The picture on the cover of this issue of our bimonthly is a pretty amazing picture. For those who study weather and especially for those who study lightning, the picture would be of scientific interest. For those who have never seen an electrical storm from an aircraft at 39,000 feet, the picture may be almost mystical. There is an old argument against the existence of God that is called "The God of the Gaps Argument." The argument maintains that God is something people invented when they did not understand something they observed. The belief is that they explained what they did not understand by claiming it was a miracle of God. Some might believe that the picture has some kind of connection to a direct imprint of the hand of God, but everything you see is all natural weather phenomena.
To some extent the God of the gaps allegation is true. There have been many cases throughout the history of man when something was believed to be supernatural and later was found to have a fairly easy physical explanation. Well past the tenth century, comets were believed to be an omen of disaster sent by the gods. Volcanos have been explained in many cultures as acts of gods or goddesses. Throughout the ages people have attributed various events (lightning, dust devils, etc.) to gods or goddesses. There is an old adage that Truth is stranger than fiction, and while there is no limit to how many strange things we can observe in the world around us, the biblical view of God as the creator should not and cannot be compromised by either the strange things we see, or the attempts of mankind to explain them.
Alien Proposals. One of the applications of strange observations has been to propose that these things are evidences of extraterrestrial visitations to our planet. My experience has been that many people want to prove the existence of alien visitations because they view it as a way to find a better way of life. If some alien population can whisk us off to a new planet free of all of the problems we have on this planet, then we will have improved our existence without having to do anything or live in any particular way. For many people, the hope of aliens is a hope that they can reach eternal life without having to obey God's commands and live in a responsible way.
The problem with this situation is that every time something unusual is found, an alien is claimed to be the cause of it. Crop circles, Stonehenge, medicine wheels, the Easter Island statues, and endless claims of strange apparitions in the sky have all been used as proofs that aliens are regularly and systematically controlling the destiny of mankind individually and collectively. The fact of the matter is that archeological studies of things like Stonehenge and medicine wheels have given us solid evidence that the native peoples living in these areas constructed these wonderful edifices with a purpose and with amazing technology for the time. In our "News and Notes" section in the September/October 2007 issue we had a report on new findings at Stonehenge which make it clear that local people had a logical purpose for this great monument, and that it is not necessary to postulate aliens to set the huge stones in place at just the right position.
Homeopathic Cures. Webster defines homeopathy as "the theory or system of curing diseases with very minute doses of medicine which in a healthy person and in large doses would produce a condition like that of the disease treated." (Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition). Homeopathic practitioners use everything from electricity to fungus to bring cures to people, and in recent years the treatments have become more and more strange. I have a device I purchased at a yard sale many years ago called "Renulife" that was originally sold for $25.00 in 1937. The booklet that comes with this device claims that since electric fields are found in nature, anything that ails you can be cured by getting the right electric field around the part of your body that is dysfunctional. The device has probes and claims it is designed for everything from hemorrhoids to baldness to cancer.
The device generates a very large voltage--in excess of 50,000 volts. The voltage is applied to a glass tube where a mysterious purple glow may be observed. The baldness probe, which is shaped like a rake, is supposed to be drawn across the scalp to stimulate hair growth, and as it does so a small spark dances across the scalp. There is no pain or danger because the current flow is very small. I have done this demonstration hundreds of times for my classes and alas, I still do not have any hair growth in the areas that have been treated. What does happen is that a phenomenon known as corona or St. Elmo's fire occurs. The air around the high voltage probe is ionized by the 50,000 volts, and the nitrogen in the air gives off an eerie purple glow. It is harmless, but also of no therapeutic value.
Other devices and chemicals produce equally bizarre effects, but they too offer no help or healing to those who use them. Just because there is something happening that is interesting, or that we do not understand does not mean it is good or offers any advantage. Magnets, life lights, touch therapy, and even prayer therapy do not produce miraculous cures to our ailments. They may offer other benefits, but being strange or unusual does not make them a help in our healing and may keep us from seeking help that would cure us of our diseases. We mentioned in "News and Notes" (July/August 2007) that there was a lawsuit from a family whose loved one died. They were told that he had a miraculous cure from a faith healer and did not seek medical help for a cancer. This is a serious issue.
Quantum Mechanics. Webster defines quantum mechanics as "a mathematical theory in physics which starts with the assumption that energy is not infinitely divisible and deals with atomic structure and phenomena by the methods of quantum theory." Quantum theory is simply the explanation that energy is radiated in units or quanta, not in continuous waves. Quantum mechanics is simply the science of the very small--of electrons, protons, neutrons, neutrinos, quarks, mesons, etc. Not all of the rules of classical physics can be applied to things inside the nucleus of an atom. Sometimes a mathematical theory can predict something that might be true in theory, but in reality never happens. Quantum mechanics does not apply to galaxies, stars, planets, cars, or human bodies directly. It is an interesting and useful tool at the microscopic level, but most of it is still in the embryonic stage. If something is predicted by the mathematics of quantum theory, it needs to be tested. If it cannot be tested in any way, then it is not science.
Is quantum mechanics strange? Certainly it is. Does it conflict with the Bible? Absolutely not! The Bible starts with the cosmos (heaved up things from the Hebrew word shamayim) and the earth (erets in Hebrew). Genesis 1:1 says there was a beginning to these two realms that man can understand. This statement is incontestable. Some theorists are attempting to understand how the process that produced the building blocks of the heaven and the earth came about and quantum mechanics may be helpful in some of that understanding. If someone gets some understanding of the process, it will be a wonderful accomplishment, but the complexity and the incredibly intricate nature of the process will testify to the fact that a personal intelligence was involved in structuring space, time, and energy so that it could happen. Quantum mechanics and cosmology are not a threat to faith; they are simply ways of making our faith more informed and broader in its scope and application.
The Strangeness of the Human Brain. I can remember when the first reports of the effects of LSD and marijuana began to circulate among college students. I was a student at Indiana University during those years, and the stories were bizarre and strange indeed. I had a minor in psychology, and many classes were devoted to showing us how magnificent and strange the brain was. Over the years we have seen increasing attention to learning disorders, the effect of chemicals on the brain, clairvoyance, ESP, mind control, astral projection, and any number of other brain-related claims.
There is no question but that our brains are incredible devices. There is also no question but that we do not understand much about the brain even in spite of all the research that has been going on for the past 50 years. Because of the complexity of the brain, it is easy for tricks and frauds to be propagated on the general public. This can come from religious charlatans as well as from irreligious ones. The fact is that, as careful experiments are done on the human brain, it becomes increasingly obvious that the brain is a wonderful computer that can do an amazing number of things. We know that it can be affected by drugs from both outside the body and from within the body. Comparisons of chimp brains and human brains make it obvious that our brains and our genes are not what make us as humans unique. Just because a chimp's genome is 99.2 percent, the same as a human, does not mean that a chimp is 99.2 percent human. What is amazing researchers is how different we are from apes and all other life when our genome is not much different at all. That is a most strange situation.
The bottom line is that what really distinguishes man is not his brain or his body or anything that has to do with his physical makeup. What sets man apart from all other living things is our spiritual makeup. Our brain is wonderful and does many strange things, but our soul is more important and gives us our real identity. We are created in the image of God, and our soul is what really sets us apart as humans. Like all these other things, the wonder and beauty and design of the creation around us should motivate us to continue praising our God. We are "wonderfully and fearfully made" (Psalm 139:14) and that strangeness speaks eloquently of the wisdom, majesty, and power of God.
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