Can Creationists Fit the Flood in a Geologic Framework?

(Original Version 6/99, updated 3/2001)

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Ye-creationists have often asserted that the Geologic record supports the notion of a global flood. What do the data really show?   It is important to note that the idea of a global flood (Noachian variety) was actually the favored explanation for the fossilized strata observed by geologists in the 17th and 18th centuries.  However, most of these geologists immediately began to recognize that a global flood and the stratigraphic record were totally at odds.    Although most abandonded the idea of a Noachian flood, a few attempted to invent several 'extra-biblical' catastrophes in an attempt to save the flood (ala Cuvier described in Benson, 1984).  Some modern-day (oxymoron) young-earth creationists recognize the futility of fitting a single global flood to the geologic record.  One attempt to match the stratigraphic record with the geologic column (in a very broad sense) was developed by Rev. Bernard Northrup.   Below I will show why this idea is completely at odds with the known geologic record and is a scientifically meaningless hypothesis.  His time line can be found here.  One particular note of interest is Northrup's complete lack of an explanation for the global glacial events at 1800 mya, 750 mya, 600 mya, Ordovician and Permo-Carboniferous.   This is important because Northrup seems to imply that the climate was equable prior to the Cenozoic and the geologic record speaks clearly and unambiguously that it was not (Hoffman et al., 1998).  Northrup has remained strangely silent on these issues.   Listed below are several key events described by Bernard Northrup followed by key evidence against his broad assertions. 
#1 Global Catastrophe #1-Geologic timeline equivalent Archean and Proterozoic.

"The universal Pre-Adamic Flood that burst forth out of the crust of the earth and universally covered the newly created earth, depositing strata without any fossils. There was no prior creation of lifeforms on earth (apart from the angelic hosts). Job 38:4-11, Psalm 104:4-5. This Psalm clearly chronologic-ally considers the successive events found in Genesis chapter one."

Geologic Inconsistencies with GC#1.

One might begin with a theologic argument here.  The existence of a Pre-Adamic flood is based solely on a loose interpretation of Genesis, there is no clear indication that any flood burst forth from the Earth prior to the story of Noah.  In fact, one wonders why claim a literal bible in the first place if one can merely designate new interpretations whenever the need arises.   In fact, Northrup insists that his understanding of Hebrew is better than anyone else's.  If the existence of a pre-Adamic flood is so strongly entrenched in the Bible, then why the debate?  Surely, others have studied the bible as carefully and religiously as Northrup.  The simple fact is that biblical interpretations are just that.  No single theologian has a license on the one true interpretation.  Nevertheless, let's assume that Rev. Northrup knows his bible better than he knows geology.  His first global catastrophe falls against the weight of the evidence beginning with the assertion that the Archean and Proterozoic are void of life as shown in his time line. In fact, Northrup goes so far as to claim 'no fossils'.  However, that is in direct conflict with an increasingly rich fossil record in the Proterozoic (Grotzinger et al., 1995; Seilacher et al., 1998 and many others).  Although the Precambrian was originally thought of as being absent of life, discoveries during the past 30 years have shown that this claim is without merit (link).   The indication from this and GC#2 is that there was no land above water and this is also contradicted by the geologic data as shown below.   Northrup, for some strange reason asserts in a recent article that I somehow disregard the existence of marine and land deposits in the Archean and Proterozoic.   I do not know how he reached this conclusion based on what is written here, but he is wrong.

#2 Global Catastrophe #2-Geologic timeline equivalent Proterozoic.

"On the third solar day, after gradual elevation of the canopy to where solar days were observable to the Divine Author, the Creator abruptly elevated a great single continent out of the sea. Note "…and let the waters under the heavens be gathered unto one place" (1:9). Runoff from the continent deposits the continentally derived Proterozoic around its edge."

Geologic Inconsistencies with GC#2.

How interesting that a omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent creator was unable to see his creation.  On the other hand, if the Divine author is not God, then this is also a departure from the traditional view that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.  His second geologic catastrophe begins with the elevation of a single landmass out of the sea. Northrup seemingly ignores (considering he is not a geologist) the fact that there are Archean and early Proterozoic continental deposits including subarially deposited volcanic rocks of Archean age (see Meert et al., 1994 or Goodwin, 1991 for examples).  This is important because his earlier statement would imply that all sedimentary and igneous rocks should be submarine.  This is in direct conflict with the Archean and early Proterzoic geologic record (Goodwin, 1991).  There is no evidence to support the notion that there was a single supercontinent that persisted from Archean through Proterozoic times.  Northrup does not address the evidence for earlier supercontinents in differing configurations.  In fact, the evidence is quite strong that many continents were drifting independently during these time periods3.   Northrup insists that his experience travelling and looking at rocks gives him 'status' as an amateur geologist.  No doubt there is value in having looked at rocks, but Northrup has ignored the evidence and conveniently insists that the pre-Adamic flood should include both continental and igneous deposits (in a later writing).  Northrup is playing bait and switch in his most recent paper by asserting that his model does fit all the evidence.  This in spite of the fact that he seems to ignore any evidence that runs contrary to his model.


