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Martin Arrowsmith's edits

Martin Arrowsmith made a number of edits[1] which I find questionable, so I've added fact tags and some changes, but I couldn't fit all I wanted to say in an edit comment.

  • He changed "points to" to "may point to", which I consider to be an attempt to undermine the creationary view, given that "points to" indicates room for that not being the case, and therefore adding "may" is redundant.
  • He changed "in either case are quickly scavenged" to "may be quickly scavenged", implying that they are not quickly scavenged if they sink, which is simply not true. I've reverted that bit.
  • He wrote that "creationists have argued that varying numbers of sediment layers between volcanic ash events is inconsistent with the layers in this region being annual layers" as though their arguments are debatable, but he provided no reason to doubt what seems to be a solid argument. So I've removed the "creationists have argued" bit.
  • He provided the same pointless qualification in "They also argue that the fish must have been buried rapidly due to their excellent preservation", despite secular geologists agreeing that rapid burial is indicated by excellent preservation. So I've also altered that.
  • He added that "Secular geologists have their own counterarguments to these positions." which is a substanceless claim (can you imagine Wikipedia allowing a line that says "Creationary geologists have their own counterarguments to these positions" in its articles?), so I've removed it completely.

Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:20, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

I'll put footnotes or references for where you've put in fact tags if you can let me know the format for doing it. So, if I want to add a reference to an online pdf with a comment, how should it be done? I.E. "Johnson and Johnson, 2002 (link to pdf). In temperatures over 15° C, water pressure at greater than 10m prevents gas bloat in fish carcasses"--Martin Arrowsmith 04:31, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

We don't really have a style guide for references yet (see aSK:Style manual#References and notes for the little we do have), and see Help:Footnotes and references for the mechanics of adding references. The format you suggested for adding a note seems fine to me. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 07:29, 7 March 2011 (UTC)
For explanatory notes, use a {{note}} template. This note can itself include a {{ref}} template to add a reference to the note. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 07:34, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

I almost decided to leave out the Montceau-les-Mines lagerstätte because we have too little information about it. It would to crucial to know whether the marine fossils lie near the mud cracks or in relatively distant layers, and indeed whether the marine fossils and terrstrial fossils are mixed together or show up in separate (perhaps alternating) layers. Despite Philip's edit, I wasn't able to determine that from my sources. (I essentially found only two useful sources. I will add them as soon as I can.) Also it is important to say that there are other ways to mix marine and terrstrial fossils besides floods.

I believe there is agreement that rapid burial favors fossilization and is often an important factor for the fossils we find. But there seem to be some conditions were lagerstätten can form without rapid burial. This needs to be made clear.

As I have said elsewhere, we need to work on the varves, but it is probably easier to do that first in a separate article and then to fix up the mentions on this page.

--Awc 08:24, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

I was wondering why you chose the ones you did. For example, I would have thought that the Ediacaran in South Australia would be more significant than some listed on this page. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:21, 7 March 2011 (UTC)
They are mostly the ones brought up by Snelling and answered by Neyman. I threw in a few more that I thought were important, guided in part by the list at WP: Lagerstätte. I chose Bitter Springs over Ediacara Hills because it is older, and I thought one example of a Pre-Cambrian fossil bed was sufficient. The selection is somewhat subjective and I have no objections to expanding it (and probably none to altering it). --Awc 14:31, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

river vs. flood

Philip made [ this edit] with the comment "Being washed into the sea by a river wouldn't explain them being buried."

Why not? Rivers often carry large quantities of sediments. I don't have figures for the rates of sedimentation, but certainly the artificial lakes behind large dams often fill at a rate of a substantial fraction of a meter per year. I don't have easy access to the Scientific American article, but this source quotes Sci. Am. as "postulating an environment consisting of a river estuary (mouth) in which the 'flow of fresh river water alternated with brackish tides'." And this source discusses the same mechanism for Mazon Creek: "Plants and animals that died were washed into the bays by the river systems, where they mixed with the dead marine organisms. Since mud was constantly being brought in by the rivers, they were buried relatively quickly."

I think that is enough reason to leave "river" in the article as a possibility. --Awc 13:17, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Awc, alluvial deposition has been explained to Phillip many times. He has been shown pictures of deposits in coastal deltas. He has been given records of accumulation. He knows that being washed into the sea by a river would explain them being buried. Anything else is trolling or a lie. Short of kidnapping Phillip, taking him to a coastal delta and forcing him to watch fossils being buried in alluvium right before his eyes, there is nothing you can do. I'm sure even then it wouldn't work. You've been warned. Phil doesn't need your help. He's had plenty of help. Countless hours of it from people with better things to do. He needs to be ignored. You seem like a nice person. Your time could be very well spent elsewhere. Womprfirst 15:29, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
This is indeed a difficult matter to get figures on. I wonder about your claim that "the artificial lakes behind large dams often fill at a rate of a substantial fraction of a meter per year" simply because there are so many variables. How fast they fill (with sediment) depends, of course, on how much sediment the river is carrying (as well as the size of the dam), and that varies considerably. Also, dams do not silt up evenly, so a single figure is not appropriate.
However, one factor increasing sediment load is deforestation[2], which is a man-made phenomenon and not really applicable to a long-age scenario.
If an organism is five centimetres high (reasonable for amphibians and reptiles), there would need to be enough sediment to bury that organism within a few days at most (before scavengers have destroyed it), and not just to hide it, but enough that burrowing organism, bacteria, etc. can't get to it either. So we are talking about at least ten centimetres (probably significantly more) per three days, or thereabouts. That's significantly more than your "substantial fraction of a meter per year".
Your sources (SciAm and AiC) appear to be clutching at straws, and simply assert that there would be enough mud to bury the organisms quickly, because, after all, it must have been non-catastrophic conditions, else creationists would have a case.
So no, I don't see good reason to leave rivers in there.
Awc, alluvial deposition has been explained to Phillip many times. This sounds like something that RW's quote generator would produce, because "has been explained to Phillip (sic) many times" is a common phrase of such critics. However, in this case, I believe that the claim is false; I don't particularly recall this being discussed before, and certainly not "many times".
He has been shown pictures of deposits in coastal deltas. He has been given records of accumulation. Where? Links, please. I'm calling you on this.
He knows that being washed into the sea by a river would explain them being buried. Now you're a mind-reader too? Even if it had been "explained" many times, that doesn't mean that I've accepted it.
Anything else is trolling or a lie. Watch the accusations (unless you can back them up) or your stay here may be brief.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:10, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
cool, river deltas do not exist , or at least nothing ends up buried in them. Is that your position Philip ? it seems that you deny that sediment carried and deposited at a river mouth or delta will cover a small dead animal, you can also consider that a dead carcass acts as a barrier and works in two ways to encourage local sedimentation in certain water conditions, thus promoting rapid burial in waters of low sediment loads (hint , one is depositional and the other is erosional). 10 cm is considerably less than a couple of meters. Deposition rates in reservoir dams in the US are well recorded and have been for over 50 years because , surprise, they require a works department to remove them from time to time, they are also seasonal as one would expect where weather is seasonal. You might consider that many rivers run on an annual cycle , like the nile pre dam, and that land can be denuded by fire, animal grazing or locusts which are all natural and tend to follow predictable cycles along with malthusian crises in populations. Hamster 04:32, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, sure. River deltas don't exist. Any photographs you might show me must be doctored.
My "position" (really, the point I've yet to see evidence refuting) is that sediment from a river not in flood will cover a small dead animal enough to preserve it as a fossil quickly enough that it isn't first scavenged and doesn't first rot. Your description of covering an animal without specifying how long it lies there and how deeply it's buried is too broad.
Similarly vague is your claim that deposition rates are well recorded. Awc couldn't find any, and this indicates that they vary enormously. That doesn't deny, though, that rates for individual dams are known somewhere, but without specifics, your comment is not much use.
Granted, fire and other disasters will have an effect, which is why I did qualify my comment, but probably not that much.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 07:21, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
We are being a little ambiguous to speak of a "river or flood". The actual choice might be closer to "normal" floods and "catastrophic" floods. I pulled 1 m/yr out of the hat because I've heard in the news more than once that silt was a problem with dams, so I figured 100 m for the height of a typical dam and 100 years until there's a problem. I expect the minimum could be 100 times smaller, but the maximum 10 times bigger. In this case, when we are just discussing whether it is plausible to consider a non-catastrophic scenario, we are justified to take a number nearer the higher end of the range. If that's too low, we can forget about it, but if it's big enough, then we have to ask whether this particular river might have had such a high rate of sedimentation. The reference you gave made the intersting point that "commonly half of a river’s annual sediment load may be transported during only 5 to 10 days flow". We could call these "annual floods", and decadal and centannial floods will be higher still. The point is that the fossils we find were perhaps not buried year around but only during high water. That would be enough to provide the tens of centimeters in a few days that you were looking for. It is also possible that the muck on the bottom is anaerobic, which would slow down both scaveging and decay. Maybe we should just say, "The presence of terrestrial creatures with the marine creatures suggests that the former were washed into the sea." without going into details on the possibilities. --Awc 08:57, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
As illustrated, you would literally have to kidnap Phillip, take him to a delta and rub his face in an example. Furthermore, you'd have to sit there with him until he was gray to make sure what remained of the organism went undisturbed, and even then, he'd complain on his deathbed about not knowing if the organism would eventually fossilize. His river/flood subjectivist act should be enough to tip off any thinking man that he's not being genuine with us or himself. Womprfirst 21:53, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
We are being a little ambiguous to speak of a "river or flood". The actual choice might be closer to "normal" floods and "catastrophic" floods. Both of which "flood" covers.
It is also possible that the muck on the bottom is anaerobic, which would slow down both scaveging and decay. I wonder how often this happens. Wouldn't anaerobic muck be produced by bacteria, which might also attack the carcase? This page says that "Older soft bodied preservation due to protection from decay and scavenging under anaerobic conditions (without oxygen) especially at low temperatures rarely occurs.", although I think it means "rarely compared to other methods".
Maybe we should just say, "The presence of terrestrial creatures with the marine creatures suggests that the former were washed into the sea." without going into details on the possibilities. The goal as much as anything is to show that the evidence (as a whole) supports a flood view. I'm happy with your proposed wording insofar as the flood/river issue is concerned, but would like to highlight that this evidence shows that at least some of the creatures were not buried where they lived, as tends to be assumed. So perhaps something like "The presence of terrestrial creatures with the marine creatures shows that at least the former were not buried where they lived, but were probably washed into place".
Womprfirst, are you going to substantiate your claims, or just keep throwing out baseless insults?
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:41, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
The goal as much as anything is to show that the evidence (as a whole) supports a flood view. I hope you didn't mean that the way it sounds. I hope you don't think it is either necessary or proper to do anything other than present the evidence as it is, without twisting it to support a particular conclusion. In the case of Montceau-les-Mines, the evidence is consistent with a flood—as long as you throw out the raindrops and mud cracks—but also with a deep time scenario. I don't see how your latest suggestion differs from what we already have, so I have no objection if you want to make that change. --Awc 08:34, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
I don't see how it sounds like twisting evidence. People look at evidence in the light of their presuppositions, so it's often necessary to point out how the evidence supports a particular view. That doesn't require twisting anything.
If you just meant discretely mentioning the implications of the evidence (without spoon feeding the reader), that's fine. In this case, we would mention that the evidence at Montceau-les-Mines is consistent with either a flood scenario or a deep time scenario. --Awc 11:22, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Raindrops and mud cracks are not inconsistent with a flood.
They certainly are at first glance. Would you care to elaborate what you mean by that? --Awc 11:22, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 10:35, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Sometimes people need to be spoon-fed (especially atheists!). But I agree that we have to be careful to not overdo it.
Re raindrops and mudcracks, see http://creation.com/response-to-the-post-flood-lake-model-for-the-green-river-formation.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:50, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Phillip, try an experiment. Go to the beach. Stand in the swash zone. Report your results. Womprfirst 20:20, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
So I take it that your answer to my question are you going to substantiate your claims, or just keep throwing out baseless insults? is that you will do the latter. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:48, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
thats not a baseless insult at all. Its a suggestion that you perform a simple experiment to educate yourself on the basics of erosion and deposition involving impediments to water flow. I asked much the same earlier and gave you a hint. The answer is that an impediment to water flow causes the water to take a longer path around the object thus increasing the waters velocity and producing a low pressure area (like an airplane wing). Using F = ma (force /mass/acceleration) the water obviously can carry more sediment and will by a combination of forces erode the sides and leading edge of the surface the object is on , while dropping sediment behind it (I wont explain that, it should be obvious) The sediment dropped behind the onject builds up and once more the flow pattern changes and sediment will now be dropping on the object eventually covering it. And by eventually , if you do this in the surf, your feet should be covered and be in a small hole within 10-15 minutes depending on a bunch of factors about the water and the sand. Esentially in the spring a fast flowing river moving sediments will bury a small object within the space of an hour or less. Hamster 04:24, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
thats not a baseless insult at all. Its a suggestion... As insults go, it barely qualified, I agree. But given that I've asked if he was going to substantiate his accusation or continue insulting, and given that there is no way this counts as substantiation of accusations, and given the sneering attitude he's displayed so far, I count this "suggestion" not as something helpful, but as yet another way to have a go at me.
Esentially in the spring a fast flowing river moving sediments will bury a small object within the space of an hour or less. So I guess that fossils are forming all the time. Well, every spring there must be hundreds of them around each river mouth. My point is that although there is some truth to what you say (sediment will build up around an object, and perhaps even bury it), it's normally insufficient (through not being buried deeply enough, for example) to form a fossil.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:59, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
it's normally insufficient (through not being buried deeply enough, for example) to form a fossil. certainly not in a time span of 6000 years. How deep do you think the earliest river delta sediments are ? Hamster 15:24, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
If flooded rivers aren't rivers, then factual insults aren't insults. Womprfirst 15:45, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
certainly not in a time span of 6000 years. Then definitely not before it rots.
If flooded rivers aren't rivers... But flooded rivers are rivers... I see you're still not justifying your accusations.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 05:18, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
what this concern with rotting ? fossils are in two main groups. One is an imprint of a plant or animal in a sediment, which then compresses to rock retaining the imprint although sometimes in a flattened form. The other primary fossil is of bones. Sometimes there is a combination of the two. Since bacteria are present in the digestive tract of most animals the process of decay will continue until those bacteria die, so at least partial rotting will occur. There are some rare circumstances like freezing that do stop that process. Hamster 16:04, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
you didnt answer my question either Hamster 16:05, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
(Delete his post then. Sterile 17:03, 12 March 2011 (UTC))
Fossilisation is a very rare process, and is not the sort of thing that normally occurs in normal circumstances. My point about rotting is that carcases will normally completely disintegrate even in the absence of being scavenged by other creatures, and therefore leave no trace as a fossil. Simply being buried quickly—when that happens—is insufficient.
Which question? The one about how deep the earliest river delta sediments are? I'm sorry, I don't follow the question. Are you asking how "early" in the geological column we find river delta sediments, or what?
Delete his post then. Why? It's debatable that the question is one that I have an obligation to answer, and, even if I do, I have not repeatedly refused to answer it.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 22:32, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
I fail to see why rotting is a detriment to fossil creation. My question was to ascertain your understanding of sedimentation processes since you seem to think rivers would have trouble burying something more than an inch or two thick. I was trying to determine how dep the sediments are in river deltas or other sedimentation basin .
why was sterile under an 'obligation' to answer your question ? is it one rule for you and different rules for everyone else.
if you aaccept that fossilization is a rare process, then why do you believe that there MUST be intermediate fossils or evolution is disproved ? Fossilisation is a very rare process, and is not the sort of thing that normally occurs in normal circumstances.
did you know that Hamsters rarely fossilize because they have no bones ? Hamster 00:46, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
If a carcass rots away, there is nothing to fossilise.
I'm sure that a river could bury something more than an inch or two thick, as long as that thing can stay there long enough. So a piece of metal, wood, rock, or etc. could stay there for years and be slowly buried by metres of sediment. But a carcase of a creature is normally going to be scavenged by other creatures, and if not it is normally going to decompose and destroyed by bacteria, even if buried, assuming burial doesn't prevent this. Burial in shallow soft sediments will not prevent bacteria at least from getting to it (and as you said, it would already have plenty of bacteria, such as in its stomach), if not burrowing creatures also. Rapid burial under much deeper sediments that exclude all oxygen is generally needed for fossilisation.
To specifically answer your question (because I'm not trying to evade it), I don't know the actual depth, but metres, up to even hundreds of metres on occasion, would be realistic. But this is over a long time, whereas fossilisation generally requires rapid burial under sufficient sediment to prevent destruction.
Sterile had an obligation to explain why he expected an answer to a question that I was not obliged to answer given that it was off-topic. I say "expected" because he repeatedly asked it despite me pointing out that I had no obligation to answer. Essentially, anybody (including me; I don't apply different rules to myself) has an obligation to support a claim they make, especially if the claim is an allegation (or they could drop the claim, of course), but they have no obligation to answer questions otherwise. Sterile, by badgering me for an answer, was implicitly claiming that I had an obligation to answer, yet would not support that claim.
First, the claim is really that it's a rare process under normal conditions, but not necessarily under catastrophic conditions. So it could be argued that the existence of billions of fossils speaks of catastrophic conditions in the past. But even ignoring that, although fossilisation is a rare process compared to all the animals and plants that have lived and died, there are nevertheless enough fossils that if the intermediates existed per Darwin's "finely graded sequence" (quote from memory), they should be found in reasonable numbers.
No, I didn't know that you hamsters rarely fossilise. But they do have bones (or are you referring to yourself not having a (back)bone? :-) )
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:11, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
thanks for the gratuitous insult Phil, good to see you mainting those high moral standards ;)
hamsters have no bones. Is a fact. We haz other stuff that does the same function. Now you have a factoid you can impress the ladies with at parties.
If a carcass rots away, there is nothing to fossilise. er wut ? *incredulity* how about the bones ? Hamster 04:31, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
Bones can disappear also (although perhaps "rot" is not an appropriate word?). This mentions that "bacteria that break down flesh and bones are abundant, and the soils are extremely acidic and tend to dissolve bones", although it is talking about jungle environments; how much that would also apply to river deltas is not mentioned. This one is talking about how a particular stegosaurus fossil was formed, so doesn't directly address the question either, but it says

Even after decay has removed all of the tissue on the outside of the bone, a considerable amount of organic material remains inside. Bone is not an isolated, inert structure in the body, but is a living structure that must receive oxygen and nutrients via the blood system like any other body tissue. Thus, bone is not solid, but honeycombed with cavities, much of it microscopic. Bone in the center resembles a sponge because of the lattice of bone, hence this part is called spongy or trabecular bone (Fig. 7). This bone is surrounded by a denser layer, called cortical bone. Viewed through a microscope, this bone is pierced by minute tubes called Haversian canals through which blood and nutrients flow during life (Fig. 8). Consequently, even when all the outer flesh has decayed away, there is still a lot of food left within the bone for bacteria. The small size of some bacteria (0.5ɸ enabled them to travel through the smallest bone m) passages called the canaliculi (20-50ɸm). Canaliculi form a vast three-dimensional network of passages between bone cells, or osteocytes, to distribute oxygen and nutrients. Bacteria and fungi can enlarge these passages, thus allowing more access by ground water where it can deliver various molecules (such as iron, etc.) for the microbes to use.

Yes, bones will last longer before disintegrating, but if they are not quickly buried in an environment that prevents decay, they too will break down.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 09:26, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
"Badgering," huh? Perhaps if you developed a policy like Bradley suggested rather than deleting posts arbitrarily you wouldn't be "badgered" by my four word post. Sterile 12:58, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
I was not referring to your four-word post on this page. I was referring to your repeated attempts to get me to list evidence that was not being discussed on my talk page. And I was not deleting posts "arbitrarily". Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 22:17, 13 March 2011 (UTC)

Fossil Succession section; some odds and ends

I've noticed a couple of oddities in the wording in this section.

