Conditions for life – coincidence?
One true fact we can realize from our surroundings is the existence of life. There is life in the sea, on land and in the air. There are plants and animals, which exhibit life. Our earth is not a lifeless planet.
What about the conditions for life? If we assume life began by itself – although there is no evidence for that – we still have to explain why the conditions here on earth happen to be just right for the survival of life. Why are they so suited for life, when life is only possible in a very small sector of conditions? Naturalistic and atheistic theories presume everything resulted through a series of accidental events, but it seems rather impossible that so many perfect coincidences could take place. It would be a miracle after a miracle if these accidents and the accidents before them had occurred entirely coincidentally. A more logical explanation would be that behind everything was a supernatural being, like God.
Some vital conditions for life include the following:
Just the right distance from the Sun. The earth is ca. 150 million kilometers from the Sun, which is a perfect distance. Temperatures stay between 0 – +40 °C degrees in most parts of the earth, and there’s hardly any places that would suffer from constant high or low temperatures. It has been calculated that if we were a mere 5 % closer to the Sun, it would cause oceans to boil and evaporate. Whereas, 5 % increase in the distance would cause oceans to freeze. Similarly, we can see the relation between distance and the Sun’s energy emission from the following numbers:
• If the distance was only a third of the current (50 million km), we would receive 9 times the amount of warmth we receive now.
• If the distance was half of the current (75 million km), we would receive 4 times the amount of warmth we currently receive.
• Mercury is located 58 kilometers from the Sun, and Venus is 108 kilometers from it. These planets can exhibit temperatures of several hundred degrees, which renders the existence of life impossible.
• If the distance was double the current (300 million km), we would receive only a quarter of the amount of warmth that is received from our current position.
Earth’s circular orbit. Earth’s orbit around the Sun is close to a perfect circle. If the orbit was elliptical and eccentric much like orbits of comets, it would result in vast changes in temperature. The earth would be scorching near the Sun, and freezing at its furthest point from the Sun. This would pose a greater challenge for the survival of life.
Earth’s revolution speed. If the earth rotated around its own axis much slower, days would be unbearably hot and nights freezing cold. Our current rotational speed prevents temperature changes from getting too drastic. The nights are not too long and cold, and the days are not too hot for the plants to thrive.
For example, for Venus – the planet closest to earth – it takes 244 days to rotate around its own axis. Why is there so much variation between rotational speeds, and why does the rotational speed on earth happen to be perfect for sustaining life?
Earth’s axial tilt is 23,5 degrees. It is the cause for seasonal changes. If this tilt didn’t exist, a constant dusk would loom over the polar region. Snow would never melt, and the sea would always be frozen. Ice Shelfs would form on both hemispheres, in the North and in the South, whereas regions on the equator would be scorching hot. This would significantly limit the survival of life on earth.
Pull from the moon and the Sun causes tidal movement. If the moon was closer to earth, tides would be radically larger. It has been calculated that if the moon was only one-fifth closer to earth, continents would be completely submerged under tidal waves twice in 24 hours. It would render life on land impossible.
Pull from Jupiter. The large planet Jupiter happens to be at the right spot and is large enough that its pull can steer meteors and comets away from the earth protecting us from getting hit.
Protective effect of the atmosphere. The atmosphere around our planet is quite extraordinary. No other planet or moon has a similar protective atmosphere. One way our atmosphere protects us is through the ozone layer, which prevents detrimental ultraviolet radiation from entering our atmosphere. Without it, animals and plants would get destroyed. Yet, enough warmth and light pass through to make life on earth possible.
The atmosphere also protects our planet from meteorites. Most of them never reach the ground, as they burn when entering the atmosphere. If it wasn’t for our atmosphere, thousands of meteorites would hit the ground and cause tremendous destruction.
The atmosphere is also responsible for the greenhouse effect, which stabilizes temperatures and prevents warmth from escaping back to space. Without this phenomenon, the average temperature on earth would be ca. – 20 °C, whereas in our current state it is + 15 °C. Therefore, the greenhouse effect raises the average temperature on earth by 35 degrees and renders the conditions for life suitable. Whereas, the moon, which has no atmosphere, experiences vast temperature changes, although it is the same distance away from the Sun as the earth. In the moon temperatures vary between + 120 Celsius and - 170 Celsius degrees.
Oxygen and other gases in the atmosphere. One of the most vital gases is oxygen, which fills 21 % of the air. Without it all people and animals would die within minutes. However, if there was too much oxygen, it would become poisonous if inhaled for too long. Furthermore, if the air was, e.g., 50 % oxygen, all flammable materials would be extremely easily caught on fire. One lighting struck could set a whole forest on fire in an explosive manner.
Another very important part of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide, which contributes less than 1 % of the gases in the air. From this amount plants receive all the carbon they need. Without it, plants would die and so would animals that eat the plants. The impeccably precise amount of this gas for suitable living conditions is yet another indication of how small things can play such an intricate part in our survival.
Earth’s size and atmosphere. The size of our earth is crucial in terms of the atmosphere. If the earth was much smaller, surface water would evaporate, life sustaining oxygen would escape, and there would be no atmosphere much like in the moon. That is why astronauts need space suits on the moon, in order to stay alive. The moon is too small to retain oxygen, nitrogen and water vapor.
On the other hand, if the earth was larger than the moon, yet smaller than its current size, the atmosphere might remain so thin and small that it wouldn’t hold a similar life sustaining and protective effect as it currently does. It would significantly restrict life here on earth.
What if the earth was considerably larger? In that case, all hydrogen would cluster together, and it wouldn’t be able to separate from the atmosphere. Together with oxygen it would form an explosive combination. Even the smallest of flames would cause massive explosions.
The following example also illustrates, what could result from a slight change in the size of the earth. If the earth was bigger, it would hold more gases and affect water cycle and quantity:
The difference between planets with 12 8000 and 15 200 kilometer diameters is not great, when contrasted with the impeccable sizes of other planets, and yet this slight difference is enough to increase the latter’s size by two-thirds, and its mass would be, including the increased denseness caused by greater pull, approximately larger by half. But when the mass doubles, so would all kinds of gases, which the planet would attract and retain, and so would possibly the amount of water on the planet. But the diameter has increased only by half; thus, the amount of water would be enough to cover the whole surface under several kilometers of water. (1)
Oceans and dry land. One special trait here on earth is the vast number of oceans and the amount of water. 70,8 % of the earth’s surface is covered in water, whereas dry land takes up only 29,2 %. Moreover, the average depth of oceans is 3,8 kilometers, and the average height of continents from the sea level reaches only 0,84 km. If the earth’s surface was to be smoothed out, the whole planet would be covered in 2440-meter-deep layer of water.
What would happen if we increased the current amount of water by one-tenth? Even such a slight change would cause almost the whole surface of the planet to be under water! This shows how dependent life on land is on having just the right amount of water. If there was slightly more of it, there would not be diverse life on land.
Oceans’ effect on temperature. Our planet has some great oceans. If they weren’t here to adjust temperatures, life would either be boiling or freezing to death. Without the oceans and atmospheric currents, temperatures at the equator would be ca. 15 degrees hotter and in the polar regions 25 degrees colder. The average temperature of a year would be ca. +40 °C at the equator and - 25 °C in Finland. Now, large bodies of water level temperature variation and keep it at a suitable range. This is one crucial prerequisite for life.
Water. One crucial element for life is water. Without it, we would die within a few days. In itself it is an odorless and tasteless liquid, which is highly versatile:
• We drink it.
• We bathe ourselves in it.
• We boil food in water.
• 65 % of our bodies is water.
• Seas, lakes and rivers are filled with fish, which we can eat.
• We can ice skate and go ice fishing on a frozen lake.
• There is snow and rain. The constant cycle of water and snow keeps the ground fertile. Without rain, places far from lakes and rivers would dry out.
• We can ski on snow.
• We can make snowballs and snowmen out of snow.
• Clouds are seen as light, although they have a high concentration of water. A regular summer cloud weighs as much as an airliner. Furthermore, a cloud of one cubic kilometer holds up to a billion kilos of water.
• Water serves as the solvent for at least 64 substances. It dissolves salts, acids, bases, minerals, and vitamins. It also transports different substances everywhere in the body after they have dissolved. Moreover, water, the most important part of blood, dissolves carbon dioxide and transports it to the lungs, where it exits the body through exhales.
The property of freezing. One special trait water holds, is that it expands when it freezes, unlike other substances, which contract (Water reaches its most dense point at -4 degrees. If the temperature was to be increased or decreased from that point, water would expand). Only water increases its volume, when it cools down and freezes; other substances don’t have this property.
The former physical trait holds great significance. If water acted like other substances, ice would not be formed on the surface, but at the bottom of waterbodies. Ice would always sink to the bottom and bodies of water would slowly become completely frozen from top to bottom. Only the equator might be able to retain a small body of unfrozen water. This would render life on earth impossible, since all that ice would not have enough time to melt, even over the summer. But this is not the case, as ice floats on water and forms a shell, which protects fish from the coldness of winter. Can we consider this to be a coincidence? Why would water, such a crucial element to our survival, be an exception? If this wasn’t a property of water, seas would be frozen, and the earth would practically be a lifeless planet.
Proper conditions aren’t a guarantee for life. So far, we have discussed conditions that enable the survival of life. They all attest how one single phenomenon, from major to minor, can play a key role in having a habitable planet. Even the slightest of changes could render our planet unhabitable. The earth could be like the moon, which has no atmosphere, or like Venus and other planets, which are impossible to live on for a longer period of time. That is not the case, however.
How do naturalistic and atheistic theories explain the existence of life here on earth and its diverse nature? The following traits are often typical for such theories:
• When the conditions are just right, life could emerge anywhere.
• Time and chance events can make anything possible.
“When the conditions are just right, life could emerge anywhere”. The next quotation will give us an understanding of how some people might think the right conditions can cause life to emerge by itself. The writer seems to believe this is possible under the right circumstances and conditions. This view is common among people, who possess naturalistic ideologies:
It is a fact that life started on Earth at a specific point in time, but the way how it came into being is – at least for the time being – an unsolved mystery. There is no other possibility, however, than life starting on its own, i.e. the birth of life being an event that is part of the natural order anywhere with similar conditions as on the Earth when life came into being. The birth of life is no larger or smaller mystery than the birth of the Earth, for example. If we were able to experimentally – i.e. artificially – generate in a laboratory or elsewhere the conditions that prevailed on Earth in the beginning, we would surely see life starting from something inanimate. We might achieve this some day. We may also get in contact with life on other planets at some point. It is surely so that as we gain more knowledge, God and the Creator will have to move farther and farther away. (2)
How to answer to people, who have the former understanding?
Basically, their view is founded on belief, which lacks any practical evidence. This is not a scientific stance, but rather an attitude that relies on faith, which cannot be proven correct. If this was a case of real science, as the people with this view like to believe, we would have solved the questions concerning the beginning of life already. However, the more information we have been able to gather, the more difficult it has become to find answers. The gap between biotic and abiotic matter has grown substantially. The right kind of conditions simply cannot function as the generator of life. This is a misconception. There are a few comments that illustrate the problematic nature of life’s beginning:
Paul Davies: When I began to write this book, I was convinced that science had almost solved the mystery of the birth of life. (…) I have spent one or two years studying this area and now I think that there is an enormous gap in our knowledge. We have, of course, a good idea of the time and place of the birth of life but there is still a long way to go to understanding the series of events. This gap in our understanding is not mere ignorance about some technical details but it is a notable conceptual defect. (…) Many researchers are careful to say publicly that the birth of life is a mystery, although behind closed doors they openly admit to being confused.…(3)
Andy Knoll, a professor of Harvard University: “As we try to compile a summary of what we know about the deep history of life on Earth, the origin of life and phases of its forming which led to the biology that can be seen around us now, we have to admit that it is in the dark. We do not know how life began on this planet. We do not know exactly when it began and under what conditions.” (4)
What about the notion of time and coincidence rendering anything possible in a way that they could have caused the right conditions for life, the emergence of life, and the existence of our current species? Could time and accidental events bring forth all of this?
It must be noted, yet again, that these kinds of ideas are based on belief. This isn’t science. It has not been proven that time and coincidence could generate life, or that our current diverse nature could be the result of such impersonal factors, which some people regard as God-like. There is no way these factors can be behind our current diverse nature and its beauty.
The same applies for human thinking, rational and emotions (joy, sadness, hope, fear, humor and laughter, sorrow, being angry, and feeling infatuation). If there never was an intelligent Creator, how is it possible that unintelligent matter could have generated a thoughtful, talking, emotional, and an intelligent being? This is the prerequisite for evolution, but wouldn’t it be easier to explain these outcomes with the historical understanding that God created man in His image and everything else? Such complicated qualities are not easily accounted with originating from lifeless, unintelligent and impersonal matter. Nobel winning biochemist, George Wald (1906-1997), took into consideration the possibility of an intelligence being’s involvement in the beginning:
How is it so that, among all the alternatives, we are in the universe which has exactly the particular properties that generate life? It has occurred to me lately that – I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities – both questions might be in connection with each other. This happens if we assume that intelligence, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality. According to this hypothesis physical reality is made by intelligence. It is intelligence that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art- and technology. (5)
Moving on from the former views’ faith reliant nature, we are going to look further into life’s beginning through some Bible verses. Life didn’t come about by itself, despite many believing this to be a scientific fact, instead, life came from the hands God. Believing that God created life and the whole universe is not at all more unrealistic than the current naturalistic ideas of the beginning. On the contrary, it is quite absurd to think that nothingness could create matter and that lifeless unintelligent matter could then generate life and intelligent beings, as posed by the naturalistic theory. Whereas, the Bible offers a much more realistic explanation. It is more rational to believe that the made has its maker. Scientists themselves acknowledge that the universe and life have a beginning. These things couldn’t simply exert themselves into existence, instead someone must have made them.
- (Gen 1:1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
- (Rev 4:11) You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.
- (Rev 10;5,6) And the angel which I saw stand on the sea and on the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
6 And swore by him that lives for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:
- (Rev 14:7) Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
1. A.R. Wallace: Mans place in the Universe, p. 217
2. V.T. Aaltonen: Miksi en ole kristitty?, p. 22
3. Paul Davies: Viides ihme, 1999, p. 14,15
4. Andy Knoll (2004) PBS Nova interview, 3. 5. 2004, Cit. Antony Flew & Roy Varghese (2007) There is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: HarperOne
5. George Wald: Life and Mind in the Universe, in book Henry Margenau & Roy Abraham Varghese (toim.) Cosmos, Bios, Theos. La Salle,IL: Open Court
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