Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh, 'Dem Bones: An Examination of the Fossil Record

Brothers and Sisters,

How many of you can recall the words:

The toe bone connected to the foot bone
And the foot bone connected to the ankle bone
And the ankle bone connected to the leg bone
Hear the word of the Lord!

The old spiritual, which I remember singing exuberantly back in grade school (when they actually had music education), refers to the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel and the Valley of the Dry Bones. There, God demonstrates to the prophet that one day He can and will restore life to long dead bones, by showing him a vision of the re-animation of thousands of skeletons.

The tune came to my head recently when I read of a new evolution exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania called Surviving: Body of Evidence. The program, five years in the making, and calculated to appear in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 2009, features a paleontology section, which allegedly traces the evolution of homo sapiens from our earliest ancestor to the present. It promises to show full skeleton casts (Please note that no original bones are present) of the famous "Lucy" skeleton, said to be 3.2 million years old, and one of "Nariokotome Boy," said to be 1.6 million years old, plus over 100 touchable casts of fossil bones and skulls.

Like most evolutionary sideshows, the one at Penn places great emphasis on the fossil record as evidence for Darwin's theory. Indeed, Paleontologists, or persons who study fossils, have repeatedly claimed that within the fossil record lies the greatest evidence that evolution has taken place. This is quite natural, for if intraspecies change has occurred, then the bones of now vanished creatures should provide the only plausible documentary evidence for the actual processes over time.

But is this necessarily so? What exactly is the fossil record, and what does it really tell us about the history of life on this planet? The word fossil comes from the Latin term, Fossus, which literally means, "to be dug up." Fossils are the remains of living creatures, whether plant or animal, embedded in sedimentary rock (often called fossiliferous rock). The fossil record can be defined as a catalog of all such remains known to current science.

The study of fossils dates back to ancient times, and has been prevalent among the learned for at least three millennia. The Roman Emperors, Augustus and Tiberius Caesar, were both avid collectors of dinosaur bones, although they did not call them that. Augustus is known to have established the first museum of paleontology, a place which Tiberius happily inherited. The Roman Chronicler Pliny the Elder wrote several treatises on what he called "monster remains," and much of the medieval folklore and legends concerning griffins, gargoyles, and dragons are said to have been inspired by a familiarity with such ancient bones.

With the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the fascination with these bones intensified, but by Darwin's time, relatively few fossils had been found. Darwin understood, even then, that there was an emerging problem with his theory in the light of such remains. He knew that his idea would stand or fall upon the evidence of fossils, and called them the "most serious and obvious objection" to his theory. In his Origin of Species, he asked, "Why, if species have descended from other we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being as we see them, well defined."

The great problem of the fossil record for evolutionists, as Darwin himself identified it in the previous quote, is the total dearth of what he called "transitional forms." Let's say that if (a) fishes evolved over millions of years into (b) amphibians, then why do we not have a long series of intermediate fossils that document the transition from a to b. Darwin well realized the implications of the absence. He knew that if his theory was correct, then "innumerable transition forms must have existed." It was finally with considerable exasperation that he asked, "Why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth"?

The answer lies in the science of taxonomy, the categorization of all living things, and in the very definition of the word "species." To this day, science defers to a system developed in the eighteenth-century by Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus, in identifying and naming all forms of life on this planet. Linnaeus spent most of his life studying plants and animals and published his findings in 1735 in what he called his Systema Naturae, or system of nature. In this work, Linnaeus came to two main conclusions: First, what he called species were the equivalent of what the Book of Genesis calls "kinds." In fact, the word "species," from the Latin (Linnaeus is the one who first latinized all animal and plant names), actually means kind, or form. Second, there is no violation whatsoever in this principal of kind from the beginning of life to the present. Reproduction of life forms over the centuries occurs only "after their kind," as Genesis says. Each species is created unique and unto itself. There is no changing of one species into another, no matter how much time goes by.

Darwin anticipated that eventually the fossil record would produce transient forms, what he famously called "missing links." Indeed, paleontologists have been hard at work for over a hundred years, seeking this very thing. Each time a new specimen, or more accurately, a new fragment of bone, is unearthed, we are told in glowing terms how this proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt that evolution is fact. To this date, over 100 million fossils have been found and catalogued in museums around the world, testifying to the existence of over 250,000 fossilized species. If evolution is true, with such a wealth of data before us, we should see vast numbers of transitional forms. Instead, what do we actually see? Exactly what Genesis tells us, exactly what Linnaeus told us; species created whole and with characteristics distinct unto themselves.

A useful example of this is what is commonly called the Cambrian Explosion. In evolutionary theory, the lowest strata of rock in which fossils are found is called the Cambrian (Rocks are another convoluted issue that we will examine in a future post). Below that is the Precambrian, which has, for all practical purposes, no fossils. What is found in the Cambrian? Every major plant and animal phylum. All life groups are represented. Sponges, corals, jellyfish, mollusks, crustaceans, and vertebrate fish, many no different in form than what exists today. What's more, spores from flowering plants, considered the most complex of the plant forms, are found profusely in the Cambrian.

Paleontologists only want to tell us about the trilobites, an extinct arthropod, found throughout the Cambrian layer, as if they represent some kind of transient form. Yet upon close examination of trilobite fossils, we see a very complex little creature, with one of the most sophisticated compound eye systems ever examined in nature. So what did this thing evolve from?

The truth is, there are no transitional species leading up to, or preceding the fully formed and complex creatures of the Cambrian. There is no life, and then, suddenly, there is abundant life.

The Cambrian explosion has been particularly devastating for paleontologists. So much so, that by as early as the 1930s, scientists were looking for alternative explanations to the lack of intermediate fossils. Outright ridiculous (and quite embarrassing) notions were put forth into the scientific community, such as Austin Clark's idea of Zoogenesis, which suggests that creatures spontaneously emerge from the elements (Think of a frog being born of mud). Then in 1940, Richard Goldschmidt, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, introduced what he called the "hopeful monster" theory, in which he said new life forms could possibly emerge out of existing species (Think of the same frog giving birth to a cat).

If these are not astounding enough, then consider the current idea of Punctuated Equilibrium, "punk eck" for short. In 1972, two of the world's most respected paleontologists, Stephen Gould of Harvard and Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, admitted that they "could never see the processes they professed to study." Translation: no transitional fossils. To explain the absences, they wrote that evolution must occur in sudden overnight surges (punctuation), and then remain static (equilibrium) for millions of years. Now, we can turn into different species while we sleep. As preposterous as this sounds, all of science jumped on it, at least publicly (while the sound of hysterical laughter resounded from laboratories all over the world). This is quite possibly the only postulate ever put forth whose whole hypothesis seeks to explain why no evidence exists to support the original idea. This reveals the depth of desperation of current paleontology, which knows no other way to prove the impossible.

In Romans chapter one, the Apostle Paul tells us that those who refuse to recognize God as the Creator would become "vain in their imaginations," and while "professing themselves to be wise," become "fools." Modern Paleontologists and their evolutionary colleagues are shining examples of this.

The fossil record is evaluated from the assumption of evolution, not from any unbiased examination of the facts. Often we see, for example, illustrations in textbooks and modern periodicals, such as National Geographic, which purport to trace the lineage of, say, ancient man to modern humans. These are nothing but fantasies. No evidence exists whatsoever to prove the transitions suggested, because no intermediate fossils exist to verify them. The fact is, the fossil record shows the exact opposite of evolution, that each species is created whole and "unto its own kind." Evolution has been called a "theory in crisis" for some time now. A major reason is that the bones simply do not connect. "Ankle bone connected to the leg bone"? When analyzing the fossil record, evolutionists don't have a leg to stand on.

Love in Christ,