Charles Darwin knew there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. In what is known today as the “Cambrian explosions,” many animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record 530 million years ago without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock. Stephen Meyer makes a compelling case for the theory of intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of the Cambrian animals and the biological information to produce them.
I recently began reading Stephen Meyer’s critically acclaimed best seller “Darwin’s Doubt” and decided to make periodic post in a attempt to provide a comprehensive, yet concise, summary of its contents. Praise for “Darwin’s Doubt” has come not only from his fellow colleagues, but from corners all around the scientific community.
“Darwin’s Doubt represents an opportunity for bridge-building rather than dismissive polarization.” – Dr. George Church, Prof of genetics at Harvard Medical School.
“It is hard for us paleontologist, steeped as we are in a tradition of Darwinian analysis, to admit the neo-Darwinian explanation for the Cambrian explosion have failed miserably. New data acquired in recent years, instead of solving Darwin’s dilemma, have made it worse. This book is a game changer for the study of evolution” – Dr. Mark McMenanin, paleontologist at Mt. Holyoke College.
Darwin’s theory of evolution was established on two basic concepts – the idea of universal common ancestry and natural selection
The idea of common ancestry was Darwin’s theory for the history of life, he argued that “all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form.” This process of “descent with modification” acts on the power of natural selection to produce new biological novelties. Meyer explains the ability of natural selection to create new and significant biological changes depends on three different elements: (1) Randomly arising mutations. (2) the heritability of those mutations. (3) a competition for survival , resulting in differences in reproductive success among competing organisms.
“Darwin conceded that the beneficial mutations responsible for permanent change in species are both rare and necessarily modest. Major variations in forms, what later evolutionary biologist would term “macromutations,” inevitably produced deformity and death. Only minor variations meet the test of viability and heritability.”
By the internal logic of his own reasoning Darwin acknowledged that the process of evolution must occur very gradually, thus requiring million of years resulting in innumerable transitional fossils embedded in the strata, thus simply finding a handful of plausible intermediates wouldn’t come close to documenting the Darwinian picture of life. On that note, Darwin fully acknowledged that Cambrian explosion gave rise to fundamentally new biological forms that had no known precursors in the fossil record. “The difficulty of understanding the absence of vast piles of fossiliferous strata, which on my theory were no doubt somewhere accumulated before the Cambrian epoch, is very great.. I allude to the manner in which numbers of species of the same group suddenly appear in the lowest know fossiliferous rocks.“
There was one scientist who would not let Darwin forget this. Louis Agassis was a world renown paleontologist from Harvard university. Darwin initially sent Agassiz his book in order to win his support, however it would be Agassiz who ultimately became Darwin’s biggest critic. He called attention to the sudden appearance of complex designs like the compound eyes of the first trilobites, creatures already thriving at the apparent dawn of animal life. The abrupt appearance of complex anatomical features in the Cambrian period presented a challenge to both the main parts of Darwin’s theory.
“Agassiz thought the evidence of abrupt appearance, and the absences of ancestral forms in the precambrian, refuted Darwin’s theory. Of these earlier forms, Agassiz asked. “Where are their fossilized remains?” he insisted that Darwin’s picture of the history of life contradicts what the animal forms buried in the rocky strata of our earth tell us of their own introduction. Let us therefore hear them; -for after all, their testimony is that of the eye-witness and the actor in the scene.”
Because Darwin was well aware of this problem he came up with two different explanations, suggesting that the fossil record may be significantly incomplete: either the ancestral forms of the Cambrian animals were not fossilized or they hadn’t been found yet. “I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept.. only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines.”
Darwin himself was less than satisfied with this explanation. Agassiz for his part, would have none of it, saying “Both with Darwin and his followers, a great part of the argument is purely negative. Thus they throw off the responsibility of proof…However broken the geological record may be, there is a complete sequence in many parts of it. from which the characters of the succession may be ascertained.” Agassiz further argued that “since the most exquisitely delicate structures, as well as embryonic phases of growth of the most perishable nature, have been preserved from very early deposits, we have no right to infer the disappearance of types because their absence disproves some favorite theory.
Stephen Meyer asserts that those who will in turn try to destroy the credibility of Agassiz expertise would be better off taking a different route. Agassiz was tutored by none other than Georges Curvier the founder of paleontology. Darwin himself said this of Agassiz “Both our universities together cannot furnish the like. Why, there is Agassiz – he counts for three.”
While the general population has been duped into believing that evolution and the fossil record share a perfect marriage, a rising consensus is beginning to emerge that theory of evolution is miserably flawed. The sudden appearance of animal forms in the Cambrian period gave Darwin pause, and still persist as one the greatest arguments that can be raised against neo-darwinian evolution.