Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Cambrian Explosion was not the Garden of Eden

Charles Darwin wrote that there was an event called the Cambrian (Cam-bri-an)** Explosion that he found difficult to explain in terms of evolution. And here we are a hundred and fifty years later, with websites and youtube videos from creationist groups stating that the Cambrian Explosion positively disproves Evolution.


Why did Darwin bring this on himself? Why not just pretend it doesn't exist, just not mention it. I guess that's where scientists have a flaw compared to religious people. Scholars and scientists need to look at both sides of an issue, because their reasoning is based on evidence. Other scientists would already know about the Cambrian Explosion, and so Darwin had to at least address the issue even if he didn't have all the answers at the time.

Unfortunately, creationists point to Charles Darwin's mention of the Cambrian Explosion, and call it his admission of defeat. Creationists do not think like scientists, and to them, any admission of weakness is a red flag. To a fundamentalist, strength lies in unwavering faith, and the ability to overcome evidence and logic.

The fundamentalist websites usually overstate the suddenness of the Cambrian Explosion, and also suggest that many present day animals appeared at this time, with no previous fossils. This amounts to a deception. Many Fundamentalist bible believers mistakenly think the Cambrian Explosion happened in one day, and in that day all current animals abruptly appeared. But to a scientist studying evolution, ten million years is sudden, or "abrupt". And can be referred to as an explosion. I've said before that scientists do get misunderstood by ordinary people. Ordinary people have their explosions in a matter of seconds, not millions of years.

But I personally don't see how a Creationist could claim a win, even if the Cambrian Explosion was a one day event (which it wasn't). The Cambrian explosion did not produce Adam or Eve, it didn't even produce monkeys. All that business about man (supposedly) descending from the apes happened long after the Cambrian Explosion. The first primates appeared a hundred million years ago, so that leaves 400 million years of evolution after the Cambrian Explosion, and before the first monkey-like animal evolved.

The way I see it, the entire argument about the Cambrian Explosion by the creationists is like a rear guard action. For a comparison, consider a retreating army blowing up bridges. Sure it's nice for them, it gives them more time to retreat and maybe regroup and counter attack. But blowing up bridges is not winning, it is trying to slow down the enemy, and sometimes it is very effective.

Since Darwin's time, all new evidence has supported and extended the theory of evolution, and in fact other lesser "Explosions" were found such as the Avalon explosion.

So the Cambrian Explosion cannot prove that Eve ate the apple and then Adam and Eve were both kicked out of the Garden of Eden 4000 years ago. But distorting it may help slow down the scientists by misinforming people, and obstructing public education. It gives more time for a campaign to convert as many people as possible to Fundamentalism. At the same time, Biblical people accuse the Darwinians of helping Hitler to Kill the Jews. That's how fundamentalists fight against the forces of Satan and his black magic.

** CAM-bri-an sounds funny to me, because I live near a city called Cambridge that is pronounced CAME-bridge. Good thing I'm not doing a youtube video.

Time line picture from http://www.myspace.com/roiscience/blog/349951677 (originally Encyclopedia Britannica)

T-shirt Picture: The anti-Cambrian Explosion argument fits on a T-shirt, but not on a bumper sticker.


  1. Well, well, well ... do we detect some division among the creationists?

    That article you link states that, 'The Cambrian age in the geologic time scale is dated by scientists as being about 530 million years old. How, exactly, does that square with the 'fact' that the Earth is only 6,000 years old?

    If the Earth was not created in six days, the Biblical account can no longer be held to be the literal truth, and doesn't that make this entire discussion rather academic?

    'Ah, but!' they protest, 'a thousand years is only as the LORD perceives a day, which remains a twenty-four hour period.' Yes, of course, we must allow for an 'infinite intelligence that can think infinitely fast', including infinitely accelerating the rate of chemical reactions (the LORD, after all, is omnipotent!).

    That's all very nice, but if it's about creation 'science, it all still comes down to the fundamental (pardon the pun) scientific standard: 'How do you know that?

    And, despite all the BS about specious peer-reviewed creation 'science,' the evidence for intelligent design fails to meet the standards of science.

    'Rear guard action' notwithstanding.

  2. I would accept "sort of peer-like reviewed", but saying their creationism journal is "peer reviewed" is morally fraudulent. Too bad the scientists didn't register their term to protect it. If the creationists had said their journal was "Mickey Mouse Reviewed", they would be slapped with a lawsuit.

  3. Of course, the entire issue of 'peer review' can get quite contentious.

    In the normal course of peer review, the submitted paper is reviewed by impartial experts. The intent is independent and unbiased assessment of the work in order to reveal any flaws and weaknesses.

    I linked the Wired article because any claim of objective review is belied by the fact that the reviews are conducted by a 'large network of well-qualified creationist researchers, scientists, and theologians who are the best thinkers in their fields of creationist research.'

    So, while this may be reassuring to those who already subscribe to 'creation science' it hardly qualifies as true 'peer review' - i.e. review by qualified experts in the life sciences.

  4. "A study of how things were put together in order to function is science. Intelligent Design Theory is science and science should be taught in secular schools."

    Intelligent Design

    Fundamentalists generally do not understand what science is. According to the definition above, my cat trying to get into the catnip jar is science. "Peer reviewed" needs to be part of a definition of what officially counts as science, but of course that term has already been compromised by people who do not understand science. My cat's catnip jar theory is not science because it was not peer reviewed. Reviews by other cats don't count. The word peer does not necessarily mean "equals" it means a certain level of a hierarchy.

  5. Science is motivated by a quest for the best explanation of phenomena - without resorting to the supernatural.

    'Creation science' is motivated by a quest for 'evidence' to support a particular supernatural explanation for phenomena which can already be adequately (and more elegantly) explained without obfuscation by contrived and spurious concepts such as 'irreducible complexity.'