In the last week or two, many places have begun re-opening. For many this causes great anxiety, wondering if we are opening too soon. Most experts agree we need much more wide-spread testing in order to know whether we are ready or if this is too soon. For months we have been trying to get enough testing that we could get an accurate number. Undoubtably, during that time there were cases that were missed. Because of this, one of the hot button topics is something called an antibody test.
The basic idea is that a “diagnostic test” tells you if you are infected right now, and an “antibody test” would tell you whether you have ever had the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The way these antibody tests are supposed to work is…
If you ever had this disease, your body worked hard to fight it off. Because your body is super smart, it makes changes in its body. It does this so that if this virus ever tried to attack you again, you would have stronger, more specific defenses in order to fight it off better. (I talked about this more in an earlier blog: https://www.catechistscientist.com/blog/healthy-for-the-holidays) In order to do this effectively, the body creates these antibodies that are very specific to this one virus. Because the antibodies are so specific, the tests can specifically test for this one antibody.
That sounds nice, but it’s a bit trickier than it sounds.
First the scientists have to find out what the antibody looks like, which in diagrams will be shown like (left), but in actuality look more like (right). That’s pretty complicated.
The left looks like things can click into it like Legos, but it’s not that easy. So when creating tests that can bind with the antibody, there are two main problems. Sensitivity and Specificity.
Sensitivity means that if the antibody is present, what is the likelihood that the test will give a positive result?
Specificity means that if the antibody is NOT present, what is the likelihood that the test will give a negative result?
Both of these are very important, we need both of their percentages close to 100%.
If we do not have good sensitivity and we are getting a lot of false-negatives telling people they don’t have antibodies when they do, people will remain afraid to go out longer than they need to, thinking less people have been infected than there actually are.
If we do not have good specificity and we are getting a lot of false-positives telling people they’ve already been sick when they haven’t, we will open up too soon. People who have not been sick are susceptible and will go out into the world not knowing that they are putting themselves in danger.
These different kinds of tests and their different kinds of results got me thinking about how we test God.
The Bible tells us multiple times (Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7) that we should not put God to the test. This means we should not give God ultimatums, but we ask Him soooo many questions and expect answers. In my mind that kind of sounds like an oral exam, a test. Luckily God wants us to ask Him questions. This is not the kind of testing that those Bible verses were talking about.
Unfortunately, just like with the antibody tests, we too can get false positives and false negatives when asking God our questions. We are not the best at listening to what God is trying to tell us. So many times we misinterpret what he wants us to do.
When we really want to do something, but God doesn’t think we should, we might interpret his answer as a false-positive. We will find “signs” to do exactly what we want and not necessarily what God wants for us.
When there is something we are scared to do, when we think we are not ready, or if it seems hard, we might interpret his answer as a false-negative. God is telling us to move forward, to go for this thing, but we find “signs” telling us to hold back.
Both of these instances are because our mouths might say, “Lord, your will be done”, but our hearts are saying “MY will be done.” This is one of the hardest things in life, to really let go of the control. We are told over and over again that God loves us and wants the best for us, but we can be scared. We can think that we know better.
We have to let go of that control. We have to let God work through us in whatever way he wants to. Today, say a prayer asking for God to take away your pride. Ask for Him to tell you what He wants for you in your life. Then, listen and act. Listen to what his answer is and act on it. What is God asking of you today?
END NOTE: The FDA has put a rush on antibody tests. There are dozens on the market and ZERO are currently FDA approved. The FDA has given “authorization” to 10 of them due to the severity of the pandemic, but this does not guarantee their effectiveness. THEN if you do get a correct positive, science has not proven that this makes you IMMUNE. Yes, your body is better prepared to fight it in the future, but by how much? We don’t know yet. So, even if you get a correct positive test, please continue safe social distancing.