Prepared May, 2010


In Celebration of Psalm Nineteen:
God's handiwork in Creation

Chapter 4

Creation of the Physical Setting for Life


This chapter reviews the Creation Narrative as presented thus far. This narrative concerns creation of the physical universe and ends with the formation of the primeval earth, barely cooled from a molten state, and covered by a global ocean.

The time span of the narrative is from the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago to the primeval earth at about 3.9 billion years ago. The end time coincides with the earliest scientific traces of life, as the following chapters will discuss. This time span includes Days One and Two of the Genesis Creation account, as interpreted here.

The particular emphasis in this review is to note the pivotal factors that had to take place in order to build a planet that could support life. These factors witness to exquisite fine tuning that the Creator crafted in order to have a suitable place for life, a level of precision that in my view can only be ignored with determination: they are thus examples of sharp points.

The details of this have only come out in the past few decades, and so are excellent examples of the scope and power of the silent speech that God embedded into the natural world to declare his glory and handiwork, a speech that in this case he reserved as a witness to the modern scientific world.

Relationship of this Creation Narrative with the Genesis Creation Account. Most of the Creation account in Genesis Chapters 1-3 concerns the creation of life, which begins on Day Three.  Thus the Creation narrative presented thus far must fall prior to the completion of Day Two, which is the matter of Genesis 1:1-8. The question is, where in this account do these events fall?

The Genesis account of creation has been studied intensely over the thousands of years since it was written, and in that time the text has been  (and still is) understood in many different ways. The interpretation suggested here is just that: a suggestion -- not a dogmatic assertion -- which seems to fit well with the scientific evidence, and is not, in my own view, excessively strained or forced. The note below summarizes this view, which, I believe is consistent in some ways with the view of St. Augustine (354-430 AD) in the later years of his life.

Some interpretations of the Genesis account assume that the Earth already exists in a chaotic state as early as the first verse -- interpreting "formless and void" to mean that the earth is a barren, inhospitable, primeval wasteland -- covered by an ocean, with God's Spirit hovering over the waters.

In contrast, our reconstruction of the Creation Narrative does not have a physical Earth until the very end of Day Two, and creative activity on the Earth itself begins on Day Three. Without this or some similar interpretation, the Genesis account omits the entire remarkable creation of the universe, of matter, and of Earth's formation.



The Creation Narrative as an example of the Silent Speech

The very fact that the Creation Narrative is now a solid part of modern science, is a remarkable example of how the Silent Voice has been woven throughout God's creation to proclaim his glory and handiwork. In the past fifty years, Cosmology -- the study of origins -- has passed from fringe speculation and pseudo-science to a mainstream component of modern physics. It even has its own precise, mathematical language group within the Silent Speech.


The following is a summary of the creative activities of the physical world through the creation of the primeval Earth, with an emphasis on the pivotal stages and events.



The Big Bang marks the beginning of physical space, time and energy. All of the energy in the universe was created in the Big Bang. No "new" energy has been created at any time since then. Thus the law of the Conservation of Energy, discovered and formulated only in the 1800s [FOOTNOTE Karl Friedrich Mohr, Zeitschrift für Physik in 1837] takes first place among the conservation laws of physics. As a result of Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, this law can be re-stated in terms of gravitational mass: the gravitational mass -- including ordinary particle mass, kinetic and potential energy (heat), and all forms of radiant energy -- in a closed system (such as the universe itself) is constant. Some discussions of gravitational mass treat it and energy as separate conserved quantities. For myself, I see mass and energy as two aspects of a single entity, unseparably tied to the gravitational force.

 Sharp Point

Modern Experimental Physics cannot explain the Big Bang

General relativity (large-scale physics) and Quantum theory (small-scale physics) cannot be combined at present into a single unified theory. Modern physics cannot address events that occurred earlier than the Planck time (10-43 seconds after the Big Bang), when large-scale and small-scale merge. Theoretical explanations of what happened earlier are metaphysical and cannot be verified directly, although they may lead to implications for physics at later times, and so may be of value in the formulation of a unified theory. At this scale the beauty and aesthetics of a theory count for much, provided it does indeed have unified explanatory power[FOOTNOTE: A unified theory, although it may not be tested by experimental means could commend itself if it provides a natural (aesthetically pleasing?) way to explain known features of the universe, such as the values of physical constants.].


Time and space did not exist prior to the Big Bang. Physics, in effect, began at this point. It is possible to prove that the universe began in a Big Bang, and to date it quite precisely to 13.7 ± 0.13 billion years ago[FOOTNOTE: WMAP Age of Universe], but there is no objective scientific way to investigate what caused the Big Bang or what came before. All such queries fall into the realm of metaphysics and religious belief. Various theoretical and mathematical speculations can be formed, but cannot be subjected to scientific proof or demonstration.

The universe expanded from an infinitesimal point at the Big Bang and continues to expand today. This expansion can be measured in the red-shift of light from distant galaxies.

The Four Forces (gravity, electro-magnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear) have precise values required for life to exist. [COMPLETE FINE TUNING REMARKS HERE] More on this later.

A universe old enough to have life required a precisely executed Cosmic Inflation. The end result had to have a precise balance between smoothness and minor inhomogeneities, and the density at the end of the inflation was precise to within 1 part in 1024. The Creation Narrative associates this inflation with the creation of darkness in Genesis 1:2.

 Sharp Point

The Precisely Executed Cosmic Inflation

Shortly after the Planck time, the universe experienced a cosmic inflation in which its size suddenly expanded by a factor of
1026, as if a small bacterium suddenly grew to a size greater than the Milky Way galaxy. At the end of this inflation, the universe had to have a precise balance between smoothness and minor inhomogeneities (so that galaxies and stars would form properly), and the density at the end of the inflation had to be precise to within 1 part in 1024 to ensure that the universe experienced neither gravitational collapse nor excessive expansion over the 10 to 15 billion years needed to create the matter and environment to form and sustain life.

At present, there is no generally accepted explanation for exactly why the inflation occurred, or how it could end with these precise (and necessary) end values.

One of the remarkable facts uncovered by research in the Anthropic Principle is that a universe capable of supporting life has to be on the order of 10 billion years old. Thus the vast dimensions of space in no way imply the insignificance of the Solar System, Earth or of Human Life.

• A universe containing ordinary matter had to have a neutron slightly more massive than the proton and electron combined. A universe that supports life must have ordinary matter. [COMPLETE THIS]

• A universe containing ordinary matter had to produce an abundance of primordial hydrogen, but avoid the runaway creation of heavy elements. Hydrogen is perhaps the most common element required by all of life (actual and conceivable -- we will develop this in later chapters). But essentially no hydrogen is created in the stars, so (essentially) all of the hydrogen of the universe is primordial.

Primordial hydrogen, produced in the first 15 minutes after the Big Bang, is the essential fuel that would allow the creation of heavier elements in the stars. During this 15 minutes the universe cooled from nearly infinite temperature to one that could no longer sustain nuclear fusion (about ??? degrees), rapidly passing through the nuclear fusion temperatures of all of the elements[FOOTNOTE: See the Theory of Big Bang Nucleosynthesis. "In principle one could imagine (as George Gamow did) that one would be able to produce all elements this way. However, there are no stable nuclei with 5 nucleons or 8 nucleons, so this means there is a bottleneck that prevents additional nucleosynthesis (basically because hydrogen and helium-4 are by far the most stable and common things around, but H+He and He+He both make unstable things)." Also see the Wikipedia article.]. No elements could form until the temperature dropped to the point that the nuclear force that binds together nuclei could keep them together. This occurred at about ??? seconds after the Big Bang. Once reached, there would have been nothing to stop a cascade of binary collisions to create heavy nuclei, except for the fact that elements of atomic mass 5 and 8 are extremely unstable, and form a barrier to the production of heavier elements. This barrier guaranteed that the primordial elements would be restricted to hydrogen and helium, with just traces of the next heavier elements. Without that barrier, long-lived stars including our Sun could not exist.

 Sharp Point

The Production of Primordial Hydrogen

Primordial hydrogen, produced in the first 15 minutes after the Big Bang, is the essential fuel that would allow the creation of heavier elements in the stars, and would allow the existence of slow-burning stars such as our Sun -- only hydrogen-burning stars have lives on the order of billions of years. The danger is that all the primordial hydrogen might have been lost in the forming of heavier elements except that there is a bottleneck for elements 5 and 8 (binary collisions H+He and He+He both are unstable). Thus except for the "accident" of this bottleneck, the universe and life as we know it could not have existed.



