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Dying rose

Thinking Critically About Euthanasia

Warning: This article discusses suicide.

Euthanasia, assisted suicide, assisted dying, end of life choice; all are different names for the same thing: helping to end someone’s life with a deadly dose of drugs. Catch-cries such as: “If people want to die, it’s compassionate to help end their lives,” “I don’t want to see my relative suffer,” or “Their body, their choice,” sound reasonable and even kind, yet when looking closely at the issues, they overlook or ignore some important consequences.

This article highlights some of those negative consequences and also offers a Christian perspective.

As a society called to protect it’s weakest and most vulnerable, and yet often fails, the acceptance of assisted suicide and euthanasia sends two very dangerous messages.

First, we must consider how that message could be interpreted by sick and elderly people, who are confronted with the idea that their lives are no longer worth living. This opens the potential where what some see as a right to die, will become for others a duty to die.

Second, it potentially sends the message to caregivers and family that assisted dying can relieve them of their ‘duty of care.’ 

Currently, society accepts that people who are sick, elderly, or disabled, need to be cared for until their natural death. However, when assisted dying is offered as a choice, then staying alive to be cared for can soon become optional, not the default.

The option of euthanasia can increase guilt and worry upon the sick and elderly, because in their vulnerability they may feel they are a financial and emotional burden to their families. This can increase the pressure for them to justify to themselves, their doctors and their families, why they are choosing to live.

In the U.S. State of Oregon, for example, where assisted suicide is legal, 59%—more than half—of those who received a lethal overdose in 2019 gave being a “burden on family, friends/caregivers” as one of their reasons. [1] That is truly tragic. The ‘right to die’ could too easily become a ‘duty to die’, thereby removing it as a truly “free” choice.

One of the more chilling potential outcomes of a ‘right to die’ culture is that people could be pressured to die as victims of abuse and neglect by their family or caregiver. Director of LifeNET NZ, Brendon Malone, records the following story from a nurse who works in a New Zealand hospital. Originally, she had no problem with the concept of euthanasia—but all this changed when she experienced just how common family neglect was.

The nurse recounts:

“There was the family that stood in the corridor of a very busy ward and argued about why the individual who held Power of Attorney was wasting everyone’s time by requesting medical staff keep the patient alive, and that they instead needed to refuse treatment and let nature take its course otherwise, on discharge, the patient would have to go into care and that would eat into their inheritance.

What was this horrible disease that was stripping this individual of their dignity?

A chest infection, which was responding well to intravenous antibiotics.”

She goes on…

“There’s been countless family members who tell me that the patient is no longer their parent, their spouse, their sibling, that they’re dead inside, and could I please just give them more morphine to hurry things up a bit.

Then there’s the recent media attention over the practice of ‘granny dumping.’

This is where a family dumps their elderly relative at the emergency department so they can take off on an overseas holiday, or because they just can’t be bothered checking in on them over a long weekend.

I have found myself comforting many elderly patients who, through heaving sobs, recount their belief that they are a burden on their families, that they’d be better off dead, that they are cutting into their family’s inheritance, or they are of no more use to anyone.”

Assisted dying leads some people to request a lethal dose because they are being coerced, abused, or develop the mindset of being a burden. No legal safeguards and guidelines can fully protect against this.

There are other negative consequences which need to be considered:

  1. No second chances.

Doctors can get it wrong. Correctly diagnosing a terminal illness and then estimating how long a person has left to live is not an exact science. Despite modern medical knowledge, mistakes are made. A terminal prognosis can turn out to be wrong. And even when the diagnosis is correct, many patients still recover and survive long term.

It is important to acknowledge that with assisted death the result is final—there is no second chance. The chance to allow a misdiagnosis to come to light, or a natural recovery to play out is removed.

