Where Science and Faith Converge

Too Much Sulfur

By Hugh Ross - October 6, 2008

Recent studies conducted on Venus and Mars illustrate just how carefully fine-tuned a planet’s abundance of sulfur must be for life to be possible.

Sulfur plays a crucial role in life chemistry. This fact became personal for me a year ago when I was diagnosed as sulfur deficient. Many protein functions crucially depend on sulfur. Fortunately, most agricultural soils contain plenty of sulfur that vegetables, like onions and garlic, readily absorb. So, now that my sulfur deficiency has been resolved, my family has requested that I back off on the garlic.

Too much sulfur, however, can lead to consequences far more devastating than bad breath. Acid rain results from industrial activity pumping too much sulfur compounds into the atmosphere. Many life-essential metabolic reactions are adversely affected by the acidic conditions brought about by sulfur pollution.

One reason life thrives on Earth is because of its low sulfur-water ratio. For Earth to have both such a low ratio and a relatively thin atmosphere is nothing short of miraculous. Earth’s sister rocky planets, Venus and Mars, help highlight Earth’s amazingly benign conditions for life. Venus, like Earth, is sulfur poor, but it has no water and, despite being less massive than Earth, its atmosphere is ninety times more massive than Earth’s. Mars has a thin atmosphere but the Mars Exploration Rover Missions, Spirit and Opportunity, have confirmed and greatly extended the evidence for the dominant role of sulfur in Mars’ geochemical processes.1 Astrobiologists now acknowledge that the high sulfur-water ratio on Mars is toxic, which rules out any naturalistic origin-of-life scenario.

Astrobiologists now also understand how Mars attained its high sulfur-water ratio. For any rocky planet, its crustal sulfur-water ratio is dictated by three factors: planetary accretion resources, the degree of core formation, and igneous evolution. Earth accreted less sulfur than Mars and most of the sulfur it did accrete—because of some extraordinary mass collision events—got incorporated into the planet’s interior.2 Those same extraordinary mass collision events also explain how Earth, as massive as it is, ended up with such a thin atmosphere.3

The lander missions on Mars and Venus illuminate a Christian apologetics principle. They demonstrate that the more we learn about the physics and chemistry of other planets, the more evidence we accumulate for the supernatural, super-intelligent design of Earth for the benefit of all life, both simple and complex.

  1. Benton Clark, “Death by Sulfur: Consequences of Ubiquitous S Before and After the Biotic Transition, for Mars and Other S-Rich Planets,” Astrobiology 8, no. 2 (April 2008): 433.
  2. Hugh Ross, Creation As Science (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 111 – 17.
  3. Ibid.

  • Solar System Design
  • Life Design
  • TCM - Life's Origin
  • TCM - Life Design
  • TCM - Cosmic Design
  • SETI
  • Prebiotic Chemistry
  • Mars
  • Life on Other Planets
  • Habitable Planets
  • Geophysical Design
  • Galaxy Design
  • Extrasolar Planets
  • Publications

About Reasons to Believe

RTB's mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

Donate Now

U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178
Reasons to Believe logo

Reasons to Believe is a nonprofit organization designated as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)3 by the Internal Revenue Service. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Our tax ID is #33-0168048. All Transactions on our Web site are safe and secure.

Copyright 2020. Reasons to Believe. All rights reserved. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of our Privacy Policy.