Comment on Revisiting “Desert Dunes” in the Fossil Record by Sean Pitman.
Thank you for your response to my review of your article. It’s certainly an interesting and worthwhile discussion.
You produced your response quickly. I wonder if that contributed to a few instances when you wrote a response that directly ignored something I wrote that you quoted. I find it a little frustrating to respond to that, since it leads me to cover the same topic again, which I’m loath to do.
I didn’t intend to ignore any particular argument that you considered to be vital. Without responding line-by-line to absolutely everything you wrote in your rather lengthy article, I tried to pick out what I thought were the main arguments presented. I’m sorry if I missed a few, but will hopefully remedy that now.
Of course, I notice that you completely ignored quite a number of arguments I presented which seem, to me at least, to strongly favor an underwater origin for the significant majority of the Navajo and Coconino Sandstone layers. What about Visher’s parting lineation argument for example? or the common presence of delicate mica flakes? or the several other features favoring water deposition that you failed to mention? (Link)
I tried to be precise in my response to your question, which was, “What about the fact that the trackways within these ‘eolian’ dunes universally go in an uphill-only direction…?” You now seem to be contending that you meant only a few of the animals, and only when they were walking on the dunes themselves. That is a point you need to emphasize for your readers, because the impression conveyed by your article (and I think Brand’s presentations as well) is that you believe the data support that all animals were fleeing uphill to avoid flood waters. If you were to define precisely what you are saying (and not saying), I think the clarification would weaken your argument. In any case, I think in your response you still missed the distinction between several small animals and “all animals”. Clearly, not all animals produced only uphill tracks on Navajo dunes.
I’m sorry, but it seems rather obvious that uphill trackways (and downhill trackways for that matter) will only be present where there are some actual hills.
Beyond this, while I do find some of Brand’s arguments more convincing than others (Link), I do believe that the strong predominance of uphill trackways (with the near complete lack of downhill trackways) created by certain kinds of smaller animals was in fact due to their fleeing rising water. Otherwise, I see no reason for such a lack of downhill trackways. Certainly, as you yourself have admitted, there is no modern parallel for such a preference for uphill trackways and no known reason for this phenomenon from an eolian perspective. On this we certainly agree!
And why are you not interested in dinosaurs or other large creatures? Do you assume they had no interest in escaping the Flood? Do you really think they swam periodically during the Flood?
I’ve already addressed this in my article, but again, yes, I do think that the animals that survived repeated waves of the Flood had to swim to do so. Of course, eventually they lost their battle and died. Their bodies being preferentially preserved in layers higher up than their trackways (as also noted in my article above).
Anyway, here, and also in your posted response on the AT Facebook page, I noticed you were very selective in quoting my statement about track directionality, saying that we are in agreement. If we are in agreement, then what that means is that you are agreeing that there are several species of (mostly small) animals that made predominantly uphill tracks (though with some downhill), BUT ALSO that these species made numerous traversing tracks, AND ALSO that there are other species, including large ones, that made tracks in several directions (on dunes). Note also that small creatures—arthropods—made many downhill trackways in the Coconino that are recorded near the uphill trackways of small animals, so it wasn’t just large creatures that didn’t “always” go uphill. Since I don’t think you are agreeing to this, then please don’t mislead readers by claiming that we are in agreement (much as I would like us to be!).
I wouldn’t think that arthropods that can see only short distances, and wouldn’t understand the implications of rising water very well anyway, would be as consistent in their uphill climb as would small animals. Of course, this is still irrelevant to the fact that we both do actually agree that the strong tendency for certain small animals to avoid going in the downhill direction is rather difficult to explain from the eolian perspective. And, I seriously doubt that this is a source of much confusion to those who might be reading what I said in comparison to what you said.
As for interdunes, how are they not relevant? In a model where the Navajo was rapidly deposited during the Flood, on top of thousands of feet of other rapidly deposited layers, interdune structures (and the tracks on them) cannot be waved away with a flick of the pen! Gerry Bryant has rightly focused on these structures in his research. They are important evidence for the long times involved in formation of the Navajo, and reveal much about conditions at the time. (You did discuss them later in your response, and I’ll respond to those points shortly). There is a vast difference in track and artifact preservation in saturated sand and moist sand (as even Brand acknowledges), and this distinction must be emphasized when considering flood mechanisms vs. track preservation. Additionally, however, you seem to have missed the recent literature I cited on how tracks are preserved in dry sand on dune faces.
I have no doubt that poorly-defined trackways can be preserved on dry dune faces. It’s just that the trackways preserved in the Coconino and Navajo sandstone were consistently produced in fine detail – which seems rather hard for me to believe was produced on very dry desert sand dunes. I just don’t see a modern equivalent for this claim (despite reading Loope’s arguments several times). I can understand that some areas might have a thin surface of dried out sand during periods of flood water recession. Wet sand with a thin layer of overlying dry sand might still be able to preserve detailed footprints as the animals pushed into the underlying wetted sand. This might allow for the thin layer of overlying dry sand to rapidly fill in the footprints themselves. However, I just don’t see how it is possible for completely dry desert dunes to produce finely detailed footprints.
As far as the interdune features that you reference, I did discuss these in some detail.
On the matter of trackways being found only in a minor portion of the Coconino, you seem to have disregarded the explanation I gave in the quoted sentence, that there were periods of favorable paleoenvironment. In other periods, the animals either weren’t present or their tracks weren’t preserved. This simple explanation is consistent with other evidence, in contrast to the Flood interpretation.
This explanation doesn’t seem to me to be consistent with the evidence. After all, you have commonly-preserved large coniferous trees within the Navajo (without branches or bark) with numerous other evidences of rather abundant water all over the place. Yet, only rare trackways are preserved? That makes little sense to me given the truth of your story of long spans of time and stability of these dunes. Rather, the relative rarity of these trackways seems more consistent with the Biblical story of a Noachian Flood with the rapid deposition and preservation of these dunes by massive tidal actions.
Regarding the discussion of pinstripe laminations, and comments regarding Mars, I might note that Gerald Bryant hosted an interplanetary geology conference at Dixie State University shortly before our Talking Rocks tour. He knows a thing or two of interest to researchers in this field! If he says that tidal environments produce laminations distinguishable from eolian deposits, wouldn’t you want to understand his viewpoint (which I stated)?
It’s one thing to state this as “fact”. It’s quite another thing to actually present the evidence. After all, I’ve cited for you a few references suggesting that these pinstripe laminations are not conclusive evidence of eolian origin, but can be produced by water. If you or Bryant believe that there are conclusive differences, by all means, present the actual evidence.
Beyond this, you seem to have missed the part in my article where the dune deposits on Mars were thought to have been largely the work of water deposition which was then thought to be subsequently reworked in some areas by wind. I explained that this could also have happened during the formation of the Coconino and Navajo Sandstones during short episodes of surface exposure.
In any case, this vague “model” of massive tides sweeping entire continents does not sound like conditions associated with pinstripe laminations in tidal deposits. What precise sequence of activities and associated timings does this Flood “model” propose to have occurred, and how is that consistent with all the evidence discussed in my paper for long times, eolian conditions, animal presence, chemical transformation, etc.? As John McLarty wrote in his introduction, there is no Flood model. Even creationists have acknowledged this problem.
In 2003 it was discovered that the thousands of cubic miles of sand that forms the Navajo Sandstone came from the opposite side of the continent (from the Appalachians of Pennsylvania based on grains of zircon crystals that contain uranium similar in character to those of the Appalachians). That’s a long way to transport such a huge quantity of sand under uniformitarian conditions and leave it only in the western part of the continent. An immense transcontinental “river system” is imagined to have delivered the sand – which seems quite far fetched to me. It sounds much more like a massive catastrophe of truly Noachian proportions.
