Darwin's Enigma
by Luther Sunderland  · ©1988  ·  PREV    NEXT


 
Chapter 3

The Fossil Record -- Non-life to Reptiles


Historical Geology

On January 6, 1981, a spokesman for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, then meeting in Toronto, made the following statement which was reported over CBS television and radio:
 

One hundred million fossils identified and dated in the world's museums constitute one hundred million facts that prove evolution beyond any doubt whatsoever....


That is the type of statement that evolutionary apologists commonly make when they are speaking to the general public. They make it sound like a closed case with all the facts already in and the decision pronounced by the judge and jury. The picture is entirely different, however, when one speaks to museum officials behind closed doors or when evolutionists speak to their fellow professionals. Let us look at this more candid picture given by leading natural history museum officials and by the scientific literature to see if the actual fossil record is consistent with such impressive sounding pronouncements.
 

Figure 2. The geologic column is a hypothetical arrangement 
of rocks originally formulated by Creationists. It purports to 
show a progression of organisms from simple to complex.

First, to understand many of the terms used in the interviews, it is necessary for the reader to have some knowledge of what is termed "historical geology." The foundational concept used in this field of study is the so-called "geologic column." This is a hypothetical layered arrangement of rocks supposedly representing vast periods of earth history. Figure 2 shows the general structure of the geologic column as it existed in 1983.

The rocks that contain significant fossil deposits are the most pertinent to a discussion on the origin of life. These are placed in the upper portion of the column and fall into three major divisions called "eras." The Paleozoic era stretches from the deepest rocks that contain indisputable multicelled organisms (Cambrian) through the fishes, amphibians, and reptiles. The Mesozoic era is the age of reptiles including dinosaurs and birds; Cenozoic era rocks contain fossils of mammals.

The geologic column was established before 1840 by men in England and Scotland when most of the world had not yet been explored geologically. It was based primarily on the observation of rocks in those two countries, some in the Paris basin, some in New York state, and some in Russia. Rock formations have never actually been found anywhere in the world in the complete arrangement shown in the column. Neither has there been even a significant portion of the column found in one place. The Grand Canyon has only about half of the Paleozoic deposits, but is missing the remainder of the fossil-bearing column. Formulators of the column based it upon the assumption that the fossils in successive layers of rocks should show a progression from simple to complex. Regardless of what has been found through the exploration of all continents since then, the basic column has not changed because of the philosophical bias of those who influence the scientific organizations and publications. It is virtually the only major concept in science that has not changed over and over in the past century.

In originally formulating the column its composers did not necessarily base it on the assumption of evolution, because at that time they apparently believed in creation. They just thought that God had created more and more complex organisms from time to time and they interpreted the Bible accordingly in support of this view. Later, some of the formulators of the column, like Charles Lyell, switched to full acceptance of the theory that all living organisms had evolved from a common ancestor. Now virtually all geologists have adopted a belief in evolution, so they insist that the hypothetical geologic column must maintain complete agreement with that interpretive framework regardless of the evidence.

Since 1840 there have been many rock formations discovered with fossils completely out of order according to the geologic column -- like Precambrian sitting on dinosaur-age Cretaceous -- but these have been either explained away or simply ignored. Regardless of these serious problems, the question of the validity of the geologic column will not be addressed here. Rather, the standard column will be used as the basis for discussing the fossil evidence since all natural history museums use it in the dating, classification, and study of fossils.

The important question to be addressed here is: What do the paleontologists say about the actual fossil evidences found in the rocks? Do the fossils reveal a gradual progressive continuum connecting all species to a common ancestor or do they show the abrupt appearance of the major different groups of organisms? That crucial question must be answered if we are going to shed light on the issue of origins.

Cambrian Explosion

The nature of the fossil record was beginning to become known by the mid-1800s, and Charles Darwin was acutely aware of the picture that was emerging. In The Origin of Species, he even candidly discussed the problems with the fossil evidence. For example, he wrote:
 

There is another and allied difficulty which is much more serious. I allude to the manner in which species belonging to the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks.1


He even acknowledged that some of those animals were almost unchanged in living species. So he recognized what others failed to admit until Niles Eldredge and Stephen Gould became famous for writing about it in the early 1970s: the sudden appearance of the major groups plus stasis, little or no change until extinction or the present. Darwin wrote:
 

The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species appear in certain formations has been urged by several paleontologists ... as a fatal objection to the belief of the transmutation of species. If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life at once, that fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution through natural selection. For the development by this means of a group of forms all of which are (according to the theory) descended from some one progenitor, must have been an extremely slow process; and the progenitors must have lived long before their modified descendants.2


What picture do the fossils give that would cause a man who committed his whole career to promoting common ancestry evolution to make such devastating admissions about his pet theory? Let us first look at the deepest layer of rocks that contains any significant fossil deposits.

