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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Science Plus Faith - A Potential Mix

In 2011 my wife Alex and I spent a few hours strolling through the ruins of the Asklepeion, the remains of an ancient hospital at Kos, one of the Greek islands of the Dodecanese. The header photo on this page was taken at the Asklepeion, with Alex posing among six of the seven original Roman columns which once supported the roof of the Temple of Apollo. These columns were relatively recent, about AD 200, by comparison to the site on which they once stood, and standing once again after active restoration. Because dating back centuries BC, this hospital was the home of one of history's greatest doctors of all time - Hippocrates (c.460-370 BC.)

Bust of Hippocrates

Hippocrates has always been considered the father of medicine. One of his greatest achievements was to separate science facts from the pagan pantheon of bickering gods whose thoughts and actions determined the decisions made by men. Instead, what he did was observe the erratic behaviour of individuals and associate these behaviours with specific diseases. This idea eventually allowed him to draw up a theory that each human has four body fluids - blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. For good health, each of these fluids must be in perfect balance, according to Hippocrates. But generally, they are not in perfect balance but rather, each person has one, maybe two, dominating fluids which not only bring certain types of physical diseases, but also determine the person's behaviour, particularly in relating to others around him.

Therefore, this theory became known as the Four Humours, or Temperaments, and until recently it was used as a base tool for Psychology. This is the explanation on say; the sight of a partially filled glass. Two of the four humours would say,
"The glass is half full, let's make use of the resource we have." (Optimism.)
While the other two would lament,
"Oh dear, the glass is half empty, what will happen now?" (Pessimism.)

These are the two viewpoints over a half-filled (or empty) glass which psychologists divide personality into just two - extrovert and introvert. But Hippocrates saw that both these characteristics were divided into two sub-divisions, these creating four temperament types. One type of extrovert was people-centred. Hippocrates believed that it was warm blood which made this particular individual talkative, impulsive, very friendly and having a warm heart towards others. Thus this type of person was labelled Sanguine - meaning blood. The other type of extrovert was task oriented. He had good leadership capabilities, less talkative than the first, but very productive - but also had a quick temper and was prone to anger. Hippocrates believed that yellow bile predominated, and referred to him as Choleric - meaning anger-prone. Among the introverts, one was prone to be sad or moody most of the time, but also enjoyed the fine arts and music, and tended to be a critical perfectionist. The ancient doctor believed that black bile ruled the roost in this chap, and labelled him Melancholia - meaning prone to sadness. Finally the fourth type was observed as slow, unmotivated, always tired, and spent much of his time at rest. As such he was referred to as Phlegmatic - meaning that phlegm dominated in this person.

The Four Humours. Clockwise from upper left: Phlegmatic, Choleric, Melancholia and Sanguine.

Hippocrates referred to the fluid imbalance as the cause of various diseases, and his remedy to his patients was to rest and allow the body fluids to re-balance themselves in the effort to recover. He was one of the first to also prescribe herbal drugs to hasten the re-balance. At the Asklepeion, we were able to see the site of patient wards were the sick rested to aid recovery, as well as a counselling room where diagnoses were made.  The only feature which were absent were the operating theatres, mainly due to the culture of the day which forbade dissecting of the body to observe the human anatomy.

However, patients who had terminal illness were allowed to make peace with the god Asklepios, the son of Apollos and considered in ancient Greek folklore as the god of health and medicine. His temple was located on the upper of the three levels. Very much like the chapels found in modern hospitals.

The Asklepeion in Kos

Hippocrates was a brilliant analyst of his day, but modern science had disproved his theory of the four body fluids. However, according to Dr. S. I. McMillen in his book, None of these Diseases, (1964, final reprint 1980) this 20th Century medical doctor lists more than ninety diseases, illnesses and other infirmities brought about by excess stress and the constant over-production of adrenaline fed into the bloodstream. Normally, adrenaline is a hormone which is rapidly pumped into the bloodstream as a result of fright, or imminent danger, allowing the person for rapid action, fight or take flight. However, on the minus side, Dr. McMillen sites anger, fear and worry as the three main causes which activates the two adrenal glands, located on each kidney.  Since this is mainly an emotional issue affecting one's reaction towards an opinion, another person, group of people or a set of circumstances, its debilitating effect on one's health seems to bring a correlation between the research of Dr. McMillen and that of Hippocrates, namely that body fluids determine both behaviour and health. However, for Hippocrates to carry out his research, the major move he had to make was the departure of science from the superstitious beliefs of his day.

At present, we see science as a great benefit to our lives, especially in the area of medicine. But as I stated in my last two blogs, some disciplines of science had taken us away from faith in God and the truthfulness of the Bible. Darwinism is such one discipline. No other branch of science had enticed so many from belief and faith in God, challenging the truthfulness of the Bible. And yet, as a part in preparation of this article, I had checked some statistics. To tell the truth, I was somewhat surprised in what I have found, because according to The Guardian newspaper, printed Sunday 1st February, 2009 - the headline read:
Half of Britons do not believe in Evolution.
This headline came out close to the date of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday and at the time such discussion were at its peak. With 2,060 adults questioned, the result of the survey was:
25% believe that Evolution to be definitely true.
25% believe that Evolution to be probably true.
22% believe in creation by intelligent design, with 10% believing in the Young Earth creationism.
The remaining 28% were not sure.

In response to the survey, Professor James Williams of Sussex University commented:
Creationists ask if people believe in evolution. Evolution is a theory and a fact. You accept it because of the evidence. What the creationists have done is put a cloak of pseudo-science to wrap up their religious beliefs.  Evolution is very badly taught in schools so the results of the survey don't surprise me. On the other hand, creationism has traditionally been an issue in North America and there is a big problem in Australia and Turkey. It matters if people don't understand how science works.

Agreeing with Professor Williams, an anonymous commentator added:
Well, what a seriously depressing article! I knew that the Brits were thick, but I didn't realise we were that thick...

Maybe so, but there is a strong correlation between the UK and the United States, where the latest Gallup Poll showed that up to 46% of all Americans believe in Creationism, leaving 32% believing in Theistic Evolution and the remaining 15% believing in Evolution without divine intervention. With this kind of survey result, little wonder that neuroscientist Sam Harris, in his book, Letter to a Christian Nation, (2006) the author lamented:
Indeed, I am painfully aware that my country appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant.

In writing this blog, it becomes apparent that those who protest against creationism in favour of evolution are mainly post-graduates. This is endorsed by the same Gallup Poll that amongst post-graduates, only 25% believe in creationism, compared with 46% of the rest of the population. In turn, 29% believe in evolution without divine intercession to the 15% by the general population.

This is the hostility of those holding on to science in opposition to faith. But by looking, as an example, to microbiology, it becomes apparent that it is mathematically impossible for the cell to have evolved in the Darwinian sense, a fact that evolutionists simply don't admit, although those who research genetics and such allied studies are fully aware of the impossibility for the cell to have evolved without any form of divine intervention. To read the full details of this, go to one of my blogs,
A Small Block To The Reality Of Evolution, published 26th February, 2012.

But to read how the vastly complex mechanism of the cell works to produce the intricate protein chain needed to sustain life makes fascinating reading. And this knowledge, when mixed with faith in the God who designed it, brings out my awe and admiration to the Creator of life. Science, mixed with faith in a Creator, is a wonderful blessing. Not only does science as a whole makes daily living  less harsh but brings a lot of personal comfort, it is worthwhile noting that the most complex and the most intricate device ever created is the human brain. God has given us brains to learn all about the ins and outs of his creation, and we call that science.

Faith asks why the world works in a certain way. Science asks how. And both complement each other.


  1. Fascinating post! I am blessed to say that I am in the minority, because even though I am an MD, I wholly believe in Biblical creationism. Even without faith, a critical examination of the "evidence" supporting evolution shows that it is nonexistent. Furthermore, the theory of evolution flies in the face of common sense and observation, because at no time has anyone ever observed order arising from chaos by chance. The Hippocratic Oath physicians take begins: "Primum non nocere," or "First, do no harm." If educators would only ascribe to that oath, they might refrain from the untold harm that has been done by teaching evolutionism. This includes not only the promotion of faithlessness, but also of sin, crime, racism, and other evil following from the false belief that man is no different from the animals. Thanks as always for the enlightening post, & God bless,

  2. Great post, Frank.

    Unfortunately Hippocrates, like most of the Greek philosophers, made some observations and developed conclusions from them. Unfortunately, they often proclaimed their conclusions as facts without testing them, unwilling to consider the possibility they could be wrong. As a result many of their conclusions have been proven false. Some of the claims today were developed in a similar fashion and are equally untested. As Laurie pointed out, some of them actually contradict proven science. Passing them off as valid has done a great deal of harm, in many areas of life. As you pointed out, a valid faith should be complimented by real science.

  3. I like reading Greg Braden's books on quantam physics, but for me they just emphasize the majesty of God. Christianity through faith in Jesus is something that for the past thirty years has always increased my knowledge of God the more I seek Him, and seems to be able to answer every question that I ask if I wait for my answers.

  4. This is a great post Frank; I always look forward to reading them a great deal.

    Yes, there seems to be blind spots in those who believe in evolution. For balance, it could be said that some Christians also have blind spots too. Anyway, as you say, how could life just have happened and how could something as incredible as the human brain just develop without a Creator behind it? We have beautiful watches and we have incredibly powerful computers, to name but two things; if you suggested that a PC just happened by chance you would be laughed out of the room! So why suggest the same for life?

    You wrote: 'Faith asks why the world works in a certain way. Science asks how. And both complement each other.' How profound! Yes they do complement each other perfectly if only we'd open our eyes just a little more.