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March 6, 2014 / BTM

Does the Fossil Record Support Evolution?

fossilIt seems that proponents of evolution and those of an intelligent designer or creator both argue that the fossil record supports their claims on truth.  Proponents of evolution argue that the fossil record demonstrates transitional species.  Intelligent designers/creationists argue that it fails to do so.

This isn’t the first area of science where proponents of different positions use the same evidence but come to vastly different conclusions about it (recall the Rare Earth / Privileged Planet debate).  What are we to conclude?  Perhaps we just need to make up our own minds about the data.

In this post I’m going to provide some background information for parents on one more Fingerprint of God left in General Revelation for us to find.  It will be useful for the activity I’ll post on next.

1. Transitional fossils

For evolution to be true, we must find transitional fossils – fossils that illustrate the slow, gradual change of one species into another.  And we don’t just need a few, but we should be able to find millions of them, because millions of them would be necessary to establish clear transitions between species.  Surely this wouldn’t be hard to do, if they existed.

Understanding Evolution, a site created by the University of California Museum of Paleontology.  It provides some examples of transitional fossils, including a land mammal fossil named Pakicetus, which is said to be an early ancestor to modern whales “based on a number of specializations of the ear, relating to hearing.”  Since the Pakicetus’ nostrils are at the front of its skull and the gray whale (its alleged ancestor) has its nostrils placed at the top of its skull, the site says “It would appear from these two specimens that the position of the nostril has changed over time and thus we would expect to see intermediate forms.”  Enter Aetiocetus – assumed to be the transitional form because its nostril placement is “intermediate between the ancestral form Pakicetus and the modern gray whale.”

How complicated are these changes?

Have you ever considered how numerous the differences between a land mammal and a sea mammal are?  The changes necessary for a land mammal to become aquatic go far beyond mere appearances or the position of nostrils.  I know the evolutionists quoted above know that millions of other small changes must be simultaneously tracked and changed to demonstrate evolutionary change.  So, is Aetiocetus really adequate to demonstrate evolutionary change between Pakicetus and modern gray whales?

Darwin’s Tree of Life diagram which traces the alleged evolution of species from a common ancestor is supposedly based on species as diverse as lizards changing into birds, land mammals changing into sea creatures, fish evolving into land lizards, etc.  But the differences between these species are much more complicated than appearance.  Bird and reptiles, for instance, differ in their breeding systems, bone structure, lungs, distribution between weight and muscles, etc.  Modern day breeders know all about the ‘hard boundaries’ of breeding.  We can’t jump species boundaries.  We have never seen an example of one species evolving into another.  We see small-scale adaptation within a species, but not the large-scale changes necessary to cross species boundaries.

2. Common Ancestry

According to Understanding Evolution: “Evolutionary theory predicts that related organisms will share similarities that are derived from common ancestors.”  These similarities are called examples of homology – meaning these features have the same relation, relative position, or structure, but not necessarily the same function.  We see these in modern day species, as well as the fossil record.

A modern day example from Understanding Evolution:

Another example of homology is the forelimb of tetrapods (vertebrates with legs).

Homology of tetrapod forelimbs

Frogs, birds, rabbits and lizards all have different forelimbs, reflecting their different lifestyles.  But those different forelimbs all share the same set of bones – the humerus, the radius, and the ulna.   These are the same bones seen in fossils of the extinct transitional animal, Eusthenopteron, which demonstrates their common ancestry.

The problem with this line of evidence is that it does not exclusively demonstrate common ancestry.  It could equally demonstrate a common design by an Intelligent Designer.  Homologous features in the fossil record are not helpful for establishing the truth about evolution.

3. The Cambrian Explosion

Even in Darwin’s day, a geological phenomenon known as The Cambrian Explosion was being discussed.

From Understanding Evolution:

Around 530 million years ago, a wide variety of animals burst onto the evolutionary scene in an event known as the Cambrian explosion.  In perhaps as few as 10 million years, marine animals evolved most of the basic body forms that we observe in modern groups.

Before the so-called Cambrian Explosion, the fossil record contains a limited number of very simple organisms.  Then, over a very short geological time period, at least 20, and up to 40, of the world’s phyla (the highest category of the animal kingdom) suddenly appear in the fossil record completely developed.  These body plans remain distinct over time.  No new species develop, we only see some adaptive change among this burst of phyla forms.

Remember the significance of DNA to building new features within a species.  Where did the DNA come from to suddenly create all these fully developed and unique phyla?  The explosion defies Darwinian explanation, although Evolutionists have made some attempts to explain how evolution ‘sped up’ over this limited geological timeframe.  Darwin knew the significance of the Cambrian Explosion to his theory of evolution, but he felt that over time we would find the transitional fossils necessary to uphold his theory.  In the 150+ years since his death, we have not found transitional fossils which explain this explosion of phyla.  What we have found is more of the exact same fully formed phyla fossils in the Cambrian layer in different locations around the globe.

Conclusion

The challenges of the Cambrian explosion, the stark improbability of one species evolving into another, coupled with the lack of adequate and substantive transitionary fossils to illustrate these transitions all lean me toward concluding that the fossil record does not provide robust support for the theory of evolution.  Based on this evidence, I’m for a designer.

Try this child-friendly activity to teach this lesson to your children.

Photo credit: Microsoft

What do you think?

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