What does the Fossil Record show in light of Design Science?
Dr. Stephen Meyer and his best-selling book Darwin's Doubt:
The Geologic Column
And Charles Lyell in 1830, building on the work of some other guys and along with some other guys, he really developed what we call the geologic column. How many have ever heard of the geologic column before? All the textbooks teach this in the public school system and all the ones on earth science or geology or even biology. The geologic column was invented in the early 1800's and it’s by William Smith and Cuvier and some other guys, but Lyell was the primary culprit as far as I can figure out. In that geologic column, they took the earth (which has many layers to it) and they gave each layer a name and they gave it an age and they gave it an index fossil. Like, for instance, maybe you saw the movie Jurassic Park. Well, the Jurassic was supposed to be an era that lived millions of years ago and they have an index fossil of the dinosaurs. So each layer of the earth was given a name, an age and an index fossil.
Where’s the Geologic Column?
Now, you might want to know a couple of things about this geologic column—and I taught earth science for 15 years—the geologic column is the bible to the evolutionists. That’s their bible folks. Secondly, it can only be found one place in the world—in the textbook. The geologic column does not exist in reality. The textbooks admit that. “If there were a column of sediments...unfortunately no such column exists.” The whole thing is imagination.
Now, it is true, the earth has many layers. That is not the question. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Royal Gorge, been to 49 states and 20 countries, been to the San Andreas Fault, the Hayward Fault, the New Madrid Fault—none of them are my fault but I’ve been there, done that, seen that, have a T-shirt. There’s no question the earth has layers. The question is how did they get that way? How did the earth get all those layers?
Rock Layers and the Flood
There might be two ways to look at that. (How fast was that calf going?) Keep that thought in mind. It could be that each of these layers is a different age or it could be all of those layers were dumped off in one big flood. You know, if you had a flood lasting for 12 or 13 months, like the Bible says the flood lasted—.
See, just the earth turning under the moon—the moon causes the tides, and if the earth were totally covered by water the tides would become harmonic. You music folks understand that. People have calculated that the tides would go [through a] 200-foot tidal change. If the earth were covered with water, there would be no continents to stop them. And with a 200-foot tidal change every 6 hours and 25 minutes, you would get reshuffling of the sediments down at the bottom for thousands and thousands of feet. You would get over a mile of sediments down there in finely stratified layers.
You can get a jar [of mud] out of your yard here, put some water in it, shake it up and set it down it will settle out into layers for you. Hydrologic sorting. They say those layers are different ages, I have a hard time with that because don’t you think if each one of those layers laid there for millions of years waiting for the next one there would be a few erosion marks in-between the layers? Why are there no canyons and gullies and cricks in-between the layers? I mean, why is it all stacked up like pancakes? Those layers are not different ages and the Grand Canyon did not take millions of years to form.
Colorado River in Grand Canyon
I was in a debate a few months ago and the professor said, “Mr. Hovind, obviously the world is millions of years old. Look at Grand Canyon. It would take millions of years to form Grand Canyon.” I said, “Sir, did you know that the top of Grand Canyon is higher than the bottom?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, did you know the river only runs through the bottom?” He said, “Well, yes.” I said,”Did you know the top of the canyon is higher than where the river enters the canyon? So if that river made that canyon, it had to flow uphill for millions of years to cut the groove deep enough to flow down hill.” I don’t think so. I don’t think the river made that canyon. I think the flood made Grand Canyon, probably in a couple of hours when the mud was still soft and there was lots of water running through. We cover lots more on that in video number six about the flood.
But oftentimes there are two ways to look at things. (How fast was that calf going?) I took my family one time when I was preaching in Union Center, South Dakota. Now, Union Center, South Dakota is not quite the end of the world, but we could see it from there. We were close. I mean, it’s the middle of nowhere. There were forty people in the whole town. Thirty-eight of them came to church. (I don’t know where the other two were, out pulling a calf I reckon.) But anyway, we had a great meeting. And the preacher said,”Hey, Brother Hovind, lets get the cars and vans and lets go down to Rapid City, South Dakota, where they’ve got a museum with a bunch of dinosaur bones in it.” I said, “Alright, I like dinosaurs, lets go.”
In the Museum
So we all drove down to Rapid City, South Dakota. We walked in this museum and a guide, an older fellow met us at the door and he said, “I’m a guide here, would you like me to give you a tour?” We said, “That would be great, sir.” The first place we stopped on the tour was a great big huge chart all lit up called the ‘Geologic Time Scale.’ The geologic column. And the guy started his speech right there. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this layer of rock you’re looking at here, is about 70 millions of years old.” My daughter was twelve at the time. She raised her hand. She said, “Sir, how do you know how old the rock layers are?” He said, “That’s a good question honey. We tell the age of the rock layers by the types of fossils they contain. They’re called index fossils.” She said, “Thank you, sir.” We walked around the other side of the dinosaur. We’re standing over there and the guide said, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, these bones you’re looking at here are about a hundred million years old,” or something like that. And my daughter raised her hand again. She said, “Uh, sir—how do you tell the age of the fossils?” He said, “That’s a good question honey. We tell the age of the fossils by which layer they come from.” She said, “Excuse me sir, but when we were standing over there, you told me you knew the age of the layers by the fossils and now you’re telling me you know the age of the fossils by the layers.” She said, “Isn’t that circular reasoning?” I thought, “Wow, a chip off the old block!” That guide had the strangest look on his face. It was almost as if he were thinking. He looked at my daughter; he looked at me. I wasn’t about to help him. I thought, “Wow! This is going to be good!” He looked back at my daughter and he said, “You know, you are absolutely right. I never thought of that before.” He said, “That is circular reasoning.”
