Geological megasequences: data pointing to 500+ million years of evolution? Or to the year-long biblical Flood?

Sloss geological sequence (also called “megasequence”) diagrams result from observation of actual geological data—as opposed to the largely abstract “geologic column.” Since especially the 1960’s and ‘70’s, oil company geologists have drilled boreholes down through the sedimentary layers, down to basement rock—thus, providing us with actual cross-section data of these layers.

What geologists, like Lawrence Sloss (1963), have discovered are discrete “packages” of sedimentary rock layers—primarily, sandstone, shale, and limestone—bounded above and below by “unconformities,” that is, erosion zones. More specifically, they have found six of these distinct “packages” on every continent that has been explored.

And such data has told a story of earth’s ancient history. According to Walther’s Law of sedimentary deposit, the data has revealed six cycles of “transgression” and “regression.” That is, six cycles of ocean water “transgressing” over the continents to varying degrees (and Sloss focused only on North America), then “regressing” back; in fact, the data shows the North American continent was completely covered by ocean water during at least three of these megasequences. Study the diagram at http://www.sepmstrata.org/page.aspx?pageid=276

The most popular interpretation of this data is according to the uniformitarian model—that is, such floodings occurred throughout the Phanerozoic-- from about 542 million to 66 million years ago; and the floodings were caused by slowly, slowly rising and falling ancient (“epeiric”) seas. However, I believe the megasequence data is better explained by the biblical Flood model of a series of powerful, catastrophic tsunamis transporting and depositing the massive amounts of ocean sediment we find upon the continents—tsunamis set off by plate tectonics (Genesis 7:11)…over a one-year period.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each interpretation…

Sounds interesting. As a non-geologist, the first questions that pop into my mind are:

  1. How would a single flood over the course of a year explain the times of erosion (the non-conformities)?
  2. How would a solitary flood lay down different discrete layers of shale, sandstone, limestone, and occasional volcanic deposits? those layers require different conditions to sort the particle size, and different depths of inundation, not just a wave of water.
  3. Where did all that sediment come from? You have to grind granite to powder to get silt and sand, and the continents have thousands of feet of sedimentary rock covering huge areas.
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The con of the flood model is it doesn’t explain what we see in the layers. Many of the layers require still water and long periods of time to allow the small particles to settle out.

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The con… of ‘the Flood Model’ is that there is no such thing in science.

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And another con, how does the flood model explain the complete lack of “massive amounts of ocean sediment” on the current ocean floor? Why would it only be deposited on the continents?

Sorry @donpartain but we could spend a week listing the cons of the flood model.

John William Dawson, a Christian geologist who opposed evolution said this in his Acadian Geology, 1868.

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@donpartain: May I invite you to look at this:

Phil, thanks for getting things started for us!

"1. How would a single flood over the course of a year explain the times of erosion (the non-conformities)?"

Through the transgressive-regressive cycles of each megasequence, caused by the RECURRING powerful tsunami and/or tidal waves, over the course of the six megasequences. The first megasequence–the “Sauk”–eroded even the granite basement rock in its transgressive phase, producing the Great Unconformity (seen at the base of the Tapeats Sandstone in the Grand Canyon). The erosion caused by the regressive phase of each megasequence caused the upper unconformity. Plate tectonics involving the rifting and subduction of ocean plates (“all the fountains of the great deep burst open,” Genesis 7:11) would produce this series of mega-tsunamis that transported and deposited the ocean sediments upon the continents.

“2. How would a solitary flood lay down different discrete layers of shale, sandstone, limestone, and occasional volcanic deposits? those layers require different conditions to sort the particle size, and different depths of inundation, not just a wave of water.”

The sorting of these different sediments occurs in accordance with Walther’s Law of sedimentation–where there is a “fining up” during the transgressive phase, and a “coarsing up” during the regressive phase. A great example of this is seen in the Tonto Group of the Grand Canyon–there is a “fining up,” from bottom to top, the Tapeats Sandstone, overlain by the Bright Angel Shale, overlain by the Muav Limestone, in the transgressive phase of the first megasequence, the Sauk.

The volcanic deposits are also in keeping with the plate tectonics. As the ocean plates subducted under the continental plates, volcanoes sprang up along the coasts–“the Ring of Fire” volcanoes.

  1. Where did all that sediment come from? You have to grind granite to powder to get silt and sand, and the continents have thousands of feet of sedimentary rock covering huge areas.

The sediment is mostly marine–that is, it comes from the ocean floor–having been scooped up and deposited by the mega-tsunami/tidal waves. In fact, the marine organisms found in these very deposits testify of this; entire ecosystems were scooped up and deposited. For example, the trilobite–an ocean-dweller–was encased within the Tapeats Sandstone.

