Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science


This is a book by Tom Bethell, Oxford graduate. Mr. Bethell is a journalist, not a professional scientist, and so some people may be tempted to write him off as a know-nothing. That would only be a sad indication of the over-specialization we see so much around us. For example, someone in analytic number theory would be completely unable even to begin discussing anything with someone in algebraic number theory.

Mr. Bethell has made some incredibly insightful remarks here. One of his central theses is that science has become over-politicized. Mr. Bethell us undoubtedly a right-winger. How does he avoid the charge he is leveling at the left-wingers? By being honest about his bias. The title says it all. I really think that we modern people have forgotten that real people do science, not infallible gods in pretty white lab coats. There's no such thing as no bias. So the only honest thing to do is come right out and say what your bias is.

Here are the topics Mr. Bethell addresses: global warming, nuclear power, the virtues of radiation, the virtues of modern chemicals, DDT, endangered species, African AIDS, cloning, stem cell research, genomes, cancer, supposed "warfare" between science and religion, intelligent design, and evolution.

"Science at its raucous best," as N. David Mermin would say, is when you realize that 10,000 Frenchmen can still be wrong.

I would like to elaborate on one chapter in particular, chapter 4, on modern chemicals. The idea of this chapter is that "hormesis" is an effective antidote to many highly politicized scare tactics. For example, many people realized that dioxin, an herbicide, is toxic. This is true; however, it matters a very great deal what quantity of dosage you encounter. Many people have assumed a linear relationship between dosage and risk: the more you are exposed, the greater the risk, and the less you are exposed, the less the risk. That second statement should read thus: no matter how small the dosage, there is always a risk. But the evidence simply does not support this. In one experiment with rats, the risk factor actually declined once the dosage had gone below a certain level. So Dioxin was beneficial in lower doses.

Now all of this is not to say there aren't some chemicals that are toxic, even lethal, no matter how small the dose. There might be some of those. But Mr. Bethell claims there are precious few such chemicals. Here is a quote:

Perhaps without even realizing it, we acknowledge that toxic chemicals can be beneficial in small doses when we take multi-vitamin pills. Their ingredients are printed on the bottle. One such product lists the following: iodine, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, potassium, nickel, boron, and vanadium. All of these are toxic substances - at high doses.

As an example perhaps more of you can identify, let us examine Vitamin A. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, as opposed to a water-soluble vitamin. As most people know, it is a very bad idea to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins (though, granted, the acceptable use may be much large than USRDA would have you believe). This is in contrast with water-soluble vitamins, which one can take at much higher doses before any damage occurs. However, even though fat-soluble vitamins are toxic at high doses, it is beneficial at low doses. Our Vitamin A has good effects at low doses.

Without even being able to vocalize it, this one fact has been the reason I do not subscribe to the organic food idea. In order to pronounce any particular chemical toxic in low doses, the scientist would have to perform experiments in which he administered such low doses. But scientists know that low doses increase the number of variables liable for causing whatever effects they see, on account of the other variables increasing in strength relative to the investigated variable. I can easily imagine a scientist setting up an experiment this way: control group with no chemical plus one group with an enormous dose of the chemical. Without the additional group with a low dose, he could very well miss the hormetic effect.

I simply cannot get all that worked up about all the supposed "bad chemicals" all around us. The health "experts" have changed their mind so frequently that one doesn't know what to believe anymore. You know the kind of thing I mean: butter is good, butter is bad, butter is good (continue this pattern as long as you like, and even longer if you're blond)... I have a strong suspicion that all that much worrying is hazardous to your health. For the same reason, I do not subscribe to the extreme forms of conspiracy theories floating around. I personally think some of those theories leave no room for God's providence. It is true that man is depraved, but let us fear God, not men.

Mr. Bethell's book is copiously documented, a fact, which, while not conclusive, is certainly a requirement for credibility in this sort of writing.


 
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26 Comments:

At 2/03/2006 12:35:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Yes, I discovered the hard way that Vitamin A should not be consumed in large quantities. I love carrots, and one day consumed 3 lbs of them, an activity my digestive system did not appreciate. Did you know that 3 lbs of carrots has 5600% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A? That was definitely a one-time experience.

I am one who tries to avoid "unneeded chemicals" and the like, and prefer my food as natural as possible. I don't have a heart attack over the possibility of eating a nonorganic vegetable, though. As a matter of fact pretty much all of our fruits and vegetables are nonorganic, simply because it is so much more expensive to buy organic. I do try to avoid processed foods for the most part, and find that I feel better when I am better about avoiding prepared foods and the like.

I think there is a nice balance to be made between not caring at all about unneeded chemicals and the like and having your blood pressure raise at the thought of eating something made with processed sugar. I'm still learning a good balance.

Oh, and I'm sure Esther will want to respond to this topic :).

 
At 2/03/2006 06:17:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

I really appreciated the article. Don't know if I can fit the book in.

So are eggs good for you yet? I eat one just about everyday. What's the latest?

btw, not all blonds are dumb. I am blond and have my moments, much to my husband's amusement. However, my little, blond sister is another story...

 
At 2/05/2006 07:37:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

In terms of "a nice balance to be made between not caring at all about unneeded chemicals and the like and having your blood pressure raise at the thought of eating something made with processed sugar," I'm on the side of the former at the moment. Though I realize that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and thus we are called to be good stewards of it, I think that worrying too much about your diet is hazardous to your health. There's an old saw about various kinds of foods and their effects on the body (I may get these countries wrong): the French drink more wine than Americans and have fewer heart attacks. The Russians drink less wine than Americans and have fewer heart attacks. The Germans eat more fat than Americans and they have fewer heart attacks. The French eat less fat than Americans and have fewer heart attacks. Apparently, what's hazardous to your health is speaking English! Ah, eating too much of any one thing is bad, I'm sure.

Reply to Zan.

I think eggs are considered good at the moment. But if you don't like that result, just wait; it'll change. ;-)

Oh, one thing I should have mentioned, and I apologize for not doing this: I am a blond as well. So I have no issues with blond jokes. They're all in good fun, I hope.

In Christ.

 
At 2/05/2006 02:01:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

I'm finally finding time to comment more on this post. My last comment was rather hurried.

There are so many different theories on eating healthy and not eating healthy, and I'm not quite sure which one you are supporting on the "less healthy" side. I'll warn you ahead of time that this comment is a ramble, not necessarily directly pertaining to your post, but related :).

Regarding organic foods, I do believe they are more healthy in general. I would prefer to eat the fruit of the earth that has not been polluted by human additions, than to eat food sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. Some of the pesticides that have been used in the past have been found to be very harmful. It would depend on the chemicals used, but I would hazard to guess that no chemicals would be potentially less harmful. Although I would prefer to eat organically, I don't, mainly because of the inflated price of organic goods. I also am not convinced of exactly how much more beneficial organic is, though I do think it is better in general. I'm not losing sleep over the issue, though, which I think was the point you were making.

*enter rambling*

I would like to clarify that I am not an advocate of fad diets, never eating fast food, omitting desserts, etc. I groan everytime I hear of the latest fad diet that has "discovered the secret to healthy living." I also realize that I only have one life to live, and I don't want to live it constantly worrying about each particle of food I put in my mouth. God gave us food to enjoy it!

On the flip side, though, I do want to be healthy so I can more effectively serve my Lord here on earth. When I eat more processed food or dessert than usual, my body feels the effects and I honestly do not have the same energy level I usually do. I have gone through months of eating unhealthy, months of eating healthily, etc., depending on my school schedule, holidays, other times of the year, family diet, etc. When I have gone through long periods (weeks or months) of "reckless" eating, I accomplish a lot less on a daily basis because I am slower and more apt to feel the need for a nap. I am also less motivated to begin a task.

Once again, I am not talking about a fad diet. I am just talking about good, "old-fashioned" common sense. Three square meals a day that contain a balance of meat, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. I don't listen to the latest on whether eggs or butter are bad or good for you. I use them both in moderation. I don't use regularly use margarine because I've read how it's made, and because I've eaten margarine products that were not completely processed; have you ever eaten cake that smelled like gasoline? If someone else gave me margarine, I would eat it, but as butter is more natural, I prefer to use it instead. No worry of gasoline by-products there. . .

I guess my philosophy is to try to control (to a reasonable extent) the parts of my diet over which I have control. I try to use more natural ingredients when I cook, but I don't worry when I eat someone else's cooking or a mix from Betty Crocker. I also don't want to sacrifice pleasureful eating for healthy eating. God gave us food for our delight and our sustenance, both important aspects.

I like to eat food from-scratch as much as possible for several reasons. Food in general is best in a state that is close to nature. Also, I think some of the significance of eating as fellowship is lost when dinner is a can of warmed-up soup plopped into a pan or a pre-made lasagna warmed in the oven. I'm not saying that prepared foods are wrong or should never be used (I use them on occasion and eat them from others without guilt of conscience), but the family table is a lost culture in our society because we have cheapened our sense of good, quality food. Just as we rush through the preparation (if we do any preparation ourselves), so we rush through the consumption, not enjoying the family table as a place of fellowship.

One of the reasons a woman's role in the home is so downplayed today is because of America's "fast food lifestyle." We don't appreciate quality in the same way we did. Our preferences have been cheapened by cream-of-mushroom-soup-casseroles, Mickey D's burgers and fries, Ramen noodles, and Betty Crocker's "just add water and meat" meals. There is nothing like sitting down to a wholesome homemade-from-scratch meal that was prepared with love, knowing that the preparer thought both of your culinary tastes and your physical needs in the preparation.

 
At 2/05/2006 03:53:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Ah, I see that, perhaps, you and I have discovered a real disagreement here. Hey, at least it's not about major theology, right? :-) So it behooves me to be real charitable and use logic to address the issues, not attack the character of the person. You obviously believe in being a good steward of your body; that is not in dispute. What might be in dispute is how it is best to be a good steward. I like the balance you have between the biological purpose of food and the enjoyment of food. I think that's always important.

You say that you believe organic foods are more healthy in general. I would debate that. It has been shown that pesticides are harmful... in large doses. That is precisely the point of my post. I would claim that many of those pesticides have not been investigated in the region of the miniscule doses that might finally appear in your vegetables. Take one example: DDT. This is one of the best pesticides for mosquitoes in existence. It was thought for a while that DDT was carcinogenic. We now know that to be false. It has no adverse effects in the amounts that might appear in your food. Therefore, because it helps to reduce malaria and other diseases, we should be glad of modern science and its advance in this area.

I would disagree with the wording of your statement in which you say, "polluted by human additions," and "close to nature." That, to me, suggests more of a Romantic "back-to-the-earth" idea than something that is really biblical. What saith the Scriptures? Fill the earth and subdue it. This is God's blessing on the scientific endeavor. (Indeed, the world is fallen. At least in man, we find that natural is very bad. So the natural is not good simply because it is natural.) Part of subduing the earth is surely farming. And we would want to do farming to the best of our ability in order to glorify God. Why does America have no famine issues? Why hasn't America been riddled with famines? Mainly because of pesticides and herbicides and hybrids, which allow farmers to grow crops in much greater bulk than previously.

