Earlier than Expected: Galaxy Formation

I had intended to focus this series on fossil finds that were attributed to time periods that were earlier than previously expected, but now realize that the series needs to include a broader range of phenomena to encompass other findings that fall under the heading of gradualism and uniformitarianism. As an example, we find galaxies that are purported to have formed much earlier than previously expected.(1)

Researchers using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii have identified five distant galaxy clusters that formed five billion years after the Big Bang. They calculated the mass of the biggest galaxy in each of the clusters and found, to their surprise, that the ancient galaxies were roughly as big as the biggest galaxies in equivalent clusters in today’s Universe.

The ancient galaxies should have been much smaller, at only a fifth of today’s mass, based on galaxy-formation models that predict slow, protracted growth. “That was the reason for the surprise — that it disagrees so radically with what the predictions told us we should be seeing,” says Chris Collins of Liverpool John Moores University in Birkenhead, UK. Collins and his colleagues publish the work today in Nature.

The uniformitarian models had predicted that the galaxies would only be 20% of the observed size, yet the galaxies were found to be roughly as big as the biggest galaxies known to exist today. It seems like there may have been a bunny fossil found in the cosmological Cambrian period, but lets see how they’ll wiggle their way out of this one.

The work suggests that an earlier modelling result may have correctly posited a mechanism — a cold stream of star-nourishing hydrogen gas — by which these first massive galaxies grew so rapaciously. Taken together, the two results suggest that early galaxies grew quickly through injections of gas, rather than slowly through mergers. “We have a whole different story now about how galaxies form,” says Avishai Dekel of the Hebrew University in Israel and first author of the earlier paper.

How did they do? I’d say they did a good job of using their imagination (a gas injection from the imagination), but I don’t think they did so well in saving a uniformitarian model of galaxy formation. They at least make a prediction that could be discomfirmed/confirmed through future observation. In other words, they might be able to actually see the cold gas streams. I’ve got my fingers crossed. The point is, the time period for galaxy formation has also been reduced making things more complicated for uniformitarian models.

(1). Early galaxies surprise with size, Nature News, April 1, 2009


The Fossil Record Problem-Part V

Here is an interesting single observation challenge for the uniformitarians:

Rock Car

I wonder how long it took this rock to form, and what’s inside…

Rock Car 2


UPDATE: I’ve turned off comments on this post, and deleted all the comments including my own.

The Fossil Record Problem–Part II

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.” — Stephen J. Gould

In Part I, I laid some foundations for my personal skepticism in the fossil layer. As noted above, one of the worlds biggest proponents of evolution (now dead), makes an honest statement about the fossil record.

My coauthor1,2 asks:

So if the newbies are virtually unchanged from the “millions of years” old fossils, then where is the evidence for evolution? Why are there not hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of fossilized variations (evolutionary stages) of these creatures, which I would think that you and others, including scientists, would have found as you explored? Were these particular creatures an exception to the rule of evolution? In other words, were these particular creatures created whole from the beginning? If so, then the theory of evolution has some really inventive explaining to do!

The frequent and insightful commenter Mike3 notes:

Consider the modern shark species, which have remained more or less unchanged in the last 100 million years (where they just start “appearing”). And ancient sharks are thought be have been around for as much as 400 million years. Yet sharks have always been predatory fish and nothing else according to the fossil record.

William Dembski speaks to the problem:

Gould’s solution to this problem was to propose his idea of punctuated equilibrium, in which evolution takes place in isolated populations that are unlikely to be fossilized, with the result that the fossil record exhibits a pattern of sudden change followed by stasis. But this patch has its
own problems. For one, it does not address the mechanism of evolutionary change. Also, it is
largely untestable because all the interesting evolution happens where it is inaccessible to
scientific observation.4

So there you have it. Evolution takes place in isolated populations which are unlikely to be fossilized. Isn’t it amazing how we seem to be in a stage of stasis right now?

Uniforimitarians claim that these fossilization takes place over 10000+ years.5

So, in this picture, you can see what ancient man was doing 10000 years ago. Yes, those appear to be fossilized sneakers, teddy bears, and other things.

1 An Outsider’s Perspective
2 An Outsider’s Sojourn
3 Massdream Musicworks
4 Expert Witness Report: The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design, Dembski, W., (2005), pp 6.
5 Wiki – Fossilization