That poor fellow drove fifty miles one way that night to hear me preach in Union Center, South Dakota. The crowd swelled to thirty-nine. We set up a chair in the aisle. Afterwards, he talked to me for nearly an hour. He said, “Mr. Hovind, is everything I believe about geology wrong?” He said, “I teach this stuff at the college.” I said, “Oh no, no. Man, I like geology. You learn lots of good stuff. You learn all the names of the minerals.” Just that’s a good trick folks. There are 1200 minerals, some have names about that long. I said, “You learn to prospect for ore, the hardness test, the Rockwell test, the scratch test.” I said, “No, no. I like geology and there’s nothing wrong with geology. But as far as the layers being different ages,” I said, “Yes sir, that’s all bologna.”
Blinded by Money
Now, he doesn’t dare quit teaching it because he’ll lose his job. And kids you might as well learn this today: to some people in this world, money is more important than truth. And if they have to lie or teach a lie to keep the paycheck coming in, they will do it because money means more to them than what happens to you if you believe their lie. And there are teachers all over the world that do not believe in evolution but continue to teach it because they’re afraid they might lose their job. We know who their god is, don’t we?
The Bible talks about those folks whose god is their belly. They are more worried about keeping that paycheck and keeping that food coming in, which is really what it boils down to. Well, you’ve just got to make a decision some time in your life if you’re going to serve God you’ve got to decide, I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I’m just going to serve God. Like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We don’t care what Nebuchadnezzar says. We are going to serve God. If that means going to the den of lions or the fiery furnace, “Well, okay!” Boy, we need some folks with some backbone like that; who are just going to stand up and say I’m going to do what God says regardless of what anybody else thinks about it. But there are a lot of teachers, even Christian teachers in our public school system, that teach evolution for fear of losing a job. They are cowards. They should quit. They should get an honest job picking peaches or changing tires and quit destroying boys’ and girls’ lives. That’s my humble opinion on the subject. Anyway, I have a lot of humble opinions on lots of things we’ll talk about.
Rocks by Fossils or Fossils by Rocks?
So, let’s see what the evolutionists say about this circular reasoning in the textbooks. Do they really use the fossils to date the rocks and the rocks to date the fossils? Well, here’s Glenco Biology. On page 306 they date the rocks by the fossils. On the very next page, page 307 they are dating the fossils by the rocks. Circular reasoning right in the text book. “The intelligent layman has long suspected the use of circular reasoning in the use of rocks to date fossils and fossils to date rocks. The geologist has never bothered to think of a good reply, feeling the explanations are not worth the trouble as long as the work brings results.” (J.E. O’Rourke) “Ever since William Smith at the beginning of the nineteenth century, fossils have been and still are the best and most accurate method of dating and correlating the rocks in which they occur. Apart from very modern examples, which really are archeology, I can think of no cases of radioactive decay being used to date fossils.” (Derek Ager) Don’t tell me they date those layers by carbon dating or potassium argon dating, or rubidium strontium, or lead 208, or lead 206, or U235 or U238; that’s not how they date them! They date the rock layers by the fossils in every case. “Paleontologists cannot operate this way. There is no way simply to look at a fossil and say how old it is unless you know the age of the rocks it comes from.” Quote goes on. “And this poses something of a problem. If we date the rocks by their fossils how can we then turn around and talk about patterns of evolutionary change through time in the fossil record.” That’s Niles Eldredge, one of the biggest evolutionists there is. American Museum of Natural History in New York. He knows it’s circular reasoning.
How about this: “The rocks do date the fossils but the fossils date the rocks more accurately.” (Figure that one out) “Stratigraphy cannot avoid this kind of reasoning if it insists on using only temporal concepts, because circularity is inherent in the derivation of time scales.” (J.E. O’Rourke) They have to use circular reasoning. “The charge of circular reasoning in stratigraphy can be handled in several ways. It can be ignored, as not the concern of the public (In other words, it is none of your business) or…it can be denied, by calling down the Law of Evolution. It can be admitted, as a common practice…. Or it can be avoided, by pragmatic reasoning.” (J.E. O’Rourke) Don’t tell me that you know the age of those rocks or those fossils because they are both based upon each other. It’s all based on circular reasoning.”…evolution is documented by geology, and… geology is documented by evolution.” (Larry Azar) Figure that one out, would you please. It’s all based on circular reasoning. It cannot be denied.”…from a strictly philosophical standpoint geologists here are arguing in a circle.” (R.H. Rastall) They date the rocks by the organisms they contain and the organisms by the rocks they are found in. Folks, it’s all based on circular reasoning.
I like to show evolutionists the geologic column, and I ask them this question: “Now, fellows,” I’ll say, “You’ve got limestone scattered all throughout this geologic column. I mean there is limestone and shale and sandstone and conglomerate and limestone and sandstone and limestone and shale. And I say,”How do you tell the difference? If I hand you a piece of limestone, how would you tell the difference between 100 million-year-old Jurassic limestone and 600 million-year-old Cambrian limestone? I mean, how would you know how old it is?” There is only one way they can tell the difference: that is by the index fossils. It’s all based on that. “Radiometric dating would not have been feasible if the geologic column had not been erected first.” (J.E. O’Rourke) They don’t date them by carbon dating folks; it’s all based on fossils.
Trilobites and Graptolites
This is from a textbook. It shows a trilobite. It says, “Trilobite fossils make good index fossils. If a trilobite such as this one is found in a rock layer, the rock layer probably formed 500 million years ago.” You think the rock with the trilobite is 500 million years old? Well, I have a question. How come somebody found a human shoe print where somebody with a shoe on had stepped on a trilobite? They asked geologists all over, how could a human step on a trilobite? I mean trilobites lived 500 million years ago, man didn’t get here until three million years ago and he didn’t start wearing shoes until five thousand years ago. How can this be? One geologist said, “Well, maybe aliens visited the planet 500 million years ago.” Yes, that will do it every time. Another guy said, “Maybe there was a larger trilobite shaped like a shoe that fell on a small one.” Oh there are some big ones, but they are not shaped like a shoe.
