History of Shell Fossil

Seashells and Fossilized Shells have only recently begun to be explored by the metaphysical community.  As a result, they are typically not included in lapidaries, texts that describe gemstones and their powers. While there are a variety of legends and myths about fresh seashells, their fossilized cousins sit squarely at the center of one of the greatest controversies between science and fundamentalist Christianity.  How old is the Earth?

On many mountaintops, far above sea-level, fossilized shells have been found. How did they get there? All parties agree that these fossils belong to marine animals and at some point their resting place must have been underwater. For centuries, many Christians have pointed to the fossilized shells as proof that the story of Noah’s Ark and a great worldwide flood should be seen as a literal fact.  Few dared to question this idea prior to the modern era.  One early exception was the Renaissance artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who wryly wrote in one of his journals that clams do not move fast enough to climb from the ocean to the tops of mountains in a mere 40 days and 40 nights. Moreover, there is not enough water on the planet to cover the mountains.  However, most European Natural Philosophers (the name used by early scientists) were also members of the clergy, and so few dared to explore alternative ideas.  In 1650, James Ussher, an Irish bishop and scholar provided a definitive calculation for the age of the Earth, based on the Bible. This calculation states that Creation began at nightfall on Saturday, October 22, 4004 BC.  Modern “Creationists” still use this calculation for the argument that the Earth is a mere 6000 years old.

Fossil Shell

Shell Fossils

James Hutton

James Hutton

The first serious challenge to the Flood story was by James Hutton (1726-1797), the Father of Geology.  He was intrigued by fossilized shells, and other odd rock formations in the rocks near his Scottish farm.  Over the course of twenty-five years, he studied the rocky features, ultimately concluding that today’s land is not the “original” land of creation, but rather a composition land formed over a lengthy geologically time span by secondary causes.  As a result, the current land had once been under water where marine animals thrived and left their remains to be fossilized. Later on this land was elevated by various forces in the Earth to its current above sea-level position.  Hutton’s observations produced a firestorm, and many contemporary scientists tried to debunk his claims. But as more and more scientists studied the rock record evidence, it was increasingly clear that Hutton’s theories were correct  Today, geologists estimate that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.

By 1840, Creationism had been essentially abandoned by serious scientists (although the exact age of the Earth continued to be argued over.)  But, in 1902, George Macready Price (1870-1963), an American Seventh Day Adventist and schoolteacher revived the Creationism model. Despite having no training in geology or paleontology, Price wrote numerous books explaining among other things, how Noah’s Flood was responsible for carrying shells from the ocean to the mountaintops. Following in his footsteps, modern Creationists reject all scientific evidence which suggests anything other than a literal reading of Genesis.

The debate continues to this day, with Creationists arguing that their viewpoint should be taught in public schools, so that students are given a wide range of ideas.  The scientific community, by contrast, loudly considers the Creationist view to be nonsensical and each of its points are regularly debunked.  But whenever the debate is brought up, rest assured that fossilized seashells will soon be brought up!

Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks