The Formation of Earth and Life – The Accepted Theory

By fire, water, earth and air mother earth was formed. This mighty and unique planet was personified as Gaia by the Greeks of antiquity and her formation has been one of the primary mysteries of the ages. As science expanded into what it is today, humanity has uncovered many of the mysteries regarding the earth’s creation, however, many details continue to be debated and remain for the most part unsolved. The basic principles of Gaia’s creation and her ever-changing form is understood for the most part. In Hesiod’s Theogony, the marriage of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky) led to the birth of the twelve Titans, the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires (Hundred Handed Ones). It is this marriage of Earth and Sky, that is responsible for all life on earth as we know it. The myths of creation are colourful and diverse, but so too is the conventional science of how earth and life started. This article explores the formation of planet earth in terms of conventional science. The processes that earth endured to shape it, along with the prevalence of life and it’s origin will be discussed.

We as humans, tend to think that science has explained almost every important and mundane phenomenon that presents itself in our existence. However, many of the answers continue to be hidden beneath layers of uncertainty and theory, and those answers already found remain unaccepted or unheard of to a large portion of society. The formation and workings of planet earth continue to be debated in academic circles, while theological explanations of its creation remain as diverse as the gods themselves. Concerning the diversity of academic fields attempting to explain the origin and function of the earth Don L. Anderson in the Theory of the Earth states, ‘Some of these subdisciplines are field geology, petrology, mineralogy, geochemistry, geodesy and seismology, and these, in turn, are split into even finer units. The science has also expanded to include the planets and even the cosmos. The practitioners in each of these fields tend to diffuse only slowly into the consciousness of a specialist in another. In spite of the fact that there is only one earth, there are probably more Theories of the Earth than there are of astronomy, particle physics or cell biology where there are uncountable samples of each object.’ This is not to say that humanity has not gained great insight into the body of Gaia, but merely to illustrate that not every answer has been uncovered or wrapped in certainty. The general principles of the earth’s creation are agreed upon.

Nearly five billion years ago the earth was unformed and over time a nebula of dust and particles collide and collect, creating ever-larger bodies. According to the Theory of the Earth, the planet could have formed either through smaller planetary bodies (planetesimals) that collect piece by piece over time to form larger planetary bodies. Or, collections of dust clouds and small solid bodies could have become gravitationally unstable, thus collapsing together into large planetary bodies. The accepted theory of earth’s creation is by rotation of disk-shaped gas and dust clouds that coalesce as they collide and cool down. This gravitational attraction, spin and cooling provide the first prerequisites of matter to condense into solid objects which collect over time to form large bodies. With this, heavier chemicals are known to collect at the centre, while lighter minerals build up in layers around the core. Light and volatile chemicals were introduced later onto earth through other means such as meteor showers according to the inhomogeneous accretion theory. These lighter chemicals include water, the primary substance required for life to exist. In the early stage of earth’s formation, roughly 4.5 billion years ago, the collection of matter created a gigantic ball of liquid rock continually bombarded by leftover debris and meteors.

In this early stage of earth’s development, fire reigned over the planet. The earth boiled and churned waves molten rock across the entire globe, while the surface temperature raised to over twelve thousand degrees celsius. It was only until one fateful incident that earth began to cool and form solid surfaces, along with it’s companion the moon. At roughly 54 000 kilometres an hour or 15 kilometres a second, Theia another young planet the size of mars collided with earth. This impact was so great that trillions of tonnes debris blasted back into space, while the remainder of the planets fused together in their molten states. After only a thousand years, the debris blasted into space being to collect and continued to do so over millions of years to form the moon. Over the next six hundred million years, the earth continually cooled and created solid surfaces. The earth remained inhospitable with volcanic activity ever erupting and shaping its landscape. It was another great event that that occurred 3.9 billion years ago, that was to change the surface of the planet and bring forth the requirements for life.

