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Gilding the (sea) lily—Evolutionists’ absurd defense of their long-age story as Mississippian crinoids yield organic molecules

For a hundred years, this evidence of rapid burial in recent history has been right under evolutionists’ noses—yet even now they still claim these crinoid fossils are 350 million years old

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/oldbiomarkers.htm crinoids


Published: 19 March 2013 (GMT+10)

The photograph at right appeared in an Ohio State University press release, with the following caption:

“Different species of the sea animals known as crinoids display different colors in these 350-million-year-old fossils. Ohio State University researchers have found organic compounds sealed within the pores of these fossilized animals’ skeletons. Photo by William Ausich, courtesy of Ohio State University.”1

Now, there’s a major problem with that caption. Can you spot it?

The problem is not that it says the sea animals are crinoids. They are indeed crinoids—also known as ‘sea lilies’.2

Crinoids which died and then lay on the ocean floor waiting to be slowly covered over would not look like this.

The problem is not that the caption says they’re different species. ‘Species’ is a human construct, for convenience of classification and communication between biological and other scientists, so it’s surely quite legitimate to refer to them here as different species in this case. (We mention in passing here that ‘species’ is not the same thing as the biblical ‘kind’.)

The problem is not that the different species show different colours. The different colours are indeed evident in the photograph, thanks to the sea lily fossils being so beautifully preserved.

Nor is there a problem with the caption’s referring to the recent discovery of “organic compounds sealed within the pores of these fossilized animals’ skeletons”—for that is indeed what a recent Geology paper3 reports. The photographer of the above picture, paleontologist William Ausich of Ohio State University, was one of the authors of that paper, along with his PhD student and lead author Christina O’Malley (who completed this work to earn her doctoral degree), and chemist Yu-Ping Chin. Some readers at this point will remember that Professor Ausich was the lead signatory to a letter of protest to the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, demanding the removal of the creationist book Grand Canyon: A different view from bookstores in the park. His complaint centred on the book’s statements concerning “the age of the rocks” and its challenge to “broadly accepted interpretations of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon”.4 Which brings us to the problem in the caption to the photograph above.

The problem is the claim that these sea lily fossils are 350 million years old, rather than the much more logical conclusion that they are a legacy of the global Flood of Noah’s day, around 4,500 years ago.

Consider this. With crinoids in the world’s oceans today, after death, the head of the creature almost immediately disintegrates. So when one finds fossil sea lilies as beautifully preserved as in the photograph above, it indicates very rapid burial of the live creatures. Crinoids which died and then lay on the ocean floor waiting to be slowly covered over would not look like this.

If only the researchers had stuck to the facts (their own eyewitness testimony), rather than feeling the need to go ‘gilding the (sea) lily’ with 350 million years worth of evolutionary fairy tale.

And indeed, to give credit where it’s due, the researchers can see that the sea lilies must have been “buried quickly and isolated from the water above by layers of fine-grained sediment”.

However, they say it happened when the sea lilies “appear to have been buried alive in storms during the Carboniferous Period”; specifically, the Mississippian Sub-period. But to label strata as belonging to ‘periods’ or ‘sub-periods’ millions-of-years long ignores worldwide evidence that these and other extensive strata were laid down quickly, on top of each other, without long periods of hiatus between or within them.

And it also ignores their own notable findings, reported in their research paper. Although these fossils have been known of for a century or so, this latest study was triggered when lead author O’Malley noticed “something strange” about these crinoid species that had perished side-by-side and became preserved in the same piece of rock. Namely, that the different species were preserved in different colours, as the caption to the above photograph mentions.

For example, one rock sample she studied had a light bluish-grey sea lily, a darker grey one, and a third which was creamy white.

“People noticed the color differences 100 years ago, but no-one ever investigated it,” she explained. But with the armoury of sophisticated analytical tools now available to her generation of scientists, O’Malley and her colleagues were able to extract molecules directly from the different fossilized sea lily species in the rock. And they were able to determine that different species contained different molecules.

The molecules were organic—specifically, aromatic compounds called quinones, just the same as those found in sea lilies living today. Quinones are known to sometimes function as pigments. So the researchers are quite excited to have found these ‘biomarkers’, i.e. species-specific organic molecules. In fact, in their paper the researchers proclaim they have found “the oldest examples of biomarker molecules extracted directly from fossilized remains.”

The millions-of-years paradigm is wrong, wrong, wrong. These beautifully preserved sea lilies, containing intact species-specific complex organic molecule biomarkers, give testimony to fast processes, not millions of years of slow burial.

But not so fast. This ought to be a bombshell to anyone still thinking these fossils could be millions of years old. As the Ohio State University press release said in its introduction, “scientists have long believed that complex organic molecules couldn’t survive fossilization”—i.e. that complex organic molecules couldn’t survive for millions of years. Yet, bizarrely, researchers O’Malley, Ausich and Chin choose instead to not even question the 350-million-year supposed ‘age’ of their fossils. Rather they blithely say that their results suggest that “the preservation of diagnostic organic molecules is much more common than previously realized”.

The millions-of-years paradigm is wrong, wrong, wrong. These beautifully preserved sea lilies, containing intact species-specific complex organic molecule biomarkers, give testimony to fast processes, not millions of years of slow burial. If only the researchers had stuck to the facts (their own eyewitness testimony), rather than feeling the need to go ‘gilding the (sea) lily’ with 350 million years worth of evolutionary fairy tale.

Now some might ask how I know that the real age of the sea lily fossils is only around 4,500 years old? Well, let me make a candid admission. In my own strength, I’m pretty sure that I would never in a million years have been able to arrive at that figure. But I’m not writing this in my own strength. That’s because God has spoken by His prophets (Hebrews 1:1, 2 Peter 1:20), and we have a record of that—the Bible.

crinoids crinoids
The fossil crinoid Anthedon [or Antedon] pictured at the bottom was found in the Upper Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone of western Germany. It is ‘dated’ by evolutionists as supposedly being around 150 million years old. Yet the modern-day living Anthedon is virtually identical—showing no evolution has taken place. No wonder evolutionists refer to this, and many other modern creatures with supposedly millions-of-years-old fossil counterparts, as ‘living fossils’. But they’re actually a powerful argument for creation.

Three whole chapters (Genesis 6–9), plus numerous verses citing them throughout the Bible (e.g. Psalm 104:6–9, Matthew 24:37–39, 1 Peter 3:20), are devoted to the account of the global Flood. This gives us a tremendous ‘heads up’ in understanding the world’s geography, rocks and fossils, and wipes away latter-day human speculations of millions of years.

Such an understanding is available to Christina O’Malley, William Ausich, and Yu-Ping Chin, too, who could then try to undo the damage (Matthew 12:36) they’ve done through having gilded the sea lily story—if they’re game. I say ‘game’, because for them the academic consequences of proclaiming a biblical thousands-of-years-not-millions timeline in their line of work would likely be fearful indeed.

Witness Expelled and Slaughter of the Dissidents—when even just a hint of a possibility of a Designer is even enough to get evolutionist PhD scientists sacked, it’s easy to imagine that any challenge on their ‘hero’ time would render them apoplectic! It’s their line-in-the-sand, the proverbial ‘hill’ they’re willing to die for.

But my appeal to researchers O’Malley, Ausich and Chin is this—the eternal considerations surely outweigh any temporal persecution you might face. As Jesus said …

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:24–26)

… and:

Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:33)


  1. Gorder, P., Ancient Fossilized Sea Creatures Yield Oldest Biomolecules Isolated Directly from a Fossil, Ohio State University—Research and Innovation Communications, http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/oldbiomarkers.htm, 18 February 2013. Return to text.
  2. Crinoids with a stem are known as sea-lilies. They are like a feathery starfish perched on top of a stem, which floats above a holdfast (or ‘root’) attached to, e.g., a rock surface. Crinoids that lack a stem are known as feather-stars. Return to text.
  3. O’Malley, C., Ausich, W. and Yu-Ping Chin, Y.P., Isolation and characterization of the earliest taxon-specific organic molecules (Mississippian, Crinoidea), Geology 41(3):347–341, 2013. Return to text.
  4. Matthews, M., Geologists in an uproar demand book’s removal from Grand Canyon National Park, creation.com/geologists-in-an-uproar, 6 January 2004. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Living Fossils book
by Dr Carl Werner
US $30.00
Hard Cover
Thousands ... Not Billions
by Dr Don DeYoung
US $14.00
Soft Cover
Exploring Geology with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck
US $16.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Tony V.
Behind our home there is a hill where many fossils are to be found in the various shale deposits. On one occasion looking for a plant fossil I cracked open a rather hard creamy coloured shale sample and to my surprise there in the centre of the rock was a near perfect leaf, but what really got me excited, the leaf was still green. Unfortunately the colour has since oxidized
Mark B.

