We may think we are the first organisms to remake the planet, but life has been transforming the earth for aeons

Robert Hazen in Aeon:

ScreenHunter_711 Jun. 28 17.35One could easily be forgiven for thinking that life bears little connection to rocks. From high-school science curricula to Wikipedia, the institutional separation of geology and biology seems as ingrained today as when the 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus first distinguished animals, vegetables, and minerals. After all, what could be more different than a fragrant rose and a cold chunk of granite?

Minerals are usually defined as naturally occurring inorganicsubstances that combine to form rocks. Until recently, many geologists assumed that most rocks had been around since the origins of Earth, well before life formed on this planet. Even ‘biominerals’ such as calcite and apatite, which organisms secrete to form shells, teeth and bones, are merely recent examples of very ancient and rather common non-biological materials. No wonder, then, that when I asked my PhD adviser if I should take a biology course as a capstone to my graduate studies, his response was: ‘Why? You’re a mineralogist. You’ll never use biology!’

For more than 20 years, my career flourished in blissful ignorance of microbes and mollusks, teeth and bone. But my perceptions changed a bit in 1996, when I began to research the origins of life.

More here.