How do we distinguish Flood rocks from rocks formed before and after the Flood?

Paul A. Garner,

Whitmore, J.H., and P.A. Garner. 2008. Using suites of criteria to recognize pre-Flood, Flood, and post-Flood strata in the rock record with application to Wyoming (USA). In A.A. Snelling (editor), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism, pp. 425-448. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship; Dallas, Texas: Institute for Creation Research.

This paper had its origins in a conversation that took place in the dining hall of Cedarville University, Ohio, in June 2006. I was attending a meeting of what was then called the Baraminology Study Group (now the Creation Biology Society), when Dr John Whitmore, a geology professor at Cedarville, approached me about an idea he had.

Identifying Flood rocks and distinguishing them from pre-Flood and post-Flood rocks was (and still is!) a complex and thorny issue in creationism. Dr Whitmore wanted to write a paper about this issue, but he wanted to have a European perspective as well. He knew that I was familiar with the geology of Great Britain, that the Flood boundaries question was something I’d thought a lot about, and that my own ideas had changed over time. And so I agreed to be his co-author.

Many different views have been expressed about the Flood boundaries problem over the years. Our approach was to offer a model based on the application of multiple criteria; we proposed 28 in all. However, we recognized that some criteria were more diagnostic than others and so we ranked how important we thought each criterion was within a Flood model. We discussed each criterion and sought to justify our rankings. We also identified on a chart (below) how important we thought each criterion would have been at different times in the earth’s history (before, during and after the Flood).

For example, in rocks deposited during the Flood we would expect to see marine sediments of unparalleled extent, associated with the mass death and burial of whole populations of organisms. But we wouldn’t expect to find glacial deposits or desert deposits in Flood rocks; these are the kinds of rocks we’d expect to find after the Flood. In other words, different types of processes would have predominated at different times in earth’s history, and these processes would have left distinctive signatures in the rock record. By applying many such criteria (rather than one or a few) we hoped to be able to identify these different episodes of earth history in the rock record with a greater level of confidence.

We applied our model to the rock succession in Wyoming, a region of the US that Dr Whitmore knew well. In Wyoming, a thick series of mostly marine sedimentary rocks rests on an eroded basement of crystalline igneous and metamorphic rocks. This entire sedimentary sequence was subsequently faulted, folded and eroded, and some relatively thin, flat-lying sediments occur within basins on top. Above these basinal deposits there are some glacial and volcanic deposits.

Applying our criteria to this section we concluded that the Flood/post-Flood boundary was most likely around the Cretaceous-Paleogene, after the thick marine layers had been deposited but before the basinal sediments were laid down. This was a significant conclusion for me personally, because in some earlier papers I had placed the Flood/post-Flood boundary much lower in the rock record. But my ideas had been changing and the publication of this paper formally documented my change of view (p. 436).

So far as I’m aware no one has yet applied our multiple criteria model to other regions of North America or to other parts of the world, so there’s much that an enterprising creationist geologist could do! There’s also scope for others to add to our list of criteria and to debate our rankings, as well as to work out what our model means for the interpretation of radiometric dates and fossil zonation. The Flood boundary problem continues to be discussed in the literature, with few signs of an emerging consensus. We still think our model could help to resolve some of the outstanding questions.

The 28 criteria used to define Flood boundaries in Whitmore and Garner (2008). The thickness of a line indicates the relative importance of a particular process during a time period. The number following each criterion is a rank of how important we feel each criterion is within a Flood model (1 being the highest).

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