June 23, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Can the Earth Thwart Darwinism?

Microbes were all set to evolve into complex life, but the ocean held them back.  That seems to be the thinking of Dr. Simon Poulton of Newcastle University.  “Toxic seas may have been responsible for delaying the evolution of life on Earth by 1 billion years,” PhysOrg reported.  That seems to imply that it would have been inevitable otherwise.
    His team believes that a toxic layer of hydrogen sulfide in the oceans prevented the emergence of complex life till the oxygenation of the oceans was complete.  Then, complex life exploded into existence, as if pent-up Darwinian energy was waiting for its debut: “This has major implications as it would have potentially restricted the evolution of higher life forms that require oxygen, explaining why animals appear so suddenly, relatively late in the geological record.
    But can the mere absence of a toxin explain the origin of eyes, antennae, jointed appendages, fins, mouth parts, sexual organs, digestive systems and all the other complex body parts that appeared without precursors during the Cambrian explosion?  Dr. Poulton did not discuss that side of the equation.  In fact, he complicated matters by speaking of some kind of “co-evolution” of life and the environment.  He did not elaborate on whether some kind of Darwinian principle of mutation and natural selection operates on the environment as well as on life.

Here Dr. Poulton has just revealed two very non-Darwinian concepts.  First, that animals appeared suddenly – not gradually, as Darwin’s theory predicted.  He thus admitted (as he must) that the Cambrian explosion that was Darwin’s biggest dilemma in 1859 remains as a testament against Darwinian evolution.  Second, he proposed a mystical, vitalistic, almost spiritual explanation for evolution.  The life-force was there wanting to become trilobites and platypuses and orchids, but mean old Mother Nature was holding it back.  Like a wicked witch, she poisoned the brew deep in the oceans with yucky hydrogen sulfide.  Like Prometheus bound in chains, Darwin’s inexorable force of evolution was powerless to proceed.  Human brains would have to wait a billion years.
    Over time, Mother Nature evolved from Wicked Witch to Tinker Bell.  Gaia evolved with her, as her pet microbes danced and bubbled up their oxygen.  At some magic moment, the time was ripe.  The universal Life-Force was no longer restrained in its deep-ocean dungeon.  It burst forth from its prison.  Gasping for oxygen, it gained new impetus and was ready to fulfill its destiny.  Life-Force invaded the microbes just as the benevolent Tinker Bell zapped them with her mutation wand.  Gaia celebrated with an explosion of color, form and function.  “Eyes evolved, and now the cosmos could see!” (Carl Sagan, Cosmos).
    Better check this screenplay against the novel.  It appears that Dr. Poulton, the screenplay writer, took some liberties with the Origin-al plot.

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