You are currently browsing the archives for the Health category.

Archives

Subscribe

Subscribe

Subscribe to receive new posts:


 

Upcoming events

There are no events to display

Thoughts

Finding God inhering naturalistically in all things -- a theory usually called panentheism -- is the only adequate religious response to science.
-R. Jeremy Kalmanofsky

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Jews, Judaism and Genetically Modified Crops

Sunday, February 28, 2016 @ 10:02 AM
posted by Roger Price

Credit: USDA

Genetically modified (“GM”) crops are plant products which have been genetically altered for certain traits. Such traits include resistance to viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, herbicides and drought, as well as aspects of product quality like improved yield, nutritional value and longer shelf life.  (See here and here.)

The characterization is somewhat of a misnomer. Modification of biological organisms is not a new process. It has been occurring in nature for billions of years. Indeed, the natural selection of some traits over others is the driving force of biological evolution, the process by which a species over time secures a competitive advantage in its environment. Today, though, the label of GM foods is meant to identify those products that have been modified or engineered by human means.

And yet, the intervention of humans in an otherwise natural process is not new either. Humans have been actively engaged in plant breeding for up to ten thousand years. An Assyrian relief, dated to 870 BCE, illustrates pollination of date palms by man.

Similarly, the Torah tells of Jacob manipulating his flocks of goats and lambs so that he would increase his herd with the fittest among them. (See Gen. 30:31-31:13.)That the author ambiguously attributed Jacob’s success to both magical sticks and God’s miraculous power is irrelevant, for present purposes. What is important is that the story is testament to the reality that at least since the text was written some twenty-five centuries ago, humans have recognized the desirability of and have sought to guide the alteration of existing species in ways thought beneficial. This guided intervention has produced a host of useful and now common food products, but it is, or was, slow, unpredictable, unreliable, costly and inefficient. read more

A Nice Jewish Shot: Why Vaccinations are Kosher and Required

Thursday, June 19, 2014 @ 09:06 PM
posted by Roger Price

Let’s face it. Sometimes you can deny certain established scientific truths and it does not make much difference. You can, for instance, believe that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago and life as we know it will still go on. OK, maybe Jon Stewart and certain professors and pundits will make fun of you, but as the little redhead Annie always reminds us, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, that tomorrow there’ll be sun.”

If, however, you deny the safety and efficacy of approved medical vaccinations designed to prevent harmful, debilitating, even deadly diseases, such as polio, measles, hepatitis and tetanus, your belief may well make a great deal of difference to you, your family, your community and, indeed, all of humanity.

And yet, there are those who for a variety of reasons refuse to inoculate themselves or their children, or both, even when established governmental authorities require such action. While it is tempting to stereotype all such persons as undereducated or acting out of ignorance, some are not. Aside from the rare situations based on the medical condition of the child, some people object to a particular vaccine or procedure.  Others have broader religious, philosophical and personal beliefs that militate against inoculations. (See, e.g., here and here.) Some even may be part of an otherwise socially conscious community. read more

The Curious Consensus of Jews on Abortion

Thursday, January 10, 2013 @ 10:01 AM
posted by Roger Price

That different Jews have disparate views is not news. What is news is when most Jews agree on a particular idea or approach. And so it is with the curious consensus of Jews on abortion.

In mid-2012, the Public Religion Research Institute (“PRRI”) published its findings from a 2012 survey of Jewish values (the “Jewish Values Survey”). The survey sought to measure the opinions of American Jews on a wide variety of political and economic issues, both domestic and foreign, as well as with respect to certain religious beliefs and practices. Some of those opinions were analyzed internally by Jewish denomination and externally by comparison to those of other faith or ethnic groups.

While Jews varied considerably in their views of a wide range of topics, on one – abortion – they were not only reasonably cohesive in their attitude, but strikingly different from other groups. Given the emphasis in the Jewish tradition on valuing life, on equating the preservation of one life with the preservation of a world and, conversely, the destruction of one life as the destruction of the world (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5), this result, on its face, seems as anomalous as it is clear. read more

Organ Donation: Holiest of Mitzvot

Tuesday, December 25, 2012 @ 10:12 AM
posted by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz

When we pass from this world and our bodies enter the ground, do we merely wish to be remembered or do we wish to give the gift of life to others? For the medical, economic, and moral wellbeing of our society, the United States must change its policy on organ donation requirements.

Last week, we in my community were shocked and relieved when one congregant received a new kidney (a 100 percent perfect match, which is quite rare). After much pain and prolonged dialysis, she and her family are able to start a new life.

When my colleague and friend Robby Berman founded the Halachic Organ Donor Society, he sought to educate and inspire the Jewish community to save lives. Many had been confused by obscure teachings that Judaism was in some way opposed to organ donation, since, as some have told me, “I will emerge in heaven without that body part,” or that it is a violation of the dignity of the human corpse. Nothing could be further from the truth; organ donation is tantamount to pikuach nefesh (saving a life), one of the greatest of Jewish mitzvot. read more

Judaism and Nuts: Ethics and Allergies

Sunday, October 21, 2012 @ 12:10 PM
posted by Roger Price

Credit: USDA

It is one of the most dramatic moments in the entire Torah. There is no lightening or thunder, no plagues or parting of the sea, just an elderly statesman appearing before his people one more time, to teach one more lesson before they part from each other, the people to cross the river and the old man to enter eternity. Having led for so many years with the assistance of signs and wonders, now he simply speaks words, hoping to refresh their recollection and inspire them. He reminds them of their history in order to set the stage for their future. He tells them again what they should and should not do, emphasizing that they will have to make choices, choices that will lead to prosperity or adversity, choices that will enhance life or bring death. This leader, this teacher, this Moshe urges them: “Choose life, that you and your children should live . . . .” (See Deut. 30:19; see also Lev. 18:5.) Not for nothing is the Torah known as Etz Chaim,  a tree of life. (See Prov. 3:18; Ezek. 20:11.)

This reverence for life is more than some gauzy good feeling. Judaism at its best is grounded in experience, rooted in reality. Centuries after the biblical authors first put quill to scroll, the rabbis in the Talmudic period considered situations where observance of biblical ordinances on the sanctity of the Sabbath might adversely, perhaps fatally, affect real people – a wall that had collapsed on a child but could be removed, a fire that could be extinguished. (See  Yoma 84b, see also, Yoma 83a.) Referring to an obscure statement in the Holiness Code which seems to prohibit standing by or upon the blood of your neighbor (Lev. 19:16), the rabbis formulated the doctrine of pikuach nefesh (the preservation of human life), the principle that all of the laws, all of the rules, and all of the regulations which are in Torah can be abrogated to save a life. There are three major exceptions, essentially related to idolatry, murder and adultery, but the bias is otherwise comprehensive in favor of saving the life of another: “Whoever saves a life is considered to have saved the entire world.” (See Sanhedrin 37a.)  read more

The Big Bang: Science, Death and the Unknown

Thursday, December 15, 2011 @ 02:12 PM
posted by Robert Magrisso, M.D.

            Suddenly, Einstein lifted his head, looked upward at the clear skies and said: “We know nothing about it all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of school children.” “Do you think we shall ever probe the secret?” “Possibly we shall know a little more than we now know, but . . . .”
R.W. Clark, The Life and Times of Albert Einstein (Avon, 1971).

            One of the very few textbooks that remain from college is my Halliday and Resnick Physics for Students of Science and Engineering. On its side remain, in very faint but still readable pencil, the words “Physics is a fraud,” which I wrote as a freshman. It was the culmination of one of the first of a long series of ambivalent encounters that I have had over the years with science. I wrote those words as an act of blasphemy and liberation towards what was then, essentially, disillusionment with my first religion: physics. I majored in physics in college not so much for practical knowledge as under the presumption that I was dealing with truth, and not just simple truths, but ultimate Truth. To me, attending lectures, doing the experiments, learning the mathematics, reading the books and doing the problems was equivalent to Talmud study.Newton, Einstein, Bohr, Maxwell, Planck, Heisenberg, Galileo  . . .  these were the prophets. Feynman was our hero. read more

Five More Jewish Nobel Laureates: What Does it Mean?

Friday, October 7, 2011 @ 09:10 AM
posted by Roger Price

     This past week the Royal Swedish Academy of Science announced the award of Nobel Prizes for 2011 in, among other fields, physics, chemistry and medicine. Seven individuals were honored. Apparently five are Jewish. What, if anything, does that mean? read more

Proposed Ban Cut Off Ballot

Monday, August 1, 2011 @ 08:08 AM
posted by Roger Price

In a July 5, 2011 post, I discussed a ballot initiative proposed to prohibit and criminalize circumcision. See http://www.judaismandscience.com/on-leaving-more-than-your-heart-in-san-francisco/  The measure was scheduled for voting in San Francisco in November, 2011. Last week, California Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi ordered that the city remove the measure from the November ballot.

Judge Giorgi announced her tentative ruling last Wednesday, indicating that she would bar the proposed ban. After proponents of the initiative filed an opposition to her tentative ruling, the judge heard oral arguments and issued a final order on Thursday.

A lawyer for the ban proponents reportedly argued that the male circumcision was neither cultural nor religious. It was not even a medical procedure. Rather, he contended, it was mutilation and should be prohibited just like female circumcision is prohibited.

Judge Giorgi was not persuaded by such arguments. The debate, she said, was not about the merits of circumcision.  Rather, it was about whether “the proposed city ballot measure is preempted by state law.”

Concluding that the evidence presented to her was “overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure,” she found in a narrowly tailored opinion that California state law expressly prohibits local regulation of medical procedures. Therefore, she ruled, “it serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot after such a ruling has been made.”

Judge Giorgi did add that the proposed ban would also violate the Free Exercise of religion clause of the United States Constitution. But that comment, what lawyers call dicta, was not necessary to her ruling and, given the packed courtroom, may have been intended as additional comfort for the ban opponents and additional caution to the ban proponents.

Outside the courtroom, activists carried various signs which suggested a considerable lack of depth with respect to both medicine and the law. One asserted that “Circumcisers are child mutilating rapists,” apparently not understanding either anatomy, recent studies in pediatrics, criminal law or the English language.  Another claimed “My Penis (sic) is NOT your property,” but there was no information provided that suggested that anyone other than the sign bearer wanted anything to do with any part of his body (capitalized or not), much less own and control it.  Otherwise, the ban proponents vowed to consider their legal options.

While the good guys have won this round, only a momentary expression of satisfaction is warranted.  The real lessons here are that (1) there cannot be enough education, including science, and (2) there cannot be enough coalition building.

Roger Price

On Leaving More Than Your Heart in San Francisco

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 @ 09:07 AM
posted by Roger Price

Shortly after our son was born, my wife and I discussed his brit milah (covenantal ritual circumcision). We did not discuss whether to have the ceremony. The discussion was all about who would perform it, where it would be held and other such logistics.
read more