3.8 How Fast?

The Fossil Evidence

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All the courses I took concerning fossils were taught by professors who firmly believed in evolution. Yet, when it came to the kinds of life we studied, it seemed the actual evidence made it overwhelmingly difficult to believe in evolution and very easy to believe what the Bible says about creation, corruption, catastrophe, and Christ.

Even if you could accept my conclusion, or, at least, consider it reasonable, I’m sure you’d have another question. How fast do fossils form, and how fast do rock layers get stacked up like we see in the Grand Canyon? Believe me, those questions bothered me, too! I knew that some believed, for example, that even though God especially created the first of each kind, he “spaced out” His creative activity over a vast period of time, a sort of “progressive creation.”

Can science help us decide how fast fossils form, and how fast those sedimentary rock layers pile up? That’s what I wanted to know when I signed up for courses like stratigraphy that deal in part with rates of sediment-layer formation.

Surprisingly enough, just about everybody—creationist, evolutionist, and everyone in between—agrees that individual fossil specimens themselves begin to form very, very rapidly! If a plant or animal just dies and falls to the ground or into the water, it’s quickly broken up and decomposed by scavengers, wind and water currents, even sunlight. Fallen logs, road kills, and dead aquarium fish don’t just become fossils, nor did the millions of bison slaughtered in America’s move west.

Most fossils are formed when a plant or animal is quickly and deeply buried, out of reach of scavengers and currents, usually in mud, lime, or sand sediment rich in cementing minerals that harden and preserve at least parts of the dead creatures. Evolutionists and creationists agree: the ideal conditions for forming most fossils and fossil-bearing rock layers are flood conditions. The debate is just whether it was many “little floods” over a long time, or mostly the one big flood of Noah’s time. In fact, until Darwin’s theory came along, most educated laymen and scientists—including the founding fathers of geology—assumed that fossils were the remains of plants and animals buried in Noah’s flood.

Although professionals understand how fast fossils begin to form under flood conditions, the general public often does not. I was on a radio talk show one time when a caller said he believed the earth had to be fantastically old because he’d seen (as I have) huge logs turned to stone in Arizona’s Petrified Forest. Surely, he said, it would take millions of years to turn a log six feet (2m) across and 100 feet (30m) long into solid stone! So I asked him to think about it. If a tree fell over in a forest or into a lake or stream and just laid there for millions of years, wouldn’t it just rot away? Bugs, termites, fungus, and chemical action would soon turn it back into dust. If that tree got suddenly and deeply buried in mineral-rich sediment, then minerals could crystallize throughout the pore space in the log and turn it to stone before it had time to decay. To my encouragement, he replied, “You know, I believe you’re right about that!”

A museum in central Tasmania has a “fossil hat” on display. A miner had dropped his felt hat, and the limey water had turned it into a “hard hat” (which the curator was kind enough to let me feel and photograph). That same process, mineral in-fill, can turn wood, bones, and shells into fossils in a short period of time. Indeed, fossils can be made in the laboratory!

Remember the Precambrian Australian jellyfish? Jellyfish often wash ashore, but in a matter of hours they have turned into nondescript “blobs” (although watch out—the stinging cells continue to work for quite a while!). To preserve the markings and detail of the Ediacara jellyfish, the organisms seem to have landed on a wet sand that acted as a natural cement. The sand turned to sandstone before the jellyfish had time to rot, preserving the jellyfish’s markings, somewhat as you can preserve your handprint if you push it into concrete during that brief time when it’s neither too wet nor too dry. Indeed, the evolutionist who discovered the Ediacara jellyfish said the fossils must have formed in less than 24 hours. He didn’t mean one jellyfish in 24 hours; he meant millions of jellyfish and other forms throughout the entire Ediacara formation, which stretches about 300 miles (500 km) from South Australia into the Northern Territory, had fossilized in less than 24 hours! In short, floods form fossils fast! (See Figure 31.)

Figure 31

Figure 31. Because massive flooding seems to be the most logical inference from our observations of fossil deposits, a number of evolutionary geologists are now calling themselves “neocatastrophists.” Catastrophist geology, originally a creationist idea associated with Noah’s flood, has stimulated a great deal of research, and it helps us to understand how fossils form (above) and why such huge numbers are spread over such broad areas (below).

