Several years ago I bought a copy of a book called Medications and Mothers Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology (Medications and Mother’s Milk). (don’t run away if you’re not interested in or embarrassed by the topic- I am not going where you might think I am). It’s by a pharmacist who has made it his life’s work to actually *test* what medications transfer from mother to milk, and to research the mechanics of the human milk supply.
The introduction alone was worth the price, and when I finished reading it I was overwhelmed by a sense of awe for the majesty of the Creator and His brilliant design. I was amazed at how complex this seemingly simple process actually is, I was astonished at how well designed the entire system is. For one tiny example- it actually is safe to take the vast majority of medications while you are nursing because God so created us that there is a tight wall of protective cells protecting the milk supply- it is so tight, in fact, that the molecules of most medications are simply too large to slip through those defenses designed by God at the dawn of time before those medications even existed. There was more- much more- but that’s just a small example of the painstaking attention to detail that God put into every element of His creation. Everything I learn about it takes my breath away.
When I was young, ‘science’ taught us that appendixes and tonsils were ‘vestigial organs,’ unnecessary, evolutionary remnants. Now we know that they are not truly vestigial, but serve a valued purpose. In fact, the vestigial organ theory of evolution was so soundly defeated (reducing the number of vestigial organs from over a hundred down to zero), that they’ve simply redefined the word ‘vestigial’ in order to keep this as a viable theory in support of evolution. Christians might have known that truth always if they had not put their faith in evolutionary thinking. They might have known that while we live in a fallen world, it’s still a world designed and created by God with a purpose.
For the last hundred years or so, scientists have imagined that they could create in the lab foods that are superior to that created by God. They have imagined that foods created by God are actually inferior products which are bad for us and foods designed in the lab are superior and healthier. This has been a dangerous teaching, and I am not exaggerating when I say it has killed many, many people and harmed countless others.
There is far, far too much mankind does NOT know about food and nutrition for us to trust our health to those whose thinking is launched by false assumptions about God.
A recent discovery that I find absolutely, mind-numbingly amazing research that:
indicates that the human digestive tract has about the same number of neurons as the spinal column!
Look at that again and wonder:
research indicates that human digestive tract has about the same number of neurons as the spinal column
That little factoid? It makes firecrackers and Beethoven’s 9th sympnthy go off in my head simultaneously. God’s creation is *THAT* amazing to me.
As of right now, nobody knows why we have those neurons in our guts. Nobody knows the purpose they serve. Nobody but God, of course, and He scattered those secret things throughout His creation like so many pieces of a cosmic treasure hunt all over the universe for His children to find- and to learn from.
Think about it- the neurons have been there all along and nobody knew it. And now that we do know it, we still don’t know any more than the average four year old knows about it- and possibly less, given that the average four year old hasn’t yet lost his sense of wonder.
There are guesses, some of them probably will turn out to be right- but isn’t it incredible to think of the mere idea of neurons in your tum-tum!? For all of time, human beings have had those tiny neurons in our gut, as many as in the spinal column, and nobody but God knew. Meanwhile, with such a key piece of information missing from their store of knowledge (as often lacking the humility that comes from knowing that both you and the subject of your study are designed by God), scientists have felt qualified to make sweeping pronouncements about health and nutrition, to dismiss foods created by God as inferior and even unhealthy and replace those foods with imitations created by fallen human beings in a laboratory, and in the ultimate act of hubris insist that the man-made food substitutes are healthier for us!
I am not adverse to eating those food substitutes- unfortunately.=) But I do object to claiming that it’s *healthier* to replace God’s food with food substitutes (margarine, formula, canola oil) and foods so adulterated they no longer resemble what God created for us (non-fat sour cream, breakfast cereal…) .
This isn’t just about the Deity-Free science, either- lay-people, including Christians, have taken this advice to heart, without regard for the underlying assumptions that informed those pronouncements (that we are not created, but accidentally developed from swamp tissue, assumptions about the inherent inferiority of Creation and the inherent superiority of man-made designs, assumptions about the extent of man’s knowledge).
In an extremely bizarre and topsy turvy world, Christians have dismissed as cranks their brethren who DO care about such things and who question this human centered rather than God centered reliance on man’s wisdom over God’s- They have even, at times, labeled their brethren who have what I consider a healthy skepticism about man’s wisdom, as ‘anti-science’ – ironic, given the warning in 1 Timothy 1:10 about being fooled by science, falsely so called.
It’s fascinating to me to think of how this plays out in other areas- we are inconsistent. We know science which claims homosexuality is natural and normal is false because it contradicts scripture.
We know research which concludes that birth control is good for unmarried teens to be on is false because we know that contradicts God’s design.
We know that any study which purports to find that spanking is harmful to children is wrong because we know that contradicts scripture.
We know that science is wrong about evolution, because that contradicts scripture.
But we accept a lot of nonsense from the world of nutrition and health science, even when it is informed by the starting assumptions that accept evolution.
Perhaps worst of all, we lose an opportunity to praise God when we fail to *wonder* at the marvels of God’s creation in the areas of food,the human body, and nutrition, and I gotta tell you, there is some absolutely ASTOUNDING stuff to praise God for in those areas.
I have mentioned Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food before- he is a nutrtition writer, and a believer in evolution, so he, too, misses the sense of wonder that keeps us humble, but he has some fascinating things to share, and we know Who to praise for them. He explains one problem with the way food scientists measure the nutritional value of a food:
“Most nutritional science involves studying one nutrient at a time, an approach that even nutritionists who do it will tell you is deeply flawed. ”The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science,” points out Marion Nestle, the New York University nutritionist, ”is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.”
