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Fossils and the Geologic Column

By Editorial Staff
Published December 22, 2007

The geologic layers of rocks and fossils they hold pose a perplexing problem to the evolutionist. Many books have been written in an attempt to address the problem of a lack of solid evidence for total organic evolution found in the geologic column. When you compare the findings of these scientists to what is being taught in the classroom, you may be surprised to find that many professors and textbook authors fail to discuss this problem at all.

An interesting part of the story about the geologic layers is how the term “geologic column” originated. Did you know that there isn’t one place in the whole world where you can see this column? But virtually all textbooks in geological science show you this column from the bottom to the top without explanation that it is an imagined ordering of the rock strata.

One of the deepest surface exposures to the geologic rock layers is found in the Grand Canyon. This break in the earth’s crust exposes more layers than any other place in the world; yet, less than half of the geologic systems are included! There are major gaps in the “ideal” or imagined geologic column sequence that is pictured in textbooks. If we are to understand the geologic column better, we must keep this fact of science in mind.

Index Fossils and Circular Reasoning

There are twelve major layers that form what is called the standard geologic column. Each of these layers is identified by the fossils that are found in it. But, strangely enough, most often the fossils are dated by the strata in which they are found. Can you see the faulty logic in that approach? Let us read what some evolutionary geologists say. Dr. J. E. O’Rourke, writes about this in “Pragmatism Versus Materialism in Stratigraphy,” for the American Journal of Science. (1976)

“The rocks do date the fossils, but the fossils date the rocks more accurately. Stratigraphy cannot avoid this kind of reasoning … because circularity is inherent in the derivation of time scales.”

This is amazing! Fossils are used to date the rocks and the rocks date the fossils. What can be the value of such a chronology? Professor of geology, D. Ager, writes about his disappointment when physicists say that strata are dated radiometrically. He said that he could think of no cases where radiative decay methods are used to date fossils. (Ager, 1983)

This dating process for layers and fossils is called the index fossil system. For example, if a rock layer contains mostly fossils of sea animals called trilobites and lampshells, then these layers are part of the Cambrian system. Using this system, the different layers of the strata can be given a label and with this label comes a length of time that the index fossils is assumed to have evolved.

What Do Fossils Really Tell Us?

The Cambrian and the Pre-Cambrian fossils have always brought on a storm of criticism. Axelrod (1958), a paleontologist, said:

“One of the major unsolved problems of geology and evolution is the occurrence of diversified, multi-celled marine invertebrates in the lower Cambrian rocks on the continents and their absence in rocks of greater age.”

Addressing the absence of fossils in rocks of greater age, he went on to say:

“However when we turn to examine the Pre-Cambrian rocks for forerunners of these early Cambrian fossils, they are nowhere to be found. Many thick (over 5,000 feet) sections of sedimentary rock are now known to lie in unbroken succession below strata containing the earliest Cambrian fossils. These sediments apparently were suitable for the preservation of fossils because they are often identical with overlying rocks which are fossiliferous, yet no fossils are found in them.”

This evolutionary paleontologist was willing to ask some hard questions about transitional forms showing how one organism turned into another. Ager, an evolutionary geologist who was quoted earlier, seems to think this is a problem all the way through the fossil record. He predicted that no matter where we searched we would find “not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.”

This is what the creationist model predicts. Creationists are saying that if instantaneous creation took place then we should see evidence of complex, fully developed organisms in the geologic layers as a record of this explosion of life. Many scientists say that a “falsifying test” for creation and evolution lies in the fossils themselves. The fossil record as well as living organisms show no transitional forms. Does this falsify the evolutionist of the creationist claims?

The Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

Knowing about significant gaps in the fossil record, evolutionists have come up with an explanation called “punctuated equilibrium.”

Professors Stephen Gould and Niles Eldredge (1980) introduced a hypothesis which they feel could explain gaps in the fossil record. Certain species appear in the fossil record fully formed and persist for a long time; they then disappear from the record looking very much as they did in the beginning. Later, other species appear in the fossil record fully formed. The change to a different species occurred suddenly. These fossils, they say, are the offspring of the ones that had disappeared. In other words, evolution had been going on all the time, but the evidence can’t be observed. (Stanley, 1979; 1981)

Assumptions are not facts of science. The gaps are there and there is no scientific principle that will help to bridge them. Creationists point out that everything we know about the genetic mechanisms excludes this idea from rational scientific thought.

Jellyfish and Fish

What is the evidence from the fossils for the origin of invertebrates (animals without backbones) and vertebrates (animals with backbones)? Evolutionists say that vertebrates evolved over 100 million years from invertebrates. This, of course, is a major jump, outside known biological processes, and one that brings strong counter arguments from the creationists. Could an organism such as a jelly fish evolve into a bony fish? The evolutionary hypothesis from this idea is somewhat complex. Evolutionists claim that the transition from invertebrate to vertebrate passed through a simple chordate (animals with a soft spine or notochord) state.

“How this earliest chordate stock evolved, what stages of development it went through to eventually give rise to truly fish-like creatures, we do not know. Between the Cambrian, when it probably originated, and the Ordovician, when the fish fossils of animals with really fish-like characteristics appeared, there is a gap of perhaps 100 million years which we will probably never be able to fill.” (Ommaney 964)

It seems that even the well-known advocate and teacher of evolution, Dr. A.S. Romer, believes that all of the major fish classes are clearly and distinctly set apart from one another. There are no transitional forms. He said:

“In sediments of the late Silurian and early Devonian age, numerous fish-like vertebrates of varied types are present, and it is obvious that a long evolutionary history and taken place before that time. But of that history we are mainly ignorant.” (Romer, 1966)

The conclusion – Not one single transitional form between invertebrates and fish has ever been found!

A Fish Story

According to the evolutionary scenario the fish gave rise to the amphibia (frogs, salamanders). As Carl Sagan suggested in his Cosmos television series, during a drought in the Devonion, when the swamps were drying up, some fish would have found it very convenient to have evolved feet and legs for walking overland (Sagan, 1980). This idea is that a lobe-finned fish (crossopterygian) was supposed to have evolved into an amphibian (ichthyostegid) about 500 million years ago.

Do we have any evidence of fossils that indicate such a transition between fish and amphibians? No! Not one fossil has ever been found showing part fins and part feet. The ichthyostegid amphibian had your basic amphibian limbs. When Dr. Colin Pattersen, an Associate at the British Museum of Natural History, and author of the test Evolution, was asked whether he thought the crossopterygian was the ancestor of the ichthyostegid, he answered, “I have questions about that … It is futile to be looking for answers to questions which we have no way of answering.” (Sunderland, 1988)

Again there is no fossil evidence. The following are just a few of the serious flaws in the fish-to-amphibian theory:

1. The bone pattern in the lobe-finned fish appears abruptly and complete in the fossil evidence. No fossils connect this bone pattern to the fins of the other fish.

2. There is no elbow joint in the fin. No fossils of fish with jointed fins have been found.

3. The pelvic (hip) bone of the fish is small. This bone is loosely attached to muscle and does not connect to the back bone.

4. Other orders of amphibians appear in the same geologic layers.

5. The “living fossil” lobe-finned fish, coelacanth, is adapted for life in the deep sea, and does not use its fins for walking.

As we have seen, the data suggests abrupt, sudden appearance of fully developed, complex organisms. Only imagination in the realm of science fiction can create evolutionary scenarios from the fossil data.


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Your comments are welcome!

Actually, the fossil record demonstrates two things: 1-abrupt appearance of fully formed organisms in the Cambrium, as you mention and 2- rapid burial of creatures during the flood of Noah, primarily appearing in the strata according to their ecosystem at the time of burial, but not always, due to rearrangement by strong currents.

Posted by Todd Carsten on 12/27/2009 12:58 PM #

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