Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weighing scientific discoveries with faith

Grandpa had hundreds of books, many of them quite old.  A few years ago, I selected a few boxes of them to have in my library when Grandma was down-sizing.  One of the books was called Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif.

I had read the book as a teenager, though what compelled me to read it remains a mystery to this day.  I loved reading but hated Biology and Chemistry.  (Physics was all right, but that may be because I really liked my high school physics teacher...  And he let us get extra credit, so I ended the year with a 104%. But I digress...)  I think I must have been bored that summer, so I sifted through Grandpa's musty old books and picked that one up.  Now that I think about it, it was about the only book that had any modern colour on it. All the other books were brown or brownish green or brownish burgundy or brownish blue.  You get the idea.

So I read it a few times.  It has now been around 20 years since I last read it.  It sits on my bookshelf, but I have not read it again yet.

The kids and I have started a science study of Anatomy and Physiology.  Yesterday we talked about the Ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, and the fact that the Egyptians had some scientific theories, while the Hebrews simply followed the laws given to them by God.  I told the kids that we would learn, later in our studies, that Antonie van Leeuwenhoek discovered the physical presence of germs in the 1600s.  (Hey, he was one of the main scientists in the aforementioned book.  I just might like this science class that I'm teaching!)  We marveled at the fact that God was already teaching the Hebrews proper hand-washing and medical quarantining well before the presence of germs was ever considered.  Other cultures of that time considered illnesses to come from their angry gods, but the Hebrews, in their scientific ignorance, were already healthier as a result of the faithful following of the rules given to them by the one true God.

Imagine there was no God.  How could the Hebrews have known to wash their hands before and after so many different activities?  No one knew about germs until the 1600s...  Why would it make sense for some guy on a power trip to make up a set of rules 5000 years ago that made no sense to the people of that time and made them all look strange to other cultures?  How would they have known to quarantine someone with a rash until the rash cleared up?  How would they have known how to treat rashes and other skin diseases?  (See this handy flow chart so you can diagnose like a Hebrew doctor-priest: http://thewholedangthing.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/lev-13.jpg)  This is the kind of stuff you just can't make up.

Image source FMSReporter.org

As the kids and I discussed this, we realized that it takes a lot more faith to believe that there is no God. When you start studying the human body, its design, and the way it works, it's really hard to believe that this all just randomly happened.


  1. What a wonderful way for them to learn about these things. They certainly "would not" be learning such in the civic school system.
    And, you know what, even as I was growing up, I remember thinking that God had already laid out plans for cleanliness, etc. upon instructing the Israelites.

    1. I used that opportunity to talk to the kids about how we can still stay healthy by following God's plan. We talked about sex (something that my kids all know about, although the details and terminology that they know vary by age) and how God intended for a man and woman to do that only with each other, when they were married. I told the kids that Dad and I didn't have to worry about getting disease from other people through that act because we were doing it God's way. It was a neat way to bring the conversation into the 21st century, although not something they are ready to experience yet, obviously.