All the world’s fossils are in the wrong place, apparently

Twitter creationist @PiltdownSupermn posted this article to his blog, but neglected to enable the comments section.

So I’ve pinged back to the original posting here and included my reply below:

This is by far and away the most common misconception about evolution theory. Indeed it is so common, the fact that it has been explained over and over again also stands as the best example of how disinterested those who make it are, in understanding why it is the exact opposite of a killer blow against evolution, which they nevertheless insist it is.

Firstly, it’s important to state, that if Darwin’s original theory had never existed and—indeed—nothing at all was known about fossils, the entirely separate field of genetics would still prove decent with modification. Let that fact detonate in your brain for a second and consider what it means. You can, literally, forget everything about fossils—ignore them completely—and still demonstrate natural selection, using the mutually corroborative, yet entirely independent evidence of DNA. No dinosaur fossils, no Burgess Shale, no sedimentary deposits—nothing.

You can take radiometric dating and throw it in the bin. You can also throw out every single fossil, dated using this double-redundant method. Every trilobite, every Homo ergaster skull is completely unnecessary. You can bomb every last Natural History Museum in the world, from 35 thousand feet, turning every last exhibit into dust—and the FACT would still remain, that every single strand of Deoxyribonucleic Acid, inside every cell of every living creature on the planet, would still contain enough evidence of natural selection, to prove the theory of evolution—INDEPENDENT of the (now demolished) fossil record.

Despite this, the so-called “problems with the fossil record” remain at the heart of the creationist conspiracy. So to address directly this false notion that there are “fossils in the wrong place”, let us consider why the explanation for why this is continually aired by creationists, who openly admit to having no understanding the vast time scales involved in producing fossils to begin with.

We live on a ball of molten lava, with a dry crust of rubble cooling on the surface. The movement of this surface on the slippery, violent core underneath, causes huge sections of this crust to grind against each other. We call this plate tectonics. When these plates crunch and grind, enormous pressures build up, which are eventually released causing earthquakes and volcanos. This results in giant sections of the earth’s crust being lifted up and split. Plates which once joined together are then separated and over millions of years, as they are forced apart.

The plant and animal debris, crushed under these enormous pressures, over millions of years, become liquefied. We are currently digging up this black soup and using it to cook food, drive cars, send men into space and justify the invasion of countries with names Republicans can’t pronounce or point to on a map.

The ‘younger’ plant and animal debris, still trapped in the upper layer of the crust and exposed on the surface, or on the ocean floor, represents less than 1% of the material we have any chance of studying. The rarity of material which would eventually become fossilised is enormous. The huge time scales and unique biochemical processes which must take place in the creation of a fossil, makes the finds we already have all the more valuable. The fact that we have so many fossils is an incredibly lucky thing. Most of the living creatures which would eventually become extinct, never stood a chance of becoming fossilised.

So it is not surprising we find fossils in unusual places, out of sequence and jumbled around. They have, after all, been lying around on the ocean floor for a few million years, before resurfacing again in areas which, because of plate tectonics, would later become continents and islands—dry bits of the earth’s crust, above sea level, which we call land. Only then are we given a chance to dig them up and study them.

This explanation, corroborated by a vast, almost overwhelming array of evidence, is dismissed by creationists as a convenient fairy story ‘evolutionists’ are afraid to examine or fully admit to. It is asserted, on exactly zero evidence, that this matter of scientific fact, is an elaborate scam which science has foisted upon the world, in order to ignore the biblical creation narrative contained in Genesis. In other cultures it is the creation story contained in their religious texts. Against this kind of non-reasoning, there is no arguing. You cannot reason someone out of a position they have not reasoned themselves into.

So I end with this simple question back to you. What kind of evidence would it take to convince you, that you are wrong? If you do not know the answer to that, nothing else you might say is a valid scientific statement—no matter how much you want it to be. You are asserting a belief, not stating a fact. Believing something and proving something are two completely different things. And whilst you are entitled to believe whatever you wish, you should not expect other people to believe it for the same reasons which have convinced you—especially in the face of evidence you have already demonstrated you do not understand, which proves you are completely wrong.


8 comments on “All the world’s fossils are in the wrong place, apparently

  1. I believe this post is his reply, Matt. I do not enable comments on that site because I seldom post my own work there. Rather, I hope that people will inquire of the original authors at the landing site.

    BTW, Jim was a decent fellow on “Unbelievable”. Too bad he’s on an inconvenient side of the Atlantic because he seems like a decent fellow. I disagree with him, naturally, but never mind about that now.

  2. To be honest, Piltdown, I’d rather just talk to you. The reason I don’t post on sites like the one you linked to, is because they are ran by the very people who have deliberately misinformed people like you for decades. They already know the arguments against their position, because they’ve had to defend them in several courts of law many times before, and have always found themselves on the losing side. They stick to their story regardless, however, because it’s proven a tremendously successful political wedge in attracting people like you to their agenda. I’d rather reach out to individuals affected by their campaign of misinformation directly, like you, who at least appear to show an interest in understanding why the information they’ve been given doesn’t paint a true picture of the scientific position, than waste my time arguing with people who don’t want to listen.

    It’s better for me to speak to someone one on one, than spend time writing a considered reply, only to have it remove because someone on the moderation team doesn’t understand there is a huge difference between those of us who want to help clear up the confusion over evolution, without getting nasty and personal about things, and people who go out of their way to insult people.

    If I had £10 for every time I’ve tried reasoning with this particular kind of creationist, who insists all “atheists” are belligerent, argumentative idiots who “hate Jesus”, I’d be a very rich man. But, without fail, each time I have persevered and tried to explain why evolution is a fact, I’ve either been told I’m going to burn in hell, for the sin of understanding the difference between fiction and fact, or—worse still—had my comments edited, censored and removed, simply because I’ve linked to articles, studies and evidence they insist doesn’t exist.

    I’m not saying this has happened at, specifically, but it has happened at many other sites owned by Discovery Institute—and many other sites who mirror their content. And I’m not the only one who has experienced this. That’s why I say it’s important for you to always leave the comments section on your blog open, because even though I understand you simply want to ask questions, to other people having a closed comments page is a warning sign that the site may be ran by someone who refuse to engage with the facts. I rather think you’ve fallen foul of that stereotype with our friend Alex Botten, in this regard too, which is unfortunate.

    If you want to ask questions about science, or make assertions and statements about science which are simply false, closing your comments section to feedback from people who might be able to help you understand where you’re going wrong, is 100% guaranteed way to have them presume you are just another idiot who doesn’t want to listen. Since I assume, in your case, this isn’t a true reflection of how you are personally, how about we give it a try from the very beginning? Ask me anything you want to ask and if I can’t answer you, I’ll find someone who can. Go. Fire away. Ask me anything you want about evolution. Be succinct, but don’t be afraid to ask anything you want. I will honestly do my best to help.

  3. Not too happy about your charge of “deliberately misinformed”. That charge can be leveled at evolutionary scientists, you know. What I have noticed is that many atheists (including a friend of yours) will accuse someone of lying simply because of a difference of opinion, or a different interpretation of facts. “If I had £10 for every time I’ve tried reasoning with this particular kind of creationist, who insists all “atheists” are belligerent, argumentative idiots who “hate Jesus”, I’d be a very rich man.” Strange, Creationists tell me to avoid sweeping generalizations. At least, the ones who are involved Creationism, and not someone who is online, enthusiastic and underinformed.

  4. This article argues that there are lots of fossils out of place whereas other prominent atheists argue they are never out of place and indeed if a single one was out of place this would disprove the theory. It seems important to try and get clarity on this question.

    As I understand it that shared DNA shows we have common building blocks but does not and cannot prove descent. Houses all have bricks etc but we don’t think that a semi detached house evolved from a detached house.

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