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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V



     

Part I: The Preparation of the Earth For Man

Chapter 10

Catastrophe and Reconstitution

     THROUGHOUT THE whole process of the preparation of the earth for man, there seem to have been not merely periods of great creative activity but also periods of great destruction. And these periods of destruction seem to have been related in some way to the times of creative activity, not causally but as a kind of prelude or clearing-of-the-decks. Perhaps Agassiz was a little extreme in his view that there were innumerable such clearings-of-the-decks, believing as he did that there were at least hundreds of these catastrophes, wiping out every plant and animal over vast areas of the earth's surface, but he was by no means alone in recognizing the profound effect such would have upon the earth's ecology.
     
Like the other major interruptions in geological history, they seem to mark real boundaries between the eras, the largest divisions of geological time. Normal D. Newell of the American Museum of Natural History in New York has put it this way: (153)

     Abrupt paleontological changes at these stratigraphic levels are real, approximately synchronous, and recognizable at many places in different parts of the earth where fossiliferous rocks of approximately similar age are represented and have been carefully examined.

     These are seemingly global events, which "are characterized by the abrupt dropping out of all the species, most of the genera, and many of the higher categories (superfamilies, orders, and classes) characteristic of the times." When the earth settled down again, we seem almost to be in a new world. Otto H. Schindewolf of Tubingen, who has been particularly concerned with this problem, noted that in the recovery period the new categories of life that suddenly appear without antecedents often seem to be representative of types in the later, more completely occupied world. It looks as though God was

153. Newell, Norman D., "Catastrophism and the Fossil Record," Evolution, vol.10, no.1, 1956, p.97.

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indeed introducing the archtypes that were to mark the new order, giving them the wide potentials for later diversification that my thesis proposes.
     
Newell notes such abrupt changes of scene, especially at the end of Permian, at the close of the Mesozoic, and just before the present order of life was introduced. He pointed out that "geologists have long supposed that rates of evolution and extinction are in some manner influenced by the ecological changes induced by orogeny (i.e., mountain-building)." But he added: (154)

     In recent years it has become increasingly evident that orogenic disturbances and associated ecological changes are actually rather restricted in extent and therefore of minor evolutionary importance. . . . Evolutionary episodes as revealed in the record of fossils apparently do not coincide closely with times of mountain building.

     When the age of the great cold-blooded reptiles passed away and warm-blooded animals appeared on the earth in their place, there actually was one such abrupt discontinuity between the old and the new worlds on a global scale. Henry F. Osborn observed: (155)

     The most dramatic and in many respects the most puzzling event in the history of life on the earth, is the change which exterminated this vast array of creatures. These reptiles were in the climax of specialization and grandeur. . . . We have no conception as to what world-wide cause occurred. . . . We can only observe that the world-wide effect was the same: the giant reptiles both of sea and land disappeared.

     Some of the proposed explanations could apply readily enough to the land animals, as for example the diminishing food supply in the form of plant life. But this does not help very much with respect to those animals which lived in the sea. Whatever the cause, it was one which operated equally on land and sea, and it was surprisingly sudden. George Gamow has put it: (156)

     The kingdom of giant reptiles with its innumerable representatives on the land, in the sea, and in the air, was certainly the most powerful and extensive animal kingdom during the entire existence of life on the earth, but it had also a most tragic and unexpected end. During a comparatively short period towards the end of the Mesozoic Era the Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and all the other "sauri" disappeared from the surface of the earth as if wiped away by some giant storm. . . . The causes that led to such a sudden extinction of the most powerful animals that ever existed on the surface of our planet have remained rather obscure.

154. Ibid.
155. Osborn, Henry F., The Age of Mammals in Europe, Asia and North America, Macmillan, New York, 1910, p.98.
156. Gamow, George, Biography of the Earth, Mentor Books, New York, 1948, p.173.

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     Not only do we have the evidence, of a negative kind, that such creatures suddenly vanished from the scene, but we have a more positive evidence in the existence of so-called animal cemeteries which are considerably later. These take the form of very extensive beds in which millions of bones of a very wide variety of species of animals are found indiscriminately mixed together. In these cemeteries there are the remains of herbivorous as well as carnivorous animals and the bones of the former apparently show no signs of having been gnawed. This is a proof that both types of animals perished together. Furthermore, there is little evidence of weathering, a fact which is taken to mean that they were buried almost as quickly as they were destroyed -- perhaps by the very agency which destroyed them. And finally the bones are forcibly intermixed; that is to say, the leg bone of one species may be found rammed tightly into the eye socket of the skull of another species, a circumstance which suggests that these creatures were overwhelmed, not merely suddenly, but violently. Such cemeteries have to be seen to be believed. No simple explanation such as that the bones of centuries of dead creatures merely accumulated by being washed into a depression, or that they represent the after-dinner remains of generations of some particular local predatory species (such as hyenas for example) will suffice. These bones have not been exposed to the sun or the air for any length of time prior to burial, nor are they gnawed.
     
Newell leaned heavily on the work of Schindewolf (the importance of whose work, incidentally, has been recognized by G. G. Simpson) and emphasized the reality of these discontinuities and the widespread nature of them. And he admitted frankly that they seem (at least in some cases) to be caused by quite exceptional circumstances, circumstances not commonly observed at other periods of geological history or often affecting aquatic life as dramatically as terrestrial life. So exceptional are the circumstances, in fact, that according to Newell: (157)

     Schindewolf believes the best way to explain many of the innumerable small as well as the few large discontinuities in the fossil record. . . is by means of catastrophic extinctions and simultaneous creation of new faunas.

     Of course, this kind of explanation is unacceptable to the great majority of recognized authorities on matters geological. Ernst Mayr felt that the explanation is really quite simple. (158) He said, "Ultimately their extinction is due to an inability of their genotype to

157. Newell, Norman D.,"Catastrophism and the Fossil Record," Evolution, vol.10, no.1, 1956, p.100.
158. Mayr, Ernst, Animal Species and Evolution, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1963, p.620.

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respond to new selective pressures," an explanation which sounds impressive but merely pushes the problem one step further back to the prior question, Why this inability? There might also be many equally simple answers to this question in terms of current genetic theory, but the problem still remains as to why such an inability to respond should suddenly arise in hundreds of thousands of animals of different categories and all in the same geological time frame. It is not at all a comparable situation to the somewhat limited but none the less sad extinction of species which seem to be associated with the propensities for overkill by early man in his hunting forays, (159) or by the buffalo hunters of recent memory. These humanly induced extinctions had only a small effect on the total ecology, comparatively speaking, for they concern only a small number of species.
     Perhaps the most striking extinction of all that is still essentially unexplained is the one which seems to have immediately preceded the appearance of true man and which is in some way linked to the coming of the Ice Age. It is difficult to discuss this particularly disastrous event without appearing to be over-dramatic, and those who constitutionally find any kind of catastrophism distasteful try hard to play down the quite extraordinary character of the fossil record from which we must reconstruct the event. This catastrophe was sudden in the extreme. It was violent. It seems to have been very widespread. It was accompanied by a fundamental change in climatic conditions in many parts of the world. It wiped out enormous numbers of animals of all kinds -- large and small, land and aquatic. And it literally marked the end of a whole world order. Look at some of the facts of the case as set forth by various authorities since the early years of the last century.
     In 1821, Benjamin Silliman of the Department of Geology at Yale University, wrote of the large number of species which were apparently overwhelmed in this single catastrophe. He pointed out that whales, sharks, crocodiles, mammoths, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippos, tigers, deer, horses, various species of the bovine family, and a multitude of others were found in strata "in most instances indicating that they were buried by the same catastrophe which destroyed them all."
(160) A contemporary of Silliman's, Granville Penn, wrote: (161)

159. On the concept of overkill, see: Pleistocene Extinctions, edited by P. S. Martin and H.E.Wright, Jr., vol.4., Proceedings of 7th Congress of the International Association for Quaternary Research; especially Martin's own paper, "Prehistoric Over-Kill," Yale University Press, 1967, pp.75-120.
160. Silliman, Benjamin, in American Journal of Science, vol.3, 1821, p.47f.; vol.8, 1827, p.130f.
161. Penn, Granville, A Comparative Estimate of thc Mineral and Mosaical Geologies, vol.2, 2nd ediyion, London, 1825, p.81.

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     The great problem for geological theories to explain is that amazing phenomenon, the mingling of the remains of animals of different species and climates, discovered in exhaustless quantities in the interior parts of the earth so that the exuviae of those genera which no longer exist at all, are found confusedly mixed together in the soils of the most northerly latitudes. . . . The bones of those animals which can live only in the torrid zone are buried in the frozen soil of the polar regions.
     
