Water cycle drawing, WikiCommons

Science in the Bible: The Water Cycle

First Published June, 2012; things haven’t changed any since then!

Water cycle drawing, WikiCommons

Today I want to mention how knowledgeable the ancient writers of the Bible were about the water cycle. I found a long webpage from UNESCO that talks about what most people long ago thought of the Water Cycle:

“The Greeks therefore described the water cycle backwards, arguing that since the level of the seas remained constant despite all the rivers flowing into it, the water must penetrate the earth’s depths and feed the underground springs. Evaporation and Precipitation were ignored.”

Ancient Egyptians couldn’t figure out how the Nile flooded annually even though it never rained during that time of year. The average Egyptian thought that the river was just a sort of back flow from the Mediterranean Sea. You’d think they would have wondered why the river water wasn’t salty!

The Chinese knew that rain was the source of the water in their rivers and even had a flood warning system using horseback messengers that could travel faster than the rising waters! But there is no evidence that they understood where the rain came from in the first place. They even invented a Rain Dragon myth to explain what caused it.

But is this the kind of confused tale that the Bible presents for us about the water cycle?  Have a look at these verses:

All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. Ecclesiastes 1:7

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: Ecclesiastes 11:3a

He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain; he brings the wind out of his treasuries. English: LightningPsalm 135:7

The Psalms verse is especially interesting because it shows the connection between lightning and rainfall. Even what is known as Dry Lightning has rain, it just never reaches the ground! I found out that there is something called a Rain Gush whenever lightning occurs. If there is even lightning very close to you, you might notice it starts to rain extra hard a few seconds later. This all has to do with the electricity in water and is something we still don’t completely understand, but the Creator does!

Mist on Lake Ontario

He that calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name. Amos 9:6b

When he utters his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightnings with rain, and brings forth the wind out of his treasures. Jeremiah 10:13

These last three verses show a clear understanding of evaporation, unlike what these other cultures were thinking!

Beginning with Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 1400s, and Bernard Palissy 100 years later, modern scientists pieced together how the water cycle works. Finally in the 1600s, two Frenchmen, Pierre Perrault and Edmé Mariotte, showed that there was enough water from evaporation and rain to explain how water reached the land and then flowed back to the sea.

Nowadays, knowledge of the water cycle is so common that we all learn about it in our first school years.

Praise be to our great God who formed the earth so carefully and thoughtfully!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: Isaiah 55:8-11

Continued: God’s Miracle: the Clouds

Potpourri: The Other Water Cycle, Diatoms, and South America’s Islands in the Sky

[Potpourri: poh-pohr-ee.  definition #4: any mixture, especially of unrelated objects, subjects, etc.]

English: Chenopodium oahuense (habitat view oc...

I was checking my e-mail this morning and saw that I had a response from the USDA “ask a scientist” from the other week. It all started when I did my post on Photosynthesis and saw how much water gets broken apart to make our food. It set me to wondering why we haven’t run out of water yet and I wrote about it in my follow-up post on the Water of Life: Plants. Since I hadn’t been able to find anything that answered my questions exactly, I sent off an e-mail to Dr. Watts and now I know!

Turns out I was on the right track.  The only way to get back to the original amount of water you had before Photosynthesis started is to burn all the food the plant had made.  Now, I’m not talking about forest fires; you are a ball of burning energy yourself.  It’s just a very carefully controlled process that allows us to live and move and work.  Plants also use some of their stored food for energy to grow and live, but they don’t use it all up on their own.  Well, how ’bout I let Don Orts, who leads the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, Illinois, tell you himself:

English: Sanderlings, Calidris alba and a seag...

“However, plants themselves are not balanced in this regard because plants [carry out] about twice as much photosynthesis as they do respiration.  The rest of carbohydrate that plants produce is what feeds all other organisms on the planet so it takes animals and many kinds of non-photosynthetic microorganisms to respire the rest and create the overall balance between global photosynthesis and respiration.   There is, however, one important caveat to this, which is that all of the extant organic matter on the earth (for example, organic matter in the soil, trees, peat moss bogs and fossil fuels) all represent photosynthesis that has been stored and not yet respired. But [you]needn’t  worry about running out of water for these reasons as there was a great deal of water on the planet before there was ever life here.  I hope this helps.”

Awesome!  God is sure amazing and He is very fond of symbiotic relationships [you know, where two organisms help each other to survive].  Hmm, I should write some more on that some time!  Notice that the Whole World Knows that Water came first. 😀

Also, there is a theory of Genesis 1 that’s called the “Day-Age Theory.”  It claims that “and the evening and the morning were the fourth day” actually means “and the evening and the morning were the fourth age which lasted an amazingly long time, maybe millions of years.”  Even if that was good Hebrew study (which it isn’t), it wouldn’t fit the facts.  You would have a dried up planet if you left plants all alone for millions of years!

English: Circle of diatoms on a slide

Circle of diatoms on a slide

Moving on to my other topics.  If you’ve managed to stay awake during my posts on Limestone, you will remember that Chalk is made of tiny sea algae called Diatoms.   Just have a look at the beauty and variety of these little things!  They are truly amazing and, it turns out they are setting a pretty puzzle for Evolutionists who have to try to figure out how one of them turned into another which turned into…  I know the article has some eye-crossing words, but I think you’ll get the point.  Things aren’t nearly as boxed up as your school textbook would have you believe!

Tepui (tabletop mountain)

Remember the flat-topped mountain from the movie UP?  Those kinds of places are very real and are helpful to scientists because they are amazingly hard to get to unless you’re a bird.  I’ve heard that some of them have been visited less often than the Moon!  These “180,000,000” years old highlands made of 2 billion year old rocks had been “successively inundated over some 200 million years by a series lakes and seas” (in English that means we know that water washed over them a LOT). Then they say the rest of the rock eventually eroded down until only these plateaus were left.

typical roraima 3

typical plateau landscape

Creation Evolution Headlines has an article on these “Islands in the Sky” and how they are NOT cooperating with the Evolutionary storyline.   Having been separated for such a long time, they should have really weird animals on them.  Well, they are very different from what we usually see, but not from the other animals living on nearby plateaus.  Once you’ve read the article, think whether Creation Scientists have ever had a shock like this.  Do our predictions turn out to be so far off as these scientists’?

I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.  Psalms 119:46

They shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.  Isaiah 49:23b

As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.Romans 9:33

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  Romans 10:11 

Mathobkundo Falls, Bangledesh, WikiCommons

Science in the Bible: Water of Life, Plants

Mathobkundo Falls, Bangledesh, WikiCommons

Psalm 1:3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Acts 17:25  Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

Now, this isn’t one of the miraculous scientific principles scattered around the Bible. Anyone who had been alive for more than a few years could figure out that if a plant dried out, it died. But it is still quite interesting to find out what exactly water does to keep us alive. Since I got the idea for this while studying Photosynthesis last week, I’m going to cover plants.

When you look at what a plant needs to have in order to do its work of changing sunlight into food, you will see that one of the main ingredients is water. In fact, Photosynthesis breaks water apart in order to produce starches and sugars. So when I forget to water my houseplants, they aren’t just shriveling up from evaporation. Without water to work with they are starving! Doesn’t that make you more motivated to care for your garden?

English: The process of photosynthesisSo then I had a question. Since Photosynthesis breaks water, why do we still have so much water around? It’s been a long time since I was in 5th grade and I wasn’t paying that much attention except to pass a test and get back to my fantasy novel. So now I’m thinking about this puzzle.

I had an idea or two about what’s going on, especially remembering the stuff that drips out of my car’s tailpipe, but I didn’t have time to check my hunches until today. Yes, sir, it is breathing, or respiration, that puts back together the broken H2O molecules to keep our planet from turning into just one more dust ball in space.

Here’s what University of California Davis says about the balance of these two processes,

“Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars. The sugars produced by photosynthesis can be stored, transported throughout the tree, and converted into energy which is used to power all cellular processes. Respiration occurs when glucose (sugar produced during photosynthesis) combines with oxygen to produce useable cellular energy. This energy is used to fuel growth and all of the normal cellular functions. Carbon dioxide and water are formed as by-products of respiration.”

We all know that animals breathe, but plants respire as well. And, the equation for burning the sugars is basically the same ingredients as photosynthesis backwards.

When you combine this knowledge with the oxygen cycle between plants and animals you see just how carefully God has balanced our world.  So, if you had a planet full of plants with no animals, it wouldn’t last long. And we all know what would happen to us if we had a planet without plants! Our wise Creator didn’t leave the plants alone for very long before He brought in lots of animals to keep the water and oxygen levels in balance.

And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.  Exekiel 47:12
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  Revelation 22:2

Check out this cool experiment someone did with water plants to see the oxygen bubbling out during Photosynthesis: