Lib Dem Voice co-editor Stephen Tall has produced his 3 liberal reasons to stick up for Tim Farron. Now Stephen is a man I respect and who writes a lot of sense, but on this occasion I beg leave to disagree.
To that end I thought I’d give 3 liberal reasons to criticise Stephen Tall’s defence of our party president Tim Farron. We are of course talking about the storm Tim Farron created by co-signing a letter to the Advertising Standards Agency urging the ASA to overturn a ban on a Christian group claiming prayer could cure medical conditions.
(1) The letter undermines rational scepticism, by urging the ASA to take a bizarre departure from the scientific method and by attempting to shift the burden of proof onto the sceptic.
“Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible. On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?”
So Tim Farron and his co-signatories want us to shift the burden of proof from those making claims of medical efficaciousness and force sceptics to disprove them. This is very dangerous as it grants license to anyone making an unfalsifiable, metaphysical claim to peddle just about any bogus product they wish.
(2) It is for those making assertions of medical efficaciousness to prove their claims. Proving or disproving faith doesn’t come into it. Could you imagine if we allowed pharmaceuticals to sell medications without first scientifically demonstrating they were effective? We’d have a flood of wonder cures on the market within days and it would fall to sceptics to disprove the claims before they could be removed from sale.
Why should religious groups get special treatment? If they want to enter the healthcare arena they should play by the same rules as the medical profession. That means proving their treatments work.
If we are to grant exceptions for religious groups, what’s to stop someone founding the Church of Glaxosmithkline?
(3) Regulation Creep – Who is going to be misled by these claims?
Stephen’s last point, as he acknowledges, isn’t entirely his own. He quotes Stuart Wheatcroft who essentially asks ‘who’s going to be taken in by a claim that prayer can really heal?’
Well in response, I’m going to quote George Biggles Potter on the Alliance of Liberal Democrats Facebook Group who shared this story: Church HIV prayer cure claims causes three deaths.
Here’s someone else who was taken in by such a claim: Tim Farron. He would seem to believe these claims are real and that prayer can heal medical conditions, or else why would he have signed the letter claiming that many Christians “have seen and experienced healing in our own families and churches”?
If our own party president can be taken in by such a claim, I really don’t think we need to worry about regulation creep.