*The real measure of your wealth is how much you would be worth if you lost all your money.
*1760: "The Poor Robin's Almanack" Published April Fools' Issue
"The Poor Robin's Almanack" published one of the first celebrations of April Fools' Day. Some believe April Fools' started independently in different countries to celebrate the Spring Equinox. Others say it celebrated New Year's Day, which fell on April 1st in the Julian calendar.
Forensic evidence: How many times has it helped solve a medical mystery -- determining how someone really died?
Well, Lee Strobel covered many trials during his journalism career where a jury's decision hung on the medical evidence. So, was it possible, he wondered, to examine 2,000-year-old medical evidence and determine if Jesus really died on the cross?
If so, science could deliver a knockout blow to one of the most persistent claims against Christianity: that the resurrection of Christ, which we celebrated yesterday, was really just a hoax.
For expert opinion, Strobel went to Dr. Alexander Metherell, a research scientist. Metherell had studied the medical data concerning Christ's death, and he's convinced there's no way anyone could have survived what the Romans put him through.
First, there was the flogging. Soldiers used whips of braided leather thongs. The metal balls woven into the lash caused deep bruises, which broke open during the torture. Often the victim's back, in such a beating, was so shredded that his spine was exposed.
Those who didn't die from the flogging went into hypovolemic shock, brought on by blood loss. There would be a loss of blood pressure, leading to faintness and collapse. And the loss of fluids would result in tremendous thirst.
The gospels indicate that Jesus was in shock as he carried his cross to Calvary: He collapsed in the road, and Simon of Cyrene had to carry the cross for him. Later, Jesus said, "I thirst."
And then there was the agony of the crucifixion itself. The Romans drove spikes through the wrists and feet of Jesus -- spikes that traveled through the median nerves. This caused such enormous pain that a new word was invented to describe it: "excruciating." The word literally means "out of the cross."
Metherell believes that Jesus, like other crucifixion victims, eventually died of asphyxiation. The stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest in the inhaled position; in order to exhale, the victim had to push up on his feet to ease the tension in the muscles for just a moment. It would be enormously painful, and exhaustion would eventually set in.
As his breathing slowed, the victim would go into respiratory acidosis, leading to an irregular heartbeat and eventual cardiac arrest. Then, in the case of Jesus, to ensure that he was dead, a Roman soldier thrust a spear into his side.
The flogging, the massive blood loss, the shock, the crucifixion, the stabbing: Could Jesus have suffered all this and survived?
Not a chance, Metherell told Strobel. Besides, Roman soldiers had good reason to make certain Jesus was dead: Had he survived, they, themselves, would have been executed.
In the weeks before and after Easter, we often see the usual spate of articles by so-called experts claiming that Jesus didn't really die on the cross -- and, thus, is not the Son of God.
If your friends mention these articles, explain that forensic science goes a long way in disproving these ideas. And give them a copy of Strobel's book, The Case for Christ. The better the science the greater the support for what Christians have long believed in faith: that love drove Jesus to willingly endure an excruciating death -- so that you and I might live.
For further reference: Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.
Should We Have Perfect Bodies? What Intelligent Design Really Says
It's a humbling experience we've all had on the way to the morning shower -- looking at our bodies in the mirror. Even the physically fit can spot areas for improvement. And some of us, of course, don't need a mirror to tell us what needs fixing!
We're not perfect creatures. But do our imperfections prove that we're evolved by natural selection, and not created by an intelligent designer? Well, a recent article in the magazine Scientific American makes that very claim.
Entitled "If Humans Were Built to Last," the article by S. Jay Olshansky, Bruce Carnes, and Robert Butler argues that the human body reflects the mindless process of natural selection, and not purposeful design. Olshansky and colleagues write that many of our physical shortcomings exist because natural selection causes us to survive "just long enough to reproduce." Once we've passed on our genes, they say, our bodies start to fall apart.
If we had been intelligently designed, they argue, we should last much longer. And we wouldn't choke on food, suffer detached retinas, or a host of other ailments.
Well, this argument for naturalistic evolution dates back well before Darwin. The eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume, for one, argued that the miseries of human existence are best explained by "blind nature," not design. But this misrepresents what intelligent design really says. It also overlooks the powerful insights of the Christian worldview.
First, intelligent design does not say that any currently existing organism, including human beings, should be perfect. Every designed system in our present universe is subject to physical laws, and involves trade-offs with a wide range of functional requirements.
Consider, for example, your throat. The esophagus (the passage to the stomach) and the trachea (the passage to the lungs) come together at the top of the throat. When you swallow, a structure called the epiglottis closes to cover your trachea. You can feel this if you put your finger on your Adam's apple and swallow.
Sometimes, when people take excessively large bites of food, or if they're inebriated, the epiglottis may not close properly, and they choke.
Now, Olshansky and company argue that if our throats had been intelligently designed, this wouldn't happen. They suggest that a better design would have placed the trachea higher, near the nasal passage. .. . . Maybe, but maybe not.
You see, it would be impossible to speak if air only passed through your nostrils, not your mouth. Catching a cold could be a life-threatening illness, because congestion would block the only pathway for oxygen. And if you needed more air -- running to catch the bus, for example -- sorry, opening your mouth for extra oxygen won't help.
Yes, humans occasionally choke. But there is absolutely no evidence that another system would work better. It's easy to speculate about what an intelligent designer would have done, but there's a world of difference between speculation and science.
The Christian worldview tells us not to expect perfection. While God created the world, it's also fallen -- a world with illness and pain, waiting to be redeemed by God's new creation.
So remember that the next time you look in the bathroom mirror. If your current model is due to expire, don't worry about it: There's an incomparably better one coming!
For further reference: Hume, David. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company,  1980. Olshansky, S. Jay, Bruce A. Carnes, and Robert N. Butler. "If Humans Were Built to Last." Scientific American, March 2001, pp. 50-55.
As you read the Scriptures with your family, I hope you'll have a new appreciation for who the "Word made flesh" really is: He's the Creator who existed before time. He's the Logos who made heaven and earth, and who steers the stars in their courses. He is the Truth that is ultimate reality. He is the 'Babe of Bethleham & the 'Word' of John 1. If you know of others who would enjoy receiving BreakPoint in their E-mail box each day, tell them they can sign up on the Web site at www.breakpoint.org. If they do not have access to the World Wide Web, please call 1-800-457-6125.