With all that science knows about the human body, it is truly amazing that they have just made a new human organ discovery. Scientists at the New York University Langone School of Medicine have announced the discovery of a previously unknown organ in the human body. They gave it the name “interstitium.”
The human body is about 60% water, most of which is in the cells. The interstitium is a network of fluid-filled spaces, and it holds about 20% of all the fluid in the human body. The reason this organ wasn’t detected earlier is that researchers treat and dehydrate the tissue samples before they put them under a microscope. That causes the interstitium to collapse. Until now researchers saw the interstitium as a dense wall of the protein collagen. They now realize that it is not a wall but an “open, fluid-filled highway” supported by a lattice of collagen.
The interstitium organ plays a major role in the immune system. Interstitial fluid is the source of lymph, which sends out white blood cells to fight infection. The interstitium’s role in the body’s battle against infection is significant, and this discovery may change how some difficult infections are treated.
Medical researchers discovered the interstitium by using a new imaging technique called probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE) to examine living tissue. They found interstitium tissue under the surface of the skin, in the lining of the digestive tract and lungs, and surrounding the muscles. This new human organ discovery helps explain how cancer cells spread throughout the body.
The general media and scientific journals have given great attention to something called CRISPR (pronounced like the name of the refrigerator drawer where you stash fresh veggies). CRISPR was first reported in scientific journals and papers in 2012. Now it is being used by scientists all over the world as a method to modify human embryonic stem cells and answer questions about basic biology and development. Here is a sample of what Wikipedia says about it:
“CRISPR is an abbreviation of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats… A simple version of the CRISPR/Cas system, CRISPR/Cas9, has been modified to edit genomes… CRISPR/Cas genome-editing techniques have many potential applications, including medicine and crop seed enhancement. The use of CRISPR/Cas9-gRNA complex for genome editing was the AAAS’s choice for the breakthrough of the year in 2015. Bioethical concerns have been raised about the prospect of using CRISPR for germline editing.”
That last statement about this technique concerns many people. Are we “playing God” feeling that we can improve on what God has created? Is human genetic engineering going to threaten a catastrophic mistake in the future? Hollywood is already on this with dramas like Netflix’s Luke Cage.
CRISPR exploits something that microbes commonly do in the natural world. Bacteria defend themselves against viruses and other DNA in the environment by having snippets of foreign genetic material as molecular spacers which serve as borders. What scientists are doing is to pick those characteristics that CRISPR can use to eliminate a bad gene and insert a good one in place of it. We are taking something that God has designed into nature and using it to eliminate genetic disorders that may have been caused by human abuse of the environment.
There is a new twist to the question of whether an employee has to serve a customer in a way that violates the employee’s moral convictions. It involves nudist colony mail service at a resort in Florida. Leonard Rusin is a resident of Eden RV Resort, which is a nudist RV park. A package delivery had to be signed for by Rusin. That meant the mail carrier had to go to his RV. The postal employee marked the package “Undeliverable” rather than go into the nudist resort.
We have reported on other cases where business owners refused to violate their moral convictions, such as the cake decorator who would not create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. In this case, a government employee is involved. Mr. Rusin says, “I pay for a service, and I expect that service.” We can see a police officer having the same dilemma. The nudist colony residents maintain that the U.S. Postal Service is discriminating against them just because they don’t like to wear clothes. Nudist colony mail service is a relatively simple issue. As our society becomes more secular and vacates the principles of Jesus Christ, moral conflicts like this will grow in number and complexity.
When I talk to Christian young people about their dress and entertainment, I try to avoid absolute standards. I don’t set rules such as whether the skirt should be one inch or four inches below the knee. My argument is that if a man and a woman are both Christians, they are going to choose dress and entertainment by a standard that takes into account their faith and the needs, emotions, and sensitivities of the other person. The standard should be,“How will what I wear affect the person I am with, as well as others?”
How would you like to have your brain uploaded before you die so that your consciousness could be preserved? That is the goal of a brain uploading company called Nectome.
