The origin of cellular life, with all that implies by way of mind-bogglingly sophisticated biological information in action, now seems to have occurred as early in earth’s history as it could have done — 3.7 billion years ago. Just right off the bat it happens, “immediately,” as one paleontologist puts it in amazement: genetic code, proteins, photosynthesis, the works.
It’s reported in Nature (“Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures“). From the New York Times:
Geologists have discovered in Greenland evidence for ancient life in rocks that are 3.7 billion years old. The find, if confirmed, would make these fossils the oldest on Earth and may change scientific understanding of the origins of life.
Experts are likely to debate whether the structures described in the new report were formed biologically or through natural processes. If biological, the great age of the fossils complicates the task of reconstructing the evolution of life from the chemicals naturally present on the early Earth. It leaves comparatively little time for evolution to have occurred and puts the process close to a time when Earth was being bombarded by destructive asteroids. [Emphasis added.]
The microbial mats from the Isua Greenstone Belt involved creatures already “fairly evolved.”
Several different species of microbes are involved in stromatolite creation. The Isua structures, if indeed stromatolites, would represent fairly evolved organisms.
Here’s the problem:
If life on Earth did not begin until after the Late Heavy Bombardment, then it had a mere 100 million years in which to evolve to the quite advanced stage seen in the new fossils.
If so, Dr. [Abigail] Allwood wrote, then “life is not a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing.” It will emerge whenever there’s an opportunity.
But the argument that life seems to have evolved very early and quickly, so therefore is inherently likely, can be turned around, Dr. [Gerald] Joyce said. “You could ask why, if life were such a probable event, we don’t have evidence of multiple origins,” he said.
In fact, with trivial variations, there is only one genetic code for all known forms of life, pointing to a single origin.
If some unguided chemical and biological evolutionary model must be assumed as explaining the origins of life, then something is wrong. Life springs up easily. It must, “whenever there’s an opportunity.” If so, it should have happened repeatedly on earth — why not? — leaving evidence in the form of multiple genetic codes. But there is no such evidence.
It should also have happened elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps in our own Solar System, like on Mars. Not just the most simple life, either, but something “fairly evolved.” Why not intelligent, too? But there’s no evidence of any of that either.
For evolutionists, it’s a dilemma without an apparent solution. For advocates of intelligent design, it can be taken in stride. Whether the origin of life, of complex animals, or of homo sapiens with our gift of speech, wonderful things have a funny way of “slipping suddenly into being,” in Michael Denton’s phrase.
Remember, this is all apart from the devilish difficulties for theories of unguided origins raised by Meyer in Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt. Innovations don’t “evolve.” They spring into existence, we find again and again, with an alarming abruptness. As if by design.
Photo credit: Yuri Amelin via Science Daily.