Ediacaran Diversification

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.

The fossils are from the Ediacaran, the last era of the Precambrian, hence their contentious nature.

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.

Here’s a screenshot of this article now, here’s a shot of an article from earlier in the week, and here is a shot of the latter article as it originally appeared for comparison.


37 thoughts on “Ediacaran Diversification

  1. Most creationists will normally admit to natural selection being a thing, albeit they also place arbitrary limitations on it. Yet Brian’s phraseology here sounds like he is even denying natural selection exists.

    A new environment occurred which favoured novel organisms causing them to spread and diversify. That is natural selection at work, yet he is denying it as far as I can tell.

    • You know natural adoption (what evaluation calls as selection) has never proven to have made a new species. You know, it is only in brains of those who believe there is evolution. Evolution is just a circular reasoning.

    • Sure it has, there’s a species of mosquito that has evolved in the London Underground. Culex pipiens didn’t exist until recently.

    • It is adopted and still it is mosquito. It did not become house fly, you see.

    • If so, evolution is limited to variation within the same species, could be concluded. Not fish to bird. I am in agreement with this.

    • Definition of new species is limited to same mosquito varities (species). It is not changing from mosquito to house fly-a new species. Hence, by this observation evolution/adaptation is limited.

    • You are talking nonsense. Mosquitoes and house flies are NOT different species within the SAME genus. Nobody is claiming to have WITNESSED a mosquito evolving into a house fly. But evolution is a theorised long-term process, one based on rational interpretations of scientific evidence, that takes place on lengthy timescales that no single individual human could witness.

    • I do not know who speak non-sense. But to my sense: is there any evolution from one type of living being to another living being other than one mosquito to another mosquto.

    • Remaining a mosquito does not mean that it cannot change species – Mosquito is a broad term that includes many thousands of species. One is not required to turn into a housefly to be classified as a new species.

    • This seams to confirm that Mosquio will reamain a Mosquito even if it changes.

    • However, the only real “distinction” between animals is at the species level. Genera and higher taxonomic ranks are just groups of very different species. By showing life can change into a new species you show that life can cross this only boundary.

      After all, different species are different. If they speciate further the results would be different still; and so on and so forth until you wind up with something that looks very different from what you started with.

    • You are missing my point.

      We see so many varities of species such as bacteria to human. You try to prove mosquitoX to mosquitoY, which I agree, they do happen.

      Where is evidence for one life form such as mosquito changing to house-fly or something else? If they gradually seperated further, where are those numerous evidences for such gradual step by step change?

    • “You know natural adoption (what evaluation calls as selection) has never proven to have made a new species.”

      “You try to prove mosquitoX to mosquitoY, which I agree, they do happen. Where is evidence for one life form such as mosquito changing to house-fly or something else?”

      Make up your mind and stop moving the goal posts.

    • I did not move goal post yet. You defined mosqutoX to mosquitoY as species changes. But always I was refering new species as mosquito to house-fly or something else.

    • The typical definition of species is “a group of organisms which can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.” Now, this definition isn’t perfect as it gets very confused by ring species and a few other situations. But as a general rule of thumb it works well and is the working definition used by biologists.

      By this definition the mosquito change I described is a change of species. What you’re describing involves a redefinition of the word “species.” And redefining something is moving the goal posts.

    • “Natural Selection” such as colour variations, feature varations are seams to have been specutated to had caused species. This is actually speculative and not science.

      The feature variation is so much in operation today, which are being observed as you know. But, change from mosquito to house fly (or something similar) is not being observed. It is only being speculated.

    • Please see my other reply just now.

      Speciation – within the same genus – HAS been recorded in scientific literature. There are also subspecies/races within species.

  2. The science here is speculative I would agree. But I think Mr Thomas is trying to muddy the waters.

  3. You wrote, “Finally, if an organism is not adapted for its environment it will not survive”. Evolution requires continual adoption. If so, there need to be evidence for such continual adaption. If there is absence of such evidence of continual adaption, then why do you want to say there was such adaption either.

    • Rolland

      I think you mean ‘adapted’/’adaptation’ NOT ‘adopted’/’adaption’?

      Darwin’s finches (yes they remained finches) became adapted to short-term climate change affecting their food supplies in the differing environments/habitats on the separate Galapagos Islands. Did they not?


    • Yes, there are so many evidence for adaptation to environment, but they remain to be the same species with variation “adapted to short-term climate change”. But, there is no evidence anywhere that the species changes from lizard to bird.

      Sorry for the mis-spelt words. I mean adapted and adaptation.

    • Feathered dinosaurs could have been just feathered dinosaurs. Why should we speculate more than that.

    • Because of the dates when the various types of creatures live(d). Because of the non-random fossil record. Because of molecular genetics.

      This is not intended to be an exhaustive list (I’m not a biologist).

    • Still feathered dinosaurs could had been just feathered dinosaurs. Today also there are species which are becoming extinct. Hence, they were also could have just gone extinct. Other observations are as said could best be “Speculative” non-science.

  4. “Definition of new species is limited to same mosquito varities (species).” That statement is nonsense.

    And your further comment above is garbled and almost incomprehensible.

  5. I suppose I’d better comment….

    Here’s an interesting point: groups of organisims, such as ‘dinosaur’, ‘bird’, ‘primate’ etc are defined by a collection of characteristics that they share. Subgroups will have all of those characterisitics plus more. So when a dinosaur evovolves into a bird, it will retain all – or at least most – of the dinosaur characteristics but add new ones. So in the same way that you’re saying that the mosquito is ‘still a mosquito’, well, a bird is ‘still a dinosaur.’ A mosquito loosing the characteristics that make is a mosquito and then gaining the ones of a house fly just aint gonna happen.

    Consider the synapsids. They had (and have) a certian set of characteristics that made them ‘synapsids’. But then a group evolved further characteristics, and diversified to the extent that you can call them a new kind of thing – mammals, in this case. But mammals are still synapsids.

    • You said, “But then a group evolved further characteristics, and diversified to the extent that you can call them a new kind of thing – mammals”. This “further… diversified” or “evolved” is what we do not have evidence to the all those today’s species list. Why the in between species went out of rock records?

    • But we do – the evolution of mammals is well documented.

      But why I mentioned the diversification is that our mental sorting of animals into kinds of things, as it were, is influenced by our biases.

      Take the platypus. It’s a pretty bizarre creature, and there is only the one species. I submit that if there were many species of platypus they would be considered their own kind of thing. But there’s only the one, so it’s just an oddity.

    • You response assumes there is evolution and interpret platypus is evolued. If this is true, where are the evidence for intermediate species such as half platypus.

      I see platypus as platypus, there is no oddity.

    • It does not. Evolution aside, if there were more varieties of platypus we would be more inclined to think of it as its own kind of thing.

      As for the evolution of the platypus, what would you consider a “half platypus”.? Platypuses do not have teeth as adults, but we have a number of fossils that do, along with numerous other differences. See wikipedia and talk.origins for more information on that topic.

    • Wikipedia shows that there had been only some distinct variations only found. What happened to the gradual changes, if Evolution is true. Why the records are always only with distinct steps, no gradual changes?


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