Anyway, if you took this fossil and showed it to any University professor who believes in evolution, and said, “Sir, how old is this rock?” He’d say, “Ah, this is an easy one. This contains an index fossil. That index fossil is in graptolite, and the graptolites lived 410 million years ago. It’s the New York State fossil.” That’s what they said until 1993 when they found that graptolites are still alive in the South Pacific. Oops. Well, now, think about it. If they are still alive, maybe they lived between 400 million years ago and today. Maybe they could be found in any rock layer. Maybe all of the dating we’ve done by geologic positioning is bologna, and it is by the way. By the way, there is good indication that some trilobites are still alive in the Deep Peruvian Trench. In the Pacific Ocean. All that geologic dating is crazy. However, it has a profound influence on folks. As we’ll see in a minute.
“Dinosaur blood found in bone. Medical pathologists examined dinosaur bone under a microscope and found dinosaur blood inside the bone.” (Earth June 1997) How could the blood survive seventy million years? Well, it couldn’t but they don’t want to admit that. Eighteen million-year-old Magnolia leaves from Idaho shale were still green when the rock was cracked open. Kind of interesting don’t you think? Folks, those layers are not different ages and if you’ve been taught that the earth is millions or billions of years old, you have been either lied to or deceived. Hopefully, the teacher doesn’t know they are lying to you. But they are regardless. It’s a lie. The earth is not millions of years old. Those layers are not different ages.
Here is a petrified tree standing straight up running through many layers of rock strata. Now, think about it for a minute. If those layers are different ages, you’ve only got two choices: the tree stood there for millions and millions of years and didn’t rot or fall down, or it grew through seventy-five feet of solid rock looking for sunlight. Which do you prefer? Petrified trees standing straight up are found all over the world, folks. They are called Polystrate fossils. Evolutionists have no explanation for this. I’ve seen lots of them. Petrified trees standing up. How can this be? Well, according to evolution, this is a real problem. They call it a geologic enigma. Because it doesn’t fit the theory. Sometimes the petrified trees are upside down running through many rock layers. Explain that one, would you please? The tree grew upside down for millions and millions of years? “That sun is up there somewhere, we’ve just got to find it, boys—keep growing!” I don’t think so.
No, this geologic column does not exist anywhere in the world. But in spite of that it has had a profound influence. It has changed people’s worldview. The geologic column was accepted in the early 1830's—long before there ever was any carbon dating. That was done in 1950. But it turned people away from a Biblical worldview. Up until that time people accepted the Bible as God’s word and the earth is about 6,000 years old and the world was destroyed by a flood. It was just a common, accepted worldview. This geologic column is one of the primary things that changed people’s minds about the authority of God’s Word. And it is still taught in your textbooks today, by the way, in earth science and geology classes.
The Geologic Column and Charles Darwin
Especially this had a very profound influence on Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin graduated from Bible College to be a preacher. The only degree he ever got, by the way. Charlie Darwin, at age 22, fresh out of Bible College, couldn’t get a job. So his dad pulled a few strings and got him on board HMS Beagle. He was going to sail around on this ship for five years collecting bugs and birds for somebody back in England.
What is the "Cambrian Explosion?"
One of the most remarkable pieces of evidence disproving evolution is the “Cambrian Explosion” Most textbooks never mention it, and the ones that do relegate it to a short phrase or paragraph as if it is some insignificant detail. This phenomenon is so pronounced in the fossil record that Scientific American called it “life’s big bang.” It is considered one of the biggest challenges to evolutionary theory. Many reputable and highly accomplished scientists at major accredited universities worldwide say it is an insurmountable challenge. Moreover, I believe it is proof that evolution is merely a widely held myth of popular culture.
“Cambrian explosion” refers to the great quantity and diversity of life found in what is called the Cambrian layer of the geologic column. The Cambrian age in the geologic time scale is dated by scientists as being about 530 million years old. What is really interesting is not just what is found in this layer, but what is found in the layers above it, and what is not found in layers under it. The Cambrian layer has virtually every phyla known to man. Yes, all major body plans and enormous varieties of each all coexist in this layer. No evolutionary sequence here, they are all coexistent simultaneously.
Layers Above and Below
Remarkably the layers below the Cambrian have practically nothing with regard to fossilized specimens. The few creatures that are found in pre-Cambrian strata are all soft-bodied organisms like worms. So essentially you have nothing along the lines of organic complexity and diversity pre-Cambrian, and then suddenly everything. But wait, it gets even more interesting. To compound this huge problem the number of species fossilized in the layers above the Cambrian period gradually decrease with each successive layer. Once you reach the most recent layers approximately 98% of every thing that has ever lived is extinct. Have you ever heard that 98% of everything that has ever lived is extinct? This is where that saying came from—hard scientific fact. A reasonable and honest person must conclude from the evidence that the fossil record is diametrically opposite what would be predicted by evolutionary theory. It is noteworthy that these conclusions are derived from a geologic time framework that is put forth by scientists own interpretation of geologic evidence. In fact, the belief that the strata represent different geologic ages is just that, a belief. Nevertheless, it is a belief held among scientists world-wide.
Darwin and his contemporaries were aware of this problem with the fossil record some 150 years ago, but they believed that the fossil record had been insufficiently sampled up to that time. Their “belief” was that paleontological research in the future would more adequately sample the fossil record and show it to be more in line with evolutionary theory. They were wrong! Exactly the opposite happened. After a century and half of excavating fossils from the strata we have found the problem to be worse, not better. Contrary to the tree of life depicted in the school books, the fossil record depicts exactly the opposite story. The tree of life is an inverted cone, and not a tree at all.