  1. The word "indisputably" in the second paragraph seem quite extraneous to me. I would just drop the word.
  2. The use of "artefacts" further down is possibly not the best word, because it implies human interference. (it's also misspelt, but that's secondary at the moment). I don't have an alternative in mind, though.
  3. I think that the "supposedly older" and "supposedly younger" are a bit of oversell. Perhaps "higher" and "lower" would suffice.

Now I know that people chose these words on purpose, so rather than change them and kick off an argument, I thought we could have the argument first :) . Anyone want to chime in? LowKey 10:35, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

  1. "indisputably" probably comes from me, and I suppose I wanted to point out that both creationists and evolutionists recognize the existence of order, but it's not so important and could be eliminated.
  2. I was using the word "artefact" (which seems to support different spellings) in the sense of an "undesired alteration in data, introduced by a technique and/or technology" (WP:Artifact (error)), but maybe in this context there is too much chance for confusion with the sense of "an object formed by humans, particularly one of interest to archaeologists" (WP:Artifact (archaeology)). It shouldn't be too hard to think of a replacement.
  3. That was Philip's edit. In cases like this I try to stick to a purely descriptive language like "higher" and "lower".
—Awc 12:49, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
  1. I think this could be disputed a little, but I'm happy do drop the word.
  2. Investigating, it seems to be British vs. American spelling. It should be changed back to the first form used.
  3. I don't consider "higher" and "lower" to be purely descriptive. They are if the fossils are found in different layers in the same geographical location, but if they are found in different parts of the world, then "higher" and "lower" are based on drawing correlations between layers in different parts of the world, and often those correlations are based on secular views.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 09:48, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
  1. Okay, we can scratch "indisputable".
  2. I thought the spelling was incorrect but it does look to be an issue of regional variants. To me it was more an issue of usage. Even in the sense that Awc described it doesn't seem to fit the example given, in that the alteration or error is not purported to be from human input (i.e. technique or technology). I think that the paragraph is more speaking of that there are atypical fossil locations that are not considered to effect the overall mainstream interpretation of the fossil record. Or to put it differently the disconformities are not considered disproofs. Heh, the sentence needs "reworking" (not ironic, but definitely humourous).
  3. I see Philip's point, and it is a valid one. "Higher" and "lower" would indeed be short of the mark, but I still think the existing phrasing is a bit too argumentative (the same reason I found "indisputable" to be unnecessary). Maybe "layers higher in the geological column" etcetera?
LowKey 11:43, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
  1. Sorry, I overlooked the main issue. I didn't have a problem with understanding the use of the word, but I accept your point.
  2. Your suggestion seems reasonable. I don't like qualifying so much, so if there is a way to avoid doing so without being inaccurate/misleading, I'm okay with that.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:03, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Simpson

The edit I just made may have been too hasty. The content apparently refers to this added sentence, which I do not quite understand:

However, since Simpson made this comment, many species have been eliminated as it was found that different researchers gave different names to different specimens that are now considered to be the same species, and there is no way of testing the interfertility of fossil with living species to see if they are the same or different species.

In what sense have species been "eliminated"? Have a substantial fraction of fossils once thought to be extinct been reclassified to correspond to living species? Obviously fossils can only be categorized by morphology (usually only of the hard parts), and obviously that is less perfect than what we can do with living organisms. What is the point of mentioning that here? Is there a reference for these statements?
—Awc 16:39, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

I think he is saying that originally fossils A,B,C were found and named by different discoverers and that later the three were examined again and found to be the same organism. So instead of fossil species A,B,C we now just have A. Hamster 17:19, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Is he making either of these statements?
  • A significant portion of all known fossil species and genera are still in existence today.
  • A significant portion of modern species and genera are also found as fossils."
—Awc 17:28, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
the full simpson quote is this: George Gaylord Simpson (1967), world famous paleontologist, says that nearly all fossil species and genera are extinct today. Very few modem species or genera are found as fossils at all. Even so called "living fossils' like the crossopterygian (lobe finned) fish are no exception. The fossil Paleozoic eusthenopteron and the modem latimeria are both lobe-finned fish. However, the latimera resembles the eusthenopteron no more than I resemble a gorilla. The creationists have yet to answer this objection."
I dont believe either of your statements can be supported by available evidence. Harun Yahya had a book which claimed fossils had living examples but that was refuted by Dawkins and others.
I saw a claim in here somewhere (one of the references) that seemed to claim parrot, squirrel and platypus fossils mixed in with the dinosaurs. I cant find a credible source for that :( Hamster 18:16, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
The content apparrently refers to this added sentence... In part, it did, but not just to that. See following comments.
In what sense have species been "eliminated"? Have a substantial fraction of fossils once thought to be extinct been reclassified to correspond to living species? That's not specifically what I was referring to, but there could be some of that too. Hamster is essentially correct, but it should be pointed out that this applies to both fossil and living species.
There are several issues here:
  • The total number of species is unknown.

At the purely factual level, we do not know to within an order of magnitude how many species of plants and animals we share the globe with: fewer than 2 million are currently classified, and estimates of the total number range from under 5 million to more than 50 million.— Robert May[3]

  • Single species have been given multiple names. The following quote refers to fossils, but the same applies to living species. I recall years ago being told about the number of insect species being downgraded by a very significant percentage for this reason, although I can't quickly find a source for that.

researchers have found that a number of fossils have been misidentified as being separate species, whereas in fact they are the same species. Poor communication between taxonomists in different countries can often lead to fossils being wrongly given their own species status. Accordingly, it is now estimated that the overall number of species in the fossil record is inflated by 32–44%.[4]

  • On the other hand, the number of species of insects has been estimated to be up to 30 million, although only about 1.5 million have been described.[5]
  • If both fossil and living species have been multiply-identified, then surely there would also be fossils identified as being different to living species when they are not different.
In summary, I think the real facts are that we simply don't know enough to make the point that Simpson was making. Which brings me to a new point...
What is the point of the reference to Simpson? His point seems to be that there is little overlap between fossil and living species. If true, what is the relevance? I note that his comment was specifically "On a species and genera level". I've read other comments about almost all living things being represented in the fossil record, but I'll concede that that was probably at a higher level. Which goes back to the question: what is the point of Simpson's quote?
Probably pertinent to that question is this from Simpson: The creationists have yet to answer this objection. What objection? As far as the "full" quote provided by Hamster is concerned, I don't see the objection that Simpson is referring to. He stated some (supposed) facts, and then without explaining why this is a problem for creationists, says that creationists haven't explained these facts.
My addition about what's changed since Simpson made the comment was meant to put a bit of a question mark over Simpson's comment, not to negate it completely, which I now realise it could be understood as trying to do.
I saw a claim in here somewhere (one of the references) that seemed to claim parrot, squirrel and platypus fossils mixed in with the dinosaurs. I cant find a credible source for that :( Awc provided a link for that.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:16, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
what Simpson is saying is that the "so-called living fossils" do not actually resemble the fossil organism and that creationists have not provided evidence showing that they do. Hamster 05:33, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I find that explanation unconvincing (although not denying that it could be Simpson's intent) simply because the "living fossil" label has been applied by evolutionists, not (just) creationists. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:19, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Rereading the source, it was not Simpson making that charge against creationists, but Weber, the author of the Cr/Ev Jnl article that quoted Simpson. And reading the context of Hamster's enlarged quote makes the point of the accusation clearer, although also shows the charge to be ill thought out. (And incorrect use of quote marks in Hamster's quote—partly his fault, partly his source's fault—didn't help.) Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:30, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree that Weber's argument against creationism is not one of the stronger ones, but that's not why I included the quote. I divided the fossil record into three groups, each with a table, and I thought it was important information that the group of fossils without living specimens was by far the largest. I haven't seen any evidence that that is no longer considered to be true, but we can keep looking. The current wording of the reference makes it sound like the words are Simpson's, while they are probably Weber's. That should be fixed. An alternative source might be this from UC Berkeley: "Perhaps 99% of all species that ever existed on Earth are now extinct." —Awc 09:18, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, commenting on Weber's argument was a bit of a sidetrack; it wasn't in the article, just this talk page.
I thought it was important information that the group of fossils without living specimens was by far the largest. I haven't seen any evidence that that is no longer considered to be true, but we can keep looking I haven't seen any evidence, apart from opinions, that it was ever true. (I'm not dismissing the value of expert opinion, but still feel in this case that there are grounds to question it.)
"Perhaps 99% of all species that ever existed on Earth are now extinct" How much does this figure assume evolutionary deep time? Is this figure based on known fossils, or on rates of extinction extrapolated over many millions of years? I strongly suspect the latter.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
P.S. in support of that last point:

This program made a common claim, that 95–99% of species have become extinct. However, the known record of extinct and extant species does not support this. The number of fossil species is estimated to be about 250,000, while there are about 3 million living ‘species’, or even more, depending on who’s telling the story.[*] But if this >95% claim were correct, we would expect many more fossil species than living ones.
The only plausible explanation is evolutionary bias. For evolution to be true, there would have been innumerable transitional forms between different types of creature. Therefore, for every known fossil species, many more must have existed to connect it to its ancestors and descendents. This is yet another example of evolutionary conclusions coming before the evidence.[6]

*—see my post in this section referring to 30 million living insect species!
I want to repeat the last point of that quote: This is yet another example of evolutionary conclusions coming before the evidence.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:05, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
yes I did take the full paragraph as being attributed to Simpson. Rereading it leaves me confused about just what part of it was being attributed. :( sorry about that if it led to confusion. Hamster 05:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
The 95% extinct appears in quite a few places , and obviously there were potentially large numbers of organisms that would be poor candidates for fossiliztion, but I am unclear on what evidence is being used for that claim. Hamster 05:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
None of it is a direct quote of Simpson, it seems, and you're right: one can't tell how much is attributable to him. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 07:47, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Is this figure based on known fossils, or on rates of extinction extrapolated over many millions of years? I strongly suspect the latter. Nobody would be crazy enough to extrapolate from current extinction rates since humans have obviously greatly accelerated that rate.[7] You can also see that a constant rate is not assumed if you look at data like [8], taken from Rohde & Muller (2005, Supplementary Material) and based on the Sepkoski's Compendium of Marine Fossil Animal Genera (2002).
The number of fossil species is estimated to be about 250,000 I'm pretty sure "fossil species" here means "species known from the fossil record", not "species that once existed, whether or not their fossils exist or have been discovered".
The only plausible explanation is evolutionary bias. ... This is yet another example of evolutionary conclusions coming before the evidence. Have you thought about how you would calculate the fraction of species that have become extinct? The only way I can think of is to take the observed fraction f1 of known fossil species that correspond to a known living species, and the estimated fraction f2 of known living species out of all living species. Making some assumptions about the randomness, then the fraction of fossil species that correspond to some living species, known or unknown, would be f1/f2. ... Um, actually the exact math is a bit more sophisticated than that, so this is only an approximation for the case that f1 is small enough and f2 is not too small, but that seems to be the case. ... You don't need to know most of the fossil species, or even how many fossil species there are. All you need is that the fossils you find and the living species you know be unbiased samples of the entire population.
—Awc 15:46, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Agreed that nobody would extrapolate from current extinction rates, but the key point I was making was that of it being based on millions of years. The first graph you point to is rife with problems, although it's hard to understand it's basis. First, it explicitly says that the "Graph is based on a mathematical model". The graph is not of actual data, but is a model. So how accurate is the model? It also says "Assumptions: Total number of species = 10 million Background extinction rate from fossil records is one extinction per million species per year; estimated total number of species 10 million - background rate = 10 species per year.". It's not clear what it means by a "background rate", but whatever it is, it's based on the evolutionary timescale, not on actual measurements. It goes on to say that the extinction rates used are based on estimates by various authorities.
I'm pretty sure "fossil species" here means "species known from the fossil record", not "species that once existed, whether or not their fossils exist or have been discovered". I agree. The point is to compare known values, not speculative figures.
The only way I can think of is to... I can't see that that would do it. That might work if one group was a subset of the other, but it's actually two groups that overlap, and both have members that are not in the other group. Wouldn't you end up with something like the following?
present   Extant Extinct?
past Fossils missing? Known fossils Completely unknown
(The "Completely unknown" group are organisms not (yet) known from either the fossil record or alive today.)
How do you extrapolate from that? Especially given the following factors:
  • The "Extinct" group could actually include extant species not yet discovered.
  • The "Extant" group is imprecise, due to different specimens being given different species names when they are actually the same.
  • The "Known fossils" group is imprecise, due to different specimens being given different species names when they are actually the same, especially given the inability to test for interfertility.
  • The vast majority of fossils are marine creatures. Whether this is due to the time before life crawled out onto land or due to the nature of the Flood is due to which worldview is held, and affects whether this introduces a bias.
  • Conversely, the vast majority of living organisms are (I believe) insects. This, to some extent at least, reflects an understandable bias towards identifying land-dwelling creatures over marine creatures.
  • The "Fossils missing" bit may include species for which the fossils are not "missing", but which have formed recently (via speciation) since the fossils were formed.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:04, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
the key point I was making was that of it being based on millions of years That is not correct. The 99% figure is calculated from a number of assumptions, but the time scale is not one of them. —Awc 11:26, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
I think your picture is correct, but we also need to distinguish between extinct species and extant species that have not been discovered yet, as you mention.
Number of species
Known fossils No known fossils
Extant N11 N12
Undiscovered N21 N22
Extinct N31 N32
The observed quantities are N11, N12, and the sum N21+N31. We will have to make a guess at the sum N21+N22. We would like to make an estimate of the fraction of species that have become extinct, i.e. (N31+N32)/(N11+N12+N21+N22+N31+N32). I defined f1=N11/(N11+N21+N31) and f2=N11/N21, and claimed that (N11+N12+N21+N22)/(N11+N12+N21+N22+N31+N32), which is the fraction of fossil species that correspond to some living species, known or unknown, would be equal to f1/f2.
... I'll finish the math if anyone is interested, or maybe I should stick to hand-waving. Either way, the point is that Sarfati's logic is simply wrong, and therefore so are his conclusions ("The only plausible explanation is evolutionary bias. ... This is yet another example of evolutionary conclusions coming before the evidence."). —Awc 12:37, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
The 99% figure is calculated from a number of assumptions, but the time scale is not one of them. So you say, but I've seen no evidence of that.
Either way, the point is that Sarfati's logic is simply wrong, and therefore so are his conclusions... Why is it wrong? It seems that you are claiming he's wrong to say that it must be due to evolutionary bias on the basis that you have come up with another way to calculate it that doesn't have evolutionary bias. But given that you have to make a guess at the sum N21+N22, then this is not a viable way to calculate the figure, which leaves Sarfati's claim looking good.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:36, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

Tero Sand reference

Awc has replaced a {{fact?}} tag with a reference to a message board post by a Tero Sand, albeit with the edit comment "It may not be the best source, but it'll do until we find something better.".

I'm not convinced that it's worth having there at all. The statement I questioned with the tag was "In both cases there is usually independent evidence that the fossils are not in their original matrix." I didn't explain, but I questioned that there is "usually independent evidence". I do not question that such processes can occur to produce out of place fossils, nor that it one could tell that this is the case at times.

One major problem with Sand's comments is the circular reasoning involved (see fossil#interpretation). Sand says, "Sometimes I find _modern_ pollen in my sample preparations (easy to recognize because protoplasm is still present inside!)...". According to his evolutionary worldview, any pollen retaining protoplasm must be contamination because the protoplasm would not remain over evolution's deep time. So his worldview has influenced his conclusion.

But look at the preceding sentence (my emphasis): "The basic problem is that spores and pollen are very durable and very small, so they can be transported into cracks within the rock, with little evidence of their transport"! This comment actually supports my use of the fact tag.

"There are two possible "out of order" conditions: 1) anomalously "old" fossils in young rocks, ... The first is by far the most common. For example, if you find a dinosaur bone in a modern stream bed, it is condition 1." Again, here, he his evolutionary worldview has influenced his conclusion. In the evolutionary view, dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. So if contrary evidence is found—dinosaur bones in younger rocks—they are by definition "out of order".

Sand lists four characteristics of reworked fossils:

1. They were embedded in older rocks, so they are probably preserved in a different fashion from modern shells.

This one sounds rubbery. How different is "different"? If you are looking for a difference to explain an out of order fossil, you will probably find some difference you can claim to fulfil this requirement.

2. They were eroded, so they should show signs of wear.

This sounds reasonable, but how useful is this as a distinguishing feature? Do only reworked fossils have signs of wear? How often do reworked fossils not have signs of wear?

3. They will be _mixed_ with younger fossils of a definite age (i.e. the modern shells on the beach), so you will have fossils of two distinct ages in one rock sequence.

This one is more circular reasoning: you must already know the age of the fossils (according to evolutionary thinking) to determine that the fossils are reworked. In other words, evidence contrary to the evolutionary worldview is necessarily explained as fitting it.

4. Since they have been eroded, many are destroyed before being redeposited. Usually the "in place" fossils are much more common than the reworked ones.

This also seems quite rubbery. Fossils vary in frequency by wide margins anyway, so is anyone really going to be able to distinguish a reworked fossil based on its frequency from all the other "noise" affecting fossil frequency?

For "younger" fossils in "older" rocks, Sand doesn't give much to go on. He says that it is very uncommon, which probably begs the question anyway. That is, if you find both "older" and "younger" fossils in the same rocks, which do you use to date the rock? As it is thought that reworking is more common, then you would probably date the rock according to the "younger" fossils, thereby making the "older" fossils reworked ones—a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. "In all the examples I have seen, contamination of lower rocks by material from higher up is the explanation." That may be the explanation, but what's the evidence? He gives almost none.

Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:50, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Although we could argue about some of this, particularly the accuracy and potential bias of Sand's post, I do share many of your reservations about the sketchiness. Let's try to find something better. —Awc 08:53, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

summary observations of the fossil record

I've been trying to think what the most fundamental features of the fossil record are, independent of worldview. This is what I came up with:

  1. Taxonomic groups tend to be limited to contiguous portions of the geological column. Individual species tend to be present over about 1% of the geological column, while a high level taxonomic group like a kingdom will be present over a substantial fraction of the strata.
  2. If the deepest occurence of large taxonomic groups are compared, the groups that are considered more complex tend to first occur at higher levels. Single celled organisms are present in very deep layers, plants not quite so deep, invertebrate animals above that, etc., on through amphibians, reptiles, and birds/mammals.
  3. Around the lowest level at which a given taxonomic group is present, there usually exist species with some characteristics of that group as well as some characteristics of a group which is also present at deeper levels.

One can then ask if these obeservations can be explained in one paradigm (creationism) or another (evolution). Creationism is a non-starter because it cannot even explain the first observation. Evolution, in contrast easily interprets these observations as

  1. Species and other groups come into being through evolution and eventually go extinct or evolve into other groups.
  2. Organisms tend to retain what is useful and build on that with additional useful new features.
  3. Taxonomic groups do not appear out of nowhere but evolve from pre-existing taxonomic groups.

