Thursday, June 7, 2012

Imagination That Contradicts the Reality of Creation

Imagine a world in which hunger is vanquished by crops that don’t depend on soil, water, or fertilizer, or pesticides to thrive. 
        – Vice President Joseph Biden, Commencement address, Cypress Bay High School in Florida

Nothing wrong with graduates being challenged to imagine what they can accomplish.  Creative imagination is sometimes a spark in the development of hypotheses and the design of experiments.  However, imagination that sets one adrift from reality can also interfere with good science.  For example, disciplined reasoning based on the existing body of scientific theory is required to interpret data and to establish probable “cause and effect.” 

Vice President Biden at Cypress Bay H.S., Weston, FL*
Back to Biden’s imaginary crops that “don’t depend on soil, water, or fertilizer.”  Plants can grow in soilless culture (hydroponics) but not without water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide (a vital gas to plants).   I cannot imagine how plants can grow without material constituents necessary to build the cellular and molecular structures of the plant body.  Can you?

When bureaucratic agenda overreaches into science for political gain, even uglier things can happen.   For example, evidence leaked from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University, Norwich, England, in 2009, suggested that efforts were made to intimidate or discredit opposing scientists, suppress exchange of climate data, and suppress publications that question the assumptions of climate change models.  Thus, legitimate scientific attempts to understand the effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions on global temperatures was hi-jacked by the political and economic agenda scientific data to the contrary was ignored (see Oikonomia, November 30, 2009).

Here’s another case in point.  In the 1940’s and 50’s, the Russian scientist, Trofim Lysenko (1898-1976), duped the communist leadership into believing that he could produce crops that would thrive in Siberia by repeated exposure to cold treatments to make them more vigorous.  His theory was based on the false theory of “inheritance of acquired characteristics” promoted by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829).  Although his proposals were not grounded in good science at the time, they fit the communist philosophy of the rise of the working class through persistent struggle to overcome harsh conditions.  Lysenko succeeded in swaying the communist leadership so much so that he became president of the Agricultural Academy.  By the time Lysenco’s false science was discovered and discredited, Russian agriculture had already been set back for decades.

Today, as we see more government intervention into housing, health insurance, and alternative energies causing failed outcomes, maybe Mr. Biden believes that a trip down imaginary lane will lift the spirits of the American electorate.  But there is little hope for such amazing crops without a magic wand to override the scientific principles of biology, chemistry, and genetics that define reality in the created order.

The “created order” turns out to be a common theme among all of the scientific, political, economic, and religious issues we face today.   Does your reality and mine take into consideration the objective reality as revealed in Scripture and confirmed in creation?  Both biological systems like crop plants and whole economic systems that value and distribute goods and services are irreducibly complex.  These systems are, as the oft quoted phrase suggests, “not more complex than we think, they are more complex than we can think.”

Our challenge as stewards of creation and citizens of government is to learn to recognize and respect the realities of both the spiritual and physical worlds around us.  Crops will never grow from nothing; they will always require some kind of medium and constituents from which to grow.  Instead of imagining plants that grow from nothing, perhaps we should imagine ways in which the enhance the function of our agro-economic systems which already deliver a tremendous variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats to our dinner tables for a small fraction of the cost of living compared with many parts of the world.

More amazing is that our agro-economic systems provide relatively cheap nutritious food in spite of increasing government regulations, many of which are being added to protect us from eating too much; or to ensure that our children get a nutritious breakfast.  Humm, is it government’s role to protect us from our bad decisions and provide nutritious meals for children?  I thought parents were responsible to make good decisions themselves and to provide nutritious meals.  I thought parents were also responsible to provide wholesome training of their children in mind, body, and spirit, with the support of church and community.

Perhaps, Mr. Vice President, our graduates should be challenged to consider (not imagine) that there is a loving God in Heaven Who has given us His Word to instruct us in right living.   And to recognize the created order as explained in the Bible in which man was created to serve and preserve creation for God’s glory and for the flourishing of humankind and all of creation.   That marriage was ordained between one man and one woman who would be faithful to each other; and, that as God would permit, become the parents of children who would be theirs for a time to train up to use their gifts and abilities to be productive members of family, church, community, and civic organizations.  That, as professionals, they would conduct themselves and their businesses virtuously toward their clients and customers.   They would be committed to prospering financially but would refuse the temptation toward greed, or to take short-cuts that cause degradation of creation.   Instead, they share the fruit of their labor in support of worthy causes.   They recognize that there will always be the poor and those who need lifting up; but that, as they are committed to doing their part of the” lifting”,  the number of poor and needy will always be small.   That government would then be smaller because individuals would behave ethically, break fewer laws, and seek to build stronger families, churches, and communities.   

Imagine that, Vice President Biden.

Photo:,  June 4, 2012

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