Evidence From a Unique Planet
1, 2. What do observers say about our planet Earth?
OUR planet Earth is truly a wonder—a rare, beautiful jewel in space. Astronauts have reported that, viewed from space, the earth’s blue skies and white clouds “made it by far the most inviting object they could see.”1
2 However, it is much more than just beautiful. “The greatest of all cosmological scientific puzzles, confounding all our efforts to comprehend it, is the earth,” wrote Lewis Thomas in Discover. He added: “We are only now beginning to appreciate how strange and splendid it is, how it catches the breath, the loveliest object afloat around the sun, enclosed in its own blue bubble of atmosphere, manufacturing and breathing its own oxygen, fixing its own nitrogen from the air into its own soil, generating its own weather.”2
3. What does the book The Earth say about our planet, and why?
3 Also of interest is this fact: Of all the planets in our solar system, only on Earth have scientists found life. And what marvelous, abundant varieties of living things there are—microscopic organisms, insects, plants, fish, birds, animals and humans. In addition, the earth is a vast storehouse of wealth that contains everything needed to sustain all that life. Truly, as the book The Earth expressed it, “The earth is the wonder of the universe, a unique sphere.”3
4. What illustration can be used to show how unique the earth is, and what conclusion must we draw?
4 To illustrate how unique the earth is, imagine that you are in a barren desert, devoid of all life. Suddenly you come upon a beautiful house. The house has air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electricity. Its refrigerator and cupboards are filled with food. Its basement contains fuel and other supplies. Now, suppose you asked someone where all of this came from, in such a barren desert. What would you think if that person answered, “It just happened to appear there by chance”? Would you believe that? Or would you take for granted that it had a designer and builder?
5. What Biblical illustration is appropriate to our planet Earth?
5 All the other planets that scientists have probed are devoid of life. But Earth teems with life, sustained by very complex systems that provide light, air, heat, water and food, all in exquisite balance. It shows evidence of having been specially built to accommodate living things comfortably—like a magnificent house. And logically, as one of the Bible’s penmen argues: “Every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.” Yes, the infinitely greater and more amazing “house”—our planet Earth—requires the existence of a remarkably intelligent designer and builder, God.—Hebrews 3:4.
6. How have some acknowledged that the planet Earth does give evidence of intelligent design?
6 The more that scientists examine the planet Earth and its life, the more they realize that it is indeed superbly designed. Scientific American marvels: “As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.”4 And Science News admitted: “It seems as if such particular and precise conditions could hardly have arisen at random.”5
Right Distance From the Sun
7. How does the earth receive just the right amount of energy in the form of light and heat from the sun?
7 Among the many precise conditions vital to life on the earth is the amount of light and heat received from the sun. The earth gets only a small fraction of the sun’s energy. Yet, it is just the right amount required to sustain life. This is because the earth is just the right distance from the sun—an average 93,000,000 miles. If the earth were much closer to the sun or farther away from it, temperatures would be too hot or too cold for life.
8. Why is the earth’s orbital speed around the sun so vital?
8 As it orbits the sun once a year the earth travels at a speed of about 66,600 miles an hour. That speed is just right to offset the gravitational pull of the sun and keep the earth at the proper distance. If that speed were decreased, the earth would be pulled toward the sun. In time, Earth could become a scorched wasteland like Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. Mercury’s daytime temperature is over 600 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if Earth’s orbital speed were increased, it would move farther away from the sun and could become an icy waste like Pluto, the planet whose orbit reaches farthest from the sun. Pluto’s temperature is about 300 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
9. Why is it important that the earth rotate on its axis with a certain frequency?
9 In addition, the earth consistently makes a complete rotation on its axis every 24 hours. This provides regular periods of light and darkness. But what if the earth rotated on its axis, say, only once a year? It would mean that the same side of the earth would be facing the sun all year long. That side would likely become a furnacelike desert, while the side away from the sun would likely become a sub-zero wasteland. Few, if any, living things could exist in those extreme circumstances.
10. How does the earth’s tilt affect climate and crops?
10 As Earth rotates on its axis, it is tilted 23.5 degrees in relation to the sun. If the earth were not tilted, there would be no change of seasons. Climate would be the same all the time. While this would not make life impossible, it would make it less interesting and would drastically change the present crop cycles in many places. If the earth were tilted much more, there would be extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters. But the tilt of 23.5 degrees allows for the delightful changing of seasons with their interesting variety. In many parts of the earth there are refreshing springtimes with plants and trees awakening and beautiful flowers coming into bloom, warm summers that allow for all kinds of outdoor activity, crisp autumn weather with gorgeous displays of leaves changing colors, and winters with beautiful scenes of snow-draped mountains, forests and fields.