And you are certainly right about the massive amounts of sedimentary rock–which testifies to the massive amounts of sediment that were water-deposited upon the continent. As you seem to be saying, it certainly didn’t come mostly from granite being grinded up! But again, lots of sediment–sand, silt, clay, and calcium carbonate–was transported from the ocean floor, and across each continent by the powerful hydraulic forces; and these became, through diagenesis, (respectively) sandstone, shale, and limestone sedimentary rock layers. And, again, strong evidence for these being marine sediments is the fact that they are filled with the marine organisms that once inhabited them.

Yes, these are indeed sediments transported and deposited by water.

But they do not require long periods of time “to allow small particles to settle out.” To the contrary, they settle out according to Walther’s Law of sedimentation: in the transgressive phase (where the ocean water strikes and “transgresses” over the continent), the sediment particles settle out according to particle size: the sand settles first (to become a sandstone layer)…then the clay settles (to become shale)…then the calcium carbonate settles (to become limestone).

“And another con, how does the flood model explain the complete lack of “massive amounts of ocean sediment” on the current ocean floor? Why would it only be deposited on the continents?”

The Flood model does indeed account for the transportation and deposition of “massive amounts of ocean sediment.” In fact, the uniformitarian model does not–it just assumes it.

Somehow, most people think of the Flood as just involving lots of rainfall. And they miss the plate tectonics alluded to by “and the fountains of the great deep burst open.” The mid-ocean rifting we find easily accounts for the production of earthquakes and tsunamis which, speeding toward the coastlines at 500 mph, were able to scoop up and deposit massive amounts of ocean sediment onto the craton (or continent).

So, you propose these mega sequences occurring over what period of time? It seems they would have to take place over millions of years, in which case, it is pretty much standard geology with unsupported details. Not really a solitary flood scenario. What am I missing?

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Maybe in your alternate reality, but here setting time is determined by Stokes’s Law which allows us to calculate how long it takes find particles to settle.

You missed my point. The flood model does not account for the complete lack of “massive amounts of ocean sediment” on the sea floor. The uniformitarian model does not have to assume it. It isn’t there.

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A good friend of mine was the chair of the geology department at an Ivy League university. Whenever I walked into his office, his chalkboard was overrun by hundreds of equations.

During the summers, he ran a consulting business with petroleum company clients who sought his advice on where best to drill.

He was and is a truly gentle soul who loves Christ deeply. In addition, he was and is fiercely committed to the very best work in geophysics. The work he did for the petroleum companies was based on what you have referred to as “uniformitarian” geology (an appalling misnomer, but whatever). That the earth was 4.5B years old and that the petroleum deposits were made tens to hundreds of millions of years ago was part and parcel of his work.

Two points are worth considering very carefully here:

Petroleum companies are paying for "uniformitarian" geology, not "catastrophic" geology

Why is this, if the “catastrophic” theory is so superior in explaining reality? If “catastrophic” geology is superior, petroleum companies should be beating down the doors to the science department at Cedarville U and Bryant College. That they’re not doing so says a whole lot about which approach to geology is more successful.

Secondly…

Show me the math

Anyone can throw words around to make a hypothesis sound plausible. But no reputable scientific work can be done without serious math. My friend, the Ivy League geophysicist, was very successful because he worked out the math. He was paid handsomely for combining the math and the geophysical data into highly successful “uniformitarian” models that petroleum companies were willing to good money for.

An invitation

So far you’ve slung around some words on the forum, Don, but there’s absolutely no way of determining whether the evidence better fits your explanation or the scientific consensus until you show us your math.

Without the mathematical models worked out in detail, the vast generalizations which you have introduced cannot be scientifically evaluated.

So please, please, please, show us the math!

Thanks,
Chris

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Occurring over a one-year period. Why “over millions of years”?

The weight of overlying layers of sediment compact the lower layers, and dissolved minerals within them cement them into rock. This doesn’t take millions of years.

I think that prevalent uniformitarian assumptions condition us to think that millions of years are required for lithification and fossilization, when we know, today, this isn’t true at all. Modern-day items, like keys–and even a sparkplug–have been found in sedimentary rock.

The flood model does not account for the complete lack of “massive amounts of ocean sediment” on the sea floor . The uniformitarian model does not have to assume it. It isn’t there.

The Kaibib Formation in the Grand Canyon is 9,000’ above sea level–and it is 300’ thick. And it is formed from marine–that is, ocean–sediment. The Bear Paw Formation in Montana is just under 1,000’ thick; and, again, it is formed from marine–ocean–sediment. Also the Judith River Formation in Montana is about 1,000’; and it is formed from marine–ocean–sediment. In other words, the sediment deposited in these places–and in many places throughout all continents–came from the ocean.

