Austin Robbins

Austin Robbins, DDS, recently retired from private practice in New Jersey. He was previously on the faculties of Georgetown University School of Dentistry, Temple University Dental School, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Robbins is a member of the Board of Directors of the Associates for Biblical Research.

Fossils have been discovered on every continent, in almost every country, in great profusion world-wide. It is safe to say that no significant area of the earth’s surface is without fossils. Man treads, everywhere he walks, on the graves of creatures formerly alive.

Over the centuries man has expended great effort to preserve the bodies of his deceased loved ones. The mummies of Egypt’s Pharaohs provide graphic testimony of man’s ancient effort to thwart the ravages of physical decomposition after death. Without such effort no, or few, remains would be left, especially after a millennium or two.

How is it then that the bodies of many creatures, man included, have been fossilized, preserved indefinitely by natural forces? Vast myriads of fossil fish, millions of other creatures, plants as well as animals, have been preserved in rocks. Fossils are far from rare. The Lompoc formation in California contains innumerable fossilized fish. There are sand hills in Nebraska containing more dinosaur bones than sand. Most of the world’s ivory supply came, not from the tusks of living elephants, but from those of mammoths which died in Siberia. Fossils are everywhere, in vast quantities.

How to Make a Fossil

The requirements for fossil formation are not too complex. It is not enough that the mere death of a creature could form it into a fossil. Many fish, for instance, have died almost at the same instant, due to a change in salinity or oxygen content of the water. Bodies of hundreds, if not thousands, of fish have been seen floating on the surface of creeks. Yet these did not become fossils. Crabs and gulls consumed most of them. What was left the minnows ate. And the remainder decomposed. This is the normal course of events. It is a far cry from the formation of beds of fossil fish.

Two basic requirements must be met to produce fossils. First, the rapid death of many creatures. Second,

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equally rapid preservation of their bodies, more or less intact. In many instances — the dinosaurs for example — death occurred, but burial was somewhat delayed. Burial came only after the flesh decomposed, leaving only the bones. In other cases, immediately upon the death of the creature it was frozen. The mammoths, elephants and rhinoceroses of Siberia were frozen so rapidly that in some cases the flesh, when thawed, was edible! Grasses and flowers upon which the animals were feeding were found undigested in their stomachs. Buttercups, still yellow, were found in the mouth of at least one mammoth. Red blood cells of these animals, still preserved, were examined and the cause of death determined to be suffocation, either by poisonous gases or by water. In every case, creatures which were fossilized met a sudden, catastrophic death and were preserved by burial, freezing or other equally catastrophic means. The rapidity of death is attested to not only by the food in the mammoths’ mouths and stomachs but also by the fact that frequently shellfish died with their valves (shells) closed! Normally, when a clam, mussel or oyster dies, its shell opens. Yet many such creatures have been fossilized with their shells closed.

What could have caused these deaths? That the cause was catastrophic is becoming more and more evident. Sediments the world over display layering which could only be caused by moving water. Slow, gradual accumulation of silt and debris on the ocean floor is inadequate to explain the formation of fossils. Fossils are not now being formed. Even those paleontologists who favor a slow, gradual evolution are being forced to recognize the role of catastrophe in fossil formation. The editor of Nature magazine wrote in 1984 that

…it is proper to acknowledge that the intellectual climate has changed in favour of catastrophism… (Maddox 1984: 685).


Some of the evidence which supports catastrophes includes:

1. Fossil graveyards. Vast beds of fossils have been, and are being found — this without evidence of decomposition and/or consummation of the remains (Krumbien and Sloss 1983: 261).

2. Polystrate fossils. Large fossils, sometimes animals, often plants, usually trees, are found passing through several layers of sediments, often 20 or more feet in thickness. These must have been formed quickly, otherwise they would not have been preserved intact.

3. Ephemeral markings. Ripple marks of waves on a shore, rain drop prints in mud, worm, bird and reptile tracks in soft deposits would be as quickly erased as our own footprints in sands close to the ocean. Only rapid burial of these ephemeral marks could insure their preservation. Yet such marks are frequently found in every part of the geologic column.

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4. Preservation of soft parts. Numerous instances of actual soft parts of organisms have been preserved, as well as whole creatures such as jellyfish. These are frequently found in “ancient” strata, and often include many individuals massed together.

5. Phenomena of stratification. Most of the earth’s surface is covered by sediments laid down by moving water. Sediments are the result of brief, intense periods of run off, not slow uniform settling in a tranquil sea.

Studies have shown that river deltas form rapidly. Individual layers of delta deposition require only minutes, with a whole delta produced in a matter of days. Cross bedding of conglomerates, including various gravels, sands, muds and even boulders, indicate rapidly changing current directions. The red beds of Arizona, Utah and Colorado are especially indicative of this phenomenon. A thorough study of these beds yielded the conclusion that:

a. these sediments were derived from sources far distant, not local;

b. they were carried by vast amounts of water in agitated movement, not by an ordinary river; and

c. they were deposited one after another in rapid succession. (Little or no erosion is in evidence between them.)

