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Precambrian geology and the Flood

Published: 13 April 2019 (GMT+10)
Dickinsonia costata from Ediacaran rocks of the late Precambrian

A.P. from the United States writes:

Hello, I would like to ask a question. I have been searching your site for articles about the Pre-Flood/Flood boundary. However, the only articles I can find are those about the Precambrian being from the Flood. I see a few problems with this, and so I would like to ask a few questions.

If the Precambrian is from the Flood, why do the fossils only appear from the Neoproterozoic on?

Why are these fossils still sorted by environment if they have been in turbulent waters for 40 days?

Although Andrew Snelling and Harry Dickens addressed Oard and other creationists about some of these issues, is there a reason for God to have accelerated radioactive decay, either in the Creation Week or the Flood?

There is a model by Don Stenberg in the Creation archive. Why was it discarded? It did not seem to have been dealt with properly, and it provides a good reason for decay.

Is there a good argument for why most Precambrian strata is not from the Flood?

Is CPT compatible with the Precambrian?


CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear A.,

Thanks for writing in. This is an area of research that sorely needs more attention. Dickens and Snelling have developed aspects of their model further, but there remain questions around some of their ideas (such as the biogenic origin of Archean stromatolites). Anyway, here are a few brief responses to your questions, given the material we have on the website (which I encourage you to read further).

If the Precambrian is from the Flood, why do the fossils only appear from the Neoproterozoic on?

Do they? What do we do with the massive amounts of carbon residues in the Precambrian, as well as fossils like the stromatolites in the Archean? We don’t have any firm answers to these questions yet, and creation researchers disagree on this matter. See Precambrian metazoans within a young-earth Flood framework and Creationist Geology: Where do the ‘Precambrian’ Strata Fit?

Why are these fossils still sorted by environment if they have been in turbulent waters for 40 days?

I think I would need some specific examples to respond to this question. On a general note, though, please see Beware of paleoenvironmental deductions and Paleoenvironments and the Bible.

Although Andrew Snelling and Harry Dickens addressed Oard and other creationists about some of these issues, is there a reason for God to have accelerated radioactive decay, either in the Creation Week or the Flood?

The belief in accelerated nuclear decay isn’t based on having a viable reason for it, but on the empirical evidence for it, such as radiohalos, anomalous radiocarbon, and ‘anomalous’ helium and argon retention in zircons and feldspar, respectively. The most intuitive reason for it I think is that it provided the needed energy for the various matter transformations that would’ve happened during Creation Week and the initiation of Noah’s Flood.

There is a model by Don Stenburg in the Creation archive. Why was it discarded? It did not seem to have been dealt with properly, and it provides a good reason for decay.

Dr John Baumgardner has rejected it. His reasons can be found here. But few others have responded to it. I think Dr Baumgardner outlines some important problems with it, but that doesn’t mean the basic idea can’t be reworked to accommodate the problems. From my understanding, Dr Stenberg is still working with his basic premise.

Is there a good argument for why most Precambrian strata is not from the Flood?

Actually, there are some creationists who think that much if not most Precambrian sedimentary strata are from the Flood. Dr Snelling used to (Creationist Geology: Where do the ‘Precambrian’ Strata Fit?), and Flood researchers Michael Oard, Tasman Walker and Max Hunter still do.

Is CPT compatible with the Precambrian?

Dr Tim Clarey, an ICR geologist and a supporter of CPT, has posited a Neoproterozoic megasequence within the Flood.1

A.P. from the United States writes:

Banded iron formation at Fortescue Falls, Western Australia, is assigned to the Archean of the Precambrian.

Hello, CMI!

I have a question about antediluvian geography. On the ICR website, Timothy Clarey seems to have used the empirical sedimentary data to figure out pre-Flood geography. He has the configuration of Pangaea. However, paleomagnetic signatures seem to show that at the time of the Pre-Flood/Flood boundary a continent named Rodinia was rifting, as Snelling seems to think in his book, Earth’s Catastrophic Past. Is there a way to reconcile these two? And is there any evidence that Pangaea could have been the Pre-Flood continent instead of Rodinia or Pannotia? This doesn’t seem to fit the paleomagnetic evidence, but I haven’t studied it so I don’t know. This isn’t too pressing, but I was simply curious.