• Creation of the Elements in Stars and Supernovas. All of the elements other than primordial hydrogen and helium were created in stars or in supernovas, which occur as the nuclear fuel of moderate-sized stars burns out. After helium, which is produced when hydrogen burns, the first elements to be produced are carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which are the most common and essential elements found in all living species.

Ironically, the very thing that prevented the spontaneous primordial creation of elements of all atomic weights -- the beryllium "bottleneck" at atomic mass 8 -- must now be an essential part of the production of carbon and all higher elements.

If that bottleneck had not occurrred in the rapid primordial production of hydrogen and helium, then almost instant production of ever-heavier elements would have wiped out almost the entire supply of H and He and there would have been none left to serve as fuel for the stars. But now that bottleneck must be part of the production of the next element, Carbon. Nature's solution is to form a hot, high density quantity of helium in the core of a star (by burning hydrogen) and then very rapidly perform the double reaction: He + He -> Be8 followed immediately by Be8 + He -> C12. This second reaction must occur more quickly than Be8 is able to decompose (around 10-?? s) and the total mass energy of the reaction must be a very slightly above an energy level (resonance) of an excited carbon nucleus. Furthermore, in the next step, C + He -> O16, an energy level of an excited oxygen nucleus must be very slightly below the total mass energy of C + He. These resonances were predicted by Fred Hoyle before they were discovered in the mid-1950s. The abundance of C and O required for the production of living matter -- as well as the very existence of all heavier elements -- depends critically on the precise values of these resonances. This "coincidence" led Fred Hoyle to make his famous assertion that someone must have "monkeyed with the physics." Practically speaking, this "monkeying" must relate to extremely precise values for the fundamental forces, but the challenge of direct computation of nuclear resonance levels is too difficult to compute such things at present.

 Sharp Point

The Precise Nuclear Resonances of Carbon and Oxygen:
Someone "Monkeyed with the Physics"

Helium burning in stars is a critical part of the production of all elements other than helium and primordial hydrogen. Helium burning is the first step in the creation of all of the other elements, and so their existence depends vitally on helium burning. As Fred Hoyle pointed out before it was discovered, helium burning in the stars is only possible because a precise resonance (excited energy level) in the carbon nucleus exists. Furthermore, a second precise resonance must exist in the oxygen nucleus (the next step in nucleosynthesis: C + He -> O) -- in this case a resonance that slightly retards the production of oxygen so that not all of the carbon converts to oxygen. This is what led Fred Hoyle to make several remarkable statements, including that cited above.

The role of heavy radioactive elements. The maintenance of the Earth's temperature over the 4 billion years required to create humans and the modern environment, depends not only on heat from the Sun, but on internal heat caused by radioactive decay in Earth's interior of uranium and other heavy elements. Before the discovery of radioactivity, the maintenance of Earth's temperature over very long times was a great puzzlement to 19th century scientists such as Lord Kelvin. These scientists proved that the Earth's residual heat and Solar heating could not have sustained the temperature for more than about a hundred million years (much less than the Earth's age as evidenced at the time from the geological sciences).

 Sharp Point

The Essential Role of Neutrinos in Supernovas
-- and in the Production of Heavy Radioactive Elements

As the iron core of a (moderate size) mature star burns out, the core collapses under gravity. Eventually the collapse causes electrons to react with the protons in the nucleus via: p + e -> n + ν where ν is a neutrino. (??ANTINEUTRINO??). The neutrino is a neutral point particle that seldom interacts with matter, so the vast majority of neutrinos resulting from these interactions escape from the star, and in the process remove mass-energy from the core, abetting the core collapse. As the core rapicly collapses (in a matter of seconds) to a condition of maximum neutron density, it "bounces" in a cataclysmic supernova explosion. This explosion produces all elements above the iron group and blasts all of the elements created in the star into space, eventually forming the matter of meteorites and second-generation stars that can have earth-like planets. Without these elusive neutrinos, life could not exist.



The matters discussed thus far concern the very existence of the elements needed to have life. With the formation of the Solar System and the Earth, many additional critical factors come into play, but many of them are best discussed along with the beginnings of life and preparation of the earth for advanced animals. At this point, it may be best to simply mention some of the factors, and leave it to future chapters to flesh out the  arguments.

Despite the Sun being "an ordinary, nondescript star" the Solar System is uniquely suited to provide a suitable environment for the creation of life -- perhaps unmatched elsewhere in the entire universe[FOOTNOTE: Give Refs & Quotes]. The Sun is a second-generation star, meaning that it is formed from the remnants of a supernova explosion. Life requires a rocky planet formed from the supernova remnants. The supernova exploded about 4.55 billion years ago, a date that corresponds to the age of the oldest meteorites[FOOTNOTE: Dalrymple, The Age of the Earth].

