Science and Religion

Their abrupt appearance, fossil sequence, and condensed fossil beds provide support for the Flood model.

John Woodmorappe is a graduate student in geology and a contributor to the Creation Research Society Quarterly.


The mention of fossils often brings to mind images of dinosaurs and their awe some features. Most fossils, however, were produced by unspectacular marine animals. One such group, the cephalopods,* left spiral shell fossils. A particular aspect of the fossilization of some members of this group can be interpreted as evidence that all cephalopod varieties were contemporaneous and were buried together in the Flood described in Genesis 6 through 8.

There are two basic schools of thought concerning fossils—uniformitarianism and diluvialism. Uniformitarianism holds that fossils formed from animals living and dying over millions of years. According to this view, the cephalopods and other marine animals became fossils after they died on ancient sea bottoms and became encased in sediment that took millions of years to accumulate and change to rock. Uniformitarianism further believes that during this time evolutionary processes were producing different varieties of cephalopods and eliminating others. The net result is the claim that water-laid rock can be sub divided into time zones by the appear ance and disappearance of fossils that are distinctive of different layers of rock.

Diluvialism, by contrast, proposes scientific theories based on the concept of a worldwide flood, and compatible with a literal interpretation of the first ten chapters of Genesis. Diluvialism in corporates creationism—the belief that all basic forms of life were created directly by God. According to this view, most fossils are a consequence of the Flood or of deposition shortly afterward. Differences between the cephalopod fossils found in various layers of rock indicate for the diluvialist the tendency of organisms to be sorted during the Flood—not evidence for evolution and extinction over long periods of time.

Cephalopod's abrupt appearance

Creationists have long noted that the fossil record does not support the evolution model, even if long time periods are allowed. Study of the fossil record has disclosed systematic gaps in nearly every major step of the alleged evolutionary process. The cephalopods, which are invertebrates, seem to show these fallacies of the evolution model even more clearly than do the vertebrates on which creationist research has concentrated.

The cephalopods appear abruptly in the fossil record, without any evidence to support claims for an evolutionary origin. Even cephalopod fossils from the lowest geological level at which they are found are fully developed. Although cephalopods are presumed to have worm-type ancestry, no fossil of an intermediate structure has been found.

The presumed earliest cephalopods are supposed to have evolved to some two dozen subsequent cephalopod groups. But no cephalopod fossils exist with features intermediate between the presumed earliest and later types. The supposed later types appear abruptly in the worldwide fossil record. Evolutionists have developed many contradictory opinions in their attempts to explain which types are ancestral to other types.

Some biologists (especially in Russia) believe the stages of development during the life of a single organism are a repetition of the long evolutionary history of the animal. Cephalopods have been considered to be good examples of this "re capitulation hypothesis," on the basis that the oldest chambers of the conch will have features like those of the earliest cephalopods, and the most recent chambers will resemble the latest types.

Most paleontologists abandoned the recapitulation hypothesis, especially as it relates to cephalopods. It has been established that most cephalopod conches do not show any trend in chamber features that is similar to their supposed ancestral development. The extreme lengths to which some scientists have gone in attempts to retain the recapitulation hypothesis of cephalopod evolution have led to chaos and absurdity.

Evolutionists have long claimed that similarity among living forms is evidence of evolutionary development from common ancestors. Creationists have countered that such similarities are evidence of common-design considerations, not common ancestry. The fundamental similarity between a passenger automobile and a truck, for example, is evidence that human engineers adapted a basic design for different purposes.

The evolutionist's argument as regards similarity can not only be countered but actually turned back against him. A significant feature of cephalopod fossils is the remarkable resemblance between groups that are considered not to be directly related through evolutionary development. Obviously, one should not expect to find a close resemblance be tween forms that are not closely related evolutionarily. Put another way, the same basic fossil type should not be expected to evolve twice. But many examples exist that require such an explanation on evolutionary grounds.

Evolutionists endeavor to explain this problem by supposing that different evolutionary paths may lead to the same result in order to meet the same environmental conditions, or to achieve the most feasible geometrical design. But even some evolutionist scientists insist that such explanations do not adequately account for the precise similarities that must be dealt with.

It seems more reasonable to the creationist to interpret the evidence as indicating the use of the same basic engineering principles in the design of different types of animals. This view point sees God as the designer of an eye for man, a vertebrate, and also of a similar eye for the octopus, a cephalopod.

Cephalopod fossil sequence

For those who accept God as the Creator of all life it is important to find out why the Flood buried certain animals in discrete layers of rock. One should first be aware that the degree of order in which fossil types appear in rock layers is exaggerated as a result of the way in which fossils are named. Both living and fossil organisms are divided into genera and species, and the assignment of fossils to these categories is a highly subjective task. One investigator may designate seventy-five species in a collection that another investigator has divided into one hundred species.

Even more significant is the fact that the way fossil species and genera are often designated gives them the appearance of being located only in narrow layers of rock. For example, if one climbs a cliff, he might first encounter fossil A, then somewhat higher the overlying fossil B, then C, then D, and finally fossil E. There may be no location at which fossil types A through E are mixed. In reality there may be only two fossil genera represented in the cliff, and they may be partially mixed. Giving names A through E to fossil species and genera may artificially create a seemingly ordered cliff section.

