Four Explosive C’s of Volcanoes

A volcanic crater

The dreariness of the cloudy, damp afternoon air was negated by my energy and excitement as I walked along the path, stopping every few steps to be enamored with the little things around me.  Suddenly, I saw something through the trees that made me gasp.  I kept on walking to get a better view at the end of the path.  A few feet in front of where I stood, the ground suddenly dropped into a giant, steep crater in the ground.  The view was beautiful and mind blowing.  I tried to imagine what it would have looked like with fresh, hot lava exploding out of this place, like it had when it was first formed.  Volcanoes can make many different amazing rocks and land formations.  Last week, I wrote about two types of lava flows, pahoehoe and A’a (read that article here).  But, a volcano is so much more than just flowing lava.  Today, let’s explore five formations made by volcanoes – and since they all start with the letter “C”, we will call them the 4 C’s of volcanoes.

I mentioned seeing a crater at the beginning of this article.  That’s our first “C”. When you think of a crater, features on the moon or made by meteorites  are probably the first things to come to mind.  Volcanic craters usually have a vent inside that lava and other volcanic debris comes out of.  Not all volcanic craters are at the top of the volcano –  some happen along the sides of the mountain as well.  The second “C”, is called a caldera, and is very similar to a crater.  A caldera is a crater that collapsed into its magma chamber, making it much larger.  Compared to a crater, a caldera usually has steeper sides and a flatter bottom.

Scoria – “cinder cones” or “scoria cones” are made of this type of bubbly lava rock. Public domain photo from WikiMedia Commons

Cones are another amazing feature of volcanoes.  They are made of volcanic debris piling up.  Spatter cones are made of a bunch of thin, wet clots of lava that splat when they hit the ground.  As the lava gets splattered up in one place, it creates a little pile, called a spatter cone.  There are other types of cones as well.  Ash cones are made of piles of volcanic ash, that have wide crater at the top.  Then there are cinder cones, which are made of a bubbly lava rock called scoria – this is the same type of lava rock you would find in gardens and landscaping.   These cinder cones also have a crater, but their piles and craters are more narrow than ash cones.

The final “C” of volcanoes is columns.  Sometimes cooling lava will crack in a special pattern of columns.  These columns look like hexagon (six-sided) shaped logs stacked side by side.  Although the most common shape is a hexagon, columns with anywhere between three and eight sides can be created in different situations.  They look like pillars all squished together when they stand upright, or stacked logs when they are sideways.  It all just depends on where the heat is coming from and where the lava can let off some steam.  We find these columns all throughout the rock record, including in the Grand Canyon.  Some people say that they have actually watched these columns forming as the lava cooled quickly.

Basalt Columns – basically the same as lava columns formed through cracking in a hexagon shape while cooling. Copyright free photo from pixabay.com

That’s one of the most incredible things about Hawaii – seeing geology in action.  Hawaii is a great reminder of how young our earth really is.  Quick, dramatic spurts of volcanic eruptions can dramatically change the landscape.  People will often point to the very same types of formations we see on Hawaii and claim that they took long periods of time to form or that they are millions of years old, like the rock columns on the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Humans have witnessed many small-scale disasters on Hawaii and other volcanoes.  Some  have been able to take pictures or even videos of these things in action.  Those small-scale disasters are just leftovers after the global flood that would have included lots of volcanic activity.  While people may point to radioisotope rock dating as “proof” that other volcanic rock formations are very old, those dates are not very reliable.  Lava from Hawaii that people saw erupting in 1800 was tested for radioisotopes and it came back with a supposed minimum age of 160 million years.   We know that’s not the case for this lava, so why trust it to tell us dates of lava?

Volcanoes are also a solemn reminder of how quickly things can change.  Don’t take your life for granted.  Don’t take your future for granted.  Do you know what your life’s purpose is?  Do you know what will happen when you die? What if you lost everything tomorrow?  The Bible has the answers about geology, the global flood, and the age of the earth, but it also has the answers to all the most important questions of life.  And so much more than just answers for your mind, but also a life-long relationship for your soul.

©2017 Sara J. Mikkelson

References:

  • Marshark, Stephen.  Earth: Portrait of a Planet. , Third Edition. 2008. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Hazlett, Richard. Hyndman, Donald.  Roadside Geology of Hawaii. 1996.  Sixth printing, April 2015.  Mountain Press Publishing Company.  Missoula, Montana.  USA
  • Wolfe, Edward W. Morris, Jean.  Geologic Map of the Island of Hawaii.  Paper made to accompany map I-2524-A.  U. S. Geological Survey.  Department of the Interior.
  • Walker, Tas. A Giant Cause: The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland: colossal volcanic eruptions during Noah’s Flood. Creation Magazine. 27(2). March 2005. Pgs. 28–34.  Retrieved 5-11-17 http://creation.com/a-giant-cause

Hawaii Rocks!

Thurston Lava Tubes entrance at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo copyright Creation Clues – David & Sara Mikkelson

Gentle jungle noises of birds and bugs faded as I walked into the large, damp cavern.   Green-tinted light reflecting off the dark rain forest canopy suddenly turned into the darkness of a cave with black walls, lit only with the occasional yellow glow of a man-made light.  The stillness of the cave was suddenly broken by the noise of a large group of tourists coming in behind me. I overheard someone ask their tour guide a question:

“How long did it take to make this cave?  Who made it?”

 

“Just hours to make it . . .  None of this is man-made.  All the lava tubes were made by lava flows” The tour guide replied.

