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Life as a Half-Full Glass

Marvin Olasky
Photo source: Unsplash.

Life is full of semi-miracles: Let us rejoice and be glad.

If you’ve ever sat in a mark-up session where senators edit prospective federal laws, you’re not surprised that most legislation is messy sausage-making.

If you’ve ever visited a Hollywood set and seen how complicated the filmmaking process is, you’re not surprised that most movies flop.

If you’ve ever watched a major league pitcher before the game fine-tuning his fastballs, curves, and sliders that can cross a corner of home plate at different speeds, heights, and angles, you’re not surprised that even the best ballplayers hit successfully only three out of ten times.

When Something Goes Right

I’ve observed legislators, movie directors, and pitchers. Some processes have irreducible complexity. Mix into all the complications our human sinfulness, and the difficulties escalate. Great success is rare. Let us rejoice when something goes right.

A shocking fact: Most things go wrong. If you’ve ever run a small enterprise, with all the complexities of getting the right combination of people and products, you’re not surprised that most enterprises fail. In marriage, how do two people become one flesh? It’s a semi-miracle that half do. 

Our children in this society are under enormous pressure to conform to anti-theistic worldviews. It’s not surprising that many give up on God in college and in their 20s and even 30s. It’s a semi-miracle that some stand strong, and others who gave in bounce back in their 40s. 

John Newton, the 18th-century slave-trader turned pastor and hymn-writer, often received letters from those who despaired about their ongoing sin. Neither shocked nor even surprised, he typically responded (I’m paraphrasing), Of course, you’re a sinner. Sinners sin. When we don’t sin, for a few seconds, let us rejoice. 

Only when we realize how helpless we are in our own power are we ready to submerge our pride and turn to God. We have a tendency to blame God when things don’t work, but we should thank Him. If everything worked our egos would expand and we’d worship ourselves instead of Him. 

In a Fallen World

Jesus summarized all the commands in a few words: Love God, love others. Knowing how to love others in a fallen world, and not merely massage their sins and ours, is sometimes complicated. Loving God is more straightforward: Stop complaining, start praising. 

A 2018 book by biologist Nathan Lents, Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, is full of complaints. The author, for instance, complains that our backbones leave us vulnerable to slipped disks, pinched nerves, and lower back pain. Troubling and sometimes maddening as those problems are, would we rather be jellyfish? 

Professor Lents, indeed, has been answered in detail most recently in the new book Your Designed Body, by systems engineer Steve Laufmann and physician Howard Glicksman, and in a recent video by mechanical engineer Stuart Burgess, “Why Human Skeletal Joints Are Masterpieces of Engineering.” Burgess explains why rather than Human Errors, Lents’s book should be titled Lents’s Errors. See here for more commentary from Evolution News.

When Glitches Whisper

Our “glitches,” rather than proving neo-Darwinism right, whisper that it is wrong. (Partly not Darwin’s fault: He didn’t know what we know about molecular and cellular biology.) Scientists early in the 20th century acknowledged that Darwin’s mechanisms for change were insufficient, so they brought in Gregor Mendel’s genetic discoveries and argued that mutations over time would lead to new and improved species. But mutations, like revolutions, usually make things worse rather than better.

Some of Lents’s major examples affirm that. He says a mutation in one of our distant ancestors forces us to get vitamin C to keep from dying of scurvy. Hmm: Let us rejoice that somehow humans did not lose out in the struggle for survival. 

Lents complains that koalas “can do fine eating just one kind of leaf,” but humans “have very particular needs for very specific micronutrients. Why? Because we lost the ability to make them for ourselves.” Hmm… wouldn’t those who lost it be less fit, and thus deserve a Darwinian death? In any event, let us rejoice that we don’t have one kind of leaf for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Where Babies Comes From

I did appreciate Lents’s discussion of how babies are conceived: “Even when eggs make it into the fallopian tube, it’s a miracle that sperm are able to locate them; sperm cells must travel around 17.5 centimeters to meet the egg, which is a challenge given that this is more than 3,000 times the length of their bodies.”

He concludes, “Considering the challenges of even fertilizing an egg, never mind the other hurdles that developing fetuses must overcome between conception and childbirth, every baby really is a miracle.”

Yes, a miracle. Let us rejoice and be glad.

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