The Design of Dirt

The Design of Dirt

Most of us take dirt for granted and perhaps even have a negative attitude toward what lies beneath our lawns and gardens. We may not realize that soil is a complex structure designed for life and that many life forms live in it. We should take a moment to consider the design of dirt.

There are many kinds of soil, and the amount varies widely in different environments. In deserts or polar areas, we find very little soil. For example, in Alaska, the soil is very thin, but life there is supported by the yearly migration of salmon. In desert areas, we may have only sand and no soil. Also, volcanic regions may have no soil since soil takes time to develop. Volcanic rock coming out of the lava flow is usually very sterile.

Because of the design of dirt, it is home to 59% of Earth’s species. Scientists have identified twelve families of living organisms that survive in the soil. Some of these are more familiar, such as mollusks, arthropods, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, viruses, plants, and even mammals. Less well-known are nematodes, oligochaets, enchytraeids, and archaes.

Humans depend on all of these life forms for food, fiber, and the survival of the animals humans use for food. Life on land could not exist without the organisms living in the soil beneath our feet. Using chemicals on soil threatens its ability to provide what we need to survive. Agriculture is moving toward more efficient and effective methods of growing our food. Efforts to duplicate the design built into Earth’s soil are proving to be a challenge.

In the Garden of Eden, everything humans needed to eat was already growing. God had designed soil that produced the plants; all the first humans had to do was gather it. When God expelled them from the garden, they were forced to deal with an Earth that was out of balance. They had to control the soil and what grew in it. We can try to copy God’s design of soil, but we are only beginning to understand how complex it is and what it takes to maintain a working environment. God’s wisdom is seen everywhere we look, even down to the design of dirt.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “The Soil Contains Multitudes” in the January/February issue of American Scientist, page 8.