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Paul Chien on the suppressed significance of the Chinese Cambrian fossils

File:Yunnanozoon.png

Likely vertebrate, yunnanzoon, courtesy Big Blue Anteater

“… the most complex animal group, the chordates, were represented at the beginning, and they did not go through a slow gradual evolution to become a chordate.”

The Darwin circus wagons should have halted there at Chengjiang and been repurposed as hot dog stands for public convenience. But too much had been invested. Paul Chien, chairman of the biology department at the University of San Franciscos explained some while back to Leadership University the significance of the Chinese Cambrian era fossils,

Chien: In some ways there are similarities between the China site and the other famous site, the Burgess Shale fauna in Canada. But it turns out that the China site is much older, and the preservation of the specimens is much, much finer. Even nerves, internal organs and other details can be seen that are not present in fossils in any other place.

RI: And I suppose many of these are probably soft-tissue marine-type animals?

Chien: Yes, including jellyfish-like organisms. They can even see water ducts in the jellyfish. They are all marine. That part of western China was under a shallow sea at the time.

He also points out that a number of previously unknown phyla were discovered, advancing the number of known phyla from 38 to 50. Far more phyla existed back then than do now, in what Stephen Jay Gould called a “reverse cone of diversity.” That is, fundamental diversity decreased instead of increasing.

RI: What information is the public hearing or not hearing about the Cambrian explosion?

[ ... ]

Most textbooks will show a live tree of evolution with the groups evolving through a long period of time. If you take that tree and chop off 99 percent of it, [what is left] is closer to reality; it’s the true beginning of every group of animals, all represented at the very beginning.

Since the Cambrian period, we have only die-off and no new groups coming about, ever. There’s only one little exception cited the group known as bryozoans, which are found in the fossil record a little later. However, most people think we just haven’t found it yet; that group was probably also present in the Cambrian explosion. (June 14, 2004)

He points, for example, to Yunnanzoon:

… present in the very beginning. This genus is considered a chordate, and the phylum Chordata includes fish, mammals and man. An evolutionist would say the ancestor of humans was present then. Looked at more objectively, you could say the most complex animal group, the chordates, were represented at the beginning, and they did not go through a slow gradual evolution to become a chordate. (June 14, 2004)

You could say it, but most discussion of the subject, from the very beginning in the mid-nineteenth century has been devoted to suppressing the significance for current evolution theories of this stark, central fact. It just somehow falls down the memory hole.

Chien also reveals that he doubted Darwin on the evidence before he became a Christian. Becoming one seems to have given him a voice, not an opinion.

Hat tip: Wintery Knight

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5 Responses to Paul Chien on the suppressed significance of the Chinese Cambrian fossils

  1. Oldie but goodie; as well, as the resolution of the fossil record increases the problem just keeps getting worse for the neo-Darwinist:

    notes:

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    What they had actually proved was that Chinese phosphate is fully capable of preserving whatever animals may have lived there in Precambrian times. Because they found sponges and sponge embryos in abundance, researchers are no longer so confident that Precambrian animals were too soft or too small to be preserved. “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Deepening Darwin’s Dilemma – Jonathan Wells – Sept. 2009
    Excerpt: “The truth is that (finding) “exceptionally preserved microbes” from the late Precambrian actually deepen Darwin’s dilemma, because they suggest that if there had been ancestors to the Cambrian phyla they would have been preserved.”
    http://www.discovery.org/a/12471

    Macroscopic life in the Palaeoproterozoic – July 2010
    Excerpt: The Ediacaran fauna shows that soft-bodied animals were preserved in the Precambrian, even in coarse sandstone beds, suggesting that (the hypothetical transitional) fossils are not found because they were not there.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....proterozoi

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    “So, where then are those ancestors? Fossil preservation conditions were adequate to preserve animals such as jellyfish, corals, and sponges, as well as the Ediacaran fauna. It does not appear that scarcity is a fault of the fossil record.”
    Sean Carroll developmental biologist
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....38811.html

    More Pow in the Cambrian Explosion – May 2010
    Excerpt: Scientists have found more fossil evidence for sudden emergence of animal body plans in the Cambrian strata.
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100511a

    The unscientific hegemony of uniformitarianism – David Tyler – 2011
    Excerpt: The summary of results for phyla is as follows. The pattern reinforces earlier research that concluded the Explosion is not an artefact of sampling. Much the same finding applies to the appearance of classes.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....niformitar

    Fossil Finds Show Cambrian Explosion Getting More Explosive – May 2010
    Excerpt: Cephalopods, which include marine mollusks like squid, octopus, and cuttlefish, are now being reported in the Cambrian explosion fossils.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....n_exp.html

    The Cambrian Explosion Just Got More Explosive – August 2010 – audio
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_02-07_00

    Deepening Darwin’s Dilemma – Jonathan Wells – The Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4154263

    Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories By: Stephen C. Meyer; Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington
    “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 (Miklos 1993, Erwin et al. 1997:132, Steiner & Reitner 2001, Conway Morris 2003b:510, Valentine et al. 2003:519-520). Further, several recent discoveries and analyses suggest that these morphological gaps may not be merely an artifact of incomplete sampling of the fossil record (Foote 1997, Foote et al. 1999, Benton & Ayala 2003, Meyer et al. 2003), suggesting that the fossil record is at least approximately reliable (Conway Morris 2003b:505).”