Remember, evolutionary theory states that everything evolved from a common ancestor that climbed out of the primordial soup. This ancient ancestor gradually evolved. Its evolutionary progress branched out into different paths and these different paths led to the creation of increasingly complex and divergent organic forms. The paths continued to branch out resulting in the great diversity of life we have today. Now, if this is true, what would you expect to see in the fossil record? Of course you would expect to see simple organisms in the lowest layers and a gradual increase in diversity and complexity of life as you progress to more recent layers in the geologic time scale. But what do we really find in the fossil record? We find the exact opposite. Not something ambiguous like everything found in each layer. No, you find the exact opposite of what is predicted by evolution. From a correlation perspective you do not find a factor of 1, meaning perfect correlation, or a 0, meaning no correlation, you find a -1, meaning perfectly uncorrelated to the prediction. Now I don’t know about you, but I find this compelling proof that evolution did not happen. This begs the question, how much proof do evolutionary scientists need anyway?
Belief In Spite of Evidence
You must be saying to yourself at this point, “How could that be? How could they speak about this theory with such surety with such strong evidence to the contrary?” The answer is simple. They believe the theory in spite of the evidence. That is why many leading creation scientists keep referring to evolution as a philosophy of science or even a religion. This belief is so strong in academic circles that scientists are chided if they even question evolution publicly. Why are they ridiculed? They are ridiculed because the only alternative to evolution is creation. Some like to pretend there are a variety of options in explaining origins. This is simply not so. The options often presented are merely shades of the two primary options, and scientists know this.
If evolution did not take place, if the natural forces at work today did not create the diversity of life we see on our little blue world, then something supernatural must be responsible. True science seeks to understand, no matter what the philosophical or metaphysical ramifications may be. That is why evolution is not science, but rather a philosophy, for it seeks to explain things within only one possible framework, whether or not this framework is true. The facts are that the scientists' own interpretation of the fossil record clearly demonstrates that every species appeared at once suddenly and then gradually died off with the passage of time. The significance of this great body of evidence against evolutionary theory in the fossil record cannot be stressed enough. It is utterly devastating to evolutionary theory completely by itself. But in the final analysis, it is but one of a plethora of scientific facts that refute the 19th century fable that is evolution.
In closing I would like to share with you some of my favorite quotes on the subject by leading evolutionary scientists, and even Darwin himself. By their own words they admit this very important piece of the evolutionary puzzle does not fit, and never will. Enjoy.
“There is another and allied difficulty, which is much more serious. I allude to the manner in which species belonging to several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks.” (Darwin, The Origin of Species, p. 348),
“The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in certain formations, has been urged by several palaeontologists—for instance, by Agassiz, Pictet, and Sedgwick—as a fatal objection to the belief in the transmutation of species. If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution through natural selection.” (Ibid., p. 344),
“To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer.” (Ibid., p. 350),
“The case at present must remain inexplicable, and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.” (Ibid., p. 351),
“The most famous such burst, the Cambrian explosion, marks the inception of modern multicellular life. Within just a few million years, nearly every major kind of animal anatomy appears in the fossil record for the first time ... The Precambrian record is now sufficiently good that the old rationale about undiscovered sequences of smoothly transitional forms will no longer wash.” (Stephen Jay Gould, “An Asteroid to Die For,” Discover, October 1989, p. 65),
“And we find many of them [Cambrian fossils] already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists.” (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987, p. 229),
“One of the major unsolved problems of geology and evolution is the occurrence of diversified, multicellular marine invertebrates in Lower Cambrian rocks on all the continents and their absence in rocks of greater age.” (I. Axelrod, “Early Cambrian Marine Fauna,” Science, Vol. 128, 4 July 1958, p. 7),
“Evolutionary biology’s deepest paradox concerns this strange discontinuity. Why haven’t new animal body plans continued to crawl out of the evolutionary cauldron during the past hundreds of millions of years? Why are the ancient body plans so stable?” (Jeffrey S. Levinton, “The Big Bang of Animal Evolution,” Scientific American, Vol. 267, November 1992, p. 84),
“Granted an evolutionary origin of the main groups of animals, and not an act of special creation, the absence of any record whatsoever of a single member of any of the phyla in the Pre-Cambrian rocks remains as inexplicable on orthodox grounds as it was to Darwin.” (T. Neville George Professor of Geology at the University of Glasgow, “Fossils in Evolutionary Perspective,” Science Progress, Vol. 48, No. 189, January 1960, p. 5).
Quick example of a Darwinist extrapolation of the fossil record:
The large majority of American Christian youth abandon their faith while at college. A major factor contributing to this tragedy is ubiquitous and very aggressive teaching of evolutionary theory as scientific fact. Students are coercively indoctrinated to believe a series of visually persuasive iconic images - which are presented as evolutionary “facts”. The famous monkey-to-man cartoon is such an icon. One of the leading iconic “proofs” of evolution now appearing in biology textbooks is a cartoon showing a land mammal morphing into a whale. The cartoon is supposedly based upon fossil evidences that conclusively prove that whales and dolphins evolved from a wolf-like land creature. Students trust the textbook cartoons and are quickly convinced. But by God’s grace, there is strong evidence against this (and many other), evolutionary icons. Before they decide to turn away from their Maker, young people need to know that these very persuasive evolutionary visual images are misleading and are not scientifically honest. In this article we will address the alleged fossil evidence used in textbooks to support the whale evolution story.
