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Earth's early atmosphere had abundant oxygen (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Earth's early atmosphere had abundant oxygen (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CB035.1:

Free oxygen is fatal to abiogenesis scenarios such as those that Stanley Miller experimented with. Evidence indicates that the early earth had significant oxygen.

Source: Ankerberg, John, Steve Austin, Duane Gish and Kurt Wise. 1990. The creation debate: oxygen -- the deathblow to life?

CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. There is a variety of evidence that the early atmosphere did not have significant oxygen.

  • Banded iron formations are layers of hematite (Fe2O3) and other iron oxides deposited in the ocean 2.5 to 1.8 billion years ago. The conventional interpretation is that oxygen was introduced into the atmosphere for the first time in significant quantities beginning about 2.5 billion years ago when photosynthesis evolved. This caused the free iron dissolved in the ocean water to oxidize and precipitate. Thus, the banded iron formations mark the transition from an early earth with little free oxygen and much dissolved iron in water to present conditions with lots of free oxygen and little dissolved iron.
  • In rocks older than the banded iron formations, uranite and pyrite exist as detrital grains, or sedimentary grains that were rolling around in stream beds and beaches. These minerals are not stable for long periods in the present high-oxygen conditions.
  • "Red beds," which are terrestrial sediments with lots of iron oxides, need an oxygen atmosphere to form. They are not found in rocks older than about 2.3 billion years, but they become increasingly common afterward.
  • Sulfur isotope signatures of ancient sediments show that oxidative weathering was very low 2.4 billion years ago (Farquhar et al. 2000).

The dominant scientific view is that the early atmosphere had 0.1 percent oxygen or less.

Talk Origins is ignoring the abundant presence of oxygen in the same rocks, which is the basis of the claim; therefore it remains unrefuted. The abundant presence of oxygen in the rocks suggests that they formed rapidly in an oxygen rich atmosphere, as opposed to slowly in oxygen poor atmosphere as thought by Evolutionists.

In 2002, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation claimed they found evidence of the presence of atmospheric oxygen in rocks 2.7 to 3.5 billion years old. [1]

2. Free oxygen in the atmosphere today is mainly the result of photosynthesis. Before photosynthetic plants and bacteria appeared, we would expect little oxygen in the atmosphere for lack of a source. The oldest fossils (over a billion years older than the transition to an oxygen atmosphere) were bacteria; we do not find fossils of fish, clams, or other organisms that need oxygen in the oldest sediments.

Another way of looking at this, is that bacteria can get through small cracks and pores in rocks that fish, clams, and other organisms cannot penetrate, so it is no surprise to find only fossil bacteria in deep rock.

This is an excellent example of how the theoretical system being used affects the interpretation of data.

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