Creationism and the Fossil Record, Part 2

Our first post with this title was nine months ago: Creationism and the Fossil Record. That was about a truly incoherent article from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).

Today we present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from a far more interesting article at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom. It’s titled Order in the Fossil Record. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Some biblical creationists believe that the fossil record, as depicted in geologic column diagrams, does not represent reality.

This assessment is usually based on the unfortunate claim that the geologic column is only theoretical, having been constructed by matching up rock layers from different areas of the world that contain similar fossils. They also believe that the layers were arranged based on an assumed evolutionary order of fossils, so they conclude that the whole concept of the geologic column and the order of rock layers must be totally rejected.

To the contrary, we can walk across various regions of the earth and observe that the rock layers and the fossils contained therein generally match what is depicted in the widely accepted geologic column diagrams.

We couldn’t believe that an AIG article would begin like that. But fear not. They eventually bring it around to their expected young-earth creationist viewpoint. The next several paragraphs discuss the geology of the Grand Canyon, and AIG insists — contrary to what many creationists claim — that the geologic column is very real. After shocking their readers with that, they shock them some more by saying:

Now that the physical reality of this local rock column has been established, we must conclude that the fossils contained in these rock layers are also a valid record of the order that creatures were progressively buried within each successive sedimentary layer.

Amazing, right? But just before they start to go off the tracks they give a list of the fossil types found in each rock layer, starting with the simplest creatures, progressing up through marine invertebrates, fish, then the land vertebrates — with the reptiles appearing before the mammals. Then they announce:

A careful examination of this list reveals the order in which creatures were buried by the Flood.

The Flood? How do they arrive at that conclusion? Let’s read on:

This is consistent with the ocean waters rising and washing across the continents during the Flood, carrying these marine creatures with the sediments in which they were buried.

[…]

Remember, this is a burial during the Flood. As the Flood waters inundated the continents, the shallow marine invertebrates were first swept from the pre-Flood ocean floors and buried on the continents in rapid succession. After the waters rose over the continents, they progressively encountered different ecological zones at different elevations, which were inundated in rapid succession.

[…]

In other words, as the Flood waters rose, they would tend to bury organisms in the order that they were encountered, so the major groups should appear in the fossil record according to where they lived, and not when they lived.

This is the “burial according to rising water” scenario. Very clever! Except that a global flood occurring in only 40 days — which also caused the continents to go flying around (see Noah’s Flood and Plate Tectonics) — would be unlikely to preserve such a tidy “rising water” pattern. Anyway, we continue:

You can also see [in the fossil record] another interesting pattern that confirms what we would expect from a global Flood. You would expect many larger animals to survive the Flood waters initially, leaving their tracks in the accumulating sediment layers as they tried to escape the rising waters. But eventually they would become exhausted, die, and get buried.

Ah yes, the “burial according to escape efforts” scenario. That’s good, but we like our own spoof of a creationist explanation better. It goes like this: Creatures died and were buried in the Flood according to their sinfulness — the simplest creatures dying first, with minimal suffering, and the more complex creatures dying last, to prolong their agony — thus their appearance higher in the geological strata. Sure, our “burial according to sinfulness” theory is crazy, but it fits in quite well with the reason for the Flood — punishment for sin. A creationist should always strive for scriptural consistency.

Anyway, here’s how AIG ends their article:

So the geologic column and the fossils’ order and patterns agree with the biblical framework of earth history. The observable evidence in God’s world totally agrees with what we read in God’s Word.

That’s the deal. Now go and sin no more.

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

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25 responses to “Creationism and the Fossil Record, Part 2

  1. As the Flood waters inundated the continents, the shallow marine invertebrates were first swept from the pre-Flood ocean floors and buried on the continents in rapid succession.

    Which is why rays, flounders, lionfish, and clown fishes are all mixed up with Cambrian fossils.

    No?

    They can’t all be that dumb, really. Some of them must recognize that many modern shallow marine invertebrates and vertebrates do not show up in the early metazoan fossil record, and also that more modern assemblages are found relatively intact without trilobites and with more recent invertebrates and vertebrates. They just know that many of their audience don’t know these things, and won’t learn otherwise from more honest sources.

    Oh well, another creationist prediction (although not one they’d dare to articulate) shot down by the simplest of thought experiments.

  2. Any explanation of how the order of the fossil record arose must violate the creationist “second law of thermodynamics”. Either that, or else it must be “because that’s the way it was designed” (that is, that God deliberately made it look that way).

  3. It’s particularly important to note how coastal flowering plants and grasses outran the velociraptors as The Fludd advanced.

    The lesson is that, if you are attacked by a velociraptor, get on a daisy and FLEE for your life!

  4. TomS: “Any explanation of how the order of the fossil record arose must violate the creationist ‘second law of thermodynamics’. ”

    As Ronald Reagan would say, “There you go again.” Exposing more things that anti-evolution activists try to have both ways, that is.

  5. The article has this rather amazing statement also:

    The conventional explanation of the fossil order is progressive evolutionary changes over long periods of time. But this explanation runs into a huge challenge. Evolution predicts that new groups of creatures would have arisen in a specific order. But if you compare the order that these creatures first appear in the actual fossil record, as opposed to their theoretical first appearance in the predictions, then over 95% of the fossil record’s “order” can best be described as random.

    A foot note refers to an article by Kurt Wise in a 1991 journal. I cannot believe Wise claims that 95% of the fossil record is random. I think AIG has quote mined a creationist, although I haven’t seen the original article. I have read, however, that Wise concedes that there are many transitional fossils, and that the fossil order supports evolution – he just believes that the record can also support creation.

    As others have pointed out, AIG needs to explain why specific fossils of plants, marine and land animals are associated together in particular layers everywhere in the world. Especially fish, which one would expect to be randomly distributed in a flood, but are very specifically sorted into layers. And, why there are no exceptions – we haven’t found a single slow running mammal in those lowest flood deposits, for example.

  6. Ed says:

    And, why there are no exceptions – we haven’t found a single slow running mammal in those lowest flood deposits, for example.

    Those bunny rabbits were much too swift to be fossilized in the Precambrian layers. And all the sinful humans in Noah’s day — those sinners could run like the wind! It’s very understandable that they got fossilized last.

  7. You would expect many larger animals to survive the Flood waters initially, leaving their tracks in the accumulating sediment layers as they tried to escape the rising waters…

    The first chapter of Neal Shubin’s Your Inner Fish talks about how simply thinking about the presence of tracks in the geologic layers contributed to his conversion from YECer to nonfundie. Tracks must be baked into mud. Tracks in different layers means a flood for each layer with dry baking in between.

  8. That’s a good point about baking tracks into mud. Besides the point of multiple floods being required for tracks at different levels, the same process means that no track made by animals fleeing the genesis flood would survive under the column of flood water they were fleeing from. Any tracks buried under flood sediments must therefore predate the flood and be unrelated to the flood itself. Creationists can’t have it both ways – if they claim a layer of sediment to be from the flood, they cannot explain tracks contained within that layer. Such tracks would be impossible.

  9. Glen: Which is why rays, flounders, lionfish, and clown fishes are all mixed up with Cambrian fossils.

    No?

    Not to mention ants, termites, moles, prarie dogs, groundhogs, fox, and all the other critters that live underground. Their fossils should show up below the lowest flood layer.

    They can’t all be that dumb, really.

    I think ‘willful ignorance’ captures it. Its not that they would be incapable of seeing the errors, its that they choose not to do such thought experiments.

    To be fair to the fundies, lots of people do the same thing for different parts of their lives. How many Americans, do you think, choose not to think about how much they need to save for retirement? Don’t they know how to use a calculator? Well, most of them do know how. They just choose not to.

  10. Hey Guys,
    Great website, stumbled on it while looking for the Texas Board of education 2010 election results, and loved the content. I was wondering if somebody could comment on something that I have been thinking about for a few days now. First a little background

    I have been watching news programs that are stating that there have been some fundamental shifts in how competitive the world has become and many countries that were ill equipped to compete with the US previously have now started to catch on and are giving Americans a real run for their money and hence several jobs that paid well in the US and required only a high school education are under attack. Basically the double whammy of Globalization and Technology efficiencies is squeezing the Americans with poor skills. The thought is that if Americans continued to excel in Science and math and remained innovative we would found new industries while the older ones migrated to the other countries and keep our high standard of living, provided of course that Americans excel in science and math.

    Now here is my question. Please don’t make a judgment on the morality of this question. I am thinking natural selection here in some ways. Wouldn’t it be better for those of us who believe in Evolution and embrace science and math to let the young-earthers, creationists and others continue to think the way they do? If the above hypothesis (globally competitive world) is true, our kids who are taught the right science will embrace and excel in science and math and be better prepared to attend good colleges and win the race for the higher paying jobs. That will increase their standard of living and make them richer while the parents who fear science as destroying their faith will actively indoctrinate their kids and this will make them unsuited to pursue careers in science, engineering, medicine, material sciences etc all the ones that will pay well. Why would I want everybody to be educated and as competitive as my family purely from the Darwinian perspective? Shouldn’t I be happy that these whackos exist. Even if they run my school board, my kids will still get a good dose of science at home. I know that it is not as good for the country as a whole, but purely from an individual citizen’s perspective, I think even if only 10-15% believed in evolution, there is enough critical mass to run the country and have a skilled workforce. What do you guys think?

  11. No… won’t work. These idiots run for office and get elected. Then they cut science funding. Everybody loses.

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    global flood occurring in only 40 days

    Not that it helps the scientific case much, but “40 days” is an idiom for “an undetermined long time”. The Flood seems to have gone on for about two years, from start to finish.

    It’s particularly important to note how coastal flowering plants and grasses outran the velociraptors as The Fludd advanced.

    Amadan wins.

    @GPL: That will increase their standard of living and make them richer while the parents who fear science as destroying their faith will actively indoctrinate their kids and this will make them unsuited to pursue careers in science, engineering, medicine, material sciences etc all the ones that will pay well.

    The problem is in your premises.

    First, engineers are overly represented among creationists; math isn’t much affected by a literal interpretation of the Bible (except maybe for the verses where pi is implied to be 3). Likewise, circuits don’t care if you think the Earth is 6000 years old or not. Holding one stupid or crazy idea doesn’t make a person generally insane or stupid–if it did who would be immune?

    Second, smartness doesn’t necessarily translate into economic success–in America generally A student work for C students. The richest professors I know make about $300 K. But there is nowhere they can go from there, and the typical professor salary at my university is more like $60 K. The richest person I know (an immigrant who came to this country with two suitcases and is now worth millions) makes eyeglass frames, and while she is certainly quite bright and has a master’s (I think in chemistry) she’s not using any of THAT skill set. And how smart do you think most of the actors and musicians and athletes and models are?

    Thirdly, the fundmentalists are having more kids than other people–if they keep it up, they’ll prove themselves to be the most fit, Darwinistically speaking. Just like Idiocracy.

    Unlike LRA I’m not so worried about it. I draw the line at taxpayer supported teaching of religiously moticated false science. People want to homeschool or sent their kids to Christian schools, it’s still a free country no matter how much the people in San Francisco would like it not to be.

    As for science funding, I am very skeptical that there has EVER been a “cut” in science funding, if by “cut” you mean less money appropriated in one year than in the previous. Every time the American Physical Society has complained about “cuts” in the years in which I’ve been a member, it means they didn’t get as big an increase as they thought they should. And this is how Congress works–the budget is never built from zero, but from “current services baseline”, which is last year’s budget plus extra for population growth, inflation, mandatory civil service raises, and lagniappe.

  13. All human ideas about humankind and the world are based for the most part on ego, arrogance, and ignorance. The jesus freax and the cult of the crucified jew , with their singular book and entrenched hatred of learning are just slightly worse than they who make a business and livelihood out of teaching for money…almost as bad as they who would make judgement on what they think is science, but cannot be, until things like interplanetary evidences are considered without blinders, or even good archaeology to the depth of 100 meters. You teach privilege and thats ALL you teach. Stop patting yourselves on the back, stop making judgments; if you are so good, then open your eyes and escape the prison you have been taught to live in. Ideas change daily and you call this learning, but the ideas are very rarely correct, and it is all quite embarrassing. We have been through this so many times now, its getting very very old. Things like this planet don’t just happen. Look at the machine which you are. Systems like this are ENGINEERED. Duh.

  14. I don’t know about science cuts Gabe, but I saw true cuts in education during the Bush admin when starting the war in Iraq. We felt it in eliminations on several things at the public school, like ESL, arts, and other things. The budget was truly reduced.

    I know this is not the same as creationists taking power … well, whatever.

  15. Goodbye, Bill Gallagher.

  16. make judgement on what they think is science, but cannot be, until things like interplanetary evidences are considered without blinders, or even good archaeology to the depth of 100 meters.

    Look at the machine which you are. Systems like this are ENGINEERED. Duh.

    Duh indeed. Not only do you completely lack the evidence we have, you’re completely hypocritical.

    Don’t worry, hypocrisy and lack of evidence won’t hurt you at all among your ignorant kind.

  17. Did or did not George Bush CUT funding for stem cell research? And did or did not said cut cause said research to come to a halt? That’s my point.

  18. Gabriel Hanna

    @gabo: I saw true cuts in education during the Bush admin when starting the war in Iraq. We felt it in eliminations on several things at the public school, like ESL, arts, and other things. The budget was truly reduced.

    Federal funding is not the only source of public school funding, there’s the state and the levies in districts. It’s another tactic–the government always needs more money or we’ll have to get rid of cops and firemen and throw old people in the snow. (Did football get cut, btw? I have no idea why the Federal government needs to fund education of children, or fix potholes, or do anything that cannot be done transparently and efficiently at the local level.) Wasn’t there a school levy to address the budget shortfall? If there was a levy and the levy failed to pass, then I don’t see why losing some Federal money forced your school to shut down ESL, seems like the fault lies closer to home.

    What never seems to get cut are things like, a close friend of mine who got two years of college paid for because he is an alcoholic, thus counts as “disabled” and so is eligible for vocational rehabilitation funds for the disabled. Most of us, when we think about job training for the disabled, are thinking of the blind or deaf or paralyzed, but the actual definition is far broader than you might imagine.

    Now the decision to subsidize two more years of my friend’s college education was undertaken by my state government–but they get Federal money (8.8 million last year from ARRA, the stimulus bill). I was close to someone, now deceased, a drug addict for most of her short life, and the state and Federal government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars treating and educating and feeding and clothing her and her children. The government can find money for lots of things, if it wants to.

    But for education, as a nation we continually spend more and more per pupil and I fail to see any significant improvement for that money. For example, Jerry Pournelle points out that The Federalist was a series of letters to the editor, published in newspapers, intended to persuade the general population of the states to adopt the Constitution. I’d always heard that newpapers are written to the tenth-grade level or some such. But I bet you will find very few college sophomores today who can read and understand The Federalist.

    When I was teaching I found very few college freshmen and sophomores who could follow even algebra very well–they couldn’t have been admitted to WSU without two years of algebra courses in high school–and I was teaching honors! (It is very common for college freshman to try to “solve” an equation by having x = some expression with x in it. I’ve had students ask if it matters which x you solve for!)

    I had a college freshman who could not answer a question because she didn’t know what a “satellite” is. She knew it had something to do with cable, but she had through 12 years of school without grasping the concept that a satellite is a doohickey that orbits the earth.

    The US, according to OECD in 2006, led every OECD country in money spent on education, both in absolute numbers and in proportion. And yet we rank below most of them in primary and secondary educational achievement. What is more money accomplishing?

