Fossils are perhaps one of the most commonly cited evidences for both creation and evolution in discussions among scientific laymen. However, most non-scientists are not familiar with how fossils form or if they even matter in terms of origins. This article will be something of a primer on fossilization and the role fossils play in the origins debate.
A fossil, for anyone who may not know, is any trace of a once living organism, be it an impression, a bone, scales or an egg. However, the actual tissue itself is usually not present. Instead, the fossil tissue, including bone, is replaced with minerals. There are a lot of different ways this happens but all involve the replacement of the tissue and bone with minerals. Going through each type of fossilization is beyond the scope of this article, though a future article may cover them. The minerals get into the tissue as water seeps into the microscopic pores that exist even in bone. This water contains dissolved minerals. As the water dries, the minerals are left behind. However, this would not be enough on its own. The tissues being fossilized must be buried and fast. If they were not, the elements and scavengers would tear the tissue apart and ingest it. Ingested tissue does not fossilize. The elements would also wear away at any exposed tissue, not giving the fossilization process the time it needs to work. Thus the tissues must be buried quickly to have any chance at fossilization. If they are buried quickly, conditions still must be nearly perfect for fossil formation. There must be plenty of available water irrigating the sediments the tissue is buried in. Further, this water must be high in dissolved minerals, or the tissue and or bone will not be replaced with these minerals and thus preserved as rock. This process takes a very short period of time, in some cases as little as a few days with the right conditions.
Any evolutionist reading this is already upset with me because of the last sentence. However this can be demonstrated very easily using the image at the top of the article. When a leaf falls from a tree it quickly shrivels up and dies, crumbling to pieces at the touch within a few days. Yet there are thousands of fossilized leaves such as the one pictured above. As you can clearly see, the fossil above is well preserved, down to the veins of the leave, with only some small holes much as any leaf might get upon being buried. Note also that it is flat, not shriveled. Some leaves shrivel within a few hours of being off the tree or plant and surely no leaf would survive without shriveling millions of years detached from the tree. You can test that at home by taking a leaf and seeing how long it lasts apart from the tree it came from. If it took millions of years to fossilize, there would be no leaf fossils at all, yet there are thousands.
There is much more depth we could go into regarding fossils but for now, I want to focus on the role they play in the origins debate. Evolutionists love bringing up fossils as evidence for evolution. Usually they will cite transitional fossils, such as the debunked Archaeopteryx as one of their proofs of evolution. Transitional fossils are a myth that evolution likes to pass off as fact. Fossils do not count individually as evidence for evolution. This is because, even if they are in fact a mixture of bird and reptile as Archeopteryx is assumed to be, there is no proof that the fossil had offspring. Even assuming it did have offspring, it must be further assumed that the offspring shared their parents “transitional” form, of which there is no proof either.
A second way evolutionists attempt to use fossils is something called the geologic column. Evolutionists point out that fossils tend to be buried in layers, with smaller, apparently less well developed organisms tending to be at the bottom and larger, seemingly more advanced organisms are found towards the top. They are correct in pointing this out. Where they err is in the assumption they take from it. They assume that the rock layers formed slowly over long periods of time, and thus the progression of fossils represents the course of evolution. However, there are other possible explanations. Perhaps there was a global flood as the Bible describes, which would have washed layers of sediment over the land. The slowest creatures would have been buried fastest, while the larger, stronger, faster creatures could have avoided being buried longer. Thus the geologic column could represent a simple gradient of animals strength, speed and wits.
One piece of evidence from fossils evolutionists do not like discussing are fossil graveyards. Fossil graveyards are jumbles of fossils from sometimes hundreds of kinds of organisms, all buried in a mixture together. These kinds of creatures are often widely separated in the geologic column and are frequently involved in predator/prey relationships. Yet they are all found in the same burial ground, sometimes stretched one across another. There can be only two explanations for this. They all were caught under the same advancing wall of sediment laid down either by a volcanic eruption or a flood, or all died in a flood and were deposited in the same place by the tides. A volcano is unlikely unless combined with a flood. Water is unlikely to seep through volcanic sediment fast enough to fossilize on such a grand scale. Therefore a flood is required. Inconveniently for the evolutionist, the Bible tells of exactly the kind of flood that would have created the dozens of fossil graveyards we see around the world. Whether the animals were buried during the flood or after by the tides is subject to some debate. It seems more likely that they were buried by tides after the flooding had ceased due to the jumbled nature of the graveyards but this is assumption, not proof.
Fossils in origins are something of a mixed item. They do not prove evolution, as much as many evolutionists would like us to believe that. On the other hand, they do not really do much for the creation worldview either. Certainly the fossil graveyards are useful, but they serve as mere anecdotal evidence, not something that changes hearts. However, because all we know of dinosaurs comes from fossils, they will continue to make the rounds in origins circles and continue to thrill children all over the world.