There are numerous polystrate fossils, mostly trees, that protrude through several strata of the geologic column. Is it really possible these trees survived while being buried for millions of years?
Young earth believers appeal to polystrate fossils, especially petrified trees, as proof that the geologic column cannot represent long ages, certainly not millions of years. For example, Answers in Genesis writes:
Here's why polystrate fossils are not a major problem for evolution.
Most trees that protrude through various strata have certain things in common.
The prevailing young earth theory for these polystrate trees is that they were uprooted by the flood, then buried upright as the flood laid all the layers of the geologic column.
Besides the fact that the flood could not have laid the layers of the geologic column, the flood theory fails to explain the delicately preserved root systems found in the clay.
Who said this? Was this some scientist involved in the evolution-creationism debate?
No, it was J.W. Dawson, who wrote Acadian Geology in 1868, less than a decade after Charles Darwin wrote Origin of Species and started the evolution revolution.
Further, J.W. Dawson was a Christian, who ended his section on polystrate fossils with ...
So the occurrence of polystrate trees has been explained for 145 years. Current geologists give a similar explanation.
It is not my place to go into a long, deep explanation of these fossils. Excellent articles include the following:
In contrast to these well-referenced and educated articles—I feel obligated to be honest—creationists make blatantly incorrect, unresearched statements like this one ...
They're struggling so hard to explain polystrate tree fossils that the Wikipedia article I referenced above provides 28 references, some of them to multiple articles, explaining polystrate trees, the majority of them in peer-reviewed journals, and all of them from scientific publications. They seem mighty successful for people who are "struggling."
The easiest way for creationist "experts" to convince their listeners is to create a caricature of science that is not true, mix it in with some misquotes and outright falsehoods, then make their caricature (in debate terms, their "straw man") the object of ridicule.
The problem is, geologists have not struggled to explain polystrate fossils. The first geologist to describe and explain them had no problem doing so, and he was a Christian. He did not lean to a flood, but to a build up of sedimentation.
Along with this falsehood, CreationToday adds a misrepresentation of science. "Uniformity" does not mean absolute uniformity. Everyone who has lived through a flood, a volcano eruption, an earthquake, a hurricane, or a tsunami knows that sometimes there are drastic changes in the environment that violate the principle of uniformity. "Everyone" includes scientists.
Polystrate trees are the result of "cataclysmic" events. At least, the events are cataclysmic for the trees and plants growing near the river or marshes that produced minor floods.
No, it doesn't seem to correspond with the worldwide flood. The worldwide flood, according to creationists, washed back and forth over the earth, scouring it down to Cambrian bedrock. It then laid all the layers of the geologic column at once.
In what way does this jive with "layers formed quickly around plant and animal life before they had time to decay"? The flood would have uprooted those trees, which would have floated on top of the flood, settling only after the sediments of the geologic column had been laid.
Why do I have to point out something so obvious? There is no way any real research is being done, nor any global flood theory being seriously thought through, at least at CreationToday.org.
You will notice that the only references in their article are a creationist magazine, seminar, and book. You would think if you were going to assert that "geologists struggle to explain polystrate fossils" and "do not accept that layers formed quickly around plant and animal life," then you would go out of your way to quote some geologists as proof of this. Wouldn't you?
Geologists do accept that the polystrate fossils were quickly buried, after which the gradual accumulation of new sediments completely buried them. See the articles in the bullet list above.
The layers mentioned are not entire eras. Sometimes the multiple strata are simply coal, then various quickly deposited sediment layers. The coal comes from the plant life buried under the sediment layers during a minor flood.
You can read additional young earth arguments concerning polystrate fossils at EarthAge.org.
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