The geologic column depicted in many science textbooks and museums supposedly shows which life forms existed at any particular time in the history of our planet. Trilobites, for example, are thought to have lived during the Cambrian period and later became extinct. Dinosaurs walked the earth during what are called the Jurassic and Triassic periods and likewise later became extinct.
According to traditional scientific thinking, such creatures should not be found on earth today because the geologic column shows they fell victim to extinction many millions of years ago. However, several discoveries of "living fossils" have cast doubt on this long-accepted interpretation of the fossil record.
Perhaps the most stunning-and famous-of these living fossils is the coelacanth. Fossils of this unusual fish first appear in strata from the Devonian period, with an estimated age of 350 million years.
For years paleontologists thought the coelacanth became extinct about 70 million years ago, since they found no fossil remains of the fish in deposits formed later than the Cretaceous period.
At least they thought that was the case until December 1938, when a fishing trawler captured a living coelacanth off the eastern coast of South Africa. Scientists were stunned. After all, the discovery was akin to finding a living dinosaur in a remote patch of jungle!
Since that first shocking discovery, fishermen and scientists have taken more specimens, all near the Comoro Islands. Researchers were dismayed to find that the inhabitants of the islands had used coelacanths as food for years, drying and salting the rare fish's meat.
The discovery of living coelacanths proved to be a profound embarrassment for those trying to use evolution to interpret the geologic record. It was especially embarrassing for those who, based on fossilized specimens, had earlier proposed the coelacanth as a prime candidate for the kind of fish that would have first crawled out of the oceans to dwell on land. Yet the discovery of a fish that was supposed to have been extinct for millions of years, one that some paleontologists had hoped was a vital missing link in the supposed evolutionary chain, hasn't led many to question their assumptions regarding the supposed evolutionary timetable.
If coelacanths were the only creatures found alive that were supposed to have been long extinct, then we might accept their discovery as an oddity that proved little or nothing. But the list of such living fossils has grown considerably in recent years.
One such living fossil is a pine tree that, according to the traditional interpretation of the geologic column, was supposed to have been extinct for more than 100 million years. But that changed with a remarkable 1994 discovery:
"David Noble was out on a holiday hike when he stepped off the beaten path and into the prehistoric age. Venturing into an isolated grove in a rain forest preserve 125 miles from Sydney, the Parks and Wildlife Service officer suddenly found himself in a real-life 'Jurassic Park' standing amid trees thought to have disappeared 150 million years ago. 'The discovery is the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth,’ said Carrick Chambers, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. . .
"The biggest tree towers 180 feet with a 10 foot girth, indicating that it is at least 150 years old. The trees are covered in dense, waxy foliage and have a knobby bark that makes them look like they are coated with bubbly chocolate. ... Barbara Briggs, the botanic gardens' scientific director, hailed the find as one of Australia's most outstanding discoveries of the century, comparable to the living fossil finds of the dawn redwood tree in China in 1944 and the coelacanth fish off Madagascar in 1938 . . . The closest relatives of the Wollemi Pines died out in the Jurassic Period, 190 million to 135 million years ago, and the Cretaceous Period, 140 million to 65 million years ago" (Salt Lake City Tribune, Dec. 15, 1994, p. A 10).
Following is information about a few of these living fossils that either have not changed in time or were supposed to be extinct.
A find similar to the Australian discovery took place a half century earlier when the dawn redwood (species Metasequoia glyptostroboides) was discovered in China in 1941. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says of this tree:
"Discovered first as fossils in Miocene (23.7 to 5.3 million years ago) deposits, it was assumed to have become extinct until it was discovered growing in Szechwan province in China. Its distribution in the late Mesozoic and Tertiary (66.4 to 1.6 million years ago) was throughout the Northern Hemisphere" (Internet version, 2000, "Gymnosperm").
Another living fossil is the tuatara, a lizard like animal found only on several islands off the coast of New Zealand. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, this strange creature:
"has two pairs of well-developed limbs and a scaly crest down the neck and back. Unlike lizards, it has a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, which closes horizontally, and a pineal eye, an organ of doubtful, function between the two normal eyes. The tuatara also has a bony arch, low on the skull behind the eyes, that is formed by the presence of two large openings … in the region of the temple.
"It is this bony arch, which is not found in lizards, that has been cited as evidence that tuataras are survivors of the otherwise extinct order Rhynchocephalia and are not lizards. And indeed, tuataras differ little from the closely related form Homeosaurus, which lived 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Period" (Internet version, "Tuatara").
The Encyclopaedia Britannica adds that the tuatara is:
"a reptile that has shown little morphological evolution for nearly 200,000,000 years since the early Mesozoic"("Evolution").
Another example is a marine mollusk that goes by the scientific name Monoplacophoran.
"In 1952 several live monoplacophorans were dredged from a depth of 3,570 m (about 11,700 feet) off the coast of Costa Rica. Until then it was thought that they had become extinct 400,000,000 years ago" (Britannica, "Monoplacophoran").
By no means are these the only examples of living fossils. These are simply examples of animals and plants that, based on where they were found in the fossil record, scientists had assumed had died out millions of years ago. Other creatures, such as the nautilus, brachiopod, horseshoe crab and even the ubiquitous cockroach, are virtually unchanged from fossils paleontologists date to hundreds of millions of years ago.
These discoveries show that evolutionists cannot adequately explain the fossil record through evolutionary theory. Crucial facts are missing from the interpretations given to the general public.
Such discoveries bring up an important question. According to the traditional evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record, man appears late ("late" is defined as in the upper strata of the geologic column) while trilobites and dinosaurs, appearing lower in the geologic column, died out many millions of years ago. Yet the coelacanth obviously still alive and well-appears nowhere in the fossil record for the last 70 million years.
What does this tell us about the fossil record? Obviously that record is not as clear-cut as we have been led to believe. When it comes to human remains, and those of creatures evolutionists claim as distant ancestors of modern man, things get especially murky.
Fossil "men" have been discovered in strata in which nothing close to human is supposed to have existed. Other species thought to have been long-ago ancestors of the human race have been dated to quite recent years, much to the perplexity of scientists.
For example, remains of Homo erectus-supposedly an evolutionary ancestor of modern man that lived 1.6 to .4 million years ago-have been found in Australia that have been dated to only a few hundred to a few thousand years ago. Although according to the evolutionary timetable the species is said to have died out several hundred thousand years ago, the remains of at least 62 individuals have been dated as less than 12,000 years old (Marvin Lubenow, Bones of Contention, 1992, pp. 131-132,153,180).
Meanwhile, remains of anatomically modern humans have been dated to strata both well before and alongside fossil remains of creatures that were supposed evolutionary ancestors of modern humans (Lubenow, pp. 56-58, 139-140, 170-171).
Not surprisingly, these discoveries are rarely reported. Of course, such fossils are hotly disputed and for the most part dismissed by evolutionists. Nonetheless these unexpected finds show that the fossil record, far from supporting the traditional view of Darwinist evolution, in fact exposes many inconsistencies and contradictions within that view.
Although evolutionists are loath to admit it, the dating methods used to support their evolutionary construct spanning millions of years are themselves open to question. To illustrate the gravity of the problem:
"in 1984 Science reported that the shells of living snails in artesian springs in Nevada were carbon-dated as 27,000 years old" (James Perioff, Tornado in a Junkyard, 1999, p. 141).
Other dating methods have their problems too. Using the potassium-argon method, Hawaiian lava from an eruption two centuries ago was dated from 160 million to three billion years old. In New Zealand, lava dated 465,000 years old by one method contained wood dated at less than 1,000 years by another method (Milton, pp. 47-48). James Perloff notes that the lava dome of Mount St. Helens which erupted in 1980:
"has been radiometrically dated at 2.8 million years" (Perloff, p. 146).
Sir Solly Zuckerman, an anatomist at England's University of Birmingham, said about the scientific study of man's supposed fossil evolutionary history:
"... No scientist could logically dispute the proposition that man, without having been involved in any act of divine creation, evolved from some ape-like creature in a very short space of time--speaking in geological terms-without leaving any fossil traces of the steps of the transformation. As I have already implied, students of fossil primates have not been distinguished for caution when working within, the logical constraints of their subject. The record is so astonishing that it is legitimate to ask whether much science is yet to be found in this field at all. The story of the Piltdown Man hoax provides a pretty good answer" (Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Frontiers of Public and Private Science, 1970, p. 64, emphasis added).
The hoax to which he referred--involving parts of a human skull and an orangutan jaw chemically treated by a forger to give the appearance of great age-went undetected for 44 years from its 1912 discovery until 1956. During that time many of the world's greatest anthropologists accepted the fake fossil as a genuine human ancestor.
"The remains were acclaimed by anthropologists to be about 500,000 years old. . . Over 500 doctoral dissertations were performed on Piltdown Man... [but] further critical investigation revealed that the jawbone actually belonged to an ape that had died only fifty years previously. The teeth were filed down, and both teeth and bones were discolored with bichromate of potash to conceal their true identity. And so, Piltdown Man was built on deception which completely fooled all the 'experts' who promoted him with the utmost confidence" (Huse, p: 137).
In spite of much wishful thinking on the part of evolutionists, the fossil record does not part of evolutionists, the fossil record cannot be made to agree with Darwininsm. The question is, How does the fossil record agree with the accounts found in the Bible? This question, too, demand an answers. To see which is the best supported by the fossil record—creation or evolution-see our mini study entitled "What Does the Fossil Record Show?".