Oh, christ. Another book is coming from those frauds at the DI, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. It’s Stephen Meyer’s unqualified, incompetent take on the Cambrian explosion.
Casey Luskin has already given us three reasons we’re supposed to buy it. 1) It’s going to contain the best arguments for intelligent design creationism EVAR; 2) it’s going to be packed full of reviews of the work of the “ID research community”; and 3) we’re living in a “post-Darwinian world”, where all the evolutionary biologists are already deserting the sinking ship of neo-Darwinism. Those aren’t reasons to buy the book; those are reasons the book is going to be total crap.
And why should you read it anyway? You want to know about the Cambrian, read books by real scientists. They’re out there already. One excellent resource is James Valentine’s On the Origin of Phyla; it is not light reading, but if you want to know about the paleontology and systematics of the invertebrate phyla of the Ediacaran and Cambrian, it really is the book to read.
And then to my surprise, while I was digging up the link to that book, I discovered that Douglas Erwin and James Valentine have a new book out as of January: The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity, which the reviews say is less technical than the Phyla text, but highly rated as an excellent overview. I can’t say I’ve read it yet, but I instantly ordered it.
I think it might be an interesting summer project to compare Erwin & Valentine side-by-side with Meyer. Well, “interesting” in a Bambi Meets Godzilla sort of amusing sense.
But if you want to know what caused the Cambrian explosion, I can give you the short answer. Not intelligent design; that doesn’t even make sense. What it was was environmental changes, in particular the bioturbation revolution caused by the evolution of worms that released buried nutrients, and the steadily increasing oxygen content of the atmosphere that allowed those nutrients to fuel growth; ecological competition, or a kind of arms race, that gave a distinct selective advantage to novelties that allowed species to occupy new niches; and the evolution of developmental mechanisms that enabled multicellular organisms to generate new morphotypes readily. Read the real books if you want to know more, and ignore the uninformed babble the charlatans of the DI will try to sell you.
By the way, Joe Felsenstein is asking for help: he’d like suggestions for what Stephen Meyer ought to have in his book.