National Geographic and Alternative Medicine

National Geographic and Alternative Medicine
We frequently refer to articles in National Geographic magazine. There have been times when the National Geographic Society has jumped to conclusions about some issue because of their bias to the currently held scientific beliefs. That is especially true when evolutionary theory is involved. However, their articles always have excellent photography and are usually well documented by credible scientists. That makes the relationship between National Geographic and alternative medicine very surprising.

The National Geographic Society has published six books promoting alternative medicine that are not only bad science but also bad journalism. These books go back to 2010, but in the last three years, the books have moved past just presenting data and have gone to promoting a wide range of alternative remedies.

In 2010 they released a book titled Guide to Medicinal Herbs followed by Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies in 2012. Starting in 2014 the editors began promoting what they called Healing Remedies, Nature’s Best Remedies (2015), Natural Home Remedies (2017), and Nature’s Best Remedies (2019). These books claimed to offer ways to cure or heal illnesses. It is disturbing is that there is virtually no documentation nor any attempt to point out problems in the promoted “remedies” such as side effects or possible collateral damage.

It is important to understand that there are natural materials that can help treat physical problems in the human body. It is also important to know that this is a huge business with an expanding market making it attractive to every fast-talking con-artist. There is virtually no supervision of alternative medicine. That means people can make all kinds of claims without documenting them. To see National Geographic enter this circus is very disappointing. Skeptical Inquirer has taken on National Geographic in their September/October 2019 special issue titled “The Health Wars.” Skeptical Inquirer describes the problem this way:

Producing books full of claims that lack evidence and don’t even meet minimum scientific standards belies the NGS’s stated ‘passion for science.’ Some of the advice can actually harm. The inconsistencies among the books are troubling and weaken any argument that they are providing ‘information people can trust.’ The National Geographic Society should not sully its reputation by promoting health practices and products not supported by credible scientific evidence.”

We encourage those interested in alternative medicine to examine what is presented in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer about National Geographic and alternative medicine. Click HERE to read the article and always use caution when taking medical advice.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Your Heart Is More than a Muscle

Your Heart Is More than a MuscleI recently had some concerns about my heart, which turned out to be unfounded. In the process of various tests, one of my atheist friends said to me, “Well, after all, your heart is just a muscle, but I guess you religious guys don’t believe that, do you?” My response was, “Well, you don’t either!” Your heart is more than a muscle.

All of us know that the physical heart beating inside our chest is a muscle. It is probably the most studied muscle in the body. I was fascinated as I watched my heartbeat in the echocardiogram. I was amazed to have the heart specialist point out the valves and the design of the vascular system that feeds blood throughout my body. It was also interesting that I could change the rate of my heartbeat, and in turn, my blood pressure, by thinking about certain things. The technician doing my echocardiogram said, “Oh yes, there’s a lot more to the heart than the muscle.”

In the Bible, the word “heart” has many uses. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “heart” occurs 29 times referring to the physical organ directly or figuratively. (See 1 Samuel 25:37, 2 Samuel 18:14, 2 Kings 9:24.) Old Testament writers use the word 257 times to refer to personality, inner life, or character. (See Exodus 9:14, 1 Samuel 16:7, Genesis 20:5.) An additional 166 times it refers to emotional states of consciousness. Some examples are: intoxication (1 Samuel 25:36), joy or sorrow (Judges 18:20, 1 Samuel 1:8), anxiety (1 Samuel 4:13), courage and fear (Genesis 42:28), and love 2 Samuel 14:1). Also 204 times it refers to intellectual activities such as attention (Exodus 7:23), reflection (Deuteronomy 7:17), memory (Deuteronomy 4:9), understanding (1 Kings 3:9), or technical skill (Exodus 28:3).

Finally, 195 times it refers to volition or purpose (1 Samuel 2:35). This varied use continues in the New Testament with the most common application referring to our mind. (See Mark 12:30-33.) Your heart is more than a muscle.

The point is that the word “heart” is used frequently referring to something that is the center of things and rarely does it refer to the physical heart that beats within our chest. God calls us to put Him and His Word at the center of our lives. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Paul wrote that when “Christ dwells in our hearts by faith,” we can comprehend the love of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). In that sense, it is true that your heart is more than a muscle.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Environmental Solutions

God's Environmental SolutionsWith a growing human population, environmental toxins, the warming of our planet, and the shortages of potable water, we recognize that Earth is under stress. News reports tell of people dying because of ecological problems. It is essential to understand that all of this pain, death, and turmoil are unnecessary. When God created planet Earth, He built into it many self-correcting tools for survival. If you name a major problem that threatens the long term existence of humans, I believe there is a built-in device that can correct the problem. God designed the Earth to withstand even the abuse that selfishness, ignorance, and greed have brought upon it. Here are a few examples of God’s environmental solutions:

Carbon dioxide and global warming. Several greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but the main one is carbon dioxide. Not only do animals exhale carbon dioxide, but fires produce it, so human-caused fires are a contributor. God beautifully designed planet Earth with tools to contain carbon dioxide. Plants take it out of the air and release oxygen as a product of photosynthesis. This system is highly efficient as a single tree can take care of the carbon produced by one human. Plants in the ocean do the same thing. Human deforestation of both the land and the sea thwarts the system God put in place to sustain life on Earth. God’s environmental solutions are there if we will use them.

Water. Oceans cover roughly 3/4ths of Earth’s surface, but water shortages plague a significant percentage of the world’s population. The obvious problem is that because of minerals in the water, ocean water cannot be consumed directly by humans or most animals or plants. But the 50-quadrillion tons of minerals in the oceans, including 4.5 billion tons of uranium, have 14,000 industrial uses. God’s environmental solutions not only provide enough water for every living thing on the planet but also a wealth of minerals to sustain an advanced society.

Toxins. In the past five years, science has discovered that a Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata) can survive on arsenic. Arsenic is a significant pollutant poisoning millions of people in the world, causing skin lesions, cancer, and other illnesses. Finding a plant that removes arsenic from the environment is a significant breakthrough. Over the past several years, we have mentioned other plants that provide environmental cleansing. Scientists have found bacteria that eat plastics and others that consume crude oil. These are more of God’s environmental solutions to tackle the plastic trash and oil spills in the ocean.

We need to allocate research funding to learn more about God’s environmental solutions to counter ecological problems. God has given us resources to repair the damage we have done to the environment. Maybe the problems we see around us will bring us to accept what God has provided and have the heart to think beyond our own selfish interests.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, September 2019, page 18.

Spiritual Leprosy

Physical Leprosy and Spiritual LeprosyI have recently been involved in a study of leprosy. It seems to me that sin is spiritual leprosy.

Our modern-day version of leprosy is Hansen’s disease, which is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease, meaning that the immune system attempts to confine the bacteria since it can’t eradicate them. The disease infects the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. Skin lesions are an external sign of the disease, and the condition is progressive. Leprosy does not make body parts fall off as some have said, but because of secondary infections, it does horrible collateral damage. There was and is no cure for leprosy. We have learned to control it, but not to eradicate it. In Jesus’ day, quarantine was the only remedy, controlled by the religious leaders of Israel. (Read Leviticus 13-14.)

I find it interesting that in the spiritual realm, there are significant parallels to leprosy. Some have tried to minimize sin and suggest that the idea of sin is just a device conceived by religious groups to control their members. The truth is that sin is real and has adverse effects on human lives similar to leprosy. As with physical leprosy, we can control or contain spiritual leprosy, but we can’t eradicate it in this life. Here are some of the parallels to leprosy that we should consider:

SIN SEPARATES US. Leprosy separated the victim from family and friends. They had to live “outside the camp.” Leprosy affected the person’s whole being, not just their skin. The skin condition was a symptom, not a cause. Sin does the same thing. It separates a person from family, friends, and associates. Sin affects a person in profound ways – what we think is funny, what we think about, how easily we lie or use people. Sin propels prejudice, stereotyping, and hatred. First John 2:11 tells us sin causes a person to walk in darkness, blinding the eyes.

SIN REQUIRES DIVINE ACTION. Lepers were the most hopeless people in that society, and only God could change their desperate state. The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-17 ends with the pagan Naaman saying, “I know there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.” Jesus highlighted the magnitude of the problem of leprosy in Matthew 10:8. There Jesus lists the major miracles of His ministry: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils and cleanse the lepers.” Cleansing lepers was right up there with raising the dead. Being embedded in sin is frequently a hopeless state. Sin is a primary cause of addiction, and addictions are hard to break. The notion of “looking to a higher power” is part of many programs to free people from addictions, and it means asking for divine help. Politicians have learned in recent years that a sin committed as a college student can follow you throughout your whole life. Spiritual leprosy is real. Denying it or trivializing it doesn’t change the consequences. Jesus is ready to heal, and there are a vast number of us in the world who can testify that His healing is real.

