A Well Designed Eclipse for a Well Designed Mind

Is God trying to tell us something?

Today we behold one of the most spectacular celestial events to grace our planet: for just a few brief moments, night will intrude upon daylight.  Jay Richards, from the Catholic University of America, describes just how unlikely it is that we should ever experience one these amazing eclipses:

But the story doesn’t end there. A rare alignment of events allows Earthlings to witness not just solar eclipses, but what we might call perfect solar eclipses. Our Moon just barely covers the Sun’s bright photosphere. Such an eclipse depends on just the right sizes, shapes, and relative distances of the Sun, Moon and Earth.

There’s no law of physics that dictates this layout. There are 65 major moons in our Solar System, and many smaller ones. But only we enjoy perfect solar eclipses. If there were Martians or Uranians, they wouldn’t see such eclipses.

The Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun. But the Moon is also about 400 times closer to the Earth than is the Sun. As a result, the size of the Moon on our sky matches the size of the Sun. And since they appear as round disks, they match in both size and shape.

. . . .

In brief, the best time and place to view total solar eclipses in our Solar System is just when and where there are observers to see them.

Let that sink in.

Source: Perfect Eclipses: Coincidence or Conspiracy? | The Stream

Richards also points out that the phenomenon made certain scientific advances possible, including the confirmation of an important prediction of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. From this he draws an important conclusion:

This is just one example of an eerie pattern we discuss in detail in The Privileged Planet: life-friendly places like Earth are also the best places, over all, for doing science.

Evidence of intelligent design is, of course, evidence of an Intelligent Designer and so quite possibly points to the existence of God.  Maybe God designed the perfect total eclipse just for us?  And maybe God designed our minds so that we could appreciate eclipses and learn from them?

My personal opinion is that the design of the human mind is the most underappreciated and least explored frontier of intelligent design, and  much of my book is devoted to investigating the evidence for this.  If  in fact the human mind was designed, it was designed for a purpose:

To know, to love, and to serve God— the saints and spiritual masters tell us, and the Church emphatically agrees, that this is the purpose and function of man. This is our reason for existence. Based on our observations here, I suggest there is room to extend this wisdom just a bit further. To know, to love, and to serve God is indeed the end and function of man. But more than this, it is the divinely ordained purpose and function of the human mind. God made the human mind to know, to love, and to serve Him. Notice what follows from this. To the extent that the mind knows, loves, and serves God, we can say of that mind that it is performing its function. But to the extent that a mind fails to do these spiritual things, we can say that such a mind is failing to perform its function. In other words, such a mind is dysfunctional. The Grace Hypothesis of Mind and Mental Health . . . predicts that symptoms of mental dysfunction— depression, anxiety, impulse control disorders, and substance abuse— will be present to the extent that a mind fails to perform its spiritual function— to know, to love, and to serve God.

. . . .

God gave us the Bible so that we might learn best how to know, love, and serve Him. [Thus] it follows that the mind that conforms to . . . Biblical [teaching] will flourish because it is properly performing its function, while the mind that fails to follow the Bible will suffer the symptoms of dysfunction. If the Grace Hypothesis is true, the universal, immutable law that governs the human mind is this: that we learn and observe the teachings of the Bible.

[From: The Immoral Landscape of the New Atheism, chapter 3]

As I show in my book, the investigation of the mind promises much more than other design arguments.  For the standard design arguments can only point to some intelligent designer or other. They do not necessarily point to the God of the Bible. But the evidence from my book points directly to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of the Ten Commandments, for God designed our minds to follow these Commandments, as St. Paul tells us in Hebrews:

10This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:   I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. * [RSV.  Heb. 8:10-11]

The Intelligent Design argument that I advance in my book makes a prediction.  It says that the rapid secularization we are now seeing in our culture will lead to an equally rapid decline in mental health.  Not everyone agrees with this prediction however.  Steven Pinker, for example, is predicting a new Enlightenment for our new secular age. And he has a new book coming out to make this case. But the empirical data is working against our optimistic atheist.  For everywhere that Pinker expects to find enlightenment, there one finds mental illness instead.  The evidence now is too overwhelming to ignore:  as America has become more secular, she has, at the same time, become more mentally ill.  And our present political and cultural climate bears witness to this uncomfortable truth.  America is not heading for a new Enlightenment.  Instead she walks in darkness.

