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‘Billion-year’ fossil ‘balls’ (part 1)

Life created complex from the beginning

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Published: 1 June 2021 (GMT+10)

A supposedly ancient microscopic fossil organism has been discovered in the northwest Scottish Highlands. Bicellum brasieri1 appear as balls of cells which were discovered in phosphate nodules in shale rocks at Loch Torridon. The organisms are believed to be a billion years old, supposedly the oldest examples of multi-cellular life forms to have evolved—not in the ocean, as previously believed, but in a fresh water lake.

CC, ElsevierBecellum-Brasieri
Photos of Bicellum brasieri cells under electron scanning microscope.

The organisms are classified within the Holozoa, a clade (branch) of organisms which includes animals and single-celled organisms, but excludes fungi. However, to make such a classification, one has to assume a common ancestor to begin with. Called the LUCA (last universal common ancestor), it supposedly appeared c. 3.5–3.8 billion years ago. It is believed that such an organism evolved from non-living chemicals, through some as yet unknown process. However, these tiny B. brasieri fossils are challenging all that—but not for the reasons trumpeted in the media.

CC, Elseviermap-lower-diabaig
Map (A) with photos showing location (B) of phosphate nodules in shale (D) at Lower Diabaig.

Amazing preservation

Many of the cells in the phosphate nodules are exceptionally well preserved, in three dimensions. Some cell walls even appear translucent, while others appear to contain nuclei—but the latter are interpreted as the condensed cell contents having peeled away from the outer cell membrane. Previous reports have noted many different cell types found in the same Scottish rocks, including filaments and structures of up to twenty connected cells. Of the preservation of these fossils, the authors of the paper in Precambrian Research state:

“The Torridon phosphate-hosted microfossils described … are arguably the best preserved assemblage yet known from terrestrial conditions in the Proterozoic.”2

Within the conventional timeframe, this is supposedly when oxygen first appeared on earth. Such exquisite preservation is not consistent with aquatic environments observed today, whereby bacteria break down and recycle dead biological material. However, it is consistent with rapid, deep burial at the beginning of the Flood only thousands, rather than a billion years ago.

Because of the exceptional preservation of B. brasieri, the fossil cells could be studied using a scanning electron microscope. They were found to show evidence of “differentiation” and “cell-cell adhesion.”3 The scientific paper describe the new findings:

“… these fossils demonstrate simple cell differentiation and morphogenic [shape-changing] processes that are similar to those seen in some metazoans [multi-cellular life] today2(emphases added).

That these supposed billion-year-old fossils are described as showing “similar” form to those seen today is highly instructive—meaning in one billion years there is no evidence of evolution. However, the paper reveals the authors’ evolutionary bias in calling the cellular processes “simple.” In reality, they are highly complex, genetically pre-programmed processes that direct cells to form new cell types and structures. In this case, a solid sphere of spherical cells (stereoblastula) has formed elongated cells through differentiation. Then, through differential adhesion and cell migration, the two different cell types were instructed to construct a ball shape (cyst stage). This process demonstrates true multicellularity. An online biology website hosted by National University of Singapore describes the processes involved in ‘cell-cell adhesion’ in the following way:

“Cell-cell signalling refers to inter-cellular communication through the transduction of chemical, mechanical or electrical signals, facilitated by the formation of specialized cell-cell adhesion junctions.”4

The article continues:

“A vast network of adhesion receptors, scaffolding proteins, actin regulators and signalling proteins regulate the formation of this complex, via a complex network of interactions, which is currently being characterized…”3

Professor Paul Strother, a researcher at the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Weston Observatory of Boston College stated:

“What we see in Bicellum brasieri is an example of such a genetic system, involving cell-cell adhesion and cell differentiation that may have been incorporated into the animal genome half a billion years later.”5

In other words, incredible biomechanical irreducible complexity (still not completely understood by cell and molecular biologists)6 has been discovered—deep in the fossil record, an alleged one billion years ago.

Complexity from the beginning

differentiation
Diagram (after Stother et al.) showing cell-cell adhesion and differentiation of Bicellum brasieri cells.

B. brasieri is not the only reported example of complexity appearing in supposedly ancient rocks. Examples have been described in rocks supposedly 1.8 billion years old, containing sulfur-cycling bacteria identical to bacteria observed today. Furthermore, claims for multi-cellular life, more than the supposed age for B. brasieri have been made a decade previously of 1.5 billion years for fossilized colonial organisms found in Gabon, western Africa. All of this evidence is inconvenient for evolution, pushing back complexity far back in time, demonstrating life has always been as complex as it is today.

Conclusion

These fossils are certainly not evidence of something simple, becoming more complex. Rather, the scientists have found evidence of cellular life that requires the necessary irreducible complexity to function—just as is observed in living cells today. In reality, it is evidence of intelligent design and the non-evolution of life. 

The evidence is clear: life has always been as complex as it is today—however far the evolutionists peer back in the rock record. What is observed is consistent with the history in the Bible, of a recent Creation, which was destroyed around 1,656 years later by the global Flood of Noah’s day, its remnants rapidly covered in sediments and preserved in every detail.

References and notes

  1. “Bicellum” means two-celled, “brasieri” honours Dr Martin Brasier, the late paleontologist and study co-author. Return to text.
  2. Battison, L. and Brasier, M.D., Remarkably preserved prokaryote and eukaryote microfossils within 1 Ga-old lake phosphates of the Torridon Group, NW Scotland, Precambrian Research, 196–197, 2012 204–217 | doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2011.12.012. Return to text.
  3. Strother, B.K. et. al., A possible billion-year-old holozoan with differentiated multicellularity, Current Biology 31:1–8, 21 June 2021. Return to text.
  4. Anon, What are cell-cell adhesions? mechanobio.info, 7 August 2017. Return to text.
  5. News Staff, Paleontologists find one-billion-year-old multicellular microfossils, sci-news.com/paleontology/bicellum-brasieri-09615.html, 3 May 2021. Return to text.
  6. For an excellent video on cellular biomechanics see: Cell–extracellular matrix mechanobiology, Scientia Global, youtu.be/LajvidhBK2Y, 25 Nov 2019. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

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Does Evolution Explain Everything About Life?
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Readers’ comments

Bill P.
This is graphically illustrated by marine animals, including bone-eating worms, feasting on a whale carcass (search for: monterey bay whale fall). Then look at "titanic debris field bodies" to see shoes/clothing but no human remains after only ~105 years. Search for "whale fossils in egypt" and then in Chile to see evidence that proves, in light of the scavengers eating the whale carcass and the lack of bones from the Titanic, rapid burial for whale fossils, and also every other fossil. Search for "global map dino fossils" to see that dinosaur fossils are on every continent. A similar case can be made for coal seams which typically have extensive partings. Continuous partings of inorganic sediment over wide areas are not possible in swamps with standing trees, but requires flood conditions and floating vegetation. Search for "global map of coal" to see a map similar in extent to the dino map. Uniformitarian slow-and-gradual burial and fossilization is a non-sequitur. So, were there local floods to catastrophically bury plants and animals over billions of years all over the world, or one global flood? Ockham's razor would opt for the latter, which buries uniformitarianism and, along with it, evolutionism.

You may ask, in light of this plain evidence, how can rational people still believe in billions of years of Earth history? Easy: "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thes 2:9-12)
Pratha S.
Believers will have no problem believing God's Word -- non-believers however will have a problem with it and will believe in evolution instead.And that's what it all gets back to -- they don't want to believe that there's a God.You hope and pray that these people will come to know the Lord -- otherwise that 'God' that they didn't want to believe in will,one day, be very real to them.
Neil O.
Plus cá change, plus c'est lá meme chose. That French proverb seems to hit the target in the bullseye. The more the cult of evolution gushes at its 'latest' 'find', the more the unchanging Truth of God's Creation is staring back in evolution-defying enduring confirmation of God's Word, the Bible.
Thank you, CMI, for your ongoing ministry to the Believer's scientific intelligence.
Leslie C.
As a non-technical reader of your articles for many years now I just want to thank all your staff writers and researchers so much. Over the years I have been privileged to introduce some bright young kids and some wise adults into your sphere of scientific influence. To ensure they learn and determine for themselves the many evidences that the biblical Creator is fact not fiction.

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