Most of the museums classify the deepest rocks that contain fossils of multicelled organisms as Cambrian rocks. Dr. Preston Cloud, writing in Geology magazine in 1973 stated that not a single indisputable multicellular fossil had been found anywhere in the world in a rock supposedly older than Cambrian rocks.3 But in the Cambrian rocks is found a multitude of highly complex creatures with no ancestors. These rocks contain fossils of trilobites, brachiopods, corals, worms, pelecy-pods (clams), and soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish. As stated in a 1961 book, Prehistoric Life on Earth, "The invertebrate animal phyla are all represented in Cambrian deposits."4 It was then believed that vertebrates had not appeared until the Lower Ordovician, but in 1977 fully developed heterostracan vertebrate fish fossils were discovered in the Upper Cambrian of Wyoming. The discovery, reported in Science magazine, May 5, 1978, placed every major animal phylum (group) in the Cambrian rocks.5 This extremely significant information comes as quite a shock to most people for it is not discussed in school or in university textbooks. The museum officials, however, freely talked about the explosive appearance of complex life in the Cambrian rocks.

They explained that the sudden appearance of all animal phyla with no ancestors was called the "Cambrian Explosion." Dr. Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History said, "There is still a tremendous problem with the sudden diversification of multicellular life. There is no question about that. That's a real phenomenon." He said that it could not be explained away with the assertion that the ancestors of Cambrian life all had soft parts and thus left no fossils, and he was not going to give a scenario of why he thought that explosion took place.

Jellyfish, for example, have very soft parts and yet they left distinct fossils in the Cambrian rocks. Nor can the Cambrian explosion be explained away with the assumption that Precambrian rocks were all destroyed somehow by metamor-phism or erosion, for, as Dr. Eldredge said, "Certainly that has been refuted. I think the pattern is real. What we see there is not a function of the rotten record -- it's a real biological problem. It's just that I'm kinda loath to make up stories about it. We have a real problem with testability." Up to 5,000 feet of Precambrian rocks grade continuously into the Cambrian in places with no sign of a nonconformity (long intervening period of erosion).

Noted evolutionist Dr. George Gaylord Simpson has called the sudden appearance of many types of complex life forms in the Cambrian rocks the "major mystery of the history of life."6
 

He said that two-thirds of evolution was already over by the time we found the first fossils. Today some evolutionists are saying that 75 percent of the evolutionary process occurred before the first fossils were deposited.

T.N. George admitted the same when he stated, "Granted an evolutionary origin of the main groups of animals, and not an act of special creation, the absence of any record whatsoever of a single member of any of the phyla in the Precambrian rocks remains as inexplicable on orthodox grounds as it was to Darwin."7

Regarding the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary and whether any multicelled ancestors appear below it, Dr. Raup said, "Well, much depends upon how you define the boundary between the Precambrian and Cambrian. This has gone through several phases. There was a time when people were identifying as multicellular life a whole bunch of things which subsequently have been shown to be purely inorganic. For example, there is one classic case where ripple-marked sand which had been mud-cracked and the interference of these patterns produced some very strange worm-like things.... These things have been described as Precambrian metazoans (multicelled) several times but it was clearly shown a long time ago that they are not fossils. This kind of thing is a pseudofossil. . . . For a long time these were the only Precambrian fossils known, but one after the other they have been debunked."

Dr. Raup said that in the mid-fifties micro-fossils of algae were found along the north shore of Lake Superior. These were called "stromatolites" and were the first micro-fossils about which there was a consensus of agreement. Then in the late fifties, William Schoph did a thesis on bacteria in the Bitter Springs formation of Australia. Since that time the pseudofossils have been debunked and forgotten. Also, in the fifties, Glaessner described impressions of metazoan fossils in the "extremely late Precambrian rocks" called Ediacaran of Australia. Dr. Raup said that you could call them 600 million years old compared to 570 million for the start of the Cambrian. There is a consensus that these are the first multicelled fossils.

How did Dr. Raup explain the sudden so-called explosion of very complex life forms in the Cambrian? Are all major phyla including chordates, subphylum vertebrates, found in the Cambrian? He said, "In the Upper Cambrian perhaps. There is no question that the major invertebrate faunas came in with a rush." He explained this by saying that he had a "hunch" that "evolution is capable of moving at a colossal rate." In other words, today evolution is moving at such a slow rate that it cannot be observed, but in the past it moved at such a rapid rate that it left no evidences in the fossil record.

It was pointed out to Dr. Raup that Simpson had said that two-thirds of evolution was over by the time we found the first fossils. Creationists were saying that, to an open-minded person, this would indicate agreement between the creation model and what was found in Cambrian rocks. You have to make up stories to fill in the gaps. He replied, "Sure. It's a process of rationalization. No question about it."

What did Dr. Raup think about the standard textbook explanations for the Cambrian explosion -- that all the Precambrian rocks were metamorphosed or eroded away and therefore you do not find any ancestors of the complex life forms? He said that this was an old idea, called the Laplalian interval, that there was a hiatus in the record. "That won't wash. The record is complete enough in enough areas over that boundary that we can't use that anymore." Unfortunately, the people who write public school textbooks on earth science are not aware of this change in paradigm. The author of a widely used textbook for Regents Earth Science in New York State told the author in 1978 that he still used this outmoded explanation.

In 1982 Preston Cloud and Martin Glaessner wrote an article for Science magazine in which they described 26 species in 18 genera and 4 or more phyla of metazoans that had been found in the Ediacaran deposits.8 Whether these rocks should be classified as Cambrian or very late Precambrian is open to argument, but their classification is irrelevant. The important question is whether the organisms they contain had any candidate ancestors and whether they could have been the ancestors to the hard-bodied Cambrian creatures.

The February 1984 issue of Natural History magazine contains a long article by Dr. Gould on the Ediacaran formation in Australia. He contends in it that every animal in that formation shares a basic mode of organization quite distinct from the architecture of living groups as well as from the Cambrian creatures. He said that the Cambrian creatures represent the complete replacement of Ediacaran forms after a mass extinction, not simply an improvement, so the Ediacaran animals could not have been the ancestors of the Cambrian creatures since the former were ribbon-shaped and pancake-shaped soft-bodied animals, completely different than the latter hard-bodied forms. Dr. Gould wrote, "I regard the failure to find a clear 'vector of progress' in life's history as the most puzzling fact of the fossil record."9 It, of course, would be no puzzle at all if he had not decided before he examined the evidence that common-ancestry evolution was a fact, "like apples falling from the trees," and that we can only permit ourselves to discuss possible mechanisms to explain that assumed fact.

Dr. Patterson said that he knew of no fossils before the Ediacaran formation. "Of course there is argument about some of them, particularly the earliest ones, that these aren't fossils at all, that they are inorganic things. Perhaps it is correct that they are inorganic."

New Scientist magazine of October 15, 1981, reported that the rocks previously believed to contain the oldest evidence of life, the 3.8 billion-year-old Isua outcrop in Greenland, were found to contain only weathered crystals. The article said:
 

Further analysis of the world's oldest rocks has confirmed that microscope inclusions are not the fossilized remains of living cells; instead they are crystals of dolomite-type carbonates, rusted by water that has seeped into the rock.10


New York's state paleontologist, Dr. Donald Fisher, talked about the Precambrian rocks of New York. As to why there was a lack of Precambrian fossils he said, "The Precambrian are metamorphosed so the chances of finding fossils would be very remote."

He was asked about how he identified Cambrian rocks: "Then you date these rocks strictly by the fossils they contain? You don't have any radiometric dating for the paleo rocks?" He replied:
 

That's right for the Cambrian rocks. We do have radiometric dates for other rocks in the column but not in the Cambrian. All of our Cambrian rocks are sedimentary rocks. In adjacent Massachusetts and Vermont there are metamorphic Cambrian rocks, and there are also some very small igneous (lava) dikes of Cambrian age. Most of our diagnostic fossils for correlation purposes are trilobites.... In fact most of the Cambrian is zoned on the basis of trilobites. There are other fossils in the Cambrian rocks but they are not useful as yet for correlation purposes. We don't know enough about them. There are strange looking things in the Cambrian which don't have an affinity with the organisms living today. Many of the fossils in the Cambrian are phosphatic. This is a little puzzling because no other portion of the geologic time scale has as large portion of phosphatic fossils as the Cambrian does. Whether the shelly fossils had not yet developed their calcium carbonate shells at the time, we don't know.


Dr. Fisher explained that a phosphatic fossil is one that contains calcium phosphate shells rather than calcium carbonate. He explained the sequence in which the trilobites are found: "For example, in eastern New York, in Columbia County, we have the Germantown formation which is in part Cambrian and the other part Ordovician. We have a number of sequences of trilobites here and other fossils. We are not always that fortunate and have to do piecemeal stratigraphy so-called. We take a section from one area and dovetail it with a section from another area."

Dr. Fisher said that he could not explain why there were no soft-bodied creatures found fossilized in New York deposits although 4 of the 15 soft-bodied animal phyla were reported in the July 1979 issue of Scientific American magazine in the Burgess Shale Cambrian of Canada.11 He said, "We do have some a little higher up in the Ordovician that are thought to be jellyfish." Besides trilobites we have tubes of worms and, "We have no corals in the Cambrian and a few brachiopods. No crinoids. We have algae ... we do have stromatolites that look like fossil cabbages. We have fossil snails -- only the shells. We have no clams, bryozoans, or cephalopods in the Cambrian here."

Question: "All of the Precambrian here is metamorphosed, but in some other places doesn't the Precambrian grade continuously for 5,000 feet or more into the Cambrian?"

Dr. Fisher answered, "Right. In the southern Appalachians in particular, and one of the best examples is in Glacier Park. They have thousands of feet of sedimentary rock beneath the bottom trilobite zone. There are other places in Siberia where it goes down thousands of meters below the lowest trilobite zone into unmetamorphosed rock. So the placement of the base of the Cambrian is a real problem."

Does Dr. Fisher agree with Dr. Cloud's statement in the November 1973 Geology magazine that no multicelled creatures have been found fossilized in the Precambrian? Answer:
 

I don't know if I can agree or disagree. I don't care much where they put the base of the Cambrian. It is a very arbitrary placement. As long as a committee of experts decides once and for all where they are going to put it, fine. Right now there are many differences of opinion so if someone talks about the Cambrian we aren't sure if they are talking about the lowest trilobite zones or something else.


How deep below the surface does the Paleozoic extend in New York state? Dr. Fisher said, "The deepest well is the Olin well in western New York and that has gone down about 12,000 feet. They were pretty close to the bottom of the Paleozoic in the Potsdam sandstone. That was a dry hole."

Nature magazine reported in a January 6, 1983, article entitled "Numerical Dating of Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary:"
 

The Precambrian-Cambrian boundary is important because it is at the base of the Cambrian that the fossil record documents the first explosive event in the evolution of life. . . . There is no agreement yet concerning either a lithostratigraphical (stratotype) nor a biostratigraphical (biozonal) definition of the boundary.12


Several conferences were held during 1983 in an attempt to resolve the problem of establishing a consensus on how to identify the base of the Cambrian. For instance, the May 7, 1983, Science News magazine reported on a forthcoming meeting that month of a committee of the International Geological Correlation Project for "the naming of a 'golden spike' for the Cambrian-Precambrian boundary. ... On the fourth day discussion will be suspended as the scientists vote, establishing a reference point for all future studies of the Cambrian-Precambrian boundary. 'I don't think we're going to have an easy time,' says Allison Palmer of the Geological Society of America. 'We're all going to go away unhappy in varying degrees.' " The article proceeded to explain the problem:
 

Below the boundary there are almost no skeletal fossils, only traces where soft-bodied, multicel-lular animals, or metazoans, burrowed or left imprints in sediments as old as 650 million years or older.... With the appearance of preservable hard parts the Cambrian period and the familiar fossil record began. . . . Within a few tens of millions of years . . . nearly all major forms of life known today had appeared in the fossil record. This rampant proliferation of life forms is called the "Cambrian explosion."13

The article said that some sequences, such as in the Grand Canyon of Arizona and other places, "show an abrupt 'discontinuity' or change in the record of life.... Rock layers containing evidence of soft-bodied animals are missing, and it appears that shelly animals evolved with no obvious precursors."

The September 16, 1983, issue of New Scientist also frankly discussed the Cambrian explosion:
 

One feature of the fossil record that puzzled 19th century geologists was the rocks below a certain level seemed to be devoid of fossils of animal or plant remains. The lowest obviously fossil-bearing deposits, which the geologists first identified in Wales, they assigned to the Cambrian period . . . living things were well established by the beginning of the Cambrian.14


Referring to the 3.8 billion-year-old rocks in Greenland, the article said, "Geologists have found no conclusive evidence of life in these Greenland rocks."

Did the geology conferences of 1983 resolve the problem and succeed in driving the "golden spike" at the base of the Cambrian? Certainly not. There was just as much disagreement in January 1984 as there was a year before.

The conclusion one might draw from this confusing picture of how specialists identify the base of the Cambrian is that they use one or more of the following criteria:
 

1. The lowest fossil-bearing rocks in Cambria, Wales.

2. The lowest trilobite zone.

3. The lowest multicelled organisms.

4. The lowest hard-shelled organisms.

5. Where a committee votes to place it.

6. 570 to 650 million years ago.

7. The lowest obviously fossil-bearing deposits.


Although all of these have been used as criteria for identifying the base of Cambrian rocks, there is no consensus on any one of them. Criteria numbers three and seven cannot be used because, at one place or another in the world, rocks of every geologic period lay directly on basement rocks below which there are no fossils.

So there is no evidence whatsoever of how a single-celled organism might have converted into multicelled organisms. The metazoa just abruptly appear in the fossil record with every organ and structure complete. Some of the most complex structures are present in the Cambrian organisms, such as the eye of the squid, which is very similar to the human eye.

The squid eye, with its lens, pupil, and optic nerve, is obviously fully functional, and there is no evidence that a light-sensitive spot on the skin gradually generated these highly complicated and coordinated features. Also, the various trilobites found in the Cambrian already possessed very complex eyes. Evolutionists admit that trilobites would have had to evolve eyes separately about 30 or 40 different times since they had such distinctively different types of eyes.

Paley made much of the intricacy and perfection of the eye, and said that it could have no other interpretation than that it was not the product of chance. In fact, he began his book with this very point. Since Darwin was quite familiar with Paley's book, it is no wonder that he wrote that the eye turned him cold all over when he pondered its origin. He said:
 

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I confess, absurd in the highest degree.15


Certainly, Darwin knew that the eye could not have been the product of an accident -- especially not an explosion, Cambrian or otherwise.

So the picture has not really changed since the time of Charles Darwin except to become even more vivid in revealing a lack of evidence for ancestors to Cambrian life. The enigma is the same as Darwin candidly admitted in The Origin:
 
 

To the question why we do not find rich fossil-iferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer.16

Origin of First Living Cell
What is the evidence that a single living cell came into existence spontaneously from non-living chemicals? Most books and articles on evolution begin by conjecturing about the origin of the first ancestral living cell. They usually refer to experiments that any advanced chemistry student can perform in the laboratory to form the ingredients of life, that is, amino acids, from four gases. The now famous Miller-Orgel experiment in which methane, ammonia, water vapor, and hydrogen were circulated in a closed apparatus in the presence of an electrical spark simply produced a few weak amino acids when a trap was used to protect the products. Then Sidney Fox of the University of Miami heated pure amino acids at 175 degrees Centigrade for six to ten hours and formed globules that resembled drops of oil floating on water. He boasted that he had practically formed life in a test tube. Have these and similar experiments produced anything remotely resembling a living cell or even a significant amount of the necessary ingredients of a reproducing living cell?

