Originally published by The Washington Post on May 28, 2015 (link)
Written by Rachel Feltman
Canadian Edgar Nernberg isn’t into the whole evolution thing. In fact, he’s on the board of directors of Big Valley’s Creation Science Museum, a place meant to rival local scientific institutions. Adhering to the most extreme form of religious creationism, the exhibits “prove” that the Earth is only around 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.
Unfortunately, Nernberg just dug up a 60-million-year-old fish.
Local outlets report that the man is far from shaken by the bony fish, which he found while excavating a basement in Calgary.
Because here’s the thing: He just doesn’t believe they’re that old. And he’s quite the fossil lover.
“No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it,” Nernberg told the Calgary Sun. “There’s no dates stamped on these things.”
No sir, no dates. Just, you know, isotopic dating, basic geology, really shoddy stuff like that. To be fair, I’m not any more capable of figuring out when a particular fossil is from than Nernberg is. I’d be one sorry paleontologist, given the opportunity. I’ve never even found a fossil, so he’s got me there. But the science of dating fossils is not shaky — at least not on the order of tens of millions of years of error — so this fossil and the rocks around it really do give new earth creationism the boot.
But this can go down as one of the best examples ever of why it’s downright impossible to convince someone who’s “opposed” to evolution that it’s a basic fact: If you think the very tenets of science are misguided, pretty much any evidence presented to you can be written off as fabricated or misinterpreted.
The scientific community is thrilled and grateful for the find, and the University of Calgary will unveil the five fossils on Thursday. These fish lived in a time just after the dinosaurs were wiped out, when other species were able to thrive in the giants’ absence. It’s an important point in Earth’s evolutionary history, because new species were popping up all over to make up for the ecological niches dinos left behind. Creatures from this era give us some breathtaking glimpses of evolution in progress. But it’s rare to find fossils of that age in Calgary, since most of the rocks are too old and yield dinosaurs instead.
Ironically, Nernberg’s contributions at the Creation Science Museum are almost certainly what scientists have to thank for the find. He’s an amateur fossil collector, and he knew the fish were special as soon as he spotted them.
“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,” Nernberg said in a statement.
“Most people would have overlooked these. When these were uncovered, Edgar right away recognized them,” Darla Zelenitsky, paleontologist and assistant professor of geoscience at the University of Calgary, told the Sun. “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.”
Nernberg is reportedly seeking a cast of one of the fish so he can put it on display at the creationist museum.