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Bechly: The “Explosive” Pattern in the Fossil Record, and What It Means


“There’s no reasonable way to get from bacteria to mammals via evolutionary processes.” So says notable German paleontologist Günter Bechly, for a variety of reasons. One reason he describes in really interesting detail in a new ID the Future episode is the puzzling pattern of explosive radiation events in life’s long history. Those include the Avalon explosion producing the bizarre Ediacaran biota, some 574 million years ago, the great Ordovician biodiversification event perhaps 470 million years ago, aka “life’s second Big Bang,” several abrupt appearances in the Triassic, from 251 to 240 million years ago, in which dinosaurs and proto-mammals enter the scene, and many more.

This is all apart from the granddaddy and most familiar of all life’s explosions, the enigmatic Cambrian event. The pattern is not at all what Charles Darwin expected from the fossil record.

Dr. Bechly talks with Sarah Chaffee about what the pattern means for the theory of unguided evolution, and the idea of universal common descent compared with a polyphyletic view. Can the two be reconciled? Bechly discusses his chapter co-written with Steve Meyer in the recent book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. And he describes fresh turns his thinking has taken more recently, since the book was completed. That’s right, the theory of intelligent design, in the hands of scientists like Bechly, is still a work in progress with intellectual ferment, twists and turns, ongoing as we write here. Unlike the more traditional evolutionary view, ID hasn’t assumed the shape of a living fossil from an antique age.

That’s one thing that makes conversations like this so fascinating. Listen to the podcast or download it here.

Photo: Kimberella quadrata, a production of the Ediacaran period, by Aleksey Nagovitsyn (Arkhangelsk Regional Museum) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.