Our Amazing Atmosphere
11. What makes the earth’s atmosphere so unique?
11 Also unique—indeed, amazing—is the atmosphere that surrounds our earth. No other planet in our solar system has it. Nor does our moon. That is why astronauts needed space suits to survive there. But no space suits are needed on the earth, because our atmosphere contains the right proportions of gases that are absolutely essential for life. Some of those gases, by themselves, are deadly. But because air contains safe proportions of these gases, we can breathe them without harm.
12. (a) How is it evident that we have just the right amount of oxygen? (b) What vital function does nitrogen have?
12 One of those gases is oxygen, making up 21 percent of the air we breathe. Without it, humans and animals would die within minutes. But too much oxygen would endanger our existence. Why? Pure oxygen becomes toxic if breathed too long. In addition, the more oxygen there is, the more easily things burn. If there were too much oxygen in the atmosphere, combustible materials would become highly flammable. Fires would easily burst forth and would be difficult to control. Wisely, oxygen is diluted with other gases, especially nitrogen, which makes up 78 percent of the atmosphere. But nitrogen is much more than just a dilutant. During thunderstorms, millions of lightning bolts occur earth wide every day. This lightning causes some nitrogen to combine with oxygen. The compounds produced are carried to the earth by rain, and plants make use of them as fertilizer.
13. What part does the right amount of carbon dioxide play in the life cycle?
13 Carbon dioxide makes up less than one percent of the atmosphere. What good is such a small amount? Without it, plant life would die. That small amount is what plants need to take in, giving off oxygen in return. Humans and animals breathe in the oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. An increasing percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would tend to be harmful to humans and animals. A decreasing percentage could not support plant life. What a marvelous, precise, self-sustaining cycle has been arranged for plant, animal and human life!
14, 15. How does the atmosphere serve as a protective shell?
14 The atmosphere does more than sustain life. It serves as a protective shell too. About 15 miles above the ground, a thin layer of ozone gas filters out harmful radiation from the sun. Without this ozone layer, such radiation could destroy life on earth. Also, the atmosphere shields the earth from bombardment by meteors. Most meteors never reach the ground because they burn up in their descent through the atmosphere, appearing to us as falling stars. Otherwise, millions of meteors would strike all parts of the earth, resulting in extensive damage to life and property.
15 In addition to being a protective shell, the atmosphere keeps the warmth of the earth from being lost to the coldness of space. And the atmosphere is itself kept from escaping by the earth’s gravitational pull. That gravity is just strong enough to accomplish this, but not so strong that our freedom of movement is hampered.
16. What can be said about the beauty of the sky?
16 Not only is the atmosphere vital for life, but one of the more beautiful sights is the changing sky. Its scope and grandeur simply stagger the imagination. The earth is enveloped with the sky’s endlessly majestic and colorful panoramas. In the east a golden glow announces the dawn, while the western sky bids the day farewell in glorious displays of pink, orange, red and purple. White billowy, cottonlike clouds proclaim a fine spring or summer day; an autumn mantle of clouds like lamb’s wool says that winter is approaching. At night the sky is magnificent in its starry splendor, and a moonlit night has a beauty all its own.
17. How did a writer comment on the sky, and to whom does the credit belong?
17 What an amazing provision our earth’s atmosphere is, in every way! As a writer in The New England Journal of Medicine commented: “Taken all in all, the sky is a miraculous achievement. It works, and for what it is designed to accomplish it is as infallible as anything in nature. I doubt whether any of us could think of a way to improve on it, beyond maybe shifting a local cloud from here to there on occasion.”6 This comment calls to mind what a man millenniums ago recognized when confronted with such remarkable things—that they are “the wonderful works of the One perfect in knowledge.” He meant, of course, “the Creator of the heavens and the Grand One stretching them out.”—Job 37:16; Isaiah 42:5.
Water—An Extraordinary Substance
18. What are some qualities of water that make it extraordinary?
18 The earth contains vast supplies of water with properties essential for life. It is more abundant than any other substance. Among its many advantageous qualities is that it occurs as a gas (water vapor), a liquid (water), and a solid (ice)—all within earth’s temperature range. Too, the thousands of raw materials that humans, animals and plants need must be transported in a fluid, such as blood or sap. Water is most ideal for this because it will dissolve more substances than any other liquid. Without water, nutrition could not continue, since living organisms depend on water to dissolve the substances on which they feed.
