Earth's surface shows features that clearly testify to some kind of catastrophic event, or series of events, that operated on a vastly larger scale than today's geologic processes. Whatever happened had a devastating impact on living creatures large and small, terrestrial and marine. But the event's cause, effect, timing, and extent remain uncertain for researchers who rely only on what the bare rocks have to tell.
New research into Paleocene strata has unfolded dramatic events that occurred in earth's past. It is clear that mass extinctions left scores of animals fossilized in the strata. Publishing in the Journal of the Geological Society, researchers investigated drill core data from the Norwegian Sea showing that the sea floor was once littered with massive craters. As reported in ScienceNOW, "The area experienced volcanic upheaval on a scale dwarfing anything in human history."1
A detailed history of this event was difficult to pin down because researchers were restricted to the sparse and equivocal geologic data, but the general findings fit well with the Genesis Flood model of earth's history. This massive upheaval is what one would expect as the after-effect of a global flood that was accompanied by extensive tectonic activity.
In particular, creation research has emphasized the role of mantle material heating the earth's sea surface during and after that year-long event.2 Also, the likelihood of volcanic gases and debris having flooded the atmosphere for perhaps several hundred years following the Flood has been an integral part of the creation/Flood model, and evidence that this occurred is a constant enigma for those who choose to ignore the biblical account.3
In keeping with these contentions, the researchers found that the undersea craters they studied are associated with massive caches of methane. As a result, they postulated that an extinction-causing catastrophe was initiated when methane was ejected into earth's atmosphere by "a series of massive undersea eruptions"1 that heated the planet by 5C for 170,000 years.
These Paleocene undersea deposits contain records of just the sort of catastrophic features that biblical creation researchers have been describing for decades. The volcanism, mass extinctions, and disrupted atmosphere are all consistent with the creation/Flood model. But the ages assigned to these events by the evolutionary researchers are not.
The scientists measured isotope ratios from zircon crystals taken from the drill cores. Uranium-lead dating gave an "age" for the crystals--and therefore their host sediments--of 55 million years. However, although the uranium-lead ratios would indicate millions of years' worth of decay at the present rates, zircons contain a different but just as valid internal clock that clearly shows that the decay rate of uranium was at some point accelerated dramatically. This accelerated decay inflated the apparent ages by several orders of magnitude.
Helium atoms are "slippery" because of their small size, and as such are easily able to diffuse out of the tiny spaces within the lattice structure of zircon crystals. After millions of years, these crystals ought to contain very little helium, which is produced as a byproduct of uranium decay. Studies that are available online show that zircon crystals have ample helium trapped inside--so much, in fact, that they look to be only thousands of years old.4
Geochemist Alan Jay Kaufman of the University of Maryland offered a caution to the scientists' speculative reconstruction of long-lasting global warming from overactive undersea volcanoes. He told ScienceNOW, "Their assertion that the one caused the other remains untested."1
Without a time machine or the ability to control earth's volcanoes, tests will never be conclusive. The evolution-inspired scenario presented with this research only opens another question about what sub-crustal process could have caused these volcanoes to continuously produce just the right amounts of methane for just that amount of time.
Fortunately, reconstructions of the earth's past have a much more solid foundation if one willingly includes valid, recorded eyewitness information such as that found in the book of Genesis.
- Berardelli, P. Did Monster Eruptions Warm the World? ScienceNOW. Posted on sciencemag.org April 23, 2010, accessed May 3, 2010, reporting on research published in Svensen, H., S. Planke and F. Corfu. 2010. Zircon dating ties NE Atlantic sill emplacement to initial Eocene global warming. Journal of the Geological Society. 167 (3): 433-436.
- Vardiman, L. 2003. Hypercanes Following the Genesis Flood. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism. R. L. Ivey, Jr., ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 17-28.
- Oard, M. 1987. The Ice Age and the Genesis Flood. Acts & Facts. 16 (6).
- Humphreys, D. R. 2005. Young Helium Diffusion Age of Zircons Supports Accelerated Nuclear Decay. In Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Vol. 2. Vardiman, L., A. Snelling and E. Chaffin, eds. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research and Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on May 14, 2010.