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Botany Journal Revisits Charles Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery”

Jonathan Witt
Image credit: Ernst Haeckel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

On a new episode of ID the Future, German paleontologist Günter Bechly explains what Charles Darwin referred to as an “abominable mystery,” the sudden appearance in the fossil record of a certain group of flowering plants. It was a mystery to Darwin because according to his theory, there should have been a long succession of precursors gradually evolving toward the flowering plants of the Cretaceous. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

Bechly and host Eric Anderson focus the conversation on a recent paper by Richard Buggs in the American Journal of Botany showing that the problem for evolutionary theory has actually grown more acute since Darwin’s time. What about a recent article claiming to have found evidence of flowering plants in the Jurassic? Bechly says that the “evidence” amounts to the authors theorizing that there must have been a common ancestor long before the Cretaceous. The fossil evidence for any such Jurassic plants remains absent. In other words, they posited ghost lineages based on what is required by modern evolutionary theory: an assumption of common descent and the neo-Darwinian mechanism of gradual, unguided evolutionary change. Anderson and Bechly wrap up their conversation by considering the implications of all this for the evolution/intelligent design debate.

Jonathan Witt

Executive Editor, Discovery Institute Press and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Witt, PhD, is Executive Editor of Discovery Institute Press and a senior fellow and senior project manager with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. His latest book is Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design (DI Press, 2018) written with Finnish bioengineer Matti Leisola. Witt has also authored co-authored Intelligent Design Uncensored, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, and The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot. Witt is the lead writer and associate producer for Poverty, Inc., winner of the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award and recipient of over 50 international film festival honors.

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American Journal of BotanyCharles Darwincommon ancestorcommon descentCretaceous PeriodEric Andersonevolutionflowering plantsfossil recordGünter BechlyID the Futureintelligent designJurassicNeo-DarwinismpaleontologypodcastRichard Buggs