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Intelligence Behind The Cambrian Explosion

Darwinists claim that the Neo-Darwinist theory of natural selection acting on random mutation is sufficient to explain all complexity we see in life. However, The Cambrian explosion poses a serious challenge to this claim.

The Cambrian explosion was the relatively rapid appearance, around 530 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record, accompanied by major diversification of organisms including animals, phytoplankton, and calcimicrobes. In the fossil record, most of the major animal phyla appear fully formed at the beginning of the geological period known as the Cambrian, with no fossil evidence that they branched off from a common ancestor.

To say that the fauna of the Cambrian period appeared in a geologically sudden manner also implies the absence of clear transitional intermediate forms connecting Cambrian animals with simpler pre-Cambrian forms. And, indeed, in almost all cases, the Cambrian animals have no clear morphological antecedents in earlier Vendian or Precambrian fauna. Further, several recent discoveries and analyses suggest that these morphological gaps may not be merely an artefact of incomplete sampling of the fossil record, suggesting that the fossil record is at least approximately reliable.

So can the Darwinian mechanism explain this rapid appearance, specially the origin of the information necessary to build novel animal forms? Dr. Stephen C. Meyer has, in his peer-reviewed paper, The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories, that created a huge controversy, has analysed serious challenge that The Cambrian Explosion poses to the Darwinian mechanism to account for origin of the information necessary to build novel animal forms.

In the Cambrian explosion, new cell types emerged with the Cambrian animals. New cell types require many new and specialized proteins. New proteins, in turn, require new genetic information. Thus an increase in the number of cell types implies (at a minimum) a considerable increase in the amount of specified genetic information. Transitions from a single cell to colonies of cells to complex animals represent significant (and, in principle, measurable) increases in specified information. In order to explain the origin of the Cambrian animals, one must account not only for new proteins and cell types, but also for the origin of new body plans.

Can natural selection acting on random mutation account for the origin of this genetic  information or the hierarchically organised system of parts? Natural Selection can act only on the information that is already present. So one has to rely only on random mutation (chance) to account for the origin of this information.

Dr. Meyer has shown, in his paper, that the Darwinian mechanism fails to account for the biological information necessary for the new body plans that immerged in the Cambrian period, given the time constraint. He concludes

Thus, whether one envisions the evolutionary process beginning with a noncoding region of the genome or a pre-existing functional gene, the functional specificity and complexity of proteins impose very stringent limitations on the efficacy of mutation and selection. In the first case, function must arise first, before natural selection can act to favour a novel variation. In the second case, function must be continuously maintained in order to prevent deleterious (or lethal) consequences to the organism and to allow further evolution. Yet the complexity and functional specificity of proteins implies that both these conditions will be extremely difficult to meet. Therefore, the neo-Darwinian mechanism appears to be inadequate to generate the new information present in the novel genes and proteins that arise with the Cambrian animals.

He also points out that the problem is even greater

Gene products provide necessary, but not sufficient conditions, for the development of three-dimensional structure within cells, organs and body plans (Harold 1995:2767). But if this is so, then natural selection acting on genetic variation alone cannot produce the new forms that arise in history of life.

He then goes on to analyse other materialistic explanation that have been given to explain the Cambrian explosion, and demonstrates how all such mechanism fail to account for the origin of the specified information.

It is important to note that although neo-Darwinian mechanism does explain many appearances of design, such as the adaptation of organisms to specialized environments, it does not adequately account for the origin of all appearances of design, especially if one considers animal body plans, and the information necessary to construct them.

Dr. Meyer argues that although materialistic mechanism fail to explain the origin of specified information, Intelligence on the other hand, accounts for the origin of this information. He says

we have repeated experience of rational and conscious agents–in particular ourselves–generating or causing increases in complex specified information, both in the form of sequence-specific lines of code and in the form of hierarchically arranged systems of parts.

Thus, using the scientific approach of inference to the best explanation, we can conclude that Intelligence played a role in the origin of information, in the Cambrian explosion.

Recently, materialists have made more attempts to disregard or solve the problem of the Cambrian explosion.  These have been refuted by Casey Luskin and Jonathan here, here and here.

Thus Cambrian explosion still remains a big problem for the materialists; however it provides strong evidence for Intelligence playing a role in the origin of information, in the Cambrian explosion.


About Kashif Zuberi

Student of Knowledge

One comment on “Intelligence Behind The Cambrian Explosion

  1. Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s new book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Doubt-Explosive-Origin-Intelligent/dp/0062071475/ deals with this topic in detail.

    Meyer, in particular, argues that the mutation and natural selection mechanism lacks the creative power to produce both the genetic and epigenetic information necessary to build the animals that arise in Cambrian. Meyer offers five separate lines of evidence and arguments to support this claim. Casey Luskin summaries the arguments as follows.

    * First, Meyer argues that the neo-Darwinian mechanism cannot efficiently search combinatorial sequence space to find the exceedingly rare DNA sequences that yield functional genes and proteins.

    * Then he cites multiple peer-reviewed studies showing that multiple coordinated mutations would be necessary to produce functional proteins, but these could not arise within realistic waiting times allowed by the fossil record. This section is my personal favorite in the book as it gives the reader a tour of scientific research studies published by the ID-research community. Critics deny this research exists but Meyer cites multiple peer-reviewed papers by ID proponents showing that multiple coordinated mutations are necessary and devastating to Darwinian explanations of the origin of complex features.

    * Next Meyer shifts his attention to animal development, showing that the neo-Darwinian mechanism could never produce new body plans given that mutagenesis experiments show how early acting body plan mutations–the very mutations that would be necessary to produce whole new animals from a pre-existing animal body plan–inevitably produce embryonic lethals.

    * Meyer’s fourth critique of the neo-Darwinian mechanism explains why mutations could not alter development gene regulatory networks necessary to produce new developmental regulatory networks, as the production of such a new regulatory network is an important requirement for building any new animal body plan from a pre-existing body plan.

    * Finally, Meyer raises the problem of the origin of epigenetic (i.e., “beyond the gene”) information necessary to build new animal body plans, a problem that has led many evolutionary biologists to seek a new theory of and mechanism for major evolutionary innovation.

    Meyer also looks at various “post-Darwinian” models (e.g., evo devo, punc eq, self-organization, neutral evolution, etc.) and shows why they too fail to explain the origin of information necessary to generate new body plans.

    But there’s another post-Darwinian model which Meyer encourages us to open our minds to: intelligent design. Using the standard scientific methods of historical sciences and rigorous abductive logic, he establishes intelligent design as the only known cause capable of generating the information and top-down design that are required to build the animal body plans which appear explosively in the Cambrian period.

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