Re: Coconino - Evidence for a flood?

Steven Schimmrich (schimmrich@earthlink.net)
Fri, 20 Feb 1998 13:13:23 -0500

At 09:02 AM 2/20/98 -0800, Arthur V. Chadwick wrote:
>
> Dismissing for the moment your ad hominem arguments (I thought better of
> you!),

I stand by my mentioning Brand's apparent religious background as relevent.
Everything I've read about Seventh-Day Adventism has stated that a belief in
a six-day creation and a belief in a flood is required - they are "fundamental
beliefs" which may be read at http://www.sda.org/pages/main_belief.html.

Do you deny this? Am I incorrect in my understanding of these doctrines?

How can such beliefs not be relevent when studying geology? My religious
beliefs do not REQUIRE me to believe in a global flood. Either a flood or no
flood is fine with me and the pastor of my church and my denominational
affiliation. I really don't believe I have a vested interest in either scenario.

As a Seventh-Day Adventist, can you say the same? Or are you free to ignore
these statements of "fundamental beliefs" if the geological evidence leads you
elsewhere?

> It will always be possible to interpret the trackways or anything
> else as something other than what the preponderance of the evidence
> suggests, particularly in the area of earth history. And you could
> be right.

The literature on the Coconino suggests that the preponderance of
evidence - sedimentological and paleontological - is on it being eolian.
Brand is basing his conclusion of subaqueous deposition on one single
type of trackway of the many found in this unit. Brand himself admits
in print that the tracks could have formed in damp sand rather than
subaqueously (Brand, L.R. 1996. Variations in salamander trackways resulting
from substrate differences. Journal of Paleontology 70, 1004-1010).

We should fully consider all possible hypotheses for the development of
these tracks and I'm not convinced that Brand has shown the competing eolian
hypothesis to be incorrect. One also can not consider the tracks in an
intellectual vacuum - one must consider ALL of the sedimentological and
paleontological evidence in order to interpret the Coconino's environment
of deposition.

> Having worked with Brand in the field on occasions, I have seen
> trackways consisting only of manus imprints moving horizontally across
> the foreset slopes. I have seen (and in fact discovered) the trackway
> that floats diagonally across the slab on the North Kaibab trail.

I don't doubt that they exist and have seen the pictures of trackways
Brand includes in his papers. The interpretation of those tracks is the
issue.

> Lockley's ad hoc arguments are certainly amusing, and Brand has responded
> to them in print. If he had actually seen the trackways in question, he
> would have had to deal differently with them.

Lockey makes some good points in my opinion - especially his opening statement
that "caution must be exercised when using trackways for radical reinterpretation
of long-standing hypotheses" (Lockey, M.G. 1992. Comment and Reply on "Fossil
vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona:
Evidence for underwater origin" Geology 20:666-667).

Some comments raised by Lockey:

- Many researchers consider the tracks Brand studied to have been made by a
synapsid reptile. Brand studied newts. Do amphibians make good analogues
for synapsids adapted to arid conditions?

- Brand did not consider the possibility of "unusual or nonwalking gaits" to
explain the tracks (small lizards don't just walk, they may trot, lope, gallop,
and hop).

Loope (same issue, p. 667-668) also proposed alternative explanations for the
track patterns.

I find it interesting that in the 1991 Geology article, Brand stated that these
tracks formed underwater while in the 1996 Journal of Paleontology article I read,
Brand backed off this claim a bit and admitted they may also have formed in damp
sand. You're overstating your case if you claim, as you have, that Brand has shown
conclusively that these tracks formed subaqueously.

> You really should read Brand's book, rather than just attacking his motives.
> He is very clear about all of the concerns you have in print. And you would
> have learned that Brand is not out to "prove" anything about a global flood
> or "disprove" evolution. His motives are very clear. I hope people will
> examine their own after reading his book.

I'm not sure what you're talking about when you mention Brand's "book". In
the original post, you never gave me a reference to a book, only to papers Brand
had published in journals. I wasn't aware he wrote a book. A quick computer
search turned up:

Brand, L.R. 1997. Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and
Biological Origins by Intelligent Design. Andrews University Press.

I assume you're referring to this book. I am not one to judge a book by its
cover, and would like to read Brand's book if I can find it in a local library,
but the title gives me no reason to pull away from my earlier statements that
Brand's religious beliefs may play a significant role in how he interprets his
research data.

Look, I don't know what Brand's motives are and I never stated that he has set
out to "prove" a flood. Brand only speaks about subaqueous deposition for the
Coconino and never once mentioned a global flood in the papers I read.

YOU'RE THE ONE WHO USED BRAND'S PAPERS TO SUPPORT THE IDEA OF A GLOBAL FLOOD!

Remember how this began. I asked for references supporting a global flood and
you provided me with references to Brand's work. Steve Austin also mentions
Brand's work when he states, referring to Brand's research conclusions (Austin, S.A.
1994. Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Institute for Creation Research. P. 31),
that:

"This interpretation fits with the concept of a global flood, which
overwhelmed even four-footed reptiles and amphibians that normally spend
most of their time in the water."

Many other young-earth creationists use Brand's work to support their beliefs in
a young earth and a geologically-recent global flood. If anyone doubts this, I'd
be happy to dig up several references.

So, while I have never read any explicit statement by Brand for or against the idea
of a global flood, surely he realizes his work is referenced by many young-earth
creationists as evidence for a global flood. By not distancing himself from this,
he is lending them his tacit approval in my opinion.

By the way, how do tiny little tetrapods leave footprints in the Coconino after
thousands of feet of sediment have been deposited during a raging global flood?

- Steve.

--
   Steven H. Schimmrich              Assistant Professor of Geology

Physical Sciences Department schimmri@kutztown.edu (office) Kutztown University schimmrich@earthlink.net (home) 217 Grim Science Building 610-683-4437, 610-683-1352 (fax) Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530 http://home.earthlink.net/~schimmrich/