Contrary to popular misconceptions, the history of life shows no steady Darwinian march of progress, and the recent discovery about the Avalon explosion is yet another blow to an idea that is kept alive only by ideology, not evidence (and perhaps because the Darwin bicentennial budgets have already been spent?): Excerpts:
Because the Ediacaran creatures are so little known, the significance of their sudden appearance and disappearance is often overlooked: Many scientists have been hoping to find a smooth, orderly transition from the earliest cyanobacteria to the Cambrian creatures, precisely the sort of transition that Darwin’s theory of evolution predicts. But the Ediacarans are not only no help to their theory, they are actually quite a setback. An entire complex fauna came into existence quite suddenly (in terms of geological time), and just as suddenly disappeared. Worse, the Ediacarans are NOT ancestors of the Cambrians.
[ … ]
There was no road between Avalon and Cambria at all. The most remarkable thing about Avalon life is that it strutted its strange stuff a while and then, as far as we know, just disappeared, as did the trilobite and the dinosaur.
For more go here.
Today at the Post-Darwinist:
Physicists’ latest toy: The large hadron collider – gateway to other universes?
Wired Parish: Making sense of evolution
Coffee break: The Onion salutes Wikipedia!
New sci fi journal focuses on … sci phi!
Today at the Mindful Hack
Spiritual Brain authors in the media
Intriguing study of consensus – is it really what you think or what your buddies think?
What I say to people who think that the human mind is an illusion
Coffee break! Coffee break! Monkeys and fairness
Does behaviorism work?
20 Replies to “Today at Design of Life: The Avalon explosion: Another intricate, Darwin-busting puzzle”
It sounds almost as if some intelligence was conducting an experiment. Or maybe just having a little fun.
Interesting idea, Mapou …
Yes, the most remarkable fact about Ediacarans is the fact that, having done so much, they just … disappeared.
While the Cambrian explosion is remarkable, we are all examples of its eventual outcome. So it has the feel of a story we know. Avalon feels to me like a story we don’t know, not really at all.
This is NOT a good time to be a conventional thinker.
This thread brings up an interesting side-topic. As we discover more about our universe and biology, do we also of necessity learn something about its designer? It seems to me that there is something about the nature of the designer hiding in this data. Why does the designer make all of this variety, then just kiss it goodbye? (S)He does not appear to have a focus of producing man. Rather, (s)he seems to, well, play.
Bottom line, we cannot help but learn something of the designer as we learn of the design.
Yes. I have also entertained the idea that these early explosions of lifeforms followed by extinction were a form of terraforming, so to speak. IOW, the intelligent designer (or deity, if you wish) may have been preparing the ecosystem for the more interesting species to come later.
The neo-Darwinists and materialists sense that they’re losing the war and they’re panicking, big time. They’re relying more and more on character assassinations and dictatorial measures that border on intellectual terrorism.
Interesting. I, by contrast, have the impression that the entire physical universe was created with man in mind. This may sound sexist but I tend to see the universe as a beautiful palace or playground built for a lover in the sense of Jahan’s Taj Mahal or Louis XIV’s Versailles.
Mapou, “I, by contrast, have the impression that the entire physical universe was created with man in mind.”
Interesting. How do you explain this evidence, then? Why would there be evidence of the avalon explosion, and dinosaurs if man had no opportunity to enjoy them? It would seem to me that your view is philosophy/religion first — rather than evidence first.
Actually, I don’t think Mapou’s take is necessarily ‘not evidence first’. Rather, it’s very easy to see that the evidence could lead to Mapou’s conclusion.
Man has had ‘opportunity to enjoy’ dinosaurs; they were part of the ecosystem that eventually gave rise to humanity, we study their bones, we learn from their remains, they inspire us, etc.
Humanity is endowed with an intellect capable of finding use for all things, near or far, dead or alive. The idea that dinosaurs are of no use to man because they weren’t around when we were/are strikes me as regarding the Big Bang as useless, because it happened before we could witness it.