19. What unusual quality does freezing water have, and why is that so important?
19 Water is also extraordinary in the way it freezes. As water in lakes and seas cools, it becomes heavier and sinks. This forces the lighter, warmer water to rise to the top. Yet, as water approaches the freezing point, the process reverses! The colder water now becomes lighter and rises. When it freezes into ice, it floats. The ice acts as an insulator and keeps the deeper waters underneath from freezing, thus protecting marine life. Without this unique quality, every winter more and more ice would sink to the bottom where the sun’s rays could not melt it the following summer. Soon, much of the water in rivers, lakes and even the oceans would become solid ice. The earth would turn into an icy planet that would be inhospitable to life.
20. How is rain formed, and why does the size of raindrops show thoughtful design?
20 Extraordinary, too, is the way that regions far from rivers, lakes and seas get life-sustaining water. Every second, the sun’s heat changes 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 move these clouds, and, under the right conditions, the moisture drops as rain. But raindrops tend to grow only to a certain size. What if this were not so, and raindrops became gigantic in size? That would be disastrous! Instead, rain usually comes down in the right size, and gently, seldom hurting even a blade of grass or the most delicate flower. What masterful, considerate design is evident in water!—Psalm 104:1, 10-14; Ecclesiastes 1:7.
“The Productive Land”
21, 22. What wisdom is shown in the makeup of “the productive land”?
21 One of the Biblical penmen describes God as “the One firmly establishing the productive land by his wisdom.” (Jeremiah 10:12) And this “productive land”—the soil of planet Earth—is impressive. Wisdom is evident in its makeup. Soil has qualities essential for plant growth. Plants combine the nutrients and water in the soil with carbon dioxide from the air, in the presence of light, to produce food.—Compare Ezekiel 34:26, 27.
22 The soil contains chemical elements that are needed to sustain human and animal life. But vegetation must first convert those elements into forms that can be assimilated by the body. Cooperating in this are tiny living organisms. And many millions of them can be found in just a spoonful of soil! They are of countless different designs, each working to convert dead leaves, grass and other waste matter back to usable form, or to loosen up the soil so that air and water can get in. Certain bacteria convert nitrogen into compounds that plants need for growth. Topsoil is improved as burrowing worms and insects continually bring up particles of subsoil to the surface.
23. What powers of restoration does the soil have?
23 True, because of misuse and other factors some soil is damaged. But this damage need not be permanent. The earth has amazing built-in powers of restoration. This can be noted in places where fires or volcanic eruptions have devastated the land. In time, these areas once again flourish with vegetation. And when pollution is controlled, land is restored, even land that was turned into a barren waste. Most important of all, to deal with the basic problem behind misuse of the soil, earth’s Creator has purposed to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth” and to preserve it as the eternal home he originally prepared for mankind.—Revelation 11:18; Isaiah 45:18.
Not Just Chance
24. What questions can we ask about undirected chance?
24 In thinking over the foregoing, here are some things to consider: Was it undirected chance that placed the earth at just the right distance from the sun, its source of energy in the form of light and heat? Was it mere chance that caused the earth to move around the sun at just the right speed, to rotate on its axis every 24 hours, and to have just the correct angle of tilt? Was it chance that provided the earth with a protective, life-sustaining atmosphere having just the right mixture of gases? Was it chance that gave the earth the water and soil needed to grow food? Was it chance that provided so many delicious and colorful fruits, vegetables and other foods? Was it chance that caused so much beauty to exist in the sky, the mountains, the streams and lakes, the flowers, plants and trees, and in so many other delightful living things?
25. What conclusion about our unique planet have many people drawn?
25 Many have concluded that all of this could hardly be due to undirected chance. Instead, they see the unmistakable stamp of thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate design everywhere. Recognizing that, they feel it is only right that the beneficiaries “fear God and give him glory” because he is “the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”—Revelation 14:7.
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“The earth is the wonder of the universe, a unique sphere”
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Without oxygen, humans and animals would die within minutes
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“The sky is a miraculous achievement”
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Without water, animals and plants could not get the nutrients they need
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The earth bears the unmistakable stamp of deliberate design
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The earth’s orbital speed keeps it at just the right distance from the sun
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A night sky can have a beauty all its own
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Water sinks as it cools, but rises just before freezing. This prevents the earth from becoming a frozen planet
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Light from the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water and chemicals from the soil combine miraculously to produce food
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The earth has amazing powers of recovery. In a short time new growth emerges
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Was it undirected chance that provided so many delightful things for our enjoyment?
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Since every house must have a designer and builder, what of our far more intricate and better-equipped earth?
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E, E, E, E
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The earth’s tilt allows for delightful seasonal changes
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Some gases would be deadly by themselves, but mixed together in the atmosphere they sustain life
Makeup of earth’s atmosphere
1% All other gases
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The atmosphere shields the earth from harmful radiation and from meteors