Earth's earliest life forms may have been discovered

Haematite tubes from approximately four billion years old NSB hydrothermal vent deposits that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth yet discovered. Credit: Matthew Dodd

Editor's note: This evidence is not conclusive, but it is very exciting. Our best theory for the origin of life is that life formed under the sea in hydrothermal vents. See here for more and Google search 'Origin of life hydrothermal vents.

The Earth formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago and if these fossils are verified they could represent one of the 'missing links' between inanimate matter and self replicating life.

Science has never before found anything like these fossils. This could be the final nail that science has to drive into the coffin of Theism. We already know that God did not create the diversity of living species as described in Genesis. Evolution did that. But if God can be proven to have not formed life, the 'God of the gaps' will lose his last remaining hidey hole and Christadelphians will have to reconcile themselves to living in a world without God and a Bible that mostly is only myth, legend and human superstition. 


  1. I don't think it's the last remaining hidey hole for "god of the gaps" believers.

    As soon as you say that life arises naturally according to natural laws or natural processes they just ask where the natural processes came from. And then they think they've got a knock-down argument. But it isn't an argument. It says a lot about how uncomfortable they are with uncertainty.

    I don't find the "god did it" answer any more satisfying than saying it was "magic". It doesn't explain anything. I'd much rather be honest and accept that there are some things we don't know, and may never know. If it's the best we can do, then that's ok with me.

  2. I agree with Steve, and have actually had that "why are natural processes so orderly?" used on me. Plus there's also the alleged fine-tuning of the universe to make it produce life.

    I think there will always be some assumption that must be taken as axiomatic. And if someone wants to label that axiom (or its causes) God I don't really care. Just so long as they recognise that there is no reason to believe that "God" is also the God of the Bible.

    1. The fine-tuning thing is an interesting one, because it suggests a being that had no control over the underlying physics, but rather had to play with specific variables in order to tune things just right. A truly all-powerful god could set those variables to whatever he wanted and still produce anything. In fact it would be far more amazing if the parameters of the universe were such that we shouldn't be here. Otherwise the multiverse hypothesis actually makes more sense (although that is still speculative).

      If this was the only combination that would lead to the current outcome, then that is less evidence for fine-tuning compared to a scenario where the allowed range of values was much wider and yet we found the parameters tuned right on the optimal values. That doesn't look like what we see, unless I'm mistaken. Just like when theists talk about Earth being "just right" for liquid water (i.e. in the "goldilocks zone") - what we actually find is that Earth is actually near the edge of that region, and not in the "ideal" location at all.

      One study I found suggested Earth may actually leave the habitable zone within 2 billion years. That's a long time, but again it casts doubt on any suggestion that this was all set up perfectly on purpose by a meticulous creator.

      Then again, if you read the Bible, it describes a creator that had to constantly intervene to fix things up after they went wrong. A supposedly "all-knowing" deity who seemed constantly surprised by events that occurred. If the biblical god really exists and managed to create a universe like ours, I guess that really would be a miracle.

    2. Your points about fine-tuning are interesting.
      But to me the biggest problem with "fine tuning" is that it seems to be at least partially argument from ignorance. Proponents of fine-tuning say we have X variables, each of which could take a value within some incredibly wide range, and we can only get the right kind of universe for us if those variables have a very narrow range. Why do I say this is an argument from ignorance? Well, we really don't have any idea whether the different variables are independent or not. Maybe they are related in such a way that they will never get the "wrong" values. And maybe those individual variables can't take the wide range alleged. "Assert it and assume we can get away with it" doesn't seem a defensible strategy to me.

      Of course, this kind of argument is also subject to infinite regress. If you postulate a universe generator (e.g. the multiverse), the immediate answer is "Well, the knobs on that universe generator would also have to be finely tuned, right? And that universe generator would have to be designed" And so on...

      I could go on, but ultimately I think it has the same problems as trying to derive the properties of God from a first cause argument. We have enough difficulty trying to observe the properties of the universe we are in. What makes us think that we can then use that and a bit of basic logic to understand realities outside our universe?

    3. //Proponents of fine-tuning say we have X variables, each of which could take a value within some incredibly wide range, and we can only get the right kind of universe for us if those variables have a very narrow range.//

      Most I've heard have no concept of a "range" at all, but just argue "if these values were different, we couldn't exist". Of course, if we couldn't exist we would never have been here to observe it all (anthropic principle). In a multiverse scenario, what we see is exactly what we should expect (although that's not proof - a theist might count "consistency with the model" as "it must therefore be true" but I have a higher standard than that).

      //Well, we really don't have any idea whether the different variables are independent or not. //

      Actually, it does seem that 3 of the 4 fundamental forces may become unified at high energies, and that they became distinct at some moment shortly after the big bang. Don't quote me though.

      The thing that bothers me is that those arguing for fine-tuning typically don't mention "scale" at all. How do we know what scale each value is on? It may be that the allowed range is actually tiny (relative to other variables, say), but that on that miniscule scale the value could move by up to 50% without an issue. Who knows? Like you said, it's an argument from ignorance. We simple don't know enough to say more about it.

      That's why I always say that we should wait until we do understand it, and then we'll be in a better position to answer the question. That means dealing with some uncertainty, but uncertainty is an unavoidable fact of life. There's very little we can be truly certain about.


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