The Atlantic

Can Religion and Science Coexist?

A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
Source: Toby Melville / Reuters

In May 1988, a 13-year-old girl named Ashley King was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by court order. She had a tumor on her leg—an osteogenic sarcoma—that, writes Jerry Coyne in his book Faith Versus Fact, was “larger than a basketball,” and was causing her leg to decay while her body started to shut down. Ashley’s Christian Scientist parents, however, refused to allow doctors permission to amputate, and instead moved their daughter to a Christian Science sanatorium, where, in accordance with the tenets of their faith, “there was no medical care, not even pain medication.” Ashley’s mother and father arranged a collective pray-in to help her recover—to no avail. Three weeks later, she died.

Had Ashley received medical care, Coyne writes, she would likely have recovered. The Kings, tried in an Arizona court for negligent homicide, expressed no remorse, pleaded no

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