Creationism and the Fossil Record

TO make your weekend complete, we bring you the view from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — truly the fountainhead of creationist wisdom. They have this new article at their website: The Real Nature of the Fossil Record.

The author is John D. Morris, the new head of ICR. John is the son of ICR’s founder, the legendary Henry M. Morris, regarded as the father of modern “creation science.” It’s fair to say that John is a life-long creationist.

This article is one of the most challenging we’ve ever encountered. Every paragraph — sometimes every sentence — overflows with creationist misunderstandings, distortions, and cognitive disconnects. In addition to those difficulties, it’s a long article. The best we can do is highlight some of the more striking passages, and point out a few of the article’s otherwise notable features. The bold font was added for emphasis. Here we go:

The fossil record leaves an inescapable impression on the honest observer. It certainly doesn’t communicate the macroevolutionary picture. The record of the past written in stone contains no evidence that any particular animal ever morphed into a fundamentally different type of animal. No trend can be found of gradual, Darwinian alteration through mutation and natural selection. These processes occur, but they are not mechanisms for true evolution of basic body styles.

It would require an entire essay to refute that opening paragraph. But we call your attention to the claim that the fossil record “contains no evidence that any particular animal ever morphed into a fundamentally different type of animal.” It’s difficult to know if that statement is due to ignorance, or if it’s intentionally misleading. Of course no “particular animal” ever “morphed” into a different animal. No evolutionary biologist claims otherwise. If Morris doesn’t know this, he’s an ignoramus; and if he does know it, he’s abusing his readers. Let’s go on:

Nor do we see punctuated equilibrium transforming them rapidly. Without a doubt, we see sudden changes in dominant fossil shapes as we ascend the geologic column, but this is not macroevolution.

No? Then what is it?

The species changes touted by punctuated equilibrium that we do see are either common variation of individual offspring, or adaptation of a population to differing conditions.

But isn’t that evidence of evolution? Not to Mr. Morris. We continue:

On the other hand, the fossil record does communicate sudden appearance of basic types, complete with all the features which characterize them. Lots of variety is on display, even at times enough to lead to a new species.

Well, what’s that?

But variety is not evolution. Cats are cats and dogs are dogs and always have been so. There are similarities between them, but no hint of relatedness. Both appear to have been suddenly created to live in similar environments, breathe the same air, eat the same foods, drink the same water, and survive through circulation of similar blood. We should expect similarities. But cats when they reproduce yield kittens, and reproducing dogs have puppies.

You see what we’re dealing with, and we’re not even 20% into Morris’s essay. Here’s more:

The fossil record features stasis as a dominant trend. It does not speak of major changes.

That flatly contradicts what was said earlier. But this is creationism, so let’s not worry about a few contradictions.

There is one major point that we noticed here. Nowhere in his essay does Morris talk about the age of the fossil record, although it certainly seems that he assumes a chronological progression of fossils. If you were to read the entire piece, you wouldn’t know that it was written by the head of a young-earth creationist outfit. This is strange, but we doubt that it signals a change in ICR’s basic outlook. They’ll be back in later essays talking about six days of creation and a world that’s only 6,000 years old. Moving along:

Each plant or animal alive today exhibits amazing complexity at the start. Each of its body parts is precisely designed to perform its function, and all work together for the good of the whole.

Each creature in the fossil record was a fully-formed, functioning specimen of its species. An individual born with partially-formed body parts wouldn’t be viable and couldn’t become a fossil. Surely Morris knows this — doesn’t he? Another excerpt:

Extinction is well-documented in the fossil record, and while extinction is a necessary part of the evolutionary scenario, it is not evolution. It might better be considered as the opposite of evolution. Losing a type is not what is in question, but the gaining of new types — now, that would be interesting.

But earlier, Morris acknowledges that new types appear in the fossil record. Did he forget what he wrote a few paragraphs ago? More importantly, can we take any more of this? Yes, just a bit more:

Evolution necessarily implies the concept of “descent from a common ancestor or ancestors.” Yet no ancestor/descendant relationship can be advocated with certainty based on the fossils. Indeed, the differences are obvious and make classification between types possible.

Doesn’t Morris understand the system of Linnaean taxonomy? It’s a hierarchical classification based upon observed physical characteristics, and the concept of a divergent tree of physical features is what makes the system function.

Okay, one more excerpt. We saved the wildest for the last:

The fossil record can be deemed essentially complete. Darwin was concerned about its lack of transitional forms, hypothetical creatures that demonstrate one type changing into another over time. He was hopeful they would be found one day.

But extensive exploration and fossil discovery in following years have not brought such in-between forms to light. The vast majority of taxonomic orders and families which live today are also found as fossils, yet without fossil transitions. We can be certain the record is substantially complete.

That paragraph is only about halfway through the essay. Trust your Curmudgeon, it doesn’t get any better. Oh, wait, we have to give you Morris’ final sentence.

Creation thinking predicts the evidence, while evolution must distort and flex the evidence and its position to accommodate it.

We could play with that, but after reading through all of Morris’s mess we don’t have the energy. We’ll leave that one for you.

Update: See Creationism and the Fossil Record, Part 2.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Creationism and the Fossil Record

  1. Ugh. The author is either stupid or a liar. It’s that simple.

  2. ps. notice that Morris gave *NO* citations for *ANY* of his claims. double ugh.

  3. LRA says: “The author is either stupid or a liar.”

    In this case it could be child abuse. Or maybe he’s just carrying on the family traditions.

  4. Creation thinking predicts the evidence, while evolution must distort and flex the evidence and its position to accommodate it.

    Hypothesis: creation thinking is real and testable science.

    Using creation thinking, I predict reiterated misunderstandings, distortions, and cognitive disconnects in this article from John D. Morris.

    Test. (Read article, choke on coffee, read more, gag, read, grind teeth, use superglue on eye lids to keep open, curse that Curmudgeon for sending me here, read until done, tear skin on eye lids for sweet relief from the painful article)

    Okay.

    Back to my prediction…

    Oh look: my prediction is verified. The article is full of misunderstandings, distortions, and cognitive disconnects.

    My hypothesis is correct.

    Conclusion: More proof (as if any more were needed!) that creation thinking really is science.

  5. tildeb says: “… curse that Curmudgeon …”

    Join the crowd.

  6. Denial is more than just a river in Egypt.

  7. “The species changes touted by punctuated equilibrium that we do see are either common variation of individual offspring, or adaptation of a population to differing conditions.”

    So close, yet still so far away…

    Amazing how the only consistent thing about the article was that everything had to complain about evolution. It didn’t matter if the complaints were logical, or even reasonable, or even contradicted by his own earlier comments. That is one heck of a screwed up mind…

  8. Pokemon: The Truth Shall Prevail!

  9. The Curmudgeon asks

    An individual born with partially-formed body parts wouldn’t be viable and couldn’t become a fossil. Surely Morris knows this — doesn’t he?

    On the evidence of his article, I wouldn’t wager that Morris could distinguish Shinola from–… well, you get the picture.

  10. “ps. notice that Morris gave *NO* citations for *ANY* of his claims. double ugh.”

    I find it surprising that he didn’t cite bible verses.

  11. Pablo says: “Morris gave *NO* citations for *ANY* of his claims”

    Excellent observation. I had missed that.

  12. Curmudgeon: “The opening paragraph would require an entire essay to refute it. ”

    That’s the whole purpose of the scam. While we’re busy with long, technical refutations that most people don’t understand anyway, they keep generating feel-good sound bites that get remembered. And our detailed refutations often omit the most devastating one of all, yet easiest to remember by nonscientists, which is that creationist sound bites regularly contradict other creationist sound bites.

  13. Frank J says: “… creationist sound bites regularly contradict other creationist sound bites.”

    Yes, but what makes this one special is that it contradicts itself. No matter. I regard them all as nonsense. It’s way too much work to pit one faction against another. Most of them don’t even understand the meaning of such disagreement. Each has The TRVTH. They don’t care what you say or what other factions say.

  14. This article is about to give me an idea. Here it comes. Any minute know. I can feel it coming. It’s just about here.

    Nope, it’s gone.

  15. Curmudgeon: “They don’t care what you say or what other factions say.”

    And that’s exactly the message that we need to spread to those who do care, but are unaware that they contradict each other, and often themselves too.

  16. techreseller

    Does anyone that reads this site on a regular basis (or The Panda’s Thumb) really think these ICR people really believe this stuff? Is it at all possible? How able do you have to be to ignore and discard such overwhelming evidence