In a new book, The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth, eleven authors describe the geology of the canyon rocks and landforms and focus on the claims of flood geologists. The authors are a mix of Christian and non-Christian professional earth scientists who are concerned about the impact of flood geology on public science literacy and, especially for the Christian authors, the negative impact of a gospel message associated with faulty scientific explanations. The four authors of this article all contributed to the book.
In our chapter Sedimentary Rock Types and How They Form, we describe how layers of sedimentary rock were deposited in the Grand Canyon region as sea level repeatedly rose and fell. With each rise in sea level, shorelines moved inland along with the deposits of sand, shale, and limestone that comprise the geological formations we see in the canyon. Geologists recognize that deposits at some locations accumulated by flows of sediment across the seafloor as flood geologists claim. But these are rare in the Grand Canyon! Most of the sedimentary rock layers there formed in very shallow water or just above sea level. Evidence of periods above sea level is evident from abundant sedimentary structures such as mudcracks, raindrop prints, ripple marks, cross bedding, and small animal tracks (we show many photos of these structures in our chapter Sedimentary Structures, Clues from the Scene of the Crime).
Ken Ham frequently tells audiences that the worldwide flood resulted in “billions of dead things buried in the ground.” He describes the sea creatures being swept along by turbulent floodwaters and deposited, tsunami-style, along with the sediment forming the rock layers we see in the Grand Canyon. We devote three chapters to the story fossils tell us about Grand Canyon rocks. Rather than finding evidence of a single, global catastrophe, the fossils of the Grand Canyon provide one of the clearest pictures of a long history of changing environmental conditions and life forms. In the chapter Fossils of the Grand Canyon and Grand Staircase, we describe the fact that most fossil organisms are found in association with other fossils from coherent ecosystems – not violently transported and mixed with organisms from dissimilar environments. Discrete layers can be found in the Canyon where only terrestrial fossils are found, typical of a riverine environment, with no evidence of chaotic mixing with marine organisms. Most significantly, not a single mammal, bird, dinosaur, or flowering plant is found fossilized in any rocks of the Grand Canyon, yet they are abundant in the younger rocks of the Grand Staircase. Flood geologists call upon sediment particle sorting based on organism size and density to explain the order, yet the smaller mammals and birds and plants that should then be found in the lower layers are entirely absent.
The chapter also draws attention to inconsistent flood geology arguments, such as simultaneously arguing that exquisitely preserved delicate fossils are evidence of rapid burial by a catastrophic flood, and broken and strewn fossils are evidence of violent upheaval by a catastrophic flood. To say that both fine preservation and fragmented preservation are convincing evidence of the same phenomenon is no evidence at all. There are indeed variations in the preservation observed, but in each case, the character of the fossils is consistent with specific environmental conditions.
Rather than brief chaotic history, the fossils of the Grand Canyon tell us a story of a wonderfully diverse and deep history. For example, in our chapter Tiny Plants – Big Impact we describe the diversity of plant fossils in the Grand Canyon. It is significant that plant fossils are missing from most layers of rock in the Grand Canyon. This is consistent with the observation that much of the rock in the Grand Canyon is marine in origin and thus not expected – by geologists – to contain plants. Where plant fossils are found they show distinct patterns that are consistent with the preservation of local terrestrial communities.
The fossilized plants found in Grand Canyon rocks consist of only extinct ferns, lycopods, and conifers. No remains of flowering plants (e.g. sunflowers, grasses, oaks, etc.) or flowering-plant pollen grains are preserved in Grand Canyon rocks. However, pollen grains of conifers and spores from ferns have been found. Pollen and spores are incredibly small, and easily carried by wind and water great distances. How could a global flood with tsunamis sweeping across continents fail to deposit a single grain of flowering-plant pollen in the entire sequence of Grand Canyon layers? It makes far more sense if these layers were laid down during a time when flowering plants were not yet found on earth.
But easily the most powerful disproof of flood geology as it attempts to explain the Grand Canyon is the existence of many features that could only be deposited in the absence of water. These exist throughout the canyon strata — mudcracks, trackways, burrows, nesting sites. I don’t know how anyone can possibly say with a straight face that desert sandstone formations were deposited in the middle of a raging flood.