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The Cambrian Explosion
Lecture by Stephen Meyer and Marcus Ross

Formats: DVD

Item# V049
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In conjunction with the 2004 Intelligent Design Conference, Biola University

NOTE: THIS DVD IS MULTI-REGIONAL

The Cambrian explosion is a term often heard in origins debates, but seldom completely understood by the non-specialist. This lecture by Meyer and Ross is one of the best overviews available on the topic and clearly presents in verbal and pictorial summary the latest fossil data (including the recent finds from Chengjiang China). This lecture is based on a paper recently published by Meyer, Ross, Nelson and Chien ?The Cambrian Explosion: Biology?s Big Bang? in Darwinism, Design and Public Education(2003, Michigan State University Press). This 80-page article includes 127 references and the book includes two additional appendices with 63 references documenting the current state of knowledge on the Cambrian explosion data. You can save 20% when you order the Cambrian Explosion Study Kit which includes the video lecture and book.

The term Cambrian explosion describes the geologically sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record during the Cambrian period of geologic time. During this event, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five (of forty total) phyla made their first appearance on earth. Phyla constitute the highest biological categories in the animal kingdom, with each phylum exhibiting a unique architecture, blueprint, or structural body plan. The word explosion is used to communicate that fact that these life forms appear in an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time (no more than 5 million years). If the standard earth?s history is represented as a 100 yard football field, the Cambrian explosion would represent a four inch section of that field.

For a majority of earth?s life forms to appear so abruptly is completely contrary to the predictions of Neo-Darwinian and Punctuated Equilibrium evolutionary theory, including:

  • the gradual emergence of biological complexity and the existence of numerous transitional forms leading to new phylum-level body plans;
  • small-scale morphological diversity preceding the emergence of large-scale morphological disparity; and
  • a steady increase in the morphological distance between organic forms over time and, consequently, an overall steady increase in the number of phyla over time (taking into account factors such as extinction).

After reviewing how the evidence is completely contrary to evolutionary predictions, Meyer and Ross address three common objections: 1) the artifact hypothesis: Is the Cambrian explosion real?; 2) The Vendian Radiation (a late pre-Cambrian multicellular organism); and 3) the deep divergence hypothesis.

Finally Meyer and Ross argue why design is a better scientific explanation for the Cambrian explosion. They argue that this is not an argument from ignorance, but rather the best explanation of the evidence from our knowledge base of the world. We find in the fossil record distinctive features or hallmarks of designed systems, including:

  • a quantum or discontinuous increase in specified complexity or information
  • a top-down pattern of scale diversity
  • the persistence of structural (or ?morphological?) disparities between separate organizational systems; and
  • the discrete or novel organizational body plans

When we encounter objects that manifest any of these several features and we know how they arose, we invariably find that a purposeful agent or intelligent designer played a causal role in their origin.

Recorded April 24, 2004. Approximately 2 hours including audience Q&A.

About the Authors
Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge in 1991. He is currently Director of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture at Discovery Institute and an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College. He is a past recipient of a Rotary International Scholarship, the American Friends of Cambridge scholarship (administered by the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust) and a Templeton Foundation science-religion teaching grant. He has contributed articles to several scholarly books and anthologies including The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition: An Encyclopedia, Darwinism: Science or Philosophy, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for An Intelligent Designer and Facets of Faith and Science: Interpreting God's Action in the World. In addition to technical articles on the philosophy of science, he has published many editorial features in newspapers and magazines such as The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and National Review.

Marcus Ross is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geosciences at the University of Rhode Island. He received a B.S. in Earth Science from the Pennsylvania State University in 1998 and a M.S. in Paleontology from the South Daktota School of Mines and Technology in 2002. His current research is focused on tracking the diversity, biostratigraphy, and extinction of mosasaurs, an extinct group of marine reptiles whose remains are found in Late Cretaceous deposits around the world. He and his wife, Corinna, live in Kingston, Rhode Island.

This lecture is based on a paper recently published by Meyer, Ross, Nelson and Chien ?The Cambrian Explosion: Biology?s Big Bang? in Darwinism, Design and Public Education (2003, Michigan State University Press). This 80-page article includes 127 references and the book includes two additional appendices with 63 references documenting the current state of knowledge on the Cambrian explosion data. You can save 20% when you order the Cambrian Explosion Study Kit which includes the video lecture and book.

Copyright ? 2004 by Biola University


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