  2. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

    IOW there was a slow, gradual evolution- it just wasn’t captured by the fossil record or we just didn’t find it yet.

    Duh :razz:

  3. if the most complex came first, is that like finding a “rabbit in the cambrian”

  4. Of note: Complex Arthropod Eyes Found in Early Cambrian – June 2011
    Excerpt: Complex eyes with modern optics from an unknown arthropod, more complex than trilobite eyes, have been discovered in early Cambrian strata from southern Australia.,,, Here we report exceptionally preserved fossil eyes from the Early Cambrian (~515 million years ago) Emu Bay Shale of South Australia, revealing that some of the earliest arthropods possessed highly advanced compound eyes, each with over 3,000 large ommatidial lenses and a specialized ‘bright zone’. These are the oldest non-biomineralized eyes known in such detail, with preservation quality exceeding that found in the Burgess Shale and Chengjiang deposits. Non-biomineralized eyes of similar complexity are otherwise unknown until about 85 million years later. The arrangement and size of the lenses indicate that these eyes belonged to an active predator that was capable of seeing in low light. The eyes are more complex than those known from contemporaneous trilobites and are as advanced as those of many living forms. They provide further evidence that the Cambrian explosion involved rapid innovation in fine-scale anatomy as well as gross morphology,
    http://crev.info/content/11062.....y_cambrian

    ===================

    Evolution vs. The Trilobite Eye – Andy McIntosh
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4032589/

    The Optimal Engineering Of The Trilobite Eye – Dr. Don Johnson
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1TiZcs0eginyh6rijCGd3kwC3CeawjQV1AsC6Xvvnx44

  5. “He also points out that a number of previously unknown phyla were discovered, advancing the number of known phyla from 38 to 50.”

    –I can’t find any source claiming anywhere close to 50. Most sources I find don’t even have 38, but rather 36. (Maybe this is just more evidence of “suppression”?)

    It occurred to me that he may be referring to extinct phylum, but so far I’ve only been able to find two (Vetulicolia and Hyolitha).

    “Since the Cambrian period, we have only die-off and no new groups coming about, ever. There’s only one little exception cited the group known as bryozoans, which are found in the fossil record a little later. However, most people think we just haven’t found it yet; that group was probably also present in the Cambrian explosion.”

    –I found this quote of E. O. Wilson: “The number of living animal phyla … is about thirty-three. Of these, approximately twenty comprise animals large and abundant enough to leave fossils of the kind preserved in beds of the Burgess Shale type. The number of Cambrian phyla identified with confidence remains at eleven.” (from “The Diversity of Life”)

    So only about 1/3 are found from the Cambrian. Ok, so that quote is from all the way back in 2001, so I did a little research to see what the numbers currently are.

    It is debated as to whether the bryozoans were around during the Cambrian Explosion or not. We don’t have fossils of bryozoans in the Burgess Shale or China, and instead all the fossils appear later geologically in places where fossilization was actually poorer. I’m not sure why he singled them out though. The same could be said for phyla onychophora, phoronids, tardigrades, acanthocephalan, entoprocta, nematodes, nematomorpha, loricifera, and micrognathozoa. In each of these cases it’s contested as to when they arose (before during or after Cambrian Explosion).

    “one little exception”?

    Those are hardly the only cases where we don’t have fossils from the Cambrian Explosion though. There are also the phyla gastrotrich, gnathostomulids, cycliophora, kinorhyncha, echiura, platyhelminthes, acoelomorpha, nemertea, orthonectida, rotifer, rhombozoa, placozoa, and xenoturbella. Most of these fossilize very poorly, and so it’s pretty much up to genetics to try to discern when they arose. We do have fossils at least tens of millions of years old for most of these groups though, and if the fossilization is as good at Chengjiang as the article suggests, the mystery deepens.

    “one little exception”?

    So far I’ve listed 23 phyla. Well over half “are found in the fossil record a little later” (or a lot later).

    Of what’s left, most make their appearance BEFORE the Cambrian Explosion: porifera, mollusca, cnidaria, arthropoda, echinodermata, brachiopods, annelid, priapulida, and hyolitha.

    That leaves 7 left that make their appearance during the Cambrian Explosion: chordata, hemichordata, vetulicolia, chaetognatha, cycliophora, sipuncula, ctenophore. (And for some of these – such as chordate and hemichordata – it’s highly suspected that pre-CE fossils will be found.)

    The numbers can vary a bit due to controversies over classification and ambiguous fossil finds, but I think it’s good ballpark figures. The situation will likely change in the future (fossils from the CE being found before the CE; new fossils being found during the CE, etc). The declaration of “since the Cambrian period, we have only die-off and no new groups coming about, ever” is very bizarre though considering the current evidence, particularly the way he says it with such confidence. It should also be remembered that a phylum is something, essentially by definition, that can only form “a long time ago”. It’s like a new family group of languages forming. You need a new language to form, and a bunch of languages to form from that language etc – it’s not something that can occur “recently”.

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