Cambrian explosion Darwinism News

That unfalsifiable Cambrian rabbit, and sanity …

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Further to “Top psychology mag asks if creationists are sane ,”someone reminded us this morning of something Jonathan Wells, author of The Myth of Junk DNA, has pointed out: When J.B.S. Haldane said that a fossil rabbit found in the Cambrian would prove Darwin’s theory wrong, Darwin’s followers don’t actually believe that. This was accidentally tested.

On September 29, 2009, Dr. Stephen Westrop, Sam Noble Museum of Natural History Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology, gave a free public lecture to pre-refute a scheduled lecture by Steve Meyer at the museum later that evening on the Cambrian Explosion. Westrop concluded by taking exception to J.B.S. Haldane’s claim that finding a fossil rabbit in the pre-Cambrian would prove Darwin’s theory wrong. If such a fossil were found, Westrop said, paleontologists would simply revise their reconstruction of the history of life. During the Q&A, one student asked him whether any fossil find could falsify Darwin’s theory, and Professor Westrop said “No,” since Darwin’s theory is really about natural selection, which operates on a much shorter time scale than the fossil record.

If finding a mammalian vertebrate fossil in the Cambrian, half a billion years ago, would prompt no serious rethink in paleontology, the belief in Darwinism is actually irrelevant to evidence from nature.

Is that sane?

20 Replies to “That unfalsifiable Cambrian rabbit, and sanity …

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    If anything should have falsified neo-Darwinism from the fossil record, this should have been the fossil to do it:

    picture – 550 million year old fossil fish – “Most major animal groups appear suddenly in the fossil record 550 million years ago, but vertebrates have been absent from this ‘Big Bang’ of life. Two fish-like animals from Early Cambrian rocks now fill this gap.”
    “Lower Cambrian Vertebrates from South China” – Nov. 1999
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/cambrianfish.jpg
    Three (or Four) Reasons Everyone Should Read Darwin’s Doubt – Casey Luskin – April 9, 2013
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....71001.html

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish – May 2000
    What they had actually proved was that Chinese phosphate is fully capable of preserving whatever animals may have lived there in Precambrian times. Because they found sponges and sponge embryos in abundance, researchers are no longer so confident that Precambrian animals were too soft or too small to be preserved. “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Pikaia Fossils Explode the Evolutionary Paradigm – Fazale Rana – May 2012
    Excerpt: Yet, in the Chengjian site—which corresponds to the beginning of the Cambrian—researchers have recovered a number of urochordate, hemichordate, cephalochordate, and agnathan specimens, all organisms that would be Pikaia’s evolutionary descendents. Instead of observing the sequential appearance of primitive chordates first, followed by more advanced chordates, the fossil record actually shows the simultaneous appearance of primitive and advanced chordates.
    http://www.reasons.org/article.....y-paradigm

    This following quote nicely sums up the implications of this:

    “Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle,”
    Richard Dawkins – River Out Of Eden pg. 83

    also of note the fossil record is actually ‘backwards’ to what Darwin had predicted:

    In Explaining the Cambrian Explosion, Has the TalkOrigins Archive Resolved Darwin’s Dilemma? – JonathanM – May 2012
    Excerpt: it is the pattern of morphological disparity preceding diversity that is fundamentally at odds with the neo-Darwinian scenario of gradualism. All of the major differences (i.e. the higher taxonomic categories such as phyla) appear first in the fossil record and then the lesser taxonomic categories such as classes, orders, families, genera and species appear later. On the Darwinian view, one would expect to see all of the major differences in body plan appear only after numerous small-scale speciation events. But this is not what we observe.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....59171.html

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish – 2000
    “In Chen’s view, his evidence supports a history of life that runs opposite to the standard evolutionary tree diagrams, a progression he calls top-down evolution.”
    Jun-Yuan Chen is professor at the Nanjing Institute of Paleontology and Geology
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Scientific study turns understanding about evolution on its head – July 30, 2013
    Excerpt: evolutionary biologists,,, looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.
    Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.
    ,,,Dr Matthew Wills said: “This pattern, known as ‘early high disparity’, turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn’t a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals (in the Cambrian Explosion), or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.”,,,
    Author Martin Hughes, continued: “Our work implies that there must be constraints on the range of forms within animal groups, and that these limits are often hit relatively early on.
    Co-author Dr Sylvain Gerber, added: “A key question now is what prevents groups from generating fundamentally new forms later on in their evolution.,,,
    http://phys.org/news/2013-07-s.....ution.html

    Also of note, these videos were recently uploaded on Stephen Meyer’s YouTube channel:

    Dr. Stephen Meyer: Darwin’s Dilemma – The Significance of Sponge Embryos – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPs8E7y0ySs
    Dr. Stephen Meyer: Darwin’s Dilemma – Where did the information come from? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CTKKrtSc8k
    Dr. Stephen Meyer – Why Intelligent Design Describes the Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfYaD0c-SAc

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    If anything should have falsified neo-Darwinism from the fossil record, this should have been the fossil to do it:

    picture – 550 million year old fossil fish – “Most major animal groups appear suddenly in the fossil record 550 million years ago, but vertebrates have been absent from this ‘Big Bang’ of life. Two fish-like animals from Early Cambrian rocks now fill this gap.”
    “Lower Cambrian Vertebrates from South China” – Nov. 1999
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/cambrianfish.jpg
    Three (or Four) Reasons Everyone Should Read Darwin’s Doubt – Casey Luskin – April 9, 2013
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....71001.html

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish – May 2000
    What they had actually proved was that Chinese phosphate is fully capable of preserving whatever animals may have lived there in Precambrian times. Because they found sponges and sponge embryos in abundance, researchers are no longer so confident that Precambrian animals were too soft or too small to be preserved. “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Pikaia Fossils Explode the Evolutionary Paradigm – Fazale Rana – May 2012
    Excerpt: Yet, in the Chengjian site—which corresponds to the beginning of the Cambrian—researchers have recovered a number of urochordate, hemichordate, cephalochordate, and agnathan specimens, all organisms that would be Pikaia’s evolutionary descendents. Instead of observing the sequential appearance of primitive chordates first, followed by more advanced chordates, the fossil record actually shows the simultaneous appearance of primitive and advanced chordates.
    http://www.reasons.org/article.....y-paradigm

    This following quote nicely sums up the implications of this:

    “Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle,”
    Richard Dawkins – River Out Of Eden pg. 83

    also of note the fossil record is actually ‘backwards’ to what Darwin had predicted:

    In Explaining the Cambrian Explosion, Has the TalkOrigins Archive Resolved Darwin’s Dilemma? – JonathanM – May 2012
    Excerpt: it is the pattern of morphological disparity preceding diversity that is fundamentally at odds with the neo-Darwinian scenario of gradualism. All of the major differences (i.e. the higher taxonomic categories such as phyla) appear first in the fossil record and then the lesser taxonomic categories such as classes, orders, families, genera and species appear later. On the Darwinian view, one would expect to see all of the major differences in body plan appear only after numerous small-scale speciation events. But this is not what we observe.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....59171.html

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish – 2000
    “In Chen’s view, his evidence supports a history of life that runs opposite to the standard evolutionary tree diagrams, a progression he calls top-down evolution.”
    Jun-Yuan Chen is professor at the Nanjing Institute of Paleontology and Geology
    per Boston Globe

    Scientific study turns understanding about evolution on its head – July 30, 2013
    Excerpt: evolutionary biologists,,, looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.
    Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.
    ,,,Dr Matthew Wills said: “This pattern, known as ‘early high disparity’, turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn’t a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals (in the Cambrian Explosion), or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.”,,,
    Author Martin Hughes, continued: “Our work implies that there must be constraints on the range of forms within animal groups, and that these limits are often hit relatively early on.
    Co-author Dr Sylvain Gerber, added: “A key question now is what prevents groups from generating fundamentally new forms later on in their evolution.,,,
    http://phys.org/news/2013-07-s.....ution.html

    Also of note, these videos were recently uploaded on Stephen Meyer’s YouTube channel:

    Dr. Stephen Meyer: Darwin’s Dilemma – The Significance of Sponge Embryos – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPs8E7y0ySs
    Dr. Stephen Meyer: Darwin’s Dilemma – Where did the information come from? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CTKKrtSc8k
    Dr. Stephen Meyer – Why Intelligent Design Describes the Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfYaD0c-SAc

  3. 3
    lifepsy says:

    If you want to see what happens when a fossil is found out of place, there is a great example with the recent bird footprints found in Triassic rocks found in 2002 in the Santo Domingo formation in Argentina.
    http://www.geotimes.org/june02/WebExtra0627.html
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....8.html#B11

    After trying to rationalize these as some type of theropod, researchers finally came to the conclusion that they were exactly like modern shorebird footprints… which means finding them in the Triassic is unacceptable.

    You can practically feel the religious devotion to Evolution coming out of the following statement:

    The recognition of traces of flight (Volichnia), probing marks, and tracks showing morphology similar to modern shorebirds (G. dominguensis), strongly suggest an avian affinity for the producers of the fossil tracks and, in consequence, the Santo Domingo track site would be younger than supposed.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/s.....8208005051

    The rock formation had been dated with Potassium/Argon as Triassic rocks on record in the geologic community for twenty years, so recently they used Lead/Uranium dating instead on the bird footprint rocks to get an Eocene (35 MY) age out of them. They said the formation must have deformed and pushed younger rocks into older ones.

    The researchers actually went as far as to retract their original bird footprint/triassic story. You can tell the heat was on about this.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....12497.html

    Just like that, Presto: Triassic transformed to Eocene.

    The morale of the story? If you’re in a bind with the fossil sequence, just throw other dating methods at it, until you’re able to shoehorn it into a evolution-safe rock age.

    They will do the same thing with other out-of-place fossils that can’t be explained away as anomalies.

  4. 4

    If finding a mammalian vertebrate fossil in the Cambrian, half a billion years ago, would prompt no serious rethink in paleontology, the belief in Darwinism is actually irrelevant to evidence from nature.

    Of course it would.

    Except that the first thing you do with an outlier is to check that something simpler isn’t going on. Did a modern rabbit fall down a borehole in the Welsh hills and die there?

    If there really was a rabbit fossil, in precambrian rock, and no alternative explanation could be found for it other than that it lived contemporaneously with all the other precambrian organisms, and it really did have morphological features that placed it clearly in the mammalian clade, then then yes, of course, palaeontology would be turned upside down.

    What people forget is we have no such rabbit

    Wake us up when you have one.

  5. 5
    lifepsy says:

    If there really was a rabbit fossil, in precambrian rock, and no alternative explanation could be found…

    An “explanation” can always be found, or it can be labeled as anomalous as a last resort.

    Read my above example, you can spin the wheel-of-fortune on different dating methods of the specific rocks the problem-fossil was found in.

    I think you underestimate the mental contortions that can be performed if the alternative is toppling the evolutionary geologic column.

    What people forget is we have no such rabbit

    Wake us up when you have one.

    Yes, we’re all expecting to find rabbits living side by side with marine creatures at the bottom of the ocean.

  6. 6

    This is a myth, lifespy. It is certainly true that were a rabbit fossil to be found, almost any other explanation would seem more probable than that it lived during the Cambrian. But if – and it’s a huge if – those were systematically ruled out, then it would of course completely violate the whole of phylogenetics.

    It’s just silly to condemn “Darwinists” for rejecting the authenticity of such a rabbit when no such rabbit is presented. Or, for that matter, a marine mammal, if its morphological characters were such that phylogenetics put it in the mammalian clade That would be just as catastrophic, if it really were a genuine contemporaneous animal, for the entire palaeontological framework.

    But, I repeat, there is no such fossil. The fossils we have form a beautiful phylogenetic tree that maps beautifully on to the geological column.

    A data point that disrupted that mapping would be a serious problem. That’s the beauty of a proper scientific theory.

  7. 7
    Joe says:

    A rabbit in the Cam or pre-cam would only violate evolutionism if anf only if evolutionism posits an upwards and onwards direction.

  8. 8

    Not true, Joe. Evolution certainly posits an onwards direction (clearly there are more ways in which something can be different to what it was than be the same) but nothing about “upwards” except optimisation to the current environment.

  9. 9
    Joe says:

    Lizzie, then there isn’t any reason why a rabbit could not be found in the Cam or pre-cam.

    Nice job

  10. 10
    Chesterton says:

    The fossils we have form a beautiful phylogenetic tree that maps beautifully on to the geological column.

    Off course they do, if they were arranged following this rules:

    Variations in congruence between cladograms and stratigraphic data result from several factors:
    1. differences in the quality of cladograms;
    2. differences in the quality of the fossil record;
    3. stratigraphic problems;
    4. categorical (taxonomic) focus; and
    5. sampling density.
    Only by looking at each case in some detail can we hope to determine the reasons for particularly good or particularly bad matching. (Benton, Hitchin and Wills 1999, p. 592)

  11. 11

    Wrong again, Joe. Phylogenetic analysis not only gives us a tree, but firm estimates of dates. This is because fossils are found in datable strata.

    To account for a rabbit in the Cambrian, all that would have to be thrown out. It would mean that not only rabbits, but placentals, synapsids, amniotes, tetrapods, lobe-limbed fish, bony fish, fish with craniums, also lived in the Cambrian, and continued to flourish without leaving any trace in the fossil record prior to the time when all copious fossil evidence indicates that they flourished.

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    Lizzie:

    Wrong again, Joe. Phylogenetic analysis not only gives us a tree, but firm estimates of dates. This is because fossils are found in datable strata.

    How does that refute what I said? Also phylogenetic analysis produces different trees depending on the molecule being analyzed.

  13. 13

    Chesterton, you are completely ignoring the error bars in the data. It’s as though you think that unless something is completely certain, anything else is possible. That’s like concluding that because scientists have discovered evidence that puts the age of the earth a few million years older than previously thought, that the age of the earth theory is falsified, and it’s just as likely that the earth is 6,000 years old.

