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Creationist Medicine – A Review of a Creationist Medical Paper

Just because you have a degree in a science doesn’t mean what you do is scientific.

I have long pointed out that there exist “Doctors” such as Mayer Eisenstein and Suzanne Humpheries who despite being arguably well educated and probably better trained than myself, do not hold themselves with the scientific rigour associated with medicine and instead profit from their quackery.

Elizabeth Mitchell is Tommy Mitchell’s wife and is indeed a doctor. A doctor who practiced for 15 years before qutting her job to home school her kids. In fact Dr. Mitchell has not practiced medicine since 1995. Meaning she has NOT been practicing medicine since qualifying for her medical degree for a longer period of time than she has been practicing medicine.

This means that she is not up to date on modern medical theory and achievements in her field. And AIG’s website claims she has covered topics ranging from Egyptian History (Damn! I only learned Sumerian in my Anatomy class!) to embryonic development and childbirth. And er… Unicorns (non-existent) to Aliens (They may exist but we got no proof that they buzz the earth for laughs).

Dr. Mitchell is best known for authoring AiG’s weekly web feature “News to Note” since April 2011. The wife of popular AiG speaker Dr. Tommy Mitchell, “Elizabeth operates under the conviction that accurate history never violates biblical history, that correct scientific understanding of our past will never contradict God’s eyewitness account in the Bible, and that genuine understanding of God’s Word builds faith in Jesus Christ.”

Which effectively means that science is only science if it validates the Bible and if it doesn’t it is clearly satanic bunkum to be ignored.

And she’s written what can only laughably be called a “paper”. A paper that’s on AIG’s website called “Do Medical Schools Need To Teach More Evolution“.

So let’s take a look at what we have here. 

Abstract

Should medical educators clutter the busy course schedule that medical students must master with additional instruction in evolution? The clamor to do so is not new. While many physicians surely believe in evolutionary claims, most don’t find that those beliefs enhance their day-to-day ability to care for sick people in any practical sort of way. Recently there has been some media attention directed to those who crusade to make medical students learn not only how everything in the human body works but also the evolutionary history of how each human innovation evolved through the ages. Will teaching medical students more evolutionary beliefs, if it ever catches on, produce better physicians?

Okay the problem here is it conflates human innovation with evolution which are not the same things.

Again the understanding of human evolution lets us explain how our body works. Let’s look at a simple example.

Why do we not have the ability to produce vit C. Why is Avicenna a limey but my pet cat doesn’t have to consume citrus fruit to stay alive.

Well? Because we evolved from an arboreal consumer of vit C and so did not require the auto-production. In fact it would have been a highly redundant pathway assuming it functioned by a feedback mechanism.

Introduction

Evolution is not emphasized in most medical schools. Medical educators have a great deal to teach to budding physicians in a short time. (The time spent in actual instruction upon entering medical school is a bit of a shock to many students fresh from their college undergraduate programs.) Therefore, in the packed curricula of medical schools, the most expendable item is evolution.

I disagree. The age of the author shows here as does her complete disconnect with modern medical education. Most education in the medical school these days is clinically orientated and there is a major onus on self teaching since the important skills are more clinical while the theory can be learnt from any book.

We must not teach medicine based on what is expendable or not. Do American medical schools simply ignore all diseases not present in the continent of USA simply because “it’s expendable knowledge”? I can certainly make a case that due to the rarity of Dengue fever or Malaria or Cysticercosis or the Plague or Rabies or Leprosy or Madhura Foot or umpteen other diseases within the continent of America… that these diseases should be not taught because the American Doctor to Be is so bereft of time for instruction.

And that these are less useful to know than evolution.

No wait, that’s foolish. Medicine is taught as a whole. You may never ever see a single rabies case but you still know about it. You still have it in the back of your mind. You may never see a case of cysticercosis but you still read about it and (thanks to House) know what it is (ectopic tapeworm) and how to treat it (albendazole).

This 1994 book by psychiatrist Randolph Nesse, according to atheist Richard Dawkins, could help turn all physicians into believers in Darwinian evolution. Image: books.google.com

And Newton makes people believe in Gravity.

