Friday, September 14, 2018

Ecology and Environment

Ecology is a study of the interactions among living organisms and their environment. This discipline could involve one organism or species or all organisms in their living and non-living surroundings. The term ecology possesses manifold meanings and applications. For that reason, laypersons may shy away from pursuing an in-depth understanding of the subject. Ecology is sometimes called a science, a systematically organized body of knowledge. Therefore, we encounter the “science of ecology.”

The term had become popular in the second half of the 20th century. For centuries some writers introduced ecological principles as we understand them today, but there was never a unifying, rigorous, qualitative science associated with ecology. Two events helped heighten pubic awareness in the 20th century. One was the frightening onset of the atomic age. Another was the publication of a startling volume by Rachel Carson entitled “Silent Spring” in 1962. Atomic explosions and the impact of pesticides, especially DDT, affected ecological relationships and damaged the environment. In general we have become more aware that humans are capable of producing negative effects on our environment. 

The familiar term environment is sometimes confused with ecology. A brief definition follows: Environment consists of the surroundings or conditions in which an organism exists. The two terms are not synonymous. Sometimes people mistakenly state that certain events are “bad for the ecology.” Since ecology refers to interactions among living things, one cannot state that interactions are intrinsically bad or good. Some conditions we inflict on our environment, however, may be damaging.

Partly as a result of the two occurrences mentioned above, the first Earth Day was observed in 1970. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson was the prime mover for the Earth Day event. At the time, pollution problems were rampant, especially across our industrial cities. Earth Day affairs were held April 16-22. Famous CBS network commentator Walter Cronkite broadcast a comprehensive 15-part analysis of the nationwide Earth Day activities. The nascent movement has become mature in the last half century.

We recently viewed the entire Cronkite commentary series of the 1970 Earth Day. In my teaching district, I was blessed to have a wonderful teaching colleague—an environmental enthusiast who inspired teachers and students. My colleague combined Earth Day activities with a unique recov of local history. Our school was a short distance from the historical “Rockabye Railroad” which passed through the community of Brookside, NJ in the early 20th century on the way from Hunterdon County to Morristown, NJ. Summertime cargo consisted of peaches for the metropolitan area. In keeping with the goal of recovering history, his students recovered many railroad spikes and other artifacts from the original Rockaway Railroad bed which passed by our school grounds at a mere stone’s throw.

Earth Day clean-up events at my school are still etched in my memory. After viewing the Cronkite account of conditions in our country in 1970 we were reminded that government policies on air and water pollution were seriously deficient. It is difficult to recall that there were inadequate regulations on clean air, clean water, and endangered species. Soon there were government regulations on air, water, and endangered species. Studies in ecology and activism in environmental issues have sometimes morphed into weighty political issues. It has been difficult to find an appropriate balance between prudent environmental concern and the natural tendency of many citizens to actively propel their favorite movements or causes, often driven by personal politics.

Our blog attempts to strengthen personal faith as supported by knowledge of science. God’s reality is affirmed by investigating the beauty and order of His created works. In turn, God’s people are responsible for understanding, managing, and preserving the beauty of His created works. The mandate “rule over” of Genesis 1:28 implies utilizing our divinely implanted intellectual gifts to understand the dimensions of ecology and the blessings of our environment.        





               

Friday, September 7, 2018

Wonders of Orb-Weavers

Recently a new visitor appeared in a corner of our backyard deck. She was resting on a beautiful silken web. It was a barn spider. I made a mental note to instruct my young grandchildren on the wonderful diversity of spiders on our next visit with them. Perhaps we will need to convert them from arachnophobes to arachnophiles. Knowledge borne of patient instruction will be our educational goal. This easily spotted specimen was dark brown with a large, round abdomen about 3/4” long.  

What are spiders? They belong to a biological class of joint-legged arthropods, the most plentiful phylum in the animal kingdom by far. Arthropods include spiders and insects but spiders are distinct from the far more numerous insects. Spiders possess eight legs instead of six, only two body sections rather than insects’ three and they do not possess antennae or wings. They are carnivorous. There are over 45,000 spider species on the planet while there are well over one million different insect species. Of the 45,000 existing spider species there are 2800 orb-weaving spider species—180 of them in North America. Orb-weaving spiders make wheel or circular shaped webs.    They are the third most plentiful family of spiders in existence. One of the most well known capabilities of spiders, orb-weavers in particular, consists of their web-spinning designed to ensnare their life-sustaining meals. 

Few people have failed to read or encounter the plot of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, a 1952 top children’s fantasy classic about Charlotte, the barn spider, who helped save Wilbur the runt piglet from slaughter by weaving messages of support for preserving Wilbur’s life on her web. Woven into the plot of the story is the fragility of life, including the frequent mention of flies which are naturally caught in Charlotte’s web. Charlotte eventually dies, but not before her genetic line continues in the birth of new spiderlings. There are many more positive life lessons woven through the classic’s story plot.

The web of orb weavers is a startling marvel of strength. Hundreds of feet of organic proteinaceous silk is produced by the spider and distributed through the animal’s spinnerets—silk spinning organs. The material from which spider webs are made is a marvel of function designed by the Creator of all Things. The diameter of spider webs is 1/10 of human hair, but ten times stronger than steel pound for pound. It is flow tolerant—stiff, then stretchy, then stiff again.

Construction of the orb-weavers’ web is an engineering feat practically unmatched in the animal world. She begins by floating a web line into the wind with the goal of attaching the end to a location some distance away. The spider attaches another single web to the original line to form a “Y.” Other spokes are constructed from the center point. Hundreds of concentric strands are then built on these spokes toward the middle. They are precisely spaced and meticulously attached as the spider extends the silken web from his spinnerets and attaches the sticky strands one spoke at a time in a deliberate act of precision engineering. Details of the intricate process are documented in many easily accessed YouTube videos—a wonderful resource for both young people and adults fascinated by the instinctive, mostly unlearned behavior of animals in the natural world.

Our spider is ready to capture her next meal. While she needs no help from humans in her predatory exploits, children and adults have been known to fling captured flies into the webs to observe the exhilarating result. Orb-weavers have poor eyesight but rely on vibrations from insects entrapped in the sticky web. Spiders have tiny brains only as large as a poppy seed. It is not really a brain typical of mammals but rather a tiny mass of “nerve tissue.” Somewhat complex architectural decision making is possible along with ability to sense the location of trapped flies trembling with desire to escape.

What neurological wonders result in such fascinating, deliberate behavior? Bioscientists are unable to propose a reductionist explanation. How is this behavioral pattern “encoded by neural networks?” Neuroethologists are “scientists who study the evolutionary and comparative approach to the study of animal behavior and its underlying mechanistic control by the nervous system.” The foregoing definition uses evolutionary as an adjective which hopefully explains the astonishing behavioral characteristics and ability of one of the most remarkable animals on Planet Earth. Other science writers offer us no additional help, offering description as a weak substitute for true explanation. Orb-weavers appear to possess a consciousness which cannot be explained except by the Creator of life itself.

Wikipedia introduced their lengthy article on “Animal Consciousness” with this statement: “In 2012 a prominent group of neuroscientists signed the “Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness,” which “unequivocally” asserted that “humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all animals and birds, and many other creatures, also possess these neural substrates.” (emphasis mine)

The term consciousness generates a lively interest from behavioral scientists to theologians and many experts in between. We have submitted several posts on consciousness in humans and animals in the past. Our current post travels somewhat farther into discussion of a lower form of consciousness, this time in insects. Consciousness in humans, of course, is far more highly developed in terms of sentience and executive control. Consciousness in lower creatures, however, is also a bestowment of the Creator of All Things. Here is a link to our past post “Consciousness in Animals”—living things lower than man:

   


        



    




       

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

God's Nature in the Mundane

Mundane is a word with an interesting and varied meaning. Usually it connotes earthly, everyday, or commonplace as opposed to spiritual or heavenly. Sometimes it carries the meaning “not interesting.” Many, perhaps most, physical events surrounding us may be described as mundane. It is incumbent on us to see God’s work in the usual, unusual, and even the less common extraordinary in our mundane experience. 

Since our blog has a goal of being inspirational while focusing on science and its relation to faith, bear with us as we chronicle events which may be described as both common and uncommon. We have selected several mundane astronomical events to highlight. There is danger in losing sight of the wonder provided by mundane events.

Astronomy provides a glimpse of divine order and coherence. Celestial events visible from Earth can be foretold centuries in advance to the accuracy of seconds. In like manner, astronomers pinpoint precise times of past events to the accuracy of seconds. This is possible because motions such as planetary revolution and rotation are known with incredible precision. Slight changes in Earth’s orbit over long time frames are also known with virtually complete accuracy.

Annual repeating cycles of change in sunrise and sunset times as well as seasonal beginnings and endings resulting in progressive gradual changes in temperature may be perceived as mundane changes. Even the daily changes from day to night may be considered ordinary unless we permit ourselves to be fascinated by the onset and retreat of light as the sun apparently revolves around us 360º due to the real 360º rotation of our planet. Nothing is more mundane than the approach of the daily bath of sunlight spreading over the planet and receding into darkness each evening.

As we write in late August, daylight length at our latitude has decreased almost two hours. Before the shortest Northern Hemisphere day arrives in December, daylight will decrease by an additional four hours. In our lifetimes we experience many predictable cyclical changes in lengths of light and darkness. Seasonal changes are related to these interesting transitions. Life sustaining agriculture interlocks with repeating cyclical events. Humanity is gifted with ability to adapt to changes at many levels of experience.

Science enthusiasts may be more interested in basic mundane science facts such as the astronomical details we described above. The mundane may point to the miraculous depending on how we define our terms. God’s glory is manifest in mundane events. There is no paucity of usual, unusual, and occasionally extraordinary events. Ours is the special world God created particularly for us. Divine blessings are evident at each event level. Apart from the plan of redemption the counsel of Scripture deals primarily with mundane events and how we most prudently cope with them. Truly transcendent miracles rarely occur.

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). This verse, along with Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and have our being” highlights goals for our devotional view of mundane events.    






          


    

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Understanding the Nature of God

What do we mean by “The Nature of God?” Do we clarify the meaning of God’s nature by studying and uttering esoteric, philosophical, academic, theological statements? Or may we understand the nature of God and get a grip on the notion with simpler, mundane observations? And what is the minimum age limit for teaching children a reasonable concept of the nature of God? Could pre-schoolers understand the concept? Primary or middle schoolers? Must our understanding wait until high school when our children have acquired more intellectual maturity?

With the arrival our children and grandchildren we have been able to hone our skills in order to introduce them to the nature of God concept. It is a notion to be approached with reverence, making the concept accessible to young developing minds. At the same time, we must stretch our children’s minds in an effort teach important concepts “…talking of them when you are sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19 NAS)

The following incidents took place with our grandchildren during their preschool years. Our grandson asked his mother about the reality of God even though we can’t see Him. The discussion about God’s invisibility provoked discussion about the reality of God notwithstanding His invisibility. The boy understood that many events have effects even though many causes of the effects are invisible. Examples are gravity, magnetism, sound, and many types of electromagnetic waves. In each case we see or feel obvious effects of invisible power and/or force. His understanding relates to analogies he is able to apply even at his level of comprehension.

A novelty levitating globe on my office desk supplies lessons about invisible forces. Magnetic repulsion forces keep the levitating globe suspended in air. Other activities are supplied by attraction and repulsion activities with inexpensive ceramic magnetic discs. Our grandchildren were cautioned against racing down our steeply sloping driveway with the warning, “Watch out, gravity will get you!” They realize they are able to leap only one or two feet into the air before they are pulled back to the ground. The invisible force of gravity pulls them back down. This explanation affirms the existence of an invisible force even if it doesn’t explain it at a technical level.      

Young children are sometimes capable of relatively advanced thinking. Many are especially fascinated with insects and animals. When our granddaughter admired the intricate design and behavior of several neighborhood insects, we reminded her that they did not acquire those traits by accident. “The Designer, God, had great ideas,” we proposed. He builds the bodies of these animals just as you and your friends design and build your own houses out of blocks or Legos. Possibilities for design and function are limitless. The difference is that animal bodies possess far more complexity and functionality. Young people understand the design process when encouraged think about it. The intelligent design inference is difficult to deny.

Concepts such as “The Image of God” and “The Nature of God” may be difficult even for an adult. The Image of God refers to humanity, created with the ability to grasp ultimate, spiritual reality. We are, therefore, able to commune with our Maker. The nature of God may have a somewhat different meaning. Our planet with its magnificent physical constants, its coherent physical operating system, and the beauty of its living things, may be said to display the nature of God. Various sources blend the nature of God with the concept of the force, effect, and manifestation of His being.

Our description of the world’s living creatures and its physical operating systems helps reinforce the concept of the nature of God. His works of creation are coherent and beautiful. He manifests strength, power, and perfection. His many works are purposefully interrelated. Beyond the physical creation God also gifted humanity with free will and redemption which he had in mind before the beginning of time. By the special revelation of Holy Scripture, the Creator combines knowledge of the physical and the spiritual.

Whether we focus only on the glory of a few dozen special animals and plants in our own backyards, or the wonders of weather and astronomy only in our own community, the results still manifest the glory of the nature of God. We marvel at our personal inventory of wonderful events supplied by our local animals, weather, and our backyard astronomy, to name a few. Our readers may anticipate more accounts of wonders pointing the way to our understanding of the Nature of God.        

   

  

    


     

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Birds--A Special Class

Fantasize with us: If visitors from a faraway planet were to visit our Solar System, what would be their impression of our planet ? If our visitors have sensory systems similar to ours, they would be impacted by the enormous multitude of life forms. To comprehend and catalog even a small part of Earth’s life forms, our visitors would need many years of Earth time. There are 1.2 million animal species already catalogued by scientists. Over eight million species of animals are known. Many remaining species may never be catalogued. The task would be overwhelming.

In biological science, living things are classified according to special systems. Various classification schemes have been offered to students of biology. The most recent widely accepted system was formalized in 1990 in which three domains of life were proposed: archaea, bacteria, and eukaryota. Animals are eukaryotes. Older classification systems listed five kingdoms of Earth life—Monerans, Protists, Fungi, Plants, and Animals. According to the most recent system, there exist 35 phyla (major body plans) of animals under eukaryota (animals). There are 14 plant and 8 fungi phyla. Classification systems have changed as more information became available.

Earth dwellers are most interested in animal and plant phyla. Let us illustrate by referencing the 35 different animal phyla. Of 35 major body plans, by far the two most numerous are arthropods and chordates. Arthropods include about 90% of all animals. Chordates comprise approximately 75,000 catalogued species—a distant second to arthropods. A sub-phylum of chordates is vertebrates, backboned animals with which we are most familiar. For example, birds belong to this sub-phylum. More specifically, they are also included in the next category—the class aves (birds). They are represented by over 10,000 species worldwide.

How does Wikipedia describe class aves? Birds are “…a group of endothermic vertebrates characterized by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a chambered heart, and a strong yet light weight skeleton.”

On a recent walk I encountered a neighbor who thought he had not observed as many birds this year as in previous years. After considering his observation, I stated that our neighborhood bird census varies from year to year. There may be reasons for this variation. It is, however, a normal phenomenon. We must not think that our favorite birds will favor us with command performances all year, every year. For example, we have not heard great horned or barred owls calling for several months. 

A substantial majority of the roughly 5-6 dozen birds we commonly observe in our “Driftless Area” neighborhood have appeared this year, as if “on cue.” (The Driftless Area is a unique geological region of the upper midwest related to an anomaly of the last Ice Age.) One neighbor informed me that she has observed 153 different bird species during her residency in this area. The official list of different bird sightings in the entire state of Illinois is 444. This number includes nearly 50 different warblers, 30 sparrows, and 50 diverse waterfowl which do not frequent our neighborhood. A confession is in order: I counted “warbler” and “sparrow” in my personal list but once.

The incredible physical and behavioral variety of our northwest Illinois birds inspires praise and thankfulness to our Maker. No doubt readers could affirm the same degree of inspiration for their personal place of abode. Many times I have expressed to our children and grandchildren that, “God had great ideas.” We acknowledge Him, “…who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” (I Tim. 6:17 NLT).

In examining the list of several dozen birds we have personally sighted in our immediate neighborhood, it is apparent that a significant number of them merit detailed description in terms of size, physical appearance, diet, nesting habits, song, flying characteristics, and other unique behavioral categories. If we assign the number of identifications at 60, we are dealing with only 0.6% of the 10,000 worldwide bird species. In the phylum, class, order, family, genus, species scheme of biological classification, class aves broadens to many thousands of species as we descend through the classification system of living things. Our hypothetical visitors from a faraway planet could barely scratch the surface attempting to describe the magnificent profusion of life on Planet Earth on a visit of several months or years.  

