The Wonder of Life

98% of the visible universe is made up of hydrogen and helium. Look up in the night sky and that’s what you see. Hydrogen and helium are what makes stars shine. There’s a lot of it out there. A very small 2% of the universe consists of other elements. They are called elements because they are the simplest, most elementary particles of matter. We, that is, life makes up an insignificantly small part of the universe, and it only exists on one insignificantly small planet in the universe. As a matter of fact, it’s difficult to calculate or imagine what a small part of the universe we make up.


To be clear, I am assuming that life only exists on Earth because life has never been observed anywhere else. While there is a place for discussing the possibility of life on other planets, without evidence, such discussion is only speculation. According to our present knowledge and the rules of science, life only exists on Earth.


Quantitatively, life is nothing in the universe.

Qualitatively, life is everything.


100% of the universe, minus the insignificant part, is “dumber than dirt”. Dirt is made up of rocks, sand, clay, and organic matter. It might contain 25% air and 25% water. Soil contains living creatures like ants, fungi, moles and earthworms. Until he retired, my good friend Ed worked for the Lincoln County OSU Extension Service, where they take soil seriously. Of course, the moon has rocks too, like Anorthite, but nothing like soil on Earth. Dirt may be dumb by our standards, but it’s smarter than anything that exists anywhere beyond our Earth.


Chemistry can do amazing things with non-living materials. Biology and biochemistry, however, exist as separate disciplines that only deal with living organisms. What makes things living? It’s the extremely complex interactions between extremely complex molecules that just happen. We are just observers who woke up one day to discover life. We barely understand it. We can poke around and make changes, but we could never have invented it. The hydrogen that makes stars shine and the DNA that makes us live are not even in the same ballpark. Meditate on that!


Thinking about the awesome complexity of life should make us marvel and wonder and worship.

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