Earth Water Was Always Here
A new theory for the origin of Earth’s oceans tries to make a splash again. This one says the Earth has always been wet.
At Washington University in St. Louis, a young Darwin Party inductee (that is, postdoc) is trying to make a name for himself. He’s tackling a longstanding problem for secular materialists: how did Earth become the only planet with surface oceans? This is a big problem for evolutionists, because without an answer, Darwin’s warm little pond evaporates into myth. Jews and Christians who trust Genesis don’t have a water problem, because Genesis 1:3 says that the Spirit of God (the intelligent Designer who “created the heavens and the Earth”) was brooding over the face of the waters. The water was already there when the Earth was created.
Evolutionists know, however, that they can’t expect that in their story of a fiery birth of the Earth. If Earth as one of the rocky planets formed inside the “frost line” it would not have started with any water at all. Its surface, oozing hot lava, would take millions of years to cool down enough for water to exist. And even if it did, any water would have been blown away later when Theia (the mythical impactor that formed the Moon) blasted the Earth again.
This conundrum has led to various observation-free proposals about impactors that might have brought water to the Earth by special delivery, giving our planet a “late veneer” of water after the moon formed and the planet had cooled sufficiently once again. CEH has reported on these “water balloon” theories over the years, showing how they create more problems than they solve:
- Comets have problems (3 Nov 2009, 11 Oct 2011, 11 Dec 2014, 20 March 2017). This theory is basically dead in the water.
- Meteors have problems (26 Jan 2017, 28 April 2018). Water bullets would not keep the water around.
- Asteroids have problems (23 July 2012). This was only a fleeting suggestion because nothing else works.
- Volcanoes have problems (20 March 2017), requiring a delicate balance. “We can only speculate,” a proponent says.
Such theories never land on an answer, but keep coming because they give secular scientists story lines to tinker with. It’s another example of “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on Darwin’s Titanic” (26 Aug 2020). It gives storytellers job security because they never have to be right, but just busy. Scientific materialism cannot be wrong if it is the only permissible philosophy in town. The story goes on.
Divination with Dry Rocks
Now, the young inductee at WUSTL, Lionel Vacher, shows he can do divination with the best of them. He is suggesting that dry meteorites gave the Earth its water right from the start. His proposed theory rescuers, called enstatite meteorites, are very dry in his hands, but water sprang out of them like fountains according to his dream. The Earth, you see, was formed with large quantities of these kinds of nearby meteorites. They only account for about 2% of meteorites. Other scientists have dismissed enstatite chondrites, arguing that they formed close to the sun and must be dry. Vacher, however has found the magic element in them: hydrogen! Moreover, the deuterium to hydrogen ratio (D/H) is a bit closer to Earth’s ratio in mantle rocks than that in comets, reducing one of the criticisms of the comet water balloon theory. Some of the other isotopes also appear similar to those on Earth.
“If enstatite chondrites were effectively the building blocks of our planet — as strongly suggested by their similar isotopic compositions — this result implies that these types of chondrites supplied enough water to Earth to explain the origin of Earth’s water, which is amazing!” Vacher said.
Watch that big ‘If’. The hydrogen comes in the form of hydrated minerals like pyroxenes, not free hydrogen, which obviously would have escaped to space. Vacher calls the hydrogen in these minerals “water equivalents” – assuming that somehow the hydrogen could escape the minerals and be combined with oxygen later to form the familiar H2O. The chain of reasoning goes like this:
If enstatite chondrites were building blocks of the Earth,
If there were enough of them,
If they stayed dry till the Earth cooled down,
If they got released at the right time from the minerals that contained them,
If there was enough of the hydrogen near the crust,
If the hydrogen combined with oxygen before it escaped to space,
Then there might have been enough “water equivalents” to explain the Earth’s oceans.
Vacher and some members of his band, including his Piani player, published a paper in Science Magazine with their idea.1 The peer reviewers were apparently so glad to have a new theory that they overlooked all the auxiliary hypotheses and assumptions and let it through anyway. In the same issue of Science, Keith T. Smith gives it an uncritical paragraph about “An unexpected source of Earth’s water”— but watch out for the “could” word.
The abundances of Earth’s chemical elements and their isotopic ratios can indicate which materials formed Earth. Enstatite chondrite (EC) meteorites provide a good isotopic match for many elements but are expected to contain no water because they formed in the hot inner Solar System. This would require Earth’s water to be from a different source, such as comets. Piani et al. measured hydrogen contents and deuterium/hydrogen ratios (D/H) in 13 EC meteorites (see the Perspective by Peslier). They found far more hydrogen than is commonly assumed, with D/H close to that of Earth’s mantle. Combining these data with cosmochemical models, they show that most of Earth’s water could have formed from hydrogen delivered by EC meteorites.
And so the scientists breathe a sigh of relief. No water balloons were needed. “The Earth may have always been wet” like Genesis says… but NOT like Genesis says! This is, after all, written by secular materialists who don’t allow for God to hover over their kind of water, which takes millions of years to work its way out of dry rocks. Funny thing; there’s a lot more hydrogen locked into other minerals in the mantle and crust that stay put and don’t make oceans. One can always tweak the assumptions to get the story to match the present situation.
- Piani et al., “Earth’s water may have been inherited from material similar to enstatite chondrite meteorites.” Science 28 Aug 2020: Vol. 369, Issue 6507, pp. 1110-1113. DOI: 10.1126/science.aba1948.
The deck chairs now rearranged as before, everyone applauds. Vacher continues his vision quest for full membership in the Darwin Party with its valuable D-Merit Badge.
One problem. In the same issue of Science, Ann Peslier in her commentary “The origins of water,” first reminds everyone of the longstanding puzzle about Earth’s oceans:
Our blue planet having water seems such a simple and obvious fact that the question of why Earth has water at all feels like a trivial one. However, the origin of this key ingredient for life has remained a long-standing topic of debate. According to models of Solar System formation, Earth, as an inner Solar System planet, should have little to no water. On page 1110 of this issue, Piani et al. analyze enstatite chondrite meteorites, a material similar to Earth’s main building blocks, and address the origins of Earth’s water.
Peslier seems to be the only one noticing some issues with the theory. She’s glad that Vacher’s idea “relaxes the challenging requirement of bringing water to Earth from farther away from the Sun,” but there are some timing issues:
Piani et al.’s observations do not provide any constraints on timing for the incorporation of water into Earth. Early incorporation during accretion could be irrelevant if most water degassed during early events in the planet’s history. Formation of magma oceans and intense asteroid bombardment would both cause water to be lost to space. Alternatively, enstatite chondrite–like material could have been incorporated into Earth after accretion. After Earth’s accretion, it appears that water was added to its oceans and atmosphere (not its interior), with contributions from comets and carbonaceous chondrite–like material. Nevertheless, the authors’ work brings a crucial and elegant element to this puzzle. Earth’s water may simply have come from the nebular material from which the planet accreted.
It “may simply have come” that way. Maybe not. Anyway, it’s an elegant puzzle piece to look at. Put it out there on the gym floor. Later, someone can see if it fits with other pieces. (See “How Not to Work a Puzzle” in the 5 Feb 2013 commentary. Genesis 1 is the box top picture that evolutionists set aside as irrelevant.)