And to quote one more contemporary, George Fairholme, who described similar evidence in Italy from the Arno River Valley: (162)

     In this sandy matrix bones were found at every depth from that of a few feet to a hundred feet or more. From the large and more apparent bones of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the megatherium, the elk, the buffalo, the stag, and so forth, naturalists were led by the elaborate studies of Cuvier and other comparative anatomists to the remains of the now living bear, tiger, wolf, hyena, rabbit, and finally the more minute remains even of the water rat and the mouse. In some places so complete was the confusion . . . that the bones of many different elephants were brought into contact, and on some of them even oyster shells were matted.

     Both Darwin and Wallace were impressed by the evidence of mass destruction just before man appeared. In his Journal of Researches, the former wrote of his wonder at the picture presented by the fossil record in South America, which he visited on the voyage of the Beagle in 1845: (163)

     The mind is at first irresistibly hurried into the belief that some great catastrophe has occurred. Thus, to destroy animals both large and small in South Patagonia, in Brazil, in the Cordillera, in North America up to the Behring Straits, we must shake the entire framework of the globe. Certainly no fact in the long history of the world is so startling as the wide extermination of its inhabitants.

     His contemporary, Alfred R. Wallace, in 1876 wrote in a similar vein: (164)

     We live in a zoologically impoverished world, from which all the hugest and fiercest, and strangest forms have recently disappeared. . . . Yet it is surely a marvelous fact, and one that has hardly been sufficiently dwelt upon this sudden dying out of so many large mammalia not in one place only but over half the land surface of the globe. . . .
     There must have been some physical cause for this great change, and it must have been a cause capable of acting almost simultaneously over large portions of the earth's surface.

162. Fairholme, George, New and Conclusive Physical Demonstrations of the Fact and Period of the Mosaic Deluge, no publisher, 1837.
163. Darwin, Charles, Journal of Researches, Ward Lock, New York. 1845, p.178.
164. Wallace, Alfred Russell, Geographical Distribution of Animals, vol.1, Hafner, New York, 1876, pp.150, 151.

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     One of the most thorough students of this last great catastrophe was Sir Henry Howorth whose works are now virtually unobtainable. Although his interpretation of the evidence was, and still is, rejected by geologists committed to Lyell's principle of uniformity, he nevertheless put on record a tremendous amount of data, much of it gathered at firsthand, which is not nearly as well known as it should be. In one of his major works, The Mammoth and the Flood, he collected data regarding the innumerable known cases of mammoths frozen in northern latitudes, particularly in Siberia. (165) And yet in spite of this information, which is always very well documented, a comparatively recent paper by William R. Farrand entitled, "Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology," spoke of only some 39 known frozen carcasses, of which only four are by any means complete; and it never once mentions the books and papers published by Sir Henry Howorth. (166) To Dr. Farrand, there is no real evidence of catastrophe in spite of the extraordinary circumstances under which these giant creatures evidently died. Howorth, however, gives many details which it is quite impossible, I believe, to account for in any other way than by assuming a very sudden catastrophe followed almost immediately by intense cold. It was encouraging to see that a correspondent countered Farrand's statements very effectively: (167) but Farrand replied with considerable sarcasm, clearly being on the defensive.
     
In 1887 Howorth wrote: (168)

     In the first place, it is almost certain in my opinion that a very great cataclysm or catastrophe occurred . . . by which the mammoth with his companions was overwhelmed over a very large part of the earth's surface. This catastrophe, secondly, involved a widespread flood of waters which not only killed the animals but also buried them under continuous beds of loam or gravel. Thirdly, that the same catastrophe was accompanied by a very sudden change of climate in Siberia, by which the animals that had previously lived in fairly temperate conditions were frozen in their flesh under the ground and have remained there ever since.
     When the facts are stated, they are of such a nature as to be almost incredible and they are drawn from the works of such men as Wrangell, Strahlenberg, Witzen, Muller, Klaproth, Avril, Erman, Hedenstrom, Betuschef, Bregne, Gemlin, Brandt, Antermony, Liachof, Kusholof, Chamisso, Maljuschkin, Ides, Baer, Schmidt, Bell, Tatishof, Middendorf,

165. Howorth, Sir Henry, Thc Mammoth and thc Flood: Uniformity and Geology, London, 1887.
166. Farrand, William R., "Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology," Science, vol.133, 1961, p.729-735.
167. Lippman, Harold E., Letter to the Editor, under the heading "Frozen Mammoths," Science, vol.137, 1962, p.449ff.
168. Howorth, Sir Henry, Thc Mammoth and thc Flood: Uniformity and Geology, London, p.47.

