Miraculous Survival of Life on Earth
DOES it sound strange to speak of the miraculous survival of life? We incline to take life on earth—of plants, animals and humans—pretty much for granted. But most people would be amazed if they realized all that is involved in the continuance of earthly life. And that includes your own. Consider just a few of the reasons why the survival of life on this planet can rightly be called a miracle. As a result, you will appreciate the life you have far more.
Provisions in Space
Life on earth depends on light and heat from the sun. It is believed that the sun is changing matter into energy at the rate of four million tons a second and that it can continue to do so for billions (thousands of millions) of years. But only one two-billionths of the tremendous energy produced by the sun finally reaches the earth. Yet that is enough for life to continue. Is it by chance that such an energy-producing furnace as the sun exists?
In the continuous flood of energy emanating from the sun, there is also radiation that could destroy life. But the atmosphere surrounding the earth provides a protective shield. For example, about fifteen miles above the ground, a thin layer of ozone gas in the atmosphere filters out most of the harmful rays. Were this ozone layer to drift away into space, harmful radiation would doubtless soon destroy plant, animal and human life. This moved Dr. F. E. Miller (Smithsonian Institution) to remark that we live “miraculously” on this planet because of the thin layer of ozone in our atmosphere.
Not only must life on earth be shielded from deadly radiation to survive, but it must also be protected from bombardment by meteors. And life is protected. Most meteors never reach the ground, because they are burned up in their descent through the atmosphere. In a warm layer of the atmosphere meteors explode or disintegrate into fine dust. Imagine what would happen if most meteors were not incinerated there! Millions of meteors of various sizes would be falling on all parts of the earth, resulting in extensive damage to life and property.
Not only does the atmosphere serve as a shield, but it also supplies the gases that are absolutely essential for life to continue. Arthur Beiser, geophysicist, described air as “a constant mixture; nitrogen 78 percent, oxygen 21 percent, argon 0.9 percent, carbon dioxide 0.03 percent, with traces of half a dozen other gases, plus a variable load of water vapor.” Now, some of these gases by themselves are highly lethal. Yet, because they are combined in just the right proportions, we can breathe them without harming ourselves. Then, too, if the amount of oxygen in the air were much greater, combustible materials would become highly flammable so that it would be extremely difficult to control fires.
Could mere accident have produced a combination of gases just right for life on earth? Rather, does not this as well as the way life is shielded from deadly radiation and falling meteors point to some intelligent being as the one responsible for provisions that have made it possible for life to continue?
That Marvelous Provision: Water
Without water, plant, animal and human life would not be possible. Happily there is an abundance of water available. And it is indeed an unusual liquid. Each molecule of water is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Hydrogen is the most flammable gas known and oxygen is needed for combustion. Yet when two atoms of hydrogen combine with one atom of oxygen, amazingly one of the best fire extinguishers is produced—water.
The effect of cold on water also illustrates that it is a unique liquid. As the water in lakes and seas cools, it becomes heavier and forces the lighter, warmer water to rise to the top. Yet, when the water as a whole reaches about 39° Fahrenheit a marvelous thing happens—the process reverses! The water becomes lighter as it nears the freezing point of 32° F. and thus remains as a layer above the warmer water beneath. This upper layer then turns to ice, and being lighter than water, it floats; thus marine life is protected. Were it not for this phenomenon, all the lakes and even the oceans would eventually become solid ice, making this earth a “deep freeze” in which no plant, animal or human life could exist.
Amazing, too, is the way that regions far from rivers, lakes and seas get the vital life-sustaining water. The sun’s heat is constantly changing thousands of millions of gallons of water into vapor. This vapor, lighter than air, floats upward and forms clouds in the sky. Wind and air currents, created by the sun’s energy, move these clouds. As the air in the clouds cools, the vapor condenses into tiny water droplets that attach themselves to dust particles. This atmospheric dust has come from various sources, including disintegrated meteors. The droplets next join together, forming larger drops, rain.
Raindrops grow only to a certain size and then begin falling. What if this were not so and raindrops became colossal in size? This would be disastrous. Observes Arthur L. Brown, in his book Footprints of God: “Without the provision for gentle showers, vegetation would be destroyed, crops beaten into the ground, trees stripped of leaves and fruits, fields ploughed into deep trenches, and soil washed away. Every passing cloud would be an object of terror. But how beneficent is the existing arrangement! Instead of ruinous cascades of water, it trickles down in gentle and fertilizing drops, as if the cloud were perforated like a sieve with tiny openings. The drops fall and seldom is a blade of grass hurt, or the most delicate flower bruised.”—Pp. 110, 111.
