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Geoboffins claim to find oldest trace of life in rocks 4bn years old

Title wrong

I think its 3.95 not 3.5 billion years.

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Happy

Re: Title wrong

What's 450 million years between friends?

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Re: Title wrong

"What's 450 million years between friends?"
Kinda sad when you think about it.

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Contratulations to Tashiro et al.

Beginnings of life is not exactly my field but I teach a lecture course which includes the geologic history of the Earth. In the first lecture I always mention the oldest traces of life on the planet (important in the context of when life started influencing geology). Almost each year I need to include even older datings of life traces.

I start teaching next month. I see it's time to update the first lecture, again.

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Re: Contratulations to Tashiro et al.

I teach a lecture course which includes the geologic history of the Earth

So, how do you fell about being a "geoboffin"?

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Coat

Nah!

The oldest traces of life are at the bottom of the giant jar of peanuts behind the bar in my local pub.

I'll get my "cloak of ages".

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Torngat Mountains

Middle of nowhere. Literally. As in, try asking Google for directions.

Amazingly beautiful.

But bring a gun. The locals tend to get hungry.

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Re: Torngat Mountains

Those locals can weigh up to 700kg and have claws to match, so it better be a serious weapon. A pistol will only irritate them. I read about a grizzly attack in California on three men who were all firing into it with colts. I think one of them was killed and the other two mauled, but they finally did kill it.

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Re: "firing into it with colts"

I'm not an expert but I would have thought that firing into it with bullets might have had a more dissuasive effect, after all would you stop attacking someone just to eat some horse meat?

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Re: "firing into it with colts"

Obviously the bear was marely irritated...

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@Uffish -- Re: "firing into it with colts"

A grizzly? Er.. no. All the bullets do is get their attention and piss them off unless you get lucky with a kill shot. Personally, I can't think of too many things worse than pissed off grizzly.

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Re: "firing into it with colts"

I've seen grizzlies in the wild. IMO, any weapon one man can carry unassisted isn't big enough, except maybe an anti-tank rifle.

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Re: Torngat Mountains

Polar bears, not grizzlies

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Ancient life?

Claims of life from carbon isotope ratios seem to be reported regularly: This one from Science suggests 4.1 billion years.

Microscopical traces of bacteria are claimed from 3.5 billion years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

More fake news

Everyone knows that the so-called "science" which claims that fossils can be dated back billions of years is a fraudulent conspiracy to justify the other nonsense claims of self styled scientists who push their unproven theories on innocent people.

Radio-carbon dating is just a theory with no independant evidence to support it, whereas it is a FACT, backed up with written evidence, that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago.

This sort of claim should never be allowed to be published as it clearly contradicts the FACTS as known to all God fearing Americans.

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Alien

Re: More fake news

"This sort of claim should never be allowed to be published as it clearly contradicts the FACTS as known to all God fearing Americans." They don't have anything to fear then :-)

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Anonymous Coward

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Don't. I was doing a bit of supply teaching (in my retirement years) in a primary school last December, where I had to sit in assembly with the kids while the head teacher told them that the world was about 5,000 years old ( counting back from The Birth of Christ). This is not in the backwoods of the USA. It's in North London in a CofE primary school..

AC because professional and wanting to do a bit more supply work - and I like that school, but it's a new head so maybe things will get worse.

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Anonymous Coward

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>It's in North London in a CofE primary school

It's no biggy really - at least 50% of primary school kids still believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny.

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This bible doesn't say the earth is only 6000 years old. When you go into the Hebrew language that Genisis was written in, the language used to talk about the creative days means only a period of time, no indication is given of the length or that each 'day' was the same length. Those 'Christians' who say the earth is only 6000 years old are misinterpreting the bible

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‘Those 'Christians' who say the earth is only 6000 years old are misinterpreting the bible‘

Interesting, I always thought it was because they were as thick as pigshit

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Re: More fake newst

I've generally found that most xians haven't actually read it. One reason they wanted it kept in Latin is because reading it generally stops you believing in god.

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Anonymous Coward

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"Christian, n. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin." - Ambrose Bierce

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Anonymous Coward

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AC Missing the point or just writing nonsense? Head teachers don't normally stand up and explain to the entire school assembly how Santa really exists. Not would that directly contradict the National Curriculm if they did. And the Easter Bunny is largely an American thing, I'm not aware of many kids over the age of about 6 who really belive in either, anyway.

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Re: More fake news

"This bible doesn't say the earth is only 6000 years old."

The ~6000 years figure comes from James Ussher's 'Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world")' which, for its time, was a reasonable bit of research. Apart from the fact that all of his research material consisted of after-the-event fiction and propaganda.

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Didn't he calculate the ages of everyone mentioned in the bible, add them up and come up with 4000 years B.C.?

Odd that the headmaster was in a Church of England primary school, as that church supports evolution, as do the Catholics.

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Re: More fake news

" It's in North London in a CofE primary school."

And to think it was ordained ministers of the Church of England whose studies of geology led to the understanding of the fossil record and the age of the Earth. The CofE has gone from being by far the most progressive Church to an evangelical joke. High time it was disestablished.

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Re: More fake news

"When you go into the Hebrew language that Genisis was written in, the language used to talk about the creative days means only a period of time, no indication is given of the length or that each 'day' was the same length. "

It is a complete category error to refer to the Bible in any way when discussing the age of the Earth.

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"And to think it was ordained ministers of the Church of England whose studies of geology led to the understanding of the fossil record and the age of the Earth. "
Except for them who weren't: Etheldred Benett, Mary Anning, Charlotte Murchison, Mary Buckland... All denied ordination as ministers, university education and membership of The Geological Society.

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Re: More fake news

William Smith, son of a blacksmith, was no minister. He was the one who first conceived of 'index fossils' to date rock strata and used it to map England/Scotland/Wales with all the rock exposures separately coloured. And it wasn't until much later that the Geological Society finally recognized what he'd done.

Al those ministers and non-ministers' achievements had their starting point in Smith's work.

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Re: More fake news

+1 for mention of William Smith.

Recommended read: The Map that changed the World, by Simon Winchester, ISBN 0-140-28039-1

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Anonymous Coward

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"head teacher"

I wonder if there are any statistics on the subjects in which head teachers qualified?

My impression from 50 years ago is that they were generally from Arts rather than Science or Engineering.

Even our state boys Secondary Technical School (STS) seemed to have an Arts headmaster. The nearest he came to science was a few informal sessions to the VIth Form on "The History of Science". That was not part of any examination curriculum. His deputy was definitely technically qualified but never rose higher.

In the 1960s a new examination was introduced as a mandatory extra qualifier for university - "The Use of English". Apparently scientists and engineers needed some additional filtering for university - no matter how good their 'A Level' examination results. We argued there should be an equivalent for Arts pupils to prove they could think logically and be numerate. In fact a diatribe on that proposition formed the core of my essay in that examination - which I passed.

The English 1944 tripartite secondary education system quickly lost its 11+ Technical Schools arm - usually by merging them with the Arts orientated 11+ Grammar Schools. One reason given has been that the STS headmasters*** favoured getting their best students into Oxbridge on Arts subjects - so an STS's emphasis gradually moved away from Engineering and Science.

My STS pal went to Oxbridge to study English - and afterwards he eventually became a headmaster. The school even produced a few quite conservative dog collar clerics - and a bishop. The latter's biography failed to mention he went to a technical school at all.

***It is most unlikely any women were appointed at that time.

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Anonymous Coward

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As a canal surveyor he was well placed to observe the strata through which the enormous canal system was being cut in different parts of the country. He then spotted similarities.

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Re: More fake news

"It is a complete category error to refer to the Bible in any way when discussing the age of the Earth."
So how would you address the issue of the long debate over catastrophism versus uniformitarianism? Or are you advocating that no teaching of the history of geology take place?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More fake news

>AC Missing the point or just writing nonsense?

