From: Jim Meritt
Subject: FAQ: Fossil and creation
From: jwm@STDB.JHUAPL.EDU (Jim Meritt)
Date: 30 Oct 91 00:05:05 GMT
}There are gaps in fossil record
} Oldest living things
}Man and dinosaurs coexisted.
}The suddenness with which major changes
}Many extinctions lack obvious reasons.
}"carcasses deposited in icy mucky dumps"
}evidence of rapid removal and deposition of soil, forest in arctic.
}- There are gaps in fossil record where you'd expect intermediate forms.
There are more fossils than Creationists will admit. Many intermediate forms
are known--for example, the development of the mammal skull characteristics
from the therapsida of Permian time.
What gaps remain can be explained by erosion, lack of proper conditions
for fossilization, the punctuated equilibrium model, or simply not looking in
the right places yet.
} - Oldest living things, bristlecone pines, are younger than 5000 years.
Sure. In fact, if you go for grove instead of individual tree and match
similiar growth rigns (similiar events in overlapping lifespans) it goes
well over 11,000 years.
}- Man and dinosaurs coexisted.
(Creationist Institute of California).
Refuted. Institute discredited and licence (to grant science
degrees) recently revoked.
BTW: Those "footprints" in the Paluxy river bed are NOT human. A simple
observation of the tracks reveal that while an arch is present forward of
the heel, there are only three toes. If a track is observed which is
uneroded, webbing is visible between the toes. A special on NOVA allowed
these tracks to be visible to millions.
Dr. Walter Brown, now director of the Center for Scientific Creation in
Brown, may fall back on a rather novel technique that he has employed in the
past -- denying having ever supported the idea. Brown first used
this tactic not long after the Paluxy River tracks were shown conclusively
to be either dinosaur tracks or erosion marks. When asked for his opinion,
Brown claimed that he had NEVER supported the Paluxy River tracks.
However, he was forced to 'fess up when shown the transcript of
a local Ontario TV program, "Speaking Out," when he stated that Paluxy
River was very good evidence for creationism.
}1) The suddenness with which major changes in pattern occurred and the
} virtual absence of any fossil remains from the period in which they
} were alleged to be evolving.
This can be explained by punctuated evolution, in this regard
it is important to note that not all suggested lineages in the fossil record
have such abrupt changes and gaps. There are several fossil sucessions
that record critical evolutionary steps and at a fine taxinomic resolution.
The development of the modern horse is a fairly complete sucession, as
is the development of mammal skull characteristics from the therapsida
of Permean time. Other examples of pretty gradual evolution?
Instantaneous changes of taxa, on a geologic time scale, between
long periods of stability does not pose insurmountable problems for
neo-evolution since it is genetic equillibrium that allows long stable
periods and stressing the gene pool into metastable states that allows
for punctuated evolution.
}- Many extinctions lack obvious reasons.
The "obvious reasons" are obvious to him, and do not necessarily have anything
to do with reality (i.e. 'cause he don't see it don't make it gone)
This may be a problem for compiling a history of life, but the
existence of extinctions at all poses problems for anyone claiming life
has teleology. If a divine creator is calling the shots then finding
extinctions casts doubt on the perfection of his plan, or even the
existance of a plan.
As for finding causes for extinctions, this is going to be
an area of some debate for years to come. The ideas that have been
advanced find some common collapse of habitat that is consistant with
evolutionary biology. The suddeness, or seeming catastrophe of proposed
events do not really threaten uniformatarianism because they are changes
of rate, but not of process.
The "Lack of Obvious Reasons", may overstate the problem, for
a series of events such as asteriod impact, continental colissions,
destruction of barriers between habitats, all have been advanced and
all point to the destruction of habitat and with it mass extinctions.
} - "carcasses deposited in icy mucky dumps"
} - evidence of rapid removal and deposition of soil, forest in arctic.
}No, the evidence plainly points to the removal of large areas of soil and
}forest along with their rapid deposition and freezing in the artic... now
}what besides a tidal surge of immense proportions would do that... and if
}such a surge wiped the face of Asia and Alaska, why is it unlikely to extend
}it to Mesopotania, where it would have depositied it's debris in the vicinity
Severe temperature changes are known to be responsible for great
catastrophic mortalities. Such mortalities are typically associated
with unusually cold spells or severe winters. Severe storms are
also responsible for catastrophic kills and quick seimentary deposition.
