by Dr Joachim Scheven

Creationists start from the assumption that the seams of the Carboniferous coal measures are derived from water-borne plant matter. Adherents of historical geology dispute this and affirm that each seam represents an in situ buried coal forest. Their principal reasons for this claim are the existence of rooted underclays and in situ buried erect stems. This paper exposes some of the more obvious mistakes made in interpreting Carboniferous coal seams as having grown in place. Drawing from field experience in both Europe and North America, as well as from a voluminous body of descriptive literature on the subject, it is concluded that the coal forests represented a unique type of floating ecosystem that was primarily composed of arboreal lycopods. At the onset of the Flood, these vegetation mats were dislodged and left to drift. When the Flood waters receded, the coal forest rafts were deposited on top of subsiding sediment piles that had developed after the eruption of the ‘fountains of the great deep’.


The creationist/evolutionist controversy is ultimately about whether Earth history has had a relatively brief or an immensely long duration. In arguing for one or the other a correct understanding of the processes leading to the deposition of coal is crucial. If the coal seams are autochthonous, that is, have grown in place, and if the lifetime of a forest leading to a coal seam is estimated at 1,000 years on average, the time required for the deposition of the 200 to 300 coal seams in north-west Europe would be in the order of 250,000 years—and this is without allowing time for the accumulation of the intervening sediments. If, on the other hand, the vegetable matter is of allochthonous origin, that is, transported by water, it would be reasonable to assume that all the seams are of approximately the same age. In such a case the time required for the piling up of the coal-bearing sediments would necessarily be reduced.

From the literature of the English-speaking creationist community one might gain the impression that the issue of coal formation has not yet been satisfactorily resolved in favour of the biblical Flood concept. This is not the true state of the art, however. Work on coal has been progressing in Germany and elsewhere steadily. Some of the more important results of the author’s research on Carboniferous coals will be presented in this paper….

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