Maybe the title of this post should read "I Agree With Simon Conway Morris- At Least On One Thing." Here is the one thing: the Cambrian Explosion
raises significant questions regarding Darwinian theory and reasonable persons are justified in questioning the validity of macroevolutionary theory on the basis of this evidence.
Morris is a leading paleontologist who was lionized in Stephen Jay Gould's book Wonderful Life
because of his work on the Burgess Shale fossils of the Cambrian era. Here is what he had to say about the problems posed by the Cambrian era fossils in his book The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals
As our knowledge of the Burgess Shale has continued to expand, so it has reopened a whole series of questions that are relevant to the Cambrian 'explosion'. . . . By 1859 the problem had been more clearly articulated by Charles Darwin, in his Origin of Species. Darwin was fully aware that his theory might be difficult to reconcile with the seemingly abrupt appearance of the Cambrian animals. It is a testament both to the prescience of Darwin and the magnitude of the problem that to a considerable extent his articulation of the problem remains compelling and relevant reading today. p. 140-141.
Indeed, how can we explain the origin of so many forms of animal organization in the Cambrian? Did they appear almost simultaneously? Surely there must have been extraordinary mechanisms of evolution responsible for this, mechanisms that no longer operate today? Perhaps even the Darwinian paradigm of evolution, vigorously defended against all attack for more than a century, is now set to crumble before our eyes? Is not the sheer range of animals alive in the Cambrian far in excess of anything we see in modern seas? These are not absurd suggestions made by cranks and eccentrics on the fringes of science, but questions raised by reputable scientists. p. 164.
In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, he then states that in the next chapter he will explore why these ideas appear to be "flawed." And then he attempts to do so. But the rest of the book does not even begin to address all of the problems posed by the Cambrian Explosion. Moreover, I found his explanations fairly narrowly focused and far from convincing.
In any case, I quote him not for the proposition that he thinks "the Darwinian paradigm of evolution . . . is now set to crumble before our eyes." Rather I quote him because he believes that those who question the theory, and certainly those that believe that the Cambrian Explosion is solid scientific evidence that tends to undermine Darwinian theory, are not "cranks and eccentrics on the fringes of science" but that many are "reputable scientists."
While I am sure he is not a signer of the Dissent From Darwin
statement, his comments can be viewed as a defense of the reasonableness of those who did sign. It also undermines the position of those who believe
that teaching public school students about these fossils is unconstitutional.
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For more on the Cambrian Explosion fossils, read here