Our Creator has designed a physical world demanding precision fine tuning of hundreds of systems to be comfortably and healthily habitable. These physical systems with all their cosmic and geological magnificence could be perceived as a work of grandeur even if humans did not exist. Creation’s purpose, however, would be unfulfilled without the presence of humanity as its crowning creative achievement. Considering earth’s millions of diverse species, none comes close to a conscious grasp of the beauty and complexity of the created order and how its systems function. No living creature possesses the ability to comprehend the workings of the physical environment. Living creatures respond to their environment by searching for physical satisfaction—food, comfort, and yielding to their instinctual drives. Any knowledge of ontology, the study of existent entities, and metaphysics, the study of being beyond the physical, are unknown to any creatures beneath man.
Humanity was in view in the mind of God before the sequence of creation events was initiated. Genesis 1:26 quotes God as saying “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” As an eternal and omniscient being, God, the Creator of heaven and earth, created the physical system of heavens and earth with its living plants and animals as a grand prelude to his ultimate creative goal—man. In the mind of the Creator even man’s ultimate spiritual redemption was conceived before the beginning of time (I Cor. 2:7, II Tim. 1:19, Tit. 1:2). Without man the purpose of creation would be unfulfilled. We imagine that God’s plan for the ultimate existence of man in his image and his joy in creating man would have been imperfect and incomplete. The physical systems of the cosmos and Planet Earth would have been magnificent, but there would have been no humans present to comprehend reality and appreciate the beauty of the systems.
As humans we are capable of determining the most opportune manner in which to alter our physical system in accord with God’s Genesis mandate to “subdue the earth.” Early man learned how to progress beyond the hunter-gatherer stage. He learned how to fashion tools, how to acquire complex building strategies, and in modern times, he discovered the use of digital technology based on physical realities such as ubiquitous natural and man-made electromagnetic radiation. With such advanced intellectual capability to fashion our environment have come both beneficial and detrimental changes to our environment. Never was the command to “subdue the earth” to be used more responsibly than in our modern times.
Several of our recent posts have centered on climate change. Our “subdue the earth” strategies have not all had desirable effects on our atmosphere. For example, in the last decades of the 20th century our population suffered several detrimental atmospheric events. Acid rain was the name given to the effect of release of oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, mainly gases released into the atmosphere from the burning of coal. These gases formed acidic reactions in the air and soil which were proved to harm some plants and fish, especially in the US northeast. Another effect was the depletion of atmospheric ozone composed of three chemically joined oxygen atoms. The natural atmospheric ozone shield prevented UVB radiation from passing through to earth’s surface. UVB could cause increased skin cancer, plant damage, and harm to the plankton population. Ozone was degraded by certain man-made aerosols such as refrigerants accumulating in the atmosphere. The good news is that these two problems have been partially remedied to repair this man-made atmospheric pollution by treatment of released gases and substitution of less harmful chemicals. We are on track to solving these problems more completely in the future. The cost has generally been less than anticipated.
By far the most difficult environmental issue is climate change. The issue is complex and overstated by a large contingent of commentators. The problem may not be solved by heeding alarmist pronouncements that we must spend literally trillions of dollars to find alternate energy sources in coming years. There is sharp disagreement that increased CO2 concentration will truly result in harmful warming of earth’s climate in view of thousands of climate subsystems—feedback mechanisms we still do not understand. Benefits of a slight warming of climate and slightly increased CO2 levels may be more beneficial than harmful in light of advantages of slightly elevated global warmth and enhanced growth of food crops. There is intense disagreement that imposing astronomical costs of fossil fuel substitutes will be effective in reducing global temperature even a small amount. Third world countries will suffer the most harm because they cannot afford to implement this unproven remediation scheme. It would drive these nations into increased poverty in the face of our desire to help the world’s poor.
We must intensively study and pray over these issues for answers laden with wisdom from our Creator (James 1:5).