Rebuttal to the Ohio Science Standards - Part 1

There is No Conclusive Evidence That the Oxygen Content of the
 Early Earth Atmosphere was Significantly Different Than Today.
by
Patrick Young, Ph.D.

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This is the first of several installments with the intention of demonstrating the fallacy of certain "evolution as fact" science standards voted on by the Ohio State Board of Education in December of 2002. This information is intended to be used as part of the "teach the controversy" approach in Ohio’s schools.

Ohio Science Standard

4. Describe how organisms on Earth contributed to the dramatic change in oxygen content of Earth’s early atmosphere.

Evolutionists will quickly state that "evolution does not care about how life began." However, an inspection of several evolutionary biology textbooks generally used as teaching guides, proves that the above statement is basically false 1,2,3,4,5,6. A more accurate declaration would be that evolution cares about the origin-of-life from non-life (abiogenesis), but as of yet, is incapable of providing any explanation via known naturalistic processes.

What evolutionists readily accept is that every reasonable materialistic mechanism for life to occur from non-life must first begin with an oxygen-poor (reducing) atmosphere. So the fundamental reason why evolutionists want this science standard mentioned above, is to persuade tenth grade students there is convincing evidence that the early earth’s atmosphere was reducing.

Evolutionists need the atmosphere to be devoid of oxygen because it is the only known environment that amino acids, peptides, etc. can be formed with any level of stability. An oxygen-rich atmosphere (such as we have today), or even a slightly oxidizing one, would be catastrophic to any theory of life evolving from non-life since the amino acids would be broken down by the excess oxygen as quickly as they form. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the reducing environment of outerspace has been embraced by several evolutionists as the next frontier to look for evidence of life originating from non-life. However, just because scientists require an oxygen-poor atmosphere for the process of abiogenesis, it is not proof in itself that the Earth’s early atmosphere was reducing. Furthermore, abiogenesis under any condition has never been observed; so the complete hypothesis of life originating from non-life via a reducing atmosphere begins with a very generous leap of faith.

If we first assume for the moment that abiogenesis could occur via a Precambrian reducing atmosphere, there should be overwhelming evidence of anoxic materials such as sulfides in the form of pyrite (FeS2 ) and galena (PbS) in the perceived 1.9 billion year old Archean and lower Proterozoic strata. However, the data does not competely support this hypothesis. In fact, there is a great deal of information confirming the presence of fully oxidized sulfates such as barite (BaSO4) in Precambrian strata. For example, Lambert, et al. reported the presence of oxygen-rich sulfates in Archaean rocks from western Australia, South Africa, and Southern India7.

Banded Iron formations (BIF) are also touted by evolutionists as definitive evidence that the early Earth had a reducing atmosphere. BIF’s are usually found as alternating thin layers of iron ore primarily existing in the ferrous oxidation state. To achieve this oxidation state, evolutionists believe the BIF’s had to be formed in an atmosphere that was oxygen-poor . However, there are known Archean sediments which contain significant amounts of more highly oxidized iron materials (Red Beds) such as hematite (Fe2O3) and magnetite (Fe3O4) laid out contemporaneously with BIF’s 8,9. Furthermore, not only will an ever so slightly oxidizing atmosphere prevent the creation of any pre-biotic soup, it has been proposed that the formation these BIF’s does not even require an oxygen-free atmosphere 10.

The controversy surrounding the early Earth’s atmosphere can be summed up in the following quotation appearing in the March 1982 edition of Geology,

Geologic evidence often presented in favor of an early anoxic atmosphere is both contentious and ambiguous…Recent biological and interplanetary studies seem to favor an early oxidized atmosphere rich in CO2 and possibly containing free molecular oxygen. The existence of early red beds, sea and groundwater sulphate, oxidized terrestrial and sea-floor weathering crusts, and the distribution of ferric iron in sedimentary rocks are geological observations and inferences compatible with the biological and planetary predictions. It is suggested that from the time of the earliest dated rocks at 3.7 b.y. ago, Earth had an oxygenic atmosphere 11.


References

1. McFadden, C.H., Keeton, W.T., 1995, Biology: An Exploration of Life, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p. 839.
2. Norstog, K., Meyerriecks, A.J., 1983, Biology, Charles Merrill Publishing, London, pp. 33-46.
3. Sherman, I.W., Sherman, V.G., 1989, Biology: A Human Approach, Oxford University Press, London, pp. 5-20.
4. Solomon, E.P., Bera, L.R., Martin, D.W., Villee, C., 1985, Biology, Sanders College Publishing, New York, pp. 446-468.
5. Patterson, C., 1978, Evolution 1st Edition, Butler and Tanner, London, pp. 153-171.
6. Patterson, C., 1999, Evolution 2nd Edition, Comstock Publishing, Ithica, NY, pp. 124-139.
7. Lambert, I.B., Donnelly, T.H., Dunlop, J.S.R., Groves, D.I., 1978, Stable isotope compositions of early Archaean sulphate deposits of probable evaporitic and volcanogenic origins, Nature, 276: 808.
8. Moorbath, S., O’Nions, R.K., Pankurst, R.J., 1973, Early Archaean age for the Isua iron formation, West Greenland, Nature 245:138.
9. Rutten, M.G., 1971, The origin of life by natural causes, Elsevier Publishing, Amsterdam, p. 276.
10. Hough, J.L., 1958, Fresh-water environment of deposition of Precambrian banded iron formations, Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 28:414.
11. Clemmey, H., Badham, N., 1982, Oxygen in the Precambrian atmosphere: An evaluation of the geological evidence, Geology 10: 141-146.

 


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