Archive for Friday, March 7, 2008

Grand Canyon millions of years older than generally thought, study says

March 7, 2008


— Gazing into the majestic Grand Canyon, awe-struck visitors inevitably ask: "How old is it?"

Far older than generally thought, says new evidence that scientists culled from caves lining the canyon's red limestone cliffs.

The Grand Canyon often is referred to as about 6 million years old - but its western half actually began to open at least 17 million years ago, a University of New Mexico team reports today in the journal Science.

Wait: The western side of the canyon is the downstream end of the Colorado River, so how could it be older than the arguably more spectacular eastern side?

Remember, geologists caution, that the Grand Canyon was carved from drainage systems that didn't turn into the single river we now know as the Colorado until roughly 6 million years ago.

The new research suggests two canyons formed that eventually joined. And it makes sense that the older side would even look different, less jagged, thanks to more years of gravity and wind erosion to soften its edges.

"This is really exciting for those of us who work in the stories and theories of how the Grand Canyon has evolved," Arizona geologist Wayne Ranney, author of "Carving the Grand Canyon," said of the new work. "This paper helps us to more clearly understand that different parts of the canyon formed at different times. That's how big the Grand Canyon is."

How and when the Grand Canyon formed has been a question of both geologists and average visitors since John Wesley Powell's famous first expedition in 1869.

Dating the canyon's carving has been difficult because it has largely depended on evidence from exposed rock and mineral deposits that themselves erode over time.

The University of New Mexico team tried a new technique: Testing formations inside the numerous caves that line the Grand Canyon - protected formations less susceptible to erosion - that form at the water table. So cave specialist Carol Hill said they should provide a record of how the water table dropped over time as the canyon was cut deeper and deeper.

First Hill and colleagues made the grueling climbs to cull the formations from caves in 10 different spots along the length of the Grand Canyon. Then came work in specialized labs to pin down the age of each formation, using a method called uranium-lead isotope testing.

The findings: The western side of what is now the Grand Canyon started forming about 17 million years ago, and that initial erosion was fairly slow and steady - a couple of inches every thousand years.


standuporget 9 years ago

preparing for Y2K, millions of people spent millions of dollars hoping planes would not fall from the sky and other major events of cosmic proportions would be averted. While billions more did nothing and we are still here and no planes fell from the sky. P.S. my computer stilled worked and so did millions of others in country s that ignored dire warnings of impending doom.

bondmen 9 years ago

"One would think that the Grand Canyon, one of earth's most prominent geological features, studied by geologists for 140 years, would be well understood. Wrong. "The Colorado River's integration off the Colorado Plateau remains a classic mystery in geology, despite its pivotal role in the cutting of Grand Canyon and the region's landscape evolution." That's how Joel Pederson (Utah State) began the cover article in GSA Today this month, a bimonthly journal of the Geological Society of America. The mystery he investigated is how the Colorado River ran over a mountain: the Kaibab uplift."

Grand Canyon: How Do You Get a River Over a Mountain? 03/05/2008

jonas 9 years ago

So, are we referring to the original folks that for some reason thought it was no more than 6000some years plus 6 days old?

jonas 9 years ago

So. . . Bondman, geology is now a part of. . . Darwinism?

Unless you mean "part of that science crap." In which case, I suppose that you would be right.

bondmen 9 years ago

If you think modern geology is done by an unbiased, neutral, open-minded community that will cheerfully follow the evidence wherever it leads, get over it. If you think geological theories distil the best thinking from all quarters, get a life. (Check out this list of examples of suppression of new ideas and innovation by scientists and self-proclaimed experts: Many individual geologists are honest people doing the best work they can within their paradigm. By honest, we mean that they are not intentionally lying, but they are so brainwashed to think only in terms of the Standard Geological Column and all of its reified evolution-based dating schemes that alternative points of view never enter their thinking. With few exceptions, they have been trained like Pavlov's dogs to bark "religious fundamentalist alert!" when a creationist appears on the scene. Some GSA types are brave enough to be mavericks, within limits; but this is like moving away from the crowd inside a corner of the box never thinking outside of it.

gr 9 years ago


bondmen is saying they still don't know it's not. They haven't a clue.

And, that would be less than 6000 - maybe even less than 4000.

