Hygiene Hypothesis and Disease

Hygiene Hypothesis
A new medical study is looking into something called the hygiene hypothesis.

Atheists often challenge the existence of God based upon their belief that the presence of diseases shows that there is no God. They conclude that an all-powerful God would not disease to exist. We have pointed out that a huge percentage of the maladies that afflict humans are the result of human abuse–pollution, drug use, foolish use of chemicals. etc. (See the doesgodexist.today posts for January 23, 2018; November 25, 2017; November 15, 2017; November 7, 2017; October 18, 2017).

Another dimension to the question of diseases is whether we have catalyzed the rates of contracting diseases by defeating the design of our immune system—the hygiene hypothesis. Major outbreaks of polio first began in the late 1800s. Multiple sclerosis doubled worldwide in the second half of the twentieth century. Type 1 diabetes rose dramatically in the 1950s. All of these diseases involve immune system problems.

In MS the immune system attacks the protective covering around certain nerve cells. In type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The hygiene hypothesis says that exposure to various viruses or bacteria allows the immune system to protect the individual against what seem to be unrelated illnesses. It is not completely understood yet, but somehow the infections allow the developing body to learn how to deal with pathogens. The absence of exposure can prompt the immune system to attack the body itself.

In the early 1900s, one or two children under the age of 15 developed type 1 diabetes. In Finland, that number is now 60 children per 100,000. Between 1998 and 2010 the incidence of type 1 diabetes jumped by 40%. We need to point out that this is not caused by obesity. Type 1 diabetes happens in children who are not obese at the same rate as in those who are.

The evidence seems to indicate that there is a viral trigger and the type of viruses causing the diabetes are enteroviruses which are normally found in the intestines. A child exposed to those viruses at an early age develops a resistance to the enteroviruses and is not likely to contract the disease. If the viruses are not present in the environment, then later in life the immune system is defenseless against the enterovirus, and the immune system attacks the pancreas. At least, that is part of the hygiene hypothesis.

There is a great deal that science does not understand about how the immune system works. It is very complex, but it has worked remarkably well in humans throughout our history. Some of the diseases we are facing today seem to be occurring because the immune system of children has not been “tuned” by the viruses in the environment. Perhaps God’s design which served humans well in the past has been shut down by our rules for hygiene and the overuse of chemical agents. On the positive side, this study may eventually provide us with a vaccine which will eradicate the germ-caused diseases.

To read more about this see Scientific American for February 2018, page 56-59, or click here.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Mental Health and Christian Faith

Mental Health
A recent mailing by the National Alliance on Mental Illness said that one in five adults in the United States will experience mental illness. Seventy-five percent of all lifetime incidents of mental health issues occur by age 24. It goes on to say that 90% of the people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. As a public high school teacher for 41 years I was frequently associated with students who threatened suicide, or in a few cases committed suicide.

There are cases in the Bible of people who were mentally disturbed. King Saul and his relationship with David certainly shows some severe mental problems. (See 1 Samuel 18:10-16 and 28, 29.) In Luke 8:26-39 we see Jesus dealing with a man who was deeply disturbed. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul tells us that Christians should help those who are struggling with mental issues.

Biblical Christianity is a guilt-relieving faith. Many people who call themselves Christians have bombarded their followers with a guilt message. You don’t see hell mentioned as a motivational tool in the preaching of the apostles. The word is only used twice in the New Testament by the inspired writers–once in James 3:6 in reference to the tongue and once in 2 Peter 2:4 regarding angels. The gospel is good news, not threats of damnation. Christians are called to a message of love, not to a fear-driven faith based on condemnation. God does not want anyone to be lost. (See John 3:17 and 2 Peter 3:9) God wants to restore everyone to the relationship Adam and Eve had with Him in the beginning.

Christianity should not be adding to the guilt-load that people in our world have today. Instead, Christian faith should be reducing fear and stress. “Hell-fire and damnation” preaching may have motivated people to run to obedience out of fear, but it is not helpful to peace and mental health. Love for God and His love and care of us is a far better motivator both mentally and spiritually.
–John N. Clayton

Gene Editing and Better Babies

Gene Editing
A major debate is in the works as scientists experiment with gene editing using CRISPR/Cas9 to fix mutations that cause heart and blood disorders. CRISPR/Cas9 acts as molecular scissors to alter human DNA. The technology is advancing so rapidly that scientists and ethicists are holding conferences to discuss how the technology should be used.