During hurricanes and other severe stormes, bottom sediment can be
stirred up to a considerable depth and easily bury animals.
There is absolutely no question that modern day catastrophes are
constantly occuring and that many of these can result in catastrophic
kills and rapid deposition of sediment. In short, fossils and fossil
graveyards are being formed today. You may be correct in assuming that
the evidence of rapid deposition you cite is generally evidence for
some catastrophic mode of formation, but you are incorrect in
assuming that only the Genesis Flood can account for such deposits.
Especially in the face of the great amount of other evidence in
direct conflict with the Genesis Flood hypothesis, evidence of slow
deposition, evidence in coral reef formations, evaporite deposits,
fossil lake deposits, glacial deposits, and desert deposits. When
we look at the sedimentary rock record we find some deposits that bear
evidence of having been formed by moving water and could have been formed
in flood water, but by no means are all rocks like that, in fact there
are a considerable number of formations that could not have formed in
surging flood waters at all.
}Creationism deserves equal time
}Evolutionists themselves admit they have no proof
}evolutionists themselves have admitted to flaws in their arguement.
}some scientists don't agree
}Evolution isn't a science
}Life is too complex to have happened by chance.
}Evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
}Methods of dating the earth are inaccurate.
}Radioactive dating can't be calibrated.
}radioactive decay rates did not remain constant
}the creation of matter or energy is not now taking place,
}- Creationism deserves equal time because evolution is only a theory.
But a theory in the scientific sense of the word, meaning that it explains
a wide range of phenomena and that there's lots of data to back it up.
Creationism, on the other hand, isn't even a theory; it's an assertion.
"Equal time" in what? In schools in general, or in science classes?
Science classes are suppose to teach science. There are two criteria
1. It must be falsifiable i.e. there must be some way to show that the
theory is incorrect. The theory must be testable. Evolution is,
in that there can be things specified which, if they can be verified,
would disprove evolution. Creationism allows no such test.
2. It must be able to make predictions i.e. it must be able to tell
you how something WILL occur (and then you must be able to verify
the accuracy of the prediction). The theories which compose
evolution are useful in this regard in that they have made predictions
concerning population densities, physiologies, chemistries, fossil
find forecasts,... Creationism does none of this. At best, its
"predictions" are either in the past (already happened) or
}- Evolutionists themselves admit they have no proof.
That is because science doesn't "prove": it shows possibilities and disproves
things and makes predictions.
Science doesn't deal in proof. It deals in evidence. Evolution has LOTS of
} Twenty objections admitted: evolutionists themselves have admitted
} to flaws in their arguement.
Isn't it nice to have a system that you can critize and test?
The only system which has no flaws is one in which those flaws are either
defined away or ignored. We call this "dogma". The presence of these
flaws reveils the presence of active investigation into the limits.
We call this "science".
} Scientists condemn evolution: some scientists don't agree etc. ....
Then the same argument disproves Creationism, too, since many (most?)
theologians don't agree with it.
What else has 100% concurrence? Gravity is not 100% concurred with, either.
}- Evolution isn't a science because you can't observe things that happened
} millions of years ago.
Buy you can observe the RESULTS of things that happened millions of years
ago. And then, by using basic scientific knowledge, extrapolate back.
And by observing trends within the period you can derive general rules
which may then be used for predictions into the future.
Just the historical observation is not evolution.
}Evolution is not so much a science as it is a philosophy or an attitude
}of mind... it is manifestly impossible to prove they (evolutionary
}changes of the past) actually did take place.
I suppose that, if he saw a open square in the wall and pieces of glass
by it and a rock sitting amongst the glass that he could draw no conclusions
about the possible presence in the past of a window...
}- Life is too complex to have happened by chance.
