Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creationists Don't Get The Cambrian Explosion

There is an excellent post by Nick Matzke on the Panda's Thumb on the Cambrian Explosion, which was the evolutionary radiation and diversification of animal life over a 30 million year period from about 540 mya to 510 mya. To clarify, the lower boundary set at around 540 mya does not mean there is no evidence of animal life before that and "poof" animals originated instantaneously at 540 mya. On the contrary, there is long earlier history of multicellular animal life preserved in various forms including the famous Ediacaran biota going back another 10's of million years or so,  but the fossil record does become more prolific beginning about 540 mya. The important point is that complex forms evolved and diversification occurred in recognizable stages, not all at once. So yes, there are "transitional fossils" preserved from this time period!  There are geological and ecological reasons for why animal life diversified and was preserved better by 540 mya, but that is another story.

Nick Matzke has written this post as a rebuttal to a book by Stephen Meyer titled Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

It is a long post but well worth reading. You will learn:

1) What is the nature of the fossil record beginning late Proterozoic and the Cambrian.

2) What methods of analysis are being used by paleontologists to make sense of this fossil record and what is the current thinking on how these ancient animal groups of the Cambrian were related to each other and to extant animal groups, with implications for how and when diversification from simpler forms took place.

3) How Creationists obfuscate, ignore and are ignorant of both, the nature of the fossil record and analytical methods, resulting in them misdirecting readers about the actual state of our knowledge.

Do read it.

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