Like most Americans, I was mis-taught in grade school that it takes millions of years and tremendous heat and pressure to turn sediments (like sand, lime, or clay) into rock (like sandstone, limestone, or shale). We all know better. Concrete is just artificial rock. Cement companies crush rock, separate the cementing minerals and large stones, and then sell it to you. You add water to produce the chemical reaction (curing, not drying), and rock forms again—easily, naturally, and quickly, right before your very eyes. Indeed, you can make rock as a geology lab exercise, without using volcanic heat and pressure or waiting millions of years for the results. Time, heat, and pressure can and do alter the properties of rock (including “Flood rock”), but the initial formation of most rocks, like the setting of concrete, is quite rapid.

Knowledgeable people readily agree that both fossils and rock layers can and do form very rapidly. But there’s a catch. Fossils and rock layers are not just found “one at a time.” Rocks chock full of fossils are buried in layers stacked on top of one another, in places about two miles (three km) thick! Not only that, but there’s a tendency for fossils to be found together in certain groups, and a tendency for these groups to be found one after the other in a certain sequence called the “geologic column.”

According to evolution, the geologic column (Figure 32) lays out the story of evolution chronologically, from bottom to top, right before our eyes. Maybe science hasn’t explained how evolution works yet, but the “fact of evolution” is plain to see in the “record in the rocks.” Life started with a few simple life forms (originally produced by time, chance, and chemistry), and we can chart its progress, the net increase in variety and complexity produced by Darwinian struggle and death, as we move up through the rock layers. Only an ignorant, fundamentalist fanatic with his nose in the Bible could fail to see evidence so clear and convincing as the “rock-hard” geologic column!

Figure 32

Or at least that’s the way textbooks, television, museums, and magazines usually tell the story, and that’s the evolutionary story I used to teach, too. Well, there really are lots of fossils out there, and they really are stacked in thick layers of sedimentary rock—

billions of dead things,
buried in rock layers,
laid down by water,
all over the earth.

What do these thick layers of fossil-rock mean to a scientist who believes the Bible?

Actually, most scientists and scholars before Darwin took billions of fossils buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth as extremely powerful evidence confirming the Bible, a record in stone of the worldwide flood in Noah’s time described in Genesis—and also in the traditions, oral and written, of hundreds of cultures (the descendants of Noah) from around the world.

In the Genesis account (Gen. 6–9), the corruption of God’s perfect creation by man’s wickedness filled the earth with so much grief, violence, and death that God destroyed the world in a global catastrophe, the Flood, and gave it a fresh start with Noah and those with him on the ark: creation, corruption, catastrophe, Christ (deliverance). Noah was in the ark for a year and ten days. During the first 150 days (5 months), the waters continued to rise until finally they covered “all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven” (Gen. 7:19).

For scientists called flood geologists or catastrophists, the “major layers” or systems in the geologic column are eco-sedimentary zones, the remains of various ecological groups living in the pre-Flood world. The first creatures buried in greatest abundance in the rising Flood waters would be the heavy-shelled, bottom-dwelling sea creatures, and these would be followed successively by near shore forms and swimmers, then lowland plants and animals, and finally upland forms, with sea creatures found in all the systems of the geologic column as the waters finally covered everything. When the mountains rose and the valleys sank down (Ps. 104:8) at the end of the Flood, the continents were covered with layers of fossils formed as stages in the burial of eco-sedimentary zones during the catastrophe of Noah’s flood (Figure 32).

Evolutionists and creationists agree that fossils reflect death and disaster on a colossal scale. Creationists see this as a bad thing, a consequence of the corruption of creation by man’s turning from God. Evolutionists see it as a good thing, a record of millions of years of struggle and death, the buried remains of casualties in Darwin’s “war of nature” that produced a net increase in the “quantity and quality” of life on earth (Figure 32).

It’s hard to imagine two views more strikingly different! (In The Fossil Book,1 I have a chart comparing the two views on 15 points, p. 25.) Surely scientific study of rocks and fossils should help us decide which of these two views (if either) is better supported by the evidence. Were fossil-bearing rock layers formed rapidly and globally (creation/Flood geology), or slowly and locally (classic evolution)? Once again, science has not been kind to the evolutionist’s position, but has unearthed strong support for the creationist/Flood geologist instead.

