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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
TIME Magazine’s June 23 issue jumped out at me from the stack of mail that greeted our return from vacation with the best headline ever: EAT BUTTER. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.
Hallelujah! I love butter! Butter on biscuits, butter on grits (if they aren’t yellow they aren’t edible), butter in pies, and cakes, on potatoes, butter on toast. Butter is the best!
I’m happy about this headline because for most of my adult life butter was the enemy of healthy eating. Now the tables have turned. Now the nutritional scientists are targeting excess carbohydrates and revealing the benefits of fat in our diets. Now butter is our friend! I’m elated.
If you’re curious about the details of this scientific shift you can access the TIME article here http://time.com/2863227/ending-the-war-on-fat/?pcd=hp-magmod (but you will need a subscription to read it). And you might enjoy The Great Cholesterol Myth by Johnny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra.
I’m interested in it for deeper reasons than diet. I’m intrigued by what it tells us about fear.
The TIME story explains how mid-twentieth century Americans were stampeded into the “fat is bad, carbs are good,” mentality. Shortly after WWII “…the fear of heart disease exploded in the U.S., driven home by President Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack in 1955.”
Enter Dr. Ancel Keys, immortalized as the inventor of the infamously bad-tasting K-ration imperishable food supply for the U.S. Army. Keys had a theory that cholesterol clogged arteries leading to heart disease. He wasn’t entirely wrong, but he wasn’t entirely right either, as later research has shown. That didn’t matter, Keys’ reputation, his confidence and his “willingness to take down any researcher who disagreed with him was at least as important as his massive data sets.”
The result is that from 1971 to 2000 American’s caloric intake increased from about 2100 per day to almost 2600 per day while calories from flour and cereals went up 42%. Consumption of High-fructose corn syrup (with no fat!) has increased over 8000%. That shift is cited as one of the drivers of near-epidemic incidences of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Consider the combination of factors that led to a massive shift in our way of life with such destructive results: A popular national leader suffers a heart attack (no one mentioned his four-pack a day cigarette habit); a lot of men seemed to be dying of heart disease in middle age (how many were smokers?); a popular national scientist proposes a solution and has such a big microphone that he is able to shout down the opposition; universities do studies; drug companies develop new drugs; legislatures pass laws; the whole country enters a forty year eating experiment with dubious results.
Sound familiar? Can anyone say, Climate Change?
The late Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and himself a doctor, witnessed similar stampedes of opinion and issued a warning about politicized science in one of his last books, State of Fear. Writing in 2004 he said:
Imagine that there is a new scientific theory that warns of an impending crisis, and points to a way out.This theory quickly draws support from leading scientists, politicians, and celebrities around the world. Research is funded by distinguished philanthropies, and carried out at prestigious universities. The crisis is reported frequently in the media. The science is taught in college and high school classrooms.I don’t mean global warming. I’m talking about another theory, which rose to prominence a century ago.Its supporters included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill. It was approved by Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, who ruled in its favor. The famous names who supported it included Alexander Graham Bell … activist Margaret Sanger; botanist Luther Burbank; Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University; the novelist H.G. Wells; the playwright George Bernard Shaw; and hundreds of others. Nobel Prize winners gave their support. Research was backed by the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. The Cold Springs Harbor Institute was built to carry out this research, but important work was also done at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and John’s Hopkins. Legislation to address the crisis was passed in states from New York to California.These efforts had the support of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council. It was said that if Jesus were alive, he would have supported this effort.
Well, you get the picture. The theory was Eugenics. It posited that inferior races of people were overpopulating the planet and needed to be controlled and reduced. It’s most effective practitioners were the National Socialists of Germany in the 1930’s & 40’s. Not surprisingly, the institutions and individuals associated with that research didn’t want to discuss it much after Hitler’s big success.
We can draw many conclusions from these examples of politicized science. But the most important thing for followers of Christ is this: Do not live in fear of anything. “Do not be afraid little flock,” said Jesus, “for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” That is his constant message: Do not be afraid. If he really is who he says he is we have nothing to fear, even from death.
So when you see the NEXT BIG THING, coming across the internet or filling your flat screen whether it’s from a TV preacher or a national leader, and you feel yourself being swept up in the stampede, take a step back. Get your feet anchored again on the Rock. Be patient and watch the world squeal and squawk and wait for it to catch up with the facts.
And while you’re at it, pass the butter.