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Life on the Lehigh River

The drive down to the Lehigh River is not steep, but it extends seven miles, starting at Summit Point, which for all practical purposes, is the top of the world. I mean, you know you're way, way up there in the Poconos; look all around you, and there are no peaks. And isn't the grid of roads up there mildly convex, as you'd expect on a mountaintop?

A couple of early steep, sharp turns, and your descent is on, unbroken and more-or-less straight. The road enters a gully in its final two miles, imperceptibly at first, nonetheless, embankments on right and left steadily rise. Then....a short string of row houses appear on your left, crammed between road's edge and embankment. Then another string on the right side. Then.....unbroken rows on both sides....they've wedged a town in here!

But if this is a gully, shouldn't there be rushing water? Ah....there it is, cascading down from the left, and a little further from the right, vanishing into a tunnel carved under the row of buildings. It must re-emerge someplace, yet I never discovered where.

The row buildings, right and left, steadily improve in appearance. They become colorful boutiques, artist dens, eateries, and general stores. The final block widens out, enough to allow angled parking, and the row buildings to the left sandwich a grand inn, but all the while this is a one-street sliver of a town. Oh...alright...toward the bottom, they somehow slip in one parallel alleyway, to the right and a bit elevated, but it hasn't even room for its own set of right and left dwellings. On one side fronts a sandstone row of trendy shops; on the other, the backs of buildings from the main drag.

Down here the widened street and it's narrow companion end in tees onto rt 209. Beyond is the train station, the tracks, the Lehigh river, the walkway, and another steep mountain. You're in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. An odd name for a town, don't you think? But when you consider the original name, Mauch Chunk, perhaps you'll think JT an improvement.  Mauch Chunk is the Lenni Lenape word for “sleeping bear;” a native American term that no one except the Lenni Lenape will understand. Jim Thorpe is a native American term that everyone will understand. Descendant of a chief of the Sac and Fox nation, Thorpe attended the nearby Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where he mastered any sport he turned his attention to:  basketball, lacrosse, tennis, handball, bowling, swimming, hockey, boxing, and gymnastics. “Show them what an Indian can do,” his father charged him when he went off to represent the United States at the 1912 Stockholm Oympics. There, he won so many metals, in such a variety of events, that Sweden's King Gustov V gushed  “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world!” “Thanks, King,” the unassuming man replied. For years thereafter, he played major league baseball and football, concurrently. ABC's Wide World of Sports, in 2001, named him the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

Just behind and well above that aforementioned grand inn, up the steep hill, is the 1860 home built for Asa Packer. It's an ornate, three-story mansion open for tours,Asa Packer manision  so of course, Mrs Sheepandgoats and I took one. Asa Packer came from Connecticutt (on foot) in 1833 and made his fortune, first as a canal boat operator, and then as founder of the LeHigh railroad. The idea was to transport the area's coal to the great cities on the East Coast. It made him the third wealthiest man in the country. From his front porch, peer over the inn to see the courthouse he built, where he served as judge, the church he built where he served as vestryman, and the sandstone buildings where he housed his employees. Today, those sandstone buildings contain eateries, studios, and trendy stores. At one time, nineteen of the country's 26 millionaires maintained seasonal homes in Mauch Chunk. One of the ten coolest small towns in America, declared Budget Travel Magazine in 2007. Asa Packer's words are on display just in front of his house: “There is no distinction to which any young man may not aspire, and with energy, diligence, intelligence, and virtue, obtain.”


Mrs Sheepandgoats and I didn't stay in his town during our Poconos trip, however. We stayed 20 miles upstream in Stoddartsville, the town of a would-be industrialist to whom fortune was not so kind. Stoddartsville shows up on the map, but if you go there, you'll find only the foundations of some 200 year old buildings. And simple signs erected by the Stoddartsville Historical Society labeling what once stood on each foundation. And a graveyard whose worn tombstones reveal several Stoddarts are buried there. And a few private residences built on some of those ancient foundations. And a small rustic cabin overlooking the Lehigh....that's where we stayed.

2010 Oct poconos trip 022 

John Stoddart was ambitious, too, just like Asa Packer. He also sought to harness the Lehigh, so as to ship grain downstream to Philadelphia, in order to divert commerce from a neighboring system that sent it to Baltimore.....this was to be a “win-lose,” not a “win-win”. He built a community straddling the Lehigh along the Wilkes-Barre Turnpike (which he controlled) with grist mill, saw mill, boat-building capacity, and so forth. It flourished in the early 1800's, (a bit before Packer's time) but alas, Stoddart was too far upstream. The best he could do with his river was provide one-way traffic, utilizing a series of dams which held back waters until they reached flood stage, and then, releasing them all at once, his barges could ride the crest downstream to the next dam! Boats were constructed in Stoddartsville and dismantled at destination, the timber sold along with the cargo. It wasn't cost-effective enough to compete with later “two-way” systems, and John Stoddart eventually went bankrupt, his town fading in prominence. He spent the final thirty years of his life a clerk in Philadelphia.

There's a third character, a Quaker businessman by the name of Josiah White, who touches on the fortunes of both Packer and Stoddart. To Packer, he brought success, but to Stoddart, ruin. Stoddart might have gone under in any case, but White sealed his fate. White's endeavor was canal-building, and it was canal piloting that enabled Asa Packer to amass capital sufficient to build his railroad. Back in Mauch Chunk, just before the railroad station (which is now a tourist information center) lies a town square named after Josiah White. It was he who founded the town, before Packer ever traipsed in from Connecticut.

Ironically, Josiah White's canal ventures owe a lot to John Stoddart's initial support. In the early days of the Lehigh Navigation Company, White tried in vain to raise money from comfortable, conservative, downstream Philadelphia merchants. They were loathe to part with it. White realized he needed the backing of one man, John Stoddart, who (per White's memiors) “was then a leading man among the Mound characters, being esteemed Luckey [sic] and to never mis'd in his Speculations, carried a strong influence with his actions, he being of an open and accessible habit, gave us frequent opportunities with him, & his large Estates at the head of our Navigation, authorized our beseaging [sic] him, which we did frequently." Sure enough, as soon as word got out that Stoddart had invested $5000.00 (with the stipulation that the navigation system begin in Stoddartsville) everyone jumped on board, and the entire hoped-for sum of $100,000 was raised in 24 hours! White began building two-way locks on the Lehigh, but that summer (1819) was unusually dry, and the river proved too shallow for transport. The following winter, ice damaged the locks to the point that White replaced them with the aforementioned one-way “bear-trap” locks, (the locks in no way resembled bear traps, but White's workmen named them so to dispose of incessant pesky “whatcha building?” passerby) the economics of which ultimately sealed John Stoddart's doom....not to mention, destroying the fishing upon which various Native Americans and missionaries depended.

Roaming the Pennsylvania hills where these long-dead men once maneuvered, it's hard to escape the feeling that if you had switched them...put Stoddart where Packer was, and vice versa....the results would have been the same. Both were subject to time and unforeseen circumstances, which might have easily gone the other way. If the Lehigh had behaved that first year of Stoddart's transport system, or if Packer had been subject to a clobbering winter or two, (he went way out on a limb financially in his railroad building) it might be Stoddart's name that is remembered instead of Packer's. That much as any person is remembered. For, successful as he was, I knew nothing about Packer before stumbling upon his home town....did you? Even though he was the third richest man in the country. Doesn't matter. We all end up in the grave, where memory of us quickly fades.

For whatever reason, I vividly remember Brother Benner, the District Overseer, playing devil's advocate with his own argument - an argument drawn from Ecclesiastes about the brevity of life, and its consequent “futility.” Build as you may, you're not around to reap too much benefit from your work. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reflects upon the “hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard and at which I showed wisdom under the sun.” (2:18-19) This nearly happened in the case of Packer's enormous wealth, after the untimely deaths of his sons. Business associates threatened to squander it all, so Asa's daughter Mary maneuvered to gain control of the family fortune. To that end, she had to marry, since unmarried women back then were never left the estate (even though Mary had nursed both parents through their deaths). She married some obliging business fellow or other, secured the dough, and the marriage ended soon thereafter. Was that the plan from the start? At any rate, as we toured the Packer mansion, the guide pointed to a prominently displayed plaque of St Fabiola, the patron saint of divorced women. (no, I didn't know there was such a saint, either. Must she not need a lot of helpers today, like Santa needs his elves?)

Anyhow, back to Benner, he was discussing the verse 1:11, a recurring theme of Ecclesiastes: “There is no remembrance of people of former times, nor will there be of those also who will come to be later.” We, who were initially created to live forever on earth, are now subject to that sad reality. He spoke of how someone might attempt to counter the verse, for example, pointing to some musician or other: “Yes, so-and-so may have died,” they would say, “but his music lives on and on.” “Give me a break!” Benner responded. “Who was the most famous singer in George Washington's day?” Exactly.

Same thing with Mauch Chunk. Who were the other 18 millionaires who made their home there? Or, for that matter, what about Jim Thorpe, the town's later namesake? What became of him after his athletic days? (alas, for all his fame, he fell upon very hard times) You will remember....imperfectly....a few of the generation before you, and perhaps even a handful of the generation before that, but everyone else is, at best, a name in a stats book, like Packer or Stoddart. Some won. Some lost. But you don't know anything about them.

The brevity or our life is what really defines it. You don't get too many shots. There's a built-in frustration, since every door we open represents several we have closed. Pathways take a while to trod. The more ambitious the pathway, the longer it will take, and the fewer you'll trod. Each pathway we go down represents a multitude we don't go down. And yet, we want to go down them all. Is this what Solomon meant about life being “calamity?” Today's age of specialization makes the calamity even more pronounced. Increase your wisdom or wealth, as Solomon did, and you increase the pathways you can pursue. But, alas, you increase perception of the many more you won't pursue before the clock runs out.

It wasn't meant to be so, and it will not be so one day in the future. Humans, created to live forever but now relegated to a few score of years, are yet to have opportunity for everlasting life. And all these characters of the past....not to mention our own family members...are they to be among the “righteous and the unrighteous” who come out of the memorial tombs, per Acts 24:15, and John 5:28? It's the Bible's hope. It intrigued me from the beginning. It still does, though one must stoke the hope occasionally so that static from this present dismal system of things doesn't drown it out. As Jesus said: “when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18:8)


******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood Transfusions

Here's a med student who posted something critical of religion in general and Jehovah's Witnesses in particular. He has no ax to grind (I don't think). He just reflects upon experiences he's had and reports he's heard. Why not answer his post? I did. Here's the post (with limited peripheral material edited out) entitled:

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusion

One of the most important aspects of science is it’s progressive nature. Our knowledge of any subject is always changing. Nowhere is this more evident than in science-based medicine. Physician guidelines change on an annual basis depending on studies and evidence supporting new treatments, therapies and procedures.

I can not imagine anything more contrasting to this than religion. Religion is structured in such a way as to prevent its beliefs from changing. Only when the most superior leaders of a religion decide that it should be changed does the doctrine itself change......

Last week, I was doing rounds in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) when I was introduced to a lovely little patient attached to IV lines and a nasal cannula for oxygen supplementation. This unstable newborn baby was suffering from hemolytic disease of the newborn, which occurs when maternal antibodies still present in the baby attack its red blood cells (RBCs), causing their contents to spill out into the blood stream. If it wasn’t for the concomitant jaundice that developed, this baby’s fatally low hemoglobin levels would have caused him to be almost as pale as the page these words lie on.

When a pediatrician is confronted with this scenario, the treatment is rather common sense: stabilize the patient, attempt to clear the serum of toxic levels of bilirubin (to prevent irreversible brain damage), and transfuse the patient with compatible blood. Otherwise, the baby’s blood cells will continue to be attacked until there are none left and the central organs cease to receive oxygen.
But alas, the baby’s parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions are strictly against their beliefs because a nearly 2000 year-old scripture warns against eating blood. Not that eating blood and a transfusion are the same thing but according to the religions main legal entity, The Watchtower Society, it is. “The Society,” as it is often referred to colloquially by Witnesses, directs, administers and develops the doctrines for the religion and followers.

The Watchtower Society doesn’t draw the line at whole blood transfusions but rather at any components of blood. This includes platelets, RBCs, white blood cells (WBCs) and blood plasma and further discourages the use of fractions from any of these blood components, including albumin, globulins, clotting factors, erythropoietin (EPO), and hemoglobin. These restrictions have lead doctors to develop bloodless surgery techniques. Such surgery is not yet common, and very few have the luxury of utilizing it.

In the meantime, Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to die during the desperate times requiring blood transfusions, which are more common than one might think. This is exemplified by the Jehovah’s Witness magazine Awake, which explained in its May, 1994 issue that:  “In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”

If practicing Jehova’s Witnesses do receive transfusions, they are ousted from the religion in what’s known as disfellowshipping. These individuals are cut off from their families and friends who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses because the religion attempts to limit social interaction with non-Witnesses.

With increasing pressure in our technologically-advanced era, the Watchtower Society has very gradually loosened its grips on its opposition to blood transfusions and blood products. In the last few years the religion has allowed their followers to use specific blood products in special cases. For example, hemophiliacs are no longer shunned for using blood clotting factors under special circumstances. The church also seems to be heading towards the direction of allowing autologous blood donation, a process where a patient donates blood for storage that is used later in his own surgeries.

This raises the question, why not speed up the process? Why let so many people die in the past because of rules that will ultimately change in the future? Can’t Jehovah’s Witnesses just skip all the politics and allow their followers to use modern medicine like everyone else? It would certainly place the religion in a better light by removing one of its most significant criticisms. A giant weight would be lifted from the backs of so many hemophiliacs, anemics and pregnant mothers.

In the USA, the law requires doctors to overrule the wishes of families that want to deny their children procedures that would prevent long-term complications and death. This is not true around the world, however, and here in Poland, where I go to school, that is not the case. Doctors need to acquire court orders to treat children who’s parents deny them basic lif e support or treatments that would prevent end-organ damage.

As for the baby whom I saw myself in the hospital, well she did receive a court-ordered life-saving blood transfusion. If she hadn’t, there’s no doubt she might not be alive anymore. According to the resident physician, when the parents heard of this they decided to give her up for adoption. It’s still a mystery to me how religions can override our most innate emotions. To me, however, the adoption was a blessing in disguise.


A reply:

 Really, nothing has changed with regard to JW views on transfusion other than adjustments to keep pace with changes in transfusion therapy. In recent years, fractions have been developed that are a much tinier component of blood than the platelets, RBCs, white cells, and plasma you mention. The Bible speaks only of blood. Are these small fractions “blood” or not? Some will reason that any percentage, no matter how tiny, constitutes blood; others will think “it’s not a cake until you mix the ingredients.” I do not agree that the Watchtower Society discourages these fractions. Rather, they make clear that their use is subject to individual conscience, since the Bible doesn’t specifically say. By outlining the reasons some might decide to refuse them, you might think they are discouraging the fractions, however they also outline the reasons others might accept, making clear that it is a personal choice.

Only when the most superior leaders of a religion decide that it should be changed does the doctrine itself change.

In my opinion, it is not good to look at matters in this way. It will inevitably lead to looking down on your patient, maybe thinking them deluded, manipulated fools, given to fanaticism. Can that possibly lead to mutual respect or the trust a patient ought to be able to have in a doctor? Moreover, if you view them as slaves to “superior leaders of a religion,” that is another disconnect, since they do not view it that way. The “superior leaders” may have alerted them to what the Bible says, but having done that, it is the Bible itself that guides the Christian conscience, and not the leaders. Proceeding on an interpretation which the patient does not hold can only cause alienation.

Having said this, I can well appreciate the frustration of a doctor upon discovering his preferred method of treatment, perhaps his only method of treatment, is categorically rejected for reasons he neither understands nor agrees with. However, respect for the patient’s conscience might permit the doctor to make a mental adjustment. If a patient had a severe allergy, say, that absolutely ruled out the preferred treatment, doctors would not become angry, nor resent the patient for being uncooperative. Rather, they’d accept it as part of the big picture, and try to work with it. Every population of Jehovah’s Witnesses maintains a Hospital Liaison Committee, which serves to connect local doctors with whatever bloodless resources may exist locally, if only to arrange a transfer. (not sure what is available in Poland, as I am in the U.S., but it may be more than you are aware) Bloodless medicine is a specialty, and one can hardly expect all doctors to specialize. We simply appreciate it when doctors attempt to work with our beliefs, rather than trod over them.

The fact is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have decided to live their lives in harmony with Bible principles. In most cases, this serves them very well. The same Bible that prevents them from accepting blood transfusions also prevents them from drug abuse, from overdrinking, from smoking. If the entire population became Jehovah’s Witnesses, surely the mortality rate would plummet, since any complications arising from their view on blood is far offset by benefits from their overall healthy lifestyle. If a doctor focuses on this larger picture, he could not ask for a better patient. But regarding blood, the Bible says what it says. Witnesses don’t have the authority to change it, not even the “superior leaders.” It says it not once, but repeatedly, over many different timeframes. Moreover, Witnesses are well aware that eating blood and accepting a transfusion are not the same thing. But the Bible reasons that preclude “eating” blood apply equally to accepting it via another means.

If you are aware of the advancing nature of science-based medicine, surely you know that rethinking transfusion therapy is an area in which it is most rapidly advancing. A 2008 article in New Scientist magazine is entitled: An Act of Faith in the Operating Room. The act of faith is not withholding a transfusion. It is giving one. Says Gavin Murphy, a cardiac surgeon at the Bristol Heart Institute in the UK: “There is virtually no high-quality study in surgery, or intensive or acute care – outside of when you are bleeding to death – that shows that blood transfusion is beneficial, and many that show it is bad for you:”

 The U.S. Army is now training its medical personnel in bloodless medicine, convinced that such training will save both lives and money. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?

Lastly, according to the resident physician, “when the parents heard of this they decided to give her up for adoption.”  I can’t conceive of this happening. Not that I doubt your sincerity in telling the matter. But for it to be true, there have to be other factors at work. No one in the Witness community would think such an outcome a good idea. Perhaps the parents were otherwise unstable? Perhaps the state removed the child and left the parents no choice? I don’t know. But it doesn’t ring true. Jehovah’s Witnesses will strive diligently for their Bible-based view on blood to be respected. But if they are overruled (which often happens, as you point out) they don’t lose interest in the child.


There were other comments on the post besides mine. One also took issue with that parting slam at the parents: “However, the hearsay at the end – about the postulated adoption – is unsubstantiated and feels slanderous. It detracts from the otherwise well-founded observations and arguments you’ve made.” The author Matt apparently agreed: “Point taken,” he wrote. “I will try to keep this into account in my future blogs.”

I also thought it well to take a look at that May 1994 Awake quote which Matt uses to advance the notion JW youths are dropping like flies for their transfusion refusals:

“In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”

Not that I accuse Matt of anything devious. I've no doubt he used the quotation in good faith. It's likely from a web source purporting to be informative, but in reality existing only to denigrate a faith its  author dislikes, trying to make JWs look as fanatical as possible, and doing so for philosophical reasons, rather than anything having to do with medicine or lives. So is the statement taken out of context or not?

It's a little difficult to tell, for there is no context. The quote is a one-line blurb on the magazine's table of contents designed to pique interest in the articles to follow. The articles to follow describe the cases of five Witness youngsters in North America. Each was admitted into a hospital for aggressive cancer or leukemia. Each fought battles with hospitals, courts, and child welfare agencies determined to administer blood against the patient's will. Each eventually prevailed in court, being recognized as “mature minors” with the right to decide upon their own treatment (though in two cases, a forced transfusion was given prior to that decision). Three of the children did die. Two lived. It's rather wrenching stuff, with court transcripts and statements of the children involved, and those of the participating doctors, lawyers, and judges. In no case do you get the sense that blood transfusions offered a permanent cure, only a possible prolonging of life, ideally long enough for some cure to be discovered (which has not yet happened). One of the children, who did die, was told that blood would enable her to live only three to six months longer, during which time she might “do many things,” such as “visit Disney World.” There's little here to suggest that “thousands of youths are dying for putting God first” who would otherwise live. Frankly, I think the quote is sloppily written. “They are still doing it,” says the quote. Doing what? Dying? Dying in the thousands? Or putting God first without regard for the immediate consequences?

Speaking of a respectful doctor-patient ralationship, a week after Weedsandwheat had his letter in defense of Jehovah's Witnesses published, City Newspaper published this letter:

…....In my practice years, I served three counties, which meant that I cared for children in at least six families of Jehovah's Witness faith. We worked together in a sense of communication, mutual respect, and understanding. This included ongoing discussion of therapeutic options for various conditions. I'm not sure whether today the Internet would change all of this. Hopefully my “families” might still remember me.          Bernard A. Yablin MD      (do a Google search, and this doctor pops up quite a bit)

It's an oddly touching letter, isn't it? Yes, hopefully they do remember him. Doctors proficient in their craft, who can also relate to the patient with “a sense of communication, mutual respect, and understanding,” are not that easy to find.


Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Alzheimer's Research: So the Cops Shoot the Bad Guys Instead of the Good Guys...

Now that I'm old enough to receive the AARP magazine, I read each issue cover to cover. They're packed with nice articles geared to the aging, and......there's no nice way to say this.....that's what I'm doing. But a recent piece about Alzheimers research in September's Bulletin (Alzheimer's: a new Theory, by Elizabeth Agnvall) left me un-warm and un-fuzzy. I've known people to succumb to Alzheimers. Moreover, I don't have it now, but how do I know it's not lurking around the corner? Some would say it's made certain inroads, already. So...yes...I want medical science to get its act together on this malady. Sure, they have their act together now, the author maintains. But they insisted, with the same fervor, that they had it together just a few years ago. The author points out, however, that today's approach is a 180 degree reversal from yesterday's.

Turns out that for the last 20 years, medical science has proceeded on the theory that “sticky plaques” are the culprit causing Alzheimer's. Drugs have been developed to search and destroy those plaques. Haven't they been peddled on American TV: Ask your doctor if such-and-such is right for you? Those ads drive Pop into a rage. But now sticky plaques are thought to be not the culprit! Rather, they are the body's defense for attacking the real menace: clumps of amyloid beta protein, called oligomers. Oligomers do the damage, not sticky plaques, so the new thinking goes. Sticky plaques are the body's means to take them out! We've been targeting the wrong enemy! Medically sanctioned “friendly fire”…...the practice for the last twenty years!

Now, being a blogger who believes in God, I have to be so careful writing anything that might be perceived as critical of science, lest some science-worshipping atheist come along and lecture me that science is based on EVIDENCE, whereas religion is based on mere BELIEF, and what do I think is smarter when I'm sick: pray myself better, or go to a science-based doctor, and do I still believe that the earth is flat?! I tell you, it's a risky course to take. So, let me say it upfront: I'm not against science. I know it's a discovery process. I know mistakes are made along the way. Alright, so the cops arrive upon the scene and shoot all the good guys instead of the bad guys! Is that any reason to be down on law enforcement? Of course not! A slight adjustment is all that's needed. So let bygones be bygones and we'll all be happy.

No. I'm not critical on that account. Mistakes happen. God knows there's plenty of people who scour past publications of JWs to find understandings which have changed, and then get all hysterical over it, supposing, I guess, that any modification is like smashing the Ten Commandments tablets. Jehovah's Witnesses tack. We hone in. We get ever closer and sometimes alter course. Why should science not do the same?

What grabs me is this quote: “[Andrew] Dillin, of the Salk Institute, started pursuing the oligomer theory several years ago. Then, the idea was so controversial, Dillin says, that some scientists would walk out of the room when he made his presentation at conferences. Now, he says, many of the top researchers in the field are convinced.”

They walked out of the room? How dogmatic does that sound? How in keeping is that with Plonka's manifesto “prove a scientist wrong and he will thank you for it.” It's rather hard to prove them wrong when they walk out of the room as soon as they hear something they don't like. Now, that's intransigence of the sort they would, in a heartbeat, ascribe to religion.  And yet, just a few years later, these same scientists alter and say “ know, that fellow was right all along!”

They're not immune to stubbornness, that's all I'm saying. What steams me is those who claim they are.....that second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types who worship science themselves and ram it down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. For, if this new theory is right, then you were better off declining when your doctor prescribed those Alzheimer's medications. “No, I don't trust it,” and “these guys don't know what they're talking about” are now seen to be perfectly reasonable views to have held. But God help you if you held them while the fat-headed 180 degree ass-backward Alzheimer's approach was in vogue. “Alright, don't take the meds, if you're going to be so pig-headed!” can't you hear some of them say. “Maybe you want to go to a faith healer, or a witch doctor, instead!” But now we see that's exactly what you should have done. They may not have helped, but they wouldn't have hurt, as did the now-outdated science-based approach.

The article soft-pedals this bit of unpleasantness: “And if the [new] theory is correct, then drugs that target plaques – as many of the most promising medications have done in the past few years – may not help people who have the disease. They could even make them worse.” A very deferential statement, is it not? If the theory is correct, they certainly make them would think, in exact correlation with how they were supposed to have made them better. Even though they were the “most promising” medications. Unless the old meds never did anything in the first place. Perhaps, in that case, you can now claim they do no harm. But when marketers urge us to pester our doctors for the stuff, surely the response they hope to elicit from that learned one is not “don't bother, they don't do anything, you'll just be wasting your money!”

It took me awhile to realize....dikki clued me in, actually....that pharmaceutical companies advertizing on TV is not a worldwide phenomenon. It happens in only two countries, I am told, of which the United States is one. So it will be hard for non-American readers to fathom just how obnoxious these ads are. Decisive, immaculate and impossibly handsome doctors stride purposefully through futuristic laboratories. They glance alternately at teams of researchers peering into microscopes, at banks of computers, at their clipboard, and, of course, at YOU, as they authoritatively report the very latest astounding medical breakthrough. “Such-and-such is not right for everyone,” they acknowledge, “but...damn it, man,” they seem to be saying, “you know it's right for you!” Even as I write, I'm recalling one such “doctor” striding through a lab reminiscent of Batman's lair, touting some new med that unlocks the very “power of the sea,” (fish oil...the stuff you've been able to buy forever at any health foods store) and.....would you believe it?....the donkey actually ends his pitch peering contemplatively into the lab's full-wall aquarium, as if marveling how his outfit has managed to make a buck out of something God provided free.

This formula is not set in concrete. It can vary slightly. Alzheimer's, for example, afflicts our grandparents, and our grandparents are kindly, aren't they? So a brusque futuristic setting will not do. No. The setting here must be warmer, a kindly doctors office, for example, and the doctor himself ought to have gray hair. Antidepressants, too, ought to be touted by a kindly and caring doctor, not some self-centered jerk who's Porsche vanity plates read “PSYCH DR.” For woman's health, we even change the doctor's gender, for isn't any guy specializing in female issues a little suspect? No longer is the doctor an impossibly handsome man. Now it's an impossibly attractive woman, who's also athletic, has piercing eyes and an oddly spelled first know, a Bond girl.

This type of 180 reversal in medical science happens all the time*, so that one ought to be given more credit than they commonly are (namely, none) if they choose to pass on the latest medical, or even scientific, thinking. It's somewhat as they say about the weather here in Rochester (or most anywhere else, I imagine): don't like the weather? Just stick around. It will change. Those who resist the latest advances of science for whatever reasons....perhaps reasons they can't even articulate.....intuitive reasons, if you will, sometimes come out ahead. They certainly do so often enough that there's no reason to criticize them. To acknowledge such is not to deride science, but only to put it into perspective. It's a generally progressive means of discovery, but not so sterling that it trumps every other sort of thinking. If one accepts that the present scientific consensus is tentative, then one does okay, and one can take it in stride when understandings change, being happy about the advance. Even then, however, it's only a (most likely) forward step taken, and not the finished mystery. Alas, there are ever so many who take the latest scientific notion as dogma. God help you if you fail to embrace their conclusions as truth.

It doesn't mean you ought to disparage science, of course, but surely it means you need not respond “how high?” when science says “jump!”

*********  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'