What do you do when you discover sixty-million-year-old fossils but believe in creationism? Edgar Nernberg, a board member of Big Valley’s Creation Science Museum in Canada, discovered five fish fossils while excavating a basement in Calgary. Paleontologists determined that the fish lived during the period right after the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, but as an outspoken creationist Nernberg has his own ideas about the fossils: “Of course, there’s two views that point as far as where the fossils come from, and one is the evolutionary one and the other one is the creationist one, and I believe the fossils demonstrate the creation catastrophe model much better than the evolutionary model,” he told the Calgary Herald.
Creationists believe that fossils are evidence of a biblical flood, “proving” that the Earth is only six-thousand years old. In creationist theory, evidence of isotopic dating (or the many other dating methods utilized by scientists) is tossed aside in favor of fossil sequencing theories, which consider buoyancy, niche, and response rate as leading factors in determining the depths at which organisms are buried.
Nernberg, an amateur fossil collector, quickly identified the sixty-million-year-old fossils and saved them from becoming rubble. “Something I noticed was quite extraordinary, I knew right away that this was different from the other fossils I have uncovered in my many years of excavating and collecting fossils,” said Nernberg in a University of Calgary statement. “When the five fish fossils presented themselves to me in the excavator bucket, the first thing I said was you’re coming home with me, the second thing was I better call a paleontologist.”
Darla Zelenitsky, a paleontologist working with the fossils at the University of Calgary, told the Calgary Sun, “Most people would have overlooked these. When these were uncovered, Edgar right away recognized them. He’s apparently interested in fossils, and that’s probably how he saw them. An ordinary person might have just seen blobs in the rock.”
The time just after the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, when the fossilized fish lived, is famed for the death of the dinosaurs. In a recent statement, Zelenitsky said, “Because complete fossils are relatively rare from this time period in Alberta, any such discoveries are significant as they shed light on the nature and diversity of animals that lived not long after the extinction of the dinosaurs.”
Needless to say, the scientific community is excited by the find. But even after aiding paleontologists, Nernberg stands firmly beside his creationist convictions: “No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it,” he told the Sun. He later said in a conversation with the Herald: “I’m hoping that [researchers at the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology, where the fossils are now located] put both stories of the origins of the fossils, the creation and evolution model, on the plaques.”
How does one reasonably reconcile an appreciation for science with a belief in creationism? Try as they might, creationist museums seeking to close the divide between religion’s superstitious beliefs and evolutionary science are likely not to succeed. Creation theory and science can’t coexist as peers, and even to consider creation theory within the same realm as science is inappropriate. We may never truly understand why Nernberg continues to hold on to his creationist beliefs in the face of scientific evidence, but we can thank him for not throwing the fossils away.