Before we see the new discovery, let’s review what the Cambrian explosion is all about.
Casey Luskin explains the new discovery at Evolution News.
A recent article in Science begins by observing that the lack of evolutionary ancestors for the animal phyla that appear abruptly in the Cambrian explosion has been troubling to many evolutionary scientists:
Ever since Darwin there has been a disturbing void, both paleontological and psychological, at the base of the Phanerozoic eon. If his theory of gradualistic evolution be true, then surely the pre-Phanerozoic oceans must have swarmed with living animals — despite their conspicuous absence from the early fossil record.
(N. J. Butterfield, “Terminal Developments in Ediacaran Embryology,” Science, Vol. 334:1655-1656 (December 23, 2011).)
The articles goes on to explain that in 1998, tiny fossil animal embryos were reported that offered “palpable relief” to those evolutionary scientists worried about the lack of Precambrian ancestors.
However, new analyses of these microfossils now strongly suggest that they were not multicellular animals, and thus could not be Precambrian multicellular metazoa that have long been the holy grail for evolutionary paleontologists. Rather, they likely represent single-celled amoeba-like organisms.
[…]A Science Daily article on the study explains that many Darwinian scientists will be dismayed by the results of this study:
Professor Philip Donoghue said: “We were very surprised by our results — we’ve been convinced for so long that these fossils represented the embryos of the earliest animals — much of what has been written about the fossils for the last ten years is flat wrong. Our colleagues are not going to like the result.”
How did the investigators determine the nature of these ancient organisms? The fossils were exceptionally well preserved, such that, as the lead author on the paper stated, “the fossils are so amazing that even their nuclei have been preserved.” These allowed the authors to determine that these were in fact eukaryotic organisms, but not multicellular animals.
Casey goes on to answer the response by naturalists that “the fossil record is incomplete”.
I think it’s important, when deciding whether naturalistic evolution happened, to be aware of these problem areas. So often when discussing Darwinian evolution, people like journalists and philosophers and economists, etc. will just accept the theory because they trust in what experts tell them. There can be a lot of pressure in the university to not be seen as a dumb person, so that people will just go along with whatever their professor tells them to believe. And, that’s not necessarily a bad policy when time is short. However, that is taking evolution on blind faith. It’s a good thing, as we get older, to go back and revisit these things to see if they are really true.
For example, a really educated Darwinian should be able to finish a sentence like this: “People who doubt fully naturalistic evolution do so because of the following pieces of scientific evidence…” If you meet someone who cannot finish this statement, but who still espouses Darwinian evolution, then you know that you are dealing with someone who has jumped to the answer without really working through the problem by themselves. It can be very tempting, especially for artsy types, to just try to jump to the answer that all the smart people believe without really working through the problem. But that’s not a good way to decide what’s true. Everyone has to work through these problems themselves, and listening to the best people on both sides is the way to do that. People who question evolution nowadays don’t question that the universe is billions of years old or that scientific methods have to be used to answer scientific questions. By all means, let’s decide how we got here by appealing to science.
If you would like to see a nice hour-long video on the Cambrian explosion, then click here.
By the way, if you missed my previous post on the new discovery of oxygen in the early Earth’s environment, and the challenge it represents to naturalistic scenarios for the origin of life, then do check that out.