The Hastings Center, which is a bioethics research institute, is sponsoring discussions among experts attempting to give some guidelines for the proper use of gene editing. A panel of ethicists convened by the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and Medicine has said that gene editing should be used to correct diseases, but not to create characteristics that don’t have to do with health.

Movies like Gattaca have given an awareness of the potential problems with genetic engineering. The Center for Genetics and Society has pointed out that people who are taller and fair-skinned tend to make more money than the general population. The question of whether parents should edit the genes of their children to give those characteristics is an extreme example of how gene editing might be misused.

In the past, we have pointed out the difficulty with any new scientific discovery. We raised the question of whether cloning would be used to produce better crops and save endangered species, or whether it would produce a strain of super-humans endowed with the characteristics of a demented ruler like Hitler–the Boys from Brazil scenario.

From a biblical standpoint, we have to realize that when God created the first humans, they were physically perfect. Many of our diseases and disorders have to a great extent been the product of human greed and foolishness. Pollution, misuse of chemicals and radiation, and a host of recreational drugs have produced a large number of maladies in humans. To be able to go into the cells and edit the DNA to correct genetic disorders may be appropriate, but the potential for misuse is always there.

The moral conviction of the people making these decisions becomes the critical factor. Rather than decry advances in science, we need to join the search to find answers to disease and suffering. Gene editing is the future, let us encourage the best minds in the Christian community to use their God-given talents and abilities to find solutions and direct the use of our knowledge and technology.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Science News, January 20, 2018, pages 4-5.

Human Suffering Human-Caused

Human Suffering Human-Caused
There is a constant flow of books, articles, television shows, and blogs dealing with the question of why God allows human suffering. All religions deal in one way or another with this issue, and atheists have attempted to dance around it by denial or avoidance.

We have suggested over the years that Christianity offers the only rational solution to the issue because:
1) The question is only for this life and in the context of eternity is of extremely short duration.
2) Suffering allows ministering to others that Christians are uniquely called to do.
3) To be human there has to be choice, otherwise love is impossible, and choices can have consequences.

Most logical people would agree that if you jump off a bridge, you can’t blame God when you hit the bottom. The fact is that massive amounts of human suffering are because we refuse to live as God calls us to and we do things that bring suffering upon ourselves. God doesn’t cause wars and human actions that cause droughts and famines. God also does not cause us to make bad choices that lead to our own suffering and the suffering of others.

Science News in their last issue for 2017 gave a summary of the latest data in four areas where human suffering is human-caused:
1) 13.4 million U.S. adults misused or abused opioids. (Data from 2015).
2) 19 children die or are medically treated for gun-inflicted wounds every day.
3) 9 million people died directly from pollution.
4) 46% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure largely due to poor diet and lack of exercise.

It isn’t 100% of the pain and suffering issue, but a vast percentage of the pain in this world we bring on ourselves. It is not caused by an angry or malicious god who likes to see us hurt.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Abortion Ban at 20 Weeks?

Abortion Ban at 20 Weeks?
The abortion battle continues with the “20-week abortion ban” being the present focus of pro-life advocates. Last October The House of Representatives approved a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, but the Senate has never taken it up. Seventeen states have already adopted 20 weeks as the cut off for an abortion. On Friday President Trump spoke to the marchers in the annual March for Life in Washington, and he called for the Senate to pass the bill and send it to his desk.

It seems that the 20-week ban which would allow abortions up to 20 weeks after conception is a compromise that many people are willing to accept. Promoters of the bill say that 60% of Americans are supportive of the 20-week cutoff. The reason for 20 weeks is that some data shows that “babies can feel pain in utero” at that time.

