Many articles from the Institute for Creation Research demonstrate an apparent ignorance on the subject of how Evolution in general and Natural Selection specifically operate. No prizes, then, for guessing that Thomas’ latest – Do Habitats Create Creatures? – is an example of this.
The interpretation that they seem to point forward is that the actions of the environment, or other natural forces, “mindlessly” shape the creature that is being evolved. It’s an odd and indeed absurd caricature, and it’s difficult to determine whether it is a result of wilful ignorance about the topic or whether the writer is being intentionally deceptive. On the other hand it’s pretty clear that it’s one or the other – but make up your own mind which.
The subject of today’s article is a Geology paper, The oldest evidence of bioturbation on Earth, and accompanying Science News article, Fossils show signs of earliest burrowing, both from some months ago now. From the latter:
Grazhdankin and colleagues found the fossils in central Siberia, in uplifted rock that had once been mud deep underwater. Tiny, crescent-shaped traces cutting through 5 centimeters of former sediment looked like small tunnels made by creatures scooping and flinging dirt from front to back.
Only a creature with bilateral symmetry — not just a front and back, but a top and bottom as well — could have made such a pattern, says Grazhdankin. Previous evidence of bilaterians this early in the fossil record has proved controversial. Still, he credits a primitive worm.
But where is Brian Thomas going to go with this? He begins:
Russian scientists announced the discovery of the world’s oldest fossil worm burrows in Ediacaran rocks, even though very few fossils are typically found below Cambrian rock layers. Do these worm burrows help answer the longstanding challenge to evolution called the Cambrian Explosion of life? Evolutionary researchers used warped reasoning in their explanations about how burrowing worms may have impacted ancient life.
And how is the Cambrian Explosion a “longstanding challenge to evolution”? Only in the minds of creationists. In the next paragraph Thomas references his December article, Is the Cambrian Explosion Problem Solved?, which I dissected at the time – you can look there for some background to the “problem.”
The Cambrian includes fossils of all living phyla, plus many extinct phyla. On the basis of evolution, one would expect a gradual and iterative appearance of life forms in the fossil record. The abrupt appearance in the Cambrian rock system of so many well-designed life forms challenges the claims of evolutionists.
…and yet these organisms are from before the Cambrian. In addition the fossil record from this time is patchy – there are 10s of millions of years where the animals could have evolved. Finally, if an organism is not adapted for its environment it will not survive, and this means that all life forms will appear “well-designed” to a creationist trained to see design everywhere and anywhere.
The worm burrow fossils from Yakutia, Russia, clearly show that animals of that time were fully equipped for burrowing. The team of Russian paleontologists wrote about them in Geology, describing them as organisms that “actively burrowed by peristalsis.” Peristalsis is a coordinated wavelike contraction of both longitudinal and transverse muscles. The esophagus uses it when swallowing, caterpillars use it when crawling, and worms living on the seafloor use it when burrowing.
“Fully” equipped? If they were only ‘partially’ equipped would they not have left the burrows? “Fully equipped” is an interesting meme, as it were, among creationists.
So, do the worms help explain how all those living phyla evolved in only a few million supposed years between the Ediacaran and Cambrian?
The authors suggested that worm churning of sediment affected the local environment, which became “the triggering mechanism” for rapid evolution of Cambrian creatures.Dima Grazhdankin, coauthor of the Geology study and paleontologist at the A.A. Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics in Novosibirsk, told ScienceNews, “We think that Ediacaran organisms diversified as a reaction to habitat remodeling by…burrowing.”
In other words, “That newly plowed seafloor in turn might have helped to spur the rise of new kinds of macroscopic life late in the Ediacaran period — just before the Cambrian explosion produced most of the major animal groups around today.”
The worms created an environment that they now had to adapt to, by the sounds of things. The abstract of the paper concludes, by way of an answer to Brian’s question in that first line:
In addition to being the most reliable paleontological evidence for the existence of bilaterians at ca. 555 Ma, the late Ediacaran bioturbation is regarded as a key step in the escalatory “engineering” of Phanerozoic ecospace leading to sudden diversification of macroscopic organisms and macrocommunities.
So yes, it might.
But passive environments do not generate mechanisms—let alone the kinds of mechanisms required to exploit their own resources. Conditions and factors are always challenges that are overcome by inventive design, never by natural habitat. Thus, phrases like “helped spur the rise” and “diversified as a reaction” are evolutionists’ “magic words” that are void of scientific content.
See, this is the problem. Again, the worms changed their environment, and the individuals that could survive it proliferated. Evolution in action. The line “Conditions and factors are always challenges that are overcome by inventive design,” is just silly, and I don’t know what he means by “never by natural habitat” beyond what I said above about the ICR’s misconceptions.
Using the Russian study authors’ reasoning, one would say that earth layers were “the triggering mechanism” that “helped spur the rise” of oil drilling rigs that “diversified as a reaction” to petroleum buried beneath rocks. In reality, people constructed oil rigs, and a divine Person—Creator God—constructed burrowing worms.
An interesting, but flawed, analogy. For one “earth layers” is not a good example, as their needs to be a change happening. Better:
One would say that the increase in flooding events from global warming was “the triggering mechanism” that “helped spur the rise” of companies in the field of flood mitigation that “diversified as a reaction” to the differing economic niches available.
That works – we’re interested in the cause and effect, the human element is not relevant.
Mud flats did not trigger the exactly-fitted muscles, nerves, and connective tissues required for peristaltis in worm boring. Like any environment, a muddy environment is passive, inanimate, and unthinking—an illegitimate candidate for creating a worm or anything else. Those who attribute the creation of biological mechanisms to changing seafloor environments have “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things”—and mud.
An environment is an environment – it’s the canvas on which the paint must be deposited. Yes, it is “passive, inanimate, and unthinking” – but it doesn’t need to be any of those things.
A couple of minor changes seem to have been made to the ICR’s website of late. A (subtly) redesigned searchbox seems to be causing the page to be too wide for my screen (even though it’s only whitespace off of the side), while Brian curiously referred to his earlier Cambrian Explosion article not as coming from “ICR News” but from “Creation Science Updates” (which threw me for a minute). It will be interesting to see if it sticks – at least it’s more honest than “Daily Science Updates,” the other name for these articles. Brian’s output is not daily (and increasingly so of late), not science, and not even ‘updates’ as you or I would understand the concept.