Many times when bacteria are mentioned, they are mentioned in a negative context. We are all aware that there are bacteria that can make us ill. An overwhelming percentage of bacteria is beneficial to us, however. Bacteria work within our bodies to do a number of good things. I can remember years ago, I was invited to visit the "germ-free" facility here in South Bend where germ-free animals are produced for certain kinds of research. I remember one of the workers at the lab complaining that they had a hard time getting rabbits to reproduce if there were no bacteria in their reproductive systems. Bacteria serve a variety of surprising purposes in the creation.
Dr. Morrie Craig of Oregon State University has been studying the bacteria in the stomachs of various animals. He has found around 1,000 species of bacteria that live in the stomach of a bowhead whale. Some of these bacteria can break down naphthalene and anthracene, two carcinogenic components of crude oil that are very difficult to break down. He found other bacteria that could reduce PCBs to inert materials (PCBs are industrial pollutants known to cause cancer). Dr. Craig has also found bacteria in the stomach of sheep and goats that will break down contaminants found at munitions sites around the United States.
Tansy ragwort is a weed introduced by man to the United States that contains a poisonous alkaloid that attacks the livers of cattle and horses. Dr. Craig has found a bacteria in sheep stomachs that digests tansy ragwort and neutralizes its toxic materials. When Craig introduced these bacteria to the stomachs of cows, they did not become ill when they ate the plant.
It is easy for us to feel that, because there are bacteria that can cause problems for us, there is a lack of design in the cosmos. Most bacteria help us. They work in our bodies, in the food chain, and in the decomposers of the world to maintain life. They are designed for specific roles and are a vital part of the world in which we live. They may well be the only solution to some of the ecological problems we face. They are powerfully designed to do some great things.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Mar/Apr98.