—Awc 21:44, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

I don't accept that any of those first three points are accepted facts/observations. I say that they are all influenced by the evolutionary/naturalistic worldview if not your own misunderstanding.
Taxonomic groups tend to be limited to contiguous portions of the geological column. This presumes that contiguity can be determined without referring to the fossils in them, which is not the case.
how would you determine if fossils of one type are in contiguous layers without referring to the fossils and the layers ? Hamster 15:16, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Individual species tend to be present over about 1% of the geological column... I doubt this too. I've seen charts of when fossils are found which has many extending over quite long periods.
...a high level taxonomic group like a kingdom will be present over a substantial fraction of the strata. Actually all phyla except one are present over all strata since the Cambrian.
I'm not sure what your position is here. Suppose I take some kind of higher plant or animal, say Bothriolepis at random. I read that over 100 species have been identified, spread over every continent, but that all of these fossils have been found in the middle to upper Devonian system (N.B. A system is an identifiable rock strata, not an interval of time.) Where do you have a problem?
  • Do you think the choice of this genus is atypical?
  • Do you believe that some fossils of this genus have been found outside the Devonian system?
  • Do you believe that there are significant gaps in the Devonian where no fossils are found?
  • Do you believe that my estimate of 1% is grossly wrong?
—Awc 16:00, 22 December 2011 (UTC)


...the groups that are considered more complex tend to first occur at higher levels. This assumes that there is a big range of complexity in life. In a sense this is probably true (a human does appear to be more complex than a bacteria), but a long-standing creationist point is that life has been complex from the start, and an example that has been quoted is the trilobite with it's complex eye[9].
so the Earth was perfectly smooth and only the bedrock existed when Adam and Eve were created ? If not then even in a creation model there would be a soil layer that contained no fossils at all because life had not been created yet, or God is faking a history that did not happen. I suppose the Flood could have scoured the planet down to bedrock and redeposited everything while igneous and metamorphic rocks were being formed in the middle of it all. Hamster 15:16, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Single celled organisms are present in very deep layers, plants not quite so deep, invertebrate animals above that, etc., on through amphibians, reptiles, and birds/mammals. Pollen (i.e. evidence of flowering plants) has been found in the precambrian[10] and the "oldest" vertebrate fossil is found in the Cambrian[11].
The evidence for pollen originating in the Cambrian seems pretty weak, as far as I can tell, but we were going to start a separate thread on that. I don't like the concept of "complexity" very much more than the concept of "genetic information", but still life seems to invent things now and then that it likes so much that they don't ever disappear. Things like backbones, lungs, flowers, feathers. And even if you don't talk about relative complexity, fossils in the upper starta just have more in common with extant species than fossils in lower strata. —Awc 21:00, 22 December 2011 (UTC)


Around the lowest level at which a given taxonomic group is present, there usually exist species with some characteristics of that group as well as some characteristics of a group which is also present at deeper levels. Given that all organisms have some things in common with other organisms, this actually occurs everywhere.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:41, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm talking about things like teeth in birds. Living birds could have teeth like reptiles do, but they don't. The only birds with teeth are those near the very bottom of the bird pile. That takes some explaining. (More examples coming eventually, but there's a lot of threads happening right now.) —Awc 21:00, 22 December 2011 (UTC)


Actually all phyla except one are present over all strata since the Cambrian. I'm not sure if that is exactly true, but it could be close. Do you have a reference for it? I guess what I actually had in mind was something closer to vertebrate classes. It's an interesting tidbit, and would fit well with creationism—if the 37 phyla could be associated with the created kinds, rather than the several thousand families. —Awc 21:00, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
how would you determine if fossils of one type are in contiguous layers without referring to the fossils and the layers ? My point was how you can be sure that the fossils are only found in given contiguous layers when contiguity is to a fair extent decided by reference to the fossils in them. The end of the Mesozoic has often been defined as being the time the dinosaurs became extinct, so any dinosaur fossils will automatically indicate that the rocks are no more recent than the Mesozoic. So the layers are often correlated by what fossils they have in them, which means that the claim that two layers in different places have the same fossils is circular reasoning because it was the similar fossils that decided the correlation.
how are you defining contiguity ? it means adjacent with no gaps Hamster 15:29, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
and of course the type of rock and the relative positioning of the layer Hamster 15:29, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
Suppose I take some kind of higher plant or animal, ... all of these fossils have been found in the middle to upper Devonian system ... Where do you have a problem? You missed an option: that the only reason they were all thought to be in the Devonian is that the rocks were classified as Devonian because they had these fossils in them.
This thread is picked up again farther below in this section. —Awc 08:40, 27 December 2011 (UTC)
and of course the types of rocks, the relationship to the other layers above and below. Hamster 15:29, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
Do you believe that my estimate of 1% is grossly wrong? Perhaps not. The charts I was thinking of were probably not individual species, but higher taxonomic groups. However, this comes back to the question of whether groups of species really are made up of individual species or whether most or all of the species in the group are actually the one species.
so the Earth was perfectly smooth and only the bedrock existed when Adam and Eve were created ? Err, no.
If not then even in a creation model there would be a soil layer that contained no fossils at all because life had not been created yet... There was soil, because there was a garden. And even though you don't (normally?) find fossils in soil, you're right that there wouldn't have been any fossils at that stage (some creationists have suggested the possibility of fossils of single-celled creatures, but we'll ignore that for now).
I suppose the Flood could have scoured the planet down to bedrock and redeposited everything while igneous and metamorphic rocks were being formed in the middle of it all. Pretty much, yes.
that makes coral reefs a real problem then, because coral wont survive such an event. Have you considered depositional rates needed ? Hamster 15:29, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
The evidence for pollen originating in the Cambrian seems pretty weak, as far as I can tell... Given that contamination and intrusion have been ruled out, it's actually looking pretty strong. But of course, according to evolution, it can't be pollen, can it????
But they haven't been ruled out; the original letter in Nature itself includes the statement that one of the pollen investigators "recognizes a mixture of Mesozoic and Cenozoic elements, but suspects that they represent foreign material concentrated along cleavage planes as, after cleaning fragments ultrasonically, he found the matrix practically barren." And the rocks in question weren't dated radiometrically; their actual age was a matter of debate at the time, with several possible dating regimens given. So pollen that might have been a later intrusion (not necessarily at the time of collection, mind you) in rocks of uncertain age isn't quite the dealbreaker that you might want. If you have some more recent references about the pollen or the dating of the rocks, I'd love to read them.--Martin Arrowsmith 16:12, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
I found it very strange that I couldn't find any sources on this that weren't already 45 years old. It sounds rather like somebody found a stupid mistake and either was embarassed to bring it up again or thought it wasn't worth the trouble. I would certainly like to know what a modern analysis yields before I lose any sleep over this. Can the species of pollen be identified? Or the time of origin, at least within a hundred million years or so? Is there any sign of deformation of the grains? If the pollen got into cracks 400 million years ago, is there a possibility that those cracks have since annealed? If this find is real, why is it limited to just a couple Pre-Cambrian formations, and why isn't there any pollen reported in Ordovician or Silurian deposits? That's what I mean by weak. —Awc 17:14, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
...fossils in the upper starta just have more in common with extant species than fossils in lower strata. Debatable.
I'm talking about things like teeth in birds. Living birds could have teeth like reptiles do, but they don't. The only birds with teeth are those near the very bottom of the bird pile. I'm not sure that the proportion of birds with teeth is large enough to make too much of that argument, and there's still the problem of whether or not they really are all from early in the record, or whether they've been classified that way according to evolutionary belief.
Do you have a reference for it? here.
Oard: Now, all phyla, except one, originated in what has been called the Cambrian explosion.
That's a reference, but it's rather a dead end since Oard doesn't give a source for his statement, or even say which is the exception he has in mind. As far as I can tell, among animal phyla Symbion, Limnognathia, Orthonectida, Dicyemida, are Xenoturbella all have no fossil record at all, and the status of the fossils of Phoronida and Placozoa is disputed. He must be using phylum in the restricted sense so as not to include plants, since there is no fossil record of any division (equivalent o phylum) of plants until after the Cambrian. —Awc 13:55, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:09, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
how are you defining contiguity ? it means adjacent with no gaps The wrong way, I realise now that you ask that question. What I was referring to were layers found in different places that were thought to be laid down at the same time. I'd like to draw a picture, but I'm really not a good artist, so I'll try a table. I realise that this is very simplified, but hopefully it will get my point across.
Site 1 Site 2
L2 A L4 B
L1 C,D L3 C
In this illustration, letters represent fossils of different types, and the coloured blocks (L1 to L4) represent different layers. Because fossil type C is found in Layers L1 and L3 and is considered an index fossil, layers L1 and L3 are believed to have been laid down at the same time (the same era).
Awc said that Taxonomic groups tend to be limited to contiguous portions of the geological column. Note that he did not say "contiguous layers", but "contiguous portions of the geological column". So he could be referring to fossils D and B being in contiguous portions of the geological column, because that's what they are believed to be. My point is that this relies on the accuracy of the claim that L1 and L3 do correspond, which itself relies to a fair extent on the evolutionary view that fossil C only existed for a (relatively) short period of time. L1 and L4 are not contiguous layers, but are thought to be contiguous because of the artificial construct known as the geologic column.
I'll repeat that this illustration is very simplified. I'm not suggesting that layers in different sites can never be correlated with each other, especially when this is done over short distances and there are many points of similarity. But I am suggesting that this is taken further than is reasonable just on the physical evidence, and when taken further is based on evolutionary thinking about limited existence of particular organisms.
and of course the types of rocks, the relationship to the other layers above and below. This is not always the case. Sometimes, yes, but not always, and I was referring to the option where this is not the case.
that makes coral reefs a real problem then, because coral wont survive such an event. Have you considered depositional rates needed ? Why does that make coral reefs a problem?


...the original letter in Nature itself... "Letters" in Nature are smaller, peer-reviewed, articles.
But they haven't been ruled out... Oh, but they have.
...one of the pollen investigators "recognizes a mixture of Mesozoic and Cenozoic elements, but suspects that they represent foreign material concentrated along cleavage planes as, after cleaning fragments ultrasonically, he found the matrix practically barren. Yes, he suspects that that the Mesozoic and Cenozoic elements have intruded into cleavage planes in the rock, which they specifically avoided in looking for pollen fossils.
And the rocks in question weren't dated radiometrically... The paper said, "Dr. P. H. A. Martin‑Kaye, director of the British Guiana Geological Survey, was told of these discoveries in view of his group's sponsorship of radiometric dating of the Roraima Formation.", and "Relative positions are shown of the polliniferous samples and of samples dated Precambrian by radiometric techniques." and "One group adopts the attitude that the radiometric dating[5], [6], [7] of dolerites and a hornfels6 within the Roraima Formation as Precambrian is beyond dispute". Radiometric dating was done.
So pollen that might have been a later intrusion... It being a later intrusion was ruled out, except by those who said it must be, because you can't have pollen that early (according to the evolutionary story).
I found it very strange that I couldn't find any sources on this that weren't already 45 years old. So I guess the article I linked to doesn't convince you:

What if all such attempts at explanation fail, and the physical evidence is faced squarely—as for the second camp above? Well, one just puts it on the shelf as an unsolved mystery. That’s the way it’s been for the Roraima evidence for around half a century.

It sounds rather like somebody found a stupid mistake and either was embarassed to bring it up again or thought it wasn't worth the trouble. It sounds like someone is grasping at straws to explain away evidence that contradicts the evolutionary story. As the article says, evolutionists will often claim that evolution is falsifiable, such as finding rabbits in the Cambrian, but this case shows that they won't allow evolution to be falsified; instead, they will find any excuse they can to explain it away, such as it being a "stupid mistake" (which they double checked?!!!).
Can the species of pollen be identified? The article says that it couldn't.
Or the time of origin, at least within a hundred million years or so?  ??
If the pollen got into cracks 400 million years ago, is there a possibility that those cracks have since annealed? Presumably not, or the experts who wanted to explain this away would have suggested it.
If this find is real, why is it limited to just a couple Pre-Cambrian formations, and why isn't there any pollen reported in Ordovician or Silurian deposits? Because of the oft-touted imperfection of the fossil record? Because nobody else has looked, given that it can't be there?
That's what I mean by weak. In other words, not weak at all.
...there is no fossil record of any division (equivalent o phylum) of plants until after the Cambrian. Apart from that pesky pollen.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 07:03, 24 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm still working to find out what specialists have to say about the Roraima pollen today. As of 1980 the discrepancy had apparently not yet been resolved.[12] In 1992 a professional paleopalynologist ("I study fossil pollen, spores, and microscopic algae.") stated "it is a clear case of contamination".[13] (Not just probably, but clear.) —Awc 12:06, 27 December 2011 (UTC)
I'll repeat that this illustration is very simplified. Yes. The full glory of the fossil record is exquisitely complex, but I think we can still approach each other at this point with simplifications. When I read what evolutionists say about the faunal succession, what I understand is this, that there are a number of unambiguously identifiable fossil species, say A to Z, such that, whenever two or more of these species are found in strata that can be unambiguously ordered, that is, layer I is definitely underneath layer II, then fossils species of the lower layer are earlier in the alphabet than those of layer II. So one site may have fossil order A-B-C-D, the next site may have B-D-D-F, and the third site may have A-F-G. What will never be found (or, for the sake of this argument, as good as never) is an order like C-B or F-G-F or D and E mixed together. If it is necessary, I can fill in the blanks with actual strata and species names. Have I expressed clearly what I think the evolutionists claim? Do you think they are claiming something contrary to this? Do you think they are factually mistaken in this claim? I am sure "the evolutionists" are also thinking something about how that situation came to be, entailing deep time and evolution, but I emphasize that what I have expressed is an observation independent of any assumptions about timescales or causes. It is only an ordering relationship. —Awc 21:48, 26 December 2011 (UTC)
Your explanation is expressed quite clearly in principle, but I'm not clear on a couple of the details: are the unambiguously identifiable fossil species index fossils, or not? I'll assume for now that they are not necessarily.
My first issue is with what A to Z represent. Given that I'm assuming that they are not necessarily index fossil, then I gather that they are fossils from distinctly different evolutionary lineages. So first let's expand the illustration to say that fossil type A might include A1, A2, A3, to (say) A10, where each is a different species in the same family, or something like that. And the same for the other letters.
Given that, then one site might have not A, B, C, D, but A1, B1+A2, B2+A3+C1, B3+A4+C2+D1. I say this because a range of similar fossils (e.g. A1 to A10) are not confined to a particular layer, but extend through quite a bit of evolutionary history. But your principle of the fossil order is retained.
Sorry if this seems to be complicating a simplified illustration, but it is necessary.
So my first issue is that A1 to A10 may not, in fact, be 10 separate species, but all the same species. "It is not an uncommon phenomenon to find the same or similar fossils in strata of different ages that have been given different names."[14] To the extent that this is true, your illustration does not represent reality. So the part of your claim: What will never be found ... is an order like ... D and E mixed together is not true if (a) you find D2 with E1, and (b) D2 is really another name for D1.
Another issue is the circular reasoning involved in these fossils. The point is that you do often find an order like C-B or F-G-F or D and E mixed together, but in such cases B, F, and D are considered to be the result of reworking, or C, G, and E are considered to be intrusive burials. So the evolutionary conclusion is that the fossils conform to a particular order, but this conclusion is arrived at by ad hoc rationalisation of the actual evidence.
A further issue is just how much these sequences really are found in a given location, compared to laterally. Your illustration seems to be based on the assumption that the order can be determined entirely from a handful of overlapping sequences found vertically rather than horizontally, whereas the large majority are of sequences that are horizontal.
If your letters to represent index fossils, the same comments apply, except that my last point is ever more applicable.

In a study of 34 index fossils, Woodmorappe found that only rarely are more than a third and never more than a half of these index fossils simultaneously present in any 320 km-diameter region on Earth. And even those index fossils found in a particular region are rarely vertically superimposed.

(my emphasis, same source as quote above)
In replying, I came across a paper that discusses the very issue that we are discussing here, the one I reference for the quote above.. I probably would have read this when it was published early last year, but I didn't have it in mind when I made my earlier posts on this page, yet it makes many of the same points I have been making.
So to your specific questions:
Do you think [the evolutionists] are claiming something contrary to this? I expect that they are claiming that principle, although I'm less sure that they would claim any specifics along those lines.
Do you think they are factually mistaken in this claim? I think their interpretation is wanting. They are likely factually mistaken about similar fossils in different layers being different species, and also about out-of-order fossils being reworked or intrusive. As such, their beliefs about the order are in error because they have interpreted the evidence incorrectly.
Finally, I think part of the problem is the lack of detailed information on where fossils have been found.

It would be great if we could know the actual three-dimensional distribution of the fossils in the earth. ... some surprises would be in store if we could actually know the distribution of all the fossils in the formation.

The point being that there is, apparently, no good information available on just where all the fossils have been found, in a global sense. So much creationist thinking is based on secular "evidence" which in many cases is interpretation, not facts.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:00, 27 December 2011 (UTC)
As of 1980 the discrepancy had apparently not yet been resolved. "the discrepancy" is in the minds of evolutionists only.
In 1992 a professional paleopalynologist ("I study fossil pollen, spores, and microscopic algae.") stated "it is a clear case of contamination".[5] (Not just probably, but clear.) Yes, he did say that. But without any further explanation, and given the problems with the source (see Tero Sand section above) there's not much we can or should do with it.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 12:39, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

Andrew MacRae on the Roraima Formation

Yes, he did say that. But without any further explanation, and given the problems with the source (see Tero Sand section above) there's not much we can or should do with it. I managed to track down Andrew MacRae to ask him for "further explanation". This is his reply:

Hi Arthur:
There's quite a bit of information in that paper that suggests contamination. For one thing, these samples are from metamorphic rocks (i.e. heated and chemically transformed) such as slate and hornfels. Specifically these are cordierite-andalusite grade. While it is indeed possible to get palynomorphs from slate and hornfels, cordierite-andalusite grade is high enough metamorphic grade that any pollen, spores, or other palynomorphs found within them should be very thermally altered. The colour should be dark brown or black and opaque at the typical grades for that type of rock. The ones that Stainforth and others describe aren't significantly thermally altered. It's completely incongruous and strongly suggests that they aren't in situ palynomorphs.
Secondly, slate characteristically has rock cleavage -- that is, a tendancy to split into flat sheets along planes of weakness in the rock due to the alignment of micas formed as part of the metamorphic process. Cleavage-related fractures are notorious for allowing contaminating palynomorphs to get into the cracks even if the surface seems superficially clean. The article mentioned limonite (i.e. rust) covered fractures that were cut away as they tried to avoid potential contamination, but I've seen modern pollen in slate samples pretty commonly even when I've tried to keep them clean (such pollen is recognizably modern both because of the species involved and their extremely low thermal maturity -- another useful trick is to dip the sample in stain solution, so that any adhering/contaminating palynomorphs pick up the stain and can be recognized, whereas the ones dissolved out of the rock will not be). The Roriama Plateau has been extensively weathered over a long period of time in a tropical environment, so getting palynomorphs in there isn't much of a stretch, and the assemblage they observe is Eocene or younger, which is consistent with its history of erosion.
The article also mentioned that someone ultrasonically cleaned fragments of rock and then processed them for palynology and found the resulting samples barren. Ultrasound would only destroy material on the surface, not inside. This strongly suggests that despite all the other efforts to avoid contaminated surfaces, it wasn't enough until ultrasound was used to clean adhering material off.
Finally, if pollen of this type really were present and in-situ in Precambrian rocks, then there aught to be more than one place in the world where it has been recovered by now. Plenty of Precambrian palynomorphs are known from around the world, but they are mostly acritarchs -- probably single-celled planktonic algae. If pollen conventionally interpreted as Eocene or younger started turning up all over the place, then a genuine problem would have been confirmed, but since the 1960s that hasn't happened. If this is such a "paradox", then where are the other examples? For example, if you really wanted to demonstrate these things were in situ, then you could do SEM backscatter images of thin sections to show that the pollen and spores were within the mineral structure of the rock.
The reason why nobody else has probably studied palynology from the Roriama Plateau is likely that most palynologists recognize that these rocks are too cooked to contain anything other than modern (or maybe Tertiary) contamination, so it's a waste of their time to try to study them palynologically. They've moved on to other Precambrian rocks that aren't as high metamorphic grade.
I hope this helps. I think creationists have a serious case of reading comprehension problems if they think that report is anything other than contamination. All the evidence is right in the paper.
-Andrew MacRae
Assistant Professor, Geology Department
Saint Mary's University,
Halifax, NS, B3H 3C3
(If you want to contact him, ask me for his email address. —Awc)

I assume he will not object with my posting his reply here, but if anyone wants to distribute it further, they should ask him first. —Awc 13:15, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

I wondered if he could be contacted, but as the post was so old, I didn't think it worth suggesting. He may not mind it being posted here, but may not like his e-mail address put here, at least in a way that bots can read it, so I've altered it.
Good catch. I should have been more careful. I have asked retrospectively if he objects to my publishing his reply here. —Awc 14:32, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
I notice his "clear case of contamination" has now become information that "suggests" contamination.
His first reason is that the rocks are metamorphic, but with no reference (despite being in the Creation article which I gather you pointed him to) to the 2007 paper showing that pollen can survive metamorphism. According to Wieland and Silvestru, until the 2007 paper this factor had not been researched. MacRae says that "any pollen, spores, or other palynomorphs found within them should be very thermally altered." (my emphasis). This is what some scientists thought back in 1964, but they were wrong according to the 2007 paper, and his wording indicates that he doesn't know for sure.
For reference, the 2007 paper is: S. Bernard et al., Exceptional preservation of fossil plant spores in high-pressure metamorphic rocks, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 262 (2007) 257–272. —Awc 14:32, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
...such pollen is recognizably modern both because of the species involved and their extremely low thermal maturity... This (at least the first point) is begging the question—fossilised pollen must be so old (according to evolution) that it will differ from modern pollen, hence if it looks modern, it must be contamination.
The Roriama Plateau has been extensively weathered over a long period of time in a tropical environment, so getting palynomorphs in there isn't much of a stretch... So why did the original paper think that it was a stretch?
Finally, if pollen of this type really were present and in-situ in Precambrian rocks, then there aught to be more than one place in the world where it has been recovered by now. So just how imperfect is the fossil record supposed to be? Not good enough for Darwin's "finely-graduated sequence", but good enough that pollen should have been found elsewhere. Archaeopteryx fossils have only been found in one area of of the world, so does that put a question mark over whether Archaeopteryx is in-situ also? Besides, if pollen was found in other Precambrian rocks, would they necessarily be recognised as such, given that pollen isn't supposed to have existed then? In any case, pollen has been found in other Precambrian rocks![15]. But of course that will be explained away too, probably by dismissing it as only being found by creationists.
I think creationists have a serious case of reading comprehension problems if they think that report is anything other than contamination. All the evidence is right in the paper. This is simply insulting. Clearly, the original 1966 paper didn't conclude contamination, saying instead, "As stated, we offer no solution to the paradox." What MacRae has done is formed his own opinion of the matter upon reading the paper, then insulted the creationists for not having the same opinion. He tries to justify this insult by accusing them of a problem of reading comprehension, when MacRae's conclusion is not that of the original paper.
That he came over as impolite is partly my fault because I didn't warn him that I might want to post his reply. If he had known, he would have had a chance to be more diplomatic. —Awc 17:04, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:57, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Andrew MacRae's response to Philip, posted by —Awc 17:04, 29 December 2011 (UTC):
Ah, I couldn't resist taking a look. You can post this if you like, but I'll have to refrain from more significant comments unless people have fairly specific questions and they are patient.
---
Thank you for not including my e-mail address in a way that would be easy for bots to obtain, although most bots are pretty smart these days when it comes to spotting "DOT" and "AT" as substitutes. Hopefully that's enough.
"I notice his "clear case of contamination" has now become information that "suggests" contamination."
You could also notice that I also used the phrasing "strongly suggests". I'm not hedging, if that's what you are wondering. It's one thing to say "It's probably contamination", but this paper has specific evidence, such as the results after ultrasonic cleaning. It's a strong case that is what is going on.
"His first reason is that the rocks are metamorphic, but with no reference (despite being in the Creation article which I gather you pointed him to) to the 2007 paper showing that pollen can survive metamorphism. According to Wieland and Silvestru, until the 2007 paper this factor had not been researched."
This is not correct. I acknowledged that pollen and spores can be obtained from metamorphic rocks. It is also not correct that palynomorphs from metamorphic rocks had not been researched until 2007. It's been done all the time, and I've done it myself. Bernard et al. also mention some examples, although most of these involve fossils other than palynomorphs. Unfortunately palynology from metamorphic rocks isn't nearly as successful as palynology from unmetamorphosed rocks, because the palynomorphs are often destroyed or at least degraded by the thermal alteration. What's new in Bernard et al.'s paper is that they've recognized palynomorphs still present in such a high grade of metamorphism. Usually lower grade metamorphic rocks have better odds of recovery, and at the grade they are dealing with, recovery is usually not possible. It's a bit of a moot point because the grade of metamorphism in the Roraima Formation (cordierite-andalusite) is lower than Bernard et al. anyway, and my point never was that recovery from metamorphic rocks was impossible, just that WHEN palynomorphs are recovered from metamorphic rocks they show clear signs of the metamorphism they have experienced. The ones from the Roraima Formation don't show that, which is inconsistent with them being in place.
"This (at least the first point) is begging the question—fossilised pollen must be so old (according to evolution) that it will differ from modern pollen, hence if it looks modern, it must be contamination."
It's not the anatomy, it's the colour and appearance (pitting/corrosion). It's like the difference between fresh bread and burnt toast. I'm not talking about the shape of the loaf. The samples Stainforth describes are the metamorphic equivalent of fresh bread (i.e. untoasted) while the rocks imply they should be heavily burnt. Alternatively you could come up with another way to make a rock with a mineralogy of andalusite and cordierite at low temperatures, but if you investigate the very-well-studied pressure-temperature stability of these minerals you'll find that it would defy current understanding of physics and chemistry.
"So why did the original paper think that it was a stretch?"
I'm honestly not sure. I think Stainforth was trying to allow all options and be open-minded, including the remote possibility that the palynomorphs were in situ and therefore the Roraima Formation is Eocene or younger in age (what the pollen suggested). This would be inconsistent with all sorts of other evidence in the region, but he was allowing for the possibility that the conventional interpretation of the age of this formation was wrong. It's a reasonable thing for a scientist to do. But the emphasis is a little different if you wish to use this evidence to make the interpretation that all of conventional stratigraphy/paleontology with regards to the timescale is wrong. To overturn 200 years of study you should have some pretty solid evidence, and a paper that acknowledges two interpretations, one completely compatible with the conventional story and one not, isn't a particularly convincing data point to use. If there really was something fundamentally wrong with the timescale, there should be plenty of clear examples.


"So just how imperfect is the fossil record supposed to be? Not good enough for Darwin's "finely-graduated sequence", but good enough that pollen should have been found elsewhere. Archaeopteryx fossils have only been found in one area of of the world, so does that put a question mark over whether Archaeopteryx is in-situ also?"
You are confusing two completely different sampling issues. If I recall correctly, there are a grand total of 11 Archaeopteryx specimens from two locations in Germany (both in the Solnhofen limestone, but technically two different sites). Unless rocks have been thermally/chemically altered (e.g., by metamorphism), it is routine to get thousands of pollen and spores from a speck of rock the size of your fingernail. The quality and numbers of samples of fossils in the Earth's rock varies by many orders of magnitude depending upon the rock, the time, and the type of fossil in question. Palynomorphs are notoriously durable and abundant. The "plastic bags" of the biological world. Carcasses of small birds with feathers, not so much. Comparing the typical recovery of fossil pollen and spores to the recovery of rare vertebrate specimens like Archaeopteryx is rather ridiculous.


"Besides, if pollen was found in other Precambrian rocks, would they necessarily be recognised as such, given that pollen isn't supposed to have existed then?"
Pollen is not found in Precambrian rocks. It is first found in rocks of the Carboniferous Period (technically prepollen, but you'll have to look in a paleobotany text for the distinction. Pollen is a little younger still). Recognizable land plant spores are found as far back as the Ordovician Period. Before that it gets very debatable whether there were any land plants. Other types of organic-walled microfossils are known deep into the Precambrian, but they are from marine rocks and are probably from planktonic algae. They are not land plant spores or pollen.
Pollen of the specific and easily-recognized type found by Stainforth (Family Compositae according to him, which are flowering plants) isn't known until the Eocene or so, which is considerably younger. Flowering plants more broadly are known from the Cretaceous Period and younger. It would be next to impossible to mistake Compositae or flowering plant pollen generally for something found within the Precambrian. They are morphologically very different. For more details, refer to a palynology text.
"This is simply insulting."
Yes, it is, and I apologize for phrasing it that way. But I honestly can't understand how a paper that offers a compatible explanation right in it can be used as evidence that everything that conventional geologists have done for about 200 years is completely wrong. It is a bit insulting to generations of honest, religious and non-religious paleontologists to suggest they have colluded to construct some kind of false story for the whole of Earth history, and I sometimes take the implication a bit personally. It gets a bit frustrating. I expressed that frustration to Arthur, but I usually try to avoid it in public forums because it sounds nasty and it doesn't help the tone of conversation. I'm sure plumbers would get similarly frustrated if people told them for years that "lead pipes are fine".
If people have specific questions, feel free to contact me, but understand that useful replies are time-consuming and I might not have time to answer for a while.
-Andrew MacRae
Thank you for not including my e-mail address in a way that would be easy for bots to obtain, although most bots are pretty smart these days when it comes to spotting "DOT" and "AT" as substitutes. Hopefully that's enough. Arthur has removed it entirely now (I hope that's enough, given that it's still in the history). On a web-site I built once, I used a Javascript method of hiding e-mail addresses from bots, and it worked faultlessly, but on this site, that's not so easy.
You could also notice that I also used the phrasing "strongly suggests". True, but neither did your comments seem to justify the "clear case" of your earlier comment.
It is also not correct that palynomorphs from metamorphic rocks had not been researched until 2007. Okay. I surmised too much from Wieland and Silvestru. They actually said, "The second camp responds that no-one has ever tested the belief that fossil pollen cannot survive metamorphism. (This was true then, but not now: a 2007 paper described “remarkably preserved” fossil spores in rock in the French Alps that had undergone high-grade metamorphism." That implies that the 2007 paper was the first, but doesn't exclude that there might have been other papers between 1964 and 2007 which may not have been as relevant to this case.
It's like the difference between fresh bread and burnt toast. So I take it that when you said such pollen is recognizably modern... you meant something more akin to "fresh" than "modern"? But then why did you add ... because of the species involved...? What does the species have to do with the state of preservation? The fact that you based partly it on the species involved (reinforced by use of the word "modern") certainly gives the impression that your views are influenced by your belief in evolution (i.e. species changing over deep time) rather than just being an objective observation of their state.
...therefore the Roraima Formation is Eocene or younger in age (what the pollen suggested). Only within the evolutionary paradigm, not as empirical evidence.
To overturn 200 years of study you should have some pretty solid evidence, and a paper that acknowledges two interpretations, one completely compatible with the conventional story and one not, isn't a particularly convincing data point to use. Of course, nobody is claiming that this single case overturns 200 years of study. Rather, this is just one bit of evidence in a much larger set of evidence.
If there really was something fundamentally wrong with the timescale, there should be plenty of clear examples. There are.
You are confusing two completely different sampling issues. Okay, I accept your rebuttal of this point. Nevertheless, this was only one of a few points I made here.
Pollen is not found in Precambrian rocks. Isn't that begging the question?
I apologize for phrasing it that way. If I may be so bold as to speak on behalf of the creationists you insulted, apology accepted.
But I honestly can't understand how a paper that offers a compatible explanation right in it can be used as evidence that everything that conventional geologists have done for about 200 years is completely wrong. As I said above, this is just one example of the plethora of evidence; nobody's claiming that this case alone does what you say. Further, you grossly overstate the situation. Nobody is claiming that everything that conventional geologists have done for about 200 years is completely wrong; only that the dating and evolutionary story are wrong. The more empirical parts, such as descriptions of rock composition, etc. are not in dispute. And another point: You say that there is "a compatible explanation right in [the paper]". The paper made two points: that the rocks really were Precambrian, and the fossils really were in-place pollen. Rather than go for one of the explanations for what is only a paradox under the evolutionary paradigm, as you have done (i.e. contamination), the creationists have accepted both claims: the rocks really are what is labelled Precambrian, and the pollen was really in-situ. That this doesn't fit with the evolutionary timescale or paradigm is therefore something that falls out of the evidence, rather than being an explanation for an imagined paradox.
It is a bit insulting to generations of honest, religious and non-religious paleontologists to suggest they have colluded to construct some kind of false story for the whole of Earth history... Who suggested collusion? There is only one reference to "collude", "colludes", "colluded", or "collusion" on the creationist web-site concerned, and that reference has nothing to do with evolutionists, palaeontologist ones or otherwise. Neither is anybody suggesting that the palaeontologists are constructing a history that they know to be false. Rather, they claim that evolution has become the ruling paradigm, as this example shows:

Surely Woodmorappe is not claiming that geochronology is a huge con­spiracy. The reason why the exaggerated claims of geochronology continue, Woodmorappe explains, is not because uniformitarian scientists have a clandestine plan to deceive the public, but because they have a common belief in the underlying assumptions. They have a common worldview—a ruling paradigm. Furthermore, because of social factors such as peer pressure, the competition for grant money, and the reinforcement syndrome, the straightjacket of the paradigm keeps everyone in line. The reinforcement syndrome—the practice of finding the same date or results (after rejecting many ‘trial balloons’), is the main force per­petuating the mythology of the dating methods.[16]

It is also a bit insulting to generations of honest creationist scientists to misrepresent them as claiming evolutionist "collusion" and to misrepresent them as claiming that one bit of evidence can throw out an entire field of study.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:50, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

some of Philip's edits

Philip made a passel of edits this week. Some of them are acceptable as is, and some I have fixed up. There are four that need a closer look. I am putting links here as a reminder to myself that this needs to be done, but other editors might also want to comment. I'll get to it in the next coupla days. —Awc 17:19, 27 December 2011 (UTC)

  • Index fossils: Rework (the section, not the fossils!)
    • The order of the fossils is an observation, first made long before Darwin and deep time. Only the explanation and interpretation of the order is based on assumptions.
    • Even creationists recognize the order of the fossils. Otherwise they wouldn't feel the need to invent hydrological sorting and such.
      • Snelling[17]: "The millions of years interpretation needs to be separated from the reality of the sequence of rock layers (containing the fossils) which are stacked on top of one another. Creationist geologists do not deny that there is a genuine geological record. They recognise that the rocks and fossils are usually found in a particular order but reject the millions of years imposed on that order. Instead, catastrophic geological processes during the global Genesis Flood can adequately account for this geological record."
      • Snelling again[18]:
        • Some creationists believe that the geological column is a figment of evolutionists’ imagination. Yet by visiting places like the Grand Canyon—Grand Staircase region, you can literally climb through the rock layers and see the sequence and patterns of the layers firsthand. The rock layers are real and can be explained within the biblical framework of earth history.
          Some biblical creationists believe that the fossil record, as depicted in geologic column diagrams, does not represent reality.
          This assessment is usually based on the unfortunate claim that the geologic column is only theoretical, having been constructed by matching up rock layers from different areas of the world that contain similar fossils.1 They also believe that the layers were arranged based on an assumed evolutionary order of fossils, so they conclude that the whole concept of the geologic column and the order of rock layers must be totally rejected.2
          To the contrary, we can walk across various regions of the earth and observe that the rock layers and the fossils contained therein generally match what is depicted in the widely accepted geologic column diagrams. Furthermore, biblical creationists can be greatly encouraged by the fact that the order and patterns of the fossil occurrences are predicted by, and can be explained according to, the biblical framework of earth history.
        • At the Grand Canyon—Grand Staircase strata sequence, both the column of sedimentary rock layers and the fossils are observable and real. The stacked layers throughout this region appear in a definite order. They contain fossils in a recognizable order, too, reflecting the order in which the organisms were buried during the Flood.
    • The details are not needed here, just a reference to the flood Geology section.
    • I need to get to work now, but I wanted to take note of what looks like an interesting article: http://www.creationmoments.com/content/difficulties-geologic-column (I really should be putting these things in Research:Fossil, not here on the talk page.) ... A.W. Mehiert comes down "a little in the middle".
      • When I refer to the physical aspect of the column, I am referring to a much broader, less well-defined succession of fossils than we see in the scientific literature.
      • It is true that there is a general succession of fossils beginning deep down with the Precambrian trace fossils, one-celled organisms, progressing into the Cambrian, allegedly 600 million years ago, where we find an amazing explosion of complex marine forms such as trilobites, corals, sponges, and even one or two "primitive" fish forms. No lines of ancestry lead up to the complex creatures, a problem that has baffled evolutionists since Darwin's day.
        As we move up into the mid-Paleozoic we find more diverse forms, including many vertebrates such as Devonian and Carboniferous fishes, amphibians, reptiles, etc., and through the Perinian into the Mesozoic with the domination of the dinosaurs; the "primitive" mammals of the early Cretaceous; and into the Tertiary and the alleged sudden explosion of all types of mammals up into the Pleistocene apes, monkeys, and finally "modern" man.
        The above broad picture is indeed a generally good precis of the physical column, although there are many, many serious, even probably fatal contradictions to which I shall refer later.
  • Reworking: Fix ref; add information about reworking
  • Geological range and order of taxonomic groups: Reinstate "according to...", but with some additional explanation. Reinstate point with better explanation)
    • "The records of some other groups and species are confined to limited, but contiguous, systems, and are not found today. According to mainstream scientists, on a species and genera level, this is the most common situation." — Are there creationists who claim most genera found as fossils have also been found living today? (I admit I'm not too sure about the "contiguous" part.) —Awc 08:57, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Flood geology: Rearrange, some rewording, human fossils.
---- End of Awc's post -----
The order of the fossils is an observation... The order in any particular location is an observation. Their correlation around the world is not an observation.
...first made long before Darwin and deep time. Not made before deep time. From the source I linked in the previous section([19]):

Although it is claimed that evolution was not a guiding principle for the construction of the geological column in the early 1800s, the formations were nonetheless pigeonholed into slots based on fossil succession. In other words, the original column was not necessarily developed from lithology but mainly by a succession of index fossils. Index fossils are organisms that are assumed to have spread over much of the world and lived only a short time. Yes, “catastrophists” generally developed the column, but these catastrophists believed in multiple catastrophes in which the Genesis Flood was just the last and accounted for only the surficial “diluvium”. Some of these catastrophists would be considered progressive creationists today, but others eventually succumbed completely to uniformitarianism. Fossil succession over long periods of time was the guiding principle, which essentially is the same as evolution.

Even creationists recognize the order of the fossils. Otherwise they wouldn't feel the need to invent hydrological sorting and such. They recognise that there is some order; that doesn't mean that they accept the entire order claimed by evolutionists.
Snelling[1] Here, Snelling doesn't say anything that disagrees with what I've been saying.
Snelling again[2] Here Snelling does appear to disagree, yet his case study is a local one; he doesn't produce any argument about layers in different places being correlated.
A.W. Mehiert comes down "a little in the middle". Not really. Although he expresses the point you quote about there being a general succession, from my quick scan of the article, he doesn't really disagree with anything I've said, or anything that is in the article I linked. I've probably emphasised the problems more than the parts we agree on, but I'm not suggesting that there is no order to the layers; just that it's hard to tell just how much order there is given how much is conclusion rather than observation.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:23, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Are there creationists who claim most genera found as fossils have also been found living today? (I admit I'm not too sure about the "contiguous" part.) Part of the reason I reinstated that wording was the evolutionary assumption regarding different fossil species, which is why in the same edit I made the point about the difficulty of identifying different species when you can't determine interfertility. I just felt that the sentence in context was really putting an evolutionary view rather than an observation. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:30, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

The observation of order in the fossil record

Sometimes you seem so reluctant to admit to agreement, Philip, that I am not sure where we agree and where we don't. Let me try again with a modified form of the first of my "summary observations of the fossil record":

Local order:

  • On a local and regional scale, strata can be identified on the basis of physical features and fossils, usually with little ambiguity.
  • Using the principles of lithostratigraphy, these strata can be ordered from bottom to top, again usually with little ambiguity.
  • In most locations, there will be identifiable differences in the fossils found in the different strata, so that a local fossil order can be described.

Commentary:

  • For present purposes, it makes no difference whether the strata are actually stacked vertically or if the exposed portions of the strata are spread out horizontally, as long as the direction of tilt of the strata can be determined.
  • Usually there will be more than one type of fossil in any given layer, and each type of fossil will be present in a different subset of layers, possibly with gaps.
  • For present purposes, it does not matter whether similar but different groups of fossils are different varieties within a single species, or different species within a given genus, or different genera. They need only be distinguishable with some degree of objectivity.
  • Our picture of the actual fossil order will be muddled by the fact that there will be fossils we have not yet found and fossils that are no longer in their original strata for various reasons. Nevertheless, if an area has been well-studied, our best guess will be close enough for all practical purposes.