Tales of “Walking Whales”
One of the standard “proofs of evolution” which is included in today’s biology textbooks involves the evolution of a whale from a small wolf-like land mammal. Students are presented with a cartoon showing a series of apparent fossil intermediates, which are said to smoothly transition from a small wolf-like land mammal to modern whales. The textbook explanation of whale evolution is nothing short of remarkable. It is claimed that land mammals originally evolved from fish which made their way onto land to develop lungs as well as front and hind limbs. Then, certain mammals returned back to the seas to lose their hind limbs and acquire a host of new functions flawlessly suited for the oceans – in order to evolve into modern whales. This scenario is routinely represented in biology textbooks as a scientific fact – but how much of this is actually verifiable?
Standard biology textbooks all show an artistic rendition of what appears to be an impressive series of fossil intermediates which connect marine mammals (“cetaceans” – including whales, dolphins, and porpoises), to a specific ancestral land mammal that lived approximately 50 million years ago (figure 1). For instance, McGraw Hill’s 2011 Biology textbook proclaims, “Today, the fossil record is far more complete, particularly among the vertebrates; fossils have been found linking all the major groups.... For example, a four-legged aquatic mammal was discovered only recently that provides important insights concerning the evolution of whales and dolphins from land-dwelling, hoofed ancestors.” To support their claim, the authors use the figure shown to the left (figure 1). Similar cartoons are used in all the standard textbooks. Artistic renditions of the reputed fossil intermediates are typically represented similarly across textbooks – they include three pivotal “missing link” species: Pakicetus attocki, Ambulocetus natans, Rodhocetus kasrani, which are said to have given rise to modern toothed whales. It is claimed this fossil sequence is one of the best proofs of evolution. Let’s examine these claims!
First, let’s examine the extinct land mammal Pakicetus, which is claimed to be the ancestor to all modern cetaceans, including the gigantic blue whale (drawn to scale below, figure 2).
Figure 2: The modern blue whale drawn to scale compared to Pakicetus – the alleged wolf-sized ancestor to all modern cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). Pakicetus is approximately the size of the great blue whale’s eye. Image: icr.org.
Figure 1: A common textbook representation of the whale evolution story, with three major transitional forms leading to modern toothed whales. The actual fossil remains are not shown.
Little information is provided in textbooks as to the reasons why Pakicetus is believed to be a legitimate transitional form. Instead, textbooks make the general claim that their skulls share “many characteristics seen in whales today.”1 Digging a little deeper, we looked into the original fossil discovery of Pakicetus described in the prestigious journal Science, published in 1983.2 On the right (Figure 3) is a picture from the journal article of the fossil remains that were discovered. The shaded portions of the
Figure 4: Despite only finding a few skull fragments, Pakicetus was artistically represented as a full-fledged aquatic mammal on the cover of Science in 1983.2
skull represent only actual fossil evidence, the rest is inferred. Realize that most of the skull, as well as the rest of the skeleton is completely missing.2 All that was found were a few skull fragments. There was no way to know what Pakicetus looked like from the neck down. Yet, to evolutionary scientists this was somehow enough evidence to assign Pakicetus as the ancestor to all modern whales. The significance of the discovery was greatly exaggerated by artistically representing a fully aquatic transitional form shown on the cover of Science (see Science cover illustration, shown on left, figure 4).3 This illustration was reproduced in all the leading textbooks – “proving” this species was the aquatic mammal that gave rise to whales. The headlines heralded it as the first “indisputable” evidence of whale evolution. Almost immediately these bone fragments were accepted as proof that this was the aquatic mammal that gave rise to whales. However, the aquatic interpretation of Pakicetus was dramatically overturned when a more complete fossil specimen was discovered in 2001.4 The major distinguishing features of the newer fossil (including the skull—the nasal position, binocular
vision, inner ear, etc.) all revealed Pakicetus was not aquatic, but was a land mammal anatomically similar to a wolf. The researchers concluded in the journal Nature,
“Taken together, the features of the skull indicate that pakicetids were terrestrial, and that the locomotor skeleton displays running adaptations. ... Pakicetids were terrestrial mammals, no more amphibious than a tapir”.4
Below (Figure 5) is a more accurate reconstruction of what Pakicetus might have looked like based on the more complete assemblage of fossil remains (drawn by Carl Buell using the description of fossils reported in the 2001 Nature article, see reference 4).
Figure 3: The original fossil discovery of Pakicetus as shown in the journal of Science in 1983.2 The fossil consisted of only a few skull fragments shown here in blue.
Figure 5: A more realistic representation of Pakicetus based on a more complete assemblage of fossils.4 Rather than discarding Pakicetus as a whale intermediate, it was reclassified to fit another missing link in the whale evolution story.
Current textbooks no longer show Pakicetus as an aquatic whale-like mammal. Instead, they show it as an ordinary land animal. But rather than retracting the claim that it was a whale-like aquatic mammal which led directly to modern whales, they simply redrew their cartoons and modified their story. Suddenly Pakicetus was just the terrestrial precursor to the real missing links (Rodhocetus and Ambulocetus). Whatever happened to the original “indisputable” representation of Pakicetus? And on what basis do textbooks justify representing the newer wolf-like Pakicetus as an ancestor to all modern cetaceans? As mentioned, textbooks don’t offer much explanation, but make a general reference to the skull as sharing certain characteristics with that of modern whales. However, upon close examination, the skull features are perfectly consistent with a fully terrestrial mammal – just like the rest of the body. One of the distinguishing features of the skull that have been studied is the semicircular canal system of the inner ear, a sophisticated sense organ that provides coordination and balance. Researchers found that whales have, on average, a canal size that is three times smaller (when scaled to proportion based on body size) than that of land mammals. In the article in Nature, developmental biologists compared the canal system in modern whale skulls to that of Pakicetus' partial skulls. Based on their analysis, they concluded, “The oldest of these, Ichthyolestes [referring to Pakicetus], shows a canal size similar to that of the closest living relatives of cetaceans, the artiodactyls”.4 The artiodactyls include even-toed hoofed animals like pigs, hippopotamuses, camels, llamas, deer, giraffes, antelopes, sheep, goats, and cattle;
the group excludes whales. In other words, the size of the semicircular canal is not at all consistent with whales, but fits well with land animals (as shown in figure 2a in Nature 2001 article, see reference 5).
