Quartz, the atmosphere and religion

The atmosphere in a rock

I came across an article today in Summit County Citizens Voice about a study some European researchers made analyzing ancient quartz from Australia to determine what the atmosphere was like during the Archean period, which was about 2.4 to 3.8 billion years ago, about the time scientists believe life started evolving on earth. At that time, the sun only put out about 75% of the energy it currently produces.

Photo from Webmineral.com

Photo from Webmineral.com

In the article, Dr. Ray Brugess, study author from Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Studies is quoted, “If the greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere was comparable to current levels then the Earth should have been permanently glaciated but geological evidence suggests there were no global glaciations before the end of the Archean and that liquid water was widespread.”

While the study might shed some light on ancient atmospheric conditions, what’s fascinating to me is this is all revealed through a rock.


I began this blog to write about rocks. Sometimes I find myself wondering why?

After I read this article I wandered around my house looking at the rocks I’ve picked up over the years. Agates. Crystals. Black spinel. None of them are worth money but I know the deserts, mountains and beaches where they all came from and each one holds a little bit of that world inside.

Now in what may seem like a bit of a leap, I read another article today in Tricycle called Losing Our Religion by Robert Sharf about the way Buddhism has been adapted, some might say diluted, to fit Western culture.

This may be true, but what I took out of this article is the way we tend to dismiss religious myths about the origin of life as purely symbolic imaginations of our beginnings. Yet there are striking similarities to science. A black nothingness or a spinning chaotic cosmos and somehow order and life is created from it all.

So I have to wonder if our ancient ancestors, like the rocks from the Archean period, knew more than we realize. Maybe they were more scientific than we give them credit for. Maybe superstition holds a little bit of reality.

And the rocks seem to support a more spiritual view that we are, in fact, all the same. We’re all just parts of a bigger organism, the earth, and the earth is just part of something bigger still. With the evolution of life, the search for a meaning to that life has also evolved.

Calcite on Dolomite from Missouri

Calcite on Dolomite from Missouri

And I have no idea what that meaning might be but sometimes I like to think it’s just very simple. A swirling cosmos. Then life. And we get to part of it all. Maybe only for a short while. Maybe for eternity.

What does the world inside your rock — or on your rock — look like today?

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