subscribe to the RSS Feed

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bacteria in Breast Milk? Yes!

Posted by jlwile on January 4, 2013

These Bifidobacterium longum bacteria are often found in the intestines of infants. (Click for credit)

The breast milk that a mother feeds her baby is laden with bacteria. Does that sound bad? It shouldn’t! While there are some pathogenic bacteria, most bacteria are incredibly beneficial to the life that exists on this planet. That’s especially true of bacteria that live in and on people. It turns out that most people live in a relationship with more than 150 different species of bacteria, and the individual bacteria that participate in this relationship far outnumber the human cells that make up a person’s body. In one sense, then, a person is not an individual. Instead, he or she is a walking ecosystem!

Scientists now call the collection of bacteria that lives in a person’s body the microbiome, and as the article linked above indicates, each person seems to have his or her own special mix of bacteria in that microbiome. Indeed, some researchers think that analyzing the DNA of the bacteria a criminal leaves behind can aid in identifying that criminal in cases where his or her own DNA is not available at the crime scene or too degraded to analyze properly.1

So where does an infant start collecting the bacteria that will make up his or her own microbiome? One of the sources is the breast milk that the infant drinks. It has been known for quite some time that breast milk contains bacteria, but the details have not been well studied. However, a group of Spanish researchers have begun to shed some light on those details. They studied the breast milk of 18 mothers who varied in weight, weight gain during pregnancy, and the mode in which the baby was delivered. They sampled the milk these mothers produced at three different times: the first secretions of milk produced after giving birth (called colostrum), the milk that was produced one month after giving birth, and the milk that was produced six months after giving birth. They sequenced the DNA of the bacteria found in these samples of milk, and they came up with some amazing results.2

First, they showed that the diversity of bacteria found in the breast milk was significantly higher than previously thought. In some of the samples they studied, they found the DNA of seven hundred different species of bacteria! However, they found that this mix of bacterial species did not stay constant over time. Instead, the colostrum was rich in intestinal bacteria from generas such as Weissella and Lactococcus, while the milk produced one and six months after delivery had higher concentrations of oral bacteria such as those from the genus Veillonella. The researchers note that it is possible the increase in these oral bacteria is a result of the baby contributing bacteria to the mother’s breast, so it is not clear whether this is a designed change to optimize the health of the baby or simply a result of the breastfeeding process.

Second, they found that the mothers who were obese had a significantly lower diversity of bacteria in their milk as compared to the milk of the mothers who were not obese. Now, of course, the number of women in this study is rather small, so it’s not clear how significant this comparison is. If further studies demonstrate that this correlation is real, it might indicate that obese mothers are not giving their children an ideal mix of bacteria when they are infants. It’s even possible that the lower diversity of bacteria that the infants receive predisposes them to weight gain later in life.

Third, they found that the breast milk produced by mothers who underwent planned Caesarian section deliveries was significantly different from the milk produced by the mothers who went through a vaginal delivery. Like the obese mothers, those who went through planned Caesarian section deliveries produced milk that had a significantly lower diversity of bacterial species. However, if the mother went through an unplanned Caesarian section delivery, the diversity of bacteria in her milk was much more similar to the mothers who went through vaginal deliveries!

Once again, the small number of mothers in the study means we must view this result with some skepticism, but let’s suppose the observed differences are confirmed in other studies. How can we explain that the Caesarian section delivery must be planned in order to result in a lower diversity of bacteria in the mother’s milk? The authors suggest that hormonal responses which are specific to the labor process play a role in determining the bacterial content of the mother’s breast milk. Thus, the key is not necessarily the delivery method, but the way in which the mothers experience the labor process.

Obviously, this small study has opened up a whole new area of research when it comes to infants and their development. As time goes on, I expect that more research will reveal that the mix of bacteria in a mother’s breast milk is very important in the healthy development of her baby. As a creationist, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I have stated previously that creationists have proposed that microorganisms (and even viruses) were initially created as a link between macroorganisms (like people) and the chemical richness of their surroundings. It’s not surprising, then, that babies are introduced to a wide diversity of these useful organisms shortly after they emerge from the womb.

REFERENCES

1. Kennedy DM, Stanton J-AL, García JA, Mason C, Rand CJ, et al., “Microbial Analysis of Bite Marks by Sequence Comparison of Streptococcal DNA,” PLoS ONE 7(12):e51757 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051757, 2012
Return to Text

2. Cabrera-Rubio R, Collado MC, Laitinen K, Salminen S, Isolauri E, and Mira A., “The human milk microbiome changes over lactation and is shaped by maternal weight and mode of delivery,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(3):544-51, 2012
Return to Text

Comments

22 Responses to “Bacteria in Breast Milk? Yes!”
  1. gracekalman says:

    That’s amazing! As far as the C-sections go, this is just another example that God’s way is the best way.
    I just did three weeks of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made in four days. That includes 13 1/2 hours of coloring. I may be a perfectionist.
    And after all that, I still want to read your blog. I promise not to punch you should I ever get to meet you in person. I can’t answer for my sister, though.
    Did I mention I decided to major in biology? I may even stick with this idea for the four years required to complete it! I blame you. Thanks!

