A 250 million year old fossilised tree stump in the grounds of a church


In the grounds of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, in the beautiful village of Stanhope, Country Durham, in the North East of England, stands this grand fossilised tree stump, with a plaque that reads:

Fossil Tree Sigillaria SP
This great tree grew in a forest of the middle carboniferous period (about 250 million years ago) near Edmundbyers Cross, now 1550 feet above sea level.

As its vegitable matter decayed this was replaced by sand which has formed a perfect cast in hard Ganister. The roots (stigmaria) show their characteristic form.

The tree was brought to Stanhope and erected here in 1962 by Mr. J G Beaston.

Not only is Stanhope’s Sigillaria a truly amazing relic from our planet’s ancient past, but that it stands in the grounds of a church whose patron, Saint Thomas, was noted for his doubting in the resurrection of Christ, is a poignant reminder that not all Christians are young-Earth creationists, wilfully in denial of the facts.

For example, when this tree was still growing, Tetrapods, the common ancestor of all modern amphibians, walked alongside other freshwater and lagoon invertebrates, bivalve molluscs and crustaceans.

That we can absolutely categorically without question prove that this is true, not just from the fossil record, but from the entirely independent evidence contained in the genes which we humans have in common with those simpler forms of life, as they themselves do with all life on Earth, says everything you could want to say about the weight of evidence which is stacked up against those who simply wish that supernatural causation showed even the slightest thumbprint in the forensics of truth.

But what struck me most, as I stood in the formidable presence of this ancient signal from our Earth’s past was the lack of a legalese disclaimer, at the foot of the inscription. No pandering to the deluded infinitesimally small minority, who might attend the church believing in a literal interpretation of scripture, which insists there is a contradiction inherent in anything which predates the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old testament.

Instead, just an honest description of what the tree tells us about time and space and our feeble first steps into a true understanding of not just Earth, but the whole universe.

21 comments on “A 250 million year old fossilised tree stump in the grounds of a church

  1. It is a big one, yes! The tree that is :)

    LOVING your site these days by the way. Your ‘Entry for worst quote of the year?’ made me crack up laughing.

  2. Thanks a lot; it means loads to me :) Maybe one day it will be as awesome a site as this! I’ve got your RSS feed bookmarked on my iphone so i get all your updates ;) Keep it up!

  3. Pingback: For an atheist you spend an awful lot of time on religion « How good is that?

  4. Just back form the Christian Resources Exhibition and much to do, so not much time to give to this now but lets have a quick look.

    “Not only is Stanhope’s Sigillaria a truly amazing relic from our planet’s ancient past, but that it stands in the grounds of a church whose patron, Saint Thomas, was noted for his doubting in the resurrection of Christ, is a poignant reminder that not all Christians are young-Earth creationists, wilfully in denial of the facts.”

    “ancient past” speculation we only know it is here now, we do not know when it was petrified.

    “wilfully in denial of the facts” can we have a list of the facts of this tree. So we can see if we are in denial the facts. There appers to be a tree in a church yard, made of stone, I do not question this. What other facts do we have?

    “For example, when this tree was still growing, Tetrapods, the common ancestor of all modern amphibians, walked alongside other freshwater and lagoon invertebrates, bivalve molluscs and crustaceans.”

    Is this a fact of conjecture?

    “That we can absolutely categorically without question prove that this is true, not just from the fossil record, but from the entirely independent evidence contained in the genes which we humans have in common with those simpler forms of life, as they themselves do with all life on Earth, says everything you could want to say about the weight of evidence which is stacked up against those who simply wish that supernatural causation showed even the slightest thumbprint in the forensics of truth.”

    “That we can absolutely categorically without question prove that this is true” If you are so sure why bother with us? You obviously know the answer, why waste our time or yours?

    But you cannot “absolutely categorically without question prove” this or almost anything else. You cannot apply the scientific method to it. You can only make speculative guesses based on scanty facts. If you can “absolutely categorically without question prove” claim the cash prizes that are on offer for proof of evolution.
    Genes in common are not proof of a common source, or common ancestor, they only prove that there are genes in common.