Early evolutionists were dogmatically uniformitarian. Often summarized as “the present is the key to the past,” the doctrine of uniformitarianism was introduced into geology and into Darwin’s thinking by Charles Lyell. Lyell wanted scientists to forbid themselves to see any evidence of a process going on in the past at a rate or on a scale different from what we see today: slow, gradual, and/or local (e.g., an intense but local volcanic eruption). His idea sounds scientific (and anti-biblical), but nowhere on earth today do we have fossils forming on the scale that we see in geologic deposits. The Karroo Beds in Africa, for example, contain the remains of perhaps 800 billion vertebrates! A million fish can be killed in red tides in the Gulf of Mexico today, but they simply decay away and do not become fossils. Similarly, swamp peat is nowhere slowly turning into vast beds of anthracite coal.

Some geologic formations are spread out over vast areas of a whole continent. For example, there’s the Morrison Formation, famous for its dinosaur remains, that covers much of the mountainous West, and there’s the St. Peter’s Sandstone, a glass sand that stretches from Canada to Texas and from the Rockies to the Appalachians. Sediment does build up slowly at the mouths of rivers, such as the Mississippi delta, but slow sediment build-up could not possibly produce such widespread deposits, such broadly consistent sedimentary and paleontological features, as we see in the Morrison and St. Peter’s formations. In this case, knowledge of the present tells us that something happened on a much larger scale in the past than we see happening anywhere today. That’s not appealing to faith or fancy—that’s appealing to fact! For purely scientific reasons, evolutionists and creationists may both conclude these are flood deposits, even if the scale of the flood is something far beyond anything observed in historical times.2

Then there’s the matter of “misplaced fossils.” Evolutionists believe, for example, that the land plants did not appear until over 100 million years after the Cambrian trilobites died out. Yet, over 60 genera of woody-plant spores, pollen, and wood itself have been recovered from lowest “trilobite rock” (Cambrian) throughout the world. The evidence is so well known that it’s even in standard college biology textbooks. The secular botany textbook by Weier, Stocking, and Barbour3 that my students once used puts it this way: “Despite tempting fragments of evidence, such as cutinized [waxy] spores and bits of xylem [wood] dating back to the Cambrian period . . .” most evolutionists still believe that land plants did not evolve until much later. Notice, that the evolutionist argues “despite . . . evidence.”

The creationist does not argue “in spite of the evidence.” Rather, “because of the evidence,” the creationist says, “we think that land plants and Cambrian trilobites lived at the same time in different places. Normally, these sea animals and land plants would not be preserved together for ecological reasons. A few plant specimens, escaping decay, could occasionally be entombed with trilobites in ocean sediment, and that’s what we see.”

Misplaced fossils are common enough that evolutionists have a vocabulary to deal with them. A specimen found “too low” in the geologic column (before it was supposed to have evolved) is called a “stratigraphic leak,” and a specimen found “too high” is called a “re-worked specimen.” Often, of course, there is actual physical evidence for mixing of strata from two different sources, but sometimes, such evidence is lacking. With such a handy vocabulary available, it’s quite likely that the number of misplaced fossils found—without evidence of disturbance—is far greater than the number actually recorded (which is considerable anyway).

Sometimes whole geologic systems are misplaced. While I was a graduate student in stratigraphy class, still trying to decide between the Bible and evolution, we went on a field trip to find the missing 25 million years of the Silurian. We went to a quarry in southern Indiana that was famous for building-quality limestone. The massive gray limestone was quite thick and exposed over many hundreds of yards. In the lower part of the formation, we found corals belonging to system No. 2, the Ordovician. But as we worked our way up the quarry wall, suddenly we began to find Devonian corals, those belonging to system No. 4. Where were the missing corals of system No. 3, the Silurian?

For an evolutionist, that’s a crucial question. Evolutionists believe that Ordovician corals evolved into Silurian corals, which evolved into Devonian corals. Skipping the Silurian would break the evolutionary chain, and for an evolutionist would be impossible!

What was there between the Ordovician and Devonian corals in that limestone quarry in Indiana? Only millimeters separated them, and there was no change in color, no change in texture, not even a bedding plane. There was no physical evidence at all for those hypothetical 25 million years of evolutionary time. As the professor emphasized, such a situation is a serious problem for evolution. We simply can’t imagine land just lying there for 25 million years, he said, neither eroding nor depositing, then picking up exactly where it left off!

Evolutionists have coined a term to deal with the problem: paraconformity. A contact line between two rock strata is called a “conformity” if the physical evidence indicates smooth, continuous deposition with no time break. “Disconformity” is used where the physical evidence indicates erosion has removed part of the rock sequence. Disconformities are often represented by wavy lines in geologic diagrams, and they often appear in the field as real “wavy lines” in which erosion channels and stream beds can be seen cutting into the eroded rock layer. In the case of a paraconformity, there is no evidence of erosion, nor any other physical evidence of a break in time, only fossils “out of place.” The name even means that it looks like a conformity. In fact, the only way to recognize a paraconformity is by prior commitment to evolutionary theory. There is no physical evidence! If you believe in evolution, then you must believe there was some gap in the sequence, or else the evolutionary chain would be broken.

