January 16, 2021

Mike the Geologist: On the Grand Canyon and the Flood (5)

Grand Canyon Sunrise. Photo by Casey Reynolds

Grand Canyon Sunrise. Photo by Casey Reynolds

Previous posts in the series:

• • •

The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?
By Gregg Davidson, Joel Duff, David Elliott, Tim Helble, Carol Hill, Stephen Moshier, Wayne Ranney, Ralph Stearley, Bryan Tapp, Roger Wiens, and Ken Wolgemuth.

Chapter 10 –Missing Time; Gaps in the Rock Record deals with unconformities which are time gaps between adjacent layers of rocks.

Usually an unconformity implies erosion, but not always. Figure 10-1, reproduced from the book shows the 19 unconformities recognized by geologist in the Grand Canyon and the estimated time gap they represent.  The total missing time for just the unconformities above the Great Unconformity is 190 million years.


This means that out of the total time represented from the Tapeats to the Kaibab (about 255 million years) that roughly 75% of the rock record is missing.  That is why flood geologist are so desperate to deny the presence of unconformities other than the Great Unconformity; because that would mean repeated periods of exposure and erosion in the midst of their continuous year-long flood.

The most obvious evidence of erosion is found in the Great Unconformity where titled layers abruptly terminate against overlying horizontal strata.


The only way to generate such a contact is to tilt originally horizontal layers, erode material off the top to a relatively flat surface, and then deposit new material horizontally on top.  The Great Unconformity is one that flood geologists acknowledge, and they put it at the beginning of the flood when the land supposedly was being scoured by the floodwaters.

Another obvious clue to the existence of an unconformity is the presence of channels carved out of a lower stratigraphic unit that are filled with material from an upper unit.  Scour channels in the Redwall Limestone are filled with deposits from the Surprise Canyon formation that in places are 400 feet deep.  How do you scour a 400 foot channel in SOFT sediment (hint; you don’t it has to be solid rock).


There are well known and documented paleokarst features in the Redwall Formation in the Grand Canyon.  Karst features result from the exposure of solid limestone to open-air chemical weathering and above-ground and underground water flow over prolonged time.  It is a landscape.  Karst features such as erosional surfaces, river channels, sinkholes, caverns, and collapse structures would not have time to form on soft sediment in the middle of a flood sequence.  There are unmistakable paleokarst features in the Redwall Formation, a thick limestone layer in the middle of the Paleozoic sequence of the Grand Canyon.  In other words; it was a karst landscape at one time.  The Surprise Canyon Formation, which overlies the Redwall, completely fills in the elaborate network of river channels, karst sinkholes, collapse features, and even caverns on the upper portion of the Redwall forming unconformities.  How could any of these events have occurred within the context of a single-year flood?  Such a sequence isn’t just unlikely—– IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

Chapter 11 –Plate Tectonics; Our Restless Earth is a wonderful primer on plate tectonics; the science that studies the movement of the Earth’s crust.  How do the continents form, how do mountains form?


The basic driving forces for plate tectonics are heat, gravity, and density.  The theory is that our planet’s crust is composed of relatively rigid plates that are in constant motion due to convective currents in our planet’s mantle.  The mantle is very hot and therefore is not quite liquid but not quite solid; it is plastic like putty.  Rising magma in the middle of the ocean spreads the sea floor creating new crust while colliding plates create mountains.

The Pacific Plate is moving to the northwest at a speed of between 7 and 11 centimeters (cm) or ~3-4 inches a year. The North American plate is moving to the west-southwest at about 2.3 cm (~1 inch) per year driven by the spreading center that created the Atlantic Ocean, the Mid Atlantic Ridge.  The resulting plate collision creates the famous San Andreas Fault zone.


Aerial View of the San Andreas Fault

Flood geologist claim that all the continents were jammed together in one super-continent at the start of Noah’s flood and moved into their present position within the one flood year.  But moving plates create friction; try a home plate slide across your carpet without a shirt on and see what happens- it’s not called carpet BURN for nothing.  The heat generated by such supposed movement would have boiled off most if not all the world’s oceans.  Catastrophic plate tectonics, as described by flood geologists, is physically impossible with the laws of physics as we know them.

At least 4 different tectonic episodes would have impacted the Grand Canyon.  Two occurred when the oldest rocks below the Great Unconformity were formed, and two happened after all the horizontal layers had been deposited and hardened.  The Laramide Episode, between 80 and 40 million years ago was the major tectonic event that formed the Rocky Mountains by plate collision.  The Basin and Range Episode started about 20 million years ago and was a tension event or the plates pulling apart.  Tension causes the crust to stretch apart, rift, and form rift valleys and other distinct types of faults, fractures, and folds.

Which brings us to Chapter 12 “Broken and Bent Rocks; Fractures, Faults, and Folds.”  So in the last chapter the movement of the Earth’s plates was discussed.  This movement causes earthquakes and forms mountains.  In Chapter 12 the focus is on what evidence can be seen in the fractures, folds, and faults of the Grand Canyon and how we can deduce its history from them.  The chapter explores two fundamental differences between flood geology and conventional geology.  Flood geologist insist:

  1. All deformation of rocks above the tilted Supergroup layers occurred in soft sediments and;
  2. Most of the deformation was caused by catastrophic plate tectonics during a one year flood.

The conventional view holds:

  1. The layers were solid rock when most of the cracking, faulting , and folding took place, and;
  2. Different types of forces were at work on the rocks (pulling them apart or pushing them together) at different times during their history.

Fractures.  Fractures are nothing more than cracks.  Cracks can form in soft sediment, like dried clay, though they are limited in size and tend to reseal or heal when they become wet.  Long fractures that extend across multiple layers are a clear indication that all the layers were already rock before the fractures formed.


View of the Eastern Wall of the Palisades

In the Grand Canyon, the eastern wall of the Palisades provides a dramatic example of heavily fractured rock, that had become hard and brittle before tectonic forces fractured it.  The nearly vertical lines covering the cliff face are innumerable fractures space only 1 to 3 feet apart, with many extending through the entire cliff.

Faults.  Faults are fractures in the rock where one side has moved relative to the other.


Normal faults result from extension– from rock being pulled apart.  Reverse faults result from compression- rocks being pushed together.  Strike-slip faults result from plates sliding past one another.

In the Grand Canyon, if the flood geology model were true, we should expect to see just one type of faulting.  Recall that plates are said to been violently thrust apart at the onset of the flood, with residual plate motion continuing right up to the present. With North America suddenly thrust to the west, one would reasonably expect that the American Southwest would experience compressive forces as the continent plowed into the Pacific Ocean plate, such that reverse faults should be the norm.  What we actually find is that reverse and normal faults are both present, suggesting there were different periods of compressive and tensional forces.  From Chapter 12, page 126:

Faults in rock look very different from those in soft sediment.  In rock, a relatively clean break occurs that is often filled with angular fragments of broken rock (called breccia), or with pulverized rock as one side of the fault grinds past the other.  Where bending of the rock occurs, cracks are readily visible in the deformed rock.  In soft sediments, however, there is no clean break and sediments are spread out along the blurred rupture zone.  Because the material is soft, there is little or no breccia, nor do we find pulverized material lining the sides.  Faults in the Grand Canyon are characterized by sharp breaks filled with rock fragments, and bent layers adjacent to faults are fractured.  Faults in soft sediment don’t look like this.

• • •

Photo by Casey Reynolds at Flickr. Creative Commons License.


  1. rolling mountains
    impermanent as
    morning mist

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    How could any of these events have occurred within the context of a single-year flood? Such a sequence isn’t just unlikely—– IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

    Already anticipated you, Geologist man:

    “What is Impossible for Man IS Possible for GOD!”
    — can’t remember the chapter-and-verse zip code…

    • So God CAN make a rock too big for Him to lift!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        More like “The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.”

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I have to confess that I have been only skimming these pieces, because they are in my case preaching to the choir.

        Also, HUG’s joking comment illustrates why flood geologists are essentially irrelevant. They are trying to shoehorn the “correct” conclusion into the evidence, making it look as much as possible like real science. This will never work, so it is really a question of at what point they abandon real science, and whether abandon it openly or try to fudge things and obfuscate what they are doing. But what purpose do they serve? Not to make an intellectually rigorous argument, but to provide cover for True Believers. True Believers can point to flood geologists, note that the flood geologists are wearing lab coats, conclude from this that at worst, the Flood is a matter of dispute among scientists, and go about their business just as they had been. (See also: climate change skeptics.) But should push come to shove–should someone like Mike explain in glorious detail why flood geology doesn’t work, that doesn’t change the True Believers’ true beliefs. There might be some wobblers who are persuadable, but I would expect this to be pretty much around the margins. This really has more to do with how one understands one’s faith than an analysis of the evidence. Either our understanding of our faith demands that we believe flood geology or it doesn’t.

