Way back when:
I’ve told more than once the tale, gripping for me, about the horse that loved the woman riding it so much that it discovered the Burgess shale for her.  There, in about a half acre I understand, what was then the earliest complex life was found fossilized.  There was more variety than in all the oceans of the world today. 

Well my much loved magazine Economist reports (The Curious Lightness of an Early Atmosphere Economist vol. 419 no. 8989 May 14, 2016 page 69) that two independent teams, both working among ancient rocks in Australia, have made discoveries that bear on the question of the composition and density of the Earth’s early atmosphere.  Suffice it to say that yesterday at this time, if I asked, I would have said that it was all known along with the evidence and chain of causality.  Now I would say nobody really knows and there is a lot of work going on working it out and resolving some apparent contradictions; as time goes on I know less and less.

Early I saw on the internet (or I would have been able to give you a proper reference) that also in Australia they have been studying a zircon, a small tough stone with about the appearance of a diamond.  Its greatest diameter was about thrice the thickness of a human hair, which of course varies, but we get the point.  Studying the ratios of the isotopes of the chemicals included, they found what amounts to a signature of life.  It wasn’t life that made the zircons, but the inorganic forces that did so used elements the presence of which could have been produced by inorganic forces alone.  But life handles some isotopes differently than inorganic forces do, so they had a tell tale. 

That’s impressive enough.  But what they found was this: life was present here 4.6 billion years ago.  I stand ready to eat my words, but that’s what I read so I’m sticking with it until somebody questions it.  (If you have reason to, please do drop me a line.)  If that number sounds kind of familiar, it’s because that, give or take margin or error, is when the molten lava of early earth first cooled enough to harden.  There is no evidence for water for a long time after that.  Now I do not see any difficulty in that alone.  Even though there is no evidence for widespread water, a little liquid in deep – but not too deep – fissures in Polar Regions could have existed.  In other words, given a decent temperature and only a very small amount of water, life was right there.

So creating life, for nature, is no big deal.  Unless life came in in the form of space faring spores, it was brewed up so quickly the delay can’t even be measured yet. 

Of course it was microscopic life, little micro organisms what would dismay you if you found evidence of them in your refrigerator.  Mats of algae formed.  There was lots of variety and lots of biomass of these critters, but pretty much they were stuff you’d find yourself scraping off your shoes after a ramble in marshy parts of Florida.

Otherwise nothing for four billion years.  Got that?  Primitive life at once and then dead halt for that long even though the amount of life and its age were colossal.  Then came the Burgess shale.  There was stuff you might expect to find fried up and served with French fried potatoes as some fast food place.  Life such as we have today if more varied and of course in detail totally different.

Wait only 0.6 billion years and you are reading this on the internet.  So    

Time to create life: .........             No time at all
Time to create complex life:.....  4 billion years
Time to present:......                      Another 0.6 billion

The big delay was complex life.  And what did that take?  Why it took speciation, of course, but it also required a process such that speciation did not extinguish the fittest.

So don’t be surprised if it has taken me years to reach my present understanding that I give you.  It is far more difficult than life and far more difficult than creating a creature that is able to indulge in abstract reasoning, something Turing proved that no computer could ever accomplish.

I suppose I should not be impatient if people don’t get it.

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