Scientists have estimated that there are five million trillion trillion bacteria on planet earth – a number that we can’t comprehend. Here is a comparison that will help to demonstrate the size of that number. If you took all of the other animals on the planet and weighed them together and then weighed all of the bacteria on earth, the bacteria would out-weigh all other creatures.
We often hear about the bad effects of bacteria like salmonella in eggs, E-coli in hamburgers, campylobacter in chicken – all capable of making us miserable or even causing death. The message we get is that the tiny one-celled organisms we call bacteria are evil and only bring misery and sickness. Some might question why God would allow such creatures to exist, or they might say that the existence of bacteria disproves design in creation. The fact is that bacteria are vital to our own existence in a variety of ways. Bacteria are actually a demonstration of design wisdom in the world.
Most animals are limited in their habitat, but bacteria can live almost anywhere – not just in environments we find pleasant. Bacteria live in hot springs, salt lakes, arctic ice, highly acidic ponds, volcanic vents, radioactive waste, deep in the earth, under the sea, and almost anywhere else on earth. In fact one gram of typical soil contains about 40 million bacteria cells and a typical milliliter of fresh water contains about a million bacteria.
More important than the amazing numbers and ubiquitous distribution of bacteria is the fact that they are essential for human and animal life. Bacteria and algae manufacture half of the oxygen we breathe. Many bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with humans. There are many species of bacteria living in the human intestines which aid digestion and synthesize vitamins. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the name of bacteria that prevent yeast infections in humans. Bacteria process garbage and keep us from being over-run with wastes. They process nitrogen and sulfur so plants can use them, enabling the plants to give us food. Bacteria even contribute to variety in the human diet by turning milk into yogurt and cabbage into sauerkraut. Bacteria are actually used in producing disease-fighting antibiotics including penicillin, erythromycin, and streptomycin.
As scientists study bacteria they are finding new ways to fight cancer, remove pollution, and grow better food, faster. Not only do bacteria have many natural uses and benefits, but we are finding more ways to use them as we learn more about them. Bacteria are not evil or a “mistake.” They are an essential, beneficial part of the design of the planet we call home.
“The Invisible Emperors” by Charles W. Petit and Laura Taylor, U.S. News and World Report, Nov. 8, 1999, page 22.
“bacteria”, “lactobacillus acidphilus”,Wikipedia
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