Home » The Design of Life » Today at the Design of Life blog: The Smithsonian vs. the Cambrian explosion

Today at the Design of Life blog: The Smithsonian vs. the Cambrian explosion

Charles Walcott, secretary  of the Smithsonian, had found the equivalent of Noah’s Ark. He found every animal phylum, or – as physicist Gerald Schroeder puts it – the “basic anatomies” of all animal life forms today.

Cause for rejoicing?

No, because there was a problem. The problem was that the find obviously did not support Darwin’s theory of evolution:

So what did he do?

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32 Responses to Today at the Design of Life blog: The Smithsonian vs. the Cambrian explosion

  1. This is rather old news now. The fauna of the Burgess Shales has been examined extensively for decades now. The issue isn’t one of “it doesn’t fit with Darwin so we’ll ignore it” – the problem was that Walcott assumed that whatever he had found fit into known phyla, whereas we now know (and have known since the 1980′s) that the Burgess fauna was far more complex. This extract from the Wikipedia entry on the Burgess Shales says it well:

    “The significance of the finds was not realised at the time of discovery; the trilobites found dated the fossils to the Middle Cambrian period, and Charles Walcott simply placed the unusual new species within the phyla known to exist during that period, a process Stephen Jay Gould dubbed “shoehorning” in his book about the Burgess Shale, Wonderful Life (1989). A reinvestigation of the fossils in the 1980s by Harry Blackmore Whittington, Derek Briggs, and Simon Conway Morris of the University of Cambridge, however, revealed that the fauna represented were much more diverse and unusual than Walcott had recognized.”

    Nothing unusual there – just another case of a scientist not recognizing the significance of the fossils he had found. And it goes on today as well – only a couple of weeks ago I was reading of a recently published study on a dinosaur fossil found in the 1980s. Often it takes years to undertake a full examination of the fossils, especially when – as in Walcott’s case – there were thousands of them. It just goes with the territory.

  2. I recently heard some dispute about the 80 year delay and that some of these fossils were referred to or analyzed over the years. Now I forgot where I saw this but it was in the last month or two.

    An aside: Did you know that Cambrian means Wales. It was the latin word for what is now Wales and the first stratum for the Cambrian was found in Wales. Similarly some of the other eras refer to regions of Britain under the Romans.

  3. 3

    Wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg?

    I wonder why the life created during the Avalon Explosion, died out so abruptly. Was it just plants that were created?

  4. This may not be a big deal, but the “file drawer” link from the Design of Life site goes to the Society for Scientific Exploration and it’s journal.

    From the site: “The Society and its Journal provide a critical forum of rationality and observational evidence for the often strange claims at the fringes of science.” Perusing past issues, they cover UFO, past-life regression and Bigfoot, among other things.

    I don’t know that I would use that site to bolster any argument that I did not wish to have ridiculed.

  5. 5

    I wonder if ‘Clarence’, has anything to do with Clarence Darrow.

    Attorney for Darwinists, the child killers Leopold and Loeb and socialists.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.....d_and_Loeb

    What a guy, huh?

  6. OFF TOPIC: I noticed the Design of Life site and blog are not optimized for search engine friendliness. Not in the least. They’re probably doing poorly in search engine results. There are some simple things that can be done, and I’m willing to elucidate if invited to do so. I can be contacted via my UD profile email address or web site. ;-)

  7. The neglect of the Burgess Shale is NOT old news to people who have been spoonfed Darwinist pap (crap?) from childhood!

    Re the Design of Life site:

    EST 9:27 pm:

    Total 13,343
    Average Per Day 221
    Average Visit Length 2:55
    Last Hour 35
    Today 762
    This Week 1,550

    If anyone knows how to optimize it for search friendliness, contact me at [email protected].

    By the way, the book is doing well too.

    #1 in Books > Science > Biological Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
    #1 in Books > Professional & Technical > Professional Science > Biological Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
    #3 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Creationism

    The trolls need to find another job.

  8. Denyse,

    I have my own website and have read books on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and have watched a video course on it. The video course is at http://www.lynda.com. It would cost you $25 for a one month subscription and you could watch it in a few nights.

    Apollos is probably much more qualified in this then I am but it essentially easy to do and he may have some specfic ideas that would help. You can find out the frequency of search terms that are submitted to google if someone subscribes to adwords. I spend a fair amount of money each month on adwords and my search terms were based on the frequency of these terms being used in google searchs. They tell you how often a term was used in a search and in what combinations. So it is easy to figure out some of the best search terms to optimize your site. I just tried to find out the frequency of searches for evolution and intelligent design and what combinations work best but my adwords site went crazy so I couldn’t get the frequency of these terms. I will try again tomorrow.

    You then put the keywords in the description and keywords section which is hidden in your html code and make sure they are in a couple places on the home page and each landing page on your site. I did not see any description or keywords on your home page and this should be easy to correct.

    You should also try and get some established sites to link to you so when the spiders come to their site they will then check out your site. The more links you have pointing to you, the higher you will appear on google searchs. I put in intelliigent design into google and it lists a bunch of sites. See if any of the friendly sites will list your site.

    It has been 18 months since I did my site so there may be a lot of new information out there.

  9. larrycranston (#4), the link to the SSE for the subject of the “file drawer” effect is quite legitimate.
    The file drawer effect is well known in parapsychology as one of the supposed explanations used by skeptics for apparently positive results in meta analyses of series of studies in psi research. Radin and others have shown that this attack is invalid.

    The founders of the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) (of which I am a member) were fourteen credentialed professional scientists, some quite prestigious. Unlike most, they were willing to stake their reputations and positions in expressing an open mind to new ideas challenging the prevailing paradigms. You would think ID advocates would want to join them. The Journal of Scientific Exploration is published by the SSE and is peer reviewed. It has included very many parapsychological research papers over the years, in addition to papers on many other anomalous subjects. Its editorial board lists eighteen credentialed professional scientists from around the world.

    You are concerned that any perceived association with the SSE will lead to ridicule. It’s amusing – members of the SSE accept the reality of many types of phenomena challenging currently accepted paradigms in science, but generally they still accept Darwinism and ridicule ID.

  10. Magnan, I connected with the website http://www.scientificexploration.org. It looks interesting, however they don’t give out much without membership. Might be worth it though.

    It also linked me to skeptiko.com. On there they have a bunch of podcasts, one of which caught my eye, “Scientists Are Not, “Playing by the Rules”, When Exploring Intelligent Design.” I haven’t listened to the nearly hour long podcast, but it certainly sounds like there is some positive discussion about ID within this community.

  11. With all due respect, if an evolutionist found the equivalent of Noah’s ark today, he would burn it as a “mythological hoax” in a fit of religious duty.

  12. jerry,

    I’m no expert but I dabble. I sent Denyse an email outlining some of the basics, excluding heavy keyword targeting for the short term. If you want I’ll send you what I sent to her, although if you’ve read up on the subject and watched video presentations you know as much or more than I do. My website is linked and there’s a contact form on the right nav links. She might well benefit from information that I didn’t provide.

  13. “The neglect of the Burgess Shale is NOT old news to people who have been spoonfed Darwinist pap (crap?) from childhood!”

    Well, I suppose you could argue that nothing is old news to someone just hearing it for the first time. But the simple fact is that the diversity of the Burgess Shales fauna has been well known for a long time in the scientific community and a subject of popular science books for at least two decades.

    I don’t understand the relevance of the “Darwinist pap” comment. The Burgess Shales episode is one in which Darwinists are the players, whichever side of the issue they are on. To flag this up as somehow a failure of Darwinism is misleading – this is just normal scientific discourse.

  14. The proper precursors to the Cambrian existed- they just did not get recorded in the fossil record. ;)

  15. 15

    It’s sad that some people think Clarence Darrow is a hero. Trust me, I know all too well.

    My younger brother is into the ACLU, atheism, the progressive caucus and
    Clarence Darrow.

  16. 16

    If you want to read about a real hero.
    Read about this guy: http://www.johnmccain.com/About/

  17. FYI – “keywords” tags are no longer used by major search engines. “description” is not used to help your ranking, but may be used to label your results.

    Being listed in dmoz.org will help you out a lot better.

  18. Pannenberg,

    I’d hate to argue politics with you, but Huckabee is the candidate for me.
    McCain has embraced all sorts of liberal positions on dozens of issues. while Huckabee is a true conservative.

  19. The File Drawer Problem Google Scholar lists some 8,000 hits.

    e.g. Jeffrey D. Scargle, Publication Bias (The “File-Drawer Problem”) in Scientific Inference, Sturrock Symposium Saturday, March 20, 1999 Stanford University]

  20. porkchop,

    Nobody is saying the Burgess Shales haven’t been investigated. What was claimed is that they were essentially hidden for several years.

    The references to Walcott seem to dispute that claim and it will be interesting to see what was in the Walcott papers. Do you know if anyone summarized his work? The original works are probably hard to find. And except for the Hutchinson paper in 1931 there was nothing more for over 40 years in your list. Were there any others during those years?

    Did any of the paleontology textbooks during the periods 1930-1970 summarize the findings? Was any of the information in the biology textbooks? I realize this would be hard to find but it would be interesting.

    I have Valentine’s Origin of Phyla and I will look in there tonight to see what references are in his book.

  21. 21

    Hi ChuckHumphrey,

    I like Mike Huckabee too. Who knows, maybe a McCain – Huckabee ticket?

    By the way, it’s nice to converse here with like-minded people.

  22. 22

    I just got out of a meeting, where I listened to a guy talk for about 30 minutes about how there is no God.