Neither, just pointing out that we routinely tell children absolute bollocks at Primary School age and it doesn't matter. Most people in the UK are secular despite a very Christian primary schooling.

>Head teachers don't normally stand up and explain to the entire school assembly how Santa really exists.

They often introduce him personally during a special assembly - you can also follow his progress on Xmas Eve on the evening news from BBC and others.

>Easter Bunny is largely an American thing

German thing actually and still quite popular in the UK, though less than it once was.

>I'm not aware of many kids over the age of about 6 who really belive in either

Well then, that settles it.

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Life on Earth, Santa and the Easter Bunny

Those of use who can count our years in decades need to remember how those small humans who cannot comprehend time : they can't, and don't. Whether it is X thousand or X m/billion years it is an unimaginably bleeding long time when you have only a handful under your belt.

And again, those of us who can, don't pretend we comprehend either. A few m/billion is an unimaginably ******g long time even though the multiple of our own lives it represents is much much smaller.

So the problem is not the duration it is the preaching of creationism.

I was not intending to present this as a diatribe ....... but .....cannot ....... resist ..... :

Water into wine anyone?

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Re: More fake news

">Easter Bunny is largely an American thing

German thing actually and still quite popular in the UK, though less than it once was."

The Merkin Easter "bunny" is a rabbit; the German Easter "bunny" is a hare.

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Re: Life on Earth, Santa and the Easter Bunny

"Water into wine anyone?"
I can turn pay-cheques into wine. Will that do?

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Anonymous Coward

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Catholic-educated guy here. I realised pretty early on that in all the church readings, chatechism lectures and school religion lectures, they only kept repeating a very small select set of verses. Everything else was either not mentioned at all or paraphrased in apocryphal stories.

When I decided to read the bible for myself, it took me a couple of pages of Genesis to realise that (a) it was actually 2 or 3 different stories mulched together seemingly at random and (b) from the word go, it was full of inconsistencies both internally and compared to the child-friendly short versions.

I gave it up as a waste of time, and completely nuts. Since then, I have realised how actually it's not nuts at all. It's (a) highly dangerous. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, bad ideas are poisonous to the brain and (b) just like any other sect (and really, there's no substantive difference between sect and organised religion), the guys* at the top probably know it's bollocks but it's useful to them and their mates that the proles keep believing.

Here's what a distillate of the best parts of religion** would come down to:

"Don't behave like an arsehole. Be nice"

*and it's invariably guys

**there are actually SOME excellent nuggets of wisom hidden under the bullshit

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Anonymous Coward

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well dendrochronology is as good as independent evidence and can go back 12-13000 years

Its not as unreliable as human written evidence that may not have been using the same standards of accuracy we demand today...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More fake news

I don't think he was/is in the normal run of church school teachers. Just in a position of influence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Life on Earth, Santa and the Easter Bunny

So the problem is not the duration it is the preaching of creationism.

Yes, precisely.

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Re: More fake news

well dendrochronology is as good as independent evidence and can go back 12-13000 years

It's not as unreliable as human written evidence that may not have been using the same standards of accuracy we demand today...

Just to play devil's advocate here, dendrochronology cannot help with dates in the "billions of years" category that this article is talking about.

And actually, the science of dendrochronology is based very much on assumptions made by humans, so the standards of accuracy are not exemplary, by any means.

At the end of the day, dendrochronological evidence is not based on a primary source for dates older than 1000 years or so, and is merely extrapolated from more recent samples.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More fake news

I can read the Hebrew and what you're saying is nonsense. The Jewish new year just came and went, and the year? 5778 according to the people who own and have preserved the language and the scriptures we're critiquing.

The 'day age' theory has a very fundamental issue which is apparent if a little attention is paid when reading the text. Plants and vegetation existing a 'day age' before the creation of the sun, moon and stars... Good luck with that one.

As regards the scientific reasoning behind the >= 5.55 billion years, it's based on radiometric dating of meteorites from outer space, and assumes that the quantity of daughter element in samples and a consistent decay rate. Now since it is impossible to know these two properties it is entirely reasonable that these conclusions are incorrect by any order of magnitude. As usually happens with radiometric dating of 'very old' things the results with different methods are erratic and the presumed correct age is picked.

