Thursday, September 02, 2021

The Worrying State of Medicine

I spent about four hours today at a local Urgent Care facility. Without going into too much detail, the reason I had to do this was because the doctor's appointment I had scheduled for yesterday got canceled because my doctor got sent to cover ER shifts because of labor shortages in the medical industry. The immediate problem I was seeing her for is that my oxygen saturation levels, especially early in the morning, were getting worryingly low, and after starting a new medication I had gained six pounds in a single week, which could be seen as visible swelling in my legs. Since I was measuring my O2 levels with my own pulse/ox, I used the patient portal to say, “This is what I'm measuring. What should I do for the next two weeks before our rescheduled appointment?” Thus, today, I received a call where my doctor informed me I should go to the Urgent Care facility to get examined to make sure there wasn't anything major going on.

Now the fact that my primary doctor wasn't available for a scheduled appointment due to workplace shortages of medical professionals isn't the main focus here. It is certainly worrisome, but I think what might even be more so is the exchange I had with the doctor at the Urgent Care clinic. Since I wasn't getting enough oxygen and had obvious fluid retention from swelling, he ran a litany of tests on me including EKG and a chest X-Ray, even the universal COVID test, all of which came back as “good news” (thank God). But after he got the results back and he was explaining them to me, the doctor mentioned at one point that they'd had a little difficulty with one of the tests because my chest is so large. He then immediately said, “Not that I'm saying there's anything bad about being so large.”

And this is the point I want to bring up. I actually immediately said, “No, I know it's bad. In fact, the increased weight is precisely one of the very things I pointed out to you that had me so concerned.” I immediately saw his demeanor change, as if he was relieved to be able to speak honestly instead of being terrified of offending me, and he said, “Yes, if we could get rid of that weight, it would almost certainly help across the board with everything else here.”

So why did I find this exchange so problematic that I decided to write a blog post about it, especially given that it means I had to divulge (albeit obscurely) some health details I'd rather not talk about? Because I just experienced a doctor telling me something we both knew was a lie because he was afraid that I might be offended had he told me the truth.

There's real danger in this, though. I could have easily come away from that conversation telling everyone, “I went to Urgent Care and the doctor said my weight is fine” when the reality is the exact opposite. If he was so unwilling to state the objective fact that being overweight is detrimental to one's health, then what else are doctors afraid to tell patients? It's extremely worrisome if doctors will lie for the sake of one's ego instead of telling the truth for the sake of one's life.

In the meantime, I still have a case of “We Don't Know”, but at least I know my heart and lungs are sound right now, and I don't have Wuhan Bat Lung either. Prayers would be appreciated that someone in the medical field discovers what the proximate cause is. Or, God could just zap me. I'm fine with that too.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Some Neglected Evidence For The Enfield Voice

This month and next, I want to discuss a couple of unresolved issues in the Enfield case. My post this month, this one, will address a subject I'm more pessimistic about, and next month's post will be about a topic that's more promising. Something the two posts will have in common is that I'm largely ignorant about some aspects of the issues I'll be discussing. Part of what I'm doing in these posts is bringing these issues to a larger audience with the hope that other people will be able to bring about some progress in the contexts involved.

About 20 years ago, Will Storr went to Philadelphia to spend some time with Lou Gentile, a self-described demonologist who was going to take Storr along with him on some cases Gentile was working. Storr was a British journalist and a skeptic of the paranormal. He didn't expect anything supernatural to occur during his time with Gentile. He thought he would be writing a humorous article about the delusions of a demonologist. Instead, he had some unsettling experiences that he considered supernatural, and he went on to spend a year researching the paranormal and writing a book about it, Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural (New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006). You can listen to Storr discussing his experiences with Gentile here, in an interview several years ago.

There was a subject Gentile brought up in his discussions with Storr, and it would be a recurring theme with other individuals Storr came across in the process of doing his research. Gentile mentioned a poltergeist case Storr should look into: "The Enfield case was just insane. One of the biggest, best-documented poltergeist cases in history. A real bad demonic case. Man, you should check that one out." (page 8 in Storr's book) He would check it out, to the point of interviewing Janet Hodgson, often considered the center of the poltergeist, and twice interviewing Maurice Grosse, the chief investigator of the case. Near the end of the second interview, Grosse played a recording of the poltergeist's embodied voice, and it was at that point that Storr recognized a connection between Enfield and the cases he was involved in with Gentile:

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Increasing Diversity By Killing It

Veritasium recently highlighted what he calls "The Longest-Running Evolution Experiment" on YouTube. The experiment uses E. Coli bacteria and it's been running for 33 years.  This means that there have been 74,500 generations of bacteria.

