fish and the flood

Glenn Morton (
Wed, 01 Apr 1998 20:55:54 -0600

I have several questions for the young-earth
creationists. I recently compiled a database of
all the living and fossil genera of fish along
with their distribution in the geologic column.
There are 3245 living genera of fish; there are
1837 extinct genera. My sources for this
information were Robert L. Carroll, Vertebrate
Paleontology and Evolution, (New York: W. H.
Freeman and Co., 1988), pp596-612 for the
paleontological data (plus a few living genera)
and for the living genera
every attempt was made to avoid duplications
between these two sources. I give these data
sources so that anyone can perform the same
work I have and while the numbers might vary a
bit (due to errors by both of us) they aren't
going to vary by much. Here are the results:

# Fish genera # living genera # extinct genera
Recent 3245 3245 0
Pleistocene 422 408 14
Pliocene 416 372 44
Miocene 496 320 176
Oligocene 321 207 114
Eocene 398 157 241
Paleocene 124 53 71
Cretaceous 340 38 302
Jurassic 146 5 141
Triassic 175 0 175
Permian 86 0 86
Pennsylvanian 106 0 106
Mississippian 163 0 163
Devonian 524 0 524
Silurian 57 0 57
Ordovician 5 0 5
Cambrian 1 0 1

Oldest period
then select fishbase option from this page

The numbers in the table will not add up to the
5082 genera cited in the above table because
some of the genera live through numerous of the
geologic periods.

What is fascinating are the implications which
can be gleaned from the distribution of the
fish throughout the geologic column. I need to
make a couple of remarks about the geologic
column. First, it does exist in its entirety
in over 20 different places around the earth
(contrary to young-earth creationist claims).
I would refer you to my web page article "The
Entire Geologic Column in North Dakota".
Secondly, one rule is true in geology (and it
was set up by a man who believed in Noah's
flood) that the highest rock layer is the
youngest and the oldest is the deepest. This
relative age is a logical necessity which
follows from the fact that sediments land on
the ocean bottom coming only from above and not
from below. This means that even if the
sediments were deposited by Noah's flood, the
deepest sediment was part of the early flood
and the last layer was deposited at the end of
Noah's flood.
Given this, the question now comes about
as to why only 408 out of the 3245 living
genera of fish have ANY fossil record at all?
If they were in the ocean at the time of the
flood there are two reasons why SOME of the
modern fish should be found in the early flood
sediments. First, fish have a limited lifespan.
Most fish live less than 10 years with a few,
like the hallibut living 30 years. This means
that in the preflood population there would be
a significant fraction of old fish, ready to
pass on to their reward. If there were 10
billion halibut, 330 million of them would be
expected to die from old age during the flood.
So during the flood year, normal mortality
should have claimed some of the modern fish and
the flood should have then buried and
fossilized them. Secondly, due to the extreme
tubulence of this global cataclysm, some of the
fish should have been bonked on the head with
rocks, boulders or just simply buried. Yet, as
you can see from the above distribution, not a
single genera of modern fish is found prior to
the Jurassic period. Where were the 3245 modern
genera of fish in the early part of the flood?
Simply put, their absence is remarkable and
clearly contradicts the predictions of the
global flood.
I want to emphasize that the oldest living
genera in the Jurassic do not contain any
living SPECIES of fish. The oldest fossil
example of a living species of fish is that of
a shark which is based upon the occurrence of
shark teeth (supposedly diagnostic of each
species) and that would show that the oldest
living species is an Elfin shark from the Upper
Cretaceous. (see~J.R. Norman, A History of
Fishes, (New York: A. A. Wyn, 1949), p. 124)
How can a global flood advocate respond to
the above distribution of fossil fish in the
flood sediments? They could say that the fossil
record is incomplete. They could say that the
modern fish lived in different habitats from
those which were buried earlier in the flood.
Or they could say that God created new life
after the flood. We will examine these
possibilities one by one.
Could the fossil record be incomplete?
Well, it is, but young-earth creationists often
criticise evolutionists for making that claim.
Gish wrote: "Sampling of the fossil record has
now been so thorough that appeals to the
imperfections in the record are no longer
valid." Duane Gish, Evolution: The Challenge of
the Fossil Record, (El Cajon: Master
Books,1985), p. 42 (Gish makes the identical
statement in Evolution: the Fossils say NO! p.

Huse states:

"In time he [Darwin] argued, these connecting
links would be found and the critical gaps
filled. This convenient excuse, however, no
longer offers any refuge for evolutionists."
Scott M. Huse, "The Collapse of Evolution,"
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), p. 42

So, if the fossil record is complete, then
WHERE are the modern fish?

Could the modern fish have lived in a different
habitat? Whitcomb and Morris would imply this
is one of the main reasons that fish are not
found with other animals (Henry M. Morris,
Creation and the Modern Christian, (El Cajon,
California: Master Book Publishers, 1985), p.
249). Whitcomb and Morris also state that the
preflood sea bottoms should have been the first
to be buried in the flood followed by the
marine environment. So why are the early flood
sediments devoid of modern species and genera
PREFLOOD OCEAN! This obviously presents
difficulties to the global flood concept.

Could God have created the new life after the
flood? Yes, of course God could have. Of
course this would be adding to the Scripture
which is warned against in Galatians and
Revelations. In other words, there is no
evidence from Scripture that God engaged in a
massive creation event after the flood.

Fish are not the only group presenting this
challenge to the young-earth view point. The
Mammalian distribution is as follows:

As one goes back into the past, there are fewer
and fewer living species found as fossils. The
data is as follows:

Recent 4631 species
Pleistocene 282
Pliocene 67
Miocene 2

The two living species found in the Miocene are
the carnivore Callorhinus ursinus and the bat,
Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum.

The final implication of the data is that other
than these (aggregate 282 species), ALL species
found in the fossil record are different from
those living today. The number of extinct
species found in the various epochs of the
Tertiary are:

Pleistocene 786
Pliocene 1119
Miocene 2988
Oligocene 1282
Eocene 1819
Paleocene 604

The average species is only found in one of
these epochs. This implies that the fauna
almost entirely turns over with the passing of
each epoch. This is another difficulty for the
global flood--explaining why different forms
are deposited in the various layers, inspite of
the fact that most ecozones are represented in
each epoch.

On the genus level the numbers of members of
extant mammalian genera in the various
geological epochs is:

Triassic there are 4 genera--no living members
Jurassic 43 genera-no living members
Cretaceous 36 genera-no living members
Paleocene 213 genera-no living members
Eocene 569 genera-3 extant genera
Oligocene 494 genera 11 extant genera
Miocene 749 genera 57 extant genera
Pliocene 762 genera 133 extant genera
Pleistocene 830 genera 417 extant genera

So, as far as I can see, there is no
explanation for this data within the typical
creationist interpretive scheme. My questions
for young-earth creationists are these:

What would you tell a student who comes to you
and asks how you explain this data?

Why do you think it is that Christian
apologists never mention paleontological data
at this level of detail?
(and if one wants to complain about my use of
the word 'never' then please tell me where the
distribution of the genera of fish are
discussed in a young-earth creationist paper)

How do you explain the data within a young-
earth creationist framework?


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