The Cambrian Explosion: Falsification of Darwinian Evolution

From Issue: R&R – Issue 36 #5

One important task of science is to develop testable theories. And one important characteristic of a theory is the ability to falsify it with evidence gathered from experimentation. Predictions should be able to be made that would verify the theory if those predictions play out, or falsify the theory if the evidence contradicts the theory. If, for example, one theorizes that gravity is a force that causes objects with much larger mass, if unimpeded, to pull objects with smaller mass towards it, one can make the prediction that if he drops an apple from his hand, the larger mass of the Earth will pull that apple towards it. He can then test that prediction using many objects and many settings to verify or falsify predictions.

Consider Darwinian Evolution, the currently popular theory for how all life came to be, from goo to you. If life on Earth today is the result of countless tiny changes over 3.8 billion years, a clear chain of fossils extending back to that original single-celled organism should be present in the fossil record. There should be billions of fossils documenting the transitions between billions of creatures throughout the record. Yet this prediction has not been verified in the fossil record, effectively falsifying Darwinian Evolution. Decades ago, the late, famous evolutionary paleontologist of Harvard, Stephen J. Gould, acknowledged this problem. He said, “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution” (1980, p. 127). “All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt” (1977, p. 24). “[T]he extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches: the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils” (1977, p. 13). His study of the fossil record led to his rejection of gradualistic evolution altogether.

David B. Kitts, the late evolutionary geologist, paleontologist, and professor of geology and the history of science at Oklahoma University, said, “Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of ‘seeing’ evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species, and paleontology does not provide them” (1974, p. 466, emp. added). Concerning the evolution of humans, Richard Lewontin, research professor at the Museum of Comparitive Zoology at Harvard, admitted, “The main problem is the poor fossil record. Despite a handful of hominid fossils stretching back 4m [million—JM] years or so, we can’t be sure that any of them are on the main ancestral line to us. Many of them could have been evolutionary side branches” (2008, emp. added). Evolutionist and senior science writer for Scientific American, Kate Wong, admitted, “The origin of our genus, Homo, is…[b]ased on…meager evidence…. [W]ith so little to go on, the origin of our genus has remained as mysterious as ever” (2012, pp. 31-32). Editor-in-chief of Scientific American, Mariette DiChristina, said, “Pieces of our ancient forebears generally are hard to come by, however. Scientists working to interpret our evolution often have had to make do with studying a fossil toe bone here or a jaw there” (2012, 306[4]:4). Colin Patterson literally “wrote the textbook” on evolution. He was the paleontologist who served as the editor of the professional journal published by the British Museum of Natural History in London. In response to a letter asking why he did not include examples of transitional fossils in his book, he responded, “I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them…. Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils…. I will lay it on the line—there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument” (1979, emp. added). Evolutionary zoologist of Oxford University, Mark Ridley, went so far as to say, “[N]o real evolutionist, whether gradualistic or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation” (1981, 90:832).

One glaring area of the fossil record that effectively falsifies the predictions of Darwinian Evolution is, interestingly enough, deep in the Earth where the fossil record in essence begins. Very little is found in the Pre-Cambrian strata with regard to fossils—namely stromatolites—but beginning at the Cambrian strata, an explosion of fossils can be found. These fossils appear with absolutely no evolutionary history preserved in the fossil record. Here’s how a middle school science textbook describes the event: “During the Cambrian Period life took a big leap forward. At the beginning of the Paleozoic Era, a great number of different kinds of organisms evolved. Paleontologists call this event the Cambrian Explosion because so many new life forms appeared within a relatively short time”(Jenner, et al., 2006, p. 335, first emp. in orig.). So the Cambrian Explosion was a “big leap forward,” with “many new life forms” appearing “within a relatively short time”—i.e., they appear rapidly with no evidence of gradual evolution, as predicted by evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin even recognized the Cambrian Explosion as a problem for his theory. Reporting on research at the University of Texas at Austin, UT News reported, “This rapid diversification, known as the Cambrian explosion, puzzled Charles Darwin and remains one of the biggest questions in animal evolution to this day. Very few fossils exist of organisms that could be the Precambrian ancestors of bilateral animals, and even those are highly controversial” (“Discovery of Giant…,” 2008). Osorio, et al., writing in American Scientist, said,

As Darwin noted in the Origin of Species, the abrupt emergence of arthropods in the fossil record during the Cambrian presents a problem for evolutionary biology. There are no obvious simpler or intermediate forms—either living or in the fossil record—that show convincingly how modern arthropods evolved from worm-like ancestors. Consequently there has been a wealth of speculation and contention (1997, 85[3]:244, emp. added).

