The original question was:
I watched your video of the Creation Conference 2014 about the fossil snake with legs. Genesis 3:14 says: So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” I’m confused! If God removed the snake’s legs just after the fall, but fossils of snakes with legs can date only from Noah’s Flood, which was many years after the fall, What is the explanation for this?
Answer by John Mackay
Thanks for your comment about our conference video concerning fossil snakes (view here).
Let me first summarise what we know about fossil snakes. It is of interest to note that not one of the fossil snakes with legs has been found with full legs. All specimens found have diminished legs or no legs, and so the process of leg loss was either complete, or was continuing when they were fossilised.
Recently prominent fossil snake researcher, Michael Caldwell, who has found fossil snakes with legs (eg Pachyrachis problematicus Caldwell, M W & Lee, M S Y, Nature, vol 386, pp705-709), has identified the fossils of four snakes, which he claims are the ‘oldest fossil snakes’ so far found. The fossils consist of skulls and a few vertebrae. Since snake skulls are quite different from other reptile skulls, the fossils could readily be identified as snakes. Caldwell also claims there was not enough evidence to indicate whether these new finds had legs or not. Because these new snake fossils have been dated as older than previously known legged snakes, Caldwell suggests “the characteristic snake skull and its parts appeared long before snakes lost their legs.” (See ScienceDaily 27 January 2015)
We may disagree with Caldwell’s dating, but we agree with his conclusion that snakes have been readily recognizable as snakes both before and after they lost their legs.
We would also remind Caldwell that if these new fossils really were the oldest snakes, then snakes have always been snakes, not any other kind of reptile, and have reproduced after their kind, just as Genesis says, even if some of them have only vestigial legs at present.
It would certainly seem that leg loss, which may have been instant for the one ‘offending serpent’ involved at Eden, has been progressive rather across the whole snake family probably due a slow spreading of the genetic leg loss factors by reproductive means, which have combined with progressive degeneration down through time as a result of the general effect of the curse on all creation. Similar degenerative leg loss has been noted in many groups of creatures including humans who are occasionally born without legs.
So on the basis of the Biblical history outline, plus what we see in present day snake biology combined with the latest snake fossil evidence, we can summarise the history of snakes as follows: In the beginning serpents were created as a separate kind, with skulls distinctly different from all other reptiles. As part of God’s judgement following the Fall of Man, God cursed the serpent in particular and the serpent kind in general as over succeeding generations the genes associated with leg loss seem to have spread across the whole kind.
Recent research indicates Hox genes which control the number of vertebral segments in snakes, are somehow associated with loss of legs structure. By the time of Noah’s Flood many snakes were both completely limbless, and in association many had increased in length. Some still showed some remnants of legs. This degeneration continued after Noah’s flood to the present so most living snakes either have no legs, or retain tiny limb remnants (true vestigial organs) that have only minor uses such as hold-ons in mating (as in the pythons).
In conclusion, the main fossil record of snakes, legged or legless, began some 1600 years after Adam sinned with flood deposits of Noah’s day and since, as seen in the global Jurassic and Cretaceous beds, and more locally in so called younger beds.
One last comment: The reptile family, as I think I said on the video, is one of the largest group of creatures still suffering leg loss. For example, the illustration associated with this question is a Pleurosaur, an extinct reptile with a very elongated body and reduced limbs that would have moved in a snake-like manner.
For more information on snake leg loss, see the question:
SNAKE LEGS? Did snakes really lose their legs, as Genesis implies? Answer here.
For more information on vestigial organs see the Creation Research article Vestigial Organs. PDF here.
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