When religion and tradition are debated, the final refrain of those who defend the indefensible is often "What's the harm?" If it brings them comfort and happiness, why does it matter what people believe in? How does it hurt anybody else?
On March 23rd of 2008, an eleven year old girl died for her parent's beliefs. Two Humans ignored the Science of Biology, and when their magics failed them it was an innocent little girl who paid the price. She will never run or laugh or breathe or move again.
from NBC News
According to the case records, Kara had been showing symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration for more than a week, but her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, refused to take her to a pediatrician, and decided to respond to her illness with prayer, not medicine.
A pediatrician testified that Kara's disease was highly treatable and that her chances of survival were high until "well into the day of her death."
The Neumanns don't belong to any particular church, but they identify as Pentecostals, according to factual findings in the court record, none of which the Neumanns disputed. Some Pentecostals — but by no means all — believe that prayer and strong religious belief can cure all illnesses, a tradition that helped give rise to famous "faith healers" like Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn.
Make no mistake, faith-healing is not a rare and fringe behavior. It's a scam that's run in countries all across the globe, victimizing the vulnerable. Faith-healing kills people and takes their money.
And while it's arguably the most vile, this is far from the only scam that the charlatans are running as they take advantage of people's hopes and fears. Most only consume their prey's time and money and trust, but they are no less insidious in their methods.
As Kara weakened, the Neumanns asked family and friends to pray for her, too. The day before his daughter died, Dale Neumann posted a message on a Christian listserv with the subject line "Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!"
"We need agreement in prayer over our youngest daughter, who is very weak and pale at the moment with hardly any strength," the message said.
The next day, Easter Sunday, at least two family friends called 911 on Kara's behalf. Paramedics found no pulse, and attempts to revive Kara at the hospital failed.
Dale Neumann testified that he knew Kara was sick but never thought she might die. In fact, he testified that he thought that Jesus would bring her back from the dead, as he did with Lazarus in the Gospel of John.
And yet, despite this we persist in protecting these behaviors; socially it's considered rude to criticize these ideas, and legally it's sometimes impossible. 'Faith' (the insistent belief in an idea against all evidence and logic) is considered a virtue. 'Tradition' (ritualization of the dead past) is considered sacred. Believers wear these illusions like armor, and no one is allowed to tell them how vulnerable they really are.
The idea that 'beliefs' must be treated with difference and superficial respect simply because they are believed in is harmful to our species. The idea that we must not expect people to defend their indefensible claims restrains our ability to progress. By not questioning or criticizing or pressing for evidence, we allow these weak and toxic ideas to live on indefinitely.
In no other intellectual endeavor are the words "Well, that's just what I believe" granted any authority. Tell a mathematician that you deeply believe 2+2=5, or tell a geologist that you reject plate tectonics, or tell a physicist that gravity is 'just a theory'. Each will tell you exactly why and how you are wrong and stupid; it is their duty to do so. Yet biologists expected to pull their punches when explaining evolution.
Not all ideas are equally valid.
Wisconsin is among 17 states that allow religious defenses against felony charges of crimes against children, according to records compiled by Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a nonprofit activist group that opposes religious exceptions to child health and safety laws.
The Neumanns contended that their convictions were unconstitutional because of the state's law that allows residents to pursue "treatment through prayer." They said the law clashed with the state's reckless homicide law, which calls for intervention when someone is at a point of "substantial risk of death.
Because Kara's symptoms were hard to identify, they argued, they had no way to know when their prayer decision crossed the line into crime.
But the Supreme Court disagreed in a 6-1 ruling, upholding the Neumanns' sentences, which call for each of them to serve a month in jail every year for six years and 10 years' probation.
Things are changing though. Evolution describes more than just the biological process of adaptation, it applies to social adaptation as well. It's a process that can't truly be stopped or controlled. Those who refuse to adapt inevitably perish, and slowly but surely obsolete ideas must die.