It must have been about 7 a.m.
when a shrew-like mammal stumbled
out of his dark burrow
and peered nearsightedly
at the first flower with
an expression close to amazement
and decided it wasn’t dangerous …

The late beloved Canadian poet, Al Purdy, here describes the invention of flowers — by plants — “In the Early Cretaceous.” He was off by several periods, and a whole era. According to fossils recently found in China, they had already been invented fifty million years before that.

Nanjinganthus dendrostyla! … This is the name now given to an angiosperm, or if you will, flower. What is it doing in the South Xiangshan Formation? Minding its own business, I would say. But in finding it we toss yet another brick into the hornet nest of evolutionary theory. Instead of “just popped up in the Cretaceous,” flowers now pop up in the Jurassic; and in fossil slabs so abundant, it would be hard to hide them all.

We take one thing as precursor to another, and well it might be. Or not be. For if the precursors keep jumping around — fully formed with all necessary parts taking backward leaps of half a million centuries — what can we know of our family tree?

We have no way of knowing, and no prospect of ever knowing, and the evolutionary presumption (the “idea of progress”) is simply read into the evidence. New species “just pop up” there, where we thought we had everything covered, and in the living record, too, every day. Some ancient species known to be extinct just pop up in a fisherman’s net, or are trapped wandering about in the bush.

Better yet: some creature we’d never seen ever, leaps straight from non-existence onto the “endangered species” list. How do we know it wasn’t created, at 7 a.m. yesterday morning?

We can’t check if our “molecular clocks” are working, or our carbon datebooks are correct, or the red shift of the stars has not been entirely misunderstood. I do think we have grasped the general idea, of our descent from a singular cosmic egg of infinitesimal size, and yet it wouldn’t surprise me, as a half-blind shrew, to learn that our temporal depth perception was dysfunctional, and that in fact the world began on the 11th of August, 3114 BC, as the Mayans calculated, or that The Flood happened in 2137 BC, as Varro the Roman explained.

Alternatively our world is much older. My Scofield Reference Bible gives it another thousand years.

What does it matter to us? For as the famous Shakespeare actor said, it’s not just the number of words, no, you must get them in the right order. And we don’t seem able to do that. Look microscopically into the human cell — into any cell for that matter — and you see that in order to work, things that must have come earlier depend on things that must have come later. To which one says, “Ho!” For our assumptions were all built on assumptions, that disappear as we move along.

God, like Obama, says: “You didn’t build that!” Only He who built it can remember when. It is not actually necessary to read evolution, or anything else, into the fossil record. Science is knowledge, and it is enough to accumulate what we have seen and can demonstrate. Leave science fiction to the specialists.

(Richard Feynman: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”)

And long live angiosperms!

I wonder which myopic shrew-like mammal made the first bouquet?