Real Grounds For Impeachment

When asked a question yesterday about the “untested and unapproved drug” that was given to those two unfortunate American missionaries who were infected with Ebola, President Obama offered up what is certainly, to the goodly and godly number of science-haters in the Tea Party-controlled House, real grounds for his impeachment. He answered:

I think we’ve got to let the science guide us.

How dare he say something so ridiculous, so secular, so anti-God. Let the science guide us? Please. Why would we do that when we have Donald Trump, former front-running Republican presidential candidate, to lead the way? Last week Trump tweeted—with the confidence he always possesses, especially when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—the following:

The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!

Take that, you Jesus-loving do-gooders!

Despite Trump’s insistence that Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol stay in West Africa, they didn’t. They’re here, as everyone now knows. And the experimental drug they were given seems to be working, although no one can be sure that their improving health is due to the drug or due to something else, like, say, prayer. Dr. Brantly’s wife released a statement on July 31st that included the following:

Thank you to our good friends and thousands more who have been in constant prayer and fasting for Kent’s deliverance from this disease.

Franklin Graham, who runs Samaritan’s Purse, the missionary group for whom Dr. Brantly was working, said this:

Please keep praying and thank God for all He is doing.

So, was it that science-birthed, government-funded experimental drug that improved the situation, or was it prayer and fasting? Here is an excerpt from a CNN article:

Within an hour of receiving the medication, Brantly’s condition dramatically improved. He began breathing easier; the rash over his trunk faded away. One of his doctors described the events as “miraculous.”

By the next morning, Brantly was able to take a shower on his own before getting on a specially designed Gulfstream air ambulance jet to be evacuated to the United States.

Writebol also received a vial of the medication. Her response was not as remarkable, according to sources familiar with the treatment. However, doctors on Sunday administered Writebol a second dose of the medication, which resulted in significant improvement.

She was stable enough to be evacuated back to the United States.

By that account, it appears it was science that came to the rescue in these cases. Unless, of course, God decided to act at the same time the drug was administered. No one, not even the greatest atheist-scientist in the world, can actually rule out that possibility. It could very well be the case that God, for whatever divine reason, purposely waited to do something for his two servants until that experimental drug could be delivered to them. It’s possible.

But it ain’t likely.

In fact, it is a good bet, an overwhelmingly good bet, that if the government hadn’t forked over some cash to fund scientific research into Ebola treatments (the private sector finding no profit in it and, thus, no real interest), then Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol would likely be dead. And they would likely be dead even if all 7 billion of us fasted and beseeched God, Allah, or Donald Trump to do something about it. The little “t” truth is, as far as enhancing our personal and collective well-being goes, science is really all we have. We can profess our faith in God and beat his door down in prayer, but when it comes down to it, when we are in need, like those two missionaries were in need, our faith in science is what matters most. And, as President Obama said, it should be our guide, even if saying so might get him impeached.

And speaking of impeachment, maybe it is time to impeach (read: “call to account”) God himself.

I want to share with you an article written by Greta Christina for AlterNet (also published on Salon.com). Her piece (“Why You Can’t Reconcile God and Evolution”) is not an attack on “extreme, fundamentalist, science-rejecting” believers. Anyone with an eighth-grade education and a slightly open mind can dope-slap those folks. Instead, Christina addresses “progressive and moderate religious believers” who say, “Of course I believe in evolution. And I believe in God, too. I believe that evolution is how God created life.”

She presents four big reasons why that position is “untenable,” why it “is rife with both internal contradictions and denial of the evidence.” I will leave it to you to read her entire argument, which functions as articles of impeachment against the Almighty, but I did want to offer you here an excerpt from the piece, a part of it that comes from what science, our only real way of knowing things, has discovered. She is arguing that there is “a whole lot of evidence against” the idea that God is the designer of the life we know and then off she goes with a list of design flaws:

Sinuses. Blind spots. External testicles. Backs and knees and feet shoddily warped into service for bipedal animals. Human birth canals barely wide enough to let the baby’s skull pass — and human babies born essentially premature, because if they stayed in utero any longer they’d kill their mothers coming out (which they sometimes do anyway). Wind pipes and food pipes in close proximity, leading to a great risk of choking to death when we eat. Impacted wisdom teeth, because our jaws are too small for all our teeth. Eyes wired backwards and upside-down. The vagus nerve, wandering all over hell and gone before it gets where it’s going. The vas deferens, ditto. Brains wired with imprecise language, flawed memory, fragile mental health, shoddy cost-benefit analysis, poor understanding of probability, and a strong tendency to prioritize immediate satisfaction over long-term gain. Birth defects. 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies ending in miscarriage (and that’s just confirmed pegnancies — about 30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and as many as 75% of all conceptions miscarry).

And that’s just humans. Outside the human race, you’ve got giraffes with a vagus nerve traveling ten to fifteen feet out of its way to get where it’s going. You’ve got sea mammals with lungs but no gills. You’ve got male spiders depositing their sperm into a web, siphoning it up with a different appendage, and only then inseminating their mates — because their inseminating appendage isn’t connected to their sperm factory. (To wrap your mind around this: Imagine that humans had penises on their foreheads, and to reproduce they squirted semen from their testes onto a table, picked up the semen with their head-penises, and then had sex.) You’ve got kangaroo molars, which wear out and get replaced — but only four times, after which the animals starve to death. You’ve got digger wasps laying their eggs in the living bodies of caterpillars — and stinging said caterpillars to paralyze them but not kill them, so the caterpillars die a slow death and can nourish the wasps’ larvae with their living bodies.

You’re going to look at all this, and tell me it was engineered this way on purpose?

That’s a fair question. And it is also a fair question to ask why God—to whom millions earnestly prayed in hopes that he would deliver Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol from the ravages of Ebola—engineered, or allowed to come into existence, such a nasty and deadly virus in the first place.

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5 Comments

  1. Greta Christina makes a good case all right, but then her case is one of logic against confirmation bias, and that has amazing staying power. I was reminded of it only this morning when the Joplin Globe told me that the United Methodist Church in nearby Carl Junction had been struck by lightning and was a total loss. Aren’t these things usually called an act of God? Somebody must have made Him pretty angry because this is the second time in a decade this has happened to this church. Before, it was a tornado. Church officials say they will begin to rebuild right away. Go figure.

    Speaking of devine intervention and miracles, I was reminded by this interesting post of the Catholic Church’s requirement of such as a qualification for sainthood and so did a scan regarding the recent canonization of the two popes. I found an interesting article on it from the NY Magazine which discussed the politics of the thing and ended by saying this,

    In church doctrine, saints have to perform two verifiable miracles. That task, though, has become increasingly difficult to accomplish as medical technology now offers rational explanations for events that were once seen as supernatural. Pope John XXIII had in fact been a candidate for sainthood for decades. His candidacy stalled when no one could present convincing evidence of a second miracle. But Pope Francis waived the requirement.

    The second miracle attributed to Pope John Paul arrived just in time — in 2011 — and last summer Francis cleared him for canonization.

    The church has long viewed miracles as proof of a special divine connection, the prime qualification for sainthood. A saint channeled the supernatural powers of the Holy Spirit. Saint Peter, for whom the square in Vatican City is named, has slews of miracles attributed to him, including resurrecting a smoked fish and making dogs talk. Francis apparently understands that the modern Vatican needs new saints as crowd-pleasers, tools for recruiting new followers, and as a means of knitting together a fractious church. He seems intent on canonizing them, even if today’s sainthood is a bit like receiving the Medal of Honor for valorous service – or, in church parlance, for “holiness.”

    Miracles are getting scarce, but acts of God are not. Is anybody paying attention?

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  2. Of course, this discussion wouldn’t be complete without Ann Coulter. Here she is on her blog Aug 6th (http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2014-08-06.html)

    “Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless. But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been “heroic.” We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly’s “unusual drive to help the less fortunate” or his membership in the “Gold Humanism Honor Society.” Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket. Today’s Christians are aces at sacrifice, amazing at serving others, but strangely timid for people who have been given eternal life. They need to buck up, serve their own country, and remind themselves every day of Christ’s words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

    See, Ann’s mad because Dr. Brantley cost his charity $2M just to get him back in the U.S. for treatment. Plus, he’s not a very good Christian or patriot because, well, uh, Ann said so.

    But there is a larger issue here and that is Religion itself. Well, actually it’s the monotheistic religions of Abraham. Virtually all of the chaos in the Middle East that’s going on this moment is because of the conflict between theologies. In other words it’s all God’s fault. Somehow it’s fallen on the U.S., a secular country (laugh, snicker), to somehow keep all these religious factions from killing each other. Or, maybe not. After all, all this fighting is a real boon to the military industrial complex. We provide billions in foreign aid to these countries and they just turn around and spend it to buy more arms — from us!

    Well, I could go on about the dangers of religion on mankind. But the best I’ve seen on that score is from the very same Greta Christina you cite above. It’s on AlterNet in a November, 2009, article titled “The Top One Reason Religion Is Harmful.” See http://www.alternet.org/story/143912/the_top_one_reason_religion_is_harmful?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

    But at the end of the day, it’s Voltaire’s famous proclamation that says it all: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

    Herb

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    • @ Herb,

      Being aware that confirmation bias is epidemic and that I’m not immune, I read Coulter’s diatribe while striving to keep an open mind. I found myself agreeing with her – what other motivation could there be for such missionary zeal than, as she aptly describes it, Christian narcissism? Of course, this ignores her several inane gibes at ObamaCare (brain farts?), but the central reasoning seems right to me. If little children use extreme antics to get father’s attention, what could be more natural than for grown-ups to seek Father’s the same way. But it’s not a sure path to the Pearly Gates. I understand that after decades of working with the poor in the black hole of Calcutta, Sister Theresa admitted doubts to an interviewer.

      By the way, Herb, I enjoyed your op-ed piece on war and international law in the Joplin Globe this morning. I remember having one course on the subject half a century ago and it hasn’t perceptibly changed since as far as I can tell. The best current commentary on the subject (after yours of course) was a political cartoon in this weekend’s USA Today. It showed a Hamas jihaddist standing atop a pile of rubble, shaking his fist, waving his gun, and saying, “Let that be a lesson to you Israelis!”

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    • After the destabilization of Iraq by the neocons in the Bush administration, I’m afraid we no longer have the luxury of staying back and doing nothing, especially given that we owe the Kurdish people a lot. Those ISIS bastards need a heavy dose of American secularism, delivered by cruise missiles and other assorted Hallmark greetings.

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      • If I thought it would do any good, I would agree. There has been sectarian violence in this region of the world for hundreds of years. I doubt that we, even with our European allies can do much to fix it now. Like Will Rogers once astutely observed, “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging!”

        Having said that, I do agree we need to assist the Kurds with humanitarian aid and that aid should be supplied by every other developed nation whose leaders understand that human rights are more than the words in a few documents issued by the UN. (That would thereby exclude China and Russia of course.)

        We should also assure that said aid will be delivered without interference. So if ISIS (or ISIL) persist in interfering with our mission, they should be reminded by of that prohibition by enough made-in-the-USA ordinance raining down on their heads to disabuse them of any notions otherwise. They should also take note of the writing on the sides of our bombs and rockets, which read “FU ISIS.”

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