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‘Billion-year’ fossil ‘balls’ (part 2)

Earliest life buried catastrophically in Noah’s Flood

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Published: 29 June 2021 (GMT+10)

Part 11 examined evidence of new microscopic fossils of multi-cellular organisms discovered in NW Scotland called Bicellum brasieri. These organisms possessed cellular functions identical to those seen in modern life, revealing evidence for intelligent design, rather than evolution. This part 2 examines the associated claims that B. brasieri are a ‘billion years old’, and ‘evolved in a fresh water lake.’ Aspects of this claim include radiometric dating, geochemical, and structural geological implications. These claims are discussed below.

Strother et al. Wikipediaholozoan
A supposed billion-year-old holozoan demonstrating differentiated multicellularity.

How do they get those dates?

Online reports trumpet these fossils as being one “billion years old”,2 however, the lead scientific paper published in 2021 in Current Biology, is more circumspect and is titled: “A possible billion-year-old holozoan …”.3 Nevertheless, how were these dates obtained? The paper states:

“As to their antiquity, the existence of fossil holozoans by 1.0 Ga [billion evolutionary years] is perhaps not unexpected … although there is considerable uncertainty as to this date, based on molecular clock data” (emphasis added).4

Of molecular clock dating, Sarfati points out the evolutionary suppositions and problems with the method and asks:

“ … how the molecular clock could have ticked so evenly in any given protein in so many different organisms [?] … . For this to work, there must be a constant mutation rate per unit time over most types of organism. But observations show that there is a constant mutation rate per generation, so it should be much faster for organisms with a fast generation time, such as bacteria, and much slower for elephants. In insects, generation times range from weeks in flies to many years in cicadas, and yet there is no evidence that flies are more diverged than cicadas. So evidence is against the theory that the observed patterns are due to mutations accumulating over time as life evolved.”5

Current Biology in 2021 cited a study6 of ‘molecular clock’ data for the supposed age of eukaryotes (organisms whose cells contain a nucleus and cell membrane). This study published in Perspectives of Biology in 2014 admits:

“Molecular clock estimates of ancient divergence times in the tree of life are affected by numerous sources of errors and uncertainties. … molecular clock analyses must rely heavily on extrapolation from the younger … fossil record.”7 And “ … molecular clock age estimates will always be associated with error.”8

Importantly to note is that the ‘molecular (genetic) clock’ itself is not calibrated to known mutation rates, but rather fossil ‘dates’ derived from radiometric dating as pointed out by Tomkins and Bergman:

“The basic premise is that informational macromolecules such as proteins and DNA sequences [supposedly] evolve at rates that can be measured and calibrated by evolutionary estimates provided by paleontology.”9

This raises the question—how can the molecular clock be an independent check? The entire method is an exercise in circular reasoning. The 2014 Perspectives report admits of the practice of calibration to radiometric dating:

“ … there is inherent uncertainty associated with the dating of the rocks in which the fossils are found.”10

All of this calibrated data is ‘massaged’, using computer statistical modelling, to arrive at ‘dates’ that are presented as ‘gospel truth’ in popular media reports.11 Nevertheless, evolutionary presuppositions are built into the method at every stage from the foundations up. David Reich of Harvard, a human evolutionary geneticist, recognized as much when he stated: “The fact that the clock is so uncertain is very problematic for us” and “It means that the dates we get out of genetics are really quite embarrassingly bad and uncertain.”12 In which case, how can any of the claimed ‘dates’ be trusted at all?

Radiometric dating woes

Pixabay license CC0hourglass-time-hours-sand
Genetic-clock and radiometric dating techniques are methodologically and philosophically flawed.

Another blow to the ‘billion-year’ claim is that the Diabaig formation of the Lower Torridonian has been dated to 800 million years as reported in the Scottish Journal of Geology (1992)—but even this claim is uncertain. The supposed dates were derived from rubidium-strontium dating.13 The Geology report relies on an older report by Moorbath (1969) which states:

“ … since nothing definite was known about the true initial Sr87/Sr86 ratio of the shales, it follows that the problem of the true age, or ages, of sedimentation of the Lower and Upper Torridonian had to be left unsolved.”14

This statement is true and lays bare the inherent assumptions involved in such measurements. Furthermore, nothing will have changed in the intervening time to elucidate those initial unobserved conditions. Is it possible that the extra 200 million years in the Current Biology, (2021) report has been added due to reliance on ‘genetic clock’ dating methods—itself based on radiometric dating assumptions and circular reasoning regarding the unobserved past (as discussed above).

However, a geology report published in Precambrian Research in 2011, is not so hesitant about more recent radiometric dates for the Torridon Group which were obtained in 1996 and 2002 using Rb–Sr dating (994 ± 48 Ma, and 977 ± 39 Ma, respectively). Underlying sedimentary rocks were dated in 2011 using 40Ar/39Ar dating and obtained ‘dates’ of 1177 ± 5 Ma.15 Interestingly the 1996 report, despite duplicating some of Moorbath’s results claimed a “diagenetic event”16 which presumably occurred after the rocks were formed. This “is interpreted as recording probable re-equilibration…” (emphasis added).17 This means the radiometric clocks were thought to have been somehow altered. This resulted in Moorbath’s dates being rejected because they were considered “100–250 Ma too young” compared to other (unspecified) “indirect dating evidence.”18 More ‘reliable’ older ‘dates’ of 994 ± 48 Ma were instead favoured, including Rb–Sr (Rubidium-Strontium) isotopic dating for the Torridon Group.19

Walker points out the geochronologist’s trade secret of deciding on which radiometric dates are preferred for any given geological narrative:

“No matter what the radiometric date turned out to be, our geologist would always be able to ‘interpret’ it. He would simply change his assumptions about the history of the rock to explain the result in a plausible way.”20

In other words, later investigators can throw out inconvenient ‘dates’ if they do not match expectations (or fit with their preferred narrative), with plausible stories about the unobserved past. Such reasoning brings into question all such ‘dates’ obtained by these methods.

Ancient lake theory holds no water

The Current Biology (2021) and popular internet reports ‘take as read’ that B. brasieri evolved in a fresh water lake, rather than in a salty ocean. This bucks the trend of evolutionary theory that life first appeared in the oceans. However, this is not a new story, as prokaryote and eukaryote21 microfossils in this area were touted as proof of freshwater evolution 1 billion years ago in Precambrian Research (2011)22 and popular online-media at the time. However, the evidence to support this thinking is highly subjective and dependent on interpretations of structures deemed ‘river channels’, and ‘lake basins’, as well as geochemical evidence associated with modern lake systems.

The Current Biology (2021) paper cites a geological report published in Scottish Journal of Geology (1992), which describes the shale rocks (Diabaig Formation within the Torridon sequence) where B. brasieri was discovered. The report includes measurements of the shale salts content amongst other things. However, the report lets slip a telling admission regarding the physical evidence for such a hypothetical lake structure. The lake theory is required to be hydraulically open to account for the low content of salts in the fossils’ surrounding sediment. If the sediment was indeed deposited in a lake, then in their model, salts were diluted and washed out. This would logically require a minimum of one source river, and one drainage river. However, according to the report:

“…there are no channels to suggest that rivers once existed in the red sands adjoining the shale, serving to link separate lake basins.”23

Despite this, in Geological Society London Memoirs (2002), river channels are claimed, despite acknowledging the obviously missing structures associated with rivers. The absence of evidence is conveniently explained away through ‘erosion’:

“…fluvial sediments are noticeably absent, except in the area between Inverpolly Forest and Canisp. It is not difficult to devise an explanation for this” (emphasis added). The ‘devised explanation’ offered is a local up-warp, which caused the hypothetical rivers “to erode their flood plains so vigorously as to destroy them.”24

Other geological features like conglomerates (containing rounded pebbles in fine-grained matrix) are interpreted as having been formed by river action. In addition, regional thinning of strata is interpreted as the lakeshore. However, all these features can be interpreted biblically as erosional and depositional sequences within Flood geology, and don’t require long ages to form.

In summary, the structural geological evidence for a hydraulically open lake environment is debated amongst geologists. Furthermore, how do they know the underlying geological structures (called basins) were lakes originally? Basins may have many explanations, including upheaval, impacts, and erosional features, not solely as lake remnants. Clearly, presuppositional bias drives the interpretation of these geological structures.

Grappling with geochemistry

Dubravko Sorić/ Wikimedia/ CC2.0salt-shaker
Low calcium and sodium salts content in rocks is interpreted as a fresh water environment.