  2. jlwile says:

    Wow Grace. Three weeks of human anatomy and physiology in 4 days. That’s incredible. It means a lot that I played a part in your decision to major in biology!

  3. Kathy says:

    What a wonderfully informative article! God’s design is so amazing and elaborate!

  4. jlwile says:

    I am glad you enjoyed it, Kathy!

  5. Eric H. says:

    Just checking in to say I’m enjoying your posts and to keep them coming! I very much enjoy the comments section, when you respond to people who stand opposed to your position. Alot of times, I feel like I learn just as much from the comments section as the actual articles themselves. I’ve read mostly all of your posts as well as all the comments as well going back to the start of this blog, but haven’t checked all the links in the comments section. There’s SOOOO much to learn, but that’s what makes science so fun, is it not?

  6. jlwile says:

    Thanks so much, Eric. I am always happy to discuss things with those who disagree. Right now, there is a long discussion about the Old Testament going on here. While the commenter is trying to argue that the Old Testament is not historically reliable, she ends up demonstrating how hard it is to refute the evidence that supports the Old Testament’s historical reliability.

  7. Vivielle says:

    This was really interesting! Now I have to decide whether or not to send this to my older sister who is currently breastfeeding her son – she’ll either think it’s really cool or be somewhat grossed out by it… Probably the former though :)

  8. jlwile says:

    If you do send it to her, Vivielle, I hope it’s the former!

  9. Eric H. says:

    Dr. Wile, this does seem typical of a person who stands opposed to the Christian worldview. Once the break down happens on a scientific level, and their view is clearly shown to be scientifically untenable, they then attack the historicity of the Bible because that is all they have left to hold on to their faith in materialism, and not be accountable to their Creator, a very tough thing to swallow, indeed, for someone who is not actively seeking God. The errors as well as debate tactics of Mia were typical. Introducing a huge amount of topics, instead of focusing on a single issue. I can not say that I am to upset at her because I, myself, have done the same thing on this blog, introducing too many different topics, instead of focusing on a single issue, but I have learned that focusing on a single issue makes arguing your point easier, as well as allowing the person opposing you to see if they can refute your argument. She ranged from the borrowing of the creation account from the Babylonian culture, to the Flood being two separate flood accounts, which you aptly refuted, but she kept on going, claiming she was right, but appealing to authority instead of actually refuting the argument. Of course, citing sources that confirm your oppositions views does not help either, neither does citing sources that have glaring errors in their report. And it most certainly does not help when she claimed errors within Rookers article, but not being able to demonstrate any. It certainly does cast some doubt as to how far she was willing to look into the opposing view. I think that what you said in your last post to Mia pretty much clears it up, “Appeals to Consensus do not advance your case” and, “You must support it with evidence and refute the other side.” If she can’t support her case with evidence and refute your position, then that is the end of the discussion.

  10. jlwile says:

    I agree, Eric. It makes for a much better debate when both sides stay focused. In Mia’s case, however, staying focused was impossible, as she couldn’t support her propositions or refute the evidence I provided. As a result, she had to keep introducing new topics.

  11. Eric H. says:

    Hey Dr. Wile, I thought this would be right up your alley. http://www.naturalnews.com/038598_vaccines_medical_hoax_government_documents.html Of course, the title seems like typical sensationalist reporting, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the actual paper from Dr. Tomljenovic. Do you think it has any reliability? How do it’s claims stack up against actual statistical evidence? A friend recently posted this online, claiming that vaccines have been “proven” to be a hoax and then subsequently claimed that his fight is against ignorance. Of course, he also thinks that Young earth “Creationism” is an appeal to ignorance as well, which casts immediate doubt in my mind on how much research he has done on vaccines, because he certainly hasn’t look to deeply into the Young Earth Position! I was hoping that perhaps you could do a post on this as you have done work in this area before, which included debating Dr. Boyd Haley on the subject of weather Autism is caused by vaccines or not. I know very little about this particular area, but I am immediately skeptical when I hear anything about “Secret” government documents.

  12. jlwile says:

    Eric, I will think about writing a response to that paper. The problem is that reading the minutes of a meeting can be very confusing, as the minutes are designed to be understood by those who are at the meeting. Thus, to claim that these meeting minutes demonstrate a problem with a vaccine is rather silly. In addition, it is very easy to see that the paper is misleading people, because the actual adverse effects of vaccines have been studied extensively. Indeed, such meetings are what lead to studies that try to determine whether reported adverse effects are actually related to the vaccine in question. For example, the paper discusses the MMR vaccine quite a bit. However, the real adverse effects of the MMR vaccine have been analyzed in many different studies. A 14-year comprehensive study of adverse effects to the MMR concluded:

    Comprehensive analysis of the reported adverse reactions established that serious events causally related to MMR vaccine are rare and greatly outweighed by the risks of natural MMR diseases.

    If your friend thinks that vaccines have been “proven” to be a hoax, he should take a look at my detailed post on vaccines. Specifically, he should look at the data that clearly show their effectiveness and the data that demonstrate their safety. In addition, he should read about what happens when children are not vaccinated.

  13. Eric H. says:

    Thank you very much for the reply. Like I said, my area of study tends to center strongly on the Creation-Evolution debate, and I have very little knowledge on the area of vaccination, so I tend to not know where to start looking for the information I need to counter any ideas that could potentially be unscientific. My concern is more so, for my friend, and anyone that he may spread this too, who may come to faulty conclusions, and end up NOT vaccinating their kids, which could end very badly. I started reading the paper, but shortly became discouraged because I am not accustomed to the different vaccines, and there was too much information to take in at once. My concern is that these types of websites tend to spread around bad information on important topics, which is a shame.

  14. jlwile says:

    They do, indeed, spread around bad information, Eric, and it is a shame, because children suffer and sometimes die as a result.

  15. Eric H. says:

    I came by this quote from a conversation you had with Josiah on how God could not have created with the appearance of age, because that would indicate that he lied. Now I actually agree with you on this matter. God should not deceive us through his creation. But later, you went on to say and I quote, “You are still incorrect on how I view science as well, seemingly because you are refusing to think logically about this. Nowhere in any of this discussion is there even a small HINT that I think science gives us absolute truths. However, science does allow us to read stories in nature, and since God CANNOT lie, He will not tell us stories about things that didn’t happen.” Now correct me if I’m wrong, but you said that you did not give a hint that you think science is absolute truth, but subsequently went on to claim, “However, science does allow us to read stories in Nature.” If that is true however, that would have to be an absolute scientific truth, that science allows us to tell an absolute story from Nature, therefore indicating weather God absolutely did something or not. You thus went on to refute your own argument. My question is, why do you believe Science must tell an absolutely true story? And how would you possibly know that God told a true story through it unless you assumed that Science tells an absolutely true story? I mean this in no mocking way, because I am not quite sure I understand it myself.

  16. jlwile says:

    Eric, I don’t think you understand the proper view of science. Science cannot prove anything. However, science can build up evidence to support various scientific theories and laws. Thus, science can, indeed, read nature to determine what happened in the past. The more evidence that is brought to support a particular story of what happened in the past, the more likely that story is to be true. However, that story isn’t an absolute truth. It could be 100% wrong, because the method we used to read nature might be wrong, or our interpretation of what was read might be wrong. Nevertheless, there is a story there. So while we can read stories in nature, it is always possible that we are reading them wrongly. As a result, nothing that comes from science is an absolute truth. It is always subject to revision as more information becomes available.

  17. Eric H. says:

    Dr Wile, from your link, Popper, “shows quite clearly that while science cannot prove anything, it can falsify ideas that are currently thought to be true.” He therefore argues that the test of any real scientific theory is whether or not it can be falsified. If not, then it is not truly a scientific theory.” So is it absolutely true that he showed that? If he did not, then how could you know it was true?
    This seems to again be a bit of a paradox to me, mind you. So science can absolutely prove something is false. But this would make it absolute scientific truth then, that an idea has been absolutely falsified. You are still in the same sticky conundrum. And he shows that it is absolutely true, that a scientific theory can be falsified. So in plain words, there are scientific truths except for when there are not scientific truths, it sounds like a paradox to me. In other words, if science cannot prove anything, than how can science prove it cannot prove anything? If it cannot, then I am not sure how there is anyway you could know for certain if it can’t prove anything, thus defeating the entire purpose of the argument. I am so confused.
    But I think your post may have completely missed the point. If science cannot allow us to read an absolutely true story from nature, or may even give an absolutely false picture that we just currently understand to be true, then why should we apply it to whether God absolutely did something or not? I think you will find that you are in more of a sticky conundrum than you currently realize(though I certainly could be wrong as well). In the case of Adam, if science cannot tell an absolutely true story that Adams belly button would have indicated he had a mother, how can you apply it to whether God would have lied or not? Since science is fallible, you cannot have it relate to an aspect, such as what God would or would not do, his infallibility. I am sure you see where this is going, science is fallible, God is infallible. You cannot possibly use science to say what God would or would not do unless science itself has the same infallibility as God. 6000 to 10,000 years ago, unless the same laws of Science applied back to the beginning of creation that apply today, there is no way you can know what God would have or what not have done, unless science has stayed the exact same since the beginning of creation, confirmed by Adam as well as by the distance of the stars. If there is no absolute standard of science, then we cannot in honesty relate it to what a God would have or what not have done, especially during creation, when developmental properties would have worked in a completely different way than ever experienced before, and whether they essentially lied or did not lie about creation.
    How can we know that the processes of Science were not different during the creation or during the Miracles or at any point in history unless you assume that they’ve always been the same?
    In other words, how can you believe that science tells a certain story, unless you assume that science is actually capable of telling a story? I believe my objection still stands, and I will ask the same question, Do you or do you not believe that it is absolutely true that science allows us to read stories from Nature? If you do not, then how can you relate it to what God would have or would not have done and thus lied or did not lie about?

