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Botany Journal Revisits Charles Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery”

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.