If nutritional scientists know this, why do they do it anyway? Because a nutrient bias is built into the way science is done: scientists need individual variables they can isolate. Yet even the simplest food is a hopelessly complex thing to study, a virtual wilderness of chemical compounds, many of which exist in complex and dynamic relation to one another, and all of which together are in the process of changing from one state to another. So if you’re a nutritional scientist, you do the only thing you can do, given the tools at your disposal: break the thing down into its component parts and study those one by one, even if that means ignoring complex interactions and contexts, as well as the fact that the whole may be more than, or just different from, the sum of its parts. This is what we mean by reductionist science“.
Think about what that says about God’s creation, about things as ‘simple’ as a banana or a carrot. Scientists attempting to compare the nutritional value of a home-grown, organic tomato with a store-bought, greenhouse version, or sour cream to low-fat sour cream or butter to margarine ultimately can only compare the ingredients that we already know about. Such a study cannot conclusively say “These two products are nutritionally equivalent” with any accuracy. It can only say, “When measuring those nutrients which we already know about, the two tomatoes are about the same. However, they do not taste the same, so obviously, there is something different about them, we just don’t know what it is or what role that element plays in nutrition.”
The way God created foods work together is one of those things that just delights my soul and fills me with admiration for the Creator.
For instance, scientists found that tomatoes seem to help fight prostate cancer. They believed they isolated a compound called Lycopene as the effective nutrient.
However, when they did experiments with rats infected with prostate cancer they found that:
“After 22 weeks, when the rats’ were sacrificed and their prostate tumors weighed, the 10% tomato/broccoli combination was shown to greatly outperform all other diets, shrinking prostate tumors by 52%.
Broccoli alone decreased tumor weight by 42%, and tomato alone by 34%.
Lycopene alone (23 or 224 nmol/g diet) came in last, reducing tumor weight by 7% and 18% respectively.”
They have no idea why.
Which brings to mind another thought- How many things might be in a tomato or a broccoli spear that have yet to be discovered?
The simplest foods are amazingly, awesomely complex. Consider thyme, as Michael Pollan does:
“Indeed, to look at the chemical composition of any common food plant is to realize just how much complexity lurks within it. Here’s a list of just the antioxidants that have been identified in garden-variety thyme:
4-Terpineol, alanine, anethole, apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, caffeic acid, camphene, carvacrol, chlorogenic acid, chrysoeriol, eriodictyol, eugenol, ferulic acid, gallic acid, gamma-terpinene isochlorogenic acid, isoeugenol, isothymonin, kaempferol, labiatic acid, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, luteolin, methionine, myrcene, myristic acid, naringenin, oleanolic acid, p-coumoric acid, p-hydroxy-benzoic acid, palmitic acid, rosmarinic acid, selenium, tannin, thymol, tryptophan, ursolic acid, vanillic acid.”
Now consider again that those scientists tasked with discovering, isolating, and measuring the components that make up a vegetable or an herb and whose advice we will trust over God’s created design- they largely study individual components in isolation, and outside of their most important context, which is the journey that begins when when we put a bite in our mouths. Our tastebuds, salivary glands and all kinds of other parts of the body’s digestive system now begin working on those complexly varied ingredients of a food as simple, and as complex, as a leaf or two of thyme combined with a bite of tomato. It’s mind-boggling to consider the sheer number of possible combinations created by the interactions of all the different parts of the foods we eat (including those as yet undiscovered) and all the complex parts of the digestive system (including the amazing digestive system which has as many neurons as your spinal chord and we have no idea what they all do).
Consider again the above list of ingredients God placed in a single leaf of thyme, and then realize:
“This is what you’re ingesting when you eat food flavored with thyme. Some of these chemicals are broken down by your digestion, but others are going on to do undetermined things to your body: turning some gene’s expression on or off, perhaps, or heading off a free radical before it disturbs a strand of DNA deep in some cell. It would be great to know how this all works, but in the meantime we can enjoy thyme in the knowledge that it probably doesn’t do any harm (since people have been eating it forever) and that it may actually do some good (since people have been eating it forever) and that even if it does nothing, we like the way it tastes.”
And God designed it that way! Isn’t He AMAZING?!
Again, those are just the things we know about. There are as yet totally undiscovered mysteries surrounding food and the human body- and yet, speaking from that place of ignorance, we are constantly bombarded with messages about nutrients in isolation:
Don’t eat fat! Eat Margarine instead of butter! Oops, fat is not that bad! Don’t eat margarine!! Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup IT IS THE SWEET KISS OF DEATH!! Eat more oat bran! You can’t get enough fiber, take it in a pill! And take a blueberry pill for the latest and greatest fountain of youth in a pill, because if ten blueberries are good, the isolated and separated single essence we know about which we can extract from five thousand blueberries must be marvelous!! Cholesterol (which God put in high amounts in breastmilk and eggs) is DANGEROUS. Eat our Sugar Bomb Cereal which we have sprayed with 30 known vitamin combinations, plus 6 mineral compounds (and 17 cups of sugar as well, but never mind, the unsweetened version tastes like flakes of vitamin pills and chipped plywood because that is actually what it is), and if you DON’T buy into all that- well, *you’re* the crank.
I will praise Him, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and so His creation. And HIS creation is infinitely superior to anything human beings can cobble together in a lab. Because I know this about God, I also know exactly how trustworthy is any advice which purports that the food that God created and designed for the human body which He created and designed is harmful to me while telling me foods that human beings created are better for me.
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse
Psalm 89:5 The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
Acts 14:17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth…