Re: [asa] geological dating

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Tue Oct 20 2009 - 03:45:37 EDT

Hmmm. I think I may have violated some fundamental principle of debating here. If one is in the space of unverifiable hypotheses and agrees to debate a topic involving one such unverifiable hypothesis, one is not allowed subsequently to change the nature of said hypothesis by going outside that space and claiming that the hypothesis is something else in the real world. Instead, one must stay inside the bounds of the space of unverifiable hypotheses and marshal arguments (or not) there. So please disregard everything that follows, "That goes for my initial post as well."


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Don Winterstein<>
  To: asa<>
  Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 10:40 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] geological dating

  Well, maybe I should say one more thing on this. I wrote, "If you have organisms coming into and passing out of existence in the order we observe, you have evolution, whether or not it all happened by special creation."

  First of all, I was indeed thinking of "evolution" in a more general sense than you. That goes for my initial post as well. But even in terms of ToE, the reason it would be evolution even if it all happened by special creation is that, given what we can observe, no human could tell that special creation was going on. That's exactly one of the big problems people have now: If God were actively designing every organism as it was put into existence, how could (can) anyone tell? So from the human point of view it's evolution even if it's special creation. And not even geologists possess the divine point of view.

  You yourself acknowledge there'd be no detectable difference. So how it happened is academic. What's important is how it appeared to happen. And you yourself acknowledge that it appears to be common descent.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Don Winterstein<>
    To: asa<>
    Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 9:22 PM
    Subject: Re: [asa] geological dating

    We're even: I missed your points and you missed mine. We'll have to talk past one another again sometime.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: skrogh<>
      To: asa<>
      Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 10:02 AM
      Subject: RE: [asa] geological dating

        -----Original Message-----
        From:<> []On Behalf Of Don Winterstein
        Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 2:40 AM
        To: asa
        Subject: Re: [asa] geological dating

        Evolution doesn't necessarily imply common descent. If you have organisms coming into and passing out of existence in the order we observe, you have evolution, whether or not it all happened by special creation.
      No. If it is by special creation, it is not Evolution as in the ToE. Are you using evolution in the broadest of senses, as in just change of an assemblage. Then we are talking two different types of evolution.
         No one can say in detail what God's role was in this evolution we know, and it's possible that he caused much to happen that would not have happened without his special action. So indeed every organism could be a special creation in some sense.


        [Science cannot legitimately say that the biotic world is not an infinitude of special creations, but it would be in complete violation of its methods and principles to say that it is. The role of scientists is to see how far they can go in explaining things without invoking special creations and creator(s).]

        In any case the utility of index fossils is evidence for evolution and would be inconceivable without evolution.

      No. If God specially created them in that order, involving no evolution (think ToE), you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Even as a Geologist I can understand that. Kurt Wise, a creationist geologist understands this as well, and struggles with it. I acknowledges that it certainly looks like evolution occurred but just won't bring himself to believe it is real. The index-ness would still be the same.

        The possibility of special creations opens the possibility of kinds of order that are radically different from the one we observe.

      Again, only if God specifically created them in the order that we see. Of course, the order sure looks as if evolution (common decent) certainly occurred, of course that is all we Geologists can go on, observations. And with those observation, we have no scientific reasons to conclude otherwise.
        If the actual order had organisms oscillating between emergence and extinction, then of course there would likely be no useful index fossils.

      Who said anything about "oscillating?" Is that an inherent property of special creation? The "special creation" I am referring to is not specific to Flood Geology where index fossils would not exist - Kingina would be found everywhere. Rather, millions of creation events through Geologic time, that is espoused by OECs. So if God created Kingina only during the deposition of the Georgetown Formation, it would only be found in the Georgetown Formation of the Cretaceous, without any regards to evolution (ToE) even occurring. This would be a creation the likes that Hugh Ross promotes, a progressive creationism.

         An oscillating biosphere would constitute a whole other kind of evolution. The utility of index fossils depends on a particular kind of evolution, namely, monotonic--the kind we have.

        [It's not obvious--and in fact curious--why an omnipotent, omniscient creator would choose this monotonic approach out of all available possibilities.]

        As for age range, index fossils can only indicate an upper limit of age. It's always possible that index fossils will turn up in formations younger than the formations where they first appeared, even if their organisms quickly went extinct: Sedimentary rocks can be "reworked."

