Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Biblical Worldview and Germ v. Terrain Theory of Illness

"The news media writes frequently that germs cause disease. Infectious diseases such as swine flu, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, MRSA, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and AIDS have captured the national headlines in recent months. With each passing year, these headlines reveal that some new disease outbreak or plague threatens thousands of lives. For example, in 2009 the news flash “Swine Flu Threatens the Globe” was broadcast across the nation, alarming many people. The emergence of a new strain of flu (H1N1) was said to place millions at risk.

Today, we take for granted that germs cause disease, and many people fear them. Yet for centuries, the concept of germs was virtually unknown. Leprosy, plagues, and pestilence were diseases of mystery through most of history. The cause of infectious (or contagious diseases) was not known. Many speculated that mysterious miasmas caused sickness or that mysterious elements were spontaneously generated. Miasma was thought to be a poisonous gas- or vapor-filled particle of decaying miasmata (matter) that caused various sickness and disease.

Today, the term germ is well known and refers to disease-causing microbes, i.e. pathogens. A pathogen is a microbe capable of causing damage to the host creature in which it lives. One of the central themes in biology is the germ theory of disease (Rutherford and Ahlgren 1990). The germ theory is one of the most important concepts to understand in the age of pandemic flu, MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella, and other deadly infectious diseases.

In this short paper, we provide historical background on the emergence of the germ theory of disease in the 1800s. Christians, Jews, and non-religious scientists have contributed to the germ theory over the past 150 years. The basic history of the germ theory is given in many texts, most often giving credit to the experimental work of Pasteur, Lister, and Koch. However, the role of worldview, and the fact that many of these scientists were Christian and creation biologists, is often left out (Table 1).1 This article seeks to illustrate how creation and biblical thinking led to the germ theory in a logical chain of development. In this article, we would like to show specifically how the historic, biblical worldview of Creation, Curse, Corruption, and Contagion played an important role in the chain of thinking that led to the germ theory (Tables 1 and 2).2 "  Read the rest of the article here.

There is a debate raging across the world as to the validity of the germ theory. Here is a quote from the Biological Terrain Theory folks, which was developed about the same time as germ theory:

"Raw Milk Revolution also explores the debate between the germ theory of illness, to which Western (allopathic) medicine subscribes, and the holistic theory (homeopathic), which the probiotics community hails. One seeks to wipe out all microbes (via drugs, vaccines and pasteurization) to make food sterile. The other recognizes that microbes act in accord with the biological terrain in which they live, and so promotes consuming live foods that boost “friendly” bacteria. (This chart, which also appears in the book, nicely lays out the differences. For a more detailed explanation, see Biological Terrain vs Germ Theory.)  Gumpert quotes the probiotic argument: “People certainly can and do get sick from pathogens, but they do so because of failures in their own immune systems, rather than because the germs are so strong.” He then refers to “an entire body of research [that] has emerged on the benefits of probiotics in preventing illness.”  Recognizing these ideological differences on what causes illness, Salatin asks, “Is not freedom to choose our food at least as fundamental a right as the freedom to worship?”

What do you think?  It is germs that cause disease or a problem with immune system terrain? How should Christians think about these differences?  What science and math could be used to determine which is true and which is false?  Does the sinful nature of man play a role in one or the other viewpoint?  What are the implications for the Kingdom of God?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that sickness and sin are equall. Now our bodies are temples of God, and how can he be in the presence of sin? This isnt saying that he doesnt forgive our sin, he proved he did on calvery, however there is a consequence of our actions. If my mother told me to put my coat on before i went into the freezing cold outside, and i didnt; theres a possibility that i may get pneumonia, strep or a slew of other sicknesses. Germs are real and are dangerous, but they go with our actions and decissions. 1st blog post