Thursday, April 19, 2007

First Plants

Need an idea for an essay on a current event? Here's one.

Science in the news...
Oldest tree had fronds, not leaves
POSTED: 3:48 p.m. EDT, April 18, 2007

CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- The branches of Earth's oldest tree probably waved in the breeze like a modern palm, scientists said on Wednesday, based on two intact tree fossils that help explain the evolution of forests and their influence on climate.

The 385-million-year-old fossils, which scientists believe are evidence of Earth's earliest forest trees, put to rest speculation about fossilized tree stumps discovered more than a century ago in Gilboa, New York.

Scientists believe these early forests absorbed carbon dioxide, cooling the Earth's surface. [READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE.]

Here is what the Bible has to say on the matter:
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13)

There has been considerable debate among scientists about when the first trees appeared on land. But the picture has been getting more clear in recent years. This news story is consistent with previous stories about the timeframe.

Keep in mind, however, the this news article is about the earliest "forest trees" not the appearance of the first land plants in general. Those go back significantly farther. This is important to keep in mind, otherwise the Genesis 1 chronology of creation miracles gets a little muddy. Assuming the events in Genesis 1 represent a loose sequence, land plants appear after the emergence of continents (verses 9-10), but before the appearance of the first complex, multi-cellular, sea-dwelling life forms (verses 20-21) about 540 million years ago.

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