April 16, 2009
What do people mean when they use the phrase blind faith?
Like many words, this phrase will surely mean different things to different people. I define blind faith as the unquestioning acceptance of statements spoken by an authority, and in my definition, such faith is accompanied by a lack of critical thinking. Going further, blind faith refuses to apply critical thinking even in the face of solid evidence suggesting that the statements being accepted in blind faith may actually be incorrect.
One anti-religious criticism we tend to hear ad nauseum is that religion is based on blind faith. To a certain extent, such can be true, but sweeping generalizations like this always portray a one-sided view of things. There are many, many religious people who do not base their beliefs on blind faith, and just as many irreligious people who do. Humans accept all sorts of statements on blind faith every day, and blind faith is by no means an exclusively religious error.
So without defending or attacking those who accept their religious beliefs on blind faith, I'd like to discuss an area where blind faith and rejection of science are arguably stronger motivators for belief than in religion: and that area is medicine.
The blind faith most Americans accept their medical beliefs with shows a more worrisome rejection of critical thinking than Noah's ark or the idea that God raised a man from the dead. Even if they do accept these beliefs on blind faith, so long as they're not advocating we teach them in biology class there can be little harm in the average believer who accepts religious beliefs on blind faith. Who's it going to hurt if somebody merely believes that life continues after death?
To contrast, statements accepted on blind faith in medicine can be and often are both hazardous and lethal, in the here and now. In the early '90s, congress gave FDA orders to work closely with pharmaceutical firms in getting new medicines to market more swiftly. President Clinton urged FDA leaders to trust industry as “partners, not adversaries.” From 1986 to 1992, the FDA approved over 500 new drugs with a median review time of 24.5 months. From 1993-1999, the FDA has approved 639 new drugs, with the median review time dropping to 16.2 months. (Lundblad, L.A. Times)
Of them, Lotronex, a drug prescribed for treating “irritable bowel syndrome,” was linked to five deaths and the removal of one patient’s colon. It was pulled from the market in November of 2000. Opposition was raised by medical reviewers, yet ignored.
The popular diet pill Redux was approved in April 1996 despite an advisory committee’s vote against it. It was pulled in September 1997 after heart-valve damage was detected in patients put on the drug. The FDA later received reports identifying Redux as a suspect in potentially as many as 123 deaths.
The antibiotic Raxar was approved in November 1997. Evidence that it may have caused several fatal heart-rhythm disruptions in clinical studies was ignored. FDA officials chose to exclude any mention of the deaths from the product’s label. The maker of Raxar, cited as suspect in thirteen deaths, withdrew it in October 1999.
Posicor, a blood pressure medication approved in June 1997, was withdrawn one year later. It was approved despite evidence that it might fatally disrupt heart rhythm and interact adversely with other drugs. FDA reports cited Posicor as a contributing factor in 100 deaths.
The painkiller Duract was approved in July 1997 after FDA medical officers warned repeatedly of the drug’s liver toxicity. The drug was pulled eleven months later. By late 1998, the FDA had received voluntary reports citing Duract as a suspect in 68 deaths, including liver failure in seventeen of them.
A diabetes drug called Rezulin was approved in January 1997 over a medical officer’s detailed opposition, and was withdrawn March 2000 after the agency had linked 91 liver failures to the pill. Rezulin is suspect in almost 400 deaths.
The nighttime heartburn drug Propulsid has been cited in 302 confirmed heart-rhythm deaths since it’s approval in 1993. It was pulled in July 2000. It was approved despite evidence of its potential danger. The agency never warned warned doctors not to administer the drug to infants or other children, even though eight youngsters in clinical studies had died. It was widely prescribed by pediatricians for infants afflicted with “gastric reflux,” a common digestive disorder.
In every one of these cases there are similarities, each lethal drug was approved against specific medical evidence that contested otherwise, but that's a whole other story that involves a conglomeration of conflicting interests I'd rather not begin to untangle here. Incidentally, four of the drugs were prescribed for conditions that could be reasonably remedied by living in harmony with natural law instead of revolting against it: irritable bowel syndrome, gastric reflux, obesity, and high blood pressure. The sixth drug was a painkiller, the seventh and antibiotic.
I was about to walk to walk over to a buddy's house the other night when I noticed a fresh, crisp-looking apple sitting on the kitchen counter. I hadn't eaten an apple in months, and when I looked at it, my body sent very clear signals suggesting that I should eat the apple. When I got to my buddy's house, another friend happened to stop by, and I noticed he also had an apple. This coincidence is definite proof that God exists (okay, I'm just kidding with that last part).
Many critics of religion like to introduce the most extreme and absurd examples they can find of blind faith leading to death and tragedy. Despite the fact that a reasonable diet can address many of these symptoms, my real concern and the whole point of writing this post is to highlight the fact that blind faith leads to lethal consequences everyday in this country, and is not any specific ailment of the religious in particular.