Posted by jlwile on May 2, 2011
Last weekend, I spoke at the MassHOPE convention. I have spoken there many times over the course of the past 15 years, and it is one of my favorite conventions. It is held in a great facility, and it is very well-organized. Also, while I was young, I used to spend a lot of time in Massachusetts because my father grew up there. It is always fun to go back and listen to people who talk like my dad.
I gave five talks while I was there. Two of them were on homeschooling. I dealt with elementary science in one of the talks and junior-high/high-school science in the other talk. In my elementary science talk, I stress how important mathematics is for science, and I tell the parents that while science is important, during the K-6 years, mathematics is even more important. Thus, if you want to stress anything during the K-6 years, stress the math. That will pay off huge dividends in science later on. As a result, while you should do some science in the K-6 years, you should do it only from time-to-time. You should be stressing mathematics, reading, and writing during that time in your child’s life.
What I find interesting is that most parents seem to instinctively know this already. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me after I give that talk and tell me that they have been doing just that for quite some time. However, they have always felt vaguely uneasy about only doing science from time-to-time and are glad that someone like me has validated what they are doing. I think this is an example of how parents really do know what’s best for their child’s education, even when they don’t have the benefit of advice from an “expert.”
My other three talks were on science. I talked about the scientific evidence for Christianity, about the prophecies in the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in both history and in the life of Christ, and about the amazing science that you find in the Bible. I got two questions from that last talk which are worth covering in this post.
In my talk on the amazing scientific facts you find in the Bible, I mention a lot of medical knowledge that you can find in the Old Testament. Specifically, I talk about some of the Old Testament rules related to what must happen with people who are diseased or what a person should do when he comes into contact with a dead body. Those rules demonstrate an intricate knowledge of germs and how they spread disease. Of course, doctors in Old Testament times had no such knowledge, indicating that the Old Testament was written by someone who knew a lot more than the people of the time.
During the question/answer session, one person said he was stumped on why the Old Testament forbade people to mix dairy and meat. Actually, the Old Testament doesn’t really do that. It forbids boiling a goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21). Those who made the kosher laws assumed this meant that you aren’t supposed to mix dairy and meat, so to be kosher, dairy and meat must be kept separate. Even though the rule to avoid mixing dairy and meat doesn’t come directly from the Bible, it is actually a great idea, especially if one of them isn’t cooked.
Meat often contains bacteria, and bacteria love to grow in milk. If you mix meat and milk, you are giving the bacteria that are in the meat a lot of sugar and fat, which they need. This causes them to grow a lot faster than they would in the meat by itself. Thus, if you want to reduce bacterial growth, you should not mix meat and dairy, especially if one of them is uncooked.
Most professional kitchens actually practice separation of meat and dairy, along with separation of other kinds of foods as well. For example, a good professional kitchen has different colors of cutting boards, and each color has its own designation. You use one color for one type of meat, another color for another type of meat, and another color for dairy. This is specifically to prevent the spread of bacteria.
The other question I want to discuss was asked privately after the same talk. One of the things I highlight in the talk is how circumcision in men helps to prevent cervical cancer in women. We are fairly certain that cervical cancer comes as a result of a woman being infected by the human papillomavirus virus (HPV). We also know that this virus can reside on men, and it can be transmitted during intercourse. Thus, if a man can keep himself free of HPV, he is less likely to pass it on to a woman. We know from direct experiments that men in undeveloped countries who are circumcised are less likely to carry HPV than are their counterparts who are not circumcised.1 Thus, it seems clear that circumcision in men helps to prevent cervical cancer in women.
I point out in the talk that Moses clearly knew nothing about HPV or cervical cancer, yet the ritual he wrote down has saved the lives of millions of Jewish women over the years. This tells me that someone who knew a lot more about medicine than Moses was telling him what to write down. I also add that circumcision is not very important in countries like the U.S., because it is basically a sanitary issue. Since we in the U.S. are preoccupied with keeping ourselves clean, circumcision is not important here. However, it was clearly important in Old Testament and New Testament times, and it is still important in the undeveloped world.
After the talk was over, a woman came up to me and told me that she is a medical doctor. She has read lots of medical opinions about circumcision, and she thinks the medical community is very clear about the fact that circumcision does nothing to prevent cervical cancer. She didn’t understand why I could be so adamant that circumcision helps to prevent cervical cancer while the medical community seems convinced that it does not.
I told her that you have to separate the studies done in developed countries from those done in undeveloped countries. Because of good sanitary practices, circumcision does not affect the spread of cervical cancer in the developed world. Thus, if you look at studies done in the developed world, you will not see any relationship between circumcision and cervical cancer. I expect that because most of what she reads in the medical literature is focused on medicine in the U.S., she got the message that circumcision and cervical cancer are unrelated based on studies done in the developed world. However, if you look at studies done in the undeveloped world, you see a different story altogether.
She was not convinced just by my words (which I respect), so she asked for studies to back up my claim. I told her that I would E-MAIL her some studies from undeveloped countries so she could see what I mean. As I was looking for the exact references for those studies (such as the one listed in reference 1 below), I came across an even more recent study that directly links male circumcision to low female HPV infection rates in Uganda.
The study looked at more than 1,200 HIV-negative heterosexual couples. Half the men were circumcised, and half were not. After following the couples for two years, they found that the female partners of the circumcised men were significantly less likely to be infected with HPV than were those of the uncircumcised men. The authors conclude:2
Our findings indicate that male circumcision should now be accepted as an efficacious intervention for reducing the prevalence and incidence of HPV infections in female partners.
Thus, it is very clear that in undeveloped countries (as well as in Old and New Testament times), circumcision helps to save the lives of women. You can literally thank God for that!
1. R. H. Gray, “Infectious disease: male circumcision for preventing HPV infection,” Nat Rev Urol. 6(6):298-9, 2009.
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2. Maria J Wawer, et al., “Effect of circumcision of HIV-negative men on transmission of human papillomavirus to HIV-negative women: a randomised trial in Rakai, Uganda,” The Lancet 377 (9761):209-218, 2011.
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