Meet ‘Mr Living Fossils’
An informative interview with Dr Joachim Scheven by Carl Wieland
Dr Joachim Scheven, Ph.D. (Munich), is an entomologist/palaeontologist who has single-handedly amassed the world’s biggest collection of ‘living fossils’. He is a former evolutionist who has worked as a research biologist and taught science in Africa and Germany, and has discovered and described several new insect species, both living and fossil. He has published several technical papers in the creationist and secular literature, including a secular paper on petrified coal balls. A true naturalist with keen observational powers, Dr Scheven delighted Australian audiences on a lecture tour with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the living and fossil world, including its geological associations.
CW: Dr Scheven, Australian audiences have tremendously enjoyed your spectacular show of ‘living fossils’. Can you tell me how many examples you could potentially show people of creatures that are preserved as fossils and yet are virtually unchanged in the living world?
JS: Normally in our museum I show only a few, perhaps a dozen or so. But sometimes we have visitors who are doubtful about creation and doubtful about my honesty in telling them about the identity or equality of the living and dead creature, so then, of course, I ask how many more should I show to you? Would 25 do? Or 50, or 100, or how many? I can, in fact, if I took them all out of my drawers, produce around 500 different creatures (mostly amber insects and bivalves) that match their living representatives so closely that everybody would have to acknowledge that they are the same.
How many ‘living fossils’ do evolutionist textbooks usually acknowledge?
Usually only about half a dozen or so. Therefore people get the impression that they are rare exceptions—but they are not.
Many of these, I realize, have been personally identified by yourself. Does this mean that, if you could go to different parts of the world and collect more, there could be many more?
Yes, I am convinced that there would be. I have just found an Australian tree with a characteristic hand-shaped leaf that reminded me vividly of a large fossil leaf in my collection. The tree I saw belongs to the genus Brachychiton and is a member of the Sterculia family.
That means that you knew this tree as a fossil and now you have discovered that it corresponds to a type actually alive today, virtually unchanged?
Yes, that’s right. The fossil leaf is quite showy and I had been wondering to which family it belonged. It may also be related to the genus Alangium which is a member of another Old World tree family. The fossil comes from the Green River shales from Wyoming in America, where these trees are entirely absent today. It gives food for thought to find the living counterpart of the fossil or something close to it in the eastern-most part of the Old World.
According to evolution, how many million years have passed between that fossil and the living forms?
According to the estimates of evolutionists, about 50 million years should have passed.
I remember your showing us a slide of a honeypot ant in Caribbean amber [fossilized, transparent tree resin—Ed.] also allegedly millions of evolutionary years old, and then you actually photographed this ant alive right here in Australia?
Yes, the amber is alleged to be between 15 million and 45 million years old. This Caribbean representative of the honeypot ant was a surprising find for the ant specialists in America and Switzerland who worked on this creature, because they knew it only from Australia and surrounding parts of the world. They thought it had evolved here.
You showed many other insects that looked identical to their living counterparts. Yet, here they were in amber, supposed to be millions of years old. I like to point out to people that this means that either the millions of years are mythological or that evolution hasn’t happened over that intervening time—in fact, more logically, both.
Yes, I fully agree with this. The evolutionists’ excuse is that they say that it only shows that the evolution of this particular creature, whether flea or bark louse or whatever, had occurred much, much earlier than the age of the amber containing the insect. And then come to a halt.
But, if that were true, Dr Scheven, with your experience in palaeontology, you would expect to find in the field and in the collections and museums around the world, the fossil evidence for this evolution at an earlier time?
Yes, but since nothing like this is ever found, it isn’t true. Evolution is not supported by the fossil evidence and this theory thrives only on the ignorance of people, ignorance of the facts of the fossil world.
It’s interesting to hear that comment coming from someone who’s not just relying on the fact that evolutionists haven’t found the alleged ancestors, but who has actually amassed a vast amount of fossil and photographic evidence showing that things have ‘stayed the same’. Could you tell us what the reaction is of some of the people who come to your museum? I understand that, in many instances, you are able to show them the living form not only as a photograph or a preserved specimen, but actually swimming around in a tank?
Yes, the reaction of many of our visitors is surprise and also enthusiasm, particularly among Christians who, with their own eyes, see evidence of creation that God actually has given in His own works. And we share this, of course, with them, and there is very great agreement on this. There are cases when people young or old utter skeptical remarks, so sometimes I pose a question to them and say, ‘There are two theories on origins: there is the theory of evolution and there is the doctrine of creation. They both make statements about fossils. The theory of evolution says that there will be many intermediate forms found in the fossil record. The doctrine of creation would state (in a sense) that there will, in actual fact, never be any intermediate forms found in the fossil record. Now, which of these two views on origins do you think is supported by the fossil evidence?’ And if they are non-Christians, I usually get no reply at all. The people simply stand there with rather dark faces until perhaps somebody says, ‘Why don’t you answer your own question?’, because it is so obvious.
The unusual species of ant with the roughened head is fascinating. It is just so obvious that the living species is the same as the fossil species. And of course even creationists believe in speciation after the Flood, so it is even more remarkable that it is identical considering it is part of a large species ‘flock’. It’s hard to see how anyone can believe there were millions of years between this living and this fossil form.