The trilobite, for example, is characteristic of the Cambrian strata—a creature equipped with an extremely complex vision system, using aplanatic lenses—more complex than the human eye, equipped with a single refractive lens. The fossil record provides no evidence for the evolution of the trilobite. No wonder Gould admitted, “The Cambrian explosion was the most remarkable and puzzling event in the history of life” (1994, 271:86).

Famous evolutionary biologist of Oxford University, Richard Dawkins, describes the Cambrian Explosion this way:

The Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years [evolutionists are now dating the beginning of the Cambrian at about 530 million years], are the oldest in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history (1986, bracketed comment in orig., emp. added, p. 229).

Atheistic evolutionist Blair Scott, Communications Director of American Atheists, Inc. admitted, “[I]f I take the Cambrian Explosion, on its own, the logical conclusion I would draw is, ‘Wow! It was created’” (Butt and Scott, 2011). Long ago, the late, famous paleontologist of Columbia University, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson, admitted, “Most new species, genera, and families, and nearly all categories above the level of families, appear in the records suddenly, and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely transitional sequences” (1953, p. 360). So not only is the Cambrian Explosion a problem for evolutionary theory, but prominent evolutionists even admit it.

Now consider another theory: if the Bible is true, then according to Genesis chapter one and following, a few thousand years ago, God directly created all “kinds” of life within four days, not by evolution over four billion years. Approximately 1,650 years after that initial Creation, a global Flood ensued that is said to have destroyed all birds and land-living creatures that were not on the vessel prepared by the eight survivors of that catastrophic event (Genesis 6-9). Based on that information, creationists can develop theories about the details of what might have happened, make predictions based on those theories, and verify or falsify those predictions by studying the Earth.

Creation scientists, for example, would predict that, since the Earth is young and God did not create life through gradual evolution, very few fossils likely would have been formed prior to the Flood. Since the Flood was apparently the first major catastrophic event on the Earth, and catastrophic events are generally the cause of fossilization, transitional fossils between major phylogenic groups would be non-existent. When the Flood began, however, creationists would predict a significant marker inthe geologic column that represents the commencement of the worldwide Flood event. They would further predict an explosion of fossils above that line, representing the deaths of living creatures due to mud slides and other fossil-forming processes during the event. When we examine the Cambrian Explosion, sure enough, at the base of the Cambrian strata we find a distinct line, called the “Great Unconformity.” That line, curiously, stretches across the planet and marks the beginning of the Cambrian and underlies the explosion of life—exactly as creationists would predict to be the case if the Cambrian marked the beginning of the Flood. No wonder Dawkins said regarding the Cambrian Explosion, “Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting [of life without any evolutionary history—JM] has delighted creationists” (p. 229). He understands the implications of the Cambrian Explosion. Indeed, it falsifies gradualistic evolution and verifies the predictions of biblical creationists.

[NOTE: For a thorough study of the Cambrian Explosion, see Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer.]


Butt, Kyle and Blair Scott (2011), The Butt/Scott Debate: Does God Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), September 29.

Dawkins, Richard (1986), The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton).

DiChristina, Mariette (2012), “The Story Begins,” Scientific American, 306[4]:4, April.

“Discovery Of Giant Roaming Deep Sea Protist Provides New Perspective On Animal Evolution,” (2008), UT News, November 20,

Gould, Stephen J. (1977), “Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History, 86[5]:12-16, May.

Gould, Stephen J. (1980), “Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?,” Paleobiology, 6[1]:119-130, Winter.

Gould, Stephen J. (1994), “The Evolution of Life on Earth,” Scientific American, 271:85-91, October.

Jenner, Jan, et al. (2006), Science Explorer (Boston, MA: Prentice Hall).

Kitts, David G. (1974), “Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory,” Evolution, 28:458-472, September.

Lewontin, Richard (2008), “We Know Nothing about the Evolution of Cognition,” 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting: Science and Technology from a Global Perspective. Speech paraphrased by James Randerson in The Guardian, “We Know Nothing, about Brain Evolution” (2008), February 19,

Osorio, Daniel, Jonathan P. Bacon, and Paul M. Whitington (1997), “The Evolution of Arthropod Nervous Systems,” 85[3]:244-253.

Patterson, Colin (1979), Letter of April 10, 1979 to Luther Sunderland: reprinted in Bible-Science Newsletter, 19[8]:8, August, 1981.

Ridley, Mark (1981), “Who Doubts Evolution?” New Scientist, June 25, 90:832.

Simpson, George G. (1953), The Major Features of Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press).

Wong, Kate (2012), “First of Our Kind,” Scientific American, 306[4]:30-39, April.

Suggested Resources


A copied sheet of paper

REPRODUCTION & DISCLAIMERS: We are happy to grant permission for this article to be reproduced in part or in its entirety, as long as our stipulations are observed.

Reproduction Stipulations→