        • Iain Lovejoy says

          YECs believe that they are required to believe YEC in order to be “proper” Christians, and YEC is a requirement of God. The problem is bad theology, not bad science. The pseudoscience is there to make it easier to believe the theology.

        • “There might be some wobblers who are persuadable…” I’ll take what I can get 🙂 My experience in evangelical churches is that the rank and file are looking for some leadership on this issue. Sure, I’ll never persuade the “True Believers” but your average pew sitter is uncomfortable that mainstream science is so opposed to YEC. They are looking for Christian scientists to put it together for them. Christian scientists whom they know because they go to church with them, are their friends, and follow Christ with them. That is why it is so important for evangelical Christians in the sciences to speak up now.

        • Ronald Avra says

          Good points, Richard.

      • So God CAN make a rock too big for Him to lift!

        Answer: YES. But a better question would be, “What WILL God do?” or “What WOULD God do?” This question should be a starting point in our theology as well as our science. We need to take God seriously, and not pervert the bible by making Him fit into the “rules.”

        Yes, God could have planted fossils in certain layers, or placed layers where we wouldn’t expect them, thus fooling scientists into thinking the earth millions of years old instead of thousands—but what kind of a god is that?

        HUG will have an answer for that, paraphrasing: something like a capricious, pagan god of a 6000-year-old punyverse.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          But a better question would be, “What WILL God do?” or “What WOULD God do?”

          Some medieval churchman put it this way:
          “Yes, God can make a cow from a tree, but has He ever done so? Bring evidence that He did, or this is just idle speculation.”

  3. Interesting posts Mike, thanks!

    Perhaps the greatest insight geology presents to us is the concept of Deep Time. To contemplate the ages is a godlike quality, profoundly spiritual, a privilege at once both humbling and exalting. The problem with YECism (aside from the fact it’s demonstrably not true of course) is that it presents us with a rinky dink little universe. These folks are satisfied with being able to splash about in the kiddie pool when a vast ocean is spread out before them if they would only look up.

    • I know a lot of people have a problem with the contingency and randomness of the earth and the cosmos. If the history of the earth is a 24-hour clock, the genus Homo appears at 23:59. Think of the INFINITE patience to play this out to achieve a being who can recognize, relate, and worship HIm. Hebrews 10:5 “but a body hast thou prepared me”, and not only a people to recognize, relate, and worship HIm, but an organic living breathing body to inhabit Himself to dwell with us.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Real kicker when you consider that of the three Abrahamic Monotheisms, Christianity is best-equipped to handle Deep Space and Deep Time with its Doctrine of the Incarnation.

        Because no matter how Deep Space and Time can get, no matter how Big God has to be, God remains on a one-to-one human scale through Jesus.

      • William Martin says

        *1 I’m going to keep this

      • Burro [Mule] says

        “He divided wisely the ages and He appointed a part of them to the work of Him becoming a man, and the other part to the work of making man God.”

        St. Maximus the Confessor

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      …a rinky dink little universe.

      The word I heard is “Punyverse”.
      (h/t Sluggy Freelance)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      These folks are satisfied with being able to splash about in the kiddie pool when a vast ocean is spread out before them if they would only look up.

      Every heard of “Big Fish in a Small Pond”?

      • Christiane says

        little minds, small god, fear of the vastness of Creation …… some sadness seeing how this plays out in lives where controlling the narrative consumes and extinguishes the natural wonder of Creation as it really is

  4. William Martin says

    Mike I do have a few questions, Hos does the extreme pressures of deep water effect plates and movement. Being that the flood that covered Washington and Oregon as much as 50 feet could there have been something at one time in the plains and if so what effect would that have had with the weight of water. Would the Ice ages been more of an impact on what we see now. That’s it for now.

    • There is an effect of the weight of ocean water on oceanic crust. When sea levels lower due to Ice Age locking water up in ice, there is isostatic rebound of ocean crust, conversley when the glaciers melted and the sea level rose there was isostatic depression. The weight of glaciers have a similar effect and the isostatic rebound of the continent after the last glacial retreat is well known. Glaciers themselves have a huge impact on landforms. “Being that the flood that covered Washington and Oregon as much as 50 feet could there have been something at one time in the plains and if so what effect would that have had with the weight of water.” Not sure what you are asking me here. There were visible effects from that flooding on the land surface of course.