Creationists don’t need the term paraconformity. Creationists can simply accept the physical evidence as it’s found: smooth, continuous deposition with no time break. Suppose the Ordovician and Devonian geologic systems represent different ecological zones of creatures living at the same time. Then a change in some ecological factor, such as saltiness or temperature, could cause one group of corals to replace the other ecologically, smoothly, and continuously. Or sediment from one ecological zone could be deposited immediately on top of sediment from another zone as currents changed direction, again producing smooth continuous deposition with no time break. I included an explanation like that in my answer to an exam question about paraconformities. I got an “A” on the essay (and on the test), and the professor was intrigued with the possibility—but said he couldn’t accept it because of the time span involved.

Many people think that if Christians could only accept great age, they’d have no problem with science. Actually, they would have no problem with evolution, but lots of problems with science! Gould4 lamented that geologists are constantly reporting ecological interpretations of fossil deposits, but he said they should quit doing that, because the time scale is all wrong for evolution. Perhaps the ecological interpretations—based on actual physical evidence—are correct, and it’s the evolutionary time scale—based on faith in evolution—that’s wrong! Belief in great age and slow change make it very difficult to understand many physical features of our earth.

Consider polystratic fossils. As the name implies, polystrates are fossils that extend through many rock layers or strata. I first heard of polystratic fossils as a geology student. The professor, an evolutionist, was talking about zoning rocks on the basis of the microscopic fossils they contain. The usual assumption, of course, is that one microfossil evolved into another, which evolved into another, and so on. The rock unit he zoned was presumed to involve about 20 million years of evolutionary time. Then the professor told us he followed the rock unit down the creek bed, and found a shellfish, with a shell shaped like an ice cream cone, perched on its tip through the whole 20 million years! How could that be, he wondered. It couldn’t perch on its tip for 20 million years waiting for sediment to accumulate, and it couldn’t stab itself down through rock hardened over that time.

Polystrates are indeed a mystery for an evolutionist! But they would be no mystery at all, if the whole rock unit were deposited rapidly. Some things, like trees washed out in vegetation mats after a tropical storm, may float upright for a while, and they could be entombed in that upright position if burial occurred quickly enough (Figure 33).

Figure 33

Figure 33. Polystrates (above) are fossils extending through “thousands or even millions of years” of hypothetical evolutionary time. Polystrates are especially common in coal. Because coal deposits extend over such broad areas (right), a growing number of geologists (evolutionists and creationists) think that coal must have been deposited rapidly under floating mats of plants ripped up in large-scale flood catastrophes.

Polystrates are especially common in coal formations. For years and years, students have been taught that coal represents the remains of swamp plants slowly accumulated as peat and then even more slowly changed into coal. There are many reasons that this swamp idea simply cannot be true: the type of plants involved, texture of deposits, and state of preservation are all wrong; the action of flowing water, not stagnation, is evident.5

On a small scale, you can see the process that may have started the formation of coal deposits when a typhoon rips up mats of vegetation and floats them out to sea, but some coal seams run from Pennsylvania out across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois into Iowa and down to Oklahoma! What kind of storm could be involved in the formation of that kind of coal seam? Answer: Catastrophic flooding on a scale like that described in the Bible for Noah’s flood!

A new concept of coal formation has been developed by creationist geologists, led by Dr. Steven Austin. In his dissertation for the Ph.D. in coal geology from Penn State, Dr. Austin6 suggested that coal was formed from plant debris deposited under mats of vegetation floating in sea water. His model explained many features of coal that the swamp model could not explain. Even more importantly, his theory—a real scientific breakthrough—is the first ever to predict the location and quality of coal.