Global order:

  • In many cases, the types of fossils found in one location will be similar to the types of fossils found in other locations.
  • Some of these fossil types will be common in many different strata at any given location, or the locations where they can be found will be very spotty, or they will be hard to distinguish from similar types. For these, it will be difficult or impossible to establish any consistent correlations.
  • Some of these fossil types will be limited to relatively few strata at any given location, and they will be well represented at a variety of geographical locations, and they will be clearly distinguishable from other types. For these fossil types, or at least a significant subset of them, it will be possible to define a global fossil order.

Commentary:

  • What I mean by a global fossil order will in general be complex, with many overlapping ranges. For purposes of exposition, it may be best to think of a subset of perhaps 27 fossil types, A through Z, such that any two fossil types are seldom if ever found in the same stratum. I am asserting that at any given location, which ever of the fossil types A through Z happen to be present, the strata containing them will be ordered from bottom to top in the order of the fossil types from A to Z.
  • There will be occasional exceptions to the rules, and the rules will occasionally have to be revised as new fossils are discovered or old fossils are examined more closely, but there is no reason to expect to need to dramatically revise the global fossil order.

This is the long-winded and sharpened form of my first "observation". I insist on two points:

  • These are observations, albeit rather complex, and not just an "idea". The fact that many fossil types can be ordered globally is also an observation.
  • These observations are objectively verifiable, independent of any assumptions about the time required to form the strata or the reasons different strata have different types of fossils.

I don't see that any of this contradicts anything you have said, but that's for you to decide. It would be nice if we could move on to the next point.

—Awc 14:40, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Sometimes you seem so reluctant to admit to agreement, Philip,... Perhaps because I don't agree?
You're doing it again. Your comment here makes it sound like we disagree on most everything, and yet in what follows you agree with three quarters of what I write (and the disagreement on the rest may be partially a misunderstanding). —Awc 18:07, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm curious what alphabet you are using that has 27 letters, but I'll let that pass... :-)
<blush> Let's pretend I was counting the esszet in the German alphabet. —Awc 18:07, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
On a local and regional scale, strata can be identified on the basis of physical features and fossils, usually with little ambiguity. What do you mean by "identified"? Identified as belonging to a particular point within the geologic column? Recognised as being the same layer as other locations in the locality or region? I wouldn't agree to the first option, but generally would to the second.
I meant the second option. —Awc 18:07, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
... these strata can be ordered from bottom to top... It's pretty clear which are on the bottom and which are on the top at any given locality, so is that all you are getting at here?
Then I don't understand what you were getting at when you wrote A further issue is just how much these sequences really are found in a given location, compared to laterally. Your illustration seems to be based on the assumption that the order can be determined entirely from a handful of overlapping sequences found vertically rather than horizontally, whereas the large majority are of sequences that are horizontal. It's good to know that you have No problem with that, but it would make life easier if you wouldn't raise irrelevant points. —Awc 18:07, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
In most locations, there will be identifiable differences in the fossils found in the different strata... In the context of you commentary (specifically it does not matter whether similar but different groups of fossils are different varieties within a single species), I agree to that.
For present purposes, it makes no difference whether the strata are actually stacked vertically or if the exposed portions of the strata are spread out horizontally, as long as the direction of tilt of the strata can be determined. No problem with that, nor with any other dot-point that I haven't commented on.
For these fossil types, or at least a significant subset of them, it will be possible to define a global fossil order. That doesn't seem to follow from the previous points, and I don't see how this is possible without including assumptions you've not mentioned.
You're right. This is not meant to be a consequence of the previous points but a new observation (not an assumption). —Awc 18:35, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
For purposes of exposition, it may be best to think of a subset of perhaps 27 fossil types, A through Z, such that any two fossil types are seldom if ever found in the same stratum. I believe that I understand what you are proposing, but it seems quite abstract and I've yet to see that this represents reality.
A good place to get concrete might be WP:List of Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points. That article lists the definition of the close to 100 stratographic stages, mostly in terms of the lower or upper end of the range of a fossil species. —Awc 09:03, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
I am asserting that at any given location, which ever of the fossil types A through Z happen to be present, the strata containing them will be ordered from bottom to top in the order of the fossil types from A to Z. "At any given location"? So how is this relevant to the global fossil order?
There exists (a) a set of fossil types, and (b) an ordering of those types, such that that ordering of those fossil types is not violated at any location. Since we're dealing with the real world, we should also stipulate that the number of fossil types and diverse locations are great enough that chance can be effectively ruled out. Also, there may be some locations where the ordering is violated, but the number and type of exceptions is small enough to be plausibly explainable, e.g. by reworking, and the requirement of ruling out a chance ordering is not compromised. —Awc 18:35, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
There will be occasional exceptions to the rules ... but there is no reason to expect to need to dramatically revise the global fossil order. Again, I've not seen the evidence that exceptions are only occasional, and whether or not there is a reason to dramatically revise the rules seems rather subjective and potentially subject to the strength of the worldview.
What would constitute evidence in your eyes that the exceptions are only occasional? Your second comment suggests that creationists should be worried if the rules do stand the test of time. Is that your position, or do you think that creationism could explain a global ordering of the fossils without difficulty? —Awc 18:35, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
These are observations, albeit rather complex, and not just an "idea". The fact that many fossil types can be ordered globally is also an observation. This is presumably a restatement of point earlier in your post which I have said are not in evidence, but apart from that the ability to order something doesn't necessarily mean a lot. I could pick up a bunch of sticks form the floor of a forest and put them in order of size, colour, or any number of attributes, but that doesn't indicate that they have any relationship to each other.
Oh, yes. The ability to order the fossil types is not a trivial property at all. The point is that there is one ordering that works for every site, not a different ordering for each site. —Awc 18:35, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
These observations are objectively verifiable, independent of any assumptions about the time required to form the strata or the reasons different strata have different types of fossils. Assuming that these claims are objectively verifiable (a point I'm not convinced of yet), I gather that you are simply trying to start with points of fact before drawing conclusions from them. Because part of my objection would be with what conclusions are drawn. I guess I've already touched on one of them in my previous paragraph (putting sticks in order). In this post of yours, you appear to be quite vague about the issue of index fossils. I question the point of index fossils (to some extent at least), and you've not explicitly mentioned them, yet your comment about a global order of fossils surely must assume them.
Absolutely. Let's get the facts down before we get into any interpretations. What I have described is essentially the way I understand that index fossils work, but without the baggage of unnecessary assumptions like Oard brings into the discussion ("Index fossils are organisms that are assumed to have spread over much of the world and lived only a short time.") —Awc 18:35, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:21, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
(This is my second attempt at answering this; I had much of my reply done the other day when I somehow managed to lose it, and I couldn't be bothered trying again until now.)
You're doing it again. Your comment here makes it sound like we disagree on most everything... Sorry. You're previous comment was that I sometimes you seem so reluctant to admit to agreement, so when I said that it's Perhaps because I don't agree?, I was only referring to the times that I'm reluctant to admit agreement.
Then I don't understand what you were getting at when you wrote "A further issue is just how much these sequences really are found in a given location, compared to laterally." I don't see the contradiction, but my earlier comment (A further issue is just how much these sequences really are found in a given location, compared to laterally.) was referring to fossil sequences, and my latter comment (It's pretty clear which are on the bottom and which are on the top at any given locality...) was referring to rock strata. But even ignoring that, the two comments are compatible, because one admits that where multiple strata exist locally, it's pretty clear which is on top of which, while the other questions just how much does appear locally.
This is not meant to be a consequence of the previous points but a new observation (not an assumption). How is the claim that it will be possible to define a global fossil order an observation?
A good place to get concrete might be WP:List of Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points. That article lists the definition of the close to 100 stratographic stages, mostly in terms of the lower or upper end of the range of a fossil species. I wasn't happy with your earlier A-Z of unambiguously identifiable fossil species, so responded with an illustration that included A1, B2, A2, etc., on the grounds that palaeontologists will give separate species names to what may be just different varieties of the same species. Presumably because of this, your subsequent A to Z referred to fossil types (my emphasis). But the Wikipedia article's stages are defined by species, so that, for example, five different stages are distinguished by five different species of trilobites. I'm not suggesting that all five are really the one species, but the bottom-most and second-top of those five are of the same order, which implies that that order is found throughout the range and for all we know other species in the order might well extend the ranges if they were not classified as separate species. To put it another way, they distinguish those five stages with the fossils AA1, BB2, CC3, AD4, and EE5 (where the first letter signifies order so AA1 and AD4 are in the same order). But how do we know that there is not an AD1 found alongside AA1? And if AD1 and AD4 are really the same creature given different species names, then where does that leave the stages?
There exists (a) a set of fossil types, and (b) an ordering of those types, such that that ordering of those fossil types is not violated at any location. That the order is not violated an any location is not something that is in evidence.
Also, there may be some locations where the ordering is violated, but the number and type of exceptions is small enough to be plausibly explainable, e.g. by reworking... How do we know that "reworking" is not over-used? To put it another way, how many exceptions is too many to explain by "reworking" when it's admitted that reworking is invoked without any direct evidence?
What would constitute evidence in your eyes that the exceptions are only occasional? Hard data on how many exceptions and their circumstances.
Your second comment suggests that creationists should be worried if the rules do stand the test of time. I don't see how, as "the test of time" was not a factor; strength of worldview was.
...do you think that creationism could explain a global ordering of the fossils without difficulty? It would depend on the details of the alleged order.
The point is that there is one ordering that works for every site, not a different ordering for each site. Huh? First, this is begging the question. Second, this assumes that the exceptions are satisfactorily explained.
What I have described is essentially the way I understand that index fossils work, but without the baggage of unnecessary assumptions like Oard brings into the discussion... Again, begging the question of whether the use of index fossils does include such assumptions.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:13, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I find this response rather incoherent. Maybe that's just a consequence of your frustration at losing your edits. I know how that feels. Let me try to refocus the discussion.
This thread started because you changed[20][21] (emphasis mine)
Their use [i.e., the use of index fossils] is based on the observation that certain fossils, if they are present in the geologic column at any location, always follow a certain order, with rare exceptions such as fossils that are "reworked".
to
Their use is based on the idea that certain fossils, if they are present in the geologic column at any location, should follow a certain order (apart from fossils that are considered "reworked"; see below), and the assumptions that these represent specific periods of time in history and that particular creatures only existed for a limited period of time, being the time that the layers containing their fossils were laid down. [plus some comments on the creationary view]
After I go to extreme lengths to explain in this talk page section why, contrary to those edits of yours, observations of "index fossils" (for lack of a better term) can be separated in principle from assumptions and interpretations of index fossils, you turn around and summarily accuse me of begging the question of whether the use of index fossils does include such assumptions. Were you just throwing words around, or can you point out where in the premise I implicitly or explicitly assumed the proposition to be proven? —Awc 14:01, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Okay, maybe—just maybe—I have misunderstood you. It could, hypothetically, be the case that various locally-observed orders can be correlated globally to produce a globally-consistent ordering of clearly-unrelated and limited-range fossils. That is not an impossibility, and not something that requires assumptions. However, when you say things like These are observations, albeit rather complex, and not just an "idea". The fact that many fossil types can be ordered globally is also an observation., I question whether this really is an observation, rather than an assumption-based deduction. You are asserting that it's an observation, but I don't believe that it is. In support of my belief, there is the undisputed evidence of exceptions to the supposed rule, which exceptions are explained as reworking or etc. Added to that is the fact that such claims of reworking include cases where there is no evidence of reworking, and my contention that assumptions are involved becomes all but indisputable.
So when you say that What I have described is essentially the way I understand that index fossils work, I should accept that this is how you understand that they work, but I don't accept that it is how they work. Rather, the way they actually work includes evolutionary assumptions. And even if I have misunderstood you—that you were merely explaining a principle and explaining your view—the article is not about your view or even about the principle, but the claim that certain fossils always follow a global order and that this is an observation.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:41, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
That was an awful lot of work for a teeny, tiny bit of progress, but I do believe it was real progress. With comments like You missed an option: that the only reason they were all thought to be in the Devonian is that the rocks were classified as Devonian because they had these fossils in them. and the ability to order something doesn't necessarily mean a lot and your edits eliminating statements (whose accuracy we will still need to dicuss) about obervations to statements about assumptions, it seemed you doubted in principle that statements could be made about global fossil order except such that are either true by definition or only true within a particular worldview. It seems we are past the point of principle and can begin to discuss the observations. Is it all right if I use the term "index fossils" to talk about these matters? If you can't hear those words without thinking of their evolutionary interpretation, then we should find another term. I will pick up the discussion of the observed order as soon as time permits. —Awc 09:15, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Can we agree that the fossil succession objectively looks largely like it is depicted by evolutionists, e.g. with most of the fossil specimens of the species listed in WP:List of Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points following the order given there? Then we could dig directly into the questions of what fraction of specimens are considered "reworked" or "out of place", what is the external evidence for that, and how plausible is it that all of them can be explained within the evolutionary paradigm. —Awc 15:13, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Is it all right if I use the term "index fossils" to talk about these matters? If you can't hear those words without thinking of their evolutionary interpretation, then we should find another term. If you can define your use of it in such a way that doesn't involve evolutionary assumptions, then I'm happy for you to use that term.
If I can define it that way? I already did so in this thread. Therefore I will assume I can use the term "index fossil" without being accused again of begging the question. —Awc 21:08, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
Can we agree that the fossil succession objectively looks largely like it is depicted by evolutionists... No. The WP list is not of specimens found in a particular order, i.e. found in the same place in that order, but of a deduced order. The objectivity of this deduction has not been demonstrated.
What are you after here? What could constitute a demonstration of objectivity? The people who have spent their careers studying these things have come to an agreement that the fossil record "events" given in this list can be found in the geologic column in the order given. An encyclopedia should accept that observation - although not necessarily any particular interpretation of that observation - unless it has good reason to doubt it. Can you document any such good reasons? —Awc 21:08, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 23:40, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
If I can define it that way? I already did so in this thread. Where? Is this it: Index fossils are organisms that are assumed to have spread over much of the world and lived only a short time. That has evolutionary assumptions. Under creationary assumptions, there is no reason to assume that the organisms only lived a short time.
No. That is Oard's definition, not mine. My version of the article had this definition (which may not be sufficient for the purposes of this discussion):
Index fossils (also known as guide fossils, indicator fossils or zone fossils) are fossils used to define and identify geologic periods (or faunal stages). Their use is based on the observation that certain fossils tend to appear in a predictable order in sedimentary strata. The ensemble of fossils present at any level can thus be used to define that level.
To be a bit more precise, say
An index fossil is an identifiable fossil type whose lowest or highest occurrence in the geological column occurs in a consistent relation relative to other index fossils.
This definition does not presuppose a time-scale or a mechanism for the sorting of fossils or even that a given index fossil was deposited simultaneously at different locations. The definition also does not presuppose that any index fossils actually exist. The definition does at least suggest that an index fossil should have a wide geographic distribution and a well-defined place in the geologic column, that is, a fairly abrupt lower and/or upper bound. —Awc 11:47, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
What are you after here? What could constitute a demonstration of objectivity? A demonstration that the claimed order of fossils found in different parts of the world was not dependent on a particular worldview, such as evolution.
You do realize, don't you, that you are asking me to prove that something doesn't exist? Is that a rhetorical request, or do you have some kind of evidence in mind, which, if I could produce it, would satisfy you? —Awc 14:13, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
The people who have spent their careers studying these things have come to an agreement that the fossil record "events" given in this list can be found in the geologic column in the order given. An encyclopedia should accept that observation... So is it an agreement, or an observation? The point is that it is not an observation, but a deduction based on an interpretation of the observations, which interpretation could well be influenced by an evolutionary worldview. If fossil A is found in Canada and fossil B in South Africa, how do you tell which was is older? One way is to find some absolute and reliable measure of age that can be applied to both. But such measures are in practice influenced by worldviews and are not reliable. Another is to find some rock layer that is continuous between Canada and South Africa which is below one fossil and above the other. Absolute ages would not be known, but relative ages would be. However, there is no such continuous rock layer. Rather, there are various rock layers that are interpreted within an evolutionary worldview as being formed at the same time. This allows a deduction of relative age, but it is not an observation, and being a deduction that assumes an evolutionary worldview, it is not objective.
I thought we had already been through this. Are you calling into question the principle that objective, inter-continental correlations might be possible, or only the assertion that they have already been found? Is there a reason you keep bringing up ages, whether relative or absolute? I have only been talking about correlations and ordering. —Awc 14:22, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
...unless it has good reason to doubt it. Can you document any such good reasons? Absolutely, as I have done many times before. Most scientists are biased, in that they rule out some explanations—such as creationary ones—on ideological grounds a priori.
Are you saying that you doubt any observation reported by any scientist on principle, whether or not you have a concrete reason to be skeptical about it? —Awc 14:22, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:31, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
An index fossil is an identifiable fossil type whose lowest or highest occurrence in the geological column occurs in a consistent relation relative to other index fossils. Okay, I'm happy with that as a working definition for discussion.
You do realize, don't you, that you are asking me to prove that something doesn't exist? I guess I am. Is that a problem? (Attempting to prove a universal negative is unreasonable; attempting to prove a negative in a particular case is not necessarily unreasonable. For example, attempting to prove that God doesn't exist anywhere is impossible; attempting to prove that there are no matches in the matchbox is entirely reasonable.) In principle, all you have to do is demonstrate the complete chain of reasoning, showing that a worldview was not a member of that chain. Of course, if you think you can't do this, then you should concede that a worldview may be involved, and not claim objectivity. It may be unreasonable for someone to ask for proof that God doesn't exist, but for that reason it's just as unreasonable to make the claim that God doesn't exist.
(Actually, if you could prove God does not exist in any one place, you would have proven that he doesn't exist anywhere. This is a simple consequence of claiming that omnipresence is an essential characteristic of God.) —Awc 22:46, 22 March 2012 (UTC)
Are you calling into question the principle that objective, inter-continental correlations might be possible, or only the assertion that they have already been found? I guess it's a degree-of-certainty thing. My example referred to rock layers that were continuous between different parts of the world. Ignoring the practicality of tracing such layers continuously across continents and oceans, such is thing is possible in principle, but they don't exist in practice (as a general rule, at least). So the question then becomes whether or not we can correlate different layers, rather than locate a continuous layer. What does it take to correlate them? Do we find one factor in common? Or two? Or three? Or 50? The more we find in common, the more certainty we can have of the correlation. So I'm not suggesting that making those correlations is impossible in principle, but I do question how good they are, or more specifically, how many of those factors are worldview-dependent (and I'm not suggesting that they all are).
Is there a reason you keep bringing up ages, whether relative or absolute? I have only been talking about correlations and ordering. I keep bringing them up because I'm not convinced that they are not a factor. For example, claimed correlations may be dependent on claimed ages. See a comment that I'll add to a following section.
Are you saying that you doubt any observation reported by any scientist on principle, whether or not you have a concrete reason to be skeptical about it? No, I'm saying that I have doubts about any claim (not "observation") about the past reported by any evolutionary scientist on principle, as so many of their claims are (necessarily) worldview-dependent. Perhaps I should also add that I have often seen claims of observations that are actually conclusions, not observations. Dates are a common example.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:43, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
I have been pondering what it is you are after here. Perhaps you are uncomfortable with calling the short-hand summary of many complex observations itself an observation. If I hear a statement like, "Velociraptor lived from 75 to 71 million years ago", I think I have a pretty clear idea of the kinds of observations and reasoning that went into such a statement. For purposes of this site, we first need to extract the parts that can be called observation from parts dependent on more complex reasoning, or, if you will, world-view. In this case, the observational kernel would be something like, "All fossils bearing the defining characteristics of velociraptors (i.e. bipedal, feathered, with a long, stiffened tail and an enlarged sickle-shaped claw on each hindfoot, distinguished from other dromaeosaurids by its long and low skull, with an upturned snout) have been found in strata identified as belonging to the Upper Campanian stage of the Upper Cretaceous Series (i.e. above the top occurrence of the crinoid species Marsupites testudinarius and below the lowest occurrence of the ammonite Pachydiscus neubergicus)". Notice that the statement in terms of species and strata is true because that is how they are defined. Of course, the statement isn't worth much unless the definitions are reasonable, for example that every specimen should belong to one and only one species, and every stratum should belong to one and only one stage, but that seems to be generally the case. Of course, you can also worry that the world-view of the scientists influence what they believe they observe in more or less subtle ways. I think the best way to approach that question is to ask if a different conclusion would come into conflict with their world-view, in this case the deep-time, evolutionary worldview. I don't see how it could. If a paleontologist decided one of the specimens was not a velociraptor, or that one of the specimens was actually embedded in a Santonian or Maastrichtian stage, there would be some wrangling and rewriting of textbooks, but it would be no big deal. The evolutionary worldview doesn't have a vested interest in finding velociraptors in a particular place. Even if it was discovered that they were the only (non-avian) dinosaurs to survive the K-T extinction, that might be a scientific sensation, but would not be grounds to call evolution into question. That is why I think it is safe to say that a statement like, "All velociraptor fossils have been found in Upper Campanian strata", can be considered an observation unlikely to be tainted by any particular worldview. —Awc 22:46, 22 March 2012 (UTC)
(Actually, if you could prove God does not exist in any one place, you would have proven that he doesn't exist anywhere. This is a simple consequence of claiming that omnipresence is an essential characteristic of God.) Fair point, I think. So my example wasn't the best. The principle remains, though, with essentially any other example.
Perhaps you are uncomfortable with calling the short-hand summary of many complex observations itself an observation. Insofar as that "summary" includes worldview aspects, yes.
...complex reasoning, or, if you will, world-view. Those two are not synonymous. But talking of shorthand, when I refer to "worldview", I'm referring to worldview-based views that are disputed by the main parties. In a sense, everything is based on a worldview, even observations (there are those, for example, who think that nothing is real; so the view that there are real things that we can investigate is itself part of a worldview). So if both naturalistic/materialistic and theistic worldviews agree on something, then we don't need to qualify it in practice. To give a specific example, if creationists and evolutionists both agree that a particular group of fossils are velociraptors, then I don't see a need to put that in the terms that you used.
Of course, the statement isn't worth much unless the definitions are reasonable, for example that ... every stratum should belong to one and only one stage, but that seems to be generally the case. Your observation-based statement also omitted the original statement's time-factor, which is a big part of the worldview-based reasoning.
Of course, you can also worry that the world-view of the scientists influence what they believe they observe in more or less subtle ways. "What they believe they observe": I'm not sure I follow what you are getting at there. If you mean that their worldviews might affect what they document as their actual observations, I think that does happen a bit, but in my mind it's not a major issue.
I think the best way to approach that question is to ask if a different conclusion would come into conflict with their world-view, in this case the deep-time, evolutionary worldview. As I said, I'm not sure that I follow "that question", but the best way to see how a worldview affects a view is to see what conclusion would be reached by those with a different worldview.
If a paleontologist decided ... one of the specimens was actually embedded in a Santonian or Maastrichtian stage, there would be some wrangling and rewriting of textbooks, but it would be no big deal. Debatable. What does it say about evolution that there is a lot of rewriting of textbooks. One well-known creationary biologist wrote a textbook on evolution when he was an evolutionist. When he came to update it, he started to amend the first edition, then decided to start again because there were so many things that needed changing. This is the view that is taught in schools as though it is fact. So many new facts require it to be changed that it should be considered a working hypothesis at best.
The evolutionary worldview doesn't have a vested interest in finding velociraptors in a particular place. That depends on how far out of place it is. See more below.
Even if it was discovered that they were the only (non-avian) dinosaurs to survive the K-T extinction, that might be a scientific sensation, but would not be grounds to call evolution into question. I agree, but with two comments. First, one of the problems with evolution is that it can accommodate almost anything, which means that it makes no falsifiable predictions and therefore doesn't qualify as science. Second, I've had numerous people try to refute that first comment by proposing that a living dinosaur would falsify evolution. I've never understood how it would, but they do claim that.
That is why I think it is safe to say that a statement like, "All velociraptor fossils have been found in Upper Campanian strata", can be considered an observation unlikely to be tainted by any particular worldview. I doubt that creationists (i.e. someone with a different worldview) would question that it's a velociraptor, but some might question that the strata is Upper Campanian. More to the point, they would definitely question how old the strata is, regardless of what name is put on it. And part of that is questioning whether the strata in question was laid down at a significantly different time than strata above and below it.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:44, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't detect a lot of disagreement in the last few rounds of comments. Can we change the article (back) to a version that says, when the concept of index fossils is introduced, that some fossils are observed to follow a consistent order? —Awc 15:24, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
I happened to notice that the CreationWiki article on Fossil sorting starts with
Fossil sorting is an observable characteristic of the fossil record wherein organisms present during the antediluvian period are commonly found only within a limited span of strata (layers of rock), and frequently above or below other specific fossils.
This is very close to the first thing I think our article should say about index fossils. (I would rephrase or leave out or leave for later the phrase "present during the antediluvian period" since that is clearly a statement dependent on world-view, not an observation.) They also include a nice diagram showing the main features of the fossil succession. —Awc 14:21, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
No, I don't agree to the reversion (although it's been done in the meantime!). I agree that fossils are not just random, that there is some order there, but your particular wording is, I believe, too specific.
I don't know who wrote that bit in the CreationWiki (CW) article (if you think the history will tell you, see here), but I can't help wondering if they've overlooked a quote that I've been hunting for a fair bit, happened to come across on a talk page here the other day, and I now see is used in that CW article! The shorter version of the quote is, "One of the ironies of the creation-evolution debate is that the creationists have accepted the mistaken notion that the fossil record shows a detailed and orderly progression and they have gone to great lengths to accommodate this 'fact' in their Flood Geology.". It's particularly ironic if CW have accepted this mistaken notion in their introductory paragraph despite also having the quote! Of course, the other side of the coin is that we are talking about how much order there is, and what form it takes, not whether it exists at all. Perhaps the CW author thinks that the quotee is referring to a greater degree of order than he (the CW author) is.
Their diagram (from a secular source) doesn't support the idea of index fossils very well, as all the fossil ranges extend from their start to the present. To the extent that the diagram represents index fossils (it doesn't), one can only use their absence to assign a layer/age, which is not what index fossils are about.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 09:56, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I thought my wording ("certain fossils, if they are present in the geologic column at any location, follow the same, predictable order") was pretty vague, in particular, that it might apply quantitatively to anything from much-much to little-little order. I've wondered how we might quantify the amount of order. The only idea I've come up with is something like, "Creationists recognize the principle of a predictable succession of fossils at the level of erathems, while evolutionists recognize such order down to stages." (with whatever specifics). I've been hoping you would say at some point how much order you think there is, and then provide citable references that other creationists think the same way. Agreed, the diagram has more to do with the related but not equivalent concept of the fossil succession than with index fossils. —Awc 11:27, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
It's vague in a sense, but it indicates that this is true of "certain" (albeit un-named) fossils and that their order is "predictable", which implies something fairly precise, even if the details are not provided.
The problem is that I don't think anyone really has a very good idea of how much order there is and just what sort of order exists, so I doubt that it's possible to say how much, or to quote anybody saying how much.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 05:30, 31 March 2012 (UTC)
The cream of the crop is presumably the several dozen GSSPs that are defined by fossils. Do you have any references saying that any of these have ever been found out of place? —Awc 10:08, 31 March 2012 (UTC)
That's a loaded question, as presumably they have selected ones that have so far not been found out of place, or at least not demonstrably so. It does not follow that they never will be. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:01, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
On the contrary. The current examples of Lystrosaurus and Nucha were selected to illustrate a point. We do not know how representative they might be. The GSSPs are the bread and butter of paleontologists, so they can be presumed to be representative of the state of the art. Also there are enough of them to allow some statement about the statistics of any problems that crop up. I am betting that none of them have ever been found out of order, but I don't really know. Should we ask some well-informed creationary paleontologist about it? —Awc 15:50, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

more edits by Philip

Philip made 8 edits on 2012-03-18, all of which are problematical. It's probably not such a good idea to get into a revert war or to carry on a discussion of these edits in the edit summaries. On the other hand, I don't know how quickly I will find time to write up my objections here. I am creating this section as a place-holder to remind me to come back to them (or to invite others to contribute their comments). —Awc 21:36, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

Conditions for formation: "under water" would include igneous rock laid down under water; scavenging is not just on the surface.

I would be facinated to know what fossils are found in igneous rock but I think PJR actually borked the complete sentance which was saying that the majority of fossils are found in sedimentary rock formed underwater rather than the majority of sedimentry rock is formed underwater. He appears to have not understood a comma. "The vast majority of fossils are buried in sedimentary rock, and most of these are in rocks laid down under water" His edit changes the meaning to "The vast majority of fossils are buried in sedimentary rock, and most sedimentary rock is laid down by water." which does not convey the same thing at all. Ghost of Hamster past
I would be facinated to know what fossils are found in igneous rock... Well, wood in basalt at Crinim mine in Queensland is one example.
Crinum mine ? C14 dated fossilized wood ? really ? Snellings paper ? Hamster 05:30, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
I think PJR actually borked the complete sentance which was saying that the majority of fossils are found in sedimentary rock formed underwater rather than the majority of sedimentry rock is formed underwater. He appears to have not understood a comma. ... His edit changes the meaning to ... which does not convey the same thing at all. You're right about me changing the meaning: that was deliberate, changing it back to the meaning that it previously had, before being changed here. Why is it that if both an evolutionist and a creationist (me in this case) make similar changes (A -> B, then B -> A), it is the creationist of whom it is suggested that he didn't understand what he was doing? (I have seen the same attitude displayed before; this is not an isolated case.)
not similar at all if I read it as AWC intended. Hamster 05:30, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:41, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
really ? Snellings paper ? Yes. Are you disputing its age, or that it was a fossil in igneous rock? The latter is all I was referring to.
not similar at all if I read it as AWC intended. How about you read it (my comment) as I intended? To repeat, it was similar in that we both changed the meaning: he from A to B, me from B (back) to A, yet it is me who you suggest doesn't realise that I've changed the meaning.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:06, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
The bit about sedimentary rocks was added by Philip here. I made my edit to correct the false statement that "sedimentary rock [is] rocks laid down by water." Perhaps it would help if Philip would explain why he thought it was important to include this information. As far as I am concerned, we could just delete it. —Awc 12:56, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

And then there is the addition of the mysterious, "However, even bones that sink are normally destroyed by scavengers." First, I'd like to know what kind of scavengers eat bones. Second, I'd like to know what helpful information this adds over and above the two preceding sentences. Finally, what is the conjunction"however" supposed to express? The flow of the language would be better if this sentence were connected to the preceding one with "and". —Awc 13:10, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

...the false statement that "sedimentary rock [is] rocks laid down by water. Most sedimentary rock is, but I agree that as an absolute it is incorrect.
Perhaps it would help if Philip would explain why he thought it was important to include this information. As far as I am concerned, we could just delete it. It's important because (a) this encyclopædia is not intended for experts who already know this, but lay people, (b) it is relevant to considering the flood, and (c) even people who should know better seem to need reminding when they say that there is no evidence for a global flood but overlook that a very large part of the Earth's surface is covered with sedimentary rock.
I still think this sentence is out of place here, and that bugs me, but at least it is factually correct, so if it is dear to your heart, keep it. —Awc 17:54, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
...I'd like to know what kind of scavengers eat bones. Bone worms and bacteria, at least. Think about it if you've been scuba diving or seen documentaries showing the sea bottom: how many bones do you see lying around?
...I'd like to know what helpful information this adds over and above the two preceding sentences. It shows that not only is preservation of bodies difficult without rapid burial, so is preservation of bones (even if it doesn't need to be as rapid).
Finally, what is the conjunction"however" supposed to express? The flow of the language would be better if this sentence were connected to the preceding one with "and". I disagree about it being connected to the previous sentence with "and", although perhaps the "however" could be eliminated with some rearrangement. The "however" is there because this sentence is a counter-point to the end of the previous sentence, which says that "fish fossils are often only formed from the disjointed bones that eventually sink". That is, fish fossils are not often formed by bones that sink; only in exceptional circumstances, such as rapid burial is this the case.
I thought we had made those points already, but since you think they need more emphasis, I have made an edit that, in my opinion, makes the point more clearly. —Awc 18:13, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:26, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
...I have made an edit that, in my opinion, makes the point more clearly. Your edit deleted the point that bones that sink do not themselves normally survive. Saying that preservation of hard part is rare doesn't adequately explain why they are rare. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 10:02, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
Do you think, out of all the processes by which animal remains decay, we should specifically mention bone worms? We already say that the remains of most animals decay, that preservation of bones is rare, that bones must be removed from the environment within at most a few years. I was also careful to say, "fish fossils, if they form at all, are often only formed from the disjointed bones that eventually sink", not that the disjointed bones often form fish fossils. —Awc 11:37, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I wasn't suggesting specifically mentioning bone worms, just that the bones that end up on the bottom are themselves also scavenged or otherwise destroyed, so don't stay around to be fossilised.
The article doesn't specifically say that bones must be removed from the environment within at most a few years. Bones are only mentioned in how they can be preserved, even though it does indicate that this is rare.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 05:38, 31 March 2012 (UTC)
"For bone, woody plants, and shells, it is sometimes sufficient that the isolation occurs after many years, although shells must also be preserved from too violent motion." Implies that bone normally decays in less than "many years". —Awc 10:14, 31 March 2012 (UTC)
Any such implication is well hidden. In fact I think the sentence itself is hard to follow, but its indicating that "many years" is sometimes all that's needed, not that bone doesn't normally last that long. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:12, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
You should have a better idea now about what bothered me with your edit. Why don't you have another go at it? It shouldn't be that hard to agree on a formulation. —Awc 15:53, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Burgess Shale: Revert, retaining a mention of slurry flows, as the previous edit obscured rather than corrected.

It is in no way clear what Philip thinks was obscured by the other version. His version makes it sound pretty clear-cut, which it is not. For one thing, bioturbation was relatively low, but not completely lacking. He also removed the indication that secular paleontologists believe that burial occurred some time after the organisms died. In the context of this site, this detail is not irrelevant. As a first reference for some of these things, this paper might be a good start:

These findings independently confirm an autochthonous burial of most organisms and support the views that: 1) the time of death was variable within individuals of the same population and between populations; 2) most decay processes took place prior to burial; 3) decay was quickly halted after burial. Canonical Correspondence Analysis summarizes variations in the amount of pre-burial decay across species, individuals, and bedding assemblages and shows that overall the community structure follows the decay gradient of the polychaete Burgessochaeta setigera.
(The quote appears to be from a pre-publication talk.)

The simple statement, "The quality of preservation indicates rapid burial", does not do justice to the situation. —Awc 20:58, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

...bioturbation was relatively low, but not completely lacking. I didn't say completely lacking. "Lack" means "an insufficiency, shortage, or absence of something required or desired" (my bolding). I was using in the sense of an insufficiency, not in the sense of a complete lack.
He also removed the indication that secular paleontologists believe that burial occurred some time after the organisms died. That removal was inadvertent.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:18, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
I made an edit that added some detail and separated observations from interpretations. I hope you like it. —Awc 21:29, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
I like it. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 10:03, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Redwall Limestone: Revert; yes, it's only one paper. But that's one against none giving a different perspective on the size distribution and orientation.

  • In both the world of science and the world of wikipedias, a single paper is not usually given much weight, if it is mentioned at all.
  • Here there is not even a single paper. There is an abstract for a conference, and an interview.
  • The abstract reports measurements on 76 specimens in a 330 m^2 exposure and interprets the results as indicating "the flank of a building hydrothermal mound". There is no claim that the measurements are typical of the billions of nautaloid fossils extending over 300 km, or even that measurements were undertaken at any other location.

Under those circumstances, the most responsible course would be to not mention it at all, but I would be willing to leave it in, as long as it is properly attributed, as it was before Philip's edit. (What he says in the interview doesn't make much sense from the physics side, but we don't need to go into that here.) —Awc 16:51, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

I will think about some modified wording for this. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 07:54, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
I decided to give it a whirl myself. —Awc 09:27, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
So I see. First, a detail: You've overlooked or not seen this edit comment.
That's easy enough to fix (although I'm not sure if we're supposed to argue over the difference between "creationary scientists" and "creationist scientists"). —Awc 11:43, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
The other main problem is the line "Over most of the formation, neither a steep slope nor scour features are found. Secular geologists would expect these features if the deposits resulted from turbidite flow." Austin and Wise don't mention a turbidite flow (at least in the reference given), and you've not provided enough detail to know if what they are proposing would require the scour features. Further, the lack of a steep slope is probably irrelevant. As I think I've explained somewhere before, sediments can be built up by extending a formation laterally, with the advancing front being a steep(ish) slope. The resulting formation is level, but the "depositional surface" (to use Austin and Wise's term) is a slope. Actually, I've just thought to look for the video I saw this in, on the Internet, and I've found a version of it. See this segment, from about the 1-minute mark to the 2½-minute mark. The point of this part of the video is to show how fossils buried lower down can be younger than those buried higher up, but my point here is simply to show that what Austin and Wise refer to as "a sloping depositional surface" is not contradicted by the claim that "neither a steep slope nor scour features are found".
The section is a little disjointed because neither group directly addressed the views of the other group. The way I phrased it was not that the lack of scour features and steep slopes rules out Austin and Wise' model (if indeed it can be applied to more than the location they studied), but simply that those are the reasons conventional geologists give why they believe that most of the limestone was deposited in calm seas. —Awc 11:50, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
(A bit of explanation and triva... The segment I refer to has been preceded by at least ten minutes of documentary on flume experiments demonstrating what the computer animation illustrates. The video dates from, from memory, the mid 1980s and contains some of the earliest computer animation that I ever saw from a non-commercial/big-budget source (and yes, it is quite dated now). The video is a Catholic YEC production (i.e. from a Catholic group, not from the Catholic church itself), not what one would expect given all the hype about Catholics accepting evolution.)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 11:20, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
…I'm not sure if we're supposed to argue over the difference between "creationary scientists" and "creationist scientists I wasn't raising that point, but see here.
The way I phrased it was … simply that those are the reasons conventional geologists give why they believe that most of the limestone was deposited in calm seas. I don't agree. The way you phrased it does not indicate that that's why they believe something, but that that's why they don't believe something else, i.e. the creationist view.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 06:01, 31 March 2012 (UTC)

Green River Formation: Revert (through rewording) attempt to give the speculative secular view prominence and the more-reasonable creationist view also-ran status.

  • I don't have a problem with giving the creationist view top billing.
  • I don't know why Philip changed the wording expressing the creationist view, but I guess I'm OK with that.
  • The addition of the phrase "without considering rapid burial" would need to be sourced.
  • "resort to hypothesising" strays unneccessarily from a neutral tone.
  • Expanding the paragraph on the secular view is OK, although the language has become a bit bumpy. Essentially Philip added an explanation of why temperature and depth are important, and, of course, the information that there is little independent evidence for cold spells. I would polish up this paragraph a bit.

In addition, it might be of interest to add some more information from the reference given, such as the fact that well-preserved fossils are the exception, not the rule: "A large majority of known fossils are fragmentary but some complete skeletons exist of fish, birds, reptiles and one mammal, Brachianodon westorum." Perhaps also that "the deepest layer of the sediment studied does not contain any fish fossils". —Awc 09:16, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

The addition of the phrase "without considering rapid burial" would need to be sourced. I will put the word "apparently" in there. The source article doesn't consider rapid burial.
"resort to hypothesising" strays unnecessarily from a neutral tone. When scientists ignore the obvious for ideological reasons and prefer explanations that go against the evidence, I think it's appropriate.
... there is little independent evidence for cold spells. More than that, they say that the evidence is that it was warm.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:00, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
I rewrote and expanded this section, taking the above points into account. —Awc 22:34, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't think you've adequately taken into account the evidence for a warm water formation. After all, what's the evidence for it being cold? There is evidence for it being warm, and there is evidence of good preservation, so the evolutionists have to propose cold spells for which there is no evidence other than they need it to account for the good preservation without resorting to rapid burial.
You also add that "Secular geologists, in contrast, conclude from a number of indications... including millions of fine layers (varves), that the formation took several million years to form." So how should I respond to this claim, given that we have evidence that varves can be laid down quickly? Put a counter-view in the secular-interpretation section?
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 11:30, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't think you've adequately taken into account the evidence for a warm water formation. Do you mean when I formed my opinions about the Green River Formation, or when I wrote the article? The article just reports what secular geologists think, namely "that the episodes of extremely good preservation of fossils must have been associated with cold, wet spells lasting a few thousand years." Remember that the layers with extremely good preservation of whole skeletons comprise only a fraction of one percent of the total thickness, so it would be hard to prove that there could not have been a cold spell of that duration.
After all, what's the evidence for it being cold? That would probably be a study unto itself, but there is apparently some evidence in oxygen isotope ratios, in layers of volcanic ash, and in changes in flora and fauna. See, e.g., http: //ezinearticles.com /?Eocene-Evolution,-Extinction-Unleashed-by-Massive-Volcanic-Eruptions&id=2826418 "Eocene Evolution, Extinction Unleashed by Massive Volcanic Eruptions". (Link was blocked by spam filter for some reason that is not obvious.)
So how should I respond to this claim, given that we have evidence that varves can be laid down quickly? Just let it stand as one of the reasons that secular geologists think what they do, right or wrong. The link to the varve article is there for anyone who wants to read more details.
—Awc 12:43, 2 April 2012 (UTC)
Do you mean when I formed my opinions about the Green River Formation, or when I wrote the article? I mean what the article says.
The article just reports what secular geologists think... The Berkeley source has four sentences on the lake being warm and the evidence for it being warm. The article covers this in one sentence. The Berkeley source spends several more sentences on a general explanation of how fish fossils are formed, normally through floating then dispersal of bones, followed by a short comment that because some fossils are intact, they must have been formed in cold, deep, water, plus another comment about some other hypothesis that the lakes had a complicated history. The article has four sentences stating and supporting the cold, deep, water view. The impression given is that the evidence for cold, deep, water is greater than the evidence for warm water, whereas the evidence is for warm water, and the only reason to even suspect cold water is the quality of preservation. In summary, the article does not give enough weight to the evidence for warm water.
...there is apparently some evidence [for it being cold]... This seems to be more speculation of the form "it must have been cold" rather than actual evidence of it being cold.
Just let it stand as one of the reasons that secular geologists think what they do, right or wrong. But without saying that it's wrong, that is misleading.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:36, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
The only thing stated as fact in that paragraph is "During much of this time, the climate must have been subtropical and constant, as evidenced, for example, by fossils of crocodiles." I made that statement as uncompromising as I could. Everything else is couched as speculation. You may consider the cold spells to be speculative and unsupported, but the hypothesis that there were no cold spells during the entire history of deposition is speculative as well, so I would object to stating that cold spells can be factually ruled out (except possibly on the basis of the Biblical narrative). This is especially so since we know that there were volcanic eruptions during deposition, and we know that eruptions can lead to cooling. Do you have an alternative proposal? —Awc 16:07, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Index fossils: Revert start to previous wording; the new wording presumed that a particular type of order was correct, which has not been shown.

We've been over some of this already, but maybe it's good to have it in one place.

I have been working hard to separate the observations from the worldview, but Philip keeps throwing them back together again.

  • "the assumptions that [the layers of the geologic column where certain fossils are found] represent specific periods of time in history and that particular creatures only existed for a limited period of time, being the time that the layers containing their fossils were laid down" may be in the backs of the minds of secular paleontologists, but they are not essential for the definition and discussion of index fossils.
  • That there is a great deal of order in the fossil record is not controversial, even if the amount of order recognized by creationists and evolutionists is widely divergent. Philip seems to want to deny this by using language like "idea" instead of "observation", and the subjunctive mood ("should") instead of the indicative.
  • We can and probably should mention the contrasting beliefs on the origin of the order in the fossil record, but the details are discussed in the following section, so we should not go into them here. My version already pointed out that the question was complex and would be dealt with later.
I have been working hard to separate the observations from the worldview, but Philip keeps throwing them back together again. I'll comment further on this in another section below.
"the assumptions ... may be in the backs of the minds of secular paleontologists, but they are not essential for the definition and discussion of index fossils. The article said, "Their use is based on the observation that certain fossils tend to appear in a predictable order in sedimentary strata. The ensemble of fossils present at any level can thus be used to define that level.". This is not a definition for the sake of discussion, this is talking about how secular palaeontologists think of them and use them.
That there is a great deal of order in the fossil record is not controversial... Depending on what is meant by "a great deal".
We can and probably should mention the contrasting beliefs on the origin of the order in the fossil record, but the details are discussed in the following section, so we should not go into them here. My version already pointed out that the question was complex and would be dealt with later. In your version, the secular view was explained (briefly). The creationary view was not explained, except for a reference to the flood being involved. The later explanation was worded as though the different factors (zoning, sorting, etc.) had already been mentioned, but you had removed that earlier mention from this section.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:09, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

Index fossils: Reinstate a point that was removed without a reason being provided. Reinstate Marlestone info, which is not merely "detail", but questions the validity of ammonites as indexes.

Adding back "Not all fossils are useful as index fossils" is OK.

When I removed the reference to the Marlstone (get the spelling right) wood, the reason I gave in the edit summary was, "Too much detail for this introduction, esp. if we give all the necessary info. Topic here is biostratigraphy, with radiometric (not C14) ages only for reference." Although the clause is introduced with "although", it does not question the main clause, stating "Ammonites are common in Mesozoic deposits, but are generally not found above the K-T boundary". The are a number of problems with Snelling's investigation, and it is unacceptable to simply say "have been found in association with", which suggests more than it can deliver. Three or four sentences would be necessary at a minimum, and that is what I meant by "Too much detail for this introduction". —Awc 21:28, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

Before I reconsider this one (which I'm inclined to do), what is the value in mentioning as index fossils a fossil type that is only generally found in a particular range? Aren't the exceptions enough to disqualify it? Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:15, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't know anymore why I included the qualifier "generally". It should be removed. —Awc 12:19, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
In that case, there is more of a reason for the Marlestone bit being left in. Part of your reason above for removing it was Although the clause is introduced with "although", it does not question the main clause. If the main clause does not have "generally", then the addition does question the main clause. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:06, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
Snelling did not claim that Ammonites were found above the K-T boundary, but that a "too-young" piece of wood was found below it. —Awc 13:28, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
He didn't claim either, actually, but the story is more interesting than that (to me at least!); it demonstrates again typical evolutionist traits of circular reasoning and confusing conclusions with facts.
You put in the article that "Ammonites are common in Mesozoic deposits, but are ... not found above the K-T boundary" (I have omitted "generally" given your comments above). So what you are claiming is that whereever ammonites are found, we can also determine where the K-T boundary is, and in every case, the amonites are below it. So in the case of Marlstone, how do we know where the boundary is? Well, the boundary must be above the ammonites because the ammonites are found in Jurassic rock, which is, of course, below the K-T boundary. So how do we know that the rock the ammonites are found in are Jurassic? Because they have these ammonites in them! Classic evolutionary circular reasoning.
But wait—there's more! That circular reasoning doesn't, as you have ben arguing for, contain any references to ages. So all we have is an unsubstantiated claim of all ammonites existing below the K-T boundary; not a proven incorrect claim. When we start applying dates, though, it only gets worse. The rock is supposed to be 150 million-plus years old, as it is Jurassic. But actual dating of the wood found in the rock shows (according to secular dating methods) that the rock is only 20,000 to 30,000 years old. Which means one of several possibilities. Perhaps these rocks are not Jurassic (and ammonites are not found exclusively below the K-T boundary). Or perhaps the entire geologic column is so out of whack that the Jurassic was only a couple of tens of thousands of years ago rather than a couple of hundred million. Or perhaps radiometric dating is not the reliable and objective measure it is usually claimed to be. Or, of course, perhaps the entire uniformitarian/naturalistic story is wrong, and the world is only 6,000 years old.
Whichever way you look at it, the claim that ammonites are usable index fossils is shot down. And, if this sort of fallacious thinking applies elsewhere, the entire index-fossil system is suspect.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:02, 22 March 2012 (UTC)
Slow down. Take a deep breath. We are here to help you.
So what you are claiming is that whereever ammonites are found, we can also determine where the K-T boundary is, and in every case, the amonites are below it. Nearly. More precisely I would say, with rare exceptions (reworking), whenever the relative location in the geological column between an ammonite fossil and the K-T boundary can be independently determined, the fossil is below the boundary. Exceptions are to be expected because the world is a messy place. As long as they are rare enough, they present no fundamental problem. Obviously the statement has more content than "ammonites are found where ammonites are found". The only places of interest are those where the position of the K-T boundary can be determined by characteristics independent of the ammonites, such as the clay layer, the iridium anomoly, or the fern spore anomoly. Sites where the position of the K-T boundary cannot be determined independently from the ammonites don't help elucidate the relation of the two. They are also not needed to answer the question, as long as there are enough places where the relationship is clear. I think it takes a lot of arrogance to believe that the scientists publishing work on ammonites (and their peer reviewers and colleagues) cannot recognize and avoid circular reasoning, while you, even without looking at the details of the work, can.
Which means one of several possibilities. ... Or perhaps radiometric dating is not the reliable and objective measure it is usually claimed to be. Radiocarbon dating is claimed to be reliable and objective for samples yielding a carbon age less than 25,000 or 30,000 years old. The method can be reliably extended to 45,000 to 50,000 years, but requires increasingly sensitive equipment, and increasing care to avoid samples contaminated in situ or during collection. Snelling has not documented that he can rule out contamination.
—Awc 14:04, 22 March 2012 (UTC)
Slow down. Take a deep breath. We are here to help you. Help me to do what? See things your way?
Nearly. More precisely I would say,... I was referring to what you are saying in the article, which doesn't word it the way you worded it in your comment here.
The article has the wording, "Ammonites are ... not found above the K-T boundary". That is only wrong if some ammonites have been found above the K-T boundary. That cannot happen where the K-T boundary cannot be located. The wording in the article does not imply "that whereever ammonites are found, we can also determine where the K-T boundary is". The statement might be made clearer, but it is accurate as it stands. —Awc 09:16, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
Exceptions are to be expected because the world is a messy place. As long as they are rare enough, they present no fundamental problem. ... The only places of interest are those where the position of the K-T boundary can be determined by characteristics independent of the ammonites, ... Sorry, what are the exceptions that you are talking about? Ammonites being found above the K-T boundary, or ammonites being found where the K-T boundary cannot be independently determined? Even if the former is true, I have bigger doubts about the latter.
I think it takes a lot of arrogance to believe that the scientists publishing work on ammonites (and their peer reviewers and colleagues) cannot recognize and avoid circular reasoning, while you, even without looking at the details of the work, can. Is that equivalent to the arrogance in suggesting that a highly-qualified scientist's research into the dates of fossil wood in Marlstone rock are questionable because you are not aware if he has not documented that he can rule out contamination.? Further, it doesn't take arrogance to suggest something that has been observed. Finally, I did have in mind more armchair evolutionists and popularises of evolution than the serious scientists, who are probably more cautious about the claims that they make.
Radiocarbon dating is claimed to be reliable and objective for samples yielding a carbon age less than 25,000 or 30,000 years old. First, the samples in question were within that range. Second, this doesn't really make sense. Could a sample that is, say, 35,000 years old (i.e. outside the "reliable and objective" range) erroneously give an age that is, say, 28,000 years old (i.e. inside the "reliable and objective" range)? If so, how do you know that the 28,000-year date reported is incorrect?
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:00, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, what are the exceptions that you are talking about? Ammonites being found above the K-T boundary Yes, this.
Is that equivalent to the arrogance in suggesting that a highly-qualified scientist's research into the dates of fossil wood in Marlstone rock are questionable In Geological Conflict: Young Radiocarbon Date for Ancient Fossil Wood Challenges Fossil Dating everything Snelling has to say about the provenance of his samples is this:
Three samples of fossil wood were collected from the south wall of Hornton Quarries, one from immediately adjacent to the belemnite fossil (Figure 5) during the first visit, and two from locations nearby during the second visit. All the fossil wood samples were from short broken lengths of what were probably branches of trees fossilised in situ. The woody internal structure was clearly evident, thus the samples were not the remains of roots that had grown into this weathered rock from trees on the present land surface. When sampled, the fossil wood readily splintered, diagnostic of it still being ‘woody’ in spite of its impregnation with iron minerals during fossilisation.
The photograph he offers has not nearly enough detail to be helpful. Describing the site of a collection as being "from locations nearby" is so vague that it would be merely ludicrous if he were not trying to sell it as serious science. I admit I don't know much about fossils or botany, but aren't roots woody? Why does "woody internal structure" show that "the samples were not the remains of roots"? In any scientific publication, a citation would be required at this point.
In aside 2 of that article he gives his arguments against contamination:
  • Pieces of the same sample were sent to the two laboratories and they both independently obtained similar results. Furthermore, three separate samples were sent to the same laboratory in two batches and again similar results were obtained. This rules out contamination.
  • The radiocarbon ‘dates’ depend on the amounts of radiocarbon, originally in the living plants, now left in the fossil wood samples. In these samples, the 14C left was between about 2.5% and 7.5% of the amount in living plants today. Any unavoidable contamination (e.g., dust, fungal spores) would be minuscule and would amount to at most 0.2%, which would have a negligible effect on these radiocarbon ‘dates’.12
  • The last column in Table 1 lists the d13CPDB results,13 which are consistent with the analysed carbon in the fossil wood representing organic carbon from the wood of land plants.14
  • Such a claim would, by implication, cast a slur on the Ph.D. scientific staff of two radiocarbon laboratories, who, as qualified routine practitioners, understand the potential for contamination and how to avoid it in sample processing.
Contamination could have occured in situ at any time during the last 20,000 years. It could have occurred during the collection and handling of the sample by Snelling. Or it could have occurred during the measurement. His first and last arguments only refer to the third possibility, which is not the one I think is likely. A scientific paper would have described the collection procedure and chain of evidence. Snelling does not provide his readers with that sort of reassurance that the second possibility was not likely. What worries me most is that he is presenting a sample that porous ("readily splintered"), found exposed on the surface of "weathered" rock that has been "frequently" perturbed by human activity. Are there cracks near his sample site? Is it possible that this wood, where ever it came from, has been exposed to percolating rain water and bacterial activity for hundreads or thousands of years? On what grounds can he be sure that contamination by all pathways (not just dust and spores) is less than 0.2%? His reference 12 does not support that. Maybe Snelling has answers to all these questions, but he has not publically documented them,. Pointing that out is not arrogance.
Further, it doesn't take arrogance to suggest something that has been observed. The accusation has flown freely, but I have never seen a specific case cited where a paleontologist has employed circular reasoning concerning his dates.
First, the samples in question were within that range. Second, this doesn't really make sense. Could a sample that is, say, 35,000 years old (i.e. outside the "reliable and objective" range) erroneously give an age that is, say, 28,000 years old (i.e. inside the "reliable and objective" range)? If so, how do you know that the 28,000-year date reported is incorrect? The numbers are not hard and fast. The sloppier you are, the younger your samples must be before you get into trouble. Snelling is at least in a range where care must be taken to ensure reliable results, and, as I detailed above, he hasn't documented that he took the necessary care, or that the samples had been sufficiently isolated from the environment. Statistical and sytematic errors will generally result in a too young age. Under the same conditions, an older sample will never show a more recent date than a younger sample.
—Awc 16:25, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
That is only wrong if some ammonites have been found above the K-T boundary. Perhaps not technically wrong, but it's misleading. See my next point.
The wording in the article does not imply "that whereever ammonites are found, we can also determine where the K-T boundary is". I think it does, actually, given that the K-T boundary is (in principle) world-wide. If you said that an all-terrain vehicle can go anywhere, nobody should assume that it can go across water, as it would be clear that we are talking about land, not ocean. But apart from it being removed by erosion, the K-T boundary should exist everywhere, and in principle it should be possible to determine where it vertically is or was at any point, so when you say that ammonites are only found below it, one would be fair in assuming that this includes places where the boundary has been eroded away.
Yes, this.(Exceptions are to be expected because the world is a messy place. As long as they are rare enough, they present no fundamental problem.) Yeah? They say it takes only a single example to disprove a claim. That's not always a valid point, but I think it does apply here.
aren't roots woody? Yes, but you have confused two independent statements:
  • "The woody internal structure was clearly evident, thus the samples were not the remains of roots ..." Because the woody internal structure was clear, it was possible to tell from that structure that the remains were not roots.
  • "When sampled, the fossil wood readily splintered, diagnostic of it still being ‘woody’ in spite of its impregnation with iron minerals during fossilisation." This is a separate point, relating that the wood was not fully mineralised.
If that's what he meant, then he didn't express himself clearly. The fact remains that we don't know the observation and assumptions he used to conclude his sample couldn't be a root. —Awc
In any scientific publication, a citation would be required at this point. This was a layman's magazine.
His first and last arguments only refer to the third possibility... Granted.
A scientific paper would have described the collection procedure and chain of evidence. Snelling does not provide his readers with that sort of reassurance that the second possibility was not likely. As I said, it was a layman's magazine.
What worries me most is that he is presenting a sample that porous ("readily splintered"), found exposed on the surface of "weathered" rock that has been "frequently" perturbed by human activity. Are there cracks near his sample site? Is it possible that this wood, where ever it came from, has been exposed to percolating rain water and bacterial activity for hundreads or thousands of years? It was in a working quarry. The rock was exposed and perturbed by human activity recently.
Snelling has answers to all these questions, but he has not publically documented them,. Pointing that out is not arrogance. But you didn't merely point out that he hasn't documented them. You suggested that not documenting them in a layman's magazine means that his results are questionable.
Contamination could have occured in situ at any time during the last 20,000 years. Why only when a creationist is making a claim? Couldn't that apply to any claim of radiometric dating?
The accusation has flown freely, but I have never seen a specific case cited where a paleontologist has employed circular reasoning concerning his dates. The very fact that dates that are built on assumptions that biblical history is wrong are used to demonstrate that biblical history is wrong is such a case. Others are here and here, and

Contrary to what most scientists write, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian theory of evolution because it is this theory (there are several) which we use to interpret the fossil record. By doing so, we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say the fossil record supports this theory.[22]

Snelling is at least in a range where care must be taken to ensure reliable results, and, as I detailed above, he hasn't documented that he took the necessary care, or that the samples had been sufficiently isolated from the environment. And you've not shown that this experienced geologist hasn't handled the samples appropriately.
Statistical and systematic errors will generally result in a too young age. Why?
Under the same conditions, an older sample will never show a more recent date than a younger sample. All this really says is that the margin for error increases with age. That says nothing to indicate that the ages that were calculated are so unreliable as to allow for the wood to be Jurassic.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:04, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
This thread started because you made the claim that the Marlestone info ... questions the validity of ammonites as indexes. I replied it doesn't because Snelling has not documented that he can rule out contamination. Most of what you say here is simply affirming that.
systematic errors will generally result in a too young age because contamination always adds C14.
I will look at your circular argument refs when I have time, but it would help if you could outline the syllogism for me. A circular argument has the form "if A then B, and if B then C, and if C then A, therefore A." What would A, B, and C be in these cases?
—Awc 14:21, 2 April 2012 (UTC)
The very fact that dates that are built on assumptions that biblical history is wrong are used to demonstrate that biblical history is wrong is such a case. I don't know what you're talking about here. Either expand it or drop it.
Contrary to what most scientists write ... is a reiteration of the accusation, not a citation of a specific case.
—Awc 15:01, 2 April 2012 (UTC)
If that's what he meant, then he didn't express himself clearly. It seems sufficiently clear to me.
The fact remains that we don't know the observation and assumptions he used to conclude his sample couldn't be a root. We know that he observed the nature of the wood and, knowing the difference between a root and a branch, could tell that it wasn't a root.
Snelling has not documented that he can rule out contamination. He also hasn't documented that he knows what a rock is, but then he is a trained geologist, so you would expect both to be taken for granted.
stematic errors will generally result in a too young age because contamination always adds C14. Granted, as long as you are just talking about contamination by C14, not statistical and systematic errors per se, which was what I was questioning.
A circular argument has the form "if A then B, and if B then C, and if C then A, therefore A." What would A, B, and C be in these cases? and I don't know what you're talking about here. Either expand it or drop it. It would depend on the particular examples, but a common one is that (A) biblical history is wrong, therefore (B) the flood did not happen, therefore (C) carbon dating was not affected by the flood, therefore (D) we date things to before the time of creation according to the Bible, therefore (E) biblical history is wrong.
... is a reiteration of the accusation, not a citation of a specific case. Fair enough. But it does show that an evolutionary palaeobiologist agrees with the accusation.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 15:02, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
It would depend on the particular examples, but a common one is that (A) biblical history is wrong, therefore (B) the flood did not happen, therefore (C) carbon dating was not affected by the flood, therefore (D) we date things to before the time of creation according to the Bible, therefore (E) biblical history is wrong. This example doesn't apply to the Marlstone case, or anything else in the real world, for that matter. It was recognized from the beginning of carbon dating that it was necessary to either know or assume something about the history of the atmosphere. That is what calibration curves are about. It is not assumed that the C12 or C14 content of the atmosphere or biosphere was unaffected by the Flood or any other event in the past. On the contrary, carbon dates are cross-correlated with several different dating methods to conclude that the C14/C12 ratio changed by a certain factor in the last 50,000 years. If you expect a Flood to alter the atmosphere (as I would), then the calibration curves can be taken as evidence that there was no Flood. I think this example of circular reasoning is a bit far removed from reality as well. —Awc 16:25, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Flood geology: Just fact? tags for the rest.

Philip added these two "fact?" tags: "every system except perhaps the lowest are found to contain a variety of small and large organisms[Fact?] (from insects to large herbivores and predators), a variety of dense and light organisms[Fact?] (like bottom dwelling shell fish as opposed to trees)"

  • Do you think we need to name the insects, large herbivores, and large predators that are found in various systems? (Below the Devonian there are no insects, but there are other small creatures. I'm not sure what the largest animal fossils in the Cambrian and Ordovician systems are, but the Silurian can offer sea scorpians that were several meters long.)
  • Do you think we need to name for each period some organisms that sink and some that float? (The lowest strata with fossilized woody plants is the Silurian.)

He also tagged this: "it is generally agreed that velociraptors were good runners, and yet all their fossils are found below those of slow animals like sloths."

  • Do you think we need to document that the highest velociraptor fossil is in strata dated at 71 million years, and that the lowest sloth fossil ever found is in a stratum dated to 5 million years?[23]

—Awc 12:59, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Do you think we need to name the insects, large herbivores, and large predators that are found in various systems? No.
Do you think we need to name for each period some organisms that sink and some that float? No.
I think we need evidence that the claims are correct in the context of the discussion, which is hydraulic sorting. Perhaps the real problem is "system": in a flood scenario, hydraulic sorting would only apply for a given body of water laying down its layer of sediment. Do those equate to systems? The sentences I tagged gives the impression that there is no discernible order, as a rebuttal to the claim of sorted fossils. But of course, if taken literally, this would also be inconsistent with evolution. I guess what I was after was evidence that the claims of "a variety of small and large" and "a variety of dense and light" really are a lack of order in a way that specifically undermines hydraulic sorting.
I haven't been able to find any statement of hydrological sorting that does more than mention factors like "buoyancy, size, and shape". If no creationist has worked out a theory of hydrological sorting in enough detail to make concrete predictions (They would actually be postdictions.), then it is tough to compare the theory to observations. Still, if the creationists insist on keeping the hypothesis on the table, then it is only fair to attempt a tentative correlation with the real world. In short, the creationists must first show their hand and say what evidence would support or undermine their theory. Until they do, it is not reasonable to ask for evidence that "specifically undermines hydraulic sorting". ... Compromise: We could simply say that the theory does not make any testable predictions and leave it at that. —Awc 10:12, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
He also tagged this: "it is generally agreed that velociraptors were good runners, and yet all their fossils are found below those of slow animals like sloths." Yes, I did. And this (finally) leads me to the point that I've anticipated in two other sections above. Are they actually found "below", as in a different vertical position in the same formation, or are they considered to be in different vertical positions based on evolutionary thinking, such as dating? Let's see: ...the highest velociraptor fossil is in strata dated at 71 million years, and that the lowest sloth fossil ever found is in a stratum dated to 5 million years? Aha! So the "evidence" comes back to dates, despite these comments from earlier on this page:
  • Is there a reason you keep bringing up ages, whether relative or absolute? I have only been talking about correlations and ordering.
  • I have been working hard to separate the observations from the worldview, but Philip keeps throwing them back together again.
You brought dates into it here. You might well say that this was a slip, and the argument doesn't depend on dates. But that is something that is yet to be demonstrated. This reinforces my view that evolutionists are so convinced of their views that they find it hard to distinguish between their (evolutionary) conclusions and the actual facts/observations.
The attraction of the juxtaposition of velociraptors and sloths is that they are of a similar size and everyone has an image of the speed of the one and the lazy motions of the other. The coupling would be stronger if they had lived in the same part of the world and there were more fossils of both. Unfortunately, only about a dozen velociraptor specimens have been found, and these were all in Mongolia, whereas the sloths are native to South America. What list of animals did creationists analyze to conclude that behavioral factors like speed contributed to fossil sorting?
When I say "strata dated to", that is short-hand for a statement about the geological field relations. I get tired of writing out the long form all the time.
—Awc 10:12, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 11:03, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

To illustrate how shaky behavioral sorting is, is there a better pair of animals to use than velociraptor and sloth? We could try Australovenator (3 dinosaur species discovered in Australia: "The cheetah of his time ... Australia's answer to Velociraptor"; Scientists discover 3 new Aussie dinosaurs, dated to 100 Myr), vs. koalas and wombats (the first fossils dated to 50 Myr). —Awc 11:45, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

In North America you could consider Maiasaura (200 specimens found, dated to 74 Myr) vs. armadillos (heavily armored diggers, low basal metabolic rates, oldest fossils dated to 59 Myr and living today). —Awc 12:04, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

If no creationist has worked out a theory of hydrological sorting in enough detail to make concrete predictions (They would actually be postdictions.), then it is tough to compare the theory to observations. Sounds like evolution. Except that evolution has a lot more money thrown at it.
What list of animals did creationists analyze to conclude that behavioral factors like speed contributed to fossil sorting? It's common sense that some animals would more readily escape a flood for longer than others, and in general terms this fits with those that are buried higher up in the record.
When I say "strata dated to", that is short-hand for a statement about the geological field relations. I get tired of writing out the long form all the time. But it's those field relations that I'm questioning, so citing evolutionary views of those relations is hardly a good argument.
To illustrate how shaky behavioral sorting is... The relation is still interpreted according to evolutionary assumptions. One of those links I posted above about circular reasoning goes into this.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:13, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
It's common sense that some animals would more readily escape a flood for longer than others, and in general terms this fits with those that are buried higher up in the record. That's fine with me. So logically, if there is no evidence that the ability to escape correlates with the position in the geological column, then a cataclysmic flood likely never occurred. The next thing to do would be to test the hypothesis by making a chart with estimated speed on one axis and position in the geological column on the other. What do you suppose that would look like?
But it's those field relations that I'm questioning Get concrete.
The relation is still interpreted according to evolutionary assumptions. Broken record. I have selected some pairs of fossil animals for which there is good reason to beleive that one was faster than the other and looked at where their remains are found in the geological column. There are no evolutionary assumptions involved.
—Awc 12:58, 2 April 2012 (UTC)

Philip tagged the first two places because he was looking for evidence that the claims of "a variety of small and large" and "a variety of dense and light" really are a lack of order in a way that specifically undermines hydraulic sorting. The sources on hydrological sorting in the Flood mention buoyancy and size without any additional qualifiers, so any evidence that buoyancy and size do not play a role undermines the hypothesis as it is presented in the sources. On that basis, I will remove these tags. —Awc 09:55, 3 April 2012 (UTC)

Philip tagged the third position and asked, Are they actually found "below", as in a different vertical position in the same formation, or are they considered to be in different vertical positions based on evolutionary thinking, such as dating? The answer is no to both. Velociraptor and sloths are found on two different continents, but their relative position in the geological column is unambiguous, independent of any evolutionary assumptions. The K-T boundary - identifiable on the basis of the clay layer, iridium anomaly, and the amount of radioactive decay products, independent of any fossils or assumptions on the the constancy of radioactive decay - lies above the velociraptor fossils in Mongolia and below even the earliest sloth fossils in South America. Nevertheless, in case Philip thinks the argument would be more convincing if the fossils were from the same continent, I have offered two other fast/slow pairs that we could use instead or in addition to. If it makes a difference, we could also choose a pair from any large formation, e.g. brontotheres below tortoises in the South Dakota Badlands, or hadrosaurs below snails in Bryce Canyon. While Philip is making up his mind which example is best, I will remove the tag, but also change the language a little so that the reader is less likely to think the fossils come from the same formation. —Awc 11:37, 3 April 2012 (UTC)

…if there is no evidence that the ability to escape correlates with the position in the geological column, then a cataclysmic flood likely never occurred. Nobody is claiming that there is any such precise correlation, but there is obviously a rough one, else the argument would not be made.
There is no significant correlation, which makes it bizarre that the argument is made anyway, and I'm not entirely sure there is any correlation at all. —Awc 20:45, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
Get concrete. I have done so before, and will do so again in this reply.
There are no evolutionary assumptions involved. I have already explained that there are, and will point this out again below.
…any evidence that buoyancy and size do not play a role undermines the hypothesis as it is presented in the sources... So what is the evidence? Vague comments about a variety of sizes and densities do not show that buoyancy and size do not play a role.
I already offered to name the insects, large herbivores, and large predators that are found in various systems and to name for each period some organisms that sink and some that float, but you indicated that wasn't necessary. —Awc 20:45, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
...their relative position in the geological column is unambiguous, independent of any evolutionary assumptions. The K-T boundary - identifiable on the basis of the clay layer, iridium anomaly, and the amount of radioactive decay products... On the contrary, the K-T boundary is "identifiable on the basis of the clay layer, iridium anomaly" because that's what it is defined to be, and it's defined that way on the basis of evolutionary assumptions.[24]
The first statement is OK, but I still haven't heard the basis for the second one yet (or found it in Oard's article). —Awc 20:45, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
The K-T boundary … lies above the velociraptor fossils in Mongolia and below even the earliest sloth fossils in South America. So are you saying that there is an iridium-rich clay layer in the same formations as the velociraptor and sloth?
If I could provide evidence for that, would you be happy? —Awc 20:45, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
Actually, I deliberately looked for two species that were as far as possible apart in the geologic column in order to make the ordering as unambiguous as possible. That makes it unlikely that any single marker will be found in both formations. I thought that way I could avoid quibbles over ten million years give or take in the radiometric age. Also, it would mean the sloths outpaced the velociraptors by an even greater margin. Now you seem to think my case would be stronger if they were very close together in the geologic column. If this is true, then I can to go back and look for other examples. —Awc 09:22, 5 April 2012 (UTC)
...hadrosaurs below snails in Bryce Canyon. Fossil position based on ability to escape the flood obviously only applies to flood-laid sediments. The snails in the Bryce Canyon area are, according to Wikipedia, in Eocene-dated rock, but some Eocene formations could be post-flood, so I'm not sure that this example would prove much.
You can't have your cake and eat it, too. If the Eocene is post-Flood, then you should be able to point to transitional forms on the way to bats, elephants, rodents, marsupials, and whales, not to mention grasses and deciduous trees. —Awc 20:45, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 15:50, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

What about two other dinosaur genera, Triceratops and Allosaurus, both about 8-10 meters long, both represented by many specimens in the Grand Staircase formations of Utah? Not even creationists question the ordering of the strata in the Grand Staircase. Triceratops reached 6-12 tonnes, and had the largest skull of any land animal. It was armored, quadrupedal, and herbaceous. Allosaurus was a bipedal predator that reached 1-2 tonnes. Which one do you think is likely to be faster? Which one do you think is found in late Jurassic sediments (155–150 Ma) and which is found very much higher, in late Cretaceous sediments (68–65 Ma)? —Awc 14:58, 5 April 2012 (UTC)

Secular geology (much more could be said, but this is enough to warrant posting).

  • Whether the problems faced by creationists or by evolutionists are greater is a question we can let the reader answer for himself.
  • The new content all deals with the issue of transitional forms, on which we already have an article. We should not duplicate that article here, but link to it, and only describe briefly how it relates to the subject at hand (fossils in general and the fossil succession in particular).
  • This section is about the secular geology interpretation of the fossil succession, so it should begin with what that interpretation is, and only after that go into the problems.
  • This section doesn't need repair as much as construction, a process in which I expect both Philip and I will take part in coming weeks.

—Awc 14:09, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Triassic sponge

I have been trying to fill out the info on Nucha? vancouverensis sp. nov. but am finding it difficult. The abstract of the original paper is here, but I haven't been able to find a full text copy. Oard describes the two species as "nearly identical" but "not exactly the same". (his emphasis) Oard does not clarify what the similarities and differences might be. The abstract doesn't say anything in this direction, except, of course, that the author chose to classify it as a new species but the same genus. Oard insinuates that they are actually the same species, but he doesn't say that directly, much less provide any specifics of why that should be. Our article (i.e. Philip) turns Oard's subtle suggestion into a fact, stating that they were classed as separate species "simply because they occur in different formations". I think that is going beyond than the sources that we have. The simple fact that we have so few sources might be an indication that this is not the best example to use. I propose at least changing the wording to make it more neutral and closer to the sources. —Awc 14:22, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

You shouldn't expect Oard to say that they are the same species, when you can't determine interfertility from fossils.
Oard's "subtle suggestion" was actually pretty blatant.

…a fossil can be assigned to a different species because it is found at a supposed different geologic time, obscuring the true range of the taxon within the geological time scale. In the case of Nucha, the difference between the Vancouver Island sponge and the Australian sponge was slight, but the former fossil was given a different species name …

Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 06:14, 31 March 2012 (UTC)
If not "species" and related terms, what language should be used to describe the degree of difference between fossil forms?
Whether subtle or blatant, Oard doesn't directly say that the new Nucha was "assigned to a different species because it is found at a supposed different geologic time", and even if he did, a professional meteorologist is simply not qualified to override the opinion of a professional paleontologist publishing in the peer reviewed literature.
Since you are presenting this as one of two major types of problems with the use of index fossils, surely there are other, possibly better, examples?
—Awc 10:55, 31 March 2012 (UTC)
…what language should be used to describe the degree of difference between fossil forms? I don't know. How would you describe the degree of difference between a Great Dane and a Chihuahua? Is such a thing possible?
It certainly is possible. If you're talking about the weight, there's nearly a factor of 100 difference. If you're talking about the genes, there's hardly any difference at all. My point is that paleontologists have devised some set of approximate rules for when to call two forms separate varieties of the same species, separate species but of the same genus, or different genera. It's a matter of convention, but there's no problem with that, is there? —Awc 19:54, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
Whether subtle or blatant, Oard doesn't directly say that the new Nucha was "assigned to a different species because it is found at a supposed different geologic time"... My point is that he does effectively say that. Perhaps not "directly", depending on precisely what you mean by that, but I'm not sure that's relevant.
…a professional meteorologist is simply not qualified to override the opinion of a professional paleontologist publishing in the peer reviewed literature. Not even if the palaeontologist is basing his views on a philosophy?
Even then I wouldn't trust the opinion of the weather man on this question. Of course, in this case, we have no evidence - other than what the meteorologist thinks - that the plaeontologist's philosophy played a role here. —Awc 19:54, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
...surely there are other, possibly better, examples? Perhaps, I'll keep my eyes open.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 15:58, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

intro to Interpretation

I have removed this chunk of text:

One thing to keep in mind is that the actual order of fossils is not as clear as it could be. Evolutionists frequently claim that fossil X is only found higher in the record than fossil Y, but in many cases this is an evolutionary interpretation of the evidence. In fact fossils X and Y may never appear in the same place, but may occur in different parts of the world, and the claimed sequence is based on evolutionary thinking. Dr. Ronald West of Kansas State University wrote:

Contrary to what most scientists write, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian theory of evolution because it is this theory (there are several) which we use to interpret the fossil record. By doing so, we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say the fossil record supports this theory.
(Ronald West, Paleontology and Uniformitarianism Compass 45:216, May 1968, quoted in Geological Timescale, Creation 3(1):32–33, December 1980.)

One specific problem is the dating: whether or not particular rock sequences are considered older or younger than others is often based on what fossils they contain.

The rocks do date the fossils, but the fossils date the rocks more accurately. 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, Pragmatism versus Materialism in Stratigraphy, American Journal of Science, Vol. 276, January 1976, p. 51, quoted by Morris, Henry, Circular Reasoning in Evolutionary Biology, Impact, 1 June 1977.)

To begin with, the facts about the "actual order of fossils" is covered in preceding sections. If this content is included, it should be integrated there and not rehashed at this point. In my opinion, however, it should not be brought back in at all. I have been making what I think is a good case that the order of the fossils is, at least to a large extent, based on objective principles. The two quotes accuse paleontologists of using circular reasoning, but they do not point to any specific instances. In fact, as common as the accusation is, I have never seen it specifically backed up. If we want to include these quotes then it should be made clear that, whether they are true or not, they have not been substantiated.

(I just noticed that I had overlooked some of your - Phillip's - responses to other posts of mine. If they speak to something I say here, I did not intentionally ignore it. I will look over and respond to your other comments in the next day or two. —Awc 17:18, 1 April 2012 (UTC))

I have been making what I think is a good case that the order of the fossils is, at least to a large extent, based on objective principles. I claim that I have strongly disputed.
The two quotes accuse paleontologists of using circular reasoning… No they don't. These are not accusations of palaeontologists, but admissions by palaeontologists (well, at least one is, and the other is at least by an evolutionist).
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 16:08, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

circular reasoning

I complained, The accusation has flown freely, but I have never seen a specific case cited where a paleontologist has employed circular reasoning concerning his dates. Phillip responded by citing two articles by Michael Oard:

—Awc 16:01, 2 April 2012 (UTC)

Is the K/T the post-Flood boundary?

The second of these concludes as follows:

In summary, the climatic aspect of a fossil plant is used as a major criterion by which to date the fossil and hence the rock formation in the Tertiary. But if the rock is already ‘well dated’ a ‘short cool period’ is introduced into the warm early Tertiary and a ‘short warm period’ is introduced into the cooler late Tertiary. Then they turn around and teach us that the Tertiary was a time of cooling.

This suggests two types of circular reasoning:

  • That rocks are designated early or late Tertiary on the basis of the the climatic aspect, and the climatic aspect of these same rocks is used to conclude that there was a cooling during the Tertiary. Both of these things are true, but there is no indication that they are true of the same set of rocks. Therefore no circular reasoning has been demonstrated.
  • That the change from a generally warm climate with cool exceptions to a generally cool climate with warm exceptions is in fact nothing but warm and cool oscillations around a constant temperature. This would be faulty reasoning, although not circular reasoning, but it depends quantitatively on the size of the exceptions. There is no indication given that the exceptions are large enough to invalidate the conclusion of a general cooling.

—Awc 16:01, 2 April 2012 (UTC)

End-Mesozoic extinction of dinosaurs partly based on circular reasoning

Oard's reasoning is not entirely clear here, but it seems he is claiming that the belief in the K-T extinction is based on dinosaur fossils' being found below the boundary but not above it, whereas whether some strata are considered to be Cretaceous or Tertiary depends on whether or not dinosaur fossils (in this case tracks) are found there. As in the previous example, this is only circular reasoning if the same identical fossils and strata are involved in both arguments. Oard gives no evidence that this is the case. —Awc 16:17, 2 April 2012 (UTC)

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