Re: coal again! (was asteroids and energy)

Bill Payne (
Thu, 18 Mar 1999 22:34:55 -0600

On Fri, 19 Mar 1999 07:26:23 +1100 Jonathan Clarke
<> writes:

>"Backed Glenn Morton into admitting"? Now there would be an
achievement! I
>recall things differently however. One would have to go through the
>to test whose memory is correct.

Hi Jonathan,

Thought you'd never ask. :-) This isn't exactly what I'd remembered
(there's another post somewhere in addition to this but I can't find it
now), but it's close (from the ASA archives, Re: Coal and the YEC
position, Mon, 20 Apr 1998 22:37:05 -0600):

Glenn: > As to the Pittsburg Coal I have already admitted that I can't
really explain
> the lack of tree trunks other than possibly as being due to the fact
> there were no trees going into the formatio of that coal. And if
vitrine is
> available from other sources as grass, then the Pittsburg coal seam
> have gotten its vitrine and carbon from those plants.

[In a later post, Glenn was reminded by someone that grasses didn't
evolve until later, during the Cretaceous]

Bill: I see your point. What I'm trying to emphasize is that the shale
interbeds would seem to require subaqueous deposition, and therefore the
entire coal sequence is subaqueous.

Glenn: > Fine, Bill, even if the Pittsburg Coal was from a subaqueous
environment and
> a floating mat, does that really prove the global flood? No. It is
> consistent with the flood but provides no proof of a global flood.

Bill: I guess that's about as close as we'll ever get to seeing you
admit that
the Pittsburg Coal is a subaqueous (allochthonous) deposit. :-)

>I recall that you were "backed into a corner" over rootlets beneath
coal. No doubt you >recall that differently as well.

Maybe not. I don't have a clear recollection of the rootlets discussion,
but I have recently come to recognize what the rootlets actually look
like, and yes, there are rootlets beneath most coals, including the coals
at the construction site where I got the big stump (but the rootlets are
not connected to stumps and are what I would term as "juvenile" - they're
not big enough to support 30 meter tall trees, and they appear to be 1st
generation, not what I would expect to see in a swamp paleosol which
supported trees for thousands of years). I have reversed my position
from last year over the presence of rootlets.

>Careful of allegations of smugness. The real reasons might be quite

You're right; I was on my high horse last night. My apologies.

>This means addressing the real core issues. So let me ask you a
>What is the real reason you reject the overwhelming majority opinion of
>profession? Is it the evidence?

I freely admit to being very sympathetic to the YEC position (although
that's not the hill I would want to live or die over), so I do approach
the data with a different view than I used to as an agnostic
evolutionist, and yes, I do look for data that supports the YEC position.
Having said that, I still maintain that the evidence of coal seams makes
a more comfortable fit with the "Floating Mat" model than the "Swamp"

>Is it because to do so would undermine your faith? Or something else?

No, it would strain credulity. My recollection, posted last night, of
the description of the Pittsburg Coal seam was not accurate. Here is
Glenn's original quote (from the ASA archive, Sat, 04 Apr 1998 11:32:25
-0600, Re: Coal and the YEC position):

[Glenn wrote] To be more specific, I can't and you can't explain the
features of the
Pittsburg coal seam.

"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? [end of Glenn's quote]

I maintain that the Pittsburg can be explained only within the Floating
Mat model, and cannot be explained as a swamp deposit. If anyone
disagrees with me on this, then I would like to hear the explanation. I
don't want to rehash the same discussion we've already had, but I have
yet to hear a rational explanation for these questions I am raising.
Glenn Morton certainly never came up with one for the Pittsburg Coal.

>I have seen stumps in coal in the Eocene and Miocene lignites of Western
>Australia and Victoria, respectively. So they do exist, although are
not very common.

I would actually expect to find stumps in coal within the Floating Mat
model, so the rare occurrence doesn;t surprise me, it's just that I have
never actually seen any stumps in coal. Above and below coal seams, yes,
but never in the coal.

>Interestingly, studies of modern peat mounds and the ecological
>succusion of ancient ones shows that the climax community of such
>bogs (wonderful word!) is often dominated by mosses, with few trees.
>forest" occurs only in the the early stages of development.

If you are suggesting that model for the eastern US Carboniferous coals,
then microscopic examination should reveal the transition from "swamp
forest" to "ombrogenous bogs". I don't know (maybe others such as James
Mahafee do), but I suspect this is not the case - which may be another
indication that Carboniferous coals are not swamp deposits.

Darn data. :-)

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