September 25, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Evolutionists Tap Dance Around Cambrian Explosion

A flurry of papers by evolutionists appeared to be timed to counter Stephen Meyer’s best selling book that uses the Cambrian explosion as evidence for intelligent design.  But do they address the key issues Meyer presented?

It’s unprecedented: multiple papers from multiple sources all trying to claim that the Cambrian explosion is not a problem for evolution (see Evolution News & Views, ENV).  It’s uncanny that they appeared this year, coincident with the release of Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute (see 6/08/13 entry), now in the top ten of the list of best sellers in science (ENV).  Because Darwin himself doubted the ability of natural selection to account for the sudden appearance of dozens of new body plans at the base of the Cambrian, Meyer titled his book to launch into evidence that the situation has only gotten worse for evolution ever since, whereas the sudden appearance of fully-formed complex animals provides positive evidence for intelligent design.

Evolutionists will have none of that.  Darwin’s theory is too important to throw out just because of falsifying evidence.  “Intelligent design” has become the unmentionable phrase in academia, except in bouts of rage.  But the explanations that pretend to say this is not a problem for evolution are dodging the main issue Meyer talks about: the origin of multiple levels of complex specified information necessary to account for animals with new systems like guts, eyes, articulated legs and swimming ability.  What, then, do the evolutionists say?  For one thing, most do not dignify Meyer by mentioning him.  For another, they get really good at begging questions:

  • To be expected:  One team, publishing in PNAS, basically said that explosions are just what evolution does sometimes.  When it has a clear field to evolve on, evolution tends to produce a lot of variety very fast: “Morphological change under these circumstances may be rapid either because transitions are unusually large or because rates of cladogenesis are unusually high (even with “normal” step sizes at each splitting event).”  “Cladogenesis” is a vacuous term that just means the origin of new clades or categories of animals, without explaining how they arose.  This failure to explain the origin of information was described as a kind of magic by Evolution News & Views.
  • Just add oxygen:  Another PNAS paper suggested that the Cambrian explosion was triggered by a rise of oxygen.  That should be testable.  If you add oxygen to a test tube filled with microbes, does a trilobite crawl out?  This absurd proposal totally avoids the origin of complex specified information, even though the authors were well aware of “appearance of essentially all animal body plans” in a geological instant.  See Evolution News & Views for critique of the paper.
  • Simple physics:  Last year, Stuart Newman in Science Magazine tried to describe the Cambrian explosion as just physics in action.  Cavities and layers form as “morphological motifs” that follow “physico-genetic determinants” somehow.  This answer (which also avoids the issue of information) was critiqued by Evolution & News.
  • Speed dial:  Another recent paper, this time in Current Biology, said simply that evolution simply ran five times faster during the Cambrian.  The news media seemed to like this theory, with Science Now, Astrobiology Magazine, and Science Daily giving it uncritical press, saying the answer has “resolved Darwin’s dilemma.”  Live Science announced, “lightning-fast evolution clocked during Cambrian explosion.”  But like the other paper, this notion, too, ignored the origin of information necessary to create new body plans, and begged the question of evolution.  It was analyzed on Evolution News & Views.
  • All of the aboveScience Magazine tried a synergistic approach.  No single answer explains the explosion; maybe a combo plate would.  “Recent hypotheses for the Cambrian explosion fall into three main categories: developmental/genetic, ecologic, and abiotic/environmental, with geochemical hypotheses forming an abundant and distinctive subset of the last,” M. Paul Smith and David A. T. Harper wrote.  “Most of these hypotheses have been posited as stand-alone processes that were the main cause of the explosion, yet many of them are tightly interlinked and codependent.”  The news media liked this idea, too, claiming, like Live Science did, that the Cambrian explosion was “triggered by multiple events” or multiple causes.  Science Daily called it a “cascade events.”  None of the categories, though, address the origin of complex specified information.

The only journal entry that mentioned Meyer was a book review of Darwin’s Doubt in Science Magazine, coincident with the above “combo plate” paper.  The book review was written by Charles Marshall, the master of disaster who stepped up to the plate in 2006 to explain the Cambrian explosion.  In his Annual Review paper, after surveying all the proposed solutions, debunking them all, he ended with his favored hypothesis: the Cambrian animals evolved because they evolved.  That’s a simplification of his jargon-rich explanation that says, basically, that when evolution has an open playing field, with a “fitness landscape” that has been “roughened” by the environment, it will tend to fill it with wondrous forms most beautiful (see our “Paper View” description of his article, 4/23/06, “Cambrian explosion damage control,” and updates, 5/10/08, 10/31/10).  Needless to say, such a proposal begs the question of evolution to the extreme.

Marshall’s 2006 Annual Review paper, “Explaining the Cambrian ‘Explosion’ of Animals,” was cited by several of the other papers, showing it is still considered authoritative.  Yet in it, he also ignored the central problem of complex specified information.  Here he is now, seven years later: does he have anything new to say from the evolution perspective?  Not really, other than hope that “gene regulatory networks” (GRNs) might somehow complexify themselves without design or guidance.  His wording is pregnant with possibility thinking: “today’s GRNs have been overlain with half a billion years of evolutionary innovation (which accounts for their resistance to modification), whereas GRNs at the time of the emergence of the phyla were not so encumbered.”  Well, if they were not encumbered then, think of the possibilities!  Just turn on the mutation and natural selection and let them work innovation magic!

Marshall was not here now, though, to defend his proposal, but rather to critique Meyer’s.  His review, titled, “When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship” criticized Meyer for having a prior commitment to design, for not meeting his personal expectation of scholarship, and for not being a biologist (even though Meyer has 2 earned PhDs).  His main contention was that ID is a “god-of-the-gaps” solution, offered with the ulterior motive of defending a belief system.  Marshall wrote in a mild yet patronizing tone, ignoring the fact that some of the same criticisms could be leveled at himself.  Science Magazine, of course, would never do Meyer the justice of publishing a defense in their Darwin-only journal.  As Dr. Richard Sternberg found out when editing a Smithsonian journal, all hell breaks loose when a pro-ID paper passes peer review and gets published (see Evolution News & Views).

Evolutionists toss around terms like “morphogenesis” and “cladogenesis” that are devoid of understanding.  As an example of what’s involved in “morphogenesis” (the creation of a body), consider what an internation team said about developmental morphogenesis – the generation of a body from an embryo.  Writing in Current Biology, they gave a glimpse into the complexity of just one of many essential systems involved in morphogenesis at the cellular level:

The establishment of a multicellular body plan requires coordinating changes in cell adhesion and the cytoskeleton to ensure proper cell shape and position within a tissue. Cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM) via integrins plays diverse, essential roles during animal embryogenesis and therefore must be precisely regulated. Talin, a FERM-domain containing protein, forms a direct link between integrin adhesion receptors and the actin cytoskeleton and is an important regulator of integrin function. Similar to other FERM proteins, talin makes an intramolecular interaction that could autoinhibit its activity. However, the functional consequence of such an interaction has not been previously explored in vivo. Here, we demonstrate that targeted disruption of talin autoinhibition gives rise to morphogenetic defects during fly development and specifically that dorsal closure (DC), a process that resembles wound healing, is delayed. Impairment of autoinhibition leads to reduced talin turnover at and increased talin and integrin recruitment to sites of integrin-ECM attachment. Finally, we present evidence that talin autoinhibition is regulated by Rap1-dependent signaling. Based on our data, we propose that talin autoinhibition provides a switch for modulating adhesion turnover and adhesion stability that is essential for morphogenesis.

These and many other complex processes would have been required to build a trilobite out of a simpler colony of cells.

These evolutionists act exactly like tyrannical bullies with a gift of obfuscation whenever called on to explain their failings.  Syria’s President Assad could take lessons from these guys.   It should make you angry, even if you oppose intelligent design but respect scientific integrity.  The Darwinist answers to the Cambrian explosion are vacuous, vapid, vacant, void, and vagrant.  They dodge the question, filling their time with question-begging circular irrelevancies.  They fail to acknowledge the existence of their critics, except when necessary to vent their voluminous voracity for vituperation.

Where did the information come from to build new body plans?  That is the question!  “Uh, duh, well, maybe evolution just ran faster, that’s all.  Maybe there was more oxygen back then.  Maybe that’s just how evolution works.  Maybe a combination of the above.”  Are you satisfied?  Anyone giving answers like that to explain a major failure of their project should be fired on the spot.  If it weren’t for the fact that academia has joined hands in unflinching allegiance to Charles Darwin, and surrounded itself with lapdog reporters and lawyers like security guards, they would be laughed out of town.  We’re not criticizing their knowledge of real, observable biology in the present, which is often exceptional – we’re talking about their ability to obfuscate when the evidence goes against their treasured beliefs.  Marshall should talk!  His “prior belief” in materialism has him proposing Darwin-of-the-gaps.

Instead of honest responses to categorical evidence against them, they present emptiness.  Yet their intolerant, one-sided rule produces radical disciples filled with rage against anyone who challenges their idol.  We had a taste of that here recently.  Here’s the kind of language you can expect from some disciples of Darwin:

you are a piece of shit … what other crimes are you hiding? YOU are HELPING to make the world into a worse place. when i corner you in your lies you try to misdirect the conversation to avoid confronting what a piece of shit you are you are a TRUE charlatan — one who has completely convinced himself his lies are in the public good and are therefore The Truth.

What had happened was a guy wrote our Comment line with a list of blanket accusations, all unsupported by specifics, claiming every article on this site was filled with falsehoods, calling it insanity, “utterly delusional” and a “mountain of lies.”  We asked him for specifics, and he responded with another list of generalities.  We tried to zero in on his own world view, asking if he was a Darwinist and atheist (since he already knew our viewpoint), and got this response.  If you read the comments to evolutionary articles, this kind of filthy vitriol is common when anyone poses scientific criticisms of evolution.  What about evolutionism turns people into such vicious, vile hatemongers?

The vacuousness of the answers its chief experts present, and the hateful rhetoric of its disciples, provide two data points for observers of Darwinism.  You will know them by their fruits.

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  • Jon Saboe says:

    “physico-genetic determinants” Wow, now THAT’S a whopper. Kinda like biochemical predestination.

    The phrases sound almost religious…

  • sixthbook says:

    What’s up with the hate message on the bottom of this post? Did someone hack it?

  • OldArmy94 says:

    “What about evolutionism turns people into such vicious, vile hatemongers?”

    I think you have the cause-effect relationship backward. It is the hate and vileness within the proud heart of man that denies the obvious truth that God has created all that we see. Evolutionism is merely the expression of that fixed, hard-heartedness that prevents the scoffer from seeing how foolish his contrivance is.

  • Janny57 says:

    I just recently had a Darwin dogmatist citing the “speed dial” article as a way of explaining (away) the Cambrian explosion. Apparently he wasn’t aware of all the other articles! This one gets pretty testy when challenged, too, as so many of them do.

    I’ve been challenging a couple of them to explain how single celled organisms become multi-celled. So far, all they’ve produced is colonies of algae as “possible evidence of multicellular evolution.” The fossil record is incomplete, and those organisms are very delicate, which is why we don’t see evidence of transition.

    However, when it comes to horse “evolution” from eohippus — and all over the map — to get to “the modern horse,” then the fossil record has “mounds of evidence.” These people are so invested in this theory, they can explain anything away, and mold any evidence to support them.

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