Sunday, November 8, 2009

Germs, Labor Fever, and Biblical Sanitation

Another interesting piece of scientific evidence for the inspired Word of God.

I am amazed at how the Bible's medical laws have so much of the modern knowledge and understanding about health and yet excludes the dangerous medical practices included in surrounding cultures 1.
(When I say "amazed" I mean that I am amazed at the evidence in the Bible to show that it is the Word of God...not "amazed" that God knows something about science!LOL)
I heard about the discovery where women in child labour during the 1880's had a highish mortality rate when treated by doctors that did not clean their hands properly after touching dead people.
If only people would heed God's Word a little sooner.
I managed to find this little piece of information on it...

Enjoy.

"Germs, Labor Fever, and Biblical Sanitation

In their book, None of These Diseases, physicians S.I. McMillen and David Stern discussed how many of the hygienic rules established by God for the children of Israel still are applicable today. To illustrate their point, they recounted the story of Ignaz Semmelweis.

In 1847, an obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis was the director of a hospital ward in Vienna, Austria. Many pregnant women checked into his ward, but 18% of them never checked out. One out of every six that received treatment in Semmelweis’ ward died of labor fever (Nuland, 2003, p. 31). Autopsies revealed pus under their skin, in their chest cavities, in their eye sockets, etc. Semmelweis was distraught over the mortality rate in his ward, and other hospital wards like it all over Europe. Nuland noted that Australia, the Americas, Britain, Ireland, and practically every other nation that had established a hospital suffered a similar mortality rate (2003, pp. 41-43). If a woman delivered a baby using a midwife, then the death fell to only about 3%. Yet if she chose to use the most advanced medical knowledge and facilities of the day, her chance of dying skyrocketed immensely!

Semmelweis tried everything to curb the carnage. He turned all the women on their sides in hopes that the death rate would drop, but with no results. He thought maybe the bell that the priest rang late in the evenings scared the women, so he made the priest enter silently, yet without any drop in death rates.

As he contemplated his dilemma, he watched young medical students perform their routine tasks. Each day the students would perform autopsies on the dead mothers. Then they would rinse their hands in a bowl of bloody water, wipe them off on a common, shared towel, and immediately begin internal examinations of the still-living women. Nuland commented concerning the practice: “Because there seemed no reason for them to wash their hands, except superficially, or change their clothing before coming to the First Division, they did neither” (2003, p. 100). As a twenty-first-century observer, one is appalled to think that such practices actually took place in institutes of what was at the time “modern technology.” What doctor in his right mind would touch a dead person and then perform examinations on living patients—without first employing some sort of minimal hygienic practices intended to kill germs? But to Europeans in the middle-nineteenth-century, germs were virtually a foreign concept. They never had seen a germ, much less been able to predict its destructive potential. According to many of their most prevalent theories, disease was caused by “atmospheric conditions” or “cosmic telluric influences.”

Semmelweis ordered everyone in his ward to wash his or her hands thoroughly in a chlorine solution after every examination. In three months, the death rate fell from 18% to 1%. Semmelweis had made an amazing discovery. On the inside cover-flap of the book about Semmelweis, written by medical doctor and historian Sherwin Nuland, the text reads:

Ignác Semmelweis is remembered for the now-commonplace notion that doctors must wash their hands before examining patients. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, this was a subversive idea. With deaths from childbed fever exploding, Semmelweis discovered that doctors themselves were spreading the disease (2003, inside cover flap).

Had Semmeliweis made a groundbreaking discovery, or is it possible that he simply “rediscovered” what had been known in some circles for many years? Almost 3,300 years before Semmelweis lived, Moses had written: “He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.” Germs were no new discovery in 1847; the biblical text recorded measures to check their spread as far back as approximately 1500 B.C."

http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3159

10 comments:

  1. "He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.”

    This refers to ritual purification, not washing with a chlorine solution, or even soap. Ritual purification would not stop the spread of disease.

    Besides that, if the Mayans could come come up with an incredibly accurate view of the solar system without computers or the Hubble, and the Arabs could calculate the circumference of the earth without calculators, why couldn't a person thousands of years ago have the same insight that Semmeliweis did relatively recently?

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  2. That was the strangest conclusion to that story that I could have expected. Even Ray Comfort uses Leviticus 15:13 "Now when the man with the discharge becomes cleansed from his discharge, then he shall count off for himself seven days for his cleansing; he shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and will become clean."

    To pretend that the bible says clean your hands in running water.

    That was more the verse I was expecting, it seems slightly more relevant.

    But of course a few things.

    Next time you go to the hospital or to a doctor, would you be content if they just washed their hands in running water?

    Wouldn't it be much more likely to be divine providence if the Bible Verse was "For some reason I have made tiny tiny creatures that you cant see and they will kill you unless you wash your hands with a bit of soap after touching icky stuff."