  1. The normalisation of ending another person’s life.

Euthanasia sends the message that it is OK for a doctor to deliberately end a person’s life in some circumstances. In countries that allow assisted suicide or euthanasia, there tends to be an increase in the number of assisted deaths over time. For example, the Netherlands has reached a point where doctor-induced deaths account for more than a quarter of all deaths in that country.[2]

  1. The expansion of criteria.

The criteria of who is eligible for assisted dying tends to expand over time. In countries that have allowed assisted dying, a relaxation of safeguards, and of how the law is interpreted become broader over time. An example of this can be seen in Canada where the requirement for a person’s death to be “reasonably foreseeable,” has been removed, allowing more disabled people to be eligible.

In the Netherlands, euthanasia was initially restricted to the terminally ill, but now it is given to increasing numbers of people with mental illnesses, and to people with advanced dementia or an accumulation of age-related conditions.[3]  

The Dutch are debating whether to allow euthanasia for anyone over a certain age who is feeling “tired of life.” And even though it is not officially part of the Dutch euthanasia law, new-born babies can and do receive lethal injections if they have disabilities—even if those disabilities are survivable and treatable.[4]

  1. A mixed message on suicide.

Far too many of us have been deeply impacted by the painful tragedy of a loved one choosing to end their life. Assisted dying sends a frightening and dangerous mixed message to those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. 

Suicide is an individual act, while assisted suicide and euthanasia always involve someone else in the ending of a life. Euthanasia creates a dangerous double standard in an age where suicide rates are already far too high. How can we tell a loved one, suffering from a treatable mental illness like depression, that it’s wrong to end their life by taking an overdose, when others can receive an overdose to legally end their life as long as it’s from a doctor?

This mixed message seriously erodes the valuable work of suicide prevention.

  1. A change in the ethic doctors live by.

Many of us have experienced the pain of watching loved ones suffer through a terminal illness, and it is normal to fear suffering at the end of our own lives. However, law changes are not needed in order to effectively treat severe pain. It is entirely legal for a doctor to administer as much medication as needed to relieve a patient’s pain and other symptoms—even if such medication hastens the patient’s death as a side effect of that treatment.

If a patient were to die as a result of the medication, the doctor would not be at fault because of their “intention,” which was to relieve the patient’s symptoms—not cause their death. This practice comes from thousands of years of established medical ethics—which have maintained the principle that it is unethical for a doctor to kill their patients intentionally.

Euthanasia shatters this principle and makes it legal for a doctor to intentionally kill their patients, in certain circumstances, with a fatal dose of drugs. This is why the World Medical Association, and the medical associations of almost all countries around the world including New Zealand, oppose euthanasia.

“Doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life” – Australian Medical Association.[5]

Categorising euthanasia as a “health service” legitimises it, making it sound somehow, safe. As people generally trust health professionals, euthanasia becomes more acceptable, simply because a doctor is doing it.

But many leading medical associations have declared euthanasia unethical.[6]

Labelling intentional killing as “healthcare” creates some disturbing consequences. If euthanasia becomes just another treatment option, there will be increasing pressure on health practitioners to be involved even if they do not want to be.

As the concept of Euthanasia is discussed and debated around the world, this raises legitimate questions: Is it right to force doctors to be involved in a medical system that condones intentional killing, contrary to established medical ethics? Is it appropriate for politicians to pass laws that redefine the concept of “healthcare”—overriding thousands of years of medical tradition?

  1. What are doctors saying?

Here in New Zealand, 17 doctors signed an open letter in support of euthanasia leading up to the country’s 2020 Referendum on the issue. By contrast, more than 1500 New Zealand doctors signed an open letter saying “No.”[7] Their letter ended with this request: “Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.”[8]

Dr Sinéad Donnelly, a specialist in the care for terminally ill people, said of the proposed law change at the time:

“…only include doctors to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy.  Killing is not caring…If you are really determined to legalise euthanasia, find another profession to do it. Please leave doctors out of it so that we can focus on caring for our patients.”[9]

  1. The Christian perspective.

The points of discussion we have covered so far show that the ideas that give us pause for thought about euthanasia are not due to christian bias, but rather are potential consequences we should look at if we are a responsible society that looks after its most vulnerable. Yet, caring for our most vulnerable has always been core to true Christian expression within a community.

The Christian perspective is important because implicit within a responsible and caring society are the doctrines and values of Christianity which helped form such a society.