Well, the same can be said about the rest of the universe. Man cannot enjoy it now either, short of developing the capability to travel millions of lightyears instantly. We can only get a slim glimpse of it all. However, as a Christian, I have excellent reasons to believe that the entire history of the universe is being recorded right now, down to the last microscopic detail. Dinosaurs and other extinct species (including long dead humans) can be resurrected exactly as they were when they were alive, for our sake, if the deity so desires. In the meantime, mankind must go through a rigorous selection process. Apparently, this deity is very picky about who he’s willing to spend eternity with. Just a thought.
Hugh Ross’s OEC interpretation of these “disappearances” are interesting to me. They usually involve speculations about a) preparations for something to come later and these species have surved their purpose and b) creativity.
Mapou: “It seems to me that there is something about the nature of the designer hiding in this data. Why does the designer make all of this variety, then just kiss it goodbye?”
There may be a more pragmatic reason; the Ediacarans might have possessed a certain metabolism specially designed to produce conditions necessary for the subsequent survival and flourishing of the cambrian explosion life forms, such as the production of essential nutrients and soils. Purpose completed, they were programmed to extinguish themselves to make room for what followed. In other words, they could have been an essential middle-phase following the single-celled microbes necessary to terra-form the original earth (producing an oxygenated atmosphere, for instance).
SCheesman — I think that your answer holds potential validity. As such, it also makes an obvious prediction — that the Avalon explosion will prove to have modified the environment in a what that allowed the cambrian explosion to happen. The prediction is simple, that the avalon explosion had the “purpose” of playing an essential role in the development of man. ‘Still a painfully indirect way to go about it, making a multitude of unique creatures that live for a short period, then pass on. Couldn’t the designer have just made one or two?
It also begs the question of whether there is only one designer: If we knew that advanced humans had made (bioenginnered) both Ediacaran and Cambrian life-forms, given their marked differences it wouldn’t be long at all before someone reasonably inferred that two different designers, teams, or at least design-philosophies must have been behind them.
I know this idea isn’t politically correct from a monotheistic religion point of view, but if we’re following the evidence this is a legitimate question.
If Fords and Chevys are different enought to discern different designers or design teams behind them, and they are, I submit that Ediacaran and Cambrian life forms do so even more dramatically.
Dacook: “it wouldn’t be long at all before someone reasonably inferred that two different designers, teams, or at least design-philosophies must have been behind them.”
I am all for following the evidence where it leads rather than dragging the evidence around by a religious presupposition.
On the question of one or multiple designers, we get some interesting results as we study the evidence. Most noteably, there was exactly one big bang. As such, we have two options — either the big bang was the brainchild of a single designer* or is the product of no designer at all. (*It is possible that the one designer is a single consortium.) However, when it comes to the big bang, we have only the options of one or zero.
If common descent is correct, then life was instituted only once, therefore was instituted by either zero or one desingers*. Even if you don’t accept common descent, we see a single system operative in life — there are a thousand ways of translating DNA to protein, but only one is used.
That said, I don’t see clear evidenciary proof yet that there are not multiple DNA engineers twiddling in the code. On that question, we may end up seeing a pattern form which inspires the belief that there are multiple genetic engineers. Hey, this might explain why there are organisms that seem to be “just bad”, like malaria, for instance. Maybe there are exactly two designers, a nice one and a malicious one — that sounds pretty trippy, pretty theological. Hey, I get carried away. Let’s see where the evidence leads.
Wow! This has got to be one of the most original hypotheses yet on the possible cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs. I love it. Has this idea been around or did you just come up with it? It’s beautiful. It could be used as part of the plot for a sci-fi novel or screenplay, you know. Not necessarily about the earth but some other planet in some distant galaxy. Just a thought.
Well, this is where the genetic experiment hypothesis comes in. The designer is not necessarily an all-knowing intelligence. Maybe she/he/they needed to observe certain interim results before continuing with his/her/their plans.
I realize that you frown on religious interpretations but I would like to point out that the possibility of there having been multiple designers is not something that would contradict the book of Genesis. There is the mention of Elohim (plural), i.e., the Lords or Masters, having a dialog: “Let US make the Adam in OUR image”.
Mapou, “I realize that you frown on religious interpretations but …”
I actually think that there is some value in using scientific discovery to inform one’s religious perspective. I did so when I abandoned the young earth perspective, and ultimately loosened my position from a literalist wrt Biblical interpretation. I think, however, that science needs the freedom to explore without religion boxing it in — on this, let me suggest that athiesm boxes science in every bit as much as any other religious perspective.
That said, I made a cogent case that especially the big bang but also life itself shows evidence of being the product of a single designer. Please show me my error.
There is some informed speculation about the Ediacarans from evolutionists that I believe should be taken seriously.
It looks like a failed experiment in body plans that thrived briefly while there were still no predators. I have deliberately used the term “experiment” leaving open the possible teleological interpretation of the term. This type of body plan (flat, frondlike or discoidal and relatively large at up to 1 m) may have been the first practical scheme to build a large multicellular organism when oxygen levels rose high enough for the first time. They probably were direct or filter feeders, getting dissolved or finely particulate food directly over the body surface. Some of them (having radial symmetry) may have been ancestors of the present cridarians since there is some resemblance, but more likely they represent one or several extinct phyla. Other Ediacaran fossils show bilateral symmetry.
Fossil trails and burrows accompany the early Ediacaran fossil assemblages, and are considered (I believe reasonably) to be probably traces of very primitive wormlike bilaterans with three tissue layers, the precursors of the arthropods, vertebrates and some other lineages of the Cambrian explosion. The traces are minute (mostly 1 mm to 5 mm).
Well, in my opinion, the big bang hypothesis is just as shaky as Darwinian evolution. Consider that it is based on a theory (general relativity) that can’t find more than half of the mass of the universe. I have other reasons to doubt the big bang but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss them, IMO.
Having said that, I don’t see why the big bang should be seen as evidence for a single designer though. I don’t see why a powerful group of intelligent beings could not have made a concerted decision to trigger it.
The Big Bang is not axiomatic. After reading Hoyle’s Cosmology textbook, I have serious doubts that it ever happened. I know of at least one astrophysicist and one nuclear physicist who also no longer believe in the big bang on the same basis.
But whether or not the Big Bang occurred, life forms are wildly, amazingly diverse, and have been even more so in the past. Assuming only one designer is just that; an assumption. And making assumptions on the basis of religious beliefs or philosophy is the same error the materialists make in rejecting ID.
Years ago, on another board, I hypothesized “design committees”: Perhaps one for fish, one for mammalian predators, maybe an Ediacaran one (whose design didn’t pass the final inspection) and so on. There is nothing in fossil or life-science evidence to contradict this idea.
Consider the duck-billed platypus; if ever there was an organism designed by committee….;)
Collaborating on an ID book with a physicist—that would be great! With the CERN accelerator coming on line we may need some focus in separating significant discoveries from the inevitable materialist hype.
Many Worlds, if I’m right, was first employed to dispense with free will (every possible eventuality is realized as a “choice” in some world) and then found useful in denying anthropic design (a fun read here is Martin J. Rees’ Just Six Numbers) and—as ID triumphs—Many Worlds will become THE vital ingredient in explaning the origin of life and the “appearance of design” in biology.
I love physics but nurture a layman’s distrust of our overwhelmingly materialist experts. Just as consciousness supposedly “supervenes” on neurological mechanism, so current theory would have time—the dimension in which agents act—derivative of a more basic material necessity. But if, as you sometimes remind us, reality is more top-down, then maybe mind and time are more fundamental.