Skip to comments.Citizen MD [American Medical Association op-ed against Intelligent Design]
Posted on 12/03/2005 6:18:54 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
Im afraid we live in loopy times. How else to account for the latest entries in Americas culture wars: science museum docents donning combat gloves against rival fundamentalist tour groups and evolution on trial in a Pennsylvania federal court. For those keeping score, so far this year its Monkeys: 0, Monkey Business: 82. That's 82 evolution versus creationism debates in school boards or towns nationwidethis year alone. 
This past summer, when most Americans were distracted by thoughts of beaches and vacations or the high price of gasoline