The creationists think they found evidence for God in the Cambrian Explosion. Because distinct species “suddenly” appear adapted to their environmental niche, creationists argue that surely an “outside” hand organized this life.
The Cambrian Explosion is defined from Wikipedia:
The Cambrian explosion or Cambrian radiation was the relatively rapid (over a period of many millions of years) appearance, around 530 million years ago, of most major phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record, accompanied by major diversification of other organisms, including animals, phytoplankton, and calcimicrobes. Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude (as defined in terms of the extinction and origination rate of species) and the diversity of life began to resemble today’s.
This sudden origin of life resembling today’s over a rapid period has been used by creationists as “evidence” of God. In fact, there is no such evidence, and studies in science are proving more to be so.
In fact, new evidence strongly suggests that this quick formation of species actually come from needs of our immune system, resulting in sexual reproduction as a means of “screening” random genetic mutations.
The idea of sex as resulting from needs of the immune system is called the “Red Queen’s Hypothesis” as stated in this Wikipedia entry:
One of the most widely accepted theories to explain the persistence of sex is that it is maintained to assist sexual individuals in resisting parasites, also known as the Red Queen’s Hypothesis.
“When an environment changes, previously neutral or deleterious alleles can become favorable. If the environment changed sufficiently rapidly (i.e. between generations), these changes in the environment can make sex advantageous for the individual. Such rapid changes in environment are caused by the co-evolution between hosts and parasites.”
“Hosts” and “parasites” are explained simply enough. For example, my body, “me”, becomes a host for a “parasite” such as a virus or bacteria, which, over time, actually becomes part of “me.” Continued in Wikipedia, below:
“Imagine, for example that there is one gene in parasites with two alleles p and P conferring two types of parasitic ability, and one gene in hosts with two alleles h and H, conferring two types of parasite resistance, such that parasites with allele p can attach themselves to hosts with the allele h, and P to H. Such a situation will lead to cyclic changes in allele frequency – as p increases in frequency, h will be disfavored.”
Selection of one system over another, simply by matching pairs of alleles in a genetic system. A majority of one type will gradually select over another type, creating “patterns” that lead to developed species over time. Back to Wikipedia:
“In reality, there will be several genes involved in the relationship between hosts and parasites. In an asexual population of hosts, offspring will only have the different parasitic resistance if a mutation arises. In a sexual population of hosts, however, offspring will have a new combination of parasitic resistance alleles.”
A combination of genes as in sexual reproduction grants more diversity, but this very diversity actually allows for more protection in our immune system. A mutation of a “parasite’ such as a virus or bacteria is limited in the damage it can do, because sexual reproduction causes variations within the gene pool of a species. A mutated virus may enter our bodies, but the genetic differences created by sexual reproduction limits the damage done to us as a species.
Quit simply, over time, this constant battle and interchange among host and parasites, creates a selection process, in which a “survival strategy” emerges that limits the effects of random genetic mutations of viral or bacterial infection. Back to Wikipedia:
“In other words, like Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen, sexual hosts are continually adapting in order to stay ahead of their parasites.
Evidence for this explanation for the evolution of sex is provided by comparison of the rate of molecular evolution of genes for kinases and immunoglobulins in the immune system with genes coding other proteins. The genes coding for immune system proteins evolve considerably faster.
…. It was found that clones that were plentiful at the beginning of the study became more susceptible to parasites over time. As parasite infections increased, the once plentiful clones dwindled dramatically in number. Some clonal types disappeared entirely. Meanwhile, sexual snail populations remained much more stable over time.
In 2011, researchers used the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a host and the pathogenic bacteria Serratia marcescens to generate a host-parasite coevolutionary system in a controlled environment, allowing them to conduct more than 70 evolution experiments testing the Red Queen Hypothesis. They genetically manipulated the mating system of C. elegans, causing populations to mate either sexually, by self-fertilization, or a mixture of both within the same population. Then they exposed those populations to the S. marcescens parasite. It was found that the self-fertilizing populations of C. elegans were rapidly driven extinct by the co-evolving parasites while sex allowed populations to keep pace with their parasites, a result consistent with the Red Queen Hypothesis.
Critics of the Red Queen hypothesis question whether the constantly-changing environment of hosts and parasites is sufficiently common to explain the evolution of sex.”
In other words, sexual reproduction caused a genetic diversity from generation to generation, but acted to stabilize the species over time, both limiting random change and protecting against excessive damage from random mutation.
In fact, the very exchange of viral information over time caused each organism to select certain genetic information over other information, with constant competition cancelling out factors that didn’t contribute to survival.
Exchanging DNA at a more rapid pace, gradually developed “strategies” that combined to create an overall survival strategy that sought to screen out destructive viral and bacterial agents. Over time, this process of reproduction became sexual reproduction, because genetic information could be passed on and controlled within a species by the male “informing” the egg of the female. The pattern remained generally the same, except now sperm acted as the informing agent, entering the egg, whereas before, a virus entered the cells of less organized bodies, and began replicating itself in order to survive. These replicating processes, over time, became a coordinated “survival strategy’ that worked within a species, with competition among sperm acting in similar fashion to a virus competing to enter a cell.
As you see in the quote from Wikipedia above, cloned systems gradually became extinct, while sexually producing systems maintained stability in their generations. In fact, it is that stability that gradually allowed for sexual selection over cloning.
It is this process in which the male, battling or competing for reproductive rights, is able to “inform” the female with the best genetic “information” as a result of that competition. Competition, instead of providing for evolution, actually guarded against evolutionary change, or at least guarded against randomized evolutionary change.
While we may look for a “mind” or “higher power’ as a regulator in this regard, the simple fact is that all the various DNA strands combining in a multi-celled organism would each select for information consistent with its own goals of survival. The process of life, and its complexity, does not require the maintenance and regulation of “God.”
Sexual reproduction emerged simply as a need for providing a defense against random genetic invasion. Scientists today know that the “germ” cells, those cells that are reproduced through transmission of sexual genetic traits, are not directly affected by viral infection. Germ cells are those cells that pass on information to your children. These, of course, are composed of egg and sperm cells. Another form of cells, however, are known as somatic cells, and the information in somatic cells are never passed on to germ cells. Mutations that occur in the somatic cell cannot be passed on to the germ cells.
This suggests that the germ cells, directly associated with genetic inheritance through sex, “screen” unnecessary changes from the environment.
Females, as the “receiver” of genetic information from men, naturally develop “screening” mechanisms that allow for specific selection of values and cultural traits that tend to forge security among cultures. Socially, this screening process among females has tended to control social arrangements.
From this evolves a selection of related traits in which we progress from religion as a means of securing our collective selves against death, to governments that secure us collectively against threats on earth, and to greater protection of ourselves as members of the group.
Just as rapid exchange of viruses and bacteria was gradually isolated into an immune system over time, so did the social process of animals become locked into protective strategies based on sexual reproduction, such as mating rituals among different species, even species that show very little difference visually to the human eye, which will develop very specific “signals” by which a species selects a proper mate. This allowed each species to adapt strictly to its environment, and to develop resistant genes to external change.
Humans, of course, began to alter this strict behavior when they began traveling extensively and encountering diseases which resulted from viruses and bacteria in foreign climates. In time, rites of passage began to develop, after the models of ritual mating behavior, generally that included fire, as it was discovered fire destroyed the ‘demons” that made the people sick. Food that was cooked with fire destroyed microbes that were harmful, which allowed for a less responsive immune system over time, and ritual behaviors developed that protected groups of humans over time.
What becomes more and more apparent over time, is that all of these basic drives result from the immune system. Sexual reproduction, geared to ritual mating protections, rites of passage, and even religion, over time, served to “immunize” us to the final confrontation of our own death. In many cases, this form of “immunizing” actually was a kind of “numbing” from those aspects of life that were too shocking to face constantly. Religion gradually allowed us to think that the trials and tribulations of this life are nothing compared to what is waiting for us “on the other side.”
Over time, and with exposure to many different religions, it became increasingly complicated to select one that allowed us to ritualize our behaviors and avoid the stress and “overchoice” that culture and technology gradually imposed. Men who weren’t easily convinced by religion needed government, and government began to replace the need of security, the “numbing” immunity that religion could no longer provide.
Marshall McLuhan, the “media guru”, pointed out that the communications medium, whatever it may be, alphabetic text, printing press, radio, TV , etc, is a form of “numbing” of those parts of us that are directly affected by the medium, similar to local anesthesia. The more easily we communicate common feelings and assumptions among ourselves, the more we are “numbed” to the differences that exist among us. Shared “meanings” communicated within our groups, reduced stress within the group by reducing the choices that would have been imposed on us as individuals.
Processes by which early groups formed alliances was also a form of “numbing” by combining social/sexual relations within the tribe, further restricting the genetic interference that would alter collective security. from mating rituals among animals, we developed rites of passage for puberty aged children.
From this, we gradually found ways of “numbing’ our self identity into false-family relations, such as “children of God”, “brotherhood of man”, terms which suggested genetic relations, but were merely conceptions representing such extensions of self. As such, we began looking for more abstract ways of combining collective “immunity” to the point, as Slater writes, that we discovered the “machine-like response”, organizing ourselves in such a way when faced with threat that sacrifice of individuals for the “greater good” allowed us to defeat those cultures less prepared in such mechanical fashion.
In this instance, natural selection became biased toward mechanical processes of organization that led to empires with god-kings and processes of organization that denied individual freedom of choice.
It may be that our deepest dilemmas today are between the immunity of the individual “self” and the collective “self” acting to preserve the “greatest good”. I believe that has always been the underlying argument in civilizations, tracing our decision-making processes to extensions of our immune system. This would also fit with Bruce Lipton’s “Biology of Belief”, and the emergent discoveries in epigenetics.
Government “immunizes’ us against the threat of growing old and having no means of survival, and this can also turn into a war-like “civilizing” influence over other nations, as we see in the US today, with invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
The more that individuals are empowered by communications media, however, the greater the threat of revolt against the evolutionary trends toward centralization. Each person becomes a “whole” rather than a mere “cell” in the body, or “cog in the machine”. This empowerment of individuals actually “re-sensitizes” us to events on a more personal level.
As such, we look for ways to “immunize’ our self against the swallowing up of collectivist ideologies. “Terrorism” is merely the war of evolving communications technology. Each individual begins to exercise power that s/he could only dream of at one time, and could only act collectively to achieve. We are more and more empowered to act as individuals, and this will be the central focus of emergent systems.
This empowerment of the individual against both church and state, however, forces us to develop new relations that transcend geographical isolation, and even local communities. Internet transactions allow us to participate “piecemeal” in many different groups, even as many different persons. The individual of the past becomes a complex set of relationships, and can even pretend to be of the opposite sex, pose as a much younger or older person, and is less and less restricted to the necessary identity imposed by both church and state.
From the biological system that gradually centralized us as living bodies over time, telecommunications now permits us to ‘de-centralize” our very personalities in ways that we never before imagined, and whether you are atheist or religious, “God” will undergo many new definitions.