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Washington State’s Unconscionable, Unconstitutional Child Protection Law

I recently wrote about the conflict between child protection and the religious freedom of believers in faith healing. That issue has reared its ugly head again in the state of Washington.

Washington law currently denies the children of Christian Scientists equal protection under the law governing child abuse and neglect, and it grants a special exemption from criminal prosecution for abuse and neglect to that one specific religion and not to any others. Even if you supported religious exemptions in principle, there would be no excuse for the preferential treatment of one single religion. This law is clearly unconstitutional.

Zachery Swezey didn’t need to die

This law was challenged in the Swezey case. Zachery Swezey was 17 when he died in Spokane, Washington of a ruptured appendix in March 2009. He received no medical treatment because his family belonged to the Church of the First Born, a faith-healing sect that has been responsible for a number of other avoidable deaths of children. See here for links to several of those cases. With medical care, Zachery would almost certainly be alive today. Appendicitis is one of the things conventional medicine is very good at treating; patients rarely die from it anymore; reported death rates are only a fraction of 1%.

Zachery’s parents were tried for manslaughter. The defense argued that the law exempted one faith-healing religion (Christian Science) from prosecution, and there was no rational basis for denying another faith-healing religion (Church of the First Born) the same exemption. The judge ruled that the law had a rational basis because Christian Science practitioners are licensed by the state and required to report child abuse and neglect. The judge was demonstrably wrong. Practitioners are not licensed or accredited by the state and they are not on the state’s list of mandated reporters. There was a hung jury on the manslaughter charges. The parents agreed to a plea deal to avoid jail on the other charges. They will not appeal, so there will be no formal challenge to the law’s constitutionality.

Proposed bill

State Senate bill 6295 was introduced by Sen. Mark Mullet (D) and three other Democratic senators on January 20, 2013, and was referred to the Committee on Human Services and Corrections. Its progress can be followed here.

It proposes to amend RCW 9A.42.005 and3 26.44.020; and to re-enact and amend RCW 26.44.030. The laws were enacted to protect children and dependent persons from abuse and neglect by requiring reporting of abuse and neglect and imposing criminal penalties on those found guilty of such abuse or neglect. The new bill strikes out these sections:

It is the intent of the legislature that a person who, in good faith, is furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner in lieu of medical care is not considered deprived of medically necessary health care or abandoned.

and

A person who is being furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner will not be considered, for that reason alone, a neglected person for the purposes of this chapter.

It adds this section:

Cultural and religious child-rearing practices and beliefs that differ from general community standards do not, in and of themselves, create a duty to report under this section unless there is reasonable cause to believe the practices and beliefs pose a danger to the child’s health, welfare, or safety.

The language being struck out was not even in the original bill as passed by the House and Senate, but was added by a conference committee (6 people charged with reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill) and was never debated but simply accepted pro forma.

How could anyone object to a state child protection law that requires all parents to provide medical care for seriously ill children? It should be a no-brainer. I wrote to my state senator, Bruce Dammeier (R), asking him to co-sponsor the bill, since bipartisan support would increase its chance of passing. I received no answer, and the bill was introduced with no Republican co-sponsors.

Religious shield laws that exempt members of faith-healing sects from child protection laws and from criminal prosecution for child neglect and manslaughter must be repealed. Adults have the right to reject treatment for themselves, but society has a duty to protect children from parents who would withhold lifesaving treatment and allow their children to die unnecessarily. Society’s duty is widely recognized. Just to give one example, it has long been common practice for courts to intervene and mandate lifesaving blood transfusions for the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses whose religious beliefs prohibit them.

Which way Washington?

It remains to be seen if Washington will go the way of its neighbor Oregon or its other neighbor Idaho. Oregon repealed its religious exemptions; the death rate among faith-healing sects promptly dropped, and parents have since been successfully prosecuted for manslaughter. Idaho maintains its exemptions; its cemeteries are filling up with the graves of children who died without medical care, and the parents are not being prosecuted.

Posted in: Faith Healing & Spirituality, Politics and Regulation, Religion

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184 thoughts on “Washington State’s Unconscionable, Unconstitutional Child Protection Law

  1. Jann Bellamy says:

    I agree that any law granting a religious exemption to one religion but not others is unconstitutional on both equal protection and First Amendment grounds (prohibiting the government’s favoring one religion over another). These religious exemption laws (even if they grant an exemption to all religions) are entirely statutory. There is no constitutional support for the proposition that parents should be exempted from child abuse and neglect charges based on their religious beliefs.

  2. windriven says:

    I’ll call Tim Sheldon, my state senator. If and when the bill comes up for debate I’ll ask to testify.

    Christian Science has been in steep decline in WA going from 62 churches in 1971 to 35 churches today. They are still likely to have some political clout (no legislator wants to alienate the faithful in his or her district). But this strikes me as winnable if the leadership will make room for it on the agenda.

  3. David Gorski says:

    I’m going to have to look into Michigan law and see if there’s anything similar there. This sort of thing is so outrageous that it makes me wonder how anyone can support it.

  4. Frederick says:

    What make christian science church different, i mean all exception for religious believe is stupid, in my opinions.
    But why did they choose only this one as the only one granted exception?

    1. windriven says:

      I don’t know but my guess is that one of the representatives on the conference committee stuck that exception in because of personal religious beliefs or pressure from an important supporter.

    2. Vicki says:

      I suspect this is for “historical reasons.” and/or that they look both traditional (having been around a while) and boringly respectable, with the public face being “Christian Science Reading Rooms” and the Christian Science Monitor newspaper.

      1. Frederick says:

        I just read the Wikipedia Article on christian science.
        Another fun load of BS.
        For those like me who did not know was “christian science” was
        a nice quote from Wiki, that summarize it :

        Christian Scientists subscribe to a radical form of philosophical idealism, believing that spiritual reality is the only reality and that the material world is an illusion.[6] This includes the view that sickness and death are illusions caused by mistaken beliefs, and that the sick should be treated by a special form of prayer intended to correct those beliefs, rather than by medicine.[7] Between the 1980s and 1990s the avoidance of medical care and vaccination led to the deaths of a number of adherents and their children; several parents and others were prosecuted for manslaughter or neglect and in a few cases convicted.[8] A church spokesman said in 2010 that the church of today would not allow such deaths to occur.[9]

        *facepalm* DuH

        1. sk says:

          “the material world is an illusion”

          You know, it might be interesting to investigate some of these cases where parents let their kids die because they claim to believe this world is an illusion, and find out in how many of them did the parents hire the best attorneys money could buy to defend themselves. Surely our courts and prisons are just as illusory, so why not represent yourself? And any instance in which the church itself hired an attorney for the parents, rather than letting them be represented by a public defender, should be taken as evidence that even they don’t really believe their BS.

          1. Harriet Hall says:

            Some of the faith-healing parents have used conventional medicine themselves, then deny it to their children. They commonly use dentists and eye doctors and accept veterinary care for their animals. CS approves of medical care for fractures – is everything in the material world an illusion except bones? It’s obvious that their beliefs are inconsistent and they haven’t thought things through for themselves but are only accepting the dogma of their faith.

        2. Karen says:

          Wikipedia? That’s the best you guys can do?!! Wikipedia??!!!

          You know, for people who fancy themselves scientific thinkers, you folks sure don’t seem to be doing your research here. If you are going to start dissing on Christian Science, the least you could do is maybe find out something about it from the people who actually practice it.

          Honest to goodness – I feel like I’ve walked into some kind of weird rumor-mongering, gossiping high school class or something. So far I’ve been informed by the posters here that Christian Scientists are all vegetarians, somehow tied in with astrology and Chopra, and that we worship a “personal God” – which… I’m not even sure what that means. I worship the power of Good, and I call that power God.

          Might I suggest that you take a visit to Amazon – maybe type in “Christian Science” in the search engine, take a gander at some books that look at Christian Science from a variety of perspectives and biases – you’ll find books that talk about people raised in Christian Science who had a really difficult time of it – and there is truth in those books – but you’ll also find books that talk about the healing CS has brought to peoples’ lives – and there is truth in those books, too.

          And it might be a good idea to start with the textbook for this way of life, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, if you want to begin to understand CS.

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Karen, do you see those numbers next to the sentences? They represent sources. For instance, 7 is Gordon Melton’s Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America, published by Routledge in 1992. 8 is Nicholas Rescher’s chapter “Idealism in the book A Companion to Metaphysics, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2009. Reference 9 is to Rennie Shoepflin’s Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America, published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

            A well-maintained, well-referenced wikipedia page is often an excellent resource. These sources are all published by reputable scholarly publishers, and probably represent a far better grasp of this religion you are so apparently fond of than you might personally have. Rather than scoffing at the alleged source (when the real sources are found in the citations), you might consider the dissenting information. And briefly skimming the very well-referenced wikipedia page, it appears that many Christian Scientists espouse beliefs in private that they deny in public.

            I’m not even sure what that means. I worship the power of Good, and I call that power God.

            Then you’re not a Christian Scientist, and you shouldn’t refer to yourself as one. Sounds like you’re a hippie, gloming onto whatever you find personally convincing and syncretizing it into a loosely-held set of convenient, mutually-contradictory beliefs.

            Might I suggest that you take a visit to Amazon – maybe type in “Christian Science” in the search engine

            May I suggest you read the wikipedia page, and if you particularly object to a specific fact, you read the appended citation, rather than something self-published by the church.

            I’m personally not going to bother learning more. Why would I waste my time on yet one more personal delusional meme that managed to propagate to the credulous who would rather risk their children’s lives than admit they were wrong?

            1. Karen says:

              William (who claimed CSists are vegetarians and have a really strict diet – probably confusing CS with Seventh Day Adventists – but what’s the difference, right? one cult is the same as another) says: “I’m personally not going to bother learning more.”

              Why am I not surprised?

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                but what’s the difference, right? one cult is the same as another

                That is, actually, correct. There is absolutely no more evidence to support CS than 7th Day Adventists, Southern Baptists, Mennonites, Amish, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism (which, WLU is correct has had a much larger impact on world religion and culture than CS), Hinduism, Taoism, Daoism, Pentacosalism, Young Earth Creationism, Wiccanism, Greek, Norse, Roman, Celtic mythology, or Pastafarianism.

                And if you believe there is, then you have not examined that evidence in anything but a heavily biased manner. The simple question is “why do you reject Islam and its tenets as the one true religion that is correct” and that is precisely why I reject CS and all the other religions out there.

                In addition to my science degrees I hold a BA in Medical Anthropology and took a number of religion courses and have read extensively on the topic. So I have learned quite a bit and indeed, WLU is correct – there really is no need to learn more.

              2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                So, Karen, are you going to focus on the one detail I got wrong, mixing one minority religion with another, or are you going to respond to any of my other points? For instance, that the wikipedia page is not pulled from thin air, but rather based on scholarly citations written by experts?

            2. Karen says:

              William (who claimed CSists are vegetarians and have a really strict diet – probably confusing CS with Seventh Day Adventists – but what’s the difference, right? one cult is the same as another) says: “I’m personally not going to bother learning more.”

              Why am I not surprised?

              1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Yes, I made a mistake on the vegetarian requirements of Christian Scientists. I was thinking of Seventh Day Adventists. That was my error in fact (and now that it’s corrected, it erodes even further any claim CS may have on superior health).

                What about everything else I’ve said? Because if you just focus on that one error to the exclusion of everything else, it looks like you’re seeking a reason to dismiss all my points, on the basis of that single error. Which is intellectually weak, and in my mind an indication that you are unable to refute or intelligently discuss any of them.

              2. windriven says:

                Karen, I would heartily agree that ‘one cult is the same as another’ when discussing deity based cults. While their particular myths and habits make them different and might be of interest to the cultural anthropologist, all have a monotonous sameness at their cores that drain any particular interest on my part.

          2. wunder says:

            Who wants to understand it? I’m quite happy to mock it, and anyone who follows it, because it’s just too utterly ridiculous and patently stupid to be believed by any but the most gullible.

  5. goodnightirene says:

    This is one of those times I find it embarrassing to be a native Washingtonian. I do hope the legislative fix will prevail. Keep us posted.

    The image of a child suffering and dying right in front of his parents is so horrible. It has ruined my day–which is nothing compared to the these children’s fate.

    p.s
    I never get responses from my Republican representatives either. Once I did and it was clearly sent by an illiterate aide or volunteer. It was crude and uncivil to the point of being irrational and nonsensical.

  6. jacobv says:

    In my many years as a CPS social worker in Washington State I’ve initiated court actions against a number of religious families who put their children at risk because of their beliefs, but never one from a Christian Science background. In fact I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea of this exemption and in 27 years of state service I’ve never heard it mentioned at any trainings or by one of our Assistant Attorney Generals who represent our department. Thanks for this post Harriet and I will definitely take the time to let folk know about this issue and contact my state rep’s.

    My guess as to why this one Christian sect was able to have this exemption is that Christian Science use to be significantly more popular and mainstream which gave them enough political clout to advocate for the law or perhaps a Christian Science legislature added it on another bill at some time in the past with little notice.

  7. mho says:

    How would I go about finding out if my state has a similar exemption?
    Would this impact vaccine exemptions?

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      “How would I go about finding out if my state has a similar exemption?” You could try searching online for your state’s child protection laws, or contact C.H.I.L.D. http://childrenshealthcare.org/ They have been fighting existing and proposed religious shield laws all over the US and should have up-to-date info on which states still have them. If all else fails, the state attorney’s office should know.

      “Would this impact vaccine exemptions?”
      Unfortunately, no.

  8. thelittlesalt@gmail.com says:

    The only confounding factor to me in the whole issue of the medical rights of children is the issue of the “mature minor.” That is why I’m slightly unsure of why this particular case is being used to illustrate the need for medical exemption law repeal. In this particular case, which I followed, the defense rested strongly on the fact that, at some point, Zach’s father offered to take him to a hospital, to which the son responded, “No, I’m going home.” The link above contains that recounting of his death.

    I’m an attorney who does a fair amount of children’s rights advocacy. One thing that has surprised me about the field is that we find ourselves far more often arguing against the imposition of medical care than for it (at least among those I know). If we acknowledge that adults have the right to make their own decisions about medical care – no matter how foolhardy they may be – then it becomes tricky to draw the line as to where children can. Of course, this presumes the child can advocate for him or herself – which usually means that “mature minor” cases involve teenagers only (there are very, very rare cases in which it’s been applied to pre-teens, but those are incredibly few and far between and usually overturned on appeal). Not all states even apply this rule, but I practice in one that does.

    I think this is why most of the people I know who advocate for state intervention in medical cases involving kids tend to focus most of these energies on cases involving small children – those cases are very clear. A baby or grade-school child cannot be expected to know the how or why of their decisions. Older children and teens present a tougher case.

    I’m honestly curious as to what role anybody thinks the whole mature minor rule would ideally play in any kind of healthcare system. I’m not sure solely removing religious exemptions would affect cases like Zachery’s cited above, given his age.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      I question the mature minor rule when it is applied to a child who has been brought up in a cult-like belief system and is under the strong influence of everyone in his church and who doesn’t want to be rejected by his parents. I would argue that these children are being coerced and can’t make an independent decision. They can’t give informed consent because they are not informed about the facts, only about the beliefs they hear.

      1. irenegoodnight says:

        This is the reason I remain what some would call “intolerant” of religion. It is nothing more than the brainwashing of children. At least the tooth fairy brings money and children are told the truth about her in due course.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          I’m 100% with you Irene. Religion, to some degree or another, cripples a person’s ability to make rational decisions and think critically. What people would describe as the more “moderate” religious sects do it less so, but still do it none the less. And typically they still do it to a type and degree that I would find abhorrent but is still socially acceptable and considered “not that bad” because it is a dominant cultural idea, not because it is actually diminishing capacities less. Hence why we have our elected leaders loudly and proudly saying evolution is a lie.

      2. thelittlesalt@gmail.com says:

        Harriet, I think the only flaw in that reasoning is that it’s not limited to children. What about an 18 year old still living in their parents’ home? I think we’d be hard-pressed to argue that they – or a 19, or even an older young adult – are any less brainwashed. However, the law protects their right to make medical decisions almost absolutely. I think we can all agree that there is no magical competancy that one receives on their 18th birthday. The person is largely the same. The only difference now is that the law recognizes their capacity to refuse care in an almost absolute sense, as opposed to a lesser extent.

        I think your argument works on an ethical level, but certainly not a legal one. If the law recognizes that even a heavily indocrinated 18-year old has a nearly absolute right to refuse medical care, then treating a person a few months away from 18 (like the young man cited here was) on a totally different plane seems capricious – especially when the courts can make a determination as to competancy of the younger one and find little to no difference.

        Also, I think you might be using “informed consent” in a sense that is very different then what it means in the legal sense. Informed consent only means the provider has given the person relevant facts about risk and outcomes. It means little to nothing about how the individual choses to interpret or act upon the information. Informed consent is generally a protection for the provider, not the patient. Thus, the system is less concerned with how the patient acted upon the informed consent and more with the provider’s duty to inform in the first place.

        1. Harriet Hall says:

          I agree. And that can be extended to the elderly, the handicapped, and to wives who are indoctrinated to leave all decisions to their husband and obey him in everything. And yes, I was using “informed consent” in a non-legal sense. Many of these religious sects prohibit any exposure to other ways of thinking. Their victims do not realize there is any alternative to the beliefs they have been brought up with. It’s not just a matter of a doctor telling them the medical facts.

        2. Marion says:

          I say this all the time & everywhere:

          if the topics of

          gods, 9-11, anthropogenic global warming (AGW), medicine, overpopulation, science –

          get special privilege to force me to respect the opinions of conspiracy theorist and those with alternatives opinion and give them equal airtime,
          then so too the subject of

          law.

          I don’t give an F what any lawyer, judge, supreme court says about what is legal or illegal. If one is being sued, one does not have to go to court if one does not want, and one has the legal right to kill any thugs (cops) who dare kidnap you.

    2. Andrey Pavlov says:

      I agree with Dr. Hall. It becomes difficult to suss out. By example:

      I was working in the ER and in comes a 17 year old. He is having significant GI bleeding from a perforated ulcer. We are trying to stop the bleeding and stabilize him but he has lost a lot of blood. We inform him and the mother that we feel we need blood on hand and that a transfusion is probably going to be necessary in the near future. Turns out they are Jehova’s witnesses.

      The boy is pale, ashen, breathing hard, high pulse rate, and obviously frightened. We keep working to do what we can while pumping him full of fluids. He continues to deteriorate. We once again stress to the mother that really, things are becoming quite touchy, and blood would be invaluable to ensure his life is saved. We are very confident that with blood he makes it in and out of the OR with little difficulty and all is well. His eyes are wide like dinner plates. We look at him. He darts his eyes to his mother and squeezes out some silent tears. She cries and breaks down a bit and allows us to transfuse FFP but nothing else.

      It doesn’t help. He needs blood at this point. Once again, we speak to the boy and mother, his eyes dart to his mother and he says nothing, with obvious panic on his face. The mother agrees to let us give him platelets.

      So what now? If I, as a physician (I wasn’t at the time), ask him “Do you want us to give you blood and save your life” what do you think he would say? It was clear to anyone paying attention he desperately wanted us to give him blood, but the condemnation of his mother and his religion prevented him from speaking up. Even if I could determine him an emancipated minor (which is much easier for a physician to do in Australia than in the US), he would have been unlikely to express his true desire for the transfusion.

      Now how about this added wrinkle. I happen to know that in the Witness community if you are given blood you are to be shunned by everyone in the community, including your parents and family. So if I convince the boy to allow the transfusion I know I am condemning him to being shunned from his entire community and support structure.

      And one more wrinkle. I also happen to know that if a Witness is given blood against his or her will, or unknowingly, that they are forgiven and not shunned. So do I go “meta” on this one and find a way to force the blood upon him, knowing that is what he (and honestly probably his mother) would have wanted, despite their protestations otherwise, so I could give them an “out” by which to save his life and paint me as the villain so they can go ahead and continue living their lives?

      And of course, I would inevitably open myself up to suit from the family and action by the medical board by doing so. So in most cases, it is safer and better overall to not do such things and let the boy die. If I get sued and lose my license how many people would I not be able to help in the future for this one boy in front of me right now (the Spock problem). Nevermind my own career, family, and livelihood.

      So yes, I think HItch had it very right about religion.

      And the boy ended up living without the need for a red cell transfusion, but he suffered kidney injury as a result. The kidney injury reversed, but the problem is that now he is much, much more likely to suffer early decline in renal function and is at risk for needing dialysis later in life. Which could have been entirely averted with a simple blood transfusion.

      1. jacobv says:

        At least in Washington State any minor over the age of 13 has a right to consent to their own medical care regardless of the wishes of a parent. And in this state you, as a doctor, would have been within your rights to ask the parent to leave and speak with the minor yourself or a hospital administrator or a doctor can place a “medical hold” on a child initiating a response from CPS. I have obtained court orders on three occasions to allow younger children to have a blood transfusion against the wishes of a parent which is why I was so surprised to learn that Christian Scientists had a legal exemption in this state.

        1. windriven says:

          This is a good thing. But it might also be quite frightening to a child to defy the wishes of her parents and the entire culture she was raised in.