Lava tubes are caves made by lava flows of a volcano.  They are made by a special type of lava flow. There’s a lot of variety in different types of lava and volcanic rock. Many factors come into play for the making of a lava rock, but the chemistry of the magma is the most important.  Magma and lava are the same thing – only we use the term “magma” when it’s underground and “lava” when it’s on the surface. As hot magma makes its way to the surface, it melts and mixes with other rock in the way.  Sometimes the surrounding rock melts into the magma, and other times it will leave partially melted edges in the rock or a chunk of that older rock will get carried away with the magma.

This melting and mixing of rock in between the magma and its exit will change the chemistry of the magma.  Geologists call this “magma evolution”.  Remember that the word “evolution” just means “change” – the magma changes have absolutely nothing to do with molecules turning into people.  On volcanoes like Mount St. Helens based on land, the magma has to go through a lot of continental rock, that contains a lot of quartz and other minerals rich in silica. This change in the magma makes for a very explosive eruption and generally relatively light colored lava rocks.

Mount Saint Helens erupting – public domain photo

Now take a look at Hawaii – since this group of volcanoes forms in the ocean, it goes through a different type of rock.  This oceanic rock is heavier than continental rock.  It doesn’t have much quartz or other silica, and instead has more iron and other metals in its chemistry.  Hawaiian volcanoes have a different style of eruption – these eruptions are still very dangerous, but the lava flows more like a flood, rather than exploding like Mount St. Helens.  Hawaiian volcanic rock is usually darker and heavier.  It really makes a lot of sense if you think about it.  Imagine hitting against glass – it may stand firm for a while, but with enough pressure it will shatter. However, if you did the same thing to a sheet of metal, it would bend and warp.  Volcanoes like Mount St. Helens explode because that rock and the magma underneath it has silica in it, like glass, while Hawaii has a lot of “bendable” metal in it (Read Birth of Hawaii to learn about the formation of this island chain).

Flowing pahoehoe lava
Public domain copyright free image from pixabay.com

Today, let’s explore two of the different types of rocks made by flowing lava in Hawaii.  They both have originally Hawaiian names – “Pahoehoe” (pronounced “pa-hoy-hoy”) and “’A’a” (pronounced like “Ah! Ah!”, as if you were expressing pain).  These two types of rocks actually have the same chemistry, but there are a few things that make them different. Pahoehoe is very smooth and runny.  It looks a little like a boiling pot of thick, creamy soup.  This is the stuff that really “oozes” and creates flowing rivers of lava.  Pahoehoe creates lava tubes when a flowing “stream” of lava is exposed to the air, which hardens the top and sides of the stream, creating a hard crust or skin.  Inside, this leaves a nice insulated tunnel that lava can keep flowing though and not be exposed to the air that would “freeze” it into solid rock.   Once the lava stops flowing, it sometimes leaves an empty lava tube.  Many of these are very large and look a lot like caves.

While pahoehoe is runny and smooth, ‘a’a is very jagged and bumpy.  If you walk on it, it can easy tear up shoes because the surface is so sharp, unlike smooth Pahohoe. The name “a’a” can remind you of a person walking in pain and crying “Ah! Ah!” as they walk along the sharp, jagged surface.  Just like bubbling soda contains carbon dioxide gas, lava also contains carbon dioxide and other gasses, like water vapor.  Pahoehoe has more gas and is hotter than ‘a’a.  While pahohoe flows, ‘a’a lava flows move in more of a “lumping”   and rolling motion.  Below are a couple of short YouTube videos showing real pahoehoe and ‘a’a lava in motion.

Inside the Thurston Lava Tubes

Lava can teach us a lot about stubbornness.  Do you ever struggle with stubbornness? I certainly do.  Lava is a good reminder to me that I want to be more like Pahoehoe of Hawaii and less like exploding lava rock of Mount St. Helens.  The more stiff and stubborn I am, the more I hurt those around me.  I can still be determined and make a difference, changing the landscape around me if I choose to do it more gently, like Hawaiian Pahoehoe.  So how can we change what kind of “lava” comes out of our hearts? The same way magma changes before it reaches the surface – by melting and absorbing the right things.  The Word and character of God are the best things we can absorb in our hearts, before our magma of thoughts and ideas ever reach the surface as actions and words. May you absorb more of Him and His Word every day and learn to be more like Pahohoe.

©2017 Sara J. Mikkelson

Read previous article about Hawaii: Hawaii – All Three Types of Science

References:

  • Marshark, Stephen.  Earth: Portrait of a Planet. , Third Edition. 2008. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Hazlett, Richard. Hyndman, Donald.  Roadside Geology of Hawaii. 1996.  Sixth printing, April 2015.  Mountain Press Publishing Company.  Missoula, Montana.  USA
  • Video: “CSAV Hawaii: Pahoehoe on the Pali”. Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes.  University of Hawaii at Hilo.  Retrieved 5-3-17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zVSWQrCgcM
  • Video: “CSAV Hawaii: Volcanic Eruption with Aa”. Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes. University of Hawaii at Hilo. Retrieved 5-3-17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9iW_oXMBB8

Hawaii – All Three Types of Science

The author by the rolls of recent lava flows, spotted with a little foliage

The luscious green canopy of trees suddenly turned into a desert-like terrain.  Shiny black landscape glistened in the mid-day sunlight.  Rolling, lumpy black land stretched on for many miles. The light dotting of trees and small shacks soon disappeared.  It was hot and dusty along the road.  Looking around, on one side I could see the ocean stretching out on the horizon, as the land ended abruptly in cliffs.  On the other side, the black, hardened billows of hardened lava rolled down the side of the volcano, frozen in its tracks.  The road ahead promised more miles of this yet to come.  Walking along the hardened lava flows, what struck me the most was their young age.  Fifty years ago, these rocks I was standing on did not exist.

