The next question is, how many of them moonlight as ministers?

Larry Moran sneers at the creationist habit of stoking their numbers by claiming that M.D.s are “science professionals”, and therefore bolster their generic claim that ‘growing numbers of scientists are defecting from the Darwinist camp’.

I’ll make Larry’s sneer even fiercer by pointing out that many of them are dentists.

(I have nothing against doctors and dentists, of course, and have nothing but respect for their important skills. Most are not scientists, however, and don’t think like scientists, and don’t even pay much attention to the basic scientific literature. Claiming scientific legitimacy by tallying up your fan base among dental hygenists is like claiming Al Gore should have been the president because Canadians liked him better than Bush. Worse, because scientific conclusions are not determined by popular vote.)


  1. Rieux says

    Worse, because scientific conclusions are not determined by popular vote.

    Neither are presidential elections. X-P

  2. uncle bob says

    I think other “science professionals” include Pesticide
    Applicators and Landscaping Contractors…oh and don’t
    forget Automotive Mechanics and Sanitary Engineers!

  3. says

    Coincidentally I touched on this briefly in my post last night entitled, Papers About Papers About Papers. Not so much on the point that Creationists are saying doctors are scientists, but that the vast majority of academic articles published by doctors are ridiculous and conclude very little. Much of academia, as you well know, is more about earning tenure than original thought. The same goes for these so-called medical scientists.

  4. Chuck says

    Although heathcare professionals like dentists, physicians, and pharmacists aren’t scientists, there must be some kind of placebo effect associated with knowing that your healthcare provider is an expert in the life sciences. It is, therefore, disturbing that so physicians are able to get into medical school without sufficient education in biology. The biological sciences portion of the MCAT does include questions on evolution as well as basic physiology, genetics, molecular biology, but comparably few. If physicians challenged the central dogma of molecular biology, we would regard them as quacks. We should regard doctors who reject the evolutionary paradigm as quacks, too. Instead, I fear, a lot of country doctors are probably admired for their piety.

  5. Christian Burnham says

    I’d rather have a dentist try to do science than a scientist try her hand at dentistry.

  6. Robert says

    I wouldn’t. Imagine a dentist bumbling around a CDC level 4 pathogenic lab. Not a great picture.

  7. Ray S says

    GP doctors are alarmingly like auto mechanics. Dentists more like auto body repair in my experience. Neither are scientists in any real sense of the term.

  8. waldteufel says

    The newly appointed chairman of the Texas State Board of Education is one Dr. Don McLeroy, who is a really wacked out fundy and creationist. Dr. McLeroy is also a dentist.

    By the way, uncle bob, good ol’ Tom DeLay, renowned wingnut from the religious right, owned a pest control company before he became a congressman.

  9. says

    I wouldn’t. Imagine a dentist bumbling around a CDC level 4 pathogenic lab. Not a great picture.

    In all fairness, imagining most scientists bumbling around a CDC level 4 pathogen lab would scare me. Dealing with such pathogens is a highly specialized area of science, and the vast majority of biomedical researchers don’t have a clue how to properly use such a lab.

  10. uncle bob says

    Tom DeLay’s a scientist? Who’d a thunk? (I was referring
    to the bug sprayer on “Arachnophobia”!)

  11. says

    So what? We can play at that game as well:

    “Four out of five dentists recommend evolution over creationism as part of an effective science curriculum.”

  12. Dustin says

    You’re all crazy. I look in my kitchen utensil drawer and see a nutcracker, a garlic press, a meat mallet, a serrated bread knife — all of those have teeth, and all of them were created. You have teeth too. And who knows that? Your dentist! Dentists are scientists who are qualified to talk about the darwinocommunomaterialreductionist conspiracy.

    You may have defeated the Banana Argument, you may have defeated the Peanut Butter Argument, you may have defeated the PYGMIES + DWARFS!!, but against the kitchen utensils and dentists there is no avail! BAHAHAHAHAHA.

