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Creation 22(2):56, March 2000

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‘Living fossils’ enigma


Photo by Joachim SchevenHorseshoe crabs

A New Scientist article1 ponders a baffling enigma to evolutionists—‘living fossils’. These are creatures alive today which are identical to fossilised forms, believed to have lived ‘millions of years ago.’ Examples include the coelacanth fish (fossil coelacanths are believed by evolutionists to be 340 million years old2), Gingko trees (125 million years), crocodiles (140 million years), horseshoe crabs (200 million years), the Lingula lamp shell (450 million years), Neopilina molluscs (500 million years), and the tuatara lizard (200 million years).

This poses a conundrum for evolution: ‘Why have these life-forms stayed the same for all that time?’

This poses a conundrum for evolution: ‘Why have these life-forms stayed the same for all that time?’ New Scientist quotes several evolutionists who say ‘chance’ and ‘luck’ are the answer. Unsatisfied with this, other evolutionists look for alternative explanations. They believe the cockroach (reputed to have survived for 250 million years) demonstrates that the key to success is to ‘be abundant and live everywhere’,1 i.e. to be an opportunistic generalist, not fussy about food and habitat. However, many ‘living fossils’ are in fact highly specialised, such as the coelacanth, superbly suited to living in deep-sea caves. New Scientist suggests that the coelacanth remains unchanged because its habitat has not changed. But this applies also to many other species, living and extinct.

Some evolutionists think the ‘evolutionary straitjacket’ of long generation times (e.g. at least 15 years for the tuatara) ‘slows evolution’ of living fossils, but this cannot apply to the rapidly reproducing (but unchanging) cockroaches and archebacteria (the latter multiplying in minutes, yet believed by evolutionists to have been on Earth for 3.5 billion years).

Struggling to make sense of it all, the article’s zoologist author says, ‘Some biologists marvel that there is any evolution at all, considering the possible pitfalls of change.’ She quotes Yale palaeontologist Elisabeth Vrba as saying that ‘ … organisms are so complex that it is very hard to change one aspect without wrecking everything else’.1

‘Organisms are so complex that it is very hard to change one aspect without wrecking everything else’—Yale University palaeontologist Elisabeth Vrba

The New Scientist article leaves the conundrum unresolved:3 ‘All this leaves a rather complicated picture …. Be general, or specialised. Live fast, or slow. Keep it simple, or don’t. Be in the right place at the right time. If all else fails, try becoming a “superspecies”, blessed with a physiology that can withstand anything.’

To Christians, however, there should be no mystery about these so-called ‘living fossils’. We have an eyewitness account (God’s Word) of how these creatures were created to be fruitful and multiply after their kind. So the fact that modern creatures have ‘stayed the same’ as their fossilised ancestors is no surprise at all. (And we also know from the Bible that they were created thousands, not millions, of years ago.)

Why, then, do evolutionists cling to their beloved old-age theories despite paradoxical inconsistencies and other glaring evidence to the contrary? As one leading evolutionist has said, they are committed to materialist explanations (i.e. excluding God) ‘… no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying … for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’4

Posted on homepage: 26 December 2012

References and notes

  1. Dicks, L., The creatures time forgot, New Scientist, 164(2209):36–39, 1999. Return to text.
  2. They were once thought to have become extinct 70 million years ago. Return to text.
  3. Note also that a theory which is compatible with such diametrically opposite states of affairs can make no predictions, and is immune to falsification. So it doesn’t fit the criterion evolutionists usually invoke when it suits them. Return to text.
  4. Lewontin, R., ‘Billions and billions of demons’, The New York Review, 9 January 9 1997, p. 31. Return to text.

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