In his Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin states the discovery of fossil records require slowly changing life from one animal species to another different species by means of natural selection. His theory of evolution speculates that all life comes from one common ancestor at the base of his “tree of life” pattern, and branches out into different genera. Pointing to the lack of fossils in the geological period known as the Cambrian, Darwin believed that fossil evidence of life branching out from a single species would eventually be unearthed. It’s been 150 years now and no such evidence exists.
There is a sudden appearance of animal phyla at the base of the Cambrian era geological records. Instead of slowing evolving life as evolution suggests, complex animal fossils first appeared at the base of the Cambrian. These fossils have been our “base body plans” for most of the major animal groups that are alive today. What developmental path these more complex creatures took is still unclear since no gradually developed fossils have ever been found.
What was the Cambrian Explosion?
The Cambrian Explosion occurred between 540 – 500 Ma (million years ago). If Darwin’s theory is correct, there should be fossils showing the evolutionary development of simple life forms into more complex ones. So far, none have been found.
The Pre-Cambrian Fossil Record
Over 90% of earth’s history took place during the pre-Cambrian period. Most life at this time consisted of primitive, single-cell bacteria. Life changed very little. Evidence points to an abrupt manifestation of new animals that appear to have developed at five times the normal rate — a highly accelerated pace. Why don’t we see that rate of evolution happening today? So far in scientific history, no comparable life changes have evolved since this explosion.
According to Darwin’s theory, there should be numerous fossils demonstrating how complex animal life, with eyesight and spinal cords, evolved from worm-like creatures or sponges. Scientists can only speculate what might have happened based on the existence of other organisms, living or fossilized.
The “Eyes” Have It
The development of eye-sight is first found in the Cambrian period, and the first appearance of an eyeball seems more like a miracle. Gradual change for the appearance of these developmental innovations into progressively more complex ones hasn’t been found in fossil records. Scientists do not have a good answer for how the eye evolved.
Trilobites also appeared at this time and were complex creatures that provided a blueprint for all other forms of life with legs, a spine, etc. These features now appear in over a million species of animals. Sophisticated as a modern crab – brain, gut, heart, compound eyes – trilobites shook the evolutionary world. The little trilobite’s sight still remains a frustrating quandary for scientists. Scientists’ best guess is that light somehow enhanced a mysterious, unknown selective pressure causing an eyeball to evolve.
Big Changes Need More Time
Darwin’s idea that all animals are modified descendants of one common ancestor would require millions more years’ time than what occurred during the Cambrian. He suggested beneficial variations are rare and modest changes, whereas major variations inevitably produce deformity and death. Only minor variations are viable and heritable. These variations would gradually produce favorable results to accumulate, giving rise to new species. Yet Dr. Stephen Meyers explains that only by selecting and accumulating minor variations over many generations were breeders able to produce any striking change in the features of the same breed, and these changes were very modest compared to the radical form differences between Precambrian and Cambrian life.
Today some are no longer referring to a “bottoms up” approach (as in Darwin’s animal Tree of Life) in appearances for variations of species. Instead, a “top down” explanation is offered. At least one scientist calls it a “lawn” instead of a tree since the sudden appearances of all major body plans most involved in animal forms today occurred during this Cambrian era simultaneously. Recent embryological development has also shown that these basic body plans cannot evolve, or “morph,” without fatal results. This has been identified as a HOX genome that has a master regulatory function in the embryonic state, and if mutations occur in this state, it’s catastrophic. “We have no idea how this level of (body plan) organization came into existence from an evolutionary standpoint,” said Biochemist Fazale Rana, pointing out that the Cambrian Explosion continues to defy explanation. Rana says science needs to expand its evolutionary theory. Evolution simply does not have explanatory power causing some scientists to ask—after Darwin, what’s next?
Darwin himself said that the case for the abrupt appearance of Cambrian fossils at present remains inexplicable… and may be a valid argument against evolutionary views. This unique event in the fossil record, the Cambrian Explosion, does not show a slow, incremental progression of changes but rather a quantum jump that defies a naturalistic explanation. To assume there is no other explanation than Darwin’s theory is limiting the possibilities of what truly can exist. Any science textbook that does not show the discrepancy between what evolution espouses and the actual evidence found fails to provide students all the facts allowing them to think critically about these issues. Click To Tweet There are mysteries to life’s existence that perhaps are better understood by being open to an intelligent, mind-over-matter cause that brings purpose and meaning to life, in contrast to random, aimless chance survival.
 Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (Lexington, KY: Cricket House Books, 2011. First published: 1859), 51.
 Douglas Erwin & James Valentine, The Cambrian Explosion, (Greenwood Village, CO: Roberts and Company Publishers, Inc., 2013), 270.
 Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt, (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2013), 11.
 I Fazale Rana, The Cambrian Mystery: Explosive Evidence for Creation, presented at The Burgess Shale Adventure in Canada (Reasons to Believe audio cd lecture series, 2013).
 Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt, 292.
 Darwin, The Origin of Species, 245.