A new report from the journal Nature, and summarized in the Boston Globe, explains how scientists believe they have found the oldest fossils ever, “the remnants of microbial mats that lived 3.7 billion years ago.”
But now a Harvard PhD is tossing questions at a number of assumptions that appear to be underlying that claim.
In Nature, a team of Australian geologists said in a paper titled, “Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures,” that their “fossil record” was “more than 200 million years deeper into the Earth’s early history” than other finds.
They said their discovery suggested “life appeared very soon after the Earth formed and may be commonplace throughout the universe.”
The details revealed so far are that while doing research in 2012 in Isua, a “region of Greenland so remote that they had to travel there by helicopter” and “known for having the oldest rocks on Earth,” they found something.
Said the Globe, “Allen Nutman, a University of Wollongong geologist who has studied the rocks there since 1980, said one day he and his colleagues were working at the site when they spied some outcroppings they’d never seen before. The formations had been exposed where the snow pack had melted – the result, Nutman said, of the global warming that is so pronounced in Greenland or of low levels of snowfall the previous winter.”
What they saw were “conical structures” less than two inches high that looked “like fossilized microbial mats – basically, pillows of slime – known as stromatolites, which are formed today by bacterial communities living in shallow water.”
Scientists already have said 3.5-billion-year-old fossilized stromatolites have been seen in Western Australia, and they “until now” have considered those the “oldest widely accepted evidence for life on Earth.”
But Dr. Nathaniel T. Jeanson, a Harvard PhD and now a research biologist with Answers in Genesis, which runs both the highly popular Creation Museum as well as the brand new Ark Encounter, had questions.
He has his graduate degree in cell and developmental biology from Harvard and pointed out that rocks and living cells aren’t on the same time clock in nature.
“We’ve got biology we’re assigning a date to – and we’re using geology to do it,” he told WND.
He explained biological creatures mark time genetically.
“That clock ticks at the genetic level. Every time it reproduces, the DNA is copied, and in the copy process there are mistakes. They add up over time.”
The biological clock all points toward an origination point “with the last few thousand years,” he pointed out.
But the geological clock is what is used by scientists to reach the conclusion that rocks are billions of years old.
“The only way to get billions of years of time is assuming constant rates of geological change,” he added. But applying that constant to genetic material produces the opposite answer, a closer origination point, he said.
Could it be a global flood may have changed those rates, he suggested.
It’s a logical dilemma, he said.
And what does allowing for differing rates of change produce? A collapse of the billions of years paradigm, he said.
He noted the expanse of time is the “great question.”
Such time frames really are “incomprehensible” for people, he said.
In the original claim, Nutman said a laboratory analysis established the formation is 3.7 billion years old, and turned up additional chemical signatures consistent with a biological origin for the conical structures.
In the report, Abigail Allwood, a geologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab who has studied stromatolites, said the “lines of evidence” for the Greenland evidence “are not as clear cut as you’d ideally want for such an extraordinary claim.”
“They might really be biological but it’s hard to absolutely refute the possibility that they formed by localized mineral precipitation from seawater. If we found these on Mars, would we plant a flag and declare that we had found life on Mars? I think not, but we would definitely get very excited and continue looking around for more information,” she said in the report.
The Globe report contended, “Earth, along with the other planets in our solar system, formed about 4.5 billion years ago from a cloud of dust and gas swirling around the embryonic sun. For hundreds of millions of years, ours was a harsh, molten world, heavily bombarded by debris. At one point, a Mars-size object slammed into the Earth and blasted into space the material that eventually cohered into the moon.”
The Globe continued, “No one knows how life began on Earth. Charles Darwin hypothesized that life emerged in a ‘warm little pond,’ but other researchers imagine that it emerged around a deep-sea hydrothermal vent, or even came to Earth from space, perhaps after sparking into existence on Mars, or even in some other, distant planetary system.”
In an earlier presentation on the Answers in Genesis site, Jeanson wrote about the idea of a young-earth view of speciation.
“Surveys of the professional scientific community in the United States show that the overwhelming majority reject creation and accept evolution – 97 percent or more. Why don’t more scientists accept what we’ve proposed?
“For many, the answer is ignorance.”
He explained that scientists come from the public education system, which effectively stops any discussion of even the possibility of creation.
“Evolutionists are unaware of our scientific literature [regarding creation/evolution]; and even when they become aware, they appear to prefer ignorance of the key scientific details,” he said.
Answers in Genesis is one of key organizations in America talking about the evidence for the biblical creation story, and WND reported two years ago when its chief, Ken Ham, took on evolutionist Bill Nye in a livestreamed debate.
Estimates were that between five and 10 million people watched.
“The media is split on the issue. But the overarching victory for Christians in this debate is that the gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with the millions of people watching the debate,” AiG wrote at the time.
“Biblical creation is not a salvation issue, meaning that belief or disbelief in the literal history of Genesis will not save a person. Eternal life is conditioned upon faith in Jesus Christ alone. But the debate between Ken and Mr. Nye highlights that the creation/evolution issue is one of authority. What will we look to for our starting point – the Word of the God who cannot lie, or the word of a man with an imperfect understanding of the world?”
At the time, Ham explained, “There is a distinct difference in what you observe and what has taken place in the past. Creationists and evolutionists disagree on how to interpret data regarding the origins of our universe, and we can’t prove either way observationally, because all we’ve got is the present. When it comes down to it, this is a battle over philosophical worldviews.”