- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Little is know about the origins of life on Earth. Most scientists believe this event occurred some time within a billion years after the Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago (Ga). It is also possible that the Earth was “seeded” by life transported here by another body like a meteorite or by extra-terrestrials. Most scientists in this field assume that life originated on Earth or in our solar system because there would be little data on which to base a proposal for the origin of life at a location outside our solar system. As it is we have a very rudimentary knowledge of the environments on the primitive Earth in the first billion years on our planet. Some relevant books and reviews include Brack (1998), Fry (2000), Zubay (2000), Orgel (2004), and Ferris (2005).
Ten years ago it appeared that we had made good progress on understanding about when life arose and what the environmental conditions on the Earth were at that time. Carbon isotope studies on rocks present on the Earth 3.8 Ga suggested life arose in or slightly after that time period (Mojizsis et al. 1996). In addition, microfossils found in rocks dated to be 3.5 Ga suggested were consistent with the presence of life 3.5 Ga (Schopf 1993). These data have been challenged recently (Brasier et al. 2002) so it is not certain the proposed microfossils were originally living organisms. Also the carbon isotope studies have been challenged (Moorbath 2005). But new and entirely different findings suggest that that the Earth had liquid water and an environment suitable for life 4.3 Ga. (Watson and Harrison 2005). In addition it has been proposed that the early Earth had an atmosphere with a mixing ratio of hydrogen of 0.3 (Tian et al. 2005). This …