Intelligent Design

Life is 3.5 By Old; No, Make that 2.0 By Old

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Just recently Dr. Dembski posted a conference on the origins of life. Craig Venter was asked how old he thought life was. He responded: “3.5 billion years old.” This was based on what was previously considered to be organic fossils dating from formations of that age. But now comes research showing that all the scientists were looking at were minerals.

It would have been nice for the Darwinists to have the 1.5 billion years between what may have been extremely primitive “life” and the full-fledged appearance of bacteria 2 billion years ago—a whole 1.5 billion years for the complexity of bacterial life to have emerged (evolved). Poor Darwinists. Another day; another bad day for Darwinists!

Here’s the link to the PhysOrg article.

16 Replies to “Life is 3.5 By Old; No, Make that 2.0 By Old

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    PaV and GilDodgen, You guys may really appreciate the ‘rant’ by an engineer named onthuhlist in the comment section here;

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....44801.html

    I liked his last paragraph;

    The trailer for the upcoming Transformers movie makes an intuitive point: If you’re hopping around on the moon in your space suit and come across a sophisticated system of interacting parts whose function is clearly deduced from its design as being a crashed spaceship, then the conclusion naturally follows: “We are not alone.” Yet in molecular biology we observe the universe’s most sophisticated machinery, and as a result we should be thinking, “We are not alone,” yet we’re too proud and in denial to admit that our bodies are designed machines. Intead, we wave around the magic wand of evolutionary theory as if it were a viable alternative. It isn’t even close. Evolutionary theory isn’t in the same ballpark to be a viable alternative. It isn’t on the same planet. It isn’t even in the same universe. It’s in the realm of Disneyland Imagineering.

  2. 2
    markf says:

    I think you will find that the apex chert microfossils were always debated among scientists. The oldest confirmed fossils are 2.74 billion years old (http://www.nature.com/ngeo/jou.....eo107.html).

    Of course, this does not prevent life having started much earlier. The chances of any kind of fossil surviving from such a long time ago means that we would be most unlikely to stumble across traces of the very earliest life.

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    markf:

    Isn’t yours an argument from ignorance? Didn’t Darwin use the same argument when it came to the fossil record? Don’t we know better now?

    As to bacteria, I thought it was 2.2 billion years. Your 2.74 (what exactitude) is a new one. I’ll take a look.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    PaV, though the microfossils themselves are overthrown, the fact that complex photosynthetic life appeared approx. 3.8 billion years ago is derived from chemical signatures, with no signature of ‘pre-biotic’ (primordial ooze) chemical activity preceding it;

    The Sudden Appearance Of Photosynthetic Life On Earth – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4262918

    Dr. Hugh Ross – Origin Of Life Paradox – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4012696

    Life – Its Sudden Origin and Extreme Complexity – Dr. Fazale Rana – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4287513

    When Did Life First Appear on Earth? – Fazale Rana – December 2010
    Excerpt: The primary evidence for 3.8 billion-year-old life consists of carbonaceous deposits, such as graphite, found in rock formations in western Greenland. These deposits display an enrichment of the carbon-12 isotope. Other chemical signatures from these formations that have been interpreted as biological remnants include uranium/thorium fractionation and banded iron formations. Recently, a team from Australia argued that the dolomite in these formations also reflects biological activity, specifically that of sulfate-reducing bacteria.
    http://www.reasons.org/when-di.....pear-earth

    The oldest sedimentary rocks on earth, known to science, originated underwater (and thus in relatively cool environs) 3.86 billion years ago. Those sediments, which are exposed at Isua in southwestern Greenland, also contain the earliest chemical evidence (fingerprint) of ‘photosynthetic’ life [Nov. 7, 1996, Nature]. This evidence had been fought by materialists since it is totally contrary to their evolutionary theory. Yet, Danish scientists were able to bring forth another line of geological evidence to substantiate the primary line of geological evidence for photo-synthetic life in the earth’s earliest sedimentary rocks.

    U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of +3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis (2003)
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004E&PSL.217..237R

    The simplest photosynthetic life on earth is exceedingly complex, too complex to happen by accident even if the primeval oceans had been full of pre-biotic soup.

    The Miracle Of Photosynthesis – electron transport – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj_WKgnL6MI

    There is actually a molecular motor, that surpasses man made motors in engineering parameters, that is integral to the photosynthetic process:

    Evolution vs ATP Synthase – Molecular Machine – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4012706

    The ATP Synthase Enzyme – an exquisite motor necessary for first life – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3KxU63gcF4

    The photosynthetic process is clearly a irreducible complex condition:

    “There is no question about photosynthesis being Irreducibly Complex. But it’s worse than that from an evolutionary perspective. There are 17 enzymes alone involved in the synthesis of chlorophyll. Are we to believe that all intermediates had selective value? Not when some of them form triplet states that have the same effect as free radicals like O2. In addition if chlorophyll evolved before antenna proteins, whose function is to bind chlorophyll, then chlorophyll would be toxic to cells. Yet the binding function explains the selective value of antenna proteins. Why would such proteins evolve prior to chlorophyll? and if they did not, how would cells survive chlorophyll until they did?” Uncommon Descent Blogger

    Evolutionary biology: Out of thin air John F. Allen & William Martin:
    The measure of the problem is here: “Oxygenetic photosynthesis involves about 100 proteins that are highly ordered within the photosynthetic membranes of the cell.”
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....5610a.html

    Of note: anoxygenic (without oxygen) photosynthesis is even more of a complex chemical pathway than oxygenic photosynthesis is:

    “Remarkably, the biosynthetic routes needed to make the key molecular component of anoxygenic photosynthesis are more complex than the pathways that produce the corresponding component required for the oxygenic form.”;
    Hugh Ross

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    as well, I always found it very discomforting to Darwinists to mention that the oldest bacterial fossils we do find look exactly like the ones we find today;

    Static evolution: is pond scum the same now as billions of years ago?
    Excerpt: But what intrigues (paleo-biologist) J. William Schopf most is lack of change. Schopf was struck 30 years ago by the apparent similarities between some 1-billion-year-old fossils of blue-green bacteria and their modern microbial microbial. “They surprisingly looked exactly like modern species,” Schopf recalls. Now, after comparing data from throughout the world, Schopf and others have concluded that modern pond scum differs little from the ancient blue-greens. “This similarity in morphology is widespread among fossils of [varying] times,” says Schopf. As evidence, he cites the 3,000 such fossils found;
    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/.....a014909330

  6. 6
    PaV says:

    markf:

    I just looked at another article. It would seem that your linked article also has to do with cyanobacteria = stromatolites.

    They say:

    Our results support microbial mediation for the formation of the Tumbiana stromatolites, and extend the geologic record of primary aragonite by more than 2,300?Myr (ref. 6).

    I’ve looked at the supplemental data—which includes photos—and it sure doesn’t look like much. I would hazard to guess that if they use the same techniques to analyze these putative fossils as they did in the paper I cited, then this, too, will be found to be no more than inorganic somethings.

    Let’s do some math: 2,724 Myr – 2,300 Myr = 424 Myr.

    Yikes! This is after the Cambrian Explosion.

    Are we now back to the Silurian/Ediacaran fossils which are so primitive? If so, this smashes Darwinism to smithereens.

    Another day; another bad day for Darwinism. The beat goes on . . .

  7. 7
    PaV says:

    I forgot to mention: both papers deal with putative fossils from the Pilabra area of Western Australia. That is, it’s basically the same stuff.

  8. 8
    markf says:

    #6 Pav

    You may hazard a guess that this discovery will be found to be inorganic but it is not controversial at the moment and I humbly suggest that this is one area where you and I lack the expertise to criticise the work.

    I don’t get the relevance of your little sum. All it is talking about is aragonite fossils which are presumably fairly rare.

