I would like to start this ten-part series of articles on west coast fossil museums at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) that is located in Newport, Oregon. The HMSC is operated by Oregon State University and is its campus for research, education, and outreach in marine and coastal sciences. Since 2010 I have personally visited the HMSC Visitor Center four times.

Hatfield Marine Science Center

Fossil displays are found in the Visitor Center at the HMSC. These fossil displays are a minor part of what can be seen at the center. In fact, I would say the emphasis at the Visitor Center is currently placed on things like touch pools, interactive wave tanks, and octopus feedings, but not on fossils. (Later in this article you will learn why I have chosen this location to discuss the creation vs. evolution worldview battle.) One can see fossils on display like fish and marine mammal bones and teeth, various clams and other invertebrates, fossil wood, fossil coral, and teredo wood. The fossil displays were located at two different places in the Visitor Center. There were no fossils or fossil books for sale in the Visitor Center gift store when I was there in June 2023.

HMSC Fossil Display

For many years, until a major remodel and upgrade of the Visitor Center in 2018, I was greatly annoyed by a prominent poster promoting whale evolution. After the remodel the poster is no longer on display and in 2023 I found no other displays that promoted evolutionary theories or deep time, excepting in the one “map” that I will discuss next.

HMSC Whale Evolution Poster

What you see following this paragraph is an image of the “Oregon Fossil Map” by artist Ray Troll that is included in the book Crusin’ the Fossil Coastline published by Troll and paleontologist Kirk Johnson. The image is of a large copy of the map that is mounted on a wall in the HMSC next to a display of fossils, along with the explanatory note that is tacked to an adjacent small cork board. The note raves about the map.

HMSC Oregon Fossil Map by Troll

HMSC Oregon Fossil Map Explanation

Artist Ray Troll is certainly gifted but I have issues with the ideas that the Oregon Map is an “insanely detailed fossil map,” and that the caricature depictions actually “represent the location” of many of the fossils. The map is basically just a cartoon showing fossils in locations that fit within the margins of the map. However, the main point of my bringing up this fossil map, the Crusin’ book, and its authors, is to highlight how effective these have been for promoting the Secular Worldview against the Biblical Christian worldview.

The 276 page book

The traveling exhibit mentioned in the explanation sign followed publication of the Crusin’ the Fossil Coastline book in 2018. The exhibit was set up at the Oregon Coast Aquarium (also in Newport, Oregon) for an extended stay beginning on June 11, 2021. The exhibit was promoted in the various local papers as “covering the evolutionary history of the west coast of North America with a focus on the coastal areas.”

The all-ages exhibition had life-size sculptures, models, and images of prehistoric creatures and authentic fossils, along with paintings, maps, and light and audio installations by Troll. Publication promotions for the exhibit stated that part of the display was to be dedicated to Oregon’s geological record, “extending back approximately 400 million years ago.” The book was also strongly promoted in the exhibition, and the aquarium still had stacks of the books for sale in the book store in mid-June 2023 when I was last there.

The worldview promoted by the Crusin’ book and the associated exhibitions can best be determined by understanding author Kirk Johnson. Dr. Johnson was born in 1960 and is a paleobotanist and the Sant Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In his book Dr. Johnson says he grew up attending a Seventh Day Adventist Church in California and that his father attended the Loma Linda Medical School (SDA) and his mother edited the medical school’s alumni journal.

He writes that he was well aware of the creationist position of the SDA church. I don’t get the idea that his parents were strong on that position, however. He clearly resisted and then rejected the SDA creationist position early on based on what he believed to be undeniable evidence for evolution and millions of years. His position on geology can be seen in his quote in his book where he wrote,Leonard Brand, one of Loma Linda’s geology professors presents a markedly upside-down view of the rock record. His approach might have flown in 1860, but it is largely outside the realm of science today.” (Page 37.)

He also wrote, “In fact, the percentage of Americans subscribing to a message of a young Earth and a week of creation has remained stubbornly high, even as the scientific evidence for Earth’s antiquity continues to pour out of the ground.” (Page 38.)

These two quotations illustrate Dr. Johnson’s perspective throughout the Cruisin’ book. I would characterize his viewpoint as one that is based upon the authority of others rather than on any sort of objective investigation of his own. He does not provide the evidences that would influence him or anyone else to conclude that his view is correct. Presuppositions of evolution and deep time are just presented as facts, and he presents a lot of “just-so” stories to explain his evolutionary viewpoint.

Here is another quotation from his book that helps understand his perspective: “And, importantly, Berkeley is also the home of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a nonprofit group that fights to protect scientists from the attacks of creationists.”(Page 59.) This statement is ludicrously untrue as anyone who has looked into what this organization really is and does would know. Any attacking that takes place is not the result of the actions by creationists but rather is against creationists by the NCSE.

Having the perspective as he does is a situation that drives Dr. Johnson to make some very dubious conclusions about fossils, geology, and paleontology in general. I will analyze ten of these conclusions in the section that follows.


  • “Imagine that a marine mammal dies and sinks to the bottom of the sea. Crabs, amphipods, and microbes quickly consume the skin and flesh, and eventually, the skull is buried in sea floor mud. Over time, the mud hardens to bedrock, and something about the chemistry of the rotting skull causes the mud that infills it to become even harder than the surrounding mudstone.” (Page 80.)

Creationist response: If the evolutionist explanation for fossil formation was so solid why would it have to be imagined? The reason is that the explanation is bogus since fossils are not and were not formed this way at all. This type of fossil formation requires rapid and complete burial in a manner best explained by actions of the global Flood at the time of Noah.

  • “Whales and other marine mammals have been washing ashore or simply dying and sinking to the seafloor for as long as there have been marine animals, and some of these animals have become fossils that are now weathering out of the modern-day seashore.” (Page 83.)

Creationist response: Actually whales and other marine mammals that wash ashore or simply die bloat and rot away and/or are eaten by other animals and microbes. When has anyone witnessed a whale going through a process of fossilization on the shore or on the seafloor?

  • “The weather was fine [at Seal Rock, OR], but there had been a huge storm the previous week and the beach was strewn with the carcasses of sea birds that had not survived. We found four cormorants, six rhinoceros auklets, and two tufted puffins, all reminders that life in the ocean is not easy and that any living thing is a potential fossil.” (Page 91.)

Creationist response: During the global Flood 4500 years ago this statement would have likely been quite true, but there is no real evidence that fossils are currently being formed along the Pacific coast or anywhere else.

  • “Tiny crystals of sanidine and zircon in the volcanic ash [at the John Day Fossil Beds] in the volcanic ash contain minute amounts of radioactive elements that allow the ash beds to be accurately dated. Ted [Fremd] describes the volcanic ash beds as ‘the page numbers in the book of the earth’” (Page 108.)

Creationist response: All radiometric dating methods are based on unproven and unprovable assumptions. Creationists continuously point out the many errors in these methods that indicate that they are never able to “accurately” date rocks or fossils. Consider these things: Carbon 14 has been found in diamonds supposedly billions of years old, historical rock formations dated as being millions of years old, soft tissue in dinosaur fossils supposedly 65 million years old. Radiometric dating is totally unreliable.

  • “With all of its dogs and bears, the John Day region is really a place to ponder evolution and to stand back and admire the family tree of bears, dogs, extinct bear-dogs, and their relatives the seals, sea lions, and walrus.” (Page 110.)

Creationist response: Over a period of several years, I carefully studied the dog and bear fossils that have been found in the John Day Fossil Beds. In chapters 9 and 11 of my book, Discovering the Animals of Ancient Oregon (2013), I concluded that the available evidence most clearly does not show any macroevolution. There are no transitional fossils that connect the dogs to the cats or the dogs to the bears, let alone to marine mammals. The dogs and the bears are each created kinds. It is one thing to ponder evolution, but it is an entirely different thing to actually observe it now or anytime in the past.

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. (Psalm 111:2.)

  • “The gorge of the Columbia is where the river has cut its way through the Cascade Mountain Range on the way to the Pacific Ocean.” (Page 115.)

Creationist response: The Columbia River flows through the Cascade Mountain Range more likely as a result of the actions of the global Flood. The river just followed the gorge cut by the Flood. Later, the Missoula Flood that occurred during the Ice Age modified the river’s path several hundred years after the global Flood. Water gaps and wind gaps cannot be satisfactorily explained by uniformitarian evolutionary theories. See information about water gaps and wind gaps below.

  • “Ginkgo is a tree that today lives only in China, Japan, and Korea where it is widely planted near monasteries and temples.” (Page 126.)

Creationist response: Historically this statement is generally true. But today ginkgo trees are growing in many places throughout the world, including my own back yard in Oregon. Read my previous article about the Ginkgo by clicking here.

  • “To a geologist’s eye a canyon without a river is an odd thing indeed, since it is rivers that make canyons.” (Page 129.)

Creationist response: It is not possible to explain water gaps (gorges that cut through a mountain range or other rock barrier) or wind gaps (a shallow notch in the crest or the upper part of a mountain ridge) using the uniformitarian idea of “a little water over a long period of time.” A possible creationist explanation for these is that the river gorges are the result of actions of the global Flood, and the rivers just follow the paths of least resistance previously existing.

  • “Dinosaur paleontologists have a phrase for the phenomenon of land fossils in marine deposits. They call them ‘bloat and float’ fossils. Imagine that an animal dies along the banks of a coastal river and has a chance to bloat with the postmortem gases of decay. If this fetid carcass then gets carried downstream, it is possible that it will drift out to sea. Eventually it will lose its buoyancy and sink to the seafloor where it is buried in the mud alongside the remains of marine animals from the water column and the seafloor.” (Page 168.)

Creationist response: This is another hard-to-imagine story not borne out by true science. Rapid burial and cataclysmic mixing of mostly disarticulated skeletal parts during the worldwide Flood makes much more sense. It is very common to find land and marine fossil animals mixed together all over the earth.

  • “Back on the mainland, in the southeastern corner of British Columbia, is a fossil site known as the Burgess Shale. It is the most famous example of the Cambrian Explosion, a time more than 500 million years ago when many of the world’s first marine organisms (including the ancestors of clams) appeared on earth. That is a place that tells the paleontologist’s creation story.” (Page 181.)

Creationist response: But the secular paleontologists have no creation story. The myriads of Cambrian Explosion lifeforms discovered in the Burgess Shale are found fully formed and engineered with extreme complexity. There is no previous fossil record from which it could be imagined that these lifeforms evolved. These discoveries in no way match up to the Darwinian slow evolutionary story.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center through its Visitor Center provides a very subtle endorsement of the secular worldview. They do this by promoting the non-subtle work and opinions of Dr. Kirk Johnson and Mr. Ray Troll, men who (perhaps in ignorance) sell evolution and millions of years through their books, paintings, illustrations, and exhibits. Dr. Johnson not only promotes evolution but strongly criticizes creationists and creationism.

J.D. Mitchell

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10.)

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