  23. PannenbergOmega,

    I hate it when people start complaining like that!

  24. jerry (21), you wrote:

    “Nobody is saying the Burgess Shales haven’t been investigated. What was claimed is that they were essentially hidden for several years.”

    And what I object to is the use of the word “hidden”. O’Leary’s writeup, and the implication of your word “hidden”, is that there is some wicked Darwinian conspiracy here to cover up the Burgess Shales. There was nothing of the sort. As my earlier post (1) mentioned about Gould’s book “Wonderful Life”, nothing was “hidden” at all – it was merely overlooked because Walcott was doing what all humans do quite regularly and shoehorning fossils into categories with which he was familiar. Only later did the real significance of the Burgess Shales fauna come to light.

    You may be interested to read “Wonderful Life” because it gives an interesting insight into the Burgess Shales and the early mistakes made in categorising fossils. One that struck me in particular was the case where what was originally thought to be a jellyfish fossil actually turned out to be just the mouth part of a huge (for Cambrian times) predator called Anomalocaris.

    Let’s have a bit of reality here. If ID is to be taken seriously then it needs to get out of the habit of sniping at anyhting related to Darwin. I repeat: there’s no Darwinian conspiracy regarding the Burgess Shales, just a typical tale of human failings, oversights and a good scientific detective story to tease out the true picture (which still goes on today).

  25. 25

    As Ronald Reagan would say, ‘there they go again.’

    Seriously though, if there is no evidence for speciation by natural selection and most mutations (all random right?) are deleterious, then isn’t Darwin’s theory in tough shape?

  26. 26

    Maybe, I’m not seeing the esoteric reason of Darwinian mythology.

  27. porkchop and clarence,

    Valentine’s book has about 1500 references so I wasn’t about to check them all. I did sample 11 random pages and found roughly 21 of about 230 reference were from the period before 1970, mostly in the 1960′s. Not one mentioned the Burgess Shales in the title so it is hard to know what they were about. A couple looked like textbooks.

    So what was the true explanation of the failure to analyze these fossils? Maybe we will never know. However, it is curious that someone didn’t press to see these fossils and analyze them for quite a while.

    By the way Valentine is on record as saying the Cambrian fossils do no support Darwin’s ideas though I have seen attempts to shoehorn these fossils into a Darwinian explanation.

  28. Clarence,

    you said

    “If ID is to be taken seriously then it needs to get out of the habit of sniping at anything related to Darwin”

    I agree but if you want to see examples of people in the habit of snipping, go to anything that talks about ID. I have never seen more than one or two pieces in the popular press and almost none in the academic press that provides a fair hearing on ID. Why the obligatory distortion?

    To get a perspective on this, witness the reviews of Behe’s book, the Edge of Evolution and see how the typical trolls treated him on the Amazon book site. It wasn’t pretty. I always wonder about a movement that creates such vitriol and distortion. What does that say to you? Hence some of the folks here get a little bitter at this treatment and reflexively lash out in return.

    I personally think Darwinian processes explain a lot of life’s richness and as such should be recognized. But I also believe the evidence overwhelmingly points to the inadequacy of Darwinian process to explain anything of consequence in terms of evolutionary biology. I often refer to it as the biggest “con job” of the 20th century. Darwin never saw anything but micro-evolution on his journey on the Beagle but made the unsupported conclusion that such processes could produce novel and complex structures within a organism. Nothing has been found to support that conclusion either before or after the discovery of the double helix.

  29. Jerry: To get a perspective on this, witness the reviews of Behe’s book, the Edge of Evolution and see how the typical trolls treated him on the Amazon book site. It wasn’t pretty. I always wonder about a movement that creates such vitriol and distortion. What does that say to you? Hence some of the folks here get a little bitter at this treatment and reflexively lash out in return.

    There is an evil that permeates Darwinism and atheism that is not altogether human, in my opinion. I hate to think that I am a member of a species that is capable of being so devoid of honor.

  30. Mapou,

    I certainly agree. I cannot understand how the cabal of Darwinists can purposefully distort their opposition’s arguments, engage in such blatant dishonesty, and make everything (even when it’s science!) out to be a fight between two irreconcilable worldviews.

  31. 31

    I probably shouldn’t have put socialists in with the other two categories. When writing about Darrow.

    After all William Jennings Bryan was a socialist of sorts (a Populist). Alot of what Jesus says seems to advocate cooperation (not mandated by the state though).

    Socialism can mean a bunch of things. Was the New Deal socialist?
    I don’t think so, but some do.
    I can’t imagine what would have happened if Hoover or Robert Taft had beaten Roosevelt.

  32. 32

    Peter Viereck, an academic who helped create the modern conservative movement in America, described the Neal Deal as a conservative project. For the preservation of our society and culture against more radical forces.

    Viereck has since fallen out of favor amongst conservatives, but I like him.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Viereck

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