To put that in perspective, assuming a generation in humans takes about 20 years, it would take humans 1,490,000 years to have this many generations.  For the record, if you ask a Darwinist, they will say that modern humans have only been around for 300,000 to 800,000 years.  Indeed, going back 1.5 million years, our ancestors would be Homo erectus.  The point is, there are huge differences between H. erectus and H. sapiens that supposedly came about in those roughly 75,000 generations.

On the other hand, if you look bacteria after the same 75,000 generations, they are basically unchanged to this day.  Not only that, but E. Coli can be found back well before this 33-year-old experiment began too. And in all that time, no mutant bacteria formed which would be classified as anything other than E. Coli.

But this is a bit aside the point I wanted to make in talking about this bacteria now.  The point raised by the video is that the E. Coli that exists today ought to have evolved to better fit into the environment of the laboratory, and comparing older strains with modern strains show that modern strains of bacteria are, in deed, "more fit."

This is, in fact, how evolution is typically presented. Organisms become "more fit" in their environment.  The problem is that this overlooks one extremely obvious point: becoming more fit for a particular niche environment does not mean that you are more fit as an organism, as a whole.  What I mean can be seen if we hypothesize a bacteria that has 50% capability of survival in a lab and 50% capability of surviving in a kitchen and 50% capability of surviving in a bathroom.  After thousands of generations, we measure that the bacteria now has a 95% capability of surviving in a lab, and that's all we measure. We then declare that the organism is "more fit", despite the fact that for all we know the new organism has a 0% capability of surviving in a kitchen and in a bathroom now.

The point can be even more readily made by considering what happens when a human feeds wildlife.  Birds, for example, may learn that to get food they just eat the seeds from a feeder all winter long. But what happens when the old woman who used to feed them dies and there's no more seeds?  The birds die too, because they have lost the ability to get food on their own.

So the question is, can birds that learn to eat seeds from a feeder be considered "more fit" than birds that know how to search for food on their own?  Only in the extremely specialized context of that specific environment and only assuming that environment never changes could such a bird be considered "more fit."  In all other points of view, it's actually harmful to the bird to make it dependent upon humans.  

E. coli naturally lives in the intestines of a human being.  Would we still consider the E. coli to be "more fit" if we discovered that all these lab grown bacteria would die if placed back into an intestine?  Does the fact that they are the best at living in the lab really mean the organism is "the best" itself, given that without being able to survive in humans, all of these bacteria have no ability to survive the instant there is no more funding for this experiment?

The reason that becomes important is more than just semantics. Evolution is supposed to explain why organisms become more complex over time, yet all these experiments actually show is organisms adapting to a single variable that we have artificially decided is the only thing we should measure for.  In fact, it ought to be predicted that they would become simpler as a result.  After all, if E. coli doesn't need to survive in the stomach because it's environment is now restricted to a laboratory, then the ability to survive in any other environments is wasted effort on the part of the organism.  It's better to streamline the organism and remove that ability.  But, clearly, this is reducing the available functionality, not increasing it.  And in fact, natural selection is a winnowing process by definition.  Death is not a creative function.  You do not increase diversity by killing off something.

So can you really call this an experiment in evolution?  Only in the sense that the bare-bones definition of "evolution" is change through time, and certainly these E. coli have changed through time. But to try to extrapolate from that some grand scheme of Darwinian progression is simply pushing the data way too far from what it actually provides.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Does the Old Testament anticipate two comings of the Messiah?

Here's a good video by Michael Brown on the subject. I'd add that the Christian understanding of two comings makes more sense of the stone that gradually grows to cover the earth in Daniel 2:35, the figure who already has enemies on earth and is waiting with God in heaven for the subjection of those enemies in Psalm 110:1, and the coming of God in power after having been pierced by his people in Zechariah 12:10.