Dramatic confirmation of the processes postulated by Dr. Austin was provided by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. The volcano sent mud and debris hurtling down into Spirit Lake, sloshing a wave nearly 900 feet (275 m) up its initially tree-studded slopes. The wave sheared off a million trees, enough lumber to make all the houses in a large city! The trees were sheared off their roots and stripped of their leaves, branches, and bark. The “forest” of denuded logs floated out over the huge lake. As they became water-logged, many sank vertically down into and through several layers of mud, forming polystrates on the lake bottom. Many features of the lake-bottom deposits are reminiscent of coal deposits. A fantastic video describing both the eruption of Mount St. Helens and his original research has been prepared by Dr. Austin,7 and he and Dr. John Morris have the volcano’s story in book form.8

Thanks to the eruption of Mount St. Helens, scientists have had a chance to observe, measure, and study catastrophic processes close up.9 The energy of the initial eruption was equivalent to that released by over 20,000 atomic bombs! It blew off the top 1,300 feet (ca. 400 m) of the mountain; produced a hot-blast cloud of 400°C moving at over 100 miles per hour (160 km/hr); generated mud flows tens of feet (several meters) thick, moving at 30 miles per hour (50 km/hr); and produced a wave that, as mentioned before, sheared off a million trees. My wife and I had the opportunity to fly up Mount St. Helens, down into the crater, and out over the denuded mountainside and logjam in Spirit Lake—still awesome ten years after the first eruption. Yet, Mount St. Helens was a “tiny” volcano that never even produced a lava flow!

What supplies the power for volcanic eruptions anyway? Water. Yes, water—superheated water found in the underground liquid rock called magma. If some crack develops to release pressure, the superheated water flashes into steam, generating colossal power—power to blow islands apart, power that dwarfs mankind’s nuclear arsenal. About two-thirds of what comes out of the average volcano is water vapor, what geologists call “juvenile water.” How much water could be released by volcanic processes? Most evolutionists believe all the earth’s oceans were filled by outgassing of volcanic water!

According to the Bible, the water for Noah’s flood was first released when the “fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Gen. 7: 11). Imagine volcanoes many times more powerful than Mount St. Helens, going off all over the world at the same time. That may help you begin to imagine catastrophe on a biblical scale! It’s catastrophe on that biblical scale that science needs to explain many of the physical features of our earth.

Because of the deluge of objective evidence, a new group of evolutionary geologists has arisen. They call themselves “neo-catastrophists.” Derek Ager,10 past president of the British Geologic Association, said, “I have already declared myself an unrepentant ‘neo-catastrophist.’ ” He goes on to say that the geologic evidence reminds him of the life of a soldier, full of “long periods of boredom and short periods of terror.” It seems to me that the “long periods of boredom” are the contact lines between the strata (the absence of deposits where, presumably, all the evolution has occurred). The “short periods of terror” formed the fossil-bearing deposits themselves. It is rapid, large-scale processes that form the fossil-bearing deposits we actually observe.

Although Stephen Gould was an anti-creationist, he said, “Catastrophists were as committed to science as any gradualist; in fact, they adopted the more ‘objective’ view that one should believe what one sees and not interpolate missing bits of gradual record into a literal tale of rapid change” (emphasis added).11

Catastrophism helps us to understand the patterns of extinction we see when we compare living forms with their fossil relatives. Evolutionists have even proposed a global catastrophe, an asteroid impact, to explain dinosaur extinction. A catastrophe would wipe out creatures regardless of their environmental fitness. Only those that happen to be in the right place at the right time when the catastrophe hit would survive. David Raup,12 well-known evolutionist, talked about this as “survival of the luckiest” in contrast to “survival of the fittest” (natural selection).

“Survival of the luckiest” would explain why present forms appear to be no more fit to survive than their fossil relatives. At best, only a few of each kind would survive, and these would possess less of the original created gene pool. Population genetics textbooks even refer to these consequences of a “genetic bottleneck” as the “Noah’s ark effect.” That would help to explain why most groups existed in greater variety in times past than they do now—the opposite of evolutionary expectations, a reflection instead of the biblical sequence: creation, corruption, catastrophe.

Giant forms seem to have been particularly hard hit by extinction. As fossils, we find giant dragonflies with wingspans over 2 feet (60 cm); giant fusilinids among the one-celled creatures (1/2 inch or 12 mm is giant for them); the giant reptiles, including some of the dinosaurs; even a giant beaver that reached 6 feet (2 m) in body length. (Imagine looking up into the face of a giant beaver. When he says, “I want that tree,” you respond, “Take it. It’s yours!”) Perhaps the giant beavers were for cutting down the giant trees. As I mentioned earlier, plants such as the club mosses or ground pines (lycopods), which grow only a few inches (centimeters) tall today, are represented as fossils (with the same kind of stem and “leaf” anatomy and reproductive structures) by trees reaching 120 feet (35 m) in height (the lepidodendrons).

