Terri Schiavo news

So today Terri Schiavo is scheduled to have her feeding tube removed. Will it actually happen? I have no idea. (Update: Zuzu in the comments reports that Terri’s feeding tube has now been removed.) But even if her feeding tube is removed today, her body won’t die for a week or two, so this issue isn’t over.

Today, two Houses of Representatives – Florida’s and the country’s – passed laws intending to save Schiavo. Neither Senate went along, however. The newest delaying tactic is to subpoena Terri to testify before Congress (and forbidding anyone from removing her feeding tube in the meanwhile). Currently it appears that her feeding tube will be removed regardless. The subpoena seems to me almost a mockery – Terri can no more answer congress’ questions than she can fly counterclockwise around the Earth to turn time backwards. Several bloggers, who feel the same way I do, are pissed off by this latest development, and by the perceived cynicism – see Schussman.com, Stone Court, and Rude Pundit (who, I should warn you, lives up to her/his name).

But I realize that folks on the other side don’t look at it the same way. Some activists are going on a hunger strike to protest; I’m appalled, but I nonetheless admire their idealism and dedication. I hope they don’t harm themselves.

* * *

I hesitate to publish these next images. I’ve decided I’m going to, because the physical condition of Terri Schiavo’s brain is essential to any serious discussion of Terri Schiavo’s condition. By including these images, I don’t intend any disrespect to Terri Schaivo whatsoever.

On the left is a CT scan of Terri Schiavo’s brain (source). On the right, for comparison’s sake, is a CT scan of a healthy human brain. (You may also find it useful to look at these medical illustrations of the human brain, here and here.)

CT scan of Terri Schiavo's brain.

As I understand it – and goodness knows, I’m no doctor – the sparsely detailed dark areas in Terri’s CT scan (both the large dark area in the center and the smaller dark areas around the edges) are where Terri’s brain has been replaced with brain fluid. To quote myself: The conclusion the court came to is that, based on medical testimony and Terri’s CAT scan, her cerebral cortex has basically turned to liquid. The cerebral cortex is the seat of all our higher brain functions. Without a cerebral cortex, it is impossible for a human being to experience thought, emotions, consciousness, pain, pleasure, or anything at all; nor, barring a miracle, is it possible for a patient lacking a cerebral cortex to recover.

* * *

I’m not convinced that there is any legitimate doubt on this point. A National Review article (hat tip: Bob Hayes) quotes a few doctors arguing that CT scans are “useful only in pretty severe cases”; but what has happened to Terri Schiavo’s brain is, in fact, very severe.

When people argue that a CT scan could not possibly tell us anything about Terri Schiavo’s condition, logically they must believe one of the following two things:

1) CT scans cannot reliably detect when someone’s cortex has mostly turned to liquid.


2) That someone’s cortex has turned mostly to liquid does not tell us anything important about their condition.

I don’t think either of those propositions are defensible; therefore, I don’t think the proposition “a CT scan can’t tell us anything about Terri Schiavo’s condition” is defensible.

Finally, the National Review article implies that there’s some sort of death-cult conspiracy between the judge and the doctors to hide Terri’s true condition. I think that sort of conspiratorial thinking is ridiculous. But in any case, for it to be correct, it’s not only Michael Schiavo, the judge, and the two doctors hired by Michael who would have to be in on it; two court-appointed doctors and at least three more judges (pdf link) must be in on the conspiracy too. Not to mention all the other medical experts who have commented on the case and disagreed with the National Review’s conclusions (see the neurologists quoted in this article, for example). How far does the conspiracy go?

* * *

I thought this Abstract Appeal post – explaining why the question of “would Terri Schiavo have wanted to be kept alive?” wouldn’t normally come up during the malpractice lawsuit – was particularly well done. In general (and I know I’ve said this before), Abstract Appeal is the absolute-must-read blog for Terri Schiavo related news.

* * *

UPDATE: I’ve edited the post to remove an argument that I didn’t think I could stand behind; I’ve put the argument in the comments for posterity’s sake. I’ve also “promoted” an argument I made in the comments to the main post.

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235 Responses to Terri Schiavo news

  1. 201
    C. Snyder says:

    Sorry to leave you in suspense, it was indeed the Catholic priest (he may even have been a bishop) who felt, from a religious standpoint, that pulling the tube was justifiable.
    I don’t watch the news oft, but let me see if I can figure out what program it was & find a link.

  2. Interesting, C.Snyder. I, of course, believe you.

  3. 203
    C. Snyder says:

    Ok, it was the Abrams report…

    FATHER KEVIN O’ROURKE, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY: We don’t keep everybody alive as long as possible, and in the Catholic tradition, we have always maintained that there does come a time when perhaps it’s best to withdraw life support because it’s not doing the patient any good.

    In the Catholic tradition, we describe that as looking for the hope of benefit and the burden that might be involved. And in so far as people in a persistent vegetative state is concerned, we do believe that their life should be prolonged, unless there is an excessive burden, and in this case I think the burden has been demonstrated.

    The transcript of the whole program:

    The interview with Randall Terry is a fun read.

  4. (Interesting, WorkPress doesn’t automatically close dangling links.)

    We have to stop thinking that the word of a judge equals the rule of law, because it isn’t.

    That’s a Randall Terry quote. Interesting theory of the Constitution he has there.

  5. Thanks for posting the O’Rourke statement, C.Snyder.

  6. ABC News is reporting that after Judge Greer hears their latest appeal, the one based upon the “Awwwww Waaaaa” claim, the Schindlers have stated they will file no further appeals.

  7. 207
    Sunsara Taylor says:

    Vchong Says: “That’s why my previous post suggested the court should require a unaimous vote from the immediate family as in the case of a quilty verdict for a death sentence case.”?

