Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Science Education Advocate Has ALS

I am shocked and saddened to report that Steven Gey, a powerful voice for science education who represented the plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court case Edwards v Aguillard, has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. I don’t know Steve personally, but we have many mutual friends; I join them in sending my deepest sympathies and condolences to Steve and his family. A diagnosis of ALS is, for all practical purposes, a death sentence. He likely has no more than 3 or 4 years to live, no more than a year before he is completely wheelchair bound, locked inside a body that no longer functions. As this article in the Tallahassee newspaper shows, however, his mind is still acute and his spirit strong. We will be losing one of the great legal minds in the country and one of our most powerful allies in the fight to protect science education around the country.


  1. #1 Ed Darrell
    December 26, 2006

    Well, I’m going to go all Norman Cousins on you.

    A “death sentence?” We all have that — we’re all mortal. ALS often progresses fast.

    But sometimes it doesn’t. Have you ever heard of a guy named Stephen Hawking?

    I had an uncle who came down with ALS in the early 1950s. He struggled for about five years, finally got so bad they figured he had just months left, at best. Everyone prepared for the worst.

    Then one morning he woke up hungry. Got out of bed, made himself some eggs and toast, and essentially went on about his life. He had some shakes, and he couldn’t move fast, but he survived nearly another 50 years. He finally died of natural causes, in his early 90s, after having spent more than a decade with Alzheimer’s robbing his mind.

    Diseases get everyone differently. Cousins railed against physicians who say “you got six months” — who is the physician to say?

    Let’s lament the disease Gey has. Let’s hope for a treatment, or even better, a cure. And let’s hold out hope that the disease is arrested in him somehow. Sure, most cases progress, like they did in Mitch Albom’s old professor, Morrie. But not all.

    Stephen Hawking was 29, as I recall, when he was stricken with ALS. That would have been 1971, 35 years ago.

    Miracles happen, or at least, things that so closely resemble miracles that we can’t separate them out cleanly with our present state of knowledge.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    December 26, 2006

    I didn’t realize that what Hawking had was ALS, actually. I was only going by what I read in the article linked to above. I certainly hope you’re right and he lives a long and productive life despite this disease. Thanks for the correction.

  3. #3 kehrsam
    December 26, 2006

    ALS is certainly a terrible disease and my prayers go out to Mr. Gey and his family.

    The positive aspect of the disease (if one can even use the term thus) is that it does not affect the mental faculties of the patient; like Dr. Hawking, they are capable of remarkable achievements. Bob Waters, whom I briefly knew, was able to coach his team to the 1AA football championship game although he could barely walk and both arms were in slings to keep them from breaking. He died a year later.

    My twin brother’s father in law also was struck down by ALS, but was still working a few months before he died. “Takes more than guns to kill a man,” said Joe, “I never died.” Peace to all.

  4. #4 Jim Lippard
    December 26, 2006

    Karl Pflock, author of the best skeptical book on the Roswell Incident (_Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe_), was diagnosed with ALS on February 11, 2005, and was told that most die 3-6 years after diagnosis. Karl only made it to June 5, 2006, when he died at the age of 63.

  5. #5 John Lynch
    December 27, 2006

    This is sad. I was on a panel with Steve (and Barb Forrest) a few years back. He’s a genuine, nice guy.

  6. #6 truth machine
    December 27, 2006

    “I didn’t realize that what Hawking had was ALS, actually.”

    Huh. What did you think has?

    “Stephen Hawking was 29, as I recall, when he was stricken with ALS. That would have been 1971, 35 years ago.”

    He was diagnosed in 1963, at the age of 21 — 44 years ago.

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