We close with links to two past posts. They describe a single species, a favorite, tiny, colorful Driftless Area bird. The enjoyment indigo buntings supply is remarkable visually, auditorily, and behaviorally. When almost all birds have given their avian vocal cords leave by late afternoon, this summer our avian dynamo continued to sing  mightily. I suspect these birds may be descendants of an indigo bunting which sang from the same dead branch several years running early in the current decade after annually returning from a migration route of thousands of miles.


          




  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Earth--Exceptional or One-of-a-Kind?

“One-of-a-kind” connotes a person or thing that is not like any other person or thing. “Exceptional” is not nearly so exclusive. Virtually all athletes on major league baseball, football, basketball, and hockey rosters are exceptional. Numbers of players range from 420 professional basketball competitors, to 620 hockey, 750 baseball, and nearly 1700 football roster players. These are exceptional athletes. Except for literary hyberbole, no athlete may truly be categorized one-of-a-kind.

In one sense, every planet, of the billions circling sextillions of stars spread throughout our galaxy, may be considered one-of-a-kind. That sense tells us that no single set of physical conditions could possibly be exactly like the conditions on any other planet. Taken more broadly, we might say that every human is also one-of-a-kind, allowing for minor as well as major differences. In view of our most recent posts concerning statements by secularists that humanity is alone in the universe, we elaborate further on Earth’s one-of-a-kind status.

The history of creation of our universe is the stage setter for all the wondrous life-generating events to follow. The complex events of the Big Bang, sometimes derided as chaotic and violent, were set in place by the Creator as the forerunner of physical conditions which permitted the first primitive earth life about four billion years ago. Ten billion years had elapsed before Earth was ready to receive the “gift of life.” 

The temporal timeframe experience of humans cannot be compared with timeframes of the Creator of all things. The GotQuestions.org website says, “In a sense, the marking of time is irrelevant to God because he transcends it…He is above and outside the sphere of time…The time that passes on Earth is of no consequence from God’s timeless perspective.”

We return to consideration of how our one-of-a-kind Earth came to be. There are many exceptional planets. In terms of life, human life in particular, there is, by definition, apparently only a single one-of-a-kind planet. This fact is not proven beyond all reasonable doubt, but there is preponderance of evidence—a legal term. In order to make a claim “beyond reasonable doubt” we would need plentiful knowledge about conditions on most, or all of the billions of planets revolving around sextillions of stars in our known universe.

The virtually infinitely hot and dense singularity from which our universe sprang may be considered the early birth of matter which now comprises our physical, one-of-a-kind world. At the initial moment of the hot Big Bang event, the universe briefly consisted of a “quark soup.” The soup became consolidated into particles with which we are more familiar—hydrogen and helium atoms with protons, neutrons, and electrons. Eventually, further consolidations resulted in nucleosynthesis—formation of more complex elements such as carbon.

Of hundreds of fine tuning parameters known to be necessary for either simple or human life to exist, many of them involve the element carbon and/or the compound water. The element carbon is one of the elements formed by stellar nucleosynthesis. Earth’s life is uniquely dependent on the presence of carbon in just the right amounts, neither too much or too little. Earth is a water world. The same may be said of water. Scientists have written voluminously on both subjects.

Cosmologists are in essential agreement concerning the universe’s sequence of events since the Big Bang which is acknowledged to be the beginning of time. When I taught the Big Bang event to my astronomy students, I announced it as “God’s initial creation event”—the beginning of the time, space, matter, and energy dimensions of our universe. Much later than this “initial creation event,” the element carbon was produced in the formation of stars by what is known as the triple alpha process. When supernatural creation events such as the Cambrian Explosion and the creation of modern humans occurred, carbon was already present on earth, ready to be incorporated into the bodies of earth’s living creatures.”

