This article is from
Creation 6(1):42–46, July 1983

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

Precambrian rocks

What is a creationist view?

by 

This is a vintage, semi-technical article published the year before the first issue of Journal of Creation (formerly Creation ex nihilo Technical Journal) was launched.

Wiki Commons precambrian-rock

Creationists have long argued that ‘Precambrian’ rocks (which evolutionists regard as the Earth’s oldest rocks) were formed before Noah’s Flood. They have taken this approach because few fossils had been reported from Precambrian rocks.

Since fossils came from Noah’s Flood and onwards it was commonly argued non–fossiliferous rocks must have formed before the Flood. But this argument can no longer be applied to the Precambrian. Discoveries have shown there are many fossils in the Precambrian. In Australia these ‘oldest’ fossils are remarkably diverse, abundant and well preserved.

For example, algae fossils (stromatolites) are very widespread in rocks dated as Precambrian.

Microscopic fossils and traces of fossils are found throughout Australian Precambrian rocks, and new finds of fossil soft–bodied animals are regularly being made. In the USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Russia, Africa and India the story is the same. Furthermore, many Precambrian rocks that do not contain recognisable fossils nonetheless contain fossil remains usually in the form of graphite. Such graphite rocks are common in Australian Precambrian rocks.

The clear implication of these fossils and abundant organic matter in Precambrian rocks is that these sediments were laid down during Noah’s Flood.

Consequently, creationist geologists need to completely abandon the evolutionists’ geological column and its associated terminology, and start again. Using the presence of fossils or organic matter as one criterion, we then have the enormous task of re–examining rocks area by area to re–build our understanding of geological history within the Biblical creationist framework.


Here are the technical details

The assumption of uniformity of natural processes was used by early evolutionist scientists to construct the geological timescale and the geological column. They postulated that over long periods of time (billions of years), the slow geological processes we observe today laid down the rocks of the Earth’s crust in an ordered sequence which now corresponds to the evolutionists’ view of the development of life by chance natural processes. Thus the geological column and the geological timescale are inseparably linked, the former being divided into rock strata corresponding to the time periods of the latter, based on the contained fossils.

On the other hand, creationists interpret the majority of fossiliferous sedimentary rocks of the Earth’s crust as testimony to Noah’s Flood, which occurred approximately 4300 years ago, (based on a literal addition of chronologies in Genesis). Creationists do this because they regard the Genesis record as implying there was no rain before Noah’s Flood, therefore no major erosion, and hence no significant sedimentation or fossilization.

However the Flood was global, erosional, and its purpose was destruction. Therefore the first major fossilization commenced at this time, and the majority of the fossils are regarded as having been rapidly formed during this event. Creationists therefore regard sedimentary strata as needing to be classified into those formed during the time of the creation week, pre–Flood, Flood (early, middle, and late) and post–Flood, and recent. Because they hold completely different principles for explanation of much of the rock strata of the geological column, creationist geologists have to re–interpret the geological evidence. As Joseph Dillow rightly says of the geological column.1

9577-fig-1

Fig. 1. Location of Australian Precambrian sedimentary basins with formations that are fossiliferous. The North Pole locality (not shown) is near the Hammersley Basin.11

“It should be obvious that if the earth is only 6,000 years old, then all the geological designations are meaningless within that framework, and it is deceptive to continue to use them. If, as many creationist geologists believe, the majority of the geological column represents Flood sediments and post–Flood geophysical activity, then the mammoth, the dinosaur, and human beings all existed simultaneously … some limited attempts have been made by creationist geologists to reclassify the entire geological column within this framework, but the task is immense.”

What Dillow is also suggesting is that the evolutionists’ geological column and their terminology should be completely scrapped, and then creationist geologists should start again.

