Today movie theaters worldwide open with one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2014 – “Noah”. Not only is there a lot of hype surrounding the movie but a lot of controversy as well. Critics are questioning how faithfully the plotline follows the biblical account – with Russell Crowe (who stars as Noah) trying – and failing – to get the Pope’s personal stamp of approval for the film. In the Islamic world several countries are banning the movie since it visually depicts a prophet – which is forbidden in most Islamic interpretations. But all these hullabaloos are merely minor hiccups compared to a much deeper and longer-running controversy – did such a worldwide flood really happen? That’s a question worth considering.
I have shown how multiple cultures around the world have a memory of a great flood leaving only a handful of survivors from which they descended. There is anthropological and historical evidence for a ‘Noah’. But are there any physical evidences of ‘his’ flood around in the world today?
The Power of Moving Flood Water seen in Tsunamis
Let’s start by surmising what such a flood would have done to the earth. For sure, a flood of that scope would involve unimaginable quantities of water moving at great speeds and depths over continental distances. Large quantities of water moving at high speeds have a lot of kinetic energy (KE = ½ * mass * velocity2). This is why floods are so destructive. When we saw the pictures of the 2011 Tsunami that devastated Japan, we saw how kinetic water energy can cause extensive damage, easily picking up and moving large objects like cars, homes and boats – and crippling nuclear reactors in its path.
Floods and Sedimentary Rock
Thus, when water increases its speed it will start to pick up and transport sediment – particles of dirt, sand, rocks and boulders.
This is why swollen and flooding rivers are brown – they are loaded with sediment (soil and rock) that has been picked up from the surface over which the water is traveling.
When water starts to slow down and loses its kinetic energy it then drops this sediment which is deposited in laminar layers resulting in a particular kind of rock.
This kind of rock is known as sedimentary rock and is easily recognized by its trademark pancake-like layers that are stacked upon one another. The figure below shows sedimentary layers about 20 cm thick (from the measuring tape) that were deposited from the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Tsunamis and river floods leave their signatures behind in these sedimentary rocks long after the flood has receded and things have turned back to normal.
Sedimentary Strata around the World
So, do we find sedimentary rocks that are, in a similar way, signature markers for the Noahic deluge that the Bible claims happened? When you ask that question and you start to look around you will see that our planet is literally covered in sedimentary rock. You will notice this type of pancake-layer rock on highway cut-a-ways. What is different about this sedimentary rock, when you compare it with the sedimentary strata that were produced by the devastating tsunami of Japan in 2011 is the sheer size – both laterally across the earth and in vertical thickness of sedimentary layers. Below are some photos that I have taken of sedimentary rocks as I have traveled.
So if one tsunami which caused such devastation in Japan left sedimentary layers measured in centimeters and that extend inland a few kilometers, what mechanism explains the gigantic and continental-in-scope sedimentary formations found almost over the entire globe (including on the ocean bottom) that are measured vertically in hundreds of meters and are measured laterally in thousands of kilometers? Could these sedimentary rocks be the signature of Noah’s flood?
Rapid Deposition of Sedimentary Formations
No one argues that the planet is not covered in sedimentary rock of unbelievably massive scope. The question is whether these sedimentary rocks were laid down by one event (i.e. Noah’s flood), or whether these massive formations were built up over time through a series of smaller events (of the scope of the tsunami in Japan of 2011) that were separated by significant intervals of time. The figure below illustrates this other concept.
As you can see, in this model of sedimentary formation (technically known as neo-catastrophism) a series of high impact sedimentary events are separated by large intervals of time. These events add sedimentary layers onto the previous layers and so, over time, the huge formations that we see around the world today are built up sequentially.
Soil Formation and Sedimentary Strata
Do we have any real-world data that can help us evaluate between these two models? Actually, it is not that hard to spot. On top of many of these sedimentary formations we see that soil layers have formed. Thus a physical and observable indicator of time passage after a sedimentary event is soil formed on top of it. Soil is characterized by horizons (called A horizon – often dark with organic material, the B horizon – with more minerals, etc.).
