Long ago nature took a dramatic leap.
Some 530 million years ago–evidenced by major fossil records in the Canadian Rockies and China–a sudden flowering of species occurred.
So sudden was this flowering that scientists call it the Cambrian Explosion.
Or the Big Bang of Biology.
And it’s this formative geological event–and the questions it raises–that’s the subject of a new documentary called Darwin’s Dilemma.
There’s no secret: The Cambrian Explosion perplexed Charles Darwin. He himself confessed as much:
The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained. Origin of Species
Stephen Jay Gould, in his book The Panda’s Thumb, added, “The fossil record had caused Darwin more grief than joy. Nothing distressed him more than the Cambrian explosion.”
But why did it bother Darwin so much? What was the problem?
The Essence of the Headache
Darwin’s expectation was that new fossil data would reveal gradualistic continuity with slow and steady expansion. As you moved from the lowest levels of the earth’s crust to the higher levels you’d find progressive layers of organism development.
But what you have in the Cambrian layers of sediment are creatures with articulated limbs, eyes, spinal cords. Very complex organisms.
Below that, however–in the Pre-Cambrian layers–are single-celled bacteria. Blue-green algae.
For two billion years. Or longer.
In other words, there is no trace of the gradual transitional steps Darwin predicted. Furthermore, all major discoveries of the past century have only heightened the massiveness and geological abruptness of the Cambrian Explosion.
What It All Boils Down To
The problem is that Darwin’s theory predicted that organisms began from a common ancestor and branched out. And as they branched out they’d get more and more diverse.
The very simple to the very complex.
Unfortunately, what we have on record is exactly the opposite: complex to the simple.
Gould refers to this as the reverse “cone of diversity.” We have more diverse groups in the very beginning. In fact, more and more of them die off over time. And we have less and less now.
This, indeed, is Darwin’s dilemma: His tree of life is upside down.
Accumulating Arguments Against Evolution
You have organismal blueprints in place. Highly concentrated and precise DNA information. And chances of the mutations that scientists suggest must occur during the transition from simple to complex, say in a functional protein for example, on the order of 1074.
Indeed, formidable challenges to natural selection. And the film does a great job of explaining these critical problems the Cambrian Explosion pose to Darwin’s theory.
Add to this first class computer animation and on-location shots in such spots as China, the Canadian Rockies and Great Britain and you have yourself a decent film.
But things get a little sketchy when the film turns the corner to argue for intelligent design.
Where the Film Strays
My fundamental beef with the design argument–a la Paley’s Watchmaker analogy–is that it’s a faulty analogy.
What makes us think we can recognize a designed universe? We simply don’t have the range of experiences needed as we do to recognize human-designed artifacts like brick walls, watches and automobiles.
Wouldn’t it be better to compare the universe to a gigantic, shapeless aquarium? Or some kind of immense, inert animal?
Furthermore, not all complex artifacts require a designer. Snowflakes and crystals are great examples.
So is a monkey with a typewriter.
In the end, videos like Darwin’s Dilemma are great sources for challenging evolution, which, in my mind, is good enough.
But we don’t need to use the same evidence to prove the existence of God when we have the biblical record of the resurrection of Christ–a man who affirmed the creation of the universe by God.
Who also, by the way, said he was God. And if he was God, my money is on him.