Towards a Null Hypothesis for Stromatolites

  • Martin D. BrasierEmail author


“How on Earth did life begin?” is one of the noblest questions we can ask in science, but it took well over a century from Darwin (1859) to gain an understanding of life in the Precambrian. Why did an understanding take so long? Arguably it was because it was, and still remains, a very big and very difficult problem. Its study now involves the whole of the natural sciences, and progress has been a matter of slow attrition. For most of this time, for example, there has been no concept of the vast duration of Precambrian time, nor any evidence for a distinct biota. Since the seminal work of Stanley Tyler and Elso Barghoorn (1954), each generation has come up with its own favourite solution, only to watch it fall as younger scientists have arrived on the scene. As such, this story provides us with a salutary tale of ‘paradigm shifts’ that have taken place about every 50 years or so. And this process is ongoing and continuous. It is no surprise then, to find that the majority of uniformitarian interpretations for Precambrian fossil assemblages established over the last 50 years now appear highly questionable. That is, of course, exactly how it should be.


Gunflint chert Strelley pool formation Stromatolites Cyanobacteria Self-organising structures 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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