Of course, the Flood was not simply a single event comprise of one episode of the rising and falling of water. It was a complex event with periods of relative calm at various times and in various places around the globe. Tides would have been produced with the ebb and flow of tidal currents as well as periods of surface exposure. Animals would have survived for a period of time, leaving trace fossils.
This is actually interesting since the trace fossils of animals like reptiles (even large dinosaurs) occur more commonly in lower layers while there body fossils occur more commonly in upper layers (Brand, 1982). That feature of the fossil record also seems to me to be quite a bit more consistent with a Biblical Flood model than with your “model”.
I mean really, you can come up with any kind of model you want, but if it doesn’t make sense given the evidence in hand, then it really isn’t a viable model. And, if there is a model, even a limited model that isn’t entirely fleshed out that makes more sense of the main features of the evidence in hand, such as the Flood model, one doesn’t have to know precisely how the Flood worked in every detail before one can reasonably conclude that the claims of the Bible are the more credible claims.
On your effort to rebut the multiple arguments against a Flood interpretation for interdune deposits, responding to literature I discussed on the matter, I suppose my best response is simply to encourage you (and readers) to read the original literature I cited; if one can reconcile that with a Flood interpretation, congratulations! I can’t.
I would recommend doing the same – except more broadly than you seem to have done and with a bit more skepticism than you have shown for some of the more fantastic conclusions and leaps of blind faith of mainstream scientists.
Briefly on your interdune arguments: (1) Your explanation for how trees would collect in interdune areas after flood action fails to account for the many layers above these deposits, also attributed by you to the Flood; again, what is the proposed sequence and timing for formation of all these features, within a Flood interpretation?
What’s wrong with a Flood depositing many layers above any kind of deposit? Again, the Flood was not just one single flooding event, but a series of catastrophic flooding events with periods of relative calm in between…
(2) My focus was on Navajo interdune deposits, not Specimen Ridge. But your comment that even conventional geologists agree with what creationists have been saying all along is not true; while a catastrophic interpretation may now prevail, it is based on recognition of multiple such events, not on a single event during a brief period about 4500 years ago. There is no agreement with creationists on such points.
While it is true that conventional geologists still believe that Specimen Ridge was created some 50 millions of years ago, they also now believe that the layers that form this ridge were produced by a rapid series of watery catastrophes and mud flows. They no longer believe that these trees grew “in place”, one forest on top of the others, as was previously claimed, but that these layers were formed rapidly by catastrophic means – including the transport of the trees within them. Tree ring analysis has even been used to demonstrate that trees in different layers grew at the same time. Now, that’s a fundamental shift in understanding and much more in line with what creationists have long been saying about Specimen Ridge and its catastrophic formation.
Really then, the only difference of opinion that remains regarding the formation of Specimen Ridge is the timing of this catastrophic event – which is based on a basic disagreement over the credibility of radiometric dating methods (as also discussed in my article).
(3) I would think a shoot would not become waterlogged and sink in the way you proposed that trees would, hence the relevance of the conifer shoot observation (this is my own conjecture, not an expert opinion).
I’m sorry, but even conifer shoots become water logged and sink. Why would you think otherwise? Why would you think a conifer shoot would somehow be significantly more buoyant and resistant to taking on water than a full grown conifer tree?
(4) You missed the point that the trees weren’t in all interdune areas, as your explanation would suggest, but in areas with springs. Additionally, you have trees rolling downhill before they are water-logged, then after they are water-logged, floating upright in shallow pools! I find this sequence difficult to understand.
You seem to be using a bit of circular reasoning here. The trees are commonly found in interdune areas – which is interpreted as requiring springs. There is no other independent evidence of these springs aside from the need for springs from an eolian perspective – very common springs all over the place.
Also, trees can roll downhill both before and after being waterlogged, which would produce both horizontal and upright trees being buried.
Consider also that the pools were not originally pools or at all “shallow” except for times when the tides withdrew for a period and allowed these pools to form between the dunes. As the water receded for a short period of time, the dunes would become exposed at their tips and then more and more as the water continued to recede and form numerous pools all over the place – which is the reason why so many large coniferous trees are found in the Navajo in these depressed areas between the dunes.
(5) How do you propose that carbonate saturated floodwaters produced localized features like tufa mounds? And remember, in your “model”, the Flood wasn’t finished when these were formed. Rather, you have these quickly being buried by lots more water and earth.
Some areas were more saturated than others… which is perfectly reasonable for a series of watery catastrophes interspersed with periods of calm the receding of the water. Why would everything have to be uniform during a year-long Flood? I just don’t understand that reasoning. It makes no sense to me.
(6) If you attribute interleaved carbonate and sandstone and siltstone layers as readily explained by a waxing and waning flood, just how long do you propose this flood took? Recall also that silt is deposited under quiescent conditions.
The Flood took place for over a year. And again, there were periods of calm during the Flood in various regions at various times around the world.
(7) You might want to ask Gerry Bryant how to distinguish desiccation cracks from underwater syneresis cracks (formed in clay under conditions of changing salinity). But until you do, you might consider the association of animal tracks with such features.
I’ve already discussed this and noted that short periods of exposure and drying were possible and did happen during the Flood – allowing for trace fossils like trackways and raindrops, or even mud cracks in some areas, to form and be preserved on occasion.
(8) You don’t see the problem with crackfills, but the presence of mudcracks filled with sand and/or silt suggests drying or quiescent water periods when you argue that (violent) Flood events dominated.
That’s not at all what I said. What I said is that there were periods of calm and surface exposure during the Flood.
(9) Your proposed enterolithic gypsum explanation seems to ignore the association of these features with the interdune beds in the study I mentioned, i.e., the overall context is one of cyclic hydration/dehydration, not the subsurface conditions you mentioned.
I don’t see that you can prove this or exclude the subsequent formation of subsurface enterolithic gypsum – certainly not based on the enterolithic gypsum itself. My point is that this does not appear to be independent evidence to support your main premise of an eolian environment since enterolithic gypsum can form in various different ways that do not involve cyclical hydration and dehydration events.
(10) If you think meter-scale intraclasts of laminated carbonate formed in a few days or months (or whatever your “model” prescribes), then maybe this is indeed no concern to you. I don’t yet understand how a Flood model explains these features.
Try considering a situation where the water is heavily saturated with carbonates… as would be expected for a worldwide Flood.
(11) Regarding the carbonate accretions on trunks, please note that they formed laterally, which is inconsistent with your interpretation. (I already discussed the problem with your mechanism for upright trees in a shallow pool).
How else would one expect the carbonate accretions to form on trunks that sank vertically? The problem with your “shallow pool” argument is that the pools were not originally shallow, but became more and more shallow as the waters receded (many times) in this region between each of a series of massive flooding events.
(12) The aligned tree trunks are consistent with local scale catastrophic events, i.e., dune avalanches or liquefaction related flows (such as caused by earthquakes). They are not consistent with your explanation of waves sweeping the continent, or trees rolling down dunes to interdune areas.
The problem with this argument is that the trees in the Navajo, even the upright trees, are all aligned. Why were the upright trees, “in the position of growth”, so consistently preserved in preferential alignment? – stripped of bark and branches? One would think that a tree buried “in the position of growth” would require a fairly gradual burial without significant energy impacting the tree so that it remained upright as it was being gradually buried. This scenario does not seem to fit the fossil trees preserved in the Navajo however… trees which universally show signs of catastrophic transport and burial – to include the upright trees.
