October 4, 2016
For both doctors and patients, the power of antibiotics has been too alluring.
I am a biologist and a Christian, too, but I certainly don't see the situation with antibiotics has carrying any spiritual overtones, not like this anyway. An abused gift? Science strives to always learn more and improve life. All that we learn is a gift from God. The next discovery is around the corner.
There are plenty of "gifts" that have been "misused." Just look at gunpowder. The invention of gunpowder by the Chinese has now led to a horrific gun culture in the United States.
Is the rise of anti-biotic resistant microbes in the world a big issue? Yes. Is it the spiritual issue the author implies? I don't think so - it is another in a long line of human failings due to sin and selfishness.
I think you're missing something here. Antibiotics are not "creating" super bugs. They were always there, but just the minority. Let's say that an antibiotic drug is 99.8% effective and is applied to someone with 1,000,000 bad bacterial cells. That means that it will kill off 998,000 of them and leave 2,000 of them behind that are resistant to the antibiotic and free to breed and multiply. Since they had the resistance in their DNA already, the majority of their offspring will also be resistant. Now that drug that was 99.8% effective is pretty close to zero percent effective. Now, a new antibiotic needs to be created to combat the survivors, because the original wasn't designed to work against them. And why would it when there was so few?
The threat of antibiotic resistance has been known for at least 30 years and should have been suspected soon after 1943 when Watson and Crick discovered how DNA "worked." Money is the god of this world and short term profits are all that matters. As Dr. Keynes noted, "In the long run, we are all dead."
In Reply to Mary Kay Radnich (comment #29270)
Thanks for reading and commenting. I like you comment a lot and find it very interesting. You start by saying that the antibiotic resistance problem doesn't have any spiritual overtones.
I guess that I see spiritual overtones almost everywhere in my work. If this is really God's good world, broken and twisted by sin, and if we believe that through Jesus Christ EVERYTHING is being made new, then these things should matter to every topic in biology. I think that part of my job (and part of your job) as a person of faith working in science is to help our brothers in sisters in the lab and those in the pew to see that truth. Everything matters to God.
Then you say that the next discovery is around the corner. I certainly hope so! The thrust of the article is to use the gift of antibiotics wisely while they are still here but we should all hope and pray for the next miracle drug.
You end with the idea that antibiotic resistance is a result of sin and selfishness. I couldn't agree more. But those are spiritual terms applied to a scientific problem. I suspect we agree more than you might first think. I just use different language.
Thanks for reading.
In Reply to SSolheim (comment #29271)
Of course. Perhaps I should have used more careful language like, "lead to increased frequency" instead of "led to" but your point is well taken. Thanks for sharing the science with those who are interested. We could add horizontal gene transfer and biofilms to the discussion, but the basic idea is as you describe.
I think it is essentially important to distinguish "spiritual disobedience" from "lack of omniscience" when discussing a topic like this.
I regard the discovery and application of penicillin as a good thing, even if at some point we learned that, in a macro kind of way, it was being used more than was wise, macro speaking. But that lack of wisdom was probably just a lack of wisdom, aka lack of omniscience, not a spiritual failing.
Hey, it may turn out that decades from now, it will become clear that smart phones like the one I'm using right now, and posting to blog sites, like I'm doing right now, had the macro effect of making the human population stupid and lazy, and that we should have stuck with some configuration of "simple living"instead. If It turns out that way, will all of us (article author and commenters) have spiritually failed by "misusing God's good gift"? I sure dont think so.
Lack of omniscience, a human condition even if the fall had not occurred, necessarily means we must, both in the micro and macro, engage in trial and error (emphasis on ERROR), at least if we are inclined to improve the human condition, and I believe it is spiritually good to be so inclined.
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