Permian Pompeii

To begin our week comes Ancient Forest Frozen in Time by Volcano. The geological period is the Permian, the place is Inner Mongolia, and the age is 298 Ma. The paper, Permian vegetational Pompeii from Inner Mongolia and its implications for landscape paleoecology and paleobiogeography of Cathaysia from PNAS, is available as open access here.

Not alot more is left of the trees in this find, one of which may be of a similar variety to this.

With that out of the way, what is Thomas going to do with the finds? He begins with the following paragraphs:

The area surrounding what is now Wuda, Inner Mongolia, once teemed with tropical plants before a tremendous ancient volcanic explosion overwhelmed it. The ash-entombed forest, buried between coal layers, left such remarkably preserved fossilized plants that artists and paleontologists have been able to reconstruct the former wet-forest landscape.

Scientists took advantage of this rare opportunity to investigate, in unprecedented detail, discrete segments of a whole fossilized forest. A nearby coal mining operation removed a tough crust and exposed the well-preserved fossils, which were found over a very large area.

Interesting – they were between coal layers, you say? So how does that fit with the Flood? (He never tells us.)  We’ll be back here, at any rate. Skipping ahead:

The majority of plant fossils, such as those found in coal, were washed in from elsewhere, sorted, and compacted. But these plants look as though they were buried in place, preserving their original spacing along an ancient forest floor.

This half paragraph – as well as the other half, as it happens – is misleading. It’s not that the majority of these fossils are from elsewhere, but that finds such as this are not overly common. I’m not actually sure where he got the “washed in from elsewhere [and] sorted” idea from, and I suspect he made it up. “Look as though” seems to be an understatement, also.

Most of the plants were relatively short tree ferns. Dwarf shrubs, cycads, and clusters of ferns also grew, and much taller trees dotted the ancient scene. The study authors wrote, “It is likely that the same type of vegetation would have covered the very extensive mire in all directions and to the horizon.”

This seems to be a fairly typical forest scene – large trees tend to be less common but still able to to form a canopy. What’s atypical from our point of view is the lack of flowering plants, which today are so dominant. Why are there no flowers, Brian? (He doesn’t address that either.)

But they did not mention the possibility that the entire forest may have been transported like a giant sheet. Although the tall trees had been toppled, the collective root mass appeared intact. Perhaps it originally was a floating forest.

They didn’t mention the possibility that the forest was grazed by unicorns either, you know. I think B.T.’s failure-to-mentions are more crippling than the paper’s.

If you’re wondering where you’ve seen this crazy idea of a floating forest before it’s probably from the Highlights post from this time last month. That included a brief going-over of a Thomas article Louisiana’s Floating Marshes Echo Pre-Flood Ecosystem. I concluded, with reference to a similar find from New York, that in situ forests would be quite hard to make float and that the whole thing was probably bullshit. That earlier DpSU is the ‘reference’ Brian gives for his floating forest line here, btw.

This forest, what with sitting on top of one coal layer and below another, I would claim to be even harder to explain. So, the thick peatforest got buried, and a new one grew on top and also became coal? Was this also during the Flood? What about everything on top and below? I think there is even limestone a way under this part of the world, though I could be wrong.

Evolution maintains that these Permian plants existed 240 million years ago. But ironically, according to that same evolutionary timeframe, their fossils should no longer exist. The fossils and all of China should have completely eroded about 14 million years after they were deposited, assuming the evolutionary paradigm and known erosion rates. The study authors wrote, “Excavation was necessary to secure the stunning specimens of this flora because weathering occurs rapidly and destroys the fossils.” So, did China’s landscape experience no weathering for over 200 million years?

To begin with, his reference for this is a DpSU from last year called Continents Should Have Eroded Long Ago, which I covered at the time in Erosion on a Biblical Scale. I said:

Using this study to generalise over the entire earth is extremely questionable. They analyse readings taken from outcrops and basins across the world done by other researchers. You will note that they measure erosion in meters per million years. Numbers vary wildly…

And so on. Note also that the study being discussed there used radioactive decay to determine its measurements, while we had only been told a few days previously that radioactive decay was unreliable.

As for the second half of that paragraph, remember how Brian said at the beginning that a “nearby coal mining operation removed a tough crust and exposed the well-preserved fossils”? Only once you expose fossils to the surface are they really in danger of being weathered away so fast you have to excavate them. China experienced weathering, yes, but here evidently there was more deposition than there was erosion.

