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If Planet Earth is really God's handiwork, it must be a rough draft page 2
If God made the universe, He didn't make it perfect.

Date published: 6/18/2005

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I don't know what Smiley means when he says that the "ocean floor is at a depth that gives us oxygen." Does he think the oceans are at a constant depth? (They actually range from just a few hundred feet deep over the continental shelves to more than five miles deep in the great trenches.) Does he believe that oxygen is somehow produced on the ocean floors? It is actually produced by plants living in the epipelagic zone, where light can penetrate. Below 200 yards, oxygen-producing plants cannot live. So far as oxygen production is concerned, the oceans could be as shallow as mill ponds and do just as good a job.

There is abundant evidence, in fact, that life on Earth evolved in an atmosphere with very little oxygen. It is such a reactive element that it would have been literally deadly to early, simple life forms. As the proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere increased, as plants excreted it as a waste product, oxygen-breathing creatures--such as human beings--had to evolve complex mechanisms to avoid being poisoned by it. Another example of superb planning.

Smiley is right when he says that the atmosphere protects us from meteorites--so long as they are no larger than a walnut. Anything much larger will reach the ground--as hundreds do every year. Many have struck buildings, cars, and even people. The atmosphere does protect us from harmful radiation, but it could certainly do a better job of it. Otherwise, we wouldn't require sunblock when we go outdoors in the summer.

Smiley forgets (or is totally unaware of) the beneficial effects of the Earth's magnetic field, which screens us from all sorts of terrible emissions from the sun which get through anyway every time there is a solar storm.

What, he wonders, "keeps people upright on Earth while it turns on its axis?" The same thing that keeps Smiley upright when he walks down the aisle of an airliner traveling 500 miles an hour. (But, then, Smiley also wonders "what keeps the stars from falling out of the sky," so I guess lots of things would puzzle someone who apparently believes the stars are little lamps hanging from a domed ceiling.)

He seems to think that questions that puzzle him are unanswerable questions--in the same way that he seems to think that questions that puzzle science today are equally unanswerable.

A century and a half ago, a prominent astronomer stated that science would never be able to determine the composition of the stars--shortly before the invention of the spectroscope enabled scientists to do just that.

RON MILLER is a science-fiction and science-fact writer and illustrator. His books include, with William Hartmann, "The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to the Solar System," now going in to a new edition.


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