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Earlier Start for Animal Evolution

on February 7, 2009
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ScienceNOW: “A Much Earlier Start for Animals” It could almost be the plot of an evolutionary Indiana Jones adventure: deep beneath the sands of Arabia, lost and hidden for millennia, lay a secret molecule that transcends what we think we know.

The actual news is a little less glamorous, of course: with the help of Petroleum Development Oman, scientists led by University of California–Riverside geochemist Gordon Love have discovered a strange molecule that challenges the idea of the Cambrian Explosion. (The Cambrian Explosion is the puzzling episode in the evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record that shows a sudden “explosion” of life-forms in a brief period of geologic time.)

Since the supposed “earliest animals” lack hard parts, they aren’t easy to find in the fossil record.

Since the supposed “earliest animals” lack hard parts, they aren’t easy to find in the fossil record, which has “made life difficult for evolutionary biologists,” ScienceNOW writer Phil Berardelli jokes. But Love’s team decided to look for the presence of a molecule called 24-IPC that is produced only by a class of animals including modern sponges. Find it, they hypothesized, and they may find the evidence for pre–Cambrian Explosion animal life that evolutionists already accept. (By faith, that is; Berardelli writes that the scientists “know that natural selection had to be operating for at least tens of millions of years to give rise to all of the Cambrian critters.”)

The team looked at drill cores from Petroleum Development Oman that dug deep into the Earthen layers of the Arabian Peninsula, some supposed 635 million years down. They treated the samples chemically and determined that 24-IPC was present “in even the oldest parts of the core.” Berardelli summarizes the conclusion: “As a result, animals appeared on Earth slowly, as Darwin suspected, and not suddenly and spectacularly, as the fossil record seems to show.” Surprise, surprise: the “evidence” matched what evolutionists already believe.

As creationists, we view the sedimentary layers in three general stages: sediments without fossils (or with only intrusive microbial fossils) formed during Creation Week, and those with few fossils formed between Creation and the Flood; fossil-filled sediments laid down by the Flood and catastrophes as the floodwaters retreated; and post-deluge sediments (including the post-Flood Ice Age) with relatively fewer fossils. Since we believe that all animals, including sponges, were around since Creation Week, it makes total sense that 24-IPC would be found throughout the sedimentary layers and perhaps even carried by water into the earliest sediments. The discovery of 24-IPC confirms what creationists would predict.

Berardelli also reports that Love’s team’s findings “seem to solve one mystery, but they intensify another.” Love has unwittingly pushed back animal origins (in the evolutionary timescale) into a hypothesized period of Earth history called Snowball Earth, “when our planet was almost completely encased in ice” and thus quite hostile to sponges. Exhibiting cognitive dissonance, Love employs a rescuing device and suggests sponges “could have emerged before Snowball Earth and inhabited a haven just large enough to allow them to survive” (Berardelli’s paraphrase).

It seems that, in general, evolutionists are in between a rock and a hard place, so to speak, when it comes to dating the earlier stages of life. Discoveries that push life’s supposed origin back mean there would have been more time for “prehistoric” and modern organisms to evolve their many incredible features, but less time for life itself to spontaneously appear. Discoveries that pull life’s origin nearer to the present offer more time for it to develop but squeeze the amount of time available for the evolution of organisms.

Granted, evolutionists’ supposed four billion years of Earth history gives them time to work with, but the Cambrian Explosion remains to them a riddle, which is why well-known evolutionists have suggested such wild ideas as “punctuated equilibria” to answer it. But to creationists the Cambrian Explosion makes complete sense: not a sudden record in history of the evolution of complex life-forms, but the bottom, marine layer of fossils buried by the great Flood.


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