The Genesis Chronicles: A Proposed History Of The Morning Of The World
Chapter 4: EVOLUTION AND THE FOSSIL RECORD
This chapter covers the following topics:
What We Should Find
Now we have reached the area where evolution feels strongest--the fossil record. Fossils are the scientist's books on the earth's past; if there is proof that evolution happened, this is where it will be found. If the earth is really billions of years old, and every life form of today has evolved from something else, then we should find countless examples of fossils representing plants and animals that are not quite one thing, not quite another. The impression that this is true is so strong that when confronted with the idea that evolution might not be true, the ordinary person is likely to ask, "Then where did all those fossils come from?" Some Christians inclined to believe in creation even wonder if dinosaurs really existed; they think the fossil record is a complete but bogus testimony, some kind of satanic plot.
But is the fossil record really complete? When Darwin wrote The Origin of Species paleontology was a new science, only a few decades old, so we had studied only a few fossils to that point. Darwin did not have a single fossil to prove his theory--he admitted he did not have any--but he was optimistic that eventually they would turn up. It has been a century and a half since then, and in our museums we have fossils representing over a quarter of a million extinct species. If evolution is correct, than the laws of probability tell us that many of those fossils will represent transitional life forms, creatures in the process of evolving from one species to another. It should be possible to go to a great natural history museum like those in Chicago, New York or Washington, D.C., and see transitional fossils all over the place. On the other hand, if our view of creation is accurate, then you will find in the fossil record evidence of life forms coming into existence fully developed, without ages of development preceding each one. According to creationism, we will find fossils from previous ages, but trees will always be trees, insects will always be insects, fish will always be fish, lizards will always be lizards, monkeys will always be monkeys, and people will always be people.
We call this process petrification, and it can happen in just a few years under the right circumstances. When on speaking tours, Dr. Ken Ham likes to show a picture of a floppy beach hat somebody left in an Australian mine in the 1930s, to be found 50 years later; it was a soft hat originally, but it's a hard hat now! For uniformitarianism, and thus evolution, to be valid, there must be places around today where fossils are being formed regularly, by natural processes which geologists can identify. Can anybody name such a place? I have never heard of one, despite two centuries of digging and searching in the rock beneath our feet.
Let us consider, for example, the requirement that the organism has to be immediately buried. Suppose one day you brought home a cow, put it in the backyard and shot it (Don't do this in the driveway or the neighbors will complain!). Then over the next eleven weeks you went out from time to time, studied the carcass and took notes. How long do you think it would take to become a fossil? It probably won't become a fossil at all. On the Great Plains in the late nineteenth century there was death on a massive scale, when hunters shot buffalo by the millions, but because the conditions for fossil formation were not there, nobody has found one fossil buffalo dating back to the days when the prairie was the white man's "happy hunting grounds."
Now let's consider the origin of the most common vertebrate fossils, those of fish. Immanuel Velikovsky had this to say about the subject:
"When a fish dies its body floats on the surface or sinks to the bottom and is devoured rather quickly, actually in a matter of hours, by other fish. However, the fossil fish found in sedimentary rock is very often preserved with all of its bones intact. Entire shoals of fish over large areas, numbering billions of specimens, are found in a state of agony, but with no mark of a scavenger's attack.
"The explanation of the origin of fossils by uniformity and evolution contradicts the fundamental principle of these theories: Nothing took place in the past that does not take place in the present. Today no fossils are formed."(1) [Italics are mine, C.K.]
Geologist Harold G. Coffin, of the Geoscience Research Institute in Berrien Springs, MI, wrote about an experiment in the formation of fish fossils conducted by two scientists named Zangerl and Richardson. Here are the results:
"In attempting to evaluate the rate of fossilization in the Pennsylvania black shales of Indiana, they placed dead fish in the protecting wire cages and dropped them into the black muds at the bottom of several Louisiana lagoons or bayous. These black muds are thought to resemble the sediments from which the dark shales were derived. To the great surprise of the investigators, fish weighing from one-half to three-fourths of a pound were found to have all the soft parts reduced and all the bones completely disarticulated in six and one-half days! Decomposition to the state of total disarticulation apparently occurs at great speed, perhaps in less time than indicated above, since none were checked before six and one-half days. Delicate fossil fish showing every minute ray and bone in position are common and must represent a burial by oxygen- and bacteria-excluding sediments within hours of death if this experiment is a valid indication."(2)
That ought to show us that you can't get fish fossils by dumping cyanide into an aquarium! The process which fossilizes fish is very uncommon, if it is taking place anywhere today, but fish fossils are not rare. It is estimated that eight hundred billion fish fossils are contained in the Karoo rock formation of South Africa. Geologist Hugh Miller tells us that the fish-containing Devonian rocks of England are full of fish that died violently, in an area that covers more than ten thousand square miles. Closer to home, Harry S. Ladd of the US Geological Survey says that "more than a billion fish, averaging six to eight inches in length, died on four square miles of bay bottom."(3) And rocks containing sea fossils (fossils of fish and shells) are found over more than 75% of the earth, even on the slopes of Mt. Everest. Catastrophists have long known that only a worldwide disaster involving water, namely Noah's Flood, could have produced death on such a large scale.
Even more amazing is the recent announcement of the discovery of a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton whose bones contained soft tissue. In a broken thighbone, between the expected hard minerals, they found "blood vessels--still flexible and elastic after 68 million years--and apparently intact cells."(4) It is nearly impossible to preserve soft tissues for a few thousand years (usually subzero temperatures and an extremely low humidity are required), so as we go to the press, evolutionists are rushing to explain how soft tissues can last for 68 million years.
Another place where faulty reasoning is used to explain fossil formation is in the world's vast coal deposits. Since coal is by nature a "fossil fuel," we have discovered many fascinating plants and animals in coal mines, including a number of dinosaurs. Rene Noorbergen reports that in the Geisental lignite deposits of Germany, leaves have been so well preserved that they still are green with chlorophyll; there are also beautifully colored tropical beetles with the soft parts of their body, including the contents of their intestines, preserved intact. Under normal conditions such materials decay or lose their color within a few hours of death, meaning that their burial in an anaerobic medium had to be done right away.(5)
Dr. Coffin points out some interesting facts about how coal is made:
"The thickness of peat needed to produce one foot of coal depends on a number of factors, such as the type of peat, the amount of water in the vegetable matter, and the type of coal. The scientific literature on coal gives figures ranging from a few feet to as many as twenty. Let us assume that ten feet would be near the average figure. On this basis, a coal seam thirty feet thick would require the compression of 300 feet of peat. A 400-foot seam of coal would be the result of a fantastic 4,000 feet of peat.
"There are few peat bogs, marshes, or swamps anywhere in the world today that reach 100 feet. Most of them are less than 50 feet. A much more reasonable alternative theory is that the vegetable matter has been concentrated and collected into an area by some force, undoubtedly water. . . .
"The concept of a global deluge that eroded out the forests and plant cover of the pre-Flood world, collected it in great mats of drifting debris, and eventually dropped it on the emerging land or on the sea bottom is the most reasonable answer to this problem of the great extent and uniform thickness of coal beds."(6)
Another problem overlooked is that often whole fossilized trees are found in coal, stretching through several layers of it. Since uniformitarianism tells us that no more than a few inches of peat are produced per year, by such reasoning some of these trees would have to stand for thousands of years before they were completely buried. Look around you; do you see any dead trees that have been standing for more than a few years? I know in my neighborhood that woodpeckers, termites and carpenter ants will bring down a dead tree in only a year or two, so how could so many trees have lasted long enough to be buried? Again we have a situation in the rocks that only makes sense if a sudden catastrophe involving rapid burial is the cause. Some of those trees are buried upside down; they certainly didn't grow that way!
