Theory of Early Oxygenation Undermined
Fossils living in and around newly-discovered methane seeps have cast strong doubt on a leading theory of earth’s climate history.
For a long time, evolutionary geologists have inferred the oxygen levels of ancient oceans by the fossils of marine organisms, particularly foraminifera (forams for short). That inference fed into theories of how life was evolving and how earth’s climate was changing. Now, studies of living forams in and around the seeps shows that forams live both close to the seeps and away from them.
The seeps were discovered to scientists’ surprise last summer (see 8/25/14). PhysOrg reports that the new fossil work by Indiana State was serendipitous, surprising, and monumental. Finding forams has been an index of oxygen levels in the past – so it was thought.
So, finding this species in abundance in both seep and non-seep environments where oxygen is limited was unexpected. Based on their research, Rathburn and Burkett speculate that it’s not the abundance of oxygen that determines where these creatures are located. It may simply be that they’re present where there are hard surfaces on the sea floor for them to live on.
The finding threatens to undo models of past climate change.
Burkett presented her surprise findings this past October to the scientific community at a meeting of the Geologic Society of America in Vancouver, Canada. The response was positive.
“At this meeting, we shocked people with our results,” Rathburn said. “(Our research) will shake up our ideas about how to use these creatures in the interpretation of the environments of the past.“
A lot was built on this index: past climate and evolutionary transitions. Those will now be called into question.
Inferences about past conditions are always indirect, dependent on some “index” that supposedly represents the changing conditions. When the index is shown to be flawed, all the baggage loaded on it comes tumbling down. No doubt, textbooks, TV and science articles will continue to blindly tell their story of when earth’s oxygen surged. It will be like speaking out the window of a collapsed house of cards. Those of us who know this new evidence should speak boldly to the evolutionists, telling them they cannot know past climate or evolution with this evidence; the world is consistent with a recent creation that always had habitable conditions for complex life. We should also speak to the climate alarmists, pointing to this unexpected finding of all these methane seeps as evidence that the future of the climate cannot be known because of the number of unknowns.