Guest Post: Life as old as the Earth? The earliest evidence for living things

stromatolite-fossil-james-st-john-flickr-ccc2.jpg
Cross-section of a fossil stromatolite © James St John, flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The history of life on Earth is almost as long as the history of Earth itself. The most precise scientific dating methods tell us that our planet formed 4567 million years ago, although there are no rock samples preserved from this ancient and chaotic time. The oldest known Earth materials are about 4300 million years old, and are found in the remote deserts of western Australia. The oldest probable evidence for life on Earth has been dated between 3700 and 3800 million years, in west Greenland, and is so sophisticated that the history of life on earth must extend much further back. These observations suggest that life is a fundamental property of our planet, a feature which makes the Earth very different from its immediate rocky neighbours. Continue reading

The Stories We Tell: Science, faith, and cultural distinctiveness

Tiamat
Babylonian cylinder seal. Ben Pirard at nl.wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time, there was a goddess called Tiamat. Tiamat was the ocean, chaotic and powerful. Tiamat’s husband, freshwater, was bothered by the noisy younger gods and wanted to kill them but Tiamat disagreed and warned her son. When Tiamat’s husband was then killed by the younger gods she wanted revenge, so she made eleven monsters to hunt them down – including her own children. In the end, the young champion Marduk challenged Tiamat to a battle and killed her. Marduk cut Tiamat in two, using one half of her body to make the heavens, and the other the earth.”

When the people of Israel were exiled in Babylon, if any of their youngsters ever got to receive an education they might have been taught the Babylonian creation poem Enuma Elish. The highly abbreviated version I have given here is just a flavour of this extremely – to my ears – bloodthirsty and violent epic. I wonder what the parents might have thought about their children being exposed to stories like this? Continue reading

Litter: a fresh perspective on life under the leaves

Autumn leaves
© Ruth M. Bancewicz

Next time you take a walk through a forest, sit down on the fallen leaves, rustle a hole in the top layer, breathe deeply, and take in the aroma of fresh earth. Sterilised soil smells somehow wrong to our noses –  it lacks the homey feel of childhood dens and freshly ploughed fields. But on productive land, like an ancient forest or well-tended farm, it smells right. Our noses know what to look for – the rich earthy scent of microbial decomposition. Continue reading

Book Preview: Is There Purpose in Biology? The cost of existence and the God of love

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‘St George and the dragon’, an artistic interpretation of a T lymphocyte killing a cancer cell, Wellcome images, © Odra Noel

Reactions to the question “Is There Purpose in Biology?” are likely to vary greatly. One reaction will be “of course not”: watch your favourite natural history programme and it’s obvious that chance rules. Some animals get lucky and do well, others get eaten young, and there’s no overall rhyme nor reason to it. Others responding to the same question, most likely coming from a religious worldview, will respond “of course”: God has an overall purpose for everything, including biology. Others, perhaps the majority, are more likely to say: “Well it all depends on what you mean by purpose…” Continue reading

Wild Lent: Discovering God Through Creation

sky-panorama-with-clouds-1479164-1598x485 Philippe Ramakers freeimages
© Philippe Ramakers, freeimages

Cloud watching

I love the sky, how it’s always moving and changing. Everyone has access to a little bit of sky, and no matter how messy and chaotic our lives can get on the ground the clouds blow past regardless Continue reading

Guest Post: Not a Clock Maker – Randomness and order in science and faith

just-like-clockwork-1192669-1599x1254 Dominic Morel freeimages
© Dominic Morel, freeimages.com

When we think of God’s creative activity, Christians are sometimes reluctant to think that randomness and disorder may form part of his toolkit.  Motivated by an honourable desire to only associate him with the very best and most perfect means, we limit his creative activity to Victorian clockwork. But I disagree. Continue reading

Creation Groans, but God Hears

panther-close-up-1559931-638x425 Marco Luttenberg Freeimages
Panther by Marco Luttenberg, freeimages.com

Visitors to London Zoo last autumn stood enthralled, watching the family dynamics of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger playing out before them. The two newborn cubs, instinctively mischievous, repeatedly pounced and climbed up their 280-pound father, claws unsheathed. Crowds admired this tiger, built for predatory power, turning his obvious annoyance into gentle reprimands. The scene is reminiscent of Aslan the lion, whom C. S. Lewis used to capture some of the attributes of God—tender but also powerful and “not a tame lion.”

Today, these majestic cats are the focus of World Wildlife Day, along with the other big cats that are under threat on our watch—no, because of our watch. Habitat loss, conflict with people, and poaching are just some of the reasons for their drastic declines. There has been a 95 percent drop in tiger numbers over the last hundred years and a 40 percent drop in African lions over just 20 years.

Continue reading this article now (free, no signup required) in Christianity Today.