Mistaken Identity Embarrasses Evolutionists
Anyone can make a mistake identifying a fossil, but
Darwinism sometimes leads scientists to see what they want to see
An old Peanuts cartoon by Charles Schulz pictured Lucy explaining to Charlie Brown that an object on the sidewalk was a butterfly—not just an ordinary butterfly, but a big, exotic one. “Look at the size of that butterfly!” Lucy exclaimed. “It must be one of those tropical butterflies from Brazil.” Charlie Brown takes a closer look, and says, “That’s no butterfly; that’s a potato chip.” Dumbfounded by this revelation, Lucy remarks, “Wow; you’re right, Charlie Brown. I wonder how a potato chip got all the way here from Brazil?”
Paleontologists occasionally misidentify fossils. A recent mistake was big: from one end of the Geologic Column to the other. Not only that, it forced the rewriting of geological history for a continent. Even so, the correction was not powerful enough to make the scientists rethink their preconceived ideas entirely.
Mistaken fossil rewrites history of Indian subcontinent for second time (University of Florida, 1 Feb 2023). Like Charlie Brown, a certain paleontologist pointed out a case of mistaken identity: that’s no Precambrian fossil, it’s a modern one from an entirely different phylum! The press release has a good laugh. Reporter Eric Hamilton writes that in 2020, during the pandemic lockdowns,
a group of geologists who were already on site decided to make the most of their time and visited the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, a series of caves with ancient cave art near Bhopal, India. There, they spotted the fossil of Dickinsonia¸ a flat, elongated and primitive animal from before complex animals evolved. It marked the first-ever discovery of Dickinsonia in India.
The animal lived 550 million years ago, and the find seemed to settle once and for all the surprisingly controversial age of the rocks making up much of the Indian subcontinent.
This butterfly-from-Brazil-like fossil “attracted the attention of The New York Times, The Weather Channel and the scientific journal Nature as well as many Indian newspapers,” Hamilton adds. Wow; what an amazing example of evolution! The press joined right in.
Only, it turns out, the “fossil” was a case of mistaken identity. The true culprit? Bees.
Yes, bees. Beehive patterns can sometimes resemble Dickinsonia, a characteristic Ediacaran colonial organism with quasi-parallel stripes down a midline. Dickinsonia is typically found below the “Cambrian Explosion” strata, where all the major animal phyla appear with unDarwinian suddenness.
As a type fossil of the Precambrian, the misidentification temporarily made the entire Indian subcontinent much older than previously thought. Gregory Retallack, former paleontologist at the University of Oregon, led a team that published the find in Gondwana Research in February 2021. Retallack had previously bucked the consensus about Dickinsonia, claiming they were terrestrial lichens, not marine organisms; this “maverick” view is most likely false, claims paleontologist Günter Bechly (Evolution News). But it wasn’t an animal, either, Bechly wrote earlier (Evolution News).
The Whoops Moment
A closer look at the beehive shape confirmed that it was a like Charlie Brown’s potato chip, not Lucy’s tropical butterfly. Whoops! It wasn’t even part of the rock. It was an impression in a waxy material on the cave floor. It was probably made in recent times when an old beehive fell from the cave ceiling. “The remaining paleogeographic conclusions of that paper are also negated by this new discovery,” says Joseph C. Meert of the University of Florida, lead author of a correction for the May 2023 issue of Gondwana Research.
Honorably, Retallack admitted the error, and concurs with Meert’s correction.
This kind of self-correction is a bedrock principle of the scientific method. But the reality is that admitting errors is hard for scientists to do, and it doesn’t happen often.
“It is rare but essential for scientists to confess mistakes when new evidence is discovered,” Retallack said in an email.
Part of the Story Survives
But was the potato chip from Brazil? Evolutionary paleontologists, wedded to the geologic column, cannot give up their precious millions of years. The beehive impression is modern, yes, but the cave is still a billion years old.
None of the papers question the old age of Dickinsonia. They continue placing it into an evolutionary sequence 550 million Darwin Years ago. Even Meert doesn’t give up the butterfly-from-Brazil narrative:
Correcting the fossil record puts the age of the rocks back into contention. Because the rock formation doesn’t have any fossils from a known time period, dating it can be difficult.
Meert says the evidence continues to point to the rocks being closer to one billion years old. His team has used the radioactive decay of tiny crystals called zircons to date the rocks to that time period. And the magnetic signature of the rocks, which captures information about the Earth’s magnetic field when the rocks formed, closely matches the signatures of formations confidently dated to a billion years ago.
Other scientists have reported findings supporting a younger age. The time period is essential to understand because of its implications for the evolution of life in the area and how the Indian subcontinent formed.
But are zircon dates reliable? See our previous reports on zircon dating:
- How Rocks Can Look Older Than They Are (8 April 2015)
- “Fundamental Assumption” in Zircon Dating Called into Question (15 Feb 2016)
- Detrital Zircons Can Give False Geological Ages (21 Nov 2018)
Additionally, magnetic signatures can be misleading. The measured decay rate of the earth’s magnetic field, if extrapolated back in time, cannot allow for ages more than a few tens of thousands of years. There must be other explanations for the matching signatures in assumed billion-year-old rocks.
