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INTERVIEW | GUILLERMO PEREZ

Dr. Guillermo Perez recently retired as head of surgery at a 700-bed hospital in South Africa. For many years he believed in evolution. But later he became convinced that the human body was designed by God. Awake! asked him about his faith.

Please tell us why you once believed in evolution.

Dr. Guillermo Perez

Although I was raised as a Catholic, I had doubts about God. For example, I could not believe in a God who burns people in hell. So when my university professors taught me that living things evolved and were not created by God, I accepted that view, assuming it was supported by evidence. My church, by the way, did not reject evolution but held that it was directed by God.

What aroused your interest in the Bible?

My wife, Susana, began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, who showed her from the Bible that God does not torture people in a fiery hell. * They also showed her God’s promise to make our planet into a paradise home. * At last we found teachings that made sense! In 1989, a Witness named Nick began visiting me. During a discussion about the human body and its origin, I was impressed with the simple logic of the words found in the Bible at Hebrews 3:4, which says that “every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God.”

Did your study of the human body help you to accept creation?

Yes. For example, the way our body repairs itself was carefully designed. Wound healing, for instance, involves four overlapping phases, all of which reminded me that as a surgeon, I merely worked with the body’s built-in repair system.

Tell us, what happens when our body is wounded?

Within seconds, the first phase of a series of processes designed to stop bleeding goes into action. These processes are extremely complex  and efficient. I might add that our circulatory system, which has some 60,000 miles (100,000 km) of blood vessels, must be the envy of plumbing engineers, for it has the means to plug leaks and repair itself.

What is involved in the second phase of repair?

The bleeding stops within hours and inflammation starts. Inflammation involves an amazing sequence of events. First, blood vessels that had initially constricted to reduce blood loss now do the opposite. They dilate to increase blood flow in the wounded region. Next, protein-rich fluid makes the whole injured area swell. This fluid is vital for fighting infection, diluting poisons, and removing damaged tissue. Each step requires the production of millions of specialized molecules and cells in a cascade of events. Some of these events, by the way, serve as stimulants for the following phase, after which they shut down.

How does healing continue?

Within a couple of days, our body starts generating repair materials, a process that marks the beginning of phase three and that reaches a peak in about two weeks. Cells that form fibers across the wound migrate to the injured area and multiply. Also, tiny blood vessels sprout and grow toward the injured area, where they remove waste and supply extra nutrients during demolition and repair. In another complex series of events, special cells are generated that draw the edges of the wound together.

That’s a lot of activity! How long before repair is complete?

The final stage, remodeling, can take months. Broken bones are restored to their original strength, and the fibers that were initially laid across a soft-tissue wound are replaced with stronger materials. Altogether, wound repair is an amazing example of highly programmed coordination.

Can you recall a case that especially impressed you?

When I see how the body repairs itself, I’m left in awe

Yes. I remember treating a 16-year-old victim of a terrible car accident. The girl was in critical condition with a lacerated spleen and internal bleeding. Years ago, we would have operated to repair or remove the spleen. Today, doctors rely more on the body’s power to repair itself. I merely treated her infection, fluid loss, anemia, and pain. A few weeks later, a scan showed that her spleen had healed! When I see how the body repairs itself, I’m left in awe. And I’m even more convinced that we were designed by God.

What drew you to Jehovah’s Witnesses?

I found them to be friendly, and they always answered my questions from the Bible. I also admired the courageous way they shared their beliefs and helped others to learn about God.

Did becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses help you in your work?

Yes. For one thing, it helped me to cope with compassion fatigue, a form of emotional burnout that often affects doctors and nurses who constantly deal with people who are diseased or injured. Also, when patients wanted to talk, I was able to explain our Creator’s promise to end sickness and suffering * and bring about a world in which no one will say, “I am sick.” *

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INTERVIEW | IRÈNE HOF LAURENCEAU

Dr. Irène Hof Laurenceau practices orthopedic surgery in Switzerland. At one time she doubted God’s existence. But some years later she came to the conclusion that God exists and that he is the Creator of life. Awake! asked her about her work and her faith.

What aroused your interest in science?

As a child, I was fascinated by nature. I grew up in Richterswil, a beautiful Swiss village on the shore of Lake Zurich. My parents and older siblings would take me for walks and tell me about the creatures and plants we saw along the way.

Why did you study orthopedic surgery?

For a short time, my father worked as an attendant in an operating room at a local hospital. What he saw moved him to speak enthusiastically about surgery. His enthusiasm excited me so much that I later chose surgery as a profession. I specialized in orthopedic surgery because I like the mechanical aspects of it. Orthopedic surgeons have to think like an engineer in order to repair the bones, muscles, and tendons that enable us to move about.

Most of all, I enjoy seeing my patients’ health improve. I really like working closely with people.

Why did you doubt God’s existence?

My doubts began in my youth, and two factors in particular influenced me. First, I discovered that certain religious instructors at church were immoral, and this disturbed me considerably. Second, at school, some of my biology teachers believed in evolution—a teaching I came to accept, especially when I went to a university.

Why did you accept evolution?

I believed my professors. Additionally, I thought that the similarity in anatomy between  certain kinds of animals pointed to a common ancestry and supported the notion that genetic mutations lead to new species.

Yet, in time you changed your mind. Why?

A friend invited me to a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was impressed by the friendly congregation and the informative talks. Later, a pleasant lady from the congregation visited me, and I asked her, “How can I be sure that the Bible is true?”

She showed me Bible prophecies about many events that characterize our times. An example is Jesus’ prophecy that the last days of the present world would be marked by international warfare, “great earthquakes,” and rampant “pestilences and food shortages.” * She also pointed out prophecies that foretold the social breakdown and increase in greed and other badness that we see so much of today. * Before long, I began to study the Bible in earnest and soon realized that its predictions always come true. I also began to reexamine my views on the origin of life.

Did your medical research help you to reason on the origin of life?

Yes. When I started studying the Bible, I was researching knee surgery. Beginning in the late 1960’s, scientists began to understand the knee’s intricate mechanism more clearly. They found that our knee does not only bend on a single axis like a hinge. Rather, it both rolls and glides—an ingenious combination that gives the knee a greater range of movement, enabling us to walk, dance, skate, and do a host of other things.

For some 40 years, researchers have tried to design an artificial knee. But the complexity of the human knee makes it difficult to duplicate. Moreover, compared with our knee, artificial products have a relatively short life span. Even with improved materials at their disposal, those designers are pleased if their products last 20 years. Our knee, of course, is made of living cells that are constantly renewed. To me, the knee testifies, not to the blind processes of evolution, but to the wisdom of God.

What about mutations and the similarity in anatomy between certain species?

That similarity points to the same Designer. Moreover, mutations do not improve the designs in living organisms by elevating them to a higher kind. Rather, mutations tend to damage genes. Of course, it is possible that an accident can serve a beneficial purpose—such as when, say, a train crashes into a bridge and wrecks it, thus protecting the city from an invading army. But that accident did not improve the city. Likewise, mutations do not improve organisms. And they could never produce something so brilliantly designed as the human knee—not to mention other parts of the human body.

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Mutations could never produce something so brilliantly designed as the human knee

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Why did you become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

When I began to apply Bible principles, the quality of my life improved markedly. Additionally, in 2003, I went to an international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses and saw extraordinary family-like unity there, even among delegates who had never met one another before. That was love in action, and I wanted to be a part of it.