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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why So Little Carbon?


Without carbon, physical life is impossible. No other element displays the rich chemical behavior needed to form the range of complex molecular structures life requires. Given that physical life must be carbon based, why would God make a universe with so little carbon?

Researchers have found that the quantity of carbon must be carefully balanced between just enough and not too much because carbon, though essential for life, can also be destructive to life. Too much carbon translates into too much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane. In large quantities, these gases are poisonous. In modest quantities, their greenhouse properties keep the planet sufficiently warm for life. In larger quantities, they can heat a planet’s surface beyond what physical life can tolerate.

One of the wonders of Earth is that it is sufficiently carbon rich and carbon poor. It carries enough carbon for life but not so much as to interfere with life’s atmospheric needs, such as the appropriate pressure and density for efficient operation of lungs and a temperature range that supports a wide diversity of active, advanced species.

From; Why the Universe is the Way It Is, by Hugh Ross. Copyright 2008 by Reasons to Believe, published by Baker Books.

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