Another aspect of the skull that is described as a “whale-like” attribute is the “large, remarkably long- snouted head of... terrestrial pakicetids”.4 The idea meant to be conveyed is that evolution is already favoring in Pakicetus the adaptation of streamlined, hydrodynamic snouts for swimming. Do long snouts prove an animal is morphing into a whale? An elongated snout is not unique to whales. Consider greyhound dogs (and other dolichocephalic breeds), their snouts have approximately the same proportions as the Pakicetus snout shown in the Nature 2001 article.4 There are many other examples of modern land mammals that exhibit “streamlined” snouts, yet no one believes they are ancestors to whales.
Figure 6: The Nature article published in 2001 shows an artistic representation of the skeletal remains of Pakicetus.4 The elongated snout is described as a whale-like characteristic. This is not a whale-specific feature, however, and is characteristic of a number of other fully terrestrial land dwelling mammals, including modern dog breeds like the grey hound. Image credit (grey hound): Anna Frandsen.
Ambulocetus is presented in many textbooks as the next intermediate form after Pakicetus to have “filled in the gaps between whales and their hoofed mammal ancestors”.1 The Latin name Ambulocetus natans literally translates “walking whale that swims” Is there any reason to believe Ambulocetus was a walking whale? Is there sufficient fossil evidence to place this very incomplete fossil in the whale lineage? Below (Figure 7) is a photograph from the journal of Science displaying the fragmentary fossil remains of Ambulocetus.5
Figure 7: A photograph from the Science article published 1994 showing the actual fossil remains discovered.
In the article the researchers describe the stratigraphic environment the fossil were found in,
“The best specimen [shown above] is a partly articulated skull and skeleton of Ambulocetus. It was found in a silt and mudstone bed, scattered over an area of approximately 1.8 m2” [equivalent to 19.4 square feet].5
Notice they report that the skeleton was found “partly articulated” and “scattered” in a silt and mudstone layer. This means the assembly of the bones would be uncertain – not all the bones were necessarily even from the same creature or species. In fact, a few of the bones were found 5 meters (more than 15 feet) above the rest (circled in red left in figure 8B).6 Figure 8A is an illustration shown in the Science article of what they believed Ambulocetus might have looked like.5 The stippled portions represent actual fossil evidence. It is important to realize that much of the skeleton was missing, as seen in figure B. Showing the actual fossil remains with the “plaster additions” removed creates a very different picture. It becomes clear that the impression that this was primarily a swimming creature is largely an illusion created by drawing the animal in a swimming posture. The truth is, it is hard to say exactly what this creature
looked like. Arguably, we could just as easily arrange the bone fragments in a standing position. The Journal of Biological Sciences actually describes Ambulocetus as “crocodile-like”, and capable of walking on land.7 Alternatively, the fossil pieces could have been arranged to look more like a fully upright and fully terrestrial land mammal. As shown in figure 8C, the head could have been positioned higher, realistically the front leg could have been much longer (the upper foreleg bone appears to be missing), and the back leg and foot could have been placed in a walking rather than swimming position. Even the tail could have been shown to be hanging downward rather than streaming back. Assembling incomplete skeletons requires a lot of imagination and guess-work – and has more to do with what the researchers want to see as opposed to what can actually be known based on the available remains. For example, when speculating about the tail (the most distinguishing feature of whales) the researchers did a bit of hand waving and wrote, “Little is known about the tail, but there is always many caudal vertebrae in primitive cetaceans and their relatives....”.5 Reading between the lines, what they are really saying is that it is difficult to say what the tail looked like because that fossil evidence is absent, however, because of their a priori assumption that this animal was a walking whale it must have had a long tail like other reputed “early cetaceans” – a classic case of circular reasoning. They also assume the
Figure 8: The first illustration (A) is from the Science article published in 1994.5 Illustration (B) was an alteration of this image where the “added” bones were erased to show only the actual fossil remains. Illustration (C) is a speculative arrangement of the fossils that may or may not be an equally valid representation of the fossils. The point is, with so few bones recovered; it’s hard to know for sure what Ambulocetus actually looked like. Note: Illustration (C) is not anatomically correct in all places since the original journal illustration that it is based upon was not a detailed drawing.
hind limbs had webbed feet, but how can they know for sure without the fleshy parts preserved? It is all speculation and unsupported inference. To their credit, they at least acknowledge, “Unlike modern cetaceans Ambulocetus... probably lacked a tail fluke.”5
Let’s summarize the Ambulocetus evidence: there is no evidence this animal was a better swimmer than most other mammals. There is no evidence the tail was big enough to aid in swimming. Ambulocetus clearly had strong terrestrial features and could walk on land, and if it was at all aquatic, it might have filled a niche something like that of a crocodile. The authors write, “The skeleton of Ambulocetus indicates that it could locomote on land and in the water”.5 But just about any land mammal can do this! With so few skeletal remains (i.e.: most of the critical parts are missing – including all but one tail vertebrae, hip bones, humerus, scapula, etc.), it is remarkable how confident they were that it was a “walking whale”. But even if their interpretation is right, and Ambulocetus looked just like textbook representations, it in no way shows that it evolved into a whale. The creature Ambulocetus – even if it was a superb swimmer, had not yet acquired any of the features that make whales so unique. For example, whales locomote exclusively by the very unique tail/fluke assembly, they exclusively drink seawater, they hold their breath for enormous lengths of time, they dive to great depths and pressure, they give live birth under water, they navigate and even echolocate (as in dolphins), they hear, see, and communicate at great distances underwater, etc. At best, Ambulocetus was a water-adapted mammal. Finding a water-adapted mammal, such as an otter, does not make that animal a walking whale and does not prove whale evolution.
