Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dissolving Power

Charles Dickens is credited with initially offering the proverb “Tis love that makes the world go round.” In a poetic sense this may be true. A less romantic proverb may provide more truth in a scientific sense: Water makes the world go round.

Our water world is driven by the water cycle. Knowledge of how the water cycle operates is basic to our grasp of how our world functions. But knowing the mechanics of the water cycle may not hold the same fascination as knowing why that cycle must function as it does. In short, water makes the world go round because it possesses the ability to dissolve more substances than any other material known. Without that ability no earth life would be possible.

There is no such thing as chemically pure water in the world of nature. Stated differently, other substances are always dissolved to some degree in earth’s water, perhaps a mineral solid or a gas such as atmospheric oxygen or carbon dioxide. Plant life needs dissolved minerals from the soil for healthy growth and food production. Those minerals are absorbed into the plants through their root systems and carried through the plant’s vascular system to and from its food manufacturing regions. In plants, water is both the solvent and the transporter of these raw materials and products.

Animal life also depends on water’s superb ability to dissolve other substances. Fish remove dissolved oxygen from the water in their habitat. Food consumed by air-breathing animals must be digested and converted into water soluble substances before it can be used. The water in body fluids such as blood, which is mostly water, dissolves and transports the nutrients to body cells for use in growth, repair, and energy production. Water later carries away the waste products of metabolism in dissolved form. Water is the ever-present companion in all of life’s processes.

The water cycle is only one of many cycles operating on this planet. Hundreds of other successful events in the world of nature occur moment by moment without any input from man. The success of these operations is based on hundreds of physical constants, the “fixed order of heaven and earth” (Jer. 33:25) which results in the orderly operation of the laws of nature. These cycles and events occurred even before the human race was created. When modern man arrived on earth, he was able to follow God’s directive to “subdue it and have dominion…over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Our observation of these wonders is a virtual catalog of divine design features.

David the psalmist expressed this truth in a devotional context. It is difficult to separate devotional fervor from the reality of what we actually observe in the natural world. But consider the psalmist’s elegant insight: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2)