But that is not how things are. Collectively, Earth’s rocks provide a continuous record. Like the Turin papyrus of Egyptian kings, the record is fragmentary and often difficult to decipher, but at least it gives us something to go on, and the fossils within the rocks can be both spectacular and revealing. They provide an opportunity to investigate life’s history almost back to the beginning. They represent a mystery which we can try to solve, in the hope of answering some of man’s profoundest questions.
The prevailing assumption is that fossils reveal an evolutionary story, where all plants and animals trace their genealogy back to self-assembling inorganic chemicals. However, that is not what the fossils show. The first five-sixths of the record consists of bacteria and algae, and as can be seen from even a casual look at the literature, there is nothing to connect bacteria with multi-celled animals, plants with animals, invertebrates with vertebrates, and so on. The beginnings of most major groups are sudden.
Others argue that fossils are the remains of creatures buried in a global flood. This too does not stand up, as can be readily seen from the photographs – tracks made by dinosaurs living kilometres above what would have been the pre-flood surface, burnt logs of similar age and stratigraphic height, washed into an estuary after fire. Roots and tree stumps buried in growth position, in-situ reefs and encrusted sea-floors, vast reservoirs of organically generated oil, successive coal forests, fossils of tracks, burrows, nests, eggs and faeces left by living animals all show that the geological record cannot be boiled down into a single mega-catastrophe.
Ideologies generate ideas about what must have happened, and where contradicting evidence forces a choice between what must have and what did happen, it is the ‘what must have happened’ that wins out. The scientific theories underpinning them (evolution by natural selection, the Big Bang, Noah’s Flood) are falsified theories, kept alive not by any explanatory power but by belief.
On the one hand, science, when most true to its principles, is always looking to test explanations, both against further data and against alternative explanations; in the interests of truth it is always prepared to throw out what does not pass muster. On the other, it is an activity practised by human beings, and human beings are not merely emotional animals but spiritual ones, with strong feelings when it comes to religious matters. When science seeks to understand how the heavens, the earth and everything in them came into existence, it is exploring religious as much as scientific questions.
This site offers a different approach, leading to different explanations. If we can clear our minds of ideological baggage, we may find that there is truth on both sides: evidence for large-scale evolution in the fossil record over tens of thousands of years and also evidence for an originating creation that was subsequently undone. The opposing camps fall short chiefly when they deny, or ignore, the most compelling evidence on the other side. We need to move beyond the polemics which assume that evolution and creation are mutually exclusive.
Organisms evolved as they recolonised a planet engulfed by a cataclysm immediately before the beginning of the rock sequence. Because that cataclysm destroyed the original lithosphere, the Earth cannot be studied in its original form. What can be studied are the lands and oceans which formed by natural processes thereafter and, to that extent, have an evolutionary history. The organisms that recolonised land and sea also went through phases of evolution. They were created with an immense potential for variation over time, and they progressively realised that potential as they multiplied and radiated across an unstable world.
To find out more, go to The Hadean cataclysm.