Too many accept irrational ideas

Critical thinking can avert tragedy

A failure to resort to human reason cost a young woman her life.

This past week, we read of Kimberly L. Strohecker, who took medication for seizures but was told by a chiropractor that she didn’t need her medicine.

This chiropractor allegedly told Strohecker that she could be cured through the adjustment of mysterious energy fields in the human body that can be manipulated through a method called “reiki.”

Strohecker stopped taking her medicine, suffered severe seizures, and died at the age of 31 in 1999.

These energy fields do not exist. They are based on false science. They are not real.

On the other hand, medical science, while not perfect, is based on facts about the human body.
The medicine Strohecker took worked.

Unfortunately, many Americans readily reject scientific knowledge. People believe in all sorts of nonsense like flying saucers and the big-eyed aliens that fly them. Psychics have no problem making a living and people are more sure that Atlantis existed than they are about the basic facts of history.

This sad state of irrationality is a failure of our education system. Schools simply calibrate young minds to pass standardized tests. Instead, they should mold critical thinkers basing thinking habits on the logical development of epistemologically sound data. Moreover, by the time a student graduates from high school, he or she should be well-versed in science. Armed thus, the coming generations won’t be susceptible to the deadly dangers posed by quackery.

Some might object, on religious grounds, to a strict program of scientific education and rational thought on medical issues. What about all the stories of miracles? Are we to reject miracles?

Not necessarily. Although some fundamentalist faith-healing operations are no better than the new age nonsense they deplore, a sound understanding of miracles actually depends on science.

What is a miracle? the classic definition is the suspension of the laws of nature, an event that cannot be explained. In a medical context, it would be the spontaneous recovery of a person from a chronic or terminal condition for reasons unknown.

Given that definition, miracles could be taking place all the time; however, in order to define and know that a certain miracle has taken place, we must first be certain that a patient was incurably ill. People can choose to believe that miracles happen or believe that they don’t happen and still seek medical treatment. In fact, the major religions would encourage people to seek medical treatment because to fail to do so would be a disregard for human life. If a person finds himself or herself with an incurable disease, they can pray for a miracle.

The kind of “cure” that resulted in the death of Kimberly L. Strohecker was not a miracle because, unlike a miracle, it gives no regard whatsoever to science. It is based on false science. The reiki practitioner doesn’t attribute her cures to a divinely ordained suspension of the laws of nature, rather to the ordinary workings of natural phenomena, namely, various energy flows in the human body.

Unfortunately, those energy flows do not seem to exist. Miracles may, but energy healing doesn’t.

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