Saturday, August 27, 2005

Friday Afternoon Philosophy

I bike to most of my destinations in DC and on one route, I pass by a Church of Christ, Scientist. These people believe that sickness and injuries will be healed by God. Doctors and medical practices and such are strictly off limits. I am not certain of the foundation of these beliefs, but I bet it is from an obscure section of the Bible and a guy who thought this up a while ago. My question is this: In relation to the discussion of Crito, in that no sane person willingly wishes to do themselves harm or evil, is this practice of refusing medical treatment according to spiritual guidelines a harm?

The Christian Scientist(CS) belief holds that medical treatment is against God's will. God's will is evident in the occurrence of sickness or injury and a human has no authority to reproach God by seeking medical assistance. These people pray and seek forgiveness for whatever reason they have incurred these sickness or injury. In the Socratic dialogue of Crito, Socrates establishes that the sane do not wish to cause harm to their bodies or souls. He also establishes that the soul/mind is more important than the body and the implication is that we can still seek enlightenment with a damaged body. By denying medical attention, the CS thinks that he/she is obeying God's will and thus their soul is improved by their possible death. However, since the medical treatment is readily available for a variety of situations that are mostly nuisances now, like appendicitis (which will be included in my refutation of Intelligent Design next week), but that are lethal if untreated, are they causing themselves harm? Since they believe that medical treatment would harm their souls and chances of salvation or entrance to heaven (to covered in an additional further statement) and as it is more important not to worry as much about the body as it is to worry about harming the soul, I guess that these people are valid from a Socratic stance in their refusal of medical treatment. Please discuss at your leisure.

The Second Question

In my examination of life, the universe and everything, I come back to physics quite often. This is especially amusing for some because I have never taken a physics course, something I intend to rectify as soon as I can afford night school. I am reading The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan and he states that there are far more brain states possible in the human brain than there are elementary particles in the universe. I have two questions: does he mean the variety of elementary particles like quarks, gluons and protons or does he mean atoms comprising the entire universe? The first question is not hard to grasp. There are a limited number of atomic and quantum particles and eventually we will discover evidence of all of them. The second question has never made any sense to me. You may have heard it in this form: there are more grains of sand on a beach than atoms in the universe. How is that possible? Atoms are the basis for all matter that we know, sand included. So each grain of sand must have atoms in it, unless sand is a sort of atomless matter and we live in the Matrix. (This would seriously suck because those movies really weren't all that. 6/10 at best and 2/10 at worst.) Energy is ions and electrons and stuff zipping around making our brain's will known to the body. If we can be thinking all that we think, are we not using a serious amount of the finite resources of the universe's tiny particles? I had a Chemistry teacher in junior year of high school who made these statements about the beach and the fact that a given lump of matter had one hundred thousand atoms in it. I then asked them how that was possible given that sand all had atoms in it. She told me to stop being a cheeky little shit and finish the assigned experiment. Does anyone out there have a rational explanation for the validity or invalidity of this statement?

No comments: