O Me of Little Faith

Throughout the day, I’m always thinking about and keeping my eyes open for potential blogging topics. If something strikes me as possibly blog post-worthy, I might copy a link or type a few lines into a draft of a blog post, in hopes of coming back to it at some point to turn it into a more substantial post.

Sometimes I do. Other times, I never make it back to these bits and pieces. I get tired of seeing these partial posts in my drafts file. So today I thought I might just throw them out there, without much context and without any of the polishing I typically do for a “real” blog post.

Part of that idea sounds really great, because I can finally use some of these languishing ideas. But part of it is scary, because my opinions aren’t fully formed. I have questions. I don’t have much in the way of answers.

But enough introduction.

1. Human embryos are far more likely to miscarry than chimpanzee embryos. Did you know that? Humans miscarry nearly 50 percent of all conceptions, but chimps rarely do. It has to do with sugars on the surface of sperm that help bind sperm to cells in a uterus. Human sugars just don’t work as well as chimpanzee sugars.

I grew up learning not only that humans were created by God, but that we were the apex of his creation — that we were created in his image. Why, then, do we seem to have such a significant reproductive flaw…and why do “lesser” creatures like chimps seem to be better designed? Science has a good explanation for this — it’s a quirk of evolution. Does religion have a plausible explanation?


2. Speaking of design: I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, and for years I’ve appreciated the night sky, or a Texas Panhandle sunset, or the Rocky Mountains…and these things elicit wonder and religious
thoughts in me about a supremely creative Creator. Then I hear about parasites like Leucochloridium paradoxum.
Snails come into contact with it via bird poop. It infects a snail,
sends embryos into its eye stalks until they get pumped so fat they the deformed eyestalks look
like striped caterpillars (see photo above). Then the parasite rewires the snail’s brain so that it doesn’t avoid sunlight but instead travels out into it. Why? So birds can see it. Because birds think its swollen,
colorful tentacles are caterpillars, and they swoop down to bite the eye
stalks right off the snail’s face. This kills the snail, and the birds have ingested
the parasite, which then lays its eggs in the birds’ digestive system. At which point the birds
poop it out again. Then more snails get infected, and the cycle continues.

THAT is creative. But it’s also disturbing and a bit sinister. If a human
came up with this system, I would describe him as a sick, twisted
genius. But, as a Christian, I am supposed to believe that a benevolent
Creator is behind it. And I’m supposed to worship that Creator. And I’ll be honest: It’s hard to sing “How Great Is Our God” when you’re thinking about such disgustingly effective parasites.

[Photo: Lubomir Hlasek, Wired]

3. There’s a new book out by syndicated public radio host Michael Krasny. It’s called Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest and is, according to reviewer Reza Aslan,
an “agnostic’s manifesto” about trying to find a spiritual middle
ground between dogmatic atheism on one side and religious fundamentalism
on the other side. “What, really, does it mean to call oneself
agnostic,” Krasny asks,
“other than to be unwilling or unable to yield to belief and allow it
into one’s bloodstream?”

Aslan writes:

Where in the conflict between these two
competing claims of absolute certainty–religious and scientific–is there
room for the person willing to throw his hands in the air and say
simply, “I don’t know?”

…Is agnosticism
merely about uncertainty? Is it a matter of indecisiveness? Or, perhaps,
it is simply spiritual laziness. After all, in our modern world of
moralizing politicians, religious hypocrites, and holy warriors, the
term “agnostic” has come to signify not so much “I don’t know,” as “I
don’t care.”

I’m drawn to Krasny’s line about being “unwilling or unable” to yield to belief. Sometimes I feel as if I’m willing — Lord, am I willing — but somehow unable.

And I suspect that inability (#3) is a symptom of questions like those raised in #1 and #2.

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