Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Do You Believe?

In an convenient, if textbook, turn of coincidence, while I was debating whether or not objective truth matters with an acquaintance on Google +, what should appear on the Atlantic than an article about a man, termed “Bill” by the author, who, at the urging of his congregation, decides to forgo his HIV medications. His health, predictably takes a turn for the worse, but his acceptance at church, according to the author, grows:

[Bill] left my clinic smiling. After decades as a gay outcast in a conservative church, he felt loved and included—as long as he did nothing to stop his march toward AIDS and death.
Of course, we all think that we know where this is going - that’s a large part of Dr. Lahey’s point. As far as the good Doctor is concerned, God isn’t going to step in and render Bill free of the infection his body carries. As his relating the “old joke about a faithful climber” makes clear, Dr. Lahey believes that HIV medications are the miracle that God sends.

If Bill’s point is to live as long and healthy a life as he can possibly manage, on the face of it, this doesn’t seem to be correct way to go about it. His conviction that “The long struggle was over, [...] from now on he would be healthy,” seems to be fairly obviously incorrect, as you read the symptoms that Dr. Lahey rattles off. Of course, Bill is a sample size of exactly one, and that makes falsification of Bill’s beliefs difficult. Sure, you can point to the millions of other people who have, or have not, taken HIV medications and note the differences in life expectancy. But the fact remains that some people who take the medications die young, some who don’t live for a long time.

Personally, I think that Bill is after something else - the love and inclusion that he now feels from his church. And in that, there is no objective truth. There is only belief - one much more difficult to falsify.

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