A creationist friend emailed me about a geology field trip he went on, conducted by the geology department of his university. As a mature-age student he is excited to see firsthand how the geological evidence in the field supports the biblical account of Noah’s Flood and global catastrophe. I’ve slightly edited his email for anonymity.
I just spent 4 days backpacking as part of my geology minor measuring various properties of water-laid sediments including the dip angle of cross beds, sorting, rounding, plunge angles of anticlines and mineralogy. We also developed a geological history. Then we prepared microscopic slides and analysed them to determine the mineral history.
What is revealing is how frequently the geology lecturers talk about and invoke catastrophic deposition. They argue that many of the observed layers have been laid down in hours … yes hours!!!! These layers can be quite thick, a few meters, and consist of coarse- to fine-grained sandstone that runs for tens of kilometres. They are laid down by high speed turbidity currents. These are interspersed with several metres of mud. So you have layers of mud, then sandstone, then mud then sandstone.
However, given that the current rate of deposition of mud on the ocean floor is very slow, they argue the mud layer takes many hundreds of thousands of years to form. Yet the mud is highly laminated, with hundreds of obvious bands in it. Why would the eroding system on the continent above create light mud for a few thousand years, then dark mud for the next few thousand, then back to the same light mud for the next few thousand, and so on for hundreds of cycles? It doesn’t make sense. When I asked, the geologists leading our group didn’t have any good explanation.
Secondly, what governs the amount of deposition is the rate of sourcing of mud, not the rate of settling. Greater erosion on the continents will create a higher concentration of mud in solution, which will create layers much faster. On the field trip they argued the observed mud settles through 5 km of water depth to the sea floor, a process that should not create distinct laminations. Either the ocean currents would keep it mixed, or, if there were no currents, it would sort with faster-sinking particles first. It would not be a repetitive sequence.
Yet when mud is observed today to be catastrophically deposited, such as when a dam breaks, or a landslide or severe flood, it does in fact sort itself into laminations over a period measured in hours. The appearance of these is no different from what I observed in the field. Worse, for the long-age view, the mud shows very clear cross bedding and a clear direction of flow can be measured (and I did). It is therefore not deposited from slow settling from the 5-km depth of water above, but from a flow across the bottom. There is no reason to invoke such large time frames.
The lecturers also argued that the folding of the strata took millions of years. Yet when I asked, strata at pressures of 5 km of water depth and at low temperature are in fact ductile and not rigid (Greenschist facies). They could fold rapidly, like multi coloured toothpaste out of a tube. There is absolutely no reason to infer any time larger than years, except the belief in uniformitarianism, that the tectonic rates measured today were the same then, and therefore the fold must have been folded over millions of years.
I am surprised by how much my lecturers don’t know. Each day we had a different geologist, each had a different, and at times conflicting, view on the history of the formation. They argued that the observed cleavage planes in the mud stone took millions of years to form (for the muscovite minerals to re-align), yet none that I spoke to were aware if anyone has ever experimentally tried to re-create this. Certainly, using proxy minerals, you can create the same cleavage planes and alignment to the stress in a short period in the lab, and the metamorphic minerals can also be created very rapidly in the lab.
Finally, they argued that the erosion rates are such that they would require millions of years. Yet, geological students have been hammering and breaking rocks on this same mountain fold for around 10 years, and you can see the old rock caps exposed by enthusiastic students of years past, and these are well and truly on their way to being indistinguishable in their degree of weathering from the other weathered and friable rocks that have, apparently, been there for millennium.
All in all I was greatly encouraged to witness firsthand the uniformitarian framework applied as the guiding principle to interpret the rocks. Not only do the rocks themselves do not require this framework, but they don’t fit very well within it.