The Dean of Yale Medical School, Robert Alpern, explains these priorities, saying, “I think evolutionary biology could be taught to a much greater extent, but as a dean who has many passions about education, there are many competing priorities for the time in the curriculum.” Asked whether additional training in evolution would improve the way doctors treat patients or conduct research, Alpern says, “I don’t think they’d change a lot.”

Well no. Doctors are a specialised technician. They are applied biologists of a single species. They are a microscope while the biologist is a panoramic camera. Medicine concentrates with incredible focus onto the human body. It is a subset of biology and is intrinsically linked to evolution since the driving force behind medical advances is animal models, animal experiments and understanding of animal physiology.

If evolution were not true we would not have a medical drug industry that develops medicine through animal modelling and through understanding of animal biology.

So while your patient-doctor interaction won’t change that much the way you think about disease and the grunt behind the research and progress in medicine does change due to evolution.

“It’s not too hard to demonstrate that doctors are ignorant about real fundamentals of evolution,” Nesse says. “They’d flunk their first quiz in an evolution course. A doctor who has a deep foundation in evolution will think different about disease. Instead of just seeing disease as some screw-up in the machine, they will ask of every disease, why didn’t natural selection make the body more resistant to this particular problem?”1

In many cases that’s true. Let’s look at a recent evolutionary pressure that was lost.

Smallpox. People with non-A blood types are more resistant to smallpox. Since smallpox was until quite recently a major cause of human mortality, blood groups became a thing since it was advantageous to not be “A”.

Evolution helps us understand why our body functions a certain way and indeed lets us think about alternate modes of treatment such as genetic modification. Remember haemophiliacs and diabetics survive on a GMO that would not exist without an understanding of evolution and the realisation that the DNA code is translated the same in nearly all organisms.

Making the Case

 

To explain the absence of evolution in the thoughts and practices of modern medical practitioners, the authors noted that, “When Nazi horrors were publicized at the end of World War II, scientific publications on evolution and medicine ceased suddenly.” They recalled that twentieth century applications of evolutionary biology to medicine resulted in movements focused on “eugenics, supposed racial superiority, and fears of degeneration.” But they offered reassurance that the application of evolutionary principles to the arena of public health is not now to be feared because, they write, “new evolutionary approaches to medicine are almost entirely unconnected with these earlier movements.” The authors base their claim for a prime-time spot in the basic science requirements taught in medical school on the need to use evolutionary methodology to understand population genomics, pathogen evolution, and “why natural selection leaves bodies vulnerable to disease.”

Yes. Because the nazis poisoned the association with evolution. But even a farmer at that point could have told you what the Nazis were doing was not “science” and not evolutionarily friendly. Darwin’s books pointed out that the idea of races was foolish and while his cousin was the father of Eugenics, Darwin was quite vehemently opposed to it because he understood “hybrid vigour”.

Which is a term used to describe how two purestrains of a species have an offspring that is stronger than the sum of it’s two lines. AKA if the Nazis paid attention to Darwin they would have insisted on racial IMPURITY.

The Nazis rejected Darwinian evolution. They were effectively trying to create a Kennel Club German Shephard and claim that it was a superior beast to the working breed.

To bring this up is an attempt to derail the dialogue by invoking the spirit of the Nazis. Let’s not do something because the Nazis did it is the height of stupidity because we did something similar in the past. The Nazis were aware that smoking was not great for you. We refused to go down the same path because the Nazis did it. How many people are dead thanks to “not wanting to do the things that Nazis did”.

We are blessed with a modicum of common sense. We understand evolution and we can look at population genetics and understand how they work and trace diseases and learn to deal with them.

The best example of this is ironically a practice of Eugenics by the Jews.

WHAT! THAT IS OUTRAGEOUS!

No it’s not. The Ashkenazi Jews have an increased risk of Tay Sachs disease. So all Ashkenazi jews test themselves for Carrier status of the gene. If they are then they do not marry another carrier and if they do they adopt. They also rely on artificial insemination and the like. They are in effect breeding “out” the deadly disease.

And that is “eugenics” they are trying to remove and eradicate a harmful trait.

And good on them. I wish they actually didn’t put so much emphasis on “the purity of Jewish Genetics” but if this works for them who are we to stop them?

