Home » Darwinism, Intelligent Design » Q&A Part 3 — Jonathan Wells on the Cambrian Explosion and Darwinism as a Science-Stopper

Q&A Part 3 — Jonathan Wells on the Cambrian Explosion and Darwinism as a Science-Stopper

In this, Part 3 in a series of posts based on the Q&A section of the recently released DVD, The Case for a Creator, I offer Jonathan Wells’ comments in response to the question, How do you explain the Cambrian explosion of life?

How did it happen? We don’t have the foggiest idea how it happened. Assuming a jellyfish was the common ancestor — I don’t believe that — but how do you turn a jellyfish into a trilobite? How do you turn a jellyfish into a fish with a backbone? How do you do it? I don’t just mean taking a scalpel and rearranging the parts like you’re doing a collage in third-grade art class. We’re talking about a living animal here, that reproduces itself and makes more things like itself. How do you do it? We don’t have the foggiest idea.

To try to explain this away by saying Darwin’s theory accounts for it is a science-stopper. It’s the biggest science-stopper of modern history. It stops your inquiry right there. You have no more questions. Oh, all these animals just appeared. That’s not science.

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25 Responses to Q&A Part 3 — Jonathan Wells on the Cambrian Explosion and Darwinism as a Science-Stopper

  1. James Valentine who is the man who wrote the definitive book on the origin of phyla has been interviewed on the relevance of Darwinism to the phyla that appeared during the Cambrian Explosion. The interviews are available through ARN.

    Essentially he says that Darwin’s ideas have no relevance for the Cambrian fossils and he propoes some vague other natural mechanism. Valentine said the phyla are a top down phenomena and not a bottom up phenomena predicted by Darwin.

    Valentine then says Darwin got it right for the rest of evolution but offers no evidence except his assertion.

    This is similar to Sean Carroll’s hypothesis of a life form with all the elements of all the phyla existing before the Cambrian Explosion which is also only hisconjecture.

  2. how do you turn a jellyfish into a trilobite? How do you turn a jellyfish into a fish with a backbone?

    Easy. You use design. Then you
    front-load your design into a common ancestor using design.

  3. This goes in line with what Jon Wells said in his debate with Massimo Pigliuci. When it comes to something for which there is no explination, evolutionary theologians usually assume Darwinism by default. Why, you ask? Well, giving he self serving definition of sience, what else could it be?
    Darwinism is in deed the science stopper. Just think back and recall the so called “vestigial organs” (for which we NOW know there are functions for them), and the baddly named “junk DNA” (which we now know is not junk at all).
    Giving the history of Darwinian fundamentalism, I think they are the last ones to accuse others of promoting “science stopping” theories.

  4. [OFF TOPIC]
    This might be a schock to Darwinian totalists:

    http://creationsafaris.com/cre.....#20070114a

  5. jerry said: “This is similar to Sean Carroll’s hypothesis of a life form with all the elements of all the phyla existing before the Cambrian Explosion which is also only his conjecture.”

    Though his “conjecture” is based on quite a lot of genetic research.

  6. “This is similar to Sean Carroll’s hypothesis of a life form with all the elements of all the phyla existing before the Cambrian Explosion”

    That’s how you spell front-loading, correct? The real challenge for the darwinist with this explanation is to explain why some creature needed “all the elements of all the phyla.”

  7. Here’s another question, which I hope can be answered…

    Is it true that ID proponents also believe t that all animal life (including man ) can evolve from a common molecular beginning, that the Intelligent Agent simply gave that molecular structure the initial “wind-up” for it to start its work and the rest he/she left alone for it to work out ?

    Thanks.

  8. Here’s what I understand Carroll to be saying:

    – Some evolutionary biologists expected the Cambrian explosion to be accompanied by big changes in gene sequences. However, so far as we can tell from the genomes of certain descendants of pre-Cambrian life forms, no such large changes took place at the time of the explosion. Rather, any such changes appear to have preceded the explosion. See, for instance, http://invertebrates.ifas.ufl......arroll.pdf: “Collectively, then, available data suggest that two substantial periods of bilaterian evolution preceded the Cambrian: the evolution of the bilaterian stem lineage leading to Urbilateria and the subsequent diversification of the three major bilaterian clades.”

    – What appears to have been at least one of the causes of the Cambrian explosion is changes in “switches” regulating the activities of genes involved in development of body parts. Again, from http://invertebrates.ifas.ufl......arroll.pdf: “Three general points have emerged from comparative studies of Hox gene organization and expression in chelicerates (94, 95), crustacea (96–98), myriapods (99), insects (100), and onychophora (99). First, the entire onychophoran-arthropod clade possesses essentially the same set of Hox genes that pattern the main body axis (Fig. 4; left) (99). Thus, Cambrian and recent diversity evolved around an ancient and conserved set of Hox genes. Second, the increase in segment diversity is correlated with changes in the relative domains of Hox gene expression along the main body axis (Fig. 4, right). This result is illustrated by the evolution of appendage diversity among the crustacea in which the modification of thoracic limbs into feeding appendages correlates precisely with the modification of Hox gene expression (96). And third, changes in the morphology of homologous appendages are correlated with changes in the array of genes that are regulated by the same Hox gene (101).”

    So I think “a creature with all the elements of all the phyla” is actually more than Carroll is claiming. What he is saying, as I understand it, is a bit more limited: The Cambrian explosion of body types (morphologies) may in part be explained not by new genes, but by “old genes” being taught “new tricks;” i.e., by switches acting on the pre-existing Hox developmental genes, causing those genes to create new body types.

  9. “This is similar to Sean Carroll’s hypothesis of a life form with all the elements of all the phyla existing before the Cambrian Explosion”

    This “life form” sounds like quite a superior being. Would “all the elements” include intelligence?

  10. 10

    I like Jonathan Wells. He is feisty and can give it right back to the Darwinists.

    Thank God he’s on our side.

  11. One is reminded of those who say life can’t have evolved on earth hence we know it came from space. A bit like answering some one who asks, How do you grow corn?, by saying you buy your corn from the supermarket. It kind of like doesn’t answer the question!

  12. Jud,

    So I think “a creature with all the elements of all the phyla” is actually more than Carroll is claiming. What he is saying, as I understand it, is a bit more limited: The Cambrian explosion of body types (morphologies) may in part be explained not by new genes, but by “old genes” being taught “new tricks;” i.e., by switches acting on the pre-existing Hox developmental genes, causing those genes to create new body types.

    Yes. We know the evo-devo song and dance. But if you really think about it, it is absurd. The claim that evolution happened by “teaching old genes knew tricks” is really just an attempt to hand waive away the huge problem of how RM+NS creates the vast amount of novel and highly specified information required for the various body types and designs in the cambrian explosion, even if the same types of genes are used in different organisms. Should it surprise anybody that organisms have largely the same types of proteins for their different organs, tissues, and body parts? What would anybody expect? Of course it is the manner in which these tissues are arranged that is the significant difference, that seems rather obvious. Yet this is the evo-devo epiphany that is supposed to rescue Darwinism? The problem is, rearranging these body plans and parts is not some simple “trick” that can be done by random errors, it is a highly specified design and engineering problem that requires loads of novel and highly specified information.

    At the same time, it is ludicrous to claim that a common ancestor existed that had all of the tissue and organ types of every creature in the cambrian explosion and that by randomnly altering hox genes it could be transformed from a jellyfish into a trillobite or a vertebrate.

  13. Jehu said: “[I]t is ludicrous to claim that a common ancestor existed that had all of the tissue and organ types of every creature in the cambrian explosion and that by randomnly altering hox genes it could be transformed from a jellyfish into a trillobite or a vertebrate.”

    Hi, Jehu. Yes, I agree a claim such as you describe would be ludicrous. That is not, as I explained above, what I understand Carroll to be claiming.

  14. Jud,

    Hi, Jehu. Yes, I agree a claim such as you describe would be ludicrous. That is not, as I explained above, what I understand Carroll to be claiming.

    Well maybe you don’t understand what Carroll is claiming. Then again, I am just going off of your post.

    Thus, Cambrian and recent diversity evolved around an ancient and conserved set of Hox genes. Second, the increase in segment diversity is correlated with changes in the relative domains of Hox gene expression along the main body axis (Fig. 4, right). This result is illustrated by the evolution of appendage diversity among the crustacea in which the modification of thoracic limbs into feeding appendages correlates precisely with the modification of Hox gene expression (96). And third, changes in the morphology of homologous appendages are correlated with changes in the array of genes that are regulated by the same Hox gene (101).”

    If the only changes are Hox gene’s, then guess what?

  15. Jud
    I don’t claim to be an expert on Sean Carroll’s ideas, only someone who has read his book and understood most of what I read though some of the details were difficult to understand.

    I found nothing in it to support a naturalistic mechanism of evolution. His main premises seem to be two,

    1. There are a set of genes that are very similar amongst all life forms and these genes affect what is expressed at certain parts of the body. He calls these his toolbox of genes and the implication is that all lifeforms utilize these genes to build the elements of the organism.

    2. There is a set of sequences in the genome which he calls swithches which act to express these genes at the various parts of the body. These switches seem like the real programming guts of the genome and determine where everything is placed and when.

    This set of switches are complicated and immense. I believe he said the swithces for a human would take 10,000 pages of highly dense information to describe what it takes to form a human.

    Given the complexity of the switches it seems even more unreasonable to expect a random reordering of the switches and firing patterns through any random process would produce anything viable.

    Carroll hypothesizes that a creature had to exist prior to the Cambrian Explosion that had to have the toolbox since both vertebrates and arthropods and others have the commom genes from the toolbox. So this must have happened 540 mya or earlier.

    If I am wrong on any of this correct me. I do not have the book with me as I am on vacation so cannot reference it.

    If Carroll hypothesizes that the phyla were created first from this pre Cambrian creature or a couple of others then the process that caused the creation did not seem to operate post Cambrain since no new phyla were created. Why would this be so if this hypothesis is true.

    Anyway Carroll may have great understanding of gestation and further development in species but he has absolutely nothing to indicate it is all due to natrualistic causes. If he has anything then I would be very interested. It sure seemed like he was describing a massive design project.

  16. On the topic of science-stoppers: In this thread (one, two, three, four, five) I argued that Darwinism has also proved to be a science-stopper because it encourages us to assume that what appear to be clumsy and inefficient products of Darwinian mechanisms actually are clumsy and inefficient. Several of us pointed out that, in order to solve difficult problems, software engineers must often produce what look to outsiders like inefficient or unnecessarily complex and circuitous solutions.

    My conclusion was:

    Instead of looking at a biological system and saying, “Look what a silly thing Darwinian processes threw together,” perhaps we should be saying, “There’s undoubtedly a reason why this system is designed the way it is. Let’s try to figure out what aspect of the problem we are overlooking.”

    My question is, Which approach is the real science-stopper?

  17. Come on there are tens of thousands of “Darwinist” doing research on how things evolved. Evolutionist don’t simply say it evolved and that’s it. Sure evolutionist default position is that any biological system to have evolved much as a physicist default position would be that the know laws of physics applied to anything he maybe observe. That fact that many system have yet to be investigated fully or still don’t understand how some system evolved doesn’t then mean their doing something wrong or for that matter that they will not eventually work it out. After all how long has man been trying to fly and yet we only managed it just over a hundred years ago. More to the point wants the difference with a evolutionist having a default position that all biological system evolved is it not an Idist default position that life didn’t. One only has to read a typical science journal to see scientist don’t simply say it evolved and the not investigate how it might have happened. This is the charge that scientist have put on ID so some are trying to spin it the other way, but facts are facts.

    “Several of us pointed out that, in order to solve difficult problems, software engineers must often produce what look to outsiders like inefficient or unnecessarily complex and circuitous solutions.” I’d loved to see an example I’m also a software engineer with over twenty years experience modelling the physical and chemical properties and behaviours of steel manufacturing and I can’t think of one.

  18. jehu,

    As jerry points out, what Carroll is saying about Hox genes isn’t that the genes themselves changed. Hox genes affect the development of organisms in too many ways for a mutation in one of them to have much chance of producing anything that survives. Rather, what Carroll says is that changes occurred in the settings of switches that allow fine-grained control over the functions of various Hox genes at specific sites during specific times. The control allowed by these switches can get down to extremely fine levels of detail – for example, allowing differing patterns on the wings of butterflies born in warm weather than the same species born in cooler weather. The switches can be, but don’t have to be, other genes – they can also be proteins, for example.

    Carroll also isn’t saying there is one particular creature that has the characteristics of “all phyla.” He’s only talking about animals in the lineage of a certain group that “exploded” during the Cambrian, which Carroll refers to in the article cited above as the “onychophoran-arthropod clade.”

