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The Fossil Record, Part 3: The Cambrian Explosion

When Darwin published his famous book Origin of Species in 1859 he wrote that the Cambrian explosion was one of the greatest threats to his position. Over a decade and a half later, this situation is even worse for those who accept evolutionary ideas.

According to evolutionary history, the Cambrian Explosion represents a time when complex life forms suddenly burst into appearance without any apparent ancestors in the fossil record. This event supposedly took place around 500 million years ago. Even as early as 1859 Darwin recognized the problem that the Cambrian Explosion posed to his new theory. The Royal Ontario Museum, an evolutionary institution, comments, “When he published On the Origin of Species in 1859, Charles Darwin puzzled over the apparently sudden appearance of complicated organisms in the fossil record at the beginning of the Cambrian Period. He noted this could be used as an argument against his controversial new theory, which predicted a more gradual appearance of simpler organisms. At the time, Darwin pointed to the imperfection of the fossil record as his only defence, arguing complex animal life must have lived long before the Cambrian, but traces of that life had not yet been found.” Darwin believed that, once the rock layers that were clearly missing before the start of the Cambrian layers were found, they would yield the missing transitional forms that he needed. Those missing rock layers have been found but they do nothing to help Darwin or modern evolutionists. Indeed, they preserve the memory of life forms far too diverse from those of the Cambrian layers to be their ancestors! The missing rock layers only made an already bad situation worse.

Not only that, finds since Darwin’s day have shown that the Cambrian explosion was even more of an explosion than previously thought. It appears that all of the major body plans—including vertebrates—were present at the time of the Cambrian explosion. Indeed, 67% of today’s animal phyla are found in this layer! There is absolutely no record of gradual evolution. Life appears fully formed, functioning, extraordinarily complex, and diverse right from the very beginning. This goes completely against what evolution predicts and evolutionists are at a loss for how to explain how it supposedly happened, “Why did the Cambrian explosion happen when it did, and why was it such a unique event? While there is no current consensus among scientists, most researchers agree the explosion cannot be ascribed to a single, simple causal mechanism. The potential triggers can be classified in three main categories: environmental, genetic, and ecological. Deciphering the impact of each of these factors remains one of the most important challenges faced by palaeontologists today.” Basically, this means that the Cambrian Explosion is still a mystery.

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Evolutionary ideas cannot account for the massive explosion of fossils in Cambrian strata but a biblical worldview can. The Bible describes a catastrophic global Flood about 4,350 years ago. This Flood would have ripped up already deposited pre-Fall and pre-Flood sedimentary layers and redeposited them, entombing plants and animals in them. The Cambrian Explosion is simply a testament to the raging Floodwaters that would have catastrophically buried marine environments before rising to coastal and continental areas to bury those ecosystems. The Cambrian Explosion is a great puzzle to those who accept man’s ideas about the past, but those who accept God’s Word have no trouble explaining it. The evidence confirms the Bible’s account of history because “every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5).   

See also The Fossil Record, Part 1: Living Fossils and The Fossil Record, Part 2: Order in the Fossil Record.

Header image courtesy of: “Triarthrus spinosus slantlight CRF 01” by Dwergenpaartje – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Written by Avery Foley

I am a freelance writer for Answers in Genesis-US, and recently moved to Kentucky from Ontario, Canada. I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Religion from Liberty University and hold my Masters of Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

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