[Originally published as The Fossil Record: Does it Support Creation or Evolution?]
The fossils glaringly support the young earth Biblical history of the recent, special creation of our world followed by a single earth-covering Flood on our planet just thousands of years ago. Darwinists, however, interpret the fossil record, or the remains of past life found within the rocks of the earth’s crust as circumstantial evidence that biological species originated by natural selection from a universal common ancestor. Do fossils really show the evolutionary “tree of life” preserved in stone? This Darwinian model should show the following three features:
Feature 1: Ancestral Forms: Lowest rocks contain few relatively “simple” ancestral life forms (i.e., the less-evolved root organisms).
Feature 2: Intermediate Forms: Life forms gradually display new organs and other body designs in an uninterrupted, increasingly advanced chain in higher rock layers (i.e., the transitional trunk).
Feature 3: Divergent Forms: Ever-increasing numbers of diverse organisms (i.e., the more-evolved branches) occupy the higher geological strata.
The fossil record falsifies all three evolutionary expectations. Instead, the fossil record biologically, paleontologically, and geologically supports all Creation and Flood expectations. We evaluate these three next.
FOSSIL STRIKE ONE—EVOLUTIONARY “ANCESTRAL FORMS” NEVER EXISTED
Rather than animal kinds coming about by natural selection somehow adding new genes and organs to pre-existent ancestors as Darwin’s ideas predicted, the fossil record provides no hint in the lowest known fossil-bearing rocks (named “Precambrian” and “Cambrian”) of single-celled organisms morphing into the multi-celled creatures. The “Cambrian Explosion” describes the sudden appearance of all the radically-different blueprint types of each animal all in one rock system. This gap—which occurs globally—should not even exist locally if evolutionism is true.
Jonathan Wells, in his eye-opening book entitled Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?—Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution Is Wrong wrote:
…in Darwin’s theory, there is no way phylum-level differences could have appeared right at the start. Yet that is what the fossil record shows… In other words, the highest levels of the biological hierarchy appeared right at the start. Darwin was aware of this, and considered it a major difficulty for his theory…Darwin was convinced, however, that the difficulty was only apparent…. Many paleontologists are now convinced that the major groups of animals really did appear abruptly in the early Cambrian. The fossil evidence is so strong, and the event so dramatic, that it has become known as “the Cambrian explosion,” or “biology’s big bang.” (emphasis added).
This sudden appearance of all the major, complex body-plans of biology in the lowest fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers without “simpler” forms gradually leading up to them fits creation according to kinds. Trilobites, for example, have eye structures that are even more complicated than humans! Some types of trilobites had eyes with over 15,000 individual lenses![ii]
The fact that trilobites are prevalent in the lowest fossil layers is actually evidence that the first creatures to get rapidly buried in the Flood were those that were dwelling on the bottom of the ocean.
FOSSIL STRIKE TWO—EVOLUTIONARY “TRANSITIONAL FORMS” NEVER EXISTED
If all living things are indeed related to each other through a gradual development of pre-existing organisms as Charles Darwin said and as is often illustrated by so-called branching “evolutionary tree” diagrams known as “phylogenetic charts,” then we would expect to find countless intermediate species or transitional forms between major biological groupings. Transitional creatures, supposedly exemplified by such headliners as ape-to-man “hominids,” the coelacanth fish,[iii] and Archaeopteryx (an extinct bird that evolutionists believe possesses some reptilian-like features causing it to be classified as an evolutionary transitional form[iv]) supposedly bridge classification boundaries by possessing transitional features. See the sections titled, Archaeopteryx and Tiktaalik/Coelacanth for details on these fossils.
Without true transitional structures, does the fossil record support or upsettingly contradict the Darwinian view of phyletic gradualism? Former Darwinists Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon ask in their book, Of Pandas and People (1989):
Does Darwin’s theory match the story told by the fossils? To find out, we must first ask, what kind of story would it match? His theory posited that living things formed a continuous chain back to one or a few original cells. If the theory is true, the fossils should show a continuous chain of creatures, each taxon leading smoothly to the next. In other words, there should be a vast number of transitional forms connecting each taxon with the one that follows. The differences separating major groups in taxonomy [such as invertebrates and the first fish] are so great that they must have been bridged by a huge number of transitional forms. As Darwin himself noted in TheOrigin of Species (1859), “The number of intermediate varieties, which formerly existed on earth [must] be truly enormous.” Yet this immense number of intermediates simply does not exist in the fossil record. The fossils do not reveal a string of creatures leading up to fish, or to reptiles, or to birds. Darwin conceded this fact: “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain.” Indeed, this is, in Darwin’s own words, “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory”[v] (emphasis added).
If evolutionary gradualism were true, then every organism’s genetics would be evolving out of its inferior/past/ancestral code into a superior/future/descendant form. In short, every life-form would be transitional between its supposed past and its evolutionary future. However, the fossil record does not match this. Every distinct, self-bounded biological body plan appears suddenly. Fossils show no evolutionary intermediates with transitioning structures.
Instead, all preserved and present phyla demonstrate stasis—the dominant fossil trend of maintaining anatomical sameness. They show essentially no fundamental change in appearance over time, though some show a decrease in size. In addition, 95% of the fossil record phyla are comprised of marine invertebrates, some of which look the same throughout their entire vertical span through different rock layers.[vi] The completeness of the fossil record deserves recognition after more than 150 years of fossil collecting and more than 200,000,000 fossils found. Newsweek’s 1980 admission of Darwin’s elusive intermediate species being only imaginative is still embarrassingly accurate:
The missing link between man and apes… is merely the most glamorous of a whole hierarchy of phantom creatures. In the fossil record, missing links are the rule… The more scientists have searched for the transitional forms between species, the more they have been frustrated.[vii] (emphasis added)
In their journal disclosure, evolutionists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge have honestly admitted the pseudo-scientific, philosophical origin of Darwin’s view by their candid confession that “Phyletic gradualism [gradual evolution]… was never ‘seen’ in the rocks … It [gradualism] expressed the cultural and political biases of 19th century liberalism” (emphasis added).[viii] Thus, the “onward and upward” notion of evolutionary progress involving innovation and integration was a product of various social prejudices, not science.
Darwin had every hope that future research would reveal numerous transitional forms in the fossil record.[ix] Now, after 150+ years of digging and millions of additional fossils identified and catalogued, do we have enough evidence to conclude whether transitional forms exist? Remember, if evolution is true, it would take numerous “prior versions” to move between forms—e.g., from a mouse to a bat.
To investigate this issue, Dr. Carl Werner and his wife Debbie invested over 14 years of their lives investigating “the best museums and dig sites around the globe [and] photographing thousands of original fossils and the actual fossil layers where they were found.”[x]
After visiting hundreds of museums and interviewing hundreds of paleontologists, scientists, and museum curators, Dr. Werner concluded: “Now, 150 years after Darwin wrote his book, this problem still persists. Overall, the fossil record is rich—200 million fossils in museums—but the predicted evolutionary ancestors are missing, seemingly contradicting evolution.”[xi] He gives a series of examples:
1-Museums have collected the fossil remains of 100,000 individual dinosaurs, but have not found a single direct ancestor for any dinosaur species.
2-Approximately 200,000 fossil birds have been found, but ancestors of the oldest birds have yet to be discovered.
3-The remains of 100,000 fossilized turtles have been collected by museums, yet the direct ancestors of turtles are missing.
4-Nearly 1,000 flying reptiles (pterosaurs) have been collected, but no ancestors showing ground reptiles evolving into flying reptiles have been found.
5-Over 1,000 fossil bats have been collected by museums, but no ancestors have been found showing a ground mammal slowly evolving into a flying mammal.
6-Approximately 500,000 fossil fish have been collected, and 100,000,000 invertebrates have been collected, but ancestors for the theoretical first fish—a series of fossils showing an invertebrate changing into a fish—are unknown.
7-Over 1,000 fossil sea lions have been collected, but not a single ancestor of sea lions has been found.
8-Nearly 5,000 fossilized seals have been collected, but not a single ancestor has been found.
If this was not enough, one more key consideration should clearly convince. What if, after countless millions of hours spent by researchers mining the crust of the earth for fossil evidence, the fossil record is essentially complete? That is, it stands to reason that the millions of fossils we have collected over the last 150 years exhaustively record all basic life forms that ever lived, with only a few additional “big surprises” to be found. Given this, can we say that the question of transitional forms has been asked and answered?
One way to find out is to “calculate the percentage of those animals living today that have also been found as fossils. In other words, if the fossil record is comprised of a high percentage of animals that are living today, then the fossil record could be viewed as being fairly complete; that is, most animals that have lived on the earth have been fossilized and discovered.”[xii] Carl Werner provides a chart demonstrating the results of such an investigation:[xiii]
1-Of the 43 living land animal orders, such as carnivores, rodents, bats, and apes, nearly all, or 97.7%, have been found as fossils. This means that at least one example from each animal order has been collected as a fossil.
2-Of the 178 living land animal families, such as dogs, bears, hyenas, and cats, 87.8% have been found in fossils.
Evolution had its chance—over 150 years and millions of fossils—to prove itself, and it has come up wanting. The theory has been weighed, tested, measured, and falsified. Aren’t 200 million opportunities and one and one-half centuries enough time to answer the issue that confounded Darwin himself?
Why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do 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?…But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?…But in the intermediate region, having intermediate conditions of life, why do we not now find closely-linking intermediate varieties? This difficulty for a long time quite confounded me.[xiv]
FOSSIL STRIKE THREE—EVOLUTIONARY “DIVERGENT FORMS” NEVER EXISTED
Darwinian evolution predicts that as phyla continue to diverge or branch out from their ancestral, evolutionary stock, their numbers should increase just as tree limbs radiate from a central trunk. According to Wells, “Some biologists have described this in terms of ‘bottom-up’ versus ‘top-down’ evolution. Darwinian evolution is ‘bottom-up,’ referring to its prediction that lower levels in the biological hierarchy should emerge before higher ones. But the Cambrian explosion shows the opposite” (emphasis added).[xv] The fossil evidence indicates that the number of phyla in fact decreases from about 50–60 at the “Cambrian Explosion” to approximately 37 living phyla. Extinction—the opposite of evolution’s required new phyla—have certainly occurred.[xvi] “Clearly the Cambrian fossil record explosion is not what one would expect from Darwin’s theory. Since higher levels of the biological hierarchy appear first, one could even say that the Cambrian explosion stands Darwin’s tree of life on its head” (emphasis added).[xvii]
Rather than a “bottom-up” continuum of ever-morphing divergent forms, the fossil record reveals definite gaps between, and “top-down” hierarchical variation within, phyla. In fact, these anatomical differences separating major design themes make biological classification of organisms (taxonomy) possible![xviii] Without these clear-cut gaps between organism kinds, biologists would not be able to divide plants and animals into their respective kingdoms, phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, and species.
Those familiar with the Bible will recognize that one would expect these gaps between biological kinds if all terrestrial life reproduces “after its own kind,” a truth that the Scriptures declares ten times in its first chapter (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25). In fact, even the New Testament affirms that “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fish, and another of birds” (1 Corinthians 15:39). Since God’s written Word lists different creature groupings as separate kinds with anatomically unique “flesh,” biological classification ultimately describes “a created arboretum” with an ancestral tree for each kind, not a single “evolutionary tree of life” that connects all organisms as Charles Darwin proposed.
FOSSILS IN SUM: GRADUALISM STRIKES OUT WHILE CREATION HITS HOME RUN.
The fossil record bears witness that there are (1) no ancestral roots—no “primitive” organisms between microfossils and visible life, (2) no transitional trunk—no anatomically-intermediate creatures with structurally-transitional features (e.g., partially-evolved organs, limbs, etc.), and (3) no divergent branches—no new phyla being genetically descended from less-evolved “common ancestors.”
If the fossil record does not support the evolutionary predictions of ancestral roots, transitional trunk, and divergent branches with regard to the major categories of life, then what does it show? Eight fossil observations confound evolution:
1-Separation from other phyla by definite, unbridgeable gaps with no ancestor-descendant/bottom-to-top transitional relationship.
2-All forms suddenly appear as unique body plans with fully-formed structures.
3-All phyla are represented from the beginning as fossils, demonstrating fossil-record completeness.
4-All are complex, functional, and were or still are able to survive.
5-All show no innovative change in their basic anatomical form after they first appear as fossils—only minor, top-down variation within a blueprint design.
6-Nearly all (95%) are phyla of marine invertebrates.
7-Many of these are found throughout the fossil record, not restricted to a certain vertical range of rock.
8-Extinction has decreased the number of phyla from 50–60 to nearly 37 —the opposite direction of evolution.
In addition, eight fossil observations confirm the Biblical Creation/global Flood history:
9-Polystrate fossils cut across multiple rock layers, supporting rapid sedimentation.
10-Over 1,000 documented massive fossil graveyards around the world, the vast majority of which were deposited by various watery catastrophes.[xix]
11-Mass killing and the violent deaths of creatures on all continents fits the global nature of Noah’s Flood (e.g., the Morrison Formation in the U.S. which covers 13 states).
12-Mixed groupings of organisms from various ecological zones of different habitat and elevation fit the Bible’s picture of Flood chaos.
13-Highly energetic, destructive processes capable of burying organisms alive, ripping rocks and creatures apart, and/or transporting their carcasses great distances calls for a flood of biblical proportions.
14-Rock formations with mostly ocean-dwelling creatures catastrophically fossilized, unlike today’s ocean creatures that do not fossilize.
15-Fossils occur on continentals, not deep ocean bottoms.
16-Some geologic deposits cover hundreds of thousands of square miles and spanning several continents.
[i] David V. Bassett, M.S. contributed the majority of this section. The complete work can be found in Debunking Evolution (Genesis Apologetics).
[ii] Gon III, S. M. The Trilobite Eye, (www.trilobites.info/eyes.htm) (September 1, 2014); See also: Jerry Bergman, “The Trilobite Eye A Wonder of Complex Design,” (December 2007) (www.create.ab.ca/the-trilobite-eye-a-wonder-of-complex-design/). Holochroal eyes are the ancestral eye of trilobites, and are by far the most common, found in all orders except the Agnostida, and through the entirety of the Trilobites’ existence Clarkson, E. N. K. (1979), “The Visual System of Trilobites,” Palaeontology, Encyclopedia of Earth Science 22: 1–22.
[iii] The Coelacanth is supposedly an ancestor to amphibians that dates back 300 million years; however, the Coelacanth appears “suddenly” in the fossil record, and modern coelacanths “were also found to give birth to live young
(like some sharks), unlike their supposed descendants, the amphibians.” See: K.S. Thomson, Living Fossil. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991), 137–144.
[iv] Creationwiki.com: www.creationwiki.org/Archaeopteryx (January 3, 2014).
[v] Percival Davis, Dean H. Kenyon, & Charles B. Thaxton (ed). Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, 2d ed. (Dallas, TX: Haughton Publishing Company, 1989), 22–23.
[vi] John D. Morris, The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth, Past, Present, and Future (Colorado Springs, CO: Master Books, 1994).
[vii] Jerry Adler & John Carey, “Is Man a Subtle Accident?” Newsweek, 8, no. 95 (Nov. 3, 1980): 96.
[viii] Stephen J Gould & Niles Eldredge, “Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered,” Paleobiology, 3, no. 2 (April 1977): 115–151.
[ix] Brian Thomas, “150 Years Later, Fossils Still Don’t Help Darwin,” Institute for Creation Research Online: www.icr.org/article/4546/ (December 20, 2013).
[x] Carl Werner, “Evolution the Grand Experiment,” The Grand Experiment: www.thegrandexperiment.com/index.html (January 1, 2014).
[xi] Carl Werner, Living Fossils. Evolution: The Grand Experiment (Vol. 2). Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2008, 242.
[xii] Carl Werner, Evolution: The Grand Experiment. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2007, 86.
[xiii] Chart adapted from: Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda: Adler & Adler, 1985.
[xiv] Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. New York: The Modern Library, 1859, 124–125.
[xv] Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?—Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong, (Regnery Publishing, 2000): 41–42.
[xvi] Robert F. DeHaan & John L. Wiester, “The Cambrian Explosion: The Fossil Record & Intelligent Design,” Touchstone (July/August 1999), 65–69.
[xvii] Wells, 2000, 42.
[xviii] DeHaan & Wiester, 1999, p. 68.
[xix] Raymond R. Rogers, David A. Eberth and Anthony R. Fiorillo Bonebeds: Genesis, Analysis, and Paleobiological Significance, University of Chicago Press, 2008, and related database.