Why do we pay so much attention to fossils?
Some people may wonder why we pay so much attention to fossils. These artifacts, of course, are the traces preserved in rock, of organisms that lived some time in the past. Well why do we concern ourselves so much about organisms which are dead and gone? After all, human biology, the environment, the wonderful diversity of organisms alive today, and new products and machines are interesting enough and of current value besides.
While all the above issues are interesting and relevant, there are a number of reasons for our interest in fossils. Firstly, fossils reveal to us the former existence of communities of organisms many of which are quite unfamiliar to us. Nevertheless, most are members of groupings of organisms that we know today. Anyway these fossils provide hints concerning the richness and variety of the creation. Besides that, most people (especially children), are at least mildly interested in dinosaurs – creatures that we know about only from fossils. Some people are totally fascinated. It would be a pity to abandon these people so that only secular, evolutionary discussions of the topic are available to them. Thus we stock a number of books which deal with fossils, many of which are for children.
There is another reason as well for our interest in fossils. For many years and even today, some secular individuals have declared that fossils prove evolution true and disprove the Bible. A blatant example of wild statements about the significance of fossils, for example, comes from best-selling author Simon Winchester. His earlier book The Professor and the Madman, the story of the development of the English Oxford Dictionary, first brought this author to popular attention.
Then in a new book published in 2001, he related the story of William Smith, who used the occurrences of fossil beds in England to develop the idea of the geological column. Certainly Mr. Winchester is well suited to write on the topic. He studied geology in England, at Oxford University. However he seems to have grandiose ideas about the significance of his subject. In the prologue to his book on the geological column (entitled The Map that Changed the World), Mr. Winchester makes some pointed remarks: “It is a map that laid the foundations of a field of study that culminated in the work of Charles Darwin. It is a map … that allowed human beings to start at last to stagger out from the fogs of religious dogma, and to come to understand something certain about their own origins — … It is a map that had an importance, symbolic and real, for the development of one of the great fundamental fields of study — geology — which arguably like physics and mathematics, is a field of learning and endeavour that underpins all knowledge, all understanding” (p. xvi).
Evidently some people, based on the study of fossils, claim all religious faith has been rendered obsolete. Winchester, in his book, specifically mocks Christians who believe that the early chapters of Genesis are literally true. A review of this book in the National Post (August 18/01) complains about this author’s anti-religious bigotry, but nevertheless remarks that “… it should be a social duty to mock public figures who still believe the world is 6000 years old.” What other identifiable group, if any, is it O.K. to mock these days?
In the face of such attitudes, the victims of this ridicule obviously need good contrary information. As a matter of fact, the fossils fit the young earth model rather nicely. We think many people want to know that fact. Thus we sell many children’s books on fossils and some adult books such as Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe ($24.75) and Completing the Picture ($12.95).
Children’s books include D is for Dinosaur ($18.00 for grades K-1 or younger); Fossils, Hard Facts from the Earth and Fossils, Frogs, Fish and Friends (both $6.25 for upper elementary grades) and The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible ($22.99 for elementary grades) as well as Dinosaurs by Design ($18.50) and Dry Bones and other Fossils ($19.99) for grades 6-8.
Another book for junior high readers is The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved ($16.50) while Origin of Life: Evolution/Creation ($7.75) provides two model discussion of various issues including fossils. Finally there is an adult account about an expedition to collect unfossilized dinosaur bones. See The Great Alaskan Dinosaur Adventure ($15.00). Obviously there is lots of food for thought. Enjoy!
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