Floating Log Rafts

A Model for Post-Flood Biogeography

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Abstract

One of the more regular accusations hurled at creationists is that the animals that came off the ark could not have reached the remote areas of the world, such as islands and the Americas after the flood. This paper will discuss the shortcomings of evolutionary ideas regarding biogeography and demonstrate how a creation model fits what we observe today.

Introduction

In 1979, Dr. Steve Austin, in his PhD dissertation, proposed the term “floating mat model” to explain the origin of coal seams.1 In the years following, several creation scientists began to formulate a biogeographic model where these same floating log mats and floating mats of vegetation might have been the means by which plants and non-air-breathing land animals might have survived the flood. In 1995, Michael Oard hypothesized that some plant seeds and cones could have survived intact on floating mats of vegetation and then germinated or sprouted after the flood.2 In 1999, Dr. John Morris posited that insects could have survived the flood on floating vegetation.3 But even as far back as 1993, we commented that rafting should be included in any discussion of post-flood animal migration.4

Then in 2003, Dr. Kurt Wise and Matthew Croxton put forth their hypothesis (building on Dr. Austin’s floating log mat model) that log mats and vegetation mats could have survived the flood, or more likely, been the result of local or regional catastrophes during the early post-flood period. These log or vegetation mats could have thus been a means of post-flood animal dispersal and migration around the world.5 Studying modern ocean currents, they observed that the paths of these currents agreed remarkably with current animal distributions.6 Then, folding in the previous ideas of Oard and Morris, Wise and Croxton also saw that modern ocean currents explained plants and non-nephesh creatures, which could have survived the flood on vegetation mats and were the first to establish a comprehensive creationist biogeography model.7 According to Wise and Croxton,

The organisms which did disembark from the ark were not a random sample of pre-flood organisms. Scripture (Gen. 7:8–9) infers that God chose the organisms to be placed upon the ark. Given His foreknowledge, it is reasonable to assume that He chose morphologies in each baramin which would be best equipped to repopulate the earth after the flood. Divine considerations in this selection process might well have included survival likelihood and maintenance requirements on the ark as well as survival likelihood, fecundity, and dispersal likelihood in the warm, wet, convulsing post-flood world. In many cases, perhaps, God chose morphologies which would best utilize the log mats He knew would float atop post-flood oceans. This suggests that many organisms were pre-designed for the post-flood dispersal event. Divine intelligence, plus a designed predisposition to both rafting and rapid diversification, should have resulted in an extremely efficient and rapid dispersal and settlement of the post-flood world. Many terrestrial organisms may have rapidly migrated from the ark to the rafting “launch” points, crossed the oceans on the rafts, and established themselves at huge distances from the ark without leaving evidence of the dispersal process in the fossil record.8

Now, forty years since Dr. Austin proposed his log mat model and subsequent additions and revisions by creation scientists of the model to include post-flood animal dispersal, secular scientists are slowly catching up in accepting animal dispersal via rafting, which creationists have championed for at least the past sixteen years. To be fair, some secular models of biogeography had previously (at least by 1967) mentioned rafting as a possible dispersal method for mammals, birds, and arthropods, but the emphasis was limited in scope to local islands or island chains and was not based on the movement of ocean currents, nor was there a wide-scale biogeographic model.9

Migrating Biomass (Living and Non)

Understanding why and how organisms reached their current habitats after the global flood cataclysm only about 4,300 years ago is a key aspect of the creation-flood model.

Austin proposed his idea to explain how coal seams formed as a result of the en mass beaching of huge, thick floating vegetation debris mats. However, as has been shown above, the idea was subsequently adapted to biogeography as well. Biogeography is the branch of science that deals with where we find organisms in the world. An example of biogeography would be a scientist attempting to determine how the jaguar reached South America. Explaining issues like this are clearly important for the creation-flood model. Understanding why and how organisms reached their current habitats after the global flood cataclysm only about 4,300 years ago is a key aspect of the creation-flood model.

