Letting the Fossil Record Speak
1. What are fossils?
FOSSILS are the remains of ancient forms of life preserved in the earth’s crust. These may be skeletons or parts of them such as bones, teeth or shells. A fossil also may be some trace of the activity of what was once alive, such as an imprint or trail. Many fossils no longer contain their original material but are made up of mineral deposits that have infiltrated them and have taken on their shape.
2, 3. Why are fossils important to evolution?
2 Why are fossils important to evolution? Geneticist G. L. Stebbins noted a major reason: “No biologist has actually seen the origin by evolution of a major group of organisms.”1 So, living things on earth today are not seen to be evolving into something else. Instead, they are all complete in form and distinct from other types. As geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky observed: “The living world is not a single array . . . connected by unbroken series of intergrades.”2 And Charles Darwin conceded that “the distinctness of specific [living] forms and their not being blended together by innumerable transitional links, is a very obvious difficulty.”3
3 Thus, the distinct varieties of things now alive offer no support to the theory of evolution. That is why the fossil record became so important. It was felt that at least fossils would provide the confirmation that the theory of evolution needed.
What to Look For
4-6. If evolution were factual, what would the fossil evidence show?
4 If evolution were a fact, the fossil evidence would surely reveal a gradual changing from one kind of life into another. And that would have to be the case regardless of which variation of evolutionary theory is accepted. Even scientists who believe in the more rapid changes associated with the “punctuated equilibrium” theory acknowledge that there would still have been many thousands of years during which these changes supposedly took place. So it is not reasonable to believe that there would be no need at all for linking fossils.
5 Also, if evolution were founded in fact, the fossil record would be expected to reveal beginnings of new structures in living things. There should be at least some fossils with developing arms, legs, wings, eyes, and other bones and organs. For instance, there should be fish fins changing into amphibian legs with feet and toes, and gills changing into lungs. There should be reptiles with front limbs changing into bird wings, back limbs changing into legs with claws, scales changing into feathers, and mouths changing into horny beaks.
6 In this regard the British journal New Scientist says of the theory: “It predicts that a complete fossil record would consist of lineages of organisms showing gradual change continuously over long periods of time.”4 As Darwin himself asserted: “The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, [must] be truly enormous.”5
7. What should the fossil record show if the Genesis creation account is factual?
7 On the other hand, if the Genesis creation account is factual, then the fossil record would not show one type of life turning into another. It would reflect the Genesis statement that each different type of living thing would reproduce only “according to its kind.” (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) Also, if living things came into being by an act of creation, there would be no partial, unfinished bones or organs in the fossil record. All fossils would be complete and highly complex, as living things are today.
8. If living things were created, what else should the fossil record show?
8 In addition, if living things were created, they would be expected to appear suddenly in the fossil record, unconnected to anything before them. And if this was found to be true, what then? Darwin frankly admitted: “If numerous species . . . have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution.”6
How Complete Is the Record?
9. What did Darwin say about the evidence in his day?
9 However, is the fossil record complete enough for a fair test of whether it is creation or evolution that finds support? Over a century ago, Darwin did not think so. What was “wrong” with the fossil record in his time? It did not contain the transitional links required to support his theory. This situation caused him to say: “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.”7
10. What other disappointment did Darwin mention?
10 The fossil record in Darwin’s day proved disappointing to him in another way. He explained: “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in certain formations has been urged by several paleontologists . . . as a fatal objection to the belief in the transmutation of species.” He added: “There is another and allied difficulty, which is much more serious. I allude to the manner in which species belonging to several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks. . . . The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the [evolutionary] views here entertained.”8
11. How did Darwin attempt to explain the difficulties?
11 Darwin attempted to explain these huge problems by attacking the fossil record. He said: “I look at the geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept, . . . imperfect to an extreme degree.”9 It was assumed by him and others that as time passed the missing fossil links surely would be found.
