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Earth Science

Evolving Rocks 172

Posted by kdawson
from the survival-of-the-firmest dept.
SpaceAdmiral notes a new study making the claim that rocks have been evolving throughout Earth's history. "'Mineral evolution is obviously different from Darwinian evolution — minerals don't mutate, reproduce or compete like living organisms,' said Hazen in a statement announcing the study's findings. 'But we found both the variety and relative abundances of minerals have changed dramatically over more than 4.5 billion years of Earth's history. For at least 2.5 billion years, and possibly since the emergence of life, Earth's mineralogy has evolved in parallel with biology,' Hazen added. 'One implication of this finding is that remote observations of the mineralogy of other moons and planets may provide crucial evidence for biological influences beyond Earth.'"
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Evolving Rocks

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  • Misuse of words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:12AM (#25898547)

    What a misuse of terms.

    Our Earth's surface is overwhelmingly shaped by biology - most of the surface carbon, for example (which on Venus is in the atmosphere) is in carbonate rocks, like limestone. There are whole island chains (coral atolls) made biologically. Soil results from biological processes (in fact, I would suspect that soil has evolved over time, as the organisms that make it have evolved). The marble in our public buildings results from biology (and metamorphism).

    Could this be used to look for extra-terrestrial life ? Sure. Does this mean that the rocks are evolving ? No.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:32AM (#25898725)
    No its worse than that. They are using "evolved" to mean changed. Its like saying that spring evolves into summer, or a newspaper of paper mache.

    It won't be long before the "Intelligent Design" crew start bringing up evolving rocks to show that "evolutionists don't know what they are talking about".
  • Re:Misuse of words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:35AM (#25898745)

    If you take surface to mean the top 10 feet, biology has been overwhelming. If you take surface to mean the top 10 miles, not so much.

  • by glwtta (532858) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:08AM (#25899003) Homepage
    'Mineral evolution is obviously different from Darwinian evolution -- minerals don't mutate, reproduce or compete like living organisms,' said Hazen in a statement announcing the study's findings.

    Thereby neatly summarizing why it's idiotic to call this process "evolution".

    But, holy shit! Earth's mineral composition changes over time? And here I thought that the obvious hypothesis was that it has remained completely unchanged over the last couple of billion years.
  • On A Serious Note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:21AM (#25899133) Homepage Journal

    I wonder, is evolution, really at a fundamental level, the inverse of entropy?

    If entropy, as a concept, is the movement from an ordered state to a disordered state then evolution is the concept of moving from a lower ordered state to a higher or more advanced\structured state. (The whole entropy is a measurement issue)

    If things can evolve from basic to complex then doesn't that impact the concepts of our universe decaying into a cool nothingness?

    Just a passing thought is all...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:44AM (#25899983)

    Who cares what the intelligent design nuts bring up? They're only an issue in USA anyway (okay maybe in other crappy ultra religious places too). But still why should we let nutcases influence anything? No one cares about the morons who believe the conspiracy theory that Bush & Co orchestrated 9/11 (2001, not 1973 in which USA actually was involved), that global warming is made up by "The Elite" (Illuminati maybe?) or that the moon landing was a hoax, so it's annoying that the creationists are treated almost as if they are legitimate.

    Todays captcha is "benefit", something we all would when people stop bringing up creationists every time there's a story with the word "evolution" in it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:51AM (#25900065)

    Of course the Intelligent Design crowd is going to have a problem with rock's mineral composition changing. Geologic timescales are many orders of magnitude larger than 4500 BC, which is when they believe God created Earth. It can take millions of years for the metamorphic processes to occur. The mineral (homogenous crystaline compounds) composition of rocks is changing through chemical weathering.

  • by rockhopjohn (1374347) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:23PM (#25900451)
    Minerals are just like any other chemical species on earth. They react with one another, and form into new and more diverse populations based on a variety of fundamental thermodynamic factors. Since the earth's processes have changed and evolved since planetary accretion, it only makes since that the assemblages of minerals we see on the earth would evolve in much the same way.
    It appears that this paper focuses primarily on the biological effects on mineral speciation, but there have been a variety of geologic affects that have had equally profound impacts on the earths mineralogy (which in turns defines the variety of rocks we see). Factors such as the development of the earths core, mantle, and crust, plate tectonics, the development and evolution of our atmosphere and hydrosphere, and then of course the evolution of biota and related biogenic sedimentary rocks are all going to have an effect on the mineralogic evolution of the earth.
  • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:32PM (#25900553)

    But "evolved" does mean changed. It is the biologists who have specialized the word far more tightly than its original meaning, not the other way around. Just because biological evolution by means of heredity and natural selection is on our minds doesn't mean that is the exclusive meaning of the word.

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