The evolutionary scientists remain confident in their revised story: ‘modern beehive impression found in billion-year-old cave.’
Another Epic Mistake
The world’s oldest fossils or oily gunk? New research suggests these 3.5 billion-year-old rocks don’t contain signs of life (The Conversation, 1 Feb 2023). Scientists at the University of Western Australia believe they have debunked a claim made by Dr William Schopf, famed microfossil hunter, that certain patterns in 3.5-billion-year-old rock gave evidence of microbial life. No; Rasmussen and Muhling claim that abiotic processes between hot water and rock could have made the patterns.
Some features in the so-called “Apex chert” have been identified as the fossilised remains of microbes much like the bacteria that still survive today. However, scientists have debated the true origin of these features ever since they were discovered 30 years ago.
In new research published in Science Advances, we show the carbon-rich compounds also found in the chert may have been produced by non-biological processes. This suggests the supposed “fossils” are not remnants of early lifeforms but rather artefacts of chemical and geological processes.
In spite of the lack of evidence for early life in the rocks, however, these scientists maintain their belief that the abiotic processes could have contributed to a naturalistic origin of life, with heavy reliance on the word perhaps—
Looking further back in time, the black cherts offer a glimpse of a lifeless planet. Reactions between water and rock at seafloor vents produced a cocktail of organic compounds, perhaps supplying the raw materials for the assembly of the first living cells.
Dr James Tour, a structural chemist at Rice University with tenure, has been taking on the anti-scientific nonsense that chemistry alone could produce a living cell. Listen to his passion on ID the Future (1 Feb 2023), where in an interview with Eric Metaxis for his show Socrates in the City, Dr Tour gets hearty applause from the audience for his courage to challenge the evolutionary establishment who are misleading the public about the origin of life. On his YouTube channel, (now in its second season), Dr Tour has been debating his critics and challenging scientists to come clean about the errors in their claims. Since pro-evolution journals refuse to publish his criticisms (and few people read journals anyway), Tour has found that social media is the best way to get the word out. It appears to be working; his videos have gotten hundreds of thousands of views.
The press release about Dickinsonia repeats a common claim that science is “self-correcting.” Science doesn’t correct itself; people do. Science is not some neutral, extra-mental entity that cares about truth. Only intelligent beings can and should do that. Nor is science distinguished from any other human endeavor in that regard: historians, politicians, teachers, preachers, artists, sea captains, reporters and corporate heads need to learn the humble art of admitting to mistakes and correcting them.
On this matter of self-correction, Hamilton notes that “the reality is that admitting errors is hard for scientists to do, and it doesn’t happen often.” This means that “science” (presumably the corpus of published claims made by fallible people about the natural world) is riddled with errors. As we reported earlier, retractions are often not seen by everyone; reporters and scientists continue to cite retracted papers, unaware of the correction (6 Jan 2021). Let the consumer beware.
Jerry Bergman’s book (right) describes some of the blunders and hoaxes that evolutionists have made. Many, like the Piltdown Hoax, were believed by the scientific community for decades. Others may not have been fraudulent but involved mistaken identity like this one, motivated by strong desires to find evidence for Darwinian evolution. This eye-opening book can help inoculate readers against overconfidence in the ability of evolutionists to get their facts right.
See also Dr Carl Werner’s presentation, “Living Fossils” (see review at CMI) in which he describes his collection of numerous examples of fossil creatures identical to living ones. He shows how evolutionists often classify fossil organisms found with dinosaurs into entirely different genus and species names for no good reason other than to give the impression of change over time. Museum curators, furthermore, display the fossil and living creatures in different wings of the building, so that the public isn’t able to compare them side by side. Gimmicks like this allow Darwinians to fool the public about the evidence.
As usual, this report is on target, and fits well with my recent contention that evolution is in “death throes.” There is so much deception in the majority of the evolution community (or consensus) that it can hardly be trusted with any individual’s current worldview, much less the essential matter of one’s eternal destiny. Do not let the presumed majority opinion on evolution cause you to be found lacking at the final accounting, reject anti-supernaturalism, and embrace the grace of an awesome and forgiving God. The fact is that this anomaly in the (initially presumed) geological column is common, because maintaining and protecting the required long ages, the myth of spontaneous development of life, and the like, is not just suspect, it is impossible (appeal only to the exact science of statistics). For a very small view of the spectacular complexity of what goes on in a living cell, simply search “production of ATP in a living cell,” then watch the video presentation. This process, which produces essential energy from only a glucose molecule (manufactured or ingested, each one comes from all the various kinds of food we eat), occurs up to one hundred million times PER SECOND in every cell of a living body. Multiply this times thirty trillion cells in a human adult, and you get a small slice of reality regarding the functionality of blind evolution. Great article!