12. How extensive is the fossil record now?
12 Now, after well over a century of extensive digging, vast numbers of fossils have been unearthed. Is the record still so “imperfect”? The book Processes of Organic Evolution comments: “The record of past forms of life is now extensive and is constantly increasing in richness as paleontologists find, describe, and compare new fossils.”10 And Smithsonian Institution scientist Porter Kier adds: “There are a hundred million fossils, all catalogued and identified, in museums around the world.”11 Hence, A Guide to Earth History declares: “By the aid of fossils palaeontologists can now give us an excellent picture of the life of past ages.”12
13, 14. Why have evolutionists been disappointed by the enlarged fossil evidence?
13 After all this time, and the assembling of millions of fossils, what does the record now say? Evolutionist Steven Stanley states that these fossils “reveal new and surprising things about our biological origins.”13 The book A View of Life, written by three evolutionists, adds: “The fossil record is full of trends that paleontologists have been unable to explain.”14 What is it that these evolutionary scientists have found to be so “surprising” and are “unable to explain”?
14 What has confounded such scientists is the fact that the massive fossil evidence now available reveals the very same thing that it did in Darwin’s day: Basic kinds of living things appeared suddenly and did not change appreciably for long periods of time. No transitional links between one major kind of living thing and another have ever been found. So what the fossil record says is just the opposite of what was expected.
15. What conclusion did a botanist draw from his study of the fossil record?
15 Swedish botanist Heribert Nilsson described the situation this way, after 40 years of his own research: “It is not even possible to make a caricature of an evolution out of palaeobiological facts. The fossil material is now so complete that . . . the lack of transitional series cannot be explained as due to the scarcity of material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.”15
Life Appears Suddenly
16. (a) What does a scientist lead one to expect about the early fossil record? (b) Does the fossil record fulfill that expectation?
16 Let us take a closer look at the evidence. In his book Red Giants and White Dwarfs Robert Jastrow states: “Sometime in the first billion years, life appeared on the earth’s surface. Slowly, the fossil record indicates, living organisms climbed the ladder from simple to more advanced forms.” From this description, one would expect that the fossil record has verified a slow evolution from the first “simple” life forms to complex ones. Yet, the same book says: “The critical first billion years, during which life began, are blank pages in the earth’s history.”16
17. Could the first forms of life be called “simple”?
17 Also, can those first types of life truly be described as “simple”? “Going back in time to the age of the oldest rocks,” says Evolution From Space, “fossil residues of ancient life-forms discovered in the rocks do not reveal a simple beginning. Although we may care to think of fossil bacteria and fossil algae and microfungi as being simple compared to a dog or horse, the information standard remains enormously high. Most of the biochemical complexity of life was present already at the time the oldest surface rocks of the Earth were formed.”17
18. Is there any fossil evidence that one-celled creatures evolved into many-celled ones?
18 From this beginning, can any evidence at all be found to verify that one-celled organisms evolved into many-celled ones? “The fossil record contains no trace of these preliminary stages in the development of many-celled organisms,” says Jastrow.18 Instead, he states: “The record of the rocks contains very little, other than bacteria and one-celled plants until, about a billion years ago, after some three billion years of invisible progress, a major breakthrough occurred. The first many-celled creatures appeared on earth.”19
19. What happened at the start of what is called the Cambrian period?
19 Thus, at the start of what is called the Cambrian period, the fossil record takes an unexplained dramatic turn. A great variety of fully developed, complex sea creatures, many with hard outer shells, appear so suddenly that this time is often called an “explosion” of living things. A View of Life describes it: “Beginning at the base of the Cambrian period and extending for about 10 million years, all the major groups of skeletonized invertebrates made their first appearance in the most spectacular rise in diversity ever recorded on our planet.” Snails, sponges, starfish, lobsterlike animals called trilobites, and many other complex sea creatures appeared. Interestingly, the same book observes: “Some extinct trilobites, in fact, developed more complex and efficient eyes than any living arthropod possesses.”20
