Every part of the United States has rocks, plants, and animals that are unique to that area. Certain plants grow in abundance in various locations. In Arizona the saguaro cactus is abundant. California is home for giant redwood trees. Indiana has tulip trees. Many states have adopted an official flower, tree, bird, fossil, or rock. In Michigan, since 1965 our state rock has been the Petoskey stone.
The name comes from the city of Petoskey which got its name from an Ottawa Indian legend. Thanks to the glaciers that swept down from the north scooping up rocks and depositing them, Petoskey stones are found all over the state. When I took my earth science students to the local gravel pit, we would discover Petoskey stones mixed in with the gravel. A local jeweler would show the kids how beautiful jewelry could be made from those stones.
The Petoskey stone is a petrified tropical coral with the scientific name Hexagonaria, meaning six-sided chamber. The picture shows some tiles made from Petoskey stones, and you can see that each polyp has six sides. Mixed in with them are clams, crinoids, trilobites, fish, and cephalopods. Studies of the Petoskey stone show the coral lived on plankton which are microscopic life forms that live in warm oceans. Petoskey, Michigan is NOT a tropical paradise and the Devonian period when these life forms lived lasted a long time, so the Devonian reefs are very thick. The whole state of Michigan is a bowl with these fossils found all around the state. In the middle of the bowl are coal, oil, peat, sulfur and natural gas deposits. The dilemma is how these rock formations got to be the way they are and where they are.
Some religious folks might suggest that this is a deposit produced by the flood of Noah. The problem with that explanation is that this is not a flood deposit and is not a product of violence. Genesis 7:11 tells us that “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.” I would take my students on a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to see a reef display. The rocks being formed and making up the reef are identical to the ones we see in the Devonian deposit. The fossils don’t show a violent end, but instead, they show a slow, gentle formation process. Calcite, silica and other minerals have replaced the original material in the cells of the Petoskey stone animals, giving a dazzling array of colors.
When God created “the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), the Bible simply states that He did it – not how He did it. At the end of verse 1, there were Petoskey stones in Devonian reefs, and oil, gas, coal, and the other resources were being formed. A change was coming that would make the conditions of the Earth more hospitable for human life, and God knew what we would need for an advanced civilization. Having a warm ocean covering the entire state of Michigan was not an environment humans could thrive in, but it was a tool God used to prepare the resources for human life.
There is no dilemma if we take the Bible literally and accept only what it says. Locking the creation account into a denominational theological tradition does violence to the Genesis account and causes young people to question the truth of the Bible. On the other hand, as they admire the beauty of the Petoskey stone jewelry they have made, people can realize that God has done some special and beautiful things to prepare a home for us in this life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019