December 28, 2006

Time For Faith-Based Medicine

In reading many atheist blogs, I am used to finding well-written and informative posts that lead me to think about things in new ways. Once in a rare while, I find a post that leaves me in stunned silence as I experience a blend of awe and envy. A few minutes ago, I found just such a post, Faith Hospital, at Atheist Ethicist. It is so good that I had to share it, and I encourage you to do the same.

The general topic of the post deals with efforts to reconcile faith and science. The metaphor Alonzo uses in this one is brilliant. He asks the reader to imagine two hospitals, one based on science and one based on faith. The scientifically-based Institute for Scientific Medicine is the pinnacle of the modern hospital. They practice what is referred to in the medical literature as "evidence-based medicine." Outcomes are carefully tracked, treatments are empirically informed, and each patient is treated as a single-case design. On the other hand, Faith Hospital relies on scripture and prayer rather than science. The methods their practitioners employ have no scientific support behind them. However, they do not see this as a drawback, arguing that there are "other ways of knowing."

Comparing these two hospitals across any valid medical outcome measures produces exactly the conclusion you would expect. As patient mortality rates differ in the expected direction, the administrators of Faith Hospital mount a desperate defense of their faith, claiming a host of absurdities about how it was these patients' "time to be with God." But the data do not lie. One approach results in better health; the other leads to complications and death. This is not an illusion, and no amount of faith changes this reality.

I ask my Christian readers to consider which hospital they would choose if a loved one needed medical attention. If you'd opt for the Institute of Scientific Medicine, I'd ask you to think long and hard about why. I suspect we both know the answer. If you are honest with yourself, I think that you know deep down that your religious beliefs are false. I know that you want them to be true, but you are smart enough that you probably wouldn't put them to the test in this way, would you? I know that this may be an unpleasant realization, but have no fear. The real world is a great place, and we'd love for you to join us.

Update: This one is spreading fast (see Stardust Musings and Thoughts for the Freethinker and God is for Suckers!).

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