I also fail to see how your appeal to “large scale catastrophic events” cannot be part of an extensive long-lasting worldwide Noachian-style Flood? – comprised of numerous episodic catastrophic events?
You seem to have this notion that a Noachian Flood would have to have been constantly flowing in one direction, constantly turbulent at all times and at all places, and generally uniform in appearance for its entire duration. That’s simply a mistaken view of the Flood.
(13) Your explanation of logs beneath interdune deposits and dinosaur tracks is interesting because it seems to assume a very lengthy flood process, not what I would have expected from a biblical literalist. Logs were apparently afloat long enough for thousands of feet of deposition beneath, then they were waterlogged and sank, then water deep enough to form hundred-meter scale subaqueous dunes dried up completely to expose the interdune areas and mineralize calcium carbonate and gypsum (surprisingly without sodium chloride being present at concentrations expected of marine evaporites, though halite is found in thousands of feet thick deposits elsewhere in the Colorado Plateau, which is also hard to understand by the Flood model—see H. Wesley Peirce, http://www.azgs.az.gov/Mineral%20Scans/AZ%20Salt%20Deposits%20in%201981.pdf), animals that survived the dune-high floods returned to the interdune without leaving downhill tracks, trampled around, then the flood came again, and the cycle repeated itself many times, forming multiple vertically spaced interdunes. And all was buried by thousands of feet of additional deposits “explained” by similar mental gyrations. Sean, please think through carefully the sequence of all actions you propose to have occurred, and consider if they are truly feasible and consistent with your biblical view. I’m incredulous, to be honest, that you put forth this explanation!
Incredulous or not, the Flood simply wasn’t a short simple single event, but a series of massive events that did in fact wax and wane. There were times of calm in between these massive continent-wide events (sometimes covering more than one continent). Every time an asteroid would hit the planet, massive walls of water would be produced and massive waves would sweep over entire continents or large portions of continents in short order. However, in between these events there would be times of calm with the exposure of land to the surface in various places. The surviving animals would leave trackways – before eventually succumbing to the oft repeated catastrophes (with their bodies generally buried in higher layers than their trackways).
So, how is this scenario at all inconsistent with the Biblical narrative?
To be honest, I’m incredulous that you really believe the whole “millions of years” story of origins and all that it implies, yet claim to be a Seventh-day Adventist, or even a Christian for that matter, who has any real respect for the claims of the Bible or even Jesus Himself (since He spoke about origins in a way that is not consistent with your views).
(14) Specimen Ridge is not relevant, regardless of what analogies you invoke. There is so much different about the context and interpretation of these sites!
This very same claim was originally forwarded by mainstream geologists when creationists first started comparing the features of Specimen Ridge to the features that had been rapidly produced after the explosion of Mt. St. Helens.
The fact is that while there are some differences, there are also a lot of similarities when it comes to the fossil trees themselves – and other features such as the lack of expected bioturbation and animal remains.
The study of the tree rings is especially interesting – showing that the trees in the various layers lived at the same time.
Regarding your comments on color transformation: (1) You dismiss the comments on fluid flow by saying it is based on “current amounts of water flow” there vs. the massive water flows available in the Flood. But, you entirely missed the point. We are talking “reducing fluid (e.g., hydrocarbon)”, not water. And flow within rock, driven by buoyancy, would not be affected by external currents anyway.
Again, as already mentioned, hydrocarbons would be abundant during and after a worldwide Flood for quite some time.
And, water flow within porous rock, like sandstone, would be affected by the overall availability of water on the surface of the continent – which would be very much different during and after a worldwide Flood for some time as compared to modern times. Water will flow within porous rocks along the water table at a downward angle, similar to how it flows on the earth’s surface. And, the flow rate will be affected by how much water is available and flow pressure that is created by the degree of the downward angle of flow.
(2) Underwater dunes might be “pure”, but not deposits from turbulent, high energy floods!
Again, the Flood was not always “turbulent” at a given location and pure underwater sand dunes can be produced by high energy unidirectional currents.
(3) I confess I failed to follow your argument that because features at other sites were once misunderstood, the features at Snow Canyon (for example) are too. People once thought the Earth was the center of the universe. So?
So? It doesn’t bother you one little bit that a story that was preached by mainstream scientists for over 100 years was only recently admitted mistaken (in 2015)? – in favor of what creationists had long been say regarding the catastrophic nature of the Specimen Ridge formation? That doesn’t cause you to be just a wee bit skeptical of similar claims for the Navajo and Coconino?
(4) To be clear, your view is that lithified rock was formed during the Flood, then was broken up and deposited in surrounding sand or mud by the same Flood, which then lithified to form conglomerate, which then was broken up and deposited by yet later Flood action, all with intervening and subsequent erosion events that were not global in scale. That is what you seem to be saying. If so, I’m amazed.
Sandstone can start lithifying very rapidly under the right conditions – conditions which just so happen to be consistent with a worldwide Noachian-style Flood where the water is heavily saturated with the ions of cementing materials common to sandstones (calcite, silica, calcium carbonate, iron oxide, etc) and the sandstone is compacted by the huge weight of the overlying sediments. Of the many variables required for cementation, time is only one factor. If all of the other factors are in place, cementation can be very rapid indeed. The hot waters of the Flood (the Flood waters were probably quite warm) would have dissolved large quantities of cementing chemicals. The weight of the rapidly deposited sediments would increase the pressure of the water between the sediment grains, and force the water to flow through the sediments with increasing hydraulic pressure. The rapid flow of water would result in the deposition of cement within the pores of the sediment particles. (Link)
It is of course expected that consolidation would be either absent or partial in some sediments due either to a lack of compaction, not enough cementing agents, the porosity rapidly decreased so the water could not flow through the sediment fast enough, or other variables. This would allow for clastic dykes to form in various places.
It is, however, rather difficult to explain the source of the required silica for the cementation of the Coconino and Navajo Sandstones from a uniformitarian perspective. According to Molenaar (2007):
“Many models attempting to explain quartz cementation still conclude that external sources of silica are needed to explain the observed quantity of quartz cement (see review by McBride, 1989; Dutton and Diggs, 1990). However, realistic silica sources and transport mechanism are generally lacking and the increase in silica content is difficult to explain [from observed sandstones]… Large volumes of diagenetic fluids are needed for quartz cementation…”
So, cementation by present processes (uniformitarianism) is very difficult to explain to the degree observed in the geologic column – especially in places like the Coconino and Navajo Sandstone layers. Occasionally it does happen in special environments that are heavily saturated with calcite or silica, like mines or some hot springs. Of course, these special locations also seem to speak in favor a Flood model for the origin of vast spans of well cemented sandstone within the geologic column.
As for archaeology, the “father of Adventist archaeology”, Siegfried Horn, did not think archaeology fit into a 4500-year timeframe or even a 6000-year timeframe. There is an integrated record of ancient inscriptions, historical records, 14C dating, pottery dating, etc., to support this.
The dating of ancient inscriptions, historical records, pottery, tree rings, and the like, even amino acid racemization dating, are all based on radiocarbon dating or calibrated against radiocarbon dating. And, as it turns out, radiocarbon dating is far more consistent with a very short history of life on Earth than it is with your Darwinian story of origins. As already mentioned, there are significant amounts of original radiocarbon in the non-fossilized remains of dinosaurs as well as coal and oil – which seems very difficult to explain from your position.