  9. 9
    PaV says:

    markf:

    I’ve looked at the photos. There is very little, if anything, that looks life-like.

    Yes, I’m hazarding a guess. But if you want to put $10 on it, I’ll be happy to bet you.

    As to my summary: Darwinism is all about gradualism. Added time makes gradualism more tenable. Should even the 2.7 Byr fossil be proven inorganic in origin, this time is taken away. Thus Darwinism is “smashed to smithereens” since we’re left with bursts of life instead of gradual change.

    But, the fact is that for there to have been so much time, seemingly, between when life is thought to have arisen and when the rise of multicellular life is known to have occurred, nevertheless raises the profound question: why did it take so long????

    There is only ONE scenario that would prove Darwinism: the steady accumulation of diversity over time. Here is a post, Darwinian Gradualism vs Reality: No Contest, that documents how Darwinian expectation of gradualism and reality don’t coincide.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    Pav, I should hope that you would be a little more reserved in saying we have no evidence for life prior to 2.2 bya, for example:

    Since oxygen readily reacts and bonds with many of the solid elements making up the earth itself, and since the slow process of tectonic activity controls the turnover of the earth’s crust, it took photosynthetic bacteria a few billion years before the earth’s crust was saturated with enough oxygen to allow a sufficient level of oxygen to be built up in the atmosphere as to allow higher life:

    New Wrinkle In Ancient Ocean Chemistry – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: “Our data point to oxygen-producing photosynthesis long before concentrations of oxygen in the atmosphere were even a tiny fraction of what they are today, suggesting that oxygen-consuming chemical reactions were offsetting much of the production,”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....141217.htm

    The following video is good for seeing just how far back the red banded iron formations really go (3.8 billion years ago). But be warned, Dr. Newman operates from a materialistic worldview and makes many unwarranted allusions of the ‘magical’ power of evolution to produce photosynthetic bacteria. Although to be fair, she does readily acknowledge the staggering level of complexity being dealt with in photosynthesis, as well as admitting that no one really knows how photosynthesis evolved.

    Exploring the deep connection between bacteria and rocks – Dianne Newman – MIT lecture video
    http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/496

    This following paper backs up Dr. Newman’s assertions with another line of evidence:

    Ancient Microbes Responsible for Breathing Life Into Ocean ‘Deserts’ – August 2010
    Excerpt: Brian Kendall and Ariel Anbar, together with colleagues at other institutions, show that “oxygen oases” in the surface ocean were sites of significant oxygen production long before the breathing gas began to accumulate in the atmosphere..,, What Kendall discovered was a unique relationship of high rhenium and low molybdenum enrichments in the samples from South Africa, pointing to the presence of dissolved oxygen on the seafloor itself.,,, “It was especially satisfying to see two different geochemical methods — rhenium and molybdenum abundances and Fe chemistry — independently tell the same story,” Kendall noted. Evidence that the atmosphere contained at most minute amounts of oxygen came from measurements of the relative abundances of sulfur (S) isotopes.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....113436.htm

    These following articles explore some of the other complex geochemical processes that are also involved in the forming of the red banded iron, and other precious ore, formations on the ancient earth.

    Banded Rocks Reveal Early Earth Conditions, Changes
    Excerpt: Called banded iron formations or BIFs, these ancient rocks formed between 3.8 and 1.7 billion years ago at what was then the bottom of the ocean. The stripes represent alternating layers of silica-rich chert and iron-rich minerals like hematite and magnetite. First mined as a major iron source for modern industrialization, BIFs are also a rich source of information about the geochemical conditions that existed on Earth when the rocks were made.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....184428.htm

    moreover there is geochemical evidence for sulfate rudicing bacteria activity long before we have fossilized evidence of a sulfate reducing bacteria!

    etc.. etc.. etc…

  11. 11
    markf says:

    Yes, I’m hazarding a guess. But if you want to put $10 on it, I’ll be happy to bet you.

     

    I am happy to place a much larger bet if we can agree how long we have to wait without the research being discredited before I win.

     

    As to my summary: Darwinism is all about gradualism. Added time makes gradualism more tenable. Should even the 2.7 Byr fossil be proven inorganic in origin, this time is taken away. Thus Darwinism is “smashed to smithereens” since we’re left with bursts of life instead of gradual change.

    The time would not be taken away.  Lack of fossils from such a very long time ago does not imply there was no life.  If there were no other evidence it would mean we didn’t know if there was a life.  As it happens BA77 (who would have thought I would ever agree with him?) has suggested a number of other sources of evidence for life over 3 billion years ago.

    But, the fact is that for there to have been so much time, seemingly, between when life is thought to have arisen and when the rise of multicellular life is known to have occurred, nevertheless raises the profound question: why did it take so long????

    I think that is fairly straightforward.  Multicellular life was based on major developments – the Eukaryotic cell and some kind of development process.  However, once these are in place the scope for significant change based on relatively small genetic variation becomes much larger – processes such as neotony can come into play. 

     

  12. 12
    PaV says:

    BA77:

    I just lost a long post because I typed the wrong key. So, I’ll be more brief this time.

    I couldn’t care less whether they found life to have emerged 10 Byr ago, or 700 Myr ago. Why? Because to me the only thing of significance is whether the fossil record shows signs of gradual and steadily progressive changes of life forms. Anything else, as I see it, disproves Darwin.

    Now Markf wants to say that “life could have existed, but it didn’t become fossilized”.

    I’m not sure what evidenciary value such a statement has. He’s basically saying that while the fossil record doesn’t look like life gradually developed, it, in fact, did develop gradually.

    And Richard Dawkins will tell me that even though life looks designed, it wasn’t.

    So, if you see evidence of design, then discount it; and if you don’t find evidence for Darwinian gradualism, just be assured it really happened that way. Is this empiricism?

    BA77, if I were you, I wouldn’t put all my eggs in the “Life was present 3.5 Byr ago” scenario. How do we know that non-organic processes can’t lead to the presence of certain chemicals and even organic compounds in our environment.

    Urea was made in the lab in a non-organic way. Japan’s reactors are having fires. Water is being scalded by the heating rods. Hydrogen is catching fire. But the chemical reaction of hydrolysis, IIRC, is 2H2O>H2 + O2. So, 3.5 Byr ago, when the earth was being pelted by meteors, is it completely inconceivable that there was some reacion between radioactive core elements and water, e.g.? I don’t know. But, as I say, I would hesitate to put all my eggs in that basket. We’re dealing with practically no more than conjecture.

    Now maybe you’ve looked into all this a bit. I haven’t, and don’t have the inclination to do so. But, as I say, it’s really academic to the point I’ve made: materialists conjecturing, and then “finding” exactly what they we’re conjecturing about. It’s like Tiktakaamen. I suspect it, too, will be found not to be what they contend it to be. This is a common theme in evolutionary biology. Think of Piltdown Man. Think of the Martian bacteria, etc.

    MF:

    The time would not be taken away. Lack of fossils from such a very long time ago does not imply there was no life. If there were no other evidence it would mean we didn’t know if there was a life. As it happens BA77 (who would have thought I would ever agree with him?) has suggested a number of other sources of evidence for life over 3 billion years ago.

    A lack of fossils from such a very long time ago certainly “implies” there was no life. The presence of fossils is strong evidence, if not outright proof, for life being present (what are the dating techniques being used, and how accurate are they, etc.), but the absence of fossils, while not proof, certainly “implies” that life was not there.

    You write: “If there were no other evidence it would mean we didn’t know if there was a life.”

    So I suppose that it would take sending probes to every material object in the universe and testing for life in order to say that life doesn’t exist outside of the Earth. Isn’t that a rather high bar you’re setting? You’re basically saying: “If life occurred here on Earth, it can happen anywhere.” What is the basis for this assertion? Isn’t this mere opinion masquerading as pseudo-science?

    PV:

    But, the fact is that for there to have been so much time, seemingly, between when life is thought to have arisen and when the rise of multicellular life is known to have occurred, nevertheless raises the profound question: why did it take so long????

    MF:

    I think that is fairly straightforward. Multicellular life was based on major developments – the Eukaryotic cell and some kind of development process. However, once these are in place the scope for significant change based on relatively small genetic variation becomes much larger – processes such as neotony can come into play.

    Are you a follower of Gould? Neotony. Haven’t heard that one for a while.

    You say: “Multicellular life was based on major developments – the Eukaryotic cell and some kind of development process.”

    How do you know there was a developmental process? You’re simply presuming this. You’re assuming what you’re being asked to demonstrate. Thus, a circular argument.

    And, if it was such a great big obstacle, then, per Darwinian theory there should be all kinds of intermediate forms. But, alas, we don’t have any record of intermediate forms, do we? That’s right: the fossil record is saltational, not gradual. So we should just believe you? Sorry.

    Another day, another bad day for Darwinism.

  13. 13
    markf says:

    MF:

    A lack of fossils from such a very long time ago certainly “implies” there was no life. The presence of fossils is strong evidence, if not outright proof, for life being present (what are the dating techniques being used, and how accurate are they, etc.), but the absence of fossils, while not proof, certainly “implies” that life was not there.

    Rubbish.  If the conditions were such that life at time X meant it was probable would observe fossils from time X then that would be true.  But that is not true of times greater than 2B years ago.  The probability of any life at that time (which would have been prokaryotic) creating fossils which we could observe today is almost zero.  It extraordinary that there are one or two fossilised remains even if they are open to interpretation.

    You write: “If there were no other evidence it would mean we didn’t know if there was a life.”

    So I suppose that it would take sending probes to every material object in the universe and testing for life in order to say that life doesn’t exist outside of the Earth. Isn’t that a rather high bar you’re setting? You’re basically saying: “If life occurred here on Earth, it can happen anywhere.” What is the basis for this assertion? Isn’t this mere opinion masquerading as pseudo-science?

    This is just silly. The situation on earth is utterly different– we know that on earth life started at least once, that there was life some billions of years ago, and that life on earth currently survives in conditions similar to what we know about the planet 3 billion years ago.   All we are doing is trying to determine when life started.  Given that life was close to incapable of creating fossils from > 2 billion years ago we have to look for other evidence or hope we get very lucky.  Pending evidence the only honest thing is to say we have no idea when it started but it was certainly before the first indisputable, dated fossil.

     

    Are you a follower of Gould? Neotony. Haven’t heard that one for a while.

    Are you saying there is no such thing as heterochrony?  It is hardly restricted to Gould. 

    How do you know there was a developmental process? You’re simply presuming this. You’re assuming what you’re being asked to demonstrate. Thus, a circular argument.

    I think there is some confusion here.  By developmental process I mean a process where multicellular organisms develop from a single cell – like you and me!  Clearly such a thing must have existed to have multicellular organisms.

    And, if it was such a great big obstacle, then, per Darwinian theory there should be all kinds of intermediate forms. But, alas, we don’t have any record of intermediate forms, do we? That’s right: the fossil record is saltational, not gradual. So we should just believe you? Sorry.

    Clearly the fossil record is not going to be complete, particularly for microscopic organisms from a very long time ago.  I am not an expert on the fossil record but I suspect there are intermediary forms. However, regardless of the completeness of the fossil record we know that multicellular now exists and all current species have offspring that are very similar to their parent or parents.

    So you if think there were no intermediaries between unicellular and multicellular life you have  two options:

    1) Multicellular life was created directly from non-living matter.

    2) A unicellular life form somehow gave birth to a viable multicellular life form.

    A similar argument applies to any other proposed saltational jump.

    Which one are you going for?

