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Abiogenesis and ozone

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Abiogenesis and ozone discusses the problem of the spontaneous development of life in an environment without ozone. Life cannot produce oxygen without ozone to protect it from ultraviolet radiation, but ozone cannot form unless oxygen is already in the atmosphere.

Ozone(03) forms when molecular oxygen (O2) is struck by cosmic radiation. Thus, without oxygen in the atmosphere, there can be no ozone. Without ozone, ultraviolet radiation would destroy any life exposed to the sun. All known life that produces oxygen requires exposure to the sun. Without life able to survive in the sun, no oxygen can be produced. Without oxygen produced, there can be no ozone, and therefore no life.

The most obvious and parsimonious solution to this problem, adopted by creationists, is that life originated on Earth after the atmosphere had already filled with oxygen. In this scenario, the atmosphere was created with ozone to protect life on Earth from ultraviolet radiation. Research by some geologists has suggested that oxygen was present in the supposed early earth atmosphere, much earlier than previously believed.[1]

Naturalistic evolutionists cannot accept this simple solution to the problem, however. Since they are committed to explanations for events that deny any action by God, they must provide one of the following to explain the origins of life and ozone:

  • A way that ozone can form without atmospheric oxygen;
  • A way that oxygen can be produced without life that requires sunlight;
  • A way that oxygen-producing lifeforms can survive without ozone;

Thusfar, the first two have been utter failures. There is no known way for ozone to form without atmospheric oxygen, or for oxygen to form without life that requires sunlight. Several attempts have been made to show that oxygen-producing life can survive without the protection of the ozone layer, but none have succeeded.

Proposed means of oxygen production without ozone

  • Mineralization of cells may have reduced the rate of death from UV;
    • Experiments have shown that mineralization can reduce the dieoff from 85% dieoff in 4 days under normal circumstances to a 10% dieoff in 16 days[2], but have never shown any circumstances in which a population can increase without ozone.
  • Some speculate that life may have evolved far enough underwater to block UV, but not far enough to block light.
    • However, water blocks UV at approximately the same rate it blocks visible light, so it is highly improbable (and totally undemonstrated) that life deep enough to be protected from UV would get enough light to live;
    • According to NASA, UV radiation at 290 NM is 350 million times weaker than at the top of the atmosphere as a result of the protection afforded by ozone and oxygen [3]. According to numbers by Smith R C and Baker K S 1979 Penetration of UV-B and biologically effective dose-rates in natural waters Photochem. Photobiol. 29 311-23 [4], radiation attenuates in extremely murky water to .1% its original level in 7 meters. In order to be attenuated 350 million times, therefore, the cells would have to be 2 million, 450 thousand meters under the murkiest water. Needless to say, no visible light would descend that far.
    • According to a published report by B L Diffey, Solar ultraviolet radiation effects on biological systems [5], "Damaging effects of solar UVB on phytoplankton will occur at depths in excess of 20 m in clear waters and 5 m in cloudy waters (Worrest 1986). If it is assumed that phytoplankton sense and control their vertical position in such a way that limits UVB exposure to a tolerable level, then any increase in ambient UVB, as a result of ozone depletion, would necessitate a downward movement where there would be a corresponding reduction in light for photosynthesis, and hence a reduction in productivity (Smith 1989). Also, indirect effects of ambient levels of UVB radiation influence the survival of phytoplankton by decreasing their motility and inhibiting phototactic and photophobic responses (Worrest 1986). It has been estimated that a reduction of 25% in the ozone mantle would result in enhanced UVB levels at ocean surfaces that could lead to a 35% decrease in phytoplankton photosynthesis (Smith et al 1980), although it is important to recognize the uncertainty of this estimate." Note: This does not even consider the most deadly form of UV, UV-C, which is totally blocked at present, but would not be blocked at all without oxygen in the atmosphere. UV-C is typically used to kill bacteria and viruses in rooms, because even a very low level of UV-C is fatal;
  • Others have posited that the cells were protected by the skeletons of older, dead cells[6]
    • But this posits the existence of a sufficient number of cells to protect the cells, and provides no explanation for the survival of the first cells before there was a blanket of dead cells to protect them.
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