The decline in size and variety in so many groups may be related to a dramatic change in global climate. All scientists recognize both that the earth once had a mild climate pole to pole and that it experienced a recent “Ice Age.” Although it’s past maximum, we’re still in the Ice Age. At its maximum, ice at higher latitudes and altitudes covered about 30 percent of the earth’s surface; it still covers about 10 percent. What happened? The Genesis flood may hold the key.

Our present atmosphere is only 0.03 percent CO2, and plants are designed for much higher levels. Carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas” that acts like the glass in a greenhouse to bottle up the sun’s heat and spread it around.13 At the time of the Flood, huge numbers of plants, animals, and microbes were buried and fossilized, so CO2 from their decomposition was not returned to the atmosphere. Much CO2 would have been consumed also in the formation of limestone, a calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The result would be like throwing off the earth’s blanket on a cold night. Land loses heat much more quickly than water does. So, in the first few centuries after the Flood, the earth would have warm oceans and, at the higher latitudes and altitudes, cold continents—exactly the contrasting conditions required to produce an “Ice Age.”

Development of ice sheets requires warm oceans to produce lots of evaporated moisture; it requires areas of cold continents so that evaporated moisture can fall as snow and ice. The North Slope of Alaska and much of northeastern Siberia were not covered by glacial ice, because these areas were too cold, lacking the copious precipitation to make abundant snowfall. That’s why evolutionary theories all fail to explain the Ice Age. Old habits are hard to break, and for the past two centuries evolutionists have been trying to explain everything in earth history as the result of slooow and gradual processes. If the earth gets slooowly colder and colder, you just get a cold earth without ice sheets, like the North Slope and northeast Siberia. The paradoxical juxtaposition of warm oceans and cold continents requires a sudden global catastrophe—exactly like the Genesis flood! Once again, evolutionists cheat themselves out of a straightforward scientific explanation based on logic and observation, all because of their unscientific commitment to uniformitarian belief, a belief that continues to fail one scientific test after another.

In warmer latitudes, the clash of warm, moist air with cold, dry air masses would generate storms, including “super hurricanes,” called hypercanes, perhaps ten times stronger than Hurricane Katrina. Such storms may have generated the “fossil hash” deposits in Florida, where a mixture of huge land and sea Ice Age fossils are entombed side-by-side in vast shell deposits. Two other books of mine include more information on storm deposits (The Fossil Book14) and on ecological differences between the pre- and post-Flood worlds (Exploring the World Around You15).

Details on the Ice Age, on post-Flood migrations, and on the famous frozen mammoths are found in excellent books by meteorologist Michael Oard.16 Oard presents evidence and scientific logic to suggest ice sheets built up to the Ice Age maximum by about 500 years after the Flood, or about 4,000 years ago. According to paleontologists at the state museum in Florida, that’s about the time the pre-Columbian peoples in Florida killed off the last of the large Ice Age mammals, many larger than the average dinosaur. The ice melted back over the next 200 years, as the difference between oceanic and continental temperatures lessened, and the scale and intensity of storms declined, but the earth never got back to its more idyllic pre-Flood climate and its ecological density and diversity.

Major environmental changes triggered by Noah’s flood and the Ice Age that followed may help us understand some rare but special creatures. Scuba diving along Australia’s Barrier Reef, I was startled and thrilled to find living crinoids (“sea lilies” or “feather stars”), sort of “upside-down starfish on stems.” These graceful creatures (looking like plants, except that they can walk on their “roots”!) were once so abundant that the Mississippian System (Lower Carboniferous) is sometimes called the “Age (Zone) of Crinoids.” I had found their fabulous fossils in Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska, but evolutionary teaching had assured me this great group was an evolutionary dead end, unfit to survive except in a few out-of-the-way places! How stunningly untrue! Here were dozens, in a variety of brilliant colors, alive and doing very well in the richest (and most competitive) life zone on earth!

Forms like these feather stars that were once abundant but now nearly extinct are called living fossils. Lampshells (brachiopods) are called “living fossils” because only a few genera survive of a group once so abundant they are sometimes called “fossil weeds.” The “oldest” continuously surviving animal (the one with the longest stratigraphic range) is the lampshell called Lingula, which, in an evolutionary sense, might be considered the world’s most successful animal, remaining completely unchanged while trilobites, dinosaurs, saber-tooth tigers, and other great creatures came and went around it! Graptolites, once thought to be extinct for half a billion years, were found alive and unchanged off western Australia.

