Understanding Pain

Understanding PainThe May 2019 issue of Smithsonian Magazine (page 48-) carried an article titled “A Mystery in the Family” by Matthew Shaer. The article describes a family in Italy in which the family members feel almost no pain. It also shows how far we are from understanding pain.

The entire Italian family seemed to share a lack of sensitivity to pain. It wasn’t that they couldn’t feel pain at all. When scientists injected capsaicin (the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat) into a family member’s arm, they felt the burning sensation, but only for a matter of seconds.

Our bodies are designed with the ability to feel pain, and we need it to avoid damage from our environment. When you touch a hot pan handle, you feel pain, so you put it down quickly. This is good pain and is essential to our survival. Studies show that one in five Americans suffers from chronic pain which is defined as pain that is unrelated to a recent injury and which lasts more than six months. The recent attention to opioid addiction is undoubtedly connected in some ways to how chronic pain affects us. Researchers are proposing that chronic pain results from our lifestyles. Eating more processed food, getting less exercise, and environmental pollution may all contribute to chronic pain.

Pain is different from our senses of smell, taste, or sight because there is not just one section of the brain responsible for the experience. There may be half a dozen or more areas of the brain involved. Doctors prescribe opioids to relieve the pain. Understanding pain and how we experience it could help us find a better way to relieve chronic pain.

One has to wonder if we have not brought the chronic pain issue onto ourselves. Those of us who have done some world-wide traveling have seen that pain is perceived and handled in various ways in different cultures. People walking on hot coals or running knives through their hands seems to be nothing exceptional in some areas of the world. When I was in the army, a young man assigned to our unit had grown up on the north slopes of Alaska. His view of what was cold in Wisconsin in January was not the same as the rest of us. In the Smithsonian article, an Italian family member showed up on a very cold day with a bitter wind blowing in a short-sleeved dress with her ankles bare. The young man in our army unit used to walk from the barracks to the mess hall in a T-shirt while the rest of us wore heavy parkas.

God’s design of the human body is so complex that it can be disturbed by a variety of external causes. God didn’t design us to have chronic pain. Understanding pain, how it works, and how to relieve it is essential. We need to survive what happens to us without being immobilized by aching that never seems to stop.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Biblical Protein

Biblical ProteinI always enjoy hearing a skeptic berate the Bible on some point that he or she considers absurd because the skeptic always comes out of such a tirade looking very foolish. Sometimes it is not immediately obvious why the biblical statement is sound, but it always is. One such tirade involved what you might call biblical protein.

Some time ago, an article appeared in one of the atheist journals ridiculing the idea that men such as John the Baptist and Samson could live on a diet of locusts. The question is whether eating locusts and honey is unwise nutritionally and medically (not to mention aesthetically). I never had an answer to that allegation until I came across an article concerning medical research on the subject.

It turns out that the protein content of all insects, especially locusts, is very high. Locusts and grasshoppers have over three times as much protein as chicken and fish and over four times as much as pork and lamb. Beef is more than three times lower in protein than locusts. Among insects, the protein content of locusts is very high. For example, locust protein content is three times as rich as ant protein.

So that seems to settle the question of biblical protein. From a nutritional standpoint, I would have to say there was great wisdom in eating locusts. I cannot comment on the flavor, but for the time being, I suspect McDonald’s will stick with hamburgers.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Toilet Rules

God's Toilet RulesThere are many commandments and teachings of God that people have only come to understand in modern times. Among those are God’s toilet rules for disposal of waste.

In the Roman world, residents used chamber pots. When the pot was full, they emptied it in the streets and alleys. In Pompeii, the sidewalks were raised with high curbs along the streets so that pedestrians could cross on stepping stones and avoid having to walk in human excrement.

Even in America the disposal of waste was an issue. An epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia, which was the nation’s capital at the time, was related to cesspits which eventually contaminated the aquifers that supplied drinking water.

Among the laws of hygiene for ancient Israel were rules for disposal of excrement. In Deuteronomy 23:12-13 we read “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover your excrement.”

We tend to romanticize what life was like in early times without thinking about how complicated it was to take care of waste. The smells in Pompeii and other ancient cities must have been pretty revolting. However, the bigger problem was disease spawned by using the simplest method of getting rid of waste by throwing it out the window. Following God’s toilet rules may have taken time and energy, but it was essential for the health and well being of ancient Israel.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2019.

Marijuana Use Has Consequences

Marijuana Use Has Consequences
Drug promoters, politicians, and even stockbrokers have flooded the media with claims about marijuana, and almost everything they have said about marijuana use is wrong. When you read the scientific studies about marijuana, they contradict what the promoters of the drug have said. Here are some factual data from scientific sources and from the National Academy of Medicine for you to consider:

“Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

Marijuana use as a pain killer is too weak to work for people who truly need opiates such as terminal cancer patients.

Marijuana does not reduce opiate use. The United States which is the western country with the most cannabis use also has by far the worst problem with opioids. The January 2018 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry carried a report showing that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later.

Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia.

In 2014 there were 90,000 cases of “diagnosable cannabis use disorder,” which is triple the number in 2006.

A study published in June of 2018 in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry showed that over a three-year period men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50% chance of becoming violent. That is four times higher than those with psychosis who didn’t use cannabis. A study of 1600 psychiatric patients in Italy showed a 10-fold increase in violence in those using cannabis.

A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide found that two-thirds were misusing cannabis — more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2012 reported a study of 9,000 adolescents which found that marijuana use doubled domestic violence, and a Chinese study found a fivefold increase.

States that have legalized marijuana have had a 37% increase in murders and a 25% increase in aggravated assaults.

We want to emphasize that studies on the medical uses of marijuana are ongoing. If marijuana use can be beneficial for medical purposes over the long haul, it certainly should be used. However, the legalization for recreational use is a recipe for disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2019
For more on this, see the excellent article by Alex Berenson in the January issue of Imprimis Monthly available from Hillsdale College, 33 E. College St., Hillsdale MI 49242. It is available online HERE.
We have posted before about the consequences of marijuana use HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Gene Editing Controversy Continues

Gene Editing Controversy Continues
We recently reported on the gene editing controversy when a scientist used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to produce “superior” human babies. Jiankui He, a Chinese geneticist, announced that twin girls had been born with genes edited by his medical team to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

For several years experts have predicted that it will be possible in the future to produce “designer babies” by the technique He has used. The twins’ father has HIV, but their mother does not. We pointed out previously that human knowledge is not good enough to know what collateral damage we may create in such a project. There are also issues about whether humans should ever genetically modify human life. Playing God has enormous responsibilities, and the gene editing controversy brings up concern about the old “Frankenstein Complex.”

Since He’s announcement there have been numerous articles and responses by experts in the field backing what we said in our article:

Researchers say there was virtually no chance the girls would have been infected with HIV since their mother doesn’t carry the virus.

No evidence can verify that the editing was successful and didn’t damage other genes.

Previous CRISPR/Cas9 research has shown that some cells in embryos may be incompletely edited or escape editing entirely creating what is called a “mosaic embryo.”

He was asked why the research was done in secret and why he chose to violate established rules of CRISPR/Cas9. He refused to answer those questions.

Julian Savulescu who is a bioethicist at the University of Oxford said, “I liken it to Russian roulette. You can pull the trigger and not kill, but it doesn’t mean that what you did was right.” We would suggest that this gene editing controversy is a classic of example of the fact that science cannot determine the way its discoveries will be used. In this case, it appears this was a desire to become famous, rather than trying to improve the well being of human life.

There are many Christians who are scientists working with CRISPR/Cas9 and who have stated their dismay and feeling that their greatest fears are being realized. The gene editing controversy continues, and we will hear more of this.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Largest Body Organ

Largest Body Organ - Skin
As you think about all of the organs in your body and how important they are, don’t forget the largest body organ. It’s also the one that is most visible—your skin.

Have you ever considered how incredible your skin is? The hands of a laborer may be rough like sandpaper, but his abdominal skin could be smooth and soft. The calves of your legs have skin bonded tightly to a muscle layer. The skin on your elbow can be lifted loosely in rolls. If you used a microscope to examine the skin of our scalp, lip, heel, and finger, you might think you were studying sample from different species.

Your skin is the largest body organ, and there is no other organ like it. It flexes, folds, stretches, and bends around joints. It’s sensitive to touch. The skin of your finger pads is sensitive enough to detect a grain of dust on a smooth surface or read Braille letters in a book. When you blush (something that only humans do), the blood vessels of your skin suddenly rush many times more blood than usual. Your skin even regenerates itself when it’s damaged.

Your skin shows emotions, cools and insulates your body, protects you from germs, serves as a receptor for all kinds of stimuli, and gives you that unique appearance. We often cut off the hair growing out of our skin or add some substance to soften and beautify our skin. We seldom take a moment to realize what a fantastic organ it is.

Of all the vital organs of your body, your skin is the most visible. Skin color or texture may vary from person to person, but regardless of those factors, it protects what is inside. Your largest body organ is another incredible design by a Master Designer.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Holy Kiss Greeting Benefits

Holy Kiss Hugging
On at least five occasions the Bible encourages Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss. (See Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26 and 1 Peter 5:14.)

The Greek word used for kiss here is “philema.” It refers to a token of friendship as opposed to a kiss with sexual purposes. The holy kiss was a standard greeting in the world of Jesus’ day, but other greetings and salutations have the same emotional effect.

Some people think that a kiss or a hug is a way to spread cold germs from one person to another. The Carnegie Mellon Institute has been conducting studies as to the collateral effects of a kiss or a hug. They are seeking to learn what physiological or psychological value there might be. They concluded that this activity protects the participants from a common cold by alleviating stress and by bolstering the immune system. Carnegie Mellon Institute’s Michael Murphy reported the results of the study. He said, “A warm hug on the same day as an argument can boost positive feelings and reduce bad ones.”

Most of the things God calls us to do as we interact with each other have a practical value in dealing with life. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 if you want to see more ways to make life better. A holy kiss or a hug should be easy, but the things Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount are much more difficult.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Saturday Evening Post, January/February 2019, page 67.

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil Church Yard
The Week magazine in their January 18, 2019, issue has a story about “sacred clay.” It is soil found in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Church in the Boho Highlands of rural Northern Ireland. For over 200 years people have used the Sacred Heart miracle soil as a remedy for a variety of ailments.

Scientists have been studying the soil and have found that it can halt the growth of the top six superbugs, including MRSA. The researchers discovered a previously unknown strain of streptomyces bacterium that is responsible for the soil’s seemingly miraculous ability. One of the problems of treating diseases like MRSA is that pathogens develop a resistance to common drugs, and science needs to find new antibiotics to control them. The Sacred Heart soil has a natural antibiotic.

The U.K. Times magazine reported on the Sacred Heart miracle soil. It quoted the key researcher Gerry Quinn in reference to folk cures. Quinn said, “Some of these cures might have been perfectly effective but the people just didn’t have any knowledge of the scientific principles or biochemistry behind them.” Science can help us to know the difference between bogus medical claims and treatments that really work.

The question of how this particular antibiotic got into the churchyard soil will stir debate. One of my friends who is a Catholic priest maintains that God has sent many cures through the Catholic Church, but people don’t want to believe in God’s activity on the Earth today. We would suggest that in all areas of nature there is balance, because God designed it that way. If scientists continue to look to nature they may find natural cures for most human maladies. They may even find them not only in church yards but in the yards of leading atheists.
–John N. Clayton ©2019

Surrogate Motherhood and Abortion Find Common Ground

Surrogate Motherhood and Abortion vs Loving Family
Surrogate motherhood is becoming more common. In a surrogacy contract, a woman agrees to allow someone to rent her body to have their child. The parents do that because of an issue that the mother cannot carry the baby, or because they just don’t want to go through the inconvenience of a pregnancy and birth. We have read of movie actresses who do this to avoid having to be off screen for 9 ½ months. Some fertility specialists are selling surrogacy as a part of their offering.

The January/February 2019 issue of Citizen magazine (page 13-15) reported the case of a surrogacy contract running into difficulty. The surrogate mother had agreed to deliver twins–a boy and a girl. A male embryo and a female embryo were implanted into her body. At that point, complications arose. The female embryo failed to implant, and the male embryo split into male twins. The surrogate mother developed pre-eclampsia, and her organs began to shut down forcing delivery of the baby boys ten weeks early. This caused the boys to battle for their lives in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The couple who had paid to have a boy and a girl became hostile because they weren’t getting what they had paid for. The couple were not interested in the boys, but the surrogate mother bonded with the twins. When they were placed in the neonatal unit, she was left “with a deep sense of emptiness, anxiety, and regret.” She is now advocating for a ban on surrogate motherhood.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear two cases on surrogacy issues. In both cases, the surrogate mothers wanted to keep the children. In one case the woman was carrying triplets for a single man who wished to abort at least one due to financial concerns. The other was a mother who learned that the couple she was working for had strong racial prejudices. In both cases, the surrogates lost. There are no national laws that deal with surrogacy, and every state is different. A documentary last fall titled “Big Fertility: It’s All About the Money” pointed out that the practice of surrogate motherhood exploits low-income women and families. We would suggest that surrogacy is wrong on a moral basis.

Like some other modern issues, the Bible doesn’t address surrogacy. The fact that the Bible does not condemn something doesn’t mean we can’t judge whether it is compatible with God’s will. The connection between mother and child during the pregnancy is unique. As the parent of three adopted children, I can tell you that the love we have as a family is massive. However, the relationship between my wife and my two girls was not the same as their relationship with their children born naturally. Data shows that babies bond with their birth mothers during the pregnancy.

Abortion advocates maintain that a baby is merely an extension of the mother’s body. So she has the right to exterminate the baby because it is just an unwanted part of her body. Surrogate motherhood assumes that the baby is a singular physical entity that can be engaged or terminated at the will of the adults involved, for any reason.

The Bible tells us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God. The baby possesses a soul and is fully human. Luke 1:41-44 tells us that when Elizabeth saw Mary who was pregnant with Jesus, the unborn John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. The significance of motherhood is emphasized all through the Bible. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women “shall be saved in childbearing.” That doesn’t mean that women must have babies to be saved, but that the role of being a mother is sacred and unique.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Membrane Structure and Water – A Response

Membrane Structure and Water
In our January 10, 2019 post we discussed attempts to redefine life. Some scientists are doing that to justify the assumption that there are massive amounts of life in the cosmos. Is that true? We have pointed out that the Bible is silent on this subject. However, this question brings up some other issues about membrane structure and water. Dr. Phillip Eichman is a scientist with a Ph.D. in biology who has written many articles for our printed journal. He also wrote a book titled Understanding Evolution: A Christian Perspective. He made this observation of our previous post.

“I found your blog about the search for non-water-based life forms interesting. I took a course at IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis) called “Biological Membranes.” We spent a whole semester studying the structure and function of different types of biological membranes. It was one of the best courses that I have taken, and it really helped to pull a lot of things together.

“The professor had been a student or post-doc of Sidney Fox and was very critical of his proteinoid microsphere theory. He (my prof) believed that any life form must have a lipid membrane to survive.

“If you think about it, water is as essential to the formation of a membrane as are the phospholipids. It’s that hydrophobic/hydrophilic interaction that allows the membrane to form. Those compounds you mentioned are all aliphatic hydrocarbons and are nonpolar, so they won’t form any type of membrane like what we know about on Earth.

“When I was teaching even basic courses like Fundamentals of Biology, I spent a lot of time on the nature of the water molecule and also on membrane structure. Biology just doesn’t make sense without understanding those things.

“They may find something out there with a different type of membrane, but I will wait to see it myself. I used to tell my students that the membrane keeps the inside in and the outside out. Without that, a cell as we know it just won’t work.

“P.S. I wrote a short article on membrane structure 20+ years ago. It has been cited several times even though it was in an obscure journal. It is still accessible even though it is probably dated now. Here is the link: http://shipseducation.net/9-2/membrane.htm

–John N. Clayton and Phillip Eichman © 2019