Yes, indeed. That is very hard to believe. But since almost nobody knows of the existence of this ant in our present world, and much less of its existence in amber, this fact never surfaces.
So this is a very rare specimen? Could you tell us how you came by this?
When I worked through tens of thousands of imported pieces of amber that enclosed insects, I noted about five or more different species of this particular type of ant whose generic name is Zactyptocerus. This ant attracted my attention because it really looks unusual and, a few years later when I had the opportunity of visiting Central America, I kept a good lookout for this type of ant and I found one representative of this genus, but it was a different species. In order to compare my fossil ants with living species I wrote to a number of museums across the world—one type turned out to be identical with a living species known from one single locality in Mexico only! Evolutionists used to say that no amber insect exists that can be matched with a living representative. People are thus talked into a belief in evolution because they don’t know the truth.
It would be true to say, I suppose, that the vast majority of people in today’s world have not had a chance to see this sort of evidence for themselves?
Yes, unfortunately this is true, because the public museums lay emphasis on quite different things and guide the visitors with generalizations that quite normally culminate in statements about how this or that creature evolved. And the visitors, young or old, are not trained in studying these creatures critically for themselves. They are just being spoon-fed by already prefabricated opinions.
You, of course, were an evolutionist during your university training while you earned your Ph.D., so you at one stage held these ‘prefabricated opinions’ as well. What do you think, in retrospect, is the reason why the public museums so universally fail to point out the significance of all these living fossils, or even to show a good proportion of these hundreds of examples?
Well, it seems to me that the world at large does not believe in a living God and in a living Saviour, and therefore is not interested in presenting truth as we find it in the Bible only. This truth relates, of course, to origins and also to the great variety of creatures that we find and that we can admire. And so, what these museums suggest to the public is to admire the creature but forget about the Creator. And this seems the reason to me that nothing is forthcoming in such places that would honour God as the Creator.
It seems to me that secular museums tend to focus on creatures that are no longer with us (of course, you would agree that extinction doesn’t prove evolution), but it seems to me that by doing that they are diverting attention, in a way, from the fact that such large numbers of creatures have not changed relative to the present.
The extinct creatures on exhibit attract, of course, the primary attention. They arouse our curiosity and can be admired for their size or unusual shapes. This is certainly justified because it adds to the knowledge of those who are familiar, or fairly familiar, with living creatures. Of course, this has the effect that the comparison between living and fossilized creatures is given too little attention, or no attention at all.
Perhaps it would be fair to say that it would be too embarrassing to evolutionary views to present this as clearly as you do in your museum?
Yes, it certainly would.
I was fascinated to see the irrefutable evidence you showed (from your research on northern hemisphere coal layers) about the fact that these root-like structures that they say grew in soil, which they say proves that the coal grew over millions of years in swamps and so on, were indisputably structures of the sort found in modern floating plants. You also showed all sorts of other evidence which is very hard to refute, I would think, for the fact that these were not roots in soils. I’d love you to do an article for Creation Magazine on these in due course. What do you think is the reason why this evidence we saw so clearly on the screen hasn’t been accepted by evolutionists?
The only reason seems to be that, if this would be made public, then the established geologists would have to explain how so many coal layers which therefore had not grown in place, had accumulated upon each other. And this would mean they must have been transported, and the transport of plant matter that did not decay must have taken place extremely rapidly. And, if something takes place very rapidly in geology, then of course the concept of the millions of years cannot be easily maintained.
Have you had discussions with evolutionary geologists about the actual indisputable evidence of the root structures of these floating plants that you showed us in coal balls, quite unlike roots growing in soil?
Yes, on occasions I have. I remember visiting a palaeobotanist who specializes in Carboniferous vegetation in Germany and showing him the evidence for floating forests, especially the root layers that could not have been autochthonous [grown in place—Ed.] soils. After I had shown him a number of slides, he interrupted me and suggested, ‘I think that you hold a preconceived idea’, and cut off the dialogue. In a sense, he was right, because my point of departure was the Bible and this is certainly a preconceived idea. But, I could just as well give it back to him and say his ideas were preconceived because he didn’t even try to grasp, or properly examine the actual, physical evidence.
On another occasion, I had the privilege of meeting Professor Tom Phillips in Illinois, a world-leading authority on coal ball research; I was discussing the subject with him at length in his office for well over an hour. His final remarks were that I should continue with my research and that it was quite reasonable, quite fruitful. Except, of course, that I cannot quote him as having said this because nobody else was present.
But you had had the opportunity to share with him your conclusions with regard to the build-up of the coal peat from air-filled living roots that make the vegetation raft buoyant, which he could not refute?
Yes, that’s right. The evidence for the floating forests is really overwhelming once people bother to go through the observations carefully.
Your visit has been a tremendous encouragement to Australian Christians and we would just like to encourage you and, of course, to encourage anyone reading this who happens to be in Europe to visit your free museum for themselves and to support your faith-funded work. (Kuratorium Lebendige Vorwelt, Unterm Hagen 22, 58119 Hagen, Germany. Dr Scheven also singlehandedly produces Leben, a colourful semi-technical fact-sheet sent free to thousands of German schools.)