The Cambrian Explosion

It’s probably the first thing we notice about animals as we’re growing up. Snails don’t look like starfish. And starfish don’t look like beetles. It’s pretty obvious, really. Biologists have a name for the basic architectural differences between animals: they’re called "body plans." The origin of body plans was a mystery to Charles Darwin, and it’s still an enigma for evolutionists today. But newer ideas, like intelligent design, offer exciting new approaches to this old problem. A recent article in the Boston Globe reported on a meeting in China where the origin of body plans was discussed at length. The paleontologists at the event reported that fossil representatives of nearly all body plans -- or phyla -- appear suddenly, without obvious predecessors in the geological record. This is the so-called "Cambrian Explosion" of animal life --biology’s "Big Bang." Paleontologists define the Cambrian Explosion as the geologically sudden appearance of the major groups of animals, about 530 million years ago. While fossils earlier than the Cambrian Explosion have been found, none is clearly an ancestor of the body plans that appear in the Cambrian era. Darwin knew about the Cambrian Explosion, even if he didn’t call it that. In his book, Origin of Species, Darwin said he could "give no satisfactory answer" as to why so many different groups appear without ancestors in the geological record. Cambrian fossils are complex creatures, with eyes, limbs, digestive and circulatory systems, and other complicated features that evolution would have to build in a step-by-step manner. But the steps are missing. A Chinese biologist at the meeting said that no theory of evolution "can explain these kinds of phenomena." And the Chinese Communist newspaper, Guang Ming Daily, observed, "evolution is facing an extremely harsh challenge." Well, if evolution can’t do it, what sort of system would be capable of building incredibly complex systems? Certainly not natural selection. As a process, natural selection preserves only those variations of immediate value to a species. The many stages leading to creatures like trilobites have no selective value and are invisible to natural selection. The process of development by which snails and starfish -- and you and I, too, for that matter -- were created during reproduction passes through many stages that could not survive on their own. These stages are essential to construct our complex features. Sensory organs and limbs are made up of millions of specialized cells, and natural selection can only act after they’ve been formed. And for evolution to build complex animals with millions of specialized cells it would need a complete set of directions, but that’s something natural selection cannot do. As a blind process, it can’t look into the future and see where to go. Only our Intelligent Designer knows where he’s going. And that’s why the experts in China and elsewhere have been stumped. Well, we can pray that one day Darwin’s legions will see the truth and honor the Creator who designed it all. And in the meantime, you can use this information to set your neighbors and your kids’ biology teachers straight.    


Chuck Colson



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