“If coal takes millions and millions of years of heat and pressure to form, how is it possible that creationists are teaching that the earth is only a few thousand years old?” This is a commonly asked question among individuals seeking answers about the age of the earth and the universe. Research has been done by several creation organizations, as well as independent scientists, in order to answer such questions. The evidence actually shows that coal does not take millions of years to form, as is commonly asserted. In fact, the formation of coal has been proven to be a rapid process that can be duplicated in modern laboratories in a matter of days – or even hours.
I. Rapid Formation
In order for coal to be formed, several factors must be present. Pressure, temperature, water, time, and some sort of vegetation are the key elements for the formation of coal. According to evolutionary theory, the slow accumulation and decomposition of vegetation living in past ages accounts for the coal seams. However, this theory can not answer why such large amounts of original vegetation without soil can be found in the areas that are now coal seams, or how these coal seams became so thick – some being over two hundred feet in depth. Scientist Robert Gentry analyzed coalified wood found on the Colorado Plateau in order to determine how long it took for coal to form.1 By treating coal with epoxy and slicing it into thin sheets, Dr. Gentry was able to examine tiny, compressed radiohalos found in the coal. Radiohalos are discolorations in the coal, ejected by radioactive elements in the centers (such as uranium). According to evolutionary theory, in order for these halos to form, several processes must have occurred. First, water-saturated logs must have been laid down in several different geologic formations, including the Triassic, Jurassic and Eocene layers. Later, uranium solutions infiltrated the water-saturated logs, and uranium decay products were collected at tiny sites within the logs. The radioactive decay from the tiny particles ejected spherical radiation damage regions around those sites, thus producing halos. Finally, a pressure event on the site of the formations compressed the logs as well as the radioactive halos within them. However, because coal is not a malleable substance, scientists know that these logs had not turned to coal at the time the compression event occurred. This points to a quick burial and coalification of the logs �” rather than a long time period.2
II. Decay Ratios
When the ratio of uranium decay to its decay product (lead) is analyzed, the conclusion is drawn that all the logs within the various geologic formations were buried at the same time. The high lead-to-uranium ratios admit the possibility that both the initial uranium infiltration and the coalification could possibly have occurred within the past several thousand years.3
III. Polystrate Fossils
The presence of “polystrate” trees (trees petrified or coalified in an upright position) point to a rapid coalification process. One of the most commonly known polystrate trees is found at Katherine Hill Bay, Australia. This fossilized tree can be seen extending over twelve feet, through several sedimentary layers. According to evolutionary theory the different sedimentary layers took hundreds of thousands of years to accumulate. However, we know this is impossible since the tree would have decomposed long before the sediments would have had time to accumulate. Rather, this tree is testimony to the catastrophic and rapid burial that must have taken place.
IV. Unsullied Deposits
Finally, coal seams such as those found in the Powder River Basin of Gillette, Wyoming, ranging from 150 to 200 feet in depth, point to a rapid coalification process. “These coal seams run remarkably thick and unsullied by other material. Usually, unwanted sediments, such as clay, washes over a deposit before coal seams can get very thick. This leaves scientists with the baffling question of how the seams get so massive and still remain undiluted by influxes of clay and other impurities before they thicken.”4
The answer can be found in the Biblical account of Noah’s Flood. The Biblical description of the fountains of the great deep breaking up gives strong reference to volcanic activity in the pre-Flood basins.5 This would have provided several of the key factors need for the production of coal, along with an explanation of how the process could have occurred at such a rapid pace.
Although the coalification process has been used in the past to support theories of an aged universe, research done by leading creation scientists reveals that this process actually supports creation teachings of a young Earth. Physical evidence demonstrates that the coalification process must have occurred rapidly, rather than over vast time periods. (CEM Staff Writer)
1Robert V. Gentry, Video: Young Age of the Earth
3Science , October 15, 1996
4Earth Magazine, May 1993
5Genesis, chapter seven