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aetiology: the study of causation (2)

Therefore, just as ho hamartia [Greek = the wrong, the sin] came into the world through one man, and death came through ho hamartia, and so death spread to all because all have sinned ......    Romans 5: 12


In her 2008 Annual Report, Dr Rosemary Geller, Jersey’s Medical Officer of Health, reported that cancer was the second most common cause of death in Jersey. The first? Heart disease. 271 people died from heart diseases in 2008; 206 from cancers; 111 from respiratory diseases.


What’s the cause of (my) heart disease? What was the cause of the terminal cancer of a 20-year-old beautiful young lady (my daughter’s school-and-after friend)? What is the cause of (my wife’s sister’s) respiratory problems? Is there a common aetiology for all of these?


Look at the words in bold above that now form part of the Christian Bible. They are discredited today by most people. Instantly. But???


Most folk in Jersey (and elsewhere) identify inherited genes, infection, environment and stress – often a combination of these – as the ‘ultimate’ cause of diseases and death. But does such a sensible view go back far enough? If not we’ll only be treating symptoms and not dealing with or curing the ultimate cause.


Take the first ‘cause’ just mentioned: inherited genes. It would fit the story of Adam and Eve if all diseases came from them (assuming, just for a few minutes, that this couple were indeed the original man and woman from which we all descend). But there is one major reason to oppose this view.


If Adam and Eve had faulty genes there is immediate conflict with the ancient book of Genesis in the Jewish Bible, now included in the Christian Bible and written by Moses around 1350 BC. This attests that Almighty God, examining all his creation, said that it was “very good”. To think that the Almighty would say, “It’s all very good” when the man and the woman he was looking at had diseased genes and would pass on all those diseases to their children is nothing short of unbelievable. 


The resulting questions must then be faced. If Adam and Eve were created “very good”, what went wrong and how did what went wrong affect not only themselves but also their progeny?


These questions becomes even more significant when one reads in Genesis that, Adam and Eve having been created “very good”, Eve becomes pregnant (admittedly after they had both decided to disobey their creator and pursue self-centred lives) and gives birth to their eldest son who later became a murderer. Had they changed at the fall? Had their joint resolve to pursue what seemed to be very good for themselves changed them inside so that they then procreated self-obsessed children who would also be prepared to do immoral things if the outcome would be “good” for them?


Biologists are today very familiar with the science of epigenetics. Epi is Greek for ‘over’ or ‘above’ and epigenetics is defined as “the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence.” So the way that genes actually work is subject to change – with the genes themselves staying the same. What causes the changes in the way they work? It can be environment – or nurture – or, yes, stress.


So Adam and Eve’s DNA may well have been “very good” but, because of the major rebellion that occurred when they chose to please themselves and disobey their God and Creator, the way in which those genes then functioned was damaged. Damaged by them. And scientists have discovered of very recent years that such changes in the way genes work can be “heritable” – can be passed on through generations.


This is evolution – but not for the good of men and women. Instead, see bold above, the aetiology of death itself becomes clearer: man started to damage himself by his self-centred choices; man passes the damage on through epigenetics to children; children add self-centred choices of their own and damage grows.


But, effective long-term reversal is now, today, possible.

‘The very existence of the fear of death, which is the root of practically all human fears, is a clear indication that death is unnatural even though its incidence is universal.’(Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Former Muslim, Author)
The punishment of sin is sin.’ (Augustine of Hippo, Philosopher and Theologian, 354-430)
Richard Syvret

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