Everyone knows that this is a compromise, but it still has enormous problems. Determining when a baby feels pain is subjective at best. Outward signs of pain in the womb are difficult to detect and interpret. That statement that “babies feel pain” means that they are babies! The major question is when does a human become a human? Is it at 20 weeks? The fact is that the baby is still a baby at 19 weeks. It is not a cow or a pig or a fish; it is a baby.

Our culture cannot dance around the fact that when the sperm meets the egg and conception occurs it is a child at that point. We apparently are willing to practice infanticide, but we don’t want to call it that. Certainly, the earlier a pregnancy is terminated, the less traumatic it will be for the baby and the mother, but the fact is that it is still the destruction of a human life.

Let’s be honest and call it infanticide and work to prevent the conception by following God’s laws as to how we are to conduct ourselves morally. Where that fails, let us allow the child to live and give a parent like me the joy of raising the child. I have three adopted children, and I thank God that those three mothers had the courage, strength, and love for the child to allow my children to see life beyond birth and bless myself and my wife with the joy of raising them.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Freudian Ideas Die Hard

Freudian Ideas Die Hard
Those of us who had a college major or minor in psychology in the mid-twentieth-century received a heavy dose of “Freudian Theory” and Freudian ideas die hard. We learned that there are forces that explain human psychology called libido, destrudo, and thanatos which refer to sexual, aggressive, and death forces. I was an atheist when I was taking my psychology courses. Since Sigmund Freud was not only an atheist but also a promoter of drug dependence and sexual manipulation in psychological treatments, I swallowed his theories and promoted his views.

After I became a Christian, it was obvious that Freud’s treatments didn’t work. I saw modern psychology in the late twentieth century promoting ideas that were compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In recent years private letters Freud wrote to Martha Bernays, his fiancee, and research by Frederick Crews have shown the depravity of Freud. In Crew’s words, “…the product of a mind that conjoined illogical and bizarre ideas with misogyny, prurience, and cruelty.”

The problem is that Freudian ideas die hard. We still see his ideas and words used in discussions of psychological disorders. We have seen articles and letters containing Freudian ideas and vocabulary like dissociative reaction, conversion reaction, anxiety hysteria, conversion disorder, and somatization disorder.

Christian principles give the best foundation for psychological stability. However, the resistance to Christianity has made Freud’s ideas go on far longer than they should given Freud’s history and the lack of success of those who tried to use his methods.

Frederick Crews has written a new book titled Freud, the Making of an Illusion (Holt Metropolitan Books, New York © 2017). Crews documents falsified clinical observations by Freud and negative outcomes that were never revealed. Meanwhile, there has been a growth of Christian psychological services and programs that are benefiting many people, but Freudian ideas die hard.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Girls Harming Themselves

Girls Harming Themselves
On November 21, The Washington Post reported on a 15-year study showing that there has been a dramatic increase in American girls harming themselves. Cutting, swallowing poisons and pills, and other forms of self-harm have increased 8.4% annually among middle-school girls between 2009 and 2015. Hospitals across the country provided the data for the study. The lead author suggests that suicide is linked to the same causes.

Our culture’s obsession with sex and the discarding of the purpose God has for sex and replacing it with struggles for power, popularity and social status has to be a major part of the problem. The authors blame cyberbullying, and smartphones, but also include social isolation in their list of causes. Society makes girls feel like they are objects and not special creations of God. The media tells them that their bodies are the focus and not the biblical concept of being created in God’s image. When nobody tells them that they have a purpose far beyond competing for physical beauty, their feeling of self-worth suffers.

Girls harming themselves is a product of our sex-saturated culture. We will continue to see social isolation and people struggling with feelings of poor self-worth as long as our society rejects God’s plan for family and the roles for men and women.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alzheimer’s Disease and God

Alzheimer's Disease and God
The theme of the December 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is “Understanding and Helping Those with Alzheimer’s.” The American Scientific Affiliation is an organization made up of scientists holding advanced science degrees who are believers in Jesus. This issue brings up questions regarding Alzheimer’s disease and God.

The World Health Organization reports that there are 47.5 million people with dementia worldwide. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 70% of those. The WHO also tells us that 7.7 million new cases are added each year. The National Institute of Aging ranks Alzheimer’s as the third leading cause of death for older people–behind heart disease and cancer. There is still much that science does not understand about Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga writes that “dementia including Alzheimer’s may simply be the result of our brains living beyond what they were designed for.”

The question concerning Alzheimer’s disease and God becomes whether God’s design is flawed or whether Alzheimer’s is something humans have brought on themselves. First, we need to understand that there are two forms of Alzheimer’s. One occurs early in life and is called familial Alzheimer’s. It is a rare disease accounting for less than 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases. The more common late-onset Alzheimer’s is associated with a gene called apolipoprotein E which is involved in metabolizing fats in the body. Studies have linked diet and environmental contaminants to Alzheimer’s. It now appears that Alzheimer’s is not a single disorder, but that there are many forms with many different causes. Obviously, that makes identifying the specific cause and treating patients very difficult.

The bigger question is how we handle people with Alzheimer’s. One solution is euthanasia at early stages of the disease. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who developed a lethal injection system as a means for assisted suicide, promoted this view. The first patient he euthanized by his system was a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. Peter Singer, who is the head of the ethics department at Princeton University, has promoted this view on an academic level.

Because the American Scientific Affiliation is a Christian organization, the euthanasia alternative is dismissed by the magazine. Instead, it suggests ways that faith can help patients and caregivers deal with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

If your view of life is that it is all about “survival of the fittest,” then Alzheimer’s is simply a demonstration that the patient is not fit. That would suggest a treatment that concerns itself more with those who are fit and doesn’t address the quality of life objective that Christ would teach for the patient. For more about ASA go to their website. To see the issue on Alzheimer’s Disease and God click here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Unfair Abortion Law and Freedom of Speech

Unfair Abortion Law and Freedom of Speech
The United States Supreme Court has accepted a case titled National Institute of Family and Life Advocates verses Becerra. The issue here is an unfair abortion law. California passed a law that makes it mandatory for pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion as a part of their services to clients. These centers will have to pay a $1500 fine to the state for every case where they don’t promote abortion as an option for pregnancy.

The obvious question that arises in this situation is whether abortion providers would have to provide information to clients that promote pro-life options. The answer to that is obviously “No.” Pro-abortion spokespersons claim that not providing pro-life options is part of their right to free speech. Should that not also be true of pro-life groups not having to provide information about abortion services?

The implications of this whole situation are huge. If a preacher gives a sermon condemning abortion, is he required to also give a sermon promoting abortion? Since the Church is tax-exempt that answer to that question would seem to be “Yes.” There have already been cases where the government has threatened churches that won’t allow a woman to preach or won’t allow a homosexual to be a minister with losing their tax exemption.

No matter what your view might be on these issues, it should be obvious that the most fundamental question that underlies all of this is whether we want to government to dictate our morals and control our speech. An unfair abortion law is telling pro-life clinics that their speech must promote abortion. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court handles this issues.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alcohol and Cancer Data

Alcohol and Cancer
There is new data on alcohol and cancer. Perhaps the most frequently asked question we get is why God allows a disease like cancer to exist. There are multiple answers to this question, and no one has all the answers.

My younger brother is battling cancer as I write this, and no answer that anyone could give will make his war with pain and potential death any easier. However, if we can back away from our own anxiety and frustration, there are some answers to the question of cancer. One major factor is what mankind has done to us and what we have done to ourselves. In my brother’s case, exposure to Agent Orange when he was in the military is a likely contributor if not the total cause.

A new study released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology gives some data on alcohol and cancer. There are connections between alcohol consumption and malignancies of the head, neck, breast, liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum. The data shows that drinking is responsible for 5.5% of all new cancers and nearly 6% of all cancer deaths worldwide.

Our bodies metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde which can cause mutations in DNA that lead to cancer. The lead author of the study, Dr. Noelle Lo Conte, says, “The message is if you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less.” “But if you don’t already drink, don’t start” she adds.

The word “intoxicate” has a simple meaning. When we take a poison (a toxic) into our bodies, we suffer the long-term effects of the poison. Most cancer is directly or indirectly related to what humans have done, and sometimes it is what we alone have done to ourselves. How can we blame God for what we have done?
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: The Week, November 24, 2017, page 19.