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Troublesome Underwater Volcanoes

on September 1, 2007
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ScienceNOW: “Breathing Space for Oxygen

A new “story” related to the evolution of complex life on earth has been proposed by geoscientists Lee Kump of Pennsylvania State University and Mark Barley of the University of Western Australia, reports ScienceNOW Daily News. The duo, whose research was published in this week’s issue of Nature, outlines how the underwater volcanoes’ spewing of oxygen-consuming gases could have doomed the evolution of complex life until the volcanoes rose above sea level. (Underwater eruptions are cooler; they release relatively higher measures of oxygen-consuming hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide.)

...spewing of oxygen-consuming gases could have doomed the evolution of complex life...

The researchers have tied this volcanic shift with a hypothesized atmospheric change an alleged 2.5 billion years ago that is said to have allowed life to flourish. The oxygen production has been credited to cyanobacteria. The new twist is that the cyanobacteria’s oxygen output was consumed by the products of the underwater volcanoes.

The new hypothesis does a nice job of explaining what was previously an unanswered question in evolutionary history. However, there is no specific geological support to the “rising of the volcanoes,” and the date of 2.5 billion years for the oxygenation of earth’s atmosphere is based on radiometric dating methods that are based on the presupposition of uniformitarianism.

Ultimately, of course, these hypotheses suffer from their fatal assumption (or that of their progenitors) that oxygen plus time equals complex life. But as we know from origin of life studies as well as our observations of life’s complexity, life takes more than organic ingredients and time.



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