Grand Canyon National Park 2015 New Years Storm. NPS photo by Michael Quinn
Previous posts in the series:
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (1)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (2)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (3)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (4)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (5)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (6)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (7)
On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (8)
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The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?
By Gregg Davidson, Joel Duff, David Elliott, Tim Helble, Carol Hill, Stephen Moshier, Wayne Ranney, Ralph Stearley, Bryan Tapp, Roger Wiens, and Ken Wolgemuth.
Chapter 19- River to Rim: Putting All the Pieces Together is a trip up the South Kaibab Trail; a very popular trail that is easy to access by a free shuttle service from Grand Canyon Village. The Grand Canyon is the single best spot in the world to observe such a broad span of Earth’s history and the trail is one of the best places in the canyon to see its spectacular geology. The trail is only 7 miles in length but you climb from the river level at elevation 2,400 feet to top of the rim at elevation 7,200 feet; a climb of 4,800 feet! We start from the suspension bridge over the Colorado River (mile 0).
Standing at the bridge, you are surrounded by the Vishnu Schist, a rock riddled with pink bands of the Zoroaster Granite.
The schist contains altered minerals that form under high temperatures and pressures found only at great depths of 10 miles or more below the surface. The rocks are also folded and contorted. Rapid folding shatters rock, but the schist show little evidence of shattering; indicating it deformed very gradually. The crisscrossing granite contains large crystals which indicate slow rate of cooling. Samples of the granite have been radiometrically dated to about 1.7 billion years old. Flood geologists claim all the intrusion and folding took place between creation week and the flood; about 1,650 years. From lab experiments, we know it takes a tremendous amount of time for large masses of heated and deeply buried rocks to cool. If you quench molten rock in seawater; which is occurring right now at Mount Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii, you get fine grained pillow basalts, not large crystalline granites.
The rocks along the next stretch of the South Kaibab Trail are the tilted rocks of the Grand Canyon Supergroup. However, you can look up or down the river and see the Vishnu Schist terminating directly against the Tapeats Sandstone; the Supergroup layers are entirely absent. The combined total of the Supergroup thickness is in excess of 12,000 feet. The rest of the Grand Canyon strata have a combined thickness of 15,000 feet and were supposedly laid down in Noah’s Flood. So all those sediments of the Supergroup would have to have been laid down, hardened into rock, faulted and tilted, and eroded away between creation week and the Flood in only 1,650 years without a cataclysmic event according to flood geologists.
According to flood geologists, death began after creation week and Genesis 1 states all major categories of modern organisms were present prior to the flood. Therefore all major categories of life should be present in the fossils of the Supergroup rocks. But there are only colonial algae and plankton; not a single fish, clam, snail, coral, tooth, or bone; so how did all but single-celled organisms escape preservation- over the entire planet?
Just before the trail emerges from the inner gorge the Great Unconformity is represented by contact between the Shinumo Quartzite and the Tapeats Sandstone. However the contact here isn’t horizontal, it is nearly vertical. There are angular blocks of the quartzite incorporated into the Tapeats Sandstone forming a conglomerate at its base. These observations testify to a time when the Tapeats sea was encroaching onto land and eroding into the cliff face of the Shinumo Quartzite. Blocks of quartzite periodically fell into the water and lodged in the soft sand. The angular shape of the quartzite blocks means they were hard when they fell and we can see evidence of disrupted sand beneath some of the fallen blocks. Eventually, the sea level rose high enough that the sand was deposited over the entire quartzite cliff. Try and explain a vertical contact by some sort of single flood episode; of course you can’t.
At the top of the Tapeats Sandstone the slope suddenly becomes more gradual. Coming up the trail, we pass the Tipoff and step onto the Tonto Platform- a broad ledge formed by the more easily eroded Bright Angel Shale, with the harder Muav Limestone forming the next set of cliffs. This order; from sandstone to shale to limestone is a transition from shallow to deep water that we would expect from a gradually subsiding coastline. Fossils found in these layers are typical of the Cambrian period found around the world. Forty seven species of trilobites have been identified in the Tonto Group alone, but NONE of these species are found in any layer above or below the Tonto Group.
Trilobite in Bright Angel Shale
The fact that organisms such as trilobites appear and disappear from the Grand Canyon fossil record in the same order as they do in strata around the world tells us that each layer represents a distinct time period in Earth’s history. As ocean dwelling creatures, how did every variety of trilobite, large and small, stubby and elongated, get sorted into the same group of layers in the same sequence around the world, without a single case of mixing with a jawed fish. And why don’t any trilobite occur elsewhere in the Canyon if all the layers were laid down in a single flood? And why would lime mud and clay mud be segregated in a raging flood when they are both the same size particles?
