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The uncertainty of science: Geologists this week announced the discovery of what they think is the Earth’s oldest fossil, approximately 3.7 billion years old.
While the press as usual is going gaga over this announcement, it should be noted that many others in the field have expressed significant doubts.
But the discovery involves some of the most physically tortured rocks on Earth, which have been squeezed and heated over billions of years as crustal plates shifted. The pressure and heat recrystallizes the rocks, erasing much of the fine-scale detail that researchers normally use to identify fossilized stromatolites — so the work is already triggering heated debate. “I’ve got 14 queries and problems that need addressing before I’ll believe it,” says Roger Buick, a geobiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.