Terraforming the Earth

Genesis 1:1-25

If you are like me and enjoy science, you might be very excited about the new advances in space flight.  Just a couple of months ago we had the opportunity to watch the first launch of the manned SpaceX Crew Dragon.  Now it is on to the stars or at least to the moon!  The first man stepped on the moon soon after I was born.   I hope to see them go back before I leave this life.  Why stop at the moon, Mars, or Venus?  Have you ever dreamed of traveling to a distant world around another star?  What would we find there?  Could we start a new life on our new planet?  This is where “terraforming” becomes important.

So what exactly is terraforming?  Terraforming is the process of transforming a planet to resemble Earth, or more specifically so that it can support human life.  According to science there are some essentials we will need to survive and thrive.  Unfortunately, as usual, all the scientists then come up with a different list, I think,  just so they have something to argue about.  So I am going to simplify it for you.   You have to have the right type of planet, the right amount of light, the right kind of atmosphere and water.  So terraforming our new planet could start with trying to provide some of the essentials for life.   For instance, if your planet was short of water, we would need to find a way to produce the needed water.

Now that you have the right starting ingredients, it is time to spruce the planet up a bit.  We will continue our terraforming by shaping the terrain, and then adding plants, bacteria, aquatic life, birds, and animals.  Sounds easy, right?  Not really. Even today with all our knowledge, setting up a small ecosystem that works is very difficult and far from an exact science.  You remember your pet fish “Flipper” doing the “back float” on the surface of your aquarium?  Meaning he died.  Now imagine doing it on a global scale.  Maybe this terraforming stuff is not so easy after all.

Now, have you ever wondered how we know all this stuff about the essentials of life and ecosystem development?  If you think it is because we are just so smart and every year we are getting smarter,  you are forgiven because that is how “new” knowledge is portrayed in the news media.  When I was teaching Chemistry years ago, I arranged a trip to a chemistry lab.  My purpose was to expose my students to real-life applications of Chemistry.  When we arrived at the lab the chemist demonstrated the types of experiments and analysis they were performing.  Would it surprise you that their goal was to reverse-engineer another company’s cleaner formula?  They did this to create a cheaper, generic version.  It was a surprise to me.  I thought that reverse-engineering was something that happened in a repressive regime trying to steal western technology, certainly not in the land of the free.  Unfortunately mankind turns out to be the greatest bunch of reverse-engineers in the universe.  We have not discovered anything new.  We  simply observe and copy what has already been done.

I would have to say that billions of dollars have been spent in the study of life support and ecology over the last hundred years.  No doubt billions more dollars will be spent in the future studying these complex subjects. But would you be shocked that over 4000 years ago in a Middle Eastern desert the description of terraforming the earth was written down.  On the first day God provided three of the essentials for life: the right kind of planet, the right amount of light, and water.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.  And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” 

Then on the second day God created the fourth essential for life, the right kind of atmosphere.

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” 

With all the essentials provided, God now began to mold the earth into ecosystems that worked together perfectly to allow for the establishment of life.  He completed the third day with providing for the conversion of light energy into stored chemical energy in the form of plants to provide food and energy for life.

“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.  And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the third day.” 

Next God ensured for signs, ecological cycles, accounting of time and a light source.

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:  And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” 

Finally, with the different ecosystems established, God placed living creatures on this newly terraformed planet called Earth, interacting with each other in perfect balance.

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.   And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.  And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.  And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.  And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

Do you remember Flipper floating on top of the tank?  Why did he end up floating?  Because there was a problem with the balance of his ecosystem.  Maybe it was too hot; maybe there was not enough food; maybe the water chemistry was wrong… But ultimately you failed to provide for him what he needed to live.  Most people would think that a fish aquarium is a simple ecosystem but it is not.  There are so many factors in maintaining a proper balance that it is impossible to foresee all the potential interactions.  Scientists have found this to be true, again and again, in any attempt to make a closed ecosystem.  Yet we are surrounded by an ecosystem that does work and is very resilient to all our attempts to destroy it.  What does that tell us about God, the Creator?  It tells us that He has infinite knowledge and care for His creation.

Some imagine that there is no God and everything simply happened by accident.  Others imagine that God started everything and left it to develop by chance.  However, both of these views fail in the face of reality.  Let us go back to Flipper in his aquarium.   When you first purchased Flipper and his aquarium did you simply place everything on the counter and leave it to time and accident? “Hope you make it, Flipper!”

Alternatively, did you instead throw everything in the aquarium and add water?  “Hey I got it started, I am sure it will all workout well for you, Flipper!  See you later, big guy!”   

No, not a chance!  Instead, you carefully installed the pump and the heater.  You decorated the tank with rocks and plants.  Next, you treated the water and turned on the light.  Finally, you carefully poured in Flipper.  In the beginning, you carefully cared for Flipper.   You provided him food, changed his water, and cleaned his tank but after a while you lost interest. Your care for Flipper became less and less until one day Flipper was “floating”.

Thankfully God is not like us and He will not leave us “floating” like Flipper.  God terraformed the Earth in His infinite knowledge and love for all living creatures.  It is great to hear someone say that they love you.  However, it is much more powerful to both hear and experience another person’s love for us.  How do we experience another person’s love? By their actions toward us and for us.  God not only tells us He loves us (John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”), but each of us experience His love with every breath of air we take and every flower we smell.   His love and care is shown by His creation of a world made for us.  However, it does not end with just that.  It continues to this present day with His preservation of all living creatures. Nehemiah 9:6 “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.”  Understand that the Bible is the true account of God’s love for His creation.  His love would lead Him to a cross on which He would die for you and for me.  His love would take Him to a cold grave for three days and nights.  His love would bring Him out of that grave in victory and salvation for all who will believe in Him.