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The principle of faunal succession in the geologic record was established by direct observation as early as 1799 by William Smith.
By the 1830's Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison established a correlation between the various types of fossils and the rock formations in the British Isles.
Nearly a half-century would pass before Darwin's book, The Origin of Species, was published!
By then, the relative ages (order) of the geologic column had already been worked out in some detail.
One can hardly accuse these pioneers of evolutionary prejudice.
It was found that certain fossils, now referred to as index fossils, were restricted to a narrow zone of strata.
Studies done on the European continent soon demonstrated the universal validity of index fossils.
That is, an index fossil corresponded to a very specific point in the geologic column.
Once the worth of index fossils had been established on the basis of stratification studies, they could logically be used to extend the correlation of rock formations to other continents.
At the very least we would expect random fluctuations if the radiometric methods were totally at sea.