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Footprints in Coconino sandstone appear to have been made underwater (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Footprints in Coconino sandstone appear to have been made underwater (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC365:

Footprints in the Coconino Sandstone are attributed to animals making tracks on damp sand dunes in a desert. However, they appear to have been made underwater instead. Leonard Brand compared the Coconino footprints with footprints made by actual reptiles under various conditions, and the Coconino footprints best matched the footprints made underwater.


CreationWiki response:

1. The evidence for footprints being made underwater comes from rather ambiguous statistical studies,

The evidence for footprints being made underwater is hardly ambiguous. The only ambiguity is in the length to width ratio of the tracks and then only between wet and underwater tracks and that is because of the similarity in the lab results. The results clearly show consistency with the tracks being made underwater and inconsistency with damp or dry sand.

Furthermore, Talk.Origins fails to mention Brand's more recent study concerning the difference between underwater and dry prints. Talk.Origins comments are only directed towards his 1991 paper in the Journal Geology.

Brand, L.R.. 1996. "Variations in Salamander Trackways Resulting from Substrate Differences" Journal of Paleontology, Vol. 70, No. 6, pp. 1004-1010

but is contradicted by evidence, including the following:

  • "One of the most common observations is that the tracks have bulges or sand crescents on one side, thereby proving that they were made on inclined surfaces".

This is totally consistent with the tracks being made underwater. Not only do inclined surfaces occur underwater, but bulges and sand crescents occur as well. In the case of the Coconino Sandstone the bulges and sand crescents show that with only one exception the tracks are going up hill.

  • Tracks showing possible loping, running, and galloping gaits are found throughout the Coconino Sandstone. These can only have been made on dry land.
  • Tracks of small arthropods, attributable to spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and scorpions, occur abundantly in the Coconino Sandstone. Some of these trackways can only be made on completely dry sand.

The most that these show is that for a time between being laid down and the under water tracks being made the area was dry enough for such tracks to be made. If such tracks were made on dry sand it was probably just before the area was flooded, otherwise they would not have been preserved since wind blown sand would have quickly obliterated such tracks. It's unclear how Talk.Origins thinks that any small creature's tracks could be made in "completely dry" sand, much less preserved for the ages.

  • Raindrop impressions also appear.

Real raindrop impressions would be ephemeral, requiring immediate burial for preservation. Nothing in Brand's findings discount the possibility of the water rising and falling, allowing raindrop impressions to be formed during brief exposures to the air.

2. The Coconino Sandstone covers an area of 200,000 square miles. Snelling and Austin (1992) proposed that thousands of cubic miles of sand were transported from hundreds of miles north. Forces violent enough to transport the sand would have killed any animals that got in the way. There would have been nothing alive within a hundred miles of where the footprints were found.

Since the tracks are in the Coconino Sandstone, that means that the animals that made them were in the area after the sand was transported, while it was being deposited. They were presumably brought by the next set of waves, from a different direction, before all the sand had completely settled.

3. Brand himself, in the conclusion to one of his papers, wrote that: "The data do suggest that the Coconino Sandstone fossil trackways may have been produced in either subaqueous sand or subaerial damp sand" (1996). So Brand's own work, taken at face value, does not necessarily indicate that the footprints were made underwater

  1. In either case the sand was wet, not dry like that of a desert. In both cases the evidence is most consistent with water deposition not wind deposition.
  2. Brand also points out that many of them are angled to the slope that the animal was walking up, but their toes are pointed with the slope. This is most consistent with an animal in water walking perpendicular to a current, and thus strongly supports catastrophic water deposition.

4. There is abundant geological evidence that the Coconino Sandstone was eolian.

  1. That is only the case when the geological evidence in question is interpreted by uniformitarian geology. It assumes conditions similar to today, but a global Flood such as is described in Genesis would create conditions not observed on Earth today, and as such ignoring it will cause errors.
  2. There are several lines of positive evidence for underwater deposition and against wind-blown deposition.