The company wants to deliver a “100-percent-fatal” service to terminally ill patients. They are developing a process that fills the patient’s arteries with embalming fluids. The result is that the patient will die, but the brain will be preserved. Their process is supposed to preserve the links between the neurons in full detail. Then Nectome will view those links with an electron scanning microscope. Their goal is to preserve those links to revive the consciousness of the deceased person. The company hired lawyers to work out the legality of this process under California’s physician-assisted suicide law.
Nectome was founded by graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received funding from a famous Silicon Valley startup incubator. The brain preservation project involved a collaboration with MIT and received a grant of almost a million dollars from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). They also received a prize of $80,000 from The Brain Preservation Foundation for preserving a pig’s brain using their process. MIT severed ties with Nectome just a few days ago after previously publishing a favorable article in the MIT Technology Review on March 13.
After the article in MIT Technology Review, several leading neuroscientists criticized the idea of brain uploading after preserving a brain from a live person. Nectome has removed a statement about being able to “back up” people’s minds from their website. They are now saying that they have no plans to do this in “the foreseeable future.” Robert McIntyre, the co-founder of Nectome, recently said, “…we don’t mean to imply that electron microscope image data is the only thing we would need to reconstruct consciousness or even memories.”
The element phosphorus is used to make matches. Molecular phosphorus has two common forms. There is white phosphorus which is dangerously combustible and is used to make fireworks and weapons. The more stable red phosphorus is used on the side of any box of safety matches. When you strike the match against the red phosphorus, a small amount of it is changed to white phosphorus to ignite the match. But phosphorus has more important uses than starting fires. Life needs phosphorus. The average human body contains about 26.5 ounces (750 grams) of phosphorus. Most of it is in our bones.
Phosphate is a compound of phosphorus and oxygen. It combines with sugars in living tissue to form the backbone of DNA, which is the blueprint for life found in every living cell. Phosphate is also part of a complex organic chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) found in every living organism. ATP releases energy so that cells can function. Life needs phosphorus and could not exist without it in an abundant supply.
Recent research presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science on April 5, 2018, indicates that phosphorus may not be widely available in the Milky Way. The research indicates that it is more random than scientists had previously thought. That means even if one of the recently discovered exoplanets had all of the conditions required to support life, it still might be lifeless without phosphorus.
We have often referred to the many conditions required to make a habitable planet. Here is one more to add to the list. Life needs phosphorus, and apparently phosphorus is less widely distributed than we thought. Phil Cigan, one of the astronomers involved in the study, said, “It’s not a guaranteed thing to have phosphorus abundant everywhere, ripe for the picking. It seems to look like luck plays a bigger role in this.”
The United States Department of Justice has filed documents against a group of people who have conducted a scam that has taken $500 million from seniors using what is claimed to be “world-renowned psychics.” The scam involved a promise of the seniors winning money in a lottery and gave them various supernatural objects or personalized astrological services to achieve the predicted wealth. It seems that elder fraud schemes are showing up every day.
U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.” The most common scam is called “the grandparents’ scam.” The elderly person receives a call from someone who claims to be a grandchild. The fake grandchild claims to have been arrested on a traffic charge and needs bail money wired to them. A similar version is a call from a person who claims to be an IRS agent demanding immediate payment of a mythical tax obligation.
Skeptics accuse religion of being the source of the gullibility that seems to exist among seniors. There is literature from atheists claiming that Christianity makes people vulnerable to these scams. The truth is that the Bible has always opposed psychic claims and warned people about the severity of this kind of activity. The old law even prescribed death for those who practiced sorcery or mystic arts. (See Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, and 1 Samuel 15:23.)
In the New Testament, this kind of activity is listed along with murder, adultery, fornication, and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21). In Acts 8:9-20 Peter confronted Simon the sorcerer and told him to repent of his wickedness. In Acts 19:13-16 when “vagabond Jews” tried to use Christianity to promote their commercial exorcisms the result was disastrous.
God has designed humans to have a unique relationship with God and each other. The terms “brother” and “sister” in the New Testament are a reflection of this relationship. We need each other as we face the challenges of life. When God created man, He said: “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder conducted a study of 22 heterosexual couples who had been together for at least a year. They wanted to see how the simple act of a human touch affected various scenarios in life. To conduct this test, they divided the couples into different groups at different times. In one grouping they held hands. Another group sat nearby but didn’t touch. In a third group, the people were in different rooms.
The researchers used brain scans to study each of the groups. They conducted scans before applying a mild pain and again after applying the pain. The tests indicated that holding hands reduced the intensity of the pain by 34%. When the couples held hands, their brain waves became synchronized, especially when the women were in pain.
The conclusion of the researchers was: “We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world, and we have fewer physical interactions. This research illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”
Yesterday we discussed an article by atheist Michael Shermer in which he stated that as atheism replaces belief in God “we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.” (Scientific American, April 2018, page 77). At the same time Shermer’s article came out, we received a report on prison suicide rates.
NewLife Behavior Ministries issued a report of an increase in suicides in Texas prisons. The data came from the University of Texas Medical Branch saying that attempted suicides in Texas prisons jumped from 65 to 150 in the past four years. Statistics on suicides are very complicated, but every study we have seen has shown a huge increase in attempted suicides. The increase applies to all segments of the population, not just prison suicide rates but the general public as well.
The secular sources for morals and values that Shermer recommends would include people like atheists Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They advocate euthanasia for the “unfit” in society including Down Syndrome, mentally ill, and mentally deficient people. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He advocates for infanticide to eliminate defective children and for animal rights. In his book Practical Ethics, he concedes that the question of why we should act morally “cannot be given an answer that will provide everyone with overwhelming reasons for acting morally.”
The April 2018 issue of National Geographic is a special issue on race. The history of Christianity and racism has been very bad, and that is unfortunate for many reasons. The most fundamental reason is that it contradicts everything the Bible teaches. The history of science has been just as bad as the Christian denominations in promoting racism and slavery.
Some have called Dr. Samuel George Morton “the father of racism” because he released studies of the skulls of various racial groups and related intelligence to brain size. Morton claimed that there were five races and that they varied in intelligence with Caucasians being the most intelligent, followed by Mongolians, southeast Asians, native Americans, and Ethiopians in that order. When Morton died in 1851, the Charleston Medical Journal praised him for “giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race.”
Such labeling and poor scientific reasoning contradict all the Bible says about humans. If we all came from Adam and Eve, then obviously we are all created in the image of God and are of equal value. The flood of Noah would have wiped out whatever major variations there might have been in human genes. The reason races exist is because God designed humans to live all over the Earth. Major racial criteria such as skin color, physical structure, and hair are features built into our DNA to allow for adaptation to climatic conditions.
The divisions of humans in the Old Testament were not due to physical differences. Joseph was an Israelite, but became a ruler in Egypt, as did Moses. The things that caused national divisions and conflict were over lifestyles, moral choices, and worship. The separation between the Jews and Samaritans is spelled out in John chapter 4. The Samaritan woman was amazed that Jesus would talk to her (see verse 9) and his disciples also were also amazed (see verse 27). The thing that separated the Jews and the Samaritans were the religious histories of the two cultures.
Christianity and racism should never be connected. The Christian perspective is that all humans are created in the image of God and have equal value. Acts 17:26 tells us that we are all “of one blood for to dwell in the face of the earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is sad that people who claimed to be Christians rejected the clear biblical mandate that we are all equal in God’s sight.
New Life Behavior Ministries is a project of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. For years we have worked with Buck Griffith and that ministry.
We refer prisoners completing our courses to them. Their team members visit the prisoners and provide personal needs and baptism if requested. We also refer prisoners with drug problems to their CASA study. CASA is an acronym for Christians Against Substance Abuse. This program has had a hugely beneficial effect on recidivism.
The New Life Behavior Ministries has begun a “Vet Net” program which offers special postage-paid courses (inside the United States) to veterans of all branches of the service and their family members–active or reserve. The top five courses in enrollment numbers are: Christian Marriage Skills
Attitudes and Behaviors
Christians Against Substance Abuse
Managing My Anger
The “Seeker” Bible Study Series
We would like to make our readers aware of this great program, especially those working with military families. Contact information is: