New discoveries have filled in the gaps, and shown us in unimaginable detail the shape of the great ‘tree of life’.Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since 1859, nor guessed what fossils were to be found in the southern continents, nor predicted the huge increase in the number of amateur and professional paleontologists worldwide. Generally, we think of bones, shells, or teeth that are buried in rock, but fossils can also be outlines of leaves or footprints or trails.
If it can give us satellites showing the world's weather in real time, is it possible for this method, under certain circumstances, to fail?
The Method Defined Frank Wolfs, Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, provides his undergraduate physics students with a good working definition of the scientific method: "the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world." Professor Wolfs, as a research scientist himself, points out some of its limitations: "Recognizing that personal and cultural beliefs influence both our perceptions and our interpretations of natural phenomena, we aim through the use of standard procedures and criteria to minimize those influences when developing a theory.
Several factors must be taken into account when constructing such a record.
The strata of rock in which fossils are found give us clues about their relative ages.
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.He said that his team and the laboratories they employed took special care to avoid contamination.That included protecting the samples, avoiding cracked areas in the bones, and meticulous pre-cleaning of the samples with chemicals to remove possible contaminants.Similarly, new technological techniques such as radioactive carbon dating help determine the absolute ages of fossils.In addetion to supplying a fossil's relative age, rock strata can also give clues about the environments in which an animal or plant lived.Researchers have found a reason for the puzzling survival of soft tissue and collagen in dinosaur bones - the bones are younger than anyone ever guessed.