Bare Bones Biology Transcript 010-The Spirit of God

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.”

My Bible doesn’t say exactly how God did it. But here we are in this very fine Garden of Eden. We are the only living thing within light years, in the midst of a universe of fire and ice. It is indeed miraculous.

Werner von Braun, who I think was a physicist, said: “The universe is hostile only when you do not know its laws. For those who know and obey, the universe is friendly.” I expect he was thinking about the laws of physics, and I expect he was right. We would not get very far pretending we can walk on clouds (even though it makes you want to try sometimes, looking down on them from an airplane) and we wouldn’t get very far without wheels and combustion and all of that kind of technology based in the reality of natural phenomena.

And we won’t get very far pretending we are more powerful than the ecosystem, because we can’t be alive without the ecosystem. So how do we get to know its laws? Whether or not we can feel the spirit of God moving among the miracles, the Bible does not answer this kind of question, but there are other windows on the world, and one of these is biology, the study of the basic laws that permit life on earth, inside the living ecosystem.

The ecosystem is a living thing with all the needs of living things, and we do have a very good bare bones understanding of the needs of living things. The physical laws of being alive. The greatest of these is balance, among all the parts and all the intakings and outgoings required to maintain life. The intakings and the outgoings and the parts are maintained in their natural balance by the flow of information through the ecosystem, and they are of two types.

First, we need food because it requires work to stay alive, and there is a universal law of energy that says no work can happen without energy. We get energy to stay alive from our food. Food does not come from supermarkets, or from the sun. Food for you and me and for the whole ecosystem and also for our cars and trucks and machines — almost all of that comes from plants, from our Garden of Eden, and it does not recycle in the ecosystem. That means the plants must keep busy all over the world, all the time churning out the energy source for all of life, or life grinds to a halt.

Second, all living things must recycle materials such as oxygen and carbon dioxide and nitrogen and sulfur and all the elements that are part of life. That is another reason we eat. Also it’s why we breathe.

These three things — energy from plants, the recycling of elements and compounds, and the genetic information to direct all the processes — these are required by every living thing, from the tiniest prokaryotic cell to the entire living ecosystem.

The cell stays alive because its genes know how to respond to the environment.

We can be alive because our genetic information knows when and where to make an enzyme to digest the meal we just ate, and when and where to make a nerve cell or a pigment cell or a muscle cell, or exactly how to do the process of thinking.

The ecosystem can stay alive because the genetic code of the entire ecosystem directs the behaviors of all its parts, from the plants that make our organic energy source to all the other organisms that distribute the energy throughout the ecosystem and recycle the materials and make the atmosphere and its weather and all the other conditions that are necessary for life.

The threefold requirements for life are the same for the tiniest cell as they are for you and me and for the whole earth ecosystem that you can see from the moon. And we can see it from the moon, only because scientists like Werner von Braun learned how to obey the most basic natural laws.


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