    Oh, contraire! She is not being “put to death”? or “starved to death.”? Both of those things require the ACTIVE INTERVENTION into someone’s life processes. Instead, what is being done is that after 15 years, about 26 court hearings before about 30 judges determining that it was her wish to not live in such a state, doctors are going to CEASE INTERVENING. A feeding tube is an intrusive intervention into one’s life processes.

    You make it sound like she is going to be prevented from feeding herself! No, she is going to be allowed to have the natural processes of death take their course. This is natural, humane, and is very common.

    Vchong Says: “For Michael, he can just walk away and forget about Terri’s body and go on with his life. Terri’s parent would take up the responsibility they ask for. As for the court, is it afraid that the body they said cannot feel anything will suffer because the parent want to take care of it?”?

    I am tired of Michael being portrayed like a monster! He is, in the face of grand accusations and protests in front of his house by many of the same forces who protested in front of abortion clinics while doctors were being murdered, in the face of massive assault on his character, trying to carry out the wishes of his wife. I don’t know what gives him the strength ““ but I’d like to commend him! And thank him!

    As for her parents ““ I don’t know where they are coming from fully and I don’t doubt their anguish at what has been going on with their daughter. But, in doing this they have allowed their daughter to be turned into the posterchild for a Christian fascist movement that has steadily and increasingly been trampling the separation of church and state and bringing about a theocracy, where the Bible becomes the law of the land. Folks like Terry Randall and Flip Benham don’t care consistently about “life”? ““ I haven’t heard a peep from them about the 100,000 dead Iraqi’s from a war based on LIES and EMPIRE! I haven’t heard them condemn the stuff in the Bible about how non-virgin brides should be stoned to death, saying that homosexuals should be executed, saying that rebellious children should be killed and condoning slavery. They manipulate the assumptions of most Christians and other good people to rope them into a fascistic, theocratic, highly repressive and deadly program ““ they really are just using this case.

    And you should think about what you are advocating: that the system of checks and balances in this country, the separation of the 3 branches of government be disregarded. That men like George Bush ““ who LIED REPEATEDLY about Iraq, who executed dozens of death row inmates as governor ““ and Bill Frist (who refuses to deny that AIDS can be spread through sweat or tears) ““ be able to make their will law without any intervention by any other section of government? Even against the overwhelming opposition of the population of the whole country (even of white evangelicals) to what they are doing?!?!

    Vchong Says: “On the contrary, to allow a body to die like a flower withering is so inhuman I cannot believe there are people supporting that. It is extremely stupid to me. Imagine Terri’s parent watching the body wither. It is like their daughter dies a second time, and this time, only more horrifying.”? What? There is nothing more human than the processes of life and death of human beings. If what you meant was “inhumane”? ““ this too is absurd. A body’s natural refusal to take in food or drink (which is what the feeding tube is intrusively overriding) is commonly a way that a body triggers itself to bring to an end a life which cannot recover.

  8. The New York Times is reporting Judge Greer of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court has denied the latest and apparently last request of the Schindlers to reconnect the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo Incapacited.

  9. 210
    secant says:

    The notion that poor Michael Schiavo can merely “walk away and get on with his life” is absurd, unthinking, unfeeling, and cruel.

    Few men have been through what he has been through, and cared for his hopelessly ill wife with such thoroughness, patience, and grace.

    I am in awe of Michael’s accomplishments and his ability to stay above the Schindler’s hysterics and melodrama.

    What the Schindlers have said about him and done to him is unforgiveable. That their followers are willing to murder an innocent man and a faithful judge truly defines the insanity of their cause.

  10. 211
    Ampersand says:

    I think that the Schindlers are very forgivable; I think the pain of losing a child must be horrible, and I’m sure they’re sincere in trying to save their daughters life.

    I don’t think the political operatives taking advantage of the Schindlers pain are so forgivable, however.

  11. 212
    chaizzilla says:

    these are the ravings of a society driven mad by its own hypocrisy, lies, intellectual impotence. we are in no condition to know what the f* to do about these things. we don’t have the relationship with one another, between the system that was supposed to be by us, of us, for us, etc. as long as starvation without a whole lotta drugs to absolutely rule out suffering is not an option, this is a crappy road to take. even if i didn’t want to be kept alive in x y or z state, the reasoning from where that decision would come wouldn’t last long in agony i would have no way of understanding. we don’t have a civilisation where life support for someone so far gone isn’t destructive. admitting that does not mean we stop doing it, it means we get honest about what we want and what is going on, what we are and not what we claim to be. we have the means, not the civilisation. the option to die in comfort should be a given. it’s crazy that we can’t answer a whole bunch of questions so that our understanding of the right to die is understood, and in doing so and documenting ourselves as the identity who answered these questions and gave answers for questions to which we might not be in a position to respond (and no, there’s no guarantee we won’t howl like hell in silence wishing we hadn’t made that decision before losing the ability to communicate having changed our mind, or at least that we are here) we give the world a break from the horror of not having all the answers. it seems a fair trade for the world at least letting us die the pleasant death a thousand terrible deaths were not as i wrote this.

  12. 213
    Steven Dzik says:

    The images you are showing are comparing apples to oranges. The healthy brain you show was taken from a different part of the brain. Even a healthy brain has ventricles (the two big black areas in the Schiavo image). Only they would be much smaller.

    I do not know what the right course is in this case. But I do know your image comparison is not really valid.

  13. 214
    Vchong says:

    I understand the points made in response to my post. Perhaps this case is clear cut. My post was more about how to handle vegetative state cases, do we need a legal frame work to go by as who can decide aother’s fate? I am not familiar with current law. The fact that this case lasted so long is an indication something is missing. Do we leave it to the decision of a spouse or the parent or both? Or the judge and pray that every judge makes good decision? Sometimes, it is not so much about what make sense scientifically but what matters to who. Again, I am not addressing this case in particular but the issue of deciding vegetative state in general.

  14. 215
    secant says:

    Parents lose their children every day. For some, life goes on. For others, the pain is unremitting. One friend lost his spirit when his 10 year old died while sledding, and his other children paid the price for his lifetime of grief. Another friend “bounced back” and speaks of the happiness his child brought. One woman, whose son was killed in a work accident, was gracious beyond words to the medical facility and personnel who tried to save her son, and built a memorial in the hospital to honor her son.

    People handle grief in different ways.

    That said, the Schindlers have had 15 years to prepare, and their actions and responses are unusual to say the least. The notion of calling others “murderers” while not acknowledging that the initial condition was most probably brought about by their daughter’s lifestyle choices is dishonest. It is clearly an “error of omission.” No parent wants to blame their child, but to ignore her involvement while calling her husband a “murderer” is more than grief speaking.

    It was stunning to hear Mrs. Schindler claim that the medical facility was “starving” her daughter. Certainly such a statement implies not just mere negligence, but also planning, preparation, and execution. Mrs. Schindler could not really believe that the clinic was “starving” her daughter and that they would “stop” once she reported their dastardly deed, and enough people made enough of a fuss. Yet, that is what Mrs. Schindler led her followers (and their young children) to believe. The supporters were arrested for “taking water to Terri” and Mrs. Schindler didn’t seem to stop them. She didn’t seem to notice that they were going to jail. Mr. Schindler then blamed Governor Bush for “putting Terri through a week of hell.” To attack the Governor, who has been on his side and tried to help for years (and actually ordered the reinsertion of the tube in 2003), is shocking, cold, and ungrateful. Even the most anti-Jeb Bush voter knows that Jeb didn’t do a thing to Terri. Again, this was more than grief talking. This was manipulative and dishonest.

    The Schindler’s are determined to keep Terri alive yet they seem quite comfortable with the concept of murder. They easily call Michael a murderer and when one of their followers decides to murder Michael, they say nothing in any of their almost continuous press conferences.

    I have worked in the ICU for many years and I have never observed parents who behave like the Schindlers. I have wracked my brain to think of any similar behavior and I can find none.

    Perhaps the main difference is that most people are in a state of shock when death is sudden (such as accidents) or they are sadly resigned when death is due to a progressive condition.

    In either case, behavior is “predictable” no matter what the parents background. Their grief manifests in shock when death is sudden or they exhibit a profound sadness when it follows a terminal illness.

    In the case of the Schindlers they seem “practiced.” They seem like actors. Perhaps that is because Terri’s case has been so public for so many years. At any rate, their behavior is unique. But then, I can’t remember a situation where it follows that parents are able to collect great sums of money from total strangers for the singular reason that their child’s body is alive but facing death.

    That too is unique.

  15. 216
    Dr. Alex Alaniz says:

    1. Should religion…as opposed to faith in a god or gods…be discouraged?

    1.1 Let’s rid ourselves of the pernicious tendencies of religion and get our religion dividend.

    Beyond the history of religion as a pernicious force, with its inquisitions, holy wars, and other such historical charms, and beyond its continuing ability to divide (consider President Bush’s quote, “God is on our side.” versus President Lincoln’s milder, “I hope we are on God’s side.”?), religion exacts a heavy tax on the development of our civilization that can be measured in lives lost due to wasted effort. How much time, money and effort has gone into filling the coffers of Jimmy Swaggart and charlatans of his ilk, or popes and other such more mainstream religious leaders? Could not the monies for building and maintaining glorious new churches instead be donated to cure cancer? Science does work. Childhood leukemias, for example, are now highly curable, whereas a mere 50 years ago they were nearly always fatal death sentences. Or how about putting some of that wasted “church”? money into education for better schools and higher paid teachers? There are likely thousands of worthy causes struggling for cash that is otherwise wasted on religion. But wait you say! Religions do contribute to good causes. Certainly some nominal amount of church monies do go into cancer research and other good causes. But what fraction of it? Half? I doubt it. So cut out the middle man and send 100% of the cash to the good causes. Then instead of wasting time at church functions, people could put time into their communities. Again, yes I realize that some nominal amount of church time is spent on improving communities. But what fraction of it? Half. I doubt it. Cut out the middle man, and while you’re cutting out the middle man, cut out the hypocrisy as well. Why do good members of faith X, Y or Z do their good deeds and donate their coins of silver, or some of their hours, or even their very own lives? Is from out of the goodness of their own hearts, or for the reward of life after death for Christians or a harem for suicide bombers, etcetera? One can never trust that the religious do good deeds…like Christianize savages or pray to their god(s)…strictly out of the goodness of their own hearts. One must always suspect that the religious are to some degree motivated to save their own skins and, perhaps, the skins of those they care about. Although I don’t believe the phrase that there are no atheists in foxholes, I must always believe that the motives of the faithful are suspect at best, if not altogether disingenuous.

    2. What is wrong with morality based on religion?

    2.1 NO DOUBT there is trouble with religion.

    This, NO DOUBT, is what most religions are predicated on. No doubt equals faith and conversely, and having NO DOUBT is the innate trouble of most religious doctrine. I believe that history shows that Hitler could not have come into power without the support of Christian peoples, and that if he had succeeded, it has been argued that he would have pushed for a new Nazi-based religion against the traditional religions to make his views more palatable. In this way religion, by its very own construct of NO DOUBT, is innately pernicious, because only under a moral philosophy of NO DOUBT can entire hordes of religiously motivated people throughout the ages, by reason of their NO DOUBT faith, become holy warriors, KKK nuts, al Qaeda members, witch burners, lynchers, homophobes, misogynists, child molesters, and other numerous types of nefarious -obes, -ists and -ers in order to raze entire civilizations, pillage, plunder, murder, maim, destroy, burn books, imprison scholars, discriminate, rape, butcher, segregate, and slowly eviscerate other peoples. And the vast majority of these religiously motivated people committed these crimes and atrocities against humanity without a doubt in their minds for they were following the will of their god(s) NO DOUBT.

    2.2 Does lack of religion imply degeneracy?
    If there is no religion, no faith in God, then what? Can there be no morality as Immanuel Kant would insist? Why does religion have to equate to morality? How many millions of atheists are there out there following the same basic morals of the faithful? Don’t kill, steal, cheat, help others, and so forth, these kinds of ethical rules need not have anything to do with religion. These morals, which try to hem our wanton natures, make good sense if one wants to enjoy the fruits of civilization. Does the lack of religion make the enforcement of such morals impossible? Ask the millions of atheists who aren’t busy chopping tens of thousands peoples with machetes or molesting children.

    3. Can there be alternative, less dangerous moralities?

    3.1 Morality based on the scientific method is less arrogant and thus less dangerous.
    The scientific method is based on doubt up to reproducibility and error bars. Cold fusion so far has turned out to be some much bovine poop, as cannot yet be reproduced in other, independent labs. Newton’s law of (scalar) gravity, on the other hand, worked well within a large range of scales and phenomenology. Experiments and/or observations began to show cracks in Newton’s law of (scalar) gravity. The planet Mercury, with its exposure to a stronger part of the sun’s tensor (curved space-time) gravity field could not be made to jive with Newtonian gravity. Einstein’s more general theory of gravity, namely general relativity, took care of this and other discrepancies with Newtonian gravity, and we know of no experimental violations of this theory to date! Yet we doubt Einstein’s theory is complete. Of late, Gravity B probe is out and about testing general relativity as I type this essay, and though it is expected to verify general relativity, physicists fully expect that someday, with sufficient technology, the experiment will come that shows cracks in Einstein’s general relativity. Personally, at least a small part of me wouldn’t be completely surprised if, suspecting some deeper physics, the force of gravity just plum quit working one day. Still, if NASA, or a working space agency offered me a ride to Mars, I’d take my chances with Sir Newton.
    Getting back to human morality, the innate doubt of the scientific method, should, if we adopt it as a basis for our general morality, make us more humble citizens of the universe. In a world where people shunned NO DOUBT religious faith, and instead searched for demonstrable, defendable, repeatable facts both scientifically and logically, it seems likely there would be less risk of committing holy war and other such crimes. People would categorize their belief systems according to their applicability, testability, utility, reproducibility and probability over other competing models within the error bars. They would realize that there can be no ultimate theory of truth, just models with certain ranges of utility. People such as these would, hopefully, be decent people in the conventional sense of not stealing, cheating, killing, etcetera., and would, recognizing that humans also have wanton tendencies, bind themselves to secular laws designed to prevent crime and corruption for the better good of civilization. Please don’t cite the failed Soviet Union (and other such “godless”? experiments) as a case in point that godless people can be evil as well. Religion didn’t die in the Soviet Union. It went underground. I agree however that godless peoples can be as evil as god(s) fearing peoples, especially if they have substituted one kind of NO DOUBT faith for another kind…say sports…but it seems less easy to incite a bunch of doubting Thomas’ to bash people’s brains in than Christians or Muslims say over a game of soccer or some holy relic.

    4. Must we believe in god(s)?

    4.1 One can’t prove existence or non-existence of God. One must have faith! Or not.

    Immanuel Kant proved that we humans can’t prove the existence of God. Still, he thought faith (if not proof) of God’s existence made sense. He used a design type argument. If a watch needs an intelligent watch maker, then our complex world too, it seems, needs an intelligent creator. He could not have been aware of modern, corrected versions of Miller’s experiments that show that within weeks or less…forget about a billion years…complex molecules required for life as we know it can form from primordial soups, or be dumped on our unwary heads from meteorites. Immanuel Kant also thought that lack of faith in god(s) would make it impossible for civilization to arise. We’d all be killing each other off like godless Native American savages, the very way the millions of today’s atheists…errr God fearing warmongers…are wont to do all the time.
    In its simplest form, Occam’s razor states that explanations should never multiply causes without necessity. When two explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable. Kant, ignoring Occam’s razor for one reason or another, failed to consider the possibility that we humans inhabit only one of infinitely many universes, with this one universe allowing for the spontaneous evolution of life from a primordial soup of chemicals. Again, amino acids, which can be found in meteorites and cold, blue balls of space gas, can get “created”? in simulated, corrected primitive Earth environments. In this case (infinitely many universes), we don’t need an intelligent creator. This is not to say, however, that god(s) cannot exist. One can no more prove the existence of god(s) than their non-existence, but of this more will come down below.

    4.2 Occam’s razor, it’s not a close shave man.
    Imagining a world without religion, I would hope that its people would prefer, using Occam’s razor, to think of their existence as having no explanation, and of having no special purpose…Steve Martin’s special purpose aside…other than what they made of their own existence while they lived. They would be godless, and they would, hopefully, be driven to help each other out, not for eternal life in, say a harem, but out of the goodness of their own hearts, and/or out of some honest to goodness economic necessity so that they could enjoy the fruits of civilization over dwelling in caves. Presupposed in this imaginary world is the supposition that its “laws”? of physical nature would be as fairly “reliable”? as our physical “laws”? seem to be, else, if gravity turned itself on or off depending on the price of rice in China, I’d think it hard to imagine life evolving, let alone getting civilized.