Hawaii is a truly incredible place where we can see the science of geology in action.  Here, we can vividly see all three main types of science in action.  These three types of science are 1) observational science, 2) historical science, and 3) predictions.  Let’s explore each of these on the Hawaiian Islands

1) Observational Science

This is a scientific rain gauge – used to make precise observations

This is basically using our senses to gather information about the world around us.  Any time we see, hear, touch, smell, or taste something using our five senses, we are making an observation.  Of course, our senses can be a bit limited (we can’t touch the stars and it’s hard to feel when it’s exactly 75.23° F outside) so we also use many tools to stretch our sensing ability.  We use telescopes, thermometers, radars, and countless other tools that help us observe things.  Observations are the hard facts of science.  These facts are repeatable and testable.  People have actually  seen flowing lava in Hawaii and taken pictures of it in action.  There is so much we can observe about the geology of Hawaii –  seismologists can measure earthquakes and see how they relate to eruptions. The Big Island is still an active volcano, and we can see the next volcano forming southwest of Hawaii, still underwater.  They call it Lo’ihi.

2) Historical Science

Lava in the process of hardening

This type of science isn’t as black & white as observational science.  While we can measure and observe volcanoes on the Big Island today, all the other Hawaiian islands are extinct volcanoes. We were not there to observe those volcanoes (or at least, not in the way we make scientific observations on the Big Island today).   This is where “educated guess” work comes in.  It’s where science and history start to blend, and each person’s world view, or basic beliefs, have a big influence.  To some extent, we can “guess” that some things happening on Hawaii today must have happened to the other islands, but we weren’t there to actually observe it and the farther back in history we go, the less reliable our guesses are. Most of the ages you will hear of Hawaii are way over estimated – there are many good reasons to be skeptical of the radioisotope dating methods used on Hawaiian rocks (read more about radioisotope dating here). To learn more about the history and formation of Hawaii, you can read our previous article Birth of Hawaii

3) Predictions

Similar to historical science, predictions try to “stretch” observations, only prediction tries to guess what will happen in the future based off what we observe happening in the present. The best part about predictions is that we can test them by making new observations when the time comes, like testing weather predictions.  For example, seismologists can predict how soon a new eruption will happen.  An example of long-term prediction is about the development or extinction of Hawaiian volcanoes. On the Big Island, newer lava rock has a slightly different chemistry than some of the previous lava flows.  Since that chemistry looks more similar to the chemistry of the rocks on the older volcanoes, geologists think that the Big Island volcanoes are working toward becoming extinct and getting replaced with an “upcoming” island, Lo’ihi. This is a prediction, or a “guess” we can make based on observations.  Like historical science, some prediction models are good and others are not.

The two active volcanoes of the Big Island (Mauna Loa & Kilauea) and the building, upcoming volcano, Lo’ihi, still under water

On Hawaii, we can practice all three types of science – we can observe things happening in the present and make educated guesses about the past and future.  Much as we would like to know everything about the past and future, we really are only given today.  Scientists are merely groups of people, and science is a lot like life – all you have is today.  Memories of the past are limited and we tend to forget things over time.   We can make guesses and assume things about the future, but we aren’t promised tomorrow and never know when life will include some major changes. If you have a relationship with the Lord of all, God will give you the grace you need for each day – worrying about the future or regretting the past is worse than “educated guess” historical science and predictions.  Worrying about scientific, political, or personal predictions and history brings to mind the words of the old hymn, Day By Day, reminding us that the Lord gives us whatever we need for each day

“ . . . as thy days, thy strength shall be in measure” ~ Day By Day

©2017, Sara J. Mikkelson

References:

  • Hazlett, Richard. Hyndman, Donald.  Roadside Geology of Hawaii. 1996.  Sixth printing, April 2015.  Mountain Press Publishing Company.  Missoula, Montana.  USA
  • Hymn: “Day By Day”. Words: Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg, 1865; translated from Swedish to English by Andrew L. Skoog (1856-1934). Based off 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Deuteronomy 33:25.  Music: “Blott en Dag,” Oskar Ahnfelt, 1872

Birth of Hawaii

Flying into the Island of Hawaii – notice the volcano peak amid the clouds. Copyright Mikkelson 2017

“Look!  There’s the island!  Which volcano do you think that is?”  I wondered, noticing a mountain peak poking through the layer of clouds as I looked out of the small plane window.  We were in the Hawaiian islands, headed towards the Big Island of Hawaii, where we would be staying right next to an active volcano.  It was an amazing place.  One minute, we could be in a tropical rain forest, and suddenly it would turn into a giant deserted field of black lava rock.  Although some areas of the island have soft sandy beaches, others have dramatic sea cliffs where lava flows into the ocean.

When many people think of Hawaii, they think of a paradise, much like the Garden of Eden in the Bible.  But, unlike the Garden of Eden, these islands are the result of catastrophic forces and a dramatic, fiery origin.  Many aspects of Hawaii, like the lush plants, beautiful waterfalls, and incredible creatures point us back to the splendor and careful design of our Creator, God.  However, the Hawaiian islands are there today because of the global, catastrophic flood, sent as God’s righteous judgement for the sin of mankind.

Hawii sea cliffs at sunset. Copyright Mikkelson, 2017.

There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the geology of Hawaii.  Although we know that the global flood was catastrophic, the Bible gives less information about how exactly it happened, scientifically speaking.  This means that many of the details of the geology of the flood depend on which scientific model a person is using.  There are several scientific models that try to explain how exactly the flood happened.  Every good model will have it’s strong points and weak points.  The more information we gather by doing science, the more we can narrow out some of those models, testing which ones are most likely to be true.  Keeping that in mind, here’s what we can tell so far about how Hawaii formed.

Evidence shows that earth’s surface is made up of plates that move on top of the hot mantle. Lots of earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, etc. form around the edges of these plates.  But, Hawaii is in the middle of a big plate, far from the plate boundaries that cause most volcanoes. Hawaii is actually part of a chain of seamounts that meet with the Emperor Sea Mounts and reach all the way to the Aleutian islands of Alaska.  The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest and is volcanically active, while the other islands are extinct volcanoes and get progressively smaller, the farther northwest on the chain of seamounts.  The current theory is that there is a plume of hot magma welling up in the mantle, creating a volcano on the outer plate of earth’s surface.  As that plate moves, the hot spot stays in place beneath it, creating a new volcano right next to the previous one.  The hot spot idea has a few problems and is being debated among scientists, but this model seems to be the best fit for Hawaii until we have more information.

This idea would also work well with the global flood. Although Earth’s plates move slowly today, they would have moved much faster in the past during, and for a short time after, the global flood.  The chain of seamounts over the Hawaiian hot spot probably started forming some time towards the end of the flood, when the plates were moving quickly.  The plates would have continued moving quickly for a little while after the flood, slowing down to the current speed of plate movement.  Hawaii must have formed a short while after the flood.

Hawaiian Volcano From Pixabay.com – Copyright free image

Measuring from the seafloor to the peak Mauna Kea (the tallest volcano on the Big Island), Hawaii is 6.3 miles high, which is taller than Mount Everest, measuring from sea level to the peak.  It’s a powerful, but normally quite active volcano.  Although Hawaii is stunningly beautiful, it was formed as a fiery volcano from the aftermath of the flood – God’s judgement.  In places like Hawaii, we can see the grace of God stunningly illustrated. Hawaii was definitely not part of God’s “very good” original creation.  But, our gracious Creator took a messy situation – the flood of judgement – and turned it into something beautiful.  No matter how much you’ve messed up, remember that God’s grace can turn your life into a new and beautiful creation, just like Hawaii.

© 2017 Sara J. Mikkelson

References:

Sticky Situations

Carefully and proudly, I opened the black case, lined with dark blue velvet, and gently removed a long, slender violin bow. Excitement, nervousness, and anticipation filled the room –  as a high schooler, I loved preforming in orchestra concerts. After tightening the knob, I gently ran the hairs of the bow along a shiny block of dark, golden-orange and brown rosin.  Flipping back a few years, at age six, after climbing a pine tree, I remember being frustrated with the gooey sap that wouldn’t come off my hands, no matter how many times I washed them.  Around college age, I remember examining pieces of amber for the first time, gazing intently at the little fossil bugs, plants, and other little things trapped inside.  What do these three things – fossil amber, sap, and violin rosin have in common and how are they different?

While they all ultimately come from trees, amber, sap, and rosin have several important differences. People often get these a little bit confused when it comes to how these things are related and different.  You may have heard that amber is fossilized sap.  This is a myth.  Both fine jewelry amber and rosin used on bows for violins are made from the resin of a tree, not a sap of the tree.  While rosin (used on violin bows) is refined and hardened resin, amber is fossilized resin, with a different chemistry behind it.  Sap and resin may seem similar at first – they are both golden sticky substances found in trees.   However, sap has a different chemistry and different job inside the tree than resin has.  Sap is usually more drippy and clear, while resin is more solid, tacky, and darker colored.  This dark, sticky resin is exposed when a tree is cut into.

Live Water Strider – Copyright free, Pixabay

So exactly how does fossil amber form, and why does it make such beautiful, perfectly preserved fossils? Although we weren’t there to see how amber formed, we have a few hints based off what we can clearly test on resin and amber today. First, we know that resin is exposed when a tree is cut into, or broken in certain ways. Second, we know that at least some of that resin had to be covered in water, because some water-dwelling creatures, including shells, water striders, and others, have been found fossilized in amber. Resin is also stickier and more likely to catch small creatures and plant pieces when it is wet.  But, resin will not turn into amber when it’s wet, and must also be covered in sediments and pressurized.

Wet resin explains why we find so many different fossil creatures and plants preserved in amber, and it also makes sense with the global flood and possibly other catastrophes that happened while Earth was recovering from the flood.  During the flood, trees would have been ripped up and torn apart, exposing the sticky, wet resin.  Some of the smashed tree parts would have floated, and their wet resin would have easily caught bugs and other small pieces of debris.  As the waves moved, some of the resin could have dropped and been covered with new layers of mud, causing the resin to turn into amber.

All of this must be done very quickly so that that tiny creatures and plants would have been preserved in the perfect detail we see in amber. Mosquitoes, small wasps, beetles, slender-legged water striders, frogs, lizards, larvae, termites, flowers, leaves, and countless other little treasures have been found in amber, as if frozen in their tracks.  Almost every little detail of their bodies are perfectly preserved. Looking at amber for the first time up close, I was amazed at how real and alive these things looked.  Recently, a tick in amber was discovered with blood inside of it.  Researchers concluded that the blood probably belonged to a monkey that the tick was feeding on.  Things like this shouldn’t last millions of years, or be beautifully preserved like they are.  Amber presents good evidence for a rapid, catastrophic burial during a world wide flood and a young earth.  It also reminds us of how quickly life can come to a sudden halt, like it did for these creatures, frozen in their tracks.  We aren’t promised tomorrow – be sure to live each day with that in mind.