Casting further doubt on Ambulocetus as a transitional form, Dr. Gingerich from the University of Michigan has noticed a very crocodile-like feature of Ambulocetus and now doubts its inclusion into the whale lineage and writes,
“Ambulocetus has its eyes raised up on top of its head in a very strange way, and it is unusually large for an early whale... maybe it’s not in the main line [of whale evolution].”8
Unlike whales that have eyes on the side of their head, Ambulocetus had eyes near the top of its head similar, to a crocodile. If leading evolutionary experts seriously doubt Ambulocetus as a whale intermediate, shouldn’t textbooks be more upfront with the questionable nature of this reputed “transitional fossil”? Ambulocetus is called a “walking whale”. The bones clearly show that it walked – but what evidence is there that it is a whale?
Textbooks portray Rodhocetus as the transitional form just before modern toothed whales. To create the appearance of a smooth transition into full-fledged whales, Rodhocetus is shown in textbooks and museums with a tail fluke (though not in all textbooks; see figure 9 below which shows an alternate textbook representation). Also shown are front flippers and reduced hind limbs that are shown to be no longer functional and hence vestigial. Raven’s 9th edition, Biology textbook writes, “Rodhocetus kasrani’s reduced hind limbs could not have aided it in walking or swimming”1 Dr. Berta from San Diego State University offers a similar story, “Rodhocetus... [was] using its tail fluke for propulsion through the water and not using the hind limbs”.9 What is interesting is that the actual fossil remains of the original discovery lack any type of fossil evidence for either front and hind limbs, and the tail bones were never found, including the ball vertebra – the primary indicator of a fluke that is present in all modern whales.
Figure 9: The fact that different textbooks published at the same time (2011 editions) show very different looking representations of the same fossil (Rodhocetus) confirms the highly speculative nature of so-called whale “transitional” forms. Compare the artist rendition shown in the textbook figure shown in A with the textbook figure shown in B.1,10 Instead of a fluke and underdeveloped flippers, Rodhocetus is pictured here with webbed feet and a streamlined, hefty tail, (a necessary revision since the later recovered leg remains were not a part of the original discovery). Notice, however, this updated version is very similar to the original reconstruction of Pakicetus shown on the cover of Science (See Figure 4). This is because whale evolution requires this basic form, so they have no choice but to force-fit their reconstructions to fit the whale evolution “mold.” As the Editor for Science at National Geographic Magazine, J. Shreeve writes, "Everybody knows fossils are fickle; bones will sing any song you want to hear."11
It turns out, all of the critical distinguishing skeletal features are missing. There is no evidence of a large tail/fluke assembly, no evidence of massive motive tail, no evidence of reduced hind limbs, no evidence of fusion of the back leg into the belly, no evidence of front flippers, no evidence of a streamlined massive neck musculature, and no evidence that a swimming position was its natural posture (Figure 10).
Figure 10: A highly imaginative artistic representation of Rodhocetus displayed at the Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan. Virtually every aspect of this illustration cannot be verified by the available fossil remains.
There is no strong evidence that Rodhocetus wasn’t a land mammal similar to Pakicetus. Despite the lack of evidence, Rodhocetus is promoted as a perfect intermediate form. Below is a picture of the Rodhocetus exhibit at the Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan, one of the few places were the actual fossils can be seen. Dr. Gingerich, who discovered Rodhocetus, was asked how he knew it had a fluke since the tail bones were missing.
Figure 11: The actual fossil remains are showcased at the Natural History Museum at the University of Michigan; one of the few places in the world the fossil remains can be seen. Image courtesy Dr. Werner.8
To his credit, he answered honestly and admitted,
“I speculated that it might have had a fluke...I now doubt that Rodhocetus would have had a fluked tail”9
Dr. Gingerich was then asked why he portrayed Rodhocetus with flippers and reduced hind limbs when the bones were entirely absent. He confessed he was wrong about that as well saying,
“Since then we have found the forelimbs, the hands, and the front arms of Rodhocetus, and we understand that it doesn’t have the kind of arms that can spread out like flippers on a whale.”9
Please realize that Dr. Gingerich was the discoverer of Rodhocetus and he promoted it as a legitimate transitional form with reduced hind limbs, underdeveloped flippers, and a whale fluke. It is this portrayal that still persists in museum displays, textbooks, and is believed by many scientists and misleads tens of millions of students. Why is the misrepresentation maintained? It is certainly not based upon the evidence of the fossils, but is quite clearly maintained based upon the necessity to fill in the much- needed gap in the reputed fossil sequence leading from land mammals to whales.
The reputed fossil transitional sequence which is said to trace the evolution of land mammals into modern whales is considered the “poster child of evolution”.12 This collection of fossils is said to be the best evidence of macro-evolution. The Journal of Biological Science says just that, “The origin of whales (order Cetacea) from a four-footed land animal is one of the best understood examples of macro- evolutionary change”.7 However, a closer examination of the fossil evidence reveals a very different picture than the textbook illustrations seem to suggest. When you look at the discrepancy between highly biased artistic representations and the actual fossil evidence, the truth emerges. The presumed transitional forms including Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, and Rodhocetus are highly questionable. The claim that these are all whale precursors is based more on speculation and wishful-thinking that on an honest evaluation of the fossil remains. Pakicetus, formerly assumed to be a fully aquatic mammal, has undergone a drastic revision and is now portrayed as an ordinary land mammal – far from being a
“primitive cetacean.” Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus are represented in museum displays and textbook figures as nearly perfect intermediates transitioning into modern toothed whales. This is, at best, misleading. The fossil evidence was reconstructed based on only a few scattered, fragmentary fossil remains and the key distinguishing bones were consistently absent. The key missing bones were replaced by fabricated or invented webbed feet, flippers, shortened arms, re-worked necks, reduced hind limbs, and enormous fluked tails. If whale evolution is a “poster child of evolution”, what does this say about the other evolutionary stories? What can we expect to find when we critically examine other famous icons of evolution?
