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Monday, March 31, 2014

microrganisms and the Bible

Microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeasts and protozoa are very important. (So are viruses, but they aren't exactly alive, and won't be considered in this post.) Among other things that they do, they make Nitrogen available to other living things. (Nitrogen is an essential part of DNA, RNA, and proteins, so living things have to have it.) They help decompose dead things, so that the material they are made of can be used by other organisms, including humans. They cause diseases, including malaria, perhaps the disease that has killed more people than any other. They assist in various important processes, such as the production of ensilage (aka silage), the production of alcohol, and the manufacture of yogurt. They make it possible for bread to rise. Microorganisms living in our intestines also help us break down material, and some of them help us fight off certain diseases. The germs living in our intestines produce some vitamins for us.

In spite of their critical importance, microorganisms are not mentioned in the Bible at all. This is not surprising, since yeasts weren't discovered until 1680, and weren't believed to be living things until later, and bacteria weren't discovered until 1683. Protozoa were also discovered in the 1680's.

If there were six days of creation activity by God, on which day were the microorganisms created? The Bible doesn't say, of course, but the best guess for bacteria and yeasts is the third day, when the dry land, and land plants, appeared. (Genesis 1 doesn't mention plants living under water at all, and, if there were six days of creation, we don't know when they appeared, either.) As for protozoa, perhaps they were created on the fifth day, with water animals and birds.

Note -- Genesis 1 does not mention flying insects. Perhaps they were lumped in with the birds.

Were bacteria, and other microorganisms, important before the Fall? Again, we don't know. It is possible that decomposition took place before the Fall, and it is possible that bacteria helped the first humans digest their food. But maybe, before the Fall, decomposition didn't take place, and/or humans were able to digest their food without assistance. My guess is that defecation did take place before the Fall, and that decomposition bacteria would have been important then, but that's just a guess. Some scholars believe that animal death occurred before the Fall. (See here.)

I have posted on a related topic, mentioning most of the ideas above, a few years ago, here.

Thanks for reading.


atlibertytosay said...

Curious … I've read a little bit (before i posted this comment) about viruses … why are they not considered alive? For that matter, I've always wondered why sperm are not considered alive.

Can man create anything similar to sperm or a virus that can do as miraculously similar things?

Not a debate, just a question to the person I respect the most on this topic.

Martin LaBar said...

Viruses are usually considered as not alive because they have no metabolism, in and of themselves. They just sit there, like complex combinations of chemicals, until they happen to become attached to the kind of cell they can attack. Then the cell does the metabolizing for them -- reproduces, making new parts, etc.

I didn't know that sperm were not considered alive. They certainly can move, and they have metabolism.

So far, sperm are beyond our capacity to replicate, except in the old-fashioned way, so far as I know. Perhaps they eventually will be constructed artificially. However, "viruses," or entities much like them, which can also cause disease, etc., can be constructed by humans, and have been for about a half century. We're better at it now than we were in the beginning.