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Minerals sans life
  
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Tom Mazanec




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PostPosted: Dec 06, 2017 12:05    Post subject: Minerals sans life  

Suppose the first proto-bacterium never formed. How would Earth's minerals differ? Would there be all the ~5,000 mineral species on the planet?
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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Dec 06, 2017 13:12    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Tom Mazanec wrote:
Suppose the first proto-bacterium never formed. How would Earth's minerals differ? Would there be all the ~5,000 mineral species on the planet?


Short answer = no! I'd only lean toward unicellular life or proto-life not likely having 'formed' on Earth [though could have]; more likely it came on asteroids, meteorites, cosmic dust, etc. [panspermia]. Anyway, the biotic and geologic domains have long, long been in constant interaction. Without life and the effects of life there would be many fewer mineral species. I've never seen a figure for how many fewer, but I'm sure someone has calculated that, as I have several book entirely on the subject of the interaction between the geologic and biotic realms.
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Pete Modreski
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PostPosted: Dec 06, 2017 13:22    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Tom, this interesting question has actually been the subject of a whole series of papers, by Robert M. Hazen of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and then with follow-ups by others. In fact, I was quite surprised when I just checked on this, because his first paper in this topic was published a full 10 years ago (I never would have thought it had been that long ago!):

Hazen RM, Papineau D, Bleeker W, Downs RT, Ferry J, McCoy T, Sverjensky D, Yang H (2008) Mineral evolution. American Mineralogist 93:1693-1720 [pdf]

Much of what he has explored involves the fact that if it had not been for the generation of free oxygen into earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, and crust by photosynthesizing organisms, most of the oxy-compounds that we know as minerals would not exist, and the total number of minerals would probably be more like one thousand than the 5000+ that we have now. You might like to look up & read some of Hazen's papers! Here are several more of these, from 2010,

Hazen RM (2010) The evolution of minerals. Scientific American 3:58-65
Hazen RM and Ferry JM (2010) Mineral evolution: Mineralogy in the fourth dimension. Elements 6(1):9-12 [pdf]
Hazen RM and Eldredge E (2010) Themes and variations in complex systems. Elements 6(1):43-46 [pdf]

And here is a page on his website that list all his publications on this theme:
https://hazen.carnegiescience.edu/publications/mineral-evolution

Cheers, Pete Modreski
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Tom Mazanec




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PostPosted: Dec 06, 2017 17:41    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Would this mean no limestone type caves on a lifeless Earth, the kind with stalactites and stalagmites?
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Pierre Joubert




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2017 01:51    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Tom Mazanec wrote:
Suppose the first proto-bacterium never formed. How would Earth's minerals differ? Would there be all the ~5,000 mineral species on the planet?


My answer is no, it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system that is the earth.

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dontgogreen




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2017 09:17    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Pierre Joubert wrote:
Tom Mazanec wrote:
Suppose the first proto-bacterium never formed. How would Earth's minerals differ? Would there be all the ~5,000 mineral species on the planet?


My answer is no, it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system that is the earth.


Pierre, I'm not sure I follow your line of thought. I agree that no, we would not see the great variety of mineral species today if not for the presence of a variety of life forms. This is discussed in Bob Hazen's papers. But what do you mean when you say "it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system..."? Are you suggesting that complex life did not evolve from simple organisms? Is this because you hold a creationist view, or do you believe complex life did not develop from simpler organisms? I do not intend to slight your view, whatever it may be, just to understand your thought process here.
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Pierre Joubert




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2017 09:33    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

dontgogreen wrote:
Pierre Joubert wrote:
Tom Mazanec wrote:
Suppose the first proto-bacterium never formed. How would Earth's minerals differ? Would there be all the ~5,000 mineral species on the planet?


My answer is no, it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system that is the earth.


Pierre, I'm not sure I follow your line of thought. I agree that no, we would not see the great variety of mineral species today if not for the presence of a variety of life forms. This is discussed in Bob Hazen's papers. But what do you mean when you say "it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system..."? Are you suggesting that complex life did not evolve from simple organisms? Is this because you hold a creationist view, or do you believe complex life did not develop from simpler organisms? I do not intend to slight your view, whatever it may be, just to understand your thought process here.

Hi Dontgogreen. You are perfectly right in your assumption. May I ask whether you hold an Atheistic view, i.a.w. that the complexities and order of life on earth was the result of chance?

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dontgogreen




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2017 09:52    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Hi Pierre, thanks for clarifying. I respect your view completely, and I have to admit that I do not hold an atheistic view either. As someone who teaches geology laboratory courses, I find myself in a strange position in which I am bound to espouse the curriculum regardless of my own viewpoint. One of the commonly-held views in Universities is that if enough scientists or experts agree on something, it must be the case. Regardless of the subject, I reject this notion, however on the topic of "the origin of life" I must admit that I am not well-educated enough to refute scientific theory. One of my concerns is that when we are told of a particular idea or theory, we can only gain a shallow understanding of it, and that we often lack the time, agency, or ability to investigate it deeply. For example, I teach students about the composition of the Earth, and how we can understand it based on the velocity of seismic waves as they pass through materials of various phases. Have I ever directly examined the evidence for this? Of course not, I simply read it in a textbook and took it for granted.
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Duncan Miller




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PostPosted: Dec 13, 2017 00:22    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Pierre Joubert wrote:
...it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system that is the earth.
Pierre, it is uncivil to deride as 'idiotic' the reasoning of those who do not ascribe to your personal beliefs. No-one has a monopoly on the truth. Duncan
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James
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PostPosted: Dec 13, 2017 04:13    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Please can we please stick to minerals, not beliefs?
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Pierre Joubert




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PostPosted: Dec 13, 2017 12:46    Post subject: Re: Minerals sans life  

Duncan Miller wrote:
Pierre Joubert wrote:
...it is idiotic to reason that the complex life on earth was the result of the advent of simple microscopic organisms that evolved into a hugely complex system that is the earth.
Pierre, it is uncivil to deride as 'idiotic' the reasoning of those who do not ascribe to your personal beliefs. No-one has a monopoly on the truth. Duncan


Hi Duncan, I have sent you a PM.

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