Yet Another Failure of “Geological Column” Reasoning

Skeleton of the titanosaur Epachthosaurus at the National Museum, Prague, Czech Republic. Note the plant, a cycad, in the display. (Click for credit)

If a display of dinosaurs or dinosaur skeletons includes plants, it usually shows the dinosaurs walking among ferns or cycads, like the picture shown above. There usually aren’t any grasses in the display. Why not? Because according to the geological column, grasses and dinosaurs didn’t live at the same time. After all, dinosaurs mostly died out by the end of the Cretaceous period, which was supposed to have closed about 65 million years ago. According to You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe, grasses didn’t evolve until much later:1

Rabbits and hares appear 55 million years ago. The Himalayas begin to rise 50 million years ago. The face of the earth looks recognisably as it is now, except that Australasia is attached to Antarctica. Bats, mice, squirrels, and many aquatic birds (including herons and storks) appear during this period, as do shrews, whales, and modern fish. All major plants make their appearance and grasses evolve.

Notice how certain the author is. He is telling you the story of the history of life as if he is watching it happen. According to his “observations,” grasses didn’t evolve until about 50 million years ago, long after the dinosaurs went extinct.

This kind of certainty is rampant in evolutionary writings. For example, The Encyclopedia of Earth tells us:

The evolution and spread of grasses UNDOUBTEDLY resulted from their ability to adapt to seasonally dry habitats created as tropical-deciduous forests developed in the Eocene (58 to 34 mya, million years ago). Considering their importance and taxonomic diversity, grasses have a relatively poor fossil record. While the earliest potential fossil grass pollen was described from late Cretaceous sediments, the oldest reliable megafossil grass fossils were spikelets and inflorescences from the latest Paleocene (about 58 mya). These were PRIMITIVE proto-bamboos with broad leaves, QUITE UNLIKE the narrow-leaf modern grasses of desert grasslands and deserts. (emphasis mine)

Of course, as is often the case, current research is demonstrating just how wrong this evolution-inspired reasoning is.

Back in 2005, Vandana Prasad and colleagues published some startling results based on their examination of fossilize dinosaur dung (called coprolite). They think that the fossilized dung came from titanosaurs, such as the one pictured above. As expected, they found silica structures called phytoliths in the fossilized dung. These microscopic structures are produced when plants decay, and typically, one can identify the type of plant from the structure of the phytolith. They found phytoliths typical of the kinds of plants usually depicted with dinosaurs, but they also found phytoliths that they claimed could have only come from some form of grass!2 Since grasses weren’t supposed to have evolved back then, it was a bit of a surprise to find their phytoliths in dinosaur coprolite. After all, how could dinosaurs have eaten plants that hadn’t evolved yet?

Obviously, the same scientists have been continuing their line of research, as three of them recently published another paper (along with some other scientists) describing additional phytoliths that they say belong to some form of rice, which is in the biological “tribe” known as Oryzeae. Based on their analysis, they say:3

The new Oryzeae fossils suggest substantial diversification within Ehrhartoideae by the Late Cretaceous, pushing back the time of origin of Poaceae as a whole. These results, therefore, necessitate a re-evaluation of current models for grass evolution and palaeobiogeography.

[NOTE: Ehrhartoideae is a broader group of grasses that includes the rices, and Poaceae is the family that contains all grasses.]

In other words, the authors say that their results require that substantial grass evolution must have taken place during the time of the dinosaurs. Now the hypothesis of evolution is so plastic that it can certainly be remolded to allow for grasses to have evolved with the dinosaurs rather than with the mammals, as has been so confidently asserted for so long. That won’t be a problem. However, what I find interesting about this is that it represents just another example of the faultiness of conclusions based on the geological column.

For a long time now, evolutionists have confidently taught that dinosaurs and grasses didn’t live at the same time because there are no grass fossils in the same layers of rock as dinosaur fossils. As I have mentioned previously, however, this reasoning has already been demonstrated to be incorrect. Coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines are all found in the fossil record, but their remains are never found in the same layers of rock as human remains. Indeed, according to the geological column, they all went extinct long before human beings ever walked the face of the earth. Thus, you can obviously conclude that none of these organisms lived at the same time as human beings. Of course, that conclusion is demonstrably false, as living versions of each of these organisms can be found today.

When someone tells you that humans and dinosaurs could not possibly have existed at the same time because their fossils are not found in the same layers of rock, remind them of the dinosaurs and the grasses. The same reasoning applied to them, but we now know it is wrong. For that matter, you can remind them of coelacanths, tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines.

When evolutionary reasoning is tested by the data, it is rarely confirmed.

REFERENCES

1. Christopher Potter, You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe, Harper, 2010, p. 245
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2. Vandana Prasad, Caroline A. E. Strömberg, Habib Alimohammadian, and Ashok Sahni, “Dinosaur Coprolites and the Early Evolution of Grasses and Grazers,” Science 310:1177-1180, 2005
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3. V. Prasad, C.A.E. Strömberg, A.D. Leaché, B. Samant, R. Patnaik, L. Tang, D.M. Mohabey, S. Ge, and A. Sahni, “Late Cretaceous origin of the rice tribe provides evidence for early diversification in Poaceae,” Nature Communications 2(9):480, 2011
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