However, having said that, Dillow, in his book The Waters Above, presents his “Reclassification of geological strata along the lines of Flood geology”2 in which he lumps together as pre–Flood strata much of what historical evolutionists geology terms Precambrian, and only considers the Cambrian–Recent as Flood strata. In so doing Dillow has merely followed in the footsteps of other creationists, e.g. Harold G. Coffin.3 It is my contention that those who do this have failed to study carefully the evidence for the Flood deposition of many Precambrian strata and have therefore unwittingly fallen into the trap of lumping together the Precambrian strata to the creation week. The usual reason for doing this is that the evolutionists regard the Precambrian as so different, so devoid of life in comparison with other rocks that creationists have simply borrowed their description.

I believe that to be consistent, we must completely start anew, and assign all strata that show evidence of deposition in Noah’s Flood to the Flood period within the creationists’ geological time framework, irrespective of the strata’s evolutionary age or designation.

Precambrian and Noah’s Flood

What then is the evidence that many Precambrian rocks are the result of Noah’s Flood? The answer is simple. They are either rich in fossils or they commonly contain abundant organic matter which is the remains of fossils.

Precambrian fossils

Whitcomb and Morris4 suggested that the main criterion for recognition of Precambrian rocks is that they be non–fossil–bearing. This criterion can no longer be maintained as there is now abundant evidence that rocks which evolutionist geologists classify as Precambrian do in fact contain a variety of fossils. In any case this criterion cannot be rigidly applied since many so–called Cambrian–Recent strata are also non–fossil bearing.

9577-fig-2

Fig. 2. Atomic hydrogen/carbon versus oxygen/carbon, showing average values for the precursors of sedimentary organic matter, and lines of increasing diagenesis/metamorphism for coal macerals (i.e. coal constituents).12

The most significant of these Precambrian fossils are microscopic algae and megascopic stromatolites, the layered structures formed as the result of the accretion of fine grains of sediment by matted colonies of micro–organisms, principally algae. That this is what stromatolites are has been verified by the study of living stromatolites found thriving today in the shallow waters of Shark Bay near Carnarvon on the Western Australian coast5 and in Spencer Gulf on the South Australian coast6, and in shallow pools fed by springs in the Northern Great Sandy Desert of inland northern Western Australia.7 At all three localities, and others overseas5, cyanobacteria (the photosynthesizing bacteria formerly called blue–green algae) are today building stromatolites identical to those found in the fossil record, even as far back as about 3,000 X 106 A.G. Yr (arbitrary geological years) ago in Precambrian sediments. It goes without comment that evolutionists should be puzzled as to how these so–called ‘primitive’ micro–organisms have survived so long in the fossil record, unchanged, unevolving, and not prone to extinction.

Fossil stromatolites have now been identified in rocks from all evolutionary time periods in the geological column, including the Precambrian. A significant ‘find’ of fossil stromatolites in rocks believed to be 3,500 million A.G.Yr old at a place called North Pole in the Pilbara area of Western Australia8,9,10 received wide publicity. Here stromatolites have been found in a chert–barite unit about 30 m thick with a sequence of pillow basalts, with minor intercalated sandstones, mudstones and evaporites. (It should be noted that pillow basalts are the result of underwater extrusion of lava, while chert, a rock composed of microscopic grains of silica, and barite, dominantly barium sulphate, are both regarded here as water–deposited chemical sediments or ‘evaporites’, the latter term denoting their presumed precipitation via evaporation.) The rocks have been dated by radioisotope methods to give an arbitrary geological age of between 3400 and 3500 x 106 years.8,9 Two things about the fossils at this locality are clear—they are in water–deposited sediments and volcanic, and their ‘age’ has been determined by radiometric dating within their broad geological setting.

Australian Precambrian

Historically, the first known Australian Precambrian fossils are the “organically preserved algal microfossils from the Ringwood evaporite deposit in the Gillen member of the Bitter Springs Formation (Late Precambrian of Central Australia)”11,12, 100 km east of Alice Springs. Glaessner and Walter12 wrote that “the rich and varied Precambrian fossil record of Australia is now being elaborated at an increasing rate. During the last 10 years the number of known microfossiliferous formations has increased from 1 to 16 (see fig. 1). Stromatolites are almost ubiquitous, microfossils and trace fossils are widespread, and new finds of fossil soft–bodied invertebrates are being made”. They concluded: “the Precambrian fossils of Australia are remarkably diverse, abundant and well preserved”. And further: “the micro–organisms and early animals did not live independently of each other or of their environment. Stromatolites are to be seen not only as potential biostratigraphic tools, but as the sedimentary record of microbil communities, the repository of otherwise unavailable physiological information on the constructing micro–organisms, and not least, a source of food and shelter (and perhaps oxygen) for the earliest metazoans”.

