YEC Best Evidence 2: bent rock layers are not fractured — or are they?

The second of Answers in Genesis’s ten best evidences for a young earth is the claim that in many mountainous areas, layers of sedimentary rock can be found that have folded and bent without fracturing. This, the argument goes, means that the layers in question must have deformed while they were still wet, and not long after they had solidified.

How does this prove that the earth is young?

It doesn’t.

The first problem with this argument is that it places no constraint whatsoever on the age of the earth. Even if these layers were deformed as wet clay which had not yet hardened, no reason is given why this could not have happened 540 million years ago, as other evidence indicates, rather than during Noah’s Flood.

Bent but not fractured — or are they?

The article illustrates its point with the following picture of some folded strata in Carbon Canyon, a side canyon off of the Grand Canyon:


(This rock formation appears to be on Google Maps here.)

Interestingly enough, the US Geological Survey has also published a photograph of exactly the same rock formation. Their photograph, taken in May 2007, looks like this:


When we compare the two versions, we see a massive difference in quality. The USGS version is in pin-sharp focus, well exposed, and published at a much higher resolution. (They even have a version viewable with 3-D glasses.) It also shows numerous clearly visible stress fractures, which are obscured in the AiG version by poor focusing and people in the photograph.

In a different article on the same subject, Andrew Snelling explicitly states that there are no fractures in the hinge of the fold. Yet if we look closely at the relevant part of the respective photographs, we see that fractures are clearly visible in the USGS version, whereas in the AiG version, there are people standing right in front of them:

image3374 image3363

What were these people doing there, one asks? Were they just there for scale? If so, why are they positioned exactly in front of the very fractures that contradict the entire argument?

The fact of the matter is that contrary to what Andrew Snelling claims, most bent rock layers are fractured, and as a PhD geologist, he should know this. In many cases, the fractures are only visible close up, and sometimes even only through a microscope, so the fact that they don’t show up in a photograph — especially a badly-taken photograph — does not prove that they do not exist.

Brittle and ductile deformation.

The fact that these fractures exist directly contradicts the whole premise of this claim, as they indicate that the layers must have deformed after they had solidified, not before. But even if they didn’t, it still would not prove that the layers were deformed before they had solidified.

Heat and pressure can make rock layers pliable. Snelling actually admits this, but dismisses it as a “rescuing device,” claiming that the temperatures and pressures required would leave evidence of metamorphism in the rocks. He claims that this is not observed, but as he has stated that the rocks are not fractured despite publicly available evidence that they are, this claim is already suspect. In any case, he does not meaningfully cite any sources to back it up.

In order to demonstrate that ductile deformation is not a viable explanation, he needs to demonstrate that it requires higher temperatures and pressures than those that can cause metamorphism. These temperatures and pressures will vary from one mineral to the next, and have been well studied in laboratory experiments since the 1950s. Without such citations, this rejection of ductile deformation as a “rescuing device” is nothing more than a hand-wave, and should not be assumed to be reliable.

The gravity of the situation.

Another problem with this claim is that it ignores the law of gravity.

If these rock layers really had been deformed when wet, gravity would have pulled them downwards, and we would see considerable slumping, with the layers at the very least being much thicker at the bottom than at the top. We would certainly not expect to see vertical layers thirty metres or more in height retaining their structure, as we see in these photographs.

But in fact, if they had been deformed when wet, would we even expect them to be separated into distinct layers at all? This rock formation alone probably weighs somewhere in the region of a million tons, and at that scale, the layers would all end up being mixed together into one homogeneous mass. (See this article for a discussion — scroll down to the section headed “Orogeny.”)

When I first saw the ten best arguments for a young earth, I thought this was one of the least convincing of the ten. Having seen the USGS photograph as well, it is certainly the one I found the most troubling. I don’t want to accuse them of outright lying, but I struggle to see how it can be merely an honest mistake when a PhD geologist claims that a rock layer is not fractured when there is a publicly available photograph of it elsewhere clearly showing that it is, and his own out of focus photograph has students standing in front of the most prominent fractures that contradict him.

As a final twist in the tale, it turns out that this rock formation was also the subject of Andrew Snelling’s discrimination lawsuit against the Grand Canyon National Park authorities, which was resolved this summer — and in fact, this very question is the subject of his proposed research. Ken Ham has a blog post giving further details of his study, which also includes some better quality pictures of the same rock formation.

A view of the same rock formation from a different angle. Photo by Answers in Genesis.

In which the fractures are clearly visible.


12 thoughts on “YEC Best Evidence 2: bent rock layers are not fractured — or are they?

  1. The great yEC point is that it all fits with a concept of instant deposition and then still movement is going on while its wet or even dry. There is no evidence in these formations for a claim of long ages and so a rejection of the original conclusion in geology of biblical boundaries.


    • Hi Robert,

      I’m sorry but you simply aren’t getting your facts straight here. There *is* evidence in these formations for long ages: radiometric dating being just one example I could mention. Sure, you could try to question the integrity of radiometric dating if you like (though your arguments against it have to stand up to scrutiny, and I am yet to see any that do), but to claim that evidence doesn’t even exist when quite clearly it does is at best clueless and at worst dishonest. Either way, you won’t be upholding the Bible by adopting that approach; on the contrary, you will be undermining it.

      You need to realise that the actual age of the earth and the actual age of these rock formations is only secondary to the main point that I’m trying to make here. My main point is that if you are going to try to argue for evidence for a young earth, your arguments have to meet certain basic standards of honesty, factual accuracy, rigour and quality control. See Deuteronomy 25:13-16 again.

      Now can you please explain to me how it can possibly be considered honest for a website to claim that a rock formation is not fractured when there are other photographs of the same rock formation on the same website clearly showing that it is?


  2. The case your on about it requires those people. Probably they don’t notice your details or interpretate differently. There is never dishonesty. One should first go to carelessness or incompetence.
    i see myself as damn accurate and very controled investigation.
    No I don’t agree with these dating methods to trump observational science of geology.
    they are not proved. if they were wrong would you admit to no evidence in the formations themselves for your long earth claims?
    The idea of long process creating these formations by original deposition and then folding is not demanding or reasonable. its just a quick series of events or its a good option it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert, there are a couple of things that you need to realise.

      First, whether or not they noticed, and whether they intended any dishonesty or just made an honest mistake, does not change the fact that the claim that they are making in the article — that the bent rock layers in question were not fractured — is demonstrably and indisputably untrue. If it really was an honest mistake, then they need to retract it. And I simply can’t for the life of me see how they can “interpretate (sic) differently.” A fracture is a fracture is a fracture, end of story. Interpretation simply doesn’t enter into it.

      Secondly, we are not talking about amateurs here: we are talking about PhD geologists with years of professional experience who have set themselves up as teachers in the Church on that very subject. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Claims such as this one could be excused as “carelessness or incompetence” if they came from J. Random Creationist whose understanding of science is based entirely on being spoon-fed videos and who doesn’t even realise that there’s maths involved. For someone with a PhD and a decade or more of professional industry experience in the subject on which they are teaching, the bar that differentiates honest mistakes from dishonesty is far, far, far, far higher.

      As for dating methods: if you want to reject them as flawed, however you propose to justify such a position, that is entirely up to you. However, the fact remains that these methods do exist, they are based on careful analysis of the evidence, they are rigorously tested and cross-checked, and to claim otherwise is simply not getting your facts straight.


  3. YEC is great at getting the facts straight. Thats why they are successful. They prove to millions of people they do a better job of decoding the raw evidence in forming conclusions. Not so quick and simplistic, and rejecting scripture, as other origin thinkers.
    bent rocks are picked up as a possible evidence of having been shaped soon after deposition and before hardened.
    I think there was no intermediate hardening period but was a instant pressurized sediment into stone . Within minutes. so I welcome fractures too.
    if they missed a few well its a miss. Possibly they think there should be lots more. Not just a little.
    I suspect the great lack of fracturing is what is persuasive to them. The little is too little.
    Its possible some rock really did bend due to marginally less pressurized so quick.
    anyways it all works for creationism and is good for public thought. they can understand it.


    • I’m sorry Robert, but when a PhD geologist claims that a rock formation is not fractured, when he has photographs of the same rock formation elsewhere on his website clearly showing that it is, that is not “getting the facts straight” in any way, shape or form. And “rejecting scripture” has nothing whatsoever to do with it. A fracture is a fracture is a fracture, however you choose to interpret it.

      > “if they missed a few well its a miss. Possibly they think there should be lots more. Not just a little.
      I suspect the great lack of fracturing is what is persuasive to them. The little is too little.”

      If that’s what they think, then they need to make it explicit, and give a coherent explanation of why it’s too little. As it stands, they aren’t claiming “too little” or “the wrong type” here; they are claiming NONE.

      I’m sorry, but this is not “doing a better job of decoding the raw evidence in forming conclusions” by any stretch of the imagination. This is misrepresenting the raw evidence, it’s as simple as that.


  4. Its not. i’m sure if you asked them they would give a good reason or admit some error. As I said i think the big point is the lack of fracturing. thats the great concept they like.
    AS I SAID I think its not welcome as YEC should see a instant reaction from the pressure overgead to turn sediment to stone. No lingering.
    In fact my idea might need to explain the lACK of fracturing and why bending is so easily done. Oddly enough they might question me on this.
    anyways its interesting and shows how better analysis can beat first impressions.


  5. Could I just draw everyone’s attention to this blog’s comments policy please? In particular, to this point:

    Don’t keep going round in circles. If someone raises an objection to a point that you made, don’t just respond by blindly repeating your point without qualification. Instead, bring something new to the table that adequately responds to their objection.

    This is the basis on which I will decide whether or not to respond to any further comments made here from now on.


  6. It wasn’t a bad conversation. We made our points and I made bigger points about the whole concept.
    I have a interest in geomorphology, some geology, and welcome any good threads on these subjects.
    I know all earth evidence supports creationism.
    What are YOUR ten best arguements for a old earth based on real earth structures evidence??


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