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A half-full glass

Rejoicing over glitches

A half-full glass

(Krieg Barrie)

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

If you’ve ever sat in a markup 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 3 out of 10 times.

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.

Only when we realize how helpless we are in our own power are we ready to submerge our pride and turn to God.

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-Christian 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 here), 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.

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.

One new biology book, Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes (HMH, 2018), is full of complaints. Author Nathan Lents 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?

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’ 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.

I did appreciate Lents’ 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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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Wed, 06/06/2018 05:45 am


    I recently read an excellent book, "A Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Forests: North America (Peterson Field Guides)" It is about more than trees but covers every aspect of forests down to the microscopic inhabitants of decomposing leaves and detritus. It is kind of a field guide, but more. Being a hiker who enjoys the outdoors and wildlife there is much to learn. But what struck me most was the authors' attempts to explain the incredible diversity and complex mechanisms and interactions that exist in nature. To my mind it ends up being a tribute to the creator of everything, not Darwinianism. How did this all happen by time plus chance plus ______?

  • KP
    Posted: Thu, 06/07/2018 07:32 am

    Such a good reminder this morning, Mr. Olasky. Thank you!

  • NK
    Posted: Thu, 06/07/2018 11:10 am

    I totally agree that life is not so easy ... Especially if it concerns some laws. I think that we are forced to take a more active view of what is happening around us and try not to be very upset by what happens. Once my acquaintance worked in the sphere of law and he was a little bit polarized from what was happening. He went to another job and now feels much better. He even have such expression: always do your best writing paper. So if there are any questions, I think he will help you with joy. Don't get upset with life. 

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Wed, 06/20/2018 07:13 am

    A few months ago I found myself in the hospital with blood clots in my lungs.  I was hooked up to all sorts of equipment such that I could watch my own organs functioning.  I suddenly realized that millions of things need to go right every day just to stay alive.  How unaware I was of the miracle of my own existence.  People get caught up in daily drama and forget how impossible it all is apart from a Creator.   Let us rather be thankful and worship.