When evolutionists look at the fossil record, they find a sudden “explosion” of life called the Cambrian Explosion. Fossils in the Cambrian layers represent all the major groups of life we know today with no known ancestors previously in the record. 1 2 3 4 Even according to evolutionary dating methods this “explosion” occurred in only five million years, less than a tenth of one percent of the earth’s history according to evolutionists. 5 This would represent an “explosion” of life, which is a problem for evolution’s slow, gradual process.
The Cambrian explosion is a problem for evolution for the following reasons: 6
- As its name implies (“explosion”), these animals appear suddenly in the fossil record
- A lack of transitionals to these brand new animals in the rock layers below the Cambrian
- Not only are there new animals in the Cambrian, but there are completely new animal body plans. 7 This makes the Cambrian explosion even more puzzling for evolution. These animals resemble other animals very little—they are very unique.
- We observe large changes first (“explosion”) then small ones. With Darwinian evolution, we would expect it to be the other way around: small changes leading slowly to large changes. 8
Evolutionist: From the Precambrian to Cambrian layers, we do see an increase in complexity, just as Darwin would have expected.
Response: True, but the Cambrian explosion is not a gradual increase in complexity, it is a “quantum leap” of complexity. 9 This is not expected by Darwinism, which teaches slow, gradual change.
Evolutionist: Some Precambrian animals of the Ediacaran are ancestors to the Cambrian animals. 10
Response: Animals in the Ediacaran were very unique themselves, not ancestors of the Cambrian animals. 11 In fact, the Ediacaran animals provide a “mini-explosion” of life that is completely separate from the Cambrian explosion. 12
Evolutionist: The reason the fossil record contains an explosion is because the fossil record is incomplete. It is not that these animals suddenly appeared, it is that the sporadic fossil record suddenly documented them.
Response: How is the fossil record so incomplete that we should not expect to find any ancestors to the numerous Cambrian animals we find?
Evolutionist: For instance, perhaps we have not yet looked in enough places to find the ancestors of these animals.
Response: We have extensively sampled the fossil record and have found no ancestors. If these ancestors existed, we should have found some of them by now. 13
Evolutionist: Perhaps all the Precambrian sediment has been destroyed.
Response: We have sampled a great deal of Precambrian rocks with no ancestors. The Precambrian rocks exist, but no ancestors. 14
Evolutionist: Perhaps the ancestors of the Cambrian animals were too small to be preserved.
Response: Actually, the fossil record has preserved small Precambrian life such as microorganisms, 15 and so it certainly could have preserved Cambrian ancestors.
Evolutionist: Perhaps the Cambrian ancestors were too soft to be preserved.
Response: First, Precambrian sediment has preserved soft-bodied organisms, just not as frequently as hard-bodied ones. 16 For instance, scientists have found fossilized Precambrian sponge embryos. 17 Second, some scientists are not sure that hard-bodied animals like those in the Cambrian could have possibly had ancestors in the Precambrian that were entirely soft-bodied, 18 and even if this were possible, it is extremely unlikely that all the ancestors of the hard-bodied Cambrian animals would be entirely soft-bodied. 19
Evolutionist: Yes, but some factors make fossilization very difficult. Fossils are very rare, and ones of soft creatures are even more rare.
Response: We have plenty of animals, both Cambrian and Precambrian. If fossilization were so rare that we should find no ancestors of all the Cambrian animals, then why do we find Precambrian fossils at all, even ones of soft animals? 20 Based on the sampling rate that we do have of Precambrian fossils, it is extremely unlikely from a statistical perspective that our sampling to this point is flawed to an extreme degree. 21
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Cotner, S., & Moore, R. (2011). Arguing for Evolution: An Encyclopedia for Understanding Science. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood.
Sarfati, J. D., & Matthews, M. (1999). Refuting Evolution. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
Meyer, S. C. (2013). Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life And the Case for Intelligent Design. New York: HarperOne.
- Cotner and Moore, 2011: “[T]he abundance and diversity of fossils from the Cambrian Explosion have long amazed scientists; no Cambrian species exists today, and most animals from the Cambrian Explosion look nothing like today’s animals. What could account for the seemingly abrupt appearance of so many animals, most having no known antecedents? Stated another way, what caused the ‘explosion’?” ↩
- Sarfati, 1999, p. 51: “All 32 mammal orders appear abruptly and fully formed in the fossil record.” ↩
- http://www.icr.org/article/cambrian-explosion-problem-solved/ ↩
- http://creation.com/exploding-evolution ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 72 ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 34: “Over the years, as paleontologists have reflected on the overall pattern of the Precambrian-Cambrian fossil record in light of Walcott’s discoveries, they too have noted several features of the Cambrian explosion that are unexpected from a Darwinian point of view in particular: (1) the sudden appearance of Cambrian animal forms; (2) an absence of transitional intermediate fossils connecting the Cambrian animals to simpler Precambrian forms; (3) a startling array of completely novel animal forms with novel body plans; and (4) a pattern in which radical differences in form in the fossil record arise before more minor, small-scale diversification and variations. This patter turns on its head the Darwinian expectation of small incremental change only gradually resulting in larger and larger differences in form.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 52-53: “Opabinia, with its five eyes, fifteen distinct body segments, and a claw at the end of a long proboscis, exemplified the unique forms on display in the Burgess. But so did Hallucigenia, Wiwaxia, Nectocaris, and many other Burgess animals. To this day, paleontologists described Nectocaris, for example, can’t decide whether it more closely resembles an arthropod, a chordate, or a cephalopod (a class of mollusk; see Fig. 3.4).” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 44: “Yet, on a Darwinian view, small-scale variations and differences should arise first, gradually giving rise to larger-scale differences in form–just the opposite of the pattern evident in the fossil record. Thus, the discovery, and later analysis, of the Burgess revealed another puzzling feature of the fossil record from a Darwinian point of view, regardless of which system of classification paleontologists prefer to use. Indeed, Walcott’s discovery turned Darwin’s anticipated bottom-up–or small changes first, big changes later–pattern on its head.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 36: “Of course, the fossil record does show an overall increase in the complexity of organisms from Precambrian to Cambrian times, as Darwin expected. But the problem posed by the Burgess Shale is not the increase in complexity, but the sudden quantum leap in complexity.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 82 ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 84-85: “As Nature recently noted, if the Ediacaran fauna “were animals, they bore little or no resemblances to any other creatures, either fossil or extant.”” … “This absence of clear affinities has led an increasingnumber of paleontologists to reject ancestor-descendent relationships between all but (at most) a few of the Ediacaran and Cambrian fauna.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 87: “Thus, the Ediacaran biota attest to a separate sudden increase in biological complexity within a short window of geological time (about 15 million years), followed roughly 3 billion years in which only single-celled organisms inhabited the earth. This leap in complexity, in a relatively short span of geological time, may well exceed the explanatory resources of natural selection working on random mutations.” … “Many paleontologists now refer to the Ediacaran radiation as an explosion in its own right. This Precambrian “pow” makes the problem of fossil discontinuity only more acute, since credible intermediates leading to the Ediacaran layers are completely nonexistent in the even more sparsely populated strata beneath them.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 56: “Walcott rejected the idea that paleontologists simply had not looked in, or sampled, enough places. He noted that geologists already had extensively investigated “the great series of Cambrian and Precambrian strata in eastern North America.”” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 57: “Before Walcott, some geologists had gone a step farther and suggested that all Precambrian sedimentary rocks had been destroyed via extreme heat and pressure, a process called “universal metamorphism.” Walcott rejected this hyupothesis, since he himself had encountered a “great series of pre-Cambrian sedimentary rocks on the North American continent” among other places. Other geologists suggested that major bursts of evolutionary innovation occurred only during periods when sedimentary deposition had ceased, thus again resulting in a lack of fossil preservation. But, as Gould remarked of Walcott’s artifact hypothesis, this explanation also appeared to many scientists “forced and ad hoc…born out of frustration, rather than the pleasure of discovery.”” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 58: “Though intuitively plausible, several discoveries call into question both of these versions of the artifact hypothesis. As for the idea that the ancestors of the Cambrian animals were too small to be preserved, paleontologists have known for some time that the cells of filament-shaped microorganisms (probably cyanobacteria) have been preserved in ancient Precambrian rocks. Paleobiologist J. William Schopf, of the University of California, Los Angeles, has reported an extremely ancient example of these fossils in the Warrowoona Group strata of western Australia. These fossilized cyanobacteria are preserved in 3.465-billion-year-old bedded cherts (microcrystalline sedimentary rocks). The same strata have also preserved stromatolite mats, and organic accretionary growth structure usually indicating the presence of bacteria, within slightly younger dolostone sediments of roughly 3.45 billion years in age.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 61: “As we saw earlier, Precambrian sedimentary rocks in several places around the world have preserved fossilized colonian blue-green algae, single-celled algae, and cells with a nucleus (eukaryotes). These microorganisms were not only small, but they also entirely lacked hard parts. Another class of late Precambrian organisms called the Vendian or Ediacaran biota included the fossilized remains of many soft-bodied organisms, including many that may well have been lichens, algae, or protists (microorganisms with cells containing nuclei). Cambrian-era strata themselves preserve many soft-bodied creatures and structures. The Burgess Shale in particular preserved the soft parts of several types of hard-bodied Cambrian animals, such as Marrella splendens, Wiwaxia, and Anomalocaris. The Burgess Shale also documents entirely soft-bodied representatives of several phyla, including …” p. 62: “As Simon Conway Morris notes, “The existing [Burgess] collections represent approximately 70,000 specimens. Of these, about 95 percent are either soft-bodied or have thin skeletons.”” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 67: “The discovery of these sponge embryos has proven decisive in the case against the remaining versions of the artifact hypothesis, for several reasons.
First, though spicules in sponges are encased in a thin layer of glassy silica, sponges are generally considered to be a soft-bodied organism because of the predominantly soft tissues out of which the rest of their bodies are made. Moreover, the cells of all embryos during their earliest embryonic stages are soft.” p. 67: “Thus, discovery of an embryo in the earliest stages of cell division shows beyond a doubt that Precambrian sedimentary rocks can, under the right circumstances, preserve soft-bodied organisms.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 59 ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 60: “Nevertheless, it seems unlikely on a Darwinian view of the history of life that all Cambrian arthropod or brachiopod ancestors, especially the relatively recent ancestors of these animals, would have lacked hard parts entirely. There are many types of arthropods that arise suddenly in the Cambrian–trilobites, Marrella, Fuxianhuia protensa, Waptia, Anomalocaris–and all of these animals had hard exoskeletons or body parts.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 68: “Advocates of the artifact hypothesis need to show not just that certain factors discourage preservation in general. No one disputes that. What they need to show is that these factors were ubiquitous in Precambrian depositional environments worldwide. If near-short sands characterized all Precambrian sedimentary deposits, then paleontologists would not expect to find any fossils there, at least not any tiny ones. Yet clearly this is not the case. Precambrian strata include many types of sediments that can preserve–and in the case of the Doushantuo formation in China, have preserved–animal remains in fine detail, including small and vulnerable sponge embryos.” ↩
- Meyer, 2013, p. 70: “This kind of analysis merely quantifies what, in other circumstances, we would sense intuitively. Imagine that you reach into an enormous barrel full of marbles and randomly pull out a yellow, a red, and a blue marble. At this point your brief sampling should leave you undecided as to whether you have a representative sample of the barrel’s contents. You might at first imagine that the barrel also contains marbles representing a rainbow of intermediate colors. But as you continue to sample from every place in the barrel and find that the barrel disgorges only those same three colors you begin to suspect that it may offer a much more limited selection of colors than, say, the rack of color samples at your local paint store.” ↩