Origin of Life Vents Age Problem

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Origin of life vents may be thousands, not billions of years old, according to report in BBC news 28 October 2003 and Nature Science Update, 30 Oct 2003. Two American geologists have studied ironstone pods from the Barberton greenstone belt in South Africa, which were believed to have been formed by hydrothermal vents in the Archean period over 3 billion years ago. The pods contain complex organic chemicals which are believed to have evolved into living cells around volcanic vents on the sea floor but Donald Lowe of Stanford University and his colleague Gary Byerly of Louisiana State University claim the pods were formed within the last 10,000 years and have nothing to do with the origin of life. Their research shows the pods contain a lot of Goethite, an iron oxide mineral that breaks down at temperatures over 80 degrees Celsius. If they were part of a hyrdrothermal vent, they would have been exposed to much higher temperatures and Goethite could not have been present. The rocks are also full of holes and caverns "which would have not survived 3.5 billion years of geological slings and arrows."

Many Researchers believe that seafloor vents once dominated the earth’s early oceans and gave rise to life, but Lowe and Byerly claim the early oceans were similar to present day oceans. Paul Knauth of Arizona State University, who has used the previously estimated age of the pods to calculate the salinity of ancient oceans, now agrees with Lowe and Bryerly after visiting the site. He commented "I was flabbergasted. It’s obvious if you look at these things that they’re very recent."

Editorial Comment: The fact that remains of hydrothermal vents contain organic molecules is no proof that life arose in them, no matter how old (or young) they are. Hyrdothermal vents exist today and are inhabited by micro-organisms, but that simply proves some micro-organisms can live in the harsh environment surrounding the vents. Lowe and Brierly are also right about early oceans being similar to present day oceans. Two days after God created the first ocean (Genesis 1:9), Genesis records He created living sea creatures, including fish, reptiles and mammals, to live in it and reproduce after their kind. Therefore, the first ocean had to provide an environment similar to today’s oceans that sustains direct descendants of those first living creatures. (Ref. hydrothermal, vents, ocean)