Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | August 12, 2020

Out of Thin Air!

(4 Minute Read plus video. 12Aug2020)

Hope I have enough wood for campfires!
Where did this wood come from?

From toothpicks to telephone poles, from treasure chests to coffins, from firewood to fine furniture, wood’s uses are innumerable.

But there is something intriguing, even mysterious, about wood’s origin.

Do you know where wood really comes from?

Certainly it comes from trees. And there are many, many different kinds of trees: oak, maple, birch, beech, ash, elm, pine, fir, cedar.

How many more trees can you name? All these trees produce many different kinds of wood with a variety of properties suitable for many different uses.

Many uses require specific wood types and characteristics. However my primary use is one use that all tree wood fits — campfires.

Jesus used trees in His teaching. He used fig trees to teach about faith and His return (Matthew 21:19-22; 24:32-33). He called attention to the massive growth of a tiny mustard seed into a stalwart tree to illustrate the growth of the kingdom of God:
He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

From Where?

From where does the matter (wood) of any tree come? It doesn’t just come out of thin air, does it?

Consider the biggest tree in your yard or in a local park. Where did all that solid wood material come from?

Most people answer that it comes from the ground — nutrients in the soil.

But this is wrong — as a little thought will show. If most of the matter of a tree comes from the ground, then the ground level should sink as a tree grows. The ground level of dense forests should visibly and substantially drop if every tree’s wood develops from material in the ground. There should be sinkholes all over the forest floor if matter was taken from the soil and moved into trees to form wood. That doesn’t happen.

Dutch chemist Jan van Helmont‘s (1580–1644) 5-year willow tree experiment showed that his willow tree gained far more mass than the soil lost. After five years, his willow tree had gained 164 lbs, but the soil weighed only 57 grams less than when he started. He mistakenly concluded that the extra mass must have come from the water he added. We now know that most of it came from somewhere else. But where?

So where does wood come from? It doesn’t just come out of thin air, does it?

Actually, that is exactly where wood does come from. The answer is that wood comes from the air! In particular, wood is mostly carbon, and the carbon comes from carbon dioxide in the air through the process of photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis takes carbon from CO2 in the air and builds the carbon into the matter of the plant.

Wood is primarily cellulose and lignin, both of which are carbon compounds built from carbon derived from atmospheric CO2 via photosynthesis.

The mind-boggling variety, diversity, and complexity of the plants in this picture is testimony to the Great Creator‘s genius. Every single one of the millions of green leaves in this picture is an amazing little energy-conversion factory that takes carbon dioxide from the air and light from the sun and produces both oxygen for breathing and energy in the form of sugars (carbon compounds) stored in plants. This process is called photosynthesis.

The pictured plants are only a few of the huge cornucopia of plants the Great Creator made on Creation Day Three:
Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Genesis 1:11-13 NASB)

Even now biologists do not fully understand photosynthesis, the process whereby plants convert sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into sugars, starches, fats, and oxygen. This provides food for people and animals along with renewed air, as the oxygen is released into the atmosphere. Without photosynthesis, the sun’s energy would be useless and life could not exist.

Photosynthesis is the primary supply source for the oxygen we breathe. It also produces all the organic (carbon-based) compounds and most of the energy needed for plant and animal life. God’s provision of food, energy, and oxygen through plants via photosynthesis is so abundant that we take it for granted and rarely think about it or thank Him for it.

Melvin Calvin (1911–1997) of the University of California, Berkeley, won the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for mapping the path carbon follows during photosynthesis using the radioactive carbon-14 isotope as a tracer. The path begins with its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide and ends with its conversion into many carbon compounds in plants like sugars, carbohydrates, cellulose, and lignin. This became known as the Calvin cycle.

Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll, the green pigment in leaves, is an essential part of photosynthesis. Sunlight hitting chlorophyll molecules causes them to vibrate and emit charged electrons that energize the sugar-making process in the leaf. Chlorophyll molecules absorb the red and blue parts of sunlight and reflect the green. That’s why leaves look green.

Model of chlorophyll molecule

Model of the chlorophyll a molecule
C-black, Mg-green, N-blue, O-red, H-white

Chlorophyll is a highly complex molecule comprised of carbon (C), magnesium (Mg), nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), and hydrogen (H) atoms. It exists in multiple forms in nature. The most common plant form is chlorophyll a with molecular formula C55H72O5N4Mg.

For a plant to make a chlorophyll molecule requires at least 17 different enzymes, each of which is itself a complex molecule. The complicated chlorophyll molecule did not arise by chance. It was designed by the benevolent Great Creator for the benefit of His creatures — animals and people.

Photosynthesis involves hundreds of chemical reactions among many different complex molecules occurring in the correct order at exactly the right times. It’s an extremely complicated process as perusal of the Wikipedia article on photosynthesis will show. Yet many scientists insist on proclaiming it all developed gradually by accident, instead of acknowledging the work of the intelligent Great Creator who designed the process for His own glory and for the benefit of plants, animals, and people.

Indeed, Scripture refers to the trees specifically uplifting their Creator’s fame:
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.
(Psalm 96:11-13)

Chlorophyll and photosynthesis testify of a Designer and Creator, for they could not have arisen by chance accident. If any single part were missing, the whole incredibly complex system would be useless.

Here is a brief 2-minute YouTube rendition of The Trees Of The Field song from Isaiah:
For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:12)


 
The next time you see a tree, remember how the Great Creator makes wood out of thin air! And praise and thank Him for it!

And thank God as well for carbon dioxide! We need it!

Question Mark Cufflinks

Questions to Ponder

1. Do you consciously thank the Great Creator for the beauty and benefits of plants?
2. How do leaves demonstrate the overwhelming abundance of the Great Creator?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday August 12, 2020 A.D.

Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Genesis 1:11-13 NASB)

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Responses

  1. Bill, at the end of each year you rank the BSG articles that you composed, wrote, and intelligently designed throughout the year. This article on how trees come out of thin air (and by corollary, most of our food) is excellent. If you ever do an all-time top 10 ranking of your BSG articles, you must consider the inclusion of this morning’s offering. As I was reading it I thought how wonderful it would have been if I had been taught in my youth this complex scientific fact that is simple enough for a child to learn.

    I have had, unlike with most other things, a fascination with trees since my youth, first developed as a Boy Scout over 55 years ago, and continuing until now, but I have never once heard of, or given thought to, this amazing point of knowledge. Although I have praised our Great Creator many times while standing at the base of a giant redwood tree, in front of a massive and beautiful historically-marked tree of a type and of record size, in or before a large forest, or being amazed by the beauty and characteristics of the many varieties of the woods I’ve worked with my hands, I can’t help think how much more my awe for our Great Creator would have been had I known how it mostly came via one of His intelligently designed, inscrutability complex processes out of thin air!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, both learning throughout, and halting to praise God for his genius. He not only makes the trees useful to us, He makes them beautiful on the outside, and He makes their wood beautiful on the inside. He makes His forests majestic to our eyes, and the trees’ fruits and nuts delicious as food for us.

    This impact and new awe for God after reading your article this morning reminds me of an anecdote I once heard. An immature Christian man was lamenting about having to praise God in heaven for eternity. He didn’t think he would enjoy spending eternity doing that. One of his Christian brothers said to him that he could imagine God telling his gathered elect something so amazing that the angels would circle about His throne, many times, all angels and elect praising God. And when that enthusiasm would begin to wane then God might say something like, “let Me tell you how I designed your trees out of thin air.” And the procession of praise would commence again with even more awe!

    Thanks Bill, as I sit in the Rocky Mountains today admiring all of these chatty quaking aspens (my personal favorite tree) you have given me a new wonderful reason to praise our intelligent Great Creator who designs.

    John

    Like

    • Thanks, John, for your encouraging words. I’m thankful the article was a blessing that stimulated your awe and worship of our Almighty Creator. It will definitely be in the Best of 2020 blog post at the end of the year.
      One of our favorite campgrounds has a grove of quaking aspens. When I walk through them and hear the chattering sound of their leaves, I remember verses like all the trees of the forest will sing for joy (Psalm 96:12) and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12) Even inanimate nature brings glory to its Creator!
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like


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