by The Old Scot
The more we learn about the conditions under which life is possible, the more remarkable it seems that life as we know it can exist at all.
Consider, for example, some of the many delicate balances in nature which are vital for life on earth:
The distance of our Earth from the Sun is one of those balance points. Were the Earth as much as 5 percent closer to the Sun, or merely 1 percent further away, scientists calculate that life here would be impossible. The dangers, they believe, would come from a run-away "greenhouse" effect if we were too close, or run-away glaciation if we were too far away.
Just as greenhouses accumulate heat under a shelter, so it is believed that a closer Earth would have built up a thick atmosphere and a high-temperature surface-as indeed our neighboring planet Venus has done.
While current popular speculation dwells on planetary warming, we should not forget that the Earth survived a major crisis some thousands of years ago, when glaciers overspread about 10 percent of the Earth. "Some estimates indicate that the high was within one-tenth of a degree (F) in average temperature from becoming too glaciated for life to continue," according to a popular science writer.1
But there are many other critical balance points. For example, it is estimated that if the Earth rotated on its axis at much less than its actual 1,000 miles per hour, each segment would successively be exposed too long to the Sun's heat-followed by too long a deprivation of heat-and would therefore burn and freeze in daily succession. Vegetation could hardly survive in such a condition.
Again, if our Moon were much closer to our Earth, its tidal force would cause twice-daily flooding of much of Earth's land surfaces.
Still another critical balance point is the depth of our atmosphere. If it were much thinner, many of the meteorites which constantly bombard the Earth would blaze through to the surface, starting fires and causing other great damage. As it is, the vast proportion burn up harmlessly in the air.
There is another type of bombardment from space, of which we are hardly aware-for cosmic rays are invisible and undetectable by our un-aided senses. Yet life would probably be impossible if we were not protected from their deadly effect by the thin layer of ozone in our upper atmosphere.
Still another balance point is the wonderful relationship between plant and animal life, which provides just the right amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. Animal life must have oxygen to breathe, and then exhales carbon dioxide as a waste product. Plants require this carbon dioxide to support their life processes, and give off surplus oxygen in return. If it were not for this marvelous replenishment of each substance, neither the plant nor animal kingdom could long continue.
Also contributing to this essential balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is the amount of water in our oceans and seas. It has been estimated that if they were a few feet deeper than they are, the greater volume of water would absorb so much of both the oxygen and carbon dioxide from the air that life could scarcely exist.2
On the other hand, we are dependent upon the oceans not only as a vital source of water vapor for rain but also upon their capacity to store and distribute heat, thus greatly moderating extremes of weather around the world.
These are only some of the critical balance points which make life on Earth possible. What are the chances that all these "just happened"? Probably not nearly as good as the chances of as tornado accidentally assembling all the thousands of parts of a modern jet airliner, merely by blowing across a junk yard which contained all the parts at random!3
All are free to believe in that sort of statistical monstrosity if they wish. But we believe the evidence clearly shows that life is not an accident at all, but the deliberate creation of One who knew exactly what He was doing. If we think on this, we will be led to "stand still and consider the wondrous works of God" (Job 37:14).
1. Robert M. Powers, The Coattails of God, Warner Communications, N.Y., 1981, pp. 106-107.
2. A. Cressy Morrison, former president of the New York Academy of Science, quoted in a church bulletin.
3. Illustration borrowed from Astronomer Fred Hoyle, used in a sermon by David Brink, Duke Street Church of Christ, Portland, Oregon, in 1985.