A Hands-On Lesson in Rapid Fossil Formation
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *
Although it is commonly taught that fossils took “millions of years” to form, both experience and reason suggest otherwise. Students who participated in a recent school lesson on the subject might learn more from their own common sense and experience than from what their instructor told them.
The students from Terrace Elementary were guided by a naturalist from Polk County Conservation in Des Moines, Iowa, in a hands-on activity. The students made their own fossils by pressing various items into a mixture “of corn syrup, baking soda, and water.”1 After a few days of drying, the soft clay impressions became rock-hard souvenirs.2
In view of the short time span involved in making these “fossils,” it seems out of place that this demonstration was used to illustrate “that it took millions of years of pressure from the earth to create fossils,” according to The Des Moines Register.1
Corn syrup was obviously not a significant component of the earth materials that formed the vast beds of mudstones and sandstones across today’s continents. But the students’ learning exercise showed that with the right chemistry, fossil formation can take place rapidly. Interestingly, the carbonate anion in baking soda is very close to the major chemical component of limestone. Baking soda is “sodium bicarbonate,” and limestone is impure “calcium carbonate.”
Not only is the chemistry of earth’s sedimentary rocks consistent with the rapid formation of fossils, but many fossils could only have been preserved in that manner. How else to explain the fossilized impressions of soft-tissue animals like squid, jellyfish, sponge embryos, and fish brains?3 These would normally have rotted within weeks or days and never have left a trace. Similarly, fossil clams with both valves still articulated are relatively abundant in fossiliferous layers. But it only takes weeks or days in the wild for the shells of dead clams to separate. There is no hint of “millions of years” in the fossils themselves.
The naturalist guide told The Des Moines Register that fossils “tell us a story of our past.”1 If so, then the gargantuan graveyards of fossils that comprise the earth’s continents corroborate the biblical record of a recent, catastrophic, and worldwide flood. The rapidly deposited remains of animals and plants all point back to the accuracy and authority of God’s Word.4
- Jobst, N. Hand-made fossils – FAST. The Des Moines Register. Posted on desmoinesregister.com February 12, 2010, accessed February 16, 2010.
- Here is a similar and more complete fossil recipe: Mix together 1 cup of cornstarch (not corn syrup), 1¼ cups of water, and 2 cups of baking soda and stir for four minutes in a pot over medium heat. Transfer the dough to a plate to cool. Knead the dough and divide it appropriately among the students. Press an object into a flattened surface of the dough. Carefully remove it, leaving an imprint, and then set the dough aside for a few days to harden. Other recipes are here: Create a Fossil. National Park Service. Posted on nps.gov.
- Thomas, B. What Does It Take to Fossilize a Brain? ICR News. Posted on icr.org March 11, 2009, accessed February 26, 2010.
- Snelling, A. A. 2009. Genesis: Real, Reliable, Historical. Acts & Facts. 38 (9): 12-14.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on March 2, 2010.