  13. Christian Burnham says

    PZ: Why do you hate dentists? If the dentists pull out of your mouth then the gum disease will have won. We’re fighting gum disease in your mouth so that we don’t have to fight fungus on your toes.

  14. Bob L says

    Well, Praise Jesus my doctor is a Hindu then! I don’t want someone prescribing me medicine who doesn’t believe that bacteria and virus don’t evolve.

  15. MJ Memphis says

    “I look in my kitchen utensil drawer and see a nutcracker, a garlic press, a meat mallet, a serrated bread knife — all of those have teeth, and all of them were created.”

    And they’re all made of metal. Therefore it stands to reason that your teeth are also metal. Oh, dentists will prattle on about enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp, but that is just a conspiracy to keep you ignorant and docile while they charge exorbitant fees for their “services”. Those “cavities” they talk about? Really just rust, easily repaired with a quality metal filler or glue. Stop the dental conspiracy!

  16. Loc says

    I think Vets are worse than dentists. A large majority of them believe God created their patients less than 10,000 years ago. I know because I dated a future DVM.

    Second…I looked around on the DI website and found the “Scientist Dissent From Darwinism” members. In defense of them…there are a considerable amount of Biologists, however, they also have the likes of PhD’s in Civil/Structural Engineering, Nuclear Eng. Civil/Environmental Eng. Full Professors (nothing else attributed), Philosophy, and a Former President??

    The list goes on. But…the main thing to witness is that the paper they signed didn’t support ID; “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence of Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

    In defense of the Dentists…theirs added; “We don’t support any other alternative theory.”

  17. Pablo says

    My wife always likes to wear a shirt that says doctors are people who couldn’t get into vet school. Then what does that say about dentists?

    (to be fair, one of the best students I have come across is going to dental school – otoh, other folks I have known to go to dental school have not been quite to that level…)

  18. Diego says

    I have a good friend who I went to grad school with. After she got her Master’s in evolutionary biology she decided to go to dental school. It wasn’t as big a leap as you might think because in grad school she worked on dental evolution of crocodilians. :) Anyway, she tells me that although she loves the work she’s doing that the atmosphere in dental school is quite different and that scientific reasoning is not as much of a priority.

  19. ironranger says

    A Baptist veternarian in my area often writes long letters to ed in local papers earnestly defending creationism.

  20. ignored_ethos says

    “Worse, because scientific conclusions are not determined by popular vote.)”

    Apparently, neither are presidential elections in the US.

  21. says


    How the hell can you be a competent veterinarian and an evolution denier at the same time? Or do they compartmentalize like crazy to keep the cognitive dissonance from eating them alive?

  22. Dustin says

    And they’re all made of metal.

    Metal? What do you think this is? The 1950’s? All of my kitchen products have been made of only the lowest quality plastic in a country with an oppressive government at the behest of a big box retailer who enforces their minimum price agreements with draconian reprisals! Intelligent Designer bless predatory anarcho-crony-capitalism!

  23. tony says

    How the hell can you be a competent veterinarian and an evolution denier at the same time?

    Ahhh… but who said they were competent

  24. plunge says

    I’m married to a doctor: I’m not sure I wouldn’t call even “most” doctors non-scientists so easily: evidence-based medicine very much thinking scientifically, and anyone who basically reads journal articles on medical studies to keep up with science for a living, as well as cycles in and out of publishing things as part of trials and other things as they crop up certainly seems pretty scientisty to me.

    I think a better and more reasonable statement is that they are by no means experts in evolutionary biology, or even anything beyond the human biology relevant to treatments. It’s not like doctors have much time to learn about, let alone become experts in things outside their field. They barely have enough time to eat and sleep.

  25. Loc says

    I definitely believe that both dentists and vets can be competent in what they do and NOT understand anything about evolution. The vet I know is extremely bright. She can remember anything and everything that I’ve ever said. However, she’s been indoctrinated into the evangelical movement because she was raised that way. She went to a Christian College and then to vet school.