Although some of the fossil order found in rocks is artificial, some is real. Many cephalopod fossil sequences show an upwardly increasing conch size. This is commonly interpreted as an evolution toward greater conch size going upward through the rock and forward in time. An equally plausible diluvial interpretation proposes that both small and large cephalopods were living together, with the smaller buried first because of lower mobility and possibly greater density.

Conches found in higher layers of rock commonly belong to cephalopod types that probably were better swimmers than those whose conches are located lower. Evolutionist theory sees this trend as a demonstration of evolution toward more efficient swimming capability. By contrast, diluvialists interpret the same evidence to indicate that the poor swimmers were quickly entombed in sediment, while the best swimmers were buried later.

Major trends of fossil groups in rocks can also be understood in terms of the ecological positions of the cephalopods and the sequence in which ecologically separated groups were buried during the Flood. The cephalopods that are buried the deepest (and therefore considered to be the earliest and most primitive by evolutionists and uniformitarians) tended to be poor swimmers, sea-bottom dwellers, and shallow-water inhabitants. Cephalopod fossils buried in higher layers of rock (considered to be more recent) are known to have had characteristics opposite those of the "primitive" types.

According to a Noachian deluge model, the cephalopods living close to shore would be quickly buried as the oceans invaded the land and picked up large quantities of sediment. As sediment reached deep water farther from the original shore, cephalopods that were bottom dwellers would be buried before the better swimmers that normally lived closer to the surface.

Condensed fossil beds

One of the strongest evidences for a catastrophic Flood burial rather than the slow burial envisioned by uniformitarians is provided by "condensed fossil beds." According to the usual uniformitarian modeling, sedimentary rock layers that formed over several million years may be expected to be at least several tens of feet thick. In condensed beds, fossils presumed to be separated by several million years of time are found only a few inches apart or even mixed together!

The uniformitarian interpretation for this strange (from a uniformitarian viewpoint) state of affairs contends that cephalopod fossils form and are buried in a shallow layer of sediment, and subsequently get mixed with fossils formed later. However, it seems incredible that the fragile cephalopod conches would not be ground to dust in a process that would intermix them with conches formed millions of years later. Further more, if the conches were not preserved by deep burial they would be disintegrated by both plant and animal marine organisms.

It is unrealistic to presume that over many millions of years conditions on a sea bottom permitted the accumulation and preservation of cephalopod conches with very little sediment accumulation. Although the deeper regions of the present ocean accumulate relatively little sediment, there is good geologic evidence that the condensed fossil beds formed in relatively shallow water subject to strong currents. It is difficult to understand how condensed beds containing great quantities of cephalopod fossil materials, including many conches in a state of excellent preservation, could have formed under such circumstances. The evidence strongly indicates an exceedingly rapid process of formation.

Many other evidences point to a rapid formation of condensed fossil beds and indicate that the widely accepted geologic time scale is based on unsound premises. For example, one author has described a dramatic increase in an algae population (called algal bloom) that fossilized in a condensed bed presumably formed over several million years. An obvious explanation that he did not consider is the formation of a condensed bed within a few days.

Once it is realized that condensed beds formed rapidly, much of the millions of years ascribed to rock formation can be thrown out completely. When many condensed beds are found that overlap in fossil content and condense millions of years of alleged time, geologic periods of supposed tens of millions of years can be eliminated, and the rocks involved regarded instead as having been formed during the Flood.

Scientific theories can be formed that are consistent with a straightforward and literal acceptance of the Bible; such theories can explain observations as well as or better than the currently accepted theories that conflict with Scripture.


* The reader who wishes a technical and documented discussion of cephalopod fossils and their significance for diluvialism should consult the author's paper in Creation Research Society Quarterly, vol. 15, No. 2 (1978), pp. 94-112.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
John Woodmorappe is a graduate student in geology and a contributor to the Creation Research Society Quarterly.

December 1979

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Down the road to a Christian republic

Roland Hegstad takes a look at the Christian Voice, a new evangelical-political movement, and raises questions about its possible place in the scenario described in Revelation 13 and 17.

Prophetic Insight and the Pope's Visit

Comparisons between the Spirit of Prophecy and recent news statements, compiled by A. Leroy Moore.

The sound of certainty

Kenneth H. Wood calls Adventist ministers to be twentieth-century Elijahs, proclaiming our message with authority and calling the world to a decision for truth.

How the E.G. White Books were Written—4

This statement, describing the process used in writing The Ministry of Healing, is the major part of a letter written by W. C. White on May 22, 1934, to a former member of Ellen White's staff. ——EDITORS.

"Arise go over this Jordan"

Only as we immerse ourselves in God's Word, will we find the help we need to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Just wait a minute!

Coke does it. Dial does it. Avis does it. You can do it too!

From the Editor

Business as Usual? An open letter from the editor of MINISTRY to the president of the General Conference.

Health and Religion

Obesity in Children. How does it begin and what can parents do about it?

Biblical Archeology

Recently uncovered bullae from Jeremiah's time result in an archeological first.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - SermonView - Medium Rect (300x250)

Recent issues

See All