This Just In — Latest Cambrian Explosion Excuses


This Just In — Latest Cambrian Explosion Excuses

When evolutionists deny design, but admit that nature looks designed, they often wind up attributing the skills of a designer to inanimate matter. This is absurd, but what else is available in their explanatory toolkit?

Here’s an example. A headline by Amanda Doyle at NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine

Cambrian : We need go no further. This is a rehash of the Oxygen Theory we have dealt with over and over (for the latest, see here and here). It makes no sense; oxygen has no power to create animal body plans, nor can it “allow” the animals to create themselves. Mr. Oxygen can cry out, “Bring forth! I allow you to evolve!” all he wants on the stage, but nothing will happen. Can’t someone answer the real argument of Darwin’s Doubt, that the abrupt increase in functional information in the Cambrian animals requires a cause that is capable of producing it? The only such cause we know from uniform experience is intelligence. Oxygen has no such power.

We learn at the end of the article that “The research was supported by the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program.” But Darwin’s Doubt came out four years ago, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt two years later. Is NASA really unaware of the challenge?

Let’s keep looking for an explanation that’s new and different. Here’s one: in Science Advances, the open-access journal of the AAAS, a team of six from four American universities spices up the story of the Cambrian.

 reads, “Microbes set the stage for the first animals.” How is this to be understood? Are animals waiting offstage for their debut? Are microbes arranging the props, clearing pathways, and turning on the lights? Surely she cannot mean that. So how can it be understood without personification? Assuming the prior existence of microbes, perhaps she means that their collective behavior resulted in changes in the balances of gases in the atmosphere, or the pH of seawater, or some other unplanned consequence. Does that help?

Doyle focuses on evidence dating from the Ediacaran Period, just prior to the Cambrian explosion. She weaves her plot around the story of a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison working in Siberia. Photos show their tools beside unusual limestone rocks containing stromatolites and algal impressions. The photos don’t appear to show any Ediacaran creatures themselves. Indeed, those creatures play no role in her play, so they exit stage right: “The remains of these odd creatures, most of which have no evidence of a circulatory or digestive system, largely vanished from the rock record at the start of the Cambrian Period,” she admits [emphasis added], essentially agreeing with the scientists whom Stephen Meyer quotes in Chapter 4 of Darwin’s Doubt.

According to Doyle’s headline, microbes were recruited as the explanatory heroes in her play. Microbes altered the sediments, leaving records of levels of oxygen and sulfur at the time. The UW team found a stratum where “environmental conditions apparently changed,” going from euxinic (sulfidic) conditions that favored microbe growth to oxygenic conditions that would have favored animals.

Further reading doesn’t help. The authors know that “The Early Paleozoic era … encompasses an important time frame in metazoan evolution, including the Cambrian Explosion,” but their research only focuses on correlation, not causation. They mention the same “increase in atmospheric oxygen, possibly associated with an oceanic anoxic/euxinic event” that Amanda Doyle focused on.

The changes could well be consequences, not causes, of the Cambrian explosion. And whether the element is oxygen, sulfur, carbon, or anything else, it doesn’t matter. They’re inert. They’re dumb. None of them has creative powers to design new body plans, cell types, and organs, even if they were to “allow” such things to “emerge” onstage.

We’ll try one more. In Geology, the Ediacaran animal Cloudina is mentioned in a paper by seven researchers from Scotland, Russia, and Namibia. Do they describe a sufficient cause for the Cambrian animals?

Meyer doesn’t mention Cloudina, but it’s not much to look at. Visualize a stack of cups forming a tube. The Virtual Fossil Museum says, “The Cloudinids lived during the late Ediacaran, and became extinct at the base of the Cambrian.” Categorized with the “small shelly fossils” that preceded the explosion, they can’t have contributed to the Cambrian animal body plans, accordingly (see Chapters 13 and 14 in Debating Darwin’s Doubt). We read on, hoping.

So that’s it? Tube diameters increased or decreased according to environmental conditions? If they grew articulated legs, eyes and digestive systems, we might be impressed.

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