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Fast fossils

Billions of well-preserved fossil fish clash with popular belief


For most people, the two words ‘fast fossils’ don’t seem to go together. Say ‘fossils’, and they think ‘slow and gradual processes; millions of years’. Unfortunately, even though many leading evolutionists are now conceding that catastrophic, rapid processes are needed to explain many fossils, the average person is still left with this deeply-ingrained belief.

If the fossil record did take millions of years to form, then the Bible is wrong about the history of the earth and life on it. Fossils show death; there are also many instances of disease (see T-rex with gout, e.g.), violence and bloodshed evidenced in the fossil record. So, if these existed millions of years before there were people, then the Bible is wrong when it indicates that these ‘bad’ things are part of the Curse on creation, which only came about because of the rebellion of the first man, Adam, against his Creator.

However, the Bible is the very Word of God, affirmed as absolutely true by the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. John 10:35). Thus, we can expect the evidence to be consistent with what the Bible teaches, regardless of how many people believe otherwise. According to the book of Genesis, there was a global catastrophe—a world flood which by implication was capable of burying billions of creatures rapidly in sedimentary layers.

So, reasoning from Scripture, we would expect that most fossils were formed by rapid processes. What does the evidence show?

The fish fossil shown here [Ed. note: Due to copyright restrictions, the photo in the print version of this article could not be reproduced in the web version. Please see Creation 19(4):24–25, September 1997.] is a wonderfully preserved specimen. Though not all are as beautifully preserved as this one, there are literally billions of fish fossils in rocks around the world, so well preserved that they still show details such as scales, fin structure, etc. In fact, most people would have seen such fossil fish at one time or another.1

What do these billions of well-preserved fossils fit—the common belief in slow and gradual processes, or the biblical implications of fast burial?

The easiest way to answer this is to imagine what happens to a fish when it dies. After (for most) floating on the surface while being attacked by various scavengers, what is left (if anything) sinks to the bottom. Here, rather than lying quietly for thousands of years being gradually covered up by slowly settling sediment, it will be attacked further by fish, crabs, and many other creatures.

Bacterial attack will also contribute to the process of disintegration. Even in a sterile, low oxygen environment, the flesh rapidly becomes soggy and falls apart,2 leaving no trace of the beautiful structures which the fossil illustrated, for example, shows. That is why, when snorkelling on the sea floor, one does not see thousands of dead fish resting quietly on the ocean bottom in part-way stages of fossilization!

To preserve such features, it is obvious that the creature needs to be buried quickly. Not just that, but the enclosing sediment needs to harden fairly quickly. If it stayed soft and unconsolidated for years, the fact that oxygen, moisture and bacteria could easily access the carcass means that one would very quickly have a disintegrated, stinking mess. To try to imitate how such features as scales and fins can possibly be preserved, the best experimental analogy would be to bury a fish rapidly in wet cement!

How would hordes of fish be buried during the Flood? The upheavals necessarily associated with a year-long global Flood would generate ideal conditions for rapid sedimentation. Today, for example, localized earthquakes can trigger large submarine avalanches (called ‘turbidity currents’) which have been clocked as carrying millions of tonnes of sediment at over 50 kph (30 mph) underwater.3

The silent testimony of the billions of well-preserved fossil fish around the world is, by the most obvious common sense, to rapid processes—rapid burial and rapid hardening (of the encasing sediment). Sadly, the mindset of our culture is such that most people miss the obvious, and continue to think ‘slow and gradual’ when they see fossils—even beautifully preserved ones like this.

References and notes

  1. Since marine creatures would be the most likely ones buried—land creatures would tend to disintegrate and rot—we would expect that most fossils would be marine. Marine fossils do indeed represent more than 95% of the fossil record (see J. Morris, The Young Earth, Master Books, p. 70, 1994). Return to text.
  2. This has been shown by experiment—see R. Zangerl and E. Richardson, The paleoecological history of two Pennsylvanian black shales, Fieldiana: Geology Memoirs 4, 1963. Return to text.
  3. F. Press and R. Siever, Earth (4th Edition), W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, p. 284, 1986. Return to text.

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