Quran and Modern Science ::RESPIRATION AND PHOTOSYNTHESIS

18- And the dawn as it breathes.
81-The Rolling, 18
The verb to breathe is a term originally used to describe the process
in which many living organisms take in oxygen from their surroundings and give out carbon dioxide. But what has respiration to do with
the dawn? What brings together these two seemingly incongruous
subjects? Does something new happen in the daylight different from
the night? These questions were bound to remain unanswered until
the time the process of photosynthesis came to light, the synthesis of
simple carbon hydrates like glucose and starch from carbon dioxide
and water, with the liberation of oxygen, using the energy of light, in
green plants chlorophyll being the energy transformer. Nutriments of
high-energy content formed as a result of this process, called photosynthesis, are stored in tissues while oxygen is given out. Briefly stated,
photosynthesis is a metabolism process in contradistinction with respiration. During respiration, carbon hydrates mix with oxygen, breaking down into the component elements of water and carbon dioxide;
the end products of the reactions during respiration are the primary
substances of photosynthesis.
This phenomenon takes place only during the day. Photosynthesis
is dependent on the energy of light and cannot be realized in the dark.
When the “dawn breaks” as described in the verse, light shines and
oxygen, the sine qua non of respiration, begins to be given out by
plants. This makes clear the reason of juxtaposition of words
“breathe” and “dawn” in the verse.

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HAD THERE
BEEN NO PHOTOSYNTHESIS?
Energy is absolutely necessary for living organisms. This energy,
which contributes to the functioning of our muscles and heart, and
plays an important role in the chemical reactions of our body, is supplied by animal products and vegetables. The primary source of the
energy contained in nutriments is the sun. At night, the sun’s rays do
not reach us. The “dawn” is the time these rays begin to reach the
earth. The plants that receive those rays transform this light energy
into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis.
Regeneration and growth of plant tissues depend on this energy.
While the plant continues to grow using this energy, it stores some of
it in the form of chemical energy. A man or an animal that consumes
this plant receives the energy it contains. This perpetuates the chemical reactions in their bodies and stores energy in their tissues.
Consequently, the energy we derive from animal products and plants
is the energy coming from the sun through the plants, forming the
initial stage of nourishment. Had there been no process that enriched
the oxygen in the air, the oxygen available in the atmosphere would
have been exhausted by now. Thanks to this process that begins at
dawn can we breathe. At the time of the descent of the Quran, people knew nothing about photosynthesis or transformation of oxygen
and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or again, about the role played
by the sun’s rays in the realization of this process. The establishment
of such a connection between the dawn and respiration in this verse
astounds us once again.
Energy is absolutely necessary for all biochemical processes fundamental to living organisms. The energy is the result of the breaking
down into elements of nutriments stored in the cells. When they come
into contact with oxygen during this process, the chemical energy
stored in molecules of the nutriment is released. This is a reaction similar to the phenomenon that takes place when a piece of wood kindled
gives out heat and light. So the act of respiration must not be considered exclusively as an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but as
a more complex process that forms the basic energy source of plants
and animals.
Had God not created the various requirements for photosynthesis,
such as, for instance, the chlorophyll necessary for the plants’ realization of photosynthesis, not a single organism would survive. Like many
phenomena in the universe, photosynthesis, the transformation of
oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary for respiration, is a part of the
great and perfect design.
Knowledge of photosynthesis is of fairly recent origin. Scientists
have conducted major research projects; among others, those of the
team headed by Melvin Calvin, an American chemical engineer, are of
great import. This team was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in
1961.
The photosynthesis that enables us to breathe and supply oxygen
can be epitomized as follows:
Light energy (coming from the sun) + Carbon dioxide (coming
from the air) + Water = Chemical energy + Oxygen.
The chemical formula is:
Light + 6CO2 + 6H2O = C6H12O6 (Glucose) + 6O2

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