Slow fish in China
The fossil find in China now confirms that fish appear suddenly in the fossil record along with all the other kinds of animals
A friend of mine once tried to use the fossil record to disprove evolution. If he could find just one extraordinary out-of-place fossil, he thought, it would upset the entire geologic column, and hence the theory of evolution. He was badly disillusioned when he couldn’t find any.
However, I don’t think he understood how fossil discoveries are handled by evolutionary scientists or the order in which Noah’s Flood would have buried them.
The reality is that fossils are being found in new places all the time1 but these finds do not cause evolutionists to doubt evolution. This is because most scientists have already decided that evolution over millions of years is ‘a fact’. This is called a presupposition—something which is assumed to be true at the outset, because the only alternative is creation. So, when new fossil evidence is considered, the idea that evolution could be wrong is never contemplated.
Take for example animals with backbones. Vertebrates were once the only major animal group not found fossilised in the Cambrian system of rocks.2 All other kinds of multi-celled animals, including trilobites and shellfish, appeared abundantly at the base of the Cambrian (said by evolutionists to be 545 million years old3).
Fish were the ‘first’ vertebrates found, and these were only in much higher strata—in the upper Silurian system,4 dated by evolutionists at about 420 million years old. A number of varieties were identified, including sharks, and fish without jaws—agnathans.5,6 The eel-like sea lamprey and hagfish are examples of agnathans and they live in the oceans today. Lampreys are semi-parasitic and use their mouth to attach to other fish.
So, fish appeared much ‘later’ in the rocks than many other animals, and this seemed eminently logical to the evolutionists. They surmised that it would take much longer for chance and natural selection to ‘work out’ how to construct animals with backbones than it would shellfish or trilobites.6 An extra 125 million years would be more than enough time, they thought.
However, by the 1950s, fish fossils had been found in Colorado, USA, from Middle Ordovician rocks (these occur just below the Silurian and above the Cambrian).7 Similar finds were later reported from Australia.7 These are dated at some 470 million years. But even though the first fish now appeared some 50 million years earlier, still there was plenty of time for evolution to have worked, they thought. The new finds just affected the ideas about what fish had evolved from and when, not if fish had evolved (that is a ‘fact’, remember).
By the late 1990s, fish had been found even ‘earlier’, from the Early Ordovician system, supposedly around 490 million years ago. There were even accounts of fish fossils in older rocks but these were only fragments of bone-like material8 and scales,9 and were disputed.
However, just last year a team of nine scientists reported well-preserved fossils of two different kinds of agnathan fish from China found in Lower Cambrian strata.10,11 The fossils are described as ‘the most convincing Early Cambrian vertebrates ever found’,11 and extend the fossil range of fish by at least 20 and possibly 50 million years in evolutionary thinking. Vertebrates had now been found at the base of the Cambrian along with all the other multi-celled animals.
The first point to realise from this sequence of events is that, in scientific terms, there is no such thing as an out-of-place fossil. Fossils are found where they are found—there is really no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ place. A scientist may have difficulty explaining some fossils by his notion of evolution and so he may be reluctant to accept the fossil as authentic. Indeed this may have been why for many years the fragments of early fish fossils were disputed. But once the location of a fossil is reliably established, the evolutionist scientist turns his attention to the question ‘What does this mean for how evolution occurred?’
And the second lesson to learn is that belief in evolution is not upset by new fossil finds. In the case of the fossils from China it was even suggested that the find was ‘long awaited’.11 Evolutionists do not question evolution because they already believe it as a fact. New fossil discoveries just make them change their stories. Fossil finds are automatically absorbed into the general evolutionary scheme of things as evolutionist scientists set about developing evolutionary models to explain the data.
Scientists who believe the Bible also have presuppositions, but ones that are entirely different from those of evolutionists. Naturally we have exactly the same fossil evidence, but because we have a different starting point, we have different explanations. It is not a matter of manipulating the data, but modifying the scientific models used to explain the data.
For the fossil fish, the answer is easy because fossils buried all over the earth are what we would expect from Noah’s Flood. There is no need for millions of years for the different species of plants and animals to evolve. They were already all living on the earth when the Flood began. The fossils simply record the order in which plants and animals were buried about 4,500 years ago during the one-year Flood described in Genesis chapters 6–8.
It is not hard to appreciate that the global Flood would produce a definite order for fossils. The first sediments would have been deposited in the oceans, and buried marine animals. Slow movers such as the trilobites would have been entombed first, while fish could have more easily escaped the underwater avalanches. Remarkably, the fossils from China show clear evidence that the fish were buried suddenly by an underwater rush of sediment, just as expected from the global Flood. The throat of one fish contained sediment, showing that it had been buried alive.12
The scientists who found the fish in China proposed exactly the same explanation. They suggest that fish are very rare in Cambrian and Ordovician rocks because they were active swimmers and could generally escape from the underwater avalanches.12 Interestingly, one of the fossils resembled a young lamprey11 which is parasitic on other fish. This means that although fossils of other fish are not found until later, they must have been alive at the same time. They were just more successful than the lamprey at avoiding the avalanches.
