Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008's Top Ten (Sorta)

Another year of blogging has come and gone. Thanks to all you who stop by to read my rantings. Hopefully, you've gotten something more than me blowing smoke for your efforts. Most of the time I try to put something out that could build your faith in Christ, sometimes I just vent my frustrations at life that isn't, really. I hope I've been successful to some degree at the former-- there's nothing more important than knowing Christ, personally, intimately, and letting him lead our lives. I hope that's the way you and I will live out 2009.

Here are the Top Ten articles (more or less) posted in 2008 in no particular order:

Background Noise
The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist I-V
Manifestations of the Holy Spirit I & II
Where Did Evil Come From?
Arson or Spontaneous Combustion
I Just Don't Have the Tithe
Top Ten Church Fallacies
Can I Show You Something?
How Do You Mend A Broken Part?
What Makes Us Sinners?

Actually, some older articles would have been in the top ten (or so) if just visits and not date of publication were considered:

Why Do People Get Sick?
Just Breathe
Why Do We All Speak In Tongues?
Props to the Preachers
The Non-devisive Doctrine
Your Gift Makes Room for You

Once again, thanks for stopping by and reading, and for your thoughtful comments. Sometimes, you even make my day!


  1. I realize that this was a 2007 posting, but I found "Why Do People Get Sick?" to be quite interesting. I'm fascinated by the concept of a "perfect immune system". Could you explain to me how this system worked, that is, can you explain what this system did to the viruses, bacteria, protozoans and multicelled worms once these organisms entered the body? And why do so many of these microbe have such exquisite virulence factor genes if none of the organisms could ever make any other organism sick before the Fall? What is the purpose of a gene capable of making a host animal very sick, or even dead, in a world without sickness or death?

  2. I see that you're not into immunology. Ok, here's the answer to the first question (there is no answer to the later questions.). A perfect immune system would prevent disease and death by killing other living things (viruses, bacteria, protozoans, worms, etc.). So, if humans and other animals with immune systesm are to live, then pathogens and parasites must die. So, death must pre-date the Fall and is not a punishment for sin.

  3. Joe,
    Thank you for looking in, and taking the time to read some of my older postings. My answers to your questions will undoubtedly fall far short of your level of expertise in this area, but I'll offer some thoughts anyhow, because your questions are fascinating.

    Before the fall, death was not part of the natural world, the law of claw and jaw did not exist. The one exception was that plant life, and I would guess the entire realm of the unicellular, perhaps even the microscopic, was provided as sustenance. Perfect failsafes kept anything from getting into the wrong places and reproducing to the harm of the "eater". Adam's sin introduced death and the law of the jungle to the biosphere (Romans 5:12; Isaiah 11:6-9), and failsafes were no longer perfect and "predation" became part of life.

    Virulent and even violent capacities, therefore, are the result of decay (death) rather than improvement (evolution)-- malfunction rather increasing capacity.

  4. Sorry it took me so long Joe, to catch up with the comments. Your second crossed paths with my first.

  5. Unicellular bacteria and protozoan are not plants. Unicellular organisms are very much alive. And so, when a unicellular organism ceases to any meaningful definition of the word "death"...that organism has died. When it has died as a result of phagocytosis by macrophages, it has been killed. To now make up some story that the entire realm of unicellular life "doesn't count" in the question of death is to ignore basic biology. It is special pleading and back-filling argument of an extreme degree.

    In addition, flatworms and nematodes are not plants. They are complex, multicellular animals, and in many cases, visible without a microscope. To prevent disease and death, immune systems kills these complex, living animals. Period. There's no way around it. When it comes to the immune system, the only "failsafe" strategy is kill, kill, kill.

    By the way, no ecosystem can function without death. For example, that's why we're not buried in cockroaches or buried in any of the other millions of insect species. This is basic ecology. As long as there has been life on Earth, there has been death.

    Virulence is clearly, observably and indisputably often the result of additional genetic information. It is not the result of "decay", whatever that means. If S. pneumoniae lacks the genetic infomation for building a phagocytosis-resisting capsule, it can not cause pneumonia. If it possesses the additional genetic information for building a capsule, it can kill you. There are countless other examples.

    By the way, what exactly is a "perfect failsafe"?

    I understand that you must stick to the position that there was no death before the fall. But all of biology says that this is wrong.

  6. Joe,
    Thanks for understanding. You are correct, there is a theological necessity to maintaining death came after the fall. There are believers who take a different approach, of course, but I think it causes more theological problems than it solves in reconciling scientific ones.