In Genesis 9:6 we are warned against the killing of another human being as humanity was created in the Image of God – Imago Dei – and because of this each human person has intrinsic worth and purpose and should be treated accordingly.

How we do this for the sick and dying can be found in Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:30-37:

Jesus replied, “A man went from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way robbers stripped him, beat him, and left him for dead. “By chance, a priest was traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he went around him and continued on his way. Then a Levite came to that place. When he saw the man, he, too, went around him and continued on his way. “But a Samaritan, as he was traveling along, came across the man. When the Samaritan saw him, he felt sorry for the man, went to him, and cleaned and bandaged his wounds. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day the Samaritan took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. He told the innkeeper, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than that, I’ll pay you on my return trip. “Of these three men, who do you think was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by robbers?” The expert said, “The one who was kind enough to help him.” Jesus told him, “Go and imitate his example!”

As Professor David Richmond states:

“The parable of the Good Samaritan condemns those who *speak about* compassion but are *not* prepared to sacrifice the time and personal attention demanded for the care of suffering people. It is one thing to promote euthanasia as a compassionate response, [but] quite another to make the sacrifices involved in bringing love, comfort and care to the dying.”[8] 

Romans 15:1 asks that ‘we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please ourselves.’ Selflessness is a core Christian value. In fact, Timothy goes so far to say in 1 Timothy 5:8 that ‘if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’

These verses remind us of the importance God places on our caring and taking responsibility for others, and nowhere in Scripture is the intentional killing or assisted suicide of someone unwell or injured, seen as a positive part of a healthy society.  

People on both sides of this debate care very much about suffering. No one wants to experience intolerable ongoing pain and suffering—or force someone else to endure it. But as we have seen, the introduction of euthanasia into a community can have many unintended negative consequences.  

Assisted suicide and euthanasia might make sense at first glance, but like an iceberg, there are dangerous and hidden repercussions below the surface. A compassionate response to suffering is absolutely necessary, but only if that compassion is also extended to everyone who could ultimately be hurt through the normalisation of assisted death in a community.

 

Authorised by C. Booth, Board Chairman of Thinking Matters, 183 Moffat Road, Bethlehem, Tauranga 3110

 

If you would like someone to talk to please contact any of the following people:

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

For prayer support:

Prayerline – 0800 508 080

 

References:

[1] https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year22.pdf

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/jan/18/death-on-demand-has-euthanasia-gone-too-far-netherlands-assisted-dying; One may also read https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/doctors-induce-twenty-five-percent-of-dutch-deaths/. Calculated based on 150,214 total deaths in the Netherlands during 2017.  6,600 euthanasia deaths + 32,000 deaths by continuous sedation, divided by 150,214 = 25.7% of total deaths.”

[3] https://nltimes.nl/2020/01/30/10000-older-nl-residents-say-theyre-ready-die-new-euthanasia-study

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240050/; https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/conditions/spina_bifida/treatment.htm; https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/52SCJU_EVI_74307_40438/8a0a8d96b6a34c3d1c8c2c822f18775d4ff65a43 (Submission by Dutch journalist, Gerbert van Loenen)

[5] https://ama.com.au/media/ama-calls-greater-investment-and-community-awareness-quality-end-life-care 

[6] https://bioethicsobservatory.org/2017/10/three-international-organizations-euthanasia/23110/

[7] https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1911/S00124/doctors-letter-opposing-euthanasia-gets-1500th-signature.htm

[8] http://doctorssayno.nz/?fbclid=IwAR2JGsDfQIfZiUbivStK3qYFuc0DfZSuUOl8PkUXWmO7gsRnl3wCuMfjfbg

[8] https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1904/S00183/doctors-open-letter-gets-1000th-signature.htm

[9] Trayes, Caralise, The Final Choice, Published by Capture and Tell Media, 2020, (p243)

 

A Christian Response to Eco-anxiety

When I started my Master’s degree in Conservation biology at Victoria University of Wellington, I had nothing but hope.  When I finished it I felt weighed down by the many in my community who seemed to be politely reversing my efforts.  In time I began experiencing an ongoing sense of debilitating grief at our environmental crisis.        