20. Are there any fossil links between the Cambrian outburst of life and what went before it?
20 Are there fossil links between this outburst of life and what went before it? In Darwin’s time such links did not exist. He admitted: “To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer.”21 Today, has the situation changed? Paleontologist Alfred S. Romer noted Darwin’s statement about “the abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear” and wrote: “Below this [Cambrian period], there are vast thicknesses of sediments in which the progenitors of the Cambrian forms would be expected. But we do not find them; these older beds are almost barren of evidence of life, and the general picture could reasonably be said to be consistent with the idea of a special creation at the beginning of Cambrian times. ‘To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system,’ said Darwin, ‘I can give no satisfactory answer.’ Nor can we today,” said Romer.22
21. What arguments have not held up, and why not?
21 Some argue that Precambrian rocks were too altered by heat and pressure to retain fossil links, or that no rocks were deposited in shallow seas for fossils to be retained. “Neither of these arguments has held up,” say evolutionists Salvador E. Luria, Stephen Jay Gould and Sam Singer. They add: “Geologists have discovered many unaltered Precambrian sediments, and they contain no fossils of complex organisms.”23
22. In view of these facts, what comments did a biochemist make?
22 These facts prompted biochemist D. B. Gower to comment, as related in England’s Kentish Times: “The creation account in Genesis and the theory of evolution could not be reconciled. One must be right and the other wrong. The story of the fossils agreed with the account of Genesis. In the oldest rocks we did not find a series of fossils covering the gradual changes from the most primitive creatures to developed forms, but rather in the oldest rocks, developed species suddenly appeared. Between every species there was a complete absence of intermediate fossils.”24
23. What did a zoologist conclude?
23 Zoologist Harold Coffin concluded: “If progressive evolution from simple to complex is correct, the ancestors of these full-blown living creatures in the Cambrian should be found; but they have not been found and scientists admit there is little prospect of their ever being found. On the basis of the facts alone, on the basis of what is actually found in the earth, the theory of a sudden creative act in which the major forms of life were established fits best.”25
Continued Sudden Appearances, Little Change
24. Is the testimony of the fossil record the same in layers above the Cambrian period?
24 In the layers above that Cambrian outburst of life, the testimony of the fossil record is repeatedly the same: New kinds of animals and new kinds of plants appear suddenly, with no connection to anything that went before them. And once on the scene, they continue with little change. The New Evolutionary Timetable states: “The record now reveals that species typically survive for a hundred thousand generations, or even a million or more, without evolving very much. . . . After their origins, most species undergo little evolution before becoming extinct.”26
25. Insects have shown what remarkable stability?
25 For example, insects appeared in the fossil record suddenly and plentifully, without any evolutionary ancestors. Nor have they changed much even down to this day. Regarding the finding of a fossil fly that was labeled “40 million years old,” Dr. George Poinar, Jr., said: “The internal anatomy of these creatures is remarkably similar to what you find in flies today. The wings and legs and head, and even the cells inside, are very modern-looking.”27 And a report in The Globe and Mail of Toronto commented: “In 40 million years of struggling up the evolutionary ladder, they have made almost no discernible progress.”28
26. How do plants and animals show the same stability?
26 A similar picture exists for plants. Found in the rocks are fossil leaves of many trees and shrubs that show very little difference from the leaves of such plants today: oak, walnut, hickory, grape, magnolia, palm and many others. Animal kinds follow the same pattern. The ancestors of those alive today appear in the fossil record suddenly and were much like their living counterparts. There are many variations, but all are easily identified as the same “kind.” Discover magazine notes one such example: “The horseshoe crab . . . has existed on earth virtually unchanged for 200 million years.”29 Those that became extinct also followed the same pattern. Dinosaurs, for example, appear suddenly in the fossil record, with no links to any ancestors before them. They multiplied greatly, then became extinct.
