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Recent pollen has been found in old rocks (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Recent pollen has been found in old rocks (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 CC341:

Pollen has been found in Cambrian and Precambrian rocks, particular the Hakatai Shales of the Grand Canyon. By standard evolutionary models, these rocks pre-date the evolution of pollen-bearing plants.


(NB: Talk.Origins' link is is out of date. The Creation Ex Nihilo article is here.)

CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Most of the palynology work was done by Clifford Burdick, who had very little knowledge of geological techniques. Creationists themselves admit that his results come from contamination of old rocks by recent pollen (Chadwick 1981).

While Chadwick did show that Clifford Burdick blundered, he did not conclusively conclude that the pollen was a result of contamination. Rather, he only showed that it was sufficiently likely that Burdick's conclusions could not be reproduced and authenticated, so the results were questionable. Furthermore, Chadwick goes on to cite a better and thoroughly-documented example.

2. Intrusion of pollen in older rocks is very common. Pollen is ubiquitous, and its small size allows it to be carried into even small cracks by water seepage.

This is true, but a more recent study team of scientists from the Creation Research Society reexamined these so-called Precambrian layers, taking every possible precaution to prevent or account for any contamination. The study is the subject of one of the sources cited by Talk.Origins (AiG, 1990). These scientists got their samples from deeper in the rock while avoiding cracks in the rocks thus eliminating environmental contamination. They also checked two other nearby layers—with negative results—as a cross-check since contamination would affect all three layers. The results showed that fossil pollen is contained in "Precambrian" shale.

To verify that pollen is fossil pollen rather than a contamination, one must look at several factors:

  • What color is the pollen? Pollen darkens as it ages. If it is yellow or clear, it is recent.
  • Have the rocks been cooked? Vulcanism around the rocks would burn up the pollen.
  • Are the pollen grains flattened? Fossil pollens would be flattened as they are buried and compressed.

There is no indication that the out-of-place pollen passes any of these tests.

Neither is there any indication that the pollen fails any of these tests. As mentioned above, the study went to considerable lengths to not only avoid contamination but to check for contamination, yet Talk.Origins' response is cast doubt without actually refuting the results.

A picture of some of the pollen at one of the sources cited by Talk.Origins (AIG, 1990) shows some evidence of flattening. And while the black and white photo makes it hard to judge the color, there are signs of darkening.

In particular, the Hakatai Shales have lava intrusions, so we would expect any fossil pollen in them to have burned up.

Surely the researchers would have been careful enough to avoid such areas, and the results indicate that they did find fossil pollen, despite Talk.Origins' attempts to cast doubt.