The Cambrian ‘Explosion’ Is Fizzling Out

They’ve posted about it hundreds of times. The Discovery Institute claims that the so-called Cambrian explosion was that magic moment when their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — came to this privileged planet to tinker with the primitive biosphere in order to create the basic forms of life we now see.

Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer, Vice President and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute (and a central figure in the infamous Sternberg peer review controversy) is all about the wonders of the Cambrian explosion that they claim Darwinism can’t explain.

However, the so-called “explosion” wasn’t like the six days of Genesis. It lasted for maybe 25 million years. Because single-celled organisms can reproduce a couple of times an hour, there were literally billions of generations during that “explosion,” which is sufficiently long to permit a vast amount of evolution to occur, with no necessity for supernatural tinkering. That’s sufficient for us to ignore the Discoveroids’ claims, but now there’s more.

This news article just appeared at the website of Nature: Ancient worm fossil rolls back origins of animal life. Their sub-title is enough to give the Discoveroids nightmares: “Half-a-billion-year-old creature challenges theory that animals burst onto the scene in an abrupt event known as the Cambrian explosion.” Let’s find out what’s going on. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

More than half a billion years ago, a strange, worm-like creature died as it crawled across the muddy sea floor. Both the organism and the trail it left lay undisturbed for so long that they fossilized. Now, they are helping to revise our understanding of when and how animals evolved. The fossil, which formed some time between 551 million and 539 million years ago, in the Ediacaran period, joins a growing body of evidence that challenges the idea that animal life on Earth burst onto the scene in an event known as the Cambrian explosion, which began about 539 million years ago.

There’s wailing and moaning at Discoveroid headquarters. Then Nature says:

“It is just pushing things further and further back into the Ediacaran,” says Rachel Wood, a geoscientist at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The Cambrian explosion no longer appears to be such an abrupt event in the history of life on Earth, she says. An analysis of the fossil, along with a few dozen similar specimens found in the same rock sequence in southern China, is published in Nature.

They have a footnote that leads to Death march of a segmented and trilobate bilaterian elucidates early animal evolution. All you can see without a subscription is the abstract, so we’ll return for a bit more of the article we started with. We’re told:

The rock record has already revealed that the Ediacaran seas were rich in life, but many Ediacaran fossils have strange anatomical features that are unlike those seen in modern animals. Because of this, palaeontologists have struggled to relate the Ediacaran organisms to the creatures of the Cambrian period. This bolstered the idea that the Cambrian explosion represented the dramatic first appearance of familiar animals. [And provided the cornerstone of Discoveroid “science.”] But opinions have begun to shift in the past few years. [Hee hee!] Some Ediacaran organisms have been recognized as animals despite their peculiar anatomy, which suggests that animal life began millions of years before the Cambrian explosion.

Okay, that’s enough. The foundation of the Discoveroids’ “science” is crumbling, but that doesn’t matter. Creationists never admit they were wrong about anything.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

28 responses to “The Cambrian ‘Explosion’ Is Fizzling Out

  1. Christine Marie Janis

    Is Meyer going to write a second edition of Darwin’s Doubt?

  2. Meyer ignored a lot of research that caused his claims to be wrong. He also used some research that showed his claims wrong and then only selected bits that could be twisted to support his claims.

    My personal favorite was the “Great Darwinian Paradox” which was a question asked by John McDonald. While Meyer fawned over the “question”, he ignored the 14 pages of examples and data that showed the “question” wasn’t actually an issue.

  3. Michael Fugate

    Maybe the 2nd edition will be “Meyer’s Misunderstanding”…

  4. Readers might find this amusing. When in a hole, DI keep digging:

  5. Michael Fugate

    And this golden oldie – where Casey claims not only is ID not God of the Gaps it has nothing to do with God at all.

  6. And then in the NY Times this: Behold Mortichnia, the Death Trail of an Ancient Worm..A 500-million-year-old fossil offered a rare treasure: the imprint of an animal that literally died in its tracks…………….
    benthic invertebrate wormus outsmart ol ‘Hambo

  7. chris schilling

    How long before we hear creationists refer to an Ediacaran “explosion”, and clamour for the precursors to that biota?

