The atmosphere was “good”. Everything that God designed at Creation was “good.” What are the dimensions and implications of that goodness in the Earth’s atmosphere? How would our atmosphere be if it was not “good”?
According to Wikipedia, “an atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, by the gravity of the body, and are retained for a longer duration if gravity is high and the atmosphere’s temperature is low.” I like to expand the meaning of atmosphere in this article to include sunlight, air, water and land. The dynamic inter-relationships of these components of the Earth’s atmosphere established at Creation are what continue to support and promote life on Earth.
Sunlight. The Sun is the driving force behind all our weather and climate. The food we eat exists because of sunlight falling on green plants. Clouds reflect some of the sunlight, reducing the heating of the ground. The atmosphere delays escape of heat to outer space, keeping the ground warm. Sunlight also evaporates water from the oceans, lakes, rivers and plants, humidifying the air.
Air. Air is integral to the existence of life. Without air, any human or animal will die in a few minutes. Breathed air carries with it oxygen. If there’s oxygen, there’s life.
Our atmosphere has a high percentage of oxygen, about 21 percent. (Air bubbles discovered in fossils have been found to have as high as 35 percent oxygen). The rest is nitrogen (78 percent) and other trace gases. The percentage of oxygen in the air we breathe is very precisely determined. Could there have been life if the percentages have been different? Michael Denton writes on this point:
“Could your atmosphere contain more oxygen and still support life? No! Oxygen is a very reactive element. Even the current percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere, 21 percent, is close to the upper limit of safety for life at ambient temperatures. The probability of a forest fire being ignited increases by as much as 70 percent for every 1 percent increase in the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.” He adds that “the atmosphere is in a state of equilibrium in which risk and benefit are nicely balanced.”1
In contrast, “Jupiter’s atmosphere [for example] is mostly made of the simple molecules hydrogen and helium. There is a large amount of sulfur, which combines with some of the hydrogen to form hydrogen sulfide. There is also a large amount of nitrogen, which combines with the hydrogen to form ammonia.”2 So far, there is no known life existing in Jupiter as it is on Earth.
More than that, “the density, viscosity, and pressure of air are just right. Were it higher, breathing would be as difficult as drawing honey into a needle. Someone might say ‘That’s easy to fix. We’ll just make the hole of the needle larger to increase the rate of flow.’ But if we did that in the case of the capillaries in the lungs, the result would be to reduce the size of the area in contact with air, with the result that less oxygen and carbon dioxide would be exchanged in the same amount of time and the respiratory needs of the body would not be satisfied. In other words, the individual values of air’s density, viscosity and pressure must all fall within certain limits in order for it to be breathable and those of the air we breathe do exactly that.”3
In other words, what order God had set at Creation needed no improvement because it was very “good”.