The fossil find in China now confirms that fish appear suddenly in the fossil record along with all the other kinds of animals. In evolutionary thinking this is some 50 million years earlier than previously known, and should compound the problem of how the different kinds of animals all evolved together in such a short time.
For the creationist, the new fossil find is no problem at all. It was just a matter of a few slow fish buried in (what is now) China. They were not quick enough to escape the sudden underwater avalanches during the Flood, and paid the price.
References and notes
- Woodmorappe, J., The fossil record: becoming more random all the time, Journal of Creation 14(1):110–116 2000, and Oard, M., How well do paleontologists know fossil distributions? Journal of Creation 14(1):7–8, 2000, report a number of recent cases where fossils have been found in new parts of the geologic column. Return to text.
- The Cambrian system refers to the characteristic fossils from some of the lowest lying strata in Great Britain. The anti-evolutionist geologist Adam Sedgwick first explored these strata in 1831 in Wales, and used the Latin word for Wales to name the system. Return to text.
- All evolutionary dates have been taken from Gradstein, F. and Ogg, J., A Phanerozoic time scale, Episodes 19(1&2):3–5 and chart, 1996. Return to text.
- The Silurian system refers to groups of fossils characteristic of strata from South Wales which are above the Cambrian strata but under almost all the other strata in Great Britain. Murchison first explored these strata in 1835, and named the system after an ancient British tribe that inhabited the area. Return to text.
- Miller, H., The Testimony of the Rocks, Thomas Constable & Co., Edinburgh, UK, pp. 62–66, 1857. Return to text.
- Wells, H.G., Huxley, J. and Wells, G.P., The Science of Life, The Amalgamated Press Ltd., London, UK, p. 466, 1931. Return to text.
- Lubenow, M.L., Significant fossil discoveries since 1959: creationism confirmed, Creation Res. Soc. Quart. 17(3):148–160, 1980. Return to text.
- Stearn, C.W. and Carroll, R.L., Paleontology: The Record of Life, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, USA, p. 184, 1989. Return to text.
- Shu, D., et al., Lower Cambrian vertebrates from south China, Nature 402(6757), p. 42, 1999. Return to text.
- Ref. 9, pp. 42–46. Return to text.
- Janvier, P., Catching the first fish, Nature 402(6757):21–22, 1999. Return to text.
- Ref. 9, p. 45. Return to text.
Presuppositions are hard to fight or debate. If you show someone a "blue" piece of paper and they see a "red" one where do you go from there? Jesus Christ proved who He was by raising people from the dead and healing the sick and lame. He then was hung on a cross by many who witnessed what he had done. To those that believe in evolution "evidence" disproving it is only something to dance around using new "theories" and fancy words designed to support their presuppositions.
Digging down to the starting point, the basis of thought, is key. It is uncomfortable to realize how fragile human thought is, though.
Assumptions become hidden and turn into presuppositions where they take root in the inner paradigm of a person. A paradigm seems like reality to the person who is deceived by it. Any real facts that come in are worked into it just as outside reality is worked into your dream—if you don’t wake up. Conflicting facts are dismissed without thought, absorbed in, placed into a different compartment (compartmentalization), or not even acknowledge by the mind.
So it’s easy to see why evolutionists (or naturalists/materialists/old-Earthers) are not challenged by facts such as those presented in this article. And, evolutionists surround themselves with people who share very similar paradigms, so they have support to maintain their paradigms. Once embedded into the paradigm, concepts are not challenged because they have become “reality”—fake reality that seems like real reality to the person who is bewitched by them.
Followers of Christ have the starting point of Jesus Christ and the revelation that He gives, which they are supposed to use as the foundation for their thinking. But Christ, and His revelation, has been arbitrarily dismissed from scientific discussion, not fitting into the secular/atheistic paradigm. However, without revelation, what can we use for a foundational starting point, a root premise, for our logic? The alternative to revelation is “I just pulled it from the air and tried to make it sound rational.” To avoid challenging this sandy foundation, they must decree that only conclusions that fit the secular/atheist paradigm can be considered.
I have to wonder what sci-fi evolutionists will concoct to cover this find.
So the flood also sorted foraminfera by coiling direction and O16 Vs O18 according to water temperature, rugose from hexacorals in their life positions, plus preserved worm, arthropod, amphibian, reptile & mammal tracks, sorted desert from glacial, freshwater & marine sediments?
You are citing interpretations based on long-age evolutionary assumptions. As you should know, since you follow creation.com site regularly, these are all answered in the many articles published on this site. Simply use the search box with the appropriate keywords and you will find them.
Dear All, It has often been remarked that the 'trad' W&M [Whitcomb & Morris] view of fossil burial by gradual 'ecological zonation' is deeply flawed, as the mountains to which many life-forms are supposed to have escaped to - simply DID NOT EXIST when the Flood began! The mountains we know are clearly of massively Catastrophic/Erosive origin, laid towards the end of the Flood at the very latest, & artefacts of the Flood & Ice-Age etc itself. We cannot begin to imagine the incredible scale of the breakup of the 'Springs of the Gt Deep', 'Windows of Heaven' [poss meteors etc?] & Rain, which immediately came and 'swept everything away' - no chance to escape - just as Jesus said His return will be!!! In One day the Flood came & .......