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von Schrenck, Olders, Laptef, Sarytschef, Motschulsky, Schtscukin, Maydell, besides the official documents of the Russian Government.

     One of the rivers of Siberia that empties into the Arctic is the Yenessei. Concerning the buried animals revealed in the strata along the sides of this river, Howorth remarked: (169)

     Pallas reports that the mammoth bones which fall out of the cliffs are so numerous that on decomposing they form a substance called "osteocolli" or "bone glue." The next great river eastward towards Alaska, emptying into the Arctic, is the Lena. It is a vast stream which consists of twists and turns, making a course of over 2000 miles. The natives who live in the regions of the Lena river make a living travelling up and down the river in boats, gathering up the ivory tusks that they see sticking out of cliffs along the river banks and which they find fallen to the edge of the water.

     The number of animals that are buried in Siberia must be stupendous. Some conception can be obtained from the fact that since A.D. 900 men have made it a business to collect the ivory of the region and sell it in China, Arabia, and Europe. In one case where a record was secured, Lyddeker stated that in a period of twenty years tusks from at least 20,000 animals were taken from the Siberian mines to markets in Europe during the nineteenth century. (170) Howorth reported what has since been confirmed many times, that the contents of the stomachs of many of these giants had been examined carefully and been shown to contain undigested food, composed of leaves of trees now found in southern Siberia. (171) Microscopic examination of the skins of some of these animals has since revealed red blood corpuscles. This is thought to be proof, not only of sudden death, but death due to suffocation either by gas or water. (172) One particular animal with an undigested meal still in its stomach had been eating buttercups, sedges, grasses, the beans of wild oxytropis, and young shoots of fir and pine. In l901 an expedition to Kolomysk was made by some Russian scientists to convey to St. Petersburg a particularly fine specimen with hair, skin, and flesh perfectly preserved which also had the remains of undigested food in its stomach. (173)

169. Ibid., p.54.
170. Lydekker, Richard, Annual Report, Smithsonian Institute, 1899, pp.361-366.
171. Undigested food: cf. Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, vol .I, p.183, quoting a letter to Humboldt from Prof. Brandt of St. Petersburg; also Scientific American, August, 1901, for a similar observation; and Scientific American, September, 1951, p.164.
172. Death by suffocation: first remarked upon by Prof. Brandt in 1846 in the Proceedings of the Berlin Academy, p.223.
173. Brandt: quoted by Howorth, Thc Mammoth and thc Flood: Uniformity and Geology, London, , p.61.

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Fig. 1. Imperial Mammoth (Elephas imperator) of Nebraska and Texas, after a painting by C. R. Knight in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. This is typical of specimens such as the various Siberian finds mentioned in the text. Photo used courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.

     Perhaps no one single discovery can ever quite convey so strong an impression of the suddenness and immensity of the catastrophe as one reported first by Brandt, (174) and subsequently accredited by others, in which three mammoth mummies were found standing erect and facing north. A similar discovery was made by Fisher of a single specimen in the same extraordinary attitude of arrested flight.
     
We have mentioned the existence of rhinoceroses in a similar condition. In a letter to Baron Humboldt from the same Professor Brandt (of St. Petersburg), particulars are given of a rhinoceros obtained by Pallas in 1772 from Wiljiusky (latitude 64º), from the banks of the Wiljiu, a tributary of the Lena. Brandt wrote concerning it: (175)

174. Brandt, in Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol.I, p.183.
175. Ibid.

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     I have been so fortunate as to extract from cavities in the molar teeth of the Wiljiu rhinoceros a small quantity of its half-chewed food, among which fragments of pine leaves, one half of the seed of a polygonacious plant, and very minute portions of wood with porous cells or small fragments of coniferous wood were still recognizable. It was also remarkable on a close examination of the head, that the blood vessels discovered in the interior of the mass appeared to be filled, even to the capillary vessels, with a brown mass (coagulated blood), which in many places still showed the red colour of blood.

     Before considering similar animal cemeteries in other parts of the world, it might be well to point out that it is not a normal occurrence to find dead animals anywhere except on our highways! For example, Baron Nordenskiold remarked: (176)

     In the first place I must call attention to the extreme rarity of the occurrence of the remains of animals which have recently died. . . .
     During my nine expeditions in the Arctic regions, where animal life during summer is exceedingly abundant, I can recall very few occasions upon which I have found remains of vertebrate animals which could be proved to have died a natural death. Near hunting grounds there are to be seen, often enough, the remains of reindeer, seals, foxes, or bears that have died from gunshot wounds, but no naturally dead polar bear, seals, walrus, white whale, fox, goose, auk, lemming or other vertebrates. The polar bear and the reindeer are found there in hundreds: the seal, walrus, and white whale in thousands: and birds in millions. These animals must die a natural death in untold numbers. What becomes of their bodies? Of this we have for the present no idea. . . .

     The only conclusion that one can draw from this is that the death of these hundreds of thousands of large animals was unnatural, and virtually simultaneous. How do we know it was simultaneous? Because, as we shall see, similar vast cemeteries are found elsewhere, in which the predators and the preyed upon died together, and there is no evidence of the bones of any of the animals having been gnawed. The only difference between these animal cemeteries in other parts of the world and those in Siberia is that the former were not preserved by refrigeration, and therefore appear rather as vast assemblages of bones. (177) In the Harvard Museum a slab six feet by ten feet contains bones so thickly packed and in such confusion that there is every evidence of violence in their compaction. In the Colorado Museum of Natural History a similar geological exhibit is to be seen, taken from an animal cemetery at Agate Springs, in which it is estimated that the bones of about 9000 complete animals are buried in one hill. One section of such a bone cemetery is shown in Fig.2.

176. Nordenskiold, Baron N.A.E., Voyage of the Vega, vol.1, 1881, pp.322, 323.
177. Animal cemeteries: see more recently the New York World, reporting from Alaska, June 1, 1930, and Associated Press, April 16, 1949.

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Fig. 2. Part of an animal cemetery taken from a quarry at Agate Springs, Nebraska, and now exhibited in the Denver Museum of Natural History. It contains bones of thousands of animals, extending over a wide area. Photo used courtesy of the Denver Museum of Natural History.

     Howorth had this to say about these animal cemeteries: (178)

     The most obvious cause we can appeal to as occasionally producing mortality on a wide scale among animals is a murrain or pestilence, but what murrain or pestilence is so completely unbiased in its actions as to sweep away all forms of terrestrial life, even the very carriers of it the rodents including the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field, elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, frogs, mice, bison and snakes, landsnails, and every conceivable form of life, and this not in one corner only but, as far as we know, over the whole of the two great continents irrespective of latitude or longitude.
     The fact of the bones occurring in great caches or deposits in which various species are mixed pell-mell is very important, and it is a fact undenied by geologists that whenever we find such a locality in which animals have suffered together in a violent and instantaneous destruction, the bones are invariably mixed and, as it were, "deposited" in a manner which could hardly be explained otherwise than by postulating the action of great tidal waves 

178. Howorth, Sir Henry, Thc Mammoth and thc Flood: Uniformity and Geology, London, p.180.

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carrying fishes and all before them, depositing them far inland with no respect to order.

     Howorth continued later:

     If animals die occasionally (in large numbers) from natural causes, different species do not come together to die, nor does the lion come to take his last sleep with the lamb! The fact of finding masses of animal remains.of mixed species all showing the same state of preservation, not only points to a more or less contemporary death, but is quite fatal to the theory that they ended their days peacefully and by purely natural means.
     If they had been exposed to the air, and to the severe transition between mid-winter and mid-summer, which characterizes Arctic latitudes, the mammoths would have decayed rapidly. But their state of preservation proves that they were covered over and protected ever since.

     This renowned but neglected authority concluded: (179)

     It is almost certain in my opinion that a very great cataclysm or catastrophe occurred by which the mammoth and his companions were overwhelmed over a very large part of the earth's surface. And that the same catastrophe was accompanied by a very great and sudden change of climate in Siberia, by which the animals which had previously lived in fairly temperate conditions were frozen . . . and were never once thawed until the day of their discovery. No other theory will explain the perfect preservation of these great elephants.

     From the Antarctic also there is evidence, according to geologists of the Byrd Expedition, (180) of similarly different climatic conditions. Great coal fields, evidence of luxuriant growth, were discovered at the head of Thorne Glacier in the Queen Maude Range within 200 miles of the South Pole. Such conditions so near to that frightful wilderness of ice and snow, which is so much more terrible than the North Pole in its coldness and barrenness, is remarkable witness of a previous world which must have been a very different one. So numerous are the fossils there that the explorers actually had difficulty making a selection. Today life in these regions is conspicuously absent.
     Evan Hopkins remarked that the fossil plants of north Greenland proved that the land has been favoured with a climate at least 30º F, warmer than at present.
(181) He pointed out also that among the animals entombed in the deposits in Siberia besides the mammoths are bears, hippos, hyena, lions, tigers, and others which can only live and flourish in or near the tropics. Moreover, the fossil forest at 

179. Ibid.
180. Reported from Little America in the Toronto Telegram, December 13, 1933.
181. Hopkins, Evan, "On Terrestrial Changes and the Probable Ages of the Continents," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.2, 1867, p. 4, 8.

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Atanekerdluk at a latitude of 70º is indicative of a temperature of at least 30º F, higher than is now found at that parallel. Similar conditions are likely to be found now at the 48º parallel, a fact which shows a shift of climate with respect to the equator.
     
What has been said of land animals is equally true of fishes and even of plants. Some years ago Philip Le Riche presented a paper before the Victoria Institute in London in which he made this statement: (182)

     It can easily be shown that many of the strata contain the fossil remains of fish which have been suddenly interred before putrefaction had acted upon their fleshy bodies, for their bodies are preserved as they were during life. And this remarkable state of preservation of fish life is also found in the flora. For plants as fine as maidenhair ferns are found embedded in the strata with even their venules intact, showing that they must have been buried very shortly after their deposition in the sediment, otherwise they would have become converted into leaf mold and indistinguishable, whereas a botanist can place the fossil plant in its proper order of plant life.

     The suddenness of this destruction is further strikingly borne out by the fossil cuttlefish of Lyme Regis that were killed and entombed with such inconceivable rapidity that they still retain the dark fluid with which their ink bags are filled when alive. (183) But these animals when disturbed release this protective device within a matter of seconds. Speaking of fish, Howorth even recorded a whale which was found entombed with the elephants, a discovery which Pallas confirmed mentioning also buffalo in situ with the heads of large fishes.
     
In spite of the fact that many of these authorities would now be considered quite out of date, so that their interpretations would almost certainly be rejected, the evidence itself remains undeniable; and it is difficult to explain it satisfactorily in any other way. In concluding this brief survey, and referring this time to accumulations of bones which were washed pell-mell into fissures and clefts in the rocks, one can reflect upon the words of the venerable Joseph Prestwich, affectionately styled the Father of the Geological Society. After speaking of such animal cemeteries and pointing out how the bones of carnivores are mixed indiscriminately with those of their natural prey, the bodies seeming to have been torn apart with violence, he summed the situation up by saying: (184)

182. Le Riche, Philip, "Scientific Proofs of the Universal Deluge," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.61, 1929, p.86.
183. Cuttlefish of Lyme Regis: see Byron C. Nelson, The Deluge Story in Stone, Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1931, p. 113.
184. Prestwich, Joseph, in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, vol.48, 1912, p.326.

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    These bones cannot be of animals which fell into these fissures (where they are found in such profusion), for no skeleton is complete. They cannot have been brought by beasts of prey, for none are gnawed. They were not brought by streams (i.e., spring floods), for none are rolled. The bones could not have laid exposed for long, for none are weathered. They were not covered up normally, for they were broken by the violence of their deposition together with the associated rocks. . . .
     The formation of these fissure deposits in so many places . . . seems to confirm the belief that the rubble drift itself did not owe its origin to normal causes, but to something catastrophic in the nature of earth movements.

     Such, then, is the kind of evidence which is to be found all over the world of the sudden death of an enormous number of animals of very recent and modern times. Some of these creatures died in latitudes that were almost at once plunged into an Ice Age which preserved them by freezing. Some of them died in more temperate zones and were accumulated by the action of torrents of water sweeping hither and yon as the earth reeled, before the waters had been sufficiently gathered together in one place to expose the dry land. And, finally, some were accumulated and rammed together forcibly and indiscriminately into clefts in the rocks which served to sieve them out of the draining waters.
     
