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Strata - The Grand Canyon

Visual Evolution
was formerly

All images are copyrighted as noted. All other images are believed to be in the public domain. Please advise if you believe otherwise. Content copyright 2001-2004 Visual Evolution. Keep it real.


Behold the Grand Canyon...


...majestic testimony to Earth's antiquity. With one glance you can see back two billion years.


© Jim Thomas, with permission


Layer upon uniform layer of sediments of ancient seas. The oldest layers preserve bacteria and colonies of blue-green algae that gave Earth its oxygen. An orderly record of animal and plant evolution unfolds as you climb the canyon wall.


Sincere thanks are due to Jim Thomas, whose superb photographs and illustrations grace this page. Further information is available at, and more of Jim's illustrations are available for viewing and purchase.


Take a cross section of the canyon and see how geologists have named various layers.


© Jim Thomas, with permission


© Jim Thomas, with permission


Click on the names of the layers below to get an idea of how Earth appeared while each layer was forming. All images © Jim Thomas, with permission.



© Jim Thomas, with permission


Creationists say these strata were formed by Noah's flood...


...formed by the ebb and flow of the flood's surges. The references below will give the creationists' views, but simply viewing the visual evidence makes believing "flood geology" definitely an act of faith. Consider the simple evidence that is provided by the organization of fossils, age gradient of the strata, and last but not least, the occurrence of lava flows interrupting the formation of strata. Also there is much evidence of burrowing animals making tunnels through strata below their native layer, but never a case of them tunneling into strata above them.


(If the strata were formed by a single flood, then pollen would be distributed throughout. However, the microscopic pollen fossils follow the same order as the larger fossil evidence. Tough to explian this simple fact away.)

For some interesting questions about the flood myth.

Noah's flood?
Simple questions for an extraordinary hypothesis.
  • Where did all the fresh water come from? Where did it go?
  • If the sedimentary strata were formed by the great flood, why are there many igneous rock formations interspersed between sedimentary strata?
  • If the flood created the ubiquitous sedimentary rock layers, why are the fossils contained in the layers sorted by age across continents?
  • If dinosaurs were contemporary with biblical humans, couldn't there be more in the bible than a vague reference to leviathan and behemoth?
  • How could all saltwater fish survive the flood?
  • If man and dinosaur lived at the same time, why is there not one human fossil found in the same strata a dinosaurs?
  • Some fish were killed by the "violent action of the flood" is used to explain the abundance of fish fossils. But if the flood was violent enough to kill the fish, why are many fossils preserved in such detail?
  • How does the flood explain the existence of living species (kangaroos, koalas, that exist only in Australia, and are not in the fossil record on any other content?


But maybe the Canyon is only 10,000 years old...

...because individuals that interpret the bible literally believe the Earth is not older than 6 to 10 thousand years. One claim is that they have measured the age of a lava flow that is at the top of the Canyon is older than the age of a lava flow at the bottom. It would be difficult to explain how and older layer came to be above the younger strata. However, the method they used actually measured the age of the molten source of the lava flow, and not when the flow occurred.

The details from Matthew S. Tiscareno's Superb Website:
Problems with radiometric dating techniques are greatly overstated by most young-Earth advocates. They often cite isolated instances of implausible dates, but these are generally caused by obsolete dating methods, contamination that a good scientist would detect (and which does not affect the large majority of dates), or by attempting to date materials that are younger than the dating method's margin of error (using radiometric methods to date recent Hawaiian lavas or living sea creatures, for example, is akin to using an unmarked yard-long stick to measure the thickness of a human hair). Most modern radiometric dating uses the isochron method, which measures several different samples (and sometimes different decay paths) and correlates them. The isochron method basically cross-checks itself constantly, and results that do not represent real ages will fail the isochron tests. Consequently, the isochron method does not require any assumption about initial amounts of parent and daughter elements (a common young-Earth objection to radiometric dating). An important consideration with the isochron method, however, is to know what it is that you're dating. Plotting several samples on an isochron will tell you how long ago the samples were separated from one another. For samples from the same lava flow, this will give you the age of the lava flow. But for samples from different flows, there can be a residual isochron giving the age of the melting event in the Earth's mantle from which the flows were derived. This is exactly what ICR geologist Steve Austin measured in the Grand Canyon. He claims that Rb/Sr isochron dating of lavas at the top of the Grand Canyon gives ages older than Grand Canyon basement rocks (ICR Impact #224, However, since Austin's samples came from several different flows, he could not have been dating the age of a single flow, rather he was dating the magma chamber beneath the Grand Canyon, from which all of the flows came. Although Austin claims that his "anomalous ages" cast doubt on radiometric dating in general, the fact is that geochemists often use the same method Austin used to date melting events much earlier than the formation of the flows themselves. For a more detailed discussion of ICR's "Grand Canyon Dating Project," see Stassen (1999), Another common objection to radiometric dating is that addition or removal of parent or daughter elements may have occurred. However, in most cases this would leave tell-tale chemical clues that scientists could detect (and indeed this frequently happens), and furthermore such contamination could not possibly account for all of the world's radiometric measurements, which are in good agreement. Finally, radioactive decay rates are known to be constant under all relevant physical conditions. The fact is that, although radiometric dating is imperfect like any other science, there is tremendous overall agreement among radiometric ages, as well as with stratigraphic (relative) ages, giving very strong circumstantial evidence for the reliability of radiometric dating methods. For a general overview of radiometric dating, see Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective by Christian geologist Roger Wiens (

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