February 2017 – The fossils of the Ulster Museum

How they support rapid burial by the Biblical flood and not millions of years!

by Angus Kennedy

A primary purpose of any museum is to educate and the Ulster Museum is no exception. A walk through their ‘Nature zone’ containing geology and fossil galleries leaves the visitor in no doubt as to the message being taught. That our universe was formed by the ‘Big Bang’ billions of years ago, that the formation of our solar system happened four and half billion years ago, that simple life forms appeared entirely by totally random, unthinking, unguided chance, and gradually changed over time (evolved) to become the likes of you and me.

Most visitors will probably agree with the message, for after all, millions of years and evolution is the only account of origins that is taught in schools, but does that make it right?

Where does this put the creation account by the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God described in the Bible? Most today dismiss the Genesis account out of hand as mere myth. Many Christians are left perplexed by this all-pervading, atheistic, materialistic view of origins, which appears to do away with the very God they profess to believe in.

Prescient visitors will also notice this secular origins account is the only account given. It was to address this issue that Creation Outreach Ministries petitioned the Ulster Museum to include a small display supporting the Genesis creation account. The evidences contrary to evolution and for recent creation would have been science based. The museum trustees rejected the petition on the grounds that what is on display is the scientific consensus.

Understanding geology

This short monthly article is not suitable for giving an extended creationist commentary linked to the museum’s displays, but as a geologist, what I would like to do is to point the interested visitor to evidence that speaks against the millions of years given on the display labels, evidence that can be seen in the fossils themselves. Before we do that, we will first take a brief look at how the concept of long age (uniformitarian) geology took hold.

Though many early geologists were catastrophists, thinking that layered sedimentary rocks were deposited by floods, the opposite view, of slow erosion of rocks and the deposition of the eroded sediments over hundreds of thousands of years, was popularised by Charles Lyell (1797–1875) in his book Principles of Geology (1830–33). It hugely influenced Chalres Darwin.

It was also seen that different rock layers contained what were thought to be characteristic fossils and so could be separately identified and mapped. The law of superposition states that each succeeding layer must be younger than the one underneath it. This covers most situations except where the expected order is reversed by faulting or folding. The next step was to place the strata in order according to their fossil content into a theoretical vertical stack called the geological column. The total ‘height’ of the theoretical column divided by an estimated average rate of sediment deposition (based on the measured deposition of mud in ocean basins) then gave an apparent age for the earth many orders of magnitude greater than that derived from the Genesis account (which was generally dismissed out of hand thereafter). The long ages of the early geologists was significantly extended by the discovery of radioactive elements, the measurement of their decay rates, and the subsequent development of radiometric dating techniques in the first half of the twentieth century. However, it is worth remembering that acceptance of long ages was first based on the height of the geological column divided by an assumed slow rate of sediment deposition. Radiometric dating is also a rate process based on a number of assumptions.

The fossils speak

Back to the fossils– just how do they argue against the slow deposition rates assumed by the early geologists? By viewing them with the correct biblical ‘glasses’ they tell a very different story from the one presented by the Ulster Museum. The photographs are of fossils that are displayed in the museum – why not see if you can spot them on your next visit?

The ammonites in this large slab most likely arrived at their final resting place together and were rapidly buried by the enclosing sediments. Note that the shells are intact and have not been holed by boring organisms.

Not convinced? Too small in scale? Ask yourself what volume of turbid, sediment-loaded water is needed to entomb whole dinosaurs and whales?

This slab shows fossil sea lilies (there are forms living today) with their hard calcified parts (stems, cups and arms) still intact. Again an indication of rapid burial preserving delicate features that would otherwise have broken up and scattered.

How quick does sedimentation and burial have to be to preserve fern fronds?

Or scorpions?

Or spiders?

Or a shoal of herring? (They didn’t just die and sink to the bottom together to wait for a slow burial!).

Or a trackway? (Think of a birds footprints on a beach. They won’t be there if you go back to the beach the following day).

Each of the fossils speak of rapid sedimentation. This of course has implications for the age of the rock as well, for if the fossil was formed quickly, so was the rock around it!

On a more general note on the topic of rapid sedimentation:

In his book, ‘The New Catastrophism’, the late long-age geologist, Professor Derek Ager, recognised that sediments world-wide were laid down rapidly in catastrophic events and not in the slow and steady uniformitarian manner as set out by Lyell. All well and good from a creationist world-wide Noachian deluge point of view, as he had to grudgingly admit, but he couldn’t let go of the millions of years and was therefore forced to posit that the time not evidenced in the actual rock layers was represented by untold periods of quiescence between the layers. Layers, that were undisturbed and for all intents and purposes, appeared to have been laid down uninterrupted.

A substantial part of the geological column is composed of mudstone or shale. Formed from the deposition of tiny flecks of clay, the slow settlement time of clay was taken as irrefutable evidence that still, deep water and long ages were absolute necessities for their formation. In 2007 researchers[1][2] showed how clay particles, due to their intrinsically sticky properties, bind together in flowing water to form larger particles (flocs), which in turn clump into even larger lumps (floccules).[3] The floccules then attached to the base of their specially designed racetrack flume to form migrating ripples. This completely overturns a foundational pillar of long ages that generations of geologists, including myself, were taught.

I can corroborate deposition of clay from flowing water from personal observation. In 2008 I watched while a 1.2 metre thick deposit of clay floc was cleaned from a settlement pond in a quarry. The floc had a consistency similar to chocolate mousse. It was a huge surprise to me at the time, that, with a mountain at the back of the quarry and frequent heavy storm-water flows, that any clay at all had been deposited, never mind so much.

Christians, and critically thinking non-Christians alike, do not need to feel abashed or cowed by any of the ‘consensus science’ on display in any museum’s geology or fossil galleries, for there are scientists in many disciplines, many with multiple degrees, who carry out sound scientific research into the evidences for a young created Earth. Whatever the subject on display; geology, fossils, dinosaurs, ice ages, cosmology, genetics, evolution, dating, etcetera, the good, sound scientific evidences they uncover can be found on creationist websites such as this one or creation.com.

References and notes:

[1] Federico, M., Variable fractal dimension: A major control for floc structure and flocculation kinematics of suspended cohesive sediment. Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol 112: Issue 7, July 2007.

[2] http://www.shale-mudstone-research-schieber.indiana.edu/mudflume-research.htm

[3] Oard, M., Internal oceanic waves and sedimentation, JOC, 27(1), pp 16 – 18, 2013. http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j27_1/j27_1_16-18.pdf