14 “Same time, different places” or “same place, different times”?

Even after I first came to the realization that any given organism will  appear in the fossil record only with certain other kinds of organisms, I still tried to account for it within a creationist paradigm. I next asked myself whether the Flood might have been responsible for sorting all the creatures that had been alive on earth into the “suite” pattern that is observable worldwide today.

The first possibility that occurred to me was a hydrodynamic sort—that is, that the churning and flow of the flood waters had sorted the animals into this pattern. But I quickly ruled this out. A hydrodynamic sort would have grouped organisms together according to characteristics such as size, buoyancy, etc. I had seen enough in the fossil beds to realize that this had not taken place. Organisms with widely varying hydrodynamic characteristics were to be found together, while organisms with similar characteristics were consistently kept apart.

But there was another possibility, another means by which the Flood could have been responsible for the character of the fossil record. As one moves up the geologic column in any given geographic area, the fossilized floras and faunas change repeatedly. Paleontologists interpret these changes as evidence that different suites of organisms all lived in this same place, but at different times in Earth’s history.

But what if, instead, all the different kinds of organism had been alive on earth at the same time, but they had lived in different places, in distinct groups? The deluge might have buried all the members of each group together with one another, but separately from the groups of animals that lived elsewhere. It could then have picked up these groups and piled them on top of one another in one area to form a vertical column. Paleontologists would have misunderstood this column to have been formed over millions of years, when it had actually been formed in just one year.

The top drawing shows “same place, different times”: The various suites of animals all lived in the same place and their remains were deposited on top of one another as they died and were buried at different times. The bottom drawing shows “same time, different places”: The various suites of animals lived together in different places and they were all carried, as distinct groups, to a single place by the Flood, where they were deposited one on top of the other.

So these were the two paradigms that were competing in my mind: the different ecological groupings of animals found at different levels of the geologic column had either lived at the same time (the several thousand years from creation to the Flood), but in different places—a creationist explanation—or else they had lived in the same place, but at different times—an evolutionary explanation.

“Same time, different places” or “same place, different times”? How could I determine which of these explanations was correct? Logically, I had to admit that there were real problems with the “same time, different places” scenario. On a practical level, even if multiple suites of organisms could all have been carried intact, one after another, to individual areas around the world, how was it that they were buried one on top of another in the same pattern everywhere? Paleozoic biotas never occur above Mesozoic ones. Cenozoic biotas always top the stratigraphic column. Were animals and plants of all different sizes somehow gathered up by the same Flood from separate habitats, carried to different places around the globe, and then always layered in exactly the same order? This seemed improbable.

There was also a problem squaring this scenario with the biblical account, which creationists would include in the evidence. The Bible does not say that the creatures divided themselves up into separate, localized ecological groupings prior to the Flood. Rather, according to Genesis, every kind of terrestrial organism was present both in the Garden of Eden and when the Ark was loaded. It would therefore seem more biblical to believe that there were no established ecological suites of organisms. In other words, there would not have been indigenous floras and fauna in disparate parts of the globe, there would only have been one global biota.

Finally, the trace fossils that had already convinced me that the entire fossil record could not have been laid down in the Flood presented a nearly insurmountable problem for this “same time, different places” scenario. How could the floodwaters have picked up footprints, tail marks, and other soft impressions in the ground, carried them to another part of the globe, and deposited them with just the right kinds of animals? Trace fossils simply do not sort either hydrodynamically or by ecological zonation. Nevertheless, they had all ended up in the right places.

It was far more likely, therefore, that this was evidence that the animals that made them had lived in the same place at successive times, and that they and their traces had been preserved in that place.

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