Thanks for all your help on my previous questions!

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dr Clarey has used the empirical sedimentary data to figure out some pre-Flood geography.2 In his 2018 International Conference on Creationism paper, he and his co-author Davis Werner try to recreate the pre-Flood continental configuration with respect to the Americas and Africa (since that’s all the data he has dealt with, so far). So, at present, Dr Clarey’s work is the most up-to-date research on these matters, but it’s still a work in progress. And it should be noted that Dr Clarey’s working pre-Flood configuration isn’t a straight copy of Pangea:

This is the first pre-Flood map created by creationists that is based on actual rock data. We placed the continents into a Pangaea-like (although slightly modified) configuration that allowed for a narrow pre-Atlantic Ocean and projected our interpreted locations of shallow seas, lowlands and uplands onto the base map. We recognize that debate exists over the pre-Flood continental configuration, with some advocating for an initial created supercontinent that was Rodinia-like (Snelling 2014a, 2014b). However, we chose a modified Pangaea because it has the most observable geological evidence to support it, including the best fit of the continents (Clarey 2016), and significantly reduces the plate motion required by not having to transform Rodinia into Pangaea (Baumgardner 2018). Baumgardner (2018) calls our Pangaea-like configuration Pannotia, but notes that they are very similar if Pannotia is rotated 110 [degrees] clockwise. In addition, the narrow sea (300 km) we placed between North America and Africa/Europe still allows for an early Flood subduction and closure of the pre-Atlantic and the formation of the Appalachians/ Caledonians. The width of this pre-Atlantic is based on P and S wave anomalies that diminish beneath the Appalachians below 300 km (Schmandt and Lin 2014).2

As to the paleomagnetic data, Dr Clarey informed me that, as we go back deeper into the rock record, the reconstructability of past continental configurations and locations gets more fuzzy because the paleomagnetic data gets less useful.3

Basically, there is a disagreement here, but it’s a relatively speculative endeavour, and we’re still in the early days of the research. Stay tuned for more developments!

Kind regards,
Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

References and notes

  1. Clarey, T., Fountains of the Deep, icr.org/article/fountains-deep, 28 November 2014 Return to text.
  2. Clarey, T.L. and Werner, D.J., Use of sedimentary megasequences to re-create pre-Flood geography; in: Whitmore, J.H., (Ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 351–372, 2018; creationicc.org/2018_papers/32%20Clarey%20megasequences%20final.pdf. Return to text.
  3. Clarey, T., personal communication, 2 February 2019. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

