Precambrian Pollen

Glenn Morton (
Thu, 04 Sep 1997 22:06:26 -0500

At 11:11 PM 9/3/97, Allen Roy wrote:

>There is an interesting article on fossil pollen reportedly found in the
>Hakatai shale in Grand Canyon. it can be found at:
>This was written in reply to criticism by S.S. Tell me what you think.

I will answer a few problems I know of in this work. First, no one familiar
with pollen should be surprised that pollen is found in surface exposed
rocks. There is a veritible rain of pollen on everything. It is caught in
rain water and transported down into the crevices in the rocks. So
regardless of finding modern pollen in surficial rocks, it may not have been
there from time immemorial. It may be a recent addition to the rock a
modern contaminant. You don't even have to have a pine tree anywhere near
you to have pine pollen falling on you. Wind and water disperse the pollen
quite effectively. A palynologist friend of mine has written that he finds
modern pine pollen in his cretaceous preparations all the time.

How can one differentiate between modern and ancient pollen? My
palynologist friend sets out 3 criteria for determining the contemporaneity
of the pollen with the rock:

1 The first criteria is color. As organic matter ages, it becomes darker.
This is especially true as the rock is buried and the temperature rises. If
the pollen is clear or very light yellow then they are modern introduced
forms. Remember that the Hakatai shale has been buried by more than 7,000
feet before the erosion began removing the sediment. At such a depth of
burial the temperature would be approximately 190 deg F and the organic
matter would turn brown.

2. One must demonstrate that the Hakatai shale is not so thermally mature
(cooked) that nothing organic could have survived. With all the volcanism,
this rock is cooked. I looked up in the Lexicon of Geologic names of the
United States, and found that the Hakatai contains diabase volcanic sills.
This means that the lava intruded into the Hakatai.

3. The pollen grains should be flattened. My friend says that the pollen
grains are compressed when buried in sedimentary rocks. This is especially
true if the burial is as deep as the Hakatai was buried.

I have not seen anyone discuss these issues in the Creationist literature.
Now if John, a trained palynologist wants to correct me in any way, I will
be delighted to be corrected, since I am heavily relying on my friend.
Pollen is not very useful in the oil industry, at least the part of it I
have worked.

Now, Lest you say that the above is the conclusion of a evolutionist and
isn't to be trusted, Chadwick, in the article he published in Origins,
disagreed strongly with Burdick's original conclusion.

I quote Chadwick at length,

"In 1971 I obtained a collecting permit from the National Park
Service and accompanied C. L. Burdick to the Grand Canyon. His
previous sample localities were relocated and new samples were
collected, returned to my laboratory at Loma Linda University and
processed by C. L. Burdick using techniques similar to those he had
employed in his earlier work at the University of Arizona. On the
basis of results from these samples, Burdick (1972) published a
second paper claiming substantiation of his earlier paper. It is
unfortunate that Burdick chose to publish the results of this work
without waiting for independent confirmation. In this second
article, as in the first, he figures several objects which are not
identifiable and several pollen grains which are either modern or
of modern affinities. However, he made the claim {challenged in a
subsequent cautiously worded report (Chadwick, Debord and Fisk,
1973)} that these data supported his previous findings. In a sense
they do, in that both papers figure grains which are clearly modern
in aspect and indistinguisable from grains abundant in the present
pollen spectrum of the Grand Canyon region. However, the
conclusion that these findings support the concept of Precambrian
higher plants is a non sequitur until all cause for concern
regarding modern contamination has been eliminated. It was with
this goal in mind that the work reported herein was
undertaken."~Arthur V. Chadwick, "Precambrian Pollen in the Grand
Canyon - A Reexamination," Origins, 8:1, 1981, pp 7-8 (7-12)
"A total of fifty samples from the same strata which Burdick
had studied were processed. All slides were completely scanned.
No single example of an authentic pollen grain was obtained from
any of these samples. In fact, the slides produced from the
Hakatai Formation were in most cases completely free from any
material of biologic origin, modern or fossil."~Arthur V. Chadwick,
"Precambrian Pollen in the Grand Canyon - A Reexamination,"
Origins, 8:1, 1981, pp 8 (pp.7-12)
1) No rigorous attempt was apparently made by Burdick to evaluate
personally the modern pollen rain in the Grand Canyon. A single
sample of soil from near one of the modern collecting sites could
have completely satisfied Burdick as to the source of most of the
grains he has reported. A typical analysis of a site near where
Burdick collected his Hakatai samples yielded the following
profile: bisaccate pollen (conifers) 30%; juniper 12%; ephedra
16%; various species of angiosperms (42%) (Siegels,1971). Although
the poor quality of the photographs in the plates of Burdick's
first paper makes definite assignments impossible, one can
approximate the composition of the flora he reports. Of the grains
identifiable as pollen or spores in the two papers by Burdick
(n=18), 7 or 37% are bisaccates, 2 or 11% are possibly juniper.
Ephedra pollen constitute 11% and angiosperms and unassignable
grains 34%. Thus even with this small sample size, Burdick's grains
approximate the modern pollen rain found in surface sample in the
area of the Grand Canyon where he collected his samples."~Arthur V.
Chadwick, "Precambrian Pollen in the Grand Canyon - A
Reexamination," Origins, 8:1, 1981, pp 9-11 (pp.7-12)
"More difficulties are created than are solved by Burdick's report
since it would require the explanation of the accumulation of all
the Upper Precambrian sediments (10,000 ft.), their lithification
and subsequent erosion before the first additional fossil forms
were buried. Add to this the picture the many thousands of
macerations of lower Paleozoic and Precambrian rocks which have
been carried out in scores of laboratories around the world which
have not supported Burdick's claims. There is a general absence of
evidence for flowering plants below the middle Cretaceous. It is
a responsibility and challenge to the creationists to develop a
model of earth history which explains the absence.
"Unfortunately it is not an easy task to correct a positive
report such as Burdick's with negative data. In our hands,
application of the cardinal principle of the scientific method -
reproducibility - has failed to authenticate his record. thus the
hypothesis that the grains are authentic examples of Precambrian
pollen can only be treated with incredulity at present, even among
creationists."~Arthur V. Chadwick, "Precambrian Pollen in the Grand
Canyon - A Reexamination," Origins, 8:1, 1981, pp 11 (pp.7-12)

Chadwick took a lot of care to avoid contamination and found no precambrian
pollen. Now, consider this admission by a Creationist about Howe and
Lammerts work:

"Work by G. F. Howe, E. L. Williams, G. T. Matzko, and W. E.
Lammerts appears to confirm Burdick's earlier work. Two out of ten
preparations of Hakatai Shale were observed to contain pollen.
Pollen from pine was identified in the two preparations, which came
from either one or two rock samples of Haketai Shale. Less care
was taken than by Chadwick to avoid contamination, but the
procedure appears adequate. The sample, or samples with pollen,
were collected by chipping into three inches of solid 'unweathered'
shale."~Marcia L. Folsom, "Fossils of Grand Canyon," in Steven A.
Austin, editor, Grand Canyon: A Monument to Catastrophe, (Santee:
ICR, 1994), p.137

They admit that Chadwick did a better job of protecting against pollen

Like it or not, there is serious question, even among anti-evolutionists,
about the validity of this report.


Foundation, Fall and Flood