As for neo-darwinism, it has been debunked by the absence of evidence in the fossil record, the abrupt appearance of most basic lifeforms in the pre-cambrian, and modern genetics which makes the grand tree of life of common ancestry a fantasy, as was admitted by Craig Venter recently.

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"it took me a couple of pages of Genesis to realise that (a) it was actually 2 or 3 different stories mulched together seemingly at random and (b) from the word go, it was full of inconsistencies both internally and compared to the child-friendly short versions."

You are right, but there was a reason for it. Above I referred to involving the Bible in the age of the Earth as a category error, which clearly upset some people, and (as usual ) Pompous Git tried to confuse the issue - by referring to 19th century debates which took place in an environment in which the modern understanding of the Bible didn't exist. I suggest he tries reading Stephen Jay Gould's books.

To understand what is going on in Genesis/Bereshit, you have to free yourself of modern thinking - and by "modern" I mean post the invention of history. History as we now understand it was not an obvious idea. Chroniclers recorded what kings wanted said about them. The classic Biblical example is the Book of Kings, which records the doings of often very unimportant kings who were, however, Yahwists, while mentioning the very successful Omrid dynasty only at its very end when the Yahwists defeated Ahab and Jezebel. The job of Kings was to reveal how Yah'veh supported the kings who acknowledged him, not to provide a balanced view of history.

But now go back still further and think of nomads, in some ways like present day Native Australians, sitting under the stars round the fire and listening to the tribal stories. There's the one about the creation of the world by the Elohim. There's the one (which may be a mythicised account of the drying out of the Middle East) about Adam and Eve being driven out of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and being forced into agriculture. There's the one about the Flood, picked up from a Babylonian traveller. There's the one about how the Watchers had sex with human women who gave birth to giants, which explains all the fossil bones that turn up from time to time. There's the one about the unceasing battle between nomads and farmers, and how the nomads are smart but have to wander (Cain and Abel). And there's the one about how our tribe came to be the best (Abraham). No-one takes them literally; they are myths, important stories about how things are. Kipling wrote a modern version in the Just So Stories.

Then around 600BC the Hebrew religion is turning into a codifed version. The literati collect all the myths and decide that they must be true accounts with a few verbal inconsistencies. So they try to tidy them up into an organised whole. And the result is Bereshit*. Monotheism has happened, but we can't lose the important word Elohim so we write "the Elohim created the Heavens and the Earth" (Bereshit ba'ra Elohim...") but with a singular verb." and so on.

The result is that stories which would not have been taken as literally true by nomads in 2000BC become regarded as a science textbook.

*You can read that as Hebrew or you can Grimm sound-shift the B to a V and read it aloud, I don't care.

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Re: More fake news

"So how would you address the issue of the long debate over catastrophism versus uniformitarianism? Or are you advocating that no teaching of the history of geology take place?"

Simple; it was a category error to involve the Bible but at the time it was not recognised by many people in the West that Torah was not a science textbook.

Category error means that something is being used in subject A which properly belongs in subject B. So to use a book of mythology for science is a category error. To confuse science with history of science is also a category error. Phlogiston belongs in history of science but we don't use it to explain the reaction of magnesium with the air. The attempt to reconcile Bereshit with biology is an event in history of science and religion. It is not part of the sciences of geology or biology which, as Laplace observed in a different context, n'ont pas besoin de cette hypothese.

PS: I know from your past posts that you just stir for amusement.

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Re: More fake news

> The Jewish new year just came and went, and the year? 5778 according to the people who own and have preserved the language and the scriptures we're critiquing.

That dating mechanism was invented in 1178 CE by Maimonides. It has no more significance than Bishop Usher's pronouncements.

"""In 1178 CE, Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah, Sanctification of the Moon (11.16), that he had chosen the epoch from which calculations of all dates should be as "the third day of Nisan in this present year ... which is the year 4938 of the creation of the world" (March 22, 1178)."""