          Heaps of good on you for pressing the issue and getting court orders when you needed them.

  9. fractal says:

    This is a stretch maybe – but then again, so many things are stretched these days – why couldn’t woo devotees/worshipers use this kind of law to shield themselves when choosing “alternative” treatments for their children? Given how uninformed or misinformed the judge was in the Swezey case above and how the same is undoubtedly true for much of the general population who will serve as jurors, using the defense of religion and/or belief in alterative treatments and nonbelief in science sound very similar to me.

    1. thelittlesalt@gmail.com says:

      It’s already happened. A judge in Ohio ruled that a woman can pursue a claim of religious discrimination against a Children’s Hospital (I want to say in Akron, but I might be wrong) for terminating her after she refused the flu shot. Her reasoning? She is a vegan, and she argued that the flu vaccine violates the beliefs because it is 1.) created through a process involving eggs and 2.) is generally a product of animal testing and off-limits to her. She was fired and the judge preliminarily ruled that she may pursue a religious discrimination claim based on the fact that veganism meets the basic definition handed down by SCOTUS of “religion.”

      So yes, it’s already happening.

  10. David says:

    Many of the arguments against laws like this one could be applied to infant male circumcision (the female version not being relevant in this country because little girls’ genitals are protected by federal law from so much as a pin prick).

    Obviously withholding medical care from a child in a serious situation is more likely to result in much worse outcomes (e.g., death) than a typical circumcision, but the relationship between parenting, religion, and the rights of children figure prominently with respect to both issues.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      I don’t want to start this argument over again, but I think circumcision is very different because there are health benefits, not enough to recommend all boys be circumcised, but enough to justify parental decisions to circumcise for reasons entirely outside the realm of religion. That is what the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

      1. David says:

        No doubt — circumcision is different, but I do think there are interesting parallels. (And I know the issue can be a bit of a hornet’s nest; I appreciate the fact that you don’t want to start a big argument)

        The AAP actually said that the benefits outweigh the risks, and parents should base their decision in part on religious belief (RBM?)!

        In any case, I’m sure the AAP found some nominal health benefits from the removal of a healthy foreskin after reviewing the thousands of studies that have been done in an attempt to find those benefits. It must have been less time-consuming to prepare the statement on female circumcision, because for some reason nobody is interested in doing studies looking for benefits from that range of procedures.

        Well, at least we agree that in the context of the Washington State law, religion should have no place medicine.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Circumcision is a tempest in a teapot. Neither the benefits, nor the risks of circumcision are sufficiently dramatic to get excited over it. It hurts, your penis smells less, but for most people the difference is purely cosmetic.

          It’s not comparable to female circumcision, unless you are talking about the removal of the full head of the penis. Which I do not believe is mandated by any religious or secular organization.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            Neither the benefits, nor the risks of circumcision are sufficiently dramatic to get excited over it.

            That much I’ll agree on.

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Aw, I wanted another argument where I got to pull out Dan Savage’s reason for supporting circumcision :)

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                LOL, sorry WLU. Plus, I have it on good authority mine tastes just fine ;-)

              2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Let’s both agree that I will take your word for it :P

              3. Andrey Pavlov says:

                LOL. Agreed.

          2. David says:

            WilliamLawrenceUtridge:

            Putting aside the merits of circumcision (maybe someday to be continued on a circumcision post), your comment requires factual corrections regarding male and female circumcision.

            Female circumcision is classified into 4 types of procedures, and there is variation in practice with respect to each type (see, e.g., WHO Fact Sheet 241). There are female circumcision procedures that cause more damage than a typical male circumcision (e.g., clitoridectomy), and some that involve the removal of less tissue, carry lower risks, and may cause less pain (e.g., a ceremonial pin prick on the labia, preferred by some Muslim families, and illegal under U.S. federal law).

            The female procedure that most closely resembles the typical male procedure in the U.S. (i.e., the removal of the foreskin) is the removal of the clitoral hood.

  11. Karen says:

    You all know that, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical science is the third-leading cause of death in this country, right? I mean… in just the last month we’ve all heard about the two cases of children dying from routine medical treatment – a tonsillectomy and a visit to the dentist. As any honest medical doctor will tell you, medical science is not an exact science. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. Sometimes it kills. I’m thinking that until medical science can made a guarantee that it will always cure its adherents, and never kill them, it should not be something forced on people, and it shouldn’t be surprising that thinking, questioning people look for alternatives to it.

    I was raised by a Christian Science mom, and I could not have asked for a more loving, nurturing woman to care for me – I had vaccinations as a kid, and mom took me to the dentist, the eye doctor, and the family physician when there was a need – but I also witnessed and experienced some wonderful healings through Christian Science – the instantaneous healing of doctor-diagnosed mastoiditus of my brother being one that will always stand out to me. One minute he was screaming in pain, the next he was snoring. That kind of thing is hard to forget, discount, or ignore. Christian Science healing, by the way, does not involve pleading with some anthropomorphic god to fix things – Christian Science healing involves bringing our own thoughts close to Love, Truth, Life. The findings of recent scientific research seems to correspond well to the ideas found in Christian Science: On the ScienceDaily website (March 4, 2009) in an article entitled Human Emotions Hold Sway Over Physical Health Worldwide, we’re told: “The research proves that positive emotions are critical for upkeep of physical health for people worldwide…” and “…positive emotions unmistakably are linked to better health, even when taking into account a lack of basic needs.” (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091229.htm)
    I think this research correlates well to the healings and teachings found in Christian Science – a way of life that includes the belief that our state of mind determines our human experience.

    1. Kiiri says:

      Karen, I appreciate your comment but it really isn’t based much in reality. I have argued these same points with anti-vaccine moms on multiple occassions. First, your point that medicine has risks. Everything has risks. You could get hit by a bus crossing the street to go to work but you still cross the street. Nothing in life is a 100% guarantee but effective science-based medical care is your best shot at a long and disease free life. I’ll take medical care over prayer any day. I somehow doubt that a bacterium or virus is much interested in prayer or whether you are thinking about ‘truth’ and whatnot over the medication the doctor gave you to eradicate it from your body. Sure emotion can have some say in subjective symptoms but that’s not really healing. And sure your local quack can promise you that there won’t be any side effects but that is because she is selling you tap water at an outrageous mark up. Stick with science it’s safer all around. Plus to the topic of this post, children should always receive medical care. It makes me physically ill that parents would allow a child to suffer and die without treatment.

      1. Karen says:

        Yeah, any time a child suffers, it’s heart-breaking. You and I are in agreement about that.

        But I think it’s wise to question everything – political parties, a religions, corporations, pharmaceutical companies, and medical science. Sometimes it seems to me that some people have as much blind, unquestioning faith in medical science as others do in an anthropomorphic god. But children suffer under medical treatment, too – you think cancer treatment is a piece of cake? “More than 15,000 people die every year because of cancer treatments rather than the illness itself…” according to this site: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/10069585/15000-people-die-every-year-because-of-cancer-treatments-Lord-Saatchi-says.html

        And we’ve all heard those pharmaceutical commercials that tell us about the side effects of their drugs: dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, liver damage, stroke, death – I always wonder who’s running out to get that stuff, you know?

        My dad isn’t a CSist (he’s a another kind of scientist – a geologist – 95 years-old now :) ), and my mom (86 now) always respected his wishes regarding medical treatment for us – but over the years my dad witnessed so many healings in CS that he came to realize the efficacy of it for us. He would tell you now, if you asked him, that he knows it works. He’s witnessed it.

        I know not everyone raised by CS parents experienced the same kind of happy childhood I did – I have friends raised in CS who talk about parents ignoring their illness, trying to deny that there was something that needed to be corrected – and I don’t discount those stories – and I would call what happened to them neglect and abuse.

        But that is not the kind of childhood I experienced.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          I think it’s wise to question everything

          Except for, apparently, the evidence supporting the existence of a personal god. ‘Cause there’s none of that. I mean, you criticize medicine on the basis of blind faith, but you give religion a pass? That’s hilarious.

          And we’ve all heard those pharmaceutical commercials that tell us about the side effects of their drugs: dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, liver damage, stroke, death – I always wonder who’s running out to get that stuff, you know?

          You’re back in asshole territory here. Who are you to judge someone else’s medications and intrapsychic life?

          As for those 15,000 people who die of cancer treatment – how many of them would have been killed by their cancers? One can’t balance the risk of cancer treatment versus no risk at all, one must balance it against the risk of dying of the cancer. Which is very far from zero.

          I know not everyone raised by CS parents experienced the same kind of happy childhood I did – I have friends raised in CS who talk about parents ignoring their illness, trying to deny that there was something that needed to be corrected – and I don’t discount those stories – and I would call what happened to them neglect and abuse.

          But that is not the kind of childhood I experienced.

          Sounds like you really shouldn’t be lecturing people on the wonders of Christian Science then. Sounds like you had a childhood that would probably be described by church elders as “sinful” or something equally stupid. Sounds like you kinda are discounting those stories with your “but nobody died during my childhood”.

          Also, do you konw what can cause the pain of mastoiditis to go away? A reduction of the swelling in the mastoid process. Such as you would expect to see when the peak of the infection has passed.

          Want to impress me? Find a Christian Scientist whose limb has grown back – not someone who had a self-limiting illness go away with time.

    2. weing says:

      “You all know that, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical science is the third-leading cause of death in this country, right? ”
      No, I don’t know that. Could you elaborate?

      1. Karen says:

        Hi, weing – If you google “third leading cause of death” a bunch of websites will pop up that indicate medical practice is the third leading cause of death in this country:
        http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/hospital-medical-errors-third-leading-cause-death-dispute-to-err-is-human-report/2013-09-20

        Yikes, right?!

        And then there are stories like this one from the Science-Based Medicine site (this is kind of long – sorry) which offer a different point of view on medical practice than the popular one:

        snoopdavidnivenon 19 Apr 2010 at 11:05 am
        “If you’re going to be ruthlessly realistic about cancer death without conventional treatment, you ought to be just as unsparing to what it looks like under a doctor’s care as well. When my wife died six years ago, after undergoing the maximum allowable rounds of chemo and radiation – when her oncologist informed her there was no more point to any further treatment – we got to watch her experience “horrific cachexia….. Think Nazi concentration camp survivor. think starving Africans. Think famine. Think having cheeks so sunken that your face looks like the skull underlying it” ANYWAY. The poor dear thing was, by your lights, the ideal patient – she would have no truck with `quackery’, and came to rely upon her doctor with the same quasi-religious fervor that the booboisie (according to you) foolishly place in alternative practitioners. She’d believed that, so long as she was receiving treatment, she had a hope to cling to; so that when he told her `no more’, it was as if God Himself had washed His hands of her. Just the way she’d've felt upon learning that the coffee enemas or the ph-corrective diet or the Chinese magnets were worthless after all.

        “Only last month, I lost my mother to liver cancer, ten days after her gastroenteologist misdiagnosed her with an ulcer(!). When it became obvious that her stmach pains were no ulcer, she too wanted only proper medical care in a hospital….where she was toild that nothing could be done, that she was terminal. Thereupon they starved her for two days with ice chips when she was begging for food and fluids. Why, you ask? Well, they were prepping her for more tests, you see. A second catscan….a bronchoscopy….a liver biopsy…and, oh yeah, a colonoscopy, too. Presumably that last one was just for good luck. When I asked if any of these tests could possibly result in either a different diagnosis or some kind of a treatment regimen, I was told no, she was too far gone, but that, as doctors, they were driven to find out as much about the precise nature of her cancer as possible.

        “Now, maybe I’m a cynic, a crank and a Luddite all rolled up in one, but I got the distinct impression I was watching a bunch of vultures trying to shoehorn in one last billable procedure while the body was still warm, and the insurance still valid. Because they made it a habit to meet with her before visiting hours, when her family couldn’t be there to protect her interests, and tryu to get her to sign off on these wholly-unnecessary procedures anyway…. AFTER we’d stridently insisted they treat her pain and nothing else. One thing is certain: not a single procedure they proposed was going to in any way treat or palliate her “belly filled with ascites fluid due to a liver chock full of tumor”. Which she died writhing beneath, seven days after being (correctly) diagnosed.

        “Incidentally, I don’t blame doctors for their patients’ cancers, nor their deaths. I know they’re doing the best they can…most of the time, anyway. I just thought you ought to tell the whole truth here: that those horrible, degrading cancer deaths people suffer without proper medical treatment? Most of the time, they suffer those exact same deaths WITH proper medical treatment.

        “Go on; tell me my data sampling is faulty, my accounting of events unreliable, and my experience apocryphal. I’ve done so much crying lately, frankly I could use the laugh.”
        http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/chemotherapy-versus-death-from-cancer/

        1. weing says:

          @Karen,
          Thank you. I was able to check out the article

          From the study referenced in the website you linked to about PAEs (preventable adverse events)

          “The broadest definition encompasses all unexpected and harmful experience that a patient encounters as a result of being in the care of a medical professional or system because high quality, evidence-based medical care was not delivered during hospitalization”

          From the Methods section of that article.

          “Types of PAEs

          The cause of PAEs in hospitals may be separated into these categories:
          * Errors of commission,
          * Errors of omission,
          * Errors of communication,
          * Errors of context, and
          * Diagnostic errors”

          Now comparing this to your statement”

          “You all know that, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical science is the third-leading cause of death in this country, right? ”

          Help me to understand, because the article seems to indicate that not following medical science is the cause.

          Regarding the patients ravaged by advanced cancer. I know. It is awful. It breaks my heart when patients are failing their treatments and the end is approaching. I feel as helpless as they do. All the more reason to fund more R&D into finding real treatments that can help them, instead of wasting precious dollars on dead-end studies of placebos by NCCAM.

          1. windriven says:

            ” the article seems to indicate that not following medical science is the cause.”

            Outstanding point, weing.

        2. windriven says:

          Karen,

          The CDC reports 2,468,435 deaths in 2010. 1.7 million of those deaths were accounted for by heart disease and cancer. The article that you linked claimed that 210,000 to 400,000 Americans die each year from Preventable Adverse Effects in hospitals. That means in round numbers that between 9 and 16% of all deaths in America are caused by hospital care. Now I submit that just on the face of it, that is a crazy assertion.

          Next you should note that the study mentioned in the article was authored by: “John T. James, Ph.D., who oversees the advocacy group Patient Safety America, an organization he founded in honor of his 19-year-old son who died in 2002 as the result of what he describes as negligent hospital care.”

          Do you think he may have had an axe to grind?

          You can read the actual paper here . It is a methodological nightmare of guesses and approximations and flawed tools.

          But now let’s talk about the reality. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists are all human and occasionally, despite best efforts, make mistakes. In 2012 there were 36,156,245 admissions to US hospitals. I cannot even hazard a guess as to how many lab tests were run, blood samples drawn, CAT scans and MRIs. There were 51.4 million surgical procedures performed according to CDC. This is larger than hospital admissions because many procedures are done in outpatient centers and some even in physicians offices.

          The tools used by physicians are necessarily powerful. Heart disease and cancer and infection and stroke are not successfully treated with chicken soup and a smile. People sometimes have unexpected reactions to drugs and therapies.

          Finally, I can’t tell you how many lives are saved my modern medical care each year. I can’t tell you how many are saved just by immunizations, much less by surgeries, by antibiotics, by the chemotherapy agents that some insist on calling poison.

          I hope you’ll contemplate some of these things before you leap to embrace the notion that medicine is the third biggest killer in America. I hope you’ll think about 1 kilogram babies in neonatal intensive care units and grandmothers with new kidneys and expectant mothers who couldn’t conceive naturally and fathers who survived pneumonia. Life without modern medicine would be a brutal and ugly existence.

          1. Karen says:

            Thanks, windriven and weing for taking the time to check out those sites and respond.

            Thirteen years ago my CS mom was diagnosed with lymphoma and given two years to live. She had some choices to make. She’d relied almost her entire adult life on Christian Science – and had experienced many healings with it (if she hadn’t had success with CS, she wouldn’t have continued with it – she would have found something that worked for her – my mom is no martyr to religion). I told her that I would support her in whatever direction she chose to go – whether medical science or Christian Science. After a lot of thought, she chose to use medical science. She went through chemo treatments, and did what the doctors prescribed for her – although she never really became part of the “cancer culture” – if you know what I mean – she didn’t buy cancer-of-the-month calendars and magazines and stuff. She had some wonderful, caring doctors and developed a great patient-doctor relationship with them. The thought, then, was that they would prolong her life, but that the cancer would win in the end. After two years there was no trace of the cancer, and now, thirteen years later, she is still alive and kicking, and the doctors call her an enigma. At least one of them gives credit to her CS way of life for her healing.

            I have experienced healings of:
            – a doctor-diagnosed (and photographed) melanoma on my eyelid – by the time I got to the eye surgeon two weeks later, the melanoma had completely disappeared
            - a puffed-up hand – blood tests that came back a few days after the hand deflated indicated markers for rheumatoid arthritis – the doctor wanted me to see a specialist, and after I told them that I’d called a CS practitioner and my hand was completely healed and fine, they were really surprised – that was 3 years ago and there’s been no return of the condition
            - the natural delivery of my son after I’d been wheeled down to the OR for an emergency caesarean section (I’d asked my mom to call a CS practitioner for support) – just as the doctors were ready to slice me open, they all got surprised looks on their faces and started yelling “Push! Push!” – when my son was born one of the nurses started crying – she said she’d never been able to see a natural delivery and it was “so beautiful.”

            Do I consider these healings miracles? Nope. They are completely natural – it’s natural to be healthy. And I’ve found that when I’m able to draw close to the power of Love, of Good – to fill my thoughts up with joy and life – I experience healing. Always.

            Although I have much respect for medical doctors and their dedication to their patients – my brother-in-law is a dedicated anesthesiologist, my sister-in-law is a wonderful ER nurse, my niece is a newly-minted physician, and my nephew soon will be – I have found CS to be the best and most efficient method of healing for me, personally.

            Regarding the law exempting the children of CSists from medical treatment: Honestly, I can’t say that I know where, exactly, I stand on this issue. I know CS works. I’ve proven it for myself, and, I think if we’re honest we have to acknowledge that medical science is seriously flawed. But… I think that parents need to use common sense when it comes to the care and well-being of their children.

            1. windriven says:

              Karen,

              You are welcome to your superstitions and your delusions. Personally, I’m meeting with a WA state senator tomorrow to do my small part in stripping Christian Scientists from their free pass for quackery in my state.

              But I come up short when I read this:

              “I think if we’re honest we have to acknowledge that medical science is seriously flawed. ”

              I wonder if you would explain the serious flaws you find with medical science?

            2. weing says:

              @Karen,
              Let me see if I understand this correctly. Your mom was diagnosed with a lymphoma that had a poor prognosis. She received standard science-based therapy and is disease free 13 years later. Great. I have no idea what “cancer culture” is.

              “a doctor-diagnosed (and photographed) melanoma on my eyelid”
              Melanoma is diagnosed by biopsy not photographs. You had a skin finding suspicious for melanoma that resolved. You had a swollen hand and some abnormal lab tests and now your fine. You experienced the miracle of birth. You call all this healing. I call it living. That’s fine.
              “I think if we’re honest we have to acknowledge that medical science is seriously flawed.” I’m still confused. Now be honest and enlighten us to the serious flaws in medical science. You’ve shown us an article that shows a lot of injury and deaths in hospitals due to not adhering to the latest medical science. Is that the flaw?

              1. Harriet Hall says:

                Also, one episode of a swollen hand is incompatible with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, even with positive blood tests. 4 of these criteria must be present to diagnose RA:

                Morning stiffness of more than an hour most mornings for a period of at least six weeks.
                Arthritis and soft-tissue swelling of more than 3 of 14 joints/joint groups, present for a period of at least six weeks.
                Arthritis of hand joints, which are present for a period of at least six weeks.
                Symmetric arthritis, which is present for a period of at least six weeks.
                Subcutaneous nodules in specific places.
                Rheumatoid factor at a level > the 95th percentile.
                Radiological changes suggestive of joint erosion.

              2. Karen says:

                Yup.

                Now, if I were a medical doctor I’d be wondering about this stuff I’ve shared with you. Why was that woman diagnosed with terminal lymphoma able to survive it? Why did that woman’s puffed-up hand deflate in two days – and why has she never had a recurrence of this in the three years since then ? – when the blood test clearly indicated markers for rheumatoid arthritis? Instead of trying to discount this stuff, if I were a medical scientist who sincerely wanted to help my patients – and not leave them worse, and with adverse side effects – , I’d be looking into why this woman had these healings – instead of ignoring them and trying to talk them away.

                I think what we’ve got here is a case of cognitive dissonance: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore, and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” – Frantz Fanon

                I feel really blest that I was raised with a dad who wasn’t a CSist and a mom who was one, and that I’m married to a man who is not a CSist. I’ve had the opportunity to see the world from a lot of different perspectives and viewpoints. I think it’s maybe helped make me less narrow in my worldview. My husband, by the way, acknowledged to me a few years after we were married, “You know, with other religions when someone gets a healing it’s considered a miracle – a supernatural event. With Christian Scientists healings are just an everyday thing.”

