Some popular beliefs are so strongly, if subconsciously, held that they need to be refuted over and over. One is the notion that fossils form when a creature is slowly buried by the ‘sands of time.’ Somehow, most people see fossilization as the long-term result of an average death.
This is why, for instance, people often assume that if there were kangaroos in the Middle East (we know from the history in the Bible that there were, even if only for a short time), then we should find their fossils there. Or at least in places between Mt Ararat and their current Australian home.
The answer is that fossilization is a rare, special event in today’s world. In the normal course of events, animals that die do not form fossils. Millions of kangaroos are killed on Australia’s roads each year, but they are decidedly not in the first stages of fossil formation. They decompose.
This elephant carcass provides a dramatic illustration. [Refer to Creation24(4):56 for more photos.] The inset above shows it one day after death, the inset photo above right was taken 7–8 days later.1 Biological processes (mostly insect activity) have so ravaged its structure that it is clear that, shortly, all that will be left will be a few scattered bones.
These will also most likely succumb to the forces of erosion and destruction, unless they are buried by a local flood in sediment which then soon hardens to prevent further decay through oxygen and bacterial action.
Of course, not all decomposition is as spectacularly rapid as this example. But even allowing several more months for the process, the point is that under normal conditions today, virtually any specimen will decompose rather than fossilize.
So, when someone finds a relatively intact dinosaur skeleton, for instance, consider that it had to be buried quickly to form in the first place. Consider also that most such fossils are found in huge graveyards, often within layers of rock (such as the Dakota Sandstone in the USA) that cover hundreds of thousands of square km. Then ask yourself whether we see things like that happening on the Earth today.
The Bible’s account of a massive global hydraulic cataclysm is a much more logical explanation for the existence of ‘billions of dead things, laid down by water, all over the Earth.’
NERC News, Natural Environment Research Council, p. 4, Spring 2002. Return to text.
NERC News, Natural Environment Research Council, p. 4, Spring 2002.
When we went on holidays to different ocean shores, I enjoyed snorkeling and this most of the day. I have never seen a dead fish lying on the ground awaiting to be buried, preferable slowly. If from fishing some cut offs were thrown in the water, they were gone the next day and for sure not have disappeared under sediments.
Roy K., United Kingdom, 18 January 2017
Millions of road deaths of kangaroos in Australia each year is questionable. Thousands, tens of thouthands maybe but not millions.
Warren Nunn responds
Actually, if you've ever driven on Australian roads, you could understand that millions is not an exaggeration. I have driven to and from Perth across the Nullarbor Plain and I would have seen hundreds of (perhaps up to a 1000) dead 'roos. That is over a period of three days. So, to be ultra conservative, if there were 200 dead 'roos in that one stretch of road in one month, that's 2400 yearly on one road alone. Multiple that by the thousands of roads across our vast continent and I think you will see an pattern emerging here. Not that there are the same number of 'roos on each road in each location around Australia, but the numbers are staggering. There are an estimated 50-60 million 'roos in Australia, so they are not dying out.
Graeme M., Australia, 18 January 2017
I share the view you have put forward as I grew up on a farm and of course animal death was a common occurrence and I never saw any of these fossilize, but saw rapid decay as well as scavenger interference and eventually just a few scattered bones. Amazingly I do also recall at school, teachers lecturing on the fact that the presence of air leads to deterioration, and then go on to tout the fossilization story of slow and gradual burial!
Obviously they weren't aware that it was a contradictory, or else chose to ignore it!
F. G., United States, 18 January 2017
"most people see fossilization as the long-term result of an average death."
Some 35 years ago in a library I opened up a secular, evolutionist book about fossilization, and found that it plainly admitted that scientists really didn't know how fossils could form from normal animal deaths in modern times.
So why are most people unaware that this is the case? It seems that any clear, basic fact that counters the evolutionary narrative is somehow kept from taking hold in the public consciousness.
Christian R., United States, 18 January 2017
Just about every skeptic in the world needs to read this article!
graham P., New Zealand, 18 January 2017
Great article. I lived in Brasil in the 1990's, on a farm and one day a cow died. It was left in the field and within 24 hours it was just polished bones. The vultures and insects had completely obliterated it. It was a chilling occurrence.