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Friday, November 28, 2014

The MassHOPE Convention

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!

REFERENCES

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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Comments

12 Responses to “The MassHOPE Convention”
  1. Dan says:

    Dr. Jay, are there other primitive cultures that used advanced medical techniques as well? For instance, Wikipedia has an article stating that ancient Egyptian medicine was “highly advanced for its time.” I know that there were a lot of bad practices in ancient Egypt, but there nevertheless seems to be some “advanced” ones.

    Also, didn’t other ancient civilizations, such as the Native Americans and some Oriental cultures, have some good insights into health? How can those insights be compared to the advanced medical knowledge in the Old Testament? Would they provide counter-examples to the argument that advanced medical knowledge in a “primitive” culture provides evidence for God?

  2. Deanne Crawford says:

    Hi Dr Jay,
    I was really sorry to miss you there. Went by your booth a couple times and you were busy both times..I was there with Rainbow Resource Center (LOL the perfect part time job for a nearly retired homeschool mom!!) Glad it was a good experience for you, especially since they did not have a pool/dart tournament :-)
    Blessings to you!

  3. jlwile says:

    Dan, that’s an excellent question. The Egyptians were, indeed, one of the most advanced cultures when it came to medicine. For example, some Egyptian doctors had figured out that putting moldy bread on a wound helped the wound heal faster. We now know that’s because the mold was probably producing an antibiotic. We also know that they came up with such ideas through trial and error. Doctors would try certain things, see how they worked, and communicate their results, typically through writing. That made for great medicine, but only the “immediate” kind – the kind that would change things noticeably and quickly.

    Many of the commandments in the Old Testament relate to practices that would take years to confirm. For example, circumcision was done at childbirth, but the medical benefits are not realized until sexual maturity. The “milk and dairy” law would be one that could be figured out with trial and error, but not the laws that deal with long-term health consequences. There are many of those. Also, it is not clear how “trial and error” could explain even some of the laws that produce immediate benefits. Since ancients had no concept of one person getting a disease from another person, how would it even occur to them to quarantine people? Nevertheless, the laws of Leviticus discuss quarantining lepers.

    I am not familiar with the medicine of oriental or Native American cultures. However, I would expect that like the Egyptians, any good health insights they had were of the immediate kind, not the long-term kind.

  4. jlwile says:

    Thanks Deanne. I was pretty busy. I have to admit that it is nice to just sit in a booth and talk to people instead of selling things. I think I could get used to that aspect of my new life!

  5. Jacob says:

    Dear dr Jay,

    in my opinion this circumcision argument is biting its own tail; in the end, hasn’t God also created what is proven to be causing this problem?

    Further, if this would really be the reason for the circumcision, why does the Bible give other reasons?

    Best regards,
    Jacob

  6. jlwile says:

    Hi Jacob. I will have to disagree with you on this. God didn’t create pathogens. He created microorganisms and chemicals that helped people and other organisms live. However, Adam and Eve’s rebellion caused all of creation to groan, and as a consequence of that, some organisms and chemicals eventually became pathogenic. God’s laws are a way to deal with this consequence.

    I am not saying that this is the reason God required Abraham to start circumcising. As the Bible clearly says, circumcision was a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:11). That was the reason for circumcision. However, God probably could have chosen any number of signs for that covenant. I expect He chose one that would also ensure the health of the population.

  7. Jacob says:

    Dear dr Jay,

    “However, Adam and Eve’s rebellion caused all of creation to groan, and as a consequence of that, some organisms and chemicals eventually became pathogenic.”

    I don’t understand what you mean; to me this seems unbiblical. Why would organisms become pathogenic only after the fall? Where does the Bible say so? It makes me think of your article “Was there animal death before the fall?” Because, I don’t see the difference between a pathogenic microbe and a prey-hunting animal. Or another question I have in this context: if there were no intrinsic reasons in the creation that could and would cause disease and death, then what was the function of the tree of life in the garden of Eden?

  8. jlwile says:

    Jacob, it’s definitely not unBiblical. Romans 8:20-22 says:

    For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

    So the entire creation was subject to futility and became a slave to corruption because of the Fall. It seems clear to me that pathogens are simply corrupted organisms. As we have studied the incredible relationships organisms have with each other, we see that organisms were made to help one another out. Bacteria live in and on the human body, for example, and they help the body stay healthy. Those that cause disease are, in my mind, clearly corrupted versions of the beneficial ones. Thus, it is quite Biblical to think that pathogens came as a result of the Fall.

    My discussion of animal death before the Fall actually brings this home quite well. We know the Bible is talking about human death in Romans 5 is because it is using the Greek word for death to indicate only human death is being discussed. Also, it is clear that the Greek word kosmos used is also the world of men. Thus, Romans 5 is clearly discussing human death. In contrast, Romans 8 tell us that all creation groans and all creation is a slave to corruption. Thus, it is quite Biblical to think that pathogens are a result of the Fall.

    I think there is a huge difference between a pathogenic organism and a prey-hunting one. The pathogenic organism corrupts the normal processes of life. The prey-hunting organism simply stops them in its prey. Creation would exist well without pathogenic organisms. However, it could not function without the predator/prey relationship, unless there were constant supernatural intervention.

    The tree of life in the garden of Eden gave eternal life. There is no evidence to indicate it cured disease.

  9. Jacob says:

    Dear dr Jay,

    on May 3 you wrote “God didn’t create pathogens. He created microorganisms and chemicals that helped people and other organisms live. However, Adam and Eve’s rebellion caused all of creation to groan, and as a consequence of that, some organisms and chemicals eventually became pathogenic.