In fact, the fossilized marine life forms within the sediments of these formations, alone, are testimony that the sediments came from the ocean. For example, the Kaibib Formation contains fossils of sponges, corals, brachiopods, nautiloids, sharks, and trilobites…ocean life!

So, yes, massive amounts of ocean sediment are indeed found upon not only the North American continent, but upon all the continents. The question is, how was it possible–what kind of hydraulic force was necessary–to transport this sediment from the ocean and deposit it all over the continents?

The uniformitarian model proposes slowly rising ancient seas did it–in fact, one source said that the ocean flooded the continents at the rate of .05 inch per week! Now, just think about that…would such a flow of water be capable of transporting and depositing millions of cubic kilometers of sediment onto the continents (according to geological data, the Sauk megasequence alone contains over 3 million cubic kilometers of sediment spread across much of North America)?

This refutes the YEC argument about the Kaibab uplift and the Grand Canyon in 11 seconds:

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Chris, the data to be considered is the same for everyone; the “different math” is simply different interpretation of the data. In fact, both uniformitarian geologists and catastrophic geologists use the same Sloss sequence diagrams–the same data.

For example, Dr. Timothy Clarey, who is a geologist and hydrologist, was employed by Chevron for many years to do oil exploration–and produced the geological studies used by them to discover oil. Yet, he holds to the catastrophic Flood interpretation of the data.

So, it’s the interpretation of the data from each that differs–THIS is the different “math.”

A serious (and, I think, insurmountable) problem for uniformitarians is realizing that their interpretation of the Sloss sequence diagram says that the North American continent was completely under water for 18 million years during the Tippecanoe megasequence (mid-Ordovician through Silurian), under water for 36 million years during the Absaroka megasequence (mid-Pennsylvanian through mid-Permian), and under water for another 18 million years during the Zuni megasequence (mid-Cretaceous). You might want to check this diagram for yourself.

Obviously, if this were true, then there would be no evolved land animals. Such would truly be “mass extinctions.”

In these kinds of discussions I often think one of the first things that helps eliminates a lot of the nonsense is to go ahead and line out some of the things that is not true, or revealed by the data.

  1. There is no scientific data to support even 200 feet of global rainwater covering the entire earth at one time. Let alone 1-5 miles worth of it. Not even if the other 95% of it comes from the ground.

  2. It’s scientifically impossible for 1-5 miles worth of water to come up out of the earth and cover the whole surface. The water would have to come out so fast and from so deep it would be steam abs boiling water. There is no evidence of one giant hole busting out with water coming out covering everything and there is no evidence millions of these holes busting forth across the globe.

  3. USA was not completely underwater.

Some of the first errors that stand out to me is this.

You mentioned during the Cambrian “ USA” which would have been part of Laurentia was completely under water. But it was not. You mentioned that you think a biblical flood model provided some answers. Well the problem is that it simply does not. During the time frame you suggest towards the earlier end of it while Laurentia was still very much mountainous and exposed the supercontinent Gondwana was definitely well above sea level and significantly larger. So if a world wide flood happened, covering all of Laurentia it would also have had to cover Gondwana. But again, there is no evidence for this.

If we move forward from the Cambrian 540mil and closer to something near the 66 million you mentioned then we are looking at this. During the Cretaceous what is America was definitely still not under water. For a fact, “ USA” would have been divided by the western interior sea and the land masses would have been Laramidia to the west and Appalachia to the east. Plenty of biodiversity at this time in “north America”‘firing this time such as T-Rex I believe sometime after this is also when north and South America connected resulting in Caines driving out marsupials which included many kinds even larger bear-ish types.

You can’t fudge most of Laurentia as all of it. You can’t say it’s a biblical flood model ( 1 year global flood ) when Gondwana was still dominating the surface of earth and not covered.

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I’m really confused on the dots you’re trying to connect.

The discussion is about a biblical flood model. If that’s the case it’s a world wide flood that even covered the mountains that spanned roughly a year. Let’s say you instead look at it and take earth as meaning the lands and change it from a global flood to a localized but massive flood. If it was a localized but massive flood, the story would dictate that it occurred in Gondwana and not what would become Americas “ Laurentia”. Why in the world ( ehh ) would you switch the flood story to America instead of the middle east and north Africa?

None as it wasn’t transported from the ocean. It is the ocean that was transported one way and the other. The mechanism is mainly tectonic, along with oscillating sea levels (see ice ages) with or without ocean water displacing previous sedimentation (mainly hydraulic) from elsewhere.

It’s a very simple, very well understood deterministic system just taking a lot of time for which there is no scientific alternative. No magic is required. No four thousand year Babylonian myth. Neither of those is required to believe in God through Christ.

No, because it wouldn’t need to: more of that sediment is terrigenic or biogenic, i.e. most of it washed off the land after the ocean rose, or was formed in place from marine organisms.

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