Of course, to accept that this is evidence of a flaw in timeline of plant evolution would be scientific heresy, so Bray and Anderson were quick to denounce their own findings in the conclusion of the article. They wrote:
The observation of Class Ic ambers in Carboniferous sediments suggests that preconifer gymnosperms were using complex polyterpenoid resin in a manner similar to that seen in a wide variety of modern species … Our data do not imply that angiosperms existed in the Carboniferous, because the fossil record does not record unequivocal angiosperm fossils until the Cretaceous.
Let me translate that into common English for you:
The discovery of amber from flowering plants in 320 million year old rock suggests that non-flowering plants used to produce amber that is identical to the amber from flowering plants. This must be true because the theory of evolution tells us that flowering plants did not exist 320 million years ago, and we know that the theory of evolution cannot be false.
And in case you think that I am being too harsh with this particular translation, let me suggest that you read David Grimaldi’s analysis which was published in the same issue of Science as Bray and Anderson’s article. Grimaldi admits that:
the most remarkable aspect of the newly discovered Carboniferous amber is that it has a molecular composition that has been seen only from angiosperms.
And he says that:
Resins are so diverse that those from each plant species have a distinctive ... fingerprint that can be used to identify the plants that produced various ambers around the world.
But he refuses to put these two admissions together to come to the obvious conclusion that the amber found by Bray and Anderson actually was produced by a flowering plant. To do this would contradict everything that he believes about the theory of plant evolution, so in order to preserve his theory, he rejected the obvious conclusion by saying:
In any case, this 320-million-year-old amber is certainly not from angiosperms, which arose almost 200 million years later. Thus, this amber casts perplexing new insight into the molecular characterization of amber.
And he concluded instead that:
The discovery by Bray and Anderson reveals that resins of extremely similar molecular composition can be produced by entirely unrelated plants.
In other words, Grimaldi interpreted Bray and Anderson’s conclusions exactly as I translated that conclusion above. He said that the amber they discovered could not possibly be from a flowering plant because that would contradict the theory of evolution. Therefore, this amber must be evidence that non-flowering plants used to produce amber that is identical to that which is only produced by flowering plants today.
If we set aside the bias of these scientists, however, and just look at the evidence itself, we can clearly see that there are only two viable conclusions. Either we must conclude that flowering plants have been around for 320 million years or we have to admit that carboniferous coal really isn’t 320 million years old after all. I’m leaning more toward the latter. How about you?