On the world scene “stromatolites are being used in Precambrian stratigraphy not only in the traditional areas of Russia, Africa, Australia and India, but also in Canada, the USA, Mexico and especially China”13. Bertrand–Sarfati and Walter13 go on to discuss the stromatolites of the Proterozoic era throughout the world and state that “none of the 53 forms (of stromatolites) now known from the Early Proterozoic are also reported from younger rocks.” It is thus no longer feasible or possible for creationists to argue that Precambrian rocks are non–fossiliferous.

Precambrian organic matter

The main reason more fossils are not found in the so–called Precambrian rocks is that many of these rocks have been altered, particularly by burial and tectonic pressure, and temperature (that is, they have been metamorphosed), and so the contained fossils have been destroyed. But these same rocks often contain graphite. Whereas most Cambrian–Recent graphite deposits occur in readily identifiable metamorphosed coal–bearing sedimentary rocks, Precambrian graphite deposits are commonly found in medium to high–grade regionally metamorphosed schists and gneisses “of controversial origin”.14

Mancuso and Seavoy14 claim that there is no “good geologic and chemical evidence that the graphite found in all grades of Precambrian metamorphic rocks have the same source” and “that source is organic carbon”. They go on to show that “sufficient organic carbon of high concentration and purity is available in Precambrian sediments as coal or anthraxolite (a name suggested for black, combustible, coal–like solid material found in Precambrian rocks that resembles anthracite coal but occurs in cross–cutting veins and fissures) to account for the graphite deposits which occur in Precambrian schists and gneisses.” To back up this claim they mention occurrences of coal and anthraxolite reported and described in the Precambrian rocks of Michigan, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Northern Minnesota.

In Australia no similar occurrences of Precambrian ‘coal’ appear to have been reported so far. However, a very abundant rock type amongst Australian Precambrian strata are black (carbonaceous or graphitic) shales and graphitic schists (their metamorphic equivalents). For example, in the Kalgoorlie area the 3,000 m thick Black Flag Beds include units of black shales up to, and greater than 100 m thick and tens of kilometres in strike length. In the Pine Creek basin, south and east of Darwin, several thick units of black shales and carbonaceous schists can be correlated across the basin over a distance of about 200 km. Furthermore, these rock types are often associated, to a greater or lesser degree, with Precambrian ore deposits, for example, Broken Hill, Mount Isa, Kambalda, McArthur River, Koongarra, Jabiluka.

Saxby15 lists five basic mechanisms by which organic matter can become part of a sediment: direct supply of organisms, absorption of dissolved organic molecules, precipitation, detrital supply, and hydrocarbon migration. With increasing temperature and depth of burial this organic material undergoes changes analogous to coalification or to the maturation of oil shales and petroleum source rocks.12 Fig. 2 shows diagrammatically how the chemical compositions of coal macerals (i.e. organic materials) are progressively altered during metamorphism. Saxby15 analysed the insoluble organic matter isolated from a variety of Australian and overseas ores and ore–related black shales, and these results are plotted in Fig. 3. He concluded that in the Precambrian ores, bacterial and algal remains constitute the main biological precursor to the organic material remaining in the analysed samples. The graphite now present in the ores and shales has been produced by “post–depositional metamorphism and weathering”.

9577-fig-3
Fig. 3. Atomic hydrogen/carbon versus oxygen/carbon for organic matter isolated from metalliferous ores and associated carbonaceous rocks.15

Implications and discussion

The numerous fossils and abundant organic matter found in these Precambrian rocks is clear testimony to the creationist geologist that these sediments were laid down during the Flood year along with most of the so–called Cambrian–Recent strata.

A further implication of the above data is that since fossils and organic matter in shales and schists are associated with mineral deposits, e.g. the Broken Hill and Mount Isa lead–zinc–silver ore bodies, then these ores must also be either Flood deposited, late–Flood, or post–Flood, depending on whether the mineralisation was deposited with the enclosing sediments or was emplaced after independent deposition of the enclosing sediments. In the case of Broken Hill and Mount Isa, abundant other evidence (Snelling, in prep.) supports the conclusion that these lead–zinc–silver ore bodies were deposited with the enclosing sediments, and therefore during the Flood.

This discussion leads us back to Dillow’s original conclusion1 that the evolutionists’ geological column and their terminology must be completely scrapped and creationist geologists start again from basics. Before this can be done we must decide the criteria for reclassifying rocks and ores as either Creation week, pre–Flood, Flood (early, middle or late) or post–Flood. What I am contending here is that fossils, whether they be microscopic or macroscopic, plant or animal, and the fossil counterpart of organic matter, along with its metamorphosed equivalent graphite, are the primary evidence which should distinguish Flood rocks from pre–Flood rocks, regardless of the evolutionary ‘age’.

Post–Flood rocks

Other criteria will be necessary to distinguish the various stages of the Flood or any post–Flood localized catastrophe. This will have to be the subject of future papers. Thus, ultimately, we have the enormous task before us to re–examine area by area, the geology and ore deposits of Australia, the USA then the world(!); to reclassify the rocks and ores; and then to rebuild our understanding of geological history within the Biblical framework. But the purpose of this will not just be theoretical or theological. A better interpretation of the rock strata should produce a better tool for the discovery and usage of economic deposits, and more efficient ways for man to exercise his dominion over this earth.

Appendix

It may be objected by some that because the prolific Precambrian fossils and organic matter described above may all be of plant, algae, or bacterial origin, then the sentence of death at the Fall is irrelevant because plants were already being eaten and thus ‘dying’ in the Garden of Eden; and so these Precambrian plants, algae and bacteria may have been fossilised during the sedimentation of the third day of the creation week. This argument is however, discounted by the Genesis account which states that the plant life grew on the dry land late on the third day (Genesis 1:11–12), after the sedimentation during the building of the dry land on the second day (Genesis 1:9–10).

References and notes

  1. Dillow, J.C., The Waters Above, Moody Press, 1981, pp. 405–406. Return to text.
  2. Ref 1., Table 12.1, p. 409. Return to text.
  3. Coffin, H.G., in Repossess the Land, Fifteenth Annual Convention, Bible–Science Association, 1979, pp. 64–73. Return to text.
  4. Whitcomb, J.C., & Morris, H.M., The Genesis Flood, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961, pp. 228–232. Return to text.
  5. Playford, P.E., Geological Survey of W.A., Annual Report, 1979, pp. 117–121. Return to text.
  6. Bauld, J., Geobiological role of cyanobacterial mats in sedimentary environments: production and preservation of organic matter, BMR Journal of Australian Geology & Geophysics 6(4):307–317, 1981. Return to text.
  7. Crowe, R.W.A., Yeates, A.N., & Gray, K., Geological Survey of W.A., Annual Report, 1977, pp. 73–75. Return to text.
  8. Lowe, D.R., Stromatolites 3,400-Myr old from the Archean of Western Australia, Nature 284:441–443, 1980. Return to text.
  9. Walter, M.R., Buick, R., & Dunlop, J.S.R., Stromatolites 3,400–3,500 Myr old from the North Pole area, Western Australia, Nature 284:443-445, 1980. Return to text.
  10. Groves, D.I., Dunlop, J.S.R. & Buick, R., An early habitat of life, Scientific American 245(10):64-73, 1981. Return to text.
  11. Oehler, D.Z., Oehler, J.H., & Stewart, A.J., Science 205:388–390, 1979. Return to text.
  12. Glaessner, M.F. & Walter, M.R., in Precambrian of the Southern Hemisphere, Hunter D.R. (ed.), Elsevier, 1981, chapter 6, pp. 361–396. Return to text.
  13. Bertrand-Sarfati, J. & Walter, M.R., Stromatolite biostratigraphy, Precambrian Research 15:353–371, 1981. Return to text.
  14. Mancuso, J.J. & Seavoy, R.E., Precambrian coal or anthraxolite; a source for graphite in high-grade schists and gneisses, Economic Geology 76(4):951–954, 1981. Return to text.
  15. Saxby, J.D., Organic matter in ancient ores and sediment, BMR Journal of Australian Geology & Geophysics 6(4):287–291, 1981. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

