Empirical vs. A Miracle

Published: January 23, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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Philosophy’s Age of Reason began in the 1600’s marked by such notables as Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, even the astronomer Galileo.

However, four-hundred additional years of empirical and physical knowledge seem to have no affect on individuals who cling to the religious notion that God alone has the power to heal the sick.

According to a report in the New York Times (Jan. 21), eleven-year-old Kara Neumann “…had grown so weak that she could not walk or speak.” Although her parents “prayed for her recovery [they] did not take her to a doctor.”

By the time a concerned aunt called police and an ambulance picked her up, she was pronounced dead on arrival at a Wisconsin hospital.  “The county coroner ruled that she had died from diabetic ketoacidosis resulting from undiagnosed and untreated juvenile diabetes.”

“…after Kara’s death last March,” the Times wrote, “the Marathon County state attorney… brought charges of reckless endangerment against her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann. Despite the Neumanns’ claim that the charges violated their constitutional right to religious freedom, Judge Vincent Howard of Marathon County Circuit Court ordered Ms. Neumann to stand trial… If convicted, each faces up to 25 years in prison.”

“The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief,” the judge wrote in his ruling, “but not necessarily conduct.”

“Wisconsin law, he noted, exempts a parent or guardian who treats a child with only prayer from being criminally charged with neglecting child welfare laws, but only ‘as long as a condition is not life threatening.’ Kara’s parents, Judge Howard wrote, ‘were very well aware of her deteriorating medical condition.’”

It’s difficult to believe that in spite of advanced, medical technology, individuals in this age of reason, would allow faith alone to trump common, medical practice.

“One couple was charged with manslaughter in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, who died of pneumonia last March. [Another] couple was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of their 16-year-old son, who died from complications of a urinary tract infection that was severely painful and easily treatable.

“Many types of abuses of children are motivated by rigid belief systems,” including severe corporal punishment, said Ms. Swan, a former Christian Scientist whose 16-month-old son, Matthew, died after she postponed taking him to a hospital for treatment of what proved to be meningitis. ‘We learned the hard way.’

“All states give social service authorities the right to go into homes and petition for the removal of children, Ms. Swan said, but cases involving medical care often go unnoticed until too late. Parents who believe in faith healing, she said, may feel threatened by religious authorities who oppose medical treatment. Recalling her own experience, she said, ‘we knew that once we went to the doctor, we’d be cut off from God.’”

“The Neumanns,” the Times wrote “…are known locally as followers of an online faith outreach group called Unleavened Bread Ministries, run by a preacher, David Eells. The site shares stories of faith healing and talks about the end of the world.

“An essay on the site signed Pastor Bob states that the Bible calls for healing by faith alone. ‘Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital…. Jesus offered healing by one means only!  Healing was by faith.’”

With all due respect to others in his field, Pastor Bob is guilty of metaphysical malpractice.

I am and continue to be a great believer of faith.  It forms the basis of our principles.  But I also believe in a God that meant us to use all the tools He’s put in the toolbox.

“I do not feel obliged,” wrote Galileo, “to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Faith does not preclude science, but science with religious faith can achieve amazing things.


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