Perhaps you've heard of Norman Borlaug? He developed a hybrid dwarf wheat variety credited with saving the lives of billions of people, most notably in India. (Unfortunately, the ultra-liberal Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to insult him with the Nobel Peace Prize.) The problem was that the current wheat was being mowed down by excessive rain and hail. However, the dwarf wheat, because it was shorter, was stronger and better able to stand up under it.

If there were no herbicides and pesticides and hybrids, there would not be the abundance of food in the supermarkets that there is now.

Furthermore, because of hormesis, I would actually claim that the foods that have the herbicides and pesticides in them might just as well be more healthy for you than otherwise. You said that, "I would hazard to guess that no chemicals would be potentially less harmful." Hormesis says otherwise.

I hear you when you say that when you eat more highly processed foods you feel less energetic. Are you sure some of that is not a placebo effect? I could easily imagine the following train of thought: eating this food will do bad things to my body. Therefore, because you think it, eating those foods does do bad things to your body.

I prefer made-from-scratch simply because it tends to taste better. I think I would agree that fast-food and the like have, because of modern Americans' use of them, cheapened the important idea that families should eat together. However, I would claim that this is a symptom, not a cause. I would definitely not agree that a woman's role in the home is so downplayed today because of the fast food lifestyle. The woman's role is downplayed because the men don't value it enough. I know that sounds circular, and perhaps it is. It comes from laziness and abdication. Fast food can be incredibly handy at times.

So there's my thoughts. I hope I've been charitable; please tell me if I haven't. As you know, speaking the truth in love is hard for me.

In Christ.

 
At 2/05/2006 05:37:00 PM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

-shakes head sadly-
All I can say is... I will be available if you suddenly need someone to say the eulogy at your funeral.
"...He was an intelligent man with a bright future, but the evil chemicals of this world brought his ruin. Instead of enjoying the natural things of God's good earth, he divulged in the things of this world. Brethen, let us all take this warning to heart. Please join us after the funeral at the bonfire in which we will destroy those evil chemicals - prepackaged meals and the like. Whole wheat bread and organic fruit and vegetables will be provided for refreshments..."

 
At 2/05/2006 06:07:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

*sniff*

(wipes away tears of sadness)

Hannah's words moved me beyond words. . . *sniff*

Okay, never mind, I am rarely speechless :). Rather irregular to have refreshments at a funeral, no? It makes it sound more like a party. The bonfire, the refreshments. Maybe there should be some square dancing afterwards? Bow to your partner way down low, bow to your corner too. Circle left around that coffin, circle left you'll do. . .

Important family tradition: Hannah offers to say eulogies for people with less-than-healthy (according to her definition) eating habits, and I offer to say eulogies for people who overexpose themselves to the sun :-D.

In all seriousness, though, I am pondering your response to my comment, though I haven't the time now for a proper response. I will get back to you in the next day or two, though; just know I'm not ignoring you if it takes me a few days to respond. You had some good things to say, and did so in a charitable manner :).

 
At 2/05/2006 09:40:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

O, the (feigned) emotional outburst. I'm so touched that you would think that way of me. *theatrical swoon, followed by a faint, followed by anguished cries of death, followed by an invigorating aria just like in the opera*

Actually, to bring my wild thoughts back to earth with a thud, the Mrs. of the family I live with is another organic food freak (such as other *ahem* people I could mention, but won't, other than to say, "Hey, Susan and Hannah, guess what?"). I eat healthily enough, much as I would love to stuff my face full of greasy hydrogenated fats just to annoy my blogging friends. So, alas, you, Susan's Sister Dear, will not be able to sing the eulogy at my funeral for reasons of eating wicked modern chemicals until I leave the Wontrops' household. But rest assured, after I die I'll call you up on a red telephone with one button on it and ask for the favor. Fair enough?

Incidentally, the whole business about refreshments reminded me of Puritan funerals. You know, the ones in which they reused the leftover refreshments of a widow's funeral for her next wedding. And, considering the time lapse involved, I would not hesitate in saying that the refreshments were probably still good. Bailey remarked on this in his book The American Pageant in the chapter entitled, oddly enough, Conquest by the Cradle.

In Christ.

 
At 2/05/2006 09:41:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

O, I forgot to add in all the fun: I'm so glad it was charitable. On the other hand, knowing your self-proclaimed ability to avoid being offended, that might not mean as much as I would like... Ach. I hope so.

In Christ.

 
At 2/06/2006 06:30:00 AM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

Well, I am glad that someone is around to take care of you now. Sets my mind at ease. When you do leave their house, kindly let me know so that I can start planning your eulogy then. I do hate those kind of things to catch me unawares. *out of nowhere in the night - a telephone ring from a red phone with one button* I prefer to be prepared for those kinds of things.

 
At 2/06/2006 11:43:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

The French drink more wine than Americans and have fewer heart attacks. The Russians drink less wine than Americans and have fewer heart attacks. The Germans eat more fat than Americans and they have fewer heart attacks. The French eat less fat than Americans and have fewer heart attacks. Apparently, what's hazardous to your health is speaking English!

Amusing, and true. Have you read French Women Don't get Fat? I haven't, though I've read some summaries of the book. It seems that your comments would tie into that book, from what I know of it.

Ah, eating too much of any one thing is bad, I'm sure.

Too true, that's really the most important point on eating :).

Ah, I see that, perhaps, you and I have discovered a real disagreement here. Hey, at least it's not about major theology, right? :-)

You mean you haven't heard of the organic sect of conservative Presbyterianism? It's a small subset of the Federal Vision folk. Let me summarize our beliefs.

Even for those who do not believe in the effects of pesticides, by feeding at the table they are still receiving the same effects that those with a clearer understanding receive as they too feed off non-organic products. The side effects of non-organic foods have nothing to do with faith or understanding, but merely to do with the actual participation in the table.

I would claim that many of those pesticides have not been investigated in the region of the miniscule doses that might finally appear in your vegetables.

I agree with this as it is outlined in your post. I'm not denying that Mr. Bethell had some interesting points to make, and it may be true that pesticides in small doses are harmless. As you said, though, they have not been investigated in small doses. Until they have been, neither of us really have strong argument.

I would disagree with the wording of your statement in which you say, "polluted by human additions," and "close to nature." That, to me, suggests more of a Romantic "back-to-the-earth" idea than something that is really biblical. What saith the Scriptures? Fill the earth and subdue it. This is God's blessing on the scientific endeavor. (Indeed, the world is fallen. At least in man, we find that natural is very bad. So the natural is not good simply because it is natural.)

Okay, this was the most interesting paragraph of yours for me to ponder, and I'm still pondering it. It reminds me of Os Guinness's chapter on Primitivism in Fit Bodies, Fat Minds. Like Guinness, you have some good points that I need to consider. I may get back to you on that.

For now, I will say that yes, we are to subdue the earth and fill it, as you rightly said. I am definitely a supporter of the Dominion Mandate. My dominion plan mainly is in regard to a large family :), but certainly farming is also an important aspect.

Part of subduing the earth is surely farming. And we would want to do farming to the best of our ability in order to glorify God. Why does America have no famine issues? Why hasn't America been riddled with famines? Mainly because of pesticides and herbicides and hybrids, which allow farmers to grow crops in much greater bulk than previously.

I will concede on this point. As a matter of fact, when I say I favor organic (though don't eat it), I don't mean that we should do away with pesticides and the like, though I'm sure you rightly assumed I did. Modern methods of agriculture have done wonders for food supply, and I certainly think worldwide that the benefits have outweighed the disadvantages. I did not make that clear before.

However, for those of us in the US with the availability to choose organic, and with the possibility that individually the benefits of pesticides may not outweigh the disadvantages, I have no problem with those who have the money and choose to buy organic. Worldwide benefits of pesticides and individual benefits are two very different things, imho.

As far as the organic issue goes, I am merely saying that my gut reaction is that organic is better. As I said, I don't eat organic fruits and vegetables. The inflated prices aren't worth a little more peace of mind, imo. I'd love to someday have a garden, but that's low on my priorities at the moment.

I am curious what you think about whole grains and natural sweeteners, which, while related to organic products, is an entirely different ballpark.

I hear you when you say that when you eat more highly processed foods you feel less energetic. Are you sure some of that is not a placebo effect? I could easily imagine the following train of thought: eating this food will do bad things to my body. Therefore, because you think it, eating those foods does do bad things to your body.

I am not denying the importance of placebo effects, but I really think most of the time, in this case, it is not a placebo effect.

There have been weeks when I have consistently been tired and required a nap, and have wondered why I have a drop in energy level. Five or so days into a low-energy period, my Mother Dear mentions that perhaps my recent eating habits have not been stellar, which, when I reflect on the previous days, I must agree with her.

High intake of sugar, especially, does a number on my energy level. I've always had sort of thin blood (I guess that's the term?). If I stand up too quickly I get dizzy, and I lose my vision for several seconds when I have blood drawn or a vaccination given. Too much sugar causes my heart to race and my head to swirl a bit. This happens when I am not anticipating it.

I really don't worry about my diet nearly as much as you might think. I merely think it is something that we should consider in a healthy-manner, not in a frenzied "I'm going to die if I eat a french fry" manner. I even think our eating habits (even without Mrs. Wontrop) would maybe not even be all that different.

(Okay, never mind. The eating habits of unguided bachelors can be horrid. My brother lived off of Wendy's last summer. Gag.)

Point being, I think our ideals are the real difference, not so much the actual practice.

I think I would agree that fast-food and the like have, because of modern Americans' use of them, cheapened the important idea that families should eat together. However, I would claim that this is a symptom, not a cause.

Okay, agreed. I did not mean to set up an incorrect causal relationship. My statistics teacher (Father Dear) would be so ashamed. *hides flaming face*

I would definitely not agree that a woman's role in the home is so downplayed today because of the fast food lifestyle. The woman's role is downplayed because the men don't value it enough.

Okay, once again, incorrect causal relationship. My point was not well stated. Let me try again.

The convenience of ready-made, lower quality food allows for a perceived lesser need for a woman to spend a significant amount of time in the home. Dinner can be ready in 10 minutes, and the house and laundry need tending once a week; what is she going to do with the rest of her time? There is a difference between tending a house and creating a home environment. Part of creating a home environment relates to preparing home-made meals. Feminism fails to properly recognizing homemaking as an art and as an activity that is beneficial to society.

One thing I would like to clarify; I am not saying you can't be a homemaker (as opposed to a house-tender) and never used boxed meals. I am speaking as a general rule. I am especially not meaning to put guilt on new mothers and others in high-maintenance stages of life.

The woman's role is downplayed because the men don't value it enough.

Agreed. I won't launch into a tirade about the insensitive clods that all men automatically are, though, because it's simply not true. As a matter of fact, to do so would be to perpetuate the very thing the feminisms love: hatred of men. LAF has many good articles on that subject.

Interesting anecdote about Puritan funerals. I guess they didn't believe in a long time of mourning :). Incidentally, Mother Dear and I are almost positive that The American Pageant was my United States history book in high school.

I still like my square dancing idea :-D.

 
At 2/06/2006 12:06:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

Susan, your thin blood probably isn't the reason you get dizzy. Your B/P is probably "in the toilet" as we (nurses would say to a patient with low B/P) I am the same way. I get dizzy very easily. After I had my son I almost passed out because my B/P "bottomed out." I scared the nurses half to death because before I felt my self going away I told them all that i was going to pass out and would see them later. I have never seen so many people move so quickly. I guess, next time (hopefully there won't be a next time)I will be nicer and not make fun of the situation. Having a baby is very funny (after the pain is over).