©2017 Sara J. Mikkelson

References:

Media Credit:

Featured image compiled by David Mikkelson from:

  • “Amber2” – ant in amber, © Anders L. Damgaard: www.amber-inclusions.dk Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
  • Amber © Sara J. Mikkelson, 2016

Other images: Pixabay.com (copyright free) and ©Sara J. Mikkelson

 

Four Arguments Against Living Fossils Answered

I scoured the beautiful, thick glossy pages with a skeptical eye.  Internally, questions and objections were popping up all over my mind as I fleshed out the ideas presented. The book was “Living Fossils”, by Dr. Carl Werner.  It’s a popular young earth creation science book, and I definitely believe in a Biblical young earth.  However, since my geology classes in a secular college, I’ve learned how to borrow the mindset of an evolutionist or old earth believer enough to test the weaknesses and strengths of different young earth models or ideas.  The common young earth view on living fossils is that creatures found both in the fossil record and alive today are a problem for evolution because they remain unchanged.  Today, let’s break down four common arguments against this view of living fossils (more on living fossils here)

1. Not the exact same genus & species name

Many of the fossil creatures mentioned in Dr. Werner’s book are classified in a different genus and/or species name than they have today.  Some of the fossils don’t have a species name at all.  However, keep in mind that naming a fossil can be tricky.  The fossil versions can be squished, look different with various angles, or have missing parts.  Soft body parts, color, behavior, and other details that help us identify a creature usually don’t get preserved in fossils.  However, even if we could tell that these creatures were from a different genus and species than the living versions, the point remains that they appear very similar and unchanged, despite vast amounts of supposed evolution.

2. Limited information available

Good scientists will readily admit that we don’t know everything about the fossil record and evolution.  If a fossil creature, thought to be long extinct, suddenly appears alive today, some people say it just means we have more information now and need to change their evolutionary dates. The same thing would be thought when living creatures are found deeper inside the fossil record than evolutionary ideas predict. But, this kind of thinking side-steps the problem that these creatures remain unchanged over supposed millions of years of transition and dramatic change in other creatures.  Of course, this leads us right into the next objection to living fossils:

3. Evolution doesn’t require a creature to change

Could a creature stay the same, if it just had the right conditions?   Perhaps. But, “Change over time” is the main point behind the idea of evolution. The theory of evolution is constantly changing.  Many scientists think this is good and scientific.  But, if a theory constantly needs to be adjusted because it failed after being tested against observable data, keeping an open mind to considering different theories might be wise. The use of true scientific method should have eliminated evolutionary theory long ago because it fails testing. It’s interesting to note that we find many examples of living fossils (creatures staying the same) but even supposed transitional forms (creatures evolving) are quite rare in the fossil record.

4. Most living fossils in Dr. Werner’s book are Mesozoic (dinosaur era)

According to the evolutionary model, the “dinosaur era” or Mesozoic rock unit, is in the middle of the fossil record (not counting the Precambrian rock units – more about rock units here).  Theoretically, there would have been plenty of time for the evolution of many complex, modern-looking creatures.  At the same time, the Mesozoic isn’t too far from modern times for some creatures to survive, according to the evolutionary timeline. Although Dr. Werner focused on dinosaur-era fossils, there are numerous examples of much “older” living fossils, found deeper in the fossil record.  Numerous living fossils can be found in Carboniferous and even Cambrian rock layers.

Are living fossils a good argument against evolution?  There are a number of stronger arguments for young earth creation I would use first, like soft tissue in fossils and helium in granite. But, living fossils do present a good question for evolution and a challenge to the way people think about the fossil record.  We tend to think that fossil creatures lived in a “pre-historic” world that was very strange and different from our own.  However, Dinosaurs and many other fossil creatures lived with things that looked a lot like our modern creatures. Living fossils are a beautiful illustration of the faithfulness and mercy of our Creator, God. He has preserved so many amazingly designed creatures.  This is not preservation through heartless favor of evolution, but by God’s mercy through His righteous judgment.  Just as He preserves those creatures, He can preserve you, too.

©2017 Sara J. Mikkelson

Read previous Articles in this Series:

References:

  • Werner, Dr. Carl. Living Fossils. Evolution: The Grand Experiment, Vol. 2. 2008. Audio Visual Consultants, Inc. New Leaf Press. Green Forest, Arkansas, USA.

Butterflies – Creation Clues for Kids Vol 5 No 3

Flutter By


Do you ever like to catch bugs, butterflies, or other little creatures outside? Sometimes, you can catch bugs and watch them live in a jar for a while.  Some of the most exciting bugs I remember chasing around the back yard were butterflies.  There was something mysterious and extra special about these thin, colorful bugs that never went where I wanted them to go.  Chasing butterflies always made me laugh.  Just when I thought I nearly caught one, the butterfly would suddenly turn or switch directions, fluttering above my head. Have you ever tried to chase a butterfly?

Butterflies

Butterflies have long, thin bodies, made of three sections, just like other insects. They have compound bug eyes made up of many different lenses. Our eyes each have a single lens, but butterflies and other bugs have thousands of tiny lenses clustered together in each eye.  This gives a creature special abilities to see around itself and get a better picture of the outside world.   Butterflies feed on flower nectar by using a proboscis (say it: “praw-boss-cuss”)– a long, super thin touge-like part of their body that can curl and suck up nectar, almost like a straw.  Of course, wings are usually the most beautiful part of a butterfly (and give it the ability to fly).  Wings come in many different colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes.

Worm Work

Have you ever read the short picture book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”?    Just like the little caterpillar in this book eats and eats until it is ready to be transformed into a butterfly, real caterpillars have a very healthy appetite.  They don’t eat junk-food, like the caterpillar in the book, but are very picky eaters.  Caterpillars from different types of butterflies only eat leaves from their specific types of plants. Caterpillars of Monarch butterflies only eat milkweed plants.  A mother butterfly lays her caterpillar eggs on just the right type of leaf.  After the egg hatches, the caterpillar eats its egg shell and the leaf the egg was on and continues eating and growing.  Caterpillars must shed their outer skin several times because they outgrow their outer skeletons (like a snake sheds).  The last time it’s ready to shed, the caterpillar does something very different . . .

After hatching, some caterpillars grow more than 3,000 times their size. This would be like a six-pound newborn human baby eating enough to weigh more than two African elephants together!

Remodeling

The last time a caterpillar sheds, it doesn’t have a new skeleton underneath, but develops a chrysalis instead. While hanging upside-down on a nice branch, the caterpillar creates this nearly cone-shaped wrapping.  The outside of a chysalis has a special pattern of dots.  On the outside of its bright green chrysalis, a monarch butterfly has twenty-four gold specks around its heart, and twelve more gold specks marking other important body parts. Many critical body parts that the creature could not live without (including the stomach) are completely dissolved and re-made during this process of metamorphosis (pronounced “met-a-more-fa-sis”).  Whole body systems are remodeled, changing the way the creature eats, moves, senses, and more.

 A butterfly transforms in a chrysalis (say it: “Kris-a-lis”) that hangs from something, while a moth uses a cocoon that hides instead of hangs. You can call either one a “pupa” (say it: “Pew-puh”) while it is transforming

Totally New Life

After going through metamorphosis, the fluttering butterfly is ready for a totally different life than it used to have as a caterpillar.  Those short, stubby caterpillar legs turn into very long and thin butterfly legs.  Its eyes transform into compound eyes, ready to help the butterfly see flowers.  It uses its new proboscis to suck nectar from those flowers and get a nice meal. Instead of crawling on the ground and on leaves, the butterfly now has the amazing ability to fly.  A transformation like this never could have come about by accidental evolution. Step by step – every part of the process of butterfly transformation had to be in place from the start.

Sometimes, the bright colors of butterfly wings can make them look poisonous to other creatures who might want to eat them

Big Blue

 

Blue Morpho. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

Colors like red, brown, orange, and some blacks in butterfly wings come from the scales actually being naturally “dyed”.  Black and orange Monarch butterflies have these “dyed” scales. Colors like blue, green, white, and sometimes black are often iridescent. The color can look different as the butterfly moves its wings. They almost look like they’re glowing, like a computer screen.  These colors are not made by the scales being dyed, but by the microscopic designs inside the scales that reflect and bend light.  The way you can see these colors is a lot like the way you can see  the colors of a rainbow through distant rain. Blue Morpho (say it: “more-fow”) butterflies have this special iridescent blue color on their wings, but only on the top of their wings.  The bottom sides of their wings are brown and have shapes that help it to blend in with tree branches.

Moths

Atlas Moth

At first, moths look very similar to butterflies.  The bodies of a moth are usually thicker and more “hairy” than butterflies.  When moths rest, their wings are usually open or flat.  Butterflies rest with their wings folded closed or slowly opening and closing.  A moth’s antennae are usually shorter and hairier than those of a butterfly.   While you might be tempted to think of moths as the “ugly” version of a butterfly, some moths are actually quite colorful.  The Atlas Moth is very large and has some beautiful patterns on its wings

Monarch Relay

 

Lifeless monarch amid the flowers. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2015

Have you ever tried a relay race? You run for a lap, then you stop and a friend continues running for you, then someone else takes over for them. Monarch butterflies have special orange and black patterns on their wings. This type of butterfly is an amazing traveler and survivor with a special family adventure story.  Grandma monarch eggs usually hatch near Texas in the spring.  They fly north a few states, following the spring warmth, then lay their eggs, and die.  Mamma monarchs hatch from those eggs, enjoy their lives, and keep flying north until they find their southern home around the border between the United States and Canada where they lay their eggs.  Baby Monarchs hatch from those eggs, and notice that it’s time to go south for the winter, so they begin the long journey, flying all the way to Mexico. While both Grandma and Mamma Monarch lived for only a few weeks and traveled a short distance, Baby Monarch lives for eight to nine months and flies about three thousand miles south. In a forest of special trees in the mountains of Mexico, monarch butterflies gather by the millions all clumping together on the trees to keep warm.  Some don’t survive the winter, but the ones that do fly back to Texas in the spring, lay their eggs, and die.  (Learn more about this incredible journey of the monarch by clicking here)

“Monarch” means royal.  While changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly, they forma a special “crown” of golden dots on the outside of the chrysalis around the area where their head is developing

Butterfly

Looking at the lives of butterflies, and especially the traveling Monarch, we can see God’s extra special care for the creatures He made.  He makes them beautiful and gives them special abilities.  He perfectly planned their amazing transformation from caterpillars to butterflies.  But, most butterflies only live for a few weeks.  If our Creator put so much care and art into these butterflies, how much more does He care about you and carefully craft all the details of your life?  He made you “in His image” – so much more special than any kind of animal.  (To learn more about butterflies, click here)

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CCK is written by Sara J. Bruegel.  Many thanks to Richard Gunther for the fun cartoon & coloring page.  If you have a question or comment about God’s creation that you would like to share, please write to Sara at: CreationCluesForKids@gmail.com Also, you can visit www.CreationClues.com to learn more about our Creator’s amazing world of science, read a new article every week or read & print past issues of CCK.  Please share CCK with your friends & family!

