Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Suspicions of Suppression

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Image by Emslichter from Pixabay

Some years ago, a backyard mechanic on the Canadian prairies invented a new carburetor that got fantastic gas mileage with no sacrifice of performance. He drove a car equipped with this carburetor from Winnipeg to Vancouver, averaging 130 miles per gallon for the trip (or 107 miles per US gallon). Or did he drive 217 miles on the prairies using only 1 gallon of gasoline? News reports differed in their accounts.

In any case, the news reports caused a sudden drop in the stock market values of oil company stocks. One day some oil company executives showed up on the inventor’s doorstep with a suitcase full of cash and bought the plans for this wonder carburetor and all the complete and incomplete carburetors that he had built. Or was it auto industry executives? Or was it the government, fearing a loss in tax revenue? Or did thieves break into his shop and steal everything?

In any case, this invention that could have saved billions of dollars for consumers has been suppressed. Occasionally however, a car that gets fantastic gas mileage is mistakenly delivered to a customer. Fairly soon the car is recalled by the manufacturer for some supposed manufacturing defect; when it is returned to the customer, it gets normal gas mileage. Or perhaps the owner wakes up in the middle of the night and sees some men working under the hood of his car. When they realize they have been seen they quickly make their getaway. The car still drives just fine, only now it uses a whole lot more gasoline. Or perhaps the car is simply stolen in the night. This is all the work of a sinister industrial conspiracy to keep us using as much gasoline as possible.

The reality

Back in the 1930’s Charles Nelson Pogue of Winnipeg obtained patents for a carburetor that he believed would dramatically increase gas mileage. Gasoline was passed through a spiral line that was heated by the exhaust manifold. This was supposed to completely vaporize the gas before it entered the combustion chamber which would make it burn more efficiently. This process would also increase the engine temperature by about 20°, which would also enhance performance.

Mr. Pogue never claimed to have achieved the promised results. Nevertheless the story took off, fuelled by the public’s desire to believe in technological money-saving miracles and their willingness to believe conspiracy theories.

The patent for the Pogue carburetor has now expired and the plans are available for anyone who wants to experiment on their family sedan. It won’t work. The gasoline in use today needs to reach 450° F to completely vaporize. Gasoline was more volatile when Mr. Pogue invented his carburetor. Apparently there were working models built back then. They did achieve slightly better fuel mileage, at the cost of severely reduced performance.

Common sense would tell us that no auto manufacturer would find it advantageous to suppress such an invention. If one company could produce vehicles that got far better gas mileage than all their competitors, wouldn’t they jump at the opportunity?

The idea that increasing engine temperature will increase efficiency lacks some logic as well. If an internal combustion engine could be made 100% efficient, the exhaust manifold would be cold. All the energy in the fuel would be transformed into work, not heat.

Very real gains in fuel efficiency have been achieved since Mr. Pogue invented his carburetor. They have been small, incremental gains, which have slowly added up. Carburetors have been replaced by fuel injection. Engine computers manage fuel burning more efficiently. Radial tires have reduced rolling resistance. Synthetic motor oils reduce friction in the engine. Lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles require less work from the engine to move them down the road. Cars now have four or five speed transmissions, reducing fuel use at cruising speeds. Some engines are designed to allow some cylinders to cut out at cruising speeds. The latest innovation is a motor that will stop when a car stops at a traffic light and start instantly when the gas pedal is pressed.

Nevertheless, stories of the suppressed 200 mpg carburetor refuse to die. Other supposedly suppressed inventions include incandescent light bulbs that never burn out, 100,000 mile tires and cancer cures. I confess to being an unreformed sceptic concerning these claims.

And then there are all the products that have not been suppressed. Every few months there is a new product or diet plan that promises quick and easy weight loss. I really wish there was a pill that would help me lose weight without any inconvenience to my flesh, even if it was a little hard on the wallet. Perhaps it is time to abandon that forlorn hope and try a little self-denial.

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There are countless over the counter health care products. Some are helpful, some are not, some are just scams, some are harmful. How can a person tell the difference? Many medical doctors are well informed on vitamins and herbal remedies. My wife cannot take any of the nsaids (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs). Her doctor advised her to use glucosamine. It is slower acting, but does not have any of the side effects of the nsaids. Not all over the counter products are so safe. At the very least, do not conceal from your doctor what you are taking.

There are health care products on the market that are based on the mystical beliefs of Eastern religions or other belief systems that are incompatible with Christian faith. These things need to be avoided like the plague.

There are products being heavily promoted for which the manufacturer claims benefits that cannot be verified by anyone else. If something is based on genuine science, other researchers will be able to reproduce the results. Anything else is junk science.

Some people have gotten hooked by the promises of new money making schemes, only to find they were really money losing schemes. Any business idea that promises big profits from a small investment and little work should arouse our suspicion. Real life doesn’t tend to work that way.

Why are we so gullible?

Everybody likes a bargain. We are all concerned about maintaining our health. Innovative ways of making a little extra cash get our attention. But it would serve us well to develop a healthy scepticism about products or schemes that promise some almost miraculous breakthrough in technology or health care. Especially if there are whispers that the government, or industry, or the medical profession, doesn’t want us to know about it.

