Total Drek

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sometimes I just don't understand...

Some of you may have heard the recent news of a baby that was born twice. No, I don't mean "born again"- for the moment it appears that infants remain beyond the reach of the religious right.* No, in this case, I am referring to an infant who was partially removed from her mother so that doctors could operate on her, before replacing her in the womb. It's a pretty cool story, actually:

Four months into Keri McCartney's pregnancy, doctors reportedly noticed a tumor growing on the baby's tailbone.

Doctors discovered that the tumor was stealing blood from the fetus and weakening her heart. So, at 25 weeks, surgeons at Texas Children's Fetal Center cut into McCartney's abdomen in an effort to remove the life-threatening mass, according to a CBS News report.


Once the abdomen was open, doctors pulled out the entire uterus — and then half of the baby.

At that point, surgeons carefully cut away the non-cancerous tumor, which reportedly was the size of a grapefruit. ...“Half of the baby is extracted — only the part that needs to be operated on. And then she is put back into the womb," he said. "The womb is then closed and carefully monitored for signs of premature labor and other complications.”

So, not so much a child who was "born twice" as one that underwent a pretty sophisticated surgical intervention. I have never heard of something like this before and I am, to be totally honest, really impressed. Something I noticed however, as an afterthought, was this:

"We definitely had hope, but at the same time there are those times things don't go your way and God has other plans," [Keri] McCartney told CBS News.

And here the wheels just completely come off of my cognitive wagon. See, I understand the argument that contraception is wrong because it interferes with god's plan that a child be conceived. I get the argument that abortion is wrong because, likewise, it interferes with god's plan for a baby to be born.** I disagree with both of these arguments but I understand the logic behind them. The thing is, however, let's say that your child, in the womb, starts growing a giant tumor. Let's say that tumor might kill the child. By extension, doesn't that suggest that god wants your child to die? And if so, doesn't that mean that a surgical intervention to save the child is- in effect- a deliberate effort to thwart god's will?

Don't get me wrong, I have no idea if Ms. McCartney subscribes to any of the beliefs above but her remark that maybe "god has other plans" kinda implies that she thinks it's possible that god might have meant for her child to die. And if so, then trying to avert that outcome is, pretty much by definition, working to thwart god's intentions. Much like the Sago mine disaster, about which I have written previously religious faith often seems to make the world a sort of rorschach test. We perceive in the world what we are prepared to based on our preconceptions, even if those perceptions aren't particularly consistent with logic or objective reality. Granted, often the ambiguous world we live in does throw a signal or two our way, but I think we ignore the genuine signals as often as we latch onto the fake ones.

I'm not condemning, I'm sure I miss things due to my preconceptions on a fairly regular basis too. I have little doubt that my wife could even ennumerate specific examples. I just have to admit that this particular potential source of bias*** always leaves me baffled.

Whether I get it or not, though, I would like to offer my deepest congratulations to Ms. McCartney and her family for their heart-warming success. I would also like to express my genuine admiration and respect for the physicians, nurses, technicians, engineers, and scientists who developed the equipment and techniques that allowed this to happen. Your success gives me a sense of profound awe, pride, and satisfaction.

And I think that feeling is something we can all understand.

* Not least because a good number of Protestant doctrines deny that a child is able to receive baptism until such time as their faculties are sufficiently developed to do so willingly.

** I'm not referring to, nor will I touch, the argument that abortion is wrong because it is murder. I have an opinion on that but, at the moment, I am dealing entirely with the argument that it is wrong because it thwarts god's will.

*** Given that I am an atheist I have little choice but to view it as bias but, all the same, I must concede in all honesty that Ms. McCartney may be correct- it may be that god is responsible in some inscrutable way for the ultimate health of her child. I don't find that account at all plausible but, hey, there you go.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps she is trying to say that God has given these surgeons the skills and abilities to correct this problem, but if not successful, it his His will. I suspect that belief would help one accept the loss if it occurred.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 2:17:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Perhaps she is trying to say that God has given these surgeons the skills and abilities to correct this problem, but if not successful, it his His will.

And that changes the situation... how exactly?

I suspect that belief would help one accept the loss if it occurred.

Oh, I'm familiar with that argument, it just doesn't make any sense to me on a visceral level. Bad things happen but, by and large, it's nothing personal.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 4:49:00 PM  

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