The Chattanooga Shale, an Evolutionary Enigma | The Institute for Creation Research

The Chattanooga Shale, an Evolutionary Enigma

The most common sedimentary rock type is known as shale, made up of tiny silt or clay particles cemented together. Tiny particles are easily carried along by moving water. Thus, in uniformitarian thinking, shale particles take an inordinate amount of time to fall through a column of water and settle on the bottom, even when the water is completely calm.

Some shales are black in color, loaded with organic material. The classic North American example of black shale is the Chattanooga Shale; evolutionary scientists traditionally thought that it was deposited in deep, stagnant ocean water. But that may be too simple, because other evolutionists acknowledge the problem of the “Chattanooga Black Shale Enigma.”1

Flood geology places essentially all strata during the great Flood of Noah’s day—a depositional situation that is quite different from deep and stagnant water. Seldom more than 20 feet thick, the Chattanooga Shale is underlain by an amazingly flat, featureless erosional surface, with no significant high or low areas where deposition took place. Such flat erosion usually speaks of rapid sheet erosion. This shale deposit is often presented as classic evidence for uniformitarian deposition in a “calm and placid sea,” but could there be another interpretation?

A closer look at the details provides a catastrophic depositional model instead.

The shale consists of innumerable fine layers, or laminations, that can be easily separated. Often between the layers are fossils of both marine creatures such as brachiopods and land plants such as lepidodendrons. Also present are animal escape burrows, formed as rapidly buried sea creatures attempted to burrow out of an underwater grave. The mix of environments seems to indicate that it was not a calm environment.

The laminations are also problematic. Instead of being uniformly flat, they are graded and tilted up at an angle, and in some places they form cross-beds, requiring a rapid current environment. An overall look at the strata leads to a diagnosis of hummocky cross-stratification, also indicative of rapid water current and continual deposition of particles. The clay particles themselves are uniformly aligned, as revealed by an AMS (anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility) study, a prime indicator of current.

Most importantly, the layer is enormous in areal extent. It was first identified in Tennessee (where it received its name), but now is widely recognized from Alabama to Canada on the east coast, to Iowa and Texas, to Oregon on the west coast, and into northern Mexico and even offshore.2 No modern analogy exists for such a deposit.

The Flood account in Genesis specifically informs us that the Flood was catastrophic in nature (Genesis 7:11-12, 17-20, 24, etc.) and global in extent (e.g., 6:13, 17; 7:10, 21-23; 8:3, 5, 11; 9:15). We would expect its damage to give evidence of this catastrophic cause and extent, and indeed we do. The Chattanooga Shale surely provides such evidence. It provides no such support for the uniformitarian worldview.

References

  1. Prothero, D. R. and R. H. Dott, Jr. 2004. Evolution of the Earth, 7th ed. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 291.
  2. Weil, S. A. et al. 1979. National Uranium Resource Evaluation: Chattanooga Shale Conference, U.S. Department of Energy.

* Dr. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Morris, J. 2012. The Chattanooga Shale, an Evolutionary Enigma. Acts & Facts. 41 (11): 15.

The Latest
NEWS
Inside December 2021 Acts & Facts
How can we understand Christ’s role as our mediator from a scientific perspective? Why was ICR's first dinosaur excavation significant for...

APOLOGETICS
Christ’s Providence Is Clearly Seen in Bird Migrations
Just as monkeys can’t accidently type Shakespeare texts, birds can’t migrate by evolutionary luck, despite imagined eons of time for “lucky”...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Snowflakes
by Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
The Gift of God Himself
Each Christmas we remember how deeply God loves us. His wondrous plan of salvation—first set in motion in the Garden of Eden—was miraculously...

ACTS & FACTS
Early Land Plant Evolution?
In a recent Science article, two evolutionists consider land plants (embryophytes) to have evolved from stoneworts (charophyte algae).1 A...

ACTS & FACTS
Biblical Creation and Intellectual Foolishness
In a recent interview discussing his new book In Quest of the Historical Adam, philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig acknowledged his...

ACTS & FACTS
Are Birds “Cousins” to Reptiles?
Are today’s birds genealogical “cousins” to today’s reptiles due to a shared evolutionary ancestry? No. However, birds and...

ACTS & FACTS
Haleakala National Park: One of Many Young-Looking Volcanoes
You can start the day atop the cold peak of Mt. Haleakala and end it on a warm beach on Maui. The sprawling volcanic mountain rises 10,000 feet above...

ACTS & FACTS
The Oceans Point to a Young Earth
by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D.* Over 70% of Earth's surface is covered by water, most of which is marine and contained in...

ACTS & FACTS
Jesus Christ Is Our Perfect Mediator
We’ll never get bored throughout eternity. There is always something wonderfully new to learn about our precious Lord Jesus, the uplifting Holy...