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Oxygen, the Cambrian explosion, and confusion

A very recent study destroys the theory that increased oxygen levels drove multicellular evolution. That leaves creation and the Flood.

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For seventy-five years, secular scientists have held that, over five hundred million years ago, complex, multicellular life “exploded” into being. This “Cambrian Explosion” is their starting point for life, just as the “Big Bang” is their starting point for the observable universe. And for almost as long as they’ve thought about it, these same scientists thought they could explain how it happened. But a new finding of oxygen levels in deep-buried rock shows that this explanation won’t wash. So now these scientists warn that textbook writers must literally rewrite the textbooks on evolution. They would do far better to abandon their Grand Evolutionary Paradigm and accept the One True theory: creation.

The increased oxygen theory

As recently as 2019, papers describe the importance of oxygen to the development, as the authors see it, of new life forms. Heritage Daily described a joint Chinese-British-Russian study of oxygen levels within different “fossil layers” in Cambrian rocks. (Note that Cambrian derives from the Latin Cambria, a corruption of the name Cymru (KOOM-roo) – the real name of Wales. That’s where geologists first found these rocks; hence the name.) On that basis they decided that the “episodic” nature of the Cambrian Explosion – which, they say, took place over 13 to 25 million years – was due to extreme changes in the levels of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

That would be consistent with this 2016 paper in the Journal of Earth Science, actually a “meta-analysis” of various reports. They allegedly show how some animal species are more sensitive than others to low levels of oxygen. But the authors also saw that the greater the tolerance of a species to low oxgen, the earlier (i.e., the deeper) it appears in the fossil record. So they concluded that stepwise increases in oxygen levels made ever more complex life forms possible. The key: geologists see nothing comparable to the Cambrian Explosion in any rock strata (layers) above the Cambrian stratum.

All this assumed that oxygen levels actually did increase on Earth more than five hundred million years ago. Now a new paper shows that this did not happen.

But there wasn’t enough oxygen!

Nearly two weeks ago came a paper from the University of Copenhagen that completely invalidates the theory of increased oxygen. (See here for the actual link to the paper.) The authors studied rocks that, by the usual measures, scored even older than Cambrian, from mountains in Oman. Their target was the Avalon Explosion, which, they say, happened about three hundred million years earlier than the Cambrian Explosion. The problem for the authors: atmospheric oxygen levels were allegedly five to ten times lower than they are today – at a time when multicellular life was appearing out of nowhere. To put that in perspective, the 2016 paper concluded that, if oxygen levels were four times lower than today, new species could not arise. Yet they seem to have done, when oxygen levels were even lower than that.


Result: the seventy-year-old assumption that increased oxygen levels somehow “drove” evolution, cannot hold. So the lead author is now suggesting the opposite – that oxygen starvation triggered the Avalon explosion. (And maybe the Cambrian explosion after that.) By this new theory, low oxygen levels allowed stem cells to develop with only enough mutation to confer an advantage. Too much mutation would destroy rather than improve.

Huh? But aren’t mutations essential?

As Shakespeare famously said, something is rotten in Denmark. And not only in Denmark but throughout the academic world. Like Hamlet (or worse than Hamlet), scientists can’t seem to make up their minds. In the immediate example: mutations are supposed to confer evolutionary advantage. But that researcher who had to admit to the lower oxygen levels, just admitted what any medical geneticist knows. Which is: mutations kill. They don’t bring about an improvement.

Then consider how these scientists think they know how old a rock is. They use fossils to date rocks – but also use rocks to date fossils. That’s the very definition of circular reasoning. The same fact cannot at the same time prove, and rely upon, another fact.

What few people understand is that radiometric dating has its limits. And radiocarbon dating, which one uses most often to date once-living things, has the tightest limit. That limit is 37,000 years before the present time. Even so, it relies on the assumption that the amount of radiocarbon (carbon-14) in the atmosphere is at equilibrium. And that it has been at equilibrium for billions of years.

Vastly different techniques exist to date rock. They rely on measuring the concentration of “mother nuclide” and “daughter nuclide” in the rock. This, too, assumes that:

  1. Daughter nuclide when the rock forms is at or near zero,
  2. Nothing but radioactive decay changes the concentration of either nuclide, and
  3. Radioactive decay rates don’t change, at least on average from year to year.

Blowing up those assumptions

In fact, none of these assumptions is safe. This came up in a discussion of what a 7,000 year old Earth would imply. To review: Steven A. Austin and colleagues found (1996) samples of dacite from the Mount Saint Helens lava dome showing preposterous ages. These ages varied from half a million to 2.8 million years. Yet the dome formed a mere ten years earlier. Later attempts to explain this discrepancy do not satisfy. They amount to a losing team crying “Foul!” without grounds. (Geochron Laboratories, which reported these wildly discrepant results, stopped performing potassium-argon dating.)

Later that year, Andrew A. Snelling published his finding from 1993. Radiometric dates of fossilized wood showed it to be 37,000 years old. This contrasted sharply (to say the least) with the apparent age of the surrounding basalt. That “dated” at over a million years old! Critics insist he should never have tried to date the wood itself, considering where he found it. That implies that any fossil which one tried to date from its own material would be apparently younger than the surrounding rock. Which is exactly what Snelling found.

These findings prompted the establishment of the “RATE Group,” for Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth. Over the next ten or fifteen years, they destroyed the key assumption about never-changing rates of radioactive decay. Snelling, of course, had already shown that cross-dating of fossils and the rocks in which they were buried was worse than unreliable.

A simpler explanation

William of Occam told us not to multiply guesses without good reason. Today we say that the simplest explanation that fits all the facts is the preferable one.

We have two “explosions” of life, but at least one happened – allegedly – in the presence of too little oxygen. We also have assumptions about how old any given rock or fossil is, that turn out to be unsafe.

On the other hand, a brilliant engineer suggested an alternative: the world had a Flood. And that Flood was the most violent event this planet has ever known. Because not only did we have a Flood, but that Flood came about from a crack in the Earth’s crust, with the release of an ocean, under tremendous pressure, which had lain under that crust. This involved earthquakes the like of which this world has never seen again. So powerful were they that, as they acted on buried quartz, they acted as gigantic batteries, producing electrical potentials one normally sees only in lightning – or in experiments to create new radionuclides. That’s why we have radioactivity on Earth – and radiocarbon.


So the rock strata are all Flood silt. And the fossils buried in them, happened to match them in density or congregated at those levels for other reasons. The Cambrian and Avalon layers were simply the richest layers of all – in fossils.

Now where did we first hear about a Flood?

In Genesis chapters 6-8 of course. It tells us – as poetry, not dry scientific prose – what happened to the Earth. We read of “the fountains of the deep [breaking] open,” and “the windows of the sky [opening].” And we read of rain – but no ordinary rain, but a rain that could dissolve concrete. That we infer from the word Noah’s sons used to describe it.

“Fountains of the deep” tell us that the Flood did not come from the sky, but from underground – deep underground. “Windows of heaven opening” could refer to so much water escaping into the stratosphere, then falling as rain. (Some of that water, with much rock and mud, escaped from the Earth itself.)

That’s why we often see the remains of marine predators on land – buried in sedimentary rock. (See how geologists knew that most rock was sediment, and forgot what that implied.) And that’s why we see the Avalon and Cambrian Explosions. Oxygen levels had nothing to do with either of them.

“But it would take a miracle to survive all that!” the secular scientists will say. And it did take a miracle – the revelation of the coming Flood to Noah the Shipwright. (And the design for a Life-ship that would preserve him, his family, and the then-extant animals of land and air.)


But of course those secular scientist don’t want to admit a Divine Foot in the door. They won’t be able to keep that Foot out much longer.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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Donald R. Laster, Jr

The simple fact is that “Evolution” is nothing but a bunch of assumptions without any foundation in science. This becomes obvious when one look at how ages are initial assumed based upon assumption of how old things like mountains are.


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