                I’m glad you are meeting with Sen. Sheldon. I think it’s important to take part in our democratic process. I was elected as a delegate to the state Democratic convention a few years ago -and had a wonderful experience meeting with like-minded individuals. I’ve written letters to my legislators and newspapers, and made donations in support of financial aid for illegal immigrants, support of environmental causes, the ACLU, gay rights, Habitat for Humanity, atheists, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, the Smile Train, and yes, universal health care (I don’t believe anyone should be denied the health care they feel they need just because they’re poor – health care should be considered a basic human right). It would be awfully nice, while you’re meeting with Sen. Sheldon, if you brought up universal health care – if you’re going to make demands that everybody use the medical system you might want to make it affordable for people. (I have a friend who was told she needed to pay $30,o00 to $40,oo0 a month for the cancer remission drugs she was told she needed – holy shamoley! )

              3. windriven says:

                @Karen

                “I’d be looking into why this woman had these healings”

                I hope you’ll read weing’s comment above very carefully. The explanations to your questions are to be found there. The explanations are entirely quotidian and have nothing to do with CS, prayer, or spirituality. I’m not sure you have the tools to fully appreciate weing’s explanation but perhaps I’m wrong.

              4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                I feel really blest that I was raised with a dad who wasn’t a CSist and a mom who was one, and that I’m married to a man who is not a CSist.

                I bet you feel blessed – you are given tremendous support to adhere to the health-enhancing practices of the church, yet when things get really serious you have no compunctions about getting medical care.

            3. Harriet Hall says:

              @Karen
              Christian Scientists believe that sickness is an illusion caused by mistaken beliefs and that the whole material world is an illusion, so why did you go to a doctor at all? Why does CS condone seeing a doctor for broken bones if they are illusory? I really can’t understand the logic and am hoping you can explain.

              1. weing says:

                “Christian Scientists believe that sickness is an illusion caused by mistaken beliefs and that the whole material world is an illusion, so why did you go to a doctor at all?”
                I didn’t know that. That must be the serious flaw. It doesn’t jive with her religious beliefs.

              2. weing says:

                It’s the old Weltanschaung again.

              3. windriven says:

                Gotta watch that Weltanshauung – if you aren’t careful that stuff can kill you ;-)

              4. Karen says:

                And people familiar with quantum physics will tell you that matter IS pretty much nothing, and that our thoughts effect the world around us.

              5. weing says:

                “Why was that woman diagnosed with terminal lymphoma able to survive it?”
                Because she responded to the chemotherapy.
                “Why was that woman diagnosed with terminal lymphoma able to survive it? Why did that woman’s puffed-up hand deflate in two days – and why has she never had a recurrence of this in the three years since then ? – when the blood test clearly indicated markers for rheumatoid arthritis?”
                Because it was not rheumatoid arthritis. Because nonspecific symptoms like that come and go all the time. If you fund research into it, we may find the causes of symptoms like that. For example, some people will have an inflammatory response to cold due to a cryopyrin mutation, another mutation may lead to another response.

              6. windriven says:

                “And people familiar with quantum physics will tell you that matter IS pretty much nothing, and that our thoughts effect the world around us.”

                Oh Karen, you’ve crossed a line here. You may find intellectual squirrels who can mouth the words ‘quantum physics’ who will tell you that our thoughts effect (sic) the world around us. But you will find vanishingly few physicists who would say something so daft. Notions like these come from a total and perhaps willful misunderstanding of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and other features of quantum physics relating to states of matter vis-a-vis observation.

              7. Andrey Pavlov says:

                I wasn’t going to enter into any conversation with Karen because it is obvious she is a nice and caring individual, merely with some rather strange, incorrect, and highly incongruous beliefs, but what can I say? I got a bit sucked in.

                Firstly, some very minor but strange… typos? Why the letter “o” in place of only some of the zeroes in the numbers?

                This sort of phenomenon is something I am becoming increasingly curious about. Why is it that individuals with a propensity for magical thinking have such difficulty writing correctly? No need for complicated sentence structure, $10 words, fancy jargon – I mean just the fundamental basics of the standard written word. Not even the ever so slightly more complicated question of where one puts a comma, or proper use of apostrophe, sentence fragments, and so on. Those are simple enough but also seemingly common errors. But very strange errors that actually require more effort to put in – random capitalizations, substituting letters for numbers, multiple commas in a row. It seems that the more whackaloon the more such errors prevail. In Karen’s case it is extremely minor – perhaps I am over reading it. But it got my mind going again.

                In any event, in regards to the comment about quantum mechanics… I’m sorry Karen but that is basically straight out the mouth of Chopra and is egregiously incorrect. Chopra tried to assert the same whilst arguing with Sam Harris and was refuted on stage. He got puffed up and tried to make an argument from his authority, but welcomed any actual quantum physicists to correct him if he were wrong. Leonard Mlodinow came up in the Q&A session and very kindly, but also very comically, told Chopra he didn’t understand QM at all.

                As for the rest of your anecdotes about your supposed “healings” from CS – those really have been adequately addressed by others. When you say:

                Now, if I were a medical doctor I’d be wondering about this stuff I’ve shared with you. Why was that woman diagnosed with terminal lymphoma able to survive it? Why did that woman’s puffed-up hand deflate in two days – and why has she never had a recurrence of this in the three years since then ? – when the blood test clearly indicated markers for rheumatoid arthritis? Instead of trying to discount this stuff, if I were a medical scientist who sincerely wanted to help my patients – and not leave them worse, and with adverse side effects – , I’d be looking into why this woman had these healings – instead of ignoring them and trying to talk them away.

                We aren’t ignoring them. We already understand them and are not just “talking them away” – we are explaining why you are incorrect and why your anecdotes don’t actually explain what you think they do.

                Why was a woman diagnosed with terminal lymphoma able to survive it? Because she received the maximal amount of science based care she could and we know very, very well that nothing is 100%, including death from untreated cancer. There will always be someone who survives way past expectations and does vastly better than ever anticipated. And we cheer for those people! But there are also those who do much, much worse than expected as well. Everything is a Bell curve with some sort of distribution around an average. It is not “talking away” a finding to say that it is uncommon but still fits well within what we know about a disease process.

                Why did a puffed up hand un-puff in 2 days? Because fluid shifts can happen very rapidly. In fact, it could happen much, much more rapidly than that and be completely unsurprising. And Dr. Hall already pointed out why you actually do not have RA and never did. A positive rheumatoid factor is not diagnostic. Neither does a negative RF rule out RA. It is just part of what we need in order to diagnose RA. Why did you never have a recurrence? Because random one-off events happen all the time.

                And your birth experience? Completely within the norm. We do not wait until the last possible second before going for a C-section because that would be extremely dangerous for the child (and mother). We always go in when we think the chance of birth progressing is low enough – but not zero! – that the risk of trying to continue the birth is higher than the risk of a C-section. But that is a judgement call and, if we are doing our job right, there should be some cases like yours! We must be overcalling things to a small degree otherwise we are undercalling and creating more risk. So once again, your anecdote is nothing more than a description of what we expect.

                So what is there for us to investigate and wonder about? We expect these sort of things to happen. We know why they happen. And none of them in any way support the idea of CS actually doing anything. If X + CS = X, then CS = 0, and that is exactly what happened here. We expect that no matter what you would have experienced the exact same things; regardless of whether you practice CS, voodoo, reiki, or just like potato chips very much.

                And I am also curious about Dr. Hall’s question – the guiding principle of CS is that reality is purely spiritual, the material world is an illusion, and that illness is the manifestation of incorrect thoughts and beliefs rectified by a specific type of prayer. How do you reconcile the ideas of CS with even considering going to a physician? Do you practice some peculiar offshoot of CS?

              8. Karen says:

                Hi, Harriet – since it looks like my posts are no longer being poster here, I brought this dialogue to my own blog. You will find a response to your question there.
                http://madcapchristianscientist.com/2014/01/31/so-ill-just-finish-the-dialogue-here/

              9. Karen says:

                Hi, Harriet – It looks like I just responded to the wrong person. Oops. :)

                You’ll find the response to your question here:
                http://madcapchristianscientist.com/2014/01/31/so-ill-just-finish-the-dialogue-here/

              10. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                And people familiar with quantum physics will tell you that matter IS pretty much nothing, and that our thoughts effect the world around us.

                In the trivial sense that our thoughts lead to muscular contractions, this is true.

                Of course, in the sense of having some sort of world-creating effect on the universe, quantum physics tells us nothing of the sort. Quantum effects are so incredibly delicate that it takes millions of dollars worth of machines to generate the precise isolations and circumstances for us to be able to study them. Quantum effects disappear at scales larger than a single molecule. Quantum effects wash out into statistical averages that we see as macroscopic reality when you zoom out into any sort of scale that humans can percieve without instruments.

                Maybe learn something about quantum physics before you talk about it. Quantum physics is weird, but it does not support the idea of magic.

            4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              it’s natural to be healthyIt’s also quite natural to die of smallpox and influenza, to watch your child turn blue and choke to death while you watch due to pertussis, and for the grey matter in your spine to be selectively killed by polio resulting in paralysis of the legs if you are lucky. It’s natural to starve to death, to be eaten by lions, to be stabbed by your fellow man, to be consumed alive by fire ants, to drown, to be dismembered by sharks, to die of cancer.

              “Nature” is not optimized for human health and happiness. It’s actually quite indifferent to us.

              All of your self-aggrandizing, “stuff happens” nonsense doesn’t prove that CS “works”. In some cases, it proves that cancers do spontaneously regress (duh). In others, it proves that childbirth is a mutable process (duh). It also proves that medicine can not predict or treat with 100% certainty. Duh. Find me anything besides human stupidity that is 100%.

              1. Karen says:

                Whoah. There’s a lot to respond to in this “echo chamber” ( a new expression I just picked up from Harriet on my own blog- and I really like it :) – I’m picturing a bunch of people all of the same worldview, insulated from other viewpoints, and all patting each other on the back and affirming to each other how right they are – “echo chamber” – yeah, I like that a lot. If you were to read the comments on my blogthrough the years you would see that there’s not a lot of echoing going on there – over the years I’ve been joined by my atheist friends, my friends who were raised in CS, but no longer practiced it, some spiritually-minded people of no particular religion, and, yes, a smattering of fellow CSists. They have each brought their own wonderful insights and thoughts and beliefs and feelings, and I’ve very much appreciated that.)

                So… I think I answered Harriet on my blog, but I’ll answer her again here:

                Why do I go to a doctor at all? Well, honestly, I don’t much. I went to a doctor when I had the puffed-up hand because the people around me were really concerned by what they were seeing – there was talk of a serious infection, or an allergy – there was talk of death. And I was scared. So I went to the family physician – he normally jokes around with me when I come in – all my medical practitioners have a sense of humor, it is one of my requirements – but this time even HE wasn’t joking around. He said it looked like I either had a serious infection or rheumatoid arthritis, and he wanted to start me on drugs for both right away, and give me a blood test. I said I wasn’t interested in the drugs until I knew, for sure, what we were dealing with – but I’d have the blood test. Then I went home and called a CS practitioner – the confidence and assurance I heard in her voice was a huge help to me, mentally. The next day my hand was even more puffed-up, but by the second morning it had completely deflated. When I later called the doctor’s office for the results of the blood test, I was told there was a marker for rheumatoid arthritis and they wanted me to meet with a specialist. I told the receptionist I was completely fine now. She called a nurse to the phone. I told her my hand was completely deflated, and she was really surprised by this and told me that she guessed I didn’t need any further treatment right then, but to call if the condition returned. Which it hasn’t.

                I am not conflicted about seeing a doctor when I feel the need – I don’t experience feelings of guilt – I’m not worried about being excommunicated from any religion or anything – I am not, really, a very religious person. For me, Christian Science isn’t a religion or even an alternative health care system – it’s a way of looking at the world that’s brought a lot of good into my life. I don’t go to doctors much because I simply haven’t needed to go to doctors.

                windriven – Yeah, you’re probably right. It’s obvious – from my weird typos alone (sorry about that – I’ve been posting in a hurry – a lot going on in life right now – is there any way to go back and edit stuff?) – that I am lacking the intellectual tools to deal with really complicated and highly-scientific stuff.

                And Andrey – I like you. We probably are in agreement on a lot of political and social issues. We might even – if we sat down and talked face-to-face – find we agree on issues involving child neglect and abuse. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it, to try to share one’s entire way of life in a few short paragraphs?

                Okay.

                Thank you, all, for allowing me to join you here.

                Know that you are always welcome to enter MY “echo chamber” at the madcapchristianscientist.com :)

              2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Karen, there is a lot of repetition here because you are using tactics and making claims that many people here have seen and heard before. You get repetition of points because we all see what you are doing and are pointing it out. It really comes down to an assertion of “God did it” and ignoring all other possible explanations, primarily lack of understanding (of what doctors said, of how the body works, of how memory works, of how cognitive dissonance and self-justification works).

                See, when you have a single, empirical standard for reality, and understand the strength of science and systematic inquiry in general as a means of arriving at correct answers, generally the single, true answers will arise.

                And incidentally, your claims of “a bunch of people all of the same worldview, insulated from other viewpoints, and all patting each other on the back and affirming to each other how right they are”, sounds very much like what religious groups – but such groups lack the reference and touchstone of empirical data as a way of breaking the self-reinforcing cycle.

                Your anecdote about your wrist is unconvincing. What you’re saying is – your wrist swelled up, they started doing tests to determine what caused it, and before you had definitive results, it went away, and for some reason this impressed you. This illustrates nothing more than your ignorance of medicine. As indicated above, a single test result does not indicate rheumatoid arthritis. You mistook a list of potential causes for absolute certainties. You essentially invoked “watchful waiting”, which is a common approach to many conditions. What you didn’t appreciate is all the things that could have been causing the reaction, and what might have gone catastrophically wrong. That’s why your doctor was concerned – while it might have been nothing, it might have been deadly. Stiff neck might be from sleeping badly, it might be from meningitis.

                Also, it sounds like you should stop calling yourself a Christian Scientist, since you’re only adopting the aspects of the religion that are convenient to you, and abandoning those you don’t appreciate.

              3. Andrey Pavlov says:

                @karen:

                And Andrey – I like you. We probably are in agreement on a lot of political and social issues. We might even – if we sat down and talked face-to-face – find we agree on issues involving child neglect and abuse. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it, to try to share one’s entire way of life in a few short paragraphs?

                Thank you Karen. You seem like a genuinely pleasant individual as well. And yes, I am sure we would agree on many things and get along just fine. I’m actually a surprisingly easy person to get along with, besides being a rigorous medical scientist ;-)

                But there are certainly things we disagree on and most of that has to do with your particularly worldview and how you arrive at the conclusions we share. I believe your methodology to be faulty, but obviously not so faulty that you are some sort of Ken Ham wingnut or something. Some of it has to do with empirical claims you are making (which I’ll address at the comments where you made them).

                This blog is about science and medicine. Science is about constantly trying to prove everyone else – and most importantly yourself – wrong. If someone makes a claim, they are not “correct till proven incorrect” or “innocent until proven guilty.” That is not the way science works. You are wrong until I – and the rest of the scientific community – have tried to prove you wrong long enough and rigorously enough that we are forced to accept you are right. (I use “you” in the royal “you” – English can be so limiting in the pronouns! In French I would say “vous”).

                So when you make a claim that “CS works” that is an empirical claim that is considering wrong until sufficient attempts to disprove it have failed and, preferably, some clear evidence in the positive accompanies it. Now, as a scientist, it is very important to define precisely what it is you are asking, measuring, studying. So when you say “CS” it must be defined. We here are not telling you what you believe. We are telling you what the majority view of CS actually is such that if you call yourself that label, it is most likely an accurate description. Of course, the problem with faith based and ideologically based thinking is that there is no defined empirical way to actually make the claims. Meaning that any number of claims can be made and accepted as true depending on what a person chooses to believe. That is why there are so many religions and over 38,000 sects of Christianity alone. When your claims are made up out of thin air, it simply becomes about whom you can convince of your particular brand of magical thought.

                But as scientists we must write about something specific. Which means that we write about the generally commonly accepted set of beliefs that define CS. The fact that you specifically don’t ascribe to it doesn’t mean you can then argue to us that our description of CS is wrong because your peculiar brand of CS is different and you happen to call yourself the same thing. That’s like us describing Southern Baptists as Christians and the Pentecostalists saying that they aren’t real Christians. I mean, even the fact that you don’t call CS a religion is a massive departure from the mainstream of CS. The main church definitely considers itself a religion believes in an anthropomorphic god (and clearly references Genesis of the Bible to say we are made in his image).

                So we go with what the officially recognized description and definition is, which seems eminently reasonable to me.

                The second part of evaluating the claim “CS works” is to define what “works” means. In general, we say that “works” means “works better than placebo” to indicate that there is something intrinsically unique about whatever it is you are testing that has some positive effect. This is a very detailed and nuanced conversation, but in general that idea holds very, very well. Because that way if I want to say “doxorubicin works” it must actually do something different than a sugar pill. So if “CS works” it must do something different than it’s equivalent of a sugar pill – which may be interaction with a practitioner, Pentacostal faith healing, or something like that. If it doesn’t, then there is nothing intrinsically unique about CS that “works.” And the evidence shows us, on many levels and from many different fields of inquiry, that CS does not work. What it can do is exactly the same as any other placebo – make you feel better, give you strength to tolerate pain better, make you less depressed, and otherwise modify your subjective outlook on things. What it cannot do is actually change any objective disease process or outcome. It cannot fix RA, diabetes, cancer, infection, improve objective measures of mobility, prevent heart disease, etc.

              4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Andrey, your post for some reason reminds me of this joke by Emo Philips:

                http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2005/sep/29/comedy.religion

              5. Andrey Pavlov says:

                @WLU:

                Yes, an excellent one by the great Mr. Phillips. Also this

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Karen, what is the death rate of untreated tonsilitis? How much pain is experienced because of it? What about dental care? While medical care is indeed not perfect, that doesn’t automatically validate Christian Science, which in real terms is essentially allowing the natural progression of all diseases to take their course.

      If happy thoughts were sufficient to stave off illness, we wouldn’t need doctors. Cheerful outlooks did not cause smallpox to go extinct. This is in fact a form of victim-blaming, a claim that people who get sick or die deserve it because they brought it on themselves. It makes you an asshole.

      Christian Scientists, with their strict vegetarian diets and generally mandated healthy lifestyles, do tend to have better health outcomes* than non-church going, Western diet smokers. However, all of this is related to behaviours required of churchmembers. It’s got nothing to do with God.

      *The exception being B12 and iron deficiency of course.

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:

        Christian Scientists, with their strict vegetarian diets and generally mandated healthy lifestyles, do tend to have better health outcomes* than non-church going, Western diet smokers

        Actually there have been a few studies that demonstrate that CS adherents have a higher mortality and morbidity than matched controls. All that clean livin’ doesn’t make up for eschewing basic healthcare. Quackwatch has a summar with references at the bottom.

        1. weing says:

          “Know that you are always welcome to enter MY “echo chamber” at the madcapchristianscientist.com”
          Sorry. I don’t like echo chambers. I can’t learn anything from them. For example, unbeknownst to you, I learned from you that many people die in hospitals from not following science-based and evidence-based medicine. But that somehow this resonates in echo-chambers as “Western medicine kills millions” or some such blather, and taken as a given, without anyone examining the evidence. I’ll take disagreement any day.

      2. Karen says:

        William – you write: “Christian Scientists, with their strict vegetarian diets and generally mandated healthy lifestyles…”

        Where the heck are you folks getting your information?!!! Just yesterday I had a really fabulous mushroom cheese burger – pepperjack cheese with the works. I’ve sometimes thought of being a vegetarian out of a personal sense of ethics – but vegetarianism has nothing to do with Christian Science. Honest to goodness – I feel like I’ve walked into some kind of weird rumor-mongering, gossiping high school class or something. So far I’ve been told by you folks that we’re all vegetarians, somehow tied in with astrology and Chopra, and that we worship a “personal God” – which… I’m not even sure what that means. I worship the power of Good, and I call that power God.

        You know, for people who fancy themselves scientific thinkers, you sure don’t seem to be doing your research here. If you are going to start dissing on Christian Science, the least you could do is maybe find out something about it from the people who actually practice it.

        Oy.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          I’m not sure where WLU got his ideas about the veganism and all that, but the rest (as I have explained) is actually pretty accurate. The fact that you have a rather peculiar set of beliefs and still call them CS doesn’t change the fact that most people who call themselves CS believe differently to you.

          They do worship a personal god, as clearly explained on the CS website. Your comment about quantum mechanics was undeniably incorrect and incorrect in the same way that Chopra gets it wrong. I never said that all CSists believe in Chopra’s brand of ridiculousness, or even that you do. I merely said that you were wrong about quantum mechanics and that it resembled the wrongness of Chopra. I am not aware of anything that says CSists should be vegan or vegetarian though, so I agree that WLU was mistaken in that.

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Oops, you’re right, it looks like I was mixing CS with Seventh-Day Adventists, who are vegans.

            And I just read a joke that Christian Scientists are like grape nuts – neither Christian, nor scientists. Making Karen like delicious grape nuts – not Christian, not a scientist, and not a Christian Scientist.