    People like that have a very small chance of breaking away from the dogma that is in their everyday life.

  26. says

    One is far more likely to see “must’ve been a miracle” invoked in the clinic than in the lab to explain the inexplicable:

    patient: “you mean my cancer just sorta disappeared on its own?”

    Doc: “I dunno. Must’ve been a miracle.”

    Molecular Biology Lab
    Grad Student: “After trying all summer, I finally got that plasmid made that we need for the experiment.”

    PI: “How’d that happen?”

  27. Josh says

    Loc wrote *I think Vets are worse than dentists. A large majority of them believe God created their patients less than 10,000 years ago. I know because I dated a future DVM.*

    When I was working on my PhD I had to take some classes in the Vet. School. I met more than one creationist therein. Not a majority certainly or even a huge percentage, but a few.

  28. Interrobang says

    I love my doctor because she thinks like a scientist. (I also love her because she’s a big big nerd — when I showed her my spiffy tailor’s bunion, she said, “Oh, cool! I’ve never seen one of those before!”)

    …Al Gore should have been the president because Canadians liked him better than Bush.

    Why not? You should listen to us next time! Not that I’m advocating merging the two countries or anything, but considering the amount of impact you folks’ governments have on the place, it’s a damn shame we can’t vote in your elections. *grin*

  29. efp says

    My wife is in dental school, and has noted a large number of Mormon dental students. It just seems to be a cultural thing. (And if, three years from now, anyone wants to know where to find a Darwin-lovin’ atheist dentist, I’ll help you out.)

  30. says

    I’d have a whole lot more confidence in the local clinic if the reading material available while I wait didn’t include *The Story of the Bible.* My only comfort is that the doctor(s) probably aren’t involved in buying these materials, and don’t even notice them. At least, that’s what I tell myself…

  31. says

    In a previous job where I was working on small businesses networks and computers we had a number (more than 10) chiropractor offices as clients. Every single one of the places was full of Christian literature and propaganda. Pamphlets, bibles, posters, announcements of meetings (along with a lot of woo literature as well). I’m going to assume, judging by the type of literature involved that some if not all of these were creationists. It was a small sample size but I’m curious who else has seen this?

  32. says

    But, to be clear, we probably should institute a list at NCSE for physicians who understand evolution, and another list for dentists who understand evolution.

    Heck, we oughtta get one for engineers who understand evolution, too.

    Then, when the creationists trot out these silly lists, we can say, “Science isn’t done by majority vote, but if it were, your nutballs are clearly in the minority.”

  33. says

    Tom DeLay’s a scientist? Who’d a thunk? (I was referring to the bug sprayer on “Arachnophobia”!)

    No, Tom Delay is not a scientist. He had a bug spraying company. He was a cockroach poisoner.

  34. MikeM says

    My dentist isn’t on the list, but he does have copies of “Creation” magazine in his lobby.

    I think that’s kind of creepy.

  35. Badoc says

    I’m a doctor (pediatrician) and I am not a scientist. I wish I was. I majored in Chemistry in college, but there were two chemistry majors, one was certified by the American Chemical Society, another was called “liberal arts chemistry” which excluded the Physical Chemistry course, and was there for pre-meds. I took the latter. In Medical School, you have to take Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, etc. but that is so you’ll have the background you need for the clinical years.

    My day is spent talking to parents, troubled adolescents, about their poop, cough, snot, rash, grades in school, anxieties, hair falling out, birth control, etc. etc. Not doing science.

    I read Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, Sean Carroll, Dawkins, etc. Does that count?

    Here is an article in a popular Doctor’s magazine that addresses the relgion issue. Where I live, doctors are practically televangelists.

  36. Josh says

    *Here is an article in a popular Doctor’s magazine that addresses the religion issue. Where I live, doctors are practically televangelists.*

    The comments posted by the readers of that article caused a bit of a shudder…

  37. Moses says

    Dentists?? Bwa ha ha ha ha!!! I consider them as much “scientist” as my fellow model railroaders armed with their Dremel Moto-tools.

  38. Glenn says

    Thank you for posting that link, Badoc (#43). I’d have been happier if the article itself referred more to evidence of the results of bringing religion into medical practice. But it does give me some idea of the complexity a physician faces in dealing with the issue.

    I’m with Josh (#44). The comments are shocking.

  39. dr. luba says

    I’m an OB/GYN who majored in chemistry (the real thing, including PChem). I’ve always considered myself a scientist, and approach things analytically. I read the journals, and look at the stats before deciding to change the way I do things. I ignore the drug reps.

    I work in a very non-religious environment; our patients are a mix of just about any nationality, sexual persuasion and religion you can imagine. I speak three languages (and understand a couple more), which helps a lot at the hospital. We used to have a few very vocal “christians” on the nursing staff, who were also our most vocal racists. Odd how often that goes together. Both have, thankfully, moved on.

    Evolutionary biology is the underpinning of modern biology, and thus should be an integral part of medicine. It was not taught overtly in my medical school curriculum, but was implied in most of the teaching. I find it hard to believe that someone can be a doctor and deny evolution, but have met a few who do (although not in my work environment). Although some basic science courses are required for medical school admission, one doesn’t need to be a science major to get in.

    Sadly, many doctors are not scientists, but practice a kind of cookbook medicine, and don’t really care about the biological or chemical basis of the diseases they treat. It’s part intellectual laziness and part poor training.

    Badoc, I read that article when it came out, and found it a bit disturbing. To me, medicine is medicine, and religion is religion. The doctor patient relationship is special, there is a lot of inherent power in the doctor role, and using that power to push your religious beliefs on another individual is just wrong. But then, I’m an atheist who volunteers at a Christian hospital in India (CMCH). There the Christians believe in teaching by example instead of exhortation, and do not proselytize their patients at all. They treat anyone who is sick and in need, not just believers. And the medical staff is a mix of Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others. (Christians who try to live the teachings of Christ instead of bleating on about he blood of the lamb — Go figure!)

  40. Matt says

    I am a veterinarian and a non-believer, so I know of at least one! My class had a large number of creationists. The cirriculum rarely hit on evolution per se, but classes such as anatomy, embryology, behavior, and, especially microbiology were taught with the assumption that evolution is a fact. Strangely, none of them ever said anything about it. They simply learned what they were told to learn and regurgitated it back to get their “A”. So, I guess they compartmentalize quite a bit. Incidentally, they recognize antibiotic resistance in bacteria as a real problem, but I don’t know how they choose to explain it. Compartmentalization. Must be hard.

  41. says

    It’s worth bearing in mind that medical schools have, for the past several years, been pushing hard to rouse more applicants to their MD/PhD programs – and as difficult as they are to survive, they’re now one of the easiest ways to get into medical school (perhaps I should say “easier”).

    Also, it’s pretty much a standard rule that the -best- physicians in the field are those that carry out research. You can literally tag a physician’s eminence in the field by his publication record.

    So, while not all doctors are scientists, one ought to at least bear in mind that the BEST doctors are.

  42. says

    I have a degree in Computer Science, in case someone wants to list me as a pro-evolution “scientist”. If you like, you can also add my parents, both of whom have degrees in PoliSci.

  43. badoc says

    Dr. Luba, I appreciate your scientific approach. I practice the same way you do. The bulk of my skills, however are in the application of someone else’s science. I understand antibiotic resistance, but when I write a prescription, that is one of a myriad of factors that come into the decision what to write. Medicine is a ‘people’ profession, whether or not you are primary care. Some academics do bench research, but they are the vast minority.

    Isn’t it interesting that there has been a push for ‘evidence based medicine?’ What is non-evidence based? Its called voodoo in my opinion, and you’re right, there are many doctors out there practicing this.