    It won’t matter how far back we push, creationists will insert their idée fixe of ex nihilo invention.

  8. chris schilling

    Idee fixe, goddamnit!

    [*Voice from above*] I know, I know.

  9. @Christine MJ: I refer you to my first comment at the Self-Published Genius nr. 98 post. Exciting news is awaiting for you.

    @MichaelF: you beat me – the IDiot’s rambling about the Cambrian Explosion totally deserves to be answered with Bonhöffer’s quote.

    “how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.”

    But hey, good to learn from the Attack Gerbil that the devout christian Bonhöffer, who died for his christian principles, was actually a materialist of the gaps.
    Also good to read that TomS and I are merely repeating what DocBill already wrote back then. IDiocy never develops anything new, so criticism and mockery of IDiocy doesn’t either.

  10. Christine Marie Janis

    @Paul Braterman
    Never trust the DI for fair reporting

    From that evolution news article posted, a quote from the book “The Cambrian Explosion” by Erwin and Valentine, published the same year as “Darwin’s Doubt”:

    ‘Taken at face value, the geologically abrupt appearance of Cambrian faunas with exceptional preservation suggested the possibility that they represented a singular burst of evolution, but the processes and mechanisms were elusive. Although there is truth to some of the objections, **they have not diminished the magnitude or importance of the explosion. … Several lines of evidence are consistent with the reality of the Cambrian explosion**. (The Cambrian Explosion, p. 6, emphases added)”

    The key is, whenever you see a set of ellipses in a creationist quote you can be confident that something important has been omitted. Here it is half a page of text, which completely contradicts the view of Erwin and Valentine’s book that Casey Luskin is trying to promote to his readers (i.e., backing up Steven Meyer’s views on the Cambrian Explosion). I won’t write it all here, but the very first sentence following the one before the ellipses sets the tone:

    “A long history of metazoans did precede the Cambrian, perhaps by 200 million years of more”. (While these earlier forms were not bilatarians) “A few tens of millions of years before the explosion,however, small organisms that had body plans designed for locomotion on the seabed floor – bilaterian-grade forms – had evolved.”

    Erwin and Valentine then go on to briefly (this is only the introduction) discuss the importance of rises in levels of atmospheric oxygen at this time for the development of larger animals with more complex body plans, something completely omitted from Meyer’s book (along with the Small Shelly Fauna# record of the presence of bilaterians in the latest Ediacaran and early Cambrian, a 15 million year period before the first of the taphonomic windows of the classic “explosion”).

    The precise quoting of page numbers is merely a means of making these shenanigans appear valid: DI can be confident that their supporters won’t rush out and buy this book; rather, they will simply buy the notion that “real scientists’ support Meyer and contradict “Darwin defenders” like Don Prothero.

    #Not *completely* omitted, mentioned in a footnote (almost as if to counteract the potential critique that this important piece of evidence had indeed been omitted).

  11. Christine Marie Janis

    @Frank B. Ah yes, I’d forgotten about this

    ‘Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge University Ph.D., and one of the preeminent scientists studying the origins of life.’

  12. Casey, whom I sorely miss, actually makes his case a bit better in

    From the quotations there, it seems clear that (a) Erwin and Valentine do (or did; a lot has happened since 2013) think that the Cambrian Explosion was real and different; (b) that Casey really cannot tell the difference between some deep nodes being uncertain (true in 2013; I don’t know if it still is), and the creationist fantasy of an absence of family relationships.

    It also occurs to me to wonder; creationists cliam that phyla were separately created in the lower Cambrian. Doesn’t that implicitly concede that change since then has followed the divisions between phyla, a fact immediately explained by common descent but utterly arbitrary under special creation?

    It is the creationist, above all, who ought to be embarrassed by the absence of the crocoduck

  13. @Paul Braterman
    Genesis 1 does not say anything compatible with distnct creation of phyla. Vertebrates are divided up between days 5 (fish and birds) and day 6 (land animals).
    Yes, but isn’t it generally true that creationist rhetoric leaves unresolved what the creationists have to say about the the issue that they raise?

