Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bacterial Power

Uncounted trillions of planets in our universe possess the chemical elements of which life is composed. In our own unique solar system the exact proportions of elements may not match the distribution of elements in other planetary systems. Life as we know it, therefore, may not be feasible anywhere else in the universe. The more we discover about the quantities and proportions of elements on Planet Earth, the more it appears that the earth is a very special body in our enormous universe. Beyond proportions of elements present, there are hundreds of other conditions necessary (fine tuning parameters) which make the earth habitable. Not only do we have the suite of physical constants by which our orderly universe operates, but we also have those physical constants operating in almost limitless combinations of circumstances. For example, Earth’s Solar System is incredibly and uniquely structured to allow life to exist.

Sometime after the elements were present in necessary combinations in our primitive solar system, life appeared in the form of bacteria. These morphologically simple yet biochemically complex life forms appeared suddenly. One-celled bacteria are visibly simple in their structure, but far from simple in the complexity of their biochemistry. A naturalistic process is unknown to account for the bacterial origin of life on Earth. Proponents of scientific naturalism vow to continue the search to explain abiogenesis—the appearance of life from non-life. Today scientists freely admit there exists no “standard model” for the origin of life.

For many hundreds of millions of years bacteria were the only living things on earth. They formed many of the resources still used by our modern civilization. Cyanobacteria generated constituents of the early atmosphere, particularly oxygen. In turn, reactions in the atmosphere ultimately produced minerals for use in life forms past and present. Some oil deposits result from the activity of cyanobacteria. Sulfate reducing bacteria aid in recycling of carbon compounds and many other life sustaining chemical reactions in nature.

The appearance of bacteria on earth has not proven to result from a gradualistic, evolutionary process. The onset of bacterial habitation on earth was relatively sudden. No hypothetical “primordial soup” preceded the appearance of bacteria. We view the appearance of bacteria as a divine creation event, or a divine series of creation events on earth.

Bacteria manifest all the characteristics of living things. It may seem inappropriate to connect the list of life characteristics to forms as simple as bacteria. The same list applies to both simple and advanced life. We review the characteristics from our post of 7/23/13 titled “What is Life?” Living things are (1) organized into cells, (2) manifest metabolism—processes of energy use for construction or breakdown, (3) respond to stimuli, (4) have homeostasis—the ability to maintain internal stability, (5) grow and develop, (6) reproduce, and (7) change and adapt.

However simple bacterial life forms may be, they manifest characteristics of sensory ability at a primitive level. Bacteria do not have advanced sensory systems like the nervous systems in higher animals and humans. However, their simple sensory system helps identify environmental factors working to their advantage or disadvantage. Bacteria were divinely created for the purpose of providing future earth inhabitants with beneficial resources. Many cyanobacteria and sulfate reducing bacteria species are still present on earth. Microbiologists variously estimate bacterial species at upwards of 100,000. Some scientists declare Earth’s bacterial biomass exceeds the biomass of all earth’s plants and animals combined. In light of the fact that there are 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and one million in a milliliter of water, this statistic is easy to accept. All considered, we should not be too upset that relatively few bacterial species cause disease. 90% of bacteria are beneficial or harmless.

With apologies to those who prefer more inspiring topics of discussion than sensory mechanisms of bacteria, we remind readers that life on earth benefits from many favorable past and present conditions. We see Planet Earth as a multidimensional miracle of intelligent creativity. Our God is the Intelligent Creator.