Much has been written about biogeography from an evolutionary perspective. There are several ideas particularly relating to island biogeography, including dispersal, invasion, competition, adaptation, and extinction.10 However, most ideas of biogeography contain three common threads: (1) a belief in a supercontinent that broke up; (2) separated populations of related organisms; and (3) the use of phylogenetics, the statistical analysis of traits to determine evolutionary descent and to demonstrate relationships between organisms.11

Like Landmasses

Creationist and evolutionary models both employ a supercontinent. In fact, back in 1994, a group of creationist scientists (a paleontologist, two geologists, two geophysicists, and an atmospheric physicist) proposed a model for the flood called catastrophic plate tectonics. This model included the rapid break-up of a pre-food supercontinent and the dispersal of the continental fragments to roughly their current locations.12 The key difference is in the timing. Because creationists propose that the break-up of the supercontinent occurred during Noah’s flood, the newly formed continents could not have carried any land-dwelling organisms to their current location, as the plates were covered by the floodwaters. The dispersion of most land-dwelling organisms to today’s continents had to occur after the flood, but perhaps some dispersion also occurred in the runoff period for many plants, insects and other arthropods. Further, with the post-flood ice age lowering ocean levels, some animals could have migrated over land bridges (or in some cases, swam) to their current continental locations. As one creationist pointed out, these land bridges would have been the primary method of post-flood migration.13

Classification Chaos

Evolutionary models based on phylogenetics, however, are fatally flawed. This is due to the fatal underpinnings of phylogenetics itself. While the classification of living organisms was originally based on a system that had strong biblical influences, current classifications are dictated by phylogenetic studies. Phylogenetics is a broken system that attempts to prove evolution14 by assuming evolution.15 Worse, even evolutionists admit cladistics (the study in which groups [species, genera, etc.] are arranged on a phylogenetic tree) cannot be falsified.16 “The difficulties embodied in that part of evolutionary taxonomy which differs from phylogenetic systematics lead to a general lack of testability of evolutionary classifications.”17 In other words, evolutionists admit that phylogenetics cannot be proved. It is assumed to be true, then used to promote evolutionary dogma.

A Better Way

Since evolutionary ideas about biogeography are fatally flawed in numerous ways and contradict the biblical account, creationists have developed their own ideas about biogeography.

Since evolutionary ideas about biogeography are fatally flawed in numerous ways and contradict the biblical account, creationists have developed their own ideas about biogeography. Dr. Kurt Wise and Matthew Croxton’s 2003 paper, which has an over 90% fit with what we can observe of faunal distributions in the present,18 given the amount of extinctions and habitat changes that have occurred since the flood, is a fantastic model.

Other creationists have shown that the Wise and Croxton model is accurate in its predictions and can be applied to other scenarios. For example, the rafting model also works well for certain flood fossil distributions. One creationist pointed out that the number of aquatic organisms found preserved in amber in flood sediments only makes sense with a floating log mat model. Since amber is basically hardened tree sap, the only way to get a lot of aquatic organisms preserved in bits of amber is for the logs producing the amber to be floating.19

Other creationists have approached biogeography from a more wholistic perspective. AiG’s Dr. Andrew Snelling addressed the biogeography problem in 2009 in a chapter of his book Earth’s Catastrophic Past. Snelling pointed out the massive preponderance of evidence supports a creationist model of biogeography, including floating log mats as well as land bridges. Further, he pointed out that numerous examples exist of populations starting from a flood-reduced size, exploding to well-established, stable populations.20

More recently, Austin, along with Roger Sanders, has returned to the floating log mat model, reviewing the history of the model as it related to coal formation, which was Austin’s original purpose for proposing the floating log mat model.21 While Austin and Sanders did not address biogeography directly, they did point out that the floating log mat model for coal formation had been floating around the scientific community for hundreds of years before Austin wrote about it in his dissertation. Unfortunately, even though the floating log mat as the primary means of Carboniferous coal beds ideas did exist, it was hardly mainstream, and still is not accepted by secular geologists.

Conclusion

The biogeographic importance of log and vegetation mats is slowly gaining popularity, even in the mainstream scientific community. New Scientist published a summary of a research paper that discussed floating log mats as a colony for feather stars, oysters, and other small organisms.22 This makes sense, as oysters, in particular, colonize the bottoms of boats even today. One secular research article proposed that the log mats could have lasted over twenty years.23 And there have been some interesting developments in the last decade, including a couple of papers by secular scientists who propose that several mammal species may have rafted to Madagascar on floating vegetation and log mats.24,25 While it may be frustrating to see “millions of years” and “evolution” appear in these papers, it is encouraging to see that creationist ideas, which were once scoffed at, are now being posited in mainstream scientific papers as legitimate and better explanatory concepts than previous evolutionary models.

