Why a new approach is needed

Cretaceous dinosaur tracks, Los Cayos, Rioja Fossils show that life on Earth has a past, and that there is something mysterious about that past. Even if Earth had hosted life for billions of years, it would not necessarily have left a voluminous, layered record of it. All rocks might have been formed when the planet was formed, and life have subsisted just on the surface, leaving no trace of its history.

But that is not how things are. Collectively, the rock record is continuous – there were always sediments forming somewhere on Earth. The fossil record contained within it, on the other hand, like the Turin papyrus of Egyptian kings, is fragmentary and difficult to decipher. But it gives us something to go on, and the fossils within the rocks can be spectacular. Some familiar-looking, others foreign, 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 plants and animals all trace their genealogy back to self-assembling inorganic chemicals. But that is not correct. 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 idea 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, fossilised 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 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.

Science, when most true to its principles, is always looking to test explanations, both against further data and against alternative explanations. It is always prepared to throw out what does not pass muster. However, it is also an activity practised by human beings, with strong feelings when it comes to the nature of reality. 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.

Silver Sands, Leighton Buzzard (Cretaceous)This site offers a different approach, leading to different explanations. If we can but clear our minds of ideological baggage, we will 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 thereafter by natural processes 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.