IBRI Research Report #54 (2004)
Implications for the Genesis One Account of Creation
Clifford M. Marsh
Copyright © 2004 by Clifford M. Marsh. All rights reserved.
|Although geological evidence for green vegetation in the
period is rare it does exist unequivocally in the form of anthracite,
which is derived only from such vegetation. This indicates that green
vegetation was present on the Earth's surface during this geological
period. Other pre-Cambrian carbon deposits are also critically
discussed. Some possible types of pre-Cambrian green vegetation are
then described and the whole linked with the Genesis one account.
|Although the author is in agreement with the doctrinal
IBRI, it does not follow that all of the viewpoints espoused in this
represent official positions of IBRI. Since one of the purposes of the
IBRI report series is to serve as a preprint forum, it is possible that
the author has revised some aspects of this work since it was first
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
|Dr. Clifford M.
Marsh is a former associate professor of chemistry at the
University of South Africa with a PhD in Materials
Chemistry, and a number of publications in this field and in the
Analytical Chemistry of complex bituminous materials. He is
currently studying for a ThD (apologetics) with Trinity
Seminary, Cochin, India, and a diploma in Earth Science
with the Open University, UK. His current research
interests include the Biblical accounts of creation and the philosophy
Implications for the Genesis One Account of Creation
In nature carbon is found, in its elemental form, as
and diamond. An impure form of natural carbon is anthracite, which
also contain oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and a few other elements that
are found in organic matter.
Cambrian rocks mark the first
of animal fossils, the start of the phanerozoic (= visible animals)
graphite and anthracite deposits are found in
pre-Cambrian rocks (1, 2). The graphite, it is
said, might be, in part, derived from coal deposits;
anthracite would be a derivative of a
coal deposit and therefore a clear signature of
fossilised organic remains.
This paper will take a look at this subject and at
possible implications for our understanding of the historical geology
of this period with respect to the Genesis account. The subject is not
new; discussion of possible pre-Cambrian plant life on land was
going on over 100 years ago! ( 3).
The period of maximum continent formation was
probably about 2.5-3.0
billion years ago. Persistent land crust appeared as
early as 3.8 billion years ago (4).
The main parallel to this is in Genesis 1, in the
creation period; the land first appeared then vegetation on the land.
The Hebrew word used for vegetation, is 'deshe' which can mean (tender)
grass, (tender)herb, or simply 'green', with reference to
vegetation (5) . This is the first mention of any form of organic
material and of life as such.
It is taken for granted by many scientists
that life began in the sea as blue-green algae (6); however
there is no mention of this in Genesis 1, although it is accepted that
Genesis 1 is a summary of the creation story so this possibility is not
precluded. Others consider that life began around deep sea
vents, or volcanic vents on land.
There is now increasing evidence for the existence
of land vegetation in the pre-Cambrian period; this period would
correspond with the third period of the Genesis creation story.
Complementary evidence suggests that the early atmosphere may have
contained more oxygen than has been thought, (7,8); this
could be an indication, in part, of very early photosynthesis, which produces oxygen as a
Oxygen build-up in the atmosphere is currently dated at about 1.9-2.2
billion years ago (9); this indicates that photosynthesis was probably
place. The earliest current suggested date for
photosynthesis is about 2.7 billion years ago (10,11) although
photosynthesis might have taken place as early as 3.6 billion
years ago, however this data is still controversial (10).
Non-photosynthetic life forms may be older. The origins of much
archaean rock land form seem to have been sub-marine (6); this is
consonant with the Genesis record concerning the rising of
the land from the sea. The oldest surviving pre-Cambrian rocks are in
the Isua group in Greenland (about 3.7 billion years old), but
there is no clear evidence to date of land plant fossils in this
group. The coming of 'deshe' is clearly associated with land,
that is plants that could grow on land or in shallow, running water.
This material can have both organic and inorganic origins.
Inorganically it could be produced by the reduction of
oxygen-containing compounds, specifically carbonates. Organically it
derive from formerly living organisms, perhaps during metamorphosis (the
or compressing) of
rocks. It is also derived from diamond by breakdown of the diamond
structure under certain conditions (12). It has been suggested that
diamond may have formed below the ocean floor during crustal events
(6). Such diamond to graphite transition would account, at least in
part, for the presence of graphite in rocks of the Archean period. The
organic source would have, it is assumed, been simple sea life, e.g.
blue-green algae remains. Radioactivity in rocks may also play a part
in the formation of graphite from abiotic or biotic
The 13C:12C carbon isotope ratio is important in determining whether
graphitic material is of biogenic or abiogenic origin because
organic molecules 'prefer' the lighter 12C over 13C; thus organic
matter will have a slightly lower 13C:12C ratio than inorganic
isotopic ratio has been used to infer biotic remains in the Isua group
in Greenland (14). Unfortunately this ratio can be distorted by a
number of factors in geological samples (15), so these
results are controversial; wherever possible, an accurate history
the sample is important.
The presence of this material in pre-Cambrian rocks
can only be
explained by the presence of photosynthesising vegetation. Anthracite
is a product of coal metamorphosis; coal is formed from vegetal
remains, almost always from land plants (4); anthracite is therefore a
product of 'fossilised'
vegetation and serves as a definite marker for organic remains. Several
recent research papers have discussed evidence for pre-Cambrian
anthracite. Anthracite-like material has been found in
paleo-proterozoic rocks of a mountain group in Labrador dated at
1.9-2.0 billion years ago (2); these rocks were part of a lower
sequence. The material was in several thin layers within the rock
formation. X-ray diffraction results indicated the presence
of an amorphous organic material and that there was no graphite
present; this material was assumed to be derived from
algal or bacterial remains but could equally have come from
more advanced plants such as mosses or grasses .
These researchers were careful to deal with
two major problems: contamination of the remains, and possible
migration of the
remains from elsewhere; the last may occur when the material is
is of particular interest to geologists
because it is quite rare. There was great rock
metamorphosis during the pre-Cambrian era; for carbonaceous
compounds, the effects of thermal and/or pressure driven metamorphosis
would lead to carbonates or carbon dioxide/monoxide. The likelihood of
preservation of organic remains in a carbonaceous form would therefore
be low; such remains would probably form carbonates or
out-gas as carbon dioxide/monoxide.
It has been claimed that eukaryotic (nucleus and
cell wall) material
appeared 2.7 billion years ago (16). However the experimental
methodology used in this latter case does not completely preclude
contamination and seems to be tentative.
Problems with the origin and treatment of
samples and consequent
analytical results have been discussed at length (17); these issues are
extremely important in this type of work.
'Absolute' techniques such as nitrogen 15 nuclear
(18), electron spin resonance and Raman spectroscopy have the potential
to become very important in the study of ancient carbonaceous deposits.
Such methods can give unambiguous data even in the presence of
contaminants. Since many
molecules polarize light this technique
is also used.
2.3 Other Organic Remains.
The fossilised remains of what appear to be
microbiol mats have
been found in several places (19,20). These have been dated back as far
as about 3.4 billion years. They are usually found near
hydrothermal vents and in the vicinity of what were (seasonal) pools of
water. Stromatolites, see below, are an example. Evidence of fossilised
methane and sulphur consuming microbes is also being studied (21).
It should be noted that there is controversy
surrounding the nature of
some microbe fossils (10) but there are also clear examples of
fossilised mats (19).
Claims of biogenic fossils in the Isua rock group
disputed, basically because these rocks have been so highly
3. The First Plants.
The presence of pre-Cambrian anthracite deposits and
mats shows that vegetation was present on the land in pre-Cambrian
times. Much of the evidence would have been destroyed because of the
difficult climatic conditions on the early Earth and extensive rock
So what kind of plants are these likely to have been? They would need
be able to survive in an atmosphere probably containing less oxygen
than today, possible extremes of cold and heat, and water supplies that
could be anything from fresh to highly saline, still through to fast
flowing. Floods and droughts would be additional threats along with
higher ultraviolet light levels.
3.1 Algae (11) --
These are very simple forms of vegetative life that can live in a
number of environments, including both fresh and saline water;
probably the best known is blue-green algae, 'pond scum'(6). However
this is not; an algae but rather a photosynthesising
bacterium (cyanobacteria); see below. True algal forms include
euglenoids, which live mostly in fresh water; they are unicellular and
usually not more that 0.5 mm in length. There are over 800 different
species. The algal division chrysophyta has over 6000 species in its
class! They can live in virtually any kind of aqueous environment from
fresh, through brackish to salty; some planktons are in this class.
Most exist as diatoms, the rest are unicellular; there are both motile
and non-motile species. The division pyrrophyta is unicellular and can
live in fresh or salty water; phaeophyta is multicellular and includes
sea weeds. Chlorophyta, green algae, are even more diverse; there are
around 7000 known species. They are uni- and multi-cellular, live in
or salt water, in snow, soil, on tree trunks and in symbiosis with
3.2 Stromatolites -- These are
thought to be formed from
cyanobacteria (but this is not completely certain), that is from
'blue-green' algae; this matlike vegetation grows in shallow seawater
at the edge of land and also qualifies as 'green' vegetation (22). The
may date back to over 3 billion years ago (23). The earliest microbiol
mats and bio-films are similar to this type. Blue-green algae
themselves are termed 'cyanophytes' and are prokaryotic, that is
having no nucleus within the cell wall, and are taken to be the
simplest form of vegetative life. They can live in fresh water and
saline environments -- usually shallow water in ponds, marshes etc.
Dating of the earliest stromatolites is complicated by possible
abiogenic origins of such structures (10). Low oxygen
environments would facilitate the formation of fossilised mats from
soft biotic material.
