Luke 19:39-40
39 And some of the Pharisees from
among the multitude said unto him,
Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40 And he answered and said unto them,
I tell you that, if these should hold
their peace, the stones would
immediately cry out.
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
The Fossil Record
Timothy G. Standish, Ph. D.
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Missing Links and the Fossil Record
“But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an
enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which
have formerly existed, be truly enormous. Why then is not every
geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate
links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated
organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious
objection which can be urged against the theory. The explanation lies,
as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”
Darwin C.R. 1872. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
“Ancient rocks clearly preserve less information, on average, than more
recent rocks. However, if scaled to the stratigraphic level of the stage
and the taxonomic level of the family, the past 540 million years of
the fossil record provide uniformly good documentation of the life of
the past.”
M. J. Benton, M. A. Wills & R. Hitchin. 2000. Quality of the fossil record through time.
Nature 403:534-537
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
What is a Fossil?
Six major types:

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Preserved organisms - The most uncommon fossils, including
insects in amber, frozen mammoths, organisms preserved in peat
bogs and tar pits
Preserved hard parts - Teeth, bones, shells or other hard parts that
have been preserved over time
Impressions - Flattened outlines of the surface of an organism,
frequently carbonized
Molds - After an organism has been surrounded by mud which turns
to rock, the remains leach out of the rock, leaving only the mold
Casts - Molds that have been filled with another material after the
remains have been removed produce casts
Trace fossils - Tracks burrows and other evidence of life left in the
rock
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Preserved Organisms

Preserved organisms - The most uncommon fossils,
including insects in amber, frozen mammoths, organisms
preserved in peat bogs and tar pits
©2000 Timothy G. Standish





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
Preserved Hard Parts
Process - Burial
Some hard parts may become
permineralized which involves the
filling of porous areas with mineral
deposits
Examples include:
Petrified (turned to stone) wood
Teeth
Bones
Shells
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Impressions

Impressions - Flattened outlines of the surface of
an organism, frequently carbonized
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Molds

Molds - After an organism has been surrounded
by mud which turns to rock, the remains leach
out of the rock, leaving only the mold
1 A dead
organism is
buried
2 The remains
are dissolved
away leaving
a mold
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
A Brachiopod Mold


No part of the original brachiopod remains
Note the detail preserved in this fine-grained rock
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Casts

Casts - Molds that have been filled with another material
after the remains have been removed produce casts
1 A dead
organism is
buried
2 The remains
are dissolved
away leaving
a mold
3 The mold fills with minerals producing a cast
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Casts of Brachiopods

Sometimes what looks like preserved hard parts may still
be casts
Crystals
Top
Growth
lines
Bottom
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Casts of Trilobites


Casts of many organisms are known
Trilobite casts serve as excellent examples of the detail
that can be preserved in casts.
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Plant Fossils
Sphenophyta
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Trace Fossils


Trace fossils - Tracks burrows and other evidence of life
left in the rock
Provide information about the behavior of organisms
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Problems With Interpretation of
the Fossil Record
 No
one was there when the fossils were
formed
 Testing theories about how and when fossils
formed is difficult in many cases and
impossible in others
 Multiple interpretations of data are common
 Fundamentally different worldviews and lack
of rigorous testing of interpretations, leads to
interpretation driven strongly by beliefs
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Dating Fossils

Two methods:

Relative dating - When a previously unknown fossil is
found in strata with other fossils of “known age,” the age
of the newly discovered fossil can be inferred from the
“known age” of the fossils with which it is associated.
Relative dating is done in terms of the relative
appearance of organisms in the fossil record.
(“Archaeopteryx appears after Latimeria, but before
Australopithecus.”)
Absolute dating - Involves assigning dates in terms of
years to fossils. This most frequently involves
radiometric dating techniques. (“This Archaeopteryx
fossil is 150 million years old.”)

