So why were the Ediacaran fauna designed, then annihilated?
Darwinian evolution cannot pursue a future goal. The Edge of Evolution, 112
I recently wrote several posts regarding the evolution of photosynthesis, which released the oxygen that allowed the Ediacaran radiation. My last post (not counting yesterday’s post that I thought was lost) mainly involved how the extinction of the Ediacaran fauna plus the relatively high levels of oxygen appears to have facilitated the Cambrian radiation. Of course that is all perfectly reasonable under the evolutionary understanding, but what possible sense would there be to designing one radiation, to simply let it all die, and then to design the Cambrian radiation?
The truth is that such a scenario looks a great deal more like the flood story in Genesis than it does either a creation story or whatever “design strategy” is popular this week among the IDists. Even Behe, who tries his very best to make all “ID predictions” empirically indistinguishable from the predictions entailed by evolution, fails to even come up with a myth for why his super-powerful and super-intelligent Designer destroys as readily as it designs, and fails to repeat any of his designs once they have truly died out. Because, of course, it is evolution that predicts that the same organism as such will never rise again (it’s probabilistic, but the probabilities are heavily against), once it has become extinct.
This principle is called in geology “The Law of Fossil Succession,” and it was originally an empirical observation without explanation. The contingencies and accidents of evolution make any exact repetition–such that we could ever see Archaeopteryx evolve again–so unlikely as to be practically impossible. A designer, of course, should be able to make another organism so close to an extinct original as to be indistinguishable from it, if it indeed made the original. Ought we to be amazed that life is unrepeatable, as evolution predicts, and as ID does not? Indeed, one would expect a good extinct design to show up again, more than the poor adaptation of unlikely parts that is typical in transitional organisms.
If the Ediacaran fauna were made by some super-intelligent designer, how come we never observe any of the organisms seen here reappear in the fossil record? It is not certain that none of the Ediacaran animals have descendents or reasonably close relatives in the Cambrian faunal assemblage, of course. What we know most assuredly is that those particular species did not and could not appear again–we know this through the evidence, and our knowledge that they evolved and were not designed.
And it appears that the IDists truly depend upon the Cambrian “explosion” as one of their prime “arguments” against evolution, which surely makes one wonder why they care so little about the Ediacaran “explosion”. Could it be that even they wonder why these animals would be designed, then exterminated, only for the Cambrian “explosion” to repeat none of the exact designs, a non-repetition that only evolution predicts? Why design them in the first place, and why design the considerable number of the Cambrian taxa that also have gone extinct (fortunately, not all of us)? Why are Archaeopteryx and its fellow dinosaurs forever extinct, with only a much more evolved line of birds having descended from relatives of Archaeopteryx?
In fact, it is believed that at least 99% of species which ever evolved have gone extinct. Effectively, this too is a prediction of unguided evolution, for accidents and contingencies, plus the fact that Behe put into words in the opening quote–that Darwinian evolution cannot look ahead–means that organisms will radiate adaptively, only for the environmental conditions to which most species adapted to shift and to cause their extinction. Catastrophes, like meteoroid strikes, are a part of this process, although they differ in important ways from the effects of evolutionary and gradual ecological changes.
With respect to the Ediacaran radiation and extinction (as with the others) we have two predictions of evolutionary theory fulfilled, then–that many organisms will evolve only to go extinct, and that the same organisms will never appear on earth again. Similarly, Ediacaran fauna raise two crucial questions for ID, which is why huge numbers of taxa are “designed” only to go extinct, and why such “designs” never reappear again, unlike the practice of known human designers. I’m sure that we could find any number of fulfilled evolutionary predictions, and unfulfilled design expectations, but these are enough for now.
I simply did not think that I should go on, to where Behe wants to steer us, without asking the questions that he so carefully evades, hence this post.
I should note that I wrote this not realizing that I had not, in fact, lost the post that I wrote yesterday, on the same topic. I am still learning how WordPress works. This one, however, points more directly to evolutionary predictions, hence another post on virtually the same subject may be worthwhile.
This is part of a series of posts that I am combining into one long post, which may be found at Darwin’s Black Box.