|Evolution in the News - October 1998|
Rocks exist in layers which have been given names derived from the location where they were first studied. These layers are identified by certain key fossils, called "index fossils," which appear in these layers but no others. Those are the facts.
Evolutionists speculate that rock layers are associated with periods of time. They have assigned ages to the rocks based on the assumed age of the fossils in them. The age of various fossils depends upon their assumption of how evolution proceeded, and the rate at which they suppose evolution proceeded.
For example, the Cambrian layer contains trilobite fossils, which the evolutionists believe lived during the Cambrian period from 544 to 510 million years ago. The Devonian layer contains certain fish fossils, which evolutionists believe lived during the Devonian period from 409 to 363 million years ago. The Jurassic layer contains certain dinosaur fossils which the evolutionists believe existed during the Jurassic period 202 to 141 million years ago.
Evolutionary paleontologists once believed that the coelacanth (or something very much like it) was the fish that evolved into the first amphibian, largely because it appeared at the right point in the geologic column. The biology textbook used at Cerro Coso Community College biology still contains a section that begins,
Amphibians Evolved from Lobefin Fishes and Developed Lungs
About 400 million years ago, a group of fishes called lobefins appeared, probably in fresh water. Lobefins had two important pre-adaptations to land-life: stout, fleshy fins with which they crawled about on the bottoms of shallow, quiet waters and a outpoaching of the digestive tract that could be filled with air, like a primitive lung. The coelacanth seen in Figure 24-33d is a lobefin that was believed to be long extinct before its discovery in 1939.1
Then, it goes on to tell the fable about how the lung of a lobefin adapted itself for breathing, and how the fins turned into legs.
They don't point out that the discovery of a living specimen proved that the coelacanth lung is only used for buoyancy and has nothing to do with breathing. They don't point out that the coelacanth is a deep-water, salt-water fish, not a shallow-water, freshwater fish. They don't point out that it doesn't use its fins for walking on the bottom. They don't point out that the coelacanth is no longer seriously considered to be the missing link between fish and amphibians.
Although the biology text book doesn't explicitly say it, a typical college student would almost certainly get the impression from it that the discovery of the coelacanth has confirmed that the coelacanth is the fish that evolutionists believe evolved into the first amphibian. (Some would say that if a student gets that incorrect impression, it is his fault for not asking the teacher the correct questions, and for not knowing what the definition of "is" is. ;-) )
The discovery of a living coelacanth not only showed that they made incorrect inferences about how it used its lungs and fins, they also made incorrect inferences about when it lived.
The inaccuracy of the dates of the geologic column is the real problem for evolutionists. The discovery of a second coelacanth population near Indonesia 2, proves that at least one "extinct, prehistoric" species can exist in several locations for 80 million years without leaving a trace.
If species can certainly exist for tens of millions of years without leaving a trace, then they can probably exist for hundreds of millions of years without leaving a trace, too. If this is true, then you can't tell when species go extinct from the geologic column. Furthermore, it might have existed for hundreds of millions of years before leaving the first fossil, so you can't tell with any certainty when the species first evolved.
If the fossil record is so poor that you can't tell with any certainty when any species originated and when it went extinct, then how can you use it to construct an evolutionary progression?
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Audesirk & Audesirk, Biology 4th edition, 1996, page 374
2 "Second Group of Living Fossils Reported", Science News, September 26, 1998, page 196 (Ev)