In contrast, biblical history easily explains these “catastrophically preserved floras.” The extraordinarily cataclysmic conditions of Noah’s Flood—so violent that Scripture records that it totally destroyed the earth’s surface—provided the tremendous energy required to wash plant matter into mats that would later turn to coal, to dislodge and transport a whole forest, and to unleash volcanic explosions that covered vast regions.

Where “Scripture records that it totally destroyed the earth’s surface” is an oft-quoted Peter verse, 2 Peter 3:5-6, which reads:

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

It tends to be exaggerated by creationists to this end. What about the verse referring to the ‘four corners of the Earth’? What can we make of that? Certainly, this has got nothing to do with volcanic eruptions, so why bring it up?

You can see here that Brian is placing the eruption as happening during the flood, which removes his possible out when it comes to the higher coal layer(s) – that the later layers were formed during the flood and the other events happened prior. And I have no idea why he is fixated on the idea that the forest would be “dislodge[d] and transport[ed],” so don’t ask.

20 thoughts on “Permian Pompeii

    • Can you explain, how the plants are preserved for so many million years? You need lot of belief to assume the preservation either.

      But, we have seen flood and other major catastrophe is able to do many things in a little time which uniformatarian need to believe the time has accomplished.

    • The plants will have been preserved in the same way as almost all fossils are – by mineralisation. That is to say, parts of the organic molecules are substituted out, making the bones (or, here, plants) now rock. Said rock will then last as long as you like…

      On the other hand, you may find that the Flood is not able to produce many of the things it is claimed to have. This, for example.

  1. I posted my response to Thomas’ dishonesty yesterday – under the blog about his previous inaccurate piece about the Gliese planet.

    • Yes, I follow Naturalis Historia too. It’s very good, though it goes without saying that he doesn’t post nearly often enough.

    • Funny how these plants and trees all went extinct. For land animals at least the Flood was meant to be a judgment but NOT an extinction event. Yet ‘4,300 years’ later’ all or most of these primitive-looking trees seems to have gone extinct.

    • J W Wartick

      Following your comment I tracked down the Naturalis Historia blog, which certainly looks worth following.

      I used to be an evangelical Christian (who was totally unaware of creationism) but now I don’t know. I tend to feel that old Earth creationists re-interpret scripture to harmonise it with aspects of science (though they usually reject evolution) and young Earth creationists add to scripture to make it ‘scientific’ when it is either not scientific or the science in it is false. For insistence YECs have a theory that Genesis 7:11b refers to massive undersea volcanoes greatly heating the oceans as a mechanism to cause huge evaporation and hence extra rainfall. Whereas the verse seems to me to suggest groundwater rising to the land surface, possibly somehow caused by an earthquake. YEC supporters seem oblivious to how their heroes arguably distort and go beyond scripture (the YECs have also invented a ‘rapid post-flood Ice Age’).

  2. And I have no idea why he is fixated on the idea that the forest would be “dislodge[d] and transport[ed],” so don’t ask.

    It seems to me one should ask and they should ask the author himself rather than jumping to conclusions as the author of this post has done. We learn much when we question and when we research. I feel sure that Brian Thomas would be happy to have readers come to ICR for answers as to what he meant. When we make assumptions, they are often picked up and carried without having any merit. That is how so much propaganda has been sold to unsuspecting readers. One of the questions you asked was why Thomas believed the plants were transported from other places.

    The answer to transportation, however, is available on science sites. It is because they were found in coal. According to scientist's allochthonous theory coal strata accumulated from plants which had been rapidly transported and deposited under flood conditions.

    ED: Markup fixed.

    • That would be all very well, except that Thomas is not talking about allochthonous coal. Instead, he is quite literally talking about “the possibility that the entire forest may have been transported like a giant sheet.”

      He never explains the importance of this movement aspect, and as the concept of a continent-sized pre-flood floating forest seems to be pure YEC conjecture there’s not a lot of research I can do to give me an answer.

      As for asking him directly, the ICR does not actually seem to be all that open to challenges from its opponents. Back in November, for example, we had this incident over at their Science Essentials blog site. Their That’s a Fact videos used to have comments, you know – they were removed without comment after discussions began there. Haworth-roberts above will be able to tell you that they never reply to his emails, though they have once corrected a minor point he mentioned in one of them (though causation cannot be proven). I used to direct these kinds of questions to their twitter account (@ICRMedia), but I’ve never gotten a reply and they’ve recently blocked me.

      And this is merely a minor, jocularly made point. If I were going to email Brian to ask a question about his articles this would not be the one I would pick. But I feel that this would be far more trouble than it’s worth, for the reasons I’ve given above – he’s almost certain not to reply.

      You can of course try, if you like – I wouldn’t mind being wrong on this count. There is so much I would like to ask him…

    • Of course I cannot comment on why you would be blocked and I don’t know their comment policy. I understand your frustration because I have experienced it on other sites numerous time.Thank you for posting my comment. They have other types of contact information, but I do not know how soon they respond when contacted.

      He may have made the comment based on the erosion factor of the fossils and age of the earth as he believes it to be.

      There is another writer named Stuart Nevins who has written about coal that sheds some light into why Thomas thinks the forest could have floated.

      In this article he states:

      Among the most fascinating types of fossils associated with coal seams are upright tree trunks which often penetrate tens of feet perpendicular to stratification. These upright trees are frequently encountered in strata associated with coal, and on rare occasions are found in the coal. In each case the sediments must have amassed in a short time to cover the tree before it could rot and fall down.

      The fact that the trees are extinct now goes along with the verse you quoted:

      “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:”

      240 million years is a long time and frankly, it seems impossible for something to be preserved and intact after that much time and weathering. In a perfect world evolutionists and creationists would work together to find truth rather than constantly attempting to destroy the other’s argument as happens so often.

      There is an interesting study on YouTube:

    • Well, I have decided to email Mr Thomas about this matter (and others) in the end, so we will see what he says (if anything, given the trouble I’ve mentioned above).

      As for the length of time that something could be preserved, you do realise that after fossilisation the trees are now rock, and apparently under “a tough crust”? You can’t weather what you can’t get at.

    • Indeed, if you find the paper that contains the stratigraphy of the site you’ll discover that the context under discussion here was buried under over 9 meters of rock that required heavy machinery to dig through. These fossils would’ve been nicely isolated from weathering.

    • Adam, I agree that they were isolated according to the reports I have read. Several things puzzle me about the evolutionists claim:The earth is 4.5 billion years of age and that evolution is responsible for life as we know it.

      With the changing conditions and the possibility of catastrophic events, it seems remote to me that conditions could have remained constant on the planet for that long. Also, scientists are now telling us that the sun and earth are slowly moving away from one another.That would have implications as far as life on earth is concerned. Another thing evolutionists ignore is the energy factor. Even if life could develop without a Designer who set laws of what we call nature in place, Stephen Hawking states there had to be an energy present to trigger the matter coming from nothing to something. I have never heard an evolutionists explain that away.

      I lost a lot of my respect for scientists who seem to be seeking an outcome that they consider preferred. Evolutionists claim creationists do this and creationists claim evolutionists do this. I think they are probably both right to some degree, but they need to respect one another, open up their studies, criticize methods and conclusions rather than each other and not be closed minded.

      This is interesting, I think.

    • It’s worth remembering that the precise stratigraphic conditions associated with these discovery need not have remained in stasis for the entire period in question. What we discover is only the end result of millions of years of change. The 9 meters of sediment, for example, could well have been much greater (or lesser) in the past and constantly fluctuated as new layers were deposited and old ones eroded.

      Even after sediment had been deposited it need not have remained in stasis. Indeed, we know it did not. Seams of coal were found above this forest, indicating that not insubstantial processes had occurred in the intervening years. Enough happened to turn plants into rock, after all.

      The idea that everything must have remained constant and unchanging for us to find this forest is just wrong. Changes, some fairly dramatic, can (and did) happen and the forest would still be preserved. All that is required is that these fluctuations aren’t so dramatic as to destroy the forest itself.

      And they often are, which is what makes this find so special. Despite the fact that some changes are tolerated, most of the time there is too much and the fossils are destroyed. That is why there are only a handful of similar finds across the globe.

      Oh, and there is considerable discussion and debate of ideas, methodologies and conclusions in science. People aren’t afraid to challenge concepts, even well respected ones. The preferred hypothesis of one of the more respected evolutionary anthropologists has long since been ripped to shreds due to a lack of evidence by the community at large, despite the fact that a few highly decorated, successful and respected scientists still argue for it.

      There is constant fighting to determine the truth. There is no grand conspriacy, creationism simply lost.

    • Before recently changing computer I used to send ‘request read receipt’ emails to the ICR. Initially they signalled that they were being read, but that stopped by the fourth email. They have NEVER replied properly to any of my messages, whether to agree or disagree.

    • I know that is frustrating. I haven’t actually contacted them. I know they get a lot of flack from those who believe only evolution and maybe that has something to do with their policy. I really don’t know, but thanks for responding to my comment.


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