The Doctor is In: How Veterinary Medicine Points to the Existence of God

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As a young veterinary student, I was enamored with the prospect of someday roaming the countryside in my new four-wheel drive custom veterinary truck, dashing through pastures and into barns healing the sick and protecting the well. Graduating from veterinary school served as a milepost, but none of us, as neophyte veterinarians, realized how the practice of veterinary medicine ended in school and the purpose of veterinary medicine lept in front of us. In my first week of practice, with the ink almost dry on my diploma, my boss left me alone in practice for the initial ten days of my tenure. He went to the beach, himself laboring and exhausted after fifteen years in the business. He handed me the keys to the business and the truck: well, sort of a truck. It was a 1976 Chevy El Camino with a veterinary unit in the bed. When crossing the countryside and into the pasture, it was less truck, more torpedo. During these times my faith was tested early and often because physics is real folks. Weighing in at nearly five thousand pounds, “El Torpedo” took conviction and sheer prophecy to anticipate a stop ahead. To stop, you literally had to “pump those brakes.”

On the first call of the day, at 5 a.m., I drove El Torpedo to a local gentleman farmer’s home to investigate a cow who had difficulty standing after calving. Sliding to a stop right alongside her, I exited and performed her physical examination without delay. Typically, a “downer cow” suffers from a series of complications associated with delivering a nearly one hundred pound calf over several hours. This girl was experiencing obturator nerve paresis (weakness) and hypocalcemia. I placed an intravenous catheter in her jugular vein and administered some steroids and a solution containing calcium, magnesium, and glucose. An awkward thirty minutes passed when I turned to the farmer and said, ” She should be getting up any sec . . . ” as she sprang to her feet and waggled her way down to the hay feeder and began eating. The farmer turned to me, “Son, your hands have been touched by God. I have lost the last three cows to paralysis, and she is the first one to get up and walk.” Feeling somewhat spiritual, I collected my fee and drove El Torpedo back to work for the remainder of the ten-hour day.

Curiously, how might this relate to the existence of God? First of all, one should ask: why does veterinary medicine exist at all? I would posit veterinary medicine or any medicine for that matter, exists because God exists. Otherwise, why would animal suffering matter to humans? According to the natural or materialist worldview, we are here as a consequence of random chance, unable to control our fate. Richard Dawkins, Oxford University professor and atheist suggests we are merely “dancing to our DNA.” From whence the DNA cometh is a topic for later discussion.

So, the skeptic might suggest that caring for the cow or preventing animal pain and suffering is the “right” thing to do. Actually, nature and opportunity would provide the opposite–a horrendous alternative for her via predation. “Survival of the fittest” would reign and she would fall victim to dire consequences. From the atheist’s view, nature would take its course.  In such circumstances, we are under no moral obligation to intervene. Another might argue that we should care because the animal has monetary value; we surely do not wish to lose our investment, do we?  As a result, do humans simply exploit animals, or honor their value as living things? The answers to this type of question bewilder veterinarians to this day. Medicine indeed is a business, but success is shouldered on the prevention and treatment of illness, not the exploitation of the unfortunate patient. However, to make a determination of right versus wrong, the atheist must impute a standard from which to draw their conclusion. The standard of measurement they must utilize must be above mere opinion–and that standard is God.

In understanding animal pain and suffering, the Christian worldview provides the most straightforward answer. If we care about the plight of animals– and believe me, they do feel pain, we must ground this feeling of responsibility in a standard. The essence of this responsibility flows from the nature of God. Through the understanding of God’s character and the consequences of violating that metric, pain and suffering may be understood clearly. In future discussions, I will seek to answer this question: Why Would a loving God allow animals to suffer in the first place?

In the meantime, remember to be wary of downed cows, and when you try to stop, don’t forget to pump those brakes.

 

 

 

 

The Odds of a Cell Forming Randomly by Chance Alone – Cyber Penance

My previous blog, DNA Points to Design, was about some fascinating information about DNA. Scientists have also determined another factor in how incredibly fine-tuned even a cell is. Stephen Meyer, in chapter 9 of his book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, entitled Odds and Ends, talks about the odds of…
— Read on cyberpenance.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/the-odds-of-a-cell-forming-randomly-by-chance-alone/

How We See the World Makes a World of Difference

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After years of clinical practice in veterinary medicine (almost 33 to be exact), I am still amazed by the different perceptions pet owners embrace concerning their animals. In our humanity, we frequently elevate our pets as equals in our lives. Conversely, I observe people without pets navigating life in much the same ways as those without children. For example, our daily routine is structured around the needs of our dogs for a given day. Only a certain number of hours are available to be away from our home without their basic needs being attended. Although our guys require only a little, we have four canines so to those whom much is given, much is expected. Food, shelter, hygiene, grooming, and medical care are non-negotiable. Like children, the crew of four need constant supervision and persistent attention for their mental and physical well-being. A toddler has similar needs, but unfortunately for pet lovers, your furry children never really grow up. Occasionally we observe streaks of teenage rebellion, but afterward, they slip directly into their golden years.

Let us take this idea a little further and apply it to ourselves. Each of us has fundamental needs compounded by our rational, volitional, and emotional perspective. In our core, we all seek answers to questions such as: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I or we come from? What is my purpose in life and gives meaning to my existence? The answers to these questions direct our perception of the world creating a “worldview.” Well of course! We so instinctively respond to life in this manner without giving much thought as to the “why.” My wife perceives that our dogs think and reason sometimes, however, the perception is only mimicking human behaviors in the context we observe. I honestly do not believe our Standard Poodle ponders the four questions above in spite of her apparent brilliance as compared to her housemates. Fortunately for all pet owners, we are the source of meaning for our pets with the fruit of the relationship being the enrichment of our lives through their companionship and affection.

Now, let us continue by placing ourselves in the dog’s paws (since they do not wear shoes). What would the culture look like if we were motivated by the desire to please others and give them affection and relationship in return? Which worldview best describes this type of sacrificial relationship? According to Naturalism or Atheism, the material universe is all that exists. All life is the chance byproduct of a biological process guided by evolution, or survival of the fittest to produce the next generation. Only that which can be observed or measured can be trusted. No soul, no spirit, no mind, no objective values or morals, just preferences are entertained as useful. Even those preferences are subject to change based on evolution. In this situation, how would we ever teach or train a dog to be obedient if our choices are always subject to change?

Consider Pantheism, or Panentheism, where only the spiritual dimension exists. Everything is either a part of a Supreme Being, or that being is in everything or everyone. Truth is an experience of oneness with the universe and is beyond all rational description. No real distinction exists between good and evil. In this scenario, my dog could not be a “good dog” or a “bad dog”- he would just be a dog.

So what about Postmodernism? Here, the idea of reality is relative and has to be interpreted in the light of society and culture at the moment. Humans are not genuinely autonomous and free, but a product of the surrounding culture. The “true for you, but not for me” paradigm exists, and the truth is only meaningful within a particular culture, making itself wholly relative and not objective. Tolerance, inclusion, and freedom of expression are universal. In this paradigm, my dog is turned loose in the neighborhood and allowed to bark all night long, because to do otherwise would inhibit his freedom and be labeled intolerant.

Ultimately, let us observe Theism or the belief in God. Even though Islam and Judaism also hold to a belief in an all-powerful God, the focus specifically here is on Christianity. God is infinite, personal, all-knowing, all-powerful, immutable, and all-good to mention only a few attributes. He created a material world and all that it contains, both living and non-living. The universe had a beginning and will have an end. Mankind is the unique creation of God, created in “His image” which provides means for biological, spiritual, personal (relational), and eternal existence. Truth is objective and valid for all persons, at all places at all times. We discover the truth through God’s revelation to us through His creation, using our five senses and our mind (rational thought). Furthermore, God has provided an instruction manual to life through special revelation in the form of the Bible. Moral values are an objective expression of God’s nature as an absolute moral being. Good follows out of imitation of God’s character, and evil is the deprivation or corruption of good that is opposed to the nature of God. From Christianity, humans are custodians of animals and accountable for their well-being because they are part of God’s creation. In this case, the care, protection, and provision for my dogs (and all other animals for that matter) are an outward expression of mankind’s respect for God’s creation and desire for a personal relationship with us.

Christianity makes it possible for me to care whether my dogs have their basic needs supplied. The provision, care, training, and even veterinary medicine itself is a consequence of the moral obligation mankind has for animals. Objective reasoning and truth allow decisions and choices to be possible, and in following after God’s character will provide beneficially toward the reality we experience as “good.” So, it is true– the way we see the world makes a world of difference and can make ALL the difference in the world.

 

Hey Doc, My Dog Won’t Take His Medicine!

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Dogs fascinate me with their diverse personalities and preferences. Take, for example, our brood of canines and their daily routine. Their world revolves around the basic necessities of life: food, sleep, and playtime. We have a motley crew of four, including a Standard Poodle, a Toy Poodle, a Maltese, and a Cavalier Spaniel. Since each breed of dog has its specific qualities and skill sets that were selected over generations of selective breeding to serve a particular purpose, each individual is driven by their unique mission: squirrel chaser, food connoisseur, ball chaser, or guardian of the door. Unfortunately, two of our pets require daily medication as a result of some really unfortunate diagnoses. Lily, our standard poodle, has epilepsy, and Claire, our toy poodle, has Addison’s disease. Lily started having clusters of seizures beginning at three years of age, and Claire has a deficiency of hormones that regulate her entire metabolism. As a result, we must be diligent in our monitoring and administration of their medications because failing to do so places their livelihood in jeopardy. Lily is ecstatic about taking her medicine, but Claire (the little one), well not so much. Now granted, I am a veterinarian and am skilled in the subtler arts of patient care and pill administration. However, my first attempt at giving a tablet to Claire was more like throwing it into a blender with the lid off. Compounding the medicine into a “palatable liquid” faired even worse, as she feigned collapse and remorse with drama worthy of an Oscar nomination. Finally, after exhausting the inventory of flavored treats to disguise the remedy, we found her love language in the form of peanut butter. Not just any peanut butter, but a specific pill pocket with a particular softness and texture. Really? Could it have been that simple?

In reflection, Claire’s response to our efforts to “help” her was not unlike the response many people demonstrate to me when making a case for Christianity. Like my pets, each individual has basic needs and desires. Those needs are frequently tempered by generations of family history and experience. Each person is “driven” by their perceived mission or purpose, filtered through their view of the world. Even further, some of us require daily treatment for our needs to be met or our illnesses to be abated.  Truth is much like the medication my dogs require on a regular basis. Even though it is frequently not palatable, it is still the truth. I can disguise it is some way to seem more acceptable, more comfortable to swallow, or even absorbed more efficiently. But to greet reality, the truth has to be consumed on a daily basis. Just like my pets’ health, we must be diligent in our monitoring and administration of facts every day.

Here is a true story, a real-life example that I experienced in the exam room with a pet owner recently. The conversation started like this:

Client: “Hey, Doctor, Fluffy has been scratching and chewing herself to pieces, and she is not better from the last time she was here.”

Me: ” She had a really severe flea infestation and allergic reaction to the flea bites along with a secondary bacterial infection. I still see some fleas on her. Did you treat her with the flea medication, treat your house and yard, and give her the antibiotics and allergy medications?”

Client: “Well, not exactly. ”

Me: “What do you mean by ‘not exactly’ ?”

Client: “What I mean is we still have some left. We gave it to her, and she was not getting better on Monday after we saw you on Saturday.”

Me: “I understand. So what you did not do, did not work, and you are unhappy that what I prescribed for you did not provide immediate results, though it was prescribed for two weeks to accomplish what you did not do.”

Client: “Well you said it doc, not me.”

Me: “Have you ever heard of Abbott and Costello?”

Client: “No, are they doctor friends of yours?”

Me: “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

Needless to say, the truth will reveal itself in the strangest ways. Although my client was genuine and well-meaning, his expectations for results were immediate, and he missed the overall goal we had in mind. Sometimes in the busyness of practice life, I have to remind myself to walk the client through the process and let them see the endpoint that we mutually wish to arrive.  Where I failed in this process was in “throwing the ball where my client could catch it.” Sometimes in our attempt to convey knowledge, which in essence is our understanding of multiple truths, we forget to inform others where we are traveling. In making our case for Christianity, it is crucial to convey wisdom in the context of knowledge. Of course, we must have the ultimate goal in mind of the Gospel. To get to the particulars of that conversation, the skeptical person must be given the opportunity to understand not only what we believe, but why we know it to be a valid assertion.

For my client, the presence of fleas or infection may be secondary to the simple persistence of his dog’s constant itch. Today’s culture demands immediate gratification. We microwave our meals. We use search engines to acquire information instantaneously. Facetime and texting provide real-time communication. In fact, I have experienced instances where I prescribe or recommend a product to a customer, and before I can print the prescription label, the client has already compared prices and cross-checked my recommendation on Google or Amazon. So why are we not surprised that a skeptic will want instant validation of our assertions concerning Christianity?

The primary solution to this problem is in the preservation of relationships. The old medical adage of “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is just as valid for apologetics as for medicine. Genuine care and authenticity are the answer. We can disagree in principle but still maintain “humility and grace.” Clients return to my hospital because of our relationship, trust, and honesty. People with unanswered questions, especially our youth and the millennial generation, are seeking answers to the problems and the brokenness apparent around them. The relationship with skeptical people is identical in principle. Our goal is to relieve the”itch” that is making the skeptic so uncomfortable. We do not have to wrap it into something analogous to peanut butter to make it more palatable. Our relationship with them combined with honest, authentic answers to their questions will reveal the truth of Christianity as the medicine they have been seeking all along.

 

Reasoning Rightly About Biblical Inerrancy: Five Questions You Need to Know

Dr. Potter’s analysis is a great read.

Christian Apologetics Education

Many students I teach in Bibliology come from Christian schools, homes or have been in the Church awhile. Yet, I quickly discover they have major misconceptions about the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. One popular misconception is they think biblical inerrancy is based on an ancient reading of the Bible. That is, they think some old man or council, after collecting the biblical manuscripts read through them all, and upon not find any errors (or corrected them if they did), pronounced the Bible inerrant. Another one is that inerrancy is true simply because the Bible says so. However, neither misconception could be further from the truth.

I recognize there are things in the Bible we do not yet fully understand. Some passages are hard to interpret. Some interpretations are hotly debated. However, many things in the Bible are plain and simple. Indeed, the essential teachings or doctrines are readily agreed upon…

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If You Want to Run With the Big Dogs, You Have to Get Off of the Porch

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Inertia. The irresistible urge to stay precisely where you are. Many people refer to this phenomenon as staying in their “comfort zone.” Pastors are always trying to get you away from it. Even a visit to the veterinarian can cause you to move, especially when the doctor approaches your pet (or if too close, you) with a syringe and needle approximating the size of your dog. Isaac Newton had a lot to say about it. In fact, to Newton, it was of first importance when he gave us Newton’s first law of motion. Sometimes referred to as the law of inertia: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” In a world overflowing with information and compressing time into smaller increments, we must ask ourselves what force outside of ourselves can cause us to move?

In the practice of veterinary medicine, I have to be ready to move at all times. Otherwise, I could be wearing a Chihuahua like a bracelet. An angry Chihuahua lunging at you as a consequence of being poked with a syringe will always qualify as an “unbalanced force.” In this regard, I get it. A wake-up call in the form of a vicious snark will energize your morning. As an apologist, objections and questions startle us in much the same way. The question remains, how do you overcome inertia and begin to run the race that is set before you? How do you exchange ideas about why you are Christian, and someone else should be one too? After all, the Great Commission commands every believer to go forth and make disciples (Matthew 28.19). Besides, we are commanded to always be prepared to give a defense for our convictions (1 Peter 3.15). I propose three methods to assist you to leave the porch: Prepare, Train, and Race.

Prepare.

First and foremost, educate yourself about topics that you are passionate about or are the “hot button” issues in culture. Commit to research, read, and reproduce all the details of a topic. You must anchor every thought to biblical authority and the words of Jesus. In doing so, know your strengths and weaknesses. Immerse yourself in the genre and filter daily experience through the lens of scripture. Prepare to share your testimony as an example and remember to emphasize the contrast from before and after your acceptance of Christ. In my own experience, veterinary medicine has provided an avenue to sift everyday life experiences in light of my Christian worldview and parallel those events with the truth of our Christian convictions. Continuously, medicine conveys insight into problem-solving and conflict resolution. With proper preparation, use your unique personality to communicate authenticity and authority.

Train.

Second, realize intellectual knowledge alone is limited. Before running, we must remember to stretch. Write everything down. Consider writing a blog. Post on social media, “like and share” compatriot ideas. To train well, consider a pastor, mentor, or accountability partner. These prized people in your life will keep the guard rails up to keep moving in the right direction. Proofread everything in contrast with scripture. After stretching, begin warming up by teaching others. Practice, practice, practice. Some days will be arduous and long, yet others short and inspirational. Athletes call this practice “interval training.” For example, a day in veterinary practice, or any profession, can explode in productivity when least expected. The anticipation of this explosion encourages us to be persistent toward sharing our Christian convictions.

Race.

Finally, after preparation and training, we must move. At this point after stretching our knowledge and warming up our skills through writing and teaching, we must engage the culture. Each opportunity is a divine appointment. You may only share this information with one person. The difference created by one exposure to the truth of the Gospel is our reward. We must listen to understand, discern to reach the facts, and defend our convictions with the truth. Ultimately the finish line will be in sight. The finish line is the Gospel or at least the opportunity to share it. However, a word of caution is warranted. Engaging the current culture is wrought with peril. Social media and the internet are littered with trolling and cowardly attacks behind a keyboard. This circumstance alone makes our preparation and training essential. More importantly, we must continue to run the race.

Finally, Finish.

Sometimes when running, you may get cramping muscles, or even stumble and fall. In the 1968 Olympics, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania experienced this very thing. At just about the halfway point of the 26-mile marathon, he fell and dislocated his knee. Nonetheless, he continued to run, finishing last in the race. He completed the race over an hour after the other runners, entering the stadium after the medal ceremony at sunset. When interviewed at the finish line, he was asked why he continued to run. He told the reporters:

“My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”- John Stephen Akhwari

Likewise, in spite of adversity, we persist to the run the race. Hebrews 12 reinforces this premise when the author says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

So what if we stumble, what if we fall? Get up, and rerun the race.