27. What does one scientific publication say about evolutionary “improvement”?
27 On this point the Bulletin of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History states: “Species appear in the sequence very suddenly, show little or no change during their existence in the record, then abruptly go out of the record. And it is not always clear, in fact it’s rarely clear, that the descendants were actually better adapted than their predecessors. In other words, biological improvement is hard to find.”30
No Transitional Features
28. Have transitional forms of bones and organs ever been found?
28 Another difficulty for evolution is the fact that nowhere in the fossil record are found partially formed bones or organs that could be taken for the beginning of a new feature. For instance, there are fossils of various types of flying creatures—birds, bats, extinct pterodactyls. According to evolutionary theory, they must have evolved from transitional ancestors. But none of those transitional forms have been found. There is not a hint of them. Are there any fossils of giraffes with necks two thirds or three quarters as long as at present? Are there any fossils of birds evolving a beak from a reptile jaw? Is there any fossil evidence of fish developing an amphibian pelvis, or of fish fins turning into amphibian legs, feet and toes? The fact is, looking for such developing features in the fossil record has proved to be a fruitless quest.
29. What do evolutionists now acknowledge about supposed transitional forms?
29 New Scientist noted that evolution “predicts that a complete fossil record would consist of lineages of organisms showing gradual change continuously over long periods of time.” But it admitted: “Unfortunately, the fossil record does not meet this expectation, for individual species of fossils are rarely connected to one another by known intermediate forms. . . . known fossil species do indeed appear not to evolve even over millions of years.”31 And geneticist Stebbins writes: “No transitional forms are known between any of the major phyla of animals or plants.” He speaks of “the large gaps which exist between many major categories of organisms.”32 “In fact,” The New Evolutionary Timetable acknowledges, “the fossil record does not convincingly document a single transition from one species to another. Furthermore, species lasted for astoundingly long periods of time.”33—Italics added.
30. What does an extensive study confirm?
30 This agrees with the extensive study made by the Geological Society of London and the Palaeontological Association of England. Professor of natural science John N. Moore reported on the results: “Some 120 scientists, all specialists, prepared 30 chapters in a monumental work of over 800 pages to present the fossil record for plants and animals divided into about 2,500 groups. . . . Each major form or kind of plant and animal is shown to have a separate and distinct history from all the other forms or kinds! Groups of both plants and animals appear suddenly in the fossil record. . . . Whales, bats, horses, primates, elephants, hares, squirrels, etc., all are as distinct at their first appearance as they are now. There is not a trace of a common ancestor, much less a link with any reptile, the supposed progenitor.” Moore added: “No transitional forms have been found in the fossil record very probably because no transitional forms exist in fossil stage at all. Very likely, transitions between animal kinds and/or transitions between plant kinds have never occurred.”34
31. Does the fossil record say something different now from what it said in Darwin’s day?
31 Thus, what was true in Darwin’s day is just as true today. The evidence of the fossil record is still as zoologist D’Arcy Thompson said some years ago in his book On Growth and Form: “Darwinian evolution has not taught us how birds descend from reptiles, mammals from earlier quadrupeds, quadrupeds from fishes, nor vertebrates from the invertebrate stock. . . . to seek for stepping-stones across the gaps between is to seek in vain, for ever.”35
What About the Horse?
32. What is often presented as a classic example of evolution?
32 However, it has often been said that at least the horse is a classic example of evolution found in the fossil record. As The World Book Encyclopedia states: “Horses are among the best-documented examples of evolutionary development.”36 Illustrations of this begin with a very small animal and end with the large horse of today. But does the fossil evidence really support this?