    “But what struck me most, as I stood in the formidable presence of this ancient signal from our Earth’s past was the lack of a legalese disclaimer, at the foot of the inscription. No pandering to the deluded infinitesimally small minority, who might attend the church believing in a literal interpretation of scripture, which insists there is a contradiction inherent in anything which predates the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old testament.”

    “ancient signal from our Earth’s past” more speculation! It is just a stone tree. It’s origins are unknown, unless you have more facts than you have given here.

    “No pandering to the deluded infinitesimally small minority, who might attend the church believing in a literal interpretation of scripture, which insists there is a contradiction inherent in anything which predates the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old testament.”

    Do you even understand what you are saying?

    “infinitesimally small” You could not pander to anything that small.

    “a contradiction inherent in anything which predates the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old testament.” Do you understand your own argument? I have not time to calculate the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old Testament, nor do I know anyone who has tried this. The period over which the prophets lived is about 1,600 years. I believe in things that pre-date this. If you are talking about the approximate calculated time for the creation of the earth based on the ages at which the patriarchs are recorded to have had a child and the age at which that child has a child etc. i.e. 4004 BC, I believe in things that pre-date this too. The Bible is clear about things that happened “before the foundation of the earth”.

    “Instead, just an honest description of what the tree tells us about time and space and our feeble first steps into a true understanding of not just Earth, but the whole universe.”

    Do you understand the meaning of ‘honest’ it must be something like the quality of communicating and acting truthfully related to truth as a value. What truth is there, what honesty is there in making a claim as fact that “This great tree grew in a forest… about 250 million years ago). That is not honest. If it said “we think this tree grew…” that would be honest.

    “the tree tell us” not much. It lived, it died, it’s wood was replaced with sand.

    I am sorry, I have read many articles by people who believe that the young age, God created it in six days view is wrong, but few have been as poor as this one.

    The Bible says “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…” (Psalms 14:1) I believe that it is your heart that is telling you there is no God, not your mind. Just as I believe Richard Dawkins would admit it is not from science that a God deniers say there is no God. It is from a heart that will not bow or submit to God, that they say there is no God.

    Creation more than tells you there is a creator. Come and join us in accepting His invitation to forgivness and adoption into his eternal family. I only offer you persicution and rejection form the world, but it is great. See fgw.bible-matters.com

  5. Just to give everyone a little bit of background, I invited Andrew here to comment after introducing myself to him on Twitter, following a film the BBC made about his Daughter, Debroah Drapper. The program featured Deborah visiting her brother at university and confronting non-Christians in the street with the views of Kent Hovind and other Answers In Genesis / Discovery Institute orientated young-Earth creationists, which Andrew encourages her and all his family to learn from in place of science.

    Many parts of the film were very disturbing. One section showed a bible class heavily prostelitizing to very young children by advertising itself as a puppet show open to the public, only then revealing the purpose of the set-up once the audience was assembled. Andrew and all of his family have been very heavily drawn into all of the American evangelical conspiracy theories. This includes attacks on the fact of evolution by natural selection and active campaigning against the teaching of rationalism and the logic of deductive scientific discovery in schools.

    Andrew is fully aware of methods such as radiocarbon dating which solidifies the vast wealth of evidence that categorically proves the earth is several billion years old. He is also fully aware of the counter-arguments to his own which prove beyond a shadow of doubt that there is no basis in fact for any of his assertions. He simply chooses to ignore them.

    In one twitter message Andrew mentioned Ernst Haeckel. I include here an extract from my book on this topic, which should give you a fair idea of why Andrew chooses to use Haeckel as a particular example of what he sees as frauds in the scientific establishment.

    Ernst Haeckel, for example, who sought to clarify the problem of the Cambrian explosion, which although known about in Darwin’s time, was not satisfactorily explained until many years after his death, is widely used by creationists as proof that there are frauds in evolution, who are, according to many within Christian “science” are protected from being exposed by an atheistic, materialist agenda, propagated by a conspiracy of an unseen, anti-American, un-Christian elite.

    In 1874, Haeckel published drawings which he claimed to show stark similarities between early embryonic development in completely different species of animal. Later Haeckel was compelled to clarify that some of the drawings were projections and not based upon actual observations. However this and this alone is sighted to this day as proof that Darwin based his work upon fraudulent evidence. This popular myth, spread by the anti-evolution movement, completely fails to acknowledge that not only were both of Darwin’s works, The Descent of Man and On the Origin of Species, published before the works of Haeckel, but that both these books used only two embryonic drawings, neither of which were Haeckel’s.

    Faced with this reality, the ever resourceful creationists have developed a second potentially far more damaging blind spot against Haeckel than this rather easily debunked falsehood. Despite Haeckel’s own admittance that certain of his works were artistic interpretations, rather than direct observations, he was able to later prove that early stage embryonic development shared cross-species characteristics which not only agreed with the theory of natural selection, but added even greater verisimilitude to his own recapitulation theory, which proposed a link between development of form and evolutionary descent. Creationists make no mention of this in their many tirades against the fake embryo drawings, because they know it renders impotent their entirely fabricated case against him. Nor is there any concession in anti-Darwin / Haeckel literature, propagated by anti-evolutionists, that while Haeckel’s work was at first based upon a hunch, it nevertheless later transpired to be one which was strikingly accurate, proving that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”. More than this, Haeckel’s theory did this without having to rely upon the fossil record alone to concur entirely with Darwinian natural selection. “The embryo”, Haeckel said, “is Ariadne’s thread”, when he discovered that in a stage of development known as Gastrulation, before Organogenesis occurs, forming the internal organs and later still the limbs and features of each distinct species, all life shares a similar transitory path. “Here”, at this early stage of zygote, Haeckel wrote, “is a recapitulation of the very first animal”, a hypothetical animal which he named Gastraeaden. His detractors howled with condemnation, calling the tree of life model which Haeckel built upwards from this simple early creature, a “most outrageous invention”. But unlike the amorphous tree of life which Darwin had used as a metaphor, Haeckel’s tree was the first scientific attempt at devising a taxonomy of every living thing on Earth which had so-far been discovered and studied.

    Ever since then Precambrian proto-creatures have begun to emerge in the fossil record—showing the incredible accuracy with which Haeckel based his predictions about our oldest of ancestors. But still creation science continues to insist that Haeckel is a fraud awaiting exposition; that others of his hypothetical transitory creatures, such as pithecanthropus are deliberately being covered up by the scientific community, scared of what this might mean for evolutionary theory. This despite that there is yet one more nail in the coffin of the God did it hypothesis, which not only confirms the work of Darwin and Haeckel, solidifying their theories with modern super-computing and scanning electron microscopy—but that the DNA evidence within each and every living creature on Earth underscores the last 150 years of scientific endeavour and encases it in solid, unambiguous, cold, hard evidence.

    Whether it be an antelope or a zebra, Mormon or Catholic, Sunni or Shia, bonobo or trilobite. By sequencing the genetic codes central to all life on Earth, we can date the age of animals in the tree of life. Trichoplax, for example. Discovered in 1883 by the German zoologist Franz Eilhard Schulze. A multi-cellular animal of around a millimetre in width, lacking in any organs or internal structure, containing about 98 million base pairs in their DNA. Of the 11,514 predicted protein coding genes in Trichoplax, almost 87% of them are identical to the genes found in all animals on Earth, humans included. Trichoplax’s ancestors diverged from the main evolutionary trunk over 1 billion years ago—perfectly corroborating Darwin’s assumption that there must have been abundant life in the Precambrian seas.

    What’s more, Trichoplax is but one of a long list of animals in the phyla taxonomic grouping, each of which diversify into separate species. Thorny head Acanthocephala has around 750 species. Little ring Annelida is described in around 15,300 different species. Spiny skin Echinodermata found in over 13,000 extinct species and around 7000 still in existence. Thread like Nematoda has between 80,000 and 1 million distinct species—each of them descended from common ancestors exactly as described by Darwinian natural selection and not one of them lacking in any way shape or form, or in any other way whatsoever wanting for divine intervention in explaining how each came to exist—not once!

