Re: Coal and theYEC position

Bill Payne (
Sun, 12 Apr 1998 20:34:09 -0600

04 Apr 1998 11:32:25 -0600, Glenn Morton wrote:

> No, it really doesn't because when the peat is covered by sand or some other
> lithology, the stumps can often be processed into coal just like the rest of
> the organic matter is.

I know that, and what I'm saying is that the stumps are rare - almost
*never* found in the coal seams themselves. If coal is a swamp deposit,
it should be riddled with stumps and roots. Coal seams do display a
great amount of fine detail of thin-bedded structure, so if the stumps
were coalified, they would also be preserved in detail, and would
interrupt the bedding planes - even though they may be squashed to 5 or
10% of their original height. The general lack of stumps and roots and
the preservation of thin-bedding detail is a problem for your in situ
swamp model for the origin of coal, whether you will admit it or not.

> >> There is also the problem that if one is to account for the coal beds in a
> >> global flood, one must be able to account for how the peat was transported
> >> in the flood and ONLY the peat was deposited to form coal. Coal is around
> >> 70%+ carbon and this requires that the pre-flood peats NOT be mixed with
> >> sand and shale. Yet Creationists require that the global flood be violent.


> No, I am requiring the laws of physics to have been in operation. Try an
> experiment next time you have a heavy rain, no on second thought buy a bag
> of peat moss from the nursery and go down to your local creek. Dump the
> peat into the water and follow it downstream. Even in the gentle flow of
> your local creeks and rivers, the peat will not stay together. It will
> disperse. What you are suggesting is that it is possible for the global
> flood to pick up preflood peat beds, transport them enmass, and deposit them
> somewhere else. I don't find that credible.

First let me say that, whether I can provide a credible "global flood"
model or not, has no bearing on whether you can reasonably continue to
cling to a coal-from-in-situ-swamp-peat model, when the model is
unsupported by *direct* evidence to the contrary.

As I envision the process leading to the features we observe in coals, I
believe the Mt. St. Helens model of catastrophic stripping of *all*
vegetation from the land (not just peat from pre-flood swamps) is more
likely. This would produce massive floating mats of vegetation and
avoid your objections to washing peat intact from swamps to the seas.
After the initial catastrophic erosion and deposition of sediments,
waterlogged organics from floating mats of vegetation would begin to
settle to the bottom and subsequent burial, perhaps by turbidity flows,
would avoid your objection that 90% of organics decay before becoming
peat. These organics would not go through the swamp-to-peat process,
but would be buried as intact parts of plants and then go through the
peat-to-coal process, with little or no decay of the organics. IOW,
virtually 100% of the organic material would be converted to coal.

> I will admit that there are features of coals that I can't explain, but then
> it does not follow that the flood therefore is the cause and explanation.

Just because you believe the global flood to be mythological is no
reason to deny the obvious sedimentary features (deposited from water)
of coal. As far as I am concerned, we can forget, for the time being,
the implications of a global flood and just concentrate on whether coal
is an in situ swamp deposit or is a deposit formed from transported

> To be more specific, I can't and you can't explain the features of the
> Pittsburg coal seam.

You can't explain because you have a model inconsistent with the data;
to say I can't is wishful thinking on your part. :-) I've never seen
this coal seam, but Corliss' description is totally consistent with
observations I have made of Alabama and Kentucky coals, except that my
observations are on a smaller scale, so I am inclined to accept his
descriptions as accurate.