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              And again I’m wrong, SDA are vegetarians, not vegans, and they do accept health care (in fact, are responsible for over 170 hospitals). They neither drink nor smoke, and will allow abortion in certain circumstances.

              But homosexuals can’t get married.

              1. Neartmhor says:

                (OT) They also own huge businesses for which they do not have to pay regular taxes and are also allowed to use discriminatory hiring practices. I boycott Sanitarium for these reasons. Which is actually really annoying g, because they make the best soy milk by far.

  12. windriven says:

    An update for those following this in WA. I will be having lunch with Senator Sheldon tomorrow to discuss SB 6295. I will ask for his support and for him to direct me to others in the Senate who can help propel this bill forward, out of committee, and on to the floor for a vote.

    I am hoping to arrange to testify if and when the bill starts to move forward. Anyone who can provide useful information of who would like to offer to testify can contact me at SfSBM or at gmail using my ‘nym.

    1. mousethatroared says:

      If there was a like button, I would be disappointed that I could only like this comment once.

      Way to go, windriven.

    2. Karen says:

      I’m glad to hear you’re meeting with our legislators to discuss things that are important to you. I myself have very much enjoyed the privileges of United States citizenship – I was elected as a delegate to the state Democratic convention a couple years ago and enjoyed meeting other like-minded people. Through the years I have written letters and donated in support of financial aid for undocumented immigrants, environmental issues, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, the ACLU, Amnesty International, The Smile Train, and yes, universal health care – I don’t believe anyone should be denied the treatment they are told they need to survive just because they’re too poor to pay for it. I really hope the gentleman who visits with the senator today will address that, too – if he’s going to ask that people be forced to participate in the medical system, those people should also be provided with financial access to it, right? (I had a friend who was told the drugs she needed to take during her cancer remission would cost $30,000 to $40,000 a month! Holy shamoley! That’s crazy!)

    3. jacobv says:

      Hey Windriven. I’d very much like to discuss your efforts and plans to testify regarding this issue. I’m a member of SfSBM but it is not clear to me how to contact other members through that web site.

      1. windriven says:

        @jacobv

        Actually, it isn’t clear to me either. I’ll address this with sbmdictator. Meanwhile, you can always contact me directly as windriven at gmail dot com.

  13. Karen says:

    Well, shoot! I just spent about 20 minutes posting something – but it doesn’t seem to be here now. I shall try again.

    Thank you for allowing me to join you in your “echo chamber.” I got that expression from Harriet on my blog and I really like it – it puts in mind a bunch of like-minded people, all who share the same worldview, insulated from other viewpoints, patting each other on the back and affirming to each other how incredibly brilliant they all are – I don’t so much have an echo chamber on my blog, to tell you the truth. Over the years I’ve been joined on there by my atheist friends, my friends who are former CSists, my spiritually-minded, but unchurched friends, and yes, a smattering of CSists – and I’ve enjoyed everything that eclectic group of people has brought to my blog – it’s helped me better understand how others view the world – which I find to be useful.

    I already responded to Harriet in my own echo chamber, but I shall copy and paste my response here for the rest of you:

    Why do I go to a doctor at all? Well, honestly, I don’t much. I went to a doctor when I had the puffed-up hand because the people around me were really concerned by what they were seeing – there was talk of a serious infection, or an allergy – there was talk of death. And I was scared. So I went to the family physician – he normally jokes around with me when I come in – all my medical practitioners have a sense of humor, it is one of my requirements – but this time even HE wasn’t joking around. He said it looked like I either had a serious infection or rheumatoid arthritis, and he wanted to start me on drugs for both right away, and give me a blood test. I said I wasn’t interested in the drugs until I knew, for sure, what we were dealing with – but I’d have the blood test. Then I went home and called a CS practitioner – the confidence and assurance I heard in her voice was a huge help to me, mentally. The next day my hand was even more puffed-up, but by the second morning it had completely deflated. When I later called the doctor’s office for the results of the blood test, I was told there was a marker for rheumatoid arthritis and they wanted me to meet with a specialist. I told the receptionist I was completely fine now. She called a nurse to the phone. I told her my hand was completely deflated, and she was really surprised by this and told me that she guessed I didn’t need any further treatment right then, but to call if the condition returned. Which it hasn’t.

    I am not conflicted about seeing a doctor when I feel the need – I don’t experience feelings of guilt – I’m not worried about being excommunicated from any religion or anything – I am not, really, a very religious person. For me, Christian Science isn’t a religion or even an alternative health care system – it’s a way of looking at the world that’s brought a lot of good into my life. I don’t go to doctors much because I simply haven’t needed to go to doctors.

    windriven: I’m sure you’re right. As my typos (damn – I’m so embarrassed about that – but I’ve been posting this stuff in a hurry – there’s a lot going on in my life right now – is there any way we can edit our posts?) clearly show, I am lacking the tools to talk about complex and highly-scientific stuff. Given my obvious lack of intellectual acumen, it’s a miracle I haven’t won the Darwin Award by now.

    Andray: I like you. I have a feeling we probably have a lot in common when it comes to social and political issues. And if we were to sit down across from each other at a table, we’d probably find we have really similar beliefs regarding child abuse and neglect, too. But it’s not easy to share one’s entire way of life in three paragraphs. Soundbites are not working for me right now.

    Again, thanks everyone for letting me join your party for a while. You are always welcome to join me on my blog: madcapchristianscientist.com

    1. windriven says:

      Karen,
      Just one question: Why so many words to say so little?

      1. Karen says:

        Why so many words to say so little? Because I am a big blabbermouth. Duh.

        I have some questions, too:

        Are all the folks on the SBM site mostly medical practitioners? Do you all pretty much just hang out with other medically-oriented people in your lives? In your medical studies, have you ever been asked to read the textbook for Christian Science so that you can better understand where your CS patients are coming from, and better know how to treat them as whole human beings – and not just nameless bodies in frocks? Because when I am looking for a medical practitioner I want to know that my practitioner is going to listen to me, respect me, and see me as a human being, worthy of that practitioner’s time and care.

        But that’s probably just me. :)

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          I’m not a medical practitioner, just a critical thinker. I actually used to be quite interested in complementary and alternative medicine – took herbal remedies, homeopathic preparations, saw a chiropractor, resented doctors, dabbled in various religions and was a vegan. Thought the pyramids were built by aliens and wondered at OOPARTs. Then I started looking up sources, and realized how shoddy most of the substance behind the claims were. Then I started reading criticisms of the claims, and found them far more complex, rich and fascinating than the children’s stories told by the nutters to explain away the parts of the world they found confusing.

          Why would I waste my time reading about such a historically tiny religion? Their impact on the world stage has been almost nil, unlike Catholicism, Islam or even Zoroastrianism. Their beliefs are just as evidence-free and irrational as any other religion, so what merit is there in learning about the specifics.

          Because when I am looking for a medical practitioner I want to know that my practitioner is going to listen to me, respect me, and see me as a human being, worthy of that practitioner’s time and care.

          Really? How odd. I want a practitioner that prevents me from dying and reduces my suffering. I don’t want a doctor who validates me as a person, I want someone who can help me when my personal health routine of good diet, exercise and sleep are not enough to prevent me from suffering the vicissitudes of life.

        2. Andrey Pavlov says:

          @karen:

          I am also a blabbermouth. But I try and fill as much content in there as possible so windriven doesn’t get mad at me ;-) (j/k windriven)

          Are all the folks on the SBM site mostly medical practitioners?

          Already answered, but yes, I am.

          Do you all pretty much just hang out with other medically-oriented people in your lives?

          I don’t. Yes, many of my friends and people I hang out with are physicians as well, but my fiance is an aerospace engineer for NASA and i have friends of very diverse backgrounds from teachers to lawyers to fashion designers to marine biologists to pilots to yoga and dance instructors to photographers (in fact one of my good friends is a photographer for LA Weekly magazine and we spent the holiday doing a shoot together where he taught me some pretty awesome tips) to artists.

          Seems like you’d be surprised just how much diversity there is on this blog.

          In your medical studies, have you ever been asked to read the textbook for Christian Science so that you can better understand where your CS patients are coming from, and better know how to treat them as whole human beings – and not just nameless bodies in frocks?

          I’ll point out that this is “dirty rhetoric.” You are asking an intentionally loaded question that cannot be answered in anything but my disfavor. If I say “no” (which is the case) then I do not know how to understand where my CS patients are coming from and they are nameless bodies in frocks. That is the classic “So when did you stop beating your wife” question. There is no winning answer to that.

          So to answer the fair question you should have asked “Did you have to read texts on how to better understand patients from diverse backgrounds, including beliefs very different to your own, so that you can better relate to them and be better able to provide them quality medical care?” then the answer is “yes.” In fact, I had a lot of such classes, with formalized exams on patient interaction with specific emphasis on what is called “CALD” or “Culturally and Linguistically Diverse” patients. Basically a fancy way of saying people who speak a different language and/or have very different cultural beliefs and worldviews than yours. I needed to demonstrate proficiency in this both to pass medical school and to pass my medical licensing (board) exams.

          So was was pointed out before, we did not study many specific groups, since there are simply way too many to try and study and, quite frankly, CS is a rather small percentage of the population to be studying specifically. That doesn’t mean we can’t read up on their beliefs – as we have – and understand the general idea of the majority CS view, which apparently differs rather radically from yours.

          Because when I am looking for a medical practitioner I want to know that my practitioner is going to listen to me, respect me, and see me as a human being, worthy of that practitioner’s time and care.

          As you should. And as we are taught. Of course, there are still some of the “old guard” out there who were not taught in this way (we call it the biopsychosocial model and it has been around for about 30ish years now, but has obviously developed and improved over time) and physicians are people too; some of us are better than others at every skill, including patient interaction. And some of us, just like all people, can be assholes, selfish, arrogant, etc. I particularly dislike those in our profession who are like that. But it is also important to distinguish confidence and knowledge from arrogance.

      2. Karen says:

        Why so many words to say so little? Because I am a big blabbermouth. Duh.

        And now I have some questions for you:
        Are all the folks on the SBM site mostly medical practitioners? Do you pretty much just hang out with other medically-oriented people in your lives? In your medical studies, have you ever been asked to read the textbook for Christian Science so that you can better understand where your CS patients are coming from, and better know how to treat them as whole human beings – and not just nameless bodies in frocks? Because when I am looking for a medical practitioner I want to know that my practitioner is going to listen to me, respect me, and see me as a human being, worthy of that practitioner’s time and care.

        But maybe that’s just me. :)

        1. windriven says:

          “Are all the folks on the SBM site mostly medical practitioners?”

          Some are, some aren’t. I’m not. Andrey, Madison, and weing are. William isn’t. Nor Chris. Harriet Hall is.

          “Do you pretty much just hang out with other medically-oriented people in your lives?”

          Can’t speak for the others but I don’t. My best friend is a Korean chef. I garden, read broadly, and bake artisanal bread that would make you cry.

          “have you ever been asked to read the textbook for Christian Science so that you can better understand where your CS patients are coming from”

          I haven’t been to medical school but I can pretty much assure you the answer is no. What do you imagine makes Christian Scientists so special? Why not study Seventh Day Adventists, Hassidic Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Janes and Scientologists too? Shall we save a few hours for anatomy class?

          The philosophy behind Christian Science is part of a larger movement called the Second Awakening. A number of unusual sects sprang from this and have died or are dying out after peaking in the 30s. CS believes the material world is an illusion. Science and medicine necessarily concern themselves with material realities.

          I don’t think you would have any trouble finding a medical doctor who would find you worthy of their time and care. They needn’t empathize with your religious passions to do that.

          1. Karen says:

            windriven, you write: “I haven’t been to medical school but I can pretty much assure you the answer is no. What do you imagine makes Christian Scientists so special? Why not study Seventh Day Adventists, Hassidic Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Janes and Scientologists too? Shall we save a few hours for anatomy class?”

            Well, the reason I asked is because I’d heard that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (the CS textbook) is suggested reading for students at Harvard’s Med School.

            I don’t think CSists are more special than any of those other folks you mention – but then none of those other folks you mention are being discussed on this blog, right? So, seeing as how CS seems to be the topic of conversation here – and seeing as how you all seem to think you’re experts on it (because of what you’ve heard someone else has heard someone else has said) – I was curious if any of you had actually read the textbook. Run-on sentence. Sorry.

            1. windriven says:

              Karen,

              “seeing as how CS seems to be the topic of conversation here – and seeing as how you all seem to think you’re experts on it ”

              You my dear have made CS the tic of conversation here. The original blog was about withholding medical treatment from minors. Now with all due respect, withholding medical care from a minor while someone prays for them to get better is a batcrap crazy thing to do. I say this independent of CS because, as you surely know, CS is not the only confessional to hold this belief.

              You asked if we were all medical practitioners and I said we were not. But we are very nearly all scientists and critical thinkers. None of us I dare say has reached their current point in life without having carefully thought through their philosophies on gods and religions.

              The idea that those of us who are medical practitioners need to ‘know where you’re coming from’ in order to treat your high blood pressure or repair your ballooning aorta is silly. And again, CS is not the only religion with peculiar notions about healing. In fact CS is a sect in deep decline, at least in the US.

              I think that everyone here has tried to be thoughtful and respectful about your religious proclivities. Your are welcome to believe anything that you like. But when you act on those beliefs to deny medical care to a child or an adult who is unable to make judgments for themselves, youbhave broken the law in most jurisdictions and it should be illegal everywhere.

              You have incited the rest of this conversation. Speaking only for myself, CS doesn’t much interest me. Religion in general doesn’t much interest me.

              1. Karen says:

                windriven writes: “You my dear have made CS the tic of conversation here. ”

                Umm… no. If you go from the top to the bottom – this is all about CS. The first post is about CS – and every post thereafter. I didn’t bring CS to this blog.

                You write: “But we are very nearly all scientists and critical thinkers.”.
                Critical thinkers are able to recognize their own biases. They constantly question everything – including their own biases. They try to look at issues from all sides. They do research, and listen to what others have to say, and try to learn from that. They are willing to change their beliefs when presented with new information. Do you feel that this blog and your posts have been unbiased?

                You write: “I think that everyone here has tried to be thoughtful and respectful about your religious proclivities.”

                Yes. You’ve all been most gracious about my lack of intellectual “tools” and I thank you for that. :)

              2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Dr. Hall’s original post was about an exception made for Christian Scientists that prevents them from getting charged with a crime when they kill their children through neglect. You have spent much of your time here proclaiming the greatness of Christian Science. Why are you surprised that the conversation focuses on the religion?

                As for improving your intellectual tools, may I suggest you read Tavris and Aaronson’s Mistakes were made (but not by me), and Michael Shermer’s Why people believe weird things. You’ll be amazed.

              3. windriven says:

                Karen, CS is secondary to the issue of proper medical care for children. Had the legal exemption in WA law been for Hari Krishnas then HK would have featured prominently rather than CS.

                “Do you feel that this blog and your posts have been unbiased?”

                Not at all – they are clearly biased against superstition and credulity. Speaking only for myself, I am an atheist; I find absolutely nothing in the universe that demands a deity to explain its existence or its function. That is not to say that I or anyone else understands the universe in all its details – just that nothing in the narrative thus far elucidated demands a deity. If compelling contrary evidence arises in the future I would change my position. Until then you’ll appreciate how little space this allows me for deep regard for philosophies that depend on deities.

                “You’ve all been most gracious about my lack of intellectual “tools” and I thank you for that.”

                You apparently take that as an insult. I lack the intellectual tools to run a PCR. I could acquire the tools but have not.

                You have demonstrated a profound ignorance of fundamentals of science and medicine and I infer from that that you lack the intellectual tools associated with those disciplines. A less generous person might draw the inference that you are a dolt. But none of us as I recall has suggested that.

                To roll out an old aphorism, you are entitled to your own beliefs but not to your own facts. Embrace CS if that brings you ‘spiritual’ comfort. But don’t act on the notion that prayer is as appropriate a therapy for appendicitis as is appendectomy.

            2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Well, the reason I asked is because I’d heard that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (the CS textbook) is suggested reading for students at Harvard’s Med School.

              You might want to check your sources, that’s a rather startling claim. Sounds like you are confusing “Harvard Medical School suggested reading” with “discussed at the Spirituality & Healing in Medicine semi-annual symposium held at Harvard”. This would be an example of source confusion, one of the many errors of human memory that leads to incorrect conclusions.

              Christian Scientists are the topic of conversation here because there is an irrational exception to the child protection laws that allows them to essentially murder their children through neglect. Please re-read the article. You may know Christian Scientists who flout the doctrine of the church, but don’t forget, the actual doctrine of the church de facto encourages letting children die of preventable diseases. And a law enables that, and that’s wrong, in my opinion. But I’m irrationally opposed to the unnecessary deaths of children.

              1. weing says:

                @Karen,

                “Do you feel that this blog and your posts have been unbiased?”
                That is an interesting question. I think we are all biased. We are social creatures and need each other to point out our biases. That’s one of the reasons I have a wife. She lets me know that I am not perfect. What do we do when presented with our biases? That’s the human experience.

              2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                I value my wife’s presence and opinion precisely because she is so willing to contradict me and confront me with evidence to demonstrate that I’m wrong – in things large and small. I’m a better person because of it, and I’m very glad she does it. It’s too easy for humans to get trapped in blind alleys of self-confirmation, and it’s a large problem when discussing serious things like human health. Karen, this time it was a mild, self-limiting swelling. Next time it could be a stiff neck, or trouble smiling. It might be minor, or you could be dead in less than 12 hours. While you might be willing to take that risk, I consider it offensive that parents are willing to take that risk for their children.

            3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              I don’t think CSists are more special than any of those other folks you mention

              Then why bother self-identifying as one? Why bother giving their philosophy any weight?

              I’ll never understand people who claim to be of X religion, but will willy-nilly abandon aspects that are inconvenient. Like saying “I’m Catholic, but I disagree with the Pope’s stance on the denial of sacrament to those who are with sin.” Really? You are Catholic but you disagree with the leader of the Catholic Church on an element of sacred ritual? Sounds like you aren’t Catholic then.

              And to bring it back to Karen – if you don’t think your religion is the right one, if you don’t think it is the correct interpretation of the sacred and the profane, if you don’t think it represents a true depiction of what the world is and should be, why claim to be one? What makes it more worth following than Catholocism, or Eastern Orthodoxy, or Shinto, or the animist practices of Papua New Guinean tribes or the !Kung? Saying “I believe in a religion, but I don’t think it’s any more special than any other religion” rather misses the point of religion.

          2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            bake artisanal bread that would make you cry.

            Have you ever managed to make a successful baguette? I’ve tried many different variations, have successfully managed to get two of the three components correct at each time (crust, crumb, flavour), but never all three. It’s either delicious loaves of white bread with a crumb made of small, regular bubbles, or a flavourless loaf of white bread with an irregular crumb of large bubbles, or a delicious loaf of irregular crumb with a soft crust. I’m baking it on a pizza stone as wide as my oven, with a full hour-long pre-heat, adding steam when I first put it in to get oven spring, but I never manage to get anything like a true Parisian loaf. Close, tantalizingly close, but never 3/3.

            1. windriven says:

              Ah William, baguettes are a problem. Start with 00 flour. If local sources don’t have it King Arthur has something close. A secret I learned from a Vietnamese baker was to add a little rice flour. Most of the baguettes used for Banh mi are made that way. And as you’ve probably already learned, the dough has to be wetter than seems reasonable to achieve that crazy wide open crumb that the best baguettes have.

              Also, SCREAMING hot oven with stones above and below. I use a half sheet pan with river rock on the oven floor and add a cup of boiling water to this just before the baguettes go in to maintain steam for the first few minutes.

              All that said, it is my least consistent product. :-(

              1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                I use KA flour, even though I have to cross the border to get it. Even the look of it is different from my usual flour, it seems to clump less. Beautiful stuff. How much rice flour?

                I never thought of using an extra pizza stone (I have two :) ), that’s a good idea. I throw a 12-inch cast iron pan into the bottom of the oven, and that’s where I put my water to generate the steam. I throw in a couple extras two, just to try to keep up the heat when I open the door.

                Speaking of extra hydration, have you seen this?

                http://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/recipe-for-80-hydration-baguette/

                I’ve tried it. Messy as all get out. Definitely helps with the crumb and texture, produces a lovely open and moist, almost creamy crumb. But I still have problems getting it to puff up, the transfer from countertop rise to oven always seems to flatten them out (not just this kind, all baguettes I’ve tried; I actually spent four solid months baking bagutettes every single weekend in an effort to perfect them, and failed every single time, ye blarg).

              2. windriven says:

                Also, long slow rises and not too vigorous degassing. I’ve been experimenting with a technique that involves gently turning the dough at intervals during the rise. The claim is that it entrains some air and creates more pockets but to date t doesn’t seem much superior to the traditional mix, autolyze, retarded proof, shape, slightly retarded rise, and bake as above.

              3. windriven says:

                ” How much rice flour?”

                Couple tablespoons per kilo of wheat flour.

                Hadn’t seen that 80% formula. I’ll be interested to try it. I do a ciabatta that is about that wet.