Notes: Often the Cenozoic era is called "the Age of Mammals," the Mesozoic era is called "the Age of Reptiles," and all the time before the Paleozoic era is simply called "Pre-Cambrian." Sometimes the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods are lumped together into one period called "Carboniferous," because evolutionists believe most of the earth's coal was formed during this time. Wikipedia has the Pre-Cambrian eon divided into three eras, which are called Hadean, Archean, and Proterozoic.
There isn't universal agreement on how to organize the Cenozoic era. Before the mid-twentieth century, everything between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the ice age was called the Tertiary period, and the last million or so years was the Quaternary period. What you see here is the most popular system used today, where the Cenozoic is divided into seven epochs, rather than two periods. Wikipedia divides the Cenozoic into four periods or epochs: the Paleogene (65 million to 23 million years ago), Neogene (23 million to 2.6 million, the time of the grasslands revolution), Quaternary (2.6 million B.C. to 1945 A.D., most of the age of man), and Anthropocene (1945 to present).
"Anthropocene" is the newest addition to the time scale. That name was proposed in 2000 by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel prize-winning chemist. He did this because we now live in an age when human activity can change the earth. For a while other scientists weren't sure if this was a new name for the Holocene, or an eighth epoch that began with the Industrial Revolution. By 2016 they came around to accepting that it was an eighth epoch, and that it began in the mid-twentieth century, either on July 16, 1945 (the date of the first atomic bomb explosion), or in 1950, because modern society has filled the world with concrete, plastics, various chemicals, and radiation since then -- you can just call it pollution. Personally I think natural activity is still stronger than human activity; click here to read my essay on that.
Now when they classify new fossils, scientists immediately go to this chart to find out what time frame to place them in. How do they do that? Do they use a sophisticated technique like radiocarbon dating? No, more often they look for an "index fossil" in the same rock. They have long believed that rocks found in two different places which contain the same fossils must be the same age. Because of this, a rock containing a trilobite or brachiopod is expected to come from the Cambrian period, and rocks with dinosaur bones in them are automatically dated to the Mesozoic era. This has led to some circular reasoning, meaning that we can trust none of the dates assigned to rocks. For example:
You: "How old is this fish fossil?"
This means that the whole geologic table is based not so much on careful research as on it is on shaky assumptions that could collapse when exposed to enough evidence favoring a young, created Earth. I believe that such evidence does exist, but that most people have not opened their eyes to the truth. Duane Gish wrote a book on the subject in 1973 entitled Evolution: The Fossils Say No! (see the bibliography), and nowadays you may find a larger, more up-to-date version with the title Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record.
One such problem is that the only place where a complete geologic table like the one shown can be found is in the textbooks. There is no place in the real world where you will find all the layers laid out that way. Often layers are duplicated or missing; occasionally they come in the wrong order (old layers on top of young layers). For example, they cite the Grand Canyon as an excellent example of the time scale, because it has Pre-Cambrian rocks on the bottom and Permian rocks on top, but there are some layers (as much as 20 million years worth) missing from the middle, with no evidence to explain where they went. Why are the youngest rocks from the Permian period? What happened to the quarter of a billion years worth of rocks that supposedly should have been laid down on top of the Permian? As for those older rocks on top of younger ones, if they cannot be ignored it is explained that some mighty geologic force flipped them over. If that is so, where is the gravel or breccia that is normally produced when two huge rocks scrape against one another? And wouldn't allowing the moving of those rocks by a titanic force be an admission that the theory of catastrophism might be valid after all? It's easier to believe that younger rocks are always laid down on top of older ones, and that our dating method is mixed up.
It looked that way when W. F. Libby first introduced this technique to the world in 1949. Since then, however, so many problems have come up that even Dr. Libby stopped believing in it as a reliable "clock." The theory behind it is as follows: every living thing has in it a tiny amount of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope that differs from regular carbon (carbon-12) in that it has eight neutrons per atom, rather than six. When the organism dies, it stops taking in carbon-14, and the carbon-14 starts to decay into nonradioactive nitrogen-14. The rate of decay is slow but measurable, a time span we call a "half-life" lasting 5,730 years. This means that 5,730 years after death, half the carbon-14 will be left; after 11,460 years (two half-lives) one fourth of it will be left, and after 50,000 years the amount of carbon-14 remaining will be too small to measure.
All this would be a fine and dandy way of dating fossils that are less than 50,000 years old if we could assume that there has always been the same amount of carbon-14 in the environment as there is now. Unfortunately, there have been enough faulty readings on objects to cast serious doubt on that assumption, especially if we know the actual age from another source. Dr. Robert F. Whitelaw, Professor of Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, reported in 1970 that of the 15,000 samples of once-living matter that had been tested between 1950 and 1970, all but three of them were datable. This included stuff that was supposedly too old to date. For example, most of the Earth's coal is believed to have formed during the Carboniferous Period (300 million years ago), but one coal sample yielded an age of only 4,250 years, while another was even younger--1,680 years old; radioactive carbon has even been found in diamonds. Ridiculously old ages have been produced as well; the mummified bodies of some seals known to have been dead for thirty years old tested out as being 3,000 years dead, and a living(!) mollusk was dated 3,000 years old.(7)
After carbon-14, the most popular way to date fossils is the potassium-argon method, which measures the decay of potassium-40 into argon, a process with a half-life of just over 1 billion years. Similar faulty dates have come up using this method. For example, the Journal of Geophysical Research reported that some lava rocks from Hualalai, Hawaii, are known to have been formed by volcanic eruptions in 1800 and 1801, yet they show ages ranging from 160 million to 3 billion years old.(8) When Louis Leakey applied potassium-argon dating to his most famous discovery, Zinjanthropus, he got a date of 1,750,000 years, but a few years later some other bones from the same site got a carbon-14 test that yielded an age of only 10,100 years.(9) These are not isolated reports:
"Rock samples from 12 volcanoes in Russia and 10 samples from other places around the world, all known to be of recent age (formed within the last 200 years), when dated by the uranium-thorium-lead method gave ages varying from millions to billions of years!"(10)
Dr. L. Hallonquist, a Canadian chemist, collected such reports from Russia, Germany, France, Norway, Holland, the United States, and other countries. He came to this conclusion:
"The startling fact now coming to light, namely that the daughter isotopes or elements on which the dates are calculated, instead of being accumulated in the rocks over long periods of time during the decay of the parent radioactive material, entered the rocks at the time of their formation from the liquid magma, is indeed devastating to the whole system of radiometric rock dating. The new findings strike at the very heart of radiometric systems of rock dating and make them worthless. In fact, if taken to their logical conclusion, these new results indicate a relatively young age, of at the most a few thousand years, for all rocks, instead of the extreme billions of years previously postulated."(11)
Dr. Melvin Cook, a Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Utah, points out that carbon-14 is produced when cosmic rays and solar radiation strike the Earth's atmosphere. Previously I pointed out that our main barrier to space radiation, the magnetic field, is decreasing. Well, according to Dr. Cook, if that is the case, then in the past less carbon-14 would have been formed, meaning that objects tested will show artificially old dates because they had less carbon-14 in them to start with. He goes on to suggest that we reduce the apparent age of any tested sample by 20% for 1,000 years, 30% for 4,000 years, and anything that is more than 12,500 years old will show up as infinitely ancient.