#3 Global Catastrophe #3-Geologic timeline equivalent early Paleozoic

"The flood began in the ocean bottoms [cf. Cambrian deposits]. Signs of shoreline encroachment in Ordovician-Silurian. Flood stabilization in Mississippian but initial retreat signs in upper Mississippian. The wind and tidal oscillations of Gen. 8:1-3 continue well into the Mesozoic deposits until obliterated by plate movement tsunami. Slow retreat is sug-gested by Gen. 11:2." 













Geologic Inconsistencies with GC#3.

This is TOTALLY at odds with the geologic record in at least one place that I am familiar with. The Nama Group (Namibia) begins with Neoproterozoic-Cambrian limestones of the Kuibus and Schwarzrand Subgroups (both shallow marine) and terminates with contintental deposits of the Fish River subgroup (Cambrian-age). In fact, rather than flood, this region of Africa dries out (Grotzinger et al., 1995). Northrup insists that this fits with his model, but he did not pay attention.  His explanation is that the Noachian flood was 'slowly universal' (but it must have been less than a year).   The point is the sequence of deposits here.  First marine (with fossils) then continental.  These are not a mix of both, but a very clear sequence showing a regression of the sea during Cambrain time.  Interestingly, there are no fossiliferous marine beds on top of the Fish River.  Apparently, Noah's flood did not reach Namibia!! One can also turn to the Salt Range sediments of India that are of Cambrian-age, these are evaporitic deposits. Evaporites form during evaportative events and not during times of global flooding (Klootwijk et al., 1986). It is also interesting to note that Salt Range sedimentation BEGAN with a tillite (glacial deposit) which are not mentioned anywhere in the flood chronology. In fact there are also early Cambrian glacial deposits found in West Africa (see Goodwin, 1991), Neoprtoerozoic glacial deposits are found on nearly every continent on Earth9 suggesting that if Northrup is to reconcile his timeline with the geologic record he must include an explanation for these pre and syn flood glacial deposits.  This statement would also indicate that there should be an absence of Devonian terrestrial deposits, but one of the most famous Devonian deposits is the "Old red Sandstone" that is clearly a terrestrial deposit, not marine.   In fact, the presence of this Devonian sequence instantly negates the notion that the globe was covered by water (they are found in North America and Europe, Levin, 1999).  Here is a link that describes some of the plant life of Devonian time.  Northrup insists that these Devonian continental deposits are in perfect harmony with the Noachian flood and goes to great lengths to try and harmonize it with his account.  The simple fact is that continental deposits such as the Old Red do not fit a flood scenario no matter how imaginative.  One should not stretch truth into lies as Northrup does in his most recent 'harmonization' of his Bible with his geology. 

"The wind and tidal oscillations of Gen. 8:1-3 continue well into the Mesozoic deposits until obliterated by plate movement tsunami. Slow retreat is suggested by Gen. 11:2."

This statement refelcts precisely the type of waffling I was referring to when I said that no creationist is willing to be pinned down on details. I will give Northrup credit for being the most specific, but basically this means that no matter what strata you point to it from Mississippian to Mesozoic can be 'flood' (if it is subaqueous) or 'retreat' if it is continental.  In fact, Northrup continues takes this waffling further back once he read the critique on his page.  I repeat!  If something can explain everything then it explains nothing. This is an excellent example of the truth of that axiom. Nonetheless, in attempting to be vague, Northrup has hung his own hypothesis.  If the Mesozoic is a time of retreat, then it means the dinosaurs were not killed off during the global flood, but after the flood waters began to retreat.  Presumably, this meant that they were able to swim around for several months until they were finally drowned.   More problematic is the notion that deformation of the rocks is associated with 'Mesozoic' plate tectonic tsunamis. Presumably such incredible deformation would be seen in all pre-tsunami strata. Yet, the Vindhyan range in India contains undisturbed sedimentary strata of Neoproterozoic-Cambrian age. These rocks are not the only known Phanerozoic and older rocks that show no evidence of disturbance.  Why were these rocks not affected by this or later deformation (see Naqvi and Rogers, 1987; Goodwin, 1991)?   In fact, one can find undistrubed strata of almost any age including in the Grand Canyon. These mostly 'flood' strata seemed to have been unaffected by the tsunamis and Peleg rapid drift events! We also have a history of glaciation in the Ordovician and Permian that is unaccounted for in Northrups scenario.  Norththrups idea of Noachian flood rapid drift is echoed by John Baumgardner who uses a computer model to demonstrate how the flood and rapid continental 'dash' might have occurred.  While it is not the subject of this page, it should be noted that Baumgardner's models use values for the Earth that are many orders of magnitude different than real earth.  A detailed critique of Baumgardners models is forthcoming.   The geologic record is totally at odds with a single drift event from a single supercontinent.  While it seems that creationists accept the notion of Pangea, they will also soon have to accept the notion of previous supercontinents. 