And this is all through an understanding of genetics which is the engine of evolution.

Room for Examination

In examining the claims in the essay, it is notable that, other than a mention of the fact that we know a good deal about genetics nowadays, the essay really doesn’t contain new information compared to Nesse’s 1994 book. Perhaps by publishing the essay in a prestigious journal the authors hoped to have an effect on a more academic audience than Nesse’s original book.

In describing the effect of genetic variation on populations, the essay offers a catalogue of the genetic mechanisms that can affect the fitness and overall makeup of population. Genetic variants, mutations, population bottlenecks, genetic drift, inbreeding, and migrations all have their influence, the authors indicate. And those most able to survive and reproduce are those most likely to produce the populations of tomorrow. Therefore they conclude, “Natural selection and these other evolutionary mechanisms change species, and, equally important, keep them the same via stabilizing selection that disfavors individuals with extreme traits.”3

Natural selection within the human species has nothing, however, to do with the supposed biological evolution of complexity. All of these mechanisms are important genetic mechanisms that affect the traits found in a population, but they have nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution. In fact, biblical creationists commonly cite these very factors when explaining how various people groups developed after the global Flood and the subsequent dispersion from the Tower of Babel. Biblical creationists also commonly cite these factors to explain the profusion of animal variety that has developed in the few thousand years since the global Flood. None of these mechanisms involves the evolution of new, more complex kinds of living things. These observable genetic mechanisms are the here-and-now tools that have long been applied by doctors concerned about the studying the occurrence and spread of traits and disease in populations. Teaching physicians to accept evolution would not make them better able to use these tools.

Molecules to man does not equal evolution. And this is the indication why doctors need more education in evolution.

Evolution is the increasing complexity of life. What Elizabeth describes is abiolgenesis.

When Creationists cite these factors they are

1. Pointing out that a MASSIVE and I means colossal genetic bottle neck occurred that completely destroyed the entire genetic diversity of humanity around 4000 BC. Of which there is no historical or indeed evolutionary evidence for.

2. That this bottleneck occurred in every single land animal or through the process of some fantastic interference that the ENTIRE insect world has evolved from just 2 (or 7) insects on a single boat. That the thousands upon thousands of diverse species of insect evolved in just 6000 years from those 7. And this is without looking into the ridiculous question as to what did the predator species eat. 7 deer is more than what two lions will eat in a year after all. And this is ignoring all the evidence of the origin of humanity being from Africa and instead claiming we came from the Middle East.

3. To understand genetic evolution of diversity in mankind you would have to understand evolution and this simply indicates that Elizabeth neither understands genetics nor evolution and nor the reason why they are useful tools.

“Resisting” the Facts

When Dawkins recommended Nesse’s 1994 book, he said, “If doctors had been wise to natural selection we wouldn’t have the problem we now have with antibiotic resistance evolving by natural selection by bacteria.”4 Yet, antibiotic resistance has nothing to do with evolution. In fact, the assumption that resistance traits have to actually evolve in pathogens is erroneous. Antibiotic resistance, as we discussed recently, involves natural selection and the genetic shuffling of genes that bacteria already possess. That’s why antibiotic resistance in a population of bacteria can develop rapidly, without requiring millions of years like evolutionists must postulate in their efforts to explain the evolution of biological complexity.

No. Bacteria undergo an incredibly rapid lifespan. Some of them have a generation time of around 20 minutes. Time is a human trait. It is the slicing of eternity into understandable sections.

A single human generation is around 25 years. Time from birth to first child.

This is around 657,000 bacterial lifespans. A human time period for that many generations would be around 16 million years. A short time for us is a LONG time for them. It took around 10 to 12 years for penicillin resistance to be noticed which is around 7 million years worth of human evolution.

Okay. This is simplistic. Evolution doesn’t work this way but the time frames we look at in bacteria look rapid to us because we are so incredibly long lived. It is a case of perspective.

And again this is so laughable since the entire world is nearly 6 billion years old and we have someone claiming that it’s under 10,000 years old because their 2000 year old book said so.

