I already gave you my general thoughts on the debate that took place between Ken Ham and Bill Nye last week. However, I would like to address a few of the particular subjects that Bill Nye raised, because I don’t think Ken Ham did a great job of answering them. Of course, due to the debate structure, neither of the men had much time to address the other’s issues. Nevertheless, I do think they each could have done more than they actually did.
In this post, I want to concentrate on Nye’s contention that the fossil record neatly supports evolution. For example, in his presentation he described the geological column, claiming that the “higher” animals are found in more recent rock layers, while the “lower” animals are found in the older rock layers. Starting at 1:04:15 in the online video, he then says:
You never, ever find a higher animal mixed in with a lower one. You never find a lower one trying to swim its way to the higher one…Anyone here, really, if you can find one example of that – one example of that anywhere in the world – the scientists of the world challenge you – they would embrace you. You would be a hero. You would change the world if you could find one example of that anywhere.
Nye repeated a variation of this claim later in the debate, so it was clearly meaningful to him.
Of course, the fact is that you do find higher animals in rock layers with lower animals. Evolutionists have many ways of dealing with the problem, but none of them involve making the discoverer into a hero.
One of the ways evolutionists deal with the problem is to simply deny what the fossil clearly indicates. For example, in 2006 the journal Science published a paper entitled, “A Nearly Modern Amphibious Bird from the Early Cretaceous of Northwestern China.”1 It discusses several fossils of a bird named Gansus yumenensis. As the title of the article makes clear, the fossils look very much like modern ducks. There are a few features different from modern ducks, such as claws on the wings, but overall, they look like modern ducks. The problem is that they can’t be ducks, because they are supposed to be 105-115 million years old, which is long before ducks were supposed to have evolved. As a result, National Geographic says:
It may have looked like a duck and acted like a duck, but Gansus was no duck.
Because of its supposed age, then, it is considered to be a very primitive ancestor of ducks, despite the fact that it looks nearly modern.
Another way evolutionists deal with the problem of “higher” fossils found in rock layers that should contain only “lower” animals is to simply change the story of evolution to accommodate the new fossils. For example, when I was at university, I was taught as definitive fact that the vertebrates (animals with backbones) first appeared about 480 million years ago, when rock that has been assigned to the Ordovician era was being laid down. Here, for example, is what I read in anthropology class:2
The first vertebrates, which appeared about 480 million years ago, were water dwelling, for life originated in the waters of the earth, and it was only gradually that first plants, and later animals, appeared on land and made their ways inland.
Since then, of course, paleontologists have found vertebrate fossils in Cambrian rock, which is supposed to be older than Ordovician rock. As a result, they have just changed the story of evolution. Rather than appearing 480 million years ago, vertebrates are now thought to have appeared about 525 million years ago.3 If a vertebrate fossil is later found in rock that is supposedly older, that won’t be a problem. Evolutionists will simply say that vertebrates evolved even earlier.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that such hypothesis adjustment is a bad thing. Obviously, if you want to believe that evolution occurred and you find a vertebrate fossil in rock that is supposed to be older than any previously-known vertebrate fossils, you will have to adjust your hypothesis to allow for vertebrates to have evolved earlier. Of course, the question of how such rapid evolution could take place becomes more of an issue, but that’s a separate question. My point is simply that evolutionists will never see a “higher” animal fossil mixed in with “lower” animal fossils to be a problem with their hypothesis. They will simply change the hypothesis to incorporate the new information.
Now, of course, when a fossil is found way out of order, something else must be done. Typically, a fantastic story is told in order to explain around the fossil. For example, not long ago, I discussed some amber that was found in Carboniferous rock that is supposed to be 320 million years old. This amber has all the chemical indications of being produced by a tree that belongs to the group of plants we call angiosperms (flower-making plants). The problem, of course, is that angiosperms weren’t supposed to have evolved until about 180 million years ago. Thus, the amber was found in rock that was 140 million years too old. Did that give evolutionists pause? Not at all.
They simply said that there must have been some kind of gymnosperm (a tree that produces uncovered seeds, like an evergreen) that just happened to produce amber that is chemically indistinguishable from the amber made by angiosperms. Gymnosperms were supposed to be around 320 million years ago, so if this amber came from a gymnosperm, there is no problem. It doesn’t matter that all known gymnosperms produce a resin (the stuff that makes amber) which is chemically quite distinct from the resin made by angiosperms. Because evolution must be true, there must have been a gymnosperm that lived 320 million years ago and made such resin. Of course, that gymnosperm is now conveniently extinct.
In the end, then, it’s not surprising that Nye thinks there is not a single example of a fossil found out of its supposed evolutionary order. When you are willing to ignore what the fossil looks like, redefine your evolutionary timeline, or make up an elaborate story that preserves the evolutionary timeline, you can make any fossil fit the evolutionary tale!
1. Hai-lu You, Matthew C. Lamanna, Jerald D. Harris, Luis M. Chiappe, Jingmai O’Connor, Shu-an Ji, Jun-chang Lü, Chong-xi Yuan, Da-qing Li, Xing Zhang, Kenneth J. Lacovara, Peter Dodson, and Qiang Ji, “A Nearly Modern Amphibious Bird from the Early Cretaceous of Northwestern China,” Science 312:1640-1643, 2006
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2. Victor Barnouw, An Introduction to Anthropology, Dorsey Press 1971, p. 44
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3. D-G. Shu, H-L. Luo, S. Conway Morris, X-L. Zhang, S-X. Hu, L. Chen, J. Han, M. Zhu, Y. Li, and L-Z. Chen, “Lower Cambrian vertebrates from south China,” Nature 402:42-46, 1999
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