The Problem of Living Fossils

Tie geologic column depicted In many Science textbooks and museums supposedly shows which life-forms existed at any particular time In the history of our planet. Trllobltes, for example, are thought to have lived during the Cambrian Period and later became extinct. Dinosaurs walked the earth during what are called the Jurassic and Trlas-sic periods and likewise later became extinct.

According to traditional scientific thinking, such creatures should not be found on earth today because the geologic column shows they

The coelacanth is one of science's most startling discoveries. So ancient that it was considered a candidate for the first fish that supposedly crawled onto land, it was long considered extinct until one was caught in a fisherman's net in 1938.

Researchers were dismayed to find that the Inhabitants of theiComoro Islands, near the Initial find, had used coelaianths as food for years^ drying and salting the rare fish's meat.

The discovery of living coelacanths proved to be a profound embarrassment for those trying — to use evolution to Interpret the geologic record. It was especially embarrassing for those who, based on fossilized specimens, had earlier proposed the coelacanth as a prime candidate for the kind offish that would have first crawled out of the oceans to dwell on fell victim to extinction many millions of years ago. However, several discoveries of "living fossils" have cast doubt on this long-accepted interpretation of the fossil record.

An astounding catch

Perhaps the most stunning—and famous— of these living fossils Is the coelacanth. Fossils of this unusual fish first appear In strata from the Devonian period, with an estimated age of 350 million years.

For years paleontologists thought the coelacanth became extinct about 70 million years ago, since they found no fossil remains of the fish In deposits formed later than the Cretaceous period. But things changed dramatically In December 1938, when a fishing trawler captured a living coelacanth off the eastern coast of South Africa. Scientists were stunned. After all, the discovery was akin to finding a living dinosaur In a remote patch of jungle!

Since that first shocking discovery, fishermen and scientists obtained more specimens.

land. Yet the discovery of a fish that was supposed to have been extinct for millions of years, one that some paleontologists had hoped was a vital missing link In the supposed evolutionary chain, hasn't led many to question their assumptions regarding the supposed evolutionary timetable.

If coelacanths were the only creatures found alive that were supposed to have been long extinct, then we might accept their discovery as an oddity that proved little or nothing. But the list of such living fossils has grown considerably In recent years.

Jurassic forest found alive

Another such living fossil Is a pine tree that, according to the traditional Interpretation of the geologic column, was supposed to have been extinct for more than 100 million years. But that changed with a remarkable 1994 discovery: "Venturing Into an isolated grove in a rain-forest preserve 125 miles from Sydney, the Parks and Wildlife Service officer [David Noble] suddenly

found himself in reáT-life 'Jurassicf Park'— standing amid Tree« thought to have disap-.peared Í50 million years ago ... The discovery Is the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth,' said Carrlck Chambers, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens ... The closest relatives of the Wolleml Pines died out In the Jurassic Period, 190 million to 135 million years ago, and the Cretaceous Period, 140 million to 65 million years ago" (Salt Lake City Tribune, Dec. 15,1994, p. A10).

Similarly, the dawn redwood (species Meta-sequoia glyptostroboides) was discovered In China In 1941. The Encyclopaedia Britannica

If evolution is true, why do we see so many species in the fossil record that remain unchanged for millions of years and are virtually unchanged from species we see alive today?

says: "Discovered first as fossils In Miocene (23.7 to 5.3 million years ago) deposits, It was assumed to have become extinct until It was discovered growing In Szechwan province In China. Its distribution In the late Mesozolc and Tertiary (66.4 to 1.6 million years ago) was throughout the Northern Hemisphere" (Internet version, 2000, "Gymnosperm").

Evolution stopped in its tracks?

Another living fossil Is the tuatara, a lizard-like animal found only on several islands off the coast of New Zealand. According to The Encyclopaedia Britannica, this strange creature "has two pairs of well-developed limbs and a scaly crest down the neck and back. Unlike llz-ard™lt has a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, which closes horizontally, and a pineal eye, an organ of doubtful function between the two normal eyes. The tuatara also has a bony arch, low on the skull behind the eyes, that Is1,1 formed by the presence of two large openings ... In the region of the temple.

"It Is this bony arch, which Is not found in lizards, that has been cited as evidence that tuataras are survivors of the otherwise extinct order Rhynchocephalia and are not lizards. And Indeed, tuataras differ little from the closely related form Homeosaurus, which lived 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Period" (Internet version, "Tuatara").

The Encyclopaedia Britannica adds that the tuatara Is "a reptile that has shown little morphological evolution for nearly 200,000,000 years since the early Mesozoic" ("Evolution").

Another example is a marine mollusk that goes by the scientific name Monoplacophoran.

"In 1952 several live monoplacophorans were dredged from a depth of 3,570 m (about 11,700 feet) off the coast of Costa Rica. Until then It was thought that they had become extinct 400,000,000 years ago" (Britannica, "Monoplacophoran").

By no means are these the only examples of living fossils. These are simply examples of animals and plants that, based on where they were found In the fossil record, scientists had assumed had died out millions of years ago. Other creatures, such as the nautilus, brachlo-pod, horseshoe crab and even the ubiquitous cockroach, are virtually unchanged from fossils paleontologists date to hundreds of millions of years ago.

In spite of much wishful thinking on the part of evolutionists, the fossil record does not and cannot be made to agree with Darwinism.

26 Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe?

doctor and biological researcher, writes that "when estimates are made of the percentage of [now-] living forms found as fossils, the percentage turns out to be surprisingly high, suggesting that the fossil record may not be as bad as is often maintained" (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1985, p. 189).

He explains that "of the 329 living families of terrestrial vertebrates [mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians] 261 or 79.1 percent have been found as fossils and, when birds (which are poorly fossilized) are excluded, the percentage rises to 87.8 percent" (Denton, p. 189).

In other words, almost 88 percent of the varieties of mammals, reptiles and amphibians populating earth have been found in the fossil record. How many transitional forms, then, have been found? ". . . Although each of these classes [fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and primates] is well represented in the fossil record, as of yet no one has discovered a fossil creature that is indisputably transitional between one species and another species. Not a single undisputed 'missing link' has been found in all the exposed rocks of the Earth's crust despite the most careful and extensive searches" (Milton, pp. 253-254, emphasis added).

If Darwin's theory were true, transitional creatures such as invertebrates with partially developed backbones, fish with rudimentary legs, reptiles with primitive wings and innumerable creatures with semi-evolved anatomical features should be the rule, scattered throughout the fossil strata. But they are nonexistent.

What about fossil proofs?

At times various fossil species have been presented as firm proof of evolution at work. Perhaps the most famous is the supposed evolution of the horse as presented in many biology textbooks. But is this portrayal really what it is claimed to be?

Notice what Professor Eldredge has to say about this classic "proof' of evolution: "George Gaylord Simpson spent a considerable segment of his career on horse evolution. His overall conclusion: Horse evolution was by no means the simple, linear and straightforward affair it was made out to be . . . Horse evolution did not proceed in one single series, from step A to step B and so forth, culminating in modern, single-toed large horses. Horse evolution, to Simpson, seemed much more bushy, with lots of species alive at any one time—species that differed quite a bit from one another, and which had variable numbers of toes, size of teeth, and so forth.

"In other words, it is easy, and all too tempting, to survey the fossil history of a group and select examples that seem best to exemplify linear change through time . . . But picking out just those species that exemplify intermediate stages along a trend, while ignoring all other species that don't seem to fit in as well, is something else again. The picture is distorted. The actual evolutionary pattern isn't fully represented" (p. 131).

Eldredge in effect admits that paleontologists picked and chose which species they thought fit best with their theory and ignored the rest. George Gaylord Simpson himself was more blunt: "The uniform continuous transformation of Hyracotherium [a fossil species thought to be the ancestor of the horse] into Equus [the modern horse], so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature" (Life of the Past, 1953, p. 119).

Professor Raup elaborates on the problem paleontologists face in trying to demonstrate evolution from the fossil record: "We are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time.

"By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information—what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic [evolutionary]" ("Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 50, January 1979, pp. 22-25, emphasis added).

Paleontology's well-kept secret

What does all this mean? In plain language, if evolution means the gradual change of one kind of organism into another kind, the outstanding characteristic of the fossil record is the absence of evidence for evolution—and abundant evidence to the contrary. The only logical place to find proof for evolutionary theory is in the fossil record. But, rather than showing slow, gradual change over eons, with new species continually emerging, the fossils show the opposite.

28 Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe?

28 Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe?

Professor Eldredge touched on the magnitude of the problem when he admitted that Darwin "essentially invented a new field of scientific inquiry—what is now called 'taphonomy'—to explain why the fossil record is so deficient, so full of gaps, that the predicted patterns of gradual change simply do not emerge" (Reinventing Darwin, pp. 95-96, emphasis added).

Professor Gould similarly admitted that the "extreme rarity" of evidence for evolution in the fossil record is "the trade secret of paleontology. " He went on to acknowledge that "the evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils" (Gould, p. 14, emphasis added).

But do paleontologists share this trade secret with others? Hardly. "Reading popular or even textbook introductions to evolution, . . . you might hardly guess that they [fossil gaps] exist, so glibly and confidently do most authors slide through them. In the absence of fossil evidence, they write what have been termed 'just so' stories. A suitable mutation just happened to take place at the crucial moment, and hey presto, a new stage of evolution was reached" (Hitching, pp. 12-13).

Regarding this misrepresentation of the evidence, Phillip Johnson writes: "Just about everyone who took a college biology course during the last sixty years or so has been led to believe that the fossil record was a bulwark of support for the classic Darwinian thesis, not a liability that had to be explained away . . .

"The fossil record shows a consistent pattern of sudden appearance followed by a stasis, that life's history is more a story of variation around a set of basic designs than one of accumulating improvement, that extinction has been predominantly by catastrophe rather than gradual obsolescence, and that orthodox interpretations of the fossil record often owe more to Darwinist preconception than to the evidence itself. Paleontologists seem to have thought it their duty to protect the rest of us from the erroneous conclusions we might have drawn if we had known the actual state of the evidence" (Darwin on Trial, pp. 58-59).

The secret that evolutionists don't want revealed is that, even by their own interpretations, the fossil record shows fully formed species appearing for a time and then disappearing with no change. Other species appeared at other times before they, too, disappeared with little or no change. The fossil record simply does not support the central thesis of Darwinism, that species slowly and gradually evolved from one form to another.

Fact or interesting speculation?

Professor Johnson notes that "Darwinists consider evolution to be a fact, not just a theory, because it provides a satisfying explanation for the pattern of relationship linking all living creatures—a pattern so identified in their minds with what they consider to be the necessary cause of the pattern—descent with modification—that, to them, biological relationship means evolutionary relationship" (p. 63, emphasis in original).

The deceptive, smoke-and-mirror language of evolution revolves largely around the classification of living species. Darwinists attempt to explain natural relationships they observe in the animal and plant world by categorizing animal and plant life according to physical similarities. It could be said that Darwin's theory is nothing more than educated observance of the obvious; that is, the conclusion that most animals appear to be related to one another because most animals have one or more characteristics in common.

For instance, you might have a superficial classification of whales, penguins and sharks in a group classified as aquatic

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