The event mentioned above occurred over the span of twenty million years. For this period in earth’s history meteors that had remained left over from the early stages of the formation of the solar system showered down onto the earth in a continual bombardment. These meteors each carried a small amount of water with it. This violent and prolonged bombardment slowly started to populate the earth with water, forever changing the surface of mother earth and her capability to sustain life. All the water present on planet earth today was provided by these meteors. The water continually cycled through the hydrosphere, in the oceans, rain, rivers, lakes and within all life is the very water that crashed into earth 3.9 billion years ago. The amount of water given by the meteors was enough to cover the entire surface of earth with ocean. This cooled the surface of the planet, while the core remained molten. At 75 degrees celsius, the earth had a completely different face than in it’s initial development. Due to relatively high temperatures and the close proximity of the moon to the earth, the tidal effects were greatly increased and massive oceanic storms rippled across the planet. These storms became less severe over time as the moon kept moving away from the planet, until around 3.8 billion years ago when the oceans finally became calm. However, the molten subsurface earth did not become less active and over millions of years erupted from the water to form islands.

Earth started to rise out of the oceans as volcanic activity continually erupted from the earth’s crust. The extruded molten rock from beneath the crust solidified layer upon layer, creating islands that eventually connect to form larger masses of land. It is in this period that the first signs of life can be found in the fossil record. ‘Probable fossils of mats of simple organisms, forming layers over the sediment surface, have been found in 3,500 million-year-old rocks – indicating that life on Earth must have begun even earlier.’ There are two primary thoughts as to how the basic building blocks of life could have come to be on planet earth. The first is the theory that basic building blocks of advanced forms of life, in the form of amino acids, could have been delivered through meteors. Thus their origin is extraterrestrial as they were developed elsewhere. The second theory states that chemical chains of basic amino acids could have been formed on earth as Dr Watson states, ‘as a result of some sort of physicochemical accident.’ Wherever these early forms of life originated here or elsewhere does not matter now. The accepted theory is that these basic organic molecules flourished on iron and sulphide-rich environments, and changed over time with exposure to ultraviolet light and lightning. In this environment, the conditions are adequate for the development of RNA, which is capable replication and evolution. This breakthrough in evolution eventually led to the creation of an atmosphere.

In the shallow parts of the oceans, 3.5 billion years ago, colonies of bacteria known as stromatolite formed. These colonies resemble rocks and are extremely durable. They are the first organisms to create glucose sugars through the process of photosynthesis. In this process, carbon dioxide and light are used to form the sugars and consequently oxygen is released. It is because of these early stromatolites that over the process of two billion years enough oxygen was released to create what is known as ‘the oxygenation event’, where a mass of oxygen was released into the oceans and atmosphere. In this period a great variety of complex cellular organisms evolved (eukaryotes). These bacteria process oxygen in their metabolism and due to the great influx of oxygen in the ocean and atmosphere, exploded in diversity and complexity. Some of these organisms endured multiple extinctions and continued to evolve into more complex forms of life. Eventually these surviving, adapting and evolving organisms created all the life on earth today.

From a nebula of dust to a wonderland of living diversity, planet earth has gone through an immense process of creation. Through trials and evolution of fire, water, earth, and air, life has managed to cover almost every part of its oceans, surface and sky. Whether it was an accident or came into existence through intention, it is certain that life and the conditions for it to exist are rare and colourful. Through a continual process in geological time that humans cannot comprehend, a privilege has been provided to us to live, think, feel and grow. In geological time, the lifespan of a human cannot be compared. In the diversity of Gaia, human creation also falls short in beauty and complexity. This is how the earth was formed and life came into being, but debate will forever remain of whether or not it was intelligently created or and accidental improbability.


Keep Well,


Featured Image – Beth Scupham


Hutton, J. (1972) Theory of the earth. 3rd edn. New York: Stechert-Hafner Service Agency

King, C. (no date) The planet we live on – the beginnings of the Earth Sciences. Edited by Roy McWeeny. BASIC BOOKS IN SCIENCE { a Series of books that start at the beginning.

Secret doctrine (1966) S.l.: Theosophical Pub. House.

Watson, L. (1987) Lifetide. London, United Kingdom: Sceptre.




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