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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Professor speaks on effects of class, alcoholism, religion on health

Harvard Professor Dr. David R. Williams gave scientific evidence to support total abstention from alcohol consumption. Walla Walla University (WWU) hosted Dr. Williams to speak about the effects that socioeconomic status, alcoholism and religion respectively have on health.

As a Seventh-day Adventist university, WWU promotes abstention from alcohol, Saturday worship (instead of Sunday) and good diet and health, among other practices. At the beginning of the year, students sign forms promising to abstain from alcohol use.

Williams’ speech on alcohol consumption suggested that even moderate alcohol use is detrimental to the drinker’s health.

“There are studies that show people who drink moderately are healthier than people who abstain,” said Williams, “but impressive evidence suggests it is confounded.” He explained that a confounded relationship is one that is caused by an outside factor. “It is true that moderate alcohol drinking is associated with people who live longer, healthier lives, but those people also have higher educations, and different social and racial classes,” he said.

Students were not surprised by his message of total abstention from alcohol use.

“He’s Adventist. The school would never have let him come if he had advocated any other message,” said one student who wishes to remain anonymous.

“There are a few students who are involved in alcohol consumption to a point we don’t think is appropriate,” said Dr. Aldin Thompson, head of the theology department. “We hope that Dr. Williams can be an inspiration to them and the whole community.”

Laura Foster, senior math major at WWU, said, “I wasn’t surprised by his message because of my own experience with religion and health. I see the effects every day.”

Williams’ other two talks were also centered on health and were pertinent to his religious audience. He talked about the social inequalities in health and the effect religion has on health, hinting that religious people live longer lives than non-religious people.

“All three talks touch on issues of important moral and religious overtones,” said Dr. Michael Beazy, on the faculty development committee at WWU.

“People who are from low-income households have a mortality rate three times higher than people from high-income households,” he said in his lecture. “They have less access to medical care. But they also don’t have as many green spaces and playgrounds that are more conducive to exercise.”

His final talk was attended mostly by community members and faculty of WWU. He showed a correlation between church attendance and health. Dr. Williams’ statistics suggested that being religious has positive effects, adding as much as 13 or 14 years to a person’s lifespan, though he said there is very little understood as to why this is.

While Dr. Williams is Adventist himself, he thinks this has little impact on his work.

“While religion doesn’t technically affect my work, it does determine which questions I do and don’t ask. Science isn’t value-free,” he said.

“I like the idea that a person can go into science with a religious background and still make a meaningful contribution,” said senior Rachel Davies.

Dr. Williams is popular in the scientific community. He is the author of more than 150 scholarly papers in scientific journals and edited collections, and is on the top 10 list of most-commonly-sited researchers.

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  • M

    Michael BroadJan 31, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Was it Karl Marx who said religion was the opium of the masses.

    People who are religious probably do live longer because they question things less. There is less mental turmoil.

    But in my opinion it is a false condition. It is in effect a healthy way of taking opium, it dulls the mind.

    As to alcohol a huge proportion of mankind don’t like the world or themselves and seek a way out of it temporarily.

    It is unrealistic to ask them to abstain totally.