The sensation described above is termed ‘Eco-anxiety’.  Eco-anxiety is defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”[2]  This type of anxiety can lead to insomnia, exhaustion, and depression.[3]  In extreme cases it has been cited as the reason for substance abuse and suicide.  Indeed, on a recent visit to British Columbia, a student approached me after my talk on ‘Going Green’ and told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to live anymore because of the oppressive eco-anxiety that had become a daily part of his human experience.  This student’s story sounded like so many others I have heard on university campuses across the globe.  A recent study revealed that, of the 26 countries surveyed, half of the population on average considered climate change as a “major threat to their nation” with some countries labeling it as the top threat.[4]

The Bible teaches us that God commanded humanity to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28).  Similarly, Isaiah 45:18 says, “God did not create the Earth empty, He formed it to be inhabited!”  Yet God also clearly charged us with the care and stewardship of the earth.  Thus, how should Christians respond to our ecological crisis, and the eco-anxiety it often causes?  We will have to make an analysis of the eco-crisis phenomenon, which I like to picture as a mixed bag of lollies containing bad things, good things, and that one rolling around at the bottom, cemented to the wrapper, that you might be better off not even identifying.

THE CONS

On one hand, discussions about ecological crises often sift down into catastrophising rhetoric and misinformation.  Climate scientists are pulling their hair out as false facts continue pervading the media sphere.[5]   These falsities do anything but help their cause and research.  Eco-anxiety is a valid phenomenon that affects people all over the globe, and while putting words to our feelings is important, catastrophising language is never helpful.  A study in Great Britain shows that this rhetoric is having a particularly damaging effect on children.[6]  One adage to remember: Facts first, feelings second.  Many ideas are floating around the sea of media, some of these ideas are fact-based and some are plastic nets of emotionalism ready to entangle any passer-by.  For instance, I recently read that koalas are now functionally extinct due to the fires in Australia caused by climate change.[7]  Claiming that koalas are functionally extinct is simply false.  The International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List labels the koala as vulnerable, three levels less threatened than extinct in the wild.  Many species are presently on the verge of extinction, and almost all of them due to two immediately ameliorable factors: habitat loss and pollution.  Furthermore, apocalyptic statements such as “The world is going to end in 12 years”[9] are not only inaccurate but they cause a lot of anxiety. We have yet to see any credible scientific research showing that humanity is on the verge of extinction due to environmental destruction.[10]

THE PROS

On the other side of the eco-crisis coin we find many beneficial points.  For one thing, societies are bravely looking into the haggard face of environmental damage.  People are finding creative ways to cut down on waste and reuse materials.  For example, Mexican company Biofase has created single-use cutlery from avocado seeds.  Volunteers have removed a reported 5.3 million kilograms of rubbish from beaches in Mumbai.  People all over the planet are taking action.  It is good that we are grieved!  

God himself is grieved at abuse and corruption of the natural world, often correlated with human wickedness.  For instance, in Joel 1 we read a call to repentance: “All the trees of the field are dried up and gladness dries up from the children of man…Even the beasts of the field pant for You because the water has dried up.”  We also see this connection between humanity and nature in the positive vein.  Psalm 104:30 reads, “When you send forth your Spirit…you renew the face of the ground.”  Biblically speaking, rebellion and wickedness led to a corruption of the natural world (Genesis 3:17) and repentance or ‘turning back’ to God leads to a restoration that also affects the natural sphere (Romans 8:19-23).

While it is good to be grieved at the destruction of our natural world, it is never good to be anxious.  The Scriptures are replete with passages exhorting us to stand firm and not succumb to fear.  Eco-anxiety may be a term coined in 2017, but anxiety is nothing new.  The wrapper is different but it’s the same bitter lolly.  In my childhood we were afraid of school shootings.  In my mother’s childhood it was fear that an atomic bomb would fall out of the sky at any moment.  In my grandmother’s childhood it was fear of want due to the Great Depression.  There will always be troubles in this world that need fixing.  But we are not meant to operate out of a spirit of fear.  2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  Christians are equipped with a top-of-the-line spiritual panoply.  The peace of God protects our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus and allows us to transcend our limited understanding (Philippians 4:7).  We have access to Jesus Himself, on whom we cast our anxieties, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  These facts do not provide us with the means of ignoring a crisis.  We are not burying our head in the sand.  On the contrary, it allows us to march with confidence into any storm.  When we cast our fear on Jesus we are dressing ourselves in His perfect love.  Thus we are equipped to face any problem with confidence and faith instead of debilitating fear and timidity.

Our concerns about ecological destruction are valid.  Perhaps some of the fear we feel around a broken landscape stems from anxiety about our own impermanence and brokenness.  Even if the natural world was perfect, it could never be a source of our ultimate security.  Only the person of Jesus offers us that foundation.  Therefore, let us face our ecological crisis head-on, knowing how deeply loved we are by the Creator of all.  His heart is surely grieved by the destruction of our natural world, and it grieves us also because we share His heart.  Praise God that we can face this crisis without the anxiety that catastrophises, and without the ignorance that perpetuates the problem.  We can march into our generation’s hardships with truth, love, and confidence in Christ.

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[1] Larger animals such as deer, elk, and coyotes; or if you happen to be in Africa perhaps an elephant or ostrich

[2] The American Psychological Association first defined this term in 2017

[3] Doherty, T. J., & Clayton, S. (May 01, 2011). The Psychological Impacts of Global Climate Change

[4] Fagan, M., Huang, C. A look at how people around the world view climate change

[5] Shellenberger, M. Why Apocalyptic Claims about Climate Change are Wrong

[6] Burke, S. E. L., Sanson, A. V., & Van, H. J. The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children. 

[7] As suggested by activist Bill McKibben

[8] International Union for the Conservation of Nature

[9] As stated by representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

[10] Shellenberger

 

Works Cited

Burke, S. E. L., Sanson, A. V., & Van, H. J. (May 01, 2018). The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children. Current Psychiatry Reports, 20, 5, 1-8.

Cummings, W. (22 January 2019) ‘The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,’ Ocasio-Cortez says.  USA Today.  Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2019/01/22/ocasio-cortez-climate-change-alarm/2642481002/

Doherty, T. J., & Clayton, S. (May 01, 2011). The Psychological Impacts of Global Climate Change. American Psychologist, 66, 4, 265-276.

Fagan, M., Huang, C.  (18 April 2019) A look at how people around the world view climate change. Fact Tank. 2018 Pew Research Center.  Retrieved from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/18/a-look-at-how-people-around-the-world-view-climate-change/

McKibben, B. “A thousand koalas were killed in Australia’s bushfires, and 80% of their habitat is gone. One expert says they are ‘functionally extinct.’ And yet big banks lend big money to big oil–more every year” 23 November 2019. Tweet.

Shellenberger, M. (25 November 2019) Why Apocalyptic Claims about Climate Change are Wrong.  Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/11/25/why-everything-they-say-about-climate-change-is-wrong/#5d9bfa4312d6

Destroying and Annoying: Why would God create mosquitos, viruses, and bacteria?

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

As a Christian biologist I’m often asked: “Why would God make creatures that only destroy and annoy?” I myself have struggled with this question, especially just after being nipped by a particularly mouthy horsefly. I once asked this question to a Christian medical doctor and her response was simply, “I guess God gave Satan his own paintbrush.” Her response grieved me even more than my question had. Surely the Prince of Darkness was not co-Creator of our world, but the Prince of Peace. Yet the death and suffering we observe due to a myriad of seemingly evil micro-critters bids us seek an answer. This article will explore the trifecta of organisms most well-known for their destruction and annoyance of the human race; namely, mosquitos, viruses, and bacteria.

MOSQUITOS

Mosquitos are positively ubiquitous. They live 8,000 feet high in the Himalayan mountains, and deep below sea level in the California desert. As recently as 1870, the idea that a mosquito could kill was considered preposterous. Today we understand that a million people die each year from malaria alone. Dengue fever (which I have personally enjoyed, along with malaria), Zika virus, Chikunguya, and others have resulted in countless lives lost. If God chose to make mosquitos, why on earth? Our answer lies in the mosquito’s natural history.

Females perch daintily on the surface of the water and lay eggs in two long rows. The eggs bow upwards at the ends, giving it the appearance of a tiny canoe made of pearls. When the eggs hatch, mosquito larvae serve to clean the water of their aqueous habitat because they eat detritus (waste material). Larvae also feed on fallen bug carcasses, thus cleaning the surface of the water. While larvae benefit aqueous ecosystems, most of our qualms with mosquitos have to do with this stage: the successful production of offspring.

Interestingly, most mosquitos will never bother you. There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitos, but only 200 bite humans. It’s important to realize that, as a rule of thumb, only the females bite, and only when they are reproducing. It is estimated that only one in a million mosquitos at a given time will bite. Females need protein to make eggs, and without a blood meal they will be unable to reproduce. Male mosquitos are usually purely nectarivorous. Females also stick to nectar when they are not trying to produce eggs. This drinking of nectar is very important ecologically, as mosquitos are major plant pollinators. In fact, some plants are only pollinated by mosquitos! Also, mosquitos are basically little buzzing candies. Birds, frogs and fish enjoy eating those sugar-packed insects.

Mosquitos have benefited science in many ways, the most major being the design of their proboscis. This has inspired scientists to design less-painful hypodermic needles. Work is also being done on insertion guides for placing electrodes into the brain, and a study of mosquito saliva to determine its special properties.

VIRUSES

Everywhere we find life, we find viruses, and in staggering abundance. 1 mL of ocean water contains about 100 million virus particles. Estimates indicate there are 1031 viruses on Earth. If we could weigh all the viruses on Earth, they would equal the weight of 75 million blue whales. At the offset, this sounds like a major concern. Indeed, viruses like influenza, herpes and measles kill 10 people every hour globally . Yet virologist AJ Roberts writes: “The vast majority of viruses on planet Earth are not associated with disease or suffering. In fact, they are critical for sustaining balance in Earth’s ecological webs.”

But just how do viruses provide this delicate balance of Earth’s ecology? At every level, it would seem. Bacteriophage, for instance, help keep our bodies’ microbiomes in balance so that we don’t become overrun by bacteria.

Also, the next time you enjoy a gentle rainstorm, thank a virus. We would not have the same precipitation cycle without them!

Aerosoled viruses hang out in the upper atmosphere and help create nucleation (clustering) to initiate precipitation. Viruses are also essential for our ocean ecology. Viruses split open 40-50 percent of the bacteria in Earth’s oceans on a daily basis, releasing gobs of organic molecules into the food chain for other organisms to survive on.

The vast majority of virus activity has a symbiotic effect . These viruses help plants, insects, and many other organisms to survive under otherwise impossible environmental conditions. Certain viruses even protect plants from the infection of detrimental viruses.

Viruses have enabled us to make leaps and bounds in science. At least 15 Nobel Prizes have been awarded for research based on virus-dependent work. Viruses were used to discover the triplet base codon nature of the genetic code, RNA splicing, and tumor suppressor genes. The virus used in the polio vaccine helped lessen global cases from over 350,000/yr in 1988 to less than 500/yr in 2013. Today viruses are used to fight cancers, genetic illnesses, and chronic infectious diseases.

As AJ Roberts said: “Although a few viruses are remarkably bad, we dare not put all viruses in that category. In fact, life as we know it would not be possible…without the vast array of viruses that fill the planet.”

BACTERIA

Similar to the viruses and mozzies, we are often only aware of the detrimental ramifications of bacteria. ‘Bad’ bacteria are extremely bad, especially when they are resistant to antibiotics. According to the CDC, at least 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, leading to the death of at least 23,000 people.

Yet, on the whole, bacteria are key organisms in biogeochemical and metabolic processes. They play an essential role in the earth’s biodiversity, both on terra firma and in aqueous environs.

