Author Topic: "Science, Catholics and Fear"  (Read 4722 times)

Offline Chestertonian

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"Science, Catholics and Fear"
« on: September 03, 2014, 01:11:58 AM »
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Science, Catholics and Fear

Simcha Fisher, National Catholic Register

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It is a disgraceful and a dangerous thing for an unbeliever to hear a Christian, presumably explaining science, nutrition, and medicine, talking nonsense on these topics. Many non-Christians are well-versed in Natural knowledge, so they can detect vast ignorance in such a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The danger is obvious-- the failure to conform interpretation to demonstrated knowledge opens the interpreter, and by extension, Christianity as a whole, to ridicule for being unlearned.   

All right, so St. Augustine didn't say "science, nutrition, and medicine," he said "the meaning of scripture."  But other than that, he's describing a good 40% of my Facebook wall.

More and more, religious people are pitching their tents in the vast, squashy wilderness that calls itself "natural living" or "alternative medicine," and are rejecting science and modern medicine -- not some of it, but all of it.  Their creed is this: drugs are evil, chemicals are evil, doctors are evil.  You can cure most diseases, mental or physical, with a handful of seeds and a few essential oils squirted into the proper orifices. Above all, be afraid.

It's not only Catholics, of course, who are using the most dubious of weapons in the backlash against science and medicine.  Religious, agnostics, and atheists may all believe that, based on something they overheard on Oprah, they have pierced the veil and now they know better than the Mayo Clinic.

But it's especially galling when Catholics become anti-science.  Catholics have an ancient tradition of rigorous inquiry into the natural world that the Creator made for us.  We invented the university.  Catholics have dominated science and medicine for centuries.  It's baffling to see so many turning against this august heritage -- pooh-poohing polio, scorning dental care, urging their friends to treat depression with cashews and to cure their cancer by sprinking lemon rind and baking soda on their salads.

And as Augustine lamented, when religious people flock to false prophets like the Food Babe, Jenny McCarthy, Dr. Tenpenny, the Healthy Home Economist, Guggie, Natural News and Mercola, it puts ammunition directly into the hands of scoffing atheists who point to our foolishness and say, "See? Believe in God, and you'll believe in anything!"

Catholics, be better than this.

I understand why people mistrust science.  Women, especially, still carry the collective memory of being patted on the head and told, "Don't worry your pretty little brain; we'll make the hard decisions for you." And so we had thalidomide birth defects, secret or forced sterilizations, and brutal medical experiments performed without consent. And it's not all historical: even toay, we're told that the morning after pill is perfectly safe (it's not), that abortion is safe (it's not). We've met doctors who medicate first and never even wonder why the patient is sick. Many patients have been told that their rare or confusing conditions are psychosomatic, simply because doctors don't know how to cure them.  And we know that shopping for healthy food is no longer a simple, straightfoward, affordable task. Corporations do lie to us.

So yes, we have reasons to be skeptical and mistrustful, or at least cautious, especially when we're taking care of children and the sick and helpless. But please remember: Catholics are a people of faith and reason. We are a "both/and" people, not an "Aieeeee, science!!" people.  We are all called to be thinkers, to discern, to consider and weigh information, and to consider the source of our information. We are called to be honest about our own limitations to understand specialized fields, and we are called to be wise in choosing whom to trust. And we are called to be courageous, to make sure that our thoughts aren't being molded by a desire to be accepted by our friends, or even by a desire to be thought of as courageous for refusing to be accepted.

There's the crux of it: our ideas about science and medicine should not be molded by desires, at all. They should be formed by facts and faith, not feelings. Not fear. Yes, many times our Faith puts us at odds with the scientific world.  We reject any form of experimentation on or commodification of human beings. We speak out about unpopular topics and face ridicule or indifference.

And so atheists may scoff at us and call us anti-science. Let them scoff.  They're not the ones who will judge us in the end.

But if they are going to scoff, let it be in spite of the way we examined the evidence. Let it be in spite of the way we educated ourselves as much as we are able, and in spite of the way we chose worthy teachers to help us understand things that are beyond our expertise.  Let it be in spite of our allegiance to scientific and spiritual truth.  Let's not give them a chance to scoff at us for being ignorant and afraid.

There are sources we can trust.  Here are some links to get you started, if you find yourself wondering if the latest flashy meme is giving you the whole story. (NOTE: Some of these sites are written for religious people; some are neutral; some have an anti-religious slant. I tried to include a wide variety, and cannot vouch for every single bit of information contained in them. The point is: read widely and be smarter!)