  18. jlwile says:

    Eric, you still aren’t getting it. No, Popper did not absolutely show that science can’t prove anything. He simply provided several lines of evidence to indicate it cannot. Popper’s conclusion could be wrong, but it is the best conclusion given the evidence we currently have. Thus, it is safest to assume that Popper is correct. The same can be said of the stories that science reads from nature. They are not absolutely correct. That is beyond what science can do. However, based on the evidence, many of them are the most likely conclusion, so it is safest to assume that they are correct.

    And no, science cannot even absolutely prove that something is false. When science falsifies a concept, it is based on experiment and interpretation. That experiment and interpretation might be wrong, however. Thus, even though the evidence points to falsification, even that is not absolutely true. Science by its very nature is tentative. It cannot draw absolute conclusions.

    I think you are confused on how this all relates to God as well. Just because science cannot determine the absolute truth from nature, the truth is still there. There is a story in the data that come from nature. We might not be able to read it correctly, but it is still there. Since there is a story there, God would be lying to us if the story isn’t correct. So whether or not we can accurately read the story doesn’t matter. The fact that the story is there is the important point, and in my mind, God does not make up false stories.

    You ask, “Do you or do you not believe that it is absolutely true that science allows us to read stories from Nature?” Of course not. It is possible that all of science is wrong and that science cannot do anything. However, I think the evidence indicates that science can read stories from nature. Given that evidence, I don’t think God would plant false stories for us to read.

  19. Eric H. says:

    Dr Wile, you still are not getting it. If science can’t prove anything, then how can science prove that it can’t prove anything? To make a TRUTH claim is worthless if you can’t prove the claim is true.
    The part about Popper is partly true, and I’ll explain. The How and the Why of a question are what Popper is getting at. We can observe that life always come from life, but we can not know why or how unless we look outside of the system of science to God, which is the entire point of why Life coming from non-life is fallacious. In plain words, if a miracle can be excepted as having to be scientifically accurate in its story left, does this not logically apply to the Life only comes from Life data? It would seem if you say it does not, then you are cherry picking.

    I do wonder if you understand why you can do science to begin with. If there are not absolute laws of science, there is no way we can look back into a history book and determine whether Adam having a belly button would indicate whether or not he had a mother. If there were no laws that were the same back then as now, then there is no logical reason why Adam having a belly button would indicate that it had to come from a mother, the laws COULD have been different back then, so it would be impossible to make any sort of conclusion at all. There is also no way we could predict anything. But that is the entire purpose of science. To prove that, under given circumstances, that something will always behave the exact way. We may not understand why Gravity works, or how, but we do understand, and we can know with certainty, that, under the correct circumstances, two balls, whatever, of unequal weight heavier than the resistance of air will ALWAYS drop at the same rate, without exception, unless acted upon by outside forces, but over the course of 500 years, there has not been one known breaking of this law, outside of the miraculous. Without this, you could not do science at all. If you say that certain principles of Science can’t determine truth, then you must say that you cannot determine whether or not God would be lying by giving Adam a belly button, because the story that it would tell would have to be absolutely the same back then as the story it would tell now and it would have to be absolutely true. I think you are trying to have your cake and eat it to. In other words, by necessity, if God cannot lie, then to make a determination from nature, then nature by necessity MUST have the same properties as God. In other words, there MUST(I’m not shouting, I’m just putting emphasis) be some type of absolute scientific laws that do not change over time that would enable us to say that.