    True enough, death has been inextricably entwined in every ecosystem since the Fall. We can only imagine what one might look like without death, it would seem as strange as a lion laying down with a lamb. And yet, that is what God says was initially the character of creation and will be the character of recreation.

    You are spot-on, of course, in your assessment of taxonomy. My point in including the unicellular and microscopic with plants is that cellular death (through ingestion) was part of the pre-Fall world, because all complex life was herbivorous. Though technically, many of those life forms in question are taxonomically animals, I don't see a qualitative distinction between the death of a plant cell through ingestion and their death through the same.

    One thing is certain in my mind, nothing died of its own accord before the fall. Some living cells were eaten before the fall, and digested, but nothing died on its own.

    As for things a bit more complex, like flatworms and nemotodes, I really have no idea what may have been their original design function, but I am sure that whatever it was, it was benign-- perhaps a more perfect symbiosis than what appears today. That's not that hard for me to imagine, but you are much more familiar than me with what that might entail biochemically.

    "Perfect failsafe", yeah, that sounds redundant, even silly, but we use the word failsafe today in our less than perfect world and despite results that are less than "zero defects". I believe our pre-Fall immune system never made mistakes or missed a "germ".

  7. The difference between a protozoan and a plant cells is that a plant cell can be a part of a whole organism which survives the death of a single cell. But in the case of protozoans, "cellular death" is "organismal death". When you kill a single malarial parasite cell, you have killed that entire organism. When the failsafe immune system identifies this "germ", it kills it. It's dead. Death has occurred.

    Similarly, the difference between a plant cell and a nematode is that a nematode is an entire, complex animal, and when that nematode is killed by the immune system, that organism is dead. What difference does it make if it "died of its own accord or not"? It's dead. A once living animal has died, regards of the taxonomic name assigned to the organism.

    If the immune system never made a mistake, then the immune system killed. That's how immune systems work. That's precisely how immune systems live up to specs.

    The transformation from "benign" to "virulent" can occur, but it occurs by evolution following acquisition of new genetic information. This is well documented and not imaginary. If you assume "benign" before and "virulent" after, then you have acknowledged that evolution has occurred. New pathogens and parasites evolve all of the time, HIV being a classic example.

    "We can only imagine what (an ecosystem) might look like without death". In the end, I guess that this is what it boils down to, doesn't it? You have an absolute obligation to believe it, and so you imagine what you have to imagine. Ecosystems can't function without death? No problem, just imagine that they can. Just throw reason out the window. I'm honestly not trying to be snarky or rude in my comments, I just think it's kind of sad.

  8. Sorry Joe, I'll have to let you be sad, how can I possibly be when Christ Jesus, victor over death and hell, is my friend?

    I do not see microbial and plant ingestion as undercutting the notion of death beginning post-Fall, whether or not part of a plant or a whole lifeform was ingested (no doubt, some plants were eaten in their entirety). Was it the cessation of ongoing life? Yes, but it was not the inescapable reality all life faces now, even if it's not eaten. Everything dies since the Fall regardless. God allowed such ingestion pre-Fall and will again in the recreation (Rev 22:2).

    As for information aquisition and evolution, that will have to be a discussion that waits for another post sometime in the future.

  9. Death can not occur before the fall, because death is introduced into the world as a punishment for sin. But cessation of life occurs before the fall, and cessation of life equals death, so death does occur before the fall. Death is death. Accidental or incidental or deliberate, death is death. If death by ingestion is allowable, the humans could be accidentally ingested by numerous animals, and those humans could die. But death can’t occur before the fall, because death is a punishment for sin. So, death can occur, but death can’t occur. So, "death" does not mean "death" except when it means "death". We’ve gone down the rabbit hole.

    This is what I love about religion, theology and sacred texts. They are alleged to offer immutable, eternal truths. But those truths are expressed in words, and in practice, words can mean whatever we want them to mean. “Animal” does not mean “animal”; “life” does not mean “life”; “death” does not mean “death”. And when words can mean anything we want them to mean, or anything we can imagine them to mean, then words become totally meaningless. I’m sorry, but yes, that’s sad. Have fun with the White Rabbit.

  10. Hi Joe,

    Did it ever occur to you that possible viruses, bacteria(harmful) etc... had no interest in gaining access to the body prior to the fall. Could it be that a perfect immune system vibrates at a different frequency and therefore is unattractive to invaders?


Any comment in ill taste or not germane to the post may be deleted without warning. I am under no obligation to give anyone an opportunity to call me names or impugn my motives or integrity. If you can't play nice, go somewhere else and play.