The National Catholic Bioethics Center
Married to Medicine
Kevin MD
Science Based Medicine
Skeptical Raptor
Respectful Insolence on ScienceBlogs.com
The parent-driven site Voices for Vaccines
Catholic Pediatrics
Red Wine and Applesauce
Doula Dani
Vaccine Education Center from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

and a promising, brand-new blog designed specifically for Catholics striving to find the balance between faith and reason: Rational Catholic

One more thing: if you read some claim about health or science and are not sure whether to believe it, you can always Google the claim + "fraud," in case someone has already debunked it.

So how can we tell if we're being healthily skeptical, or crossing the line into gullibility and superstition? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you believe that most doctors are out to get you?
Do you believe any story from a website that has "natural" in the title, and do you automatically mistrust any story written by anyone associated with a large, well-known university or hospital?
Are you suspicious of words you can't pronounce?
Do you routinely pass along information you don't understand, but which makes you feel like you are being brave?
Do you believe that conventional doctors are interested in only money, but anyone with natural or organic products or information to sell is doing it out of the goodness of their hearts?
Do you take medical advice from someone who has not actually studied medicine (online degrees and Google University don't count)?
Do you believe articles with no citations, or which cite only themselves?
When you hear of a story of someone being injured or damaged by modern medicine, do you feel a dark pleasure because your dire predictions turned out to be true?
And the most important question: Are you more and more fearful every day?

If you could answer "yes" to more than one of these questions, then you are on the wrong path. This is not Catholic.  This is giving into temptation. There is evil out there, but when we meet it, we must arm ourselves with truth, not fear.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/simcha-fisher/science-catholics-and-fear#ixzz3CDsyo0C3

As someone who often disagrees with Ms. Fisher's polemics, I think this article contains some thing that need to be said.  can't say I a agree with everything contained in this article..but I do get annoyed with people emailing me stuff from Natural News, Mercola, Food Babe and other stuff.  just because you aren't able to pronounce an ingredient doesn't mean it's automatically harmful.  and the fact that something occurs in nature doesn't make it safe

My wife is of the "crunchy" variety.  not like i've bitten into her or anything.  but when my son was born, she insisted on cloth diapers.  i said to her, aren't you going to be overwhelmed enough?  but no, we can't have CHEMICALS touching his pure unscathed brand new baby butt.  what?  you say water is a chemical?  LIES ALL LIES! I will not have my pristine child exposed to dihydrogen monoxide!

muchof the food my wife and my son eat is organic, and she keeps a sugar free kitchen.  she drinks all these wacky teas, and she makes these essential oil sprays that make our house smell like a hippie commune, but .... pleasant in a way. 

If her stomach hurts, she busts out the peppermint essential oil and rubs it on the bottom of her foot.  if my stomach hurts, she runs medication through my IV.  she staves off colds with thieves oil, elderberry and chicken broth, but if I come down with a cold, she is on the phone with my doctor freaking out because it doesn't take long for me to go from 0 to pneumonia. 

the other day when i was home, my wife had finished giving me a shower, dried me off, and then hooked me back up to my IV, which pumps a concoction of "nutrition" directly into my bloodstream.....full of ingredients i can't pronounce, i'm sure.  I'm pretty sure the bag it's in isn't even BPA free.  my wife's rubbing lotion all over my body and I glance over at the bottle and it says "Made with organic fair trade shea butter."  so i said to her, "thank goodness this stuff is organic!  I was worried for a second that you'd use chemicals on me"  and she said, oh hush.   
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Offline Lynne

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2014, 07:42:40 AM »
I can't stand that woman. Thank you for at least pasting the whole blog entry so I don't have to click on the link.

She has nothing nice to say about trads.

And actually, I like a lot of the websites she pooh poohs here...Mercola, Food Babe, etc... No, doctors are not out to get us but they don't always know what they're doing either.
In conclusion, I can leave you with no better advice than that given after every sermon by Msgr Vincent Giammarino, who was pastor of St Michael’s Church in Atlantic City in the 1950s:

    “My dear good people: Do what you have to do, When you’re supposed to do it, The best way you can do it,   For the Love of God. Amen.”
 

Offline Kaesekopf

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2014, 08:35:12 AM »
Yeah.  Can't stand simcha.  Her arrogance and condescension to trads is terrible.

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Offline Chestertonian

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2014, 09:22:18 AM »

She has nothing nice to say about trads.


Yeah.  Can't stand simcha.  Her arrogance and condescension to trads is terrible.


I agree with you both that she can often be annoying in that way, and I usually find myself disagreeing with most of her articles.  But in this article, I think she makes a good points and she is not talking about trads as much as she is talking about certain "crunchy" Catholics.

and...  I don't think there's anything wrong with being crunchy.  but I do agree with her assesment that there is a certain subset of Catholics who are afraid of anything modern medicine.  I met a lady at our church once... my son had a lingering cough from when he had a cold, and he coughed near her child.  This lady said, "Sorry that cough makes me a little nervous... my kids aren't vaccinated and I don't want them to get sick."

Well goodness, it's not the whooping cough.... and our kid is vaccinated so I don't see how he is going to get your child sick.

just rubbed me the wrong way

another time when my son was a tiny baby, we had to give him insulin while at church.  of course he wasn't used to injections so he was screaming.  Another woman said "This is why I couldn't let those doctors give my children vaccines....it's too traumatizing."  I'm sorry, but getting stuck with a needle once a month is not traumatizing compared with some kids deal with.  even my son is very fortunate compared to what many children go through
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Offline Jayne

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2014, 05:09:46 PM »
For the past 20 years I have lived with a chronic illness for which modern medicine offers me a drug with worse side effects than my symptoms.  My skepticism regarding medicine is based on observation of its incompetence, not on some sort of irrational fear.
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2014, 06:28:52 PM »

My skepticism regarding medicine is based on observation of its incompetence, not on some sort of irrational fear.

Yes. The article in the OP is a classic case of attributing crazy motives to someone for believing something you disagree with. She doesn't like health foods and alternative medicine. Fine, that's her prerogative. But then she starts claiming that everyone else bases their opinions on ignorance and mindless fear-mongering.
 

Offline Chestertonian

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2014, 07:04:37 PM »
For the past 20 years I have lived with a chronic illness for which modern medicine offers me a drug with worse side effects than my symptoms.  My skepticism regarding medicine is based on observation of its incompetence, not on some sort of irrational fear.
i hear you

 some diseases generate a lot of research...
 If it is lesser known it's generally harder to justify the funds

but when your husband had cancer you didn't just say "let's treat this with coconut oil"
"I am not much of a Crusader, that is for sure, but at least I am not a Mohamedist!"
 

Offline Jayne

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2014, 08:14:04 PM »
For the past 20 years I have lived with a chronic illness for which modern medicine offers me a drug with worse side effects than my symptoms.  My skepticism regarding medicine is based on observation of its incompetence, not on some sort of irrational fear.
i hear you

 some diseases generate a lot of research...
 If it is lesser known it's generally harder to justify the funds

but when your husband had cancer you didn't just say "let's treat this with coconut oil"

I didn't rely on conventional Western medicine either.  I researched alternative and experimental treatments and, based on what I found, he decided to follow a ketogenic diet. 
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Offline Lynne

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2014, 08:36:45 PM »
That's very interesting, Jayne.

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In conclusion, I can leave you with no better advice than that given after every sermon by Msgr Vincent Giammarino, who was pastor of St Michael’s Church in Atlantic City in the 1950s:

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Offline Sbyvl36

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2014, 08:41:30 PM »
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"Science, Catholics and Fear"

Well, Catholics hate science, and Science fears Catholicism, or something along those lines, so what do you expect?
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Offline Chestertonian

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2014, 08:42:19 PM »
ah yes i tried that diet once... ate a lot of coconut oil couldn't keep it down though.

i get really irritated when people recommend diets to me because i tried them all and nothing worked

I don't think every person who is into alternative methods and natural medicine is buying into fear mongering but I have met a lot of parents who consider it a badge if honor that their child has never had a vaccine, antibitics any medication even Tylenol..must be nice
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Offline Arun

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2014, 09:02:22 PM »
ah yes i tried that diet once... ate a lot of coconut oil couldn't keep it down though.

i get really irritated when people recommend diets to me because i tried them all and nothing worked

I don't think every person who is into alternative methods and natural medicine is buying into fear mongering but I have met a lot of parents who consider it a badge if honor that their child has never had a vaccine, antibitics any medication even Tylenol..must be nice

i've been liking coconut oil in "bulletproof coffees" in the mornings lately. i thought the health benefits were something to do with tryglycerides or someting though...


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Offline Jayne

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2014, 09:42:07 PM »
i've been liking coconut oil in "bulletproof coffees" in the mornings lately. i thought the health benefits were something to do with tryglycerides or someting though...

I like those very much.  I make my bulletproof coffee (usually decaf) with coconut oil and an egg.
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Offline Chestertonian

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2014, 09:44:59 PM »
egg in coffee??

what ayhorrible thingtofotocoffee
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Offline Jayne

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Re: "Science, Catholics and Fear"
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2014, 09:47:33 PM »
egg in coffee??

what ayhorrible thingtofotocoffee

It acts as an emulsifier for the oil, giving a really good texture and making the foam last.
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