New PNAS study: maximum animal diversity exists at the beginning of the fossil record

From Phys.org – news of a study that is lethal to orthodox Darwinian belief. This is huge.

Excerpt:

Our understanding of how animals on the planet evolved may be wrong, according to scientists at the University.

In a new paper, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evolutionary biologists from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.

Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.

Lead researcher from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Dr Matthew Wills said: “This pattern, known as ‘early high disparity’, turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn’t a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals, or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.”

The team used published descriptions of extinct groups in order to construct ‘morphospaces’; empirical spaces in which anatomically similar species plotted close together, and more dissimilar species plotted further apart. By looking at the manner in which the occupied ‘volume’ of space changed through time, they were able to track changes in morphological disparity.

Evolution News analyzes how the authors of the study explain away their findings to keep faith with Darwin.

Excerpt:

Why did 20 or more separate animal phyla suddenly appear in the geological blink of an eye? Because “Clades reach highest morphological disparity early in their evolution,” answer Martin Hughes, Sylvain Gerber, and Matthew Albion Will… The Cambrian animals exploded onto the scene because evolution works fast sometimes. It seems to be a pattern that high disparity occurs early on. Must be a law of nature. What, you’ve got a problem with that?

These three biologists from the University of Bath took a bath in their own assumptions. They don’t deny that the animals appear suddenly. They just believe that when opportunity arises, evolution works fast to fill up the landscape with endless forms most beautiful. Under the section, “Why Do Clades Have Early High Disparity?” they say:

What might explain the prevailing pattern of early high disparity in clade evolution? Both ecological and developmental explanations have been proposed, and our results remain consistent with both. The “empty ecospace” modelpredicts that clades will radiate and diversify more rapidly when colonizing a new environment. This colonization may occur because ecospace has been vacated by other occupants (e.g., in the wake of some other extinction, typically the result of external, physical factors) or because a hitherto inaccessible environment or other resource has been rendered viable by the acquisition of some novel, “key” adaptation or series of characters (an intrinsic, biological trigger). Morphological change under these circumstances may be rapid eitherbecause transitions are unusually large or because rates of cladogenesis areunusually high (even with “normal” step sizes at each splitting event). (Emphasis added, reference numbers omitted.)

Jaws should drop at that “explanation.” If Hughes, Gerber and Wills were simply describing what is found in the fossil record — the sudden appearance of complex animals — it would be one thing. But they attempted to explain how these complex animals appeared, so suddenly as Jonathan Wells described in the film Darwin’s Dilemma, that it’s comparable to less than two minutes on a twenty-four-hour clock.

[…]As Stephen Meyer shows in Darwin’s Doubt, prior to the Cambrian explosion there were only microbes, sponges and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna that most paleontologists do not consider related to the Cambrian animals. There were no jointed appendages, eyes, guts, nervous systems or any of the other organs, tissue types and body plans that characterize Cambrian phyla. What kind of Darwinian “miracle” would it take to get all those complex traits in blink of an eye? Calling it “cladogenesis” is like calling the simultaneous chance appearance of cars, boats, and airplanes “vehicle-o-genesis.”

The model has striking similarities to the old notion of Punctuated Equilibrium discussed in Chapter 7 of Darwin’s Doubt. In fact, the PNAS paper was edited by Steven Stanley, “an early advocate of the punctuated equilibrium model” according to Meyer (p. 137). As such, this new model is really a throwback to the old “punk eek,” and suffers from the same drawbacks: it’s an attempt to explain away the absence of evidence for evolution by claiming, without any mechanism better than old-fashioned neo-Darwinism, why the fossil record shows a discontinuous pattern, not a record of a gradually branching tree.

There’s a lot more in that Evolution News article.

Now, I’m pretty sure I read about this upside-down tree of life years ago in a little book by biologist Jonathan Wells entitled “Icons of Evolution“. Dr. Wells made the case that Darwin’s iconic picture of “the tree of life” should really be inverted. Darwin thought that the root came early in the fossil record, and the branches came later – by mutation and selection. The truth is that the branches come first. The diversity is all at the beginning of the fossil record. This falsifies evolution (again).

Is this new study going to make the naturalists change their religion? Probably not. Because science has nothing to do with the presupposition of naturalism. Darwinists presuppose naturalism for other reasons that are insulated from experimental science. It’s a faith commitment – and they don’t care about revising their faith when the progress of science reveals new facts.

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5 thoughts on “New PNAS study: maximum animal diversity exists at the beginning of the fossil record”

  1. Most intriguing. In fact, except where there’s deliberate breeding for diversity (as with dog and cat breeds), I’d have said (with my layperson’s limited knowledge) diversity is steadily being lost.
    I’d show this to my husband, but he’s poo-pooed everything I’ve shown him before. The Lord will have to bypass his closed mind…

    Like

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