December 21, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Evaluating Claims of Oldest Fossil Microbes

Are these fossils 3.465 billion years old? Are they even fossils? Serious questions need to be asked when the news gets excited about world records for oldest life on Earth.

Credit: William Schopf, UCLA.

Dr William Schopf has made a career out of looking for the oldest microfossils on Earth. We saw him making other evolutionists worry about extreme stasis that must have been true for some of his fossils, given the dates (6/30/15). Earlier that year, he mumbled and fumbled about the need to explain the lack of evolution in his fossils (2/04/15). He decided that if organisms stay the same, evolution is true, or if they evolve quickly, then evolution is true—a retreat into the Stuff Happens Law. Last year, he reported remains of proteins from Precambrian rocks in the Gunflint Chert in Canada (6/21/16). Now, he is reporting the world’s oldest microfossils at 3.465 billion years old from the Apex Chert in Australia (Science Daily). Apparently Darwin Years, constructed as they are out of silly putty, can be specified to four significant figures.

Fake life form in Martian rock ALH 84001, reported in 1996, that launched the ‘science’ of astrobiology.

The most convincing of five ‘species’ of Archaean microbes Schopf claims can be seen in these rocks looks like a chain of filamentous algae. Readers should remember, however, the flap about the Mars rock that launched the ‘science’ of astrobiology in 1996. At first glance, it was obvious to casual observers that the structures advertised as Martian microbes by David McKay were lifeforms. They appeared segmented, and stood out from the surrounding rock matrix. Years of more detailed study, however, led most investigators to rule out life as an explanation (Space.com). Astrobiology, however, survived this undermining of its raison d’être and still goes on strong today. The NASA Astrobiology Institute, in fact, that had celebrated the Martian meteorite to a widely-publicized press conference funded this latest research by Schopf’s team.

Crowley Lake volcanic pillars, by David Coppedge

Superficial appearance is not enough to establish life as the cause of a structure. Some crystals can mimic leaves, feathers, and columns. These pillars at Crowley Lake were formed geologically by escaping gases in volcanic tuff. Though orders of magnitude larger than Schopf’s microfossils, they show a similar segmented growth pattern explainable by inorganic processes.

To establish the biogenicity of these alleged fossils, Schopf would need to provide some evidence that life and only life could construct them. This, he believes, he has done. His team used secondary ion mass spectroscopy, or SIMS, which reveals the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 isotopes in the sample. His team’s paper in PNAS argues that the carbon isotope ratio ‘confirms’ the biogenicity of the samples, which previously had only been inferred from morphology (i.e., shape). Live Science quotes his colleague John W. Valley saying that the carbon ratios are “characteristic of biology and metabolic function.” That may be, but have they proved that life is the only cause of these ratios? In the Mars rock, similar claims were made about magnetite in the structures.

Having convinced themselves that the structures are microbes, Schopf and team made further inferences that the Archaean species represented photosynthetic organisms, microbes that produced methane, and microbes that metabolized methane. Even using their own assumptions, however, two difficulties arise from this argument. One is that the earth changed chemically, in their view, since the fossils were made. Another is that the microbes (if that is what they were) represent extinct forms that are not available for study. Their conclusion is based on a chain of five inferences, most of them based on belief in evolution.

But if these are really lifeforms, evolutionists get hit with two ramifications that recoil against their Darwinian assumptions. One is that the microbes appear complex and fully formed soon after the Earth had cooled. If these were photosynthesizers and methanogens, how did they learn those incredibly complex processes so early? The other ramification concerns stasis, as reported on 6/13/15. Creatures this old should have evolved significantly over billions of years, yet they look surprisingly familiar.

For fun, let’s re-quote our commentary from 2/04/15 about incredible stasis in another one of Schopf’s alleged microfossils, this one a sulfur-eating critter from Australia 1.8 million Darwin Years old that they said looks “indistinguishable from modern sulfur bacteria.” Substitute sulfur for methane and you get the same problem:

Think how stupid this excuse is. These bacteria must have replicated uncountable times in 2 billion Darwin years. Surely, if mutation and selection could turn a cow into a whale in 9 million years with very long gestational periods and small populations, there must have been incredibly numerous opportunities for these bacteria to mutate and find better ways to eat sulfur: cook up some sulfur pancakes, or sulfur souffle, maybe some sulfur chili. Some of the bacteria could have grown arms and legs and big brains, and become entrepreneurs, setting up sulfur restaurants and sulfur supermarkets. Others might have designed theme parks with sulfur cotton candy. If Darwin’s theory were true, they could have organized sulfur governments in just a tenth the time it took everything else to evolve.

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