Where to Look for Earth’s First Life

Where to Look for Earth’s First Life

There’s a down side to earthquakes and mudslides far beyond what most people are aware of.  Plate tectonics and erosion are responsible for destroying the fossilized remains of Earth’s first life. While chemical signatures confirm that life was abundant on Earth back to at least 3.8 billion years ago,1 these two forces seem to have wiped out fossils and fossil fragments older than 3.47 billion years—a significant loss.2

Naturalists argue that Earth’s first life was a single species, much simpler than anything seen in the fossil record, from which all life evolved. RTB’s creation model says Earth’s first life likely included multiple species, each about as complex as the simplest life we see today. This sharp contrast in predictions means that finding and analyzing pristine fossils of Earth’s first life could help settle one of the great creation-evolution controversies.

So, where can we find these fossils? Recent studies suggest a possible locale, one that’s reasonably accessible and likely to yield answers: the Moon.

American astronomers John Armstrong, Llyd Wells, and Guillermo Gonzalez determined that between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years ago, meteor bombardment of Earth blasted tons of material into space. The initial calculation (in 2002) indicated that 20,000 kg (about 22 tons) would have landed on each 100-square-km (roughly 38-square-mile) patch of the lunar surface.3 Because the Moon experiences no significant tectonics or erosion, any Earth-life fossils embedded in that material should remain relatively close to the surface.

Armstrong has now produced an enhanced calculation of the transfer of Earth material to the Moon.4 His more-detailed analysis shows that a hundred times more material would have been deposited than his team originally estimated. And, an independent team led by British earth scientist Ian Crawford verified that enough Earth material was delivered at sufficiently low velocity and sufficiently oblique (<45°) trajectories that the transported fossils suffered little or no structural damage.5  

As scientists seeking to test our creation model, RTB scholars are especially eager to see the lunar surface reexplored. With appropriate instruments, researchers can and will, we anticipate, provide valuable evidence pointing to the biblical Creator.

  1. Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, Origins of Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2004), 63–79.
  2. J. William Schopf, “The Oldest Known Records of Life: Early Archean Stromatolites, Microfossils, and Organic Matter,” in Early Life on Earth, Nobel Symposium No. 84, ed. Stefan Bengston (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994): 193–206; Yuichiro Ueno et al., “Early Archean (ca. 3.5 Ga) Microfossils and 13C-Depleted Carbonaceous Matter in the North Pole Area, Western Australia: Field Occurrence and Geochemistry,” in Geochemistry and the Origin of Life, ed. S. Nakashima et al., (Tokyo: Universal Academy Press, 2001): 203–36.
  3. John C. Armstrong, Llyd E. Wells, and Guillermo Gonzalez, “Rummaging through Earth’s Attic for Remains of Ancient Life,” Icarus 160 (November 2002): 183–96.
  4. John Armstrong, “Distribution of Impact Locations and Velocities of Earth Meteorites on the Moon,” Astrobiology 8 (April 1, 2008): 306.
  5. Ian A. Crawford et al., “On the Survivability and Detectability of Terrestrial Meteorites on the Moon,” Astrobiology 8 (April 1, 2008): 242–52.