This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/the-bible-rocks-and-time-christians-and-an-old-earth-part-4
No. Fossils are not used to date rocks. They have been used to help order the layers by geologists. Dating is primarily done through radioactive decay measurements.
Excellent article, learned a lot!
Yes, today that is how dating is done, but when the science of geology came into its own in the nineteenth century radioactivity had not yet been discovered. Other quantitative and semi-quantitative methods were used, but the numbers calculated by those methods, while immensely longer than the traditional biblical timescale, were still far short of the numbers accepted today.
The essay by Rupke that I mentioned in a caption deals with the nineteenth-century situation quite authoritatively. He notes, tellingly, that most of the people who put together the standard geological picture were opposed to evolution, not in favor of it. So, they did not commit the fallacy that creationists accuse them of committing! I did a series partly about two such persons, Edward Hitchcock and Benjamin Silliman: http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/series/reading-gods-two-books-early-american-perspectives
The conclusions of flood geologists about the fossil record reminded me of the conclusions drawn by the police or Dr. Watson in a Sherlock Holmes story. They seem to be logical until Sherlock Holmes points out a minor detail that makes that conclusion invalid, and then gives a more plausible explanation of what happened.
It is very important to note that knowledge of the fossil record before Darwin’s time pointed to the fact that life had changed during the history of the earth. Darwin didn’t guess that life had evolved; he was the first to come up with a logical, consistent explanation of how it might have happened.
Flood geologists and creation scientists are basing their conclusions on a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, and therefore believe that mainstream science is doing the same thing based on the Book of Darwin.
I would alter that a bit by saying the flood geologists think they are Sherlock, find a small detail that is unexplained, and declare the conclusion invalid, but don’t have a more plausible explanation.
Not to say that all of the arguments here are unsound (credible young-age paleontologists such as Brand would be the first to acknowledge this), but I do wonder whether the author has read the books that he cites through to the end. Some of his arguments are clearly out of touch with what professional creationists are actually setting forth. This, in particular, is egregiously false:
“At the other end of the geological spectrum, Cenozoic strata with their rich record of fossil mammals are claimed to result from concentrations of mobile and intelligent animals which could seek higher ground during the Flood event and so were overwhelmed last.”
On the contrary, the Cenozoic is widely regarded as postflood. Who is claiming what Stearley is asserting? Ecological zonation isn’t so much an explanation in and of itself as it is a framework for developing specific models. The coal deposits, for example, are regarded by the leading creationists geologists as products of the floating forest (large quaking bog) as developed in detail by Kurt Wise. I don’t think any “flood geologist” would regard ecological zonation as “magically” removing all the problems. The principal goal of those creationists who are professionals is not apologetics. It’s model building. It’s not about solving problems to pop up a quick article on Answers in Genesis, but about building large-scale models which elegantly explain the scientific data.
I think describing any young-earth model as “elegantly explaining the scientific data” is a bit of a stretch, to put it mildly. YEC models do their best in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary - why are there no human remains in the vast majority of the fossil record? Why is pollen - that easily dispersed and most readily fossilized, pervasive entity - similarly missing? And the list goes on.
I didn’t say that that the goal has been reached, but I stated what the goal was. Contemporary creationist science has largely moved beyond the days of Duane Gish, where the goal was just cheap apologetic shots. As to overwhelming evidence to the contrary, well, they would disagree with you- obviously. And many of them would be the first to name the specific problems faced by creationist models and proactively do field work to study the issues carefully and work to solve the problems.
My point in my comment was not to rebut the specific scientific arguments in the article. Rather, with all due respect, I’m questioning whether you’ve read the authors you claim to have read. When you say things like “Cenozoic strata…are claimed to result from” events during the Flood, that indicates that you haven’t, because those creationists who work professionally (as in, conduct research and experiments) almost universally hold the Cenozoic to be deposited by postflood catastrophism.
Leonard Brand, in his book “Faith, Reason, and Earth History” outlines a philosophy of science which guides sophisticated creationist thinking today, and it’s in rich dialogue with the work of philosophers such as Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend, and Lakatos. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it- just to get in touch quickly with today’s creationist thinking.
I’m not the author of this post - that would be @TedDavis.
That said, yes, I have read large swaths of YEC literature. It’s not convincing, and much of it is ad hoc. YEC Todd Wood is largely in agreement with that assessment. I find his work refreshingly honest.
A GREAT couple of paragraphs!
[CREATIONIST EXPLANATION FOR FOSSIL LAYERS]
“At the other end of the geological spectrum, Cenozoic strata with their rich record of fossil mammals are claimed to result from concentrations of mobile and intelligent animals which could seek higher ground during the Flood event and so were overwhelmed last. Dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles were not so mobile and so apparently could not find the highest refuges from the catastrophic Flood, and so were entombed in an intermediate stratigraphic position.”
[INCONGRUITIES ARE PERVASIVE]
“However, there are many blatant incongruities in this explanation. For example, pterosaurs (extinct flying reptiles) are limited in their stratigraphic distribution to the Mesozoic. Presumably they were as mobile as many birds and even more mobile than many mammals and so should be preserved well throughout the Cenozoic.”
" As a second example, why are there absolutely no angiosperm fossils preserved in Carboniferous coal deposits? In today’s world angiosperms [flowering plants] are by far the most numerous plant taxa, with more than 250,000 species documented, and occupying all sorts of habitats, including the coastal marine realm."
" Why did a catastrophic global Flood not mix a few angiosperms with standard Carboniferous plant communities? As a third incongruity, there are many examples in the rock record of marine fossiliferous successions overlying terrestrial fossil-bearing strata. In the western United States, for example, thick sequences of Cretaceous System rocks with abundant marine fossils overlie the terrestrial vertebrate (dinosaur) fossil-bearing strata of the Upper Jurassic."
[END OF QUOTE]
But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Air breathing aquatic dinosaurs should have been as mobile as air breathing whales. But we never find these fossils inter-mingled.
Why would Elephants be more mobile than giant-strided Brontosaurs, or even T-Rex? And yet we never find these animals mixed with Elephants or other categories of Larger mammals.
The geological record is a slam dunk in favor of Old Earth.