Do you remember (anyone) awhile ago people were paranoid about something they were spraying apples with? Scientists were saying that the spray caused cancer in mice. However, they later conceded that it would take a human, to match the amount of chemicals given the mouse, to eat like 12 bushels of apples. My husband reminded me of that.

I also thought that it was great to eat fish for their omega-3 fatty acids. Now I find that it doesn't prevent cancer in humans (like it was formerly thought) but it prevents it only in mice.

One thing I do limit in my diet is a lot of sugar. We eat it in moderation. Soda is a treat becauses there is sooo much sugar in it...poor pancreas. Diabetes is a real problem. I have watched my hardworking grandfather get diabetes because of the amount of bad food he ate.

Susan, I love those cream of whatever casseroles. When you have little children, they are a life saver (also if you have morning sickness, they are very quick to make.)

Adrian, you are a guy so your blondness doesn't count. :)

 
At 2/07/2006 10:32:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Hear ye, hear ye! Not all Christians argue and debate in an acidic manner! It is possible to debate in a charitable way! Thank you, Susan, for addressing issues.

Hmm. Are you really Federal Vision? I have real problems with some of their beliefs; they're not according to the WCF, including some beliefs concerning justification, a central doctrine for Christianity. "Organic sect" is good, though. Hehe.

Ah, but some pesticides have been investigated in small doses, and found to have the hormetic curve. Certainly not all of them have been investigated, but many, if not most of those that have been investigated had hormetic curves.

Ponder away about the "close to nature" stuff, and you don't need me to invite you to take your time. ;-)

Well, I don't have a "problem" with organic foods either, in principle. I imagine they would sustain the human body. However, to argue that they are superior to non-organic is something else entirely, and that is the point I would debate.

Gut reaction, eh? Very scientific. *smirk* I wonder if they'll let me use that phrase in my Ph.D. thesis. Ok, now I'm really teasing you. Seriously, though, this is a scientific question, is it not? I mean, the statement that organic foods are better for the body than non-organic is a statement that can, in theory, be falsifiable by observation. I'm willing to grant that the jury may be out on some of those questions. However, I do think that it is a scientific question. It is therefore subject to the scientific method.

And here I must bring up another subject; that of scholarship. I have read several papers by the "organic" types, and one thing that struck me was the lack of footnotes. Now, I am by no means painting with a broad brush stroke here; I can imagine organic food types writing articles with plenty of accurate footnotes. But footnotes are rather necessary for a scholarly article. It's simply the modern version of multiple independent witnesses. Bethell has loads of footnotes, all of them relevant. It is well-documented.

So whenever you read organic stuff, you should subject the article to all the scrutiny that any other article deserves. See if it has footnotes and quotes other authors. I can remember one paper I read that was arguing that regular milk bought in the store was basically poison. His reasons? He saw several cows on a dairy farm standing knee-deep in mud. That was it. From that one example, he extrapolated the degradation of all milk bought in stores (except possibly organic). I'm sorry, but that is a non sequitur of the first rank. You simply cannot say that. Not to mention the fact that I have an uncle who is a dairy farmer (500 head or so), and his cows do not stand knee-deep in mud. He runs quite a clean operation. There was not a footnote in sight in this article. I'm just saying it's wise to be careful; you can't trust everything that's in print, including this comment.

From what I've heard, whole grains are better than otherwise. I, for one, dislike white bread; it tastes like cardboard (not that I have significant experience with that particular... fiber source.) I imagine white bread would keep a starving man alive, however. I have no opinion on natural sweeteners, since the health and diet experts seem to waffle so much (pun intended). The number of times saccharine has been found to be carcinogenic, and then not, is enough to shake your confidence in about anything.

I think I might agree with Zan on the dizziness. I get that, too. In particular, I find it a very bad idea, in the morning, to go from lying down to standing up instantaneously. I'm not a giraffe, with its complicated valve system in the neck. I'll usually get light-headed if I do that.

I'm glad to hear you don't worry too much about diet. After all, Jesus said that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, it is what comes out of a man. I'm much more concerned about what I say than what I eat.

Hey! Bachelor living isn't always that bad! I'm quite capable of cooking a decent meal, thanks to about five years' experience cooking at Cracker Barrel, and another five years' experience cooking at home. I can make a white sauce with the best of them.

You know something? Your ability to admit you might be wrong shows how strong you are. Only strong people can do that. Hmm. I think I see a father's very great love for you here as well. Am I right?

I, in turn, am willing to grant you the point about the perceived lesser need for a woman to spend less time in the home. Still, maybe there's a cause behind that as well. *head spinning* That might be too much to think about.

Square dancing. Well, I suppose if you're really taking the victory we have in Christ over death that seriously... Actually, it is very true that I tend to laugh at funerals and cry at weddings. I especially am prone to laugh at a Christian's funeral. They usually bring up hilarious things about the person's life. And if he's in heaven, is there really a need to cry? He's already conquered death through Christ's strength, so there isn't even that to consider.

Quick reply to Zan.

Awww. I'm a guy so I'm not officially "blond?" Well, that just throws a wrench in the works. I won't be able to tell all the hilarious blond jokes I know. *phooey*

In Christ.

 
At 2/07/2006 12:26:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Hmmm. You're keeping me from other things I should be doing, but this thread has kept me interested. I was going to wait a bit for a reply, until I check a few more things off my to-do list, but I wanted to put your mind at ease concerning Federal Vision, and I figured I might as well respond fully.

No, I'm not Federal Vision. That would be a "major theological difference" in a true sense. I definitely have some issues with Federal Vision. I thought you'd understand that, but maybe I should have clarified that. . . I did think the analogy was too funny not to post :).

