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Recent extinction findings a puzzle?

Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck?

Extinction seems to be in the news a lot lately; must be TV pilot ratings, or by-elections, or something. ;)

From “Not Always Safety in Numbers When It Comes to Extinction Risk” (ScienceDaily, May 8, 2012), we learn,

A basic tenet underpinning scientists’ understanding of extinction is that more abundant species persist longer than their less abundant counterparts, but a new University of Georgia study reveals a much more complex relationship.

A team of scientists analyzed more than 46,000 fossils from 52 sites and found that greater numbers did indeed help clam-like brachiopods survive the Ordovician extinction, which killed off approximately half of Earth’s life forms some 444 million years ago. Surprisingly, abundance did not help brachiopod species persist for extended periods outside of the extinction event.

Some years ago, paleontologist David M. Raup, a specialist in extinction, wrote Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), in which he raised the question whether some extinctions are caused by genetic flaws in the life form, rather than by changes in the ecology.

He felt this was worth looking at, especially in cases like the trilobites where, for example, they all went extinct.

Many recent studies of extinction by paleobiologists are coming out with findings that are contrary to what we see in modern environments and sometimes even contrary to what other paleontologists see in other geologic eras,” he said. “I think this is why paleobiology is so important-it’s the only way for us to examine ecology at multiple points in the Earth’s history, when perhaps the environmental and biological settings were different enough that even our most intuitive expectations don’t hold.”

In other words, Raup might have been right.

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4 Responses to Recent extinction findings a puzzle?

  1. “Perhaps the most obvious challenge is to demonstrate evolution empirically. There are, arguably, some 2 to 10 million species on earth. The fossil record shows that most species survive somewhere between 3 and 5 million years. In that case, we ought to be seeing small but significant numbers of originations (new species) .. every decade.”
    Keith Stewart Thomson, Professor of Biology and Dean of the Graduate School, Yale University (Nov. -Dec. American Scientist, 1997 pg. 516)

    i.e. Darwinism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man himself is the last generally accepted major fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. -

    “Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species….Homo sapiens is as distinctive an entity as exists on the face of the Earth, and should be dignified as such instead of being adulterated with every reasonably large-brained hominid fossil that happened to come along.”
    Anthropologist Ian Tattersall
    (curator at the American Museum of Natural History)

    Notes on trilobite fossils:

    The Cambrian’s Many Forms
    Excerpt: “It appears that organisms displayed “rampant” within-species variation “in the ‘warm afterglow’ of the Cambrian explosion,” Hughes said, but not later. “No one has shown this convincingly before, and that’s why this is so important.”"From an evolutionary perspective, the more variable a species is, the more raw material natural selection has to operate on,”….(Yet Surprisingly)….”There’s hardly any variation in the post-Cambrian,” he said. “Even the presence or absence or the kind of ornamentation on the head shield varies within these Cambrian trilobites and doesn’t vary in the post-Cambrian trilobites.” University of Chicago paleontologist Mark Webster; article on the “surprising and unexplained” loss of variation and diversity for trilobites over the 270 million year time span that trilobites were found in the fossil record, prior to their total extinction from the fossil record about 250 million years ago.
    http://www.terradaily.com/repo.....s_999.html

    Here is a timeline showing a partial list of fossil groups (including trilobites) showing their sudden appearance in the fossil record as well as diversity of the groups through time – (without the artificially imposed dotted lines) – Timeline Illustration:
    http://www.earthhistory.org.uk.....groups.jpg

    Trilobites also give evidence, contra Darwin, of extreme complexity appearing very early in the fossil record

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

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

    This following video, which was made somewhat tongue in cheek, which gives a very small glimpse of the utter confusion we should ‘naturally’ expect to see for life on earth if evolution were actually true instead of the nice neat ‘symbiotic and interdependent’ web of life we actually see:

    What Would The World Look Like If Darwinism Were True – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5488058

  2. 2

    There never were extinctions .
    All fossils below the k-t line were froim death during the flood year.
    So these accountings are worthless.
    One does not know something is extinct now or in the past.
    They simply look and find and don’t find creatures in strata levels and conclude extinction occurred.
    Yet if the fossil record is so poor to justify allowance for lack of intermediates then how can one be confident of conclusions about these extinctions and rates?
    Nevertheless its all about drawing hard and fast biological conclusions from geological boundary’s.
    Without the geology there is no evolution as taught.
    One would say the undercutting of geology would destroy the biology yet why must one do this/
    why should biology be allowed to prove its conclusions upon a unrelated subject.??
    Its a cheat and allows the biological evidence to escape biological criticism.
    its a flaw in the logic of scientific investigation.

  3. J. Sanford, in Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, uses the principles of population genetics to show that from the moment a species comes into being, the individuals in each succeeding generation accumulate mutations which they pass on to their offspring. He shows, again using population genetics, that the vast majority of these mutations are very mildly deleterious, so that any one of them will have little or no effect on survivability, and thus will not be able to be selected out, but that as they accumulate in the genomes of the species, the cumulative effect after many, many generations becomes lethal. This is why each species in the fossil record lasts on average a few million years and then abruptly disappears.

    It’s a well thought out and supported thesis, and it is absolutely devastating to the Darwinian hypothesis. I regard it, along with irreducible complexity and the problem of the origin of biological information, as one of the three absolute crushers of the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

  4. If the Cambrian Explosion is evidence of Intelligent Design, could not also extinctions be evidence of Intelligent Design? That is, as a nematode develops from an egg cell to an adult of just under 1000 cells, there are some 100 cells that must die for the adult to form. It’s called apoptosis, programmed cell death.

    So if there be a symmetry between the development of an organism, and the development of the Earth, would not mass extinctions correspond to apoptosis? If trilobites were the garbage collectors of the Cambrian when oxygen was in short supply and might be exhausted on decomposition of organics, why shouldn’t they go extinct when oxygen levels made their job superfluous?

    Can’t an intelligent designer also design in planned obsolescence?

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