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FLOODS, FOSSILS AND HERESIES. “NO VESTIGE OF A BEGINNING, NO PROSPECT OF AN END”- JAMES HUTTON. James Hutton Father of Geology. Pre Age of Enlightment. Bishop Ussher 1654 Biblical Chronology Based on generations Earth created on October 23, 4004 B.C. at 9AM. FOSSILS.

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floods fossils and heresies




James Hutton

Father of Geology

pre age of enlightment
Pre Age of Enlightment
  • Bishop Ussher 1654
  • Biblical Chronology
    • Based on generations
  • Earth created on October 23, 4004 B.C. at 9AM
  • Recognizable evidence of pre-existing life
    • Perfect preservation of organisms
    • Impressions- casts and molds
    • Shells- original or replaced
    • Bones- original or replaced
    • Plant structures- trunks, leaves
    • Trace fossils- tracks, burrows, borings
    • Fecal matter (coprolites)
da vinci s insight
Da Vinci’s Insight
  • In 1500 C.E. Leonardo Da Vinci recognized that fossil shells in the layered rocks represented ancient marine life
  • Observed that many fossil rich layers were separated by unfossiliferous layers thereby repudiating the concept of one flood
  • Had the idea that seasonal events responsible
nicolas steno
Nicolas Steno
  • Danish Naturalist and Physician working for the Duke of Tuscany
  • Widely circulated writings
  • Fossils formed together with the rocks in which they occur
  • 1669 stated the 3 most basic principles
  • Stratification- horizontal layering
    • Inferred that differences in strata reflected differences in conditions (temperature, wind, currents, storms)
principles used to determine relative age nicolas steno
Principles Used to Determine Relative Age- Nicolas Steno
  • Original Horizontality-
    • Because particles settle from fluids under gravity, stratification MUST be horizontal
  • Superposition
    • Progressively younger from bottom => top
  • Lateral Continuity
    • Strata originally extended in all directions until it thinned to zero or terminated at margin (basin of deposition)
  • Unconformity - surface that represents a gap in the geologic record
    • Disconformity - contact representing missing parallel beds of sedimentary beds
    • Angular unconformity - younger strata overlie an erosion surface on tilted or folded layers
    • Nonconformity - erosion surface on igneous or metamorphic rock
utility of fossils
Utility of Fossils
  • John Woodward
    • 1723, Correlation of strata in England and European mainland based on “great numbers of shells”
  • Geologic Mapping
    • 1746, crude geologic map showed continuity of chalk beneath the English Channel
william smith canal engineer
William Smith, canal engineer
  • The Map that Changed the World,
  • 1796 wrote “wonderful order and regularity with which nature has disposed of these singular productions [fossils] and assigned to each its class and peculiar stratum”
  • 1815 Publication of the 1st geologic map of England intended for the development of canals, quarries and mines as well as natural resources
william smith s strata identified by organized fossils
William Smith’s "Strata Identified by Organized Fossils"
  • Soon after the first issue of his great geological map of England in 1815, William Smith published the Strata Identified by Organized Fossils.
  • It was intended as a kind of geological users manual with illustrations to identify fossils.
  • But Smith’s work went beyond the mere illustration of fossils. Smith had deciphered the hieroglyphics of nature-the distinctive inscriptions borne by the different strata. With the Strata Identified . . . and its colored plates in hand, anyone would be able to compare the plates with fossils collected in the field and immediately identify the strata from which they came.
  • The strata once identified, their place in the orderly succession of the strata-which lay above and which lay below, as Smith had determined it - was then known. All this, Smith wrote, "without the necessity of deep reading, or the previous acquirement of difficult arts."
georges cuvier and alexandre brongniart paris basin
Georges Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart- Paris Basin
  • Development of geologic map of Paris Basin
  • The strata of the Paris Basin were close to horizontal. As of
  • 1811, Cuvier and Brongniart employed fossils but only in the few instances where more obvious evidences of sequence were absent.
  • The title of their work was Géographie Minéralogique by which they meant the distribution of what Werner had called the "external" characteristics of the mineral and fossil contents, shapes, colors, and textures of the strata within the Paris basin.
  • Today call this lithology. They determined the order of the strata from their superposition, their lithology and by tracing them across the basin
  • Cuvier firmly established the fact of the extinction of past lifeforms
  • Physical Continuity of Lithologic Units
  • Similarity of Rock Types
  • Superposition
  • Correlation by Fossils
    • Principle of Faunal Succession
    • Index Fossil
    • Fossil Assemblage
  • Correlation by Fossils
    • Principle of Faunal Succession
      • Wm. Smith & Georges Cuvier
      • Organism succeed one another in lithologic strata
      • One organism will NOT be found in rocks of widely different ages
    • Index Fossil
      • Easily recognizable/Easily identifiable
      • Wide geographic distribution
      • Of limited life span as a species
    • Fossil Assemblage
explanation of change among fossils
Explanation of Change Among Fossils
  • Catastrophism
    • Cuvier firmly established the fact of the extinction of past lifeforms
    • Believed in wholesale catastrophic events caused extinctions
    • With each catastrophe life move progressively towards ultimate “perfection”
  • Descent by Evolution
    • Younger organisms are the descendents of older ones
    • Species change through time- Charles Darwin
unified hypotheses of the earth
Unified Hypotheses of the Earth
  • Cosmogonists
    • Human search for understanding
    • Understanding God through his work (Nature) and his word (Scripture)
    • All inclusive hypotheses to explain origin of universe, earth and life
      • Earth originally hot, cooled, water and atmosphere began segregated, interior still hot
  • Buffon
  • Geologic Chronology
  • 18th century thinker
  • 34 volume Histoire Naturelle, 1749
  • Molten origin of Earth
  • Solar system originated from pieces of the sun breaking of through asteroid collisions
  • Estimated age of Earth at 75,000 yrs
    • Calculated from cooling steel balls
    • First to question literal significance of the 6 days of creation, “a year is to God as a thousand years to man”
geologic chronology
Geologic Chronology
  • Buffon’s speculative chronology- 6 distinct epochs
  • Recognition of rock divisions (coal measures in England by 1719)
  • J. Lehmann distinguishes gently dipping stratified fossiliferous rocks from more ‘primitive’ deposits
  • 1759 Arduino distinguished Primitive, Secondary, Tertiary and Volcanic
  • A.G. Werner (1787) believed all rocks precipitated from a retreating ocean
    • Neptunist
    • Primitive, Transition, Secondary and Alluvial
    • Considered earth to be static
  • Basalt Controversy
    • Volcanic rock
    • Seen to crystallized from lava
    • Could not be from a neptunian origin
james hutton and plutonism
James Hutton and Plutonism
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Earth ever changing
  • Modern earth processes capable of having produced landscape given enough time
  • Geologic processes act slowly
  • Interpretation of basalt as an igneous rock (experiment by James Hall)
  • Deep pressure inside the earth affects chemical reactions
  • Subterranean heat produce basalt, granite and mineral veins
the present is the key to the past
The Present is the Key to the Past

