I have always been a fan of fossils. I love the window they provide to the past.
I learned about evolution because of my interest in fossils. Having attended Catholic school in the 1960s, the only science I was taught was meteorology (weather), a little bit of Earth science, and a tiny bit of astronomy. Science wasn't a big topic in Catholic schools of the day.
I remember learning about copyright dates in books and during a sixth-grade science class about clouds, in 1969, I looked at the copyright date of my slender science book: 1948. Now, I'm not an expert on textbooks or science, but even at the ripe old age of eleven, I knew that a lot of scientific changes had taken place in the 21 years between the publication of my science book and my science lesson of that day.
I took an interest in dinosaurs and fossils outside of school and marvelled at them at museums. They are, indeed, a window to the past.
As an adult, I met people who do not believe in evolution (which is sort of like not believing in gravity). I tried discussing it with them until I realized that their position was rooted in their religious faith and interpretations of the Bible. As a Catholic, I have always been baffled by these people. I read the Bible and I use it as the basis of my personal faith and religious beliefs. I don't use it as a textbook, however, to learn about modern-day scientific analyses or cultural development. I use science for that!
I often wonder if these people have missed the fascinating world of fossils, the amazement of seeing the skeletons of massive dinosaurs, the excitement of deep-ocean discoveries of seemingly pre-historic fish.
Not long ago, I was chatting with a fellow-parishioner after Sunday mass, and "evolution" became the focus of the conversation. She was concerned that America was discussing the importance of the anniversary of Charles Darwins' "The Origin Of The Species," because, she said it was so intrinsically anti-Catholic. I told her I believed that evolution was an obvious reality, that all living things evolve. She was angry that I was saying she was descended from monkeys. I remained silent and listened to the very standard parochialism that is responsible for Catholic stupidity. When she paused and asked "Don'tcha think?" I said I did not share her analysis of evolution, and then I made a big mistake: I asked her why we keep finding fossils that are millions of years old if the world is only 5,000 years old.
"God put them there when he created Adam and Eve."
I didn't sigh audibly, but I had to stop talking to this person. I keep forgetting there are people who think this way.
Today, I feel sorry for those people, and I offer you this link to a nifty article at the New York Times, about the Cambrian Explosion, that is believed to have taken place 500,000,000 years ago:
Translating Stories of Life Forms Etched in Stone