© Bob Goodnough, first published in Business Bulletin in 2009

Finding peace in time of sickness

Most of us, at least in Canada, have heard the sad story of the young couple convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their child. The boy was sick for 2½ weeks, a friend told them it was probably meningitis, but they never took him to a doctor until he stopped breathing.

They were loving parents and did their best, according to their understanding, to help their little boy. Their understanding was that natural remedies were superior to anything the medical profession might have to offer.

These parents have lost their little boy and have been convicted of a criminal offense. I think they have suffered enough – a prison term would serve no purpose. But perhaps there needs to be a conversation about the limits of alternative medicine.

Some folks are of the opinion that herbal remedies are inherently superior to prescription medicines, and have no side effects because they are natural substances derived from plants. The situation is more complex than that. Many prescription meds are derived from plants; some “natural” remedies are useful, some are worthless and others are downright dangerous. I cannot take ginseng because it is too hard on my heart. Tobacco and heroin are derived from plants.

Friends recently told of a child that was born some years ago with congenital hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip socket does not form. If this condition is discovered in a newborn the remedy is simple – keep the legs spread apart for some months and the hip socket will form naturally. In this case the condition was not discovered until the girl started to walk, when it was seen that one leg would turn at odd angles. Well meaning friends advised the parents to take the little girl to a chiropractor. There is nothing a chiropractor can do by manipulation to manufacture a hip socket. By this time the little girl needed surgery, and she got it.

I am particularly troubled by the many Christian people who are prone to trust alternative medicine and therapies more than the medical profession. Many alternative therapies are based on a belief system that is not compatible with Christian faith.

A sister who was dying of cancer about 35 years ago faced the future with unwavering faith. The thing that troubled her the most was the Christian brothers and sisters who would press her to try some natural remedy or other, with such urgency that it appeared they thought that if she didn’t use their proposed remedy it would be her fault if she died.

As Christians we believe in miracles and there are instances of remarkable recoveries after a prayer for healing. I have also known cases where someone claimed to have been miraculously healed, only to die a year or so later from the disease they were healed from. It seems to me that cases of healing as a result of prayer are more common in places where medical help is not available.

Some people put far too much faith in doctors, expect them to have a remedy for every little ache, discomfort or worry. But is it pleasing to God if we go to the opposite extreme and mistrust the people around us who are most able to help in case of serious health conditions?

Such mistrust is often expressed in the name of God, claiming that He has a better way – a natural way. Yet there is often little evidence of a calm and peaceful trust in God. It seems to me that the best way is to trust God to lead us, and most often that will mean also trusting the guidance of our family doctor and whoever he refers us to. If God is truly leading us, we will have peace and quietness within.

The quest for health

Some trust in doctors

Folks today seem to accept it as fact that this life is all they have. They turn to doctors for help in staying alive as long as they can.Sometimes people blame the doctor when someone dies – it would not have happened if the doctor had done his job.

People also turn to doctors for help in staying happy, or dealing with emotional trauma. Yeats ago, they would have gone to their pastor, priest or rabbi for help in such troubles.

I believe most doctors are trustworthy. I also believe they can help with many emotional, mental and developmental issues. But genuine healing can only come from God. The doctor can help, but he is not infallible, and we are all going to die sometime.

Some trust in natural remedies

My wife and I visited a young wife and mother who had cancer. She knew her time on earth would soon be over. Yet she faced the future with faith, peace, and even joy. She told us that the thing that troubled her the most was Christians who came to her to propose one kind of herbal remedy or another. These were well-meaning people who were true believers in the remedies they suggested and made her feel that they thought that if she didn’t try their remedy it would be her fault if she died.

Some people spend their life savings on a new remedy or therapy that is not approved by the medical profession, but which promises to cure their ailment. Reports come back that they are feeling better every day. Then we hear that they have died.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that many prescription medicines are plant-based. I know that many herbal and vitamin supplements will enhance our health. I also know that many “natural” remedies do not deliver on the promises made for them and may even have harmful side-effects or interactions with other medications.

Some trust in faith healers

Another young lady was dying of cancer. A minister anointed her and prayed for her healing, and she was healed. She then was called upon to speak to groups of people and interviewed on radio to tell of her healing. A year later she was again dying, of the same cancer that she had been healed of. Her friends hardly knew how to talk to her – wouldn’t it be unbelief to admit she was dying?

This happens all too often, yet people want to believe that there is someone out there with the gift of healing who can help them.

Some trust in God

Isaac Mastre was a well-known minister and travelling evangelist in the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. There were times in his travels when he was asked to pray for a sick person. A number of remarkable healings occurred. In writing about one such incident he said “This is given to the church.” In other words, Isaac  Mastre did not see himself as someone with the gift of healing – all healing comes from God.

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). Please note that this does not say “call for an elder whom you know has the gift of healing.”

These verses are not just about physical healing. They point to the need for spiritual healing. That is the most important healing of all, because this life is not all that we have.

 

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