    Finally, Carroll is not saying animals in this ancestral lineage had “all of the tissue and organ types” of even the onychophoran-arthropod clade, let alone “every creature in the Cambrian explosion.” He is saying, at least as I understand it, that these animals had a basic set of Hox genes, and changes to the switches controlling those genes eventually allowed development of the tissue and organ types found in present-day descendants of that lineage.

  19. I like Jonathan Wells. He is feisty and can give it right back to the Darwinists.

    I agree, he’s the best one I’ve seen who drives darwinists crazy

  20. kengee,

    From what I have read the only real argument for a naturalistic method of evolution is the bad design of organisms. It was one of Darwin’s main motivators and is the last line of defense of those who support some form of naturalistic mechanism have. The materialists have no positive evidence to support a naturalistic mechanism only negative information against what they deem should be perfect design.

    My question is “Isn’t it a bankrupt science that has no positive evidence for its hypotheses? And all the available evdence falsifies it!”

  21. Kengee

    “Several of us pointed out that, in order to solve difficult problems, software engineers must often produce what look to outsiders like inefficient or unnecessarily complex and circuitous solutions.” I’d loved to see an example I’m also a software engineer with over twenty years experience modelling the physical and chemical properties and behaviours of steel manufacturing and I can’t think of one.

    Hmmm, I, a 7 times patented developer with 20 some odd years experience strongly concur with GilDodgen on this one. When I look at other people’s code, I conclude that the other guy is nuts! I bet if I looked at your code, I would conclude that you are nuts, and vice versa.

  22. bFast Well I’d put it differently When coding with clear objectives in mind most coders tend to go about it in a simular way. However as we all know customers rarely know exactly what they want and coders don’t always understand what’s been ask for. So code tends to develop in an “organic” way. If you come along and to add new functionality to my program you may find yourself constricted by the original design parameters that you are unable to change easily. So you adapt subroutines to achieve the goal. If a third party then reads the code they may well find it “inefficient or unnecessarily complex and circuitous solutions” and that’s because the code has evolved over time rather then be rewritten (redesigned).

    Jerry
    Darwin’s main motivator was the exact opposite, I dare say most people interested in studying life whether evolutionist or Idist are draw to by the fact that life seems so perfectly adapted to it’s various niches. The evolutionist would point to the their evidence as a positive way rather then negative. Remember the heart of the debate is not that natural selection occurs, it can be watched in a test tube. Rather the limits of natural selection, and evolutionist would argue that natural selection can give rise to new species while an Idist doesn’t and new species are designed and created afresh.

  23. SeekandFind asked:
    Is it true that ID proponents also believe t that all animal life (including man ) can evolve from a common molecular beginning, that the Intelligent Agent simply gave that molecular structure the initial “wind-up” for it to start its work and the rest he/she left alone for it to work out ?

    It is true. However it is also true that ID can accept something other than that.

    The ONLY way to make any determination (like that) in the absence of direct observation or designer input, is by studying the design in question.

    Hope that helps…

  24. kengee:
    Come on there are tens of thousands of “Darwinist” doing research on how things evolved.

    REally? Who is doing the research to see whether or not any mutation/ selection process can account for the range of changes required for the chimp/ human alleged divergence?

    The only real evolutionary research peratins to slight variations. No one, for example, is looking into whether or not accumualted (selected) mutations can account for the changes required to “evolve” a land mammal into a fully aquatic cetacean.

    kengee:
    while an Idist doesn’t and new species are designed and created afresh.

    That is so very wrong. Not even YECs think like that.

    Perhaps you should take a step back and actually learn what it is you are talking about.

  25. Kengee.

    Darwin talked about lack of good design often. It was one of the prime motivators for his theory.

    You do not understand ID. ID has nothing against natural selection. It just says that it only explains triviality like how you had to point to the example of a test tube. Not much besides your test tube example has ever been shown to be the result of natural selection.

    Now given that observation, ID will not dispute a lot of micro evolution. ID doesn’t dispute adaptation to the environment but the question is the extent of the adaptation one observes. ID actually subsumes Darwin’s and the ideas of the modern synthesis. It is just that these theories do not explain much of life change in the last 3.5 billion years.

    Again those who dispute ID have to distort it to make their point. You are just another in a long line of those who distort.

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