How Noah's Flood Shaped Our Earth
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Earth's Catastrophic Past
by Andrew A Snelling
US $60.00
Hard Cover
The Geologic Column
by John K Reed, Michael J Oard
US $15.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Louis C.
In response to David R.: I think it is a little more difficult than to get a straight story out of 10 witnesses of a car accident. You don't have witnesses here, only speculators after the fact. It is like rounding up 10 people a week after an accident and showing them the glass shards lying on the road, telling them there was an accident and then asking them to describe the drivers of the cars and the cars' registration numbers.
Brad H.
Hey guys from my understanding the pre-flood world was mostly land mass with a shallow sea the earth would have been 80% land 20% water with most of the water in under ground chambers. Fountains of the deep. A mist watered the earth which could have been caused by the gravitational pull of the moon heaving the earths crust much like it affects the tides of today. The present continents probably were already in there present places and formed when the chambers collapsed letting the present water receded into the new forming holes.i don’t think there was much land movement except geological movements mountains forming India crashing into the Hindo coush forming Himalayas and other mountain areas due to plate tectonics. Noah was on the arc for almost a year as far as the Precambrian era if u put rocks and bones in a fish tank with sand and shake it up it will layer just the way the earth did. Just saying I’m no scientist but this seems to make more sense than a lot of other theories I’ve read. Please respond if I’m in left field. You’re website is still one of the best keep up the good work.
Shaun Doyle
I really recommend readers who are interested in flood modelling to familiarize themselves with the creationist research literature on the topic. On plate tectonics, please see our Forum on Catastrophic Plate Tectonics for a starting place. On the geologic column, please see our resource The Geologic Column. And on the Precambrian, the related articles section of this article provides a good overview of the debates in the creationist literature on the topic. I recommend being guided by those debates, simply because these are the people who have spent the most time and effort looking into these matters. They don't have all the answers; none of us do at present. But the research literature is a good place to start.
Andrew P.
Thanks for posting two of my comments! Your answers were helpful and insightful. This article really helped me to understand Flood geology better.
Thanks again!
David R.
What really happened during the Flood? It's like ten people witnessing a car accident. Everyone will swear they saw something different.
Shaun Doyle
It is difficult, yes. If anything, it's probably the most difficult when it comes to the Precambrian. But it's a good idea to listen to the debates and divergent perspectives in the creationist literature on the question. If not anything else, it can give us a healthy respect for how difficult it is to reconstruct the deep past with nothing more than 11 chapters of biblical text that spans 2,000 years of history, and physical traces of past events that are often quite ambiguous in what they likely mean. Please look at the articles in the 'Related articles' section to gain some perspective on this debate.
Philip S.
Thanks, all very interesting - but, sorry, can't help adding my very amateur bit! As I understand it, the 'Great Unconformity' supposedly marks a catastrophically eroded boundary between 'Pre-Cambrian' & 'Cambrian', and is present on circa 75% of the observable, if mainly artificial construct, of the 'Geological Column'. Yet, here in the little mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales, it does not exist, presumably because there is no transition 'period' at all, just continuous deposition, e.g 2 kilometers of volcanic Tuffs overlain with tons of slate-bearing muds etc, then shot thru with its eventual volcanic peak - therefore no observable Flood boundary here, which would then have to be down in the 'Hadean' or wherever!? Yet the 'GU' in the GCanyon typically divides the PC from the C, but which then blends almost seamlessly into the 'Carboniferous'! And both Snowdonia & GCanyon etc have then had almost the entire top 'half' of the GC swept off them - but still, after all this unimaginable activity [only supernatural help could possibly have kept the Ark afloat] - we still have lots of surviving birds & dinos plodding about on successive 'tidal' layers...when these layers didn't even exist at the beginning of the Flood, like the brand new mountains they are also found on?! Yes, I have posed these 'problems' before, but never received a satisfactory answer - Temp Exposed Beds is it?, but on the top of 1000's of catastrophic feet of roiling, boiling, ripping & rending seds & volcs that nothing should have survived!! I am also aware of the 'Recolonisation' answers to them, which are also hugely problematic because of the virtually global nature of up to the Cretaceous' deposits etc that they say are Post-Flood! Oh welllllll!
Shaun Doyle
Well, obviously it pays to investigate individual areas to see how they fit into the broader Flood context. From what I can see of Wales on geological maps, though, especially northern Wales, it looks like most of it would've been laid down in the early Flood (since it's mostly late Neoproterozoic and Paleozoic). But I am unfamiliar with the geology of Wales, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. Plus, we can't simply assume that every place had deposition during all the different periods. Nonetheless, there are a number of creation geologists who are skeptical of the utility of geologic column classifications. I recommend The Geologic Column for more information on this topic.
Renton M.
If there was a reversal of oceans and continents during the Flood (the majority of sediments are on the present continents, having been scoured from high elevations and deposited at low elevations - preflood ocean basins - since uplifted), then we would have a rough outline of the preflood continents in the shape of the present oceans.
Shaun Doyle
That would be true. However, there are indicators that simply reversing the continental and oceanic crusts doesn't explain all the data. First, there are geochemical and fossil indicators that at least some deposits e.g. on either side of the Atlantic were once contiguous with each other. Second, the crusts are in isostatic equilibrium, which raises the question of how their positions could've been the opposite of what they are now. Third, it's not clear that such a reversal would explain the vertical fossil ordering that we see.

There are also positive indicators that the oceanic crust isn't primordial, e.g. the heat profile of the crusts (i.e. they get colder further away from the 'spreading' ridges like the mid-Atlantic ridge), the magnetic patterning in the oceanic crusts, and the fact that practically no extant oceanic crust gives an isotopic 'date' older than the Permian.

While I certainly acknowledge that different Flood modellers will do different things with that information, those sorts of factors are why I tend to think that the oceanic crust formed during the Flood through the horizontal movement of coherent lithospheric plates (i.e. some form of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics), and that the continental crust was always the continental crust.

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