A Confrontation of Belief on Prime-Time Television

Anyone here watch Grey’s Anatomy?  It’s rather a scattered potpourri of mostly doctors at a fictitious Seattle hospital, playing out multiple plotlines, medical and interpersonal and too frequently with about as much reality involved as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, but that’s beside the point.  There was one particularly refreshing event which occurred in the most recent episode, broadcast naught but a handful of minutes ago as this was written, between Drs. April Kepner and Jackson Avery, recently and rather impulsively married, but now at odds regarding their value and belief sets.  Dr. Kepner is a very serious Christian … except when she isn’t, and Dr. Avery is the man who called her out as she was about to be married (“if any man here sees reason why these two should not be wed”) and she actually ran with that and him.  To call their relationship tempestuous and quixotic might well be to understate and pretty badly, but sometimes, you have to deal with approximations.

In any case, the episode played on Thursday, 17 April, 2014 featured, among other things, an argument between this husband and wife, initially regarding a patient who was a candidate for a cochlear implant and evolving from there to a theoretical deaf child of theirs and how it would or would not be treated and thence to Kepner’s closely held Christian beliefs.  Avery calls her on it in a bold and necessary statement:

Kepner: Jackson, you think what I believe is ridiculous.
Jackson: Yes, because it is!  Your god is like our hypothetical deaf child; it doesn’t exist!

How is it that a sophisticated 21st century doctor can believe in a 2,000-year-old myth while at the same time acknowledging the skills and abilities she has spent an enormous part of her life refining and perfecting, even if it is only a fictitious television drama?  To me, this is the height and hallmark of compartmentalization and unambiguous evidence of someone who has been so indoctrinated in the above-mentioned myth that it would take serious introspection and effort, neither of which this particular character is remotely interested in, to disabuse herself from it.  Kepner clings to her faith because she was taught to, because she was taught that believing in something you can’t confirm is somehow a virtue, a virtue her new husband clearly disdains.  More importantly, he has the cojones to say so to her face, rather a radical event for network television.

And I see that as being important.  It’s one of few times we see the concept of faith-as-a-virtue openly and blatantly challenged and held up to ridicule, as it deserves to be.  Apparently, April Kepner would not have her own child fitted with a cochlear implant because she believes that deafness is “a blessing,” perhaps much in the same way that women who are raped and impregnated from the rape are supposed to find the child resulting from that rape a blessing in the same measure.  This is the kind of thinking which says that if god decreed that something should happen, it should not be interfered with.  The problem with that line of thought is that it obviates the purpose of doctors, altogether.  If god is the final arbiter and the author of all events, there should be no treatment for anyone, because the almighty wanted things exactly as they are transpiring.

This needs to be pointed out … repeatedly … until those who wish to mix superstition and science understand exactly how foolish they look in the light of their own chosen profession.  A cochlear implant is effective.  Prayer is ineffective.  Bible study is ineffective.  Belief in a god –any god – is ineffective, counterproductive, and in the face of modern-day technology, utterly and inarguably ludicrous.

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Tags: Grey's Anatomy, TV, argument, belief, faith, television

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Comment by Joan Denoo on April 18, 2014 at 9:01pm

Just as cochlear implants are effective, prayer is ineffective. 

So is study of Gray's Anatomy effective, bible study is ineffective. 

A lesson sorely needed in today's world. 

I wrote Don's research papers for him when he was in dental school and Gray's Anatomy (the book, not the TV program)  is an old friend.

Comment by Michael Penn on April 18, 2014 at 2:20pm

 I agree totally, Loren. Effective television can be a strong medium of change and I think we have many non-believers behind the scenes today. Bringing issues of this nature up on TV will help eliminate the god myth. Internet and TV will work together doing this, as we have a new breed of people in the medium.

For years archeology was always trying to "prove the bible." People were so excited about that in a dumb founded way. The archeology of today goes another direction and it usually proves the bible to be false. That's what free thinking will do.

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