In a paper published in BioEssays journal last year, the authors admitted that the event known as the “Cambrian Explosion” still has no plausible explanation within a materialistic paradigm.
The Cambrian Period is the name given that time in geological reckoning that spanned from roughly 542 million years ago (Mya) to 488 Mya. The period immediately preceding the Cambrian is known as the Ediacaran, during which the fossil record shows traces of the earliest known complex multicellular organisms. But, these globe-spanning lifeforms (some soft-bodied, some calcifying), which are almost exclusively distinct from later ones, were wiped out in an extinction event.
The Cambrian Explosion, sometimes referred to as “biology’s big bang”, is the name given to the sudden appearance of representatives of all but one of the modern phyla. They were completely new, with no apparent ties to the Ediacarans. These phyla total anywhere from 35 to 70+ distinct body plans, depending on what system you use. Now, this “sudden” appearance actually took place over a period of about 5-10 million years — possibly only ~2 million years in China’s Yunnan province. But, for any strongly materialistic theory, that “geological instant” is waaaaay too short a time to explain how these completely new lifeforms, organized into fully-functioning ecosystems from the get-go, showed up virtually out of nowhere, when there is little-to-no evidence that could link them to Pre-Cambrian fauna. In fact, instead of the gradual evolutionary transformations as expected based on Darwin’s ideas, the fossil record reveals explosive appearances every time biological innovation occurs.
According to the BioEssays article,
“[T]he Earth’s biota changed in profound and fundamental ways, going from an essentially static system billions of years in existence to the one we find today, a dynamic and awesomely complex system whose origin seems to defy explanation…. [T]he materialistic basis of the Cambrian explosion has become more elusive, not less, the more we know about the event itself, and cannot be explained away by coupling extinction of intermediates with long stretches of geologic time, despite the contrary claims of some modern neo-Darwinists.” (Kevin J. Peterson, Michael R. Dietrich and Mark A. McPeek, “MicroRNAs and metazoan macroevolution: insights into canalization, complexity, and the Cambrian explosion,” BioEssays, Vol. 31 (7):736 – 747 (2009).)
The authors don’t really venture any explanations of their own, other than passing mention of the open niche hypothesis and adaptive radiation. They go on to describe how, contrary to evolutionary theory, the number of phyla & body plans decreased over the eons since the Cambrian, rather than increasing. (For more information about the Cambrian Explosion and discoveries from the past decade, go here, here, here, & here.)
Of course, just because some evolutionary scientists are recognizing the shortcomings of their theory (in this area, at least), it does not mean that anyone is actually admitting defeat. Research and debate will continue, as it should, for many years to come. But, until scientists are truly free to push past the predominant paradigm of philosophical materialism, I doubt we will get a theory with adequate explanatory power & scope.
For a graphic demonstration of this topic, check out the DVD “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record”. I haven’t seen it, yet, but it’s supposed to use some pretty amazing CGI to bring the Cambrian creatures to life and illustrates the Darwin-defying nature of the Cambrian Explosion.