Customer Review of Darwin’s Dilemma
Posted on April 16th, 2010
My name is Mark McMenamin. I have completed a PhD on the fossils of the Cambrian Explosion, have published several books on the subject, and am a devout Christian. At the present time I am actively researching the latest fossil discoveries from Cambrian boundary strata.
This video is an outstanding success. It presents the design argument better than anything I have seen before. From the perspective of a scientist informed about the raw data, the main thrust of the film is absolutely correct. Just as Darwin (to his credit) pointed out, a robust Cambrian Explosion destroys the concept of evolution by gradual natural selection. If anything, the Cambrian event seems even more abrupt than it did in Darwin’s day.
I wrote to both James Valentine and Simon Conway Morris after, to my astonishment, seeing them appear in this video. Valentine, although no Intelligent Design proponent to be sure, admits that epigenetic transmission of information (i.e., heritable information not transmitted by nuclear DNA) really does happen. This has huge implications for how we understand evolutionary change.
Although Simon Conway Morris admits that we do not fully understand evolution, he claims that the Cambrian event is uncomplicated natural selection at play. How can this be, when the Early Cambrian Chinese fossil chordate Myllokunmingia appears comparable in complexity to a modern catfish? This is sudden appearance of complexity, not ordinary microevolution. Andy Knoll at Harvard has been quoted recently as saying that it is natural selection all the way. Please, gentlemen, it is time to think more broadly, and it is past time to provide a persuasive scientific basis for these opinions about the efficacy of natural selection.
This is not to say that there are no ancestor-descendant connections across the Cambrian boundary. Dolf Seilacher has argued quite a bit with me about the Ediacaran fossil organism called Spriggina. Seilacher sees this fossil as a weird vendobiont creature, whereas I have evidence that it is the trilobite ancestor:
This said, I agree with Seilacher that most Ediacarans are bizarre and not closely related to Cambrian animals.
To conclude, biotic change through time has certainly taken place but this change is not random mutation mediated by gradual natural selection. The scientific community needs to distance itself from the taint of Darwin’s defunct, socially corrosive theory. On the other hand, the Intelligent Design community needs to be careful, lest it seem to be dictating to God how He can or cannot create. It would be theologically problematic and silly to presume to allow God to create in one way (instantaneous fiat), but not in another (change through time).
Finally, with the Cambrian event we have a scientific and intellectual challenge of the first order. We need all hands on deck to bring this ship to port. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes in “Silver Blaze,” we need to see the value of imagination, imagine what might have happened, act upon the supposition, and perhaps in the end, find ourselves justified. Let us proceed. I wish to congratulate creationists for (finally) making a substantive contribution to scientific discussion.