      • William Martin says

        Trying to formulate some thoughts but probably not getting to the point. Was there at some point a fracture causing the canyon and if so would or could vast amounts of water caused a tearing in the earth eventually leading to the canyon. Or maybe a process of ice then water from both sides. Also I wonder what the high mountains have to do with where it is. Of course I’m not YEC nor care about it. A lot of movement at times seem to be in the earths story. Now that we see increase in water levels is this something that geologist can formulate how it will effect dry land other than coastal regions or is this another sector in science . Which leads to overlap possibly between them or is overlap something that always is.

  5. Is there a word missing in this statement? Or a wrong word?

    (hint; you don’t it has to be solid rock).

  6. Tim Helble says

    Hi Mike – I just discovered your series of blog posts on the Grand Canyon book today, as I’ve been away on a rather long trip to Indonesia. For people who would like more in-depth info on the carving of the Grand Canyon, I’d recommend another book done by Wayne Ranney, one of the editors and authors of the book you’re reviewing here. (https://www.amazon.com/Carving-Grand-Canyon-Evidence-Theories/dp/1934656364)

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Dear Prof. The Geologist, SOMETHING makes you keep coming back here. Why dont you go to some other website where all the athianists hang out instead? Cause deep down, you KNOW God and Jesus are real, and the Bible is true just as it was written in the original tongues. You keep coming here cause you want to beleive, but your so ashamed of your sins, you keep throwing up all these “scientific” facts (which scientists cant make up their minds on) to take your mind off of your own retchedness. Why do you hate God? But that proves God realy exists. Knowlege puffeth up.

    • Ronald Avra says

      Dottie, you exhibit the ingrained, willful, rebellious ignorance that drove me from the churches that hold your doctrines. If i can clearly impress you with only a couple of things, it is that whatever you think you are, I do not wish to be, and wherever you think you are going, I do not wish to go. Thank you.

    • William Martin says

      Wow Dottie, really all I can say is wow. I’m not your judge. Totally speechless

    • lol wut

      • William Martin says

        It’s disturbing that the first reaction is to laugh. Tell me it isn’t so. I have found at times you to be of a same way just on an opposite end. Never thought it was funny. In fact I always find such things disturbing and hurtful and having very little to do with love. In fact being able to manipulate only seems to be a counterfeit of power and borders on the line of little god. Only wanting any kind of attention good or bad. I have a friend like this and I’ve seen him at work and he even confesses it. Says what it is and when we prayed together hand in hand he just smiled as I instantly knew he no intention of stopping. I’m not sure if it is a forgiveness issue. It could be partly but love does seem to play a part.

        Something tells me it is similar to the cat I’ve been working hard with for 4 years and he still bites me and claws me drawing blood. Don’t know. He was abused no doubt. maybe he seeks attention from me that way because it is what he knows. I guess I need to try harder to love him. I guess I need to try harder to love man. Oh that would be Adam.

        • I laugh because it’s really the only response I have yet. I was one of those people. I grew up around them and still know many of them. Yet the farther away I get, the less I can understand or even recall what it was like. And it just seems so silly, so very silly nowadays. All of it.

          I don’t laugh at them. I laugh at the absurdity of it all.

          • It’s also funny to me because deep down…they don’t mean any of it.

            • William Martin says

              Sorry I haven’t encounter this anywhere in my life. You have to admit though when we fist met you were trying to manipulate. I have learned since you are more complex than that. These type of things become disturbing and sad. I give the benefit off doubt and realize steps are not always similar to mine. Have a great fay Stu.

    • Ha ha. Very nice poe. Well done.

      • William Martin says

        Position of exile being knowledge puffeth up???

        • William: “Dottie” is a poe. A poe is a person who writes a parody of a Fundamentalist that is mistaken for the real thing. Due to Poe’s Law, it is almost impossible to tell if a person is a Poe unless they admit to it. “She” is trolling the site and faking being outraged trying to get a rise out of us. She has been here before with the same schtick. Probably a 20-something internet atheist who thinks it is funny to parody the Christians. We really shouldn’t respond…

    • ” the Bible is true just as it was written in the original tongues.”

      OK, let’s grant that. Now, true in *what sense*? Because the original authors certainly did not repeat not have the same literalistic view of truth that you appear to advocate – the exact view of truth, I might add, that the “secular atheists” you would claim to oppose hold to. The Bible was written to *all people* , not just post-enlightenment positivists. And the vast majority of humanity understood/understands the world through *story*, not logic-chopping.

      This was a lesson I had a hard time accepting myself…

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