                “the transfer from countertop rise to oven always seems to flatten them out ”

                Here I can help for sure. Two common causes are not pulling a tight enough skin when you shape the baguette – or over rising. If the rise looks good and deflates immediately when you hit the loaf with the lame you should focus on over rising.

                Hope this helps. But I struggle with the bastards too. More than once I’ve thought to turn the lame to my wrists.

  14. Karen says:

    Why so many words to say so little? Because I am a big blabbermouth. Duh.

    And now I have some questions for you:
    Are all the folks on the SBM site mostly medical practitioners? Do you pretty much just hang out with other medically-oriented people in your lives? In your medical studies, have you ever been asked to read the textbook for Christian Science so that you can better understand where your CS patients are coming from, and better know how to treat them as whole human beings – and not just nameless bodies in frocks? Because when I am looking for a medical practitioner I want to know that my practitioner is going to listen to me, respect me, and see me as a human being, worthy of that practitioner’s time and care.

    But maybe that’s just me. :)

    1. weing says:

      “Are all the folks on the SBM site mostly medical practitioners?”
      No.
      “Do you pretty much just hang out with other medically-oriented people in your lives?”
      No. Speaking for myself only. I am mostly seeing patients all day. Get to spend very little time with my family. I really don’t have a life outside of that.
      The next loaded question has to be broken up in order to answer.
      “In your medical studies, have you ever been asked to read the textbook for Christian Science…?”
      No. I am too busy trying to keep up with real medicine. I see my patients as human beings who come to me for help. If they are lying to me, don’t respect me, my expertise, and my time, we part ways.

      1. Karen says:

        If I might ask a follow-up question?

        So if you were a patient and your doctor told you that he doubted you “had the tools” to understand him, dismissed your health experiences as lies, insisted that you listen to him, but had no interest in listening to you, and told you that you talked a lot but didn’t say much that was worth hearing – would you continue to go to this doctor?

        Because I’m thinking that kind of doctor probably belongs more in a research lab playing around with data and numbers and statistics than at a patient’s bedside.

        But, again, maybe that’s just me. :)

        1. Harriet Hall says:

          No one has dismissed your health experiences as lies; we only question your interpretation of those experiences. And it is obvious you don’t understand how rheumatoid arthritis and melanoma are diagnosed.

        2. Andrey Pavlov says:

          @karen:

          So if you were a patient and your doctor told you that he doubted you “had the tools” to understand him, dismissed your health experiences as lies, insisted that you listen to him, but had no interest in listening to you, and told you that you talked a lot but didn’t say much that was worth hearing – would you continue to go to this doctor?

          As Dr. Hall said, we have not dismissed your claims as lies, but are trying to explain that your interpretation of them is not likely correct. Also, there is nothing wrong with not having the tools to understand something. I do not have the tools to adequately understand many fields outside of my expertise.

          But most importantly, you are not our patient, we are not your doctors, and this is not a clinic office. This is a place to discuss ideas, use evidence to demonstrate assertions, have our ideas challenged, and force each other to consider we may be wrong. If you came into my office as a patient, the interaction would be very different indeed. But you are not – you are here making claims about and discussing CS, medicine, and science. So you do not get special privilege to have your views and claims go unchallenged.

          We here also tend to be experts in both science and medicine, and are specifically knowledgeable about the relevant fields. So we do not just “dismiss” things – we tend to know pretty well why they are wrong, or not possible because we have a firm understanding of the relevant and necessary science and medicine.

        3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Karen, patients do lie. There are whole medical conditions built around this. Munchhausen Syndrome, and its by proxy variant for instance. Then there’s drug-seeking behaviour. Then there’s conditions patients are embarrassed about and seek to conceal, like eating disorders. Then there’s how that carrot got into your rectum (I’m sure proctologists have a very skewed sense of gravity, given how many patients they see who manage to land on cylindrical and conic produce that somehow managed to stay upright upon falling to the floor). And that’s not even touching on conversion disorder.

          But what you’re really getting at, and probably don’t realize, is that doctors are indeed far, far better equipped to tell you what is going on with your health than you do, for the most part. They are specialists, with intensive training and experience. They’ve seen what can go wrong with thousands of bodies. You know about one. Perhaps five if you’ve got a family.

          Don’t pretend that just because you have a body that you know how it works. There’s something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. You should look it up. The more you learn about something, the more you realize you don’t know. Yet ironically, those who know the least are most confident of their judgments. That’s why I rely on experts, because I know I can’t ever be one. And merely being a member of a group does not make you an expert on that group.

        4. weing says:

          @Karen,
          “So if you were a patient and your doctor told you that he doubted you “had the tools” to understand him, dismissed your health experiences as lies, insisted that you listen to him, but had no interest in listening to you, and told you that you talked a lot but didn’t say much that was worth hearing – would you continue to go to this doctor?”
          I know that some patients don’t have the tools to understand me at all. They come in with caregivers who do. With all other patients, I speak with them according to their understanding.
          I analyze their health experiences. I dismiss their interpretations. I verify the history by reviewing records to find objective evidence.
          I don’t insist that they listen to me. That is their choice.
          I have to listen to the patient to figure out what the problem/s is/are. They are the experts on their problems/experiences. Their interpretations are another matter. Taking a patient history involves separating the two. Some patients are very skilled at mixing their interpretations with their experiences and will go on and on, and after they finish, I still don’t know what they are talking about. That makes for a long day and makes me run late.

    2. Chris says:

      No. Some of us are parents of medically complicated children. We abhor withholding medical care to kids, and hate to see a child suffer needlessly.

      My step-mother belonged to a church that can be best described as “Christian Science Lite.” She sent me its literature, which I discarded when one essay was a by a woman who was injured and just prayed. All I could think of was “Use the brains your deity gave you and call 911!”

    3. Chris says:

      I guess I should add this was the same step-mother who once told me I had made a huge mistake by planting some things on a certain day. Apparently on the advice of a astrology gardening guide.

      I told her that I worked full time, and it was both a weekend and not raining. Plus I doubt her astrology guide took in the difference in climate between the over a thousand miles between her house bordering on Mexico and mine which is a couple hours drive from Canada.

      She married my dad after he was widowed. She had been a childhood friend of my mother. I also got to hear her tell me about the conversations she had with my mother’s ghost. Conversations that I knew my mother would never have been a made (my mother fostered my interest in both math and science, she would have never fallen for the same fantasies).

      This is the reason why my whole response to this thread is eye rolling.

      1. Karen says:

        Holy shamoley, Chris! I’m so sorry! No wonder you’re on this blog! I probably would be a regular here, too, if I’d experienced what you experienced.

        But… if you think Christian Scientists believe in the workings of astrology, numerology, spiritualism, ghosties, goblins, vampires, the devil, literal places of heaven and hell, demons, twirling heads, an anthropmorphic god who sits in the clouds and zaps his creation to eternal damnation, handling snakes, talking in tongues, Original Sin, creationism, dinosaurs sharing the earth with man, the world literally created in a week, that Adam and Eve actually existed, crystal-gazing, palm-reading, phrenology, tea leaf reading, voodoo, black magic, stepping over cracks, staying away from black cats, not walking under ladders or breaking mirrors… then you don’t have a clue what Christian Science is about. Seriously. I mean. SERIOUSLY!!! Where in the heck have you gotten your information about CS?!!! Rather than listening to hearsay, and telling me what I believe – you could just ask me, you know? Or you might just read the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, before you start thinking you’re an expert on this way of life. Eesh.

        I believe – and I have proven to myself – that there is a power of Good – of Love, Truth, and Life – and I call this power God. And it heals. It’s not a mumbo jumbo capricious sometimes-it-heals-and-sometimes-it-doesn-t kind of power – it’s always there and it’s available to all of us – and I’ve demonstrated, for myself, that when I can draw close to this power I experience healing. That’s all. Really simple. No astrology telling me when the moment’s right for healing – because the moment is always right.

        Have there been times when it hasn’t worked for me? Yup. There are still problems I’m “working on” in Christian Science – near-sightedness, for instance – but I don’t blame CS for that. Blaming Christian Science would be like blaming the principles of mathematics if i couldn’t figure out the answer to a calculus problem. The principles of mathematics have provided me with the solutions, and it’s up to me to work the problems out. I believe CS has provided me with the solutions, too – and it’s up to me to work the problems out by learning to use those principles correctly. But until I reach that place, I will be visiting my optometrist. :)

        1. Chris says:

          Roll eyes.

          Such credulity. Excuse me if I prefer to live in a more reality based existence. One where kids don’t have to suffer to appease some random deity.

        2. Andrey Pavlov says:

          @karen:

          Have there been times when it hasn’t worked for me? Yup. There are still problems I’m “working on” in Christian Science – near-sightedness, for instance – but I don’t blame CS for that. Blaming Christian Science would be like blaming the principles of mathematics if i couldn’t figure out the answer to a calculus problem.

          The logical fallacies you are committing here are called special pleading and begging the question.

          Firstly, you are saying that CS works, but when it doesn’t work, that isn’t CS’s fault it is somehow yours. Convenient. Could you imagine if I could say the same in my practice?

          “Oh, that didn’t work? Well it isn’t medicine’s fault. We’ve definitely got it right, it must be your fault that it didn’t work. ”

          Which leads us directly into the next part of begging the question. You’ve assumed that CS works, and that the fact that is hasn’t actually worked on your nearsightedness somehow doesn’t disprove the efficacy of CS. You just assume it is somehow because you haven’t quite figured it out well enough yet.

          Which is precisely the pattern we see with all these modes of thought and what the data clearly supports – CS “works” on anything that is purely subjective or will go away on its own. Remember the I Love Lucy episode about “Vitameatavegemin?” It was a cure-all elixir that would cure all the vague symptoms. Take it for your cold and in 7-10 days you’ll be cured!

        3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Oh, no Karen. God doesn’t heal, and if He exists, he certainly isn’t good. Did you know that there is a parasite that exclusively lives in the eyes of children? It essentially exists to make them go blind.

          Humans, like all life on earth, are the product of a blind evolutionary process that is wasteful, and a bit horrific. It is neither good, nor evil. Good and evil are both products of human consciousness, and they are quite variable by culture. There is no objective good or evil touchstone against which we can rest even our laws.

          But the nice thing about being human is we can subvert and exploit the laws of nature to improve our lives. For instance, electricity. And prescription lenses. Both of which you use, neither of which were provided by God. But smallpox? Provided by “god” and destroyed by man. Huzzah!

          The healing process you are so enamoured of? Built up over billions of years, because the entities that lacked them died before they could sire offspring. If God built in that healing process, he did it by injuring billions upon billions upon billions of living, pain-feeling creatures, and killing the ones who didn’t get better. All your anecdotes have told us is that you don’t know enough about health, disease or differential diagnosis to accurately describe your situation.

          Ah, the problem of evil. Needle, to the belief-balloon of a benevolent universe.

        4. Chris says:

          I guess I was not clear. I did not say Christian Scientists believe in astrology, I said my stepmother did. She was not CS, but in a different church that was like CS only with more woo (I think it was “Unity”?).

          What I am doing is equating belief in astrology and talking to dead people with the belief that praying to some random deity is a viable substitute for getting kids proper medical care, and sometimes just letting them die.

          Which in the State of Washington is just okay dokay if you are a Christian Scientist. I am pretty sure the folks in my stepmother’s church would not get away since they are a light weight woo ridden bunch that think it is better to pray than to get real medical help.

          So the above article is about one particular religion getting a free pass to kill kids.

  15. Karen says:

    Oh, for crying out loud. Now it’s posted three times. So sorry.

  16. PMoran says:

    WLU: “Did you know that there is a parasite that exclusively lives in the eyes of children? It essentially exists to make them go blind. ”

    ?? I think I have read that somewhere, too — where?. Does it refer to trachoma, the bacterial (Chlamydial) conjunctivitis, which is easily spread by and mostly affects children, but which can also affect adults?

    There are probably also animal vectors. (Not of much relevance, but koala populations are suffering terribly from a venereal Chlamydia like (or the same as ?) the one affecting humans. )

    The existence of such diseases still challenges the notion of a generally benevolent hand behind the workings of our world.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      No idea, it’s one of the examples Darwin used to demonstrate that if God had a role in the creation of the world, he’s a real bastard. It’s one of the classic examples used to refute the idea of a loving deity and the problem that evil poses for the faithful.

    2. MadisonMD says:

      Not trachoma. It’s river blindness. The parasite is a roundworm.

      1. PMoran says:

        Oh? Thanks. Good to know that, but it still leaves a problematic statement that even a lot of Creationists would sense contains a biological improbability. , Animal vectors also likely.

      2. Andrey Pavlov says:

        @WLU/Pmoran:

        This comes from (or at least was said by) David Attenborough when discussing God in the BBC documentary Life on Air.

        It is river blindness, it is a worm, and it is one of the leading causes of childhood blindness in the world, but it is not exclusive to children. Just happens to affect them more, is all.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          It’s not like the specific example matters. To please Pete, which I doubt will make a difference, I will instead use smallpox. Smallpox exists solely to cause misery and death in humans, it adds nothing else to the environment of benefit and benefits no other creature beyond itself. Smallpox existed solely to reproduce, scar and kill.

          Thus, any deity that would create a world with smallpox is a vicious fuck who doesn’t deserve worship. Not that I should have to justify this in any way, since the only “evidence” that exists for a god or gods is a series of books, none alike until the invention of printing. It’s a mere Frankenstein’s monster, staggering forward under the weight of inertia.

          1. MadisonMD says:

            WLU,
            All religions have had to address the question of why any deity or agent of good would allow death, suffering and dying, which is prevalent in the world. The answers are not scientifically testable. But Mohammedans, Christians, Jews, Hindus all have had to develop a theology to address the question of why evil and bad events occur in a world governed by a deit(ies) who are good.

            What I’m saying is your argument is not likely to change the religious views of a believer. We are only asking those who believe in provable falsehoods and unscientific medicine to accept facts and evidence for the medical practice. So I’m concerned your bold professions of atheism might turn away many who can reconcile faith with science.

            For instance, I’m reading Monkey Girl– an outstanding book that you recommended– and Ken Miller is one who reconciles his faith with science. Francis Collins, current head of NIH is another good example. SBM can accommodate the religious of all faiths– so long as the faith allows for acceptance of scientific reason and facts and rejection of falsehoods.

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Sure, religions developed theologies to address the problem of evil. Theologies that are only convincing if you start with the perspective that the deity in question exists.

              I doubt anything I say will ever change the mind of a believer, sometimes I just like to type.

              And as for people who try to reconcile faith with science, the efforts I have seen suffer from the same flaw I enumerated above – it’s only convincing if you already believe. For instance:

              “Maybe each day in Genesis is a hundred million years.”

              Yeah, maybe a book written 2 500 years ago, as a reaction to the intricate theology of the surrounding bronze-aged cultures, is poorly placed to speculate on the creation of the world and (muchmuchmuchmuchmuchmuchmuchmuchmuch) larger universe. Maybe they’re just made up stories that will never make sense because they are just stories.

              1. MadisonMD says:

                This reminds me I once expressed incredulity to a grad student that a secret tenet of Scientology* is (or so I read somewhere) that aliens landed on earth to bring humans/life, then blew up there spacecraft in a volcano, explaining why there is not trace. The grad student pointed out that this seemed no more incredible than bible stories.

                Personally, I think if you accept these stories as literal truth, and then set out to prove them scientifically– you quickly get into trouble. You are not really doing science if you start by assuming the answer.

                If you view the stories as allegories that tell us something about human nature, about good and bad, or that they meet a child-like human need to have answers unanswerable questions, they can provide some meaning.

                I recall an apocryphal story of Abe Lincoln’s youth. One day he was reading Aesop’s fables when his brother interrupted: “Abe, them’s stories are all lies.” Abe is said to have replied “Yes, mighty good lies” and kept on reading.

                ——————
                *Scientology IS NOT the same as Christian Science– it took me a bit to learn that.

    3. windriven says:

      Anyone who can read the OT and not figure the god represented there to be a sociopath could probably use a tuneup themselves.

  17. PMoran says:

    I understand that, but you seem to have missed my perhaps too polite implication that the statement as it stands is just not true — there is no parasite, at least that I know of, that fits that description. .

    It also does not have to be true for the making of your case.

  18. Karen says:

    Andrey has been good enough to join me on my blog – and I thank him for taking the time, (and having the courage) to cross over into that foreign territory.

    He came on earlier today and left a post that I think is worth responding to here, too:

    I am an expert in Christian Science – that is my area of expertise – I’ve been practicing it my entire life. But no one on the SBM seems interested in learning from me. Instead they go to Wikipedia and then come back and tell me that Christian Scientists are vegetarians and believe in astrology. And this is simply not true – which all of you, if you had ever bothered to read the CS textbook, would know.

    Andrey wrote: “So when you say ‘I am a CSist, but I do not believe in an anthropomorphic god and I believe in seeking medical care from physicians’ can we still reasonably call you a CSist?”

    Yup.

    Here is what MBE says about an anthropomorphic god in the CS textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “We cannot bring out the practical proof of Christianity, which Jesus required, while error seems as potent and real to us as Truth, and while we make a personal devil and an anthropomorphic God our starting-points,..The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as “an anthropomorphic God,” is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality. The life-giving quality of Mind is Spirit, not matter. The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.”

    And here’s what Eddy says about diet in the CS textbook: “A clergyman once adopted a diet of bread and water to increase his spirituality. Finding his health failing, he gave up his abstinence, and advised others never to try dietetics for growth in grace… The belief that either fasting or feasting makes men better morally or physically is one of the fruits of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” concerning which God said, ‘Thou shalt not eat of it.’… The fact is, food does not affect the absolute Life of man, and this becomes self-evident, when we learn that God is our Life. Because sin and sickness are not qualities of Soul, or Life, we have hope in immortality; but it would be foolish to venture beyond our present understanding, foolish to stop eating until we gain perfection and a clear comprehension of the living Spirit. In that perfect day of understanding, we shall neither eat to live nor live to eat.”

    Regarding the use of medical treatment, Eddy writes: “If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists, – their brethren upon whom they may call, – God will still guide them into the right use of temporary and eternal means. Step by step will those who trust Him find that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’”

    I could find no place in the textbook where Eddy even uses the word “astrology” – so I’m not sure where you guys have come up with that. She does write this, though:”Through discernment of the spiritual opposite of materiality, even the way through Christ, Truth, man will reopen with the key of divine Science the gates of Paradise which human beliefs have closed, and will find himself unfallen, upright, pure, and free, not needing to consult almanacs for the probabilities either of his life or of the weather, not needing to study brainology to learn how much of a man he is.”
    __
    While I’m here, I might as well address some other stuff that it’s often assumed CSists believe:

    Eddy writes this about eternal damnation: “ It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good  is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.”

    Eddy writes this about heaven: “Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind.”

    And the CS textbook says this about the Atonement: “ATONEMENT is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective. He did life’s work  aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals,- to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility.”
    ____
    It does not seem like good science, to me, or an example of critical thinking, to criticize something you don’t understand and aren’t interested in learning more about. Critical thinkers never stop learning. They never say “I know enough” and they never pass judgment on another person’s way of life based on information from wikipedia, rumors, hearsay, and gossip. Critical thinkers go to the primary source. They don’t tell the primary source what she believes and then tell her to go to wikipedia to find out more about her way of life. They, instead, ask her to tell them what she believes – they listen, they learn, they get new wrinkles in their brains.

    If you’d like to join Andrey and I – and maybe get more wrinkles in your brain – you can find us here: http://madcapchristianscientist.com/2014/01/31/so-ill-just-finish-the-dialogue-here/

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      But no one on the SBM seems interested in learning from me. Instead they go to Wikipedia and then come back and tell me that Christian Scientists are vegetarians and believe in astrology.

      Hi Karen. Why do you bring up the vegetarian point, when I have twice admitted my error, and why do you bring up the astrology point, when Chris pointed out that the misunderstanding was yours? To clarify and paraphrase Chris’ point, it was that her step mother was a believer in Christian Science, but was also foolish and credulous enough to believe in astrology as well. And why do you ignore my point about the use of wikipedia, vis. the large number of scholarly references cited?

      I’m not sure why you keep bringing up Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as if it were a scholarly source. It’s what, Eddy’s interpretation of the Bible, making at best a second-hand discussion of a book that is only relevant to the already-converted? Why should we care what it says? Here, credibility is established through peer-reviewed sources, not women who channeled the spirits of their dead relatives. If I’m going to get advice about diet, I’m going to get it from somewhere that knows what a vitamin is, and what it does in the body.

      Since I don’t believe in heaven, hell, damnation or atonement, instructions on achieving or avoiding any of it is of little use to me. Put simply, I don’t care what Eddy believed about anything, so please don’t bother bringing her up as if she were a reliable source.

      1. Chris says:

        “To clarify and paraphrase Chris’ point, it was that her step mother was a believer in Christian Science, but was also foolish and credulous enough to believe in astrology as well.”

        Sorry, William, she was part of another religion that believed in prayer for healing, and was filled with a bit more woo. She was not a Christian Scientist.

        The big difference is that in the state of Washington if someone from that non-CS church allowed a child to die from medical neglect they would be charged for murder. The problem is that a person who belongs to an official Christian Science church has a free pass to kill their child by withholding medical care.