The previous paragraph is a reprint of a portion of our post from March 19, 2012. Here is a link to that complete post relating to the wondrous carbon cycle:


Hand in hand with the carbon cycle is the water cycle. “Transition of liquid water to vapor and from vapor back to liquid enables water to travel long distances from ocean and other water bodies to cropland locations. Atmospheric circulation quickly transports the water vapor from place to place. Some water infiltrates the soil, becomes groundwater, and eventually returns to streams and larger water bodies for use in irrigation or even re-evaporation back into the atmosphere. Superimposed on this process are many sub-cycles, some of which may be demonstrated in the laboratory…..” Carbon is cycled and recycled through plants, animals, earth, water bodies, and atmosphere, in various states to sustain Earth life and transport earth materials in life-sustaining ways. Here is a link to our original post on the water cycle. Several posts on the water cycle and various other life-giving cycles follow: (Click on “Newer Posts”)


It is doubtful that any of the recently discovered 3774 planets (as of July 31, 2018) come remotely close to “one-of-a-kind” status with respect to life. Conditions on those planets are foreign to life of any kind, lacking hundreds of fine tuning characteristics involving nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and hundreds of other elements and compounds necessary for human life. 





          






  

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dismissing ET

SETI, an organization committed to searching for life beyond the confines of our Earth and its Solar System, now researches many other wonderful features of our cosmos. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is now a subsidiary topic of focus and has retreated into the background of their scientific research. The focus of SETI scientists is now geoscience, astrobiology, astronomy, geology, astrophysics, planetary science, and related topics. Only a few of the scholars at the SETI organization still center their studies on “Life beyond the confines of Earth and it Solar System.” However, the topic of intelligent life in outer space is still of interest to many. Does life beyond Planet Earth actually exist, many people wonder? 

In 1960 the modern scientific quest for widespread life in the cosmos continued. In 1961 astronomer Frank Drake organized a scholar team, including Carl Sagan of Cornell University, which met at a facility in Green Bank WV in order to discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life. His reliance on the “Drake equation,” proposed at the conference, was often quoted. Without outlining the seven factors of the “Drake equation,” we affirm that accepting its implication strengthens belief that intelligent life even in our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is a common occurrence.

In 1950, brilliant nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, sometimes called the “architect of the atomic age,” asked a group of his scientist colleagues, “Where is everybody?” His friends realized he was referring to extraterrestrial life. Even at the slow pace of interstellar travel, hopeful speculation supports the possibility that some of the many billions of planets circling sextillions of stars in our home Milky Way Galaxy together with billions of other galaxies in the universe may possess intelligent life forms and may have developed the technology for interstellar communication or travel. Fermi realized the absence of any communications from “out there” convinced him, according to his reckoning, that it is highly unlikely that ETs exist. His statements predated Frank Drake’s equation. Many theorists, including the late science popularizer Carl Sagan, have nourished belief in ET to this day, including some writers at the SETI Institute in Mountain View CA and other media. One example is NY Times writer Adam Frank who wrote in June 2016, “Yes, There Have Been Aliens.” He still assigns confident credibility to the Drake equation. SETI scholar Seth Shostak waxed exuberant when the TRAPPIST-1 array of seven generally earth-sized planets was discovered around a star only 39 light years away in February 2017.  

The Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at Oxford University on June 6, 2018 published research by Anders Sandberg, Eric Dexter, and Toby Ord at Oxford University positing that humans in our Solar System are alone in our universe. In their opening abstract they affirm, in response to fascinating and optimistic speculations about life elsewhere in our cosmos,  “… we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it.” Their well documented and detailed research was reported in many media. Its thesis was discouraging to believers in extraterrestrial life. At the same time, creationists may take courage that God is the author of a single life-plentiful location. Our belief in the uniqueness of created life on Earth is supported by our knowledge of the incredible functional and esthetic qualities of our planet’s life and the physical systems supporting it. Earths is proving to be unique in the cosmos.

We link our posts of March 17 and March 19, 2017 describing the TRAPPIST-1 discovery and repeat some of our observations from them:


There are abundant reasons for dismissing the likelihood that any other planetary site in our universe could harbor life, even if it were blessed, for example, with the presence of water and a reasonably friendly temperature. As we discover more and more stunning requirements for life possessed by Earth together with the absence of that array of requirements on even the most promising planetary systems, we realize anew the truth of Psalm 104:24 (The Message Translation): “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”