Because of these problems, since the 1970s some archaeologists have experimented with an alternate method: tree-ring dating. Most of us know that a typical tree lays down a new layer of growth every year, which shows up as rings in the trunk and branches. In places where carbon-14 dates have proved unreliable, like Stonehenge and various Indian pueblos in the southwestern U.S., they have done carbon-14 tests on locally found wood of a known age (figured out by counting the rings) to get new dates they are more willing to accept. So far the results have been favorable, but we must remember that tree rings can be unreliable, too. Rings are produced by drastic changes in weather, so in a year with several very heavy rains, separated by a long dry spell, trees can produce two rings. If they grow on a slope, rapid water runoff can produce even three rings, and one side of the tree will have more rings than the other. Finally, the oldest living trees, the redwoods and bristlecone pines of California, are between 4,000 and 6,000 years old, so tree-ring dating cannot be used on an object much older than the beginning of human history, a time frame much smaller than that claimed by radioactive dating. This means that tree-ring dating can only be considered a general guide.(12)
Again, because of the lack of evidence, evolutionists can only speculate on how the different phyla appeared, and why. Currently one such theory proposes that it happened because 650 million years ago, the earth went through an ice age. This wasn't the ice age that Louis Agassiz discovered (see Chapter 11); whereas that ice age covered one third of the earth's surface at its peak, this one supposedly covered the whole world with ice, plunging the world's average temperature as low as -50o C. You wouldn't expect anything to survive that kind of deep freeze, and the theory goes on to say that most life on earth was killed off. Still, some organisms pulled through, because they had specialized organs to help them in moving around, getting food, defending themselves against predators, or whatever. These creatures became more diverse, more complex, because they had to, and with the generic competition eliminated, they had the advantage when the earth thawed. Thus, as with the oxygen catastrophe in the previous chapter, a disaster had a silver lining.
Now back to the official evolution narrative. When we cross the imaginary line between Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian rocks, bammo! We find invertebrates crawling or swimming all over the place, in all different sizes and shapes. The change in fossils is so drastic that some call it the "Cambrian Explosion." And these were not simple creatures; one of the most common, the trilobite, had the most complex eyes ever found. For lack of evidence the evolutionists have to draw family trees of invertebrates with dotted lines and question marks between every phylum to show how they think they are related to one another. Usually they explain this by saying that the Pre-Cambrian creatures were soft-bodied, and unlikely to leave fossils until they evolved shells and exoskeletons. That is a cop-out; remember that we have some Pre-Cambrian jellyfish, and what creature could have a softer body than that?
In the next geologic period, the Ordovician, the first vertebrate fossils, the fishes, are found. This means that either the Cambrian or the Ordovician rocks should contain specimens of the invertebrate which evolved into the first fish. Again the evidence is nowhere. No scientists--not one!--can tell you what phylum vertebrates evolved from. Not even the most determined atheistic evolutionist can point to a worm, starfish, snail or crustacean, and say, "This is the evolutionary link between vertebrates and invertebrates." They have to accept on faith that the ancestor of vertebrates was a small marine animal, perhaps something resembling a flatworm. Surely over a period which supposedly spanned more than a hundred million years, the fossil for the transitional life form between vertebrates and invertebrates would have been buried somewhere. The fact that we have not found one after nearly two centuries of searching should cast doubt on the whole evolutionary story of where we came from, and that alone suggests that we have made a mistake somewhere. We could just stop with that, and go to another subject. However, I have a feeling that an evolutionist reading this is not yet convinced of the need to change accepted ideas, so let us consider more evidence.
Again, all would be fine and dandy if we could find some transitional life forms to illustrate the story, but the record is blank. Fish are fish, frogs and salamanders are frogs and salamanders, but we have never found a creature that is in-between. In no museum will you find a fossil of a fish with toes where its fins should be. And the differences between fish and amphibians are quite drastic ones: lungs vs. gills, legs firmly attached to a backbone instead of weak fins which cannot hold up the fish's body out of water. All we have to show the transition are some pictures drawn by imaginative artists.
The most famous of the lobe-fins is a queer-looking fish called a coelacanth (pronounced "see-la-canth"). Fossils of this fish have never been found in rocks dated less than 70 million years old, so for decades scientists thought they died out with the dinosaurs. Imagine their surprise when some African fishermen caught a live one in 1938! A few more have been captured since then, and divers have taken video cameras into the waters around the Comoro Islands to film coelacanths in their natural habitat. And that's not all; a second species of coelacanth was discovered near the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 1997, and in the first decade of the twenty-first century, divers discovered more coelacanth hideaways off the African coast, from Kenya to South Africa. Interestingly enough, the modern coelacanth shows no signs of evolving into a land animal; on the contrary, it spends most of its time 300-700 feet underwater, and only gets caught when it strays into a fishing net on its occasional surface visits.