The terrestrial animals that appear most similar to whales based upon genomics are hoofed mammals (the Artiodactyla order which includes horses, cows, deer, hippos, etc.). Although whale evolution theorists feel compelled to argue that whales arose from hoofed animals, it is very problematic in that hoofs are not useful for swimming, and cannot develop into webbed feet with finger-like bones. Hoofed animals are thought to have evolved fused hooves to replace the five toes common to most mammals. This is a problem because neither Pakicetus, nor the other two reputed transitional forms have hooves. Pakicetus is shown to have toes, not hooves, as does Ambulocetus (the extremities of Rodhocetus were completely missing and only represent artistic invention). Indohyus, the more recently discovered tiny deer-like “primitive cetacean” is believed to have immediately preceded Pakicetus, and it also lacks obvious hooves, but the artist has added tiny hooves to the tips of the toes (see Nature 2007 image below, figure 11).14 The only reason the artist added hooves was to make the fossil evidence fit evolutionary assumptions. Since none of the reputed transitional forms have hooves, and since whales have no evidence of vestigial hooves, whale evolution experts are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, genetic similarities suggests whales evolved from a hoofed ancestral lineage, yet, the fossil evidence of reputed whale precursors do not conform with this assumption.
Lastly, it is important to realize that whale evolution itself is an ever-changing story. For instance, in 1859 when Darwin published, The Origin of Species, he believed whales evolved from bears. He wrote,
“I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.”15
While Darwin seemed confident in his claim, scientists no longer believe whales evolved from bears. Instead, evolutionary paleontologists have considered and discarded a number of other ancestors to whales including a cat-like ungulate (Sinonyx) and a hyena-like Mesonychidae (Pachyaena). Not long ago, based on DNA similarities, it was discovered that hippos are the most genetically similar species to whales and were therefore assumed to be ancestors to them. However, this view is problematic and
Figure 12: Shown in the journal of Nature in 2007, the 47 million year old Indohyus is believed to be the earliest known ancestor to modern whales. The red arrows were added in to show the hooves that were added by the artist as well as all other crosshatched bones.
losing popularity (think of the tail). A major problem is that hippos are found too late in the fossil record – roughly 30 million years after the first true whales had already evolved.14 More recently, evolutionists have proposed that modern whales evolved from a miniature, deer-like ancestor (Indohyus).15 So which is the right answer? Did whales evolve from a bear-like, cat-like, hyena-like, hippo-like, or tiny deer-like ancestor? To this day, evolutionists are in disagreement, and a consensus view has not been reached. One thing is certain, however, the evolutionary history of whales is a convoluted and ever-changing story. If we can’t trust yesterday’s “indisputable” fossil ancestors to whales, how can we trust today’s claims? In light of so much uncertainty, should any of this be taught in biology textbooks as unquestionable scientific fact?
The Bible says that whales and dolphins were miraculously created on the 5th day of creation with the rest of the sea and flying creatures (Genesis 1:21). Whales and dolphins have many amazing characteristics and abilities that make them utterly unique among mammals. These very complex features could never arise by any Darwinian trial and error process – they had to be created. The reputed “missing links” reported in this update have been used by textbook writers to misrepresent the actual fossil evidence. The land mammal-to-whale icon does not support evolutionary theory, and should not be used to undermine Biblical faith.
By Christopher Rupe & Dr. John Sanford FMS Foundation, All Rights Reserved, 2014.
Evolution: The Grand Experiment, Vol. 1, by Dr. Carl Werner. The Fossil Record, by Dr. John Morris & Dr. Frank Sherwin. Whale of a Tale, by Dr. Don Batten.
Refuting Evolution, by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati.
1. Raven, P., Johnson, G., Mason, K., Losos J., and Singer, S., Biology (9th Edition), McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, 2011, p. 425.
2. Gingerich, P., Wells, N., Origin of whales in epicontinental remnant seas: new evidence from the early Eocene of Pakistan, Science, 1983.
3. Ref. 2, cover page.
4. Spoor, F., Bajpai, S., Hussani, S., Kumar, K., Thewissen, J., Vestibular evidence for the evolution of aquatic behavior in early cetaceans, Nature, 2001.
5. Thewissen, J., Hussain, S., Arif, M., Fossil evidence for the origin of aquatic locomotion in archaeocete whales, Science, 1994.
6. A footnote in reference 3 in the Science 1994 article mentions this fact.
7. Bajpai, S., Thewissen, J., Sahni, A., The origin and early evolution of whales: macroevolution documented on the Indian Subcontinent, Journal of Biological Sciences, 2009.
8. Werner, C., Evolution: the Grand Experiment Vol. 1, 2007; interview of Dr. Gingrich by Dr. Carl Werner, p. 138.
9. Ref. 8, p. 139.
10. Reece, J., Urry, L., Cain, M., Wasserman, S., Minorsky, P., Jackson, R., Biology (9th Edition), Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco, California, 2011, p. 466.
11. Shreeve, J., “Argument over a Woman,” Discover 11 no. 8 (1990): 58.
12. Marx, F., Uhen, M., Climate, critters, and cetaceans: Cenozoic drivers of the evolution of modern whales, Science, 2010.
13. Darwin, C., On the Origin of the Species, 1859.
14. Understanding Evolution, 2014. University of California Museum of Paleontology. 06 January 2014
15. Thewissen, J., Cooper, L., Clementz, M., Bajpai, S., Tiwari, B., Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India, Nature, 2007.