Cambrian Clash: Fossils and Molecular Clocks Disagree | The Institute for Creation Research
Cambrian Clash: Fossils and Molecular Clocks Disagree

In a recent issue of the journal BioScience, ecologist Jeffrey Levinton of Stony Brook University, New York, offered a well-written review of the current status of the “Cambrian Explosion” hypothesis and presented at least two enigmas in evolutionary thinking.1

First, Levinton noted that the sudden appearance of a vast array of fully-functional life forms in “Cambrian” rock strata is not the result of any known evolutionary process, though he provided several possible evolutionary scenarios using the words “might,” “perhaps,” “may,” and “speculate.” Second, he also bravely admitted that the designated evolutionary time of arrival for the first animal life grossly conflicts with the extrapolated times given by “molecular clock” analyses, which use assumptions about DNA or protein sequence similarities between kinds to determine age.

Evolutionary geologists have “dated” Cambrian rock at 542 million years. According to their model, which exclusively selects long ages and rejects otherwise legitimate young ages for rocks,2 the most radical diversification of life forms occurred within a “geological” blink of an eye near the lowermost sedimentary strata. After a review of the fossil and molecular data, Levinton said, “The presence of genomic complexity, right at the dawn of bilaterian animal life [i.e., animals with bilateral symmetry], is inescapable.”3

He summarized the contrasting molecular clock ages: “All major studies consistently produce a date of divergence [emergence of animal life]…considerably before the beginning of the Cambrian.”4 How long before? The estimates range from 586 to over 1200 million years!5 Either the molecular clocks are wrong, the rock dates are inaccurate, or both.

The sheer width of this range of dates justifies the author’s conclusion that “it is likely that the assumptions of the models of molecular evolution may influence the outcomes too strongly to allow any significant confidence in estimates of molecular dates for the divergence of the Bilateria.”5 Whereas Levinton suggests that the biological dates should defer to the authority of the geological dates, creation scientists would suggest that assumptions of evolution may influence both of them too strongly to allow any confidence in either.

How might the mainstream evolutionary model find harmony? According to Levinton, “We can only hope that better evidence will emerge.”6 Despite the fossil record’s lack of supporting evidence, and despite the disparity between the fossil data and molecular clock analyses, many scientists nonetheless cling to evolutionary explanations.

The creation model, on the whole, is not in a desperate need of “better evidence.” The sudden appearance of fully-formed fossilized creatures is consistent with the creation of all animals during one week—not over millions of years. Further, the appearance of fossil sea creatures at the bottom of an earth-encompassing set of sedimentary rocks must, in most locations, correspond with the onset of the Genesis Flood. Third, both the internal and external inconsistencies of widely-varying molecular clock ages lead us to agree with Levinton’s skeptical attitude toward those dates. These all combine to give us great confidence in the accuracy and authority of the biblical record, complete with its young-earth dates.

References

  1. Levinton, J. S. 2008. The Cambrian Explosion: How Do We Use the Evidence. BioScience. 58 (9): 862.
  2. Humphreys, D. R. 2003. New RATE Data Support a Young World. Acts & Facts. 32 (12).
  3. Levinton, The Cambrian Explosion, 860.
  4. Ibid, 857.
  5. Ibid, 858.
  6. Ibid, 862.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on October 20, 2008.

The Latest
NEWS
ICR’s 2021 Science Expedition Update–Dinosaur Fossils
A team of 11 people from the Institute for Creation Research is currently traveling on a multistate science expedition to dig up fossils, conduct field...

NEWS
ICR’s 2021 Science Expedition Update
A team of 11 people from the Institute for Creation Research is currently traveling on a multistate science expedition to dig up fossils, conduct field...

NEWS
ICR’s 2021 Science Expedition Begins!
The Institute for Creation Research launched its 2021 multistate science expedition last week as a nine-member team left the ICR headquarters in Dallas,...

NEWS
Inside September 2021 Acts & Facts
Why does ICR focus on scientific research? How could paleontologists mistake a lizard fossil for a dinosaur? Is animal death before the Fall theologically...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Beauty by Design
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
Defend Your Faith with ICR
Have you ever heard a pastor question the historical nature of Genesis? “The days of creation weren’t really 24 hours long. The Bible is...

ACTS & FACTS
Animal Death Before the Fall?
Both the Old and New Testaments teach that death entered the world when Adam ate the forbidden fruit (e.g., Genesis 2:17 and Romans 5:12). Since fossils...

APOLOGETICS
Transmitting Truth in a Modern Pagan World
We share the world with modern pagans who worship the sun—or idolize an imagined primordial Big Bang—so we need to be truth witnesses unto...

ACTS & FACTS
Waco Mammoth National Monument
Hunters in the 1970s discovered mammoth bones exposed in sediments near the confluence of the Bosque and Brazos Rivers in north central Texas. They...

ACTS & FACTS
Three Hurdles for Evolution
Sure, finch beaks shift their shapes, but does that mean nature invented beaks and birds from stardust? Evolution’s proponents often speak as...