#1 Story of 2021: Cambrian Goes Nuclear | Evolution News


Gunther doesn’t seem too happy with @evograd in that article:

At the Peaceful Science forum, an anonymous atheist and self-professed blogging graduate student (evograd 2018), who obviously lacks sufficient expertise as well as some reading comprehension, criticized my article with a red herring quibble about two of six references that Bobrovskiy et al. quoted (which I actually never disputed), while ignoring all real arguments. Just read my article and compare it with his criticism to decide for yourself if it has any merit. Anyway, this young know-it-all then triumphantly proclaimed:

Gotta love this one too:

Charles Darwin was quite aware that the sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record poses a major problem for his theory, but he hoped that this problem was due only to our insufficient knowledge of an incomplete fossil record, and therefore will dissolve over time with future research. However, 150 years of paleontological exploration after Darwin has made the problem far worse:

ROFL. It’s the age-old creationist rationalization that when you find more fossils, you just end up creating more gaps to fill. Paleontological exploration has made the problem worse?


That article is Evolution News’s favourite article of 2021? Wow. I’m not sure whether to feel honoured or insulted…

Here’s how I responded to Bechly when he first released the article back in April, I think it’s actually my most-liked comment on this forum:


I was puzzled by this but just figured it out. To see evograd’s response, click on the title “The Cambrian Explosion Has Just Gone Nuclear” in this thread, and it will take you over to the place where evograd’s actual response is.


@evograd You absolutely, positively, MUST find a way to work this into your CV. :mortar_board: :mortar_board: :mortar_board:


Feel honored that DI choose you as the antagonist in their #1 Story of 2021.


Annoying creationists enough to make them write about you. And insulting your credentials at the same time. Feather in your cap.


…and my personal goal for 2022 has now been established.


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The subject is so large its hard to even take a bite out of it.
I think the first conclusion that was made when I have been around, maybe you would agree is that the grand canyon does not have any boned animals in those rock layers. Yet, they say, there are footprints in some of the mud that was laid down.
That that proves is that what is in the fossil record does not necessarily represent what is living at the time.
If today like the grand canyon there was a great uplift and a ocean was lifted 2000 ft above the water. Why would we expect to see anything that was living today in those layers of sediment. Why would we expect to see a Giraffe in those layers.
And on the other side of that, on mountains including Mt. Everest you can find Whales. On several mountains around the world you can find whales and fish and shells. I got to wonder if you would find a Giraffe under there as well.
The fact of the matter is, much of what is in these layers and layers above the Kaibab do not represent what was living or not living for all time from Dinosaurs right from the Triassic up to the KT boundary. Rather than divide it up really its all the same period of boned animals being found under water. There may be two events or 3 or 10 but you find just about everything other than what is left now.
One has to question lets say how did a Elephant survive or evolve if everything else died in these layers laid down in water found all around the world.
When I look for information I am hit with a wall of disconnected information that forces someone toward confusion not to understanding. It makes me think “fraud”
It doesn’t surprise me.

Hi everyone,

Happy New Year. To be honest, I’m not terribly interested in Bechly’s spat with @evograd regarding the correct classification of Dickinsonia. That’s a taxonomic dispute relating to just one species. What interests me far more is what’s at the end of Bechly’s article:

Recently, I stumbled upon a paper from 2018 that I had previously overlooked, and it proved to be dynamite. It is a study by a research group from the University of Zurich about the transition from the Ediacaran organisms to the Cambrian animal phyla in the Nama Basin of Namibia (Linnemann et al. 2018). What they found is truly mind-blowing. The window of time between the latest appearance date (LAD) of the alien Ediacaran biota and the first appearance date (FAD) of the complex Cambrian biota was only 410,000 years. You read that correctly, just 410 thousand years! This is not an educated guess but based on very precise radiometric U-Pb dating with an error margin of only plus-minus 200 thousand years. This precision is truly a remarkable achievement of modern science considering that we are talking about events 538 million years ago.

The authors of the study fully realized that their finding documents an unexpected “extremely short duration of the faunal transition from Ediacaran to Cambrian biota.” Therefore, they speculated about ecologically driven reasons for this rapid onset of the Cambrian Explosion. Of course, no ecological factors whatsoever could solve the information problem of the origin of the new animal body plans in the Cambrian Explosion, as was elaborated by Stephen Meyer in his book Darwin’s Doubt (Meyer 2013). With this new and very precise time frame, the population genetic waiting time problem for the origin of animal body plans is lifted to a whole new level and suggests that no unguided process could ever plausibly explain these data. The Cambrian Explosion has gone nuclear and simply evaporates neo-Darwinism as a brilliant and beautiful but failed scientific theory, as it was recently called by Yale University professor David Gelernter (2019).

Unfortunately, I can only access the abstract of the article by Linnemann et al., but I have some questions.

  1. Is Bechly fairly representing the authors’ conclusions?

  2. Earlier in his article, Bechly points out that 13 million years is “about as long as the average lifespan of 1-2 successive marine invertebrate species,” implying that 410,000 years is a geological flash in the pan: way too short a period for new body plans to appear. Does he have a valid point here?

