I stumbled upon this post on Twitter today: Could a Tyrannosaurus have swallowed an adult human whole?. I’m not sure which idea I prefer, to be honest: being swallowed whole or being torn into manageable chunks like a mouse to a snapping turtle. There’s a temptation to think that the former represents an improved chance of survival but you’re still being fed between banana-size teeth powered by the strongest bite force on record and, let’s face it, if he’s broken the social faux pas of eating you – he’s unlikely to hold back when it comes to breaking your ribs, pelvis or skull.
One thing it got me thinking about though: where is the young earth creationist’s explanation for why we don’t find faecal remains of humans in the fossil record? Creationists give us a lot of stick for supposedly being unable to produce a single example of a missing link between species. I say ‘supposedly’: when we show them a perfect gradation between one living species and another, it tends to be dismissed as a small enough change to be accounted for by ‘micro-evolution’ and therefore not sufficient to demonstrate ‘macro-evolution’. The need to quantify what can and cannot be accounted for by micro-evolution deserves its own lengthy post*.
If ring species are not sufficient evidence and neither are sister taxa from the fossil record exhibiting some features held by one species, some features of another, plus its own unique morphological traits, what exactly is it they’re looking for? Finding an unbroken sequence of morphological transformations in the fossil record from one major taxon to another, spanning features that ‘could not be accounted for by micro-evolution’, is about as unlikely as it gets, given the odds of any given individual dying in the ideal conditions for fossilisation (river bend, permafrost, sand slide, etc). Now subtract all the specimens that weathered out of the ground before humans came along, and all the specimens that won’t be exposed until after we’re gone. Remove the ones that weathered in places we weren’t (bottom of the sea, middle of the desert, inner face of a mountain range…). Remove some more that weathered in front of people who didn’t recognise them, or worse: weathered away because people recognised the value of the raw ore around them more. We lose a few more to well intentioned but unskilled collectors, and some to human folly (U-boats, and other monsters). It’s a wonder we find any fossils at all.
“How convenient”, the creationist might claim, “to use the paucity of the fossil record when it suits you, to defend your lack of supporting evidence”. This brings us back to my initial thought while reading the whimsical article about Tyrannosaurus’ swallowing capacity: the absence of human remains in coprolites.
Depending on the flavour of young earth creationism, fossils are either put here to test/tempt us, or are the remains of animals created in the beginning that didn’t survive the flood. Let us assume the latter (since anyone who takes the former opinion expects the fossil record to corroborate our version of events anyway). With that in mind, take that small window of time – miniscule compared to the billion years normally allowed for the entire history of life to unfold – and consider how much more frequent an occurrence fossilisation must be for the young earth position. Furthermore the density of predators would be much greater: North America alone would be teaming with allosaurs, ceratosaurs, tyrannosaurs such as Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, and the dromaeosaurs Deinonychus, Dromaeosaurus, and Utahraptor. There would be big cats like the American lion, the cave lion, the American cheetah, the sabre-toothed Smilodon and Homotherium. Representing the bears would be the two giants: short-faced and polar, as well as a number of smaller species. The dogs would feature the Dhole and the Dire wolf, alongside a dog-like imposter Chasmaporthetes – a hyaena. Add a couple of species of bear-sized rodent as well as all the living American predators (bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes…) and pre-flood America would have been a very scary place indeed for a skinny little human. So where are the Mesozoic coprolites featuring partially digested people? Why in all that jumble of historical evidence do we never find anything to indicate that pre-flood species dined on us?
Young earth world is rammed full of herbivores too – perhaps their bounty was so… bountiful that they never needed to go for the humans? So why do we never find the remains of any extant animal in the belly of a fossil? Why are there no Trilobites in our Whales and no rabbits in our Crurotarsans? Why, when there are supposedly juvenile mammoths running around, do Tyrannosaurs continue to pick off the juvenile Hadrosaurs?
Why, with the weight of the geological evidence all around us, do some of us still continue to hide behind the fossil record’s scarcity, when their position does not allow for a scarce record at all?
* certain vocal young-earth creationists (Kent Hovind among them) have said on occasion that they see no problem with a horse and a zebra being the products of ‘micro-evolution’. The horse and the zebra are genetically more different than chimpanzees and humans. I’ll give you a minute to think about the implications of that one.