But, what about the fact that there is radiocarbon dates are often far older than my proposed limit to life on Earth? – far older than, say, 10k years? Well, from a Flood perspective, this is easily explained by a change in the ratio of C12 vs. C14 after the Flood – when a great quantity of C12 was buried and removed from the biosphere (Link). Even without considering the large amount of carbon 12 that is buried in the vast quantities of calcium carbonate within the sedimentary rock layers (created by the Flood), there is enough carbon 12 buried in the fossil coal, oil, and other fossils to reduce the apparent ratio of C14 to C12 by about 7 half-lives.
Regarding moqi marbles, I’m curious to know what mechanism (consistent with a global Flood in progress) you propose for their formation within a few months, so that they were ready to be exposed by erosion at the end of the Flood or soon thereafter. Your comment on clastic dikes is inconsistent with your argument against a slow bleaching process, since the rock was lithified when bleached.
The clastic dikes could have been produced rapidly before significant lithification as the overlying sedimentary layers were deposited and the pressures on the underlying soft sediment started to become significant.
The moqui marbles need not have formed in a “few months”, but could have formed over many years, even many hundreds of years, before erosion eventually exposed them to the surface.
Regarding trackways on a single foreset, I have not encountered any literature suggesting that Navajo foresets were regularly formed minutes apart, implying incredible rates of dune migration. But even if they were, your explanation for Navajo dune formation/migration is that this occurred underwater. So, I find it difficult to understand how you can believe that a dinosaur walked on a foreset, then under massive current flows the hundred meter scale dune shifted by a foot in just a few minutes via a subaqueous process, and then the same or another dinosaur was somehow still alive to make another track, this time coming the other direction. And then a few foresets later, more of the same.
Foresets need not take very long to form – either under or above water they can form fairly quickly. And, as already noted, the trackways could have been produced under or above water on wet or damp sand.
As for your argument about repeated cycles of flooding and retreat, it seems inconsistent to argue that water would gradually retreat and not produce currents, when you have just implied that current flows were so incredibly huge that they could move a hundred-meter scale dune a foot every few minutes!
Flowing water can flow through a particular region (less than 5.5 ft/sec to form sand dunes) and then gradually lose its energy and the water level gradually subside in that region. Of course, sometimes currents were produced by retreating water – as you yourself point out. It is just that flood waters can gradually retreat in a particular region as the energy moves beyond that location or is otherwise dissipated. A tsunami, for example, would be able to move large quantities of sand and, in its waning stages, build huge sand waves in deep water.
“The thickest sets of cross beds in the Coconino Sandstone so far reported are 9 m (30 ft) thick. Cross beds of that height imply sand waves at least 18 m (60 ft) high and a water depth of around 90 m to 95 m (300 ft). For water that deep to make and move sand waves as high as 18 m (60 ft) the minimum current velocity would need to be over 95 cm per second (3 ft per second) or 3.2 km (2 miles) per hour. The maximum current velocity would have been almost 165 cm or 1.65 m per second (5.5 ft per second) or 6 km (3.75 miles) per hour. Beyond that velocity experimental and observational evidence has shown that flat sand beds only would be formed.” (Link)
In your argument about dune moisture, you make the same omission I noted above: you missed my citation of Loope’s work (Ref. 62) showing how tracks sometimes were preserved in dry sand. Please read his paper before insisting that there are no preserved tracks made in dry sand.
I’ve carefully looked over this 2006 poster by David Loope and find it unconvincing when it comes to explaining the preservation of finely detailed footprints that are common within the Navajo and Coconino Sandstone. Such footprints simply aren’t produced in such detail on dry desert sand dunes – and there is nothing I can see in Loope’s poster that suggests otherwise. Such detail seems to me, and to several other authors who have done experimental studies on this, to require at least damp sand. I mean, just look at the pictures of these finely preserved trackways and try reproducing such trackways on completely dry sand. Just doesn’t happen.
Even your friend and associate John McClarty wrote:
“There is evidence of water all through the Navajo Sandstone — dinosaur tracks and worm burrows don’t happen in bone-dry sand. Carbonates must be in solution before they can precipitate…” (Link)
Regarding “an isolated mystery…”, I don’t want to expand the scope of this discussion to an analysis of all creationist claims/evidence for a short chronology and all scientific claims/evidence for a long chronology. Even discussing just one of your questions took more than 50 pages, and whole books could easily have been written on many of those topics. I’ll simply note here that only a diehard creationist would think that the weight of scientific evidence is in the direction of a short chronology and global Flood. By far the majority of scientists, representing numerous fields and evidentiary phenomena, believe otherwise.
Thanks again for pointing out what I already know. Of course, such appeals to authority and the popularity of an idea don’t actually have any useful explanatory value.
In any case, for this paper, I have carefully avoided Darwinian or evolutionary arguments; this paper is primarily about chronology and Flood interpretations of the Navajo sandstone, especially trackways that we observed this past summer at Moccasin Mountain. You lumped me with “other Darwinian evolutionists” without my having claimed to be one, nor did I make any claims about mankind “heading uphill”, though kudos for using what was no doubt an irresistible play on the title of my paper! (I’m neither claiming nor denying Darwinian evolution—that is an unnecessary distraction to the questions of interest to me here).
Let’s at least try and be honest here. The very fact that you are arguing for millions of years of life existing on this planet means that you are by default an evolutionist on one kind or another. Of course, the problems with this position of yours are numerous and fundamental – especially when you start talking genetics. Your position is simply untenable – and you would realize this if you actually sat down and tried to figure out for yourself how the detrimental mutation rate problem alone could be overcome. This one single problem completely undermines all of your assumptions regarding the age and formation of the Navajo Sandstone.
Of course, other fundamental problems with the Darwinian story are numerous, such as how to preserve elastic soft tissue, antigenic proteins, and even fragments of DNA in dinosaur remains are just the icing on the cake. Kinetic chemistry experiments argue that such preservation should be impossible for dinosaurs that truly are millions of years old. Kinetic calculations predict that small fragments of DNA (100–500 bp) will survive for no more than 10,000 years in temperate regions and for a maximum of 100,000 years at colder latitudes (Poinar et al. 1996; Smith et al. 2001). Proteins also show similar rates of kinetic decay. And no one, not Mary Schweitzer and her argument for iron-binding formalin-like preservation (since this doesn’t significantly improve the lifespan of tissues in dry settings and iron isn’t always present where soft tissues are preserved – Link) or anyone else, has been able to solve this serious problem for the Darwinian perspective.
The remainder of your response seems focused on this side issue of evolution rather than on the issues raised in my paper. It is true that historically, geological and paleontological observations suggesting a long chronology and a sequence of increasingly complex lifeforms preceded and contributed to the development of Darwin’s theory. However, that isn’t the only possible interpretation, as other Christian thinkers have shown. My call was for the church to be supportive of Adventist theologians tackling this issue, to see how a long chronology impacts theology, and what theological responses might be. We might be pleasantly surprised by their insights.
Oh really? What other reasonable options are there besides neoDarwinism for those who believe in millions of years of life on this planet? In your opinion? Theistic evolution? And what’s the evidence for that? – besides wishful thinking?
You are unwilling to allow this type of theological exploration because you are convinced that your interpretation of the scientific data is correct; however, if you are wrong, and the truth is that life existed on earth for eons and there was not a recent global Flood, it amazes me that you would conclude that there is no living Christ and would discard the entire religion. Is there a Spirit at work in the church and in your life today, or is your “faith” only based on a particular reading of the Bible? I think if we trust the Spirit of Truth, we should trust Him to lead us (and the church) rather than force a predetermined outcome. (This is a subject for another day: grammatical-historical vs. spirit hermeneutics!).
Oh please. If life has existed for millions of years on this planet, then the Bible is a lie and God is a liar – and so is Jesus. And, God is either impotent or evil as well to put this world and all the sentient creatures in it through hell with all the endless extreme misery that your view of origins would require – for hundreds of millions of years. There simply is no reasonable basis to maintain the metaphysical claims of the Bible as at all credible if the actual testable empirical claims of the Bible can be shown to be nonsense.
Tell me, why do you believe anything that Jesus said if you don’t believe everything that Jesus supposedly said or did? Do you actually believe in the virgin birth of Jesus? Really? What about the resurrection of Jesus? Really? Why? Based on what evidence? – on what rationally credible basis? Or is it just about blind faith for you as well? – for the things you want to be true but have no good empirical evidence to support?
Regarding the morality of getting paid but teaching/preaching differently than the “organization”: I have read extensively in historical Adventist literature from especially the 19th century, as well as several books on Adventist history. If what you say is true, then numerous pioneers of our church were immoral, and that includes Ellen White. I think you make a mistake to focus on organization instead of truth. It isn’t stealing, either, for universities to pursue their mission of “higher” education, not least including exposing students to challenging viewpoints. The mission is education, not propagandization. The Adventist mission is not identical with whatever the current version of Adventist fundamental beliefs are, and universities can be true to that mission even if not universally promoting Adventist dogma. (I don’t expect you do agree, but many of us feel this way, and if I were an Adventist pastor, which I am not, I could preach in good conscience what I feel led by the Spirit to be truth, even if the “official beliefs” are different. Even conservative pastors do this, for example, on headship and ordination of women as elders. I disagree with their theological views vs. the “organization’s”, but I don’t think they are immoral or dishonest to accept a paycheck).
I’m sorry, but it is stealing for any employee to go around doing the opposite of what they were hired and are being paid to do. This is true for any organization – even the SDA Church. If the “spirit” moves a pastor or teacher to start preaching against the SDA position on various “fundamental” doctrines and to start promoting something like eternally burning hell for the wicked or that Christians should all pray to the Virgin Mary, well, that employee would be ethically out of line – stealing from his or her employer. Now, if there is some kind of honest question or concern an employee has with the direction the church is going, there are proper channels that the employee can express this concern. However, it is not proper or at all ethical for an employee to think to publicly preach or teach directly against the primary goals or ideals of the employer while on the employer’s dime. To suggest otherwise is an appeal to anarchy in direct opposition to any viable organization and is a form of theft.
You are also quite mistaken when it comes to how the founders of the church viewed church order and government. Sure, when the church was first being formed there was a resistance to any kind of enforced church order and government. At first those like John Loughborough and other leaders spoke quite strongly against the enforcement of church order and government. However, as the church grew, it rapidly became apparent that some kind of enforcement of what paid representatives were teaching and preaching was necessary. Most who make the claims that you do forget all about Loughborough’s 1907 work entitled, “The Church, Its Organization, Order and Discipline.” (Link). Although originally opposed to such constraints, it was John Loughborough, together with James White, who first started to realize the need for some sort of internal enforcement of Church order and discipline – i.e., a Church government. Quoting Mrs. White, Loughborough wrote:
“As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization, there would be great confusion, and the work could not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying on the work in new fields, for protecting both the church and ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for other objects, organization was indispensable.”
Loughborough, 1907 – Quoting Mrs. White (Letter 32, 1892) in which Mrs. White reviewed at length how the Sabbath-keeping Adventists were led to adopt church order (January 29, 1893, General Conference Daily Bulletin, 22.6.) – for some background to Mrs. White’s letter see: (Link)
Of course, those who were not considered to accurately represent the views of the early SDA Church did not receive “cards of commendation”. And what was the attitude of such persons? – according to Loughborough?:
“Of course those who claimed ‘liberty to do as they pleased,’ to ‘preach what they pleased,’ and to ‘go when and where they pleased,’ without ‘consultation with any one,’ failed to get cards of commendation. They, with their sympathizers, drew off and commenced a warfare against those whom they claimed were ‘depriving them of their liberty.’ Knowing that it was the Testimonies that had prompted us as a people to act, to establish ‘order,’ these opponents soon turned their warfare against instruction from that source, claiming that ‘when they got that gift out of the way, the message would go unrestrained to its ‘loud cry.”
One of the principal claims made by those who warred against organization was that it ‘abridged their liberty and independence, and that if one stood clear before the Lord that was all the organization needed,’ etc… All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery.”
Loughborough, 1907, The Church: Its Organization, Order and Discipline, p. 122.1 – Quoting Mrs. White from Testimonies for the Church. p. 650. Vol. 1.
Mrs. White was herself quite clear on this, mentioning the need for church order and government repeatedly in her writings:
“The Word of God does not give license for one man to set up his judgment in opposition to the judgment of the church, neither is he allowed to urge his opinions against the opinions of the church. If there were no church discipline and government, the church would go to fragments; it could not hold together as a body.” (Link)
This seems to me to be your attitude now. You resist any kind of church order or discipline that might restrict you or anyone else teaching or preaching whatever you might please on the church’s dime – regardless of what the church as an organization might have to say with regard to what its own employees are doing in its name. I’m sorry, but no viable organization works like you imagine the church must work. An organization that cannot control what its own employees do or say in its name would not long remain a viable institution and would quickly dissolve into irrelevant nothingness without a unified goal or purpose.
Finally, in your conclusion, you summarize a number of points from your earlier articles but which were not the subject of my paper. You also expended another paragraph against evolution, though that also was not the subject of my paper. You count these omissions as a weakness, but the intent of my paper was to provide readers with enough background to understand my exploration of one particular question that you asked in response to last year’s report. I couldn’t possibly explore all these topics in sufficient detail to be meaningful. Again, I’ll leave it to your readers to decide if my presentation presented enough information to warrant their further study on this issue or not. And though I think the subject of the Navajo sandstone with the numerous aspects I discussed is at least a grove if not a forest, I agree with you that breadth is useful as well as depth. There are many fine books that discuss many of the other questions from a scientific perspective. If I have opportunity to explore some of them in detail and feel I can contribute to the discussion, I may write on those subjects.
Again, you accuse me of presenting a few isolated problems – many of which specifically deal with the Navajo and Coconino Sandstone formations that you have yet to even mention much less address (what about parting lineations for instance?). Yet, you are the one who isn’t seeing the forest for the trees. There are many things that speak strongly against your position, both within your little grove of trees as well as from the massive surrounding forest.
Of course, you are sure that there are others who are taking care of the forest for you. However, this belief of yours is based on faith in the claims of others – not your own understanding of the questions posed to you. Now, it’s fine to have faith in the competence of others who are suppose to be “experts” in their fields of study. However, that’s not very helpful when it comes to answering my particular questions that I’ve studied in some detail now for many years – particularly regarding the statistical limits of the Darwinian mechanism when it comes to producing higher and higher levels of functional complexity over time.
Sean, why have you studiously avoided responding to my many invitations/challenges that you should attend a Talking Rocks tour and see/hear for yourself? If you’ll go in 2018 and bring your Flood questions, I’ll leave my post-Harvey home reconstruction project long enough to attend with you. We can compare flood stories, old and new!
Maybe someday – perhaps when my kids are older and out of the house. But, for now, I think you’ve done a pretty good job at presenting what I’d be seeing and hearing on one of these adventures.
If you would be kind enough to post this response to your response, I’ll leave the argument here for now and let you post the last word. If you and I participate together in a future Talking Rocks trip, we can pick up this discussion in person (much more enjoyable), and then perhaps write about another point of interest after the tour.
Thanks for the discussion! I appreciate the cordial tone of our conversation, and do hope we can meet someday soon.
All the best to you as well,
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Revisiting “Desert Dunes” in the Fossil Record
While scientific methods are not evil and are very useful in fact, scientists, though generally honest and sincere, often make mistakes and come to erroneous conclusions – however sincere. I mean, they were sincere when they maintained for over 100 years their story of Specimen Ridge being built up over tens of thousands of years by one forest growing on top of another. For decades they were sincere when they told the story of how the Scablands of Washington State were produced over millions of years. Of course, they were wrong – however sincere. And, sometimes being wrong on certain issues has very unfortunate consequences – even if one is sincerely wrong.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the opinions of scientists should be discarded out of hand just because they are often wrong – sometimes spectacularly so. What I’m suggesting is that the opinions of scientists and experts in general are often a good starting point when one begins to investigate a given phenomenon for one’s self. However, one should always take the claims of scientists and experts in general with at least a small grain of salt and natural skepticism since scientists are human just like everyone else. If, after personal investigation, the current claims of scientists regarding the topic in question just don’t seem to add up, well, perhaps it’s because there’s something that isn’t quite right in their understanding.
Of course, if you haven’t done your own investigation, and the opinions of others is the best you have to go on, that’s fine. However, that doesn’t really put you in a position where you are able to explain to someone who has actually done quite a bit of personal investigation into a topic why he/she is wrong – outside of simply pointing out that a number of “experts” happen to disagree. Yes, and so what? What do you actually know that has explanatory power which counters the evidence that is being proposed that seems to be contrary to the “expert opinion” of the day? If you simply don’t know how to answer the questions and observations posed, how are you substantively contributing to the conversation?
As far as your additional questions (despite your avoidance of mine that I’ve asked you several times now), such as why there are carbonate mounds in some places but not in others in some kind of homogenous distribution, why would you think a year-long Flood would have to be homogenous? As water waxed and waned, some areas would likely develop short-lived ephemeral springs flowing with heavily saturated water that would rapidly produce carbonate mounds.
Trees oriented in different directions within dunes as water recedes in various ways through irregular dunes is very easy to explain from a Flood perspective, but much harder to explain from a uniformitarian perspective when it comes to the consistent orientation even of upright trees. From a Flood perspective, these trees were transported by water before arriving at their final resting places, which means that they were becoming more and more waterlogged as they were being transported. That is why many were buried in the horizontal position while some were buried in the vertical position (without bark or branches by the way – which is harder to explain given the argument for them being buried “in the position of growth”. What happened to the bark and branches?).
As far as animals surviving multiple cycles of the Flood, that happens today during floods. Many animals can swim and often survive initial cycles of modern floods, and leave trackways as the flood recedes in places. And, having a warm water flood would make it even easier for animals like reptiles and dinosaurs to survive for a while. What is very difficult to explain, from a uniformitarian perspective, is the presence of more common trackway fossils in sedimentary layers below layers where the body fossils of these animals are more generally found.
Heavily saturated water does not need to be “evaporated” very much at all before precipitation can and will occur – which, again, would not be uniform in all places during a large complex flood. Sure, on occasion true surface exposure mudcracks that are produced by desiccation may form when the flood water receded for a time. However, such mudcracks can be confused with syneresis cracks. Unless mud curls are present, these can be extremely difficult to distinguish from desiccation cracks.
As far as carbonates in warm worldwide Flood waters, a huge amount of vegetation and animal life was taken up by the Flood, and the continents themselves were scoured. Obviously, this is going to result in high concentrations of dissolved minerals and ions – including carbonates. There is going to be precipitation during periods of calm in various locations at various times. There would be no need to change Henry’s constant for this to take place.
As far as the exposure of moqui marbles, the erosion and canyons that exposed these marbles didn’t need to happen during or immediately after the Flood. The Grand Canyon region (together with Bryce and Zion Canyon regions), for instance, was probably carved out well after the Flood since it carved out layers that were formed after the Flood (i.e., Tertiary layers). So, you see, it wasn’t the Flood waters that created these erosional features. It was subsequent catastrophic floods that created these features. The same is true for the Scablands of Washington State. These Scablands were created well after Noah’s worldwide Flood by subsequent regional catastrophic floods.
As far as trackways on wet or damp sand vs. the very dry desert sand that you propose, again, the detail of the trackways that are generally observed in the Coconino and Navajo Sandstones is not consistent with dry desert sand impressions. And yes, it is possible that trackways like this could have been made during times of surface exposure – as I originally pointed out. You just think it impossible that foresets could have been produced rapidly enough for trackways to be formed one right after the other. I just don’t see this as a problem from the Flood perspective – with either short periods of exposure or repeated deposition by water. And, I don’t see where Loope explains anywhere how such detailed prints can be produced and preserved in dry desert sand. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
As far as my genetic and biological arguments, it simply isn’t true that they are not well understood. The detrimental mutation rate is well understood and can be directly observed and measured in real time (unlike the formation of the Navajo Sandstone) – and there is no rational reason why it should have been any different in the past than it is today (outside of Divine intervention of course). What isn’t understood, however, is how natural selection could reverse the steady and fairly rapid detrimental effects of such a high detrimental mutation rate from a NeoDarwinian perspective. Statistically, it’s impossible for slowly reproducing animals (like all types of mammals and birds for instance) to overcome this problem via natural selection. It just doesn’t work. It just doesn’t happen and rationally cannot happen by natural mechanisms. What this means, of course, is that your story regarding the Navajo Sandstone cannot be true – or any other story requiring millions of years during which time large slowly reproducing animals lived on this planet. Now, I know that you don’t understand this since you haven’t studied genetics in any detail. However, that doesn’t make it any less problematic for those of us who have studied this problem in some detail when it comes to accepting your uniformitarian stories. The same thing is true for the creative limitations of the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection. It just doesn’t work beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time (i.e., trillions upon trillions of years).
In short, such arguments that you find so convincing simply do not counter, not even close in my mind, the dozens of features of these sandstone layers that are very difficult to explain from a uniformitarian eolian perspective, but fit very well with a catastrophic water deposition model – several key features that you refuse to even mention, much less discuss.
As far as your theological arguments, spiritual gifts, while apparently real for many people (even for non-Christians), never contradict the Bible if they actually come from God. A true prophet speaking or acting for God must be in line with what the Bible says. That’s the test to see what “spirit” is actually speaking to someone or giving that individual supernatural powers or messages. I’m pretty sure that you do not accept Mrs. White’s claims to be inspired directly by God even though she claims that her visions were given to her by God and backed up by supernatural manifestations as well. The same is true for the various supernatural features of the Bible – yet you do not accept all of its claims as actually coming from God. So, why do you accept some supernatural manifestations and messages as coming from God and not others? – upon what rational basis?
Of course, what if the Bible is wrong? What if Jesus really was a liar? – and the claims of the Bible in general regarding origins are also deliberately misleading? – or simply not inspired by God at all? What if Darwin was right and sentient animal life has actually existed and suffered tremendously for hundreds of millions of years? Does that mean that no gods exist? Of course not. A god of some kind may still exist, but, as previously mentioned, such a god would not be worth worshiping. Such a god would be either impotent or evil and deceitful – not the type of God described in the Bible.
As far as changing doctrines, that’s not the issue here. The SDA church organization can and has changed doctrinal positions without there being a moral problem. After all, that’s what the General Conference meetings are all about every 5 years. In fact, the language of several of the “fundamental doctrines” of the SDA Church was changes during this last GC session. The SDA Church doesn’t believe that its understanding of truth is “static” or entirely unchanging, but that it stands on its current understanding of “truth” that is described as “present truth”.
Now, your claim that it’s perfectly fine for anyone and everyone to proclaim the “truth” as they see it, while on the dime of the church, is simply unethical if it undermines the clearly stated primary goals and ideals of the church. How is that? Because, obviously, it is the organization that decides what it currently stands for, as an organization, and where it wants to go. An individual employee who goes ahead of the church, as an organization, is not representing the current position of the organization and is therefore deliberately undermining the primary goals, purposes, and chosen direction of the organization – on the church’s dime!
Any organization that allows its own employees to publically undermine its primary goals, purposes, and chosen direction isn’t going to remain viable. I’m sorry, but even democracies have rules and conditions of employment. If you go against those rules, while in the employ of a given employer, you are stealing from your employer. You are a thief. You claim that when you worked for your Fortune 500 Company that there were conflicting points of view, and that these competing views helped the company thrive and grow. However, I dare say that these conflicting viewpoints were not fundamentally opposed, in a public manner, to the company’s clearly-stated primary goals and ideas. I dare say that you, as an employee, could not just go around publicly saying or doing whatever you jolly well pleased, against the company, without fear of being fired. That’s just not how viable companies work… as you very well know if you are honest with yourself.
Anyway, I have enjoyed the discussion. You are certainly welcome back anytime you get the time and inclination.
All the best,
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
As far as the current article is concerned, I know of no “outdated” information. The information is current as far as I’m aware. The detrimental mutation rate is far too high for complex organisms to avoid an inevitable downhill devolutionary path. There is simply no way to rationally avoid this conclusion as far as I’m aware.
So, perhaps your friend could be more specific regarding his particular objections to the information presented?
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
Look again. I did reference the 2018 paper of Basener and Sanford (which was the motivation for me writing this particular article). Of course, as you’ve mentioned, Sanford has also written an interesting book on this topic entitled, “Genetic Entropy” – which I’ve previously referenced before in this blog (along with a YouTube video of a lecture he gave on the topic at Loma Linda University: (Link). For those who haven’t read it or seen Sanford’s lecture on this topic, it’s certainly worth your time…
Evolution from Space?
I will try to do it someday, but lately I’ve been swamped by speaking appointments, my real job, and my two young boys 😉
However, 300-400 people do visit and read articles on my websites per day – which isn’t bad for now. I also get very encouraging E-mails on a regular basis from those who have been helped by these postings. Some of these are teachers and professors who use this information in their own classrooms throughout the country – but often without giving the source for their material in order to avoid the automatic bias that comes with it.
The reason that no competent scientist will date the “soft tissue” of dinosaur bones is probably because the techniques used to extract that material seriously contaminate the extract from a 14C perspective. I am checking on that with several biochemists, but I suspect that this is true.
If that’s the case, then how can radiocarbon dating be relied upon to date the remains of mammoths or other late Pleistocene animals? How can you have your cake and eat it too?
Beyond this, aren’t there supposed to be ways to detect and eliminate contamination and to harvest material without causing significant 14C contamination? – especially when it comes to very well preserved collagen and other original soft tissues (as well as bioapatite)? After all, we’re talking about a lot of contamination here – up to 10% of the total carbon within the dinosaur bone. What kind of source could explain such a high degree of contamination? Also, as an expert in radiocarbon dating, isn’t it basic procedure for those in your profession to be able to detect if not remove 14C contamination from specimens? – as part of the AMS testing process?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if collagen and bioapatite fractions show concordant radiocarbon dating, then isn’t this taken as a valid radiocarbon date? free of significant contamination?
If so, this is what was done with the dating of some dinosaur bone specimens as well: “Collagen and bone bioapatite and/or total bone organics gave concordant C-14 dates after careful extraction and purification of those fractions.” (Link)
Is this not the proper procedure? Is this not what is also done when dating ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloth dung, and giant bison?
All of the evidence presented by you and those who agree with you have been dealt with so many times by so many competent scientists that a reasonable individual would almost certainly say something like: Well, anyone who continues to dispute the scientific evidence on this point apparently just can’t bring themselves to admit the truth of the matter for some religious reason.
An argument from authority already? That’s the best you have? As long as it’s popular among the experts in a given field of science, even if one doesn’t personally understand it and suspects that something isn’t quite right, you’d recommend just going with the flow without question? – trusting that someone else must know the answers?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that the popular opinion of experts in a particular field of study should be taken into careful consideration. However, such “expert opinion” isn’t the end-all of science and has often turned out to not only to be wrong, but painfully wrong. I guess it’s Ok if I’m too lazy or don’t care enough about a particular topic to investigate it for myself to simply trust in the expert opinion of the day. However, let’s not confuse that with conclusive “science” or a valid scientific explanation. Such blind appeals to the authority of “experts” or the status quo within the scientific community, by themselves, are not at all helpful when it comes to answering valid questions in that they have no explanatory power in a discussion like this one. After all, don’t you realize that this is the very same tactic often used by those promoting some religious agenda? – who don’t have anything else beyond an appeal to authority to fall back on? – no reasonably understandable argument besides, “My holy book says so”? – or “most theologians agree”? I believe it was Carl Sagan who once said:
One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. – Sagan (July 6, 2011)
Consider also this humerus exchange between Socrates and Meno:
Meno: Is this true about yourself, Socrates, that you don’t even know what virtue is? Is this the report that we are to take home about you?
Socrates: Not only that, you may also say that, to the best of my belief, I have never met anyone else who did know.
Meno: What! Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
Meno: And you still didn’t think he knew?
Socrates: I’m a forgetful sort of person, and I can’t say just now what I thought at the time. Probably he did know, and I expect you know what he used to say about it. So remind me what it was, or tell me yourself if you will. No doubt you agree with him.
Meno: Yes, I do.
Socrates: Then let’s leave him out of it, since after all he isn’t here. What do you yourself say virtue is?
– Plato, Meno, 71c, W. Guthrie, trans., Collected Dialogs (1961), p. 354
So, I ask you again: In your own words, please do explain to me where, exactly, mainstream scientists have so clearly and reasonably dealt with some of the fundamental problems of Darwinian-style evolution that seem so difficult to me? You don’t even appear to understand the difference between Mendelian variation and the mechanism of Darwinian evolution (random mutations in the underlying gene pool combined with natural selection). You don’t seem to understand that animal breeding is based on phenotypic selection alone, as is natural selection, or that Darwin himself used animal breeding as an illustration of how natural selection is supposed to work. Where can any reasonable explanation be found as to how novel genetic information can enter a given gene pool, via the Darwinian mechanism, beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time? Also, where has any scientist produced a reasonable explanation as to how very well-preserved soft tissues, proteins, and antigenic fragments of DNA can be preserved for even 100k years? – at ambient temperatures? These are honest and sincere questions for which I have found no reasonable answers from anyone – scientists or otherwise. If you know the answers, if they are so obvious to you, why not share them with me here?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me, at this point in my own search, that you, and scientists in general, are not immune from personal bias or from philosophical/religious motivations – or from peer pressure (the fear of being unpopular in your community). In short, you’re human just like the rest of us. 😉
One more thing, your notion that religion and science do not and cannot mix is fundamentally at odds with the existence of a personal God who created the universe and died on the cross for the salvation of humanity. If such a God actually exists, He is the Creator of science and scientific thinking as well as everything else and His Signature can therefore be rationally detected in the things that He has made (Psalms 19:1-3). If this cannot be achieved, then your notion of “God” is essentially the same as atheism – for all practical purposes.
