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Many fossils are out of place (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Many fossils are out of place (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC340:

There are over 200 published instances of anomalously occurring fossils, or fossils that show up in strata of ages much different ages than expected.


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Few if any of the "anomalous" fossils are truly anomalous. It is fairly common for fossils to erode out of an old formation and be redeposited in a younger formation. (It is usually easy to recognize such reworked fossils by the extra wear they show.) Pollen, spores, and other very small fossils can also be blown or washed into tiny cracks to appear in older formations. The few anomalies that remain might be explained by genuine range extensions (see below), misidentification of the fossil, or uncertain attribution of where the fossil came from.

  1. Actually, it can be shown that the main criteria for labeling a fossil as "reworked" is nothing more than the fossil being found in strata dated as younger than it should be. Extra wear on such fossils helps justify the label, but it is not the main criteria. Not only can so-called reworked fossils have less wear than indigenous fossils, but it is unlikely that fossils with a lot of wear found in the correct strata would be considered reworked.
  2. Likewise, the main criteria for labeling a fossil as "washed down" is nothing more than the fossil being found in strata dated as older than it should be.
  3. Range extensions are legitimate, but there are definite limits to how much range extension evolutionists can accept.
  4. While misidentification of fossils can occur, it is not likely to occur when the fossil is fairly complete, but it makes a nice excuse. It also works both ways.
  5. While uncertainty about where the fossil came from does occur, it's also the easiest to prevent. Furthermore, the uncertainty works both ways.

The simple fact is that this entire list adds up to making the alleged fossil order totally untestable since any anomalous fossil can simply be explained away by any of these methods. That is not to mean that they are totally illegitimate, but they remove from the fossil record a main tenet of science: falsifiability.

2. For most species, the fossil record is quite spotty. The earliest known fossil of a species is likely to be quite a bit later than the earliest appearance of the species; likewise, the latest known fossil is earlier than the species' extinction. There are plenty of opportunities for the discovery of new fossils to extend the known range of a species. It is inappropriate to refer to such new discoveries as anomalies.

While this is legitimate, there are definite limits to how much of this evolutionists can accept. For example a human fossil in Cambrian rock would never be accepted as a range extension. Similarly, when creationists claim that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, evolutionists are quick to reject this, rather than accept this as a range extension.

Furthermore, here is a quote from Woodmorappe:

I have shown in my diluviological treatise that biostratigraphic conflicts are usually resolved in a younger direction. For instance, if a uniquely-Cambrian and uniquely-Carboniferous fossil is found to coexist, it is much more likely that the Cambrian fossil will have its range extended upwards into Carboniferous, or the Cambrian fossil will be labelled 'reworked' into Carboniferous, than the opposite (that is, having the Carboniferous fossil's range extended downwards into Cambrian, or labelling the Carboniferous fossil 'downwashed' into Cambrian).[1]

3. Even 200 anomalies is an insignificant amount compared with the estimated 250 million fossils that have been catalogued and the much larger number that have been discovered.

This one is pathetic. Not only does the list itself contain more than 200 fossils, but Woodmorappe makes it clear that the list does not contain all documented anomalous fossils. It is clear that this list only represents a small fraction of the total number. Second, to compare over 200 fossils known to be anomalous with every other fossil, including uncatalogued ones, as though all these other are known to be not anomalous, is ridiculous.