Hear ye, hear ye! Not all Christians argue and debate in an acidic manner! It is possible to debate in a charitable way! Thank you, Susan, for addressing issues.

And same to you :).

Gut reaction, eh? Very scientific. *smirk* I wonder if they'll let me use that phrase in my Ph.D. thesis.

Haha, very funny. As you well know, I wasn't intending my statement to be taken in a scientific manner, and were I writing a Ph.D. thesis I wouldn't include that as evidence. . .

I'm not denying the documentation problems you mentioned in regard to research. I actually, as I said, while leaning that organic is better, am so non-committal in this sense that not only do I not eat organically, but I have done no research on the matter, so I haven't noticed the discrepancies you mentioned. Of course, it would depend on the individual research as to how documented it would be; we wouldn't want to use anecdotal evidence, of course :). You avoided that nicely by refusing to paint a "broad brush stroke", as you put it.

I'm quite capable of cooking a decent meal, thanks to about five years' experience cooking at Cracker Barrel, and another five years' experience cooking at home. I can make a white sauce with the best of them.

Well, as soon as I tell Father Dear this, then he'll beg me to ask you if you know the recipe for CB's chicken and dumblings, so I might as well do that now :). He has told me for years that I should work there one summer to learn how they make them, to which I reply that they probably come partially made in frozen containers or are made with a top-secret recipe. I can make a mean chicken and dumpling meal, but he thinks it doesn't quite measure up to CB; he's probably right. . . . :).

Wow, white sauce? Most women don't know how to make white sauce nowadays, let alone know what to do with it. White sauce became passe when Campbell's started their first cream soup campaign. It has many uses, though.

(Oh, and Zan, I'm not faulting you for using cream soup casserole recipes. Remember, my disclaimer on such matters included situations just as yours. Mothers with young ones have my utmost respect.)

You know something? Your ability to admit you might be wrong shows how strong you are. Only strong people can do that. Hmm. I think I see a father's very great love for you here as well. Am I right?

I love my Father Dear very much, and we do have a close relationship :). Of course we have our differences, but we are considerably closer than most fathers and daughters, and I especially treasure how protective he is of my purity :). I continue to learn just how blessed I am to have him as a dad, and how wrong has been my attitude in certain areas in the past. So, yes, I have a father's great love for me, and even more importantly, I have The Father's great love for me. I am blessed.

Quick reply to Zan. Awww. I'm a guy so I'm not officially "blond?" Well, that just throws a wrench in the works. I won't be able to tell all the hilarious blond jokes I know. *phooey*

I second that phooey! I like blond jokes, though I am female and blond :). You know he means to be harmless, Zan. Adrian, of all people, doesn't mean them in a degrading way :).

 
At 2/08/2006 12:40:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

Oh, I love blonde jokes too. My brother-in-law is always telling me a new one. Being blonde also gives me a good excuse for doing or saying REALLY stupid things.

For instance: I am a terrible speller and pronouncer of words. This past Christmas, my husband was looking through a Zales catelogue with me trying to get an idea of what kind of jewelry I liked. I pointed out the onyx and diamond necklace and told him that was very nice. He looked at me funny and said, "What did you say?" I then repeated what I said and he burst out laughing. Evidently, all my life I have been pronouncing onyx wrong. Instead of O-NYX I have been saying something closer to oinksx (sounds like oink, the sound a pig would make.)

If it hadn't been for all the medical abreviations I would have been a terrible nurse.

Anyway, Ann COulter is blonde and she is one of my heroes (I have read all her books). (A ton of footnotes in her books which always help me "buy" her arguments. I am in complete agreement about footnotes.)

 
At 2/09/2006 09:36:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Glad you're not Federal Vision. Sorry I didn't pick up on it; I actually did think it unlikely, but you can never be too careful. And the analogy is funny now you've cleared up my confusion.

Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings are actually made from scratch. Mostly. First, you make the dry mix, which is simply biscuit shortening plus self-rising flour (ok, maybe that's not scratch. Nitpick if you like.) Then you make biscuits; simply add buttermilk to the dry mix in a certain ratio (unfortunately, I don't remember any of the ratios, though I have made dumplings there many many times. If I thought about it enough, I could probably come up with something fairly close). Forgot to say that by this time you should start the broth boiling; you want it vigorous by the time you dump the rectangles into it, but not so vigorous that most of the broth is gone by the time you're ready. Now with biscuits, you don't knead the dough very much at all. Nowadays, they have it precisely timed. But with dumplings, you pound the stew out of them. The dough we used for dumplings was simply the leftover dough from the biscuits; of course you can make new dough specially for the dumplings. The dough for dumplings is the same as for biscuits, except that you'll add more flour to keep it from sticking to the table. Then you roll the dumplings as thin as you possibly can. Warning: I always got at least as much flour on my apron doing this as I got on the table. Cracker Barrel regulations say no thicker than a dime. I always tried to get them even thinner. Basically, get them as thin as you can before you break the surface. Cut up your thinly rolled dough into rectangles about 1" x 2". Scrape the rectangles carefully onto a biscuit pan (you want the rectangles not to stick together; be liberal with flour). When the broth is good and boiling, dump the dough rectangles into the broth, poking the rectangles gently, but firmly enough to keep any from sticking one to another. You'll have to do that for about five minutes. Then I think you boil them (medium boil) for maybe 20 minutes, until the center is not dough-y anymore. Then they're done.

I do not relish the memory of making them, I have to admit. They were the most difficult item to make on the entire menu (and I've made just about everything!). They were cheap, too, which meant that the managers never wanted to run out. I always had to make a lot of them. It took forever to roll the dough out thin enough.