Those writers raised the same concerns as Nesse regarding the need to be schooled in evolution in order to understand antibiotic resistance, microbial pathogenicity, genetics, and anatomical problems. They predicted planetary-wide catastrophes in health if vets and docs don’t develop an evolutionary mindset to deal with medical and veterinary problems. Yet, they also failed to distinguish between the observable effects of natural selection and other genetic mechanisms and the unobservable notions of shared evolutionary ancestry. Comparative anatomy, for instance, allows a student to compare the common designs found in animals and humans. These common designs have nothing to do with a shared evolutionary past—nor do they need to. Likewise, medical applications of population genetics and epidemiology (the spread of disease) deal with observations in the present, not conjectures about “deep time.”

Except for the above genetics Elizabeth so derided is the “observed method of inheritance by which we can empirically compare genomes and plot differences and so provide a snapshot of evolutionary changes”.

The essay’s authors cite the importance of understanding evolution to explain the development of pathogenicity (the disease-causing nature of microbes). But, as many articles on this website (listed below) have discussed, microbial pathogens can be best understood by realizing the beneficial roles of microbes in the original, good, disease-free creation and then examining the changes brought about since sin and death entered the world. Understanding how microbial pathogenicity can develop through mechanisms like the horizontal transfer of genomic components (one bacterium passing genetic material directly to another) has nothing to do with evolutionary dogma.

No the horizontal transfer of DNA in bacteria is entirely a survival mechanism. The F Plasmids regularly transfer genes between bacteria and form a type of engine of genetic changes within the species preventing “monoculture”.

The evolution of the F Plasmid and it’s transfer system is rather interesting in itself and is an example of the appropriation of the genes for one thing (the flagella) to do another (transfer DNA).

“Feverish” effort

Dawkins, borrowing some of Nesse’s “evolutionary tips” for doctors, said, “Is [running] a temperature a Darwinian adaptation by the body to make life difficult for the pathogen? If so, giving someone a drug to bring the temperature down is the very last thing a doctor should be doing.”4 There is no need for evolutionary concepts to understand that the fever associated with an infection may, under some circumstances, inhibit the growth of some bacteria. But to point to fever as the obvious result of millions of years of evolutionary adaption in the animal kingdom—as Nesse does in his book6—is not only unverifiable but dangerously simplistic. Fever can be helpful, harmful, or sometimes both at the same time. And the human body’s homeostatic mechanisms (the things that keep all sorts of things, like body temperature, in “balance”) are remarkably complex.

Yes but killing off pathogens is better more often than not. The few times where fever is deadly is outweighed by the majority of times when a fever is merely something to be slept off.

Anti-pyretics help control fevers and keep us vaguely comfortable. The decreased fever may not help fight the pathogen but our increased happiness and indeed mobility allows us to do things like hydrate and eat that contribute to the fighting of pathogens.

And fever as a method of allowing the body to control a general infection while the specific immune system activates would be an evolutionary adaptation since we can tolerate short periods of temperature changes while a monocellular creature cannot.

Nesse acknowledges that we do not understand the evolution of fever and should investigate its evolutionary origins before treating it. He doesn’t go so far as to say we should never try to bring fever down, but Dawkins at least suggests it. Furthermore, lest people actually begin trying to use his evolutionary principles to actually make real decisions about their health, in his book Nesse wrote, “A caveat is necessary. Doctors and patients, like all other people, are prone to extend theories too far. . . . Clinical principles of medicine should come from clinical research, not from theory.”7 Understanding the evolutionary origin of fever—even if it had one—would not help us know whether to give someone an antipyretic (medicine to lower fever). Only experimental laboratory and clinical trials in the here-and-now can determine when it’s best to treat fever and when it’s best to leave it alone. In other words, observable, testable science is the bedrock on which medical practice should be based, not evolutionary conjectures.

No. Dawkins does not.

Yes but understanding the evolution of fever as a defence mechanism would allow us to look at new methods to control fever. Many anti-pyretics have side effects that we can avoid. We can also look at said markers and use them to predict fevers earlier in the same way that we look at cardiac markers to detect heart attacks at much earlier stages.

Frankly, if Nesse and friends wanted to teach a course on how our vulnerability to disease and supposed “design flaws” managed to do an end-run around the evolutionary mechanisms that should have weeded them out, they would do well to subtitle it: “Why Evolution Really CannotExplain Medical Realities.” Both vulnerability to disease and the gradual degeneration of good anatomical and physiological designs make sense when understood in light of biblical history and sin’s curse on an original perfectly good creation.

No it does not. The disobedience towards a magical entity by the consumption of fruit is not an adequate explanation for anything let alone a decent explanation for disease.

The entire evolution of the tape worm is as a parasite. There is no purpose for it’s existence. No grand benefit to the cow or the pig or indeed the human. It’s sole “purpose” is to steal nutrients from it’s host and make eggs to infect another host. The same applies to hook worms and a myriad of fantastic parasites that exist.

The vulnerability to disease is a product of pathogenic evolution. We are in a “war” the pathogens evolve to infect us. We as a species possess an elegant defence since our defence is not based on evolution but on antigen susceptibility. We do not need a certain je ne sais quoi to fight the pathogen but can create the weapon of choice from the slain bodies of our microscopic foe.

It is the pathogens who evolve methods of getting around that.

Dawkins, continuing his Nesse-derived evolutionary tips-for-docs, said, “Lower back pain is likely because we are ancestrally quadrupedal animals turned into bipeds and this is giving us problems.”8 The interaction of many parts of the entire human musculoskeletal design contributes to making our genuine bipedal gait a marvelous design. The design of the lower back enables it to develop a springy protective curve in response to an upright posture. Nothing about this design demonstrates that it evolved from a quadrupedal ancestor. No evolutionary presumptions are needed to explain how the lower back, like everything else in a sin-cursed world, sometimes suffers from stresses and strains and degeneration.

Except for the coccyc which is a human tai and the fact that an upright posture makes us prone to a variety of compressive fractures of the spine. I don’t know about you but in the ideal world of Elizabeth Mitchell, Adam and Eve never sat down a bit too hard and bones never broke because they were made out of magic.

A springy protective curve? One can disprove this via a simple experiment. Straighten your back out and jump into the air. Land with stiff legs.

Hurts right? Because our legs absorb shocks more than our spine. The spine is a TERRIBLE shock absorber as anyone who’s been in a car accident will tell you or anyone who roller/ice skated as a kid and who fell onto their arse can tell you.

We are more prone to compressive fractures of the spine because the entire weight of our upper body is held up by it. Over time this causes damage. We also have poor postures. I am guilty of it too. I am reclined on my bed while I type this. And all these little injuries add up over time.

These are not design flaws. Evolution is not a case of perfect design but of functional success. We climb trees like other apes but we do not do it well because the tool we need to climb has been co-opted and evolved for the usage of tools.

Cause and Effect?

Nesse and his coauthors recommend that “every trait of every organism needs two separate and complementary kinds of explanation, proximate explanations of how mechanisms work, and evolutionary explanations (sometimes called ‘ultimate explanations’) about how they got to be the way they are.”7 For instance, they consider that while it is important for a medical student to learn all about how the adrenal gland works, “Separate, and equally important, is an evolutionary explanation: the phylogeny of the adrenal gland and how it has conferred a selective advantage.”7 However, evolutionary assumptions about phylogeny—the supposed evolutionary ancestral history of the adrenal gland across many kinds of organisms—depend entirely on unverifiable worldview-based presumptions that humans evolved from less complex animals over millions of years. Similarities noted when comparing humans to various animals are easily understood as common designs created by their common Designer. What evolutionists term “selective advantage” is merely a way of reminding students that the anatomy and physiology of the human body is well-designed to cope with life’s stresses. Speculation about how the adrenal gland evolved can contribute nothing to a physician’s ability to understand how the adrenal affects the body or to diagnose and treat its malfunctions.

Unlike the perfectly verified world view that 50% of humanity descended from magic rib surgery.

And that’s not what a selective advantage means. And I am not sure this what Nesse wanted to teach.

The authors of the essay promoting evolutionizing premedical and medical education assert that “knowledge about evolution provides physicians with an integrative framework that links otherwise disparate bits of knowledge. It replaces the prevalent view of bodies as machines with a biological view of bodies shaped by evolutionary processes.”7 As a physician, I can attest that my medical education did not consist of “disparate bits of knowledge” in need of a unifying concept. Medical schools must integrate a phenomenal amount of detailed information concerning the anatomy, physiology, histology, biochemistry, and pathophysiology of each area of the human body into a unified whole. In fact, it is that, in part, which distinguishes a physician’s education from that of most technicians and support personnel. But physicians are trained to understand how “each part” interacts with “every other part” in the here and now without any need to look back over the eons to figure out how things supposedly evolved to work the way they do. (That’s why even Nesse has to include a caveat that medical judgments should be based on “clinical trials” instead of evolutionary claims.) And while I don’t doubt that many of my professors and mentors in medical school accepted evolution, they were too busy teaching us about things that mattered to waste time on it.

Trivialising the entire field of biology which helps drive medicine’s tools and weapons in the fight against disease is rather blind.

The complaint is that doctors have enough things to worry about without “pointless” evolution which is based on being nearly 20 years out of date with medical education, not understanding evolution and indeed grasping that teaching the evolution of stuff probably would be a handful of lines.

Where’s the Harm?

Other than the obvious problems of crowding out basic science courses that have genuine relevance to the practice of medicine, is there any harm in teaching more evolution to medical students? History would say “yes.” Erroneous beliefs that certain mysterious “vestigial organs” were useless evolutionary leftovers, for instance, led many physicians to destroy them needlessly. Countless appendixes were removed unnecessarily on the Darwinian assumption that they were useless leftovers from our ape-ish heritage, ignoring clear evidence that the appendix functions as part of the immune system. Likewise, the thymus glands of many children were needlessly irradiated by physicians who thought the thymus—an important component of a child’s developing immune system—was a useless evolutionary vestige.

Nonsense, poppycock and hogwash.

The good doctor is either lying about this or is just forgotten the indication for the removal of the Appendix.

The appendix may have a role in the immune system due to it’s large level of lymphatics. HOWEVER and this is a big freaking however, an infection of  the Appendix has a problem. Being a organ filled with bacteria, it is prone to infection. The evolutionary atrophy of the appendix has resulted in it being rather small and it is possible to block the opening of the appendix (faecolith – a stone made out of faeces). Basically? It is prone for infection.

Now when an appendix is infected there undergoes inflammation and a variety of changes to the structure of the appendix including it’s swelling. Indeed, chronic appendicitis can be managed via medication.

Until it goes acute and then we take it out.

So why wait? Why wait till it’s a serious medical emergency? We invented a procedure to reduce the stress of surgery. Laproscopic surgery is minimally invasive, done via very small incisions and while it takes longer to do it is easier to close. For the price of one camera port incision and 3 holes you can remove the appendix safely and even under spinal anasthesia. But all this requires planning.

The medical treatment of appendicitis has reduced because appendicitis has a high rate of recurrence in medical treatment. Upto 20% have a recurrence WITHIN a year. Most eventually require their appendixes to be removed.

So why bother with a delaying tactic. A delaying tactic that puts people at risk since each bout of appendicitis carries the risk of rupture which has a high rate of mortality due to peritonitis and infection.

No I am afraid the removal of the appendix simply makes sense. It’s role in the immune system is “all well and good” but the risk of peritonitis and the dangers of that is more important.

The Thymus too is important but there are conditions where it needs to be removed. The statement made by Elizabeth simplifies surgery to blind removal of organs. There is a zen to surgery and part of that is knowing when to NOT do a procedure.

The Thymus has in my memory NEVER been regarded as a vestigal organ. I do not remember a single book in the past 25 years calling it as such. It is has always been known as an organ of childhood and indeed the increase in size until puberty indicates that it has a role. Organs do not get big for no real reason.

Elizabeth does not mention the indications for thymus removal or irradiation. Considering we know that it’s vital to the health of the patient, why would we remove such a gland?

The answer should be clear. Something has gone wrong with the gland specifically that cannot be ignored.

There are three indications for the removal of a Thymus. Congenital Heart Defects when corrected require the surgical removal of the thymus  in order to access the heart. Myasthenia Gravis is a disorder where the patient benefits from the removal off the Thymus particularly considering it slows the progress of this disease down. And finallly Thymomas or Thymus Cancer. Because “it’s cancer”.

Irradiation of the thymus was done in the 1950s because there was little capacity for the sort of surgical skill we possess today. We do not do it anymore because it increases the risk of lymphomas and leukemias and because we have the above surgical procedure. The vast majority of children who have their thymus removed have it done to ensure that they grow older.

Darwinian assumptions are not needed for the day-to-day work of science. If you look at the biochemical literature for scientific papers that try to explain how biochemical systems developed step-by-step in Darwinian fashion, there aren’t any. It’s startling. Most biologists completely ignore evolution in their work, and the ones that think about it simply look for relationships and don’t bother with Darwinism. My University of Georgia colleague in biochemistry, Professor Russell Carlson, has expressed the same sentiment to me privately.

I assume this is the “creationist” step by stem. Where they want a chart of the evolution of a biochemical pathway from “molecule” to “very complex chain”. Because a quick googling shows me this.

Dr. Benjamin Carson, who is a professor of neurology, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics, the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, and co-director of the Craniofacial Center there, is a creationist. He told the National Science Teachers convention, “Evolution and creationism both require faith. It’s just a matter of where you choose to place that faith.”10Despite a flap last year from evolutionists who objected to him speaking at Emory University’s commencement on the grounds that such a non-evolutionist “did not understand science,” Dr. Carson has done brilliant work on behalf of children with craniofacial deformities. Dr. Carson’s work depends on observable science, not evolutionary conjecture. In his field, his understanding of embryological developmental errors that produce birth defects is not hampered by his “refusal” to believe that embryologic development recapitulates an evolutionary past. He understands human anatomy and development and has developed innovative ways to relieve human suffering. That’s what physicians do. They deal in the here and now.

Then Dr. Carson requires an education in basic biology. Evolution does not require faith any more than gravity does.

The argument here makes no sense. The man is an expert in cranio-facial deformity. He is not an expert in evolution. This is like complaining that we are discriminating against Yo-Yo Ma because we won’t let him teach the piano. (Maybe he can play the piano?)

I think that Nesse’s approach is as laudable as it is flawed. Evolutionary psychology proposes that most if not all human psychological traits are complex adaptations which have evolved under selective pressures. Richardson [in R.C. Richardson’s 2007 Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology] convincingly shows that the claim that all our psychological capacities have been selected for the purpose of accomplishing a particular task is too strong and that the empirical evidence required to support this claim is necessarily historical. The problem is, however, that the required historical evidence is hard or impossible to come by – we simply do not know what psychological traits were prevalent let alone advantageous to survive in a Pleistocene environment about which we also have little information. For evolutionary psychology to be regarded as a credible theoretical framework it will have to be examined against standards of scientific enquiry used in other evolutionary fields such as evolutionary biology (emphasis ours).

Which if you note is an argument based on evolution rather than “because god did it”. In fact if we lived in the unchanging creationist world that is only a few thousand years old, Nesse’s approach would be perfectly fine.

Unfortunately, the discernment expressed by this evolutionary letter-writer regarding the lack of historical documentation or objective evidence to back up Nesse’s evolutionary conjectures about the human mind does not extend to his understanding of biology. Evolutionary biology is just as lacking in historical and objective evidence.

Except for all the fossils and the genetics and the mountains of evidence… it is lacking.

Conclusion

The presumptions of evolutionary biology do not need to be taught to pre-medical and medical students as if they are factual. Future clinicians do well to discern that what can be tested and observed is qualitatively distinct from evolutionary mythology. The lessons of the past—the recent past, that is—have shown how evolutionary presumptions can derail sound medical judgments. The areas in which evolutionary biologists claim to be able to contribute to medical education actually have nothing to do with evolution. Rather, the ordinary observable processes of natural selection, comparative anatomy and physiology, microbiology, molecular genetics, epidemiology, and population genomics are able to serve practicing and academic physicians without any evolutionary overlay. Evolutionary instruction can contribute nothing useful to the future of medical care nor can it equip clinicians to stop the scourge of antibiotic resistance or relieve the burden of disease on the humans and animals living on earth.

Except these systems are all intrinsically linked to evolution. It is impossible to teach comparative anatomy with our closest evolutionary relatives without bringing up evolution. It is impossible to teach microbiology without looking at evolution of diseases. It is impossible to look at physiology without mentioning all living creatures operate under similar parts of physiology and the more related they are the greater the physiology and anatomical similarities they share. Genetics is pretty much the code by which heredity  occurs and is the actual mechanism of phenotypes that evolution  acts upon. Epidemiology charts the spread of diseases and in particular strains that evolve and population genomics pretty much rules out the entirity of Noah’s Flood by  pointing out that the genetic diversity that we possess is millions of years in the making.

And as a doctor, Elizabeth would be aware of the capacity  of gene sequencing and our study of mutants antibiotic resistance. We are able to take a lawn of bacteria and plate them to form individual colonies of bacteria and grow these on antibiotic plates. She implies that resistance is an on/off modality with bacteria and it’s not. It’s shades. Not all resistances are equal. Consider  it a percentage resistance. Like a RPG armour score doesn’t always negate damage but reduces it.

Evolutionary education has effectively turned biology from the genteel science of vicars to an applied hard science. Where evolutionary understanding has been applied to everything from farming to indeed medical research with massive benefits to medical science.

While evolution may have little to do with the treatment of patients, the lack of hard science education of doctors does mean that they are disconnected from the process of research or fail to understand the value of research. I am aware of the level of work that medical students have to put up with and can safely say that medical students do have the time to learn a little bit of the basics of evolution with regards to medicine and will probably appreciate the background.

Medicine is not a field you read to the syllabus but a vast ocean. In my mind it’s the only job that you only stop learning till you retire. You never say “no, I know enough”. You always learn more because you can always improve. While the teaching of evolution may be unnecessary to create doctors it’s also not an excuse to push Elizabeth’s alternative theory and indeed co-opt Medicine into the Creationist Fold.

Also? The “It’s a sin” theory of medical disease really doesn’t help anyone.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    The Nazis rejected common descent because Frankenberger rejected it in Mein Kampf. Since common descent is the basis of evolution, the notion that Darwin’s theory led to the Holocaust is poppycock.

  2. Al Dente says

    colnago80 @1

    Would you knock off the Frankenburger bullshit. It’s not clever and it’s not true. We’re all aware you’re only doing it because you know it pisses off people who actually know history.

  3. angharad says

    People with non-A blood types are more resistant to smallpox.

    Really? That is both a very interesting fact I did not know, and rather alarming (being A+ myself). Thank Fenner it’s gone.

  4. colnago80 says

    Re Al Dente @ #2

    His biological paternal grandfather could have been Leopold Frankenberger. All we know is that Alois was christened Alois Schickelgruber and no name is shown for father on his birth certificate.

  5. Samsara says

    “It is impossible to teach comparative anatomy with our closest evolutionary relatives without bringing up evolution.”
    Actually what the anti-evolutionist Christians will tell you is that ‘comparative anatomy’ does not support ‘evolution theory’ but rather points to a single creator (whom evidently wasn’t terribly creative if said ‘creator’ used such similar anatomical systems repeatedly).

    “While evolution may have little to do with the treatment of patients, the lack of hard science education of doctors does mean that they are disconnected from the process of research or fail to understand the value of research.”
    True & quite surprising since all medical schools are affiliated with & usually taught by researchers (universities).

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Spam alert @ # 6.

    Organs do not get big for no real reason.

    Tell that to my prostate gland, please! (And ask Dr. Mitchell for an “intelligent design” explanation of same while you’re at it…)

  7. Al Dente says

    colnago80 @4

    His biological paternal grandfather could maybe possibly perhaps have been Leopold Frankenberger but almost certainly not.

    FIFY

    As I said, knock it off. It’s not clever and you’re only doing it to annoy people who know more history than you do (which is the vast majority of the Earth’s population).

  8. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    This is the first I’ve heard that all Ashkenazi Jews get tested for Tay-Sachs carrier status; how long has this been standard, and is that worldwide or in certain places? (I’m old enough that I don’t think it would have come up for me personally even if I’d intended to have children, though I agree that it’s a good idea now that we can. Tay-Sachs is by itself sufficient evidence that humans were not designed by a benevolent deity.)

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