We have found extensive populations in the Arctic and the Antarctic, and everywhere in between. Bacteria appear wherever other organisms are, and they are sometimes found where there is no other evidence of life. Bacteria are essential for human existence. In fact, there are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells inside a human being. So in a sense, you are more bacteria than you are human! But don’t think about that too much or it might make your stomach hurt. And speaking of your stomach, the highest numbers of microbial species in a human are found in your gut. Helpful strains of E.coli and Streptococcus aid in digestion, stave off harmful pathogens, and help develop the immune system. The disruption of gut bacteria has been linked to many disease conditions. We are dependent on the services of commensal bacteria for not just digestion, but for many aspects of our health.

CONCLUSION

We have much to learn about mosquitos, viruses, and bacteria. The hand of God crafted each of these creatures with a lovely purpose. We can solidly say of this trifecta, as God said, “It is good”. Yet we can also see the destruction they cause and say, “It is fallen”. This sinful, broken world is not as it should be. But if we look close enough, we still see God’s fingerprints on the gently buzzing mosquito, the wandering virus, and the fastidious little bacterium.

WORKS CITED

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01, 2009). Bacterial diversity and morphology in deep ultraoligotrophic Andean lakes: The role of UVR on vertical distribution. Limnology and Oceanography, 54, 4, 1098-1112

Fazale, R., Roberts, A., & Zweering, J. (2018). Building Bridges: Presentations on RTB’s
Testable Creation Model.

Guarner, F., & Malagelada, J.-R. (February 01, 2003). Gut flora in health and
disease. The Lancet, 361, 9356, 512-519.

Relman, D. A. (June 01, 2012). Learning about who we are. Nature, 486, 7402, 194-
195.

Spielman, A., & D’Antonio, M. (2004). Mosquito: The story of man’s deadliest foe. New
York: Hyperion.

Thien, L.B. (1969), MOSQUITO POLLINATION OF HABENARIA OBTUSATA
(ORCHIDACEAE). American Journal of Botany, 56: 232-237.

Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Hamady, M., Fraser-Liggett, C. M., Knight, R., & Gordon, J. I.
(October 01, 2007). The Human Microbiome Project. Nature, 449, 7164, 804-810.

Tyler, A. D., Smith, M. I., & Silverberg, M. S. (January 01, 2014). Analyzing the human
microbiome: a “how to” guide for physicians. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 109, 7, 983-93.

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330. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/17937

Tauranga Event: Faith & Reason in a Broken World

This weekend, Christian Philosopher Trent Dougherty will be in Tauranga to speak at two events on the problem of evil and suffering.

Here are the details:

SATURDAY 9th July – 7pm: Faith & Reason in the face of Evil and Suffering
Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga
What reasons can the Christian Faith give when faced with the horrendous evil we see in the world around us?  In this lecture Trent will give guidelines for the integration of faith and reason and how they apply to the problem of evil and suffering.

SUNDAY 10th July – 7pm: Exposing Atheistic Naturalism’s Answer to Evil
Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga
Atheists claim that naturalism (the view that only matter, energy and time exist – with no God intervening from the outside) gives a better explanation of suffering in the world.  But in this lecture Trent will show that at every turn, naturalism’s attempt to answer the problem of evil and suffering backfires.

Both events are free, but donations are welcome.

Trent Dougherty is the Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University in the US.  He has a PhD in Philosophy of Religion, Epistemology and Probability Theory from the University of Rochester and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  He has published articles and book reviews in many journals including Religious Studies Review, Notre Dame Philosophical Review, Philosophia Christi and many others.

 

Why is the world the way it is?

John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, addresses the important issue of suffering in this sermon at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Florida:

The Supremacy of Christ & the Sorrow of Calamity.

Suffering through Romans: Part Four

In the first part of this series, I briefly sketched the historical and socio-cultural backdrop of the Roman Empire, its capital city Rome, and its citizens. In the second and third parts, I surveyed the theme of suffering in Romans within the wider of context of Pauline theology. In this final part, I will move on to our appropriate response to suffering in the present, and some thoughts on what application we can draw from this thematic exploration. Read more

Suffering through Romans: Part Three

In the first part of this series I briefly sketched the historical and socio-cultural backdrop of the Roman Empire, its capital city Rome, and its citizens. In the second part I surveyed this theme in Romans within the wider of context of Pauline theology. In this third part I will cover the scope of suffering.

