What is a Fossil? (1/2)
In the broadest definition, a fossil is the remains of a living thing that lived long ago and that has survived down to the present day by being preserved under natural conditions. The fossils that come down to us are parts of an organism, or remains left behind when the living thing concerned was still alive (the latter are known as trace fossils.) They are formed when dead animals or plants are preserved before they completely decay and eventually become part of the earth's sedimentary rock. In order for fossilization to take place, the animal or plant concerned must be buried in a fairly rapid manner—generally by being covered in a layer of silt. This is generally followed by a chemical process, during which preservation is ensured by means of mineral changes that take place in the original tissues.
Fossils are the most important evidence of the details of prehistoric life. From various regions of the world, hundreds of millions of fossils have been obtained, and they provide a window into the history and structure of life on Earth. Millions of fossils indicate that species appeared suddenly, fully-formed and with their complex structures, and have undergone no changes in the millions of years since. This is significant proof that life was brought into existence out of nothing—in other words that it was created. Not a single fossil suggests that living things formed gradually, in other words that they evolved. The fossil specimens that evolutionists maintain as "intermediate fossils" are few in number, and the invalidity of these has been scientifically proven. At the same time, some of the specimens depicted as intermediate fossils have actually been revealed as fakes, demonstrating that Darwinists are in such a state of despair as to resort to fraud.
For the last 150 years or so, fossils from excavations carried out all over the world prove that fish have always been fish, insects have always been insects, birds have always been birds and reptiles have always been reptiles. Not one single fossil has pointed to any transition between living species—in other words, from fish to amphibian or from reptile to bird. In short, the fossil record has definitively demolished the theory of evolution's basic claim, that species descended from one another by undergoing changes over long periods of time.
In addition to the information that fossils provide concerning life forms, they also supply significant data regarding the history of the planet, such as how the movements of continental plates have altered the surface of the Earth and what kind of climatic changes took place in past eras.
Fossils have attracted the interest of researchers ever since the days of ancient Greece, although their study as a distinct branch of science began only in the middle of the 17th century. This followed the works of the researcher Robert Hooke (author of Micrographia, 1665, and Discourse of Earthquakes, 1668) and Niels Stensen (better known as Nicolai Steno). At the time when Hooke and Steno carried out their investigations, most thinkers did not believe that fossils were actually the remains of living things that had existed in the past. At the heart of the debate over whether fossils were the actual remains of living things lay the inability to explain where fossils were discovered, in terms of geological data. Fossils were frequently found in mountainous regions, although at the time, it was impossible to account for how a fish, for example, could have been fossilized in a stratum of rock so high above sea level. Just as Leonardo da Vinci had previously suggested, Steno maintained that sea levels must have declined over the course of history. Hooke, on the other hand, said that mountains have been formed as the result of warming inside the Earth and earthquakes in the oceanic plates.
Following the accounts of Hooke and Steno, who explained that fossils were actually the remains of living things that had once lived in the past, geology developed during the 18th and 19th centuries, and systematic fossil collecting and research began turning into a branch of science. The principles that Steno had laid out were followed in the classification and interpretation of fossils. From the 18th century on, the development of mining and increased railway construction permitted greater, more detailed investigation of what lay below the ground surface.
Modern geology revealed that the Earth's crust consisted of enormous sections known as "plates," which moved across the surface of the globe, carrying the continents and forming the oceans. The greater the movement of the plates, the more changes in the Earth's geography. Mountain ranges were the result of the collisions between very large plates. Changes and upthrusts in the Earth's geography that took place over very long periods of time also showed that strata that today form portions of mountains were once under water.
In this way, fossils seen in rock strata emerged as one major means of obtaining information about the different periods of the Earth's history. Geological information showed that the remains of living things preserved after death in sediments—fossils, in other words—rose up in rock strata laid down over enormously long periods of time. Some of the rocks in which fossils were found dated back hundreds of millions of years.
During these studies, it was observed that specific fossil species were found only in specific strata and certain types of rock. Consecutive rock strata were observed to contain their own fossil groups, which could be regarded as that particular layer's "signature." These "signature fossils" could vary, according to time, period, and area. For example, two different environmental conditions and kinds of sediments—an ancient lake bed and a coral reef, for example—might be encountered in the same fossil-bearing stratum belonging to the same geologic period. Alternatively, one might encounter the same fossil "signature" in two different rock beds many kilometers apart from one another. Through the information imparted by these remains, scientists determined the geological time frame that we still use today.