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The Fossil Record of the Cambrian “Explosion”: Resolving the Tree of Life

Geologist Keith Miller examines the "Cambrian Explosion", a period of rapid evolutionary diversification approximately 575 million years ago, and whether it poses a challenge to evolutionary theory. From the June 2014 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith from the American Scientific Affiliation.

 

What scientific evidence do we have about the first humans?

In recent decades, scientists have discovered more about the beginnings of humanity. The fossil record shows a gradual transition over 5 million years ago from chimpanzee-size creatures to hominids with larger brains who walked on two legs. Later hominids used fire and stone tools and had brains as large as modern humans. Fossils of homo sapiens in east Africa date back nearly 200,000 years. Humans developed hearths for fire, stone points for spears and arrows, and cave paintings by 30,000 years ago. By 10,000 years ago, humans had spread throughout the globe. Genetic studies support the same picture. Humans share more DNA with chimpanzees than with any other animal, suggesting that humans and chimps share a relatively recent common ancestor. Also, the same defective genes appear in both humans and chimps, at the same locations in the genome—an observation difficult to explain except by common ancestry. Genetics also tells us that the human population today descended from more than two people. Evolution happens not to individuals but to populations, and the amount of genetic diversity in the gene pool today suggests that the human population was never smaller than several thousand individuals. Yet all humans, of all races, are descended from this group. Humanity is one family.

 

From Intelligent Design to BioLogos

In this paper, Venema tells the story of his transition from support of Intelligent Design to the view that God uses evolution as a creative mechanism.

 

C.S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design

This article is a comprehensive study of the views of Christian author and apologist C. S. Lewis on the theory of evolution and the argument from intelligent design. It explains how he would distinguish expressly philosophical arguments for a Transcendent Mind from the current claims of the intelligent design (ID) movement to provide scientific evidence for such a reality.

 

Design in Nature

In this paper, adapted from an article from Science & Christian Belief, Dr. Oliver R. Barclay compares and contrasts the biblical view of design in nature with modern design arguments.

 

Evolution and the Origin of Biological Information

In this paper, Venema explores several examples in biology where random mutation and natural selection have indeed led to substantial increases in biological information. The question of how new specified information arises in DNA, far from being an “enigma”, is one of great interest to biologists.

 

Why Dembski’s Design Inference Doesn’t Work

Mathematics professor James Bradley looks at the design argument presented in William Dembski's book The Design Inference and offers his criticisms on the accuracy of the model.

 

Seeking a Signature

In this article, Venema offers his review of Stephen Meyer's book Signature in the Cell.

 

Christian Geologists on Noah’s Flood: Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology

Geologists Davidson and Wolgemuth address the widely promulgated notion that the Flood can account for the earth’s complex geology, and that all genuine Christians should accept this viewpoint.

 

Intelligent Design, Thomas Aquinas, and the Ubiquity of Final Causes

In this paper, Baylor philosophy professor Francis Beckwith distinguishes between Intelligent Design (ID) and Thomistic Design (TD).

 

Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism

Many evangelicals believe that Young Earth Creationism is the only authentic, biblical way for Christians to understand origins, and that until the advent of Darwin's theory of evolution, it was the only view held by Christians. However, in this excerpt from Saving Darwin, Karl Giberson explains that Young Earth Creationism's origins are surprisingly recent.

 

Does the Cambrian Explosion pose a challenge to evolution?

The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the appearance in the fossil record of most major animal body plans about 543 million years ago. The new fossils appear in an interval of 20 million years or less. On evolutionary time scales, 20 million years is a rapid burst that appears to be inconsistent with the gradual pace of evolutionary change. However, rapid changes like this appear at other times in the fossil record, often following times of major extinction. The Cambrian Explosion does present a number of interesting and important research questions. It does not, however, challenge the fundamental correctness of the central thesis of evolution.

 

Are gaps in scientific knowledge evidence for God?

Every field of science has unanswered questions and gaps in our understanding. Scientists typically view these as open research questions. Others sometimes argue that if science can’t explain how something happened, then God must be the explanation. Such arguments are called “god-of-the-gaps” arguments. The risk in these arguments is that science is always developing. If gaps in scientific knowledge are the basis for belief in God, then as scientists fill in the gaps, the evidence for God disappears. The God of the Bible, however, is much more than a god of the gaps. Christians believe that God is always at work in the natural world, in the gaps as well as in the areas that science can explain.

 

What does the fossil record show?

Fossils provide a unique view into the history of life by showing the forms and features of life in the past. Fossils tell us how species have changed across long periods of the Earth’s history. For instance, in 1998, scientists found a fossil showing an animal at the transition from sea creature to land creature. This tetrapod had a hand-like fin, confirming a prediction of evolutionary biology. Though the fossil record does not include every plant and animal that ever lived, it provides substantial evidence for the common descent of life via evolution. The fossil record is a remarkable gift for the study of nature.

 

What is the "fine-tuning" of the universe, and how does it serve as a "pointer to God"?

Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants, and the beginning state of the Universe. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature and the beginning state of the Universe have extremely precise values.

 

How should we interpret the Genesis flood account?

Genesis 6-9 tells the fascinating story of Noah, the Ark, and the Flood. Some Christians interpret the text to mean that the biblical flood must have covered the entire globe. They also work to explain the evidence in rocks and fossils in terms of this world-wide flood. Other Christians do not feel the text requires that the flood be global, but could have covered the small region of earth known to Noah. The scientific and historical evidence does not support a global flood, but is consistent with a catastrophic regional flood. Beyond its place in history, the Genesis flood teaches us about human depravity, faith, obedience, divine judgment, grace and mercy.

16 resources found