Another is the "randomness argument". What is "random",
anyway? We are never told. It says that self organization cannot
occur because the process is "blind" and "random" that is supposed to
drive it. Never mind that the system has a finite number of states it
can occupy and its history can constrain its future states. This
borrows from the thermodynamic argument the confusion over entropy and
open system states.
The theory of evolution doesn't say it did happen by chance. This argument
completely ignores natural selection.
Life in Darwin's Universe
G. Bylinsky, Omni Sept 79
The Evolution of Ecological Systems
May, Scientific American, Sept 1978
Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life
Dickerson, Scientific American, Sept 1978
The Evolution of the Earliest Cells
Schopf, Scientific American, Sept 1978
The Evolution of Multicellular Plants and Animals
Valentine, Scientific American, Sept 1978
It is easy to get VERY complicated systems
containing a tremendous amount of information starting from very simple,
low information systems. Two methods:
1. fractal structures - start with a very simple rule and repeat it over
and over and over. The resulting structure can be (usually is) VERY
complicated, but the formation equations can be very, very simple. And
the universe has had a long time to do so. Example: Look at a snowflake.
2. chaos - You can get very, very complicated systems if you use
in the progression. That is why weather forecasting doesn't work.
Complexity does not imply design. Recursion or nonlinearity work quite well.
And the word is recursive and very non-linear.
}- Evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
Not true. The 2nd law of thermodynamics applies only to closed systems. The
Earth is not a closed system.
That if thermo could somehow forbid evolution, then it would also
forbid babies from growing to be adults, and parents from having children.
In fact, we are agents of entropy: we organize our bodies at the expense
of the organization of our environment, which we digest and burn.
Creationists often (ab)use
the Second Law of Thermodynamics, apparently not realizing that it explicitly
states, "...in a closed system...". By definition, a closed system cannot
contain anything external to itself. A Creator who is entirely bounded by
His own creation seems non-sensical, and I can't imagine that many
would accept such a limited God anyway. Thus, God and Thermodynamics are
mutually exclusive; to invoke the Second Law is to claim that God left!!!!!
A subsequent portion of the outline again invokes entropy, stating that
"all species are degenerating, since disorder must increase".
Ignoring the Theological arguments for the moment, we reiterate,
"...in a CLOSED system...". Earth is hardly a closed system. To find a
*LARGE* source of negative entropy, one need only look upward on a clear day.
The sun delivers approximately 1 horse-power per square meter (sorry for the
mixed units, I don't recall the conversion factor to joules/sec)
of free energy to the biosphere. Likewise, meteors shower us with several
tonnes per day of extra mass, some of it in pre-biotic form - i.e. complex
carbon molecules such as formaldehyde and others. Larger objects such as
comets and Icarus class asteroid strikes transfer huge amounts of mass,
energy, and momentum to the earth. Orbital perturbations and decay, friction
from the moon's gravity, and radioactive decay, all add to the total.
Sorry, entropy as a disproof of cosmological and biological evolution simply
won't wash. Spread the word.
[It appears that, more recently, the creationists have been hammered enough
with the inapplicability of the Second Law of Theormdynamics that they
have modified it slightly -- the reference is now to a closed *universe*,
not a closed Earth; the rest of the argument remains essentially
Creationists say that systems cannot self-organize because that would violate
the second law of thermodynamics, never mind that such systems are not at
equillibrium and are open systems.
}- Methods of dating the earth are inaccurate.
Exactly what is meant by "inaccurate" leaves much to be desired.
Please see the August 1989 Scientific American article on the Age
of the Earth. (page 90, by Lawrence Badash, "The Age-of-the-Earth
} - Radioactive dating can't be calibrated.
You are in this case Dead Wrong. Dating of ancient rocks by
radiometric methods (e.g., Uranium-Lead, Potassium-Argon, Rubidium-
Strontium) does NOT, repeat NOT depend upon our having available a sample
of known age to calibrate the method. Indeed, this is PRECISELY WHY these
methods are so useful. The only calibration required is the measurement
of decay rates, which can be done IN THE LABORATORY. Furthermore, these
methods can be used in ways that do NOT, repeat NOT depend on any
assumptions about the initial amounts of the various isotopes involved.
