The Cambrian explosion refers to the sudden appearance of new body plans in the fossil record. ID proponents think that the period is between 5-10 million years at the most. Naturalists want to stretch out the period in which the body plans appear to tens of millions of years. The two sides can’t both be right. What’s the truth?
To establish the length of the most explosive period of innovation within the Cambrian explosion itself, Meyer cites the work of MIT geochronologist Samuel Bowring and his colleagues as well the work of another group led by Smithsonian paleontologist Douglas Erwin. The Bowring-led study showed that (in their words) “the main period of exponential diversification” within the Cambrian lasted “only 5-6 million years” (emphasis added). Meyer explains:
An analysis by MIT geochronologist Samuel Bowring has shown that the main pulse of Cambrian morphological innovation occurred in a sedimentary sequence spanning no more than 6 million years. Yet during this time representatives of at least sixteen completely novel phyla and about thirty classes first appeared in the rock record. In a more recent paper using a slightly different dating scheme, Douglas Erwin and colleagues similarly show that thirteen new phyla appear in a roughly 6-million-year window. (p. 73)
[…][T]ake a look first at the following figure that Bowring and his colleagues included in their definitive 1993 article, published in the journal Science. They use radiometric methods to date the different stages of the Cambrian period, including the crucial Tommotian and Atdabanian stages in which the greatest number of new animal phyla and classes arise. Note that the so-called Manykaian stage of the Cambrian period lasts about 10-14 million years. Note also that the main pulse of morphological innovation didn’t begin during this stage but rather during the Tommotian and Atdabanian — a period that they describe as taking between “5 to 10 million years,” and in a more detailed passage as taking about 5-6 million years.
[…]In the figure above, the Tommotian and Atdabanian stages of the Cambrian period together span only about 5 million years, starting at about 530 and ending about 525 million years ago. Bowring’s figure also depicts the total number of classes and orders present at any given time during the Cambrian period. The biggest increases in morphological innovation occur during the Tommotian and Atdabanian stages. Indeed, during this period the number of known orders nearly quadruples. Moreover, Bowring and his colleagues also make clear that this period corresponds to the main pulse of Cambrian morphological innovation as measured by the number of new phyla and classes that first appear. They note that, while a few groups of animals do arise in the earliest Manykaian stage of the Cambrian, the most rapid period of “exponential increase of diversification,” corresponding to the Tommotian and Atdabanian stages, “lasted only 5 to 6 m.y.”
You can see the figure they are reference in the Evolution News article.
Also, check out these clips that explain the Cambrian explosion:
The first clip features James Valentine, a professor of biology at the University of California who just co-authored a new book on the Cambrian explosion and is not a proponent of intelligent design.
The consensus among scientists regarding the period of time in which the new body plans appear is 5-6 million years. Biologically speaking, that’s a blink of an eye. You aren’t going that kind of complexity and innovation in such a short period of time any more than you can expect to win the lottery by buying 5-6 million tickets when the odds of winning are 1 in a googol (10 to the 100th power – 1, followed by 100 zeroes). You don’t have enough lottery tickets to make winning the lottery likely. Similarly, 5-6 million years is not enough time for naturalistic mechanisms to code brand new body plans from scratch. It would be like trying to research and write a Ph.D thesis during a single lunch hour. It’s just not enough time to produce the amount of information that’s required.
The non-partisan web site Just Facts has been cited as an authority by IBM, PBS, Vanderbilt University, the Wall Street Journal, etc. In their latest study, they tested conservative and progressive voters to see which group had reality-based views of education, taxes, healthcare, national debt, pollution, government spending, Social Security, global warming, energy, hunger, and poverty.
Here is what they measured:
The findings are from a nationally representative annual survey commissioned by Just Facts, a non-profit research and educational institute. The survey was conducted by Triton Polling & Research, an academic research firm that used sound methodologies to assess U.S. residents who regularly vote.
While most polls measure public opinion, this unique one measures voters’ knowledge of major issues facing the nation—such as education, taxes, healthcare, national debt, pollution, government spending, Social Security, global warming, energy, and hunger.
I just wanted to list out a few of the questions, so that you would be able to see the topics, and know that the answers are measurable quantities. This is important because we want to know which groups of voters understand just the facts about the world we live in.
