Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oldest Animal Fossils Found in Lakes

There is an interesting article on a recent find in South China.

Charles Choi writes:

Conventional wisdom has it that the first animals evolved in the ocean.

Now researchers studying ancient rock samples in South China have found that the first animal fossils are preserved in ancient lake deposits, not in marine sediments as commonly assumed.

These new findings not only raise questions as to where the earliest animals were living, but what factors drove animals to evolve in the first place.

For some 3 billion years, single-celled life forms such as bacteria dominated the planet. Then, roughly 600 million years ago, the first multi-cellular animals appeared on the scene, diversifying rapidly.

The oldest known animal fossils in the world are preserved in South China's Doushantuo Formation. These fossil beds have no adult specimens - instead, many of the fossils appear to be microscopic embryos.

"Our first unusual finding in this region was the abundance of a clay mineral called smectite," said researcher Tom Bristow, now at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "In rocks of this age, smectite is normally transformed into other types of clay. The smectite in these South China rocks, however, underwent no such transformation and have a special chemistry that, for the smectite to form, requires specific conditions in the water - conditions commonly found in salty, alkaline lakes.

"The researchers collected hundreds of rock samples from several locations in South China. All their analyses suggest these rocks were not marine sediments.

"Moreover, we found smectite in only some locations in South China, and not uniformly as one would expect for marine deposits," Bristow said. "Taken together, several lines of evidence indicated to us that these early animals lived in a lake environment."

Read the entire article HERE.

I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of the creation science movement. In my opinion they tend to insist that the Bible says more about scientific matters than it truly does. For instance I am satisfied that the biblical record does not insist upon a relatively young earth. But some of my brothers in the creation science movement read the biblical genealogies in a wooden literal sense. By this standard they reason that the Bible teaches that the earth must be approximately ten thousand years old. This presupposes that the biblical genealogies are not abridged or abbreviated which in fact was a common practice.

There is also the matter of the creation account itself. Does the biblical language insist on a single week of seven 24 hour "days"? Some insist that it does. I do not believe the Bible insists on such a time frame. That said, I do not think we should be dogmatic on the issue. We certainly should not divide over the issue. I believe God created man uniquely. I do not believe mankind evolved from lower life forms (although there are godly, Bible believing people who do). Also, I believe Adam and Eve were historical figures and the garden a real place and the fall as described in Genesis a real event.

The reason I linked to the article on the discovery of ancient fossils in a lake environment is that it underscores the need for humility in the discipline of scientific research. The discoveries in South China depart from the conventional wisdom regarding evolution. Scientific paradigms seem to be in a state of frequent flux. What is "settled science" one day may have to be completely rethought the next. I offer this as a word of caution against whatever tendency we may have to subordinate the Bible to the changing paradigms in paleontology.

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