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According to what WordPress tells me, someone recently found this blog by Googling “Are cyanobacteria from God?”

Google directed them here because of this post and because of many posts mentioning God. But I have no actual post relevant to those search terms. I felt bad because whoever they were, they did not receive an answer for their question.

So, as far as I can, I will answer it now.

Are cyanobacteria from God?

There’s two ways to begin this inquiry. First is the possibility that cyanobacteria specifically are from God. That is: is most of creation theologically neutral or even negative, but cyanobacteria are a specific agent of God’s will, a means, like Jesus, by which the Holy One wrought a definite work upon reality?

Now cyanobacteria were, by general scientific consensus, the source of earth’s oxygen atmosphere. Several billions years ago, cynaobacteria metabolized the carbon dioxide then blanketing the world on such a scale, and for so long, that it produced an oxygen-heavy environment. So we could say that the relative barrenness of the world prior to the creation of that oxygen was an aspect of the world’s fallenness. In that scenario, oxygen was necessary so that organisms capable of redemption might evolve. This makes the creation of the oxygen atmosphere the first step in salvation history, and therefore cyanobacteria are most definitely from God.

I must admit, I am not inclined toward that idea.

I would consider the holiness or lack thereof of cyanobacteria in the larger context of the holiness or lack thereof of nature in general. I wrote a post on another blog about that once. Put simply, I’ve always had a strong sense that nature was from God, but the picture of nature developed via science over the past five hundred years or so shows it to be amoral—that is, in effect, evil.

In that scheme, cyanobacteria are no more or less good or evil or amoral than any other organism. They simply are, just like any other organism. Though they had a special and interesting role in natural history, there is nothing to distinguish them from their fellow organisms.

Therefore, if there is God, cyanobacteria are as much from God as anything else. Like all other organisms, they are fallen—they are not entirely as God intended. God’s will is that the lion will lie down with the lamb. What that means in terms of cyanobacteria is unclear. Perhaps it means that, after Judgment Day, when the universe is restored, they will cease to emit toxins fatal to many other animals. We can’t know.

So to give you a firm answer, unknown searcher: Yes, cyanobacteria are from God. All the plankton and protists are from God. All creatures and all things are from God. Not to remain as they are. Not to remain fallen. But all to be redeemed, to be remade as they were made, to go back to God. And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

Sometime in the late Seventies, a certain stream of photons flowed through a window in Barryville, NY. In the flow danced tiny bits of dust. I, at age four or five, stared transfixed at the beam. Did the beam create the dust or just illuminate it? I hoped the former, even though I suspect I was wrong.

Years later, I had an epiphany. According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, time is experienced according to how we sense light. Therefore LIGHT==TIME. Excited, I sped to an astrophysicist friend and asked if my idea was accurate.

Nope! My friend informed me that light plays very little role in how physicists think about the phenomenon of time.

(This is why you always want to ask someone with expertise, folks)

The thing is that you can go the other way: since, according to Einstein, light is so plastic, physics had to proceed to more reliable ways of describing time (and time gets more complicated and much less assured as you discover more about it.)

Yet there is some relationship. LIGHT==TIME was off. But I am told that if I were to somehow teleport to a point far enough away from earth, I could see that moment captured in my memory fleeing out to distant stars. When we look into the night sky, we see the distant past. Light is a form of time travel.

I still remember that beam of light, defining the dust motes within it. Light and memory and time, all interwoven. Beams of light everywhere and always, in 1978, in 1928, in 1028, in -1028, ten thousand years before that moment, ten million years before that moment, ten hundred million years before that moment. Light may not define time, but it defines the moment.

Life–the unquantifiable and ill-defined thing life–takes perfectly ordinary atoms & molecules and gives them a motive force, like throwing a stick into a river. Suddenly, it zips. And here’s the weird part: I cannot take into my body any molecules that have not been transformed by the force of life. Unliving molecules are useless–actually harmful–to my body. Yet the molecules in question need not be alive at the time when I ingest them, only that they once were, as if they earned some kind of degree. Trees can suck from the earth, and lichens from rock, but either of these would poison me.

The answer to this oddness is, of course, that not just any old molecules will do. My body needs very specific chemical forms of molecules formed by life. By taking vitamins, we have finally found a way to fake our bodies out, thinking it has found those life-transformed molecules when it really hasn’t. But one cannot live on vitamins alone.

And when I die, my molecules will be on the loose again, ready to be snatched up by other lives.