Mother of All Living?

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on February 18, 2012
Featured in News to Know

Ancient sponges take center stage as “our great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother.”

The latest candidate for the supposed common evolutionary ancestor of all multicellular animals is Otavia antiqua, a tiny sponge found in Namibian limestone conventionally dated at 760 million years. The international team reporting in the South African Journal of Science considers their microfossil a real milestone. Its age demonstrates, they say, that multicellular life evolved before the extreme “snowball earth” glaciation 700 million years ago,1 thus fulfilling molecular clock demands for the early origin of life and proving that life could survive two extreme ice ages. The previous occupant of the ancestral multicellular throne—another sponge—was recently dated at only 650 million years old.

“If one looks at the family tree and projects this backward to where you have what's called the stem group, the ancestor of all animals, then yes, this would be our great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother,” co-author Anthony Prave says. “The aspect of this that's rather satisfying, at least intellectually, is that it is in broad agreement with what geneticists would tell us based on looking at molecular clocks when we should see the first advent of large multi-cellular life forms.” Trying to explain the sudden appearance of diverse multicellular life forms in the Cambrian explosion, evolutionary geneticists have used molecular clock calculations to calculate life sprang into existence much earlier, predicting the existence of undetected Precambrian microfossils, common ancestors of all life on earth.2

“The fossils are small, about the size of a grain of sand,”3 says Prave. They range from “0.3 mm to 5 mm in length and are pierced by numerous tiny holes and some larger openings typical of sponge anatomy. They were found in limestone units “deposited in shallow marine shelf environments.”4 Some of these limestone units are finely laminated and appear to have been deposited under fairly calm conditions, while other limestone units contain abraded fossils that were likely buried during a more violent upheaval.5 All these limestones were found between sediments (called diamictites) thought to be ancient glacial tillite. The fossils were found in several limestone layers, all sandwiched between volcanic ash deposits dated by the uranium-lead method at 548.8 and 760 million years.6

Molecular clock predictions are built upon a statistical house of cards, attempting to predict how long evolution would take if it could happen and if mutation rates were known to be stable.

Molecular clock predictions are built upon a statistical house of cards, attempting to predict how long evolution would take if it could happen and if mutation rates were known to be stable. (See Researchers Devise Alternate Theory For Cambrian Explosion for more details on the illusion of precision produced by statistical games.) And the notion that earth has endured many ice ages is a product of uniformitarian thinking that cannot even satisfactorily explain the origin of one Ice Age without extrapolating to assume the same thing occurred many times. By interpreting various sediments as glacial tillite, evolutionists believe they have confirmation these ancient ice ages occurred. Yet associated with those sediments are limestones—produced in warm water, not glacial conditions—and the diamictites are more consistent with sediments produced by debris flows in submarine landslides.7 Furthermore, the uranium-lead dating method is based on a number of unverifiable assumptions.8 Thus by re-creating earth’s history along uniformitarian principles, evolutionists created a survival saga starring these abundant little sponges.

The global Flood described in Genesis buried billions of organisms and created conditions that caused the subsequent single Ice Age, which is clearly evidenced in earth’s geology.9 Most Precambrian rock layers were formed before the Flood and contain only microfossils. Some of these microfossils could have been deposited in comparatively quiescent waters of the pre-Flood world. The abraded fossils appear to have experienced the violent conditions caused by the collapse of the pre-Flood continental shelves at the beginning of the Flood which generated earthquakes and submarine landslides. Thus these micro sponges may well have been among the first creatures buried at the onset of the Flood, about 4,300 years ago. The geologic column is a timeline of earth history—but not of millions of years, only of about 6,000—and much of it is a record of the order in which organisms were buried during the Flood.

Nothing about these fossils demonstrates they are the ancestor of anything or anybody. In fact, even Prave notes the sponges apparently didn’t evolve during their alleged 200 million year existence, as “the oldest and youngest Otavia fossils all have the same quasi-ovoid form, with large openings leading from the exterior.”10 They are just very small sponges that lived in the wrong place at the wrong time and so got buried under the right conditions to be preserved. Neither their age—which is “known” on the basis of unverifiable assumptions—nor their anatomy suggest they are anything but tiny marine invertebrates, one of the kinds of organisms God created about 6,000 years ago.

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