33. Does the fossil evidence really support evolution of the horse?
33 The Encyclopædia Britannica comments: “The evolution of the horse was never in a straight line.”37 In other words, nowhere does the fossil evidence show a gradual development from the small animal to the large horse. Evolutionist Hitching says of this foremost evolutionary model: “Once portrayed as simple and direct, it is now so complicated that accepting one version rather than another is more a matter of faith than rational choice. Eohippus, supposedly the earliest horse, and said by experts to be long extinct and known to us only through fossils, may in fact be alive and well and not a horse at all—a shy, fox-sized animal called a daman that darts about in the African bush.”38
34, 35. (a) Why do some now question the place of Eohippus? (b) Have any evolutionary ancestors been found for the varieties of fossil horses?
34 Placing little Eohippus as the ancestor of the horse strains the imagination, especially in view of what The New Evolutionary Timetable says: “It was widely assumed that [Eohippus] had slowly but persistently turned into a more fully equine animal.” But do the facts support this assumption? “The fossil species of [Eohippus] show little evidence of evolutionary modification,” answers the book. It thus concedes, regarding the fossil record: “It fails to document the full history of the horse family.”39
35 So, some scientists now say that little Eohippus never was a type of horse or an ancestor of one. And each type of fossil put into the horse line showed remarkable stability, with no transitional forms between it and others that were thought to be evolutionary ancestors. Nor should it be surprising that there are fossils of horses of different sizes and shapes. Even today, horses vary from very small ponies to large plow horses. All are varieties within the horse family.
What the Fossil Record Really Says
36. What does the fossil record really show?
36 When we let the fossil record speak, its testimony is not evolution-oriented. Instead, the testimony of the fossil record is creation-oriented. It shows that many different kinds of living things suddenly appeared. While there was great variety within each kind, these had no links to evolutionary ancestors before them. Nor did they have any evolutionary links to different kinds of living things that came after them. Various kinds of living things persisted with little change for long periods of time before some of them became extinct, while others survive down to this day.
37. How does an evolutionist acknowledge this?
37 “The concept of evolution cannot be considered a strong scientific explanation for the presence of the diverse forms of life,” concludes evolutionist Edmund Samuel in his book Order: In Life. Why not? He adds: “No fine analysis of biogeographic distribution or of the fossil record can directly support evolution.”40
38. What would the impartial inquirer conclude?
38 Clearly, the impartial inquirer would be led to conclude that fossils do not support the theory of evolution. On the other hand, fossil evidence does lend strong weight to the arguments for creation. As zoologist Coffin stated: “To secular scientists, the fossils, evidences of the life of the past, constitute the ultimate and final court of appeal, because the fossil record is the only authentic history of life available to science. If this fossil history does not agree with evolutionary theory—and we have seen that it does not—what does it teach? It tells us that plants and animals were created in their basic forms. The basic facts of the fossil record support creation, not evolution.”41 Astronomer Carl Sagan candidly acknowledged in his book Cosmos: “The fossil evidence could be consistent with the idea of a Great Designer.”42
[Blurb on page 54]
“No biologist has actually seen the origin by evolution of a major group of organisms”
[Blurb on page 57]
Darwin: “If numerous species . . . have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution”
[Blurb on page 59]
The fossil record says the opposite of what evolutionary theory had predicted
[Blurb on page 60]
“Fossil residues of ancient life-forms discovered in the rocks do not reveal a simple beginning”
[Blurb on page 61]
Darwin: “Whole groups of species suddenly appear”
[Blurb on page 62]
“The general picture could reasonably be said to be consistent with the idea of a special creation”
[Blurb on page 62]
“There was a complete absence of intermediate fossils”
[Blurb on page 66]
“The evolution of the horse was never in a straight line”
[Blurb on page 67]
“The Equus group, which includes all living horses . . . appears suddenly in the fossil record . . . their origin is not documented by known fossil evidence”b