  19. Gabriel Hanna

    From the 2006 OECD report:

    In the United States, spending on primary and secondary education increased by 37% while enrolments rose by 7%, resulting in a spending increase per student of 28% between 1995 and 2003…. Despite above average spending per primary-level student, the United States has, with 23 students per class, class sizes that are above the OECD average of 21…Among OECD countries, the level of provision of computers in schools attended by 15-year-olds is highest in the United States. Based on school principal reports in PISA 2003, there are on average one computer for nearly 3 students, a figure that is higher than in any other OECD country and around half the OECD average of around one computer per 6 students.

    Click to access 37392850.pdf

  20. Gabriel Hanna

    Did or did not George Bush CUT funding for stem cell research? And did or did not said cut cause said research to come to a halt? That’s my point.

    No, he didn’t cut funding for all stem cell research and that research did not come to a halt.

    President Bush announced, on August 9, 2001 that federal funds, for the first time, would be made available for hESC research on currently existing embryonic stem cell lines. President Bush authorized research on existing human embryonic stem cell lines, not on human embryos under a specific, unrealistic timeline in which the stem cell lines must have been developed. However, the Bush Administration chose not to permit taxpayer funding for research on hESC cell lines not currently in existence, thus limiting federal funding to research in which “the life-and-death decision has already been made”. The Bush Administration’s guidelines differ from the Clinton Administration guidelines which did not distinguish between currently existing and not-yet-existing hESC. Both the Bush and Clinton guidelines agree that the federal government should not fund hESC research that directly destroys embryos.

    Neither Congress nor any administration has ever prohibited private funding of embryonic research. Public and private funding of research on adult and cord blood stem cells is unrestricted.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_cell_controversy

  21. Did or did not George Bush CUT funding for stem cell research?

    Possibly so. You can find other programs that were cut. And then you find newly funded programs and programs that had their funding increased. Same with every other 4 year slice you take, regardless of who’s in the White House. Or even year to year, with the same person in the White House. The question is, was spending on *science* increased or decreased? And the answer is… increased. As it was under Clinton. And Bush I. And Reagan.

    Now, in my view (as a scientist who has been and is currently funded by Federal programs), the Federal government ought to zero out its spending on science. And art. And anything else for which it’s not constitutionally granted the power to confiscate people’s property involuntarily and transfer it to others. I know, that means I’m against science and art despite being a scientist married to an artist. 😉

  22. Gabriel Hanna

    @LRA:Did or did not George Bush CUT funding for stem cell research?

    Did not.

    And did or did not said cut cause said research to come to a halt? That’s my point.

    Did not.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_cell_laws_and_policy_in_the_United_States

  23. Gabriel Hanna

    2001–2006 – U.S. President George W. Bush signs an executive order which restricts federally-funded stem cell research on embryonic stem cells to the already derived cell lines. He supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on the already existing lines of approximately $100 million and $250 million for research on adult and animal stem cells.

    2 November 2004 – California voters approve Proposition 71, which provides $3 billion in state funds over ten years to human embryonic stem cell research.

  24. Gabe, I have no idea why so many of your comments ended up in the meat grinder last night, but I restored them all, and then I deleted the duplicates. I think we’re okay now.

  25. Sorry to come late to this article Curmy, and understand if noone else answers this. I was having trouble understanding what AIG is trying to say about the geologic column/stratigraphic column. I really can’t quite understand it because, I think, as aluded to by someone a day or 2 ago, this is so far from how I understand geology works (I am a geo….) my mind can’t comprehend the stupidity of their concepts….

    Anyway, 2 questions for these genius’s:
    1. Are they saying that fossils are only deposited in the littoral zone, i.e. shallow water, which obviously moved upwards as the Fluud proceeded?
    2. How do they explain unconformities, i.e. missing zones of geologic record, if the innundation moved upwards gradually???

    Sorry if my questions are hard to understand. It’s a bit hard to ask them without a diagram!!