Thursday, 29 January 2009

Saving Lives, One Stove at a Time

We all know there is a grave problem in global warming and increased pollution. Stockholm University recently came out with a study that showed a large percentage - 66% - of the brown haze that constantly plagues South Asia and the Indian Ocean is caused by burning of wood and dung, and not coal and oil. Sadly, this pollution is not merely an inconvenience, but results in many deaths in the area. But what can we do about it?

I want to point you to another report, this time from NPR. The Onil Stove was created to save burns and dramatically increase efficiency. But it is also built with cheap materials, and the inventor, Don O'Neal, refused to make any money off it, giving the design away instead. This may well be the answer to helping the people of South Asia. Obviously, they need to continue to use fuel for cooking and cold winter nights. The use of the stove will allow them to meet these needs, while saving lives throughout the area through reduced pollution.

But though the stoves are cheap, in many areas of the world, they run some twenty times daily family income. So please go to Helps International, and donate there for the Onil Stove. And tell them that you want them to expand. Currently, the Onil Stove is only available in parts of Latin America, as Helps only does its very good work in that area of the world. Your voice, and your donation, can encourage Helps to expand into India, and alleviate the pollution and deaths in South Asia.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

"Lord, I believe; help me produce more oxycotin."

Yes, it's been almost two years, that I've let this blog lie. There seemed to be waning reader interest at the time, but I've noticed more comments of late. And I've felt the muse as well, so I am returning to post, on occasion, my musings on the interaction between science and faith.

Recently, World Science published a summary of research on trust in dogs. It's been discovered how "puppy dog eyes" work. The expression in a dog, or anyone else, produces oxytocin, the "trust hormone". If your dog does something bad, and you look at him when he's got that sad gaze, you are more likely to forgive him. His expression has changed the chemistry in your brain, causing you to trust him, and decide that your dog didn't mean it. If you do not look at your dog when he has this expression, then the chemical is not produced in your brain.

Rather intriguing on its own. But I wanted to look at the results for this in terms of trust and faith in God. Obviously, God doesn't provide us with an expression that we can see. But the hormone can be produced in other ways- the key is, the hormone is associated with trust. We know that now, faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see. Faith is quite clearly a form of trust.

And yet, without faith it is impossible to please God. Not because he's out to come up with arbitrary rules, but rather that he desires the best for us, and knows we will be most joyful if we rely on him, if we trust that he is out for us- which is what faith is in the simplest terms. Happily, even when I lack it, God is still there. If I deny him, he will deny me. But if I am faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself. Even when I lack faith, he is still there for me.

But now we learn that trust- and therefore faith- is something chemically determined. This is not to negate our responsibility, but rather to say that it is something which, to a degree, we have no control over. In truth, it is nothing new to know that hormones influence our emotions. But faith seems to be something so much more than an emotion. And yet, I must rely on my oxycotin levels in order to fully have it.

Perhaps this is the reason for the prayer of the father with the possessed son, a prayer echoed down through the ages, in the masses of the faithful, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." There is a level that we can believe to. But not on our own. Even that is beyond us, without help. We must have faith - trusting in God to help - even to get more faith. And now we know what we are asking for.

And so, please pray with me now: "Lord, I believe; help me produce more oxycotin."
This is the discussion of the World Science updates as they become available.
Your thoughts are most welcome here.