The Story Of “Vernanimalcula”

Back in 2005,  paleontologist David Bottjer from the University of Southern California proclaim a discovery known as…“Vernanimalcula” as an animal which has a bilateral body plan. “Vernanimalcula” was dated within the evolutionary framework of tens of millions of years prior to the Cambrian explosion.  He then used this discovery to claim there was no Cambrian explosion after all.

David Bottjer is a miltant evolutionary biologist who gained additional notoriety by pressuring the museum in California to cancel a contract from a small non-profit group that had tried to rent part of the museum for a private screening of the pro-ID film. He called it a “creationist” film because it was questioning the power of natural causes concerning fossils in the Cambrian. The modern ID movement is more like theistic evolution than creationism but it does have legit criticisms of Darwinism.

In Bottjer’s 2005 paper in Scientific American, he writes…

“We had come to Guizhou [China] in 2002 to hunt for microscopic fossils of some of the earliest animals on earth. Specifically, we were hoping to find a bilaterian.

He already had a preconception of what he wanted to discover, and being a militant evolutionist, it just wasn’t a typical discovery rather it was something to be used against creationism and the pro-ID movement. We will discuss more about Bottjer’s method of scientific discovery in a moment, but now let’s turn to some other research that tears Bottjer’s claims to pieces!

The summary goes like this…

“Fossils described as Vernanimalcula guizhouena, from the nearly 600 million-year-old Doushantuo Formation in South China, have been interpreted as the remains of bilaterian animals. As such they would represent the oldest putative record of bilaterian animals in Earth history, and they have been invoked in debate over this formative episode of early animal evolution. However, this interpretation is fallacious.”

“We review the evidential basis of the biological interpretation of Vernanimalcula, concluding that the structures key to animal identity are effects of mineralization that do not represent biological tissues, and, furthermore, that it is not possible to derive its anatomical reconstruction on the basis of the available evidence.”

“There is no evidential basis for interpreting Vernanimalcula as an animal, let alone a bilaterian. The conclusions of evolutionary studies that have relied upon the bilaterian interpretation of Vernanimalcula must be called into question.”

Wow, not only did the co-authors of the paper…Stefan Bengtson, John A. Cunningham2, Chongyu Yin, and Philip C.J. Donoghue say it wasn’t bilerian body plans but it wasn’t even an animal at all! That is just the tip of the ice-berg, the authors also suggested that Bottjer has major bias which clouds his judgement while resorting to what this blog always refers to as drawing a conclusion using evolution for the purpose of shaping and molding a story a certain way rather than allowing the evidence to lead to the conclusions.

“It is likely that the fossils referred to as Vernanimalcula were interpreted as bilaterians because this was, as our epigram betrays, the explicit quarry of its authors. If you know from the beginning not only what you are looking for, but what you are going to find, you will find it, whether or not it exists. As Richard Feynman (1974) famously remarked: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. . . . After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists.”

“Conversely, once you have fooled yourself you will fool other scientists. And soVernanimalcula has been marshaled in evidential support for the timing of bilaterian evolution and of multifarious bilaterian innovations. The “little spring animal” has taken on a life of its own, a life it never had in the Neoproterozoic. It is our hope that Vernanimalcula will now be laid to a merciful rest, freed from the heavy burden of undue evolutionary significance that has hitherto been heaped upon it.”

Evolution is nowhere near the level as the law of gravity is, and even that is questioned because of the “big bang” where “dark matter” is invoked to explain what gravity does not in order to keep the theory alive. The law of gravity requires no such rescue mechanisms.   Paleontologist David Bottjer reduces the scientific method to a mere story, because of his hatred towards creationism and the modern intelligent design movement. The critical paper of Bottjer’s work should be applauded for their honesty and they are right, the story of “Vernanimalcula” (which is not a vampire) should be put to rest!

6 thoughts on “The Story Of “Vernanimalcula”

  1. [David Bottjer] already had a preconception of what he wanted to discover, and being a militant evolutionist, it just wasn’t a typical discovery rather it was something to be used against creationism and the pro-ID movement.

    NEWS FLASH! Creationist accuses scientist of preconceptions![0]

    That’s ripe. Creationism is one continuous preconception, a galaxy of confirmatory bias. What should we say about a creationist journal’s requirement that any paper that so much as mentions another theory also include a refutation in favor of 6-day creation?[1] What can we conclude from a “research” paper that finds confirmation for design in the fact that only fungi are able digest lignin from trees?[2]

    And what shall we say about Michael’s allegation that Bottjer made his discovery in order to fling it against creationism and ID?[3] I suppose Neil Shubin discovered the Tiktaalik fossil for the sole purpose of discomfiting creationists. And that Francisco Ayala studied the evolutionary origin of the malaria parasite out of malignant intent toward Ken Ham. Can you say “paranoia”?

    This post evinces another of Michael’s biases. He trashes scientists who disagree with his beliefs, but swallows without criticism any scientist who agrees with them. Bottjer interpreted the mineralized object as a fossil of a bilaterian animal. Bengston et al. now interprets the object as something else, possibly not even a fossil at all.[4][5] Michael, please set forth which specific evidence from Bengstrom’s paper you believe outweighs Bottjer’s evidence from his 2005 paper. And why. That is, apart from your unshakable faith that Vernanimalcula guizhouena first appeared 540 million years ago, as Bengston claims, rather than 580 million years ago, as Bottjer hypothesized.[6]

    I thought not.

    Michael is merely a sounding drum, a clashing cymbal, for Casey Luskin.


    [0] Well, Michael didn’t do it own his own hook. His post is cribbed from a Dec. 10 post on Evolution News & Views, from the Dishonesty Institute.

    [1] Answers Journal. See “Authors’ Manual”

    [2] Axe, et al., “Lignin–Designed Randomness” BIO-Complexity, Vol 2012, pp. 1-11. I myself have discovered that no living organism can chomp on tungsten carbide; is this evidence for design? I think not.

    [3] I have read Bottjer’s article, “The Early Evolution of Animals” Sci.Am., Aug. 2005, pp. 42-47. I did not find a single direct or indirect reference to creationism or ID. Michael is lying to us again. And again, and again.

    [4] No one doubts that the discovery came from the pre-Cambrian. So Michael still has to get over the fact that this thing, whatever it is, is half a billion years old.

    [5] Remember that fossils are mineralized. That is, they become rock. So sometimes it’s very difficult to tell the difference.

    [6] Chen, J. Y., D. J. Bottjer, P. Oliveri, S. Q. Dornbos, F. Gao, S. Ruffins, H. Chi, C. W. Li, and E. H. Davidson, “Small bilaterian fossils from 40 to 55 million years before the Cambrian” Science 305:218-22 (2004)

  2. We criticize Michael for shoveling his posts from the creationist dung hill. But perhaps it would be better if he copied them more closely, without trying to add any of his own ignorance.

    He [Bottjer] then used this discovery to claim there was no Cambrian explosion after all.

    WHAA???!?! Michael just made that up. Bottjer never said it. Beyond ignorance, even creationist ignorance. Bottjer’ contention was that hox genes evolved before the Cambrian, and merely facilitated the “explosion.” But, if V. guizhouena is not a bilaterian, then these genes may have evolved at the beginning of the Cambrian epoch.

    … the “big bang” where “dark matter” is invoked to explain what gravity does not in order to keep the theory alive

    BWAHAHAAHAAA. Dark matter was discovered because of its gravity, not in spite of it. And dark matter has very little to do with the big bang.

  3. Nothing new on Creation Evolution Headlines or Answers in Genesis. However, over at EN&V, Casey Luskin holds forth on a recent opinion piece by evolutionary biologist Austin Hughes that Luskin seems to think embraces ID (although not explicitly). Worth a glance.

    EN&V also comments on bad-boy Paul Davies’ love affair with “software” as central to the study of origin of life.

    An older piece, mentioned previously, seems to fit in with one of Michael’s hobby horses. On Nov. 29, Creation Evolution Headlines claimed a discrepancy in the dating of Grand Canyon minerals. The original source was Science OnLine, 11/29.

  4. David Bottjer is a miltant [sic] evolutionary biologist who gained additional notoriety by pressuring the museum in California to cancel a contract from a small non-profit group that had tried to rent part of the museum for a private screening of the [sic] pro-ID film.

    So the American Family Association , which tried to rent the USC theater for 3 creationist films, is “a small non-profit group”!

    Michael, you have outdone yourself in this lie.

    The AFA is a 35-year-old national organization with a $16 million annual budget. It owns 200 radio stations nation-wide, and has an affiliate TV station. It has a journal.

    AFA is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “propagation of known falsehoods” and the use of “demonizing propaganda” against LGBT people. It has promoted boycotts of a number of television shows, movies, and businesses that it considers to have promoted indecency, obscenity, or homosexuality. It boycotted “American Girl” dolls for allegedly supporting abortion and lesbians.

    The AFA managed to scrape together enough money from its miniscule piggy bank to sue USC for denying permission to show the films.

    So there is Michael’s “small non-profit group.” Trying to milk our sympathy for a powerful hate group. Good luck. You thought no one would catch you at this, didn’t you?


    But enough for tonight. Time for midrats of finely diced hard-boiled egg slathered with Sandwich Spread and garnished with bacon bits, chopped green olives, and a soupçon of sliced jalapeño.

  5. Bryan Fischer is the director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy of the American Family Association.

    On his program just following the Newtown CT school shooting, Fischer, blamed the massacre on the fact that prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments are not taught in public schools. He claimed that God could have protected the children, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted.”

    Two years ago, this same Bryan Fischer posted on his blog an AFA position that “Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America….”. Watch the video.

  6. Here’s an interesting subject for Michael’s perusal. A Perspective article in Science[1] discusses the conflicts between the phylogenies of lizards as determined by morphological structure and by molecular data.

    Unfortunately, Michael’s creationist sources seem not to have glommed onto this one, so he may have to read the original and figure out what it means by himself, rather than relying on the more professional liars at CEH, EN&V, or AiG to predigest it and regurgitate it into his mouth.

    Good luck, Michael.


    [1] Losos et al.,, “Who Speaks with a Forked Tongue,” Science 338:1428-1429 (14 Dec 2012)

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