At 3 miles into the hike the trail reaches a spot where normally the Muav Limestone and the Redwall Limestone are in contact. Here, however, we encounter a purplish rock that occupies a channel carved into the top of the Muav Limestone. The Temple Butte Formation is not found everywhere in the canyon. It carries a unique assemblage of fossils characteristic of the Devonian period; placoderm fish and various corals. This tells us that at some time after the Muav was formed and other sediments deposited on it; that erosion occurred that removed the other sediments and scoured channels in the solid rock of the Muav. Flood geologists try to say the channels were carved into soft sediment and refilled within a few days. But why would a unique set of organisms (all Devonian), including both bottom dwelling corals and free swimming placoderm fish, settle out exclusively into these channels and nowhere else?
The trail gets steep as we ascend the switchbacks in the Redwall Limestone. A close look at the Redwall reveals it is made up of crinoids- marine animals that resemble flowers with tentacles and segmented stalks. Since crinoids exist today we know that an expansive layer of crinoid remains, with virtually no intermixed sand or clay, indicates a vast, shallow, warm sea with submarine colonies of crinoids blanketing the sea floor. The fanciful explanation of flood geologists that hundreds of feet of crinoid remains were transported across continents with pure upwelling hot calcite fluids (from the “fountains of the deep”) cementing them together with no admixture of silt or clay (no muddy water in a raging flood) is so ridiculous it would be funny if it were not put forth with all zeal as being “what the Bible says”.
Although not exposed on the trail, the Surprise Canyon formation often fills low spots on top of the Redwall. The bottom layers of the Surprise Canyon often contain broken pieces of the Redwall limestone incorporated in the Surprise Canyon sediments as breccia. You cannot form the breccia fragments from soft sediment; it has to be solid rock. The other thing about the Surprise Canyon formation is that it contains all terrestrial fossils including trees. Why no admixture of marine fossils if it is all being deposited in a raging flood? YECs don’t like to talk about the Surprise Canyon formation, or if they mention it, leave out the abundant terrestrial fossils.
The trail then climbs up the Supai Group and the Hermit Formation. The significance of these rocks are that they are alternating sandstone, shale, limestone, and conglomerates. The myriad alternating layers are consistent with many cycles of rising and falling sea levels, interspersed with periods of deposition and erosion. Some rock horizons in the Hermit Formation contain terrestrial fossils such as dragonfly wings and ferns. The fact that terrestrial and marine fossils are not found intermingled within the same layers is clear evidence of distinct intervals of time when the region was sometime above sea level and sometime below it.
As we come up the trail to the Coconino Sandstone a sharp break is noted from the red beds below give way to the white Coconino above. We have already discussed the factors that geologists use to conclude the Coconino is a desert dune sand. Obviously, flood geologists are going to dispute that as it completely invalidates their model. To quote the book on page 203:
Does a dash of marine sediment make the whole deposit marine? Some isolated zones of dolomite (limestone with lots of magnesium- typically a marine deposit), have been found in the Coconino Sandstone. Flood geologists insist that the presence of dolomite means the whole system is marine. Given the proximity of the Coconino dunes to an ancient sea, it would not be surprising for some the dune sands near the coastline to become cemented with dolomite. However, to say the entire Coconino is marine because of a pocket of dolomite is like finding a Swede living in Tokyo and declaring that all Japanese must be of Nordic stock!
We now climb through the alternating limestone, shale, sandstone, and evaporites of the Toroweap and Kaibab Formations. Again quoting from the book, page 203:
For flood geologists, the uppermost layers of the canyon bring us only through the first half of the flood. Though the flood is said to have been extraordinarily violent, sediment layers repeatedly formed with little mixing of different types or sizes of particles. Evaporites mysteriously formed under-water, and entire classes and orders of organisms waited until the second half of the flood to all be buried together.
Arriving at the rim at mile 7, must be a feeling of accomplishment. Flood geology arguments often have a ring of plausibility to them when they are applied to one layer or one feature in isolation. But they cannot piece all these individual arguments into one coherent whole with violating the natural processes they themselves say God used. They have to reach for never-before-seen and mutually exclusive mechanisms. I’ll give the book the last word, page 205:
All explanations by flood geologists are said to be based on the Bible. So where in Scripture do we find references to Noah’s flood linked with earthquakes, shifting continents, rising mountains, tsunamis, and mineral-rich ocean vents? The number of verses is much like the number of bird or dinosaur fossils found in the canyon. The answer is zero. Exactly how, then, is flood geology a biblical model?
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NPS photo by Michael Quinn on Flickr. Creative Commons License