If you wanted to work at Cracker Barrel in order to learn how to make them, you'd need to work the "Backup Cook" position, one of the most difficult positions in the store.

That's great that your father loves you that way. Ja, isn't it sometimes annoying how often your parents are right and you're wrong? I find that with mine all the time. And of course, you make pronouncements that you'll never do such-and-such. Later on, what do you do? (That was a rhetorical question.)

Aha! I have the endorsement of a bona-fide blond to tell blond jokes. It will now be a no-holds-barred free-for-all.

Reply to Zan. Onyx is funny. Everyone has those. I said the word "lapel" as \LAY-pull\. Akin to "debris" as \DEH-brihs\.

Ann Coulter is fantastic. She's smart, funny, arch-conservative, and looks great on TV due to her good looks. The liberals hate her, which must mean she's doing something right. What I wonder about her is if she ever wanted to get married. Imagine what kind of man it would take to be her covenant head! Talk about chutzpah.

In Christ.

 
At 2/10/2006 08:19:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

Adrian:

Thanks for typing up what you remember about making the dumplings :). Father Dear will be happy, and Hannah and I will have to try some of the suggestions soon.

I don't roll my dumplings nearly that thin. Mine are about 1/4 - 3/8 inch thick, making for a heartier dumpling. I also only boil mine about 10 minutes to get them cooked through, which is enough. Maybe I should try pounding them a lot; I've been trying to minimize handling as I do for biscuits. I use two different recipes for biscuits and dumplings, but it's only the ratios that are different; the dumplings just have less butter.

Okay, so I'm wondering. Does Cracker Barrel make its own chicken broth? The few times I've "cheated" and used canned chicken broth I have literally had my heart race from the salt content, but Cracker Barrel's products don't have that problem. I love boiling chickens to make broth and then I can control the sodium content :).

Zan: I've been known to mispronounce words as well. I think part of it comes from reading a much greater variety of words than I hear :). For years I mentally pronounced lilac as "lill-ick", but as I never spoke the word (and it wasn't a common for me to hear) it was years before I said it aloud. My mom set me straight on that one :).

 
At 2/10/2006 11:23:00 AM , Blogger zan said...

You can always tell if a woman is a conservative on TV if she is pretty and blond (usually). My husband and I watch FOX news quite a bit and we always point out the conservative commentators before we hear them speak because of the way they look. We are right 95% of the time.

At 43, I don't think Ann Coulter will ever marry. I just don't think there is a man who has the guts to take on that roll. LOL.

 
At 2/12/2006 07:45:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

You're welcome for the dumpling info. As for chicken broth, I'm trying hard to remember precisely what it is we did. I know for a fact that we used a lot of water plus chicken base. We may have included some fresh broth from boiling frozen chicken tenders as well, but I don't remember all that well. I doubt it matters a great deal, though a purist would probably prefer the real stuff.

Let me know when you finish debating in your mind the subject of "close to nature," and whether that is a good concept or no.

In Christ.

 
At 2/13/2006 07:59:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

Okay, so I see you're actually going to hold me to considering the "close to nature" issue. Sheesh.

In all seriousness, I have been mulling it over in my brain. The problem is that what you said is making sense! Grrr. I've decided that not only do you require an explanation for my views, but sometimes you actually cause me to change them. Sigh.

So, I'm moderating my views on the "back to nature" issue. Part of this goes back to the tradition of Susan that I outlined in yesterday's post, Under Grace, Part III.

See, I'm an old-fashioned girl - I know, you had no idea ;) - but I think I took a certain delight in being as old-fashioned as I possibly could. Part of that was my view that natural = good and man-made = bad. If they didn't need it 200 years ago, neither do we!

But we are called to cultivate the earth, to fill it, and subdue it. We're not supposed to leave it as it is; we are to improve it. Nature is good, nature is beautiful, nature is a gift of God. But we are required to take dominion over nature.

The problem is when man doesn't correctly take dominion. Instead of cultivating the creation, he marrs it for his own purposes or for his own glory. Look at the smog that hangs over so many major cities; look at the twigs that have replaced trees. Many modern cities are just plain ugly (try Atlanta and all its metro areas); many modern parks are just plain ugly. I live in a county with oodles of parks, but only one actually reminds me of the country.

I think there are right or wrong ways to take dominion. Metro Atlanta is not a shining example of a way to cultivate the earth and subdue it. So, as is my tendency, I leapt back from that ugly hole and fell into my "back-to-nature" stance.

Time began in a garden, but we are moving to a city. A city whose builder and maker is God. That city will not resemble Metro Atlanta, but it will be a city! I have to remind myself of that.

I still want to live in the country, though :).

 
At 2/14/2006 11:20:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

I'm not so sure that I require an explanation for your views. Do you not think we should be semper reformans? Always reforming closer and closer to what the Bible says. No view, I mean none, is exempt from this. Certain views, I have to say, I'm pretty sure of: Trinity, full deity and humanity of Christ, predestination, a goodly bit of Reformed theology. Unless someone uses logic based squarely on the Scriptures to argue with me, I'm not liable to change my views. But I am very open to changing my views if someone does do that.

I greatly appreciated your Under Grace, Part III. I think it might have been convicting to me as well. One of my problems is that my heart is so dark at times, I don't even know what sorts of things I'm holding on to that I'm putting above God.

Yes, we must avoid chronological snobbery of any kind. Most people these days assume that newer is better. This is false. But it is also false, though not quite as false (I would argue), that older is better. It depends. Most of the time, new software is a lot better. That goes for much of technology. In theology, older is almost always better. I remember theologians coming out of the old Princeton seminary (before it unfortunately went liberal) and rejoicing that they had not one new idea. Perhaps that's a tad overboard; I think recent scholarship has discovered new things about the Bible. But it will never overthrow the main doctrines of the past. I would argue older is often better, because good things, really good things, last. Poor quality stuff doesn't last. If loads of people think something is good for a long time, there's a good chance it's good.

