Friday, December 22, 2017

Newsweek Dabbles in Young Earth Creationism

Kastalia Medrano, of Newsweek, has written a post describing the discovery of a fossilized Antarctic Forest.  The piece starts off innocuously enough:
Scientists announced the discovery of the fossilized trees in Antarctica’s Transantarctic Mountains in November. They believe the forest is the oldest one known to exist in the southern polar region, according to Breaking News Israel. They proposed that the ancient trees preserved a record of a large-scale global die-off event, which raised the planet’s temperature to dangerous extremes and turned its oceans acidic, and ultimately wiped out 95 percent of species on Earth. But they were left with the question of what exactly was the catalyst for those changes.
Then comes the sharp turn:
At least one biblical scholar believes he has the answer: The die-off event was the Great Flood described in the Book of Genesis.

“This discovery should be no surprise to those who take Genesis as literal history,” Tim Clarey, a geologist from the Institute for Creation Research, wrote on the ICR website. “The Bible clearly describes a global flood that affected all land masses—why should Antarctica be an exception?”
The problem, of course, is that the Permian extinction is only one of five mass extinction events, and it is not even the first one. It is the third, behind the Ordovician and late Devonian extinctions.The one that took out the dinosaurs was the late Cretaceous extinction.  Furthermore, there are many, many layers of sediment between each extinction event.  So the question: why would this particular extinction event signify the flood?  Why not the most recent one?  Also, isn't it generally thought by young earth creationists that the ENTIRE geologic column represents the flood deposits?  Clarey does not mention this at all in his column.

Part of the interpretation hinges on the discovery of fossil cells, which are explained by an extremely rapid burial, an explanation that Clarey doesn't buy.

Clarey then received a critique from a biblical scholar, Brent Landau, as Medrano writes: 
If you’re not persuaded by the secular community, take it from the religious community. Brent Landau, a biblical scholar from the University of Texas at Austin, told Newsweek that Clarey is “espousing a form of religiously motivated pseudoscience, and a relatively unsophisticated one at that.”

Landau explained that Young Earth Creationists arrive at the idea that the planet is only 10,000 years old through methods like adding up the ages of people written about in the Book of Genesis, and that there’s no need for religious scholars to take that kind of evidence more seriously than the “vast amount of scientific data” pointing to the Earth being around 4.6 billion years old.

“Notice that he links the destruction in Antarctica to the Flood, but insists that the scientists’ date for this catastrophe of 280 million years ago must be incorrect,” Landau wrote to Newsweek over email.
As Carol Hill pointed out, there simply isn't any defensible evidence for a world-wide flood. Even if the fossilized trees were entombed very rapidly, there are many other natural formations that show clear signs of slow deposition. You simply cannot extrapolate one localized area to the entire world, yet this what young-earth creationists continually do.


  1. Clarey was indeed a professo,r, according to ICR, at Delta College (Michigan), a two-year college with, according to Wikipedia a one hundred percent acceptance rate. Unfortunately, Clarey's publications are all in such parochial or minor journals that they are not in the Glasgow University library, which is a pity, since I would be interested to know the contents of T. L. Clarey, R. B. Chase, and C. J. Schmidt. 2004. Precambrian influences on the development of the Royal Gorge arch, Colorado: a thick-skinned fault-propagation fold. The Mountain Geologist. 41 (1): 17-32, and what, for him, is the meaning of the term "Precambrian".

  2. Post dated 12 Dec:

  3. Abstract for the Clarey, Chase, and Schmidt article:

    "Recent field research in structural geology has demonstrated the important role that basement rocks play in the development of small-scale foreland folds. This paper expands these findings and addresses the influences of basement control on a typical, large-scale, foreland feature located in south-central Colorado. The Royal Gorge Arch provides a well-exposed basement-cored uplift for detailed structural study, revealing structural features with over 540 m of total relief. Although the Arch shows evidence for
    initial formation during the Ancestral Rocky Mountains uplift, it appears to have experienced most of its development during the later Laramide orogeny.
    Various types of structural data were examined within the 60 km2 study area, including foliation and bedding orientations, slickenside surfaces, and Slickenside orientations. Simultaneous analysis of structural domains and slickenside domains show a strong correlation. Ten homogenous structural domains were identified across the Arch: seven in the basement complex and three in the sedimentary cover. The locations of many of the domains were tied directly to differences in the basement rocks. Kinematic analysis of the Slickenside data revealed a complex strain pattern that was also strongly tied to lithology and fabric. The maximum compressive stress during Laramide development of the Arch varied between 45-55' in the sedimentary cover, matching many previously determined palaeostress patterns for this area.
    Structural development of the arch appears to be a modification of a basement-involde fault propagation fold, with detachment surface at a depth of 10-11 km. In this interpretation, deformation of the
    basement rocks is confined to a wedge-shaped zone of cataclasis where basement faulting does not extend into the overlying seclimentary rocks."