  3. It should be pointed out that the period of 410,000 years referred to by Linnemann et al. is not the length of the Cambrian explosion as such (i.e. the window of time during which about 30 phyla of animals appeared in the fossil record), but merely the time period between the last Ediacaran fauna and the very first Cambrian fauna. Nevertheless, that invites an obvious question: just how sudden would the appearance of a new animal body plan have to be, for a Darwinian explanation to be ruled out?

  4. I seem to recall reading somewhere that some evolutionists have proposed that certain key innovations in the history of life on Earth may owe more to neutral evolution than to Darwinian evolution, and that some changes may have occurred in a single generation. Could a viable new body plan appear that suddenly, through a copying error? What about a hard-bodied animal? Thoughts?

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The scientific theory that is best supported by evidence is not a “fraud,” It can be replaced with evidence that disproves it and/or supports another, better theory.

Up to a point. It should however be noted that the “Ediacaran biota” in that locale includes Namacalathus, a probable lophotrochozoan, and the “Cambrian biota” consists entirely of tracks and burrows. So not what a person would probably imagine based on those terms.

No. What is seen there is not necessarily an evolutionary transition but possibly an ecological and/or taphonomic one. It’s unclear whether it involves any new “body plans”, which itself is an ambiguous term.

Actually, 30 is approximately the total number of living phyla, of which around a third have no fossil record or almost none.

That’s a question with three confusing terms, “appearance” and “body plan” and “Darwinian”, which makes it difficult to answer. But there’s always Nilsson D., Pelger S. A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 1994; 256:53-58. Their answer to the title question is 300,000 years. And note that it’s “pessimistic”.

I wouldn’t think so. Others may disagree. You might look up “constructive neutral evolution”, but that certainly doesn’t involve macromutations.


It’s less a “spat” about the identity of Dickinsonia, and more a “spat” about Bechly’s misrepresentation of the paper by Borovskiy et al. Whether or not the authors interpretations of their data and conclusions are correct is a matter for reasonable discussion, but Bechly doesn’t attempt to do that, he just outright misrepresents their conclusions. That’s what I took exception to.

No. He doesn’t go quite as far as saying it outright, but the implication of his words is clearly that the Cambrian explosion must have happened in 410,000 years, which he argues is not enough time. As you noted, the period of 410,000 years is actually the time between the LAD of the Ediacaran fauna and FAD of the Cambrian fauna. Implicit in Bechly’s words is the assumption that the 410,000 year period must capture the entirety of the evolutionary “work” to bridge the morphological differences between Ediacaran and Cambrian fauna, but this just isn’t true.

In the very paper by Linnemann et al that Bechly cites, they describe how the increasing presence of motile/bioturbating animals (Cambrian-type fauna) in the late Ediacaran were the likely cause of the gradual decline in Ediacaran rangeomorphs and erniettomorphs.

This is figure 7 from the paper, showing 3 different proposed scenarios for the Ediaracan-Cambrian transition. Bechly seems to favour or describe something akin to scenario A, where Cambrian-type forms only starting radiating once the Ediacaran biota went extinct, because of some environmental event that hurt the Ediacaran biota but helped the Cambrian-type fauna. In this scenario, indeed there is a short timescale for part of the Cambrian explosion to take place.

The authors, on the other hand, favour scenario C, as I explained earlier, based on their Figure 6 (note the 410,000 years separating ash 5 and 6 on the left):

Bechly says:

The authors of the study fully realized that their finding documents an unexpected “extremely short duration of the faunal transition from Ediacaran to Cambrian biota.” Therefore, they speculated about ecologically driven reasons for this rapid onset of the Cambrian Explosion. Of course, no ecological factors whatsoever could solve the information problem of the origin of the new animal body plans in the Cambrian Explosion, as was elaborated by Stephen Meyer in his book Darwin’s Doubt (Meyer 2013).

Of course, this is quite the opposite of what the authors actually do. Bechly makes it sounds as though the authors throw out some wild speculations to try and fit within scenario A above, because this is the only one Bechly seems to give any credence to. Instead, the authors developed scenario C, a modified version of the previously-proposed scenario B.

These two papers are helpful to contextualise this paper:

this revised ichnostratigraphy of the Nama Group thus extends the ranges of some key metazoan behaviors and ichnotaxa below the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary


Hi @John_Harshman and @evograd,

Thanks very much for your highly informative responses. Cheers.


@vjtorley - I was going to comment on this too. A fossil mark some point during the lifespan of a species, and is highly unlikely to capture the first or last individuals of that species. The difference between the First and Last Appearance Dates (FLAD?) is a estimate of the minimum time when both species were extant, NOT the time available for the evolution of a new species.

It seems reasonable that a professional paleontologist should know this.


The routine failure to define the term suggests that this ambiguity is deliberate.

Yes and notice how in none of these scenarios do known Cambrian fauna directly descent from the Ediacaran ones. There is a short interval in which ecological replacement takes place (some species go extinct and others take their place in the ecosystem), not a short interval in which something like sponges evolve into trilobites.

Gunther’s portrayal is either a total misreading, or highly misleading, because he makes it seem like the authors are positing a direct ancestor-descendant relationship between the fossils, and that one evolved into the other in 410kya.


Indeed. So reasonable, in fact, that incompetence is not available as an explanation. What remains is dishonesty.


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