The past 4 months have been busy with work, vacation and work again but I have not forgotten my promise to cover the rest of Calleman’s most recent book The Purposeful Universe. In this post and in some future ones I will show that Calleman’s model of the universe and the evolution of life is nothing but an idealistic fantasy based on selected data and biased interpretation. These topics will be covered before the 28th of October when Calleman says that the Maya Long Count ends and our consciousness will be transformed. After that it will be obvious to anyone that he is a false prophet.
Calleman questions the idea that evolution is gradual (but how many biologists do actually believe in a completely gradual evolution at the same rate of change nowadays?). Instead he proposes that evolution jumps in “quantum leaps” and this is in itself evidence for intelligent design according to him. His Tree of Life brings synchrony to the evolutionary transformations in the history of life forms. Transformations occur simultaneously in many species and he brings up convergent evolution in order to prove his point (p 80). However, contrary to what he says, animals of different branches do not develop similar traits simultaneously. The sabre tooth cats and the sabred tooth marsupials (such as Thylacosmilus) did not develop simultaneously. Roughly 20 million years keep the earliest sabred tooth cats from Thylacosmilus. Neither did dolphins and whales develop simultaneously as the ichthyosaurs. The ichthyosaurs went extinct more than 40 million years before the first whales ever appeared. That is a pretty poor synchronization by Calleman’s Tree of life, the dolphins and ichthyosaurs are not even within the same “Underworld” in Calleman’s system.
He also target the fact that on some occasions there has been an explosion of new species which has shown a great diversity within a fairly limited time period (the most famous and most important is, of course, the Cambrian explosion). Calleman states that evolution “seems to occur through periodic “quantum jumps”-sudden dramatic transformations of organisms in accordance with specific rhythm. It is also noteworthy that it has not been possible to match this periodicity with any changes in the Earthly environment, and thus the major transformations in evolution do not seem to occur by natural selection or successful adaptations to environmental changes or catastrophes” (p 81).
Now, that just shows Calleman’s biased attitude towards the palaeontological record. The reason why we even have the geological periods called Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, etc. is because they originally were defined by the presence of fossils (something Calleman briefly touches upon on p 94). Every end of these Phanerozoic periods coincided with the end of certain typical fossils found in sedimentary rocks. The earliest layers of the following periods included new kinds of fossils. Not all changes in the geological record coincided with a mass extinction, but several do. The best known ought to be the Late Cretaceous extinction of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites, etc. The fact that at least the Chicxulub crater in Yucatan (Maya area…) and perhaps the Shiva crater outside Mumbai dates to the time when these animals died out suggests that a massive catastrophe affected life on earth. Volcanism may also have been a major cause.
Other mass extinctions were even worse, such as at the end of the Permian period, which also is attributed to a possible meteorite impact and volcanism. Indeed, after these mass extinctions new animals rapidly developed to fill niches earlier occupied by now extinct species. Evolution speeded up, or perhaps it had the usual speed but there were less obstacles for the new species until all niches had been filled, then changes could not go on at the same rate as before. The Permian mass extinction allowed archosaurs and primarily dinosaurs and pterosaurs to evolve and the Cretaceous extinction set the stage for mammals.
It is also interesting that Calleman chooses to follow scientific models that believe there is a periodicity in these extinctions/appearances of new species that follows a rhythm of 63 million years (related to the solar system’s movement in the Milky Way). This is because he largely believes in an overarching transcendent cause that once in a while changes life on earth and that it follows the rhythm of the Maya Long Count (well, his version of it anyway). I am of the opinion that these disappearances and “appearances” are spurious and do not follow a master plan set up before Big Bang.
The best example of how Calleman twists and bends palaeontological data to fit the “days” and “nights” of what he calls the Mammalian Underworld (that began 820 million years ago and is subdivided into 13 periods of 63 million years each) is found in figure 4.3 on p 102. There he projects the rhythm of diversification of marine species onto these 13 Maya periods. The number of species is said to increase when each of these periods begin. That is not true for all of them if you just check the actual figure he provides. Here are several examples where the pattern differs from Calleman’s claim. The increase of species in Day 3 occurs long after the “day” began. There is a slow increase in Night 3 and 4 only to increase more rapidly much later. Day 5 begins “oddly” with a decrease in number of species. In Night 5 the increase comes at the end of the period and flattens out in the beginning of Day 6, and there is no increase at all in the early phase of Night 6. Hence, there is no correlation between Calleman’s “Maya periodicities” and the emergence of new species.
I will treat his highly speculative and unrealistic idea of speciation later on, which is kind of a “virigin-birth” speciation event. It simply follows the idealistic model he has set up for himself. Calleman is a good example when an ideal model is used to interpret science. This is the way creationists and pseudoscientists thinks: “we have the answer, let’s go out and find evidence that support it (and ignore everything else)”.