The Fossil Record and Creation

Millions of fossils have been found around the world. What do they demonstrate? Does the fossil record point to evolution, or does it really support creation?

In many places around the world you can see different layers of rock in the hillsides along the road. You might wonder, what fossil remains are in that strata, and what do they mean? Does the existence of millions of fossils point to creation or evolution? What does the fossil record reveal?

The earth in places is covered with miles of strata, which have a great variety of fossils deposited in them.

What do these fossils demonstrate? Do they show a gradual change from one species to another, or do they give evidence of a Creator?

Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory predicted gradual changes from one species to another. He recognized that the lack of such “intermediate links” was “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory” (The Origin of Species, chapter 9). But he believed the imperfect geological record of his day would be filled out by additional research. He felt it would then reveal extensive evidence of these step-by-step changes in the fossil record, with a vast number of transitional creatures demonstrating how evolution worked to change one kind of animal into another completely different kind.

On the other hand, those who believe in a Creator would expect that creatures would appear suddenly in the fossil record.

Appearance of complex creatures

The evidence shows that complex creatures appeared in the fossil record suddenly, without record of intermediate ancestors. Evolutionists expected to find evidence of many transitional creatures showing minor changes. But this has not been what has been discovered.

Michael Denton, in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, quotes evolutionist Niles Eldredge: “But no one has found any evidence of such transitional creatures—in the last decade, however, geologists have found rock layers of all divisions of the last 500 million years and no transitional forms have been found” (p. 194).

Denton goes on to comment that “the gaps have not been explained away” (ibid.). The gaps he is speaking of are the missing links between creatures in the fossil record that suddenly appeared with no known predecessor. Niles Eldredge and others have tried to explain these gaps away by an evolutionary idea called “punctuated equilibrium.” However, this idea of sudden evolutionary advances has an even more mind-bogglingly small probability than gradual evolution. In reality, sudden advancements in complexity imply design!

Scientists can perform experiments on animals and plants today, but no one is able to go back in time and make a video of evolution happening. The only real evidence from history is the fossil record. The fossil record is the only record that could demonstrate that evolution occurred, but it leads to exactly the opposite conclusion.

<p>Trilobites, found in the Cambrian period, are surprisingly complex.</p>

Trilobites, found in the Cambrian period, are surprisingly complex.

The beginning of the fossil record was in the Cambrian period, which geologists believe began about 540 million years ago. There probably were creatures without hard bodies before the Cambrian period, but the abundance of fossils starts in the Cambrian period. If life evolved, we would expect to find only “simple” creatures at the beginning of the Cambrian period and more complex ones much later. This is not the case, however. Very complex and varied creatures are found in the Cambrian period.

The Cambrian explosion

The trilobite is one of the best known of these creatures. Trilobites were sea creatures with an external skeleton that are found in the Cambrian period. They are numerous, and you’ll find their fossils in many natural history museums. What isn’t commonly known about them is that they are also very complex, including their compound eyes.

The New World Encyclopedia says: “Many trilobites had eyes, while some trilobites lacked eyes, probably living too deep in the sea for light to reach them. Others, such as hacops rana, had eyes that were quite large. Trilobites also had antennae that perhaps were used for taste and smell.”

The eye is an organ that is extremely complex and shows evidence of design. Yet here it is, in one of the earliest periods of the fossil record.

Jonathan Wells writes: “Cambrian starts with the abrupt appearance of many fully formed phyla and classes of animals. In other words, the highest levels of the biological hierarchy appeared right at the start” (Icons of Evolution, p. 35).

Grand Canyon fossils

The Grand Canyon is one of the geologic wonders of the earth. It is over 4,000 feet deep and up to 18 miles wide. It is a place where geologists are constantly studying because of the wealth of exposed strata. Yet comparing the geologic periods as they are seen in the Grand Canyon with those found elsewhere demonstrates that something is wrong with the supposed evolutionary story of life.

To start with, many assume that all the geologic periods recorded in science textbooks are found in every location on earth. That is not true. The Grand Canyon is a good example of this problem for evolutionists. There is about 250 million years of missing geologic time at the top of Grand Canyon. The Kaibab formation, which is at the top of Grand Canyon, is 250 million years old according to geologists.

Other formations in the Grand Canyon have millions of years of geologic time missing between them. For example, according to the standard dating, the Coconino formation and the Hermit Shale formation have a gap of about 6 million years between them. However, between the formations there is no sign of erosion, which is unexpected. If that amount of time had passed after they were deposited, you would expect to see evidence of erosion.

<p>Picture of newspaper announcing discovery of coelacanth, displayed in the East London Museum in South Africa (photo by Bill Jahns).</p>

Picture of newspaper announcing discovery of coelacanth, displayed in the East London Museum in South Africa (photo by Bill Jahns).

Part of the problem with meshing the fossil record in different places around the world is that geologists today date the rocks by the types of fossils they find in them. Other dating methods are also used, but have been shown to be wrong at times. The bottom line is that geologists use the theory of evolution to date the formations. If the dating is done by assuming the theory is correct, how can you use the dating to prove the theory?

Out-of-place fossils

Because of this circular reasoning, evolutionists end up with the problem of “out of place” fossils. Fossilized creatures tend to be found in a certain order, and so geologists have divided the geologic record into epochs, periods and eras largely based on these fossils. Supposedly, the rock layers show the development of life over millions of years.

But what about fossils that are found in the “wrong” place in the strata—that don’t fit the evolutionary thinking?

One of the most famous of these out-of-place fossils is the coelacanth. In late 1938 Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, a curator at the East London Museum in South Africa, was examining some fish caught off the coast. She found this beautiful blue fish (weighing 127 pounds) that had been caught in the net of the fishing boat Nerine.

<p>Picture of the coelacanth caught in late 1938 in South Africa (photo by Bill Jahns).</p>

Picture of the coelacanth caught in late 1938 in South Africa (photo by Bill Jahns).

Immediately she recognized that this fish was unusual, and it was identified later by Professor J.L.B. Smith as a coelacanth. This shocked the scientific world, since this fish is not found in any recent strata dating from less than 60 million years ago. Coelacanth should have been dead for millions of years, and yet there was a specimen caught in a fisherman’s net!

It turns out that there are several places where coelacanths still live. Other groups have been found near Indonesia, and a living one was even brought to the surface. This fish soon died. Unfortunately, you will probably not see the coelacanth in an aquarium because it normally lives deep in the ocean and cannot live near the surface.

Many other out-of-place species that were thought to have perished millions of years ago have been found to be alive today. One recent discovery was the wollemia nobilis tree found in Australia near Sydney. A small group of them was found by park ranger David Noble, but they are not found in the fossil record more recently than 2 million years ago.

Finding the wollemi tree and the coelacanth is like finding a group of living dinosaurs today. These “living fossils” demonstrate that something is wrong with the evolutionary interpretation of the geologic record.

The fossil record indeed shows the sudden appearance of complex creatures like the trilobite, and out-of-place fossils demonstrate that new discoveries can help clarify what the true history of the earth is. Indeed, the fossil record demonstrates that creation is a logical explanation for the origin of life and all creatures, ancient and modern.

To get more evidence of God’s existence, be sure to check out the articles in our section “Is There a God?

About the Author

Bill Jahns

Bill Jahns

Bill Jahns graduated from Ambassador College in 1969, and he has worked full time in the ministry since then. Presently, he serves with the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, pastoring congregations in Morgantown, West Virginia, and Athens-Parkersburg, Ohio.

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