Consider that as you experience the Great American Eclipse.  Perhaps, today, God is trying to tell us something.  Perhaps we should listen.

Are Conservatives Finally Waking Up to the Mental Health Crisis in America?

America’s youth are crumbling from a long running epidemic of mental illness, says Mona Charen over at National Review Online.   I’ve been shouting this message from the rooftops for close to two years now—and most recently, from the rooftops of Duke Medical School. It is encouraging to see this frightening tragedy finally get the attention it deserves from the conservative media. Hopefully Charen’s  well researched article will spark more discussion among conservatives. Here is an excerpt:

Research throughout the last several decades has shown a consistent pattern of rising anxiety, depression, suicide, and suicide attempts among American adolescents. A 2001 paper published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that the suicide rate tripled between 1950 and 1990. The rise in depression and other psychological suffering cannot be written off as an artifact of changing definitions. As Psychology Today reported, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a test of psychological well-being, has been administered to large samples of college students throughout the United States going as far back as 1938. A similar test called the MMPI-A has been given to samples of high-school students since 1951. The results are unambiguous: Children, adolescents, and young adults have all experienced dramatic increases in anxiety and depression over the past several decades. The rates of these ailments were much lower during the Great Depression, World War II, and the turbulent 1970s than they are today.

Charen blames the epidemic on the decline of the nuclear family, and she certainly has her finger on a major contributor to the problem. But as Eric Metaxas points out, the crisis really goes deeper than that.  For the decline of the family is itself a symptom of deeper cultural currents.  Metaxas blames the deterioration of mental health on the loss of Christianity:

Somewhere deep inside, unhappy young people know that they were meant for more, much more, than this world can possibly offer. As Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

While this thesis may not be obvious to most people, including most Christians, there is nevertheless a large amount of intriguing data to back it up.  The most credible source for this evidence comes from the mental health profession itself.  A Google search on the topic will yield a bounty of books, articles, and studies which have consistently shown that religious practices improve mental health.  The mental health field has put this research into practice

Millennials: Least Religious

by developing many therapeutic techniques that are derived from ancient religious traditions.  Ever heard of MBSR? It stands for “mindfulness based stress reduction,” and it is a therapeutic technique derived from Buddhist meditation practices.  At a recent Duke lecture, the Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Peteet stated that it was time that spiritual direction be covered by insurance companies as a mental health treatment.

The medical field is prescribing religion for mental illness!  Take a moment to process the radical implications here. If in response to depression and anxiety disorders, mental health experts are now prescribing prayer, meditation, spiritual direction, and other spiritual practices, are they not suggesting that poor mental health is the result of poor spiritual health?  As I have pointed out many times before, we are now witnessing the convergence of two very troubling events:  the rapid disappearance of Christianity from our culture at the same time that suicide and mental illness are increasing at pandemic levels. The clear message from the mental health community is that this is no coincidence.  Whether mental health professionals want to admit the logical but politically incorrect conclusion of their research is beside the point. The conclusion is unavoidable: The mental health community is telling us that our poor mental health is due to an impoverished spiritual life—that secularism has made us sick. We have lost our minds because we have lost our faith.

An Epidemic of Mental Illness in Millennial Youth. Source: Robert Whitaker

The Millennial generation illustrates the point dramatically. They are the least religious generation according to Pew research, and they are also the most mentally ill. (See the two graphics.)

This is exactly the message of much of the Gospel.  Pay close attention to the New Testament Epistles—Galatians, chapter 5 in particular—and what you will uncover is a long-forgotten theology of mind and mental health.  And this Theology of Mind says that mental health  is essentially spiritual. (Brain health is a different story.)

More than twenty years of mental health research confirm this Biblical teaching by showing that religious people are psychologically healthier than secular people. Science is now discovering what the Bible has taught for over two-thousand years:  A robust spiritual life is necessary for happiness and peace of mind.  There just is no substitute.

Our children desperately need to hear this message.  And the rest of the world cannot get this message soon enough either.  Just take a look at the high rates of mental illness in the LGBT community. Thus we have a great evangelizing opportunity before us. The harvest is ripe. But unfortunately, the number of conservative Christian laborers is few. Hopefully, that will begin to change. JG