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Exploring Living Fossils – Land Lovers – Part 3

The stillness of a summer evening was just beginning to set in.   But looking down on the wide grassy area, it buzzed with life.  In the summer, swarms of dragonflies loved this area that could be seen from my favorite sunset-watching perch on the roof.  These small creatures seemed simply to bubble over from a bottomless well of energy and joy, as if they were dancing in the air, praising their Creator with an endless well of zeal and excitement.  They were beautiful, simple, elegant, extravagant, and inspiring.  Dragonflies are fun to watch today, but did you realize we find fossil dragonflies, too?  Fossil dragonflies can be found buried in the same rock layers that hold dinosaur bones (more about fossil dragonflies here).

Dragonflies are a beautiful example of a “living fossil” – a creature that can be found both as a fossil buried in rock layers and living today.  Among other fossils, the Solnhofen rock formation in Germany holds many beautifully preserved creatures, including dragonflies, katydids, beetles, crickets, and mayfly fossils, all of which look very similar to those living creatures today.  The Solnhofen is most famous for the discovery of Archaeopteryx. This rock layer is classified as part of the Jurassic rock unit (learn more about rock units & the geologic column here), known for containing stegosaurus and other dinosaurs.  Dragonflies and other creatures that look almost just like what we see today lived with stegosaurus and other dinosaurs.

Small snake skeleton

Did you know that a fossil boa constrictor snake, looking a lot like modern boa constrictors, was found buried in rock with a triceratops?  Or that salamanders, frogs, turtles, and crocodiles, very similar to these modern creatures, all lived with dinosaurs?  Even fossils looking very similar to modern lizards, like iguana, gliding lizards, and tuataras, can be found buried in rock layers with dinosaurs. These are living fossils – creatures that we can find living today and buried in rock layers with dinosaurs.

We tend to think that dinosaurs and other extinct fossil creatures lived in “prehistoric” times.  We tend to envision their world as a strange place full of odd creatures, but taking a look at the fossil record shows us that odd creatures like dinosaurs lived with modern-looking insects and other creatures. They also lived among and probably ate plants just like some of the plants we have today – ginkgo trees, sycamore trees, palm trees, pine trees, and various types of ferns.  Even birds, including parrots, penguins, ducks, and owls have been found as fossils, buried in dinosaur rock.

The author with a fossil Araucaria pine tree at a fossil dig in western Colorado

Today we covered some of the types of living fossils of land animals, insects, and plants.  Last week, we covered living fossils of fish and other sea creatures (read that here).  Next week, we will answer some of the common questions people have about living fossils.  We can see an underlying theme in the preservation of living fossils – creatures that survived the global flood and other dramatic changes.  That theme is the merciful faithfulness of God to preserve the creatures He created.  You will probably live through many seasons of change or hard times.  You may encounter tragedy.  But, try to remember that the same God who preserves fossil creatures through many different trials and disasters can also preserve you.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” ~ Matthew 10:29-31

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2017

References:

  • Werner, Dr. Carl. Living Fossils. Evolution: The Grand Experiment, Vol. 2. 2008. Audio Visual Consultants, Inc. New Leaf Press. Green Forest, Arkansas, USA.

Exploring Living Fossils – Sea Life – Part 2

Public Domain picture from www.pixabay.com

In those quiet moments just before dawn, the rhythmic sound of rolling waves cascading against the sandy beach was the only sound. The wet sand gradually began to glisten as the minutes passed and the first rays of sunshine struck the microscopic crystals within the sand.  The early morning stillness was broken by the dull, thudding noise of small, running bare feet, interspersed with high-pitched giggles as a child ran along, leaving footprints in the damp sand.  Suddenly, the child stopped and dropped to the ground on bent knees to examine a small treasure.  Running a slender finger along the edges of the delicate, smooth object, the child was intrigued by the shape, beauty, and wonder of the object.  Carefully, those fingers lifted the object, brushing off the sand to reveal the complete sea shell.

Many people love collecting sea shells today.  Not only are they beautiful, interesting objects, but they are also made and used by living creatures. You might have a shell collection that could include half of a clam or oyster shell, a swirled snail shell, or even a spiraled nautilus shell. We find fossils of shells almost exactly like those modern shells, buried in rock layers with dinosaur bones.  These are living fossils.  Last week, we started talking about living fossils – creatures we find both in the fossil record and still living today (read the previous article here). Living fossils present a challenge to evolution.  If creatures are supposed to be changing into other things, why do we find so many creatures that stay the same throughout supposed millions of years of evolution?

Living fossils present a problem for one theory for the supposed evolution of fish.   Dr. John Long is considered an expert on the evolution of fish.  According to Dr. Long’s ideas on the evolution of fish, both cartilaginous fish (a group that includes sharks and rays) and bony fish (like salmon, gars, and sardines) evolved from their shared granddaddy, the jawless fish.  But, we still find jawless fish, like the blood-sucking lampreys alive today.  If both shark-like creatures and bony fish were “better” or “more-evolved” versions of jawless fish, why did jawless fish survive until today?  Take a look at modern waters and the fossil record: we find fossil sharks, rays, salmon, gars, and sardines, along with jawless lampreys in both places. Doesn’t it seem more likely they have all been around the whole time than that they evolved?

