long periods of slow and steady deposition, which contradicts the young earth claims of a single flood event.
Fossil graveyards in no way provide any support for a single, global flood. In fact the evidence presented above shows how this young earth author omitted key information about the fossil graveyards in question. Once you have all the information, the young earth model falls apart.
1 The World's a Graveyard, by Andrew Snelling. Answers Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 2, April-June 2008. pp. 92-95. Also found online here.
2 Daniel Heyler and Cicile M. Poplin, "The Fossils of Montceau-les-Mines," Scientific American, New York, September 1988.
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