Uniformitarianism- Charles Lyell (1830- Principles of Geology) followed James Hutton (1795)

uniform rate of geologic processes

laws of nature do not change with time

Actualism- The Present is the Key to the Past

gradualistic and catastrophic events shape geologic processes

John Playfair (1802) “Amid all revolutions of the globe the economy of nature has been uniform, and her laws are the only thing that have resisted the general movement. The rivers and the rocks, the seas, and the continents have been changed in all their parts; but the laws which describe those changes, and the rules to which they are subject, have remained virtually the same.”

geology a historical science
Geology, A Historical Science
  • Chemistry and physics controlled by universal laws, independent of the time in which they operate
  • When geologist focus on present processes they follow applied laws, but when they focus on the past it is more historical- reconstruction of history based on biological, chemical and physical laws
geologic time


Time- the 4th dimension but unlike the spatial dimensions, with time we can only travel in one direction from present to future

the pre scientific period
The pre-scientific period
  • Before 1600 C.E. the Biblical account and the speculations of the Greek philosophers were accepted without great question
  • Archbishop Ussher
    • October 23, 4004 B.C.E. at 9AM
the era of speculative cosmogonies
The era of speculative cosmogonies
  • From 1600-1700 C.E. a number of comprehensive cosmogonies were proposed.
  • These were long on armchair speculation and short on substantive supporting evidence.
  • These cosmogonies were part of the new emphasis of science in seeking rational explanations of the features of the world
the disestablishment of genesis
The disestablishment of Genesis
  • From 1700-1780 C.E. period marked by a great deal of field geology rather than grand cosmogonies.
  • It became clear that there had been significant changes in the Earth's topography over time and that these changes could neither be accounted for by natural processes operating during the brief, nor by the postulated Noachian flood.
  • Notable observations included:
    • Studies of strata suggested that they were laid down by natural processes in which the sea and land had changed places several times. Studies of earthquakes and volcanoes showed that the surface crust is subject to massive natural transformation.
    • Observation of rain, wind, water erosion, and sea erosion in action showed that they were forces capable of reducing mountains and creating valleys.
the catastrophist uniformitarian debate from about 1780 1850
The catastrophist-uniformitarian debate: From about 1780-1850
  • By the end of the 18th century it was clear that the Earth had a long and varied history.
  • Interest in major cosmogony was revived.
  • The major debate was between the catastrophists, e.g., Cuvier, who held that the history of Earth was dominated by major catastrophic revolutions and the uniformitarians, e.g. Hutton and Lyell, who held that the history of Earth was dominated by slow relatively uniform changes in an Earth with a static over all history.
  • During the early part of this period there was a considerable amount of activity by scriptural geologists who attempted to reconcile Genesis and geology.
the modern period from 1850 to the present
The modern period: From 1850 to the present
  • The great debate was won by the uniformitarians, so much so that the degree of gradualism was overstated and the importance of catastrophes was unduly minimized.
  • The modern period has been marked by an enormous expansion of the detailed knowledge of the geological history of the Earth and the processes that have acted during that history
postulations on the age of the earth
Postulations on the age of the Earth
  • In 1640 Ussher produced his famous calculation that the Earth was created in 4004 BCE
  • In the 1700's belief in a 6000 year old Earth crumbled.
  • Attempts to calculate the age of the Earth from physical considerations yielded estimates that ranged from 75,000 years (Buffon, 1774) to several billion years (de Maillet, Buffon).
  • By the early 1800's it was generally accepted that the Earth had a long history. Its age, however, was scarcely settled.
  • The uniformatarians (Hutton 1788, Lyell 1830) pictured the Earth as being indefinitely old
the age of the earth
The Age of the Earth
  • The catastrophists (Cuvier 1812, de Beaumont 1852, Buckland 1836) accepted that the Earth was old; they disagreed with the kind of change and the rate of change that had occurred over that long history.
  • There was no single estimate of the Earth's age in the mid 1800's and no good way to arrive at one.
  • There were various attempts to estimate the Earth's age, working back from sedimentation rates and other geophysical phenomena. The attempts produced estimates from about 100 million years up to several billion years.
    • There were two major problems with such efforts. The first is that the geological history was still being reconstructed.
    • The second is that the rates of the physical processes in question are variable and knowledge of them was incomplete.
the age of the earth48
The Age of the Earth
  • In 1862 Kelvin estimated the age of the Earth to be 98 million years, based on a model of the rate of cooling. This was a minimum acceptable age consistent with geology. Later in 1897 he revised his estimate downwards to 20-40 million years.
  • Kelvin did not know about radioactivity and heating of the Earth's crust by radioactive decay; for this reason his estimates were completely wrong. Likewise, it wasn't until Einstein's theory of relativity was developed that there was a good explanation of how the Sun could have been shining as long as it had.
  • The first radiometric dating was done in 1905; it and subsequent measurements confirmed that the Earth was several billion years old. Currently the best estimate of the age of the Earth is 4.55 billion years
the present is the key to the past49
The Present is the Key to the Past

Uniformitarianism- James Hutton (1795)

uniform rate of geologic processes

laws of nature do not change with time

Actualism- The Present is the Key to the Past

gradualistic and catastrophic events shape geologic processes

Geologic Time

Relative Time

Sequence of Geologic Events

Absolute Time- Radiometric Dating

principles used to determine relative age
Principles Used to Determine Relative Age
  • Cross-cutting Relationships- Agricola/Lyell
    • Truncated units (dikes and faults)
  • Original Horizontality- Nicolas Steno
    • Progressively younger from bottom => top
  • Lateral Continuity-Steno
  • Superposition-Steno
principles used to determine relative age53
Principles Used to Determine Relative Age
  • Other Time Relationships
    • Contact Metamorphism
    • Inclusions
  • Physical Continuity of Lithologic Units
  • Similarity of Rock Types
  • Superposition
  • Correlation by Fossils
    • Principle of Faunal Succession
    • Index Fossil
    • Fossil Assemblage

Time-Rock Units- rocks formed during a particular time (lower, middle, upper)Time Units- defined by distinctive changes in fossils (Early, Middle, Late)

  • Eonothem
    • Erathem
      • System- Rocks deposited during a particular period
        • Series
          • Stage
  • Eons
    • Eras- Major changes in life forms
      • Periods
        • Epochs
          • Age
geologic time61
Geologic Time
  • EONTwo or more geological eras form an Eon, which is the largest division of geologic time, lasting many hundreds of millions of years
  • ERATwo or more geological periods comprise an era, which is hundreds of millions of years in duration
PERIODThe period is the basic unit of geological time in which a single type of rock system is formed, lasting tens of millions of years.
  • EPOCHAn epoch is a division of a geologic period; it is the smallest division of geologic time, lasting several million years
  • AGEAn age is a unit of geological time which is distinguished by some feature (like an Ice Age). An age is shorter than epoch, usually lasting from a few million years to about a hundred million years
rock units necessary for geologic mapping
Rock Units- necessary for geologic mapping
  • Group
    • Formation- mappable rock unit, similarity of lithology
      • Member
        • Bed
  • Large enough to show on a map
  • Distinctive from neighboring rock units
  • Named after geographic locations
    • Separation between 2 distinct rock units
    • Sedimentary contact
    • Other contacts


A) Angular Unconformity

B) Nonconformity

C) Disconformity

  • The study of layers of sedimentary rocks
  • The study of rocks--lithostratigraphy
  • The study of fossil content--biostratigraphy

Correlation of Lower

Cambrian rock units in

western Montana

C, B, G and A are trilobite

index fossils


Sedimentary Facies developed in the sea adjacent to a land

area. Front face shows shifting of facies through time


Sedimentation during a regression: Coarsening Upward Sequence

Walther’s Law- The vertical progression of facies will be the same as the corresponding lateral facies change


A rise or fall in sea level will affect a far greater area along

a low coastline than along coastlines composed of highlands

that rise steeply adjacent to the sea

standard geologic time scale
Standard Geologic Time Scale
  • Established in the 19th century- Developed by J. Phillips 1840 based on work bySedgwick &Murchinson
  • Based on Fossil Assemblages
  • Eons, Eras, Periods, and Epochs
    • PHANEROZOIC since 544 m.y.b.p.
      • Paleozoic Era 544-245 m.y.b.p.
      • Mesozoic Era 245-65 m.y.b.p.
      • Cenozoic Era 65 m.y.b.p.-present
        • Tertiary & Quaternary Periods
          • Recent (Holocene) Epoch last 10,000 years
  • Precambrian- All time before Paleozoic