Milky Way Galaxy Habitable Zone. The Solar System is placed in the relatively narrow habitable zone of the Milky Way Galaxy. This zone is roughly midway between the gravitational center and the outer regions of the galaxy. The central portions of the galaxy are uninhabitable because of lethal radiation and a relatively high density of stars; and the outer regions tend to be gaseous and lack an adequate supply of rocky material. [ADD INFO FROM Ward & Brownlee Rare Earth,  and Gonzalez & Richards The Privileged Planet].

The requirement for the Earth to have moderate, life-supporting conditions for some 4 billion years places heavy limits on the Sun itself:
• The Sun must be close to its actual size: Too large and it will burn too fast; too small and [GIVE REASONS]
• The Sun must be hydrogen burning to provide reliable burning for that length of time (only H burning stars last billions of years)
• The Sun's position in the galaxy is very critical for the following reasons:
- Within the habitable zone, stars orbit the galaxy center in about 200-300 million years. Therefore over the necessary billions of years, over 10 complete orbits will occur. The orbits must remain in the habitable zone.
- The Sun must be in a region of relatively low star density. It must always be far enough away from its neighboring stars to avoid near collisions or other gravitational interference.
In the event, our Sun is located on the edge of one of the spiral arms of the galaxy. This position gives the future earth-observer an additional benefit in that he can get a relatively unobstructed view of deep space.

Solar System Habitable Zone. The Sun has its own habitable zone. In general, the region is defined by the requirement that heat from the Sun will result in liquid water on the planet's surface. The inner region is bounded by heat and radiation from the Sun, and by gravitational lock which affects the nearby planets Mercury and Venus -- these planets have the same side facing the Sun, which means the facing side is very hot and the opposite side is very cold. The outer region is bounded by temperatures that freeze water and solidify carbon dioxide and falls near to Mars.

In the formation of the Solar System, rocky matter and gaseous matter tended to separate with rocky matter forming the inner planets and gaseous matter forming the outer planets which form in regions where the gases solidify (particularly methane and carbon dioxide). Radiation and solar wind tended to blow volatile material from the inner towards the outer planets. Hence the outer planets beyond Mars and the asteroid belt are gaseous.

A proper planet could not form in the region of the asteroid belt because tidal forces from Jupiter break up large asteroids, preventing them from becoming planets. Over the billions of years following the formation of Earth, Jupiter's great mass cleared out debris on erratic orbits from the inner regions. The same effect also tends to deflect large meteorites (such as the Shoemaker-Levi meteorite) from penetrating the inner regions, providing an effective shield against disastrous collisions with the Earth.

The planetary orbits must be nearly circular. This is not only true of a planet in the habitable zone (clearly the planet's orbit must not pass outside of this relatively narrow annulus).  The orbits of the large planets such as Jupiter and Saturn must also be nearly circular so that they do not disturb the orbits of a planet in the habitable zone.

[NOTE: Additional material needed here -- See Broecker, How to Build a Habitable Planet, also Rare Earth and the Privileged Planet ]

Role of Moon and plate tectonics -- see Rare Earth for discussion of imptc of plate tectonics for stable continent formation & life.





Creation of the Physical Setting for Life
Creation Days 1 and 2
Genesis 1:1-8 (ESV)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

The Creation Narrative in Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 uses general nouns (in some cases unusual terms) for all God's Creative activity except for the creation of humans. These general terms seem to signal caution in interpretation. Indeed, almost every word and phrase has been interpreted in multiple ways by sincere and Godly expositors. This is no new observation: St. Augustine, in  his book, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis (ca. 410 AD) cautions the reader along these lines[FOOTNOTE: In Book One, §37, he wrote: "In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture."].

So, here is my own understanding, as reflected in this website. See the webpage Affirmations and Disclaimers for further remarks, and for an explanation of the grading system (M,H,V,C) that I use to convey my own confidence in the assertions.

PREAMBLE. The Preamble is not just an introduction to the following account, but it expresses the "nothingness" (M) that preceded the first act of Creation, -- called by scientists the Big Bang. Before the Big Bang, space and time do not yet exist (V) [FOOTNOTE: Augustine, Op. Cit. Book Five, §12 "Time began with Creation"]. The phrase "without form and void" expresses the fact that at this point the Earth does not yet exist (H) except in the mind (so to speak) of God's Spirit. This agrees with St. Augustine's  understanding of the phrase[FOOTNOTE:St. Augustine Confessions, p. 236 "invisible and without form... this all, which is called heaven and earth, was still a formless and a darksome matter; out of which was to be made, both that intelligible heaven... and the earth, that is, the whole corporeal nature."; see also the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book I, §2 and §30: "the whole passage refers to the visible creation but implies its unformed state in terms that are adapted to the unlearned. For these two elements, earth and water, are more pliable than the other words in the hands of an artisan, and so with these two words it was quite fitting to indicate the unformed matter of things.]. Augustine goes on to assert that the "heavens and earth" in verse 1 are also in the unformed state[FOOTNOTE: ibid., §24: "With these words the sacred writer wished to indicate nothing else but corporeal matter in its unformed state, and he chose to call it by a familiar term to avoid obscurity."]. Similarly, the "face of the deep" and the "face of the waters" in verse 2 refer to the unformed universe: quoting St. Augustine, "The unformed aspect of it is designated in Sacred Scripture by the words 'earth' and 'water'"[FOOTNOTE ibid. §24]. Note his understanding of the use of the word "water"
(V), which we will return to in Day Two.

DAY ONE. Day One is the Big Bang and the events that immediately follow it (H). Light here is radiant energy, created at the instant of the Big Bang, not just visible light. This light is the total energy of the entire universe, which remains constant (according to
the energy conservation law). Subsequently part of this energy became the material universe -- St. Augustine's "corporeal matter" (H). I believe that the separation of light from darkness was a distinct creative act which I associate with Cosmic Inflation that occurred just after the Planck Time (10-43 s. after the Big Bang)[FOOTNOTE: David Medved in his book Hidden Light: Science Secrets of the Bible identifies this with the time (about 600,000 years after the Big Bang) when the universe became transparent.] (M). Note that the earth has not yet been formed.

DAY TWO. The term "waters" does not refer to literal H2O but rather it is a general term for undifferentiated fluidity
(H). In this I believe I follow the suggestions of St. Augustine (see prior footnotes), as well as the nearly-universal practice in ancient cosmologies. This point is missed by many commentators (both ancient and modern), who assume the original proponents of cosmologies used the term in a literal sense. The act of "separation" in verse 6 encompasses the entire development (forming from the unformed "waters") of the Cosmos from the beginning of time to the commencement of Day Three which took place on early Earth. In this vast extent of time the galaxies, stars, sun, earth and moon are formed out of the original unformed primordial materials (M). This is all encompassed in the word "separated". Under this interpretation, the "expanse" is the heavens (cosmos) in general, and secondarily, the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Possibly also the "waters under the expanse" is the ocean that covers the earth, but I don't see this as required for consistency in the creation account. In any case, at the close of Day Two, the sun-earth-moon system is in place and ready for the commencement of Day Three.

I follow the suggestion of the Discovery Institute that the creation days are divine "workdays" that mark the start (evening) and completion (morning) of the creative task
(H). They are not defined by a lapse of time (such as 24-hour days), because God exists outside of time and is not constrained by it[FOOTNOTE: The existence of God outside of time is a fact that St. Augustine found troublesome. He asked why God would restrict himself to creating in time when he could create instantaneously? Indeed he argues (ibid. Book Five, §15), "The first day created knew the whole array of creatures arranged in hierarchical order. Through this knowledge creation was revealed to it as if in six steps called days, and thus was unfolded all that was created; but in reality there was only one day [as stated in Genesis 2:4 "In the day that the Lord God made the heavens and the earth." -- dcb]." This is St. Augtustine's way of saying that God created everything instantly (because God is not constrained by or subject to time). This contrasts with my own view (H) that God limited himself to create in time those things that could be created by natural processes (such as the elements), so that the Silent Voice embedded in his creation would truthfully inform the inquirer about those parts of his creation that were capable of being done by natural processes.]. This suggestion goes on to argue that the reference to creation days in Exodux 20:8-11 compares the divine workday in analogy to the human workday, and the principle is established: 1 day of rest to 6 days of labor.

