The Cambrian Miracle

creatures of the Cambrian period

THE CAMBRIAN MIRACLE


This “miracle” is based upon the discovery of an extremely rich fossil layer that seemingly exploded out of nothing in the Cambrian layer of the geologic column. The Cambrian layer is the bedrock layer of the earth’s mantle. The only organisms found below this layer, i.e. the pre-Cambrian layer, are microscopic bacterial organisms.

We have been taught by evolutionary scientists that all living organisms are related to one another, and they arise from biologically simpler life forms over hundreds of millions of years. So, finding microbes in the pre-Cambrian layer in the geologic column would not be thought to be a surprise. In fact, it would be a prediction of the molecules-to-men Theory of Evolution.  What is problematic with this evolutionary scenario is what we find after these microorganisms appear.

The very next layer is referred to as the Cambrian layer. The explosion descriptor refers to the massive influx or radiation of complex invertebrates that suddenly appear there. Recently, a discovery in China has sent evolutionary paleontologists into a state of hyperexcitement. The reason for this is simple. Fossils do not form easily. There are several ways that fossilization can occur, but none of them are very good at preserving soft tissue. These well-preserved specimens, complete with examples of many new Cambrian organisms, is good reason to rejoice.

The study yielded a bunch of related articles announcing a “Bonanza of Bizarre Cambrian Fossils Reveals Some of the Earliest Animals on Earth” had been discovered. The article went on to say:

All told, the team uncovered fossils of more than 50 species unknown to science. Many of the fossils — bell-shaped jellyfish, spiky worms, armored arthropods and more — retain an astonishing level of detail in their preserved soft tissues, such as gills, digestive systems and even eyes. (Weisberger, 2019) 

These complex invertebrates were so well preserved that they could see distinctly new animals along with bell-shaped jellyfish that were almost indistinguishable from their modern counterparts. In evolutionary jargon, this is called stasis. These virtually unchanged organisms that are allegedly hundreds of millions of years old are put into the aptly named category called the Lazarus taxon. In paleontology, a Lazarus taxon (plural taxa) is a taxon that disappears for one or more periods from the fossil record, only to appear again later. It is a reference to the resurrection of Lazarus of biblical fame. He was a friend and disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, who in the gospel of John chapter eleven, the Messiah raises him from the dead.  He was dead, yet he appears alive again. Hence the term, the Lazarus taxon.

Living Fossil Horseshoe crab
The horseshoe crab is a living fossil. They've remained
unchanged and look the same as observed in the
fossil record.

Remember, these fossils are supposed to be 490-530 million years old. Seeing jelly fish and arthropods that closely resemble horseshoe crabs making their first appearance during the Cambrian Explosion does not lend credence to the Theory of Evolution. The earliest horseshoe crab fossils are found in strata from the late Ordovician period, roughly 450 million years ago, making them true “living fossils.”

This sudden appearance of complex organisms with well-developed gills, digestive systems and eyes appearing abruptly without any discernable precursors other than single-celled microorganisms is evidence for special creation, not Darwinian evolution. What are some of the explanations evolutionary science has for this explosion of complex lifeforms apparently arising from the Precambrian bedrock.

There are a variety of explanations for this sudden radiation of lifeforms. Evolutionary scientists believe that various factors may have triggered the sudden change. These include an increase in oxygen levels, a shift in climatic conditions and the creation of more habitable environments that lasted 13-25 million years depending on who you ask. The importance of this time cannot be understated.  Most scientists believe the Cambrian Period marks an important point in the history of life on Earth; it is the time when most of the major groups of animals first appear in the fossil record.  All evolutionary scientists agree that the precursors that brought about the Cambrian explosion were complex and multifaceted. They list several intrinsic and extrinsic factors for the complex and relatively sudden radiation of lifeforms during this period as noted here:

Thus, the Cambrian explosion required environmental triggers. Nutrient availability, oxygenation, and change of seawater composition were potential environmental triggers. The nutrient input, e.g., the phosphorus enrichment in the environment, would cause excess primary production, but it is not directly linked with diversity or disparity. Further increase of oxygen level and change of seawater composition during the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition were probably crucial environmental factors that caused the Cambrian explosion, but more detailed geochemical data are required. (Zhang & Shu, 2013)

Of course, the elephant in this evolutionary room is the sudden appearance of these complex invertebrates fully formed without any precursors. Even if the proponents of Darwinian evolution reluctantly admit this finding is supportive of the view of special creation, they cannot afford to lend credence to anything that involves a Creator or Intelligent Designer. Unless of course they are referring to aliens from some undiscovered galaxy far, far away. Apologies to the Star Wars franchise.

When speculating on the phenomenon of this evolutionary mother of all growth spurts, we have those, like the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule Francis Crick and his colleague L.E. Orgel, who originally speculated about alien life forms seeding the universe with life.  

As an alternative to these nineteenth-century mechanisms, we have considered Directed Panspermia, the theory that organisms were deliberately transmitted to the earth by intelligent beings on another planet. (Crick & Orgel, 1973)

They came to this conclusion after exhausting all efforts to explain how spores (or other resilient lifeforms) might have travelled through space to land on planet earth by natural means.  

What shall we say concerning the Cambrian miracle? If we use the biblical definition of a miracle, e.g. that the Creator suspends the natural laws of science such as iron floating or the parting of the Red Sea, the Cambrian explosion was a truly miraculous event.

Let’s not mince words, at the Creation Studies Institute, we will continue to stand upon the eternal Word of God. We will take God at His Word by believing the living Word of God, John 1:1, as He is revealed to us in the written Word of God, the Bible. The choice is clear, either alien lifeforms seeded this planet with a myriad of living organisms or “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” Gen. 1:1.

Submitted by Steven Rowitt, Ph.D.

 

References

Crick, F. & Orgel, L.E. (1973). Directed panspermia. Icarus, Volume 19, Issue 3, July 1973, Pages 341-346.

Weisberger, M. (2019).  Senior Writer Bonanza of Bizarre Cambrian Fossils Reveals Some of the Earliest Animals on Earth. Live Science, March 21, 2019 06:31pm ET.

Zhang, XingLiang & Shu, DeGan (2013). Causes and consequences of the Cambrian explosion. Research paper in Science China Earth Science 57(5):930-942, May 2013.