The wrong people know about it, apparently:
The bibliographic pedigree of the phrase “Cambrian explosion” is uncertain; its origin is not clearly established in peer-reviewed literature. By the early twentieth century, the abrupt appearance of abundant (macro-) fossils in the Cambrian was canon in historical geology textbooks (Schuchert and Dunbar, 1933). The earliest use of the adjective “explosive,” with reference to an evolutionary rate, was likely George Gaylord Simpson’s “explosive evolution” to describe a general pattern of rapid diversification early in the history of a lineage (Simpson, 1944). Mid-twentieth-century contemporaries echoed use of this phrase in characterizing a general evolutionary pattern (Henbest, 1952; Colbert, 1953).
Use of the phrase “explosive evolution” to describe rapid diversification during the early Cambrian morphed into “The Cambrian Explosion” under obscure circumstances. The earliest published occurrence known to us is a section heading in an early version of an experimental high school biology curriculum (BSCS, 1961). Three years later, the phrase, “Cambrian evolutionary explosion,” with the middle, qualifying adjective “evolutionary,” to distinguish it from physical or chemical processes, was used in a paper describing the evolution of oxygen in Earth’s early atmosphere (Berkner and Marshall, 1964). Ultimately, the binomial form prevailed, referring to the biosphere, and the “Cambrian explosion” has propagated ever after without explicit authorship attribution.Jacob Beasecker, “It’s Time to Defuse the Cambrian “Explosion”” at GSA Today
Beasecker et al. belabor the point that the history of life is not like a dynamite stick. True. But, presumably, many who have known the Cambrian well have experienced it as an explosion. And why should that be a problem?
Well, the authors quibble about various matters that are not self-evidently very important… and then they come to the point:
But perhaps the most compelling reason to reassess the use of the word “explosion” to describe biodiversification during the Cambrian, separate from linguistic lineage and disciplinary developments, is its appropriation by followers of non-scientific explanations for life’s origin. Authors of anti-evolution tracts were among the earliest adopters of the phrase (Ridenour, 1967). Misuse of the concept of an early, explosive episode of evolution continues today (exchanged life discipleship, http://exchangedlife.com/); in this arena, the Cambrian explosion is commonly styled as falsifying evolutionary theory and flummoxing “evolutionists,” neither of which accusations are accurate, correct, or true.Jacob Beasecker, “It’s Time to Defuse the Cambrian “Explosion”” at GSA Today
Sorry, guys. The Cambrian is a bit like quantum theory. Anyone who ISN’T flummoxed by it doesn’t understand it.
Now comes the punch line: “We suggest, as an alternative to “Cambrian explosion,” the Great Cambrian Biodiversification (GCB)…”
Sure, that’ll catch on. It sounds like a large animal vet’s description of an elephant’s bowel problems.
They could always try omitting discussion of the Cambrian Explosion from accounts of evolution. Or distorting it. or boring everyone to death.
That would give the rest of us an unintended monopoly on the exciting real story. Let’s hope that they try one of those options. Good for (our) business.
See also: Darwin’s Doubt