        Which is why I wonder why Karen wants to educate us about CS instead of giving us reasons why members should be legally allowed to let their kids die puzzles me. But then I am not really reading her posts much.

        Oh, and I also actually think belief in healing through prayer is just as delusional as believing in astrology and talking to dead people.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Thanks for the correction.

          Oh, and I also actually think belief in healing through prayer is just as delusional as believing in astrology and talking to dead people.

          To quote Gilbert Godfried, I think I might have a heart attack and die from not surprise :)

    2. Harriet Hall says:

      @Karen,

      Christian Science philosophy holds that “There is no life, truth, intelligence, or substance in matter…. Therefore, man is not material. He is spiritual.” They believe illness is an illusion created by thought and curable by thought, and they reject all forms of medical treatment or any acknowledgement that an illness is present. For instance, in an outbreak of measles in a Christian Science school, the students covered the mirrors so they would not have to acknowledge that they had a rash.

      Do you deny this?
      Have you read about former Christian Scientist Rita Swan’s experience? http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20076133,00.html
      Do you think CS parents have the right to deny medical treatment to seriously ill children and to be exempt from prosecution under child protection laws because of their beliefs?

  19. Karen says:

    Okay, I have come back, humbled. I have two apologies to make, and I hope you all will be kind enough to accept them. I haven’t gone back and read all the posts here, but Andrey came to my blog to inform me that William apologized for misidentifying CSists as vegetarians. Thank you, William. And I must apologize to you for not seeing your apology.

    And then Andrey wrote this – which is probably one of the most articulate posts I have ever read in regards to Christian Science: ““We are concerned with actual things that happen and the laws and people affected by them. It is extremely well documented that CS families and churches very strictly admonish against seeking medical care and that children have died as a result of this. That is simply incontrovertible fact. It is also fact that these same people and groups have been, until recently, exculpated from charges of criminal negligence because they say it is their Christian Science religion that led to the actions and ultimate death of the children in question. Now, you may wish to claim that they aren’t “real” CSists and they aren’t following what Eddy wrote and thought. But that is y’alls problem, not ours. It wouldn’t matter what they called themselves, the practice that is leading to the deaths of children is what it important. But we are not factually mistaken in saying that they call themselves CSists and have been granted legal exemption from culpability based on that declared religious affiliation.”

    Andrey has totally nailed it with this one. “But that is y’alls problem, not ours.”

    I guess all I’m asking is that you don’t lump all Christian Scientists under one umbrella. Please recognize that, as in any group, there is a wide range of beliefs and behaviors.

    I apologize, Andrey. And well said.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Kudos for recognizing your error and coming back to admit it. I can assure you that is well respected around these parts. You will find we still disagree with you on the very premise of CS, regardless the flavor, but that is not germane to the post or our purpose here.

      I guess all I’m asking is that you don’t lump all Christian Scientists under one umbrella. Please recognize that, as in any group, there is a wide range of beliefs and behaviors.

      This is true, but we have no better way of talking about the issue. They call themselves Christian Scientists.

      If you wish to speak out against them calling themselves that, by all means do so. But the reason that sort of thing matters very little to us is because it is not an empirical discussion. Arguing which brand of religious thought is more correct is arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. There is a more appropriate context for those sorts of discussions and I do tend to have them myself from time to time. But when the claims cross over to the empirical… well, then we have something to say about it.

      1. windriven says:

        You da man, Andrey. I had written Karen off. You didn’t. You went into her space and mounted a compelling argument that resonated at some level. In doing so you convinced me (and doubtless others) that the extra yard can be worth going. Well done.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Thanks for the kind words windriven. Yes, success is indeed possible at times. I have to credit Dr. Novella – I modeled my approach after his. And I too am buoyed by the success.

      2. MadisonMD says:

        I’ve been an observer of this one, but would like to make some observations.

        Karen has clearly has a different viewpoint with most here, but appears to be engaging and willing to listen to countering viewpoints, and reconsider where she is wrong. I might not agree with many things she has said, but I do have to say it is refreshing to see the honest engagement. This is rare among folks who disagree on this blog. Thanks Karen!

        Kudos to Andrey for an clearly and honestly seeking to reconcile differences. Also for WLU for admitting when he made an error. I don’t expect agreement all around, but I think Andrey’s thoughtful response says much– and I agree wholeheartedly.

        I’m left wondering if Karen is now in support of the view that there should be no religious exemption for medical neglect of children…

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          And thank you for the kind words as well Madison.

          Small steps. We are still trying to form a beachhead. ;-)

          But seriously, just like anything else worthwhile it rarely happens in one huge swing. It is always a series of small changes over time. Or maybe since I have a degree in evo bio I see everything as a nail.

        2. Karen says:

          Thank you, Madison, MD. I really appreciate this post.

          Short response to your question regarding religious exemption for prosecution of child neglect: I’ve never believed anyone should be exempt from prosecution for child neglect – no matter his/her gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or non-religion. (I also do not believe anyone should be put on trial for child neglect simply BECAUSE of his/her gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or non-religion.)

          A longer response is going to take some more time and thought on my part. Let me start it with these questions, though: Would you say medical science is an “exact science” like, say, physics, with unchanging principles and results that can be predicted accurately 100% of the time? Can it be guaranteed that when medical science is used it will always cure its patients and never, instead, cause them lasting harm or death? Just because something has been “peer-reviewed” and used the scientific method, does that guarantee it’s going to work? Do you recognize any biases in your own thinking? And, if so, how do you address those biases?

          For my part, I have to acknowledge a bias regarding medical science – and not because Christian Science is my way of life. I’ve seen dear family members (who weren’t CSists) die under medical care – sometimes really painful deaths brought on by the medicines they’ve been given – and I’ve had to rush my semi-delirious dad to the ER because of a routine medical treatment that went awry – so, although I don’t have a bias against medical doctors – some of my favorite people are medical practitioners – I admit to having some bias against the traditional health care system and against the pharmaceutical industry. I’m trying to address those biases by talking to medical practitioners, such as yourself, and listening to what you have to say about it all. Sincerity (rather than canned responses from some manual for “how to talk to the uneducated theist”), a lack of BS, and the willingness to listen, in turn, to what I have to say – traits Andrey showed in our dialogue – keep me engaged in the dialogue.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            I know you directed this at Madison and I am hoping he will still respond, but he is actually busy in clinical work and I am currently in a place where I have time. So if I may take a stab at it Karen?

            Would you say medical science is an “exact science” like, say, physics, with unchanging principles and results that can be predicted accurately 100% of the time?

            You are not quite asking the right question here. Firstly, nothing in science is ever exactly 100% anything and nothing can be predicted to precisely 100% accuracy.

            Fields like physics and chemistry have a special advantage – they are the first principles themselves and thus our knowledge is much more complete. The further away you get from the well established basics, the more opportunity for (unpredictable) variation you allow.

            So, for example, we can say from particle physics that an electron in a magnetic field will have a very, very specific trajectory which we can calculate extremely precisely. There is still variance and error, but it is incredibly small. However, start adding in more electrons or create a fluctuating magnetic field, and suddenly the calculation becomes massively more complicated. Very quickly, we get to the point where we cannot calculate the answer and we use approximations instead. In many cases, these approximation are “good enough” because the tolerances of whatever we are doing are big enough to accommodate the level or error we would have. But we always keep cutting our tolerances finer and finer which is how, for example, we keep getting smaller and faster computer chips. The forces and principles haven’t changed – we just learned them in better detail, improved our capacity to calculate them, and then improved our technology to produce them.

            How does this relate to medicine? Well, medicine – like engineering – is an applied science. So when you are talking about the physics and chemistry of carbon fiber, for example, we know that materials science extremely well. You would, I think, agree that describing the physical, chemical, and structural properties of a sheet of carbon fiber would be that “exact science” you are referring to. Perhaps you would also consider building an airplane – which you literally trust with your life and not give it much of a second thought – is also an “exact science.” So why then, is Boeing’s Dreamliner such a difficult project that took so long to come to fruition… and was cheered when it actually flew?

            Because even though the “exact sciences” of the carbon fiber were extremely well known to incredible detail and… “exactness” when you build it all into a plane – a large complex system – you step further away from those basic principles which use models and approximations and the variance in the approximations adds up so that the full plane is simply too complex to be modeled and predicted “100% of the time.” Even when you take an exact replica and just scale it up, things fundamentally change. So you can’t even build a 1/100th scale model of the Dreamliner, fly it, and then just extrapolate things out. So we have to do it piecemeal and then actually build the dang thing, fly it, and keep testing it.

            It is the same with the human body and all physiology. We – just like everything – are constrained by the fundamental laws and principles that the “exact sciences” show us clearly to be the way the universe works. But when you put all that into a complex system – like a living organism – there enters in a lot of room for that unpredictable variance. And especially in the case of biology this is compounded because we don’t yet have a complete knowledge of all the components of the system in question. So we work “in the dark” a lot, if you will.

            That is precisely why bench and animal work doesn’t just translate directly to actual people and why we need actual clinical trials to determine if something is actually doing what we want or expect it to do.

            So yes, the fundamental guiding principles that are firmly established are “unchanging” to the degree to which they are established. Things like the Standard Model of physics are pretty darned unchanging. Things like the Starling curve of cardiac contractility in regard to preload are also pretty unchanging.

            Can it be guaranteed that when medical science is used it will always cure its patients and never, instead, cause them lasting harm or death?

            This is what we call the Nirvana fallacy. Nothing can ever be guaranteed to be 100% effective and 100% safe. That is just not the way the universe works. There is no such thing as a free lunch in this universe and there is an inherent baseline level of uncertainty stitched in the very fabric of the cosmos itself. We call that quantum mechanics and are still trying to wrap our collective heads around it.

            So instead, the question to ask is “does medical science offer a way of making the best decisions possible within the confines of reality so that the likelihood of benefit to a patient will outweigh the likelihood of risk?” And the answer is yes. That is precisely what medical science is all about. Taking the best information we have at the time and applying it, using intellectual honesty and in context of fundamental principles, to be as confident as possible that whatever we are planning to do for a person will have more benefit than harm to it. All while recognizing that everything we do, no matter how perfectly we do it, will always have some baseline level of harm and risk associated with it.

            Which is why here at SBM we want to push the standard even further and state that without sufficient evidence of benefit, there is likelier to be more risk than benefit and a therapy should not be used.

            Just because something has been “peer-reviewed” and used the scientific method, does that guarantee it’s going to work?

            It is important to stop thinking in absolutes. Nothing is ever guaranteed to do anything. When something is peer-reviewed, verified via the scientific method and appropriate techniques, we develop a confidence in how likely something is to be correct. So peer-review and data doesn’t tell us “this will definitely work for that.” It tells us that “we have a [x]% confidence that in [y] population this will be likely to have that effect.” Depending on the strength of the data, the statistical power and modeling, and the question being asked we can be very confident, not confident at all, and anything in between. Based on the person in front of us we can have the same levels of confidence. If the data is done on middle aged white men and you are a young black woman, my confidence goes down and I must consider the likelihood of whether this will work, whether I know any reasons why it wouldn’t, and what the possible risks are. If they are very serious and I don’t have much confidence, I will probably avoid the treatment. If the patient has no other choice, and we have no better data, sometimes we are forced to make our best guess and all hope for the best outcome. In some cases it is a no-brainer.

            So the scientific method never “guarantees” anything. It gives us a level of confidence that we can then use to operate in the real world. And why paternalism in medicine is dead – in the cases that aren’t no-brainer slam dunks (which is a lot of medicine) then I need to convey that to my patients and have them decide what kind of confidence is good enough for them and what can of risks are not worth it to them.

            Do you recognize any biases in your own thinking? And, if so, how do you address those biases?

            We do. And we address them by replication of data, independent verification by others without our biases, by challenging each other for evidence to support our claims, and by demanding rigorous objective assessment. By thanking those who prove us wrong and demonstrate holes in our thought process. By exhibiting neuropsychological humility to recognize we can always be wrong. But also by proudly guarding the well established principles that got us this far. By demanding evidence in concordance with the claim (Sagan: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence). So when a claim challenges a well established fundamental principle, it better bring a lot of serious evidence.

            I’ve seen dear family members (who weren’t CSists) die under medical care – sometimes really painful deaths brought on by the medicines they’ve been given – and I’ve had to rush my semi-delirious dad to the ER because of a routine medical treatment that went awry – so, although I don’t have a bias against medical doctors – some of my favorite people are medical practitioners – I admit to having some bias against the traditional health care system and against the pharmaceutical industry

            Perfectly understandable. There are mistakes made in medicine – it is, once again, a human endeavor and humans make mistakes. There is an entire field of medicine, and every resident physician is now required to study it in order to be licensed, called “quality improvement” or QI. It is itself a scientific analysis of where mistakes are made, why, how to prevent them, how to change systems in order to minimize them, how to incentivize good practices and create barriers to bad ones. My own research is actually pretty heavy in this area. And I don’t know a physician here who wouldn’t agree wholeheartedly that we need to improve our practices, get better knowledge, and make our outcomes better and reduce harms and risks.

            But wanting to do it and actually doing it are two separate things. We want that perfect medicine right now. I do, more than you can possibly imagine! I once had a week in the ICU where I had 7 patients die in 5 days. I can rationalize it a bit by (correctly) realizing that they were really, really sick to begin with. And, as a physician, I have to come to grips with the fact that I can’t save everyone. But damnit, it still gets to me. I can still see some of their faces right now as I write this. The 47 year old woman with 2 kids who died from her really nasty leukemia. Her husband and I spent a lot of time talking. You have no idea how much I wish I could have just had something that would have been guaranteed to save her life. I had to weigh decisions like intubating her. I held off for as long as I could, because I believed that once we corrected her electrolyte abnormalities she would wake up enough that she wouldn’t need the vent. But after 8 hours – where I hardly left the room – that just wasn’t the case. I knew putting her on the vent risked developing pneumonia, particularly in her immune compromised state. I knew that it would change the dynamics of how her heart pumped blood and could lead to problems trying to get her off. But I also knew that if she vomited or drooled, she had a huge risk of it going down into her lungs and that would definitely end up killing her. So I had to protect her airway. I texted my attending who had gone home and told him that I really felt we needed to intubate and asked him if he wanted to come in and evaluate the patient. He said he trusted me and that I made the call, it was my patient, and so I should do it. The look on the nurse’s face was priceless when I told her what the plan was (I was a 4th year medical student at the time).

            But can you imagine that responsibility? Especially at the time, it was monumental for me. I read everything I could to make sure I was making the best damned decision I possibly could. And I had to explain that to her husband. But I had no guarantees. I couldn’t guarantee him that she would aspirate if I didn’t protect her airway, and I couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t recover from her current state but get pneumonia from the ventilator and die from that. But, thanks to medical science, including everything from basic physiology and those fundamental “exact sciences” to large randomized controlled trials, I had a decent estimation of what the risks and benefits on each side of the equation were. And that intubation was the best thing we could do at that time. We also work hard to reduce risks whenever we can. For example, we do a detailed oral hygiene regimen every day for patients on a ventilator since we know that decreases the risk of pneumonia. By decreasing that risk we can make the relative risk:benefit ratio better and make our clinical decisions easier.

            I used a rather drastic – and personal – example, but this same premise applies to everything we do in medicine. Some of us are better at it than others, but across the board we all strive for improvement in all these facets. Which includes things like dumping practices that are outdated (have better options today), actually have evidence against them, etc. Things like the <a href="http://www.choosingwisely.org/doctor-patient-lists/Choosing Wisely campaign is an example of this.

            So yes, we do harm patients – because of incomplete knowledge, because of ineptitude, because of systemic problems. But we are constantly striving to improve all of these things – that is what science does. Yet while we (always) have room to improve, we actually do an amazing amount of things really darned well. So it just doesn’t make sense to ask if we can “100% guarantee” things or question if we are like the “exact sciences” in order for medicine to be useful. It is unquestionable that despite the fact that we do harm a large number of people, we still actually help far, far, far more people than we harm. And we just keep getting better all the time.

            And yes, we even get mad at the transgressions of the pharmaceutical industry. I myself am a member of the OpenTrials campaign and read Ben Goldacre quite a bit. I also read Atul Gawande (google them for some more info on them). We do things like – at my institution and many others – prohibiting pharma company sponsored lunches and dinners. Since there is data to show that these sorts of things influence prescribing practices regardless of what they evidence actually says, we have literally banned them. We don’t want un-scientific influence dictating how we treat our patients. Are all doctors on board with this? Of course not. But enough are that it has become the norm these days.

            Now all of this hinges on a very important point: we have to make the best possible decision at the time. That means the best, most complete, most accurate information. There just isn’t a better way of getting that information outside of the scientific method. It is not perfect, no doubt, but it is by far the best we have. So while peer review and the scientific method won’t guarantee us always being right, or always having 100% perfect outcomes, it will give us the best possible chance of being as right as is possible at the time. We still do a lot of things in medicine that have been shown to be ineffective and that we shouldn’t be doing. Change is hard and for such a large and complex enterprise like medicine, is very difficult to boot. Plus, once again, physicians are people too and many of us have overinflated egos that additionally hinder progress. But even there we are working on better ways to be more accurate up front and to make more rapid changes on the back end. Once again this is a field of active study and I am actually published on the topic of systems changes and how to get them to work in order to help save lives.

            So hopefully this not only answers some questions but you can at least begin to understand why the questions you did ask aren’t quite right. They were loaded, making unreasonable implicit assumptions and at least hinted at the Nirvana Fallacy. Just because medicine isn’t 100% perfect and is far removed from the first principles of “exact sciences” doesn’t mean it is useless, doesn’t mean we aren’t doing a (very large) net good, and doesn’t mean it is inherently any less scientific than those “exact sciences.”

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              Medicine is not 100% effective, but even Karen accepts that it is some percent effective. So why would anyone change to a system that is far less effective than medicine?

              Christian Scientists may think their practitioners have effected cures, but there has never been a case that couldn’t be explained by the natural course of disease. The outcome would have been the same without the prayers. It is up to them to prove their methods work, by evidence that would satisfy the medical community; they have never even tried to provide such evidence. All they have is testimonials.

              1. Karen says:

                Okay – have you heard about this story? I’m guessing we are in agreement on this one:
                https://www.aclu.org/blog/reproductive-freedom-womens-rights-religion-belief/pregnant-woman-suffers-you-wont-believe-whos

                Talk about neglect. I’m thinking this entire hospital should be put on trial.

                Sorry. Just had to vent somewhere – and I figured this would be a good place to go…

              2. Karen says:

                “Because of the Directives, Tamesha was never told the truth about her situation—that her fetus had little chance of surviving, that by attempting to continue the pregnancy she risked her own health, and that completing the miscarriage and ending the pregnancy was the safest approach for a woman in her condition. All that information was withheld from her. Nor was she told that because of the Directives, the hospital would refuse to provide her the safest course of care—even to protect her health. Tamesha never had the chance to direct the course of her care or make a real decision.”

                This is criminal.

              3. MadisonMD says:

                All very interesting, yet irrelevant to the issue at hand.

              4. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Yes, the woman being turned away because of Catholic doctrine is also something we would certainly be against here. I don’t presume to speak for everyone, but I am absolutely 100% against that as well. So yes, certainly in agreement.

                I love what Christian Science has given me in my life – and I’m not just talking about the physical healings – I’m talking about a way of looking at the world – an expectancy of good, the ability to see the good in others, and in myself, too – an eagerness for learning and for adventure. But the religious piece – the organized institution – the group-think that seems to come with any human institution – I’m not interested in that at all.

                So what I would say is… why even bother with the label then? Religions have doctrines associated with them – things you must follow or you aren’t a member. But they love having members, so unless you force their hand, they still let you in. Or not, but you still call yourself that label. Either way, it’s disingenuous.

                I use a rather stark example to illustrate my point. Let’s say that I am a fiscal conservative, want to restrict immigration and improve border security, and enjoy a lively community spirit that gives me a sense of belonging along with fun costumes we get to wear at social events. Well, the Ku Klux Klan also believes in those same things! So, would it make sense for me to say that I am a KKK member because I agree with a lot of their politics, enjoy their company as people, and find white robes to be both comfortable and fashionable, but I don’t agree with that racism and anti-Semitism stuff?

                So when I see someone pick and choose the parts of a religion they like best, ditch the parts they don’t like, and still call themselves that religion I ask “Why?” You’ve made a completely secular decision based on values completely outside the church, doctrine, and any sort of godly decree as to what parts you like. That is what we all do about everything – we shouldn’t be following party lines and have our decisions made up by the party’s position. I agree with some of the fiscally conservative things coming out of the Republicans, I agree with some of the social welfare ideas coming out of the Dems, but I think both groups are a bunch of self-serving ideological buffoons. So I am not liberal, conservative, Dem, Repub, whatever. I am a critical thinker who would like to make decisions based on evidence as much as possible for a free, equal, and just society.

                But I digress.