3.3 Grasses -- These are
unusual plants in several respects (24)
; they rely on wind to scatter their seed; they can stand low rainfall
and great heat; if burnt they rapidly regenerate through their matted
root systems. Their only essential requirement is sufficient light. It
seems, therefore, that such plants could have survived and even thrived
during the pre-Cambrian period. Because of the organic nature of
grasses they do not easily fossilise; conditions would have to be just
right in order to preserve any record of them. However they could form
type of soft coal, perhaps similar to lignite, if buried and crushed
rapidly and the remains left in an anaerobic environment (similar to
carboniferous coal deposits). If such deposits were subsequently
metamorphosed in rocks undergoing this process anthracite could well
have been produced. Graphite might also have been a product but it is
more difficult to ascribe this material only to such processes. Grasses
generally pollinate via wind; they do not need
insects. They can grow in fresh or slightly saline water
(marshes); some need virtually no soil; some have water bound roots and
make their food from water and direct fixing of gases from the
atmosphere. Such plants could have survived in the Archean atmosphere;
recent research suggests that this early atmosphere may also have
contained more oxygen than previously thought. Higher
levels of carbon dioxide may also have been present in the early
atmosphere; this might have enhanced the growth of grasses (25)
3.4 Mosses -- These could
have been extant at this
time; they can thrive in difficult, particularly moist,
(26). They are one of the most versatile plant types known and can
survive extreme cold and heat. They are able to take nutrients directly
from water, or directly to their growing tips from soil, and reproduce
both asexually and sexually without the assistance of insects; they can
survive on virtually no soil. They generally prefer
low light levels, and cold and wet conditions. They can live at the
bottom of lakes, around hot springs, on rocks and sand dunes; a few are
3.5 Non-photosynthesing plants
-- These are thought to be microbes
rather than plants as such. Because fossilised remains are difficult to
identify this area of research has made only slow progress to date.
An overview of the evidence presented above shows
life did become established during the pre-Cambrian period, possibly
early as 3.5 billion years ago. As soon as suitable environments were
available, following the formation of land, it seems that plant life
appeared. This parallels exactly the account in Genesis 1:9-12. The
first plants may have included mosses, grasses, and
various types of algae.
The environments described above, in which these
plants could thrive, would only have come about when land rose from the
sea; they could not have
survived on a globe totally covered in water to any depth. The first
green plants were tough and independant; they did not need insects to
reproduce and could survive difficult conditions. Thus God's words in
Genesis 1:9-12, 'land....[then]...........plants'. Once photosynthesis
was under way the scene was set for the arrival of more complex green
vegetation such as bushes, trees etc.
The growing evidence for land, or edge of sea, based
vegetation, coupled with more careful study of pre-Cambrian
is providing further confirmation of the Genesis creation
* The pre-Cambrian period is divided into the Hadean
years), Archaean (3.90-2.50 billion years), and the Proterozoic
(2.50-0.54 billion years) eras.
1. F H T Rhodes et al., 'Fossils - a Guide to Prehistoric Life',
2. DHC Wilton, Precambrian Res., vol 77, p 131 (1996).
3. A Geikie, 'Text Book of Geology', p 638-39, Macmillan (1882).
4. DA Rothery, 'Teach Yourself Geology', Hodder and
Stoughton Educational (2003).
5. R Young, 'Young's Analytical Concordance', Hendrickson.
6. K Edwards and B Rosen, 'From the Beginning', Natural History Museum,
7. M Nedachi et al, Proc. of Conf. on Earth System
Processes, Edinburgh (2001).
8. H Ohmoto et al, idem.
9. DJ Des-Marais, idem.
10. MD Brasier et al, idem.
11. EO Wilson, 'The Diversity of Life', Belknap Harvard
12. T Gold, USGS Professional Paper 1570 (1993).
13. J Parnell, Lunar and Planetary Science, vol 34, p 1119 (2003).
14. PD Ward et al, 'Rare Earth', Copernicus Books
15. MA van Zuilen, Precambrian Res., vol 126, p 331 (2003).
16. JJ Brocks et al, AAAS, vol 285, no. 5430, p1033 (1999).
17. F Westall et al, Precambrian Res., vol 126, p 313 (2003).
18. H Knicker et al, J. Environmental Quality, vol 31, p 444 (2002).
19. Y Watanabe et al, Proc. of Conf. on Earth System
Processes, Edinburgh (2001).
20. F Westall et al, idem.
21. CH House et al, idem.
22. D Attenborough, 'Life on Earth', BCA, (1980).
23. W Nijman et al, Precambrian Res., vol 95, p 247 (1998).
24. D Attenborough, 'The Living Planet', Collins (1992).
25. EA Kinsman et al, Plant, Cell, and Environment, vol 20,
p 1039 (1997).
26. DHS Richardson, 'Biology of Mosses', Blackwell Scientific (1981).