The suddenness of the event is everywhere attested, in the Arctic by the extraordinary state of preservation of mammoths and other creatures, and in the more temperate zones by the very fact that predators and preyed upon came to a sudden end together. Even within the waters, the movements of silt and water-washed materials were sometimes so sudden and overwhelming that fishes were trapped before they had the few seconds necessary to react in a characteristic defensive way. Some bivalved forms, in fact, were overwhelmed so rapidly that they did not have time to close.
     
Furthermore, we may conclude, I think, that the catastrophe which was worldwide profoundly affected world climate. There are some who believe that the Ice Age is bound up with the sudden subsidence of the waters . They argue that the effect of this subsidence was greatly to increase the exposed land area. I am not competent to assess the mechanics of this hypothesis, but there is little doubt that what has been observed was related to the coming of the great cold which brought ice down over half of the northern hemisphere and introduced the world to an Ice Age from which we really have not yet altogether recovered. We may say that the ice caps have merely retreated far enough to allow most of us to ignore them. And the event was recent indeed. The present is, geologically speaking, the

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end of the Pleistocene. It is as Shull has observed: (185)

     At few points in geological history has there been extermination comparable to that of mammals in the time just preceding the recent. In part this may be due to repeated glaciation, but most of it is unexplained. Only the tropical regions, notably Africa, escaped this great diminution of mammals, and the Pleistocene mammals of that continent were essentially the same as today.

     A study of the rocks indicates that the same may be said largely of Australia. The pattern of fossil marsupials has continued on in that continent and is still with us. It is probably true, as Baker pointed out, that not a few species of animals indeed, large areas of living things might very well have survived the catastrophe. But those which perished irretrievably as species had to be recreated. (186) Those species which had not perished altogether began once more to multiply. Possibly this is why in Genesis 1 God said in some cases, "Let the earth bring forth. . . ," while in other cases Scripture says, "So God created. . . ," etc. Not everything had to be re-created; and as for plant life, the earth perhaps did indeed bring forth seed which was in itself in the earth (Genesis 1:11).
     
Perhaps the tilting of the earth' s axis by as much as 40º or more at the time of the last great convulsion of nature may have been partially responsible for the fact that in the New World, for example, the great ice sheet reached down over New York State. Possibly we shall yet discover what upset the earth's equilibrium at the time to cause this tilt. When and if this axis of rotation becomes completely vertical again, the ice caps will presumably disappear entirely and the whole earth could enjoy a temperate climate. The recovery at present is only partial (23º), so that although the ice retreats annually, we still have polar caps with us. If we assume that the axis of rotation of the world that then was, was normal to the earth's plane of rotation around the sun, then that world would have enjoyed a much more temperate climate over its whole surface. This could have important theoretical implications, for as H. Hamshaw Thomas of Cambridge, in a letter to Nature, pointed out: (187)

     The possibility that changes have occurred during the past in the position of the earth's axis of rotation. . . is of great interest to all students of fossil plants.
     It has long been clear that the geological evidence of former vegetation shows that the lands around the Arctic Sea bore an ample covering of plants

185. Shull A. F., Evolution, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1963, p.65.
186 Baker, Howard B., The Atlantic Rift and Its Meaning, published privately, 1932, with numerous illustrations and extensive bibliography, pp.181-183 (obtainable only from Library of Congress).
187. Thomas, Hamshaw, Letter to the Editor, Nature, August 20, 1955, p 349.

     pg.14 of 15    

during a long period, probably from Devonian to Tertiary times. This vegetation included many large trees and was very different from the scanty flora of these regions living today.

     And so the Old World was suddenly brought to an end just when it had seemed ready to receive man as its paramount chief. But God had formed it and given it its appointments and established its natural order; and He had not created all this in vain (Isaiah 45:18). He had intended it in the first place as a habitation for man, and although His intention had been forestalled by some counter-agency, that intention stood firm: and so the process of reconstitution was once again undertaken by the Lord to put everything ready for the introduction of man, for whom it had all been planned.
     
Thus man finds himself in a world in which there are strange contradictions. Everywhere to the eye of faith there is evidence of plan and purpose -- such evidence, in fact, that even the unbelieving find it hard not to recognize it. At the same time, equally ubiquitous, is the evidence of catastrophe and judgment, as though some contrary planner had been at work seeking to thwart the Creator's design, and more particularly and more dramatically just when man's coming was drawing near.
     
Perhaps it is time to reassess the geological evidence in the light of these two opposing forces, one for good and one for evil. 

     pg.15 of 15     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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