> "Given, a 'bench' or layer of good bituminous coal, of very
> uniform quality, varying in thickness from say 22 to 27 inches,
> with one or two more or less irregular slaty partings or binders
> here and there in it; and imagine such a deposit spread out over
> at least 15,000 square miles. The edges or outcroppings of this
> layer of coal reveal no signs of a beginning or of an end; in
> other words, there is nothing to indicate that this coal did not
> originally extend hundreds of miles beyond any of its existing
> limits. We will not now discuss the question. How did this
> layer of coal get where it is? But proceed at once to observe
> that it has a practically dead-level and even surface or top.
> Suppose this vast expanse of dead-level coal vegetation to be
> completely covered or sealed over by a thin layer or band of
> shale, or 'slate' as miners call it. We will suppose the
> thickness of this film of shale to be from 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch
> only. Imagine a practically unbroken 15,000+ square mile sheet
> of shale only 3/8 of an inch thick! On top of this shale-band
> let a second and equally uniform layer of the same coal as the
> thicker one below, be deposited, whose thickness is about 4
> inches---a layer of coal practically free from impurities, and,
> in every respect, similar to the rest of the seam, regarded as a
> whole. Again, on top of this 4-inch band of coal conceive a
> second layer of shale to exist, in thickness and kind just about
> the same as the shale-layer 4 inches below it. Then above this
> suppose we have a uniform bench of coal 3 to 5 feet high. Here,
> then, we have three separate and distinct benches or divisions of
> a coal-seam separated horizontally by a couple of thin, parallel-
> bedded layers of shale; or looked at in another way, we have a
> say, 15,000 square mile 4-inch band of excellent coal sandwiched
> between two very thin, but remarkably persistent layers of what
> is presumably hardened mud, these again being enclosed by thicker
> layers of the same kind of coal. Now, the foregoing is in
> reality a description of what actually occurs in nature; it is
> the lower or workable division of the 'great Pittsburgh bed.'
> These two 'slate-binders' seem to be so remarkable as regards
> their geographical extent, uniformity in effort ought to be made
> to explain: 1---What they are or signify; 2---How they got there;
> and, 3---Whence they came,---three questions, so far as I know,
> not at all satisfactorily answered, and much less easy of
> solution than at first sight appears. My wish in this connection
> is that this paper may stir up sufficient interest in this matter
> to lead to further extended, and closer observation; and such a
> detailed study of the Pittsburgh bed as it (a typical one) surely
> deserves and ought to receive at the hands of all local
> geologists and men capable of doing useful work on it. Of
> course, the question of the origin and formation of the shale-
> bands in the coal opens up that of the whole question of the
> formation of coal-seams, for the bands are part and parcel of the
> seam; the two substances (coal and shale) cannot be considered
> separately."~W. S. Gresley, "The 'Slate Binders' of the
> 'Pittsburgh' Coal-bed," American Geologist, 14:(1894), p. 356-357
> cited in William R. Corliss, Unknown Earth: A Handbook of
> Geological Enigmas, (Glen Arm, MD: The Source Book Project,
> 1980), p. 155-156.
> How do you explain the remarkable uniformity of thickness within a global flood?

This uniformity of thicknesses can *only* (as far as I can see) be
explained in the context of water-transported processes. And since coal
with these same features underlies much (perhaps half before erosion
removed some coal deposits) of the U.S., and since coal is found on
every continent, then this process for the Pittsburg coal does have
global implications. As I currently envision what happened, vegetation
was stripped from the continents by massive waves of water. The
mechanics of what caused this flooding are speculative, but one scenario
would involve a comet, which I understand can be 50% water, striking the
earth. The water from the comet would vaporize in the atmosphere and
then fall as rain/snow/hail. If the rock portions of the comet hit the
oceans, this would create tsunamis which might wash over the continents,
and would also cast major loads of water up into the atmosphere.

Regardless of how the floating mat of vegetation came to be, it
eventually floated, in this case, over the Pittsburg area, and rained
organics down on the sea floor. During this process, turbidity currents
of soft sediment, perhaps dislodged by earthquakes, mixed with seawater,
flowed out across the organic-covered sea floor and deposited planar
layers of silt which later became the shale interbeds described above by
Corliss. So we see that the entire process to form the coal seams and
the shale interbeds fits nicely within a single, relatively short-term,
sedimentary process.

The only reason the swamp model of coal formation persists is because of
the over-riding influence of the paradigm of long ages and long, slow
processes such as we see today. Thus clear, direct evidence is
sidelined as insignificant in light of the broader theory. It is my
contention that, in this case at least, the broader theory is
fundamentally flawed.

Glenn has said that the reason he believes the flood was local is
because there is no evidence of a world-wide flood. I would say that
the world-wide occurrence of water-borne organics now preserved in coal
seams, all found in the same general section of the geologic column, is
suggestive of concurrent, global flooding.

I know that there are problems with this global-flood model, such as the
fish series cited by Glenn. But, rather than dismiss what I have said
about coal by spraying the air with all of the problems, let's stay on
target for a bit and discuss various interpretations of the direct
evidence for the origin of coal.

Bill Payne