Under the creationists model, how did these crinoids get transported from an ocean hundreds of miles away and stay in such good condition? Wasn't it supposed to be done by massive tsunamis that swept over the continents? Since crinoids break apart so easily it seams unlikely they would stay together.

David Catchpoole
Mark, thanks for your question.

First, we can't say for sure how far these crinoids might have been carried by Flood currents. (So it might not have been from "an ocean hundreds of miles away".) However, there is good evidence in other areas, e.g. from crinoid fossils in the Grand Canyon strata, that hyperconcentrated flows that included laminar zones deposited sediments for hundreds of kilometres.

Secondly, re your point about tsunami-like strong currents, it's important to realize that even with a global Flood the currents would not have been universally strong everywhere. Rather, just as with floods and tides today, there would be marked gradients. Indeed, it's easy to see today, in rain-swollen rivers and tsunami-inundated estuaries/inlets, instances of currents and eddies side-by-side flowing in opposite directions, with no current at the interface zone. Current strength also varies with seabed topography--these crinoids might have been anchored to a rock at the foot of a ravine for example, and thus to some extent sheltered from strong currents.

Also, it's important to note that sediment size of the rock in which the fossil is embedded gives a strong clue as to the speed of the current at the time. If the sediment is coarse, as in sandstone, the current would have been stronger than if the sedimentary rock encasing the fossil was fine-grained (because only the heavier, coarser sediment will be deposited out of a strong current--the fine-grained material would remain in suspension). In the above article is this quote from the researchers about the crinoids having been:

“buried quickly and isolated from the water above by layers of fine-grained sediment”. [Emphasis added.]

So, not a fast-flowing current in this case.

Note, however, that even in cases of fossilization in coarse-grained material, it doesn't necessarily mean that the fast-flowing current would have pulverized any unfortunate creatures carried along with it. Witness the hundreds of jellyfish fossils in Wisconsin sandstone, for example. Those fossils show evidence, according to secular researchers, that the jellyfish were trying desperately to pump out the sediment-laden water from their bells at the time of burial. A muddy slurry (or sandy, in the case of the Wisconsin jellyfish) doesn't necessarily imply that everything being carried in it is going to be pulverized beyond recognition.
Hans G.
Yes.....Yes..... Here is some bite, well done David. To be a 'nice' Christian doesn't wake them up. We Christians take the knowledge of Creation with us when we die, evolution dies with the evolutionist......
It must be terrible to realize that the door is shut
after the last breath....as God shut the door of the ark and Noah couldn't open it to save repentant people.........too late, you had your chance.
The same principle was in evidence at a certain wedding, the door was shut for 5 virgins.......too late.
Tze-wei L.
What "worldwide evidence that these and other extensive strata were laid down quickly" are you referring to in the article?
David Catchpoole
See, e.g., Sedimentary blankets: visual evidence for vast continent-wide flooding. (And for the fossil angle, it might also be worth having a look at Seeing the pattern, too.)
Samuel V.
Wow, that's even better than blood in bone, because it is quite clearly not contamination. Also, would I be right to say that atheists punish creationists for what they recognise as heresy, yet this is something they argue against christianity as to show that it is evil. They must take a look at themselves!
P. T.
David, thanks for your clear response to their article. I'm so thankful to our heavenly Father for not leaving us in the dark on origins - not only do we have the Bible to read, but we have CMI to help the rest of us logically refute what is put about by the politically ('scientifically'?) correct establishment as fact. Thanks also for your gracious rebuke/word of encouragement/plea at the end of your response, we all need to be reminded that it's WHO we know/believe that ultimately counts.

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