Fossils Say Nothing About Time Before Death

The fossil record has nothing to say about what happened on earth before the first creatures died. As a record of death, fossils only appear after organisms began to die; what may have happened prior to death of living things must be determined from sources outside of the fossil record. To invoke the facts revealed by the fossil record to refute possible facts prior to the creation of the first fossils is to appeal to a source with no knowledge of the situation.

Because the fossil record necessarily begins when organisms die, if there was a time when living things did not die, we have to look for a different source of information to support the fact. What sort of evidence would we expect to find if things had never died?

Before death, there would be no indication of the lack of death except the presence of life – no artifacts could confirm that people and animals had remained alive, only that they had been alive. Moreover, until the first creature died, there would be no knowledge of death. People would not contemplate the fact that they had not died; because no one had died, there was no experience of death and no comprehension of death. The fact of continued life was not noteworthy; it would be the normative experience of all people, therefore entirely expected. While objects or records of human events might indicate that any particular individual was involved in human affairs throughout many years or even generations, those indicators would not address the universal lack of experience of death, nor would we expect some comment about that specific lack of experience in the written records of men any more than we would find records of breathing, or sleeping, or any other normal daily condition of existence.

The only possible evidence that could testify of period of time in which creatures lived continuously without death, would be a written account of the end of that condition. Only upon the introduction of death into human experience would humanity have the knowledge, the point of reference to consider the possibility of death, and make note that at one time, creatures did not die. The written record would become a testimony to the time before death began to occur as contrasted to the introduction of the new situation of death coming into the world.

We have that record in the Bible; God told Adam that he would ‘surely die’ if he disobeyed the prohibition against eating from one tree in the garden. Until such time, Adam had access to the ‘tree of life’, and as God made clear when He by the assignment of an angelic guard over the way to that tree after Adam’s sin, access to the tree meant man would ‘live forever’. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us that death entered the world as a consequence of Adam’s sin; prior to Adam’s sin, there was no death.[1] We would not expect the early history to include the observation that men hadn’t died, until the time they began to, and that is what we do find: a short account of the period of time when Adam and Eve lived free of sin, and the account of the introduction of death into world history through Adam’s sin.

Those who argue that because the fossil evidence speaks of generations of disease, suffering, and death, there was no time when death did not occur, are committing a non sequitur fallacy. The conclusion does not follow the reason provided, because by the very nature of the evidence itself, the fossil record as a record of death, cannot speak about the time before death began. It can only confirm that death did indeed come upon living things, and has continued to the present time unchanged. We must go beyond the fossil record to ascertain the situation prior to the first incidence of death, but we can conclude with certainty that until the first creature died, death did not exist.

[1] Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.