  14. I think that Casey was Meyer’s “Ellipsis Operator.” Casey’s manic behavior as the Attack Gerbil led me to believe that he did most of the legwork whereas Meyer, more bucolic than anything, lazily stitched things together.

    It was great fun to seek out the Sign of the Lie, the ellipsis, and track down the original text. Some gaps were tens of pages long!

    However, my fondest memory of Doubt was the characterization in a review in Science that called it a “systematic failure of scholarship,” in other words, a pack of lies.

  15. @Docbill1351, I still treasure Casey’s personal attack on me,, based (as I show in my commentary) on a complete distortion of who I am, in what capacity I was writing, and what I was actually saying:

  16. Michael Fugate

    One does laugh, when Casey’s attack sends one to
    A website of a DI arm which lists resources “for” evolution as
    [two other links deleted]
    but, after all that, Casey tells us ID has nothing to do with gods or religions and he doesn’t “know” if Christianity and evolution are compatible. Do you think Casey reads these old posts and cringes or is he still that self-unaware?

  17. Michael Fugate

    Also John “Westie” West on why evolution and faith are incompatible – so choose wisely and choose faith. It doesn’t matter if evolution is true, what matters is how West’s faith would be impacted if evolution is true.

  18. URGENT: @Michael Fugate, I’ve got a real or fake security warning from the last of the sites you listed, which looks as if it’s been taken over by scammers, while the one before came up ostensibly empty.

    SC: I suggest redacting the links to judgingpbs and darwinspredictions.

    Anyone who clicked on them: I suggest running a security scan, as I’m doing now. But probably no harm done if you didn’t reveal any passwords

  19. Michael Fugate

    Sorry about that – I just copied them from the DI page. I believe that last is Cornelius Hunter’s site.

  20. Westie’s “analysis” is quite worth reading.
    1. Jerry Coyne is cited in the newsmedia to show that the RCC endorses Darwinian Evolution.
    2. To defend a truly unguided evolution Coyne appears to deny traditional Christian doctrines of God’s omnipotence and omniscience.
    3. So it’s difficult for theistic evolutionists who take Darwin seriously to maintain their traditional religious commitments.

    The only thing Westie gets right is that he’s an IDiot because of his particular brand of christian faith. Otherwise:

  21. @Paul Braterman I never had a direct run-in with the Gerb other than on a discussion thread about cyclic reactions and Leslie Orgel’s work. Casey had it wrong, something about them being irreversibly complex or such nonsense, of course, and I pummeled him with data and explanations from Orgel’s original publications. Unable to respond, Luskin claimed his mother was calling him and vamoosed.

    On a personal note, I met Orgel when I was a graduate student. I say “met” but it was more like me saying, “Excuse me,” and Orgel exhaling. Close encounter.

  22. Paul Braterman, links removed. Thanks.

  23. Michael Fugate

    The judgingpbs site is the DI’s response to PBS/NOVA’s “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” – perhaps I copied the link incorrectly…

  24. @FrankB
    Omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible with Intelligent Design, on ordinary concepts of “design”. For example, design begins with a search for solutions to a problem within specified parameters.
    It is up to the theistic advocates of ID to develop their concepts so that they are not subject to inconsistency.

  25. @TomS: shrug.
    I just think it funny that an IDiot needs the authority of an atheist like Coyne to respond to sensible christians.

  26. Michael Fugate

    For West, it seems Darwin is just a convenient scapegoat. If one doesn’t like the current state of society, then why not blame it on someone or something else? He claims society is a “victim” of belief in evolution and belief in evolution of course causes one to believe they are a victim of their society. Somehow belief in God didn’t stop Job from being a victim. It never stopped women, dissenters, LBGTQ+ individuals from being real victims in the Christian West. How less utopian is it to believe that if everyone were a Christian or if everyone believed they were created, then our problems would be solved?

    Unlike the DI, there are theologians who argue that natural theology, of which ID is a part, is mistaken – that nature can tell us nothing about God. Perhaps nature can tell us only about nature?

  27. @Michael Fugate
    Perhaps nature can tell us only about nature?
    Well put.

  28. “Blessed be he”… or Blessed Behe..haha