Re: Walter Brown Jr. Video

Steven Schimmrich (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 15:20:24 -0500

At 07:22 AM 3/25/98 -0600, Bill Payne wrote (continuing our discussion):

>>> I don't understand your use of the word "apparently", vertical tree
>>> trunks really do penetrate multiple layers of horizontal sand, shale,
>>> and underclay (beneath coal seams).
>> I meant nothing judgemental by the term "apparently" -- I was simply
>> stating that this is what they appeared to do. I was just trying to be
>> careful to distinguish between an observation and the interpretation of
>> that observation.
> We agree that this distinction is critically important. In this case,
> however, it appears to me that you have subtlely, and probably
> subconciously, shifted what is an observation over into the less certain
> category of an interpretation.

We'll agree to disagree on that term.

>> Whenever a young-earth creationists cites a paper in the geologic
>> literature as supporting their position, I always read the paper and
>> then look at the next few issues because, almost invariably, there's
>> a Discussion and Reply in a couple of months. Here they are:
>> I'm not sure who to blame, Austin for not having this reference in his
>> database, or you for not reporting this reference in his database. Either
>> way shows someone is trying to present a biased case for allochthonous
>> origin.
> I'll gladly accept blame if I have committed an error. In this case, I
> was unaware of the additional references you cited; I appreciate the
> info and will eventually get copies of them and study them. If I were
> to defend Steve in this case, I would say he probably had a massive
> project in assimilating the database in his CatastroRef, and didn't have
> the time to include the refinements you and others have pointed out.
> Also, he may have intentionally reflected a bias to couterbalance the
> bias some of us see in the way origins is presented in schools.

It's easy to forgive someone for missing the reference but I would think
very little of someone who intentionally left it out since that smacks of
dishonesty to me.

>> It's clear from examining these papers that Rupke's conclusions were very
>> controversial and are, in fact, not accepted by a majority of geologists
>> familiar with this area.
> That's almost verbatim the criticism I've received regarding my personal
> allochthonous interpretation of Alabama coal. And this is an important
> point: our overarching paradigm strongly influences what we see when we
> collect data - to the point of causing us to reach opposite conclusions
> about the origin of geologic formations. I can't speak yet to the
> Joggins trees, but in my own experience the overwhelming thrust of the
> data in Alabama supports allochthonous coal. Yet the majority opinion
> of "geologists familiar with this area" is that coal is autochthonous.

I fail to see what "overarching paradigm" would have mainstream geologists
refuse to accept that the trees at Joggins are allochthonous. You seem to
imply some massive conspiracy here. Maybe you're being criticized, not because
of some massive pig-headed conspiracy by close-minded scientists, but because
you haven't presented compelling evidence which indicates otherwise.

Just curious, have you published any of your investigations into Alabama coal?

>> Ferguson disputed all four pieces of evidence
>> cited by Rupke and concluded that Rupke's case for allochthony is weak.
>> Ferguson wrote (p. 2531):
>> This paper also refers to the work done by Dawson and describes Sigillaria
>> as being preserved in situ. This is still the prevailing view of the fossils
>> found here and this interpretation is not as hotly debated as you would like
>> people to believe. Can you cite workers other than Rupke who hold to an
>> allochthonous origin for these fossils?

Then it is a real minority opinion. Perhaps there's reason for this?

>> Just because polystrate fossils in one area are allochthonous, it doesn't
>> mean that all polystrate fossils are allochthonous. That's faulty reasoning.
>I agree.

Well, it's good we agree somewhere :).

>> Every site has to be examined closely. I am not familiar with the fossils
>> you're referring to in Alabama so I'm not going to comment on their origin.
> Rats!


>> The interpretation I cited is not only due to the presence of the fossils
>> but other pieces of evidence including terrestrial vertebrate body and trace
>> fossils, invertebrate body and trace fossils, anastomosing channel sandstones,
>> sheet sandstone crevasse splay deposits, coals, etc (I refer the reader to
>> Gibling, 1987 cited above).
> I believe all of these features could be incorporated into an allochthonous
> deposit.

And almost everyone else disagrees with you. Perhaps young-earth creationist
should initiate rigorous field research projects, publishing their results in
peer-reviewed scientific journals, which present compelling evidence that the
fossils at Joggins were deposited allochthonously. Why would geologists not
accept this? There's no conspiracy here. There's no reason whatsoever for most
geologists to really care one way or the other because you're not talking about
any sort of major paradigm shift. Geologists believe the fossils at Joggins are
in situ because that's what the evidence seems to indicate and those who've argued
against this (Rupke) haven't presented compelling-enough counterarguments. That's
how science works.

