from the world's big
Faith Healing Needs to be Punishable by Law
Mariah Walton faces a double lung and heart transplant because her parents chose faith healing over medical treatment when she was born.
Many Americans distrust doctors. To them, pharmaceutical company executives are reserved for a special place in hell. There are certainly precedents—longstanding ties between Big Pharma and Big Medicine are no conspiracy. As former pharma PR exec Wendell Potter writes,
If you are among those who believe that the United States has “the best health care system in the world” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary—it’s because my fellow spinmeisters and I succeeded brilliantly at what we were paid very well to do with your premium dollars.
Does this make the entire system corrupt? Hardly, even if bad experiences cause us to think otherwise. I’ve had caring and kind doctors, and I’ve been overcharged and underserved by the UCLA medical system. There is no totalitarian dictator overseeing health care. Sadly, it often comes down to luck, combined with other factors, such as where you live and what level of care you can afford.
Is this a reason to eschew medicine altogether? More to the point: Is it fair to not provide children, who have no say in the matter, proper medical attention? Mariah Walton would argue no.
Twenty years ago Walton was born with a congenital heart defect, a treatable condition. Instead of being cared for, the Idaho resident will remain disabled for life due to her parents’ refusal to take her to the doctor. At some point in the near future she will have to undergo a heart and double lung transplant.
The reason? Faith healing.
Since her Mormon parents do not believe in modern medicine, they turned to prayer instead of doctors. And now the longevity of Walton’s life is uncertain due to their decision, which is protected under Idaho’s faith healing law.
The law states that parents are protected from prosecution even if their child dies, as long as they made their decisions according to their faith. Walton, along with her sisters, is attempting to repeal that law—and prosecute her parents in the process.
Republican state senator Lee Heider is not sharing Walton’s pain. He says, “We don’t feel that this is an issue that needs to be addressed in Idaho this year.” While the governor, Butch Otter, questioned faith healing measures, Heider claims the law is already upheld by the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.
Otter recently asked for a review of the 1972 law due to a regular occurrence of untimely and unnecessary deaths. In the last five years, eleven minors whose parents belong to the Pentecostal Followers of Christ, a group predominantly based in Idaho and Oregon, have died from preventable conditions.
There is hope if Walton succeeds in getting a hearing. Two Wisconsin parents were found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide after the death of their eleven-year-old daughter, while an Oregon father was convicted for criminal mistreatment after his fifteen-month-old daughter died.
Even states that have faith healing laws are ambiguous at best. According to Robert W Tuttle, professor of law and religion at GWU Law School, says such laws, promoted largely by the Christian Science movement, only apply to ‘recognized’ religions. That means parents with no church affiliation that believe in spiritual healing are more likely to be prosecuted than Walton’s parents, who are Mormon. Tuttle believes many courts apply the ruling broadly to all faiths, though given the resistance against giving Walton a hearing reflects badly on her chances in Idaho.
The foundation of our perceptions and personality—our very nervous system—is shaped and molded by our parents, especially during the first two years of life. Mariah Walton had no say in either her religion or her health. Sadly her parents could not distinguish between the two, falsely believing one overrules the other.
My writing of this article was interrupted when my sixteen-year-old cat, Osiris, developed a fever of 104.7 and stopped eating. Yesterday’s visit to the vet resulted in a round of antibiotics and an IV drip. After a night’s sleep, he woke this morning to a 100-degree temperature, and ate his entire breakfast.
Here’s why I mention this: in Idaho it is criminal to not provide an animal with proper veterinary care. Failure to comply can result in six months of jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Yet not treating your newborn results in no punishment whatsoever, so long as your faith tells you not to.
To see your newborn daughter suffering from a deadly heart problem and resorting to prayer defies any form of logic or compassion. Prayer made Walton’s parents feel like they were doing something when they weren’t—it assuaged their existential dilemma while their child needlessly suffered. It is here that the law needs to step in so that such tragedies never occur again.
Image: Jeff T Green / Getty Images
Derek Beres is a Los-Angeles based author, music producer, and yoga/fitness instructor at Equinox Fitness. Stay in touch @derekberes.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.