March 20, 2024 | Jerry Bergman

Living Fossils Cannot Be Old

The Living Fossil Myth:
are they really
66 million years old?

 

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

One area that is problematic for evolutionists is the so-called living fossils. Evolutionists define ‘living fossils’ as organisms (such as a horseshoe crab or a Ginkgo biloba tree) that have remained relatively unchanged after millions of years.[1] Depending how the term ‘living fossil’ is defined, thousands of other claimed examples exist. Some of the more well-known examples include the cockroach, coelacanth fish, duck-billed platypus, aardvark, nautilus, Komodo dragon, and even one type of shark, rabbit, frog, and rat.

In other words, the claim is they have remained essentially unchanged from very early geologic history and their close relatives are usually long-extinct.[2] The observation that many animals appear to have not evolved for enormous amounts of time has been noticed since Darwin’s time. In fact, Charles Darwin coined the term “living fossil” in 1859 to describe living species that still looked like their ancestors that lived many eons ago.[3]

‘Living Fossil’ Tree Frozen in Time for 66 Million Years?

A recent discovery claims that one living ‘living fossil’ tree has been frozen in time for 66 million years.[4] It is, as far as can be determined, identical to a tree living in what evolutionists claim was the Cretaceous period (which they date as 145 to 66 million years ago). They have barely changed in appearance since this time. The claim is that the ‘Living fossils’ were so well adapted to their environment that natural selection would not select for change. The first problem is that, during this 66 millions of years, the tree would be exposed to the same background ionizing radiation that all life is exposed to during its entire lifetime. For humans, about 100 to 200 new genetic mutations are added to each generation that are passed on to their offspring.[5] Much of this DNA damage is caused by background ionizing radiation.  The radiation exposure unit per hour is small, but after 66 million years, it would lead to genetic catastrophe and extinction, as documented in detail below.

The problem is it would not take anywhere close to 66 million years to accumulate a lethal level of mutations; that would happen in far less than one million years! According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), the average annual radiation dose per person in the U.S. is 6.2 millisieverts (620 millirem, or a thousandths of one rem. A rem, from roentgen equivalent in man, is the dosage of an ionizing radiation that will cause the same biological effect as one roentgen of X-ray). Most of the mutation damage in humans is repaired but not all of it. I am aware of these details because I was certified to work with radiation when I was on the staff in the department of Experimental Pathology at The Medical College of Ohio.

Background radiation originates from a variety of sources, both natural and artificial. Background radiation includes both cosmic radiation and environmental radioactivity from naturally occurring radioactive materials (such as radon and radium), as well as man-made medical X-rays, fallout from nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear accidents. The world radiation average is 2.4 Sv, but the actual level depends on where you live. See the chart below. The sievert (Sv) is a unit in the International System of Units which represents the stochastic health risk of ionizing radiation, defined as the probability of causing radiation-induced cancer and genetic damage.

Cancer is a result of gene mutations caused by radiation and carcinogens. X-rays and gamma rays are known human carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). As we get older, our cells are more likely to develop genetic mutations that cause cancer or other diseases. A million years claimed for living fossils guarantees a flood of mutations will occur, causing genetic meltdown and death.

The evidence that short-wavelength, high-frequency electromagnetic waves cause cancer comes from studies of atomic bomb survivors in Japan, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, people treated with high doses of radiation, and people exposed to high levels of radiation at work, such as uranium miners.  Even small doses of gamma and X-radiation can increase cancer risk, although the lower the exposure dose, the smaller the increase in risk. An example is, during a single flight in a commercial airliner flying from New York City to Los Angeles the exposure is only 2 millirems from natural background radiation. After 50 years it adds up. Nonetheless, no threshold exists below which radiation is totally safe.[6] Exposure to large amounts of x-radiation are dangerous; thus, x-ray technicians work behind lead shields when giving x-rays to patients.

Sanford’s book examines the impact of near-neutral mutations that are invisible to selection.

The Accumulation of Mutations Leads to Genetic Entropy [7]

John Sanford and colleagues have developed a quantitative genetic modeling program called Mendel’s Accountant. They have published several papers on Mendel’s Accountant and genetic entropy in peer-reviewed journals. Mendel’s Accountant tracks the mutation load as they accumulate in digital populations. Briefly, their conclusion is that

natural selection and the occasional beneficial mutation cannot stop the gradual decline caused by the accumulation of these slightly deleterious mutations. Individually, most mutations do no harm to the organism. But collectively, they can be catastrophic. They relentlessly accumulate in the genome over time because they are too weak to affect reproductive success. Since these deleterious mutations accumulate faster than they can be eliminated, the net result is genetic deterioration. When too many errors occur in a population, it enters a phase called ‘mutational meltdown’, which rapidly leads to extinction.[8]

In summary, Sanford has concluded from his research that the human genome is deteriorating as a result of genetic entropy. Therefore, life could not have evolved through a process of mutation and selection as specified by the modern evolutionary synthesis.[9] Furthermore, this shows that the 66-million-year-old claim for the age of the living fossil reviewed above is not possible.  Even the youngest dates of one million years are not possible. In 66 million years, exposure would result in death in the first thousand years.

Summary

The conclusion is inescapable. The reason a 66-million-year-old tree looks like a modern tree is because it is a modern tree. It could not be 66 million years old, nor even one million years old, nor even 10,000 years old.

Explanation of diagram: The number of deleterious and beneficial mutations accumulating in a model population over time, despite the winnowing effects of natural selection (after Baumgardner et al., 2008). The red line refers to deleterious mutations. The green line to favorable mutations. Since beneficial mutations are rare in standard mutation models (note the scale difference on the second y-axis), random frequency fluctuations are more likely to affect the average. Thus, the green line has more ‘wiggle’.
Figure and explanation from Carter, Robert. “A successful decade for Mendel’s Accountant.” Journal of Creation 33(2):51–56, August 2019.

References

[1] Merriam Webster Dictionary. “Living Fossil.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/living%20fossil, 2024.

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2024.

[3] Matthews, Cary. “Living fossils: 12 creatures that look the same now as they did millions of years ago;” Live Science, 2023.

[4] Pallardy, Richard.   “‘Living fossil’ tree frozen in time for 66 million years being planted in secret locations.” Live Science; https://www.livescience.com/planet-earth/plants/living-fossil-tree-frozen-in-time-for-66-million-years-being-planted-in-secret-locations, 28 February 2024.

[5] Dolgin, Elie. Human mutation rate revealed. Nature; https://doi.org/10.1038/news.2009.864, 27 August 2009.

[6] American Cancer Society. “Do X-rays and Gamma Rays Cause Cancer?” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/risk-prevention/radiation-exposure/x-rays-gamma-rays/do-xrays-and-gamma-rays-cause-cancer.html, 10 November 2022.

[7] Basener, William F., and John C. Sanford “The Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection with Mutations.” Journal of Mathematical Biology 76(7):1589-1622; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00285-017-1190-x, June 2018.

[8] Carter, Robert. “A successful decade for Mendel’s Accountant.” Journal of Creation 33(2):51–56, p. 51, August 2019.

[9] Sanford, J.C., J. Baumgardner, P. Gibson, W. Brewer, and W. ReMine. “Using computer simulation to understand mutation accumulation dynamics and genetic load.” In Shi et al. (eds.), ICCS 2007, Part II, LNCS 4488 (pp.386-392), Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg; http://www.iccs- meeting.org/iccs2007/proceedings.html.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,900 publications in 14 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,800 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 60 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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