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Creation  Volume 33Issue 1 Cover

Creation 33(1):15
January 2011

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Living Fossils
by Dr Carl Werner

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Living Fossils - Teacher Manual
by Dr Carl Werner

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Living Fossils: the Shovelnose Ray
Left: A fossil Shovelnose Ray (Belemnobatis sismondae). Evolutionary ‘age’: 148 million years.
Right: A living ray (Rhinobatos productus) caught at Malibu, California, USA.

The sheer number of ‘living fossils’ provides amazing testimony to recent creation.

It is striking to see a well-preserved fossil specimen next to a living organism that is virtually identical, but with supposedly many millions of evolutionary years separating them. A picture (or two, in such cases) really is worth a thousand words.

Compare the living Shovelnose Ray on the right, with the fossil specimen, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, USA. The fossil comes from the famous (‘lithographic’) limestone in Solnhofen, Germany.1 The official ‘date’ is Jurassic (‘dinosaur-age’), 148 million years.

There is obviously ‘no evolution’ here. But the astonishing similarities also raise serious doubts about the huge timespan allegedly separating the two specimens. In a creationist scenario, based on real-world observations, mutations are occurring continually, and natural selection is a simple fact (though causing downhill, not uphill change2). To have creatures ‘staying the same’ to such a degree for even a few tens of thousands of years is highly unlikely. Consider the constantly changing pressures of the environment, including the dynamic and changing interplay between the organism, the food available to it, and its predators.3

Note that the evolutionists tacitly show that they are aware of this problem by giving the fossil creature a different scientific name from its living counterpart—even a different genus! To admit that two creatures supposedly 148 million years apart were the same species would, it seems, be too difficult.

Dr Carl Werner, who provided these photos, has put together a stunningly beautiful book on ‘living fossils’. The 274 full-colour pages feature an astonishing number of different living fossils, many of them original discoveries, with fascinating discussions. It’s a great conversation-starter for your living room, with powerful photographic evidence of things most people are completely unaware of.

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References and notes

  1. The famous Archaeopteryx fossil was discovered there. The limestone is very finegrained, which made it useful for printing, hence ‘lithographic’. Return to text.
  2. See Muddy Waters. Return to text.
  3. It would of course remain the same kind, even while its genome was degenerating (see genetic engineering pioneer Dr John Sanford’s classic Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome). The relentless forces of genetic entropy would ensure extinction in much less time than a million years, if such time were ever available. Return to text. reaches millions of people each year–many of these aren't believers in our Creator and Savior Jesus Christ. How will we keep reaching them without your support? Please consider a small gift today. Support this site

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Readers’ comments
P. H., United Kingdom, 20 August 2012

Why can an extant creature not be similar in appearance to one millions of years old? Have you not considered that the form is suited for its habitat, rendering any significant change a disadvantage. Between Belemnobatis' time and now there will always have been shallow marine water suitable for their existence. Their form is a product of their lineage and environmental pressures. Also, perhaps consider that just because you see similarities in form (although you could have used a closer living relative than R. productus to illustrate your point)does not make them the same species. There are clearly differences at a glance in terms of the shapes of the fins (Belemnobatis appears to have large pectoral fins overlapping pelvic fins; Rhinobatos does not), and you have not even considered skeletal changes such as jaw structure or number of fin radials. I could put up a picture of a human and a fossilised ape and at the level of analysis you provide here you would have to conclude they are the same species.

Don Batten responds

This objection was answered in Creation magazine 33(4), p. 42, in an article titled, Evolutionists can't dodge living fossils. Here is one paragraph from that article:

"In the evolutionary story, environmental change, or the development of new environmental niches, drives evolution as organisms adapt to new environments. So they argue that living fossils are the creatures whose environment did not change. However, in the evolutionary view Earth has sustained multiple global catastrophes (but not a global flood; the Bible speaks about that!) and multiple ice ages. How could there be any place on earth that has remained environmentally static, including no change in predators? And living fossils occur across the spectrum of life; and they are very common."

And they span the spectrum of evolutionary ages as well.

The differences in the fossil and living ray here are clearly quite small; just consider the variety of dogs there are, but all are the same species.

The point you make about the appearance of apes and humans is significant; high profile evolutionary paleoanthropologist Milford Wolpoff has proposed that Homo erectus should be classified as Homo sapiens, recognizing the phenotypic plasticity that exists in humankind (not that erectus is considered an ape by anyone today). However, with apes we know from DNA comparisons that chimps and humans are quite different (e.g. Y-chromosome comparison shows 30% difference); not at all possible to be considered the same genus or species, or that they could have evolved from a common ancestor, even in the supposed evolutionary time-frame of 6-8 million years.

It is somewhat difficult to make definitive comparisons between fossils and living things, but when the rays are just one example of thousands of 'living fossils', combined with the paucity of transitional fossils it provides a powerful case against the idea of wholesale change from microbes to mankind by natural processes (evolution). As Stephen Jay Gould recognized, stasis is big problem for evolution.

Scott M., United States, 26 March 2012

This article is ridiculous; especially considering that yesterday's featured article criticized evolutionists for not being scientific enough.

You say:

"To have creatures 'staying the same' to such a degree for even a few tens of thousands of years is highly unlikely. Consider the constantly changing pressures of the environment, including the dynamic and changing interplay between the organism, the food available to it, and its predators."

You claim to know how fast a creature will evolve given a certain set of pressures, and you claim to know it precisely enough to distinguish between less than 10,000 years (the proposed age of the Earth) as opposed to "a few tens of thousands of years."

Firstly, no metric is given whatsoever for these pressures (you only mention that they exist). You ask us to consider these pressures, but you make no mention of what they are specifically and give no evidence at all about them. Without precise input parameters, how could you possibly know how fast a creature will evolve?

Secondly, your metric for evolution is simply two pictures: one of a fossil and the other of a living organism. You don't even show us the skeleton of the living organism or what a fossil of the living organism might look like. We are force to compare an 'apple' to an 'orange,' and then we are supposed to look at the differences between the photographs and come up with a metric for the extent of evolution that has occurred within a factor of 10. This is beyond absurd.

In conclusion, you are claiming to be able to determine how long it would have taken a certain creature to evolve within an order of magnitude. In science, the precision of conclusions can only be drawn from similarly precise metrics and input data. Your metrics and data are not precise to the point of being essentially non-existent.

This article is of low quality for CMI standards. It does not even resemble science. While I have not studied the 'living fossil' argument in general, this article, per se, does not stand up to any sort of review. In fact, if you guys at CMI ever wonder why your creationism theory doesn’t get taken seriously, articles like this one are probably the answer.

Don Batten responds

The article probably seemed ridiculous to you because you seem to have missed the point of the article. You wrote:

"You claim to know how fast a creature will evolve given a certain set of pressures, and you claim to know it precisely enough to distinguish between less than 10,000 years (the proposed age of the Earth) as opposed to 'a few tens of thousands of years'."

I don't know where you got this idea from. The contrast would not be between a few tens of thousands of years and less than 10,000 years but between 148 million years and less than 10,000. We hardly need 'metrics' to make a qualitative comparison across 4 orders of magnitude in time scale.

This is just one of many 'living fossils' showing extreme stasis across many millions of years of evolutionary time. It makes for a powerful case against the evolutionary story of gross change over time (see: and the Further reading).

Choong L., United States, 26 March 2012

"Living fossils" by Dr. Carl Werner is such a beautiful piece of work! It is amazing that I have not exposed to this kind of information at all during 4 years of college with Biology major, and 4 years of dental school education!!

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