Freshwater Evolution?

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National Geographic News: “First Animals Evolved in Lakes, Not Oceans, Study Hints” The first animals didn’t evolve in the ocean, claims a controversial new study. Instead, the study suggests the earliest animals called a saltwater lake home.

For years, the standard evolutionary story for life’s origins was that the first form of life arose in a primordial sea; the earliest animals (perhaps sponges) evolved millions of years later; and millions of years later still animals finally crawled onto the continents.

“Fairly reasonable” assumptions aren’t necessarily solid science.

Martin Kennedy, a geologist at the University of California–Riverside, says of the ocean-favoring view, “It just seems like a fairly reasonable thing to assume, given the chemical and environmental stability of the oceans.” Of course, “fairly reasonable” assumptions aren’t necessarily solid science. Kennedy and other scientists are challenging the traditional view in a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team researched the Doushantuo formation in China, a fossil bed with embryonic representatives from many of the supposed earliest animals, including sponges, corals, and jellyfish-like creatures. Among the chemical remains at Doushantuo is the mineral smectite, which forms in salty, alkaline lakes but not in oceans. Yet these fossil remains are dated older than the oldest animal remains from marine sediments.

According to the researchers, the scenario can be explained by lakes’ faster absorption of atmospheric oxygen relative to oceans’ ability. “It would have taken the oceans much more time to have the same oxygen concentration that this lake had during this time,” Kennedy said. That would allow evolutionists, based on their interpretation of the fossil record, to conclude that animals evolved in lakes before oceans.

That would allow evolutionists to conclude that animals evolved in lakes before oceans.

This hypothesis creates a few evolutionary riddles, however. First, evolutionists believe most lakes last on the order of thousands of years—far less time than they think complex life-forms would have taken to evolve. But the researchers believe the lake at Doushantuo endured for tens of millions of years (presumably based on the fossil layers at the site), answering that riddle.

Second, if the authors believe these unique organisms evolved in this lake only, then why would similar organisms appear around the world? Otherwise one wonders how the animals that supposedly evolved in the Doushantuo lake propagated themselves across the planet. Assuming the lake was separated from the ocean, which itself would have lacked sufficient oxygen, the organisms that evolved at Doushantuo would have disappeared whenever the lake disappeared. The only alternative (not mentioned by the team) would be if the same organisms evolved simultaneously in other lakes or later in the ocean.

The third riddle is how such complex, divergent life-forms evolved so quickly, regardless of the “where.” We consider molecules-to-man evolution implausible even given hundreds of millions of years in one continuous habitat. Squeezing the evolutionary timetable by constricting the evolution to supposedly short-lived lakes raises our incredulity.

Another question that goes beyond the team’s hypothesis is simply how and why the Doushantuo formation contains a slew of embryo fossils—but embryo fossils only. Much of the Doushantuo mystery, we think, will remain shrouded in the inaccessible past. What we can say confidently is that the new evolutionary riddles posed by this research leave us even more skeptical of old-earth interpretations of the fossil record. The preservation of animals in the fossil record is better explained by, e.g., different ecological niches rapidly preserved during the catastrophic processes that initiated the Flood of Noah’s Day.


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