Education sample question:
On average across the United States, how much do you think public schools spend per year to educate each classroom of students? Less or more than $150,000 per classroom per year?
Correct Answer: More than $150,000. The average cost to educate a classroom of public school students is about $332,000 per year.
Correct answer given by 36% of all voters, 26% of Democrat voters, 45% of Trump voters, 46% of males, 28% of females, 25% of 18 to 34 year olds, 40% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 33% of 65+ year olds.
Taxes sample question:
On average, who would you say pays a greater portion of their income in federal taxes: The middle class or the upper 1% of income earners?
Correct Answer: The upper 1%. The Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Treasury, and the Tax Policy Center have all documented that households in the top 1% of income pay an average effective federal tax rate of about 33%, while middle-income households pay about 13%. These tax rates account for nearly all income and federal taxes.
Correct answer given by 18% of all voters, 6% of Democrat voters, 30% of Trump voters, 21% of males, 15% of females, 11% of 18 to 34 year olds, 19% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 19% of 65+ year olds.
Spending sample question:
Do you think the federal government spends more money on social programs, such as Medicare, education, and food stamps—or does the federal government spend more money on national defense, such as the Army, Navy, and missile defense?
Correct Answer: Social programs. In 2018, 62% of federal spending was for social programs, and 18% was for national defense. In 1960, the opposite was true, and 53% of federal spending was for national defense, while 21% was for social programs.
Correct answer given by 36% of all voters, 14% of Democrat voters, 59% of Trump voters, 40% of males, 33% of females, 23% of 18 to 34 year olds, 36% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 41% of 65+ year olds.
National debt sample question:
What about federal government debt? The average U.S. household owes about $122,000 in consumer debt, such as mortgages and credit cards. Thinking about all federal government debt broken down to a per household basis, do you think the average federal debt per U.S. household amounts to more or less than the average consumer debt per U.S. household?
Correct Answer: More than $122,000. Federal debt is now $23.1 trillion or about $180,000 for every household in the United States.
Correct answer given by 77% of all voters, 76% of Democrat voters, 81% of Trump voters, 75% of males, 80% of females, 84% of 18 to 34 year olds, 79% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 75% of 65+ year olds.
Global warming sample question:
Thinking about the whole planet, do you think the number and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms have generally increased since the 1980s?
Correct Answer: No. Comprehensive global data shows that the number and intensity of cyclones and hurricanes has been roughly level since the 1980s. This data was originally published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2011 and updated this year. Likewise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported: “There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.” Regional data that extends back for more than century shows the same.
Correct answer given by 32% of all voters, 4% of Democrat voters, 59% of Trump voters, 40% of males, 25% of females, 19% of 18 to 34 year olds, 36% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 30% of 65+ year olds.
Pollution sample question:
Thinking about the United States, in your opinion, is the air generally more polluted than it was in the 1980s?
Correct Answer: No. EPA data shows that ambient levels of all criteria air pollutants have declined significantly since the 1980s. Criteria air pollutions are those that are deemed by the administrator of the EPA to be widespread and to “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare….” Likewise, combined emissions of hazardous air pollutants have declined by about 50% since the 1990s.
Correct answer given by 56% of all voters, 44% of Democrat voters, 67% of Trump voters, 67% of males, 46% of females, 47% of 18 to 34 year olds, 63% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 49% of 65+ year olds.
Energy sample question:
Without government subsidies, which of these technologies do you think is the least expensive method for generating electricity? Wind turbines, solar panels, or natural gas power plants?
Correct Answer: Natural gas power plants. Determining the costs of electricity-generating technologies is complex, but data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that natural gas is considerably less expensive than wind, and wind is considerably less expensive than solar.
Correct answer given by 40% of all voters, 23% of Democrat voters, 57% of Trump voters, 53% of males, 29% of females, 25% of 18 to 34 year olds, 43% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 41% of 65+ year olds.
Hunger sample question:
On an average day, what portion of U.S. households with children do you believe will have at least one child who experiences hunger? Less than 1%, 1% to 10%, or more than 10%?
Correct Answer: Less than 1%. Per the latest data from the USDA, 0.14% or less than one out of every 700 U.S. households with children have any child who experiences hunger on an average day. This includes children who are hungry due to poverty, not those who skip meals because they are late for school, don’t feel like eating, or are trying to lose weight.
Correct answer given by 12% of all voters, 2% of Democrat voters, 22% of Trump voters, 15% of males, 9% of females, 3% of 18 to 34 year olds, 12% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 13% of 65+ year olds.
Social Security sample question:
Some policymakers are proposing that individuals be allowed to save and invest some of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts instead of paying these taxes to the Social Security program. In your view, do you think such proposals generally improve or harm the finances of the Social Security program?
Correct Answer: Improve. As shown by analyses conducted by the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration and a bipartisan presidential commission, proposals to give Social Security an element of personal ownership generally strengthen the program’s finances. Although some tax revenues that would have gone to the program instead go to people’s personal retirement accounts, these tax revenues are more than offset by the savings of not paying these individuals full benefits.
Correct answer given by 22% of all voters, 11% of Democrat voters, 33% of Trump voters, 28% of males, 17% of females, 31% of 18 to 34 year olds, 20% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 23% of 65+ year olds.
Health care sample question:
In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” This law uses price controls to save money in the Medicare program. Do you think these price controls will worsen Medicare patients’ access to care?
Correct Answer: Yes. As explained by Medicare’s actuaries, the price controls in the Affordable Care Act will cut Medicare prices for many medical services over the next three generations to “less than half of their level under the prior law.” The actuaries have been clear that this will likely cause “withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market” and “severe problems with beneficiary access to care.”
Correct answer given by 50% of all voters, 17% of Democrat voters, 80% of Trump voters, 53% of males, 46% of females, 38% of 18 to 34 year olds, 52% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 49% of 65+ year olds.
Poverty sample question:
Including government benefits and private charity, how much worth of goods and services do the poorest 20% of U.S. households consume on average each year? Less than $20,000, $20,000 to $40,000, or more than $40,000?
Correct Answer: According to the latest government data, the poorest 20% of U.S. households consumed an average of $57,049 of goods and services per household in 2010.
Correct answer given by 13% of all voters, 6% of Democrat voters, 20% of Trump voters, 13% of males, 14% of females, 15% of 18 to 34 year olds, 16% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 9% of 65+ year olds.
An amazing debate about the origin of life and the cosmic fine-tuning between a Christian and a materialist agnostic. John Lennox is AWESOME in this debate, and he only talks for a tiny part of the debate. He’s very gracious, and focused the discussion on the areas that we care about. Paul Davies is an EXCELLENT scientist and well aware of what Christians believe. This is a great debate, very easy to listen to. Justin, the moderator, does a great job controlling a fantastic discussion.
What does it take for life to get going in our universe? Is there intelligence in the stars or right under our nose? Renowned astrophysicist Paul Davies chats to Oxford Professor of Mathematics John Lennox.
A popular science author, Davies is also the Chair of the SETI post detection task force. His latest book “The Eerie Silence” which marks SETI’s 50th anniversary examines the likelihood of the universe producing life elsewhere.
John Lennox is a Christian Mathematician and philosopher. He is the author of “God’s Undertaker: has science buried God?” and has debated Richard Dawkins on several occasions.
Davies’ work on the fine tuning of the universe for life has been sympathetic to theism. In this programme Lennox challenges Davies to look to design not just in cosmology but in the cell. They also chat about what the discovery of ET would mean for Christian theology.
Is there meaning in the universe?
We have no evidence for or against intelligent life elsewhere in the universe
The vastness of the universe makes me think there is life elsewhere
Humans are capable of observing and understanding the universe
It seems the universe has the ability to create observers to understand it
If one species has this ability, then we should expect others to do it
The fact that we can observe the universe and do science has cosmic significance
Our rare habitable planet and our ability to do science is suggestive of purpose
So science itself points to an extra-terrestrial intelligence: GOD
The complexity of life and consciousness itself points away from atheism
Monotheism gave birth to science
Human minds capable of doing science are not compatible with atheistic materialism
Why do you say that either we are the only life or there are many different kinds of life?
There are lots of factors that have to be met to have a site for simple life
These are related to the fine-tuning of cosmic constants, e.g. gravitational force
But there are also factors that have to be met for originating intelligent life
Things like convergence, self-organization, etc.
So the cosmic requirements and evolutionary requirements are different
Darwinian evolution doesn’t solve the problem of the origin of life
50 years ago, skepticism about alien life existing anywhere was excessive
Today, credulity about alien life exiting everywhere is excessive
The naturalist is searching for a process that creates life easily
Paul agrees that there is no theory for a naturalistic origin of life
This is fatal for the idea that life can emerge elsewhere in the universe
We have not discovered any law that produces life without an intelligence
Consider the method used by SETI used to detect an alien intelligence
Why can’t this method be applied to the origin of life on Earth?
Why can’t an intelligence created specified complexity (functional information)?
Why can’t an intelligence created epigenetics and protein folding?
Darwinian evolution can add new biological information after life begins
Darwinian evolution assumes a mutating replicating life form to act on
You can’t generate specified complexity by using physical laws
You can’t generate specified complexity by chance
At this point we are guessing as to how life might have formed
Why do we have to rule out an intelligent cause a priori
If you can recognize an intelligence in outer space, why not in living systems?
I don’t mind the word “intelligence”, it’s the word “signal”
I oppose the idea that God or aliens manipulated physical stuff to create life
It’s an “ugly explanation and very unappealing both theologically and scientifically”
I prefer the idea that the universe has processes to self-organize and create complexity
When it comes to supernatural meddling by God, “I don’t want that”
If I were God, I would create the universe so that I would not have to intervene
I think God would be more clever if he did not have to intervene
My preferences about what is “clever” determines what scientific conclusions are allowed
Humans already have experience with their non-material minds to move atoms (matter)
If God is a mind, then there is no reason why he cannot move atoms (matter)
My mind is physical, so are you saying that God is physical?
If God intervenes in the universe, then what is he doing now?
There is a distinction between acts of creation and providential upholding the universe
God is also speaking to people and drawing humans toward him
God is spirit, not material
How can a non-physical entity cause effects on the physical world?
What science reveals that there is information needed for the origin of life
Information requires an intelligence to create it, just as with human who write books
That’s not God of the gaps – it’s an inference based on what we know today
We may be able to explain the origin of life later, using matter, law and chance
What you’re saying is that God tinkers with the genome
If you say that God intervened once, then he intervenes all the time, everywhere!
I don’t want a God who tinkers in the genome
if God could intervene in the universe that would remove its intelligibility
Look at the cover of this book – when I read words, I infer an intelligence
There are bad gaps that the progress of science closes
There are good gaps that science opens, showing the need for intelligence
On the one hand, you say we have no theory of the origin of life
On the other hand, you know that an intelligent designer wasn’t involved
If we don’t know how life began, why do you rule God out a priori?
What scientists want to do is to explain the universe without involving God
naturalists want to use science to discover only materialist explanations
The purpose of SETI is to prove that there is other life in the universe
This would then show that there is a naturalistic way of making life
I agree that information in living systems is real hard to explain materialistically
I believe in the power of emergence
We might discover laws that prove that complexity can emerge without intelligence
The discovery of alien life would help to show that no intelligence is needed to make life
What sort of cosmic fine-tuning is needed at the Big Bang for life to occur?
It’s true that the universe appears extremely fine-tuned for life to exist
The typical answer from naturalists is that there is a multiverse
But the multiverse “falls far short” of providing a good answer to the fine-tuning
It’s irrational to appeal to massive numbers of unseen universes to explain fine-tuning
The design and purpose seen in the universe may be due to God or it may be emergent
The fine-tuning is real and the multiverse is a desperate attempt to evade the creator
Sir Martin Rees (an atheist) says he “prefers” the multiverse to a designer
Scientists are not supposed to prefer anything except what is true
Would the discovery of aliens hurt Christianity, because of the belief in the uniqueness of humans?
Christians believe that Jesus came to save HUMANS specifically, not animals or aliens
If we were to discover intelligent aliens, it would challenge traditional religions
What will God do with alien races? Multiple incarnations? Or just preach the gospel to them?
We don’t know if the aliens exist, first of all – it’s speculative
The Bible teaches that humans bear the image of God
We just don’t know whether alien species are also made in God’s image