@pauluc: Your essential argument is a strawman argument. You critize …

Comment on The End of “Junk DNA”? by Sean Pitman.


Your essential argument is a strawman argument. You critize a caricature of the science of genetics and molecular biology and do not seem to be engaged with the basic ideas. For sure there have been profound errors and lack of understanding but that is what science is like. Increasing understanding is expected as new methods and data become available. Hypothesis testing is about detecting error and you are absolutely correct in that the “junk” DNA hypothesis as presented in the popular press has been rejected.

It wasn’t just a “popular press” idea. The “junk DNA” concept was part of mainstream science for decades . . . a prediction of neo-Darwinism according to many biologists.

But it was not at all rejected because some armchair scientists denied it on a priori grounds but was rejected because of new data, experiments and better models.

The point is that there was more than enough data decades ago to reject the junk DNA concept. The only reason the junk DNA concept held on as long as it did is because of neo-Darwinian predictions for it. One clue that should have raised questions long ago is that it is very expensive for a living thing to maintain DNA. It just doesn’t, and didn’t, make any sense for natural selection to avoid getting rid of something that really didn’t contribute substantially to the immediate survival of the organism. The arguments that junk DNA was maintained by nature in order to provide potential future evolutionary benefits to the population didn’t make much sense because nature has no such foresight. Nature only selects, in a positive manner, for what works right now in some kind of beneficial way.

There has been increase in understanding of genomics and the role of junk DNA but as Tim Standish breathlessly says evolutionary concepts were used both for the earlier understanding of “non-protein-coding” DNA as padding and a repository of potential reusable but unnecessary genetic information and for the newer concept of selection of functional activity found in these regions not coding for protein.

Yes yes. But “junk DNA” was thought to have no significant active role in phenotypic expression or the control of genes in a manner that could be positively selected by nature. The view that non-coding DNA was simply a junk-yard “repository” that could be used for future evolutionary advantages is now known to be painfully mistaken – and should have been detected as such long ago.

On the other hand, the design model or paradigm for living things and their informational complexity was predictive in this case while the naturalistic perspective actually slowed down scientific advancement in this area.

3] You seem to believe that molecular geneticists before you and fellow young earth creationists came along with vague statements in the blogoshere about function of the whole of the genome, believed that junk DNA (as Gould rightly observes a “disrespectfully” denoted shorthand predicated on the prokaryotic model of funtional genes) was completely useless.

I think my statements and the statements of many other IDists were quite clear regarding the active functionality of most non-coding forms of DNA and the eventual discovery of such. Also, I never said that naturalists thought “junk DNA” to be absolutely functionless. Obviously, as I originally noted, Gould believed that “junk DNA” had a repository “function”, but he did not believe that it had an active function in living things. He did not believe that it had any significant control over the expression of genes and the overall phenotype of the organism. He was very much mistaken.

This is patently wrong. If you read even the abstract of the 1988 paper from John Bodnar “A domain model for eukaryotic DNA organization: A molecular basis for cell differentiation and chromosome evolution” J theoretical biol 1988, that is cited in the paper by William Dembski that you then cite, you will see that Bodnar was advocating consideration of the genomic organization in terms of “domains” that are much more complex than simply the promoters and coding exons assumed to be subject to evolutionary selection. This essential idea that the genome has been selected by the resultant phenotype has changed little in the last 50 years. The idea that a phenotype is the basis of selection not the genotype has gained increasing recognition as the complexity of the genome and the many levels of regulation and control has become evident. Increasing understanding of “Junk DNA” and the highly nuanced regulation of structure and function determined by regions outside conventional coding regions has enhanced neo-darwinian models premised on natural selection rather than destroyed them as you seem to hope based on your models of reality.

Hardly. Selection has to be based on the phenotypic level. Nature cannot “see” anything at the genotypic level that is not expressed at the phenotypic level. Creationists have long recognized this concept – in the face the claims of naturalists like Richard Dawkins who have promoted selection on the genotypic level.

The regulatory function and structure of non-coding DNA does not help explain the evolution of novel functional systems and elements within any gene pool beyond very very low levels of functional complexity. What the discovery of the functionality of non-coding DNA has done is show that the neo-Darwinian predictions were wrong regarding its value and they were wrong regarding the detrimental mutation rate. This second error will prove far more devastating to neo-Darwinism than the first.

4] You do not seem to make any distinction between the protein coding and non-protein coding regions in terms of their contribution to phenotype.

I thought I was very clear in my article that there is quite a significant difference here. Protein-coding genes are the basic building blocks, the basic “bricks and mortar” so to speak. How these bricks and mortar are used to build different kinds of structures or living things is dependent upon the information in the non-coding regions of the genome where the real blueprint resides.

You seem to be suggesting all are essential. Do you really believe that?

You don’t think non-coding DNA essential to complex living things that depend upon many multicellular organ systems? Are you serious? We aren’t talking about single-celled bacteria here. While not all forms of non-coding DNA are created equal, non-coding DNA contains the primary information for phenotypic expression, dictating how the coding genes are to function and what type of organism to build.

Are all pseudogenes functional?

No. There are true pseudogenes that have in fact lost their original functionality.


What do you mean by “critical”? Critical to life? Consider that you can lose a lot of body parts that aren’t critical to life that you wouldn’t want to just throw away as “non-critical”. I dare say that you’d still like to keep your arms and legs and colon and bladder, etc . . . even though you could live on without them for quite some time.

Surely processed pseudogenes are evidence that introns are non-essential.

Again, non-essential to what? Many intronic regions are now known to carry out important functions (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3). Just because you may be able to survive without some of them doesn’t mean much when it comes to determining important functionality. Ironically, yours is the same argument that was used by many evolutionists to suggest that non-coding DNA was functionless “junk” – because much of it could be deleted without apparent detriment to the organism. Well, that notion turned out to be wrong. The truth is that “Introns in contemporary species fulfill a broad spectrum of functions, and are involved in virtually every step of mRNA processing.” (Link).

Consider also the following comments regarding intron functionality:

As a first approximation, it is possible to view introns as unimportant sequences whose only function is to be removed from an unspliced precursor RNA in order to generate the functional mRNA, rRNA or tRNA product. However, it is now well-established that some introns themselves encode specific proteins or can be further processed after splicing to generate noncoding RNA molecules. Alternative splicing is widely used to generate multiple proteins from a single gene…

Alternative splicing of introns within a gene acts to introduce greater variability of protein sequences translated from a single gene, allowing multiple related proteins to be generated from a single gene and a single precursor mRNA transcript. The control of alternative RNA splicing is performed by complex network of signaling molecules that respond to a wide range of intracellular and extracellular signals.

Introns contain several short sequences that are important for efficient splicing, such as acceptor and donor sites at either end of the intron as well as a branch point site, which are required for proper splicing by the spliceosome. Some introns are known to enhance the expression of the gene that they are contained in by a process known as intron-mediated enhancement (IME).


So you see, just because you can live without something doesn’t mean it isn’t useful or beneficial or otherwise relevant to better phenotypic functionality.

Are alu repeats critical and essential?

Alu repeats are also known to be functionally important. “Dynamic and functional Alu repeats seem to be centrally placed to modulate the transcriptional landscape of human genome” (From ‘JUNK’ to Just Unexplored Noncoding Knowledge: the case of transcribed Alus, 2012).

Is the genome uniformly critical and functional? Is there a heirarchy with protien coding at the top and supporting scaffolding and microregulatory and integrative regions below.

There certainly is a hierarchy with different areas having more or less “critical” functionality. However, I would put protein-coding genes at the bottom, not the top, in this hierarchy of functionality. In this, even the likes of John Mattick seem to agree with me:

“Indeed, what was damned as junk because it was not understood may, in fact, turn out to be the very basis of human complexity,” Mattick suggests. Pseudogenes, riboswitches and all the rest aside, there is a good reason to suspect that is true. Active RNA, it is now coming out, helps to control the large-scale structure of the chromosomes and some crucial chemical modifications to them—an entirely different, epigenetic layer of information in the genome.”

Wyatt Gibbs, The Unseen Genome: Gems among the Junk, Scientific American, November 2003, pp 45-53

Did you read what I read? Mattick himself argues that non-coding DNA forms the very basis of human complexity? way back in 2003? It’s only gotten more convincing since then…

What precisely is your model based on intelligent design? I cannot seem to find it articulated in a scientific way.

Upon what basis must intelligent design be invoked to explain anything in a “scientific way”? – any artifact? What are SETI scientists looking for and how will they know when they’ve discovered evidence of ET? The very same arguments can be used to invoke ID behind certain features of living things. If a given phenomenon goes well beyond what any known mindless force of nature can explain in a reasonable amount of time, and if that phenomenon is within the creative powers of intelligent agents (i.e., humans), then the most rational conclusion is that the origin of this particular phenomenon was most likely intelligent on at least the human level of intelligence or beyond.

What about junk RNA? Will this ongoing post ENCODE scientific debate be the source for your next blog? Would you like to articulate your view based on a YEC perspective with such specificity that we can see if you are right or wrong?

My position is testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. All you have to do is produce a mindless naturalistic mechanism that can create qualitatively novel systems at higher levels of functional complexity in a reasonable amount of time – or at least a tenable statistic model for such. So far, the very best you have is just-so stories and a lot of bravado. Where’s the science?

It is easy to sit at your study desk and pontificate post hoc on the errors of evolutionary biologists but to be credible as a scientist you need to propose hypotheses with some specificities and test them against the data.

You need to get off your high horse and actually test your naturalistic just-so stories against reality – in a statistically relevant manner (i.e., using some real mathematical models that are statistically relevant and meaningful). This you have yet to do.

You yourself admit that you aren’t about to test your notions regarding the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selections in any statistically relevant way. You say that you “approach the reality of speciation in a top down fashion the same way as Darwin did” (Link). Because of this you do not recognize any specific limitation to “speciation” or change over time. You don’t actually consider or recognize the statistical potential and/or limitations of Darwin’s mechanism of random mutations and natural selection when it comes to creativity at various levels of functional complexity. That is why you’re not doing real science here. Your position is immune to even the potential of falsification since it cannot be tested – not even statistically. All you have are just-so stories beyond very low levels of functional complexity.

My position, on the other hand, is open to such testing and potential falsification.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

The End of “Junk DNA”?

Lots of non-Adventist individuals and organizations are committed to Jesus Christ – like the Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, etc. However, the simple criteria of being committed to one’s own personal view of Jesus Christ does not qualify one as being a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Now, this isn’t to say that being committed to Jesus Christ and His example, as detailed in the Bible, isn’t a good thing. It’s a very very good thing and the motive of love behind such a decision is the very basis of salvation. However, even being in a saving relationship with Jesus is not enough to qualify an individual to be an effective representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in particular.

The Adventist Church takes on basic Christianity as well as an additional mission – a mission which includes upholding before the world some 28 doctrinal beliefs which the church considers “fundamental” or crucial to its primary goals and mission during the last days of Earth’s history.

Now, one may be saved without being a part of the Adventist mission or church – thank God! In fact, the vast majority of people who will be saved in Heaven one day will never have even heard of Seventh-day Adventists. So, this isn’t an issue of salvation. It is an issue of appropriately representing the primary goals and mission of an organization as that organization defines itself.

You, weather you like it or not, are not in line with many of the primary goals and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That doesn’t make you good or bad or outside of the saving love and grace of God. It just means that you cannot adequately represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a paid representative. Your representation would be counterproductive to the stated goals and missions of the church as an organization.

That is why it would be much better for you, and for more honest, if you were to take on a label that more accurately represents your current world views…

Sean Pitman

The End of “Junk DNA”?
@Professor Kent:

When empirical evidence and God’s word go different directions, you will choose the evidence, whereas the SDA Church always has and always will prioritize God’s word.

During the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church the founding fathers took on the position that the Bible prophesied that Jesus would return in 1844. The empirical evidence proved this notion wrong. And, these founding fathers were forced, by the empirical evidence, to admit that their faith in what they thought the Bible said was mistaken.

You see, the SDA Church, from its very beginnings, has been forced to recognize the interplay between faith and evidence for the rational mind. One cannot rationally argue that one’s faith in what one thinks the Bible says, or even the origin of the Bible, is entirely independent of the weight of empirical evidence.

It is for this reason that the modern Seventh-day Adventist Church is actually concerned over what is being taught at La Sierra University regarding the topic of origins. If all that mattered was a fideistic faith in the Bible and our own special interpretation of the Bible, the church wouldn’t care what people thought of the empirical evidence. It wouldn’t care what was being taught in science classes within its own schools. This simply isn’t the case.

You are delusional to believe that the SDA Church will agree to disembody and disavow itself of God if the accumulated evidence goes against its present interpretation of scripture.

But the church has changed its mind before regarding its views of the Bible based on the weight of empirical evidence (as noted above).

Again, God does not ask us to believe or have faith without the weight of evidence. He does not expect us to believe in something that has no more evidential backing than the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. That simply wouldn’t be reasonable on the part of God nor would it be fair for Him to act in such a manner…

Sean Pitman

The End of “Junk DNA”?

There is a great gulf between You and I. Where does one start in trying to find common ground and responding to your very concrete thought structure. Its as if the last 200 years have not happened. Your view of natural theology may have been accepted by William Paley but is not an approach to God thought valid by most modern theologians with any acquaintance with science.

One of the problems I personally have with your perspective, and that of many modern theologians, is that it seems to me to be inconsistent with itself. You yourself describe your own position as “irrational”! You reject the authority of the Scriptures when the Biblical authors describe the miracle of God creating life on this planet in just six literal days (clearly what the author of the Genesis account was trying to convey to his readers)… because of what you view as the contrary evidence of modern science. Yet, at the very same time, you accept the claims of the Biblical authors when they describe the miraculous virgin birth, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. You accept this portion of the Scriptures contrary to the claims of the vast majority of modern scientists who claim that such things are impossible.

Does this not then mean that your internally derived “faith” allows you to pick and choose what you will and will not believe independent of the influence of anything else? It isn’t a matter of consistent Biblical interpretation for you because you simply aren’t consistent in how you interpret the Bible or determine what is or isn’t true. You pick and choose based on your own individual desires for what you want to be true. That is why your faith is inconsistent with itself and is, as you yourself explain, completely irrational to the point of overt fideism. You take on a form of fideism that is its own evidence independent of any influence outside of your own mind and your own feelings and desires – to include any consistent influence from the Bible itself.

What argument can you or any modern theologian present to make what you yourself claim is an irrational position appear remotely attractive to those who appreciate rational thought and careful consistent investigation of fantastic claims?

It is not the 19th century and we are called to preach the grace of God to a secular world. Your vision shows no imagination or understanding of spirituality or the reality and value of vision, myth and abstract concepts that may have no correspondence in concrete realities.

But I do find value in various myths, legends, allegories, and fairytales. Even Jesus used such stories to teach various truths about the existence of realities that are not yet seen. However, it makes a great deal of difference if one believes that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a good moral fable vs. true empirical historical reality. If the disciples of Jesus had believed His claims to be the Son of God simply allegorical, rather than empirical reality, they would not have put their own lives on the line. No rational person, who is naturally prone to avoid a martyr’s death, is going to put his life on the line for stories that he believes are mythical or allegorical – devoid of any “correspondence with concrete realities”.

They key point here is that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead and His disciples had not personally witnessed the empirical reality of this event, there would be no Christian Church of any kind today. All of Christian faith hinges on the literal reality of the Resurrection. Without this reality, there is no mystical experience with God that can rationally support the claims of Christianity.

Do you agree with Martin Luther in his statement about scripture trumping observation:

“People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool [or ‘man’] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”
– Martin Luther, Table Talk

If you truly privilege scripture over science you should really revamp this web site to be consistent with the supremacy of scripture along the lines of the site http://www.fixedearth.com/ A site that is at least absolutely consistent with biblical literalism as Luther saw it.

Even though we who live in this modern age know that the Earth does in fact revolve around the Sun, we still speak in everyday terms as the Sun “rising in the east” and “setting in the west” or the “Sun going down”. Such are terms of perspective. In context, therefore, no further interpretation is necessitated in the Bible’s description of Joshua speaking from his own Earth-bound perspective. Surely you can understand the difference between such passages and passages in Genesis where it would be very very difficult to misinterpret the observation of “evenings and mornings” separating the “days” of creation – regardless of perspective. In such passages the author is clearly claiming that God showed him that the days of creation were separated by what clearly appeared to be “evenings and mornings” from his Earth-bound perspective. There’s a big difference here.

As far as Martin Luther is concerned, he was a great reformer and he did advance important truths for his time. However, he was no prophet and received no privileged revelation regarding such things. He forwarded and acted upon a great many points of misunderstanding regarding the meaning of many Scriptural truths which the Seventh-day Adventist Church has since realized – to include those truths revealed to us by God speaking in a very privileged manner through Ellen White.

Now, you can either accept or reject the Adventist perspective on such things, but it is very difficult to call yourself an Adventist or a true representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when you are actually fighting against numerous doctrinal ideals that the Adventist Church, as an organization, still holds to be fundamentally important. It would be much better and far more honest for you to describe yourself in terms that more accurately reflect your true beliefs.

The reality however is that both you and I interpret the scriptures. As I have said before you appear to practice naturalistic evidence based medicine contrary to the biblical description of healing but then pretend that you are following the plain text of scripture when reject entirely naturalism when it comes to origins. You claim;

“You pick and choose what elements you will use to build your own image of “christianity”… which is quite different from the Biblical claims.”

But do not at all seem able to see that you are in fact doing exactly what you project in accepting evidence based medicine contrary to a plain reading of scripture but claiming origin by divine fiat and miracle on the basis of one particular reading of scripture.

There is actually good support for evidence-based medicine in Scripture. Just because the Scriptures also point out the power of prayer and God’s willingness to supernaturally intervene, on occasion, in our lives does not mean that the Scriptures are opposed to evidence-based medicine. Such a notion is completely contrary to the position of the Bible, Mrs. White, and the Adventist Church on the topics of health and medicine in general where the laws of nature, set in place by God, are to be dealt with on a routine basis in the practice of medicine and healthful living.

You continue to misconstrue the point of my discussion of Santa Claus and Christmas. Children can and do grow in their understanding of reality and are able to see beyond the concrete events of Christmas to see it as a representation of a worthy abstraction that is not invalidated by rejecting a fictitious Santa Claus. You seem unable to move from the concrete to the abstract and yet again claim you will reject Christ if your biblical interpretation is found not to be consistent with a simplistic reality. As though your superior mind trumps any non-rational revelation of God.

A non-rational revelation of God would not, by definition, make rational sense – right? (any more than a desire to believe in the reality of existence of Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?) Why then should I believe in any irrational “revelation” that makes no sense to me? Can you provide any rational answer to this question? Wouldn’t any response you might submit be irrational by definition? That’s why your position makes no sense to me. Why even try to argue for what you yourself are arguing has no rational explanation?

Your arrogance is unceasingly amazing.
You claim:

“And, so far, the organized Adventist Church agrees with me. Of course, you can call yourself whatever you want. But, again, that doesn’t mean that the church is going to recognize your claims as actually representing the church’s view of reality. So, why would you expect anyone holding views that undermine the fundamental goals and ideals of the church, the ‘fundamental beliefs’, to be paid by the church”

You are of course right if you think the church that is being rebuilt by Ted Wilson and Clifford Goldstein with their militant fundamentalism and unsavoury and ungracious political manouvering is the legitimate heir of traditional Adventism but I do not.

Where did Ted Wilson or Clifford Goldstein set up the fundamental doctrinal ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? You give them far too much credit! These fundamentals were set up well before they came on the scene…

At the very least, you must admit that you are strongly opposed to many of the clearly stated doctrinal positions that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has long held, and currently holds, to be “fundamental” to its very existence. You fundamentally disagree with both the founders and the current leaders of the church on many key points of doctrine. You disagree with many of the modern and historical doctrinal positions of the SDA Church as an organization.

You are really more of a “social Adventist” who was raised in the Adventist Church but who really doesn’t subscribe to many of the doctrinal positions of the church as an organization. Why then do you wish to continue to take on the title of “Seventh-day Adventist” when this title doesn’t really do you justice? – when it doesn’t truly represent who you really are and what you really believe? And, why on Earth would you expect anyone who holds similar views to your own to be hired by any organization who claims to be fundamentally opposed to what you actually believe and are willing to teach/preach?

