Tag Archives: Paleontology

New study: fossil discovery adds a new phyla to the explosive Cambrian explosion

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

It’s Wednesday, so that means another scientific discovery has been made to falsify atheism. Put it on the pile with the others, I guess.

The story from Science Daily reads like Darwinist propaganda, but you can get the main idea if you ignore the fawning naturalistic bias.

Excerpt:

A team of Virginia Tech researchers have discovered fossils of kinorhynch worms — commonly known as mud dragons — dating back more than 530 million years.

The historic find — made in South China — fills a huge gap in the known fossil record of kinorhynchs, small invertebrate animals that are related to arthropods, featuring exoskeletons and segmented bodies, but not jointed legs.

The first specimen was unearthed in rocks in Nanjiang, China, in 2013 and more fossils were found later that year and in 2014.

Helping lead the international team of scientists and biomedical engineers who unearthed, studied, and imaged the ancient, armored, worm-like creature is Shuhai Xiao, a professor of geobiology in the Department of Geosciences, part of the College of Science at Virginia Tech.

Dubbed Eokinorhynchus rarus — or rare ancient mud dragon, the newly discovered animal dates back from the Cambrian period and contains five pairs of large bilaterally placed spines on its trunk. It is believed to be related to modern kinorhynchs.

The group’s findings were published in Scientific Reports, a Nature family journal.

“Kinos represent an animal group that is related to arthropods — insects, shrimps, spiders, etc. — which are the most diverse group of animals on the planet,” said Xiao, who refers to kinorhynchs as “kinos” for short. “Although arthropod fossils date back to more than 530 million years ago, no kino fossils have ever been reported. This is a huge gap in the fossil record, with more than 540 million years of evolutionary history undocumented. Our discovery is the first report of kino fossils.”

I took a quick peek at Wikipedia to make sure, and yes, they really are their own phylum. So, brand new phylum.

Evolution News comments on the discovery:

In Figure 2.5 of Darwin’s Doubt, Steve Meyer reports that about 20 of 27 animal phyla with known fossil records appear in the Cambrian period. Prior to this find, phylum Kinorhyncha was not known to have a fossil record. Now we can update Meyer’s tabulation to report that 21 of the 28 phyla with known fossil records apparently first appear — abruptly no less — in the Cambrian explosion of animal body plans.

Despite this non-Darwinian pattern of origin, the papers’ authors speculate that these ancient (and extant) kinorhynchs might shed light on the origin of arthropods, but that’s largely only because they are segmented — as various other living phyla are as well. Given that kinorhynchs entirely lack limbs and also lack arthropod-like eyes, it seems that they aren’t going to help us much towards understanding the unique defining characteristics of arthropods.

The paper also explains that these fossils come from about 535 million years ago in a section of strata bearing the “small shelly fossils,” in the early Cambrian period. As Meyer and I have discussed, some mistakenly cite the “small shelly fossils” (SSFs) as possible evidence of a gradual evolution of the Cambrian animals. But in this case, studies of the SSFs are showing the Cambrian explosion to be more explosive.

I blogged before about the Small Shelly Fossils that are hoped (by naturalists) to be ancestors of the Cambrian phyla, but as the Evolution News article stated, they’re not. Too bad Darwinists!

Positive arguments for Christian theism

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.

Related posts

New study of tar pits shows absence of evolutionary change

Doug Axe has a new post up about a new paper that challenges the Darwinian narrative. (H/T J Warner Wallace)

Full text:

The textbooks say that evolution happens most rapidly in response to environmental changes. You would think, then, that the cycling from glacial periods to warmer interglacial periods would be accompanied by significant changes in the species that survive the change.

Not so, according to a new paper by Donald Prothero and colleagues. After examining all the comon bird and mammal species preserved in the Rancho La Brea tar pits in California, the authors conclude:

the data show that birds and mammals at Rancho La Brea show complete stasis and were unresponsive to the major climate change that occurred at 20 ka, consistent with other studies of Pleistocene animals and plants. Most explanations for such stasis (stabilizing selection, canalization) fail in this setting where climate is changing. One possible explanation is that most large birds and mammals are very broadly adapted and relatively insensitive to changes in their environments, although even the small mammals of the Pleistocene show stasis during climate change, too.

I work at the other end of the size spectrum, on protein molecules rather than whole animals. It’s interesting that attempts to catch evolution in the act of doing the amazing things that the textbooks attribute to it seem to fail at both ends of the spectrum.

Interesting because Prothero has debated against ID – this man is not friendly to our view.

Paul Chien interviewed on the Cambrian era fossils

Cambrian Explosion
Cambrian era fossils: Theory versus Data

From Leadership University. (H/T The Poached Egg)

Excerpt:

Dr. Paul Chien, chairman of the biology department at the University of San Francisco, recently accepted a unique invitation to travel to China to study fossils of the Cambrian era. What Chien found at the Chengjiang site, and what he has since learned about the Cambrian fauna, has changed the focus of his career. Today, Chien concentrates on further exploring and promoting the mysteries of the Cambrian explosion of life. Subsequently, Chien possesses the largest collection of Chinese Cambrian fossils in North America.

Chien attended Mere Creation, a conference last November sponsored by Christian Leadership, which was featured in the previous Real Issue. The following is an interview with Paul Chien.

RI: Dr. Chien, what is your interest in the evolution/creation debate?

Chien: Even before I became a Christian, I had doubts about evolution. During my college years I was really interested in finding answers, but I got very little help. For a while I lost interest because I thought, one way or the other, it wasn’t very important. But since I started teaching, many people ask me about that. In fact, I often speak at churches and youth groups and conferences, and I have been forced back to that question; it’s pretty much my hobby now.

RI: Until recently, you have focused on the effects of pollution on marine organisms. How then did you come to study the Cambrian “explosion of Life”?

Chien: In studying marine organisms, and mainly the invertebrate groups, I have a clear vision of the distinct characteristics of each phyla. The theory of evolution never [seemed to] apply well in my field of marine invertebrates. When the news broke concerning [the discovery of] an explosion of animal life, it really excited me because that [had been] my position for many years. Also, Phil Johnson’s chapter on fossils [Darwin on Trial, Intervarsity Press, 1991] really ignited my interest in that area.

When an opportunity came up to talk with Chinese paleontologists and to visit them and the original site of fossil discovery, it became something I had to do. So last March I organized an international group to make a visit there.

RI: So is the Chengjiang site a primary site for the Cambrian explosion?

Chien: Yes, it’s the site of the first marine animal found in the early Cambrian times we don’t count micro-organisms as animals.

RI: Are there other places in the world where you find the same organisms?

Chien: In some ways there are similarities between the China site and the other famous site, the Burgess Shale fauna in Canada. But it turns out that the China site is much older, and the preservation of the specimens is much, much finer. Even nerves, internal organs and other details can be seen that are not present in fossils in any other place.

RI: And I suppose many of these are probably soft-tissue marine-type animals?

Chien: Yes, including jellyfish-like organisms. They can even see water ducts in the jellyfish. They are all marine. That part of western China was under a shallow sea at the time.

RI: As you became more interested in this and discovered more about it, did you find it really was an “explosion of life”?

Chien: Yes. A simple way of putting it is that currently we have about 38 phyla of different groups of animals, but the total number of phyla discovered during that period of time (including those in China, Canada, and elsewhere) adds up to over 50 phyla. That means [there are] more phyla in the very, very beginning, where we found the first fossils [of animal life], than exist now.

Stephen J. Gould, [a Harvard University evolutionary biologist], has referred to this as the reverse cone of diversity. The theory of evolution implies that things get more and more complex and get more and more diverse from one single origin. But the whole thing turns out to be reversed we have more diverse groups in the very beginning, and in fact more and more of them die off over time, and we have less and less now.

RI: What information is the public hearing or not hearing about the Cambrian explosion?

Chien: The general impression people get is that we began with micro-organisms, then came lowly animals that don’t amount to much, and then came the birds, mammals and man. Scientists were looking at a very small branch of the whole animal kingdom, and they saw more complexity and advanced features in that group. But it turns out that this concept does not apply to the entire spectrum of animals or to the appearance or creation of different groups. Take all the different body plans of roundworms, flatworms, coral, jellyfish and whatever all those appeared at the very first instant.

Most textbooks will show a live tree of evolution with the groups evolving through a long period of time. If you take that tree and chop off 99 percent of it, [what is left] is closer to reality; it’s the true beginning of every group of animals, all represented at the very beginning.

Since the Cambrian period, we have only die-off and no new groups coming about, ever. There’s only one little exception cited the group known as bryozoans, which are found in the fossil record a little later. However, most people think we just haven’t found it yet; that group was probably also present in the Cambrian explosion.

Also, the animal explosion caught people’s attention when the Chinese confirmed they found a genus now called Yunnanzoon that was present in the very beginning. This genus is considered a chordate, and the phylum Chordata includes fish, mammals and man. An evolutionist would say the ancestor of humans was present then. Looked at more objectively, you could say the most complex animal group, the chordates, were represented at the beginning, and they did not go through a slow gradual evolution to become a chordate.

Someone posted an interesting documentary on Youtube about the Cambrian explosion.

Leadership University  is run by CLM, and features solid scholarship on a wide range of issues, including science.

What is the best explanation for the Cambrian fossil record?

i found an interesting video that explores a mystery in the Cambrian fossil record.

Richard Dawkins explains the mystery in his famous book “The Blind Watchmaker”.

Excerpt:

“Eldredge and Gould certainly would agree that some very important gaps really are due to imperfections in the fossil record. Very big gaps, too. For example the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.” (Dawkins, Richard [zoologist and Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University], “The Blind Watchmaker,” [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.229)

He’s referring to prominent paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould.

Now let’s watch the video.

Part 1 of 2: (41 minutes)

Part 2 of 2: (33 minutes)

This documentary has a mix of scholars who accept the standard naturalistic explanation for the Cambrian explosion, and some who are skeptical of the standard explanation. The first three scholars in the list below are considered to be world-renown experts in the Cambrian era fossils.

List of scholars:

Simon Conway Morris is Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge and one of the world’s leading evolutionary paleontologists. He is noted in particular for his contributions to the understanding of the Cambrian Explosion and the fossils found in the Burgess Shale. Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (United Kingdom) in 1990, he also has been awarded the Walcott Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (United States). Dr. Conway Morris is author of the noted books The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals (1998) and Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (2003). His views about the extent as well as the limits of Neo-Darwinism can be found in his article “Darwin was right. Up to a point.”

James Valentine is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also affiliated with the Museum of Paleontology and the Center for Integrative Genomics. He is one of the world’s leading experts on the Cambrian Explosion, and is the author of numerous technical articles on the subject, as well as author of the books On the Origin of Phyla and Evolutionary Paleoecology of the Marine Biosphere, co-author of Evolution and Evolving, and editor of Phanerozoic Diversity Patterns: Profiles in Macroevolution.

Paul Chien is a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of San Francisco. A marine biologist, Dr. Chien received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at Irvine, and he was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dr. Chien’s work has been published in over fifty technical journals, and he has spoken internationally, and on numerous occasions, from Brazil to mainland China—where he has also been involved in cooperative research programs. Dr. Chien has done research in the renowned fossil beds of Chengjiang, China.

Jonathan Wells is currently a Senior Research Biologist at the Discovery Institute. He holds two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and he has taught biology at California State University in Hayward. Dr. Wells has published articles in numerous journals, and he is author of Icons of Evolution: Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong and The Politically-Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, and co-author of The Design of Life.

Richard Sternberg is a Research Scientist at the Biologic Institute and a Research Collaborator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. He is an evolutionary biologist with interests in the relation between genes and morphological homologies, and the nature of genomic “information.” He holds a Ph.D. in Biology (Molecular Evolution) from Florida International University and a Ph.D. in Systems Science (Theoretical Biology) from Binghamton University. From 2001-2007, he served as a staff scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and from 2001-2007 he was a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Dr. Sternberg’s website can be visited here.

Douglas Axe is Director of Biologic Institute. His research uses both experiments and computer simulations to examine the functional and structural constraints on the evolution of proteins and protein systems. After earning his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Axe held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre, and the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. His work has been reviewed in Nature and featured in a number of books, magazines and newspaper articles, including Life’s Solution by Simon Conway Morris, The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe, and Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer.

Paul Nelson is a philosopher of biology, specializing in evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1998, and he is presently an Adjunct Professor in the M.A. Program in Science & Religion at Biola University. He has published articles in such journals as Biology & Philosophy and Zygon and has contributed essays to numerous anthologies.

Stephen Meyer is Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. Formerly a geophysicist with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), Dr. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University as a Rotary International Scholar. From 1990-2002, he was on the faculty of Whitworth College. Dr. Meyer is author of peer-reviewed publications in technical, scientific, philosophical and other books and journals. His latest book is Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. His other books include Darwinism, Design and Public Education and Explore Evolution. Dr. Meyer’s website can be visited here.

If you like the video, you can buy the DVD here.

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