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    PaV, actually there is very good evidence that both biological and geological processes were working together in tightly integrated fashion to ‘tera-form’ the Earth from a primordial toxic wasteland into a planet suitable to host complex multi-cellular life. How markf could find the least bit of comfort for his neo-Darwinism is beyond me, since the materialistic framework has no reason whatsoever to presuppose that the geological processes and earliest life on Earth should immediately start working together preparing the earth for more advanced life as soon it was possible,,, after the planets formation from ‘stardust’.

    This paper may be the most helpful for you PaV, to see that ‘tera-forming’ was a tightly integrated ‘biogeochemical’ process;

    Ancient Microorganisms Helped Build 3.4-Billion-Year-Old Stromatolite Rock Structures
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....141221.htm

    further notes:

    Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides. – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers
    http://www.bioinf.uni-leipzig......g_2008.pdf

    Odd Geometry of Bacteria May Provide New Way to Study Earth’s Oldest Fossils – May 2010
    Excerpt: Known as stromatolites, the layered rock formations are considered to be the oldest fossils on Earth.,,,That the spacing pattern corresponds to the mats’ metabolic period — and is also seen in ancient rocks — shows that the same basic physical processes of diffusion and competition seen today were happening billions of years ago,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....152520.htm

    Dissimulatory sulfate-reducing reducing bacteria,,, activities can be traced back more than 3 billion years by sulfur isotope fractionation in minerals and rocks (Pfennig et. al. 1986)
    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

    Bacterial Heavy Metal Detoxification and Resistance Systems:
    Excerpt: Bacterial plasmids contain genetic determinants for resistance systems for Hg2+ (and organomercurials), Cd2+, AsO2, AsO43-, CrO4 2-, TeO3 2-, Cu2+, Ag+, Co2+, Pb2+, and other metals of environmental concern.,, Recombinant DNA analysis has been applied to mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper resistance systems.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....04577v8t3/

    The role of bacteria in hydrogeochemistry, metal cycling and ore deposit formation:
    Textures of sulfide minerals formed by SRB (sulfate-reducing bacteria) during bioremediation (most notably pyrite and sphalerite) have textures reminiscent of those in certain sediment-hosted ores, supporting the concept that SRB may have been directly involved in forming ore minerals.
    http://www.goldschmidt2009.org...../A1161.pdf

    And on top of the fact that poisonous heavy metals on the primordial earth were brought into ‘life-enabling’ balance by complex biogeochemical processes, there was also an explosion of minerals on earth which were a result of that first life, as well as being a result of each subsequent ‘Big Bang of life’ there afterwards.

    The Creation of Minerals:
    Excerpt: Thanks to the way life was introduced on Earth, the early 250 mineral species have exploded to the present 4,300 known mineral species. And because of this abundance, humans possessed all the necessary mineral resources to easily launch and sustain global, high-technology civilization.
    http://www.reasons.org/The-Creation-of-Minerals

    “Today there are about 4,400 known minerals – more than two-thirds of which came into being only because of the way life changed the planet. Some of them were created exclusively by living organisms” – Bob Hazen – Smithsonian – Oct. 2010, pg. 54

    To put it mildly, this minimization of poisonous elements, and ‘explosion’ of useful minerals, is strong evidence for Intelligently Designed terra-forming of the earth that ‘just so happens’ to be of great benefit to modern man.

    Clearly many, if not all, of these metal ores and minerals laid down by these sulfate-reducing bacteria, as well as laid down by the biogeochemistry of more complex life, as well as laid down by finely-tuned geological conditions throughout the early history of the earth, have many unique properties which are crucial for technologically advanced life, and are thus indispensable to man’s rise above the stone age to the advanced ‘space-age’ technology of modern civilization.

