Monday, November 23, 2009

On Science vs. Faith

Lately there has been a great deal of energy in the media focused on health issues, particularly the recent recommendation that women need not get mammograms every year after 40, but should wait until 50 and then only do it twice a year. Recently there has been a lot of information regarding genetic testing and privacy, as well. I've been ruminating on this issue and having small arguments with various folk, but truly what my contentions revolve around is my belief that while science is fantastic at explaining things we know--- it cannot, ever, by any stretch of the imagination, explain the things we do not know. Science can detect lumps and cancers, it can tell us if we have a gene for Huntingdon's Disease-- but the fact of the matter is Science CANNOT tell us what we WILL die from. That we will die, is a given. That we would likely die from this cancer or disease is us working against statistics. We cannot fight death. It will come-- but I really believe that there is a certain kind of fatalism in play when we feel the need to discover the things wrong with our bodies. Is there a test to see if your resilience gene is stronger than your disease gene? Is there a test to prove that you will die of this disease and not a freak car accident when a deer runs across the road? Is it really better to know? The mammogram study highlighted the harms to younger women who had false positives. They had unnecessary biopsies and the amount of stress they had quite likely took a few years off their lives. I know it's easy for me to sit here and ponder these thoughts. I don't have cancer. But I'm quite sure if a doctor told me I did, I would choose to get a second, a third perhaps up to a fifth or sixth opinion. And if I found a reputable doctor who was able to cast doubt on the diagnosis. I'd choose to believe that doctor. I know that sounds ridiculously uninformed of me. But it is what I believe. I've never had total and unwavering faith in the health system. Doctors are fallible as all of us are. We put our lives in their hands, in the hopes they will be able to make us better-- but I'm sure doctors would be the first to say-- but that's no guarantee. Science can only make predictions. But there is always some percentage of a doubt. Even if it is .1%, that still exists. And if I die a happier, more hopeful person because I chose to reserve a good deal of more of my energy in believing than knowing, well then, I feel like that might be alright.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I'm not condoning Nidal Malik Hassan's actions in any way shape or form. He is a crazy murdering fiend, no question. But this whole situation has had me fuming every time I hear about it in the news. No one considered the religious backgrounds of the VA Tech shooter, or the Pittsburgh Fitness Center shooter, or the wacked minds of the Columbine teens who mowed down their classmates. No, what we heard was that these were messed up, lonely, angry psychotics. And the fact is, that is the same with Hassan. Today the headline is "Ft. Hood shooter charged with 13 counts of murder"-- and the headline seemed to sting my eyes in a strange way-- clearly so strange that I felt I had to write about it, because I hardly ever do this--but I could not help but see the irony of the fact that Hassan could have gotten on a plane and headed to Afghanistan, be handed a gun and, given the proper circumstances, even if innocent civilians happened to get killed in the crossfire, he would have gotten away with it. On a more grim and disturbing note, those thirteen soldiers could have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, been blown up by IED's or shot by snipers, and no one would ever be brought to justice, because that's what happens in war. People get killed. I'm just saying there is a whole lot more wrong with the picture of Nidal Malik Hassan than that he was a devout Muslim of Palestinian descent. He also was able to legally purchase a gun. And he was in an organization that condones the use of guns to kill, even if innocent people might get injured along the way, in a world that still, despite all the evolutionary evidence to support otherwise, a world that still recognizes violence as any kind of solution at all.