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Earth’s “boring billion” now hot again

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About time. Readers may recall that the first billion years of life when, we are told, simple microbes dominated, have been considered boring.

Well, books where we have only .01 percent of the text preserved are boring too.

But things may be changing. From Science News:

1.8 billion years ago, low oxygen may not have hindered life after all

After this wild youth of rapid change, things slowed down. About 1.8 billion years ago, the climate stabilized. Oxygen levels steadied. Evolution seemingly stalled. For around a billion years, not a lot changed on planet Earth. Scientists called this interval the dullest time in Earth’s history. It came to be known as the “boring billion.”

But scientists are taking a fresh look at the boring billion and coming up with very different, downright fascinating, alternatives. Recent work recasts the era as a possibly pivotal (and definitely contentious) chapter in the story of life, which took a new twist not long after, with the introduction of animals.

At that time, they say, a supercontinent called Nuna formed and broke up.

Pinpointing when animals could have evolved, based on atmospheric conditions alone, is difficult because estimates of early animals’ oxygen needs are speculative. After millions of years of adaptation, no early animals are alive today to testify. Instead of guessing how ancient animals might have lived, geobiologists Daniel Mills and Donald Canfield of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and colleagues tested a modern analog: the sea sponge. Their finding challenges the view that low oxygen levels during the boring billion prohibited the evolution of animals, Mills and Canfield wrote last year in BioEssays. More.

If they are there, we may find them. But oxygen is not all that is required to make an animal, so once again, we are running into the information challenge created for Darwinian evolution (natural selection acting on random mutation generates huge levels of information, not noise) .

See also: What we know and don’t, about the origin of life

Comments
Actually since, as far as life is concerned, the excitment really didn't start until the Cambrian explosion, I would call it the boring 3 billion plus years:
Cambrian Explosion Ruins Darwin’s Tree of Life (2 minutes in 24 hour day) – video (2:55 minute mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA2LDiWeWb4
As well, their estimate for the origin of photosynthesis at 3.2 billion years ago is off by at least a half billion years:
U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of +3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis (2003) http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004E&PSL.217..237R Iron in Primeval Seas Rusted by Bacteria – Apr. 23, 2013 Excerpt: The oldest known iron ores were deposited in the Precambrian period and are up to four billion years old (the Earth itself is estimated to be about 4.6 billion years old). ,,, This research not only provides the first clear evidence that microorganisms were directly involved in the deposition of Earth’s oldest iron formations; it also indicates that large populations of oxygen-producing cyanobacteria were at work in the shallow areas of the ancient oceans, while deeper water still reached by the light (the photic zone) tended to be populated by anoxyenic or micro-aerophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria which formed the iron deposits.,,, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423110750.htm Life's history in iron - Nov. 7, 2014 Excerpt: A new study examines how Earth's oldest iron formations could have been formed before oxygenic photosynthesis played a role in oxidizing iron.,,, Microorganisms that photosynthesize in the absence of oxygen assimilate carbon by using iron oxide (Fe(II)) as an electron donor instead of water. While oxygenic photosynthesis produces oxygen in the atmosphere (in the form of dioxygen), anoxygenic photosynthesis adds an electron to Fe(II) to produce Fe(III). "In other words, they oxidize the iron," explains Pecoits. "This finding is very important because it implies that this metabolism was already active back in the early Archean (ca. 3.8 Byr-ago)." http://phys.org/news/2014-11-life-history-iron.html New study: Oxygenic photosynthesis goes back three billion years - September 26, 2013 - vjtorley Excerpt: If Buick is correct here, then oxygenic photosynthesis goes right back to the very dawn of life. (also see comment #8 for more detailed notes on photosynthesis at 3.8 billion years ago) https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/new-study-oxygenic-photosynthesis-goes-back-three-billion-years/
Of related note, although atheists think that humans are just a random fluke accident in the grand scheme of things, Dr. Michael Denton notes that the chemistry of the universe is strangely of maximum benefit for humans and not for any other creatures:
The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis - Michael J. Denton - February 25, 2013 Summary (page 11) Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive. It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms. http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2013.1/BIO-C.2013.1 Privileged Species - How the cosmos is designed for human life - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoI2ms5UHWg
As well, Dr. Ross points out that the extremely long amount of time it took to prepare a suitable place for humans to exist in this universe, for the relatively short period of time that we can exist on this planet, is actually a point of evidence that argues strongly for Theism:
Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency. Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now. http://christiangodblog.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html
As a Christian, I like the metaphor of 'preparing for a wedding' that Dr. Ross uses in the following video to illustrate the disparity that 'The Anthropic Inequality' presents in terms of time:
Hugh Ross - The Anthropic Principle and The Anthropic Inequality - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8494065/
Verse:
Proverbs 3:19 "The Lord by wisdom founded the earth: by understanding He established the heavens;"
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