Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hunting for Creationism - Round 13 - Fossils Are Found at All Levels

I'm on the hunt for evidence for Creationism/Intelligent Design (hereby C/ID). Here, I set the ground rules and mission. Here, I have an index of my search.

Continuing on icr.org (they have a bunch of arguments). Today's argument, "Fossils Are Found at All Levels".

Let's hop right in

The Argument

Here's the start:
The earth is covered with layers of sedimentary rock, much of it containing microscopic fossils such as plankton, pollen, and spores.
Okay... kind of vague, but okay.

The entire record of visible fossils consists mainly of marine invertebrates (animals without a backbone), including clams, jellyfish, and coral.
This is one of those cases that I wish they had some type of cited study or something. It makes it much more difficult to assess whether what they're saying is true, when it sounds like it could be correct, but there's zero provided citations... which may be the point.

I could see that being the case. I described in a previous argument that bodies of water are hot beds of fossilization, because they're prime conditions for that process to happen. Given that, and the fact marine life is older than land-walkers by hundreds of millions of years, and have been around longer... yes, I could see how a large portion of the fossils would be marine creatures.

What is surprising is that these ocean creatures are found primarily on the continents and rarely in the deep ocean basins. More clam shells are found on mountain peaks than under the ocean floor.
Pfffft... what?! How is that surprising?

Has this person ever heard of tectonic plate movements (Wiki link)? More specifically, this person may want to look up the different types of "boundary zones" (Wiki link - plate boundaries).

In short, at subduction zones, sections that may have been under water are pushed upwards, forming mountains (the Himalayan mountains formed by the Indian continent slamming into the Eurasian continent is an excellent example - wiki Link).

A graphic depicting a cross-section of the Earth's mantle and crust, with contintental plates in different situations of sliding beneath one another, forming mountains, or pulling apart at the middle.
Courtesy Wikipedia
Of course, we'd find fossils on mountains, all without a global flood to accomplish it. This falls under the "Is that the best explanation you could think up?" category.

In reference to finding marine fossils under the ocean floor, let's look at map (courtesy Natural History Museum - Paraconularia subtilis):

Distribution map of discovered fossils of Paraconularia subtilis, an extinct marine creature.
Do you notice anything peculiar? All the discoveries are on land. We don't have geological/anthropological digs under water, so of course we don't find any fossils there. The procedure for doing these digs are incredibly meticulous on carefully extracting fossils - conditions that are next to impossible to do under water.

... and that's talking about shallow water. We have a difficult time getting submersibles down into basins, let alone trying to carefully dig up fossils, where any movement near the floor of the ocean kicks up a ton of muck.

Do... do I really need to say any more? This is one of the more uninformed arguments I've read on this site. They've somehow managed to take some bits of information, which are technically true on their own, left out an armada of important facts to consider, and made it sound like a global flood must have happened.

This is called "spin."

Given the planet's long history of plates pulling apart, creating new surfaces, subduction zones pushing another plate upwards forming mountains, and the ever-changing landscape that allows for the fluctuations in sea level (due to ice ages every few ten thousand years, etc) to flood local regions... it's just to be expected that we'll see the remains of marine life inland and on mountains.

... no magic needed.

From the bottom layers to the top layers, most fossils are marine creatures.
Yes... we've been over this in Round 12, and commented here too.

The upper levels do have an increasing number of vertebrates, such as fish and amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, but the fossils at the bottom levels are equally as complex as any animal today.
Citation needed. I should just have a stamp or macro for that request.

Namely, I don't really know how they're gauging complexity. I'm familiar with a lot of the different creatures... and no, I don't see it. (link to Paleontology page on the different eras)

Are they looking at the creatures, on the surface only, and making a intuitive assessment? Do they realize that the internal organs, even down to the DNA would tell more of a story?

What does the author mean by "any animal today?" How about a worm? Worms are really simple. Keep in mind that evolution doesn't say that all creatures MUST become more complex... but it does trend that some lineages do. We still have bacteria and viruses, after all, which are really simple (although not technically animals, but evolution doesn't specifically say that only the animal kingdom becomes more complex). Since that's such a successful niche, we'll always have bacteria.

... so I don't really know what they're talking about, or how they're assessing the differences.

All fossil types appear suddenly, fully formed and fully functional, without less complex ancestors under them.
Such as...?

I love this "fully formed and fully functional" criteria. Yes, most transitional forms/fossils are "fully formed and fully functional". Think of walruses, seals or manatees - current transitional forms from land-walkers back to primarily marine life... yet these people would look at those animals and assess that they are "fully formed and fully functional".

I think they have a core misconception about how evolution, and more specifically, transitional species, work.

As to whether they form suddenly? Again, they provide no evidence to make this case, and I have no idea what they're talking about. I would expect some lineages would have significant gaps, since fossilization, particularly outside of bodies of water, is a rare process.

It's a good thing we have multiple independent lines of evidence to get a better, more complete picture of evolutionary history (link to Phylogenics article, link to Taxonomy article, link to Geologic Column/Geologic time scale article, etc).

The fossil record is strong evidence for the sudden appearance of life by creation, followed by rapid burial during a global flood.
Strangely enough, the author provided more evidence of plate tectonics, while not establishing these assertions as true, at all.

I'll mark this one down as another "Argument by Mere Assertion".

Meta Analysis

Massive failure of this argument when vetting against the preponderance of evidence. Just like the global flood just doesn't fit with known facts, neither does this.

Most of the argument doesn't really even have anything to do with creationism again... just more of the flood argument. It started to get close to making an argument that could be a positive demonstration of creationism - the idea that organisms poofed into existence, instead of having a lineage that goes back to an earlier form... but they didn't come close to successfully making that case.

Even if the fossil record was more consistent with that idea, we know enough about the fossilization process to know that the occurrence rate could be slow enough to only take "snapshots"  of a lineage after they've notably changed, instead of a long sequence of slightly modified forms.

This would mean that the idea that a magical sky wizard was inventing new creatures out of whole-cloth would require significantly more evidence to distinguish it from other, more mundane, and much more precedented possibilities (like evolution). Basically, it comes down to the Exclusion Principle, again.

How would we falsify this, I wonder? That gets a lot more difficult when talking about a logic-defying sky wizard, who they've defined as being able to do anything.

They totally hit nothing but air on this one.


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