Read more

Suffering through Romans: Part Two

In the first part of this series I briefly sketched the historical and socio-cultural backdrop of the Roman Empire, its capital city Rome, and its citizens. In this second part I will survey this theme in Romans within the wider of context of Pauline theology. Read more

Suffering through Romans: Part One

“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” – Acts 9:15-16

In this series I shall survey this theme in Romans within the wider of context of Pauline theology. This includes the origin and scope of pain, and the appropriate response to suffering in the present. I shall then give some thoughts on application drawn from this thematic exploration. In Part One I shall briefly sketch the historical and socio-cultural backdrop of the Roman Empire, its capital city Rome, and its citizens. Read more

John Lennox on God, Christchurch, and the Problem of Pain

Howick Baptist has made available the video and audio from Professor John Lennox’s  sermon at their Sunday service. Read more

Evil and the Evidence for God

“No argument from evil I am aware of makes it likely or even reasonable to believe there is no God. Evil cannot carry that evidential load. But suppose I’m wrong. Suppose evil is evidence to think God does not exist. Does it follow that it’s reasonable to believe there is no God?

Let’s approach this question by way of analogy. Suppose you learn in your European Culture class today that 95 percent of the French population can’t swim. That statistic is some evidence to think that Pierre, your friend from Paris, can’t swim. Does it follow that you should believe Pierre can’t swim? Of course not. What if you and Pierre spent last Saturday afternoon together swimming and chatting about the fine-tuning argument and Albert Camus’ The Plague? Surely, in that case, it isn’t reasonable for you to believe Pierre can’t swim. Your experience with him is much better evidence to think he can swim even though the statistical evidence by itself makes it very likely that he cannot.

The same goes with evil and God. Even if evil is some evidence that there is no God, you might have much better evidence to think that God exists; in that case, it wouldn’t be reasonable for you to believe there is no God.

This line of thought naturally leads to some weighty questions not the least of which are these: Is the evidence for God significantly better than the evidence that evil provides against God? What sources of evidence are there? How should we balance the evidence for and against theism?”

Daniel Howard-Snyder, “God, Evil, and Suffering” in Reason for the Hope Within edited by Michael J. Murray (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) page 114.

Suffering and the Christian understanding of truth

No Christian teacher is worth listening to who is not willing to suffer if need be for the truth that is being taught. The readiness to suffer for the sake of the truth is intrinsic to the whole fabric of Christian living, and hence teaching, and thus not an optional part of the equation of the equipping of the public teacher of Christianity.

Paul’s teaching was personally validated by his willingness to be “exposed to hardship, even to the point of being shut up like a common criminal; but the word of God is not shut up” (2 Tim. 2:9). Some hearers will find in the truth of the one who was “nailed to the cross” merely a “stone of stumbling” and “folly” (1 Cor. 1:23; cf. Rom. 8:17, 18). Jesus did not hesitate to make it clear that his disciples must be prepared to “be handed over for punishment and execution; and men of all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.”

The truth, Christianly understood, is an event in history, a birth, death, and resurrection, God’s own personal coming to us in mercy and grace, a Word spoken through a personal life lived, a personal event in which we are called personally to participate. To tell the truth rightly is to follow the one who is truth.

The “right method” for guarding Christian truth was set forth in Luther’s three concise instructions: oratio, meditatio, tentatio – first by prayer, then by textual meditation, but decisively by suffering temptation and the experience of testing through affliction. Listen to him poignantly acknowledge how much he owed to his enemies: “Through the raging of the devil they have so buffeted, distressed, and terrified me that they have made me a fairly good theologian, which I would not have become without them.”

Thomas C. Oden, Defending the Faith: Christian Apologetics in a Non-Christian World, paper presented at The 1995 Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting