Re: Geology, Fossils and Genesis

Dick Fischer (
Fri, 07 Jun 1996 11:16:27 -0500

Glenn wrote:

>Dick wrote:
>>I don't think the order of creation is very far off the fossil record. And
>>there is a danger in setting up our interpretation of the fossil record,
>>which is a theory after all, as a yardstick with which to judge the
>>Genesis narrative.
>Sorry Dick, but this is absolutely wrong and shows that you have NOT
>studied the fossil record very much and do not understand the most
>elementary levels of geology. Alternatively it is possible that you have
>not read the Bible.

Glenn, you'd be a lot more fun to talk to if you didn't mix in this element
of ridicule. Perhaps I'm just sensitive, but please try to watch that.

>Genesis 1:11 the third day has God creating plants on dry land first.
>This is not the first form of life found in the fossil record. The
>earliest forms of life come from the Precambrian and are marine algae.
>These are from the Isua group in Greenland and date somewhere around 3.4
>billion years old. The first land plants come from the Silurian approx.
>430 million years ago. This is way out of order.(~William Shear, "The
>Early Development of Terrestrial Ecosystems", Nature, 351, May 23, 1991,
>p. 285.)

Okay, let's look at Genesis and see how far off the biblical account really is.

Genesis 1:9: "And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered
unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so."

About 3.5 billion years ago, massive dome-like blocks of granite buoyed up from
within the earth's mantle. These huge granite obtrusions could have reached
initial heights of over twenty-five miles high. They also formed massive
or cratons, underpinning our continental land masses today.

Tremendous amounts of heat and pressure combined to bring about a separation
between the relatively lighter granite land masses and the denser basalt sea
basins where the waters gathered. About 2.5 billion years ago, the great
vertical uplift came to an end, and the subtle lateral movement of plate
tectonics took over to carry out the work of shaping the face of our planet.

The earth has been cooling off gradually, venting steam and magma through the
earth's crust in a driving motion, giving the continents a virtual shove around
the globe. The fossilized remains of dinosaurs and coal seams in Alaska and
Antarctica testify to their once warm-weather environs. Relief maps of the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Europe and the Americas show the unmistakable stress
of millions of years of internal pressure with resultant sea floor spreading.

Genesis 1:10: "And God called the dry land Earth ..."

Please note: God uses the word, "Earth," to denote "the dry land." To avoid
the confusion caused by present-day translations, in nearly every instance
for the
duration of the Genesis 1-11 account, wherever the word "earth" appears we
apply God's definition, and say instead, "the dry land."

As Glenn correctly pointed out, bacteria and blue-green algae got their start
over 3 billion years ago. The importance of algae early in the earth's history
cannot be overemphasized. Through the process of photosynthesis, they give off
oxygen, a necessary atmospheric ingredient for the more complicated life
forms to follow.

The fossil record indicates that marine life, including both plant and animal
life, preceded any land-based life forms. Initially, living organisms were
microscopic until about 700 million years ago. Organisms of only a few
centimeters in size then began to appear, including jellyfish, worms, and now
extinct tribrachidium. According to Prehistoric Atlas:

The presence of fossil remains of marine animals characterises only
those rocks dating back to the start of the Paleozoic Era. This proves
that animal and plant life were then confined to the seas and oceans,
but that all the groups of invertebrate animals alive today were
already represented.

Trilobites, brachiopods, sponges, and creatures of wondrous description
the Cambrian explosion about 570 million years ago. Some biologists attribute
this radical change in life forms to what might be called an "arms race."
Creatures developed defensive mechanisms such as a tough shell, or were gobbled
up. Fossilized shells can be found in profusion today, which mark the
of the Cambrian period with an exclamation point.

Strange looking colonial creatures called graptolites were prevalent, and are
part of the Stomacordata group which stands midway between invertebrates and
vertebrates. The first hint at vertebrates appeared in the Ordovician period
500 million years ago such as a kind of fish without jawbones called
Agnatha, forerunners to present-day lampreys.

Glenn is absolutely right. Life on land dates to the Upper Silurian period 435
million years ago. Plants emerged from the seas, and began to colonize river
banks and basins where some degree of nutritious soil was available. The
first primitive fish with jawbones (Acanthodii) dates to this period.
Animal life to
first venture on land included earthworms, gastropods, myriapods, and
which included primitive scorpions and the precursors to insects that would be
needed for pollination.

Genesis 1:11: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding
seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in
upon the earth: and it was so."

Note that Genesis records land-based plant life on the third day before marine
life on the fifth day. What's going on here? Didn't marine life precede
life on
land? The fossil record suggests it did, but consistently the Bible record and
the fossil record use different start points.

Life on land, according to nature's evidence, began about 400 million years
ferns, club mosses, and horsetails appeared which reproduced through spores not
seeds, and were confined to moist wetlands. The first plants with seeds
date to
the Devonian period about 395 million years ago. By 355 million years ago,
100 feet high or more dominated much of the earth's lowlands.

Conifers such as Callixylon began to appear, that were ancestral to pine and
trees of today. The first blooming flowers began to color the landscape in the
Early Cretaceous some 120 million years ago, and the earliest traces of grass
date to the Upper Paleocene about 62 million years ago.

Here critics can point to seeming discrepancies. From the evidence available,
life in the ocean dates to even before the Cambrian period of 570 million years
ago, and preceded life on land. The Bible demonstrates consistency, though;
ancient precursors to modern men are excluded from the biblical record, and so
are ancient aquatic precursors to modern plant and animal life.

Just as primitive sea creatures preceded modern fish, likewise, sea vegetation
begat land vegetation, and all date initially to the same period, the
Not that it is particularly significant, but the fossil record does indicate
primitive land plants appeared before primitive fish. So it makes no
whether we consider primitive life or more modern life forms. The Genesis
account accords either way.

"Armored fish" called placoderms date to the Devonian period as does
a forerunner to rhipidistians, and then crossopterygians, and, perhaps, also
to amphibians. The characteristics of both fish and amphibian were combined
in one creature called Ichthyostega also dating to the Devonian.

The latimeria and ceratodus could be called modern fish, but they appear 195
million years ago in the Jurassic period. Over 100 million years stand between
seed bearing land plants and what could be called modern fish.

But what about "grass" on the third day of creation? Grasses did not emerge
until after the dinosaurs became extinct. How can 62 million year old grass
predate the dinosaurs, for example, who came into existence over 200 million
years ago?

Massive dinosaurs leave huge bones, which make wonderful fossils. The
Cambrian explosion left a permanent record of hard-shelled marine creatures
that is
impossible to ignore. Any soft-shelled predecessors left scarcely a trace.
The same could be said for any land-based vegetation that might have been.

Sparse fossil evidence gives us no way of knowing exactly what plant life first
began to grow on dry land. Try to find last year's grass clippings on your
lawn today. More to the point, the Hebrew word, deshe' translated "grass," can
mean simply "vegetation." We can verify that the earth has had land-based
vegetation for over 400 million years.

Modern fruit trees certainly were not in existence before fishes. That
seems to
be true, but these verses say nothing about "modern" fruit trees. In English,
fruit trees bear edible fruit; apples, pears, cherries, and so forth. The
term includes seed-bearing trees, and shade trees that do not bear edible fruit.

Apple trees, for example, do not date to the Upper Silurian, but the "fruit"
of any plant is its yield. Conifers were among the first land-based
and calling them "fruit trees" is consistent with the Hebrew.

>Genesis 1 has the Sun and Moon created after the land plants by a strict
>ordering of the events reported. This means that there was no sun for
>that precambrian photosynthetic algae! Since the Bible would apparently be
>saying that the Sun and Moon were created somewhere after 430 million
>years ago.

That's a good question. Again, let's look at Genesis.

Genesis 1:14,16,17: "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the
heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for
seasons, and for days, and years ... And God made two great lights; the
light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: He made the
also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the
earth ..."

Some Bible scholars have put a strain on these passages, maintaining that
the sun,
moon, and stars were created on the fourth day. This is unwarranted. The
emphasis in this verse is on the purpose for the heavenly bodies not their
into existence.

If we take "the heaven" from Genesis 1:1 to include the visible universe, or
cosmos, then it would incorporate the sun, moon, and stars. Even if we just
the heavens to mean "sky," it would be strangely black without sunlight,
and starlight. The Expositor's Bible Commentary reasons:

So the starting point of an understanding of vv.14-18 is the view
that the whole of the universe, including the sun, moon, and stars,
was created "in the beginning" (v.1) and thus not on the fourth day.

In the creation account, the Hebrew word bara' means create, and always
from God. That can imply an ex nihilo creation, a literal out of nothing
(Gen. 1:1), or the use of elements brought into existence previously as with
primitive sea life (Gen. 1:21), also a man and his woman (Gen. 1:27). The word
"made" used in Genesis 1:14-19, is the Hebrew 'asah, a more general term,
and may
mean "appoint" or "accomplish" in this verse.

This distinction can be seen in Psalm 8:5: "For Thou hast made Him a little
than the angels, and crowned Him with glory and honor." Christ was not created
inferior to the angelic hosts. He was given a lowly position or status
while in
human form for the purpose of His earthly ministry, and thereby, was made
than the angels" until the resurrection.

The Septuagint avoids confusion: "God indeed made the two great luminaries, the
greater luminary for the regulations of the day, and the lesser luminary, with
the stars, for the regulations of the night ..."

Thus, on the first day God created the sun, moon, and stars in addition to the
earth, and on the fourth day, God appointed the sun to govern the day and
commissioned the moon and stars to rule the night.

Had the sun not been created until the fourth day, we would be left to wonder
what caused the demarcation between the "day" and "night" named on the first day
(Gen. 1:5). Furthermore, from what we know about the physics of orbital
it would be impossible for the earth and its sister planets to circle a blank
spot in space awaiting the sun's creation.

A possible reason Genesis lists land plants before the luminaries began to
is either because there were no eyes to see light, or something such as liquid
water or dense clouds prevented the heavenly lights from being seen. Dense
clouds surrounding the primitive warm earth might not have cleared enough to
the sun, moon, and stars to shine through, and so they could not be used for
telling time.

Is it possible that cloud cover could have lasted four billion years, until
land plants appeared? Maybe not, but clouds are only a water vapor barrier
which inhibit terrestrial creatures from making celestial observations. No
land animals existed until the fifth day of creation.

Sea creatures also cannot make celestial observations due to a water barrier in
liquid form. So for whichever reason, the presence of an obscuring barrier,
or the
lack of observers, the sun, moon, and stars beginning to function as
timekeepers on
the fourth day of creation in no way contradicts the flow of events
projected by naturalists.

>Scripture then has fish and birds and whales (great sea creatures) created
>after the land plants but before what are land mammals. The problem is
>that sharks first appear in the Ordovician circa 470 million years ago.
>Sharks are fish and this is before the plants appear. (~Ivan J.
>Sansom, M.M. Smith and M. P. Smith, "Scales of Thelodont and
>shark-like fishes from the Ordovician of Colorado," Nature, 379,
>Feb. 15, 1996.) Whales are not found in the rocks until the Eocene period
>circa 54 million years ago (in spite of the fact that the Bible says that
>they were created with the fish sometime after the plants at 430 million
>years ago.) see (~Philip D. Gingerich, B. Holly Smith,
>and Elwyn L. Simons, "Hindlimbs of Eocene Basilosaurus: Evidence
>of feet in Whales," Science, 249, July, 13, 1990, p. 156.)
>Birds do not appear at the same time the fish do. Birds appear in the
>Jurassic Circa 170 million years ago and there are some possible bird
>tracks from the Triassic circa 230 million years ago. According to the
>Bible birds should appear with the fish 400-500 million years ago.
> The observed order is NOT, I repeat, NOT theory as you seem to contend.
>The rock layers clearly define a sequence of events even if you through
>out all radioactive dating methods and believe that the earth is 6000
>years old. The sequence of events does not even come close to matching
>the Biblical order.

This is a strange comment coming from someone who has gone out of his way
to try and hold to the creation of Adam with some semblance of the biblical
account preserved. Why aren't you consistent and declare that the evolution
of man from apes "does not even come close to matching the Biblical order"?

Well, let's take another look at Genesis.

Genesis 1:20,21: "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the
moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the
open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living
creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their
kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

It appears that birds are out of order here. And in English they are, but
not necessarily in the Hebrew. Paleontologists agree unanimously that
reptiles preceded birds. Archaeopteryx, a feathered reptile-like creature
that lived 150 million years ago, is considered a likely transitional step.
Furthermore, whales are mammals, and necessarily follow both reptiles and
birds, and should not be included with primitive sea life at all.

These are good arguments, and would seem to be valid arguments, except that
Genesis was written in Hebrew, and ancient definitions differ from modern
faunal classifications. A closer look at the text reveals that the order
presented here should not be troublesome at all.

First of all, sharks and armored fish date to the Devonian period. When God
said, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath
life," these would make able representatives.

Next, the Hebrew word 'op that has been translated "fowl," is a "flying
creature," the same basic word for "insect" which probably would have been a
better translation. Flying insects date to 300 million years ago in the
Carboniferous period, and were useful for pollinating some of the vegetation
springing forth at about that time. Also, why would "fowls" be mentioned three
times in three consecutive passages (Gen.1:20-22)? If birds had been intended
in all three instances it would be a curious redundancy.

Some Bible translators shun the word "whales," opting for "sea monsters," for
example. This makes sense. It is doubtful that Moses ever set eyes on a whale
in the Red Sea, and therefore unlikely he would have used a name for an animal
he had not seen.

The English translation of the Septuagint is less confusing. "Then God said,
'Let the waters produce moving creatures having life; and winged creatures
above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.' And it was so. God
indeed made
the great sea monsters and every species of moving animals which the waters
produced according to their kinds, and every winged flying creature
according to

"Large sea creatures" satisfies the Hebrew, and one candidate is the
which could grow to over 30 feet in length, and had strong jawbones equipped
broad cutting plates making it a formidable predator. Primitive amphibians
to appear in the Devonian giving way to reptiles in the Upper Carboniferous.

Reptiles were the first vertebrates to leave the aquatic environment for laying
eggs and developing embryos, and opening the way for vertebrates to colonize
the subareal habitat.

The advance of reptiles onto dry land was a big step. An amniotic egg with
significantly different membranes was required than what was necessary for
amphibians, which laid their eggs in water. Amphibians also lacked a
skin, and became dehydrated on land. Equipped with a horny or scaly epidermis,
along with a sturdier set of legs, the first reptiles such as the Cotylosaurs
ventured forth on land.

Now, let us see how these passages read when we make accommodations for the
Hebrew after applying what we know about nature.

Genesis 1:20-21: "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the
moving creature that hath life [fish], and fowl [flying insects] that may fly
above the earth in the open firmament of heaven [sky]. And God created great
whales [large sea creatures], and every living creature that moveth, which the
waters brought forth abundantly after their kind [amphibians and reptiles], and
every winged fowl [birds] after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

Genesis 1:24: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature
his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind:
it was so."

On the sixth creation day, God lets the earth bring forth creatures
according to
their own kind, "cattle," "creeping things," and "beasts of the earth." We
think of these groups as domestic animals such as livestock, wild
herbivores, and
wild carnivores. "Creeping things," browsers and grazers are preyed upon by
eating "beasts of the earth."

Some consider "creeping things" to be reptilian, and there are some reasons for
that - none good enough, though, to rearrange the fossil record. Psalm
148:10 categorizes "beasts," "cattle," "creeping things," and "flying fowl;"
so reptiles
might fit, but in Hosea 2:18, the divisions are: "beasts of the field,"
"fowls of heaven," and "creeping things of the ground," thereby placing all
animals in the "creeping thing" group.

Genesis 1:26 puts all undomesticated land animals into the creeping category
man is given dominion over "fish," "fowl," "cattle," and "every creeping
In Leviticus 11:21-22, a "flying creeping thing" refers to insects, and names
"locusts," "grasshoppers," and "beetles" as examples.

The "weasel," "mouse," and "tortoise" are creeping things in Leviticus 11:29,
lumping together rodents and reptiles. In Genesis 8:19, we encounter "every
beast," "every creeping thing," "every fowl," and "whatsoever creepeth upon the
earth," implying two separate categories of creepers.

The Bible did not give us a neat, precisely definable term here. With
reptiles preceding birds on the fifth day in Genesis 1:21, there is no need
for reptiles
on the sixth day in Genesis 1:24. Were the "kinds," referred to in these
verses, specially created with no transitional steps in between? Not
likely, but
transitional life forms do no violence to the literal meanings of these verses.

>This is what bothers me most about what we Christians teach. We seem
>satisfied to take the most simplest approach to the data and not dig very
>deep in order to get a more realistic answer. And then we teach this
>"stuff" to our children who go to college and find out that we are very
>wrong and they then question whether the Bible is worth studying or not.
>Please, lets get our facts correct.
Glenn, your additional data inputs would be most welcome.

Dick Fischer
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