    Besides if "He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean" is supposed to be talking about germs, which doesn't really make sense anyway, and is supposed to show how smart the contents of the bible is....Then the dopey stuff like 'breed your animals in front of stripey sticks to make stripey babies and spotted sticks to make spotted babies' certainly brings this same amazing intellectual prowess into question.

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  3. lol hardly.

    Selectively quoting the bible and going "ooh it's so scientific" requires you ignoring everywhere else isn't.

    Using Isaiah to say the earth is a sphere when it says circle ignores that it could very well have used the word ball which is used elsewhere in the old testament. You also have to ignore all the other verses that specifically state the earth is flat unmoving, unmovable disc on pillars with a domed firmament over it. Which is in keeping with what we know other cultures in the area also believed around that time.
    The allusion to a flat earth extends into the new testament as well.

    Remember this is like 700 years AFTER greeks had calculated the circumference of the earth to like 10% of the actual value.

    Nothing in the bible is conclusive that they understood the earth was a giant sphere spinning in space while orbiting the sun.

    I can't believe that people claim things like 'hey if you bleed out, you die' is divine knowledge. That's exactly what I was referring to above. Hey I'm dirty, this water washes away the dirt' diving knowledge!

    Nothing about 'hey don't let the sick person play with your food' or 'Don't lick the sick person' isn't more than anyone would expect any culture to learn quite quickly. And again this is only after you know the person is sick from some outward sign, it shows no understanding of how they got sick. What percentage of illnesses are are contagious and spread before showing any signs, I would be willing be bet most of them actually.

    And as I said previously, you then specifically have to wave away where the bible is completely bonkers.
    Already mentioned the flat earth cosmology. The moon is light similar to the sun is another good one.

    How about stopping the sun to lengthen the day? Clearly a good understanding of the nature of the solar system there.

    How about the storehouses where god keeps the weather?
    There is plenty written about that. Particularly in the book of Enoch. 'Oh' you cry 'The book of Enoch isn't in the bible!'. It's in some bibles it's one of the books that didn't make the cut for the protestant bible. But it's part of some bibles. except of course that the book of Enoch is quoted in your bible because the writers at the time considered it a good source.

    Anyone with a scrap of historical knowledge should have an understanding that the church held back Science requiring Science to conform to scriptural interpretations at the time (and in some ways it still is).

    The point is that reinterpreting what you can reclaim as divine knowledge while simultaneously waving away the ridiculous stuff as perhaps metaphorical when you can only make that decision afterwards shouldn't fool anyone.

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  4. I like this one:

    We know scientifically that the universe is wearing out or running down. The Psalmist already understood this truth: "Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them" (Psalm 102:25-26 NLT).

    BT,

    I think you forget that the Bible was written by man from man's perspective. God I believe edited it...but don't get me wrong. I believe God meant for every word to be in there. Or else why did all four gospels have different styles? :)

    How about stopping the sun to lengthen the day? Clearly a good understanding of the nature of the solar system there.

    If I said to God "please stop the sun in the sky" would I be scientifically wrong?
    No.
    From my perspective God would be stopping the sun in the sky.

    You shouldn't overlook the amazing points the Bible brings out and wave them off.

    PF,

    why couldn't a person thousands of years ago have the same insight that Semmeliweis did relatively recently?

    I don't know about you, but when I see something amazing I want to find out why. Why wave off something amazing as mediocracy?

    The following taken from http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3159 is probably even more interesting regarding evidence for God's fingerprint on the Bible.

    The first five books of the Old Testament, admittedly, are not devoted entirely to the enumeration of medical prescriptions. They are not ancient medical textbooks. These books do, however, contain numerous regulations for sanitation, quarantine, and other medical procedures that were to govern the daily lives of the Israelite nation. Missing entirely from the pages of these writings are the harmful remedies and ingredients prescribed by other ancient civilizations. In fact, the Pentateuch exhibits an understanding of germs and disease that much “modern” medicine did not grasp for 3,500 years after the books were written.


    cheers,

    Dan

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  5. My point is that you have to wave away the rubbish to say 'look how scientifalogical it is!'

    A straightforward case of cherry picking.

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  6. LOL,

    If I am cherry picking, then you must be lemon picking by saying "Look how unscientifalogical it is!".

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  7. Hah! That's actually quite funny.

    The point is really that in an apparently divinely inspired book, 'The Word of God', only one silly pieces of weirdness brings that into question.

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  8. :) Good to have a bit of humour...

    The point is really that in an apparently divinely inspired book, 'The Word of God', only one silly pieces of weirdness brings that into question.

    I think I touched on an answer for that above.

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  9. Oh and another part of this is incredibly bigoted. 'oh those stupid people couldn't work out that hanging out with sick people means they might get sick, that must have been God telling them!"

    Do you honestly think "He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean" shows an understanding of hygiene?

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