    Many of the religious practices of my patients’ parents lead to pathology. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ line. The bible is basically seen as a license to abuse. Most relgious zealots are also controlling parents (and were controlled themselves) thus eating disorders and anxiety disorders are rampant in this population. Read James Dobson’s book ‘dare to discipline’ for a case study on how religous zealots teach parents to be abusive. Use ‘On becoming babywise’ by Ezzo as an instruction manual in starving your baby for Christ. These things are VERY popular where I live.

    If anyone is interested, the Amazon reviews of the Ezzo book were interesting, I looked them up as I wrote this post:

  44. silverspoon says

    I’m ecstatic with the idea that dentists can claim to be scientists; and experts on evolutionary biology at that! Since minimal knowledge of a subject grants dentists the esteemed title of Scientist, I now proclaim all persons working at nuclear power plants as physicists. After all, nuke plant workers must know the very basics of radioactive decay to work at one. Maybe the ICR could start their own list of nuclear workers who deny the constancy of radioactive decay.

  45. says

    Achh. There is a chiropractor in my cohort who calls himself “Dr.”. It’s awful. He’s a really nice guy, but I’m sure he doesn’t even consider himself a scientist. The real problem is that people think he went to medical school, or that he did a biology undergraduate degree. Nope, did it all at chiropractic school, where you align chakras, get peoples chi in order and cure arthritis with x rays and neck twisting.

  46. uncle bob says

    “Tom DeLay’s a scientist?”

    If he owned a pesticide company then he made his employees
    read the warnings on the bottles and the OSHA or NIOSH hazard
    sheets…makes him a “scientific professional” I think…in
    charge of pesticide applicators who are supposed to read and
    sign off stuff that neither Dentists or Doctors are qualified
    to talk about…like where does the mercury go?

  47. says

    I think Im a statistician. I just spent the last hour collecting published data and calculating odds ratios for Avandia data.

  48. uncle bob says

    I meant to write “neither Doctors nor Dentists”…but I also
    should have capitalized Pesticide Applicators. Sorry.

  49. uncle bob says

    I wonder if Statisticians are “science professionals”, as well;
    …can we brand them with a cross…or do we go with the 666?

  50. says

    I’ve written about the scientific status of medicine and other related fields. Short version: medical research is usually technological (like engineering research) and application of medicine is a technic, like autorepair or the like.

  51. says


    There is a lot of voodoo out there, which I realized back when I was in residency. My chief told me to choose some articles for journal club at our “lesser” hospital. I picked some interesting articles about possible pathophysiological pathways for the development of preeclampsia. My chief took one look and told me it would be way too complicated, I needed something easier, like “when to perform an episiotomy.”

    So that’s what we chose, and the evening consisted good food, nice wine, and a bunch of old (mostly) white men declaring “I don’t care what the article says, I’ve always done it this way……” I think they’re mostly retired or dead by now. Still, there remains a lot of resistance to evidence based medicine, generally from the Chertoff types who prefer to go with their “gut.” Facts can be counter-intuitive and inconvenient.

    Yes, there is a lot of “art” in medicine, as you have to interact with and take care of non-medical people, to act as a translator, explainer, reassurer. But you also need the science to be able to understand what you’re doing and to help your patients make the best soundly medical choices, otherwise you’re really no better than the snake oil salesman or local quack.

    I’ve felt that understanding the scientific technique and applying it to life is a bit like religion–you’re genetically predisposed to it (or not). Perhaps it’s a personality type, or the way the mind works. I have spent hours trying to explain how experimental technique works to my non-science friends and relatives–how results of studies, when statistically significant, change the way we practice medicine– only to be told that we are a just a bunch of “flip-floppers.”

    Then again, perfectly nice and otherwise intelligent people explain to me about their belief in some spirit in the sky, and I just can’t get my mind around it, no matter how I try.