Consider the scablands of Washington.

aeroscout17 9 years ago


So, I should just blindly follow any one of the religious books/doctrine (that I presume you are promoting) over solid evidence? Need I remind you that these books and doctrines were written by humans, not God (however you define God). I guess i am just trying to understand your point.

acoupstick 9 years ago

Criticisms might be taken more seriously if they didn't always support a bias towards a certain interpretation of Christian creationism. The difference between the bias of inertia of accepted scientific thought (see Wegener, Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin vs Linnaeus) and the bias of a narrow version of creationism is immense. There is a resistance to new ideas in science, especially those that challenge or break from dogma. This skepticism is a positive attribute of science, not a hinderance. Dogma shifts when the preponderance of evidence overcomes the inertia of established. We are fortunate that scientific thought does not (usually) change easily with prevailing political and social climates. And by the way, while there may be disagreement or even confusion about the formation of the canyon, there is no valid criticism of the ages of the rock formations that make up the canyon. Current evidence suggests that the canyon is about 16 million years old. OB is right on. If you ever have the chance to visit the bottom of the canyon, do so! If possible, visit the Havasupai Tribe. You will not be dissappointed!

kugrad 9 years ago

Bondmen, your bias for your position comes through loud and clear. Your anti-science agenda speaks for itself. The "evidence" you cite is laughable, absurd, and not scientific. There is NO, ZERO, ZIP, NADA controversy about any of the core principles of geography among scientists. There are POLITICIANS and RELIGIOUS ZEALOTS who are willing to pervert science and pretend that their psuedo-science is based on the principles of scientific inquiry, but there is NO controvery about this among actual scientists without a religous/political/anti-evolution agenda to promote through willful lying and distortion. Furthermore, the Kaibab uplift most likely did not exist during the time period in question.

The website you link to is a horrid example of how far people will go to distort the truth for political and religous ends.

YES, modern geology, like "premodern" geography (in terms of topics like the age of the Grand Canyon), is an unbiased world of empirical data, replicable study, measurement and observation. It is free from the politics and religion, unlike the sickening psuedoscience you pretend is real. Get a grip on reality and let go of the flat earth absurdity.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

Q: How old is yonder hole in the ground?

A: And we care - why, again?

(Anybody here lose property when it got washed away?)

Dollypawpaw (Anonymous) says:

"Can we just say that it's older than dirt."

Well, they're more like twins. Or at least classmates. Although dirt may have been held back.


"Don't tell me you have not done that with your checkbook?"

Is that why I'm overdrawn? And why the guy at Q-trip almost keeled over when I wrote a check for $3,810,000 to buy a pack of smokes the other day?

Frederic Gutknecht IV 9 years ago

The devil so easily tricks the little apes who think they are smart. The chosen choose to give up thinking and are better off...the planet of Satan. Come on, RAPture!~)

bondmen 9 years ago

You evo devo believo need millions of years to make molecules to man seem possible. That's why you hold great time segments so close, they are integral to your faith. See, I can understand your sensitivity.

There are insurmountable problems with your evolution beliefs when it comes to the real world, so much so the really big thinkers are gathering in Austria this July to come up with a new plan to explain everything - I mean everything. Good luck boys.

Oh, why don't some of you LJWorld posters get together and file an amicus brief while there's still time! It's the 11th hour. RIP Charlie Darwin!

BrianR 9 years ago

Thanks Bondman, I needed a laugh today. Also got another good bookmark in my "Wacko News" folder.

jonas 9 years ago

"And what's the weird obsession with '6,000 years', jonas?"

I don't know. That's my question, too.

Has the Biblical Math Department changed the dates?

RedwoodCoast 9 years ago

jonas (Anonymous) says:

So: Bondman, geology is now a part of: Darwinism?

Actually, yes, geology was a huge part of Darwinism. Darwin was good friends with Charles Lyell, who derived the concept of uniformitarianism--the idea that the same geological processes occurring today were occurring in the past. This is the basis for much of modern geological theory. Thus, lower strata are older and higher strata younger, which is something that the Grand Canyon exhibits quite well.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

cool (Anonymous) says:

"on what day were the fossils made ?"

While I am a believer in evolution, I have to point this out: If there were an all-powerful being who could create the universe out of nothingness, dontcha' think he (or she) would have been capable of making fossils, too? Pretty obvious he (or she) has a sense of humor - look at the platypus!

dirkleisure 9 years ago

Pretty obvious he (or she) has a sense of humor - look at the Republican Party!

RedwoodCoast 9 years ago

What's so funny about the platypus? You might think it is part duck and part beaver, but I think ducks and beavers are part platypus. It's like someone grafted a platypus bill and feet on a bird or they put a marmot head on a platypus body. Ducks and beavers are funny--not platypii.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

I of course meant no offense to the noblest of his (or her) creatures, the platypus. I'm sure when they're combing their hair in the morning, the reflection does not appear odd to them, and their mothers think they're beautiful.

How about wombats? Okay to find them humorous? (Come on, the name alone oughta' crack you up!)

acoupstick 9 years ago

"Pretty obvious he (or she) has a sense of humor - look at the platypus!"

