by Barry Setterfield

At 8:31 AM on Sunday May 18th 1980, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake shook the 3000 meter peak of Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range in Washington state USA. The mountain then exploded and a plume of volcanic gases, ash, and debris rose to a height of 19,000 meters through three cloud layers and swept north and east. That explosion, 500 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb, was heard 360 kilometers north in Vancouver, Canada. As a result, an area of 60 square kilometers to the north of the mountain was covered in volcanic debris to a depth of 45 meters in just 10 minutes. The individual layers making up the new rock strata ranged in thickness from a millimeter to over a meter and contained cross-bedding and other geological features. Prior to this it was often assumed that each individual layer in the strata resulted from a separate eruption perhaps hundreds or thousands of years apart. Geologists now know that strata hundreds of meters thick can be catastrophically deposited in a very short time span by just one volcano. At some stages of the earth's history hundreds of volcanoes were erupting simultaneously.

It should have been realized earlier from fossil evidence that catastrophes such as this have deposited strata rapidly. In Oregon state USA there exists ancient volcanic strata some 200 meters thick making up the Clarno Formation. Within this formation, in a layer 40 meters thick, are the world famous fossil fruit and nut beds. Only rapid burial would allow these fruits and nuts to be preserved and fossilized. It suggests the strata formed quickly by catastrophic processes. So does the "whale on its tail" uncovered in the Dicalite quarries in California. This intact 25 meter whale became entombed vertically as it ascended from the ocean floor. It did not have time to roll over to a horizontal position, let alone decay, before it was trapped and fossilized in strata.

There is much other evidence along similar lines. Near the Flinders Ranges in the north of South Australia, there is a persistent band of very ancient strata. It contains, among other things, a variety of fossil jellyfish. Some of those forms are now extinct. Others still exist today, like the Portuguese Man-O-War that has been found there. For fossil jellyfish to have this degree of preservation, sudden burial is required. It has been acknowledged that it must have happened in less than one day! This means catastrophic burial rather than slow processes acting over a long period of time. The catastrophe does not have to be volcanic.

There are other fascinating things about the fossil column. Raup and Stanley in "Principles of Palaeontology" p.306 express it this way: "Unfortunately the origins of most higher categories (of life-forms) are shrouded in mystery: commonly new higher categories appear abruptly in the fossil record without evidence of transitional forms." For example, New Scientist dated 16th September 1989, p.14 reported that the first fossilized spiders look just like spiders today. They are made up of the same spider's cuticle, and are equipped with spinnerets, the organs they use to spin thread. Furthermore, microscopic examination of the legs of these first fossil spiders revealed that they also had tarsal claws used for weaving webs, just like modern web weaving spiders do.

The same is true of bats. There is no sign in the fossil record of their wings developing, or transitional forms ("missing links"). The earliest fossil bat is already a complete functional unit, very similar to the bats we have today. The same is true of insects. They appear abruptly in ancient rock strata, and most types are familiar to us today: crickets, dragonflies, cockroaches and so on. There is no sign in the fossil record of their anatomical characteristics 'developing'. They appear as complete, fully functional units that are very similar to their modern counterparts. A few types are unknown to us today as they have become extinct.

The same is true right at the base of the fossil record. There, the first major fossils appear abruptly. Interestingly, all major invertebrates (animals without backbones) found in the oceans today were represented then. There are jellyfish as mentioned earlier, sea-urchins, crinoids (sea lilies), starfish, snails, sponges, segmented worms, and nautiloids (shelled squids), and trilobites. All these groups are familiar to scuba divers today, except that the pearly nautilus is the only significant member of the nautiloids left, and the trilobites have become extinct. Fossil plants also appear abruptly with no transitional forms, and change little over time. For example, there is no essential difference between the modern Australian Kauri Pine and those found in old rock strata.

The fossil record then emphasis es four points: (1) Many fossils formed by sudden catastrophic burial. (2) There is the abrupt appearance of the various kinds with no transitional forms. (3) Subsequent extinction of some kinds occurred maybe due to catastrophes. (4) Those kinds surviving to the present have not "evolved": they are the same then as now. Steven Jay Gould writing in Natural History Volume 86 pages 22 to 30 admitted that "The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change " All palaeontologists (experts on fossils) know the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms "" Taken at face value, this means that there is very little evidence for evolution as it is usually understood.

There is one final point about the fossil record. In over 40 instances, there is evidence of human existence at the time the strata were laid down. The evidence includes complete human skeletons with strata going right through the bones; metal tools and artifacts; and human foot and sandal prints. In one case a metal hammer with a partly coalified handle was discovered in ancient rock strata in a quarry. Again on 1st June 1968, William Meister was climbing a cliff searching for trilobite fossils in the Wheeler Formation in Utah. He broke off a 5 cm thick lump of rock that split open in his hand revealing trilobite fossils embedded in the heel of a sandal print that had toe impressions poking over the edge. He called in Dr. Clifford Burdick, a consulting geologist who found several more sandal prints in the shaly limestone, and the footprints of barefoot children, one with a trilobite in the instep.

William Meister commented: "While I had previously been little concerned with the different explanations of the fossil record, my discovery of a shod, and therefore obviously modern human footprint associated intimately with trilobites, has converted me completely to the story of the Bible. To me it seems clear that this particular fossil is in some way related to Noah's Flood." And not only William Meister. One week after sharing this and other evidence with my former university lecturer in Geology (who had become Dean of the Faculty of Science), he rang me to let me know that he had accepted the testimony of the Bible and Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior. If the testimony of the rock record was good enough for him, surely it is sufficient for you!

June 14, 1998
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