Cambrian explosion Intelligent Design News

Early paleontologists underestimated the strangeness of the Cambrian creatures

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Further to “New big fossil find in Canada’s Burgess Shale area features internal organs” and “New Burgess Shale find: Maybe the Cambrian (discovery) Era is just beginning,” here is an interesting passage from Steve Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt:

As Whittington analyzed the Cambrian fauna at the Burgess [in the 1960s], he realized that Walcott (before 1917) had grossly underestimated the morphological disparity of this group of animals. Many of the creatures in the assemblage featured unique body designs, unique anatomical structures, or both. Opabinia, with its five eyes, fifteen distinct segments, and claw at the end of a long proboscis exemplified the unique forms on display at the Burgess. But so did Hallucigenia, Wiwaxia, Nectocaris, and many other Burgess animals. To this day, paleontologists describing Nectocaris, for example, can’t decide whether it more closely resembles an arthropod, a chordate, or a cephalopod (a class of mollusk) (pp. 52–53).

And, given that brand new creatures have just been identified, it could get stranger still.

Oh, and by the way, today at about 11:30 a.m. EST,

and other denialist non-facts.

File cross-reffed with: Yes, Michael Cremo is still wrong, even though we don’t know why any more.

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reconstruction of nectocaris, large and small morphs/smith609

7 Replies to “Early paleontologists underestimated the strangeness of the Cambrian creatures

  1. 1
    CuriousCat says:

    I’ve recently bought Darwin’s Doubt and I am currently on page 90. I must say that it is really an impressive work! To be frank, I did not know much about Cambrian Explosion, and for some reason I never bothered to learn about it. So, this book has been an eye-opener for me.

  2. 2
    News says:

    CuriousCat, if you actually read even part of the book, you have disqualified yourself from reviewing it. 😉

  3. 3
    CuriousCat says:


  4. 4
    Axel says:

    Yes. We must maintain standards. Denyse is right to be adamant on that point. No two ways about it.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    A few notes on disparity preceding diversity:

    Disparity preceding Diversity graphic on Cambrian Explosion from ‘Darwin’s Doubt’

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    “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

    The Ham-Nye Creation Debate: A Huge Missed Opportunity – Casey Luskin – February 4, 2014
    Excerpt: “The record of the first appearance of living phyla, classes, and orders can best be described in Wright’s (1) term as ‘from the top down’.”
    (James W. Valentine, “Late Precambrian bilaterians: Grades and clades,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 91: 6751-6757 (July 1994).)

    Investigating Evolution: The Cambrian Explosion Part 1 – video
    Part 2 – video

    “Darwin had a lot of trouble with the fossil record because if you look at the record of phyla in the rocks as fossils why when they first appear we already see them all. The phyla are fully formed. It’s as if the phyla were created first and they were modified into classes and we see that the number of classes peak later than the number of phyla and the number of orders peak later than that. So it’s kind of a top down succession, you start with this basic body plans, the phyla, and you diversify them into classes, the major sub-divisions of the phyla, and these into orders and so on. So the fossil record is kind of backwards from what you would expect from in that sense from what you would expect from Darwin’s ideas.”
    James W. Valentine – On the Origin of Phyla: Interviews with James W. Valentine – video – I believe he was quoted sometime in the early to mid 2000’s

    The unscientific hegemony of uniformitarianism – David Tyler – May 2011
    Excerpt: The pervasive pattern of natural history: disparity precedes diversity,,,, The summary of results for phyla is as follows. The pattern reinforces earlier research that concluded the Explosion is not an artifact of sampling. Much the same finding applies to the appearance of classes. These data are presented in Figures 1 and 2 in the paper.

    Disparity precedes diversity graph

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Disparity preceding diversity is not only found in the Cambrian Explosion but is found after it as well. In fact, in the following paper, some Darwinists tried to argue that since Disparity preceding Diversity is a consistent pattern in the fossil record after the Cambrian Explosion then, by their reasoning then that means the Cambrian Explosion wasn’t that special after all:

    Cambrian Explosion Solved? – October 2010
    Excerpt: Looking at the big picture, though, they argued that the Cambrian explosion was really not all that special; other parts of the fossil record show similar patterns: “the observation that disparity reaches its peak early in a group’s history seems to reflect a general phenomenon, also observed in plants (Boyce, 2005), the Ediacara biota (Shen et al., 2008), Precambrian microfossils (Huntley et al., 2006), and within many individual animal clades, such as crinoids (Foote, 1997), gastropods (Wagner, 1995), and ungulates (Jernvall et al., 1996). Although of significant interest, this high disparity soon after a group’s appearance is not unique to the Cambrian,” they said.

    Well, despite what the preceding researchers would like to believe, Disparity preceding Diversity is NOT what Darwinian Evolution predicts (But such a pattern is what ‘top down’ design predicts):

    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.,,,

    “The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or of species, we find’ over and over again’ not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.”
    Paleontologist, Derek V. Ager (Department of Geology & Oceanography, University College, Swansea, UK)

    “It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution…This phenomenon becomes more universal and more intense as the hierarchy of categories is ascended. Gaps among known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.”
    G.G.Simpson – one of the most influential American Paleontologist of the 20th century

    “Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document a gradual steady change from ancestral forms to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series.” –
    Ernst Mayr-Professor Emeritus, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University

    “What is missing are the many intermediate forms hypothesized by Darwin, and the continual divergence of major lineages into the morphospace between distinct adaptive types.”
    Robert L Carroll (born 1938) – vertebrate paleontologist who specialises in Paleozoic and Mesozoic amphibians

    “In virtually all cases a new taxon appears for the first time in the fossil record with most definitive features already present, and practically no known stem-group forms.”
    Fossils and Evolution, TS Kemp – Curator of Zoological Collections, Oxford University, Oxford Uni Press, p246, 1999

    Verse and Music:

    Psalm 104:30
    You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the ground.

    Creation Calls — are you listening? Music by Brian Doerksen

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Darwin’s Doubt – Reviews part 4 – by Paul Giem – video

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