Why Evolution is Wrong, post 6 of 10: The Fossil Record

            The theory of evolution is so complex and inclusive that to cover it in any kind of real depth requires much more than just ten posts on a weblog.  As I have already explained in the lead up to this series, there are many important aspects of the theory that I do not intend to touch on at all. I am not really a scientist and claim no area of expertise related to this discussion. I am writing these posts as an amateur who feels compelled to give his opinions on the subject simply because it is so inherently relevant to everyone alive. It is something we should all have an opinion about whether we are scientists or not. Since I cannot afford to do exhaustive, life-consuming research on this topic, I am forced to ignore many significant subtopics that fall under the larger umbrella of evolutionary theory.  This has become increasingly more evident to me now that I have reached the series’ midway point. Nevertheless, there is one subject in particular which I cannot afford to neglect any longer because its study is extremely central to any discussion of biological origins.  I am referring to, of course, the fossil record.  It is the only purely scientific record we have of life on Earth predating detailed written observations. All other documentation on pre-historic life requires direct revelation by (and faith in) supernatural powers and are therefore not really “scientific” records. 

            The fossil record is extensive and gives us lots of information about the planet’s biological past. Before we can analyze it, however, it is necessary to understand how fossils are formed. Jerry Coyne, in Why Evolution Is True describes it this way:

            The formation of fossils is straightforward, but requires a very specific set of circumstances. First, the remains of an animal or plant must find their way into water, sink to the bottom, and get quickly covered by sediment so that they don’t decay or get scattered by scavengers. Only rarely do dead plants and land-dwelling creatures find themselves on the bottom of a lake or ocean. That is why most of the fossils we have are of marine organisms, which live on or in the ocean floor, or naturally sink to the floor when they die.

                Once buried safely in the sediments, the hard parts of fossils become infiltrated or replaced by dissolved minerals. What remains is a cast of a living creature that becomes compressed into rock by pressure of sediments piling up on top. Because soft parts of plants and animals aren’t easily fossilized, this creates a severe bias in what we can know about ancient species. Bones and teeth are abundant, as are shells and the hard outer skeletons of insects and crustaceans. But worms, jellyfish, bacteria and fragile creatures like birds are much rarer, as are all terrestrial species compared to aquatic ones. Over the first 80 percent of the history of life, all species were soft-bodied, so we have only a foggy window into the earliest and most interesting developments in evolution, and none at all into the origin of life.

            As a young-earth creationist, I naturally believe that the vast majority of fossils in the world were created by the planet-wide flood mentioned at the beginning of the Bible. It is clear from the passage above that you would indeed expect a flood of this magnitude to produce a lot of fossils.  All the major elements: water, quick burial, and massive pressure, would be in abundant supply in a world-wide flood.

            Evolutionists are quick to point out several problems that they perceive in regards to the flood theory.  One of the biggest is age of the rock strata. They claim that the rock beds in which the fossils are found are millions of years old, and that they can prove it by radiometric dating.  I will address this topic in my next post, since it is far too extensive to cover now.  Another common argument is that marine organisms that normally live on the bottom of the ocean are found fossilized in relatively undisturbed formations at elevated locations.  In the event of a world-wide flood they would not have time to creep up the side of a cliff against the force of the currents and plant themselves neatly near the top of a mountain before becoming fossilized.  Instead they would be thrown together in a messy jumble.  Therefore these shells must have been fossilized first and then raised to their current altitude by geological forces.

            I believe that the evolutionists are right in this case: these fossils could not have been formed on the top of mountains. However, we creationists do not claim that this happened.  The evolutionists are trying to win the debate, like they often do, by introducing a “straw man:” an artificially weak argument which they claim is what their opponents believe.  Creationists recognize that it would be impossible for a world-wide flood to cover the mountains as they exist today (it requires too much water), and therefore we believe that the mountains were raised up sometime after the flood. This might have occurred at the same time the continents were separated. The evolutionists will object that we are making these claims only for convenience sake, but nevertheless the Bible itself includes a reference to such an event that was written thousands of years before scientists ever came up with the theory of continental drift.  The Bible says that the earth was “divided” only four generations after the flood*.

            A third argument against the creationist viewpoint is that the fossil record shifts generally from examples of “simple” to more “complex” organisms as one ascends the geologic column. This is taken by the evolutionists to clear evidence for evolution. However, this same trend also makes sense in a world-wide flood scenario if you assume that the more “advanced” animals are able to escape from the flood waters for a longer period of time, therefore allowing them to be finally buried and fossilized in higher strata. 

            Actually, it is the evolutionists who should be on the defensive about the fossil record.  The evidence does not support their claim that the various layers built up relatively slowly over millions of years.  In order for their time lines to hold up, the sedimentation must have taken place, on average, very gradually. But gradual sedimentation is not very likely to produce a fossil. Fossilization is very rare.  It does not normally happen by an animal simply falling to the bottom of a lake or an ocean and being covered by a little bit of sediment. Even hard materials like shells do not usually fossilize on the bottom of the ocean floor before they are destroyed.**  Fossilization is caused by unusual, catastrophic circumstances. Quick burial is required in order to keep the organism from decaying. This is even more necessary the larger the organism is. As Jerry Coyne pointed out, fossilization discriminates against soft bodied, terrestrial species, and yet we have all seen the pictures of large graveyards of land-dwelling animals.  It must have taken huge amounts of sediment, for example, to cover the dinosaurs and protect them against decay.  Also, the principle of rapid sedimentation is backed up by “polystrate” fossils: single fossils that extend through multiple strata. Many examples of these kinds of fossils have been found all over the globe. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this are the large, petrified forests that paleontologists have uncovered. Their very existence proves that the strata they were in built up relatively quickly, or else the trunks would have rotted many years before they were completely buried.

            One way to illustrate the shortcomings of the evolutionary model is to examine some of the larger fossil deposits in the world and imagine how gradual fossilization could possibly produce the uniform conditions that would necessarily be required to manufacture them. There are many examples of this. One of them is the Hunsrück Slates in western Germany.  These deposits are characterized throughout by amazing fossils that require a specific set of mechanical and chemical conditions***. As a young Earth creationist I have no trouble assigning such a marvel of nature to the awesome power of a of a gigantic world wide flood, whereas the evolutionists claim that this great graveyard was formed over a period of 8 million years.  This would require thousands of smaller catastrophes with the same modus operandi.  I think my hypothesis is clearly more realistic.

*I Chronicles 1:19

** “As soon as an oyster or other mollusk dies, its shell is subject to deterioration resulting from the attack by a great variety of boring organisms, including worms, sponges, other mollusks, and algae. Most sea bottoms on which living shelled organisms are abundant have surprisingly few empty shells.” (Principles of Paleontology, page 17)

*** “Hunsrück is the only marine Devonian Lagerstätte having soft tissue preservation, and in many cases fossils are coated by a pyritic surface layer. Preservation of soft tissues as fossils normally requires rapid burial in an anoxic (i.e., with little or no oxygen) sedimentary layer where the decomposition of the organic matter is significantly slowed. The pyritization found in Bundenbach fossils facilitated preservation and enhanced the inherent beauty of the fossils. Pyritization is rare in the fossil record, and is believed to require not only rapid burial, but burial in sediments low in organic matter, but high in concentrations of sulfur and iron.” (Wikipedia)

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