©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Radiometric Dating


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
Assumptions:
Constant isotope decay rates over time
Initial isotope concentrations can be known
Isotope decay is the only factor that alters relative
concentrations of isotopes and their breakdown products
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Formation Of

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
The Geologic Column
As sediment is washed away from mountains and other
zones of erosion, it is collected in depositional basins
The first sediment to settle in a basin is assumed to be the
oldest with newer strata being deposited on top
Going from the bottom to the top of the geologic column
should be a trip from the most ancient times to the present
There is no place on earth where the entire geologic
column is present; it has been pieced together using
multiple sequences of strata from multiple locations to
provide a complete sequence
Tectonic, volcanic and other geological activities may
have altered the strata sequence over time in some
locations
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Formation Of
The Geologic Column
Zone of erosion
Deposition basin
Geological
Strata

This model makes the uniformitarian assumption that
current conditions existed in the past
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
The Geologic Column
Era
Period
200 300 -
Phanerozoic
100 -
400 -
500 Precambrian
Tertiary
Millions of Years Before Present
Cenozoic
Miocene
Oligocene
Eocene
Paleocene
Cretaceous
Mesozoic
Jurassic
Triassic
Permian
Carboniferous
Paleozoic Devonian
Silurian
Ordovician
Cambrian
Proterozoic
Archean
Representative Major Events
Proliferation of flowering plants
Continued mammal modernization first apes
Major mammals: bats whales and monkeys
Survival of frogs and angiosperms
Extinction of dinosaurs and ammonoids
Mammals, cycads, conifers, angiosperms
Dinosaurs
Conifers, first dinosaurs
Extinction of 95% of marine organisms
Coal “forests,” amphibia and reptiles
“The age of fish” small land plants
Jawless fish, strange land plants
Many marine organisms including clams
All phyla, complex organisms, e.g., Trilobites
Few fossils, no Cambrian ancestors
Ediacaran fauna (odd marine organisms)
Very few fossils, all one-celled
Many pseudofossils
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
The Upper Geologic Column
Period Epoch
Representative Major Events
Holocene Modern humans
Pleistocene “Ice Age”
Pliocene Appearance of Australopithecus
Miocene Proliferation of flowering plants
Cenozoic
Tertiary
Phanerozoic
Quaternary
Era
Oligocene Continued mammal modernization first apes
Eocene
Major mammals: bats, whales and monkeys
Paleocene Extinction of dinosaurs and many families
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Trends In
The Geologic Column
Organisms at the bottom look less like those
today than those at the top
 Moving from bottom to top, the number of fossil
species goes up
 Moving from bottom to top, the number of fossil
phyla and possibly classes goes down
 Moving from bottom to top, at first there are no
land-dwelling organisms, then their numbers
increase

©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Using Molecular Data To
Reconstruct Evolutionary History
If two things look the same, it is hardly surprising if
their plans look the same
 When Boeing 757 plans are compared with those for
a 767 their relationship will be obvious
 The plans look the same as the planes look the same
 Comparison of DNA from organisms that look the
same reveals similarities as the DNA codes for
similar organisms!
 DNA data is not intrinsically better than
morphological data in reconstructing phylogenies

©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Are There Missing Links In
The Geologic Column?
Not exactly, although many attempts have been
made at saying some things are
 The traditional depiction of the evolution of
horses worked out by O. C. Marsh is highly
questionable:
 “The most famous of all equid [horse] trends,
‘gradual reduction of the side toes,’ is flatly
fictitious.”

– Simpson G. G. 1953. The Major Features of
Evolution. New York and London: Columbia
University Press, p 263
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
More On Horses
“The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and,
ironically, we have even fewer examples of
evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s
time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of
darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the
evolution of the horse in North America have had to
be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed
information--what appeared to be a nice simple
progression when relatively few data were available
now appears to be much more complex and much
less gradualistic.”
Raup, D. M. 1979. Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology.
Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 50:22-29
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
“Missing Links” Are Still Missing
“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 J. Gould
Discover, October 1989, p 65
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Young Sinosauropteryx prima
Yixian formation, lower Cretaceous, Liaoning Province, China
Found in 1996
 The ruffled
dark ridge
above the
spine shows
what may
have been
feathers

Down-like
feathers?
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Adult Sinosauropteryx prima
Yixian formation, lower Cretaceous, Liaoning Province, China
Feathers are
clearly
apparent
 This is the
only dinosaur
ever found
with the
remains of a
small mammal
inside

Feathers
Mammal
Jaw
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Caudipteryx zoui
Yixian formation, lower Cretaceous, Liaoning Province, China



Feather
plume on the
short tail and
wings
Feathers and
down are
thought to
have covered
the entire
body
Only a few
hooked teeth
in the front of
its upper jaw
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Protarchaeopteryx robusta
Yixian formation, lower Cretaceous, Liaoning Province, China
Feathers
Did not fly
 Symmetrical feathers
 Archaeopteryx
lithographica had
asymmetrical feathers

©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Confuciusornis sanctus
Yixian formation, lower Cretaceous, Liaoning Province, China

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A true bird
Lacks teeth in the beak
Note the forelimbs and fossil
feathers
Found in abundance in the
same formation and “time”
as feathered dinosaurs!
How can Chinese feathered
dinosaurs be “missing links”
between birds and dinosaurs
when true birds were already
present?
Feathers
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis
or How Science Can Fail
According to the National Geographic,
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis is a “125-millionyear-old feathered dinosaur”
 This “feathered dinosaur” showed that feathers
were widespread in dinosaurs and were present
in “Tyrannosaurus rex and velociraptors”
 A. liaoningensis featured a dinosaur-like tail and
“a highly advanced shoulder girdle that allowed
for flapping arms”
 In other words, this is a missing link between
dinosaurs and birds!

©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis
or How Science Can Fail
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis appears to be a forgery
or at best a mistake
 The dinosaur-like tail appears to be from another
Chinese fossil of which the complementary other
half has been found
 The S. millenii fossil was illegally obtained by
National Geographic who may have shown once
again that there is a sucker born every minute
 Far from being a missing link Sinornithosaurus
millenii appears to be headed into the trashcan of
embarrassment with Piltdown Man

©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis
or How Science Can Fail
"It was disappointing to learn that
Archaeoraptor may be a
combination of animals,”
Christopher Sloan
Senior assistant editor of National
Geographic and author of the magazine's
November 1999 article about the “find”
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Sinornithosaurus millenii
or How Science Can Fail
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis
or How Science Can Fail
“We should confidently expect an army of
well-funded researchers to find evidence
that in their eyes confirms a theory that
they desperately want to confirm. That is
the methodology of pseudo-science, and
the fact that Darwinists insist upon
employing such methods is a good reason
for doubting the objectivity of their
science.”
Phillip Johnson
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis
or How Science Can Fail
Philip Currie of the Royal Tyrell Museum as interviewed on January 25, 2000 by host
Jay Ingram on Canada's Discovery Channel
Jay Ingram: Do you think this will have a negative
effect on the whole body of thought that birds
evolved from dinosaurs?
Philip Currie: No. It's not going to affect that at all
because the evidence is based on other factors
entirely. It's certainly something that people will
hook onto and say, "See what I told you", but the
bottom line is that there is so much evidence in favor
of birds coming from dinosaurs directly that, this isn't
going to affect the main part of the study whatsoever.
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
"The theropod origin of birds,
in my opinion, will be the
greatest embarrassment of
paleontology of the 20th
century."
"Birds do it...did dinosaurs?" New Scientist 153
(2067): 27-31 --Alan Feduccia, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
Human Phylogeny
0
Adapted from: Tattersal, I. 2000. Once We were Not Alone.
Homo sapiens
Scientific American. January.
H. neanderthalensis
Millions of years before present
H. heidelbergensis
H. erectus
1
2
3
P. robustus P. boisei
H. ergaster
H. habilis
H. rudolfensis
Panthropus aethiopicus
A. garhi
A. africanus
A. bahrelghazali
A. afarensis
4
5
Australopithicus anamensis
Ardipithecus ramidus
©2000 Timothy G. Standish
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Fossil Record