The Evolution Debate: The Flood and the Geologic Record

In the creation-evolution debate, you’ll often see creationists dismiss evidence for evolution after finding some fault with it, as they often do for transitional fossils. But something else you’ll see a lot is reexplaining evidence in a way that fits it into the Creation story.

As a writer, I can tell you that this can be fun. It’s like a puzzle, finding a way to make all of the pieces of a story fit together. But fiction is a forgiving medium, and science is not, and if you dig into it, you’ll soon find that creationist reexplanations usually don’t hold water. One such point that comes up a lot is this:

“The apparent progression of fossils in the geologic record is due to Noah’s Flood.”

This is a little complicated, but the short version is, even if you didn’t know about transitional fossils, you still see a clear progression of fossils from fish to reptiles to mammals in the fossil record when you move from older rock layers at the bottom of, say, a canyon, as in the diagram above, to newer rock layers at the top. This progression of rock layers is call the geologic column, and it extends from over 600 million years ago to the present in various places around the world.

The progression of fossils from small, simple organisms to more complex ones provides independent evidence that lifeforms changed and evolved over time. However, Creationists explain this away in two different ways that are only vaguely related to each other. Kent Hovind explains this progression by what he calls “hydrological sorting,” whereby animal carcasses laid down by the Flood of Noah are sorted by density—denser bodies at the bottom and less dense ones at the top. Meanwhile, his son, Eric, argues that the geologic column doesn’t exist in the first place, but let’s focus on the first one.

But there are obvious problems with this theory. If birds appear above reptiles because they have hollow bones and are less dense, why do mammals appear above dinosaurs, which unlike other reptiles also had hollow bones? (And that’s not just speculation. We have the bones!) Now, perhaps Hovind would say dinosaurs are lower down because they’re bigger. (In fact, I think he did say that, but don’t quote me on that.) But then, if mammals appear above dinosaurs because they’re smaller, why do dinosaurs appear above more primitive reptiles, which were also smaller?

Except now, I have new problem. Now I’m going to be the one who’s finding fault with any specific example, something I’ve criticized creationists for doing in previous posts. How do I get around this? If I’m to use an exactly symmetrical argument, where is the underlying flaw in my thinking, upstream from this argument? Is it that I’m fundamentally misunderstanding the concept of “hydrological sorting”? I admit it could be possible. Fluid dynamics is mystifying at the best of times, and it’s not my field of expertise.

So, let’s try to sidestep this. Are there other aspects of the fossil record and the geologic column that aren’t explained by hydrological sorting? Well, for one, bodies float. How did they get buried by sediment in the first place? But Hovind has a ready-made answer he could use for that, too. He says that the many bodies could have been laid down on a flat plain and then titled vertically by later geologic upheavals. (Don’t think too hard about the holes in that one.)

But there’s another problem. I may not understand fluid dynamics, but I do understand people. We find human fossils only in the youngest rocks—in the very top layers. And this makes sense. Humans are smart and stubborn and will fight tooth and nail to survive, and they would probably survive longer than other animals in a global flood. But…well, for one (again), why do humans appear above birds in the fossil record, even though birds could fly over the floodwaters for quite a while?

But that’s still not the point. The point is that if you read Genesis, generations of humans were living and dying before the Flood, and most humans bury their dead. Not to mention all the animals that died before the Flood. Shouldn’t we see an even mix of human and animal fossils below the layers laid down by the floodwaters?

And that is my Question for Creationists for this post:

While it’s plausible for many or even most human fossils to appear above those of other animals because they survived longer during the Flood of Noah, why are there no human fossils found deeper, including remains of people who died before the Flood, which should appear down to the very bottom of the rock layers?

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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