You Old Fossil

"New Fossils Add to Man’s Family Tree," announced a recent headline in the Arizona Republic. In the story, paleontologists claimed that primate fossils found in Uganda may be the "holy grail" of modern paleontology: the elusive common ancestor of great apes and humans. And in Argentina, fossils found last spring were touted as a "missing link" between dinosaurs and birds. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that the facts in each case are not so straightforward. Fossils require interpretation—and interpretations require theories. And if those theories are wrong, scientists may misunderstand the evidence right in front of their noses. A fossil, you see, is just a bone. It doesn’t say how old it is, how it got there, or what kind of animal it’s from. These things are all determined by the scientist, and the accuracy of those determinations depend on how complete the fossil is and a host of secondary assumptions. Take the case of the Ugandan primate fossils. An editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gave the common media take, saying that the fossils "may force scientists to redraw the trunk of humankind’s family tree." But David Begun, paleontologist at the University of Toronto, disagrees. Begun says this sensationalized interpretation depends "primarily on just two skeletal bones, one of which is very fragmentary." What we need, Begun says, is "some parts of the body that will show unambiguous linkages to the great apes"—and that "unambiguous" evidence is precisely what’s lacking. The details of the purported dinosaur-bird link are even more debatable. The scientists who found these dinosaur fossils dated them at 90 million years. But according to standard geological dating, the oldest true bird—that is, the first fossil with real feathers—is much older: 150 million years old. This is the famous Archaeopteryx. How could the newly-discovered dinosaur be the ancestor of birds when the first true bird appeared 60 million years earlier? This is just the latest disappointment in never-ending attempts to support Darwinism. Ever since Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution, scientists have searched for missing links—and they’ve come up empty-handed. Even the best candidates for missing-link status—such as the Archaeopteryx—have been beset with problems. Isn’t it time to face the reality—that there are distinct gaps separating the basic body plans all the way back to the beginnings of life? Darwin’s theory of gradual change linking all organisms through common descent simply flies in the face of the facts. Darwinism was offered as a counter to the idea of divine creation. Its failure suggests that we should take another look at intelligent design theory—the idea that each basic body plan was designed by an intelligent Being instead of evolving. Intelligent design certainly fits the scientific data from the fossil record. Most people, including school teachers, can be influenced by attention-grabbing headlines about missing links. You and I need to be able to point out to our secular friends that these claims contain large doses of unsubstantiated theory. If we stick to the facts, there is no clear evidence supporting Darwin’s theory of gradual change. But there is overwhelming evidence for the intelligent design of living things. When it comes to news accounts of so-called "missing links," Christians have a responsibility to read the fine print… and not just the headlines.


Chuck Colson


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