The Cambrian explosion keeps popping…

Two news stories this week add to the bangs of the collection of fossils showing all sorts of living things that have few if any posited fossil-represented ancestors.  This “sudden appearance” haunted Darwin and arguably has gotten worse since. Like Darwin, evolutionists have continued to shrug and guess that for some reason most of evolution didn’t get recorded as fossils. Maybe the animals were too soft, maybe the water chemistry was wrong, maybe this, maybe that. After more than 150 years, how long does a supposedly scientific theory get a pass on bringing forth evidence for it’s greater part?  How can it be called an evidence-based theory, when belief in the theory has held in spite of this great lack of evidence for so long? It might be different if new fossils appeared to be making some dent in the problem (or it might be called too little, too late), but instead new fossils keep showing quite new (non-intermediate) forms, including features and whole organisms more like modern kinds than were known in these deposits before.

I’m going to mention Fuxianhuia protensa first, although I saw the other case first, because it had been reported on before (See the Answers in Genesis commentary from 2012 at: ). It came up again because, as reported in the PhysOrg article, “520-million-year-old arthropod brains turn paleontology on its head,” many scientists found the report of fossilized brains hard to believe. After all, one of the major excuses for the lack of pre-Cambrian fossils is that the critters might have all been soft and soft things don’t fossilize often.  And brains are really soft. The article says “Science has long dictated that brains don’t fossilize…”

Well, there’s another thing about science – things it holds one day can be dropped the next. So what sense does it make to insist that everyone agree with the current consensus? Science isn’t supposed to work that way. What it is supposed to proceed with is things that can be repeatedly observed and tested, and in this case, the authors present analysis of “seven newly discovered fossils of the same species to find, in each, traces of what was undoubtedly a brain.”

The article says the critter “would have looked something like a very simple shrimp,” but don’t read too much into the “simple,” for its “ancient brain looked a lot like a modern crustacean’s, too.”

How did it get preserved? Well, as Answers in Genesis is always saying, “The only way to become fossilized is, first, to get rapidly buried.” Except this time, that quote comes from the PhysOrg article! Sweet. Of course, it also repeats the evolutionary explanation of many fossils, “as long as the water is anoxic enough – that is, lacking in oxygen – a buried creature’s tissues evade consumption by bacteria as well.”  The thing is, there are anaerobic bacteria that decompose organic matter, they are said to be older than aerobic bacteria, and they are credited with producing the natural gas (methane) reserves in the earth (see “anaerobic digestion“).

Kudos to “Strausfeld and his collaborators” for not leaving the rapid burial as an explanation for others to just accept (or not),  but “they experimentally recreated” the event “by burying sandworms and cockroaches in mud.”

Of course, the researchers are still good evolutionists. As the article says, “Strausfeld is working to elucidate the origin and evolution of brains over half a billion years in the past.” Of course also, what they have are simply fossilized brains, and guesses and assumptions about their origin and evolution. So it seems a bit ironic that the article quotes Strausfeld as saying, “People, especially scientists, make assumptions. The fun thing about science, actually, is to demolish them.”

Checking the NATURE site for the abstract of the original research paper, “Complex brain and optic lobes in an early Cambrian arthropod,” (Xiaoya Ma, Xianguang Hou, Gregory D. Edgecombe & Nicholas J. Strausfeld, Nature 490, 258–261 (11 October 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11495, published online 10 November 2012) I see there is also an “Editor’s Summary” which notes that “The fossils of Cambrian arthropods reveal sophisticated sense organs such as compound eyes…” and this one adds not only the brain, but “…antennal nerves, optic tract and optic neuropils very much like those of modern insects and crustaceans.” This modern appearance “suggests” a strange twist in the evolutionary story: “if insects evolved from quite simple creatures such as branchiopod shrimps, then modern branchiopods have undergone a drastic reduction in the complexity of their nervous systems.”

The other case I first learned of through the Gizmodo article, “Complex Skeletons Might Be Older Than Anyone Thought” by Kiona Smith-Strickland, 11/08/15. That’s right, skeletons as well as brains were more complex than had been thought — because it doesn’t fit the evolutionary story of gradually going from microbes to men by a series of happenstances with no overall purpose, goal or guidance.

Actually, the critter in this case, Namacalathus hermanastes, was also discovered years ago. However, it didn’t seem so special until “Rachel Wood of the University of Edinburgh and her colleagues recently re-examined” the fossils that were discovered in 2000, assigned an age of a whopping 550 million years, and found later in a number of different locations.  It just didn’t excite much attention because, “most scientists had assumed that it was a very primitive organism, similar to sponges and coral.” Oh dear, there’s that thing about most scientists doing that A-word thing again. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

The article repeats the old dodge that “It’s likely that the ancestors of these groups already existed, but since the fossil record depends mostly on skeletons being preserved in sediment that later becomes rock, the ancestors of today’s animals couldn’t really leave their mark on the fossil record until they evolved hard skeletons.” Three problems: there are fossils of soft animals, they had (according to the story) billions of years of chances to become fossilized, and evolution doesn’t have the means to produce complex things like brains and even skeletons rapidly, even on geologic time scales. Actually, from the inheritable variations we’ve observed, it doesn’t matter how much time you give it, no really new, complex parts would ever appear.

Besides, when they looked closely and carefully at some very good examples of this PRE-Cambrian organism, “they discovered that its calcium carbonate skeleton was more complex than those of sponges or coral, and in fact resembled those of today’s mollusks and other marine organisms that live at the bottom of the ocean.”

Namacalathus, with its assigned date, has the potential for quieting the Cambrian explosion one tiny bit, but it appears to be a unique creation that even the evolutionists will only say is related to living animals: it “may be more closely related to today’s brachiopods (marine animals with hard shells that usually attach themselves to rocks or sediment on the seafloor) and bryozoans (tiny marine animals that form colonies and encrust rocks or the hulls of boats).”

The original research report is:
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, November 2015, Volume: 282 Issue: 1818
“Ediacaran skeletal metazoan interpreted as a lophophorate” by A. Yu. Zhuravlev, R. A. Wood, A. M. Penny, Published 4 November 2015. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1860.  The authors conclude

“that at least some early lophophorates may have possessed a whole, rather than multicomponent sclerital, skeleton. These observations also suggest that the clonal, sessile and active suspension-feeding Lophophorata may have formed one of the earliest branches of the bilateria. Similarities in the overall biominerlization pattern between the Brachiopoda, the Bryozoa, the Tentaculitoidea and Namacalathus are likely due to a commonality in the molecular, cellular and physiological toolkits of biomineralization within a single group of related organisms inherited from their LCA.”

(LCA = Last Common Ancestor, assuming there was one). The short version of this is that the critter doesn’t seem to be the common ancestor of later organisms, but a new (to us) distinct kind, with various traits seen in different living animals. The similarities are assumed to be from shared inheritance from that assumed LCA, which of course is assumed to have lived long before and to have already evolved the “molecular, cellular and physiological toolkits of biomineralization” long before… but without producing the biomineralization that supposedly contributed so much to fossilization… yeah. Well, hang in there guys, I suppose you can hope to make some real progress on your story in another 155 years or so.