How does the geologic timescale fit with the view of a young earth?
Question: "How does the geologic timescale fit with the view of a young earth?"
The question of how the geologic timescale fits with the “young earth” view is a good one. The earth’s crust is made up of three different kinds of rock: igneous and metamorphic rock, both of which were once in a molten or semi-molten state, and sedimentary rock, rock which once existed elsewhere but was re-deposited as sediments in its current location. Sedimentary rock is usually layered. These layers are called “strata.” Strata often contain the fossilized remains of plant and animal life which were buried and subsequently preserved through fossilization. Certain fossils have been found to be unique to certain layers. These fossils are called “index fossils.” Paleontologists use index fossils to identify the rock layers in which they are found. If an index fossil is thought to be 70 million years old, then the rock layer in which it was found must also be 70 million years old. The “geologic column” is a sequential catalog of these layers, the fossils they contain, and the ages which have been assigned to the various geological eras which are thought to be represented in the geologic record.
Critics claim that the geologic column is flawed in that it relies upon circular reasoning. This is because the strata are not always found in the order in which they are supposed to be. Sometimes rock layers containing what are thought to be older fossils are found above rock layers which contain what are thought to be younger fossils (the younger fossils should be on top). Geologists reorganize the discrepant fossils and rock layers by using the assumed order in which the creatures were supposed to have evolved (this organism was supposed to have evolved before this one, so it goes here on bottom, while this organism was supposed to have evolved after this one so it goes here on top, etc.). Biologists then use the evolutionary progression organized by the geologists as evidence for evolutionary progression. This is a circular argument.
“A circular argument arises: Interpret the fossil record in the terms of a particular theory of evolution, inspect the interpretation, and note that it confirms the theory. Well, it would, wouldn’t it?” (“A Fresh Look at the Fossil Record,” New Scientist, Vol. 108, December 1985, pg. 67) “Are the authorities maintaining on the one hand, that evolution is documented by geology and, on the other hand, that geology is documented by evolution? Isn’t this a circular argument?” (Larry Azar, “Biologists, Help!” Bioscience, vol. 28, November 1978, p. 714).
We use the theory of evolution to interpret the fossil record. We then turn around and use our interpretations of the fossil record as evidence for the theory of evolution. “And this poses something of a problem: If we date the rocks by the fossils, how can we then turn around and talk about the patterns of evolutionary change through time in the fossil record?” (Niles Eldridge, Time Frames, 1985, p. 52) “…Geologists are here arguing in a circle. The succession of organisms has been determined by a study of their remains embedded in the rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks are determined by the remains of organisms that they contain.” (R. H. Rastall, “Geology,” Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 10, 1954, p. 168)
“The intelligent layman has long suspected circular reasoning in the use of rocks to date fossils and fossils to date rocks. The geologist has never bothered to think of a good reply, feeling that explanations are not worth the trouble as long as the work brings results. This is supposed to be hard-headed pragmatism.” (J. E. O’Rourke, “Pragmatism Versus Materialism in Stratigraphy,” American Journal of Science, vol. 276, January 1976, p. 47)
The issue gets more complicated when we find discrepant fossils in the same rock layers! “Frequently, fossils are not vertically sequenced in the assumed evolutionary order. For example, in Uzbekistan, 86 consecutive hoof prints of horses were found in rocks dating back to the dinosaurs. Hoof prints of some other animal are alongside 1,000 dinosaur footprints in Virginia. A leading authority on the Grand Canyon published photographs of horse-like hoof prints visible in rocks that, according to the theory of evolution, predate hoofed animals by more than 100 million years. Dinosaur and humanlike footprints were found together in Turkmenistan and Arizona. Sometimes, land animals, flying animals, and marine animals are fossilized side-by-side in the same rock. Dinosaur, whale, elephant, horse, and other fossils, plus crude human tools, have reportedly been found in phosphate beds in South Carolina. Coal beds contain round, black lumps called coal balls, some of which contain flowering plants that allegedly evolved 100 million years after the coal bed was formed. In the Grand Canyon, in Venezuela, in Kashmir, and in Guyana, spores of ferns and pollen from flowering plants are found in Cambrian rocks—rocks supposedly deposited before flowering plants evolved. Pollen has also been found in Precambrian rocks deposited before life allegedly evolved.” (Walt Brown, In the Beginning, 7th edition., 2001, p. 11)
“Petrified trees in Arizona’s petrified forest contain fossilized nests of bees and cocoons of wasps. The petrified forests are reputedly 220 million years old, while bees (and flowering plants which bees require) supposedly evolved almost 100 million years later. Pollinating insects and fossil flies, with long, well-developed tubes for sucking nectar from flowers, are dated 25 million years before flowers are assumed to have evolved. Most evolutionists and textbooks systematically ignore discoveries which conflict with the evolutionary time scale” (Brown, ibid).
Moreover, some of the index fossils which geologists use to date bygone eras have been found still alive today. Consider, for example, the coelacanth, an index fossil which was thought to have gone extinct 70 million years ago. “…The coelacanth was a member of a very ancient class of fishes which was supposed to have disappeared some 70 million years ago. This great group of fishes, call crossopterygians, flourished during that decisive era in the history of the earth - when the fish, taking on legs and lungs, went forth to conquer the continents” (Jacques Millot, “The Coelacanths,” Scientific American, vol. 193, December 1955, p. 37). It turns out the coelacanth didn’t disappear “some 70 million years ago.” They’re still around today!
The first living coelacanth was caught in 1938 deep in the Indian Ocean, northwest of Madagascar. Since then, rewards have been offered for coelacanths, so hundreds have been caught and sold. Before 1938, evolutionists dated any rock containing a coelacanth fossil as at least 70 million years old. It was an index fossil. Today, evolutionists frequently express amazement that coelacanth fossils look so much like captured coelacanths - despite more than 70 million years of evolution. Before living coelacanths were caught, evolutionists incorrectly believed the coelacanth had lungs, a large brain, and four bottom fins about to evolve into legs. Evolutionists reasoned that the coelacanth, or a similar fish, must have crawled out of a shallow sea and filled its lungs with air, becoming the first four-legged land animal. Millions of students have been taught that this fish was the ancestor to all amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals, including people. (Was your ancestor a fish?)
Professor J. L. B. Smith, a well-known fish expert from South Africa, who privately studied the first two captured coelacanths, nicknamed the coelacanth “Old Fourlegs,” and wrote a book by that title in 1956. However, in 1987, a German team led by Hans Fricke filmed six coelacanths in their natural habitat. Were they crawling on all fours in a shallow sea? Did they have lungs and a large brain? Not at all. In fact, they lived 500-1,200 feet below sea level and spent much of their time doing headstands, apparently looking for food” (Walt Brown, In the Beginning, 2001, 7th edition, p. 29).
The point is that the geologic column may not be as reliable as many scientists and academics make it out to be. We urge everyone to investigate this matter for themselves before accepting any conclusions derived from this dubious dating method.
Thousands not Billions by Don DeYoung and Logos Bible Software.
While he is not the author of every article on GotQuestions.org, for citation purposes, you may reference our CEO, S. Michael Houdmann.
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Questions about Creation
How does the geologic timescale fit with the view of a young earth?