The Creation Explanation
|Life -- Miracle, Not Accident|
Livings Things Live and Work Together4
Not only do plants and animals have their parts carefully organized to form a complete, integrated organism, but all living things in the world are grouped and arranged in order to work together. They depend upon each other and their environment. Organisms live under the surface of the earth, on the surface, in the waters, and above the surface of the air, also, on the surface of and inside of other organisms.
The complex web of living things which exists in the earth's outer layer is called the biosphere. This layer extends about five or six miles above and below sea level. The biosphere as a system receives from the sun a continual flow of radiant energy. This energy drives the atmospheric activities such as wind currents, storms, and rain, and is then radiated out into space as long wavelength infrared radiation. A tiny fraction of one percent of the solar energy reaching the biosphere is captured by photosynthetic plants. Energy from the sun powers practically all of the life activities of the biosphere. In recent years communities of species have been discovered clustered around deep sea vents which release heat and chemical compounds which provide energy for those communities, but this accounts for only a very small part of the total biosphere. Some of the solar energy captured by plants is temporarily stored in the tissues of plants and animals in the form of chemical free energy. This energy, used to power life processes or released when the organisms die and are decomposed, is finally transformed into heat in accord with the Second Law of Thermodynamics discussed in Chapter-2.
The biosphere is more or less a steady-state system through which energy flows from the solar source to the outer space heat sink. The living organisms capture some of the energy flow and hold it for a while, thus maintaining themselves in a steady energy state, an elevated or concentrated free-energy state. Non-living systems can capture energy from the flow in a somewhat analogous manner, but only with a small fraction of the efficiency, maintaining a much smaller difference in free energy content from the environment.
In addition, the living organisms continually reproduce more copies of themselves, each a system of vast chemical and structural complexity. Living organisms of the biosphere are unique in possessing this reproductive capability. All the evidence points to intelligent, purposeful design of the biosphere.
For purposes of study, the immensely complex biosphere may be thought of as an aggregate of many ecosystems. An ecosystem is a fairly self-contained combination of living organisms and their environment through which energy flows and in which various vital minerals move in cycles. A pond, swamp, or meadow is an ecosystem. A properly stocked aquarium or terrarium is a man-made model of larger natural ecosystems. Some of the important elements or minerals which circulate in an ecosystem include carbon, oxygen, water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and certain trace elements.
The living creatures inhabiting an ecosystem are called a community, and the members of each species in the community make up a population. The place and function of each species in the community make up a population. The place and function of each species in an ecosystem is its ecological niche. No individual organism in a population could succeed in living by itself, for each one depends upon living and non-living forms of matter for the energy and materials it needs to live. Organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems which make up the whole biosphere are all organized into a very detailed chain of dependence upon each other.
4. Odum, Eugene P., Fundamentals of Ecology, 3rd Edition (W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, 1971), pp. 37-105).