    If it is possible that all of science could be wrong, then I would have to wonder how you could do science to begin with. If the scientific principles, that tests repeated tomorrow and the day after, given the correct conditions, will give the exact same conclusion, then it would mean that certain scientific principles could not possibly be wrong, because you could not come to the conclusion that science could be wrong, because you couldn’t do it in the first place. Again, I am emphasizing the why and the how are different than the actual actions themselves. We know for certain that gravity acts the same on two objects of unequal weight, or we would simply stop doing experiments, and not do science at all. What we cannot know is how or why this happens, because this, I totally agree with you, can be subject to change, because we currently just do not understand or misinterpret the whys and hows.

    So again, if science cannot draw absolute conclusions, then how can you come to the absolute conclusion that Adam having a belly button would have indicated that God absolutely would have lied? You have come to that absolute conclusion, whether you think others can or not is irrelevant. You could not know that science would work the exact same back then as now, unless you assume that some laws of science are absolute and fixed since Adam, the creation of the stars, in fact the entire Universe, because your entire argument centers around that the Universe, starting from creation, should tell a true story.

  20. jlwile says:

    Eric, you still don’t understand. Science cannot prove that it can’t prove anything. As I said before, the best we can say right now is that based on the evidence we have, science cannot prove anything. In addition, making a truth claim is not worthless if you can’t prove the claim is true. Making a truth claim is very worthwhile, as long as there is sufficient evidence to indicate that it is most likely true. For example, our criminal justice system makes all sorts of truth claims that end up determining whether or not people go to jail. However, it is often wrong. Thus, its truth claims are valuable, even though they are not proven. Science has made all sorts of truth claims in the past that ended up being wrong. However, many of those false claims ended up producing thinking that led to theories which are more in line with the evidence. Thus, even those truth claims that are shown to be wrong (based on the evidence we have now) were still worthwhile!

    Popper is definitely not talking about the How and Why of a question! You need to actually read his work before you try to claim you know what he is saying! Popper would say that science cannot prove that life comes only from life. It can pile up a lot of evidence to indicate that life comes only from life, but it cannot prove it. Indeed, there are lots of scientists who think that life can come from non-life in a non-miraculous way. I disagree with them, of course, but there is simply no way to prove that they are wrong.

    Perhaps your confusion lies in your inability to understand the difference between the existence of absolute truths and our ability to determine them. Certainly there are absolute laws that govern the universe. However, science cannot prove what they are. Science can produce a lot of evidence to indicate that a given law is one of the absolute laws of the universe. However, science by its very nature is tentative. It cannot know that it has discovered an absolute law. It can assume their existence, and it can try to determine them, but it cannot prove that it has succeeded in that endeavor. The best it can do is say, “Based on what we know now, this seems to be one of the universe’s absolute laws.”

    You can do science even when there is a possibility that it is all wrong. Think, for example, about driving a car. There is always a possibility that you could die in an automobile accident every time you drive your car. However, most people choose to drive anyway, because even though dying in an automobile accident is possible, it is unlikely. In the same way, while it is clearly possible that all science is wrong, it is unlikely. Thus, you can do science, because there is a lot of evidence that it works. There is no proof that it works, but there is a lot of evidence that it does. Thus, while there is a chance that it doesn’t work, that chance is small.

    We do not know for certain that gravity works the way we think it does. We have tested gravity many times, and we have a good theory to explain how it works. That theory tells us gravity depends only on the mass of each object in question, the distance between them, and the universal gravitation constant. However, we are not certain that this is the case. It is possible that all the experiments which led to this theory are fatally flawed. Thus, while it is most likely the case, it is not certain.

    How in the world did you come up with the idea that I think Adam having a belly button absolutely indicates God would have lied? As far as we know, a belly button only results from a person being in his or her mother’s womb. However, science cannot prove anything. As a result, there is no way to say absolutely that a belly button indicates that a child developed in the womb. Perhaps there is a critical function that the belly button performs throughout life, and we are simply unaware of it. If that is the case, then God would not be lying by making Adam with a belly button. However, based on the evidence we have now, a belly button seems to be a relic from when we were in our mother’s womb. Thus, based on what we know now, I would say that Adam having a belly button would indicate God was lying. However, I can’t say that absolutely, because science can’t say anything absolute. That’s the nature of science. Until you learn that, you will continue to be confused on scientific issues.

  21. Eric H. says:

    Dr. Wile, I am glad you agree with me on this point, Science cannot prove that it cannot prove anything. So we know for certain that it is absolutely true that science cannot prove that it cannot prove anything. That is an established fact. Now for the question, how is it possible for Science to come to that conclusion without scientifically proving it? It seems like you have personified Science as having the magical powers of truth and you are left in the exact same situation as before. Then you go onto to claim that, “Science has made all kinds of truth claims in the past that ended up being wrong.” Clearly you don’t understand me, my entire point was Science CANNOT make truth AT ALL, period, then you went on to say that science has made truth claims! Then you CLAIM, “Making a truth claim is not worthless if you can’t prove the claim is true.” But this is itself a declaritive truth statement and thus self refuting!(Exclamation much deserved) You showed in the first paragraph of your reply that you do not currently understand what I am saying. Your first example serves to illustrate my point, in this case, we the scientists are evaluating Gods claim of creation, we observe and based upon are best available knowledge come to the truth claim that the defendant is guilty, but our conclusions were wrong. Now, this is where your analogy breaks down. In the courtroom, the Judge is a human and is thus subject to untruths, but in reality God is the Judge and the Jury, and we are the defendants. Are you not putting man as the Judge over God when you say that man can determine whether or not God is lying when he creates something a certain way that YOU, aka, science, interpret him to be guilty?

    “Popper is definitely not talking about the How and Why of a question!” First of all, I was just going off of a quote that you gave, and that was my interpretation of it, that I am certain of. I will have to read Popper more, but I had assumed that you gave a fair representation of his view with that quote. So it is absolutely true that Popper is not talking about the How and the Why of a question. How did you come to that truth? Anyways, ironically, I actually agree with what Popper is saying, in a certain way. My point was a reduction to absurdity argument. You said, “Popper would say that science cannot prove that life comes only from life.” Again Popper is giving Science claims of truth, which we have both established, and you have admitted that science cannot do, so how can Popper prove that “science says” that life only comes from life? He cannot prove that, so by inclusion he cannot prove anything, he can’t even prove he can’t prove anything, a very odd position indeed. If you see that the evidence clearly indicates that life only comes from life, then by extension, this would mean that God must have created the first life, by the same laws of science we observe now, without exception, because at this point the evidence left MUST indicate that God created a certain way and would not lie about it. Poppers has no such problem, you do, if you are to stay consistent with your position.

    Absolute truth exists, therefore we can determine that there are absolute truths. So wouldn’t that be a determination as to what an absolute truth is? Let us examine what an absolute truth is, “A truth which is internally and externally consistent” That is, if a law of Gravity is internally and externally consistent, it can be considered to be absolutely true that it does exist. Now, while the Materialists scientists cannot know if the earth has always followed the same laws that we observe today, you, are not in so nice a situation. Because the Bible says that there are plants on day three, you would be internally consistent to say that SINCE the creation, Science has remained completely consistent and is a consistent representation of God and of his works. You would also be able to determine by Genesis 8:21-22, “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “NEVER AGAIN will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And NEVER AGAIN will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will NEVER CEASE.”
    So you have Gods direct promise that Science will always stay the same as long as the earth endures. SO you have NO EXCUSE to say that Science is tentative, (again, not the Hows and Whys), because, according to God, it is not. It will always operate in the same manners UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, without Gods intervention, as long as the earth endures.

    Now here is the baffling part, in your previous paragraph, you stated, “Perhaps your confusion lies in your inability to understand the difference between the existence of absolute truths and our ability to determine them.” But then you go on to say that we can make a determined truth that God cannot lie. How can we know this if we cannot determine what an absolute truth is? But later, you go on to claim, “We do not know for certain that Gravity works the way we think it does” But in order for you to make that statement, you must say that it is an absolute certainty that you don’t know for certain that Gravity works the way we think it does. You refuted your own statement only a paragraph later, by making a declarative truth. You then say, “We have a good theory to explain how it works.” But again, you just made a declarative truth statement that you have a good theory to explain how it works! I am beginning to wonder if there are not, in fact, two of you typing at the same time.
    Yes, we have tested gravity many times, but you seem to have completely over looked the fact that I am not saying the Why of Gravity is absolute, nor How, but only that Gravity is absolutely certain, and if it was not, we would not be around to observe and record it SCIENTIFICALLY if it was not. If you did not believe this, then making claims about what SHOULD be or COULD be back at the beginning of creation is useless because you can’t even know if Gravity could have been different back then, because, according to you, there is a possibility that it COULD have changed, because you CANNOT know for certain that it did not. Therefore you would be making a false statement about God and proclaiming it to be Truth, based on your CURRENT understanding of Gravity. So, in this case, who is the Judge? Is God the Judge or are scientists the Judge?

    Then you claim, “You can do science even when there is a possibility that it is all wrong.” So is that absolutely true that you can do science even if it is all wrong? How did you come to that declarative truth? If you can do science even if it is all wrong, that means that the fundamental properties of science are different than the Whys and the Hows of science. I can take water and confirm that its chemical make up will always be H20 and if it was not I can also confirm that I would subsequently die as well as most of life, and this can be extrapolated reliably back into the past because, according to you, nature should show a true record of what God did. What gaurantee do we have that water will not change its properties in the future in the same way that it could have changed them in the past? If there are not certain parts of science that are absolute, then determining the amount of salt in the ocean would be useless, because we could not determine if the properties that make salt today are the same that made them billions of hypothetical years ago or not, or even a thousand years ago. Now you confuse me more, you say there IS a UNIVERSAL GRAVITATION CONSTANT, an absolute, but then go on to subsequently claim that it is possible that there does not necessarily have to be a Universal Gravitational Constant. Why should there be such a Universal Gravitational Constant to begin with?