    There are plants in the phyla taxonomic group too. Flower-horn Anthocerotophyta, Horn-shaped sporophytes. Liverworts and mosses, like Bryophyta and Marchantiophyta. There are Fungal divisions of the phyla, like Chytrids, Zygomycetes, Sac fungi and Basidium Mushrooms, each and every last one of those is described by decent with modification according to Darwinian principals of natural selection—and, as with all animal life on Earth—can be completely described without once requiring bronze-age creation myths be shoe-horned into the story to completely reconstruct their biogenetic history.

    Not content, however, with the evidence contained within the hundreds and thousands of other taxonomic groupings, each containing hundreds of thousands of species, the incomplete fossil record continues to form the central basis of attacks upon reason from within creation “science”—even though the fossil record no longer contains anywhere near as many of the original problematic gaps which troubled Darwin.

    Despite the Victorian-age origins of myths such as that of The Missing Link, and successive and complete explanations of why the discovery of such a link in the fossil record alone would not be proof of descent by modification, creationists continue to call for its discovery and continue to ignore the evidence which ultimately provides exactly what they ask for.

    Ungulates like cows and pigs, for example, have an ankle bone remarkably similar to the fossilised remains of cetacean whales, found in the ancient oceans. Not proof alone of the common ancestry between sheep and llamas, until we look at the genetic evidence. When we do that, we see that cetacean whales and hippopotamuses are descended from a common ancestor that lived over 55 Million years ago.

    And what does creation “science” have to say about this? The same thing it has always said about the evidence. There is no link. Darwin’s theory is flawed. And their “logic” behind these statements?

    “According to scripture the Earth didn’t exist 55 Million years ago and therefore the Precambrian explosion is proof that before sin there was no death and therefore nothing was dead to become a fossil in the first place.” – Kent Hovind, founder of Creation Science Evangelism Ministry

  6. I am sorry but I will not be able to keep up a debate here. We have hundreds of email and other contacts to follow up along with all the other things of life like work, schooling etc.

    But please criticise me for what I do and believe, not what others invent about me.

    This video actually shows Deborah sharing her faith based on Ray Comforts teaching not Kent Hovind, or any AIG teachers and we have never come across the Discovery Institute. Humm in “place of science”, does this show a fear that exposing someone to both sides of an argument is wrong. How many schools expose children to one view only? Is that not dangerous and stifling scientific endeavour?

    You talk of “a bible class heavily prostelitizing to very young children by advertising itself as a puppet show open to the public, only then revealing the purpose of the set-up once the audience was assembled.” This is just untrue. But then most attacks on Christians have to be based on untruth as that is the only way they can succeed. The puppet show was heavily advertised as a ‘Church Puppet Show’ (see here http://bible-matters.com/content/puppet-show-leaflet). We assume, that people still know that the church has a view of life based on the Bible. Nor was it prostelitizing, I did not call on people to join the church, but to reflect on their life before God, and in consideration of the Ten Commandments. It is still OK in the UK to have church events open to the public, and parents are allowed to bring their children to church.

    We happily examine the claims of evolution and the teaching of the Bible. My children are then free to choose what they follow. There is no shortage of people who are putting forward the “facts of evolution” Why do you fear that a little time with being taught both sides will overcome all of the masses of evolution being pushed from every side? Many atheist scientists question the currently predominant form of evolution teaching, why can we not? Why are we not free to do so? Do you want a fully mind controlled society where any divergent thought is illegal? Don’t worry it is coming soon.

    Could someone please remind me of the time limits on radiocarbon dating? I believe it is only good for a few tens of thousands of years not the billions being claimed here. Wiki suggests that it is used to “determine the age of carbonaceous materials up to about 60,000 years” Get it right! There are many other methods used to determine, or at least to give some evidence for larger ages, but at least I know the uses of C14 dating. Do not accuse me of things that are just untrue. Radiocarbon dating CANNOT PROVE THE EARTH IS SEVERAL BILLION YEARS OLD. It just cannot. To slur me and my family as being wrong or ignoring the facts is just wrong.

    You do not appear to even understand your own arguments. Let alone have an understanding of mine and be in a place to criticise them.

    I have not yet had time to look at you section on Haeckel, but it was his fraud about Ontology Recapitulates Philology that I was referring to, but only in response to your accusation of fraud.

