The Cambrian explosion: Getting past the Darwin lobby to look at the facts
|May 17, 2011||Posted by News under Darwinism, Cambrian explosion|
Or anyway, the latest attempt at it. The Darwin lobby promotes uniformitarianism (long, slow gradual change caused by natural selection acting on random mutation), which is at odds with the evidence of rapid bouts of change followed by long periods of stasis.
Over at Access Research Network, David Tyler discusses “The unscientific hegemony of uniformitarianism” (05/16/11), and new approaches in progress.
It has been recognised for some time that the uniformitarianism of Charles Lyell has hindered the development of geological science. It is perhaps less widely known that Charles Darwin perceived himself initially as a geologist and he drew heavily on Lyell’s uniformitarian agenda (for an example, go here). Later, as Darwin’s focus moved to biology, he retained his commitment to a uniformitarian methodology: evolutionary gradualism was Darwin’s attempt to apply uniformitarianism to biology. (For an example of it leading him astray in understanding inheritance, go here). Scholarly criticism of gradualism, however, has been muted because alternatives to Neo-Darwinism lack maturity and there are many hypotheses that await testing. Notwithstanding this, the data derived from a study of fossils has consistently pointed to discontinuity rather than gradualism.[ … ]
The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the abrupt appearance of animal phyla and classes in the fossil record. It has been much discussed by both critics and defenders of Darwinism. Apart from pleading the impoverishment of the fossil record, the defenders have sought to ‘spread out’ the Explosion, to make it appear that gradualism can still be discerned. An example of this approach was blogged here, where I noted that critics have never insisted on an instantaneous explosion, but have merely drawn attention to the numerous characteristics of the Explosion that are inconsistent with Darwinism. Stimulated by the iconoclastic approach of Stephen Jay Gould, the critics have shown themselves to be the true empiricists.
As usual, the Darwin lobby was wrong and the critics were right.
What’s most interesting is that new approaches are now seriously mooted, as Tyler observes – notably Douglas Erwin’s.
The logjam so far has been the amount of effort going into interpreting the Cambrian explosion so as to support Darwinism, rather than understanding the event for itself.