The autochthonous (or swamp-growth) theory of coal formation is central to the Age of the Earth debate because
it was used by German, English, Canadian, and American geologists during the early to
middle 19th Century to convince the scientific communities of the world that the
Earth was older than the 6,000--10,000 year Chronology portrayed in the
Old Testament: where Dragons
(now called "Dinosaurs") are described as
real creatures that were living at the same time as man (i.e. Job
40:15-24 and 41).
This occurred because there are places in Germany, Canada
and the United States where multiple seams of coal occur, one on top of the
other, separated by shales, sandstones, clays and limestones, usually in some type of sequential order
(known as a cyclothem). In fact, some locations have over 80 seams of coal of
various thicknesses. And even though many are less than and
inch or two thick, some are several feet in thickness.
Therefore, according to the Peat Bog Theory, the time
required for such "forests" to grow upon the
spot of their burial, in multiple swampy bogs, and then to be covered up -- over
and over -- by the same types of sediments (surely) must have taken
many hundreds of thousands (to millions) of years.
At first glance, this view appears to lend some support to the theory of evolution; however, as is discussed in other portions of this
site, time is not enough.
On the other hand, if the coals were the result of rafted in vegetation (via
a major flood or floods) -- that was buried, again and again during
recurring phases, then
the coals need not have taken long to form, as they could do so via a single
event: such as a catastrophic flood that uprooted virtually all the vegetation on the
Earth and buried it under sediments at various different times,
perhaps only days, hours, or minutes apart. This is also quite
likely in view of the
Only one of these views is compatible with the theory of evolution. So if one is inclined to believe in evolution, or
to disbelieve in a Creator/God, then he or
she would naturally lean toward a belief in the peat bog theory of coal
formation: which allows for a Long period of time.
However, for various reasons, this theory is losing ground today in favor of the allochthonous, drift,
or alluvial theory (i.e. a Major Flood or floods), which says that coal
seams are laminated sedimentary deposits
of mixed up and partially decomposed plant material that were formed along with
many other different types of strata: at virtually the same time. This rapid formation
view also explains why organic deposits are often laminated and/or finely
laminated and appear to have hardened at the same time. Such is apparent
of the coal seam pictured to the right from Kukuk, 1913, p. 51. Apparently
an earth movement caused a ripple in the earth's crust, that in turn was locked
into the coal seam and the surrounding strata: that had not yet hardened but was
still in a 'plastic' state. Kukuk provides a number of other (similarly) twisted
For example, the Peat Bog Theory asserts that one foot of coal represents
10 feet of compressed peat. However, when considering
the upper drawing below, one will note
that the seam in which the trees rest is about
2 feet thick. This would (in theory) represent about 20 feet of peat growth.
And since peat grows
at about 1 foot every 300-600
years, then 20 feet of peat would
represent about 6,000 -- 12,000 years of time.
If such trees grew upon the spot where they were entombed, this would
mean that they somehow persisted for 6,000 -- 12,000 years without decaying or falling over,
since the lower ones appear to be "rooted" below the coal.
However, this poses
a problem for the peat growth theory because trees are not known to live for 6,000
years. Also, by the size of their trunks, the trees only appear to be about
100--200 years old. Therefore either something is wrong with this
picture, or with the peat-bog theory of coal formation?
Various other instances of trees in coal have also been
observed by other
writers; a few are mentioned in the author's paper
on "Fossil Forests" Parts 1
(see examples below). One
was reported to be 40 feet long
and completely enclosed
in a very thick coal seam. The
author has also found various other instances of upright trees in coal that are from one
three feet thick. And according to Kingsley such occurrences are not uncommon.
Below are a few links concerning Fossil Trees (and
artifacts ) found in coal.
After Bölsche, Wilhelm, Im Steinkohlenwald;
1906 & other Editions, p. 35
strata of the coal
After Williamson, William C., A Monograph on the Morphology and
Histology of Stigmaria Ficoides,
1887, p. 13.
Note that in the drawing above there are no visible traces of roots even though the tree is sitting
atop a laminated Fireclay and clays are supposed to be very good at
preserving all sorts of (once living) things: Like (purportedly) 17
"million-year-old" fresh-looking, green and pliable magnolia
and the Coal Question,
How did it Originate, and other
on this topic.
For additional information and Links see The Fossil Forests
of Nova Scotia