Please read the section in Chapter 17 of Strahler's book, _Science and
It is true that Carbon-14 dates must be calibrated for variations in the
amount of 14C produced in the atmosphere; however, the corrections are
small (~10%) and affect only recent ages (~50,000 years). This method is
not used to date rocks.
- The guy who thought that radioactive dating required knowing the
initial amount of lead. He apparently had never heard of isotopes,
either. He made a big thing about a science he was a master of: he wrote
its name on the blackboard: "numerical analysis". He indicated how this
allowed him to "proved" that radiodating was wildly inaccurate. No
mention of the fact that the earth was still real old. He encouraged
people to go buy a book on numerical analysis: he gave its name. He
didn't bother to encourage people to buy a book on dating, perhaps
because he hadn't read one himself ?
} radioactive decay rates did not remain constant, so you can't
}accurately date things
If radioactive decay rates were to change, the structure of stars
would be affected. But even very distant stars (whose light has been
travelling towards us for very long times) have the structure that is
predicted by theory assuming present decay rates. They do not have
the structure that would be predicted for them if the decay rates
were many orders of magnitude larger.
There are two major kinds of radioactive decay, alpha decay and beta
decay. They are due to different physical processes and are governed
by different natural constants. If the decay rates were to change in
time, this would produce discrepant dates in rocks that can be dated
independently by several different decay series. These discrepancies
are not observed.
If the decay rates were large enough to produce 4.5 billion years' of
apparent ageing in only 6000 years of wall-clock time, the decay
rates would have had to have been millions to billions of times as
large when Adam and Eve were around as now. The heat generated would
have melted the earth, which would still be molten. Furthermore, the
earth would have been too radioactive to support life then. Adam and
Eve would have glowed for other reasons than their nearness to God.
}These laws affirm the fact that the creation of matter or energy is not
}know taking place, and, in fact, that the available energy of the universe
}as a whole is continually running down rather than building up.
Point of fact, matter IS being created currently. Also destroyed.
See "virtual particles". And the "available energy of the universe
as a whole" says nothing about localities within it...
} the evidence from the fossil record to support evolution is largely
} missing and that critical gaps indicate a single creation of life
} as it is today.
}The fossil record is incomplete and there are no transitions evident
Such a prediction by creationists is rare. The implication of this
is that if gaps in the fossil record are ever filled, creationism
Those outside professional paleontology often find it difficult to
access what the fossil record does and does not show. As someone who
works within the field of human paleontology and human evolution, I
often find it odd when I am told that the number of human fossils is
much too meager to allow the sort of extrapolation claimed by
biologists for human ancestry. This may have been true 20 years ago,
but it certain is not the case now.
This might lead one to wonder if the fossil record is not also underrated
in the are of other organisms as well. An article in the book _Science
and Creationism_, edited by Ashley Montague, addresses this point. The
article is by noted paleontologist Roger J. Cuffey, one of the witnesses
called to testify in the now famous Arkansas creation science case in
1982. Allow me to quote form the article, entitled "Paleontological
Evidence and Organic Evolution,":
"If we read the paleontologic literature (especially if with the
background of professional paleontologic training and experience)
we find that the fossil record contains many examples of such
transitional fossils. These connect both low-rank taxa (like
different species) and high-rank taxa (like different classes),
inspite of the records imperfections and in spite of the
relatively small number of practicing paleontologists. Because
of the critical role which transitional fossils played in
convincing scientists of the occurrence of organic evolution,
paleontologists have been appalled that many otherwise well-
informed persons have repeated the grossly misinformed assertion
that transitional fossils do not exist."
Cuffey the goes on to list no fewer than 185 references in the paleontologic
literature documenting such transitional forms. One of my favorites is
the fossil Therapsid, Diarthognathus. In the fossil record, reptiles are
distinguished from mammals by the number of bones that form the lower jaw.
This is not a trival distinction, since the musculature of the reptilian
jaw is different from that of mammals and would require such a re-design.
Essential, reptiles have a lower jaw made of three bones (dentary, articular
and quadrate) while mammals have only a single bone (the dentary), with the
articular and quadrate relocated to the middle-ear (reptiles have only one
ear ossicle, mammals have three. The relocation of this bones is observable
embryologically in modern mammals).