[Blurb on page 70]
“The concept of evolution cannot be considered a strong scientific explanation for the presence of the diverse forms of life”
[Box on page 55]
Orthodox evolutionary The creation pattern
theory anticipated a fossil anticipated a fossil record
record that contains: that contains:
1. Very simple life forms 1. Complex life forms
gradually appearing suddenly appearing
2. Simple forms gradually 2. Complex life forms
changing into complex multiplying ‘after their
ones kinds’ (biological
allowing for variety
3. Many transitional “links” 3. No transitional “links”
between different kinds between different
4. Beginnings of new body 4. No partial body features;
features, such as limbs, all parts complete
[Box/Picture on page 56]
A book on evolution contains a drawing like this with the caption: “FROM FISH TO MAN.” It says that the illustration “shows how the bones in the fin of the fish evolved into the bones of the human arm and hand.” It also states: “The fossil record documents many intermediate stages in this transition.” But does it in fact do so?a
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
[Box/Pictures on page 68, 69]
What the Fossil Evidence Says . . . about the Origin of Living Things
On the Origin of Life:
“For at least three-quarters of the book of ages engraved in the earth’s crust the pages are blank.”—The World We Live Inc
“The initial steps . . . are not known; . . . no trace of them remains.”—Red Giants and White Dwarfsd
On Many-Celled Life:
“How many-celled animals originated and whether this step occurred one or more times and in one or more ways remain difficult and ever-debated questions that are . . . ‘in the last analysis, quite unanswerable.’”—Sciencee
“The fossil record contains no trace of these preliminary stages in the development of many-celled organisms.”—Red Giants and White Dwarfsf
On Plant Life:
“Most botanists look to the fossil record as the source of enlightenment. But . . . no such help has been discovered. . . . There is no evidence of the ancestry.”—The Natural History of Palmsg
“The fossil record does not give any information on the origin of insects.”—Encyclopædia Britannicah
“There are no fossils known that show what the primitive ancestral insects looked like.”—The Insectsi
On Animals With Backbones:
“Fossil remains, however, give no information on the origin of the vertebrates.”—Encyclopædia Britannicaj
“To our knowledge, no ‘link’ connected this new beast to any previous form of life. The fish just appeared.”—Marvels & Mysteries of Our Animal Worldk
On Fish Becoming Amphibians:
“Just how or why they did this we will probably never know.”—The Fishesl
On Amphibians Becoming Reptiles:
“One of the frustrating features of the fossil record of vertebrate history is that it shows so little about the evolution of reptiles during their earliest days, when the shelled egg was developing.”—The Reptilesm
On Reptiles Becoming Mammals:
“There is no missing link [that connects] mammals and reptiles.”—The Reptilesn
“Fossils, unfortunately, reveal very little about the creatures which we consider the first true mammals.”—The Mammalso
On Reptiles Becoming Birds:
“The transition from reptiles to birds is more poorly documented.”—Processes of Organic Evolutionp
“No fossil of any such birdlike reptile has yet been found.”—The World Book Encyclopediaq
“Unfortunately, the fossil record which would enable us to trace the emergence of the apes is still hopelessly incomplete.”—The Primatesr
“Modern apes, for instance, seem to have sprung out of nowhere. They have no yesterday, no fossil record.”—Science Digests
From Ape to Man:
“No fossil or other physical evidence directly connects man to ape.”—Science Digestt
“The human family does not consist of a solitary line of descent leading from an apelike form to our species.”—The New Evolutionary Timetableu
[Picture on page 58]
Millions of fossils have been found and are in museums and laboratories around the world
[Pictures on page 61]
Early in what is called the Cambrian period, fossils of the major groups of invertebrates appear in a spectacular “explosion” of living things, unconnected to any evolutionary ancestors
[Pictures on page 63]
Different and very complex life forms appear suddenly and fully developed
[Pictures on page 64]
Evolutionary theory maintains that flying creatures evolved from transitional ancestors; but none have been found
[Picture on page 65]
No fossils of giraffes have been found with necks two thirds or three quarters as long as at present
[Pictures on page 67]
This rodentlike animal is said to be similar to Eohippus, the presumed ancestor of the horse. But there is no evidence that Eohippus evolved into something more horselike