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A triumph of science over gods

04 January 2013, 12:03

In January, 2004 I was sitting with a walking companion on top of a mountain overlooking Hout Bay on a wondrously beautiful afternoon.  As we absorbed the beauty of the scene we talked about our achievements in life, our contentment with our lot and how thankful we were to be healthy enough to walk and enjoy the natural world at it best.  As we stood up to go, I felt a stab of pain in my stomach which grew progressively more uncomfortable over the following days.  A week later, after examination by one of South Africa's top surgeons, numerous scans and tests, I lay in a hospital bed holding my wife's hand awaiting my turn under the knife.  I had colon cancer.

I accepted that I had cancer because that is what the surgeon told me.  If he was right then my survival prospects were uncertain but who was I to question the diagnosis of a man you had spent years and years studying and practising  medicine?  As we chatted and joked nervously who should arrive but two smartly dressed ambulance chasers clutching their prominently displayed Bibles offering to talk to me.  Knowing what was about to happen my wife gracefully found an excuse to go to the shop to get something to eat.

I beckoned the suits forward and then in a quiet (so as not to startle the other patients) and firm voice told then in the most unpleasant, obnoxious and viscous way I know what I thought of them, Ray Creepycrawley,  their reasons for trawling hospital beds, their useless, do-nothing god and what they could do with their gilded books.  I was all smiles when the wife returned.  I didn't need a god.  I needed a stiff drink.

Next morning I awoke in the most frightful and devastating pain I have ever experienced: disembowelled from breastbone to goolies and weighing considerably less than I did the day before having had metres of rotting guts removed.  If I was going to die then let it please happen now as the demons within growled out the most frightful obscenities and damned the nurses, the doctors, the cleaners and their mothers.  And through it all the most important person in the World  sat patiently at my bedside trying to placate the writhing, spasmodic Devil incarnate and apologising to all and sundry for my foul mouth and wretched behaviour.

On the last day of an extended stay and after more scans and tests the surgeon visited and pronounced, “Tsar* (he never quite got my name right), I have removed all the malignant stuff and you are clear to go home.  Although not essential, I recommend a course of chemotherapy to be of the safe side.”   Well he's the expert so, without question, off I went to see a top oncologist who confirmed the recommendation.   During the next six months he pumped all manner of chemical concoctions through my flagging body and then pronounced me ready to take on the challenges of life again; 10kg lighter than before.

Nine years years later I am again able to climb mountains, walk the dogs every day, play golf, wash the dishes, mow the lawn, drive a steam locomotive, get my wife's attention and fix a leaking roof.   All thanks to modern science and the skills of educated, trained and dedicated people.   The doctors will tell you that if you survive six years after the operation then you will go to full natural term (wtmb).  So, god willing (watchit!) , I have much in life to still look forward to.
And the point of this is?

1. I have no idea how a surgeon knows how to identify cancer, what bits to cut away and what to leave and how to repack the guts of a disembowelled torso.  But I accepted that he knew what he was doing, that his diagnosis was correct and he had the skills to remove the offending bits without killing me;

2. I have no idea what chemicals oncologists concoct to rid people of cancer, what dose they use and how long a patient should be treated for,  That is what they study.  That is their area of knowledge and expertise.  I am totally unqualified to question their decisions and simply accept and rely upon their superior knowledge;

3. No gods were entreated or required to help me overcome my illness;

4. I don't need to be a scientist to know that those who are better educated that I am, those that devote their lives to proper research and discovery in specific scientific fields are much more likely to be right than some ignorant, self-appointed, Bible quoting representative of a god claiming that the science is flawed and downright wrong when it comes to our origins.
So whenever I see a post on News24 by some American Jesus loving, creationist loon claiming a god talks to them, that some god or other performs miracles every day or questioning the scientific method by pasting nonsense they don't understand copied from non-scientific websites that supposedly dispute peer reviewed and universally accepted scientific theories I recall my 2004 experience and the doctors and science they denigrate that saved my life.  And they complain that I am rude, vicious, mocking and don't play nice when I respond.   I am delighted that they take offence and take a great deal of pleasure in being unsporting in a totally one sided contest.

'It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so f***king what?'  - Stephen Fry.

Oh.  A citation of two perhaps for those who claim godly miracles, that science is bollocks and prayer achieves anything?
* RIP.

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