Do not these factors about earth’s vital water supply suggest that there is a Master Designer behind it all?
The Interdependency of Life
Truly, as we consider the earth around, we cannot help but be impressed with the fact that one form of life depends upon another form of life.
For example, green vegetation produces carbohydrates, an essential food for man and animals. How plants do this still baffles scientists. Says a plant physiologist, Laurence C. Walker: “The greatest unknown for the botanist is how to make carbohydrate synthetically when given the ingredients used by any green plant for the purpose. Chlorophyll can be prepared in the laboratory. Air gases can be mixed in any proportion, and the energy of light as the catalyst (accelerator) can be provided. Yet carbohydrate just doesn’t come out. If the secret unfolded, man could probably feed the world—using a factory the size of a common school building.”
Not only do the plants produce carbohydrates, but in the process they use carbon dioxide and give off the oxygen so vital for human and animal life. Thus their manufacturing process continually purifies the air. How different this is from man’s factories that have been responsible for polluting the air.
There is evidence of the interdependency of living things in the contributions made by bacteria, insects, birds and other animals to maintain soil productivity. The droppings or wastes of various creatures enrich the soil with valuable nutrients, such as soluble nitrogen. Certain soil bacteria convert nitrogen gas into compounds that plants need for growth. The thickness of the topsoil is increased as burrowing worms and insects continually bring up particles of subsoil to the surface.
Is there not something miraculous about all such interdependency?
Miracles at the Time of Human Birth
Think, too, about the way we humans come into the world. Consider, for example, two changes that take place in connection with the circulatory system at birth.
A normal adult heart is like a double pump handling two separate circulatory systems. The left side contains oxygenated blood, whereas the right side contains deoxygenated blood. The complete separation of the two chambers of the heart prevents deoxygenated blood from mixing with the oxygenated blood coming from the lungs.
An unborn child, however, does not need two separate systems for circulating the blood. Why not? Because, although the blood of the baby and the mother are kept separate through the placenta, by means of this organ the blood of the mother both carries away wastes and supplies oxygen and nourishment. As the lungs of the unborn infant are not functioning, the blood cannot be kept separated but must all flow together. How is this accomplished? The circulatory system of the unborn child has two “bypasses.” There is a hole in the dividing wall (septum) of the heart. This hole lets blood mix in the two chambers. There is also a connective duct or tube between the two main arteries branching from the heart. However, at birth the continuance of the hole and the connective duct would spell death.
How the arrangement changes and the critical timing involved in the change are miracles that mystify scientists. Flaps of tissue around the hole in the heart close instantaneously at birth. In time new tissue grows across the hole, sealing it for life. The connective duct has a tough sheet of smooth muscle that contracts at birth, shutting off the duct and forcing the blood to go to the lungs. Eventually the contracted muscle degenerates and disappears. In the vast majority of births occurring every minute these marvelous adjustments are made without a mishap. And we continue living because they took place at birth. Of course, in the rare instances where these adjustments do not occur, a surgical operation can often correct the defect.
Truly, the continuance of life is a marvel. And does not the fact that life has continued to this day point to the existence of a Life-Giver? The Bible identifies this One as God. (Gen. 1:1) Does not the marvelous way in which he has provided for the continuance of life show that he is actively concerned about his creation? Does this not give us assurance that he will never allow man to make this earth an uninhabitable waste? (Rev. 11:18) Is it not also reasonable to conclude that he must have a grand purpose for humankind?
How many reasons we have, then, for earnestly seeking to come into a good relationship with him and share in that purpose!
[Diagram on page 6]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Vapor Cools, Forming Clouds
Clouds Cool, Causing Precipitation
Invisible Water Vapor
Evaporation from Precipitation
Evaporation from Rivers and Lakes
Evaporation from Land and Transpiration from Plants
Precipitation Seeping into Ground
Evaporation from Oceans
Groundwater Flows into Lakes, Rivers, and Oceans
Water, vital for all earthly life, is transferred by solar energy from rivers and lakes and falls on the land in gentle drops
[Diagram on page 8]
Before birth the infant has a hole in its heart—vital to life. Miraculously, at the instant of birth a flap of tissue closes the hole; this is vital to life outside the mother’s womb
[Picture on page 5]
200 MILLION METEORS BOMBARD THE ATMOSPHERE EVERY DAY; THE ATMOSPHERE PROTECTS US BY CAUSING THEM TO DISINTEGRATE
THE OZONE FILTERS OUT DEADLY RAYS FROM THE SUN, BUT LETS THOSE NEEDED FOR LIGHT PASS THROUGH
AIR WITH JUST THE RIGHT COMBINATION OF GASES FOR HUMANS TO BREATHE