                Thank you for your efforts to distance yourself from the corporate influence of the pharmaceutical companies. I really respect and admire that

                You’ll find that to be common here. I’ve made no apologies that I feel I should earn a comfortable and secure wage for my work as a physician, but that money is not even close to my primary motivator. And you’ll find that is true for most physicians out there. Not all, but most. I also happen to believe that doing the best I can, and what I love, will lead to doing it well and lead to money coming my way. As long as it is enough to be secure, pay off my loans, and have a little lagniappe to enjoy life (I love to travel) then that is all I need.

                And thank you for sharing some of your stories about your practice – they really touched me. These stories tell me that you genuinely care, feel responsible for, and want to help your patients.

                You’re welcome. And thank you. I do. And so do the vast majority of physicians. Damned near all, in fact.

                I’m glad you brought up the “ego” thing – I think that’s a continual battle for all of us – trying to get past our own egos and to deal with the egos of others, too . Eesh. It ain’t easy, is it?

                No it isn’t. But we do it and always strive to get better. That is what this blog is really about at its most fundamental – how to get better at what we do. Ditching stuff that doesn’t work, improving stuff that does, and how to find out.

                But I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated the time and effort you’ve put into your dialogue with me. Thank you.

                You’re welcome. If I – and hopefully others here – have planted a seed of thought and given you some insight into what medical care is actually like and really all about, then I’d say that is a success.

                I mean… isn’t it possible that neither medical science NOR Christian Science has anything to do with a lower death rate? Maybe it’s something else entirely….

                Yes, in a vacuum and just from looking at the tiny, tiny bit of data Madison (not Maxwell) provided, I suppose you couldn’t say definitively. Except that there actually is a lot more data beyond that to support the causality. This isn’t just an assertion based off of that one tiny bit of data. Look at the difference in causes of mortality. Notice that infection is no longer on the list. If you look at specific infections you will see how the decline occurs right after some sort of medical intervention is introduced – vaccines, antibiotics, ventilators, etc. The other aspect is to look at how many people are actually using medical science and what those outcomes are. And you find that supports the causality as well.

                Suffice it to say that it really is very ironclad that two things are true. #1 is that yes, it is trivially true that deaths from medical errors and negative outcomes increased. That is just because usage of medical care increased. #2 Medical care – scientific medical care, which includes public health and preventative care – is identified as the proximate cause of the decrease in mortality and morbidity across the population.

                So when you say:

                that I made the same claims you just made only I put the words “Christian Science” in place of “medical science” – let’s say I said, for instance,that if a woman is told by medical scientists that they can’t help her child – should we then put her on trial for negligence if she fails to turn to Christian Science for healing?

                Those may sound equivalent to you and they trivially are in that you can string together words in the English language in that way, but they aren’t. Medical science has a huge amount of evidence to support it, many analyses done to demonstrate it as the proximate cause of improvement in length and quality of life, and is built on and supported by all the fundamental sciences, including the “exact sciences” of physics and chemistry.

                If CS – or anything else – had a track record like that, sure. Then we could argue that statement. But there really is no argument here.

                The other things is that medicine is just “whatever actually works to help people.” We here argue there is no such thing as “alternative medicine.” If you prove something works, using well established scientific criteria, with one reasonable standard applied across the board, then you have just plain ol’ medicine. If you prove to me, using good science, that waving my hands over someone in a particular pattern actually improves outcomes, guess who you are going to see waving his hands over his patients?

                If something has been shown not to work, or we know it cannot work based on the fundamental principles of those “exact sciences,” then we shouldn’t be using it right?

                And if it hasn’t been shown to work or not to work, we also shouldn’t be using it. That is just taking a random stab in the dark that is highly unlikely to do anything useful.

                So when we are going to call something criminally negligent and put someone on trial for it, what standard should we use to judge that by? There are many CSists who would argue that their standard of evidence is good enough and that proves CS works, therefore they should be exempt from prosecution if their “treatment” fails and the child dies. But you obviously don’t agree with that standard. There are other faith healing traditions that have their standard of evidence too. We both disagree with that. So which standard do we use to define minimum criteria?

                We argue that it is the scientific standard – the only one that is consistent, objective, empirically validated, and can be agreed upon by independent objective observers. Now, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreement or that everything will be 100% right all the time. Just because it is the best way doesn’t mean it is the perfect way. When there is legitimate disagreement, then we address that as scientists – with due diligence, the highest standards, and the utmost intellectual honesty. And if you find an example of someone who doesn’t, then you will bet they get my condemnation as well. Just like Dr. Oz, Weill, or Young (or any of the other doctors and not-doctors that don’t conform to the rigorous standards of evidence for all medical claims).

                All the other times when I took the sons in, the doctor pretty much said there was nothing they could do, anyway – so I’d bring them home, we’d turn to the power of Love and they’d get healed.

                Yes… many times doing nothing is the right course of action. As I said before, everything we do has risk. So if we can determine that it is safe to do nothing, that is what we do. It wasn’t the power of love that healed them (though undoubtedly that helped make the feel better) – it was just time. We know that many ailments go away on their own. But what I am trained to do as a physician is help whenever I can but more importantly be able to discern when it is something serious that will actually go away on its own.

                Let’s say your child has a headache, vomited once, feels very nauseated, and has a mild temperature. Is that a stomach bug? Food poisoning? Or could it be early meningitis? If the first, I tell you to go home and treat the symptoms and everything will be fine. If the second, depending on the severity I may admit for fluid maintenance or send home. The third? I need to admit your child and treat everyone that he has been around because I know that meningitis is both deadly and infectious. My job – my training – is to separate these things out and then know what to do about them.

                So don’t take being sent home as a failure of medicine. It can be, sometimes as part of human error, but in many cases that is precisely what we are doing – making sure it is nothing serious. And let me tell you – sending your patient home can be the most nerve wracking thing you do as a junior doctor. What if I am wrong? What if I missed some subtle sign of neck stiffness in your boy and I sent him home thinking it was just a norovirus when it was actually meningitis. And then he dies the next day. It happens, rarely, but is absolutely devastating – to the physician as well. So we train hard and learn a lot to absolutely minimize such scenarios.

                and it also gave him a rash – turns out the son was allergic to the ‘cillin family. So I took him back in, and the doctor said he could give the son medicine to counter the effects of the other medicine. And my son asked, “And could there be side effects for the medicine that’s suppose to counter the effects of the other medicine?” The doctor admitted there could be. The son said “No, thanks.” We came home and prayed and the rash and the original condition went away pretty quickly after that. Just an anecdote, I know. But when you’re the person who’s actually experienced these healings – witnessed them in-person – I guarantee you that these are not mere anecdotes.

                Yes, allergies happen. There is no way (yet) for us to know in advance if they will happen (we are working on that and will get there, but probably not in my lifetime). Your doctor was offering you a medicine to help with the symptoms of the rash because he knew that the rash was self limiting and not deadly, but can be uncomfortable. Some people don’t care for that. Nothing wrong with that.

                But once again, you did not pray the rash away. We know exactly what that rash is. Down to the molecular level. And we also know that if you stop the antibiotic, the rash will go away. 99.9% of the time it will just go away on its own, absolutely regardless of what you did or didn’t do. So this is not just an example of an anecdote – which of course and very reasonably seems profound to you – but also of confirmation bias. You prayed and then the rash went away, so you assume the prayer had something to do with it.

                Well, that is a hypothesis we can test. How can you be sure that it did? We have a huge body of knowledge to tell us that the rash will go away on its own. So how can you test to see if the prayer actually did anything? Well, that’s science! We get two groups, pray for one and not for the other and see if there is any difference. And in all the times it has been tested (and it has been, for many conditions) we find absolutely no difference. Of course, the complain is that we didn’t check a specific kind of prayer for a specific kind of problem and maybe, just maybe, that prayer will work for that condition. But does that really sound reasonable? On what basis could we possibly begin to decide which prayers to test for what? And, on top of that, we have a long history of it not working and a lot of “exact science” to show us why it shouldn’t, in principle, do anything.

                So it isn’t just that it is anecdote. It is that we have a lot of knowledge to give us a much, much better answer. The rash went away pretty quickly after the antibiotic was stopped. If you had kept taking the medicine the rash would have stayed.

                But if when they were youngsters I had been forced by law to put my child under medical care – and then if that child had died under medical care – I can promise you I would have sued the pants off each and every doctor that got near him. If you’re going to force me to bring my children to you, you better be able to guarantee to me that you’re not going to kill him.

                Doesn’t that seem fair?

                What seems fair is that you should be guaranteed the best possible outcome. That does not mean a 100% guarantee of anything. But if you suffer a negative outcome because of negligence, or because the doctor was doing something that didn’t have evidence to support it, or evidence against it, yes you should get to sue the pants off of that doctor. And we would be right there with you. But if we know that a case of meningitis has a 5% mortality rate no matter what we do, and we do all the best possible treatments we can and it is still the terrible tragedy that your son falls into that 5%, then no, you shouldn’t be able to sue the doctor. In that case the best knowledge possible was put to use in the best way possible for the best outcome possible. In that particular case, the best outcome possible was tragic. But, we always work hard to improve and get better and improve everything about how we do it. But, as Madison said, no human endeavor can possibly ever be perfect.

                So we are not forcing you to get medical care because we know it will 100% work. We are doing so because we know it is the best possible chance at the best possible outcome.

                And we have made some breathtaking strides in the improvement of medical care. Conditions and states which were near certain death sentences just 40-50 years ago are now routine things that are handled by junior doctors at my level with extremely good outcomes. Heck, we’ve taken childhood leukemia and turned it from a 95% chance of death to a 95% chance of surviving it in just 30ish years! Imagine that! 30 years ago if your son had leukemia there was literally almost nothing we could do. We’d have to tell you there is a 95% chance he will die. Now, we have many options which are getting better all the time and we can tell you he has a 95% chance of living!

                We do the best we can using the best methods and the best knowledge we can. And as a physician I am just as frustrated as you when the limits of that knowledge are hit or when bad outcomes are unavoidable.

            2. Karen says:

              Andrey, you are a really fine writer – articulate, logical, not patronizing or condescending to me – and I appreciate that very much. Thank you.

              You have given me a lot to think about. There are some things you’ve said that have really resonated with me – the chief one being”That’s y’alls problem, not ours.” That was really powerful for me. I’ve come to realize that I feel absolutely no desire or need to defend everyone who calls himself a Christian Scientist. My understanding of this way of life – and of Mary Baker Eddy’s writings – is much different than a lot of others who identify themselves as Christian Scientists. I love what Christian Science has given me in my life – and I’m not just talking about the physical healings – I’m talking about a way of looking at the world – an expectancy of good, the ability to see the good in others, and in myself, too – an eagerness for learning and for adventure. But the religious piece – the organized institution – the group-think that seems to come with any human institution – I’m not interested in that at all.

              I’m really heartened and encouraged by this part of your post: “And yes, we even get mad at the transgressions of the pharmaceutical industry. I myself am a member of the OpenTrials campaign and read Ben Goldacre quite a bit. I also read Atul Gawande (google them for some more info on them). We do things like – at my institution and many others – prohibiting pharma company sponsored lunches and dinners. Since there is data to show that these sorts of things influence prescribing practices regardless of what they evidence actually says, we have literally banned them. We don’t want un-scientific influence dictating how we treat our patients. Are all doctors on board with this? Of course not. But enough are that it has become the norm these days.” Thank you for your efforts to distance yourself from the corporate influence of the pharmaceutical companies. I really respect and admire that.

              And thank you for sharing some of your stories about your practice – they really touched me. These stories tell me that you genuinely care, feel responsible for, and want to help your patients.

              I’m glad you brought up the “ego” thing – I think that’s a continual battle for all of us – trying to get past our own egos and to deal with the egos of others, too . Eesh. It ain’t easy, is it?

              I’m going to be busy with a project for a few weeks, and probably won’t make it back here during that time. But I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated the time and effort you’ve put into your dialogue with me. Thank you.

          2. MadisonMD says:

            Hi Karen,
            You seem to say that, because medicine is imperfect, a child is often best off without medical care. This argument may have been credible in the 19th century. But today it is insupportable. Here’s why.
            1. Child mortality has markedly decreased in the past century.:
            deaths per 100K, ages 1-4
            440 in 1935
            30 in 2007 (93% Decline)
            deaths per 100K, ages 5-14
            150 in 1935
            18 in 2007 (88% Decline)
            Neonates? Also markedly improved See the CDC MMWR:

            If turn-of-the-century infant death rates had continued, then an estimated 500,000 live-born infants during 1997 would have died before age 1 year; instead, 28,045 infants died (3).

            So that’s a 94% decline.
            ————–
            Now, how was child mortaility reduced? Well, comparing causes of death is instructive. Here are leading causes of death in 1900 (see Table 1.1)*:
            Age <1: #1 Malformations 16,162 deaths
            Age 1-4: #1 Respiratory diseases 9,328 deaths (influenza, croup, pneumonia, bronchitis)
            Age 5-14: #1 Childhood diseases 2,705 deaths (diptheria, scarlet fever, measles)
            Here are the leading causes in 2010**
            Age <1: #1 Congenital Anomalies 5,107 deaths (c.f. malformations)
            Age 1-4: #1 Unintentional injury 1,394 deaths
            Age 5-14: #1 Unintentional injury 1,643 deaths
            —————
            * To make adjust 1900 numbers to compare with 2010, multiply by 16 (!) The US population has increased 4x and the 1900 survey only covered 26% of US population.
            **This is why pediatricians always counsel parents on safety– helmets, seatbelts, home safety.
            —————
            The only possible conclusion is that medical care is the major factor in reducing death rates over the past century. Major interventions leading to this outcome include vaccines, antibiotics, intravenous fluids, supportive care (e.g. respirators), and improved treatment of congenital abnormalities.
            Karen, a 90% improvement in mortality just can’t be ignored. (Please, please look at page 2 of this yet again)
            ——————-
            This is why neglect to seek medical care for a child is manslaughter, even though medical care, like any human endeavor, is not 100% perfect.

            1. Karen says:

              Hi, Maxwell –

              You make points that I’m sure, from your standpoint, seem really reasonable and logical. But… I hesitate to even do this because I know I’m going to be met with a huge wave of indignation here… but… oh, what the hell, right?

              So let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I made the same claims you just made only I put the words “Christian Science” in place of “medical science” – let’s say I said, for instance,that if a woman is told by medical scientists that they can’t help her child – should we then put her on trial for negligence if she fails to turn to Christian Science for healing? (No, of course not.)

              You write: “This is why neglect to seek medical care for a child is manslaughter, even though medical care, like any human endeavor, is not 100% perfect.” – What if I said: “This is why neglect to seek Christian Science care for a child – after the child has been given up by medical doctors- is manslaughter, even though Christian Science care, like any system, is not 100% perfect.”

              And… oh I know this one will probably cause a reaction – and maybe rightly so – but I simply cannot help myself… let’s say that I said, after looking at the statistics of lower death rates: “The only possible conclusion is that Christian Science (which didn’t appear on the scene until 1866) is the major factor in reducing death rates over the past century.” Is that the ONLY possible conclusion? Or would that just be my opinion? Based on my own biases and perspective?

              I mean… isn’t it possible that neither medical science NOR Christian Science has anything to do with a lower death rate? Maybe it’s something else entirely…. maybe it’s the rise of Buddhism or meditation or yoga or that green juice made of grass that people have taken to drinking…

              As I’ve said – my sons were vaccinated and I took them to doctors when I felt the need – usually when I was scared – but, you know what? There were only two times in their entire childhoods when medical science actually worked for them – once when the older son got pneumonia – that was a scary time, and I’m really grateful to his doctor for getting him through that. And once when the younger one fractured his arm doing a Spiderman up the walls. All the other times when I took the sons in, the doctor pretty much said there was nothing they could do, anyway – so I’d bring them home, we’d turn to the power of Love and they’d get healed. I remember once when the younger son was given an antibiotic for something – the antibiotic didn’t help, and it also gave him a rash – turns out the son was allergic to the ‘cillin family. So I took him back in, and the doctor said he could give the son medicine to counter the effects of the other medicine. And my son asked, “And could there be side effects for the medicine that’s suppose to counter the effects of the other medicine?” The doctor admitted there could be. The son said “No, thanks.” We came home and prayed and the rash and the original condition went away pretty quickly after that. Just an anecdote, I know. But when you’re the person who’s actually experienced these healings – witnessed them in-person – I guarantee you that these are not mere anecdotes.

              My sons are both young men now (the older one will be graduating this Spring with a degree in mech. engineering and a minor in English – 3.9 GPA – brilliant at math!). The sons take themselves to doctors when they feel the need. I’m really relieved I’m not responsible for their health, anymore, to tell you the truth. But if when they were youngsters I had been forced by law to put my child under medical care – and then if that child had died under medical care – I can promise you I would have sued the pants off each and every doctor that got near him. If you’re going to force me to bring my children to you, you better be able to guarantee to me that you’re not going to kill him.

              Doesn’t that seem fair?

              Okay. I’m going to go respond to Andrey’s post now – I see that he has written another really articulate post. And then I’m going to be working on a project for a few weeks and I probably won’t be able to get back here during that time. I don’t mean to seem like one of those “seagull posters” who flies by and drops a post and keeps going – but time’s going to be sparse for awhile.

              I’ve enjoyed this dialogue very much.

              1. MadisonMD says:

                What if I said: “This is why neglect to seek Christian Science care for a child – after the child has been given up by medical doctors- is manslaughter, even though Christian Science care, like any system, is not 100% perfect.”

                I would say that you should demonstrate that CS has reduced child mortality by 90%, just as I demonstrated that medical science has reduced mortality by this amount.

                “The only possible conclusion is that Christian Science (which didn’t appear on the scene until 1866) is the major factor in reducing death rates over the past century.” Is that the ONLY possible conclusion? Or would that just be my opinion? Based on my own biases and perspective?

                If you could demonstrate that the vast majority of American children were under CS care over that time, AND if you could provide evidence that such care can reduce the incidence and death from the specific diseases that caused death in the early 20th century, then you would have a credible claim. Without that supporting evidence, yes, it is just your opinion… and frankly such an opinion is ridiculous– even the first must be admitted to be patently wrong to a true believer in CS.

                I mean… isn’t it possible that neither medical science NOR Christian Science has anything to do with a lower death rate? Maybe it’s something else entirely…. maybe it’s the rise of Buddhism or meditation or yoga or that green juice made of grass that people have taken to drinking…

                This is obfuscatory. You and I both know that the death rate of children did not decline by 90% over the past century from any of these things. No where near 90% of children do any of these things.

                I remember once when the younger son was given an antibiotic for something – the antibiotic didn’t help, and it also gave him a rash – turns out the son was allergic to the ‘cillin family.

                Two of my children are also allergic from penicillin and both had rashes. Neither died from infectious diseases that were major causes of child mortality in the early 20th century.

                But if when they were youngsters I had been forced by law to put my child under medical care – and then if that child had died under medical care – I can promise you I would have sued the pants off each and every doctor that got near him. If you’re going to force me to bring my children to you, you better be able to guarantee to me that you’re not going to kill him. Doesn’t that seem fair?

                If a child dies from malpractice then yes this is fair. However, I’ve already demonstrated that your child is far more likely to die without proper medical care than with it.

                So as Andrey said, this is a statement of the nirvana fallacy. It is akin to refusing to buckle a child’s seatbelt because she could get trapped in a burning car.

          3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            I’ve seen dear family members (who weren’t CSists) die under medical care

            Ever see someone die of untreated cancer? Ever see a baby choke to death due to pertussis? Ever see someone paralyzed for their entire life because of polio? Ever see a twelve year old die of hyperglycemia because of untreated diabetes?

            You’re asking medicine to be perfect, and it can’t ever be perfect. Medicine is practiced on humans, who are the product of a sloppy, “good enough” evolutionary history. The alternative you appear to be claiming as equally valid, not employing medical treatment, leads to life expectancies in the late 20s, like what was seen throughout most of the world before the 19th century.

            I’ll take medicine, thanks.

  20. windriven says:

    ATTENTION SBMers-
    I have started a group on SfSBM title Legislative Action and have posted a good deal of information about this bill – which is coming to a head right now. If you have an interest in seeing this bill passed please go to SfSBM and read the entries. A simple telephone call or e-mail from you may be the one that tips the balance.

    We have all done a lot of talking about science based medicine. This is an opportunity to turn our words into actions. PLEASE get involved.

    1. Chris says:

      Well, I am trying to register. Except it hiccuped on my birth year. It thinks I am a zygote!

    2. Chris says:

      Ugh, I forgot the zipcode. This allowed me to fix the birth date. Okay, I am reading now.

      I’ll be sending money as soon as I sit down and spend more than five minutes on our financial machine. I am married to a computer engineer, we have certain required protocols for financial data. Like never ever posting any of that kind of transaction on a laptop. This past week I have only had time to log in an download stock and mutual fund prices.

    3. Chris says:

      Yay! I am in. I will be emailing my legislators in the morrow.

      It may give one digleberry legislator something real to work for other than the undetectable radiation* from the building used to paint dials in the former Seattle Naval Air Station on Lake Washington. I have been tempted to show up at one of his meetings with a watch that once belonged to dear spouse’s grandfather that has glow in the dark numbers (but the meetings always conflicted with a much more interesting event).

      * A college friend works for the state’s Dept. of Health radiation section. They did go up with equipment and found absolutely nothing. When some news story pointed out that granite counter tops emitted radiation, he was on the phone telling folks to not sleep on their kitchen counters.

      1. windriven says:

        Thanks Chris. I think this can get done with just a little pushing.

        1. Chris says:

          Sent an email to Senator O’Ban, and left a message on the Skeptic meetup board.

          1. windriven says:

            Skeptic meetup, great thought!

  21. windriven says:

    For those of you following the Senate Bill that Dr. Hall wrote about, I attended the Committee Hearing this morning and posted a lengthy report at SfSBM -> Legislative Action Group.

  22. Karen says:

    Well, shoot! I can’t find the post now – but someone on here recommended I read Michael Shermer’s book *Why People Believe Weird Things* – I haven’t read that one, but I did read another of his books *Why Darwin Matters* back in 2010 and thought it was fantastic. I actually started a whole discussion forum just to talk about Shermer’s work – invited my friends – mostly atheists and agnostics – to come on there and talk with me about about his thoughts. It was one of the best discussions I’ve ever been a part of – I learned a lot from it. The discussions died out a few years ago, but if you’d ever like to join us and get it going again, you’d be most welcome:
    http://www.amazon.com/forum/michael%20shermer/ref=cm_cd_f_h_dp_t?_encoding=UTF8&cdAnchor=michael%20shermer&cdForum=FxR3ELY09O79ZM

    Other books I’ve enjoyed that people in the medical profession might find interesting are: *Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer*
    http://www.amazon.com/review/RCW1A95AWMHEL/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    and *Biocentrism* (I don’t know enough about the physical sciences to know if this guy is full of baloney or not, but I found it thought-provoking): http://www.amazon.com/review/R3ACQMVQ6C81VN/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    And there’s a passage in *Miracle in the Andes* that describes, better than anything else I’ve ever found, my feeling about God. Nando Parrado no longer believes in the traditiional God of his Catholic up-bringing, but he writes: “: “…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence.” A little later, he writes: “It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.” This sense of God as Love is one I’ve found through my study of Christian Science.

    There have been a lot of generalizations made here about Christian Science and Christian Scientists – CS has been put under the same umbrella as every other person who identifies as a theist and a Christian. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of theists and Christians who would not be happy to be lumped in with Christian Scientists. Critical thinking, as you all know, involves being able to make distinctions and go beyond generalizations and stereotypes. It is not always easy to do this. But it’s always worth it, right?

    Time to celebrate Valentine’s Day… hope you’re all enjoying good ones. :)
    Karen

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Welcome back Karen.

      and *Biocentrism* (I don’t know enough about the physical sciences to know if this guy is full of baloney or not, but I found it thought-provoking)

      I do, and so do many others. In short – he is full of baloney. If you would like some good explanations of why… well, there are plenty.

      From Steve Novella:

      Biocentrism Part 1
      Biocentrism part 2
      Lanza’s Quantum Woo
      Biocentrism Pseudoscience

      From Jerry Coyne:

      Postmodern Biology and eternal life
      Biocentrism, is it woo?
      <a href="http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/the-independent-assures-readers-that-there-is-an-afterlife/Independent assures readers there is an afterlife

      A few others:

      Biocentrism demystified

      Physicist Sean Carroll on biocentrism

      There are more, but that should be plenty, I’d imagine. His ideas have been taken seriously by many serious thinkers and then rejected because they are simply a lot of inconsistent gobbeldy gook.

      There have been a lot of generalizations made here about Christian Science and Christian Scientists – CS has been put under the same umbrella as every other person who identifies as a theist and a Christian

      Not quite. I would tend to go by this which is the Christian Science church’s stand on things.

      You have to understand that there are so many flavors of religion that it really is impossible to accurately speak about pretty much any of them, by your standards. You practice a particularly peculiar form of CS; even your friend? Kat over at your blog has pointed that out.

      The real point – to anyone who is really critically thinking about it – is precisely that there are so many flavors of religion; whatever your religion happens to be and however you practice it. This tells us two things – that most likely they are all wrong and that they cannot give us actual information about the real world.

      Why the first part? Because they all purport to be true and correct. And they cannot all be so. Considering how many religions and flavors of religions have existed (over 38,000 sects of Christianity alone), the most parsimonious explanation is that none of them are correct and all are just guesses, steeped in the particular culture and history of the time and place they were invented.

      Why the second part? Because if so many groups can come up with so many ideas that are often proven wrong and are often mutually exclusive of each other, it clearly can’t be a particularly good way of actually learning anything about the universe.

      As Neil deGrasse Tyson once said (I paraphrase), it isn’t strange that 85% of the National Academy of Scientists are atheist, it is strange that 15% aren’t.

      1. Karen says:

        Hi, Andrey –

        Neil deGrasse Tyson totally rocks! (My CS mom and I are in agreement on that.)

        I am now going to share with you the time I thought God was leading me to atheism. :) (Copied from one of my blog posts):

        Did I ever tell you about the time I thought God was leading me to atheism?

        Yeah. That probably tells you something about how my pointy little head works, eh?

        I’d discovered on a religion forum that I seemed to have more in common with the forum’s atheists – many of whom became and continue to be dear friends – than I do with most of the people who identified themselves as “believers.” I came to realize that I probably actually WAS an atheist when it came to the concept of “God” that most people were describing. The concept of God I was raised with in Christian Science was much different than the anthropomorphic wrathful, jealous, angry, vengeful, send-his-children-to-hell god that so many people seemed inclined to follow on the forum.

        In the textbook for Christian Science (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as “an anthropomorphic God,” is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality… The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.” When I’d share this concept of God with my forum friends, I was often asked why I even bother to call God “God” then – why not just say “Love” or “Truth” and be done with it?

        What they were suggesting made a kind of sense to me. And I wondered if God was leading me to atheism.

        So I put atheism on and tried it out for a couple weeks. Walked around in atheism and tried to look at the world as I thought an atheist might see it. It was interesting. It wasn’t horrible. I didn’t feel like the spawn of Satan or anything.

        But the thing is… well, the thing is that in the end I realized it just wasn’t me. It felt really silly and dishonest for me to deny the presence of God in my life, and to deny the wonderful things I’ve witnessed that, to me, are proof of God. God is Love, yes. And Love is God, too – a presence and power – a verb AND a noun.

        So there you have it. I am a theist. Do I think I’m in any way better than my atheist friends? Nah. I think we all find the path that makes the most sense to us – and for some of us that will include a belief in a god, and for some of us it won’t. I can’t force myself to NOT believe in God, any more than my atheist friends can force themselves TO believe in God. And it’s all good. As my beloved Aunt Junie used to say: “Whatever makes your socks go up and down.”

        “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” – I John 4

        http://madcapchristianscientist.com/2012/10/21/the-time-i-thought-god-was-leading-me-to-atheism/

        On another note (sorry – I seem to be really chatty this morning), a couple of you have mentioned my “peculiar form of Christian Science” and told me, in so many words, that I’m not an actual Christian Scientist, and then told me what an actual Christian Scientist is supposed to believe. And I find this all really odd. I’m not offended by it, or anything. But… yeah… it’s just odd. I was raised in CS. I’ve practiced this way of looking at the world my entire life. I’ve read the textbook for CS from cover-to-cover several times. I’ve served as First Reader (First Readers conduct the church services) for nine or ten years during my time as a member in the local CS church. I’ve written a book about my experiences with CS. And I know a whole lot of other CSists who, like me, sometimes feel the need to turn to medical doctors and take their children to doctors when they don’t feel able to work through a problem in CS. So… I’m wondering… is it maybe just possible that what you all are working with here is some kind of weird stereotype of what people who aren’t CSists think CSists believe? I’m not saying that there aren’t nutty Christian Scientists – there are nutty everythings, right? I mean, there are even some pretty nutty atheists, right? But I wouldn’t try to say that every atheist thinks like Pol Pot. That would be a generalization – and a really, really bad one.

        I have a friend – not a Christian Scientist – might even be an atheist – not sure, who made this post on a discussion board and I think it’s worth sharing here – he and I are not always in agreement about stuff, but this one… yeah… I think it’s worth sharing:

        Crowdog says:
        “I’m really more concerned with the balance of individual freedom and Federal or state mandated regulations – along with the practical issues like parents who goof in their assessment of a child’s medical condition and then, along with the trauma of losing their child, have to go broke paying massive fees to lawyers who might or might not be able to keep them out of prison. It may only be a small slice on 1 side of the coin – but it’s an important slice to consider. I can appreciate the opposite situation say with a broken leg or any other serious conditions where our existing scientifically based approaches have a solid record of successful treatment { without undue suffering , exorbitant expense or debilitating side effects } and I would seriously object to any person or community that would interfere in any way with any man, women or child wishing to take advantage of these treatments, but again, given the amounts of sales pressure, social coercion and false or inaccurate presumptions – the bad food, the MRSA infections, the automatic insertions of IV, the batteries of expensive and unneeded tests, the mix ups with meds, the incompetent surgeons and all the rest -makes drawing lines or mandating preferences problematic. Underage children subject to the limitations of parental resources and discretion is an additional complication , but I don’t think criminal prosecution for negligence { except in situations where the harm done was intentional or clearly predictable} offers a reasonable remedy – mainly because it violates the fundamental principles of Freedom and adds even more muscle to an already corrupt and often dysfunctional system. And there’s also a trajectory here of both idolatry pertaining to our limited and undoubtedly imperfect medical practices and the marginalization of alternative approaches with the potential to correct, modify or expand our current knowledge ,approaches and assumptions – it’s something we need less rather than more of, IMO …”

        Oh man. This is going to be a really long one. So very sorry.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Hi Karen,

          and to deny the wonderful things I’ve witnessed that, to me, are proof of God. God is Love, yes. And Love is God, too – a presence and power – a verb AND a noun.

          I suggest you watch this debate and particularly pay attention to the discourse between Harris and Shavit.

          The TL;DR: is that you are defining “god” in such a nebulous and strange way that it loses any real meaning and is fundamentally discordant with what overwhelmingly vast majority of believers conceive of as a god. Shavit is doing the same thing and Harris calls him out on it a few times.

          It is the same sort of thing like Tillich’s arguments of “god’ being a “ground of being” which Jerry Coyne discusses over at New Republic. Essentially why add the idea that something both you and I can describe and agree upon must then be “god”? It is adding an unnecessary step. And I would argue that a critical thinker works hard to remove as many unnecessary steps as possible.

          If universe + god = universe, then god = 0. And that is basically what you – and Tillich and Armstrong – are positing. You say “love = god”. I say why insert a fantastical idea with no evidence of its existence to something that can be described more simply?

          In any event, Coyne and Harris do a much better job of discussing these ideas than I will, so if you are truly interested I suggest you watch that full debate and read the article. Basically it seems like you (and Tillich and Armstrong) are rational and critical thinking enough to realize that the common perception of god is silly but still feel you need to cling onto the idea of the word “god” and shoehorn in where ever it can manage to fit. In this case by re-defining the term as some sort of added on layer of unprovable and epistemologically unapproachable philosophy tacked on to existing empirical phenomenon.

          So there you have it. I am a theist. Do I think I’m in any way better than my atheist friends? Nah. I think we all find the path that makes the most sense to us – and for some of us that will include a belief in a god, and for some of us it won’t. I can’t force myself to NOT believe in God, any more than my atheist friends can force themselves TO believe in God. And it’s all good. As my beloved Aunt Junie used to say: “Whatever makes your socks go up and down.

          Which is at least reasonable. I would argue that you are indeed adding unnecessary and to me ridiculous claims, but you’ve removed them far enough from empirical claims that I have no scientific qualm, merely a philosophical one.

          The issue we have here – and started you coming over in the first place – is that, as has been pointed out, you are quite unusual in your specific beliefs, particularly in regard to CS. Many (I won’t quibble about how many) actually do believe in an anthropomorphic god (as clearly stated on the official CS church website) and use their fervent belief in the healing of prayer to preclude going to seek medical care when necessary. If you want to use your god of love as an adjunct for your own psychological and spiritual well being… that’s fine. I’ve no qualm with that. But when you use that to justify withholding medical care, now you’ve entered the empirical realm.

          So… I’m wondering… is it maybe just possible that what you all are working with here is some kind of weird stereotype of what people who aren’t CSists think CSists believe?

          As I’ve said before, yes, your particular set of beliefs is peculiar against the background of the official church stance. As I said, your friend Kat even pointed out on your own blog. From your own blog, fellow CSist Kat writes:

          …but sadly NOT ALL CS ARE AS PRACTICAL AS YOU ARE (yes, that needed shouty caps…Instilling a terror of doctors in children can often have detrimental effects on them as adults (I speak from personal experience on this one)…It sounds like you’re taking a similarly rational approach, but again, NOT ALL CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS are willing to go to a doctor, much less take their children to one….Sadly, not all CS are as sensible as you seem to be. My MIL is paranoid about even getting a general practitioner even if she never visits them the very idea of having one is abhorrent….For a little context, I was raised in CS…The issue of doctors/medicine is still a very emotionally charged issue in our house…I’ve been on the receiving end of “prayer alone!” and some days it takes a bit of extra help…

          So who am I supposed to believe is the “real” CSist? You, who generally tends to agree with us, the official church website which tends to disagree with you, or a different CSist who claims to have been raised in a CS house and comports with our understanding of what CS is and has specifically said that you are unusual in your practicality regarding the doctrines of CS?

          This is inherently the problem of debating ideas that are not grounded in reality – everyone has their own version!

          So fine, you want to claim that you know CS better than we do. I agree. You absolutely do. However, we also don’t care about claims that have no bearing on empirical reality and others around them. So if you want to claim that the CSists who deny their children medical care and believe in an anthropomorphic god are the minority, that’s fine. We can agree to disagree because it doesn’t actually matter to the discussion we here care about. We aren’t interested in trying to prove that all CSists must believe and behave in certain ways or they aren’t CSist, because from our perspective it is all made up fiction anyways and is simply an argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But when those beliefs cross over into the empirical realm, that’s when we rightfully step in.

          As for “crowdog”…. he begins by an unfair mischaracterization of what medical care is and the state of it to justify his stance. Basically he is forced to admit that really, really obvious things like broken bones should get treated but that other less obvious things can then fall under the purview of the parent, regardless of the fact that it is obvious to people who have the relevant education. I also vehemently disagree with a central point:

          …but I don’t think criminal prosecution for negligence { except in situations where the harm done was intentional or clearly predictable}…

          Intentionality has nothing to do with it. Clearly predictable is the only relevant criterion. If you crashed your car into someone and killed them, and then claimed that your particular worldview led you to believe that your car would pass through the person unharmed because of quantum uncertainty, then you can rightfully and truly claim you had no intention to kill that person. But for anyone else, the predictability is absolutely clear.

          So when you are a CSist and your child begins to lose weight, is constantly thirsty, pees a lot, and begins to be a bit delirious you could claim that there is no intention to withhold life saving treatment because you believed that it was a condition amenable to CS “treatment” or that you thought it was demonic possession (for some of the nuttier ones) or that you thought it was just a nasty cold that would go away on its own. Yet for someone like me, I can spot those as very concerning signs of diabetes that I know will lead to the death of that child if untreated.

          Now, if you are right and it is a self limiting condition, then you got lucky. No harm, no foul. But if you are wrong and it is diabetes and the child dies, you should not be protected from criminal negligence because your intention was not to withhold treatment that would save the child’s life. Nobody here thinks people actually want their children to die. But the predictability is very important. And, the simple reality is that you are not the right person to determine that predictability. A relevant expert is – and that is me and my fellow physicians.

          So we are all for freedom, but we also recognize that out of all the possible options out there evaluation by a medical doctor trained in scientific modern medicine is the best one (not perfect but best) to evaluate that situation. If you withhold care, regardless of intentionality, and it leads to an adverse outcome like death you should be held accountable because we should be protecting our children and encouraging getting evaluated even when not necessary rather than waiting until it is painfully obviously necessary (like broken bones or coma). We would rather have errors where an unnecessary trip is made to the doctor than a necessary trip being avoided. That is what is in the best interest of the child.

          An adult is autonomous and if you decide you don’t want treatment and wish to die instead, then that is entirely your choice. I’ve actually watched someone walk out of my ER having a diagnosed heart attack because he didn’t want treatment. We urged him and explained and tried our best to convince him but, he was an adult. So ultimately we let him go knowing what would happen. And it did. He made it about 2 blocks away before he collapsed and died.

          That was profoundly sad because I knew we could have actually saved that man’s life. But, in the interest of freedom (which your friend takes seriously enough to capitalize) we allowed him to go.

          That same sort of freedom does not extend to children as they do not have the capacity to make fully autonomous decisions. And as a society we feel (and I agree) that we must take extra steps to promote the health and wellbeing of children, even when that means taking away some parental freedoms. But only when those are incongruous with the health and wellbeing of the child.

          You may argue that we are unjustly imposing the authority of a medical system and scientific paradigm on people who do not agree with that paradigm, but my simple answer is that we have the evidence. There are people who think that the earth is 6,000 years old and evolution never happened. But we shouldn’t cede our hard earned understanding of the universe because they choose to not agree with the reality of the evidence. And the same goes for religious sects that eschew medical care for children.

          I’ll close with one last quote from crowdog:

          trajectory here of both idolatry pertaining to our limited and undoubtedly imperfect medical practices and the marginalization of alternative approaches with the potential to correct, modify or expand our current knowledge ,approaches and assumptions

          This is, as MadisonMD has pointed out, the hallmark of someone who is not a critical thinker. This is the nirvana fallacy in action. Because medical science is not perfect then other things should be considered just as equal. That’s just not the way it works. Modern medical practice is far from perfect, but it is, hands down, the best option out there. So-called alternative practices are only marginalized so long as they have no evidence to support them or evidence against them. And it is not only reasonable but necessary to do so – we can’t learn and move forward and improve things unless we reject bad ideas. And the reality is that most of these so-called alternatives (like faith healing, reiki, acupuncture, TCM, reflexology, etc) are bad ideas.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      If God is love, why did he create smallpox? And favisim? And pertussis?

      If God exists, he’s a bastard.

      1. Karen says:

        Hi, William –

        You write: “If God is love, why did he create smallpox? And favisim? And pertussis? If God exists, he’s a bastard.”

        Light doesn’t create darkness – in fact, nothing creates darkness – it’s just the absence of light, right? It has no source. I mean – it’s not like it comes from the sun or a darkbulb or something. And when the light appears, it vanishes – poof! Likewise, truth can’t be held responsible for error – when truth’s revealed the error disappears. Love isn’t to blame for hate or war or fear. Love heals those things. And what I call “God”- the power of Good, Love – doesn’t create smallpox, favisim, or pertussis, Original Sin, eternal damnation, guilt, fear, hate, or anger. It makes no sense to me that ANYone would revere something that would cause that stuff and call it “God.” I agree with you that THAT kind of a god really WOULD be a bastard.

        Okay. Time to go handle some snakes and speak in tongues and gaze into some crystals and stuff. (Just kidding. :) )

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Karen, all of your words are handwaving and special pleading to try to preserve a totally unnecessary theoretical entity. There’s no evidence God, of any form or religion, exists. There’s certainly no evidence that the Abrahamic deity specifically exists. And there’s no reason to believe that your favoured sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-faith’s particularly interpretation of that deity is the correct one. “Durrrrr, bad stuff exists because it’s human’s fault, God’s totally good” isn’t an explanation, it’s an added assumption used to try to preserve an already-indefensible entity.

          What you call “God” didn’t create anything, because “God” doesn’t exist. It’s just us, humans that exist for a while and then don’t, in an enormous, indifferent universe that will one day cease to be habitable by any life. Love your family and friends, be nice to strangers, and stay in good health – because this is all you get. Why you insist on placing any emphasis on the writings of bronze-age sheep herders or iron-age fishermen and tax collecters is beyond me. Your comforting illusion is still an illusion.

        2. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Karen, I responded more fully on your blog, but this is what prompted and reminded me to. This is an example of “moving the goalposts” where you get to define “god” in whatever way keeps it from being amenable to rational scientific inquiry. That is only a superficial and temporizing tactic because eventually the only thing left for your “god” is to define it in such a manner that if it exists, it doesn’t matter because it in no way interacts with the universe we exist in.

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Yeppers, god of the gaps.

  23. MadisonMD says:

    Welcome back Karen. Your comments are interesting. I’ve read the Farmer book. It is quite good.

    Critical thinking, as you all know, involves being able to make distinctions and go beyond generalizations and stereotypes. It is not always easy to do this. But it’s always worth it, right?

    Very true… and since you bring up critical thinking, there is more. Critical thinking involves rejection of the absurd idea that yoga, CS, or “green juice made of grass” reduced U.S. child mortality by 90% over the past century. Critical thinking involves rejection of the nirvana fallacy. Critical thinking involves accepting that improved medical science, applied widely, reduced child mortality by 90% over the past century. These are documented facts not optional beliefs.

    Happy Valentines Day.

    1. Karen says:

      Happy Valentine’s Day, Madison, MD!
      Have you ever met Farmer? I was totally humbled by his story. He really walks the walk, you know?
      It is past midnight here now. We’re watching Letterman. But it is now time for bed…
      I shall return… :)

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