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Footnotes

  1. Steve A. Austin, “Depositional Environment of the Kentucky No. 12 Coal Bed (Middle Pennsylvanian) of Western Kentucky, with Special Reference to the Origin of Coal Lithotypes” (PhD dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, 1979).
  2. Michael Oard, “Mid and High Latitude Flora Deposited in the Genesis Flood Part II: A Creationist Hypothesis,” Creation Research Science Quarterly 32 No. 3 (December 1995): 138–141.
  3. John Morris, “What Happened to Land Plants During the Flood?,” Institute for Creation Research, last modified October 1, 1999, https://www.icr.org/article/what-happened-land-plants-during-flood.
  4. “Hitch-Hiking Lemurs,” Creation 15, no. 4 (September 1993): 11, https://answersingenesis.org/mammals/primates/hitch-hiking-lemurs/.
  5. Kurt Wise and Matthew Croxton, “Rafting: a Post-Flood Biogeographic Dispersal Mechanism,” Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Ivey Jr., R.L. (Ed.), Creation Science Fellowship (Pittsburgh, PA, 2003): 465–478, http://www.creationicc.org/2003_papers/ICC5-33.pdf.
  6. Ibid., 470–471.
  7. Ibid., 469.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Robert H. Macarthur and Edward O. Wilson, The Theory of Island Biogeography Reprint edition (April 1, 2001) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967): 132–134.
  10. Ibid., 4–5.
  11. Isabel Sanmartin and Fredrik Ronquist, “Southern Hemisphere Biogeography Inferred by Event-Based Models: Plant versus Animal Patterns” Systematic Biology 53 no. 2 (2004): 216–243, http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/166904/1/Southern%20Hemisphere%20Biogeography%20Inferred.pdf.
  12. Steven A. Austin et al., “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History” Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, R. E. Walsh editor (1994): 609–622, http://creationicc.org/1994_papers/1994_Part58.pdf.
  13. Andrew Snelling, Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood Volume 1 Dallas (Institute for Creation Research, 2009).
  14. Andrew V. Z. Brower, “Evolution Is Not a Necessary Assumption of Cladistics” Cladistics 16 no. 1 (2005): 143–154, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1096-0031.2000.tb00351.x.
  15. Kevin de Queiroz and Michael J. Donoghue, “Phylogenetics Systematics or Nelson’s Version of Cladistics” Cladistics 6 (1990): 61–75, https://repository.si.edu/bitstream/handle/10088/4669/VZ_1990adeQ_DonoghueCladistics.pdf.
  16. W.H. Wagner, “Origin and Philosophy of the Groundplan-divergence Method of Cladistics” in Cladistic Theory and Methodology ed. Thomas Duncan and Tod F. Stuessy (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1985).
  17. E.O. Wiley, “Karl R. Popper, Systematics and Classification: A Reply to Walter Bock and Other Evolutionary Taxonomists” in Cladistic Theory and Methodology ed. Thomas Duncan and Tod F. Stuessy (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1985).
  18. Wise and Croxton, 2003.
  19. Michael J. Oard, “Marine Fossils in Amber Support the Flood Log-Mat Model” Journal of Creation 24 no. 1 (2010): 9–10, https://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j24_1/j24_1_9-10.pdf.
  20. Snelling, 2009.
  21. Steven A. Austin and Roger W. Sanders, “Historical Survey of the Floating Mat Model for the Origin of Carboniferous Coal Beds” in Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J.H. Whitmore (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship, 2018), 277–286, https://www.creationicc.org/2018_papers/28%20Austin%20floating%20mat%20final.pdf.
  22. Michael Marshall, “Huge Mega-rafts Carried Dinosaur-era Animals on Round-the-world Trips” New Scientist May 2, 2019 (accessed June 25, 2019), https://newscientist.com/article/2201237-huge-mega-rafts-carried-dinosaur-era-animals-on-round-the-world-trips.
  23. Aaron W. Hunter et al., “Reconstructing the Ecology of a Jurassic Pseudoplanktonic Megaraft Colony” BioRxiv April 25, 2019 (accessed June 25, 2019), https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/566844v2.full.
  24. Jason R. Ali and Matthew Huber, “Mammalian Biodiversity on Madagascar Controlled by Ocean Currents” Nature 463 no. 7281 (February 2010): 653–656, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/41103033_Mammalian_biodiversity_on_Madagascar_controlled_by_ocean_currents.
  25. Karen E. Samonds et al., “Spatial and Temporal Arrival Patterns of Madagascar's Vertebrate Fauna Explained by Distance, Ocean Currents, and Ancestor Type” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 no. 14 (Apr 2012): 5352–5357, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113993109, https://www.pnas.org/content/109/14/5352.

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