    To me this seems unbiblical because I think that the rebellion of Adam and Eve did not create anything nor did change creation in its nature. Isn’t the whole creation groaning because of the sin of man and his incorrect and evil ruling of it? Isn’t this the fact that God did not undo his command that mankind had to rule the earth, but instead repeated it even after mankind had to be punished because of his sins? (Gn 9:2)

    Indeed, as you cite:

    For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

    Look to who is corrupted here, it is not the slave, but his master; which is mankind. Therefore, this state can only be changed if mankind changes, which is true only for the children of God, just as Paul states.

    In any case, even if one would conclude from the text that the creation is fundamentally changed, than still it is an act of God, as you cite “because of Him who subjected it“, so God did create also the pathogens, which is also in clear harmony with John 1:3.

    With respect to the predator/prey relationship: I agree; but I still don’t see the difference between microbes eating a whale, and a whale eating microbes.

    About the tree of life and curing of diseases: yes, some evidence does exist. See Revelations 22:2.

    I hope you get what I mean; it is certainly not meant to annoy you. On the contrary, I do appreciate your warm words about Gods intentions. However, in my opinion, as christians we need to be careful to conclude on what is due to God and what is not; and also to use scientific results to judge about why God would have done something when it is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. In my opinion, the biggest risk of doing so is that the same argument will do dishonour to God when science at some point starts to produce the opposite results. As you know, this does happen now and then. For me, this is a big reason to not use science to judge the wisdom of God, because His thinking is always higher than ours.

    Best regards,
    Jacob

  10. jlwile says:

    Jacob, I am not at all annoyed by your comments. I enjoy the dialogue. However, I do think you are interpreting Scripture in an incorrect way. For example, Genesis 9:2 is not a repetition of God’s command to rule the earth. It is, instead, a warning that things aren’t going to be like they were on the ark. On the ark, the animals were not afraid of Noah. God wanted to make it clear that this was not a permanent situation, so He made sure Noah understood that animals would be afraid of people again. Now, of course, Genesis 9 does say that Man was to fill the earth (verse 1) and that he was to use the earth (verse 3). However, the end of the Flood was well after the Fall, so that doesn’t have any indication of what the Fall did to creation.

    To see what the Fall did to the earth, all you have to do is read Genesis 3:16-23. There we learn that creation did fundamentally change after the Fall. Childbirth became painful, the ground was cursed, man would have to cultivate the land to eat, and people would die. Those are fundamental changes that go beyond the death of man. Indeed, the ground itself was cursed. That shows incredible change.

    This, of course, is what Romans 8 is talking about. The entire creation was subject to futility. I agree that God was not subjected to futility, but the passage makes it very clear that the entire creation was. Indeed, it uses the phrase “the whole creation.” It’s hard to interpret that to mean anything else but all of nature. Also, you seem to not understand what the term “slavery” is referring to. It is referring to the fact that creation is a slave to corruption. Why is creation a slave to corruption? As the passage says, it is not because of anything creation did. It is because of God’s curse, which was the result of the Fall.

    God did, indeed, curse the land, but that doesn’t mean He made pathogens. Because of the curse, mutations began to happen, and those mutations produced pathogens. Thus, pathogens are a result of God’s curse, but that’s not God’s fault. It’s man’s fault, because man’s rebellion caused God to curse the land. This is very important and something that you need to understand. God created the animals because of His direct, creative will. He willed them into existence. However, pathogens did not come about that way. God did not will them into existence. He cursed the land because of what man did, and then because of the curse, lots of bad things (including pathogens) happened. In the same way, God didn’t create pedophiles. Because of the curse, however, human nature was corrupted, and eventually, that produced pedophiles.

    If you agree with me that creation can work quite well without pathogens but not without the predator/prey relationship, then you should see a big difference between a whale eating microbes and microbes eating a whale. The former is necessary in order to balance the ecosystem. The later is not. Thus, the former is clearly a part of the initial creation, and the later is not.

    I also have to disagree with your interpretation of Revelation 22:2. The leaves from the two trees of life will be used as a medicine to heal the nations, but what will that medicine heal? The answer is given in the next to verses. They heal the relationship between God and the nations.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that as Christians, we need to be careful about what we attribute to God. This is why it so incredibly important to understand that God did not create pathogens. Attributing such an evil act to Him is very dangerous, indeed. Pathogens are a result of free will, a gift that God had to give man because God is love. What man did with his free will caused all sorts of problems, including pathogens.

    I also wholeheartedly agree that God’s thinking is quite a bit higher than ours. However, God tells us that we can learn about Him from His creation (Job 12:7-10). As a result, it is our Christian duty to study nature and use our studies to learn about God. In fact, science exists today specifically because great men of god like Roger Bacon, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Carolus Linnaeus, Michael Faraday, James Prescott Joule, Louis Pasteur, Lord William Thomson Kelvin, and James Clerk Maxwell saw science as a way of learning more about God. Thus, we should most certainly use science as a way to learn about God. I wouldn’t say that we should use it to judge God’s wisdom, as we shouldn’t judge anything about God. However, we should use it to learn about God.

  11. josiah says:

    I don’t think you can make a distinction between the whale eating the microbe and the microbe eating the whale. Every biology textbook I’ve seen for ages has had some reference to the food chain as a cycle including decomposers to break down bodies and return their nutrients to the soil. If that aspect were absent then Eden would literally become a mass of half eaten bodies. The part played by the Vulture, the worm, and the bacterium is just as critical to the ecosystem as the lion and the antelope.

    Of course that doesn’t show that a harmful virus for example, or some other malicious microorganism, is needed for the smooth running of creation.

  12. jlwile says:

    You are quite right, Josiah. When Jacob talked microbes eating a whale, he was talking about pathogenic microbes. Clearly, that is not a part of the initial creation. Decomposers were definitely a part of the initial creation, however, so microbes eating the carcass of a whale so that its chemical components are recycled back into creation is an entirely different matter.

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