Fossil Lobster from the Solnhoffen in Germany. Photo Credit: David Mikkeson

The Solnhofen formation in Germany provides many examples of these living fossils, beautifully preserving delicate creatures (read about jellyfish fossils in this formation here).  In these rock layers, you can find shrimp, lobsters, prawns, and horseshoe crabs, all that look very similar to what we see today. This rock layer is classified as part of the Jurassic group – a group of layers in which dinosaur fossils can be found (more about rock layers & geologic column here). Looking at life in the waters, we can see that the fossil record isn’t quite as bizarre as it’s often made out to be.

Without evolution and vast ages of time, the Biblical global flood provides a good explanation for what we see in rock formations and fossils throughout the world.  When reading about Noah’s ark and the flood in the Bible, you may have noticed that only land dwelling creatures were on the ark.  That would mean no fish tanks on the ark.  This often brings up the question, how did fish survive the flood? There are more fossils of water-dwelling creatures than any other type of creature.  Numerous fish, clams, and other sea creatures died in the flood.  But, through living fossils, we can see that many of the same types of fish buried in the flood are also alive today.  The flood would not have been a perfectly mixed soup, so fish and other sea creatures that survived probably found pockets of water that were suitable for them.  Living fossils that survived the flood are a beautiful reminder of God’s grace and preservation.

©2017, Sara J. Bruegel

References:

  • Batten, Don and Sarfati, Jonathan.How did fish and plants survive the Genesis Flood? February 24, 2006. Creation Ministries International. Retrieved 2-8-17. http://creation.com/how-did-fish-and-plants-survive-the-genesis-flood
  • Levin, Harold.  2010. The Earth Through Time, 9th edition.  Pages 361-6.  John Wiley & Sons Inc.  United States.
  • Werner, Dr. Carl. Living Fossils. Evolution: The Grand Experiment, Vol. 2. 2008. Audio Visual Consultants, Inc. New Leaf Press. Green Forest, Arkansas, USA.

Exploring Living Fossils – Part 1

As I scanned the display of familiar Kansas fossils, taking lots of pictures for my personal research record, there was one oddly shaped fossil that didn’t quite seem to fit in with the others.  But, with the overwhelming number of fossils at the annual fossil show in Tucson, I didn’t give that fossil much thought until recently.  It looked like two globs of pale tan against the gray surrounding rock that had spikes sticking out of them in a random pattern.  They were sea urchin fossils.  What’s remarkable about them is that they look almost identical to the live sea urchins we find in the oceans today.

When you think “fossil”, dinosaurs and other strange creatures that are considered “extinct” probably come to mind.  But, did you realize that our modern oceans, beaches, forests, and yards are crawling with all kinds of living things we find throughout the fossil record? “Living Fossils” are creatures found in the fossil record that are also alive today, like the sea urchin fossils.

Living fossils present a big problem for the idea of pond-scum-to-people-evolution.  The word “evolution” just means change – change over time.  Living fossils are a problem for evolutionary ideas because they are creatures that have not been changing, even over vast amounts of time (at least, in theory).  We tend to want to depict dinosaurs living in strange worlds with other odd creatures, unlike anything we see today.  But, taking a better look at the fossil record, you can see that many fossil creatures look an awful lot like the modern creatures we have today.  A big, long-necked Apatosaurus could have munched the branches of a tree just like the one in your yard; sea creatures you find in an aquarium today, like coral, eels, rays, and jellyfish were there when fierce mosasaurs roamed the seas.

Living Pencil Sea Urchin – Public domain picture, Pixabay
https://pixabay.com/en/pencil-urchin-sea-life-ocean-water-139403/

Aquatic creatures are the most common type of fossils, and living fossils swimming in our modern oceans are also quite abundant.  Those sea urchin fossils I mentioned at the beginning were from central Texas, found in the Winchell Limestone.  This rock layer is officially classified as part of the Pennsylvanian group (read more about rock layer grouping & the geologic column here).  According to evolutionary theory, those sea urchins are supposed to be about 300 million years old, yet, the fossil looks an awful lot like the modern Pencil Sea Urchin.  We find star fish, sea cucumbers, sponges, various corals, and sand dollars, to name a few that are all considered at least 65 million years old (i.e., living with the dinosaurs, according to evolutionary ideas).  Crinoid (sea lily) fossils look a lot like modern “sea lilies”, virtually unchanged after a supposed 400 million years of evolution.

Public domain photo from Pixabay.com
https://pixabay.com/en/jellyfish-aquarium-wildlife-aquatic-695127/

If “evolution” keeps the crinoid, jelly fish, sea urchins, and other things unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, why would we expect fish to grow legs and start walking and change into lizards, dinosaurs, and a variety of mammals all within that same timespan?  Why would these creatures stay the same over those vast amounts of time? Perhaps a better explanation is that 1) they really haven’t been around hundreds of millions of years, 2) each basic type of creature was fully-formed from the start, with the ability to diversify within limits (e.g., different breeds of dogs, but all are still dogs), 3) all of the animals we know of today lived at the same time because they were all created at the same time, and 4) fossils were buried during different stages of the global flood, just a few thousand years ago.

Over the next few of weeks, we will be digging in to more of the different types of living fossils and what they mean.  Living fossils are a beautiful illustration of the faithfulness of God.  He not only created all of these marvelous creatures we see in our world today, but He also preserved them through the global flood.  May living fossils be a reminder to you that the Lord is faithful in His love for you and His desire to preserve you:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.  ~ Jude 24-25

©2017, Sara J. Bruegel

References:

  • Werner, Dr. Carl. Living Fossils. Evolution: The Grand Experiment, Vol. 2. 2008. Audio Visual Consultants, Inc. New Leaf Press. Green Forest, Arkansas, USA.