Thursday, July 24, 2008

Faith-Healing Fraud In My Hometown...

As I've mentioned before, it is a source of civic pride to many Louisville residents that a hospital in our city has performed, to my knowledge, every hand transplant ever in the United States. The current ongoing success story revolves around a fellow named Dave Armstrong, whose right hand was blown off when one of his guns misfired during target practice. As of Saturday, July 12th, Mr. Armstrong now has a functional, if slightly used, cadaver hand attached to his forearm. He's the forth person in the country to receive a hand transplant, and thus far Armstrong and all three of his fellow patients are doing well and still have their transplanted limbs. One of these transplant recipients, Matthew Scott, has had his transplanted limb for almost 9 years now. That's pretty freaking amazing.

I bring this up because I stumbled upon this front page article on Friday night after returning home from a showing of The Dark Knight, and my first thought, corny as it sounds, was something along the lines of "Doctors are real superheroes." (At that point a rainbow cut across the sky and a cartoon deer bounded through the foreground.) After reading through the article and then glancing through the rest of the national news, I made the foolish mistake of opening up the "Metro" section of the paper, which is normally reserved for glurge stories mixed incongruously with crime reports. In sharp contrast to the meaningful, dare I say uplifting, article about Dave Armstrong, the front page of the Metro proudly proclaimed that lunatic faith healer Todd Bentley had infiltrated my town, cleverly sneaking in under cover of Thursday while everyone was distracted by early reviews of Batman, and held a donation-fest revival before quickly moving on.

Bentley is a Canadian Pentecostal who, according to publications from his native country, has had some run-ins with the law for drug crimes and the sexual assault of a young boy, but now, of course, claims to be an utterly new person who has been endowed by the Creator of the Universe with magical X-Men powers that enable him to supernaturally heal anyone without an externally visible affliction. Bentley has been the subject of a recent Nightline report, which is embedded below, and has even run afoul of other religious oddballs, among them Intelligent Design advocate Bill Dembski, who currently "teaches" at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dembski has a personal ax to grind with Bentley - at one point he and his wife went to a Bentley service in the hopes of having their autistic son healed. According to Dembski their child wasn't even allowed to come near the stage to receive prayers. I wonder why...?

In any event, if there's a polar opposite of legitimate advances in medical science it's money-grubbing charlatan faith-healers. Hopefully this kind of lunacy will eventually be regulated with as much rigor as other false medical claims. (Which honestly aren't regulated with enough rigor themselves.) Some of my more cynical friends have claimed that the victims of these faith healers deserved what they get, but I disagree. Perpetrating this kind of fraud on innocent, trusting people is the very height of callousness. Even if they have been conditioned by their religions to believe bizarre claims with insufficient evidence, the responsibility for any specific act of fraud rests solely on the shoulders of the witch doctor who perpetrated it.

Here's the Nightline investigation:

Part 1:


Part 2:

4 comments:

JAK said...

Actually, Skippy, I think Dembski may have moved on. He's now at the Southwestern Baptist Theolgical Seminary.

Skippy the Skeptic said...

Well dang. Heck, he apparently left like two years ago. Guess I'd better go back and correct that.

JAK said...

Not like anyone actually missed him...

JAK said...

I just saw today that Todd Bentley got busted cheating on his wife, is divorcing, and has cancelled several planned revivials in the south.