In the first place, although the Miller experiment has been given great acclaim in textbooks and the establishment scientific community for over 30 years, recent discoveries about the atmospheres of other planets, coupled with the discovery of carbon dioxide and oxidized iron bands in Precambrian rocks have seriously challenged its basic assumptions. The Miller experiment simulated a reducing atmosphere with no free oxygen because the presence of free oxygen would have been highly destructive to the products of the experiment, thus preventing their formation. These recent discoveries have indicated that there was some free oxygen present in the early atmosphere, so evolutionists must come up with a new scenario for the spontaneous formation of life on earth.

Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of DNA, Francis Crick, recognized the problem of getting life to form spontaneously on earth if oxygen were present. When he wrote the book Life Itself in 1981, evidence for oxygen in the earliest Precambrian rocks was just beginning to be discussed. He wrote:
 

If it turns out that the early atmosphere was not reducing but contained a fair amount of oxygen, then the picture is more complicated.... If this were really true, it would support the idea of Directed Panspermia, because planets elsewhere in the universe may have had a more reducing atmosphere and thus have on them a more favorable prebiotic soup.17


Professor Carl Sagan agrees with this, for in a lengthy discussion following the author's lecture at Cornell University on April 24, 1984, he said:
 

If there were free oxygen in the early atmosphere of the Earth before the development of green plants, we would have a serious contradiction.


Dr. Sagan said that he was not aware of the evidences for oxygen there, however.

In commenting on the great improbability of the spontaneous generation of a reproducing system, Dr. Crick wrote:
 

What is so frustrating for our present purpose is that it seems almost impossible to give any numerical value to the probability of what seems a rather unlikely sequence of events. . . . An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle. . . . But if it turns out that it was rather unlikely, then we are compelled to consider whether it might have arisen in other places in the Universe where possibly, for one reason or another, conditions were more favorable.18

Dr. Crick's concept of Directed Panspermia is that the first living cell must have been transported by rocket ship on a 10,000-year voyage from some other planet outside our solar system.19 Because of his prestige, his acceptance of the Panspermia theory has caused great consternation in the establishment scientific community. This shatters the very foundation of arguments for the evolution of life on earth. If first life could not have evolved spontaneously on earth, then that definitely removes the question from the realm of science. We cannot even observe a single planet outside our solar system, much less examine evidence that life evolved there.

Some geochemists contend that the presence of carbon dioxide does not necessarily mean that the early atmosphere contained free oxygen, but there are many who feel that all of the evidences considered together provide strong justification for the conclusion.

As reported in New Scientist, May 13, 1982, "Astronomers and geophysicists now seem to be reaching agreement on their interpretation of the early atmosphere." This article also said that the gases released by volcanoes today are dominated by water vapor and carbon dioxide, and there is no reason to believe that the volatile products of earlier volcanic activity would have been substantially different. Since both Venus and Mars have atmospheres of carbon dioxide, why would the early earth likewise not have had an atmosphere containing carbon dioxide? The article said that this ridiculed the old idea of a reducing atmosphere:
 

It used to be widely thought, and widely taught, that the original "primitive" atmosphere of the early earth was a "reducing" atmosphere.... The reasoning behind this assumption developed primarily from the belief that such an atmosphere would be ideal, and might be essential, for the development of the complex non-living molecules that preceded life.... This picture captured the popular imagination, and the story of life emerging in the seas or pools of a planet swathed in an atmosphere of methane and ammonia soon became part of the scientific folklore that "every schoolchild knows."


Indeed, this is still taught in 1984 in most schools and universities. The article continued:
 

But now, this particular card house seems to have been demolished, and a new scientific edifice is arising in its place. In order to convince people that the earth started out with a reduced, not a reducing, atmosphere -- that is, one with oxygen already locked up in gases such as carbon dioxide, and which cannot take up more oxygen -- astronomers, geophysicists and, more recently, climatologists have had to explain how life could arise on a wet planet with a carbon-dioxide atmosphere laced with traces of ammonia. By such devious routes is scientific process made.20


As early as July 1980, New Scientist magazine printed anarticle on the subject:
 

Although biologists concerned with the origin of life often quote an early atmosphere consisting of reduced gases, this seems as much from ignorance of recent advances as from active opposition to them.. .. The time has come, it seems, to accept as the new orthodoxy the idea of early oxidized atmospheres on all three terrestrial planets, and the biological primers which still tell of life on earth starting out from a methane/ammonia atmosphere energized by electric storms and solar ultraviolet need to be rewritten.21


Gradually the scientific literature is grudgingly presenting articles that acknowledge the complete reversal on the consistency of the early atmosphere. The March 1982 issue of Geology magazine contained the following:
 

Geologic evidence often presented in favor of an early anoxic atmosphere is both contentious and ambiguous.... Recent biological and interplanetary studies seem to favor an early oxidized atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide and possibly containing free molecular oxygen. ... It is suggested that from the time of the earliest dated rocks at 3.7 b.y. ago, earth had an oxygenic atmosphere.22


The April 1984 issue of Scientific American reported on an international conference of the Precambrian Paleobiology Research Group that reviewed the latest thinking on the Precambrian atmosphere. Although it concluded that there was not a lot of oxygen present, the report said, "It was not, however, oxygen free; the bands [oxidized iron] represent a large sink for the reactive oxygen." It said that oxidized iron bands appear at about the same time as the first bacterial cells. Also, at about the same time that the first life appeared, carbon dioxide was present, perhaps even abundant.23 Actually, the report said that the earliest rusted iron bands were 3.8 billion years old and the oldest fossils of cells were 3.5 billion years old. So, according to this group of Precambrian specialists, there is evidence of free oxygen at least 300 million years before there were living cells.