Make a table of the nouns in Genesis 1:1-2:4 and give range of meaning

1 912a
רֵאשִׁית beginning

אֱלֹהִים God

שָּׁמַיִם heaven

אָרֶץ earth

תֹהוּ unformed

בֹהוּ void

חֹשֶׁךְ darkness

פְּנֵי face

1063a תְהוֹם deep

רוּחַ Spirit

מָּיִם waters

אוֹר light

יוֹם day

לָיְלָה night

עֶרֶב evening

בֹקֶר morning

רָקִיעַ expanse
"to beat, stamp, beat out, spread out." Extended surface.
שָׁמָיִם heaven
From word "to be high, lofty". heavens, sky.

Selected Nouns from the rest of the Creation Account

דֶּשֶׁא grass

עֵשֶׂב herb

זְרִיעַ seed, sowing

עֵץ tree

פְּרִי fruit

עֵץ פְּרִי fruit-bearing trees

מִינ kind

מְאֹרֹת lights

אֹתֹת signs
luminary, lamp, light-bearer

מוֹעֲדִים seasons

יָמִים days

שָׁנִים years

16 22c
מְּאֹרֹת lights

גָּדֹל greater light

lesser light

כּוֹכָבִים stars

שֶׁרֶץ swarm
swarming things, small reptiles and quadrupeds, insects

נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה living creatures

יְעוֹפֵף fowl, flyers
fowl, birds, winged insects <verb: fly, flicker, flutter.

תַּנִּינִם sea-monsters
serpent, dragon, sea-monster

רֹמֶשֶׂת creaping  creature
of water or land animals (amphibians?); move lightly, glide about, move about  <creep, move lightly, move about, touch gently

 כָּנָף wing


עוֹף כָּנָף winged fowl
winged thing (bird, insect)

נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה living creature

בְּהֵמָה cattle
behemoth. TDOT IIp6

רֶמֶשׂ creaping thing
See v. 21

חַיְתוֹ-אֶרֶץ beast of the earth
lit. living things of the earth.

רֶמֶשׂ הָאֲדָמָה beast of the earth
Note different word for "earth".
אָדָם man (adam)

* BDB = William Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. Brown, Driver & Briggs. Page# and quarter-page a,b,c,d.  TDOT = Botterweck, Ringgren, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament


-- ../WordsInGen1.xls

Credits: The Hebrew text for this table is from a website prepared by Mechom Mamre, whose work is greatly appreciated.

A number of books have remarked that, contrary to popular opinion, animal life is exceedingly rare in the universe. This book by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee is a valuable synopsis of the arguments that lead to this conclusion. The qualification animal life reflects the authors' view that microbial life is quite possibly widespread, but animal life -- advanced life -- is not. They base this view regarding microbial life on the fact that primitive life arose almost the instant that the Earth had cooled and stabilized enough for it to exist. In my view, they have entirely overlooked the very complexity of that "primitive life", but let's look at the main thrust of the book, and not quibble around the margins.

p. xix On the early appearance of life on Earth: "[L]ife formed on Earth about as soon as environmental conditions allowed its survival."

p. xx On maintenance of life on Earth: "[A]ttaining the stage of animal life is one thing, but maintaining that level is quite something else... complex life is subject to an unending succession of planetary disasters...." p. xxi "Animals as we know them require oxygen. Yet it took about 2 billion years for enough oxygen to be produced to allow all animals on Earth."

p. xxiii on placement of the Solar System in the galaxy.

p. xxv. Table Dead Zones of the Universe. Need of a life-supporting planet for "metals" (elements heavier than helium), low radiation levels, moderate temperature, long-term stability, need for radioactive metals (uranium, potassium, thorium, etc.) to maintain earth temperature.

p158 Mass extinctions; Chicxulub. Necessary to pave way for modern mammals. p161 "[I]f the dinosaurs had not suddenly ben killed off... there probably would not have been an Age of Mammals, because the wholesale evolution of mammalian diversity took place only after the dinosaurs were swept from the scene. While dinosaurs existed, mammals were held in evolutionary check."

p191 Plate tectonics

p221 the role of Jupiter

Wills & Bada The Spark of Life

Creation of Life Itself and Preparation for Advanced Life

Give the story of Comte and discovery of stellar spectra.




Wallace S. Broecker, How to Build a Habitable Planet (1985)
Guillermo Gonzalez & Jay W. Richards, The Privileged Planet (2004)
Peter D. Ward &  Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe. (2000)


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Prepared May, 2010