    You are in a very odd position. Again, according to CURRENT knowledge, we know that a belly button only results from being in his or her mothers womb. However, God could have just as easily created Adam and Eve with a belly button because he did not want them to feel separate from the rest of his creation, or for some reason as of yet unknown. Also, who is to say that the process of making belly buttons for the first humans would necessarily remain the same after the creation event, and how could you know? Now if you found him with a belly button, what right would you have to say that your opinion of why Adam could not have had a belly button is better than what God would say is a reason why he did make Adam with a belly button? You seem to be stuck in this mode where CURRENT ways that science work MUST correlate to PAST ways that God has worked in miraculous events. In your last sentence you say, “Until you learn that, you will continue to be confused on scientific issues.” A bit ironic that in your last statement, you made a declarative truth statement, while earlier saying that we can not know what a declarative truth statement is, even more ironic, a declarative truth itself. You just keep stacking up the Declarative truths, don’t you?

  22. jlwile says:

    Before I respond to your comment, Eric, I have to once again warn you that you are getting far too verbose. This comment has absolutely nothing to do with the article posted, and it is nearly twice as long as the article itself. You need to take your own advice and focus. I will not approve another comment (or series of back-to-back comments) that is anywhere close to this long.

    Now…your first point of confusion is that you seem to think science needs to prove something in order to know it. That is simply not true. Science can know all sorts of things without proving it. Once again, science is, by its very nature, tentative. Scientists can say things like, “The current evidence tells us…” or “Most likely, this is how it works.” But that’s the best that science can do. So…science knows it cannot prove anything not because that statement has been proven, but because it is the best explanation of the evidence at hand.

    You also don’t seem to understand what a truth claim is or what it means. Science most certainly can make truth claims. It does so all the time. It says that atoms exist and are made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons. This is not a hypothetical model. It is a proposition of what actually exists. Thus, it most certainly is a truth claim. The thing about science, however, is that it does not “magically” come up with these truth claims. It provides evidence for them. The truth claims are not always correct, but they are truth claims nevertheless.

    And once again, you still seem completely confused about my original point regarding God and His creation. As I have said previously (please actually read what I have written), the story that science reads in nature might very well be wrong. Thus, we cannot necessarily know whether or not God had concocted a false story in creation. However, the very nature of creation is that it does leave a story behind, whether or not we are capable of reading it properly. Since there is a story there, God would not make it false, regardless of whether or not we can determine that it is false. God doesn’t avoid lying because He is afraid He might get caught by us. He avoids lying because His nature is to always tell the truth. Thus, the stories that are locked in creation are true, whether or not we can interpret them properly. Thus, in no way am I making people judge over God. I am simply saying that because we know God does not lie, we can be assured that whatever stories exist in creation are true.

    You definitely will have to read Popper more, because you clearly don’t understand what he wrote. Yes, the quote is accurate, and yes, my characterization of what he said is accurate. What is inaccurate is the way you are trying to force his quote to support your position. You can’t read a single quote from him and assume you know what he is saying. If you were to actually read Popper, I expect a lot of your confusion over this issue would vanish.

    Here is another point of confusion for you. You claim, “If you see that the evidence clearly indicates that life only comes from life, then by extension, this would mean that God must have created the first life, by the same laws of science we observe now, without exception, because at this point the evidence left MUST indicate that God created a certain way and would not lie about it.” However, this statement makes an absurd assumption. It assumes that what we have observed in our little corner of the universe over the time in which we have been observing things in detail tell us all there is to know about creation. That is absurd. There are parts of our own planet that we have never studied. Who’s to say that deep in the darkest ocean trenches, near a massive hydrothermal vent, living organism are not arising from nonliving chemicals? There is no way to be sure, because no one has been down there to study it. Indeed, some scientists think it is actually rather reasonable to assume that it could have happened or could be happening. Who’s to say that in some planet that is just cooling from its fireball state, life is not springing from nonliving chemicals? We can give all sorts of arguments why that is probably not the case, but there is no way we can scientifically say that it absolutely cannot happen.