Sedimentary strata laid down to form a new ocean bottom will also soon be marked with life signs. Wormholes, clam tunnels and other signs of life (known as bioturbation) provide tell-tale signs of life and of the passage of time since the strata were deposited on the sea floor.
Armed with this insight we can see if we find evidence of soil formation or bioturbation at these ‘Time passes’ borders in the strata formation. After all, this model is saying that at some point these ‘Time passes’ boundaries were exposed surfaces for significant periods of time either on land or under water. In that case we should expect some of these surfaces to have developed soil or bioturbation indicators. When these time boundary surfaces were buried by subsequent sedimentary events the soil or bioturbation would have likewise been buried. Take a look again at the photos above and below. Do we see any evidence of either soil formation or bioturbation?
There is no evidence of soil layers or bioturbation in the above photo or the one below. Look again at the Hamilton escarpment photo and you will see no evidence of any bioturbation or soil formation. From that data the bottom of these formations were laid down almost equivalent in time from the top. Yet these formations all extend vertically about 50-100 meters.
Folding of Sedimentary Rocks
Sedimentary strata, when they are laid down in moving water are initially permeated with water and thus they bend very easily. They are pliable. But it only takes a few years for these sedimentary strata to dry out and harden and when that happens they become brittle as was learned from the events of Mount St Helens eruption in 1980 followed by a 1983 lake breach.
When brittle rock is bent it snaps. This principle is shown
in the figure on the side. We can see this sort of rock failure in the Niagara escarpment. After these sediments were laid down they became brittle and when an upthrust then pushed up some of these sedimentary layers they snapped under the shear stress, forming the Niagara escarpment which runs for hundreds of miles. From this evidence
we know that the upthrust that produced the Niagara escarpment happened after these sedimentary strata became brittle so there was some time lapse between the deposition of these sedimentary strata and the upthrust which produced the escarpment. There was at least enough time between these events for the strata to harden and become brittle – which does not take eons of time, but does take a couple of years at least.
The photo below shows large sedimentary formations that I photographed in Morocco. You can see how the strata formation bends as a unit. There is no evidence of the strata snapping either in tension (pulled apart) or in shear (sidewise stress). This whole formation must have still been pliable when it was bent. But if it takes only a couple of years for sedimentary rock to become brittle. This means that there can be no significant passage of time between the lower layers and the upper layers in this formation. If there had been ‘time passage’ in these layers then the earlier layers would have become brittle and would have snapped rather than bent when the formation was contorted.
We can see the same type of bending in the Grand Canyon. At some point in the past there was a bending upthrust (technically known as a monocline), similar to the Niagara escarpment, that raised one side of the strata one mile vertically up (this you see from the elevation difference of 7000 ft compared to 2000 ft on the opposing sides of the upthrust). But here the strata did not snap (like the Niagara escarpment did). Instead it bent at both the bottom and the top of the formation, indicating that it was still pliable throughout rather than brittle through the formation.
This indicates that the time interval from the bottom to the top of these strata has an upper limit of a couple of years (the time it takes for sedimentary strata to become hard and brittle).
Noah’s Flood vs. Flood on Mars
The idea of Noah’s flood having actually happened is, of course, quite controversial and in this one article I cannot cover all the issues that it raises which I hope to do later.
But at the very least, it is instructive to consider an irony in our modern day. Because of the channeling and evidence of sedimentation that are visible on Mars, it is actively postulated that Mars was once inundated by a huge flood. The big problem with this theory is that no water has ever been discovered on the Red Planet. But for the Earth, though it is 2/3 covered by water – deep enough to cover our whole globe to a depth of one mile if the oceanic trenches were raised and the land mountains smoothed down so the world had less topographic variation – and though it is covered with continental sized sedimentary formations that by physical and observable evidence seem to have been deposited rapidly in a devastating cataclysm, it is almost considered heresy to postulate that any such flood has ever occurred on this planet. Is that not a double standard? Though we may look at this Russell Crowe Noah movie as only a reenactment of a myth written as a Hollywood script, perhaps we should look and consider whether the rocks themselves are crying out about this deluge story written on scripts of stone.