    All conclusions in science, as I keep saying, are provisional, and subject to revision in the light of new data. But that doesn’t mean that revising a particular parameter by a chunk means that the entire model is falsified, just as finding that the jigsaw puzzle piece you thought was sky turns out to be the girl’s pinafore doesn’t means you have to throw out the whole puzzle.

    On the other hand finding a piece with a shark on it, in what you thought was a picture of a girl sitting on a swing in a cottage garden, would make you seriously wonder whether you had a completely wrong idea about what the puzzle picture was.

  14. 14
    Chesterton says:

    Chesterton, you are completely ignoring the error bars in the data.

    No Elizabeth, I`m not ignoring the error bar. I`m saying that the fossil record looks beautiful because it was interpreted by and make it fit to CD.

  15. 15
    SteveGoss says:

    But if a fossilized rabbit was found in Cambrian rocks, would not the existence of the rabbit fossil be used as proof that the rocks were much younger?

  16. 16
    AVS says:

    No, steve.

  17. 17
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Wrong again, Joe. Phylogenetic analysis not only gives us a tree, but firm estimates of dates. This is because fossils are found in datable strata.

    So, the phylogenetic analysis of single-celled asexual organisms gives a clear tree that matches perfectly the fossil record of single-celled asexual organisms?

    And we have firm dates for all of it?

    No, I don’t think so. I think you’re wrong. I think you’re mistaken. I think you’re ignoring certain inconvenient facts. I think your claims that you’re a “scientist” should be taken with exactly one grain of salt.

  18. 18
    lifepsy says:

    almost any other explanation would seem more probable…. But if – and it’s a huge if – those were systematically ruled out, then it would of course completely violate the whole of phylogenetics.

    But there will almost certainly be an “explanation”. Look at the example I posted. Triassic rocks (supported in the geologic community for at least twenty years) were suddenly transformed to Eocene rocks because modern bird footprints were found in them. Just throw a different dating method at it until you find one that is evolution-safe.

    If all else fails, ignore it as an anomaly. Tell me, which journal is going to print MAMMALS FOUND IN THE SILURIAN – EVOLUTION FALSIFIED! lol, give me a break. It would just be set aside as a geologic mystery. And yes, there are comparable cases on record of out of place fossils and trackways. They are ignored as anomalies or flushed down the memory hole.

    But, I repeat, there is no such fossil. The fossils we have form a beautiful phylogenetic tree that maps beautifully on to the geological column.

    That’s just a silly mantra. You seem to enjoy tossing these out and then taking off. I doubt you have even attempted to study problems and criticisms with geologic dating and the supposed evolutionary fossil sequence.

    Find me one paleontological journal article where the sequence is praised as conforming beautifully or ‘very well’ to the evolutionary phylogenetic tree. Such a claim is laughable, Elizabeth. Both the phylogenetic tree and the fossil sequence has been mired by unexpected problems, “puzzles” and surprises since Day One.

  19. 19
    Paul Giem says:

    Kudos to the original post, who quoted someone who was honest enough to say what really would happen to the Precambrian rabbit, and to lifepsy (#3), who noted what, on a more limited scale, what really happened to similar conflicting data.

    We actually had this discussion some years ago on UD where I noted Cambrian oak leaves and Precambrian pollen, and the responses were stereotypical. To use the Precambrian rabbit analogy, It wasn’t Precambrian, or it wasn’t a rabbit, or the rabbit burrowed down there somehow (a variant of argument 1), or Precambrian rabbits didn’t really falsify evolution.

    Elizabeth Liddle, how do you deal with Triassic bird tracks? And do you disagree with Dr. Westrop (cited in the original post)?

  20. 20
    Querius says:

    Elizabeth,

    Phylogenetic analysis not only gives us a tree, but firm estimates of dates. This is because fossils are found in datable strata.

    Geologists tell us that strata are datable from the fossils found in it, which *perfectly* corroborates the dates that many paleontologists assure us are immutable based on the information received from geologists. Don’t tell me that this is never true.

    Are you familiar with laminar flow as a source of stratification?

    More to the point, here’s an experiment that can demonstrate or falsify evolution by mutation and natural selection.

    Using a non-motile bacteria, expose it to high doses of ionizing radiation within a medium that includes gradient concentrations of a nutrient. With high reproductive rates and high radioresistance, a few years of exposure can simulate millions of years (especially considering that most organisms have much lower reproduction rates).

    If the bacteria evolve flagella, axial filaments, slime, or some other method for of locomotion, then it will demonstrate that evolution by mutation and natural selection is a viable mechanism for evolution.

    Ready to take on the challenge? 🙂

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