CURING LEPROSY AND CURING SIN HAVE TO BE DONE GOD’S WAY. The wonderful story of Naaman shows that only God’s solution works. Naaman became angry because the solution to his leprosy is too simple to believe. Being buried in baptism, as 1 Peter 3:21 tells us, is too simple for many people to believe. When someone says “I don’t see why…” they are following the lead of Naaman. They are saying that their intellectual understanding of the cure is not satiated so they won’t do it.

Romans 6:4 tells us that the real cure for sin is to “walk in newness of life…”. Acts 2:38 tells us that there is exclusive help for those who obey God and do as He commands. “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” means a cure for spiritual leprosy. It isn’t flashy or dependent on humans in any way. However, as with Naaman, there is power that can set us free from the clutches of sin and allow us to walk in newness of life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

You Are a Spaceship with a Full Crew

You Are a SpaceshipOne of the most interesting sites on the web is the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” produced by NASA. This website features a new picture every day, usually of objects in deep space with an explanation of the image. On August 18, 2019, there was a beautiful artistic rendition of a human with a star-filled background titled “Human as Spaceship.” (Because of copyright we can’t show you the picture, but you can see it HERE.) The opening line of the explanation is, “You are a spaceship soaring through the universe.”

The point of the presentation is that as we soar through the universe, we are not alone. We are the captains of our ships, our human bodies because we are not a singular living organism. There are a massive number of separate organisms that exist inside our bodies that do specific things for us. They help digest food, fight disease and infection, and carry vital materials on a liquid highway (your bloodstream) from one end of your body to the other. These organisms are the crew of this spaceship. They are bacteria, fungi, and archaea, and they actually outnumber your own cells. Science still doesn’t know what many of these organisms do, but they have their own DNA, and together they make up the human microbiome. You are a spaceship with a massive crew.

We sometimes seem to view God’s creation of the human body as a process similar to building a machine. To build a machine you would put together pre-manufactured parts in a prescribed way. To build a working and living human body requires a host of communities which do the jobs they were designed to do in ways that science is just beginning to understand.

David said it best in Psalms 139:14: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Are Humans Animals?

Are humans animals like bears?People have sometimes called me to task for referring to humans as animals. The point is well taken that humans are unique, but humans are not plants, and they are not minerals. According to all basic elementary science books, there are three kingdoms – plants, animals, and minerals. Are humans animals? Yes, we are animals.

The problem we seem to have is that we don’t understand what makes humans different from bears, for example. In our correspondence courses, we have questions about what distinguishes a human from other forms of animal life. I find it interesting that the answers my students give are so poorly considered. Some will say that we think, but all animals think. Some say we have emotions, but all animals have emotions. Others will say we stand erect, but kangaroos, birds, and bears all stand erect. Still others say it’s our brain size, but whales have bigger brains than we do, and bears have very large brains.

I recently watched a National Geographic program on bears. The program emphasized that female bears in the wild that give birth to unhealthy or significantly deformed cubs will kill and eat them. AOL News on the web (August 18, 2019) carried a story about two Russian fishermen who rescued two bear cubs from drowning. The mother bear was swimming across a lake with two cubs on her back when she became tired and chilled. Her solution was to shake the two cubs off of her back, leaving them to drown while she continued her journey to the other side of the lake. These are behaviors that would be unlikely in a human mother. What is it that makes humans different? Why do human mothers continue to care for children with deformities or severe health issues? Why do human mothers usually show incredible resilience when their child is threatened?

When someone asks, “Are humans animals?” I reply, “Yes, but not JUST animals. Humans are not driven by “survival of the fittest.” There are characteristics of humans that cause us to care for those who are not “fit.” These human qualities also provide for an innate sense of the love of beauty in art or music or in a natural setting. What is it in humans that causes us to worship, to feel guilt, and to be sympathetic. What causes us to be driven by an “agape” type of love – self-sacrificing, nonsexual, and unrelated to our survival?

It isn’t any physical characteristic that makes humans special. Our spiritual makeup is the source of all those things that set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are created in the image of God. That isn’t just an empty cliché. It is an observable difference between humans and the animal world around us. We can behave like bears if we choose, but bears cannot behave as humans.

Are humans animals? Yes, but not JUST animals. The word the Bible uses to describe the distinctive characteristic of humans is “soul.” It’s the part of us that never dies, and it separates us from all other forms of life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Inconsistency of Abortion Issues

Inconsistency of Abortion IssuesThere are so many problems with the inconsistency of abortion issues in America that it’s hard to know where to start. Where does a woman’s right concerning her body stop and where do the baby’s rights begin? When is abortion infanticide? When is it murder to kill a baby?

On August 2, 2019, a 29-year-old woman in Anderson, Indiana, was shot in the head by her boyfriend. She was 21 weeks pregnant, and her twins died before she did. The boyfriend has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, and two counts of murder and feticide for killing the twins. The dictionary defines feticide as the destroying of a fetus or the causing of an abortion. In Indiana knowingly or intentionally killing a fetus in any developmental stage is murder. As we pointed out in our earlier post, in some states, a baby can be put to death at the time of birth.

The inconsistency of abortion issues is very obvious. It is compounded by the refusal to deal with the evidence and the facts of conception and birth. You cannot defend the position that the fetus is an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness is because the woman’s body knows that the baby is a foreign entity.

When the sperm meets the egg, an individual is formed with a unique genome. Before birth, the unborn child is aware of much of what is going on in the world outside the mother’s body. There are other options available to a woman who has a baby inside her that she doesn’t want to raise. As the father of three adopted children, I know the joy that any child can bring to those couples who want to be parents but are unable to do so for medical reasons.

The emotional, mental, and physical cost of infanticide and abortion is enormous at the time of pregnancy and in the future for all individuals involved. Following God’s Word in marriage, sex, and family would solve the inconsistency of abortion issues. When we fail to follow God’s instructions, compounding the damage by a violent, destructive solution is not wise.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

It IS Worth the Price!

It IS Worth the Price! Timothy Clayton
\We want to continue our thoughts from yesterday’s post. If you haven’t read it yet, you can click HERE. My point was that it IS worth the price to care for those who cannot take care of themselves. The example I used was my son Tim.

Some argue that it is a waste of money. They say that we should euthanize those who have “a low quality of life” or who are in prison for the rest of their lives. As I said before, from a Christian standpoint, that idea is repugnant. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” We believe that ALL humans are created in the image of God, and every life is infinitely valuable.

To add to the points we made yesterday, here are three more objections to the view of the euthanasia advocates:

1) All human lives can be productive. This is truer today in our world of technology than it ever was. Stephen Hawking did much of his work after he was unable to function physically. My son works in a shop that does jobs that require massive human time. Selecting phone parts and putting one of each in a cloth bag may not be a career you want to have, but Tim and his friends at the sheltered workshop thrive on it. Prisoners can train and rehabilitate dogs, cultivate the land and produce crops, do precision manual work, and write and compose amazing stories, music, and art. Prisons can be productive places with decent living conditions, and they can even be self-supporting. No human is worthless except those who choose to be.

2) No human is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit. Our prison ministry has dealt with some hardened criminals who grew up in an environment that made them that way. Can they be changed? The answer is yes, and there are hundreds of cases to prove that. There is a book titled “The Meanest Man in Texas” that you might wish to read for an example. It is worth the price when you see people transformed by the Spirit.

God’s Spirit can help to change a man or woman who seems to be hopeless. My own personal story of “Why I Left Atheism” is available on doesgodexist.org if you want a personal example. Christians never give up on a man or woman. Euthanizing prisoners who are destined to spend the rest of their lives in prison would cut off what may be a tool to help young people who are headed toward violence and abuse. We worked with “Scared Straight” here in Indiana for several years and saw what can be done by someone “who has been there.”

3) There is a Christian industry built around caring for the disadvantaged. Programs like SSI and Medicare provide some money for those who qualify for their support. The actual care for the disadvantaged doesn’t come from the government. It comes from men and women tho don’t make much money, but who believe that the message of Matthew 25:31-46 applies to them. They serve and bless their constituents, bringing joy and love and happiness as they do so. Their work employs large numbers of men and women who would not otherwise have a job. They train and place disabled people in jobs that match their ability and desire.

Yes, it is worth the price. The bottom line is, what kind of a world to we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Do we want a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation of all of those someone deems to be unfit? Or do we want a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. And it is worth the price.
–= John N. Clayton © 2019

To obtain John’s book about Timothy, click HERE.

Is It Worth the Price?

Is It Worth the Price? Yes, Timothy is worth it.
Every Wednesday morning I take my son Tim, who is 57 years old, out for breakfast. Tim is mentally challenged, blind, and has a mild form of muscular dystrophy. He also has cerebral palsy and schizophrenia. All of this has left him wheelchair-bound and with trembles that affect his ability to hold a cup to drink. Various government programs for the disabled have supported Tim since he became of school age. Some people have told me they resent their tax money being used to prolong my son’s suffering. I regularly receive brochures from pro-euthanasia groups promoting legislation that would terminate those who have “a low quality of life.” That brings up the question, “Is it worth the price?”

I suspect that we could reduce the massive amount of government deficit spending if we euthanized everyone in a mental hospital or care facility. We could expand that to include any prisoner who will always be incarcerated. We could also add anyone who is in a vegetative state due to brain injuries or congenital problems caused by disease, injury, stroke, or inadequate care. From an atheistic standpoint, the euthanizing of all of these individuals makes sense. Putting human life on the same level as animal life would allow involuntary euthanasia. The champion of this kind of thinking is Australian Dr. Peter Singer. He is the Ira W. Decamp Professor of bioethics at Princeton University. He is also the Australian Laureate Professor of Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne.

From a Christian standpoint, these proposals are repugnant. To be clear, we are not talking about allowing a dying person to refuse a life support machine with no hope of ever being free of the machine. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” The Christian view is that ALL humans are created in the image of God. That means they have a spiritual makeup which is unique to humans. Christians reject the view that a human, a dog, and a pig are of equal value.

But is it worth the price of caring for those whom Singer and others would eliminate? There are a large number of objections to the views of the euthanasia advocates. Here are a few:

1) The handicapped historically have made significant contributions to all disciples of human activity. Would those who promote involuntary euthanasia suggest that Stephen Hawking’s life should have been terminated when he could no longer function without help? How many great musical composers have had major handicaps? Many times a handicap has led to a unique talent that blesses the lives of others.

2) How do you determine a “low quality of life”? My son has many things that bring him joy. He enjoys food and knows about the different foods of various cultures. He gets great pleasure from hearing about various religious beliefs. He enjoys music and loves to feel different textures. He does not agonize over his blindness or complain about not being able to play sports. He looks forward to my daily phone calls and loves eating out. From his perspective, his quality of life is very good.

3) Ignoring the spiritual dimension of life means not understanding what brings joy to many people. Galatians 5:19-25 describes the physical “works of the flesh,” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” The physical things are animal responses that involve the physical body. Verse 22 lists the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..” My son has all of those. Not only does he have them, but he brings them into the lives of others.

The bottom line is, what kind of a world do we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Should it be a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation anyone that some person or group of people decides are not fit? Or should it be a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. Is it worth the price? You bet it is! More on this tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia
Newborn Baby Girl with Club Foot

There seems to be confusion between abortion and infanticide in Virginia today. State Delegate Kathy Tran introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would permit abortion through the moment of birth, even when the mother shows signs of being in labor. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said this about a baby born with significant physical problems: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines abortion as “the expulsion of a fetus before it is viable.” It is obvious that in Virginia – and also New York – at least, it is now legal to kill a viable fetus. That is not abortion – it is infanticide. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod practicing infanticide to try to avoid the political consequences of the King of the Jews surviving. In ancient Rome, unwanted babies were simply thrown into the street to die. In some nations today, male babies are preferred, and the females are eliminated.

In America, babies are now viewed by many as commodities, and only the best are fit to survive. The unfit – those with physical problems or perhaps the wrong physical features – can be destroyed. Abortion and infanticide are the tools to accomplish that. Science has sequenced and analyzed the human genome and developed techniques to modify the genome. That means we are close to being able to design a child with the features we want. Then we can discard any child that has the “wrong” features.

Christians believe that what defines a human is not their appearance or a set of physical characteristics. The Bible defines humans as beings created in the image of God. No, we don’t look like God physically because God is not a physical being. If God had a physical body, and we were all in created in God’s physical image, we would be identical. God is a spirit, and we are in God’s spiritual image. That means all humans have value, no matter what our physical body is like.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, musicians, and political leaders were people who had physical problems. Before America today is the question, “What do we believe about the worth of a human being?” Do we want to create the super race of physical beings manufactured by human intelligence and designed to be the most fit of all life on Earth? Or do we believe that every human has value and worth? If we want the super race, then abortion and infanticide are the methods by which we can achieve that goal.

Let’s understand it is not only abortion that we are endorsing, it is the killing of infants. If every human has value, then let us work to eliminate the causes of physical problems. Let us focus on life in all of its variety and value, realizing that every human being bears the image of God. That image allows all of us to express beauty in an amazing variety of ways.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Susan B. Anthony List