I totally agree that modern cities are very ugly, most of them. There are a few exceptions. Certain parts of DC are quite beautiful, I think. I also agree that time began in a garden and is moving towards a city. It makes me strongly desire to see some city on earth that is truly beautiful. Maybe someone will build it some day. I haven't seen it yet. I can't deny that right now, my city-desire is on the low ebb.

Here's a dream I've had for a long time, on conjunction with Dad: start a University that is truly a university. It would be Christ-centered in everything; it would teach the classics, classics, classics. But it would also have the usual professional programs such as law, medicine, science, engineering, etc. And it would be better than any secular campus in existence. Such a university would have to be on a beautiful campus, otherwise it would not have pursued truth, beauty, and goodness. Such a university would also need a city for support. That whole city could be the beautiful city I might dream of.

This is utopian thinking, I know. And utopias have never worked. Why is that? Because they do not take into account the fallenness of human nature. So this city/university would absolutely have to do that. There must be very wise laws in place. I think it could be done.

In Christ.

 
At 2/14/2006 04:28:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Of course we should always be reforming closer and closer to what the Bible says, as you are requiring me to consider; that's what I meant by you requiring an explanation :). It's a good thing.

Unless someone uses logic based squarely on the Scriptures to argue with me, I'm not liable to change my views. But I am very open to changing my views if someone does do that.

Exactly. You use logic based on scripture, which sometimes causes me to stop and consider my own views. That's all I meant by my comment.

Your above statement reminded me of Luther at the Diet of Worms (horrid that most people pronounce Worms as "worms", btw *shudder*): Unless I am convicted by Scripture or plain reason. . .

Have you read Luther's biography Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther? Fantastic book.

my heart is so dark at times, I don't even know what sorts of things I'm holding on to that I'm putting above God.

That was my problem! I was so convinced that I was not being legalistic (regarding home schooling and other things). Just because I was not verbalizing that such and such was a sin, I thought I was not legalistic. Legalism is very blinding. Amazing that God hasn't give up on me, and wonderful that I know he never will :).

What a wonderful dream. Nice way of stating the problem with Utopias. If we were all perfect we wouldn't have these failed utopias :). Recognizing that humans are sinful is definitely the key. . .

I've been spending a decade searching for the perfect (Utopian) church. My dad kept telling me that it doesn't exist. I've heard that if you find the perfect church not to join it, because you'll ruin it ;). You know what? I finally realized that it's true. No church will ever be perfect, because everyone else is a sinner just like me. All of a sudden I have a love for my church that I never had before. Yes, I still differ with my church on some issues, but now I see how filthy I am.

If you and your dad ever realize your dream, I want to visit your college town :).

 
At 2/19/2006 09:48:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

I just counted: there are eight blog entries in which you and/or other members of your family have a running conversation with me. And it's my turn to write on every single one of them. You know, I'm just not going to be able to keep up with you on this. Either you're more efficient with your time than I am with mine, or you just have more of it. Well, it is fun, so here goes.

If I remind you of Luther, I must take that as a compliment. There is much about Luther I admire. Haven't read Here I stand. I must admit to not reading a terribly large number of biographies. I have gotten through a sizeable chunk of Life of Samuel Johnson, which is really great.

Ja, not knowing my own heart has led me to pray this prayer often: "Lord, help me to know my heart, that I may know my own sin and confess it and repent of it."

Yes, no church is perfect. My church does some things that drive me up the wall. But you know what? They preach the gospel, they administer the sacraments, and they enforce church discipline. They are therefore a church. So there I stay.

Our dream will never come about without some extremely rich sugar-daddy financing it. One thing would have to hold: a biblical view of money. Things like, "Don't start building a building until you have enough money to finish it" seem quite wise. Grove City College abides by that rule. The result? Lower tuition than about any private school, and no debt.

In Christ.

 
At 2/20/2006 08:09:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

And now there are approximately eight blog entries to which I have to reply. *sigh* I think it will take me more than a femtosecond to get them all done. I'm starting with the ones on your blog, since the ones from my blog have helpful reminders in my inbox. . .

Ah, your definition of a church is remarkably familiar, perhaps from the reformers ;)?

I like your view on financing. That's the way it should be with building projects. Patrick Henry College also followed those principles, opening debt free. Maybe you'll find a winning lottery ticket on the street. . . . or maybe I can get Brother Dear to work on his buddy Bill out at Microsoft. . . Hehe. He hates it when people ask him "how Bill is doing."

 
At 3/01/2006 10:51:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Ja, I actually had all eight comment pages open at once, logged in, wrote up my replies, and then published them all within the space of ten seconds. The idea was to prevent you from replying to any of them in between when I published all my comments. Based on your reply speed, however, I'm not sure how successful it was...

Yes, from the reformers. Great stuff, ain't it?

Can you ask your Brother Dear how Bill is doing? I want to know. (Recognize that last sentence? Think... Davy.)

In Christ.

 
At 3/08/2006 08:21:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

I love Davy Keith! Isn't he an endearing character, rascal and all? Little boys are so interesting. I discovered recently that I have a lot more experience with little girls than little boys :).

I was babysitting about 20 kids at my church one evening, and the majority of them were boys. The few girls were quietly playing house or coloring, but the boys were playing some very competitive games of keep-away and basketball that definitely kept me on my toes. After I showed them how to make paper airplanes, we had a whole fleet whizzing around the room. One boy who got there early gave me a 10-minute talk on his adventures with bugs :). It was definitely a different evening, but still lots of fun.

 

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