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Creation 43(4):20–23, October 2021

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A passion for rocks

Tas Walker talks to Philip Worts about geology and ground-breaking discoveries

jan-philip
Jan and Philip

In 1977, Philip Worts completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in mining geology from the Western Australian School of Mines, Kalgoorlie. Not only did he graduate with a distinction, but he received two gold-medal awards, one from the W.A. School of Mines and another from the Geological Society of Australia (W.A. Division).

Since graduating, Phil has worked in mining and exploration geology. He has focused on iron, nickel, and gold, in the famously rich mineral fields of Western Australia. It was during this time that Phil discovered some remarkable fossils that overturn commonly held beliefs about geology. In recent decades, Phil has planned and led Creation Science Safaris through spectacular regions north and south of Perth—some of the prime tourist areas of Western Australia. But for many years the idea of biblical geology was foreign to him.

 fossil-jellyfish
Some of the fossil jellyfish on a rock specimen—host rock Dales Gorge Member (a banded iron formation). Coin is 32 mm (1.3 inches) across.

The geological journey

For most of his childhood, Philip Worts lived with his family on farms in Western Australia, farms that were several hours drive from the state capital city, Perth. This affected many facets of his life, including access to education and church involvement.

Phil’s great-uncle sparked his interest in geology. Phil recalls,

My great-uncle collected gems, fossils, and minerals from all over Australia. When I was a young boy, he glued and labelled a selection of minerals into a shirt box (with a clear plastic lid) as a gift to me. I thought it was fantastic. For the labels on his own extensive collection, my great-uncle used evolution-based names and dates. At the time, I was not aware of the significance of this to my thinking.

When Phil started high school science he was again confronted with the concept of evolution over millions of years. He recalls its impact: “It was then that I whole-heartedly accepted evolution and quickly became thoroughly atheistic.” Also, at this time Phil set his heart on becoming a geologist.

Rural life impacted his final two years of high school when he needed to live away from home at a boarding school in Perth. To his dismay, his course did not allow him to study geology for his university entrance exam.

camel-lake
On the 2018 Stirling Safari: Camel Lake fossil wood site. Observing identification features of the fossil tree species with the Stirling Range in the background.

Not to be deterred, Phil got permission to do geology as an extra subject, but in his own time. He would get the notes from friends doing the geology class. Also, the school allowed him to join the class on their two-week geology excursion, zig-zagging 1,600 km through Western Australia as far north as Port Hedland. Phil said, “This trip fed my geological desire wonderfully.” And as a final achievement, the school allowed Phil to sit the geology exam as an extra school subject, which he passed.

Phil began his university studies at the School of Mines, Kalgoorlie, seven hours drive east of Perth. He said, “I chose that college because I always wanted to do the practical side of geology.”

It turned out to be an excellent choice, since it gave Phil direct access to many geoscientists working in the extensive and varied mining enterprises of the region. For his major assessment project, he geologically mapped part of a rich mineral region a few hundred kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, an area not mapped in detail before.

During his vacations, Phil worked as a geological sampler at the underground Windarra Nickel Mine, five hours north of Kalgoorlie. Phil said,

This was a fantastic learning experience. It gave me a great look at lots of ultramafic rocks1 in fresh form, rather than the deeply weathered surface exposures. Also, I was thrilled to be trained by the company geologists. And as a bonus, it helped finance my studies.

Jellyfish discovery

leeman
On the 2020 Kalbarri Safari. At the entrance of a Stockyard Gully cave, near Leeman, WA.

Phil had not been working long as a geologist when he became a Christian. He describes the impact this had on his life:

Going from atheist-evolutionist to Christian, and hence creationist, was a total mindset change. Obviously, this was diametrically opposed to all I had been taught in my geology studies, when it came to Earth’s origins and subsequent history.

Immediately, Phil started to reassess his geological teaching and his field observations to see if anything supported this new (to him) model of creation-Flood history. He said,

I was amazed to discover that much of the geology I knew, especially the sedimentary rocks, indicated rapid water deposition rather than slow and gradual processes.

He also spent a great deal of time studying the Bible for direction in all aspects of his new spiritual life.

Not long after Phil became a Christian, while he was working at the Dowd’s Hill mine between Perth and Kalgoorlie, he was on duty as a ‘tourist guide’. A young man in a group of people he was showing around was a fervent rock collector.

Phil explains,

He told me he had seen jellyfish fossils in a gorge at Wittenoom, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, 1000 km to the north.

This was astounding to Phil, who was still wrestling with evolution. “I momentarily thought ‘Not possible! Complex multi-celled life was not around when those rocks were laid down’.” Almost in the same instant Phil became excited by the thought of a new possibility.