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Anonymous Coward

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> There's the one about the creation of the world by the Elohim.

Elohim is a plural word. El was the head of the Canaanite pantheon. In my view most 'gods' are kings, warlords, pharaohs, or other human tribal leaders that have been deified, as indeed they have been in more recent times. In this case El was the Canaanite 'emperor' and Elohim refers to the 'family of El', ie the sons and princes of El. Various other localised deities were named as Ba'al or Bael which may well be translated as 'Prince of El' and these were in local principalities.

The early part of Genesis refers to Elohim. Jhwh only comes later. Perhaps this indicates that Jhwh was a tribal warlord, perhaps even a prince of El, that seceded from the empire with the help of the hebrew tribes.

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Re: More fake news

"Simple; it was a category error to involve the Bible but at the time it was not recognised by many people in the West that Torah was not a science textbook."
Really? Back in the 5th C, Augustine of Hippo, that eminent Church Father held that when a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason, the Biblical text must be interpreted metaphorically. While Scripture has a literal sense, this "literal sense" does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor. [De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [408], De Genesi ad literam, 2:9].

I think you will find that this has been Official Church Doctrine for more than 1500 years. The concept of biblical literalism is a modern conceit.

"To confuse science with history of science is also a category error."
I think we can level this accusation at the Uniformitarians. They insisted that because Noah's Flood was a story in the Bible, therefore there could never have been such catastrophes in the past. This somewhat bizarre belief led to J Harlen Bretz's work on the Spokane Floods* being dismissed by the establishment when he first published in 1923. He wasn't vindicated until he was awarded the Penrose Medal (the Geological Society of America's highest award) in 1979, at the age of 96. He told his son: "All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over."

* JT Pardee assisted Bretz in his research, but his employer (USGS) forbade him publicly supporting Bretz's theory. Pardee estimated that flood waters in excess of 45 miles per hour were required to roll the largest of the boulders moved by the Spokane Flood. The water flow was nine cubic miles per hour, more than the combined flow of every river in the world. Current estimates place the flow at ten times the flow of all current rivers combined.

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"and (as usual ) Pompous Git tried to confuse the issue - by referring to 19th century debates which took place in an environment in which the modern understanding of the Bible didn't exist. I suggest he tries reading Stephen Jay Gould's books."
I suggest that you stick to facts, rather than supposition. The most represented author in my extensive book collection is Stephen Jay Gould and I have read all of them. Your "modern understanding of the Bible" would appear to be at odds with considerably more than a thousand years of Official Church Doctrine. I suggest you consult with the Papacy before altering it.

I also suggest you read Phil Dowe's Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: The Interplay of Science, Reason, and Religion ISBN-13: 978-0802826961.

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Re: More fake news

"Really? Back in the 5th C, Augustine of Hippo, that eminent Church Father held that when a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason, the Biblical text must be interpreted metaphorically."

I was being mildly ironic but yes, I too had to read Augustine as part of my degree. You have not cited him correctly though, because you wrote "contradicts science", and at the time what we call science today did not really exist. Augustine's get-out clause is actually that we, as mere human beings, are too limited to understand what the author of the Bible truly had in mind. If we cannot make the Bible agree with our understanding of the world, then the fault is in us and we must adopt a metaphorical interpretation to compensate for our limited understanding. But Augustine affirms the truth of Scripture and its creation by the Holy Spirit. The intellectual world in which he is functioning is very different from that of, I suspect, anybody today other than a limited number of Catholic theologians.

In simplified terms he's saying that if we can't understand the physics textbook because it's too difficult, rather than say it is wrong we have to say that we need to try to understand it by analogies.

The Protestant error is different, interestingly so. The Protestants believed that God would not have made the Bible too hard to understand, therefore it had to be literally true in a way that an educated man could follow. Otherwise, of course, the Catholic view that the laity could not interpret Scripture would be correct, whereas the Protestants argued that the opposite was the case.

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