  52. says

    I don’t think the analogy is quite apt, however, there is great variation from doctor to doctor. Medicine is a complicated field, requiring, at its best, a good knowledge of science and scientific method, statistics, psychology, medical knowledge, and luck.

  53. says

    I wonder if Statisticians are “science professionals”, as well;
    …can we brand them with a cross…or do we go with the 666?

    Ooh, Bob. YOu’re spoiling for a fight, aren’t you? You could just brand us with “Statistician”. That does the job effectively.

    On dentists, I hear that they’re forming a group to advocate for creationism in the UK. They’re going to call it Tooth in Science.


  54. autumn says

    I can almost understand MDs being creationist, as they are primarily concerned with the treatment of patients right now. I would be VERY wary, however, of a veterinarian who didn’t fully understand evoloutionary theory. What the hell do they imagine all of those cross-species analogues to be derived from?

  55. Matt says

    I would be VERY wary, however, of a veterinarian who didn’t fully understand evoloutionary theory. What the hell do they imagine all of those cross-species analogues to be derived from?

    In my experience, they don’t bother thinking about all that. They just stick their fingers in their ears and say “Lalalalala” until you stop talking about it. After that they just go on with their delusion. It’s really irritating…as you all know.

    Matt Veterinarian

  56. EW says

    One of the most agonizing things for me in the physician patient relationship is when a patient asks me to pray with them. Uggh. I have an aversion to offending my patients but it irritates me no end that people believe in supernatural crap and, worse, want to waste my time with it. I don’t know that they’d do better if I had an additonal minute or two to help them, but I guarentee my prayer doesn’t. If I can’t duck out of it gracefully I usually just stand there silently, but I hate it.

  57. TTT says

    You’ve already discussed here the wingnut cult of personality fixating on DOCTOR Michael Crichton, ex-surgeon and thus expert on climate science.

  58. Bob, DVM says

    #49: Matt, now there are two of us on record!

    A dentist in my area has written a couple of impressive-sounding guest columns defending ID, and after the last one, in which he claimed, among other hogwash, “there are thousands of highly educated scientists who believe that ID is a valid interpretation of the facts”, I couldn’t restrain myself any longer and submitted my own column (printed a month later). It was satisfying to do so, but it was like that joke about peeing in a pair of dark pants–it gives you a warm feeling that nobody else notices.

    Several here have expressed amazement, shock or worse that medically educated people (physicians, dentists, veterinarians, for sake of this comment) can actually buy into creationism. Several others from these professions have commented that it’s not hard to understand why this is so, given the nature of what these people are trained to do.

    I agree with the latter crowd, not surprisingly, having been through the mill myself. Beyond a few undergraduate biology courses in which evolution was discussed at length, that was pretty much the end of it. Docs (all degrees–it’s late and I’m trying to be brief) are trained to be problem solvers of a practical nature: what’s the patient’s problem, how can we accurately diagnose it and how can we treat it. And cheaply, if possible. Not a lot of time in that education to cover in detail how evolutionary processes resulted in conservation of this gene or the presence of those cross-species analogues.

    And it gets worse once you start practicing, which is why for most docs with true scientific curiousity, they don’t usually practice very long before moving into some more intellectually satisfying area of their professions. An old saying is that 80% of what you see in practice tests about 20% of what you know, and that’s the truth. I loved badoc’s comment (43) above about what his/her (sorry, don’t know) days are filled with. In small animal (dogs and cats) practice, I observed that ear problems, skin problems, vomiting and diarrhea made up a majority of what I saw every day.

    Keith Douglas nailed it in #59 with this: “Short version: medical research is usually technological (like engineering research) and application of medicine is a technic, like auto repair or the like.” I couldn’t agree more.

  59. says

    Bob, DVM: Thanks. A lot of people (often physicians) become really irate when I tell them that. But that’s probably only because we (socially) undervalue most skilled labour …