Global Catastrophe #4-Geologic timeline equivalent Mesozoic

"The major characteristic deposits of this series are wind and tidal wave deposits. These result from the long retreat. The wind and shoreline oscillations of Gen. 8:1-3. Five generations after the Noahic flood God complemented that done at Babel by dividing the continents, further separating migrating, fallen man on the moving plates. Plate movement produced the great diastrophism that occurred in Mesozoic time. Gen.11:18-23 names suggest catastrophism."


Geologic Inconsistencies with GC#4

Northrup indicates another major episode of rock deformation that appears to be localized. Why does this second event-- that is even more catastrophic than the first--- leave vast areas of the globe completely undisturbed? Furthermore, it is clear that by not defining 'when' in the Mesozoic these plate motions occur, Northrup leaves arguments about when certain species became isolated completely open (more on that in a moment).  The indication here is that there was an episode of rapid continental motion that separated the plates.  Geologists have long recognized the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea, but the breakup was diachronous and much slower than is indicated here.  I have not seen a picture of the pre-Peleg world, but creationists would be ill-advised to use the Pangea configuration as the evidence used to reconstruct Pangea is generally rejected by ye-creationism.  Furthermore, if the time line is correct we should find evidence of fallen man in Mesozoic-age deposits.  Where are these finds?

Global Catastrophe #5-Geologic timeline equivalent Cenozoic

""Enormous heat release of plate movement filled atmosphere with steam and ash from great volcanic vents, transformed the albedo of the atmosphere, thus reflect-ing solar energy & producing steady drop of temperature during Cenozoic time, climaxing in the Biblical, Pleistocene ice epoch that is thoroughly described by an observer, the patriarch Job"."


Geologic Inconsistencies with GC#5

Finally, Northrup discusses ice ages, yet these Pleistocene deposits are only the most 'famous' of the ice ages. This 'model' does not account for the earlier ice ages that occurred in Permian, Ordovician and Neoproterozoic times.. I am also surprised that this is the first mention of large volcanic venting. The Siberian traps (arguably the worlds largest volcanic eruption) formed at the end of the Permian10. In fact, one can find large outpourings of lavas on every continent of pre-Cenozoic age10. It's unclear what happened to plate motion during this period, but we have the great migration of species from South America up through Central America during the Cenozoic. I presume the argument would be that motion simply slowed down.


Northrups model still falls well short of defining a global or regional stratigraphy that can be unambiguously tied to the flood. In fact, his assertion that the flood began in the Cambrian is instantly negated by the rock record. Furthermore, by forming his postulate in such a way as to cover nearly any eventuality (including the formation of paleosols) he explains nothing. I was hoping that I might actually find something useful, but such is the case when a non-geologist tries to resurrect 18th century geology without reading the modern literature.  Unfortunately, ye-creationism forces its adherents into scientifically illogical arguments that often fail at the most basic levels. Northrups model does demonstrate why creationists are unlikely to develop an internally self-consistent model for the geologic record.  Any attempt to reconcile the rockl record with a global flood is doomed from the outset.   This is not news to geologists or to creationists.  The naturalists/geologists of the 17th and 18th century realized early on that the rock record was completely at odds with a single Noachian flood.  Northrups recent attempts to answer this criticism fall far short of success and only creates more problems than it answers.  Northrup concludes his essay using a few biblical verses hinting that real geologists (including many devout Christians) are somehow woefully ignorant of the truth.  Apparently Northrup dictates God's truth rather than the other way around!


1. Grotzinger et al., 1995, Biostratigraphic and geochronologic constraints
on early animal evolution, Science 170, 598-604.
2. Seilacher et al., 1998, Triploblastic animals more than 1 billion years
old ago: trace fossils from India, Science, 282, 80-83.
3. Meert, J.G. et al., 1994 "Paleomagnetism of the Late Archean Nyanzian
system, western Kenya, Precambrian Research, 69, 113-131. "The Nyanzian
system consists of a succession composed of, from top to bottom, a greywacke and andesitic volcanic group with abundant banded iron formations, an intermediate group composed of rhyolites with intercalated tuffs and agglomerates and a basal unit composed of mafic volcanic rocks (pillow lavas and flows with some (rare) banded iron formations.

4. Klootwijk et al., Paleomagnetic constraints on formation of the Mianwali
reentrant, EPSL, 80, 394-414.
5. Naqvi and Rogers, 1987, Precambrian geology of India, Oxford Monographs
on geology and Geophysics #6, Oxford U. Press, 223 pp.
6. Goodwin, AM, 1991, Precambrian geology, Academic Press,666 pages.
7. Levin, Earth through time 6th Edition, 1999, Saunders publishing.
8. Hoffman, P.F. et al., 1999, A Neoproterozoic snowball earth?, Science 281, 1342-1346.
9. Evans, D.A.D., 2000. Stratigraphic, geochronological and paleomagnetic constraints upon the Neoproterozoic climatic paradox, Am. J. Sci., 300, 347-433.
10. Yale, L.B. and Carpenter, S., 1998. Large igneous provinces and giant dike swarms, proxies for supercontinent cyclicity and mantle convection, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 163, 109-122.

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