Darwin’s Doubt – The Fossil Record

Darwin-Doubt

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.

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15 thoughts on “Darwin’s Doubt – The Fossil Record

  1. The problem always tracks back to origin.

    In truth, no person ( as far as I am aware) can offer any conclusive evidence concerning the origin of life – yet – so why all the controversy surrounding such issues as Darwinism and so called Intelligent design?

    ”I don’t know” seems to be a perfectly acceptable and honest response until such time as we do know.

    Why do theists, especially, appear to have such a problem with this?

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    • Hey ark, “I don’t know” is a perfectly fine response, its actually quite refreshing to hear someone honest enough to say so. In my previous post I stated the following “The idea behind scientific theories is not to formulate a hypothesis which best conforms to our world view, but to see which explanation can best track the footprints of life back to its origins, technically speaking we will never be able to determine who or what actually caused those prints i.e. the existence of God or an unguided natural process, but we can most certainly tell which foot best fits the shoe.”

      I realize that we will never have God in a test tube, but I do believe we most certainly can tell which explanation best fits the evidence, we can exercise a sort of top-down logic, by examining all the evidence we can follow the tracks back to its origins. Its like someone tracking an animal in the wild, you’ll never be able to determine what caused the tracks per say, because you never seen the animal actually making the tracks, but you can through inference decide which animal offers the best explanation for those prints.

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      • The term god is not a pronoun. There are a great many gods. Your god has a name.
        If you are ashamed to use your god’s name then why bother genuflecting to it in the first place?

        The evidence clearly points to evolution, of this there is no dispute, merely the odd space that needs to be ”penciled-in”; even though it may not sit comfortably within you personal paradigm.
        When I say origin I am referring to how far science can track back – usually the ”Big Bang”. Beyond this point we must simply shrug – at the moment.

        The only real issue at stake is that theists wish to insert a god, and what is more disturbing, usually the Abrahamic/Christian god, Yahweh, into the equation from the word Go.
        And ‘Go’ in this particular instance is according to that despicable rag called the bible, which should never be the benchmark for anything besides barbarism.

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    • “If you are ashamed to use your god’s name then why bother genuflecting to it in the first place?”

      There are indeed many god’s, but only one true God, He is the creator of the heavens and the earth.

      “The evidence clearly points to evolution, of this there is no dispute”

      ..??.. Assertions with little facts will get you no where in this world. Again I can’t help but presume such empty statements do nothing more than to fulfill your pressing need to convince yourself. Your comments are nothing more than a cathartic release.

      “When I say origin I am referring to how far science can track back – usually the ”Big Bang”. Beyond this point we must simply shrug – at the moment”

      But what does the field of cosmology teach us? Did Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe tell us anything other than that beginning of the world directly infers a transcendent cause? But by all means don’t take my word for it, perhaps another far more intelligent persons word would suffice though

      “Hubble’s discovery on the expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century. It transformed the debate about whether the universe had a beginning. If galaxies are moving apart, they must have been closer together in the past.. Many scientist were still unhappy with the universe having a beginning because it seemed to imply that physics broke down. One would have to invoke an outside agency, for convenience sake, one can call God.” – Stephen Hawking

      “that despicable rag called the bible”

      despicable – deserving hatred and contempt. Ironically your hatred of the Bible only serves to fulfill the words of that very Bible “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”

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      • You believe there is only one true god, however, there are a great many that dispute this.
        If you wish to have your god sit at the head of the table then please, by all means demonstrate his credentials; first by telling me where is the source that you derive the hubris to claim your god is numero uno.

        So, once again, the term god is a noun not a pronoun, why do you not use your god’s name?
        Are you ashamed?

        I did not say I hate anything. In fact I hate nothing.
        You Christians on the other hand …. well now!
        It is the religious that bandy this term around all the time. In fact your despicable rag is loaded with the word.

        Your point of the Hawking quote?
        How about if I tabled Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation?

        Once again, for me, ”I don’t know” is perfectly acceptable when referring to origin. which is not quite the same as evolution, now is it? Let’s not play semantics, I don’t think you are that good at it.

        The onus is on you to provide the answer if you do not like evolution- and you cannot – and there is certainly no case whatsoever for you to insert that smelly little eschatological narrative construct, Yeshua Ben Josef, now is there?

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    • It’s interesting how people such as yourself, when confronted with irrefutable plausible scientific reasoning by the most intelligible minds in the world, will simply appeal to some self-righteous rationale, “I don’t know” is a perfectly fine response, but denial in light of reason is simply dismissive

      Yet how can you assert so vehemently that evolution is true? why not just say “I don’t know”, after all you have no conclusive evidence, or you just feel reluctant to share with us.

      Likewise according to your own volition you have no clue if the Judeo-Christian God is the creator of the heaven and the earth, so why mock it and ridicule it? why not just say “I don’t know” and leave it at that Ark.

      Feel free to get the last word in 😉

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      • Evolution is fact.Period.
        The origin of life … I don’t know

        Your man god, Yeshua Ben Josef, is simply a narrative construct.
        It is disappointing that you have not the integrity to admit that what you believe is simply base upon faith and when confronted with the hard questions merely default to type.
        If you wish to be afforded any respect in this regard then deliver on claims.
        You have repeatedly demonstrated your lack of integrity not least with your acceptance of such nonsense as the dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy and that rather pathetic video you posted.
        You quote mine and cherry pick and not once have you ever answered a direct question.

        I categorically deny the Judeo Christian god is any sort of creator. Please don’t put words in my mouth.
        Unlike yourself, I have absolutely no need to lie.

        You wouldn’t know honesty if it bit you in the arse.

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  2. It really doesn’t matter what Darwin said or thought. He actually got quite a few things wrong and didn’t understand DNA, but it doesn’t matter because the origin of species is not a holy book. The theory of Evolution has been re-written and revised a few times throughout history to fit all of the current evidence.

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    • “The theory of Evolution has been re-written and revised a few times throughout history to fit all of the current evidence.”

      It is anything but a perfect fit though, already the lack of transitional fossils from the pre-cambrian to the cambrian epoch is a huge gaping whole isnt it?

      Also from what I’ve been learning about cosmology and the discovery of the expanding universe, and how Albert Einsteins field equations of general relativity, coupled with Stephen Hawking’s research on the curvature of space-time clearly reveals the world was once locked in a finite beginning of zero mass. This clearly supersedes any natural explanation for the world that we live in. While being the furthest thing from a Christian, Stephen Hawking fully acknowledges the implications of his and Hubble’s research.

      “Hubble’s discovery on the expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century. It transformed the debate about whether the universe had a beginning. If galaxies are moving apart, they must have been closer together in the past.. Many scientist were still unhappy with the universe having a beginning because it seemed to imply that physics broke down. One would have to invoke an outside agency, for convenience sake, one can call God.” – Stephen Hawking

      Like

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