March 23, 2005  

Dear Concerned Citizen,

by Wesley J. Smith
Imagine if you will, that convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal had a bad lawyer during his murder trial. Assume further that when the new lawyer took over the case, she found credible evidence not originally presented on Jamal’s behalf, evidence which could cast reasonable doubt upon the guilty verdict.

And then imagine that despite this newly uncovered evidence, one court after another obstinately refused to permit a new trial so that the new evidence could be considered, or even, permit the governor to use his clemency power to prevent Jamal’s execution. Worse, assume that Jamal had been sentenced to die slowly by intentional dehydration.

Unthinkable, right? Convicted murderers would never be treated so unjustly or have such a cruel punishment imposed—at least not in this day and age.

Yet, this imaginary scenario is disturbingly close to the way that a purely innocent and profoundly disabled woman named Terri Schiavo is being treated.

But, you say, Terri hasn’t been sentenced to death. She isn’t being executed.

While that is true technically, the analogy between her sentence of death and a death penalty case is apt. Terri’s food and water have been taken away, not by her husband/guardian Michael Schiavo, but at the explicit order of court (at Schiavo’s request). That means her pending death by dehydration is not just being allowed, but has been required by the state.

Not only that, Terri’s situation is akin to that of the condemned prisoner imagined above—who could be saved if only the court would consider newly discovered facts. Here is just a sampling of facts and allegations that emerged since the original trial:

  • Mr. Schiavo informed a medical malpractice jury, from which he was seeking millions of dollars in 1992, that he would care for his wife for the rest of his life, that she would live a normal life span, and that she would be provided rehabilitation and therapy. As soon as the money was in the bank, however, he refused all therapy and started to refuse medical treatment such as antibiotics. In other words, Schiavo’s story changed when he went to court in 1998 seeking her early death, casting serious doubt on his testimony that Terri would “want to die.”
  • Three nurses have signed affidavits under penalty of perjury that Mr. Schiavo used to go to Terri’s nursing home and angrily demand to know why his wife was not yet dead.
  • Friends of Terri have come forward stating that she believed in the old maxim, where there is life, there is hope. Indeed, all of her close friends and family deny that she would want to die under these circumstances.
  • Several doctors and therapists have testified in written affidavits that she is not in a persistent vegetative state, and indeed, that she could be improved with proper therapy—treatment she has been denied since 1993.
  • Dehydration may not be a painless way to die as some have asserted. Indeed, if the patient is conscious and not otherwise dying, it can be agonizing. [Weekly Standard Link]

Surely, facts and allegations of this substance presented in a death penalty case, would lead to a new trial, or at the very least, become the basis of a commutation. After all, when a human life is at stake, we strive as a society to give the benefit of every reasonable doubt to life.

But the benefit of reasonable doubts does not apply to Terri Schiavo. You see, she is not guilty of anything. If only she were a convicted murderer, her life would be seen as worthy of greater respect.

Award winning author Wesley J. Smith, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney and consultant for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His most recent book is Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World.

Responses to: Testing Darwin

We had many reader responses to Dr. Wiker's "Testing Darwin" article suggesting that Dr. Wiker is anti-science and/or ill-informed. tothesource asked Dr. Wiker to respond to these charges next week.

Although I have only been teaching computer languages for four years now, I completely agree with your argument. Regardless of the complexity of a program, there was someone writing the code. So far in all of the classes I have taught, no program has developed on it's own, no program has ever opened on it's own, and I have never had a computer turn on by itself. Even the most simple project requires a certain amount of code, and a number of other programs, files, and software to run. I have yet to take a look at the documentation of the Avida program, but am sure that I will find there have been hundreds of hours of work done by intelligent, meaningful programmers. How can they have spent all of that time developing, testing, debugging, and rewritting code to come to the conclusion that the program evolves? - K. G.

This is a scientific email account. Our business is Geology, Oceanography, and Biology. Therefore you are wasting electrons by sending me this creationist garbage. Evolution IS a theory..Genesis is a HYPOTHESIS...look up the definitions, idiot!! - D. B.

"After more than a decade of development, Avida's digital organisms are now getting close to fulfilling the definition of biological life." The development of Avida required thought. Adida did not happen by chance, but, I am assuming, through countless hours of thoughtful reflection and consideration. The development of a computer program is far from the Darwinian Evolution that I am familiar with, in which single celled organisms mutate through "chance" over a vast amount of time to become the complex organisms that you and I are today. - K.

