July 14, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Earliest Bilaterian Fossil Claimed

Microscopic etchings in rock alleged to be primitive bilaterian fossils have been reported by J.Y. Chen et al. in China.  (Bilateria are organisms displaying symmetry along one axis.)  The report, printed in the July 9 issue of Science,1 dates the fossils at 40-55 million years before the Cambrian.  Erik Stokstad in the same issue2 calls the claim controversial, because not all are convinced they are fossils.  They might be banded mineral crusts.  Chen’s team claims to see evidence of internal structure, including “what appear to be a mouth, pharynx, and gut; layers of mesodermal, endodermal, and ectodermal tissue; body cavities, called coeloms, on either side of the gut; and pits in the soft outer surface that might have contained sensory organs.”  If so, it means “that the genetic tool kit used to assemble more sophisticated body plans was present long before the Cambrian.”  Evolutionists, on the other hand, “had pictured a larger, more complicated beast,” says Stokstad, not oval blobs a fifth of a millimeter long.  Jerry Lipps (UC Berkeley) says that if these are bilaterian fossils, they help tone down the suddenness of the Cambrian explosion.


1Jun-Yuan Chen, David J. Bottjer et al., “Small Bilaterian Fossils from 40 to 55 Million Years Before the Cambrian,” Science, Vol 305, Issue 5681, 218-222, 9 July 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1099213].
2Erik Stokstad, “Controversial Fossil Could Shed Light on Early Animals’ Blueprint,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5676, 1425, 4 June 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5676.1425a].

In the new book The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel said that if you represented the entire evolutionary history of life by 24 hours, the Cambrian explosion would last one second.  We are asked to believe that during that one second, most if not all of the major body plans appeared suddenly, without ancestors.  So if these alleged fossils are 55 million years earlier, it adds 11 seconds at most; how much does that help?  Bilateral symmetry is not a simple thing; it requires complex developmental processes from the zygote to the adult.  If all the alleged internal organs were present in this organism, it pushes the origin of a tremendous amount of complexity even farther back in their own time scale.  It does little more than resolve the Cambrian explosion into two explosions separated by only 11 seconds out of 24 hours.  Jonathan Wells has compared the assumed geologic history of earth to a football field, and says the Cambrian explosion represents one step on the 60-yard line.
    It is not clear these incrustations are fossils.  But even if they are, where are all the intermediates linking them to trilobites, sponges, worms and all the other complex animals that appear abruptly in the fossil record?  J.Y. Chen appeared in the film documentary Icons of Evolution.  He said that the history of life represented an “inverted cone” shape, not a branching tree, as Darwin’s theory predicted.  It means that biodiversity was wide at the base and narrow at the top, the very opposite of the expected tree of life.  That is the second major problem with the Cambrian explosion.  To muffle the explosion, Darwinians need to find thousands of transitional forms, not one questionable entry.  They need hours, not 11 seconds.  To score a touchdown from the one yard line, they need a full-field run, not one footstep. 

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Categories: Fossils

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