    Man has only recently caught on to harnessing the ancient detoxification ability of bacteria to cleanup his accidental toxic spills, as well as his toxic waste, from industry:

    What is Bioremediation? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSpjRPWYJPg

    Earth’s Primordial Atmosphere Must Be Fine-Tuned – Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: The team then produced calculations demonstrating that the only reasonable scenario for explaining why the Sun’s radiation did not remove Earth’s primordial atmosphere was that the early Earth’s atmosphere was at least a hundred times richer in carbon dioxide.
    http://www.reasons.org/earths-.....fine-tuned

  15. 15
    PaV says:

    MF:

    Rubbish. If the conditions were such that life at time X meant it was probable would observe fossils from time X then that would be true. But that is not true of times greater than 2B years ago. The probability of any life at that time (which would have been prokaryotic) creating fossils which we could observe today is almost zero. It extraordinary that there are one or two fossilised remains even if they are open to interpretation.

    Two things: (1) If the conditions were such that any present life in a time period would leave a fossil, then ‘absence’ of a fossil during that time period would more or less ‘prove’ that life didn’t exist. This is a much higher level of confidence that simple inference, or, implication. The point is: if there is no fossil life present, then caution is warranted to any conclusions about life being present—including inferences that can be made with respect to rock composition. I imagine that as more information accumulates, and should this information reinforce prior inferences, one would gain greater confidence and say that the presence of life is probable. But I would submit that minus actual fossil forms, some due caution is in order.

    (2) You say: “The probability of any life at that time . . . creating fossils which we could obseve today is almost zero.” Isn’t the logical conclusion, then, that we ‘suspect that life existed at this time, but that it has not been fully confirmed’? This is very different that just blithely stating that life existed 2 billion years ago, etc. . . . This is typical of scientists in general, and especially in evolutionary biology: what they “assume” they state as a “given”. Well, then, it is an “assumption”, not a “given.”

    PV:

    You write: “If there were no other evidence it would mean we didn’t know if there was a life.”

    So I suppose that it would take sending probes to every material object in the universe and testing for life in order to say that life doesn’t exist outside of the Earth. Isn’t that a rather high bar you’re setting? You’re basically saying: “If life occurred here on Earth, it can happen anywhere.” What is the basis for this assertion? Isn’t this mere opinion masquerading as pseudo-science?

    MF:

    This is just silly. The situation on earth is utterly different– we know that on earth life started at least once, that there was life some billions of years ago, and that life on earth currently survives in conditions similar to what we know about the planet 3 billion years ago. All we are doing is trying to determine when life started. Given that life was close to incapable of creating fossils from > 2 billion years ago we have to look for other evidence or hope we get very lucky. Pending evidence the only honest thing is to say we have no idea when it started but it was certainly before the first indisputable, dated fossil.

    You seemed to have missed my point. You want to say, “Surely life existed in this time, even though we won’t be able to find any fossil forms.” Well, how is this statement disproved??? Do we search every bit of rock over every bit of surface, above sea-level and below, so that we can say: “Oh, no, life didn’t exist.” IOW, the burden of proof is on your shoulders; not the other way around. The presence of life has to be demonstrated, not just simply assumed.

    But, again, this is an entirely academic question since the ONLY finding that bolsters Darwinism is gradualism; and that, clearly, is not what we’re going to find, and HAVE NOT found.

    PV:Are you a follower of Gould? Neotony. Haven’t heard that one for a while.

    MF:Are you saying there is no such thing as heterochrony? It is hardly restricted to Gould.

    The basic ID argument has to do with information. Heterochrony, nor neotony, says anything much about “new” information, and, hence, is for us uninteresting and unpersuasive.

    PV: How do you know there was a developmental process? You’re simply presuming this. You’re assuming what you’re being asked to demonstrate. Thus, a circular argument.

    MF: I think there is some confusion here. By developmental process I mean a process where multicellular organisms develop from a single cell – like you and me! Clearly such a thing must have existed to have multicellular organisms.

    That’s what I understood; but, again, you’re presuming the process, though there is NO fossil evidence to substantiate it. If you could substantiate it, then ID wouldn’t exist.

    MF: Clearly the fossil record is not going to be complete, particularly for microscopic organisms from a very long time ago. I am not an expert on the fossil record but I suspect there are intermediary forms. However, regardless of the completeness of the fossil record we know that multicellular now exists and all current species have offspring that are very similar to their parent or parents.

    I’m not an expert on the fossil record either. But from what I know, you basically have bacterial life up to about 1 Byr ago. Then, perhaps!, some beginnings of multi-cellular forms afterwards. Then, shortly before the Cambrian, you have some multicellular forms appearing that are rather primitive. However, recently some new forms were found in the Ediacaran, I believe, and they haven’t much similarity to today’s phylum.

    But none of this is anything Darwin expected. If you’ve read The Origins of Species, then you’ll know that Darwin believed in an almost eternal universe and an earth that simply recycled species throughout the aeons.

    Remember, he didn’t live at a time when the Big Bang was taken for granted, and the implication that the universe was NOT eternal. Even Einstein resisted the Big Bang, and his biggest mistake was his cosmological factor, a mistake driven by his feeling that the universe was steady-state, i.e., eternal.

    Darwin expected that within earlier formations, not subject to corrosive geological effects, fossils would be found with demonstrating a diversity rivaling present day fossil diversity: not the same kinds of fossils, but a similar diversity in forms. We don’t see that. We don’t see gradualism. We see, whereever we look, saltationism.

    MF: So you if think there were no intermediaries between unicellular and multicellular life you have two options:

    1) Multicellular life was created directly from non-living matter.

    2) A unicellular life form somehow gave birth to a viable multicellular life form.

    A similar argument applies to any other proposed saltational jump.

    Which one are you going for?

    As to the choices you have given, I take neither!

    Life must always come from life. I don’t believe in common descent, but in what I would call common inheritance. Basic cellular machinery is handed down; but what is handed down is not just some simple variation of what came before. It takes the intervention of an intelligent agent for the scope of changes we find to properly be accounted for.

  16. 16
    markf says:

    PV:

    There are two issues here. 

    1) To what extent does the lack of fossils weaken the evidence for early life.

    2) Might life have evolved in leaps rather than gradually.

    I think your position on (1) is summarised by this remark.

    You say: “The probability of any life at that time . . . creating fossils which we could obseve today is almost zero.” Isn’t the logical conclusion, then, that we ‘suspect that life existed at this time, but that it has not been fully confirmed’? This is very different that just blithely stating that life existed 2 billion years ago, etc. . . . This is typical of scientists in general, and especially in evolutionary biology: what they “assume” they state as a “given”. Well, then, it is an “assumption”, not a “given.”

    In #13 I said:

    Pending evidence the only honest thing is to say we have no idea when it started but it was certainly before the first indisputable, dated fossil.

    So it looks like we agree in principle. I did state that life existed 2 BN years ago because I believe there are fossils from that period.  Older than that the fossil evidence gets more debateable but there is plenty of other evidence, as BA77 has kindly demonstrated.

    Perhaps more interesting is the issue of gradual change. A few things need clarifying.

    (a ) Are we talking about morphological or genetic change? It is possible to have one without the other.  However, it would be extraordinarily hard to monitor genetic change in the distant past without making assumptions which you would disapprove of. Only morphological change would show up in the fossil record.

    (b ) How sudden does the change have to be not to count as gradual? Modern evolutionary theory accepts the possibility of change over  quite short periods – for example 100’s of species of Cichlids in Late Victoria in tens of thousands of years. However, no scientist that I know of is suggesting that one organism could have viable progeny which are morphologically completely new;  for example, that an amphibian once gave birth to a reptile, or a land mammal gave birth to a whale, or a unicellular organism produced a fully fledged multicellular organism. 

    So when you say “what is handed down is not just some simple variation of what came before. It takes the intervention of an intelligent agent for the scope of changes we find to properly be accounted for” – what scope of morphological change are you suggesting (which is the only change that would be reflected in the fossil record) and how quickly?

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