    I am not sure where you got your definition of an absolute truth, but it is totally false. Absolute truth is definitely not a truth which is externally and internally consistent. If that is the case, then string theory is an absolute truth. It is internally consistent, and it has not been shown to be incorrect by any external data. However, it is not an absolute truth. Indeed, it probably isn’t correct. An absolute truth is “whatever is always valid, regardless of parameters or context.” There are, indeed, absolute truths. Science can even discover them. However, it cannot state absolute truths. The best it can do is say, “Given the available evidence, this might be an absolute truth. However, since the available evidence or our interpretation of it might be wrong, this might not be an absolute truth.”

    You definitely need to brush up on your science as well. No, gravity is not necessarily internally and externally consistent. It is internally consistent, as far as we know, but there are indications that it is not externally consistent. For example, to understand why the expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating, scientists must assume either the existence of an unknown quantity (dark energy) or that Newton’s equation for gravity (as well as Einstein’s formulation) is not wholly correct. This is called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), and is a popular notion among some astrophysicists. Once again, then, even gravity is not an absolute truth.

    I don’t know how in the world you got what you got from Genesis 8:21-22, but it has nothing to do with science. All it says is that God will not destroy the earth again, and as a result, the days and seasons will progress as normal. This tells us nothing about whether or not the interaction of subatomic particles, for example, will continue to work the same throughout the remaining days. Now, of course, even though Genesis 8:21-22 has nothing to do with science, I do think that with the rare exception of miracles that God performs from time to time (such as miraculously curing someone’s disease), the laws that govern the universe do always act the same. However, even with that, science is still tentative. Very tentative. The reason is that the way we try to understand these consistent laws is through experiment and interpretation, and they can be wrong. Thus, while I do believe that the universal laws don’t change, there is no reason to think that we completely understand them. Indeed, the history of science is filled with examples of us being wrong when we thought we did understand a specific natural law!

    Here’s yet another source of your confusion. You claim, “But then you go on to say that we can make a determined truth that God cannot lie.” Of course, I never wrote such a thing. Once again, please actually read what I have written. It is not a “determined” truth that God cannot lie. It is a revealed truth (Titus 1:2).

    And still another point of confusion. You claim, “you must say that it is an absolute certainty that you don’t know for certain that Gravity works the way we think it does.” Of course, that is completely false. I do not say anything about gravity with absolute certainty. When I say that we have a good theory, that simply means it is consistent with most of the evidence we have right now. That makes it good, but I can’t say absolutely that it is good, because there is at least some evidence (discussed above), that it is partially wrong. In the same way, it could be that dark energy is real. If that’s the case, then it is possible that our understanding of gravity is correct. Thus, our understanding of gravity might be correct, it might not. The evidence we have today indicates it has a high probability of being correct, but we can’t know for sure.

    And no, gravity is not absolutely certain. The how is not certain, the why is not certain, and even whether or not it exists is not certain. Indeed, if Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is correct, there is no force called gravity. Instead, what we observe as the apparent attraction of two massive objects has nothing to do with a force that exists between them. Instead, it is just a consequence of how mass bends spacetime.

    And once again, scientists are not the judge over God. Whether or not scientists can correctly understand the stories that exist in creation is irrelevant. Since there are stories locked up in creation, and since revealed truth tells us that God cannot lie, we know that these stories have to be true.

    Once again, you seem to think that in order to believe something, it must be proven. That’s simply not the case. Most of the things we believe in (the existence of atoms, for example) cannot be proven. I cannot prove that you can do science even if it is all wrong. However, I can tell you why I (and most scientists) do science even though there is a chance it is all wrong. We do it because the chance that it is all wrong is very low. That’s the same reason we drive automobiles. The chance of dying in an automobile accident is low. Thus, even though we know it is possible we will die every time we drive (or ride in) a car, we still do it. In the same way, even though there is chance science is wrong, we do it because we think that chance is low. No, this is not an absolute statement. It is simply an interpretation of the evidence we currently have.

    Once again, another point of confusion. You claim, “I can take water and confirm that its chemical make up will always be H20.” No you cannot. In order to do that, you must find every scrap of water in the entire universe and run it through an infrared spectrometer. Even if you were to do that Herculean task, you would still not show that all water is always H2O, because you are relying on the results of the infrared spectrometer, and the theory behind infrared spectroscopy might be wrong. Now…you can build up a lot of evidence for the idea that water is always H2O. However, you cannot determine this absolutely.

    And no, I don’t keep stacking up declarative truths. I keep making statements based on evidence. You are clearly confused on how science works, as I have consistently demonstrated. Thus, I am making a statement based on evidence. Perhaps you aren’t confused about science. Perhaps you are just really terrible when it comes to communicating your ideas in the written word. However, what you have written so far regarding the nature of science is very confused. Once again, please read those who understand science so that you can start to understand how it works.

    And I will remind you once again that I am not your publisher. If you want to write book-length comments, please start your own blog and do it there. I will not approve another absurdly long comment like the one I have patiently tried to answer here.

home | top