6. Alluvial valleys. Practically all modern rivers once carried far greater volumes of water than they now carry. This is true of large river systems (the Delaware and Mississippi) and smaller rivers as well (Maurice and Cohansey). Evidence for this is the presence of old river terraces high on valley walls. Sands and gravels underlie river beds to great depths, in some cases over 600 ft thick.

7. Incised meanders. For a stream to meander (such as is seen in most, if not all, littoral streams such as Dividing Creek, lower Cohansey, lower Maurice River, Cedar Creek, etc.) it must flow past soft, erosible banks with but a mild drop. Steep stream gradients and hard resistant banks will cause it to cut its bed, resulting in a deep canyon-like formation. But, remarkably intricate meanders are present in some deep canyons in high plateau and mountainous country. The most spectacular of these is the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Clearly some great catastrophe alone could account for this phenomenon. Horizontal sedimentary beds, while still soft and erosible, were lifted gradually, thus permitting meanders to be incised during a run-off of water of a volume comparable to some seas. This is the only reasonable explanation for these incised meanders.

Only one great catastrophe is necessary to account for the formation of the fossils. The principle of Occam’s Razor would make it easy to view the great deluge of Noah’s time as just the catastrophe needed. Yet the bias of evolutionists will not permit them to reduce the number of catastrophes in such a striking manner. (Occam’s Razor, incidentally, warns against the unnecessary multiplication

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Fossilized fish.

of hypotheses in explaining an event.)

To summarize: Fossils were formed rapidly and preserved in various ways, usually by burial in sediments. These sediments were deposited, with their fossils, in layers. The water which carried the bodies, soon to become fossils, was moving, usually rapidly, and as it slowed it dropped the silt, mud, sand, gravel and sometimes boulders it carried along with them.

The sorting action of moving water is well known. Streamlined structures drop out before rougher textured structures. Bodies with higher specific gravity (heavier for their size) fall before lighter ones. This applies to the sand, silt, etc., as well as to the bodies of dead creatures.

Animals and plants do not all live together. They inhabit ecologic zones. Fish and prairie dogs rarely meet. Creatures living below sea level would naturally be found fossilized in lower layers than those living higher up in altitude. Those living well above sea level would tend to be found in the upper levels of sediments. The mobility of the animals themselves, as well as their method of locomotion, would influence where they most often would be found in the rocks. More mobile, active creatures would tend to escape for a time before being overwhelmed by a flood. Birds, flying insects, etc., having bodies of low specific gravity, would sink more slowly than worms and beetles. Clams, mussels and the like would be expected to be found in the lowest deposits.

These factors — hydraulic, ecologic and physiologic — would tend to sort the bodies of creatures caught in a flood. Since this sorting is not absolute, however, there would be frequent exceptions. To the evolutionist,

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exceptions are particularly embarrassing. This is because the so-called “higher” creatures would not yet have appeared on the earth when the “lower” creatures were being fossilized. Exceptions to the general rule abound, however.

The Great Fossilizer

The great flood of Noah’s day is described not only in the Bible but found in ancient traditions all around the world. Most of these traditions include clearly distorted accounts of a single event. By comparison, the Biblical record seems sober, even restrained, in its description. Yet that description reveals that the flood was more than adequate to produce just such phenomena as the above.

Far from the popular opinion of “40 days and 40 nights” of rain, the Biblical account tells of a year-long universal deluge. It was of sufficient depth to “cover all the high mountains under heaven” by more than 20 ft. The language used indicates that rain descended in continual cloudbursts of tremendous volume. More than that, the “fountains of the deep were opened.” This indicates much more than water welling up from underground. Unprecedented volcanic activity would be included, spewing sulfurous and other toxic products into the newly-formed seas. The account goes on to say that in the closing stages of the flood great winds swept across the water-covered earth. This would produce raging tidal wave-like action against the emerging land masses. As continents rose, sea beds sank. Runoff of tremendous proportions would have occurred. It is just such a scenario that would produce the beds of fossils so in evidence today. It fits the requirements necessary to have produced such geologic features as the Grand Canyon and the vast extended sedimentary layers known as the red beds of Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Such a flood would easily account for the fossilization of tremendous volumes of vegetation which produced coal, as well as the formation of oil-bearing strata from the remains of marine creatures. Though often ridiculed by evolutionists, the great worldwide flood described in the Bible is more than adequate to account for and explain most of the geologic features of the earth. It accords well with observed data and can be a graphic object lesson for all mankind.

Indeed, the writers of both the Old and New Testaments characterize the flood as being of utmost significance to all of us. It was an example of both God’s antipathy to man’s sin and His graciousness to all who repent of their rebellion against Him. It is also an illustration of His plan for man’s salvation. Every time we see a rainbow, we should be reminded both of God’s stern punishment for sin and of His amazing grace offered to the sinner.

Yet most of humanity has forgotten this lesson. And God says that men deliberately forgot it.

In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’

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he promised? Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forgot that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water. By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Pt 3:3–7 NIV)

God does not want any to perish but everyone to come to repentance. What a warning and what a hope the fossils and the rainbow carry for those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to perceive!


Krumbien, W.C. and Sloss, L.L.

1983 Stratigraphy and Sedimentation. San Francisco: W.W. Freeman.

Maddox, John.

1984 Extinctions by Catastrophe. Nature V:308.