January 7, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Astrobiologists Explain Cambrian Explosion Using Invisible Data

According to PhysOrg and Astrobio.net, the skeletons to the Cambrian Explosion1 are hidden in the Precambrian closet, out of sight, even though the closet is open for inspection.  We mustn’t be fooled into thinking there was a Creation event, because evolution was doing its work in secret, like magic:

The first instance of biomineralization – i.e. the biologic use of minerals – was around 2 billion years ago when certain bacteria precipitated grains of magnetite to apparently help orient themselves in the Earth’s magnetic field.  However, the first animal skeletons didn’t appear until right before the Cambrian explosion, at the end of the Ediacaran Period.
    These early shell-bearing creatures help to resolve Charles Darwin’s concern over the sudden appearance of so many new animal species during the Cambrian explosion.  The fossil record gives the impression of a “Creation” event, but in reality, animals had evolved prior to the explosion.  They just didn’t leave much for paleontologists to find until they developed the skeleton-making trait.

Well, shame on those animals for not leaving evidence for paleontologists.  It’s not like them to hide their traits for hundreds of millions of years only to tantalize them with a few clues 10 million years before the explosion.  But rest assured, “once a few animals started building with minerals, a ‘housing boom’ erupted across the animal kingdom,” the article continued.  And thanks to funding from the NASA Astrobiology: Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program, Shuhai Xiao from Virginia Tech and Suzanne Porter from UC Santa Barbara came just in time, equipped with stories to explain why the lack of evolutionary evidence does not imply a Creation event.
    Porter doesn’t know what the animals looked like that made the first shells.  Furthermore, “she doesn’t believe they passed on their skeleton-making skills to any descendants, which implies biomineralization was ‘re-invented’ a few million years later.”  While the reader ponders that miraculous double whammy, she drops this cluster bomb: “Skeletons evolved more than three dozen times within animals – and about half of these did so in the early Cambrian.”  The idea of multiple, independent, sudden major leaps would seem to undercut any idea of evolutionary progress, and make the evolutionary explanation for the Cambrian Explosion amount to 36 cases of “stuff happens.”  Xiao didn’t mind.  He was “Amen Charlie” for the idea, adding, “Once something is evolved, it can be recruited for other purposes.”

What’s striking about this is how rampant biomineralization became in a relatively short period of time.  Skeletons turned into the “must-have” accessory, with different species utilizing entirely different minerals (mainly calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate and silica).  The questions is: what drove so many organisms to develop the skeleton-forming trait?

Striking, indeed.  Maybe the organisms were trying to get rid of the minerals which they considered toxic waste.  So they took their toxic waste dumps and made beautiful artistic sculptures out of them, as illustrated in the article by a page from Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 drawings.  On the other hand, maybe some animals invented predation, and drove the others into an evolutionary arms race.  “As animals began feeding on other animals, protective body armor became a distinct advantage,” the article opined.  “This can explain why skeletons appear to have evolved independently across the biological spectrum during the Cambrian explosion.”  Necessity is the mother of evolution.
    If that was the case, though, the predators appear to have quickly found ways to bore holes into the new armor.  Sounds like a stand-off, not an arms race.  Xiao and Porter were admittedly unsure exactly what drove the animals to suddenly develop new body plans – orders of magnitude more complex than biomineral shells.  “Whatever the exact reason, the appearance of skeletons in the Pre-Cambrian was just the beginning.”  In the beginning, Darwin lit the pike: “It ignited the fuse for the Cambrian explosion, in which many skeletal animals diversified,” in this genesis story according to Xiao.
    But, a child might ask, why didn’t animals latch onto this invention earlier?  For some reason, the life-forms that had been smart enough to use magnetite to orient themselves by the Earth’s magnetic field took two billion years to figure out how to grab readily-available minerals for armor.  “Body morphology was limited prior to biomineralization because animals couldn’t grow very big without a skeleton, Xiao says.  Pre-Cambrian biomineralization would have opened up a world of possibilities for evolution to explore.”  And so, once evolution went exploring, the world would never be the same; and the animals evolved happily ever after.


1.  For information on the Cambrian Explosion, see the documentary film Darwin’s Dilemma and our entries from 10/31/2010 and 04/23/2006.

If you are not shaking your head in disbelief at the credulity of modern scientists with PhDs who could dream up such evidence-challenged tales, you should be.  This is so silly, it ranks with the stupidity of university professors who still think communism was a good thing.  Someday, if any logic remains in the world, students will study articles like this like we study the myths of the ancient Babylonians, wondering how the same people who could send rockets to other planets could worship Evolution like some kind of goddess, and believe that the “appearance” or “emergence” of biomineralization “opened up a world of possibilities for evolution to explore.”
    PhysOrg and Astrobio.net actually expected you, a perceptive and intelligent reader, to fall for the idea that skeleton-making evolved independently not just once, not twice, but three dozen times.  To top it off, they acknowledged that the evidence looks like a Creation event, but claimed that “in reality” it was a mystical process of evolution that left no trace but must have been secretly at work.  Who do they think we are?  It’s not like we’re mind-numbed public school indoctrinees or something.
    Thank NASA for paying these credulous dreamers – your tax dollars at work, proving that the love of money is the root of evillusion (that’s evil illusion, the way the Brits say it).  Our layman’s work is not done till the priests and priestesses of the Religion of Astrobiology become too ashamed to say things like this in public, because they know they will be faced with an armada of logic, history, philosophy and reason, and so they become forced to raise funds not from politicians, who will also be too ashamed to support them, but from sources more in line with their mythology: the one-armed bandits of Nevada. 

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