M. O.
I noticed that Dr. Snelling referred to the old idea about the alleged lack of pre-Flood rain, but neither affirmed nor refuted it. Since Genesis 2 mentions the lack of rain in association with the lack of a tiller of the ground, it seems to me to be weakly implied that rain came when after Adam began to till the ground.

Anyway, I am glad to see that the Biblical Creationist community has been wrestling with this issue a long time. Kudos to Tas Walker for building a framework to make those classifications and the other writers who have begun the work of applying those ideas to specific locations and formations.
E. K.
Great idea start afresh.
To find out who was more accurate in understanding what the rocks can teach us I would read articles both evolutionistic and creatonist in its paradigm. This convinced me of the creation side and thus I started to see the Bible as truth over it merely being wisdom literature.
It was hard to convince others though who seemed convinced the rocks show evolution.
To give answers I have been looking if a database exists that gathers all the data on rocks, where they are found, in what order, the composition, which and how many fossils they are known to contain.
Do similar rocks mean they come from the same time or simply the same process but could be laid down at different times. During the flood but also post-Flood by processes as earth slides, volcanic activity, rising and sinking of areas.
So my point is that the fossils in Precambrian rocks may say more about the process that formed that rock than the time it formed. Depending on where it is found and in combination with what.
An area prone to repeated flooding after the flood could also cause fossils and sediments to form while other areas where being uplifted and became more stable. The draining of the land can have been together with unrest and disturbances in other places for a long time after the flood.
Causing rock formation while in other places live was thriving and maybe even with explosion of certain kinds of populations caused by colonisation plant growth and followed by floodings or major volcanic activity.
And in a thousand years a lot can happen.
James W.
I really enjoyed this article, but a question did come to mind after reading it. I'm no scientist, just a proponent of creationism in my small circle of influence, so please forgive me if my question isn't well thought out scientifically. Is it possible that not all of the "pre-cambrian" fossilization occurred during the flood, especially with these relatively tiny lifeforms? Could creationists be limiting themselves if they say that any fossil bearing rock is a result of the flood? I ask because, limiting fossilization to the flood seems to be saying that death as a result of the fall couldn't have occurred by being buried alive underwater before the flood. It seems to me that pre-flood seabed mudslides, sedimentation, and maybe even volcanic and tectonic actions, if even only on a smaller scale, could cause pre-flood fossilization. Additionally, since the flood began with the fountains of the deep bursting forth, I've understood that to mean that there was also a churning action during the flood year as tectonic plates moved great distances in a very short period of time. Wouldn't this make it possible to find the kinds of fossils in this article lower on any geologic column, creationist or otherwise? If they're all limited to the flood boundary, what happens if any fossil is found deeper in the pre-flood column?
Shaun Doyle
This is a very good question, and one one which biblical creation geologists disagree. In fact, as one of the related articles shows, Dr Snelling himself has changed views on this since he wrote this article: Precambrian geology and the Bible: a harmony. Nevertheless, there are many creation geologists who still hold the views that Dr Snelling expresses in this article. The Precambrian is a difficult subject, with few fossils, many hard to identify features, and far more unknowns than even the Phanerozoic; as such it should be no surprise that there are differences of opinion on how to relate it to the Bible.

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