  7. Not to keep too much of your time, Andrew, just a quick come back on what you’ve said above.

    You wouldn’t teach “both sides” of eugenics to children in the interest of keeping the parents of a white supremacist child happy that they were receiving an honest education. It is perhaps the one thing that vast majority of the religious and irreligious share in common, that the suggestion creationism provides any falsifiable evidence whatsoever, least of all any on a par with that of deductive logic, would be a dark hilarity if it wasn’t taken so seriously by those who actively campaign on it being introduced in secular schools.

    The video clip in the film which showed Deborah’s bedtime reading and listening habits showed convicted fraudster Kent Hovind, who you might be interested to note was also a huge influence on Shawn VenomFangX, the YouTube evangelist who inspired Anthony Powell to kill Asia McGowan before killing himself, who is now himself facing criminal charges for soliciting charitable donations without paying tax, although no where near as serious as the 58 counts which put Kent behind bars.

    FYI, The Discovery Institute probably publish or in some way endorse 99.9% of the material you teach your children is true when it is trivial to prove it false.

    Please name ONE “atheist scientist” who challenges ANY of the facts of evolution by natural selection.

  8. Despite hundreds of years of “scholarly” research and all sorts of words written on the subject, the fundamental detail, the existence of an invisible, omniscient being, is the key to what amount to an enormous hoax, the most significant hoax ever perpetrated on humans.

    Imagine if these intelligent people had spent their mental and social resources on actual research, how far along humans would be.

    Religion is regressive, unscientific garbage.

    As for ‘Intelligent design,’ those who postulate this garbage utterly dispense with appropriate use of their highly evolved human brain.

  9. Intelligent design and evolution aren’t mutually exclusive. I think looking at the historical context of the different religions is really the way to go if you are trying to undermine them. A lot of ‘religious’ people don’t really seem to realise that science isn’t really their enemy as its major postulates basically support the religious view, just with a different driving force. (i.e universe having a fixed ‘explosive’ creation, and evolution as a process in which man is the ultimate expression.) It would be easy to replace ‘chance’ with ‘God’ in either theory, since cause and process are very different animals. Instead however, as writer notes, some of the worlds greatest minds engage in hot debate over the most ridiculous and redunctionist trivialities, which are ultimately of no consequence whatsoever. It’s a waste.

    Also Andrew is absolutely spot on about the radiocarbon dating, then again even if the tree was 60,000 years old it would disprove the 6000 year old earth hypothesis. (Although the day=age view of genesis would remain unscathed.)

  10. The scary part is, Writer, I don’t think Andrew even realises how involved his own kids are into this stuff. Deborah’s own blog is terrifying.

  11. Thank you for pointing that out, Michael. I should have made it clear that radiocarbon dating is not the only thing which proves the age of fossils, but that it is one of many methods which independently corroborate the data from a wide variety of studies, such as Radiometric dating which is accurate up to 48.6 billion years and uses different isotope pairs to produce a sort of double blind, cross referenced result.

    There is also the emerging field of Paleobiology and of course that all important (and if Andrew is to be believed the entirely non-existent, made up by “atheist scientists”) list of transitional fossils in the Basilosaurus, Equus, Australopithecus and myriad other taxonomic groupings which show extinct species mid-way between their modern descendants and their ancient ancestors exactly as predicted by the theory of evolution by natural selection.

  12. If you have to believe in anything believe in yourself. Keep up with yourself move with the earth. wake up human wake and see all the beauty in front of you. its not there when you die its here now this is your time this is your life live it don,t preach it. Prove yourself right by moving on and just live.

  13. But what struck me most, as I stood in the formidable presence of this ancient signal from our Earth’s past was the lack of a legalese disclaimer, at the foot of the inscription. No pandering to the deluded infinitesimally small minority, who might attend the church believing in a literal interpretation of scripture, which insists there is a contradiction inherent in anything which predates the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old testament.

    Of course not. This is Britain. We’ll have none of that nonsense here.

  14. After several attempts over the last few months and weeks, Andrew Drapper has so far declined to name a single “atheist scientists” who refutes the fact of evolution by natural selection. If at some point he is able to do this, I will be sure to give it front page billing so everyone can read my apology for insisting that he could not.

  15. I wanted to say that it’s nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer. Thanks…

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