B. brasieri is believed to have evolved in a fresh water lake, based on geochemical (and geological) interpretations—specifically, low calcium (Ca) and Sodium (Na) measurements in the surrounding rocks. The Geology (1992) report hypothesizes that:

“Ca and Na removed from the sediments was lost to a hydraulically open, regionally extensive lake.”25

However, as discussed above, the structural geological evidence for these open river-lake systems is debateable. Furthermore, the Geology (1992) report offers an alternative explanation for the rock’s llow content of salts—‘albitization,’ a hydrothermal chemical altering process involving chemical alteration of clay minerals.26 This process also included migration of Sodium (Na) and Calcium (Ca) ions—Ions found in salty water. This could explain why the sedimentary rock encasing the fossils are depleted in salts, compared to the surrounding rock.

Whatever the explanation, the geologists would not interpret the underlying geological structures, or the geochemistry of the rocks, as being evidence of the Flood. Their world-view precludes such conclusions. Whatever they observe must be interpreted in terms of slow and gradual, uniform processes—similar to the ones observed today. Obviously, within a Flood scenario, we would expect all manner of complex hydrothermal processes to be in play, which could easily account for the local geochemistry, including its low content of salts.

Flood rocks the theories

Whether an original pre-Flood landscape including rivers and lakes was buried is difficult to say, but is not precluded in the Flood model. But why were only microscopic fossils found in this location and depth? It may be that the beginning of the Flood was so catastrophic that all but microscopic life was destroyed in these locations. Massive overthrusts and breccia sequences in this area (and other sequences similar to this Scottish location observed around the world for this stratigraphic period) demonstrate the violent nature of the beginning of the Flood, when “all the Fountains of the Great Deep” (Genesis 7:11) broke open on one day, which initiated the Flood. Anything in the way of this cataclysm larger than microscopic organisms at this location and stage in the Flood would have been obliterated without trace.

morar-arnisdale
Structural section across the Moine out crop of western Scotland, showing massive over thrusting (Robinson).27

The geology of these Torridon rocks are discussed by Robinson. He describes evidence for erosion and deposition consistent with the beginning of the Flood in the Torridon, Scotland:

“In Scotland there are two unconformities below the Cambrian. The earlier separates the Lewisian gneiss from the overlying Stoer and Torridon Groups; the later unconformity comes between these and the Cambrian quartzite.”27

However, according to the Geology (1992) report: “The unconformity between sediments and gneiss is unweathered28 (emphasis added). That being the case, the alleged time difference between the contacts is an illusion, despite claims of great antiquity:

“[The] large (c. 30°) angular unconformity above the Stoer Group which must represent a considerable period of time…”10

The evidence in these Scottish rocks that Robinson discusses for geological catastrophism is consistent with the Flood, and contradicts the assumptions of deep time:

“The Torridonian Sandstone testifies, in its ‘fluid evulsion structures’, to sediment dumping on a massive scale.”29

When the big picture is considered, regarding the geological structures in this area of Scotland, the evidence supports a catastrophic Flood scenario, rather than uniformitarian processes, including placid lakes fed by rivers.

From a “warm little pond”—to the oceans—to a lake?

The 2021 reports promote the idea that life evolved in a fresh water lake, instead of the oceans, because of uniformitarian interpretations of certain evidence (as discussed above). The question needs to be asked—has science really progressed in its understanding of the origins of life? Charles Darwin wrote to Joseph Hooker, his botanist friend, on February 1st, 1871, 150 years ago. Darwin hypothesised:

“ … if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes … ”30

Such chemical evolutionary scenarios have been repeatedly dealt deathblows by the facts of chemistry. Be it in a warm little pond, fresh water lake, or the salty oceans, life cannot exist, unless created especially by the Creator.

The evidence discussed in part 1 for cell-cell adhesion and migration put paid to ideas of ‘simple life’. Life is as irreducibly complex as we observe today else it could not function. These both speak of the Intelligent Designer and evidence of the non-evolution of organisms such as B. brasieri.

Conclusion

The geological evidence discussed here supports catastrophism. The claimed structures for rivers and lakes are completely absent, or can be explained in terms of uplift and erosion during the Flood. Although the geochemical evidence can be made to support a fresh water lake scenario, it is more feasibly explained in terms of hydrothermal alteration. This also, is consistent with the conditions expected in the Flood.

When all the data is considered the evidence for the B. brasieri microfossils and their associated geology speaks of the catastrophic initiation of the Flood, entombing only the organisms which survived such violent upheavals at these locations—namely the smallest, microscopic life. The evidence uncovered by these latest findings demonstrates life is as complex as it is today, no matter how far back one goes in the fossil record. Far from supporting evolution as the reports suggest, these multi-cellular life forms are evidence of the non-evolution and sudden appearance of life. This is fully consistent with the biblical narrative of history from Creation to the Flood.

References and notes

  1. Cox, G., ‘Billion-year’ fossil ‘balls’: Life created complex from the beginning; creation.com/billion-year-fossil-balls, 1 June 2021. Return to text.
  2. Weisberger, M., Fossil ‘balls’ are 1 billion years old and could be Earth’s oldest known multicellular life, livescience.com, 6 May 2021. Return to text.
  3. Strother, B.K. et. al., A possible billion-year-old holozoan with differentiated multicellularity, Current Biology 31:1–8, 21 June, 2021. Holozoa is a group of organisms that includes animals and their closest single-celled relatives, but excludes fungi. Return to text.
  4. Strother, ref. 3, p. 6. Return to text.
  5. Sarfati, J., Refuting Evolution 2, CBP, Powder Springs, pp. 111–112, 2011. Return to text.
  6. Eme, L., et. al., On the age of eukaryotes: evaluating evidence from fossils and molecular clocks, Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology | doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a016139, 2014. Return to text.
  7. Eme, ref. 6, p. 12. Return to text.
  8. Eme, ref. 6, p. 13. Return to text.
  9. Tomkins, J.P. and Bergman, J., Evolutionary molecular genetic clocks—a perpetual exercise in futility and failure, J. Creation 29(2):26–35, 2015. Return to text.
  10. Eme, ref. 6, p. 5. Return to text.
  11. For instance, see: Mehta, A., Billion-year-old fossil found in Scotland unlocks secrets of Earth’s earliest life forms, news.sky.com, 29 April 2021. Return to text.
  12. Tomkins, ref. 9, p. 26. Return to text.
  13. Rodd, J.A. and Stewart, A.D., Geochemistry, weathering and diagenesis of the Diabaig Formation (Torridon Group) in NW Scotland, Scottish Journal of Geology 28:27–35, p. 27 | doi: 10.1144/sjg28010027, 1992. Return to text.
  14. Moorbath, S., Torridonian Evidence for the age of deposition of the Torridonian sediments of north-west Scotland, Scottish Journal of Geology 5:154–170, | doi: 10.1144/sjg05020154, 1969. Return to text.
  15. Battison, L. and Brasier, M.D., Remarkably preserved prokaryote and eukaryote microfossils within 1 Ga-old lake phosphates of the Torridon Group, NW Scotland, Precambrian Research, 196–197, 2012 204–217 | doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2011.12.012. Return to text.
  16. Turnbull, M.J.M., New isotopic age determinations for the Torridonian, NW Scotland, Journal of the Geological Society, London, 153:955–964, p. 961, 1996. Diagenetic refers to physical and chemical changes occurring during the conversion of sediment to sedimentary rock. Return to text.
  17. Ref. 16, Turnbull, p. 963. Return to text.
  18. Ref. 16, Turnbull, p. 955. Return to text.
  19. Ref. 16, Turnbull, p. 958. Return to text.
  20. Walker, T. The way it really is: little-known facts about radiometric dating, Creation 24(4):20–23, September 2002; creation.com/the-way-it-really-is-little-known-facts-about-radiometric-dating. Return to text.
  21. Prokaryotes are unicellular organisms that lack nuclear membrane-enclosed nuclei. Eukaryotes are organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within a nuclear envelope. Return to text.
  22. Ref. 16, Turnbull, p. 204. Return to text.
  23. Ref. 13, Rodd, p. 29. Return to text.
  24. Stewart, A.D., The Later Proterozoic Torridonian Rocks of Scotland: their Sedimentology, Geochemistry and Origin, Geological Society London Memoirs, 01 Vol. 24; Iss. 1, p. 31, | doi: 10.1144/GSL.MEM.2002.024.01.04, 2002. Return to text.
  25. Ref. 13, Rodd, p. 27. Return to text.
  26. Ref. 13, Rodd, p. 33. Return to text.
  27. Robinson, S.J., Can Flood geology explain the fossil record? J. Creation, 10(1):32–69, p. 38, 1996. Return to text.
  28. Ref. 13, Rodd, p. 27. Return to text.
  29. Ref. 27, Robinson, p. 38. Evulsion structures produced by escaping hi-pressure water. Return to text.
  30. Charles Darwin cited in: Batten, D., Would Darwin be a Darwinist today? Creation 31(4):48–51, September 2009; creation.com/would-darwin-be-a-darwinist-today. Return to text.

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