Or hairless apes with abnormally large cerebella that walk upright in bipedal fashion, have opposable thumbs, and use tools and language.

kugrad 9 years ago

Since geologic processes are things such as rate of accumulation of various types of matter, temperature, physics, weathering, erosion, and chemistry, I'd say that it a safe bet that geologic forces and the chemical/physical processes influencing rock formation are exactly the same now as they have ever been.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

acoupstick (Anonymous) says:

"Or hairless apes with abnormally large cerebella that walk upright in bipedal fashion, have opposable thumbs, and use tools and language."

Yeah, the platypi and wombats are probably laughing hysterically about them!

notajayhawk 9 years ago

right_thinker (Anonymous) says:

"I thought it seemed older than it looked when I was there."

Some canyons hide their age better than others.

And then there's botox for rox...

andrew55 9 years ago

What difference does it make? It's a hole in the ground.

moo 9 years ago

"botox for rox" hahahahah. Oh man, notajayhawk, if you make me pee my pants at work, I'm coming after you! ; )

riverdrifter 9 years ago

TOB (also Canyon Wren if tuned in): Thanks for heads up on that book. I've ordered it. Not Oprah, but I highly recommend this one: Childs wrote another one, House of Rain, that is also most excellent.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

Multidisciplinary (Anonymous) says:

"wombats..always mispronounced. It's womb-ats. The late 19th century pronunciation. Earlier form was womb-ants. Thus describing there appearance, little puffed wombs that crawled around like ants, about as tasty."

Gee, thanks.

Somehow they just dropped a few pegs in humor value.


acoupstick 9 years ago

Ooops! That's what happens when you're trying to be witty and not paying attention to what you write. I've been teaching the nervous system this week and had cerebellum on the brain. ;)

bondmen 9 years ago

Evolutionists themselves make some of the sweetest criticisms of Darwinism - relish them, there are more to come: The central story of Darwin [is] wrong in a way that can't be repaired. (Mazur summarizing Fodor) 99.99% of the population have no idea what the theory of natural selection is. (Fodor) The import of the Darwinian theory of evolution is just unexplainable caprice from top to bottom. (Salthe) [There is] reluctance to scientists being discouraged about taking a chance on ideas originating outside their peer group plus their dependence on government grants which are tied-in to support for natural selection. (Pivar) Self-organization mingles with natural selection in barely understood ways to yield the magnificence of our teeming biosphere. (Kauffman) Astrobiology doesn't exist. What are the laws? (Fodor) Natural selection [is used] carelessly as a mantra, as in the evidence-free "just-so stories" concocted out of thin air by mentally lazy adaptationists. (Gould)

From: Revolt in the Darwin Camp 03/07/2008

bondmen 9 years ago

From the article: "Steve Gould's Natural History magazine editor Richard Milner, by the way, describes Gould as "a popular articulator of Darwinian evolution to a new generation, while privately, his creative and rebellious mind sought to move beyond it."

Milner , himself, is a Darwinian scholar and author of the Encyclopedia of Evolution and Darwin's Universe (forthcoming 2009). He says Gould was intrigued with theories of how natural selection may act on levels beyond the individual (social groups, species), or at different phases of the life cycle (evolution-development), and how other embryological and evolutionary phenomena (heterochrony, neoteny) may influence or impact evolution. And he notes that "Gould took issue with those who used natural selection carelessly as a mantra, as in the evidence-free "just-so stories" concocted out of thin air by mentally lazy adaptationists".

Gould also famously rejected the reductionism of Richard Dawkins' "selfish gene" theory, Milner says further, and was well aware that there seemed to be a disconnect between the models of genes, DNA, and the development of individual plants or animals.

Says Milner: "Steve was one of the first evolutionary biologists, with Richard Lewontin, to publish the view that biology offered no plausible mechanism a missing "theory of form," if you will for how these genomic "blueprints" are followed in constructing phenotypes of living organisms." "

standuporget 9 years ago

I posted a reply for Sodom in another letter and it ended up here. WTF happened

gr 9 years ago

kugrad: "I'd say that it a safe bet that geologic forces and the chemical/physical processes influencing rock formation are exactly the same now as they have ever been."

Guess kugrad hasn't considered the scablands of Washington!

"It is quoted so as to be taken out of context and make it appear that he was arguing something that he was not."

And Das fails to give an explanation. It does seem like an appropriate place to remove doubt. Maybe it is a "lengthy and complex" issue and Das just doesn't have time to go into it, and doesn't consider it is job to shed light on something that is so "clear".

"This is actually a very small part of a famous criticism by Gould." "thanks for showing everyone that you mis-attributed the quote as well"

So Das, was it a "famous criticism by Gould" or wasn't it?
We are confused as to what does that make of your comment. Any time you say "actually", it may not be? ;-)

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