      Indeed, and the lithology would reflect that. That is irrelevant to my post.

        Trilobites from Cambrian to Permian did not constitute a single index. There's great variation among the 17000 known species of trilobites--as also among brachiopods. Not all lived at the same time.

      While I did not spell it out, I figured it would have been understood. I guess I shouldn't have done that. If trilobites are considered as some kind of index, it would not be a species index, but rather a Class index. That is all I was saying. As a Class index, the range of the entire Class Trilobita occurs within the boundaries of C-P, since no observations of a member of that class has been observed beyond that far. Should any (in situ or undisturbed) - observations fall outside that range, the index range is expanded. Again, this has nothing to do with evolution. That's all. This isn't hard.

      Is that any clearer?


      You missed the point of that comment and pretty much my entire post. On some points you think you are being contrary yet saying the same thing or going on about irrelevant points. A handy reference to have in your library when the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology is not available is Invertebrate Fossils - Moore - Lalicker - Fischer -1952.
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: skrogh<>
          To: asa<>
          Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 8:21 AM
          Subject: RE: [asa] geological dating

          Sure you would. Even if evolution (common descent) didn't exist, and it was all individual little creation events that brought the life forms into being in a certain observed order, it wouldn't change the "index-ness." This is getting the kart before the horse. Without evolution, you would still be able to say this. What you wouldn't be able to say is that fossil x could have developed from a certain lineage. Since index fossils do indeed exist, it doesn't matter. Index fossils are only reliable in relative dating until that fossil is found outside it's former range, and only tentative. I did a study on the very unassuming brachiopod Kingena wacoensis, which was later named Waconella wacoensis. This brach was only considered an index fossil because its high reliability in what formation it just happened to be observed (Georgetown Formation of the Cretaceous) and it has never been observed outside of this formation. The idea of common descent has no bearing on it being an index fossil, only that it has never been observed outside of the Georgetown Formation. If it is observed outside the formation, the formation wouldn't be expanded to include the fossil, but rather the age range of the fossil would be expanded to accommodate the new find and it would simply no longer be considered an index fossil for a specific formation. It may be considered an index like trilobites which spans from Cambrian to Permian.

           -----Original Message-----
          From: []On Behalf Of Don Winterstein
          Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:03 AM
          To: asa
          Subject: Re: [asa] geological dating

            "evolution is not integral to the dating...."

            Index fossils are widely used for relative dating of rocks, so in that sense evolution is integral to such dating. That is, if you find fossil x, you know that the formation is no older than the time at which fossil x first appeared. Without evolution you wouldn't be able to say this.


              ----- Original Message -----
              From: David Campbell<>
              Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 10:08 AM
              Subject: Re: [asa] geological dating

              A couple of minor caveats:

              In addition to 14C, there are some fossils containing radioisotopes
              that can be used for dating. For example, corals often contain enough
              thorium to date, and various types of replacement may involve
              radioactive elements , e.g., the often uranium-rich dinosaur bones in
              parts of the western U.S. or glauconitic molds of marine organisms
              (though of course, the date will reflect when the replacement
              occurred, not the original organism, and glauconite has a number of

              However, in general an igneous rock is the best for radiometric
              dating. (A metamorphic high-pressure carbon isomorph might do better
              for some other dating). Obtain dates on several different minerals
              and isotopes from a single rock, and you've got a very
              well-constrained age, with the caveat that a given rock may
              crystallize slowly. A volcanic ash layer associated with fossils is
              thus about the best-case scenario for dating.

              All sorts of long-term trends or variations can provide relative dates
              and then be calibrated with radiometric dates. These include, among
              others, changes in stable isotope ratios, magnetic reversals,
              Milankovitch cycle-related changes, impact layers, and evolution. The
              evolution is not integral to the dating; it just is the explanation
              for why you see change in organisms over time and can therefore be
              confident that, e.g., a layer with Chesapecten jeffersonius is older
              than a layer with low rib count Chesapecten madisonius, which is older
              than normal Chesapecten madisonius, just as we know that an undated
              scrap of paper that identified Jefferson as the current president
              would be older than one citing Madison as the current president.

              Dr. David Campbell
              425 Scientific Collections
              University of Alabama
              "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"

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Received on Tue Oct 20 03:46:06 2009

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