    4.3 But what about salvation?

    Tough! When you die you D-E-A-D. Until we figure out how to cure aging and disease, and perhaps transform ourselves into more advanced types of indefinitely long lived beings, we die, and our lives will have had no meaning other than, perhaps, the quality of our children we raised and what we contributed to the better good of humanity whilst we lived. Eventually, though, as Marcus Aurelius noted, even this personal meaning to our lives would fade into time immemorial.

    4.4 God is nuts!

    The alternative to believing we are nothing special via Occam’s razor, is to believe we are something special in the eyes of some higher being, and this requires throwing logic out the window. If the higher being is simply a more scientifically and technologically developed being (or beings), then this is the least of the illogical alternatives to believing we are nothing special. Hey, humanity is little BloGorg’s 1st grade exobiology lab experiment. Maybe this is why, given little BloGorg’s inexperience and grubby hands, that vast portions of humanity’s history has and continues to suck. If, however, we chose to have faith in a perfect, eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent God, then we have real logical and egomaniacal problems! Let us consider a few:

    4.5 Can an omnipotent god make a burrito so hot even he can’t eat it?

    In many religious systems we are asked to believe that a god, who knew an eternity before creating us exactly what would happen after he/she/it created us, namely, that we would screw things up, will punish the wicked and reward the good. What? Say again! Given his/her/its omniscience, I say the wicked were condemned an eternity before they ever saw the light of day. Isn’t this predetermination? We then must conclude that the supposedly perfect creator (of ALL things) is the screw up. In light of his/her/its omniscience, how dare he/she/it punish (typically by roasting the wicked in hell) a single human being, and demand from the rest of us that we worship him lest we suffer the same fate as the wicked? Doesn’t the buck stop with HIM/HER/IT? If so, then he/she/it is the mother/father/progenitor of all masochists. Given just this first step into an infinitely illogical morass of believing in omniscient, omnipotent, eternal gods of love, how are we supposed to reconcile a perfect creator with an imperfect system that is predetermined by his/her/its omniscience without just giving up basic logic and selling our souls to some utterly indefensible bullshit faith-based scheme? Then, going down the slippery slope to my damnation, I ask myself just why would a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal being need the worship of lowly humans? To satisfy a really, really weak ego? I don’t thinks so. To me a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal being is a dead lump of nothing that would suffer zero motivation for doing anything. Create, or do anything, but what for? He/she/it knows the outcome, hence he/she/it would have zero motivation. (Have you seen the old TV commercial, “been there, done that”?) Someone, countering this line, once asked me, why should I procreate? You know what the kid will do he stated in defense of his purported god. The kid, predictably so, will breath, drink water, learn to read, and so on. I procreate…accidents aside…because I am not perfect, eternal, omnipotent nor omniscient, and ’cause sex feeeels good. It’s in my genes! And I simply don’t know whether my kids will become mass murderers or land on Mars. Their world will constantly change. Science will reveal whole new domains for exploration. Lacking omniscience allows for the possibility, if not the guarantee of motivation.
    I know that some of you who read these arguments for dropping god (or gods) will cite the “father analogy” when I will point out the misery of the human condition. “When you were a kid,”? they will say to me, “and your father denied you ice cream as a punishment, he was doing it for your own good, to protect you, to teach a lesson, and so forth. As a child, you could not have understood his logic, and you probably thought he was being a bad guy for no good reason. He (assuming a Christian god) is our Father and we are His children.”? For hours they will droll on in their brainwashed fashion. In response to this insupportable analogy, I will reply that my father was not a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal being. The god being foisted on me supposedly is. This is a FUNDAMENTAL distinction people never seem to realize when they drop their father analogy. And, counter to those who, using the father analogy, claim we are too pea-brained to understand God, I claim that we humans are sufficiently intelligent to question God. We should, as a few religious people will accede to, have the right to ask, “If you are perfect, eternal, omnipotent and omniscient, then why X, Y and Z?”? I’m not arrogantly claiming that we would have the ability to understand this kind of God’s mastery of science and mathematics beyond M theory. I’m asking basic questions and pointing out self-evident contradictions like, “How can you condemn Hitler when YOU created him?”? Finally, again, if I’m too pea-brained to ask God questions, wouldn’t I be too pea-brained to worship Him even after becoming a human adult? Perhaps a prayer in obeisance is to him/her/it what a dog/cat/rat lick is to us?

    Yet another related defensive tact on behalf of god(s) goes along the lines, without bad you can’t have good, that’s why we have bad in god’s world, so that we learn and appreciate things. What good comes of genocide? What lesson did the annihilated peoples, the children, mothers and fathers, learn? What benefit is conferred when a five year old child dies of cancer after years of misery? God had to create a child to teach his parents a lesson? To make them pray to him? To help pay for Bob the oncologist’s shiny new sports car? Or god, the omnipotent, as some say, needed little Ricky’s help in heaven? Really? I thought we humans were too pea-brained to understand him. Ricky must have been far more special than we thought. Truly I say to thee that the variations of the illogical contradictions of an omnipotent, eternal, perfect, omniscient god of love are countless.

    5. Why should religion and faith in God should die?

    5.1 Religion should die because of sections 2 thru 3, and faith in God should die because of section number 4.

    6. Does killing religion and god(s) save humanity?

    6.1 An a-religious humanity following a doubt-based morality is not guaranteed survival.

    A humongous comet may yet squash us…or a planet of atheists…like the insignificant bugs that we are…splat! We humans, because we are innately competitive, and have difficulties with basic morality (e.g., we kill, steal, cheat, and so forth, and typically in the name of god) may yet treat ourselves to nuclear winter or death by advanced viral weapons. Yet, given that the scientific method based morality can be equated with DOUBT and that religious practice can be equated with NO DOUBT, it seems reasonable to believe that an a-religious world would be a bit more stable and likely to survive than a religious world. After all, a herd mentality requires a threshold number of initiators, and if there are less initiators there is a reduced likelihood to herd. Who do you see as more likely to cause trouble, a group of like-minded fanatics with NO DOUBT in their belief system, or a tough looking group of rowdy doubting Thomas’.

    7. Is science Lily-white?

    7.1 Since I seem to be advocating scientific, doubt based morality over a religion based morality, I’m sure people will point out the dark ways of science. First of all, science is us just as much as religion has been a part of us. No us, no religion or science.

    Does science bring us evil? A-bombs? H-bombs? Sure it does, but when was the last time we had a full-blown world war? And how many American and Japanese lives were saved by using Fat Man and Little Boy? Or was President Truman an agent of Satan sent out to deliver the handiwork of demonic scientists? History will show that fifty-nine atomic bomb scientists signed a petition to President Truman asking him to instead demonstrate the bomb’s power to the Japanese on a remote island. Are there and have there been evil scientists? Yes. Are there are and have there been arrogant scientists? Yes. Have (and do) some scientists get tempted to play God? Yes. Are there and have there been evil priests? Yes. Are there and have there been arrogant popes? Yes. Have (and do) some people of religious faith get tempted to play God? Yes. These points, picking out individuals from a population, are not THE POINT. Scientists do not make the scientific method any more than religious leaders make up religious malpractice.

    By the way, we goody-two-shoes Americans, the plain speaking little folk, are actually doing a nice job of hurting the planet with our massive SUVs appendages requiring boots in Iraq and a simultaneous, two-faced policy towards the Saudi royal, friends of the Bush family, family. We waste and pollute while we go to church without remorse or compunction. We demand our bigger LAND ROVING SUV penises as long as gas is cheap. Now that heating gas is getting pricey, suddenly we high school flunkies of basic science are saying go nuke…a move which I support based on science. We’re also quite okay with kissing the rainforests good-bye, filling them with methane farting cows so long as hamburger patties stay cheap. We, excepting a few deranged do-gooders, generally don’t push for more reasonable uses or our resources, until, that is, it hits us in our pocket books. The bottom line is that if we’re going to make it, it’s going to take all of us. See my article on “Some thoughts concerning law…in a post-Darwinian world of conflict, crime, social inequality,… at Forums, General Discussion, “Some thoughts concerning law, social identity…”? at:

    8. Improving our chances.

    8.1 I say that if we want to improve the lot of humanity, religion must die. Some can point to all the humanitarian good religion has done and continues to do. Though I can’t prove it, I suspect the net harm done in the name of religion far outweighs the net good it has done. A body count of saved versus killed off in the name of God could be one metric amongst others. But how would one count those who have died of cancer and other diseases because decades worth of charity and time have gone into building opulent churches and funding popes and their ilk over basic research?

    8.2 But modern religion is truly enlightened and tolerant you say.

    Some might argue that modern religions are now more enlightened. Which religions? Those practiced in Bosnia? Africa? Iraq? Or by our own homophobic (or was it vote pandering) president? Did President Bush, while he was pandering to homophobic voters, conclude the American constitution needs to be modified via an intellectual path, or out of religious conviction, tantamount to NO DOUBT? I saw him claim on TV that the base of great civilizations have been the union of man and woman. America’s government is modeled after the Greek and Roman states. Does President Bush not know that those toga wearing peoples had no problem with homosexuality? Does President Bush not know that as much as 10% of humanity is genetically predisposed to homosexuality according to an increasingly growing pile of scientific evidence? No. If we are to believe in Bush’s faith in a god, Bush has no god given doubt that homosexuals, as aberrant peoples with sinning ways, do not deserve the same legal rights as heterosexuals…never mind the point that in his universe his god created those sinning gays, some of whom are good enough to fight and die in Iraq, but NOT get married. Religion, even today in an “enlightened” western power, is just as vile as it ever was, and is still preaching holy war. How many times has President Bush stated it is America’s duty to spread freedom, which is God’s gift to humanity? If I had a nickel for every time some two-bit…

    9. Putting logic aside, can religion ever be expected to die?

    9.1 Will religion die?

    Should humanity survive to evolve into post-corporeal beings, then I do believe religion will die, but I don’t expect it to do so in the near future. Not until humanity…should it survive…has transformed itself into beings with indefinitely long lives will the need for religion die. So long as we live but a handful of years, the need for religion and faith in God will continue to exist. There really could be, as some researchers believe, an advantageous “god gene”? locked into our genome passed on from god fearing caveman to god-fearing caveman. When Blogorg ‘believed’ there was a god out there looking out for him, he fought on, but poor, atheist Grung gave up an got eaten by the saber tooth. Thus Blogorg, who got to zug-zug Lana, passed on his genes. When we drop our carbon based bodies, however, we won’t need to pass on our god gene to zug-zug Lana, and it will be adios to the god(s).

    10. A call for atheist preaching!

    In the mean time, given that religion will be with us for some time to come, we godless people must accept and tolerate those religious people among us as they claim to accept and tolerate us…and I’m not trying to be funny. Moreover, just as religious people have a god felt need and duty to save our heathen butts so that all may enjoy some kind of holy paradise tending sheep, we godless people too must do our best to “unsave”? people so that we may all enjoy a more real (Occam’s razor based) reality in a safer, more stable world with more resources going to solve problems than building churches. We have to preach unGod and unSaving logically, as I have tried to do in this post, as well as push to get rid of religious tax exemptions, especially when child molesting priests illegally tip-toe about the law and pander for votes.

    PS…Wouldn’t it be nice if religion, like cigarette packages, came with a warning sign listing off all its completely illogical foundations and inconsistencies, and its innate tendency to do harm thanks to NO DOUBT morals. People…before having to wait until we evolve into more advanced beings…could then decide to believe or not on a more informed basis despite their potential god genes. Science, with its scientific method, does this by definition. WARNING! All theories are subject to change given new data.

    Alex Alaniz, M.S., Ph.D.
    4925 S. Sol
    Los Alamos, NM 87544

  16. 217
    Emmetropia says:

    Can I get an “AMEN”? Alex, consider yourself invited to attend a meeting of Americans United for Separation of Church and State – WNC, the next time you’re in Asheville, NC.

  17. As respectful as I am, Alex, of the rights of people to be atheists, agnostics, pagans, freethinkers, as well as religious, I don’t think the Schiavo case makes the argument for abandoning religion in favor of a purely reasoned worldview any stronger. Indeed, it is heartening for whatever the future might hold, it’s judicial success was an example of the triumph of principled reason over emotion.

    Morever, I believe that only the media love the religious nutcase circus collected about the hospice, in the same way they collected about the home of Apollo 13 astronauts only after the accident in space happened, and not when that mission began. It’s the way they and the public are. I think someone would be very wrong to paint all religious viewpoints with the attitudes of these crazies, even all Catholics and despite what the Vatican or its newspaper might spout.

  18. 219
    Emmetropia says:


    The problem is not that the some individuals, with a love of and flair for drama, are now performing outside the Woodside Hospice. The problem lies with those religious leaders that have been quietly, and effectively infiltrating those decision-making bodies that are making policy for you and I and future generations. I have been observing the stealth like activities of Opus Dei now for over 20 years. My brother is a priest and Opus dei “supporter”. (Family reunions are a riot — the rest of my family is Mormon). Two Supreme Court judges are members. Senator Brownback, a possible candidate in the next Presidential election, recently converted to Catholicism, and is living in an Opus Dei residence in Washington. This organization deserves some serious discussion, not because of the storyline in the Da Vinci Code, but because OD is directing much of the new healthcare policies developed over the last ten years. Many of the nonprofit groups in Washington that are pushing a rightwing agenda, are operated by Opus Dei. Extremely right wing groups like this, encourage big families, and discourage critical thinking. The world is broken down into “us” and “them.” All the noise being perpetuated by the Terri Schiavo case, just detracts from what the real issues are.

  19. Yes, Emmetropia, I agree. The Catholic Church has long had this problem. As I wrote above, I was brought up Catholic, even attended Catholic elementary and secondary school. One of the things that split me off, I believe, was that Vatican II council had happened shortly before and that’s what I learnt while in school. But my parents, who are “conservative Catholics” whose mindset is the 1950s — and I believe parallel to this Opus Dei folks — objected to the things I was reporting, even if it was an official Catholic teaching, because they thought it too liberal.

    I eventually said “rubbish” and turned atheist. I then discovered Judaism after become an adult, and converted to it when I was 27. My final reasons had a lot to do with compatibility with a strongly scientific and mathematical world view I’ve had since a child.

    I don’t know which Supreme Court judges are members, but I bet Antonne Scalia is one. Despite my reservations about Justice Scalia, some of which I made public in my blog, I have since been impressed by his opinions and believe he can easily separate his personal religious beliefs and opinions from those the law, the Constitution, and the court needs to take. That is, after all, what a jurist does. And I have since publicly said I respect him and believe he would make a good Chief Justice, even if Roe v Wade is overturned on his watch. I support Roe v Wade, but if it is overturned, it will be the merits of the case.

    I think this is not about imposition of religious dogma. I think it is about the triumph of emotionalism and superstition over fairness and reason. It is an attempt by some to extinguish some of the bright lights of the Enlightenment caught in our Constitution, an intellectual movement which many Christian — and Islamic and Jewish — leaders found suspect. We need to defend reason, and if that means, as I think you intend, condemning religious powers and authorities of whatever stripe who attack it, I agree with that and support that.

  20. There is a good article on the Schiavo case from Australia, and an op-ed in the Financial Times today by Amity Shlaes. Shlaes unfortunately rapidly leaves the topic of the case and goes on to attack fillibuster and other “parlimentary procedures”. However right her opinion might be, that’s a tangent.

  21. 222
    LMA says:

    For the Opus Dei conspiracy theorists on this blog, read the following article in Newsweek for a more balanced, nuanced view. The article was written by John Allen, a reporter for the (liberal) National Catholic Reporter, who has written a book on Opus Dei

  22. 223
    Kim says:

    I have been reading and researching this case for many years and have concerns at how the judges arrived at their decision to leave Michael as Terri’s guardian, when he has technically abandoned her by living with a woman for ten years and having a family with her. Only on paper does he have a right to say pull the feeding tube, and the courts agreed that he has every right to say if she lives or dies. My biggest concern is not the amount of damage Terri’s brain sustained during her heart attack , how much brain is left and does any of what is left function or not, what is tissue, what is liquid? What did Terri really want and after 15 years what could she want now? I saw her laugh at a joke, that was enough for me. My biggest concerns are that the man given guardianship of Terri is not the quiet, softspoken, loving husband he appears to be. If you believe reports that paramedics called police the night Terri had her heart attack as they felt this was a botched homicide, if you believe her best friend about the multiple bruising on her arms and legs and that she was leaving Michael as she was very unhappy with him. If you believe she had multiple fractures caused by trauma, 14 of them I believe, than this is all too horrifying to imagine and if you believe none of this, than somewhere in between may lie the truth. Sadly, we may never know the full truth. She will die soon, from starvation and dehydration and maybe an intentional morphine overdose, and than Michael will have his final say, Cremation.

  23. 224
    Emmetropia says:


    Even if there wasn’t a hint of conspiracy floating around Opus Dei, I would still believe it to be a supremely destructive force. I have seen two families disintegrate in a black hole of despair after becoming involved with Opus Dei. My sister-in-law who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder, manic depression, and severe anxiety, went off all her med’s after she and her husband returned to the RCC and became involved with Opus dei. After she gave birth to her first child, she suffered from severe postpartum depression, and called me up one day, crying hysterically. She kept fixating on the idea of slamming her infant daughter against the wall. I pleaded with my brother to bring her to the doctor, which he resisted. Finally he got “permission” from his advisor/confessor and was referred to an OD OB/Gyn. His diagnosis? She had failed to understand her role as wife and mother, and wasn’t loving enough. Medication? None. It would destroy her “moral center.” She was instructed to meditate and pray on the life of the Virgin Mary. And they accepted his opinion without question. Their lives have continued in a downward spiral, and they can’t begin to develop any perspective because to step outside the worldview perpetuated by Opus Dei, condemns them to hell. And they are not on the fringes of the organization. He appears on EWTN and is a Catholic apologist. Sorry, I guess I’m not sophisticated enough to appreciate a more nuanced view of the organization.

  24. What a friggin’ monster this Bob Schindler is:

    Schindler likened his 41-year-old daughter’s appearance to that of a concentration camp inmate with sunken face and hollow eyes, and expressed fears that her death could come sooner because of the morphine she’s receiving to ease pain as her body fails.

    “I have a grave concern that they’ll expedite the process to kill her with an overdose of morphine,”? he said.

    This is quoted here.

  25. Regarding Opus Dei or other cracks: There is a strong self-destructive tendency in Catholicism that affects it and its practioners. All religions need to remember that having a religion is optional today. It is not only a question of which religion. These Catholic conservatives are arrogant quacks, acting as if the Church still has or can aspire to great political power. There are also rational sects of the Church, like the Jesuits, who oppose straightforward idiocy, sometimes to their personal loss and that of the Church as a whole.

    Recall, Italy did not come to be until the Church was cut down to size and anti-clerics like the great Garibaldi fought in its cause.

    Until people put their own opinions and thinking first, leaving clerics and the Church to be but mere advisors, I don’t think they’ll progress much.

  26. Michael will have his final say, Cremation.

    That seems implausible along lines of previous suggestions. Mr Schiavo has formally requested the Pinellas County Medical Examiner do a full autopsy on Terri Schiavo to put to rest any question of her condition or causes of death.

    Once again I say and affirm, this is hardly the behavior of someone who has something to hide and wants quickly put aside.

    And by continuing such claims, Kim, you are simply fabricating false propaganda for yourself and the people who want to gain advantage at the expense of the suffering of this poor girl.

  27. Here is an assessment of Opus Dei from what has to be be a balanced source. They are, on the whole, pretty critical.

  28. 229
    LMA says:

    America magazine (published by the Jesuits for nearly 100 years) is hardly unbiased. There has been a long-standing animosity between Opus Dei and the Jesuits for decades, over the “poaching” (the author’s words) of Jesuit novices by Opus Dei. For more, read the Newsweek citation in my earlier post.

  29. 230
    John Galt says:

    For the love of god can we stop talking about Terri already. It’s Elian Gonzales all over again. Will he go back to Cuba which is obviously worse for him, or will he stay in the United States? Who cares?!?! No one has any power over the decision, if you want information on it I’m sure you can contact somebody and they’ll tell you all about it. We’re getting to a point where every moral crisis will be solved by having the eyes of the world on it, who cares about individualism. And why the media all need to echo each other is beyond me. You know what I think this is, I think it’s the media trying to limit immigration. Who wants to move to a country where a family dispute is turned into international news coverage 24/7/365, and almost as an after thought they’re like “yes and by the way, uh, Paris was nuked, there’s been another tsunami, Adolf Hitler has risen from the grave, and uh, Martians have landed”. Terri should be the after thought here, don’t call me black hearted, I’d like to see her live, then again, I’d like to see the millions of children who die of malnutrition live, or what about the murders that have taken place since the Terri case began? Or for pete’s sake, what about the other 40,000 brain damaged people in the USA. The media could cover some 12 year old stepping on an ant and the nation would call for the 12 year old to have a giant foot fall down on him. We as a nation need to grow the fuck up!

  30. And, LMA, I suppose Jesuits aren’t Catholics? If, indeed, there are Catholics opposed to Opus Dei, I would suggest that then Opus Dei can hardly claim they represent Catholicism.

    As for me, even being a convert away from Catholicism, I would support the Jesuits for they, at least, and even if they deny me standing, are intellectuals with a commitment to reason, not the nutso, crazy viewpoint that apparently Opus Dei espouses.

    I would say that if Catholicism has any future, it is with the spirit and thinking of the Jesuits, not that tripe of Opus Dei.

  31. Also LMA, why should I care about what happens to Opus Dei or Catholicism? They are losers.

  32. John Galt, yes, I agree with you that there are millions of people in the world as or more deserving than Terri Schiavo of this attention, whatever her suffering. But there are evil people using her case to promulgate evil. That cannot go unchallenged. Period.

  33. 235
    Ampersand says:

    ANNOUNCEMENT FROM AMP: Considering how long this thread is, I’ve decided to close comments on this post.

    From now on, if you want to continue the discussion, please do so on this new post. Thanks!