>> One must consider all of the paleontological and lithological evidence when
>> interpreting an area. You mentioned Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens earlier
>> as a locality where polystrate fossils might be forming. I'd like everyone
>> to keep in mind that this area in Joggins, Nova Scotia during the Carboniferous
>> was nothing at all like Spirit Lake is today and anyone who claims it was
>> (Austin?) is presenting a faulty analogy.
> As far as the polystrate trees go, the analogy is faulty only if Joggins
> is autochthonous.

No, I believe that's not true. These are two very different environments of
deposition. Spirit Lake was formed as the result of a volcanic eruption. Joggins
appears to represent an anastomosing river channel subjected to periodic flooding.

>> Sure, these Sigillaria might not be in situ. So what?
> SO WHAT? So everything you've said above is incorrect.

Personally, I don't really care if the trees are in situ or not. As I've said
before, it's a small issue that has very little bearing on the environment of
deposition there. No one arguing for allochthony (like Rupke) is reinterpreting
the environment of deposition (an anastomosing river channel subjected to periodic

>> It's the same argument I use when arguing with Art Chadwick. Even if the
>> argument you're making is true, it doesn't help you in your support of the
>> idea of a global flood.
> We weren't discussing evidence for a global flood, only the origin of
> specific outcrops.

Come, come, let's not be coy now Bill. Shall I dig up the references from
young-earth creationists who HAVE argued that polystrate fossils are indeed
evidence for a global flood. I'd be happy to post them.

>> I would also like to note that, if anything, this little piece or real estate
>> in Nova Scotia argues very forcefully against a single global flood since it
>> records not one, but many flooding events burying several generations of trees
>> within a relatively small slice of geologic time (the Carboniferous Period).
>> In between the strata here, one also finds evidence of plants and animals living
>> and dying perfectly compatible with the standard geologic interpretation of this
>> area.
> I think it was Glenn Morton who recently debated Art Chadwick re. the
> origin of the Coconino Sandstone in the Southwest and the vertical
> pertified trees in Specimen Ridge of Yellowstone Park. Glenn's
> arguments sounded very much like yours here, yet, IMO, Art successfully
> rebutted Glenn. The main thrust of Art's logic, as I recall, was that
> he has spent his career re-examining outcrops previously interpreted
> within the conventional uniformitarian viewpoint, and found that in
> many, if not all, cases the conclusions were not supported by the data.
> The Coconino is a submarine deposit, not subaerial, and the Specimen
> Ridge trees were floated into their present position by water (similar
> to the vertical trees which have floated to the bottom of Spirit Lake at
> Mt. St. Helens).

Art and others have failed, however, to convince anyone else (except those
who view such reinterpretations as support for a belief in a global flood).
I still contend that the Coconino is terrestrial, not submarine, and the trees
at Yellowstone were not floated to the bottom of a lake. Virtually all geologists
agree with me. Now don't go claiming that the majority isn't always correct, I
know that, but if one wants to reinterprete the geology of an area, one has to
present compelling evidence in peer-reviewed scientific journals and I haven't
seen this done in any of these cases. Instead I see people running around and
giving talks to non-geologists in churches stating that these polystrate fossils
or the Coconino Sandstone support their idea of a global flood (and I can provide
references of people and organizations that do so). Many young-earth creationists
want to settle geological questions like this by popular vote and not by rigorous
research in the field and laboratory.

>> I examine the claims of young-earth creationism and have, thus far, always
>> been disappointed.
> The issue of allochthonous or autochthonous coal is neither a YEC nor a
> global flood issue - it is simply the interpretation of empirical data
> from specified outcrops.

OK, I'll accept that you didn't argue that this was evidence for a global
flood. But I still contend that many young-earth creationists have claimed in
print that these areas are indeed evidence for a global flood. Can you honestly
say that you do not consider these examples to support an idea of a global flood?
Isn't that why you're interested in these examples? Be truthful.

> Thank you again for the references, Steven; I appreciate your input.

I enjoy discussing these issues as well even though I disagree.

- Steve.

   Steven H. Schimmrich
   Physical Sciences Department (office)
   Kutztown University      (home)
   217 Grim Science Building         610-683-4437, 610-683-1352 (fax)
   Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530