Sunday, February 21, 2010

Refreshing Objectivity

"No one has publicly disagreed with my interpretation of the Apex fossils. But privately, some would prefer I were mistaken, since they (and I, too) would prefer a simpler evolutionary story, one that told us these oldest fossil organisms were capable only of primitive ways of living and that advanced metabolic lifestyles evolved much later. But the evidence seems strong, and what one might 'prefer' shouldn’t matter." J. William Schopf, The Cradle of Life

William Schopf is a professor of paleontology at UCLA. About 15 years ago Schopf and his team found microfossils (now known as the Apex fossils) in the Pilbara Supergroup (the oldest rocks structures on earth) and they have turned out to be the oldest fossils for life on earth. This discovery created a problem for naturalistic evolution, as Schopf expresses above. The reason his discovery was such a problem is that it seemed to show that life appeared suddenly on earth and very complex (as complex as the simple life on the planet today). There in lies the problem because from a naturalistic evolutionary perspective that cannot be the case.

Over the past 15 years Schopf's discovery has been debated heavily amongst origins of life researchers. The hottest opposition was brought against Schopf and his team by a UK team of biologists led by Martin Brasier, a professor of palaeobiology at Oxford. From about 2001 to 2003 Brasier debated with Schopf and attempted to prove that what Schopf and his team found was only the result of unusual chemical processes. The debate was eventually won by Schopf when two other independent teams confirmed his findings.

While the debate over the biological origins of these fossils ended there has been continued debate over their complexity until now. Recently a paper (written by an interdisciplinary team from Australia and Japan) was publish in the journal Astrobiology that has caused further troubles for naturalistic evolution because it reveals the complexity of these fossils. This team used a new 3D image reconstruction technique to analyze the fossils from the Pilbara Supergroup. This new technique allowed them to see that these fossils were much bigger and Schopf's team had thought--about 15 microns which is the size of human cells and much bigger than the simple bacteria that exists today (simple bacteria today measure about 1 micron). They also discovered that these organisms were highly complex with double-membraned cell walls, spheroids contained in the membranes that look like cell nuclei, and "flange-like" appendages that were constant in shape, proportion, and dimension (possibly flagellum like many current bacteria have).

All this is to say that I appreciate Schopf's honesty and objectivity about his discoveries. The evidence in his discovery and recent discoveries shows that the earth's earliest life was highly complex with internal structure, complex membranes, and appendages. It is evidence that is not compatible with naturalistic evolution but is what one would expect from a Creator. He would have preferred the story be different because it cannot be reckoned with naturalistic evolutionary models, but he would not hide behind what he wished to be true. He shows refreshing objectivity that is sadly lacking in many current scientists.

By His Grace,

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