The pearly nautilus is called a living fossil because most members of its group, the squid-like cephalopod mollusks, have been eliminated by extinction. Why would evolution “do in” the nautiloids, the most complex (i.e., “most highly evolved”) of all invertebrates, especially since the “first” nautiloids continue complete and complex—and unchanged, from the “beginning” of fossil abundance (lowest Cambrian rock)?

While it was known only from a few fossil bones presumed to be millions of years old, the coelacanth (Latimeria) was hailed as a “missing link,” an animal caught in the act of evolving from fish to amphibian. Then they found coelacanths alive and well (“living fossils”) off Madagascar—100 percent fish in a totally deep-sea fish environment. Others of these big fish have been found off Indonesia. As regularly happens, additional evidence disproved, rather than supported, evolutionary belief. Joachin Scheven,17 one of Europe’s leading creation scientists, has a museum with spectacular displays of these and many other “living fossils.”

Evolutionists have always been perplexed by “living fossils.” These creatures are clearly well-fit to survive; they were complete and complex from their first appearance, and they have remained unchanged throughout vast stretches of presumed evolutionary time.

Unquestioning belief in vast amounts of time conflicts with so much paleontological evidence that it may be time for scientists to question belief in evolutionary time. Actually, there is a great deal of direct evidence that key fossils, and the rock layers in which they are found, are “only” thousands of years old, not millions.

Summarizing a year of media buzz, Discover magazine for April 2006 recounted the discovery of (emphases added) “soft, fresh-looking tissue inside a T. rex femur,” a fossil presumed to be 80 million years old that contained “lifelike tissue” that was “stretchy like a wet scab on human skin,” with “supple bone cells” and “translucent blood vessels.”18 The article scoffs at creationists who propose the evidence suggests the dinosaur femur was not millions of years old, but the paleobiologist, Mary Schweitzer, who did the analysis said, “If you take a blood sample and you stick it on a shelf, you have nothing recognizable in about a week. So why would there be anything left in dinosaurs?”

Paleontologist Jack Horner, science consultant for the Jurassic Park films and Schweitzer’s mentor said, “There may be a lot of things out there that we’ve missed because of our assumption of how preservation works.” Indeed, the article talked about how thinking among paleontologists has been stunted by “faith among scientists” (i.e., evolutionists) and “dogma” and even by competition for funding and by peer review (read that “peer pressure” or “censorship”) in journal publications. One reviewer told Schweitzer he didn’t care what the data said, he knew (by his faith in millions of years of struggle and death?) that what she was finding wasn’t possible. When Schweitzer wrote back and said, “Well, what data would convince you?” the reviewer said, “None.” That makes a good case for opening up the discussion of origins to more than just “evolution only.” It’s no wonder the article was titled “Schweitzer’s Dangerous Discovery.”

In reality, all the media hype was “old news.” Blood cells had been discovered years earlier in the famous South Dakota T. rex called “Sue.” According to the article (but otherwise forgotten by the media), the National Science Foundation funded a grant to study these earlier T. rex blood cells, and “timed the announcement to coincide with the theatrical release of Jurassic Park.” Actually, many “ancient fossils” have been recovered with organic substances remarkably intact.

Under federal permit, a team of five “creation explorers” brought back from the permafrost on the North Slope of Alaska about 200 pounds (90 kg) of “fresh-looking” dinosaur bones containing organic material (and we have a few on display at our Creation Adventures Museum in Arcadia, Florida).19 Evolutionists believe the ice has been there only thousands of years, so the ice could not be used to explain the preservation of dinosaur bones assumed to be at least “65 million” years old. These bones, and many other fossils that include some little-altered original material, can be analyzed for DNA and protein.

During the 1990s, analysis of DNA and protein in fossils fueled fables in the media of “dinosaur cloning” and dreams among evolutionists that molecular studies might provide evidence for branching descent that the anatomical evidence had failed to provide, but scientists finally convinced evolutionists and the media that DNA decomposes in thousands of years, not millions, and protein decomposes even faster, even under ideal conditions. In a move worthy of praise, Discover magazine admitted that its previous articles touting DNA and protein analysis of fossils must be in error. Without explaining how, they suggested contamination as the source of DNA and protein in fossils. There is another possibility. Perhaps the DNA and protein really do belong to the fossils as originally reported by careful researchers, but the fossils are only thousands, not millions, of years old.