Wouldn’t it be far more honest and ethical for you and those of like mind to more clearly present yourselves and what you stand for and then go and work for those who are more than willing to pay to have such ideas taught in their schools and preached from their pulpits? Why the aversion to completely open and honest transparency here?

And, if the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as an organization, really has no problem with those from your perspective preaching and teaching on the church’s dime, why then hasn’t the Adventist Church come out in open support of such efforts? Why has the Adventist Church, as an organization, gotten so worked up over Neo-Darwinism being so openly promoted as La Sierra University? – if the church really is as supportive of your position as you seem to suggest?

Sean Pitman

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

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,


Revisiting “Desert Dunes” in the Fossil Record
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,


Revisiting “Desert Dunes” in the Fossil Record
Some comments regarding this article and Johnston’s original article can be found at the Adventist Today Facebook page: Link

The Creator of Time
It’s been enjoyable having you. I wish you all the best. Someday, if I’m right, everything will be made clear and you will see your Maker face-to-face. Of course, if I’m wrong, neither one of us will be the wiser…

By the way, I am not a “young Earth creationist” or “YEC”, but something a bit different – a young life creationist (YLC). Of course, from your perspective it makes little difference. 😉

The Creator of Time
A “Rational Wiki” quote? – about proof and disproof? 😉

First off, science isn’t about absolute proof, but the weight of evidence. Nothing can be absolutely proved in science – only disproved. The power of science is in the ability for the hypothesis in question to resist disproof, thereby gaining predictive value. This means, of course, that a valid scientific hypothesis must be testable in a potentially falsifiable manner.

Now, as far as the particular claim that ID hypotheses are not and cannot be falsifiable (and by extension any notion or hypothesis of God-like activity isn’t falsifiable either), it’s clearly not true or modern sciences that actually detect ID wouldn’t be possible – like forensics, anthropology, and SETI. As previously noted for you, the ID-only hypothesis can be tested in a potentially falsifiable manner – quite easily. All you have to do to falsify the ID-only hypothesis is show how something else could more reasonably explain the phenomenon in question – and the ID-only hypothesis is neatly falsified.

For example, if you can find a mindless naturalistic mechanism that can reasonably explain the origin of a highly symmetrical granite cube, you would neatly falsify the hypothesis that only ID can explain the origin of the cube. Short of this, however, the ID-only hypothesis gains a great deal of predictive value based on the strong weight of evidence that is currently in hand. That is why it is possible to tell the difference between the most likely origin of such a granite cube vs. a snowflake or the like.

The same is true for the God-only hypothesis. As I’ve explained for you multiple times now, there are various levels of phenomena that require various levels of intelligence to explain. As higher and higher level phenomena require higher and higher levels of intelligence and creative power to explain, one eventually comes to a point where the level of required intelligence and creative power is so high that it cannot be readily distinguished from what one would normally attribute to a God or God-like being. It is for this reason that if you yourself saw someone you knew was dead and decaying in the grave, raised to life at the word of someone claiming to be God, even you would tend to believe this claim – and rightly so. That means, of course, that the detection of God-like creative power is rationally detectable, at least in theory, given the presentation of such evidence.

Philosophical naturalism, on the other hand, is not at all testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. It is not even theoretically possible to falsify a theory that is dependent upon evidence that you have yourself proposed will show up at some undetermined time in the future. It is therefore not a science or otherwise rational, but is on the same level as wishful thinking – just not helpful.


    As an aside, I have to also point out that the claims for the creative potential of the evolutionary mechanism presented on this particular “Rational Wiki” webpage are not backed up by demonstration or reasonable statistical analysis or workable genetic theories – at least not beyond very low levels of functional complexity. They’re nothing but just-so stories. I mean, why hasn’t James Tour been convinced by this stuff? Because, there’s simply no science here… as you would know if you did your own independent research into the potential and limits of the evolutionary mechanism. Their claims regarding “flagellar evolution” are a case in point when it comes to glossing over the details and not understanding the exponentially growing problem of finding novel beneficial sequences in the vastness of sequence space with each step up the ladder of functional complexity: Link

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