Therapsids are "mammal-like reptiles" and have a number of traits that
put them midway between mammals and reptiles. The skull is larely reptilian
but the dentary is much larger than in modern reptiles and other fossil
reptil groups. Also, the therapsids have heterdont teeth (different shapes
for different functions as in mammals) and limbs located underneath the body,
rather than out to the side (not as far underneath as in mammals, however).
Diarthrognathus is a therapsid with both a mammalian and reptilian jaw joint.
Both are functional, but the mammal-like joint seems to have been the most
functional. The quadrate and articular bones are very reduced. The animal
is literally hafe-way between a mammal and a reptile.
One more thing. I think it unfair to list Denton with other respected
biologists. Denton is not a biologists and, while not religious either,
had his own philosophical axe to grind against what he felt are the
dehumanizing implications of evolution. A recent review of Denton's
book appears in the July-August Issue of the NCSE Reports (published by
the national center for science education ). The review, by biologists
William M. Thwaites, points out the numerous errors, misintepretations
and misrepresentations in Denton's book. Denton, as do many religious
creationists, relies on outdated material often quoted out of context,
and does not seem to understand the implications of the examples he
uses, especially those using biochemical evidence. Thwaite concludes:
"...Denton's book is just another typical anti-evolution tract. It
shows that Dento is motivated, not by a desire to understand the
workings of nature, but by apparent fear of "agnostic," "materialistic,"
and "skeptical outlook of the twentieth centure."
}The fossil record is incomplete and there are no transitions evident
The fossil record will never be complete, but it is certainly more complete
than it was in Darwin's day. Darwin`s prediction that the "holes" would be
filled has come true. Transitional fossils now exist for all vertebrate
groups. Transitional forms also exist for most major invertebrate groups
and for most groups of plants.
For those of you without the fortitude to wade through the paleontological
literature, a wonder source of information is an article by Roger J. Cuffey
in the book _Science and Creationism_ (edited by Ashley Montague). This
book should be fairly easy to obtain. In the article, entitled "Paleontologic
Evidence and Organic Evolution" Cuffey lists no less than 220 references from
various scientific journals documenting these transitional fossils. These
transitions include connections between low rank taxa (like species) as well
as high-rank taxa (like classes).
It is interesting that much is made of the "evolution should not be
treated as a fact" when the same people often talk about a lack of
transitional forms between various taxa. Taxonomic groups are not
facts. Taxonomy is an order imposed on the living world by scientists
to make the diversity of life easier to deal with. Nonetheless,
creationists and fellow travellers refer to it like it is written in
From stassen@netcom.UUCP (Chris Stassen):
For those interested in evaluating "intermediate forms", I'd recommend
Chris McGowan's _In The Beginning_ (Prometheus). It's a "good place to
start" for the layman (but by no means sufficient all by itself). He
devotes two chapters (pp. 110-141) on detailed study of Archaeopteryx
and the Cynodonts, comparing their features to those of the two groups
which they fall between.
While Archaeopteryx appears too late to itself be the transitional form
between reptiles and birds, it does fall between the two categories. The
Creationists contend that it is a bird - but a detailed study of features
shows that it has less in common with birds (feathers, wishbone) than it
does with Theropod dinosaurs (pubic peduncle, bony tail, no pygostyle, no
bony sternum, three well-developed fingers, three well-developed metacarpal
bones, metacarpal bones unfused, metatarsal bones separate, no hypotarsus,
abdominal ribs). The first specimen found was accidentally classified as
a reptile because the feather impressions were too faint to discern (until
the fossil was specifically examined for them).
I'll deal with Cynodonts more briefly, but when evaluated in 14 main areas
where reptiles and mammals differ skeletally, they are clearly intermediates.
They share five of the features with reptiles, five with mammals, and are
somewhere in between on the other four. Since they appear in the fossil
record at the proper time, and are connected by many other "transitional"
fossils in a very detailed sequence, they represent one of the most
well-documented transitional forms. (It should be no surprise that more
recent transitions are better documented. More fossils are available,
and more complex creatures probably change more slowly.)