Even more exciting are new studies on carbon-14 reported by Dr. John Baumgardner. While a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratories, Dr. Baumgardner was featured in U.S. News and World Report20 as the world’s leading expert on supercomputer simulations of plate tectonics.21 His carbon-14 studies were done as part of a group of physicists and geologists investigating Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, the RATE team. Because carbon-14 has such a short half-life (5,730 years), evolutionists would not usually look for it in fossils thought to be more than just thousands of years old. Baumgardner did look for it—and found it—in the carbon of “ancient” coal taken from layers with “evolutionary ages” of about 300, 100, and 50 “million years” (roughly late trilobite, dinosaur, and giant mammal “ages”). The same professional radiocarbon dating labs used by evolutionists found carbon-14 at about four times the minimum detectable amount, and they found similar amounts in fossils taken from the three major levels in the geologic column (Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic). The data suggest, therefore, that not only are the fossils only thousands of years old, but also that they are all roughly the same age, formed at the same time! WOW!

To add thrill to excitement, Baumgardner also found carbon-14 in deep earth diamonds from seven African mines! The seven RATE team scientists found other results just as dramatic in studies of radioactive decay involving uranium, polonium, rubidium-strontium isochrons, helium diffusion, etc. The results of their eight-year research project have been published in two technical volumes for specialists in the appropriate scientific fields,22 but they have also been made available to scientifically interested laymen in book and DVD form as Thousands . . . Not Billions.23 If only the academic mind could be opened a crack (and its heart freed from fear of ridicule), there would be in these references a feast for the soul (and God at the door).

It’s certainly no wonder that Darwin called fossils “the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory [of evolution].” A century and a half of fossil discovery has confirmed Darwin’s worst fears. The kinds of life found as fossils suggest living things were created well-designed to multiply after kind. Rates of formation of fossils and of the rock layers in the geologic column suggest they formed rapidly and recently on a catastrophic scale.

Creation: Facts of Life

Dr. Parker, a leading creation scientist and former AiG speaker, presents the classic arguments for evolution used in public schools, universities, and the media, and refutes them in an entertaining and easy-to-read style. A must for students and teachers alike! This is a great book to give to a non-Christian as a witnessing tool.

Read Online Buy Book


  1. Parker and Parker, The Fossil Book.
  2. Tim Folger, “The Biggest Flood,” Discover (January 1994): p. 36, 38.
  3. T.E. Weier, C.R Stocking, and M.G. Barbour, Botany, 5th edition (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1974).
  4. Gould, “Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?”
  5. Stuart E. Nevins, “Origin of Coal,” Acts and Facts, “Impact” Series No. 41, Institute for Creation Research (November 1976).
  6. Steven A. Austin, Depositional Environment of the Kentucky No. 12 Coal Bed (Middle Pennsylvanian) of Western Kentucky, With Special Reference to the Origin of Coal Lithotypes, dissertation, Pennsylvania State University (University Microfilms International), Ann Arbor, MI, 1979: page 390, order No. 8005972.
  7. Steven A. Austin, Mount St. Helens, video (Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1993).
  8. John Morris and Steven Austin, Footprints in the Ash (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003).
  9. Steven A. Austin, Mount St. Helens: A Slide Collection for Educators (Santee, CA: Geology Education Materials, 1991).
  10. Derek V. Ager, “The Nature of the Fossil Record,” Proceedings of the Geological Association 87(2), pages 131–159, 1976.
  11. Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History (May 1977).
  12. David Raup, “The Revolution in Evolution” World Book Science Year 1980.
  13. Gary E. Parker, Exploring the World Around You (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2002).
  14. Parker and Parker, The Fossil Book.
  15. Parker, Exploring the World Around You.
  16. Michael Oard, The Weather Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1997). Michael Oard, Frozen in Time (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004).
  17. Jachim Sheven, interviewed in “Meet Mr. Living Fossils,” Creation Ex Nihilo (March–May 1993).
  18. Barry Yeoman, “Schweitzer’s Dangerous Discovery,” Discover (April 2006).
  19. Buddy Davis, Mike Liston, and John Whitmore, The Great Alaskan Dinosaur Adventure (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1998).
  20. U.S. News and World Report (June 16, 1997).
  21. John Baumgardner, Steve Austin, et al., Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (Santee, CA: Geology Education Materials, 1996).
  22. L. Vardiman, A. Snelling, and E. Chafin, editors, Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 2000). L. Vardiman, A. Snelling, and E. Chafin, editors, Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth II (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 2005).
  23. Don DeYoung, Thousands . . . Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005). Thousands . . . Not Billions DVD/VHS (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 2005).


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