I asked him for directions and organized a four-week family holiday to investigate. We found the fossils. Yes! They were clearly fossil jellyfish—supposedly ‘1.9 billion years’ before complex life was supposed to have evolved.

The busyness of life meant the jellyfish specimens he had collected sat as garden ornaments for a long time. But eventually, Phil put together a scientific paper about the fossils, which he published in our journal (see Ref. 2). Phil said,2

The implications of this fossil dis-co-very are enormous. It directly contradicts many of the widely accepted theories about evolution. Specifically, it contradicts narratives about the development of life, the earth’s paleoclimate, the earth’s paleo-atmosphere, and the hugely popular theory of ‘Snowball Earth’. That is a theory proposed to explain the sudden appearance of complex fossils in the Cambrian—the so-called Cambrian Explosion.

Phil has worked to raise awareness of this ground-breaking find. He has presented this jellyfish fossil evidence to several audiences, including a large creation conference in Perth in 2014. Also, he sent his paper to Sandra J. Carlson, Professor of Geology, University of California, USA, and then president of the Paleontological Society. She replied, “I am glad to see that you conclude that these are indeed fossils—they are beautifully preserved.”3

In general, there has been little reaction to these fossils, and this disinterest is understandable since it challenges the very foundation of evolution over long ages. Phil thinks that accepting such clear fossil evidence, even when it contradicts a strongly held belief, should be the hallmark of a true scientist. “However,” Phil said, “getting it widely accepted is difficult when the geological column is ‘set in stone’ and no-one dares to ‘rock the boat’.” (Phil likes puns. ) He went on, “I am convinced there are many specimens stored away in the ‘too hard basket’ because of a ‘religious’ adherence to long-age evolution beliefs.”

Creation safaris

Having become a Christian and learned how the Bible illuminates the world, Phil has had a passion to educate others.

I want to spread the information I wrestled with after I came to Christ, information I found so liberating. I want others to have the same joy and confidence in God’s Word.

To that end, Phil relishes opportunities to speak at churches, youth groups, and Christian schools. He loves exploring geological sites and has accumulated a great deal of amazing evidence for geological catastrophe. He has run day trips into the country to show others the geological features firsthand.

I wanted people to see for themselves how the rocks and landscapes at our feet provide power-ful evidence for the reliability of the Bible.

Since the 1990s, in addition to the day trips, Phil has organized safaris up to a week long. These have proved very popular, highly educational, and a great time of friendship and personal growth. One popular trip is through the countryside five hours south of Perth, including the spectacular Stirling Ranges and beyond. Another, which Phil describes as the pick of the tours, explores a region some six hours north of Perth in the remarkable Kalbarri area. All manner of people take part, with an enormous spread of ages, ranging from 5 years old to 83.

On these tours, Phil first demystifies the geology, showing people how geologists observe and describe the rocks. Phil says,

We can all observe the rocks in the present, but no-one saw how the rocks formed in the past. I explain how geologists who don’t believe the Bible develop their stories about the past. Then, I explain how the same observations actually provide much better support for creation and the Genesis Flood.

The creation safaris have been well received, and people quickly understand the concepts. In fact, people on the tours have made remarkable fossil discoveries themselves. Phil was thrilled and plans to have those discoveries published in scientific papers.

The journey continues

murchison
On the 2020 Kalbarri Safari. Observing fossil trackways at the base of Z-bend, Murchison River Gorge.

Phil’s passion for geology has taken him on a remarkable journey. Though he did not grow up in a ‘church going’ family, his mother organized Sunday school lessons for the children through the postal service. Phil enjoyed the stories greatly.

However, the evolutionary philosophy later presented to him in science and geology led Phil to embrace atheism. This opened him to the negative side of university culture—a downward spiral into heavy drinking and the drug scene.

This all changed though when he encountered some Christian girls at university. Their faith in Christ challenged Phil, which led to him repenting and receiving Christ. His hunger for understanding the truth of God’s Word led to him reading and researching all aspects of biblical creation and Earth’s subsequent history. He married one of the girls, Jan. They raised a family and have grandchildren. Geology took on a new and exciting direction. He made amazing discoveries, and he and Jan are enjoying a fruitful and productive life.

Posted on homepage: 26 September 2022

References and notes

  1. Igneous rocks with low silica content. Return to text.
  2. Worts, P., Fossil jellyfish from the Pilbara, Western Australia, Journal of Creation 27(1):114–118, 2013; creation.com/fossil-jellyfish-pilbara. Return to text.
  3. Charles Darwin rejected Noah’s Flood, and thus predicted we would never find any jellyfish fossils, but this has been proven wrong many times over (e.g. creation.com/hundreds-of-jellyfish-fossils). Return to text.

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