I’m sorry, but William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, makes much more sense here (in a speech he gave for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
No gods worth having exist;
No life after death exists;
No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims. Darwinian-style evolution is just one more argument for the philosophical position of “Philosophical Naturalism” – a position that suggests that everything within the physical world, everything that we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell, is ultimately the result of non-deliberate mindless forces of nature. And, you yourself can’t tell the difference since, as you once said, you wouldn’t be able to give your own granddaughter any good evidence for the existence of God if she were to ask you for such evidence. Why then do you even pretend? – why even give lip service to Christianity?
I have checked with the director of the lab which was supposed to have dated a “soft tissue” extract and he wrote back almost immediately that what they had been given was a whole bone, not a “soft tissue” extract and the bone was badly degraded from the point of view of any organic carbon. The date they obtained was obviously contamination and they reported that fact to the submitter.
That’s hard to believe given that many dates on many different specimens where reported by The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, and others, without any mention of contamination – using the same procedures that they would for a portion of mammoth or mastodon bone (and no one claimed here to have submitted a “soft tissue extract”). After all, the youngest radiocarbon date for a mammoth fossil (3685 ± 60 yr BP) comes from the remains of one discovered on Wrangel Island off the north-eastern Siberian coast (Vartanyan et al. 2008). Yet, no one cites “contamination” when discussing such dates for mammoths. Also, great care was taken to prevent contamination when obtaining the dinosaur bone specimens that were dated. It’s hard to imagine, then, how these dinosaur bones could have been contaminated to the degree that you suggest – which would have had to be between from 1% (40kyr BP) to up to 10% (20kyr BP) of the total carbon within the bone (Plaisted, 2017).
AMS labs know this. You see, it wasn’t until the AMS lab at the University of Georgia discovered that the bone specimens they were analyzing were actually dinosaur bones that they recanted their own results and refused to do any additional 14C testing. Up until this point, they never suspected such a degree of contamination… a mechanism for which is quite difficult to imagine.
Note that both the whole bone and bioapatite in the dinosaur bone was dated. The bioapatite was C14 dated at 41,010 ± 220 years BP, having 0.61 ± 0.02 pMC (percent modern carbon). No mention of “contamination” is listed here. The very fact that they separated out the whole bone date from the bioapatite date is what makes me think they really thought they had original bioapatite from the bone sample.
A couple years later this was followed by:
Consider also that the triceratops horn was well preserved and had well preserved soft tissue within it, to include blood vessels and cellular structures (Link). The fossil’s bioapatite was dated (not the well-preserved soft tissue, which is interesting). According to a 2009 report in the journal Radiocarbon, bioapatite is actually preferable to soft tissue in many cases. Yet, it was also 14C dated by AMS at 33,570 ± 120 years. How is that explained?
Then, there is this report from John Fischer (2014):
Triceratops and Hadrosaur femur bones in excellent condition were discovered in Glendive Montana, and our group received permission to saw them in half and collect samples for Carbon-14 testing. Both bones were tested by a licensed lab for presence of collagen. Both bones did in fact contain some collagen. The best process (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) was used to date them. Total organic carbon and dinosaur bioapatite was extracted and pretreated to remove potential contaminants, and concordant radiocarbon dates were obtained. They were similar to radiocarbon dates for ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers of the Los Angeles LaBrea Tarpits, sloth dung, and giant bison. (Link)
Notice here that both the bioapatite and the collagen within the bone was 14C dated by AMS with resulting “concordant radiocarbon dates” – which is usually used to support the argument that the dates obtained where not the result of contamination.
Now, is this conclusive evidence that dinosaur remains are not millions of years old? I wouldn’t say that this data is conclusive in and of itself – taken one test at a time. After all, a particular lab might not have been able to completely isolate a particular fossil’s original bioapatite – so a particular result may have contamination in it as you suggest. However, I do think that after a certain point of consistent results from multiple tests by multiple labs the weight of evidence starts to add up – adding credibility to the idea that perhaps dinosaurs are not millions of years old after all. When you also consider the fact that pretty much all dinosaur bones with residual organic material in them (and other things that are supposed to be millions of years old – like coal and oil and other “ancient” organic remains) have been consistently dated as only being 15k-40k years old, you have to at least conclude that there is something wrong somewhere. Either the 14C dating system is not as robust as some want to believe, or the fossils are not as old as some want to believe. This is particularly relevant given the existence of very finely preserved original dinosaur soft tissues, proteins, and DNA fragments that simply shouldn’t be there according to all known data on the decay rates of such things.
Here’s an interesting presentation 15-minute presentation (Link) that was given by Dr. Thomas Seiler, a German physicist. In it, he reports on the carbon dating of dinosaur bones, other megafauna (such as mammoths), and plants. In all cases, these materials are supposed to be millions of years old, but they all have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. Of course, one possible explanation for these results is, yet again, contamination. It is possible that “modern” carbon has infiltrated into all these samples, and that’s what is being detected. However, Dr. Seiler presents several arguments that tend to cast doubt on the contamination explanation. First, all the standard treatment used to make a fossil ready for carbon dating was done, which is supposed to get rid of contamination. Second, in some cases, they were examining actual proteins, such as collagen. If “modern” carbon contaminated these fossils, how did it become incorporated into the original collagen? Third, there are some chemicals (like humic acid) that are common contaminants, and it was confirmed that the treatment done on the samples removed those contaminants. Fourth, the amount of carbon in the vicinity of the fossil decreased as you moved away from the fossil. This indicates carbon was “leaking out” of the fossil, not moving into it.
Here’s another interesting article on this topic written by Dr. Jay Wile (2012): Link
So anyway, again I ask you, why not run your own tests? Or why doesn’t Jack Horner or Mary Schweitzer do it with pure finely-preserved dinosaur soft tissues?
As far as breeding vs. natural selection, what’s the real difference if both select based on phenotype alone? You wrote:
It was clear to Alfred Russell Wallace, who, with Darwin, first came up with the idea of natural selection, that you could not use animal breeding experiments to simulate natural evolution.
Please do explain this to me. After all, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing special about the selective breeding of animals in this regard. Even a human breeder could never get one “kind” of animal to evolve into another “kind” of animal (where novel functional genetic options are produced within the gene pool) using breeding techniques with very high selection pressures alone. Why not? Because, selective animal breeding produces no novel information within the gene pool of the animal population in question. Breeding is based on a simple selection of pre-existing information as it is expressed in the various phenotypes of the offspring over time. Exactly the same thing is true of natural selection – which can also produce very rapid phenotypic changes, in the wild, in response to rapidly changing environments or the sudden realization of entirely new environments based on the very same underlying static gene pool of options (no genetic mutations required).
By the way, it was Darwin himself who coined the term ‘selective breeding’; he was interested in the process as an illustration of his proposed wider process of natural selection. Charles Darwin discussed how selective breeding had been successful in producing change over time in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Its first chapter he actually discusses selective breeding and domestication of such animals as pigeons, cats, cattle, and dogs. (Link)
Wallace, on the other hand, argued that the development of the human mind and some bodily attributes were guided by spiritual beings rather than natural selection… (Link)
But please, do explain my mistake here regarding the fundamental differences between the selective breeding of animals vs. natural selection. I’d be most interested, because this concept is fundamental to my own understanding of the clear limits of Darwinian-style evolution via random mutations and natural selection.