Heh. It is interesting that something screamed as "fact" all over the world feels so much danger that there has to be countless new reasons created to believe that "fact". Just pull the plug on that computer, and see how much life they've created! - D. W.

You are in a wrong the evolution THEORY is false. I believe in god and the creation, this is not a theroy, is the true. - H. R. G.

Just an observation. If the faith community got as exercised about the preservation and stewardship of the glorious creation as they get about the way it was started, I think it would regain some credibility. The best statement a person of faith can make about the presence of God in the creation is to care for it and respect it. - D. D.

I think you creationists need to chill out. How many times have scientists gone to your churches and tried to disprove god? Almost none. Science never mentions god, because once supernatural intervention is involved it becomes religion, which is any phenomina beyond the realm of naturalistic explanation. We aren't saying that god didnt create the universe at some point, we are simply studying any type of natural order and facts (in as much as we know) that came right after the so called creation. The computer simulation is becoming more used in the scientific world and works very well with medicine (simulation of the heart, lungs, brain etc) and shows us that Genes are no different. So if you truly believed in your god, you wouldn't need to spend your time attacking evolutionists. Ask yourself one question - Who are you trying to convince, us or you? - B. B.

As it states in the Psalm, those who do not believe in God are fools. Those who do not believe the Genesis and other-Biblical-books account of origins are also fools. Computer programs can indeed be connived concoctions of demented immentality. They can indeed misrepresent reality by devious programming. As with Bible translation, the original words are preeminent - not true or false context realistically or nonrealistically relating to those words. - D. B.

All scientific theories are just that theories, and the theory of evolution is no exception. Its just that there isn't a better theory of evolution than Darwins. Anyone with doubts about Darwin should read Bill Bryson's excellent book 'A Brief History of Almost Everything' - D. P.

What is this nonsense? Do you really take what you are saying seriously?! The childishness of this shallow and completely off the wall idiocy astounds. Please do not bother to send to me any more. It would help you, I think, to study biology seriously, without all the theological padding, and then you might actually come to a reasonable idea of faith. - E. M.

Regarding the article "Testing Darwin"-- If you hoped to show that a "naturalistic" explanation of evolutionary phenomena is inadequate, you have done so admirably. Of course, you could also do the same with an other set of phenomena, including historical and sociological. Perhaps there is "intelligent design" behind the success of one warring nation against another, or the favored status of one social group over another? But what exactly is your author critiquing? The "naturalistic fallacy" no doubt, but what else? Evolutionary theory? Fair enough, but what of it? Is the fact of the mechanism of evolution as a way of producing species variants, and over the long (millions of years) term, producing "new" species, under dispute? Now, we can have wonderful discussions over the meaning of evolution, and whether as a mechanism it can account for all observable biological phenomena. We can even discuss whether it is true that "Darwin [makes] it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." But let's not confuse the issue by critiquing evolution's ability to provide ultimate meaning and give ultimate answers. - T. S.

This latest St.Patrick's day article was excellent. Thanks for going through the thought processes to make the fallacy of the Evolutionists position so clear by their own "designs". - C. J.

Mr. Wiker's article in "To the Source" is merely one more hackneyed, knee-jerk reaction of the defenders of religion to attempt to discredit scientific research. What world does a man like Mr. Wiker want to live in? Is he proposing that we stop all scientific inquiry into the beginnings of life and instead, become a society of true believers who regard questioning and study as taboo? Every time I read one of these articles, I see fear. Theists fear that scientists will actually prove that there was no creator. They fear that their belief system will crumble as science reveals exactly how everything began, going back to the big bang, and it all truly occurred by chance. I don't believe that will ever happen, but if it did, well, so what? What would be lost but one more failed hypothesis in service to the truth. True believers say that what they hold in their hearts by faith, actually is the truth. Then, what is there to fear? Eventually, given enough milennia of study, science will eventually prove you are right. We're all on the same planet, all of the same origin. Do we open our minds to explore our roots, or do we close them and clutch at dogma? - C. Z

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  Wesley J. Smith's
Smith is an attorney and consultant for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. His book Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (1997), a broad-based criticism of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement was published in 1997. His book Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, a warning about the dangers of the modern bioethics movement, was named One of the Ten Outstanding Books of the Year and Best Health Book of the Year for 2001 (Independent Publisher Book Awards). Smith is an international lecturer and public speaker, appearing frequently at political, university, medical, legal, disability rights, bioethics, and community gatherings across the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia.
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