Observing the Facts, Observing the Fast

“…in the Middle Ages it was thought that barnacles formed from fruits and dropped into the water from trees along the riverbanks.  Once submerged, they were believed to develop into the geese that arrived on the continent each spring.  No one had ever actually seen these geese lay eggs and rear young, but only adults migrating across Europe on their way to breeding grounds in the Arctic.  People did, however, notice a resemblance between the shapes of barnacles and goose necks – and therefore concluded that gooselike barnacles developed into barnacle like geese.

Christian scholars debated whether these geese should be classified as fish or fowl and, if the latter, whether they could be eaten on Friday or during Lent, when meat was forbidden but fish allowed.  Jewish philosophers debated whether this goose was a shellfish, hence food forbidden to Jews, and if it was not, whether it had to be butchered according to ritual practice.  Some saw a convenient compromise:  Since both barnacle and goose fell from a tree, they were neither fish nor fowl, but fruit.”  (Theories for Everything, pp 245-247)

A Reflection on 9/11

Did God Stand Atop the World Trade Center?
Some in America seemed to believe,
For when those twin monuments to prosperity crumpled to dust and ashes,
So many asked, “Where is God in all this?”
He momentarily disappeared in that holocaust – from many a heart,
Awakening us from our American dream into an Islamic terrorist nightmare.
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” Asks God.
Only with that twin collapse did we imagine His pedestal there,
We didn’t question His presence before they were gone.
Unusual God who rests His feet by having them nailed to the cross.
Extol the Lord our God and worship at His footstool, for it is holy.
The dual sign of global dominance became sacred ground zero by blood.
The smell of money transfigured to the smell of death –
What it was to those who hated us, they converted it to for their enemies.
Such an enormous sacrificial offering to bring us to our senses, or to God’s?
Where was God when His made in USA foot rest was reduced to ruble?
Was He too buried beneath the ruins, or consumed in the inferno –
As so many felt in their hearts? So many dreams deferred.
Like two giant arms, those towers (two not just one!) pointed to the heavens.
Were they our Babels of arrogance, our delusion of access to power?
Our disparaging cry to the world, “Our name is Ozymandias,
Look on our works you mighty and despair!”
Or perhaps they were our Jerusalem temple –
Comforting us as a sign of God’s almighty and vigilant presence.
Or just the pinnacle from which Satan could tempt the Son of Man?
God resides with the humble of heart not atop our success and prosperity.
We live and move and have our being in Him. We cannot flee His presence.
Nor can evil create the place where He is not.
Did God Stand Atop the World Trade Center?
Yes. And in it and around it and beneath it.
Absorbing the blows of hatred in order to give life to His world.
And aglow with the light of hope in clouds of dark destruction and death
Christ is with us even to the end of the world, or of an era or of our dreams.
He still stands where we cannot.

Bene Gene Modification

While there is much rightful concern among Christians about ethical issues related to genetic engineering, it is only fair to also point out occasions in which science can use genetic engineering to the advantage of humans and to do it well within morally accepted principles.  Olivia Judson in two New York Times Opinion pieces gives examples of ways in which genetic engineering is and/or can help humans.   The first article, Braking the Virus, explains how genetic modification of viruses can produce a safer vaccine against some diseases.  The second article,  A Genetically Engineered Swat, discusses a means for eradicating the mosquitoes that carry dengue fever by releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes – it is only the females which bite, so no one would be bitten by the modified mosquitoes, and the potential is that the mosquito population can be greatly reduced without the use of toxic insecticides.   

I mention these articles because sometimes people hear about “genetic engineering” and begin to fear that scientists playing god will sow the seeds of the destruction of the human race.  There is a great deal of legitimate science going on to benefit humanity, and this we ought not to lose sight of.  We do indeed need to pay attention to ethically questionable scientific study, but on the other hand not in a knee jerk emotional frenzy condemn all that science does, when in fact it has done some marvelous things to make life on earth better. 

Christians would do well to learn more science and understand it in order to ethically influence its direction rather than condemn its work (and benefits) without understanding it.  If we understood science better, we also would be in a better position to raise and discuss the ethical implications of various scientific work with the scientists themselves.