Direct radiometric dating accuracy
All these labors have not led to a single unexpected finding such as a human fossil from the time of the dinosaurs, or a Jurassic dinosaur in the same rocks as Silurian trilobites.
Paleontologists now apply sophisticated mathematical techniques to assess the relative quality of particular fossil successions, as well as the entire fossil record.
Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods.
Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.
Current understanding of the history of life is probably close to the truth because it is based on repeated and careful testing and consideration of data.
The rejection of the validity of fossils and of dating by religious fundamentalists creates a problem for them: Fossil sequences were recognized and established in their broad outlines long before Charles Darwin had even thought of evolution.
Repeated recalibrations and retests, using ever more sophisticated techniques and equipment, cannot shift that date. With modern, extremely precise, methods, error bars are often only 1% or so.
The fossil record is fundamental to an understanding of evolution.
Radiometric dating--the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements--has been in widespread use for over half a century.
These demonstrate that, of course, we do not know everything (and clearly never will), but we know enough.
Today, innovative techniques provide further confirmation and understanding of the history of life.
Fossils document the order of appearance of groups and they tell us about some of the amazing plants and animals that died out long ago.
Fossils can also show us how major crises, such as mass extinctions, happened, and how life recovered after them.