Evolution teaches that when a superior life form develops, the one it is replacing becomes extinct. Sometimes, however, scientists will claim that a plant or animal has been around for millions of years without making any physical changes. They call such a creature a "living fossil," as if to say, "Here is something that should have died out millions of years ago, but it is still alive today. Isn't that amazing?" Examples of living fossils include the coelacanth, turtles, opossums, and sharks, all supposedly unchanged after an amazing amount of time.
While we are on the subject of transitions and "living fossils," let us consider the case of a really unusual animal--the duckbilled platypus. For those of you who aren't familiar with this oddball from Australia, the platypus seems to be put together with spare parts from mammals, birds and reptiles. It is warm-blooded, has hair and a beaverlike tail, and feeds its young with milk, all features that we associate with mammals. However, it also has a broad duck bill, webbed feet, and lays eggs (features we expect from birds); finally there are reptile-like shoulder bones, and reptile-like poisonous claws on its legs. Biologists have never been able to completely figure out this creature; it has the characteristics of too many different animals to have evolved from any one of them; nor can they say it is evolving into something else, since all of its parts are fully functional and it does just fine in the streams where it lives. In fact, when the first platypus specimen was sent to London, the British scientists thought it was some kind of joke, and tried to remove the bill to find out how it had been attached to the pelt in the first place. Might I venture to say that the platypus is evidence that God has a sense of humor, and that it also takes a sense of humor for Him to create and deal with characters like us?(13)
The next chapter in the evolutionist's book tells us that the shelled egg was such a big success that during the next four geologic periods (Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) reptiles evolved and diversified to fill every available ecological niche. Some grew hair and turned into the first mammals; some went back to the water and became sea monsters like the icthyosaurus and plesiosaurus; other grew wings and became pterodactyls. And some simply got bigger and bigger, becoming those creatures whose name means "terrible lizards"--the dinosaurs.
One of the things you will read about in just about every science book is that the dinosaurs died out arount 65 million years ago, and no one knows why they became extinct. All sorts of ideas have been suggested for over a century. First they looked for a natural cause:
1. A general change in climate made the earth too cold, and/or killed off the food supply.
When none of these theories convinced everybody, they started looking for a cause in outer space. Some suggested that a nearby star (less than 50 light-years away) went nova, and it spewed out enough nuclear radiation to kill everything too big to take cover. Others have suggested that a comet or asteroid collided with the earth, and the fallout from that blast caused a "nuclear winter" that wiped out most of the earth's life. This theory is currently the most popular, and recently one scientist pointed to the remnant of an ancient crater in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, and declared that this is where the "dinosaur killer" impacted. Another has proposed that there is a planet or small star somewhere in deep space, and about once every 25 million years it comes into the inner solar system, dragging with it a stream of comets and meteors to bombard the Earth with (Velikovsky would be proud!). The inventor of this theory went so far as to give his imaginary killer planet a name--Nemesis.
But can we be sure the dinosaurs died out millions of years before the first men appeared? Cartoonists and movie makers never get tired of ideas about what it would be like if dinosaurs and people were around at the same time. A few years ago a fantasy book called Dinotopia showed vivid pictures of a lost continent where dinosaurs and people lived and worked together; it sold so well that Dinotopia's author produced other books, calendars, a TV mini-series, etc. Meanwhile on the silver screen, Jurassic Park suggested that some day scientists will use fossil DNA to create dinosaurs with an attitude; Jurassic Park and its sequels are among the most popular movies ever made. And two college students from Texas want dinosaurs and humans together so badly that they have created a new genre of literature about -- are you ready? -- dino porn!
Perhaps we feel this way because there once was a time when dinosaurs and people interacted. In Job 40 and 41 God describes the two greatest animals He created, Behemoth and Leviathan; both of them resemble prehistoric reptiles more than any animals alive today. There are also the dragon myths: so many ancient cultures have stories about dragons and sea serpents (Europe and China, to name just two), that one has to wonder if they saw a dragon-like creature; a dinosaur fits the bill very well.
Are there any fossils backing this up? It looks like we have one in a rock formation called the Paluxy River Beds, near Glen Rose, TX. Dr. Clifford Burdick, an Arizona geologist, reported finding dinosaur and human footprints in the same rock! The human footprints are very large (up to fifteen inches long), but creationists have no trouble with that because Genesis 6:4 tells us that there were giants among our pre-flood ancestors. The problem is their location--how could a rock containing two sets of tracks take 60 million years to harden? An attempt was made to date the formation, using a strip of coal made from a tree branch that fell across the tracks; a carbon-14 test reported it was only 12,000 years old. That by itself should warn us that something is wrong with our accepted theories.
Some scientists have declared the human footprints to be a hoax, but if anything, the three-toed dinosaur tracks look more like fakes. Others (Stephen Jay Gould, for instance) have suggested that the human tracks really come from some kind of dinosaur we haven't discovered yet. I'm not holding my breath; all the dinosaur tracks I am familiar with are either bird-like if the dinosaur walked on two legs, or round and elephant-like if they walked on all fours.
Why are so many scientists shouting, "Say it isn't so!" about the Paluxy River tracks? To prove they are genuine would overturn one of evolution's most basic assumptions, and a lot of paleontologists would have to give up their jobs and become truck drivers instead!
Finally there is a very remote possibility that some of these monsters are still alive today. In Africa are some rock paintings of a snake-necked creature that resembles a brontosaurus more than a giraffe, which are not more than a thousand years old. As recently as the 1980s there were reported brontosaurus sightings in the swamps of the Congo; the natives called it mokele-mbembe, meaning "rainbow-shaped neck." In northern Australia, there are remote areas the Aborigines will not enter, because they fear a beast called the Burrunjor; sightings of the creature describe it as a large, bipedal meat-eater, like tyrannosaurus rex. And a lot of the so-called "sea-serpents" fit the description of a plesiosaurus. You probably have heard about the Loch Ness monster, a plesiosaurus-like creature that lives in a lake in Scotland but has never been clearly seen. Scientists have been trying to catch or take pictures of the Loch Ness monster for decades, but with a price of more than £1,000,000 on its head, can anyone blame the beastie if it prefers to stay hidden?
In the 1970s it was suggested that the dinosaurs didn't really become extinct; some of the smaller ones evolved wings and feathers and are still with us today, as birds. Now paleontologists are hard at work to prove that this happened, by looking for a link between dinosaurs and birds; they see a small meat-eater like deionychus or velociraptor as the best candidate. So next time a duck flies overhead, I guess it's politically correct to say, "Duck! A dinosaur!"
Yeah, right. So now we are supposed to believe that a multi-ton, thick-skinned lizard is the ancestor of nature's most perfect flying machine. The bird is wonderfully designed for flight, with many features that don't appear in your typical reptile, like a four-chambered heart and hollow bones. It makes about as much sense as mounting a pair of surfboards on the sides of a van and expecting it to fly like a DC-3. Finally, nobody is trying to explain why the ancestor of the birds must be a dinosaur with a lizard-like (saurischian) pelvis, rather than one of the many "bird-hipped" (ornithschian) species. If the evolutionary story is true, then we ought to tell the folks at the Smithsonian to remodel the National Air & Space Museum, because the Wright Brothers' airplane will have to take second place to the first airborne dinosaur!
As in the previous sections, we have here a situation where we are expected to accept on faith that one life form made a series of critical changes to become something different, because we don't have the fossil evidence to prove it. The feather is quite a complicated structure, with all kinds of hooks and barbs to keep itself rigid and lightweight at the same time. Supposedly it evolved from the simple flat scales of reptiles, but where's the transitional fossil?
I can now hear the evolutionist saying, "Aha, but we do have the transitional fossil; we have archaeopteryx!" The fossil we have of archaeopteryx shows a number of primitive features, including reptile-like teeth, claws on its wings, and a small breastbone (which means it was a poor flyer). Yet it also has fully developed feathers, and could fly, so even evolutionists concede it was a fully developed bird. As for the "primitive" features, I'll say just a few words about them.
1. The teeth aren't really that remarkable. True, there are no toothed birds today, but every other class of vertebrates comes in toothed and toothless forms. We have fish with teeth and fish with no teeth; reptiles with teeth and reptiles with no teeth (turtles); mammals with teeth and mammals without teeth (anteaters); people with teeth and people without teeth! Why couldn't God have created toothy birds at first, to fly with the toothless ones that are still with us today?
2. The claws on the wings aren't unique either. There are three species of birds today which possess claws: the hoatzin of South America, and the touraco and ostrich of Africa. None of them are good flyers (the ostrich doesn't fly at all); if they were extinct, and one of them was found as a fossil, the paleontologists might think this was a primitive "halfway bird."
3. The archaeopteryx fossil was dated to the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago. Recently another fossil bird was found in a rock dated to be 75 million years older, and it looks even less like a reptile than archaeopteryx does. Since offspring cannot be the fathers of their parents, this means that archaeopteryx is not the missing link; now the paleontologists have to go look for another one. Meanwhile they have to use their imagination to fill the blanks (some textbooks sport a picture of a lizard with feathers called "pro-avis," and suggest that the ancestor of birds looked like this).
In 1999, the National Geographic Society announced the discovery of "feathered dinosaurs" in northeast China's Liaoning province. One fossil caused such a sensation that they dubbed it archaeoraptor ("ancient bird of prey") and rushed to publish an article about it, entitled "Feathers for T. rex? New birdlike fossils are missing links in dinosaur evolution." The article, which appeared in November 1999, was richly illustrated with speculations on what these feathered dinosaurs looked like, even suggesting that a baby tyrannosaurus had a coat of down like a duckling, only to shed it when it got big. Then the fossil went on public display in Washington D.C., while news reports, Internet sites and TV specials announced the find worldwide.
A few scientists challenged such claims immediately. Larry D. Martin, a paleontologist from the University of Kansas, argued that nobody could prove that the feather-like impressions in the rock surrounding the bones were really feathers, while Storrs L. Olson, the curator of birds at the Smithsonian, accused National Geographic of committing sensationalist tabloid journalism. This prompted one of Archaeoraptor's supporters, Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (in Beijing, China), to go to Liaoning and check out the rock slab where it had been discovered. What he found was embarrassing; the Chinese farmer who lived on the property had dug up several pieces of fossils, and joined a bird's body with a dinosaur's tail to produce a specimen that was complete enough to be worth something. Since then, archaeoraptor had been called the "Piltdown chicken," because it was a hoax like one we'll look at in the next chapter--Piltdown Man.
This is as good a place as any to point out that there are many characteristics in animals that are so complicated, they would be useless if they appeared in a less than fully developed form. The wings of the bird and the pterodactyl, for instance. A good change in an organism's makeup is supposed to improve its chances for survival, but if some lizard was born with half-developed wings, what would it do with them? It could not fly with them, and they will probably keep it from running very fast. How will it catch its food or run away from its enemies? If it tried to fly with them--splat!--no more lizard. A creature with half-developed wings is worse off than one with no wings at all.
Likewise, how could the bombardier beetle's unique cannon evolve, if it would cook the beetle that tried to blast a predator before it was fully developed? How could any form of symbiosis (beneficial interaction between two life forms) develop? Flowers and bees cannot survive without each other, so which came first?(14) How could cleaner fishes like the wrasse survive if they tried to clean the mouth of a big fish that had not yet developed the instinct to let them work without eating them? What good would our eyes be if the cornea and lens evolved before the retina did? I could go on and on listing characteristics that show the work of intelligent design, rather than the chance acquisition of one characteristic at a time. I am reminded of what the naturalist William Paley (1743-1805) said about such ideas: "If the human eye came by chance, then so could the telescope!"
This is the End of Chapter 4.
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