According to John Gribbin, "All we have to do now is rewrite all those textbooks and ensure that 'every schoolchild knows' what the best theory of the evolution of the earth's atmosphere and the origins of life is today.24

Sir Fred Hoyle, famous British mathematician and astronomer who originated the steady-state theory of nucleogenesis (formation of the universe), published a book in 1981, Evolution from Space, in which he reversed himself on the origin of life. He and co-author Chandra Wickramasinghe stated that, although atheists all their lives, they had come to the conclusion that the high degree of order and specificity in the universe demanded pre-existing intelligence, even to the limit of God. They wrote:
 

Once we see, however, that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favorable properties of physics, on which life depends, are in every respect deliberate.... It is, therefore almost inevitable that our own measure of intelligence must reflect higher intelligences ... even to the limit of God.25


They had come to this conclusion because of their determination of the statistical improbabilities of a single cell originating in the primitive atmosphere in the assumed 4.6 billion years of earth's history. According to their calculations, the probability of life originating by random processes was one chance in 1040000. Explaining how evolutionists get around this insurmountable problem, they said:
 

The tactic is to argue that although the chance of arriving at the biochemical system of life as we know it is admitted to be utterly minuscule, there is in Nature such an enormous number of other chemical systems which could also support life that any old planet like the Earth would inevitably arrive sooner or later at one or another of them.

This argument is the veriest nonsense, and if it is to be imbibed at all it must be swallowed with a jorum of strong ale.26


Hoyle and Wickramasinghe call it "hand-waving" when evolutionists attempt to side-step the difficulties by arguing that the first enzymes in the first life were much shorter in their peptide lengths than they are today.

Darwin recognized that the arguments for the origin of life by chemical shuffling were weak when he wrote: "If (and oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes...."

Hoyle writes about this "big if: "As the enormity of the supposition was slowly revealed in the present century, there was an attempt to evade this difficulty through the invention of pseudo-science."27 The following excerpt from Nature magazine, November 12, 1981, reported more startling statements by Hoyle on this subject:
 

"The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." Of adherents of biological evolution, Hoyle said that he was at a loss to understand biologists' widespread compulsion to deny what seems to me to be obvious.28


What is so complicated about a single cell that would bring people who are philosophically committed to a mechanistic origin of life to take this position? Advancements in biology, such as the discovery of the genetic code by Watson and Crick, have shown beyond any doubt that the enormous information content of a single living cell is almost incomprehensible. As the Encyclopedia Britannica says, "The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 1012 bits." This is the amount of data estimated to be contained in the DNA molecule of E. coli, the bacteria in our intestines that help digest our food.

According to Carl Sagan, there are about a trillion letters in all of the books in the world's largest library.29 Not only is this an impossible amount of data to have originated by random shuffling process, but the primordial earth's atmosphere simply was not conducive to any imagined scenario for the spontaneous formation of the first living, reproducing cell.

It is interesting to note how prominent population geneticist and outspoken evolutionist Professor John Maynard Smith treated the origin of first life in his 1982 book Evolution Now, which was supposed to be a report on the latest research relating to validating evolution theory.30 Instead of producing an explanation of how life might have started from non-living chemicals, he began his speculations with an enzyme that has only been observed to come from a living cell. Of course, he thought that an enzyme might somehow form spontaneously from other chemicals, but he did not produce any mathematical calculations showing the probability of this occurring in 4.6 billion years. Fred Hoyle's calculations showed that this simply could not be expected to happen in even 20 billion years and, with oxygen present in the early atmosphere, it would have been an even greater impossibility.

Anyway, Stephen Jay Gould says that there would have been far less time than 4.6 billion years for this highly improbable event to have occurred: "We are left with very little time between the development of suitable conditions for life on the earth's surface and the origin of life.... Life apparently arose about as soon as the earth became cool enough to support it."31The latest speculation is that life was present less than one billion years after the formation of the earth.

Fred Hoyle wrote in the November 19, 1981, New Scientist that there are 2,000 complex enzymes required for a living organism but not a single one of these could have formed on earth by random, shuffling processes in even 20 billion years:
 

I don't know how long it is going to be before astronomers generally recognize that the combinatorial arrangement of not even one among the many thousands of biopolymers on which life depends could have been arrived at by natural processes here on the earth. Astronomers will have a little difficulty in understanding this because they will be assured by biologists that it is not so, the biologists having been assured in their turn by others that it is not so. The "others" are a group of persons who believe, quite openly, in mathematical miracles. They advocate the belief that tucked away in nature, outside of normal physics, there is a law which performs miracles (provided the miracles are in the aid of biology). This curious situation sits oddly on a profession that for long has been dedicated to coming up with logical explanations of biblical miracles.... It is quite otherwise, however, with the modern miracle workers, who are always to be found living in the twilight fringes of thermodynamics.32


It is one thing to talk in generalities about such matters, but still another to face the hard facts of the laws of probability. The reason that the origin of the first reproducing cell is such an important consideration when one evaluates theories of origins is that the supposed creative force called "natural selection" could not have played any part until there was reproduction. When all of the extraneous verbiage is removed, natural selection is nothing more than differential reproduction, that is, more offspring are produced than are required and only the better-suited survive to reproduce. There is no conceivable way that this so-called "creative process" could have operated until there was such a thing as reproduction. And meaningful reproduction is known to exist only in a living organism containing complex enzymes, DNA, and RNA. Evolutionists have searched diligently for a self-replicating molecule that has been generated purely from inanimate matter, but their efforts have been in vain. Experiments that use segments of RNA and enzymes as raw material are impertinent for they obviously could not demonstrate how a reproducing cell might have formed spontaneously without first having the products of living organisms.

It is often stated by evolutionists that with enough time, anything could happen regardless of how improbable it might be. Nobel prize winner George Wald has said, "Time is the hero of the plot. Given enough time anything can happen -- the impossible becomes probable, the improbable becomes certain."33 Prominent evolutionist Julian Huxley has stated that, given enough time, monkeys typing on typewriters could eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Such uninformed statements have a dramatic effect on the layman, and even persons who have the mathematical background to know better often fail to make the simple calculations that would reveal the ridiculousness of the conjecture. For example, if there were monkeys typing on typewriters covering every square foot of the earth's surface and each one typed at random at the fantastic rate of ten characters a second for 30 billion years, there would not be the slightest reasonable chance that a single one would type out a single specific five word sentence of 31 letters, spaces, and punctuation. (The actual probability is less than one chance in a trillion.) Yet Huxley was permitted to make the preposterous statement that monkeys could type out the complete works of Shakespeare, and no evolutionary scientist or mathematician who knew better raised a single objection.

Time definitely is not the hero of the plot. In reality, time destroys the assumptions of evolution theory -- even the 20 billion years assumed since the big bang. If a single five-word sentence could not be formed in more time than the earth has existed, it is even less conceivable that the data contained in the genes of a single cell could have formed by random processes, because the genes of the simplest single-celled organism contain more data than there are letters in all of the volumes of the world's largest library.

Dr. Eldredge denied having any opinion about how the DNA code for the first living cell could have happened by accident. He said, "I have no opinion about that."

Regardless of these seemingly insurmountable problems, evolutionists assume that a single cell spontaneously formed from non-living chemicals, and then it began to reproduce and make mistakes. They claim that with natural selection weeding out the bad reproductive mistakes and preserving the good, the process could have created the incredible amount of intelligence found in the biosphere.

Invertebrate to Vertebrate

What evidence is there in the fossil record of the origin of the subphylum vertebrata -- animals with a spinal cord and backbone? Since vertebrate fishes just abruptly appear in the Cambrian deposits of Wyoming with no ancestors leading up to them, evolutionists freely admit that there is no evidence of their evolutionary origin from invertebrates. When asked about the origin of vertebrate fishes Dr. Patterson, after a very long pause, stated, "Ten years ago I'd have been perfectly willing to tell you, but it so happens that I know someone who's been working on this problem for about 15 years -- the starfish end of it -- the echinoderms. He believes that this development can be traced from the Cambrian with the echinoderms. I could very easily refer you to his work and say that I agree with him that fish are related to echinoderms, but I do not think it is obvious." Most evolutionists admit that the gap between invertebrates with a hard ectoskeleton (outer shell) and vertebrates with a skeleton is the most obvious gap of all.

Did Dr. Raup accept the discovery in 1977 of heterostracan vertebrate fish in the Upper Cambrian of Wyoming as validated? He said that he was familiar with it and the people he talked with about it thought that it was "okay." As a matter of fact, that material had been in the Field Museum for awhile. Could he explain the origin of vertebrates, and what was his candidate transitional form between invertebrates and vertebrates? He said that he could not really say but that echinoderms, the group of which starfish are members, had been a likely candidate. But he said that this led back to the placing of question marks at the branch points. He said, "There is no direct documentation." No museum official offered any real fossil evidence that any one of the various invertebrates evolved into vertebrate fish.

Fish To Amphibian

Most scenarios on macroevolution say that the lobe-finned fish converted its fins into legs and feet, turning into an amphibian. As Carl Sagan said in his "Cosmos" television series, during a drought in the Devonian period a fish found it very convenient to have evolved feet and legs so it could walk over land when its swamp dried up.34 The crossopterygian lobe-finned fish was supposed to have evolved into the ichthyostegid amphibian about 250 million years ago. Is there any evidence of this transformation in the fossil record?

When asked by the author if he was comfortable about the story that the lobe-finned fish turned into an amphibian, Dr. Patterson evaded a direct reply with, "I'm working on it." To the question about whether he thought the crossopterygian was the ancestor of the ichthyostegid amphibian, Dr. Patterson answered, "I have questions about that.... It is futile to be looking for answers to questions which we have no way of answering."

Dr. Eldredge, when asked about the fish-to-amphibian transition said, "That I know nothing about." Dr. Raup said that he only knew what he read about that transition. At the time he was a paleontologist and chairman of the Geology Department at the Field Museum as well as curator of geology there so if there were any evidence of evolutionary transitions in the fossil record he should have had firsthand knowledge of them. Initially, he said that he thought "there are fish today that can walk." But Dr. Raup just chuckled when it was pointed out that an evolutionist had claimed during a debate that fossilized fish footprints had been found, and he had been forced to admit his error since fish had never been found with feet and legs.

When Dr. Raup was asked if he knew of any transitional forms at all, he just sat in silence. After a long pause the questioning was continued, "Transitions in the fossil record, that is? I don't mean slight variations in birds' beaks or coloration in moths. I think I could make a good case for connecting up some living species like dogs, wolves, jackals, and coyotes since they are all interfertile and produce fertile offspring. But, in the fossil record, do you see any transitions?" To this Dr. Raup sat for ten seconds and gave no answer. Later, after other questions he said, "There is a problem here that bothers me. I certainly agree with Patterson that the large question of the origin of a dozen to 20 big groups -- that it's very tough to determine the relationship of those."

When asked if he knew of any fish growing feet and legs, any transitional forms, Dr. Fisher replied, "Any transitional forms? I'm not a paleoichthyologist so I wouldn't want to comment on that." He was told that no one else who had been interviewed would comment either so he should not feel bad. Dr. Patterson was the only one who was a paleoichthyologist and qualified to analyze fish fossils, but the other museum officials were certainly capable of reporting what their museums had on display and what other specialists had to offer as examples of intermediate forms. None of the museum officials could produce any fossil evidence of an intermediate ancestor connecting the amphibians with fishes.

Dr. Fisher was asked if he thought the fossil fish found in Upper Cambrian rocks of Wyoming, as reported in the May 5, 1978, Science magazine, were actually heterostracan vertebrate fish. He replied, "Yes. I happen to know the fellow who discovered it. He is John Repetski of the U.S. Geological Survey." Were they really vertebrates? He said, "I don't believe Mr. Repetski would have reported them as fish if they weren't.... When you analyze the reports of some of these things, you have to know the person who is making the report. If he is a competent, reliable person that isn't looking for publicity, that means a great deal."

Amphibian to Reptile

Is the picture any different regarding the first appearance of reptiles in the fossil record? When Dr. Eldredge was asked about the supposed amphibian-to-reptile transition he replied that some taxonomists say that there is no such thing as a reptile. Dr. Eldredge continued, "And in respect to amphibians, some biologists say there is no such thing as an amphibian, either." Thus, a frog is not an amphibian but either a fish or reptile. He said, "Well, the reptiles are not a natural group because some are more closely related to birds and some are more closely related to mammals." That is all he had to offer. So he sidestepped the question by suggesting in the third person that there was no such thing as a reptile. In other words, according to this contention, the reptiles such as alligators, snakes, turtles, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Brontosaurus should all be called birds or mammals. It is highly unlikely that a prominent scientist such as Dr. Eldredge would make such meaningless statements if there were any actual fossils connecting amphibians with reptiles.

Neither Dr. Patterson nor Dr. Raup could offer a single transitional form between any of the major groups of animals. They did not comment specifically about the origin of reptiles.

Dr. Fisher answered the question of the appearance of reptiles: "Reptiles are in the Carboniferous."

Question: About the same time as amphibians?

Fisher: The amphibians are a bit older. Amphibians from Greenland are in the Devonian.

Question: Reptiles are there. Now, what we are looking for is any indication of ancestry. We do find nests of fossilized hard-shelled dinosaur eggs. Right?

Fisher: Now there are some forms that the vertebrate paleontologists have a hard time in classifying as amphibians or reptiles. Some of these are in Romer's book (Vertebrate Paleontology).35

Question: Yes, it has been pointed out that there is a difficulty in classifying certain skeletons. However, when you look at the egg of a frog or salamander and compare it with the hard-shelled amniote egg of a reptile, you can see a revolution in structure. There is no question about the classification there.

Fisher: Yes.

Reply: When you look at the egg, to postulate a transition there stretches the imagination pretty far. The hard-shelled amniote egg is totally different from the soft egg of amphibians. The story in the textbooks that we teach the school students (I have to keep referring to this because a lot of misinformation has been given out and we are trying to correct that) is that during the Devonian, a drought came along and some inland fish had to walk over land to get to water. Over a period of 50 million years or so they grew feet and legs and then later a hard shell for their eggs. Now that sounds kind of farfetched when you spell it out, but is that what the textbooks say really happened?

Fisher: Yes.

Reply: We don't want to put that in (science textbooks) if it's just imagination.

Fisher: Yes. As you say, the textbooks fail to distinguish whether you are talking about this change taking place in an individual or is it taking place over thousands of years in several generations.

Reply: No. I wouldn't fault them that way. No, I think the word that has gone out is that individuals don't evolve, populations evolve. That is clear. But let's face it, for a population to evolve, it too must contain some in-between forms. They can't just jump, at least not according to Simpson. Now, as you know, Drs. Gould and Eldredge (and before them in 1940, Dr. Goldschmidt) say that there are no in-between forms since we don't find them. It's not because of the record, it's not because of preservation problems, it's because there weren't any.

Fisher: Do they really say this?

Reply: Dr. Gould wrote in the June-July 1977 Natural History magazine, "The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change."36 Of course, the idea that a reptile laid an egg and a bird was hatched from the egg was not science, as you well know.

Dr. Fisher answered, "Yes."

As will be shown later, Dr. Gould has made many public statements that are even more explicit about the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record.
 
 
 

Start of: "Darwin's Enigma"
PREV
NEXT
www.creationism.org