Geology Tackles its Great Anomaly
A billion years of evolutionary time is missing at this
bedrock boundary. How does secular geology deal with it?
The Great Unconformity is the biggest break in geology. It separates bedrock from most of the sedimentary layers. CEH has reported on news about the Great Unconformity several times, noting that “Geology and Anomaly Are Practically Synonyms” (25 June 2018), and explaining “How Secular Geology Forces Observations into an Old-Earth Narrative” (19 May 2020). As recently as last August, we showed from another study that “Ideology Drives Theory at Grand Canyon” where the Great Unconformity is prominently displayed (26 Aug 2021).
As shared earlier, numerous aspects of the Great Unconformity suggest a catastrophic break rather than slow-and-gradual processes. Any event with global effect would, of necessity, speak of a major catastrophe. This month, another attempt has been made to fit the Great Unconformity into evolution’s gradual, uniformitarian worldview. Having just explored the ideological drivers behind secular geology (31 Jan 2022, 1 Feb 2022), we can look at this new study for another glimpse at current geological practice: how do they handle anomalies?
Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) and other philosophers of science after him paid close attention to how scientists respond to anomalies within a paradigm (i.e., a consensus). Kuhn suggested that scientists working within a paradigm will acknowledge anomalies, but will attempt to solve them within the paradigm. This continues until they become too severe; then another party (often made up of younger scientists not having spent their career in the old paradigm) will begin a scientific revolution largely for the purpose of explaining the anomalies. Kuhn had his critics, but the cyclical pattern he described can be seen throughout the history of science in many fields. Let’s look at how scientists at Dartmouth College seek to fit the Great Unconformity into the Geologic Column.
Two geologists from the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, along with a lab assistant and colleagues from the University of Illinois and from Lehigh University, publishing in the Feb 1, 2022 issue of PNAS, sought to identify “Thermochronologic constraints on the origin of the Great Unconformity.” Their solution calls on a favorite mythical event, the Snowball Earth hypothesis (see 7 May 2018). Glaciers did it, they say.
The Great Unconformity involves a common gap of hundreds of millions to billions of years in the geologic record. The cause of this missing time has long eluded explanation, but recently two opposing hypotheses claim either a glacial or a plate tectonic origin in the Neoproterozoic. We provide thermochronologic evidence of rock cooling and multiple kilometers of exhumation in the Cryogenian Period in support of a glacial origin for erosion contributing to the composite basement nonconformity found across the North American interior. The broad synchronicity of this cooling signal at the continental scale can only be readily explained by glacial denudation.
Glaciers, however, do not last for hundreds of millions of years. The Great Unconformity, further, is not characterized by moraines, erratics, glacial polish and other indications of glacial activity. The paper says nothing about those. Their only empirical support consists of “thermochronology” measurements at various sites, which are estimations of the “temperature that a mineral crystal has experienced over time and its position in the continental crust given a particular thermal structure.” These are assumed to be proxies for glaciers, not direct indications.
Their measurements, furthermore, were taken from isolated sites in North America and gathered from prior studies. Their models require the removal of 3- to 5 kilometers of material by the glaciers. Where did it go? The ocean floor, they think; “Ocean basins serve as the main repository for sediments produced during ice-sheet denudation and, due to the shorter oceanic crust lifecycle (compared to continental crust), provide one explanation for the reduced survival rate of Proterozoic detritus that is evident in the Ronov compilations.” But surely much of the denudation occurred far inland in the supercontinent. It should have left traces.
The anomalous abundance of unconformities near the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic boundary—each one different, and frequently composite, but evidently captured by a globally widespread erosive event—is what makes the Great Unconformity unique.
The team knows that exhumation at this scale, possibly global in extinct, is “difficult to achieve” by rivers or by downslope erosion. And yet plate tectonics doesn’t seem a likely contender, either. They can’t think of any other geological process able to do this. They don’t care. This is just their educated guess.
It may be that continental-scale glaciation is the only foreseeable process that can account for both the formation and preservation of the Great Unconformity. Major unconformities, or significant step changes in North American (or global) sediment abundance, are not observed during other times of equatorial continental assembly, potentially invalidating supercontinent tectonic activity as the primary or sole driver of Neoproterozoic exhumation. In our view, it is not a coincidence that the thermochronologic inversions shown here demonstrate nearly synchronous exhumation transpiring across a vast region of North America during a known period of apparent worldwide glaciation.
Well, if they “know” that it is “apparent,” they apparently don’t know. The truth lies somewhere out yonder in the Tomorrowland of futureware:
We present a more comprehensive appraisal for the origin of the Great Unconformity within North America that serves as a template for assessing exhumation globally to necessarily test further the hypothesis of a glacial origin due to snowball Earth conditions in the Neoproterozoic.
Thus they publish a “template” based on a debatable myth, the Snowball Earth. “The origin of the phenomenon known as the Great Unconformity has been a fundamental yet unresolved problem in the geosciences for over a century,” they began. It still is.
But their hypothesis is something. Isn’t that better than nothing? They have to look busy, but in the end, they hand the hot potato down the line. Maybe modern geology could be explained in terms of game theory.
Having ruled out the one cause that can explain a “globally widespread erosive event” – a worldwide Flood (see “Ten Evidences at Grand Canyon for a Global Flood,” 30 June 2017) – they remain in the land of games, scoffing, and willful ignorance, as the apostle Peter predicted:
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” [uniformitarianism]. For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (II Peter 3:1-9)
Anyone can quit the game at any time, and embrace the patience of the Creator. Learn how.