Re: [asa] Gerald Schroeder and ID-type arguments

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Sat Jan 05 2008 - 06:19:24 EST

Schroeder is clearly utterly wrong.

In Gould's Wonderful Life he states p142 that Harry Whittington sent Briggs
and Conway Morris to look at the Smithsonian specimens in the spring of
1973, a mere 80,000 of them. According to Conway Morris Crucible of Creation
p49 way before 1972 probably about 1966 Whittington looked at the specimens

Now Gould and Morris totally disagree on the interpretation of the Burgess
fauna but agree here.

In other words Schroeder is talking rubbish and thus his stuff is best

It is best to keep to one's own field


PS I had never bothered to read Schroeder before!
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Campbell" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2008 11:27 PM
Subject: [asa] Gerald Schroeder and ID-type arguments

>A missionary friend forwarded
> to me. Schroeder has
> some background in planetary science, but the paleontological claims
> are consistently inaccurate. Overall, his stuff is a curious mix of
> fine-tuning type arguments, selected gaps in evolution (though the
> origin of life seems attributed to fine-tuning in some places whereas
> others claim a need for intervention), physics, and exegesis,
> advocating concordism of the sort generally unpopular on the list
> (i.e., specific scientific interpretations of various passages rather
> than claims of general correspondence).
> I'm particularly curious about the ridiculous slander that Walcott
> realized that the Burgess fauna posed major problems for evolution and
> so hid everything away in drawers at the Smithsonian, where they were
> rediscovered in 1985. Has this claim been made elsewhere?
> The website claims Walcott collected 60,000 specimens when the actual
> total was more like 65,000. That's probably the least erroneous claim
> about Walcott. I've been in the collection areas at the Smithsonian
> and it is true that something could be overlooked there for a while.
> However, in reality Walcott did not hide the material, nor did he have
> any reason to do so.
> Walcott described and published on what he found (even though merely
> collecting and filing 65,000 specimens takes a while), although he had
> plenty of other projects and the idea of hiring a phalanx of graduate
> students (suggested on the site) reflects an unrealistic concept of
> paleontology funding. However, Walcott clearly did not realize how
> unusual many of the fossils were. He classified them into known
> conventional groups of organisms. Walcott published nine technical
> papers on the material, and even had a bit in National Geographic. A
> few workers followed up, either by collecting more material or by
> restudying Walcott's material in the Smithsonian. It wasn't hidden
> away and Walcott had no cognitive dissonance about it. Beginning in
> the 1960's, improved techniques and careful study revealed that
> significantly more information could be gotten out of the collected
> fossils, and that details sometimes didn't match with conventional
> categories. In the late 1960's, a major project began, initiated by
> Harry Whittington. Extensive restudy since then, along with further
> exploration and collection and the discovery of many additional sites
> around the world, have led to our current picture of Cambrian
> diversification. In reality Cambrian fossils were known from around
> the world by the time that Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale
> fossils, but these were generally the ordinary shells and skeletons
> that fossilize easily. The exceptional preservation seen in the
> Burgess Shale deposits had not previously been recognized. Now that
> we know to look for it, it is in fact not too uncommon in the
> Cambrian, so even exceptionally preserved Cambrian faunas are known
> from many more places than the author mentions (my father's MS thesis,
> in the early 1970's, dealt with such material in Pennsylvania, though
> he did not have the information from the intensive Burgess Shale
> studies that were just beginning then that would have enabled him to
> identify more of the stray mystery bits).
> Moreover, Walcott had no way of knowing that these would suggest
> anything particularly rapid. Radiometric dates were only an idea at
> the time and not well-worked out until the mid-1900's, so Walcott was
> free to assume that a long period of time lay between his faunas and
> the origin of the groups. In fact, up until the mid-1990's it was
> thought that the Cambrian Period lasted 70 million years, placing the
> mid-Cambrian Burgess well after the initial diversification. It was
> the combination of improved radiometric dates (better techniques plus
> datable rocks found closer to the boundary) that placed the
> Cambrian-Precambrian boundary at 542 million and the discovery of
> exceptionally preserved lower Cambrian fossils in China that
> demonstrated that the diversification was extremely rapid.
> Ironically, the distortion of the Cambrian radiation as a
> purported challenge to evolution owes much to Gould's popularized
> accounts (particularly Wonderful Life). The fiction that Walcott's
> material was hidden until 1985 may reflect Gould's first popular
> article on the Burgess being published in that year. Gould tended to
> overestimate the disparity in the faunas, reflecting his view that it
> was all random and that, if one could run it all again, a totally
> different set of organisms might have come to dominate the Earth. In
> turn, exaggerated claims about the diversity play a key role in the
> Intelligent Design-affiliated claims that the Cambrian radiation poses
> a problem for evolution. Of course, some of Gould's prize exhibits of
> weirdos deserving new phyla were mysteries then but have since been
> recognized as members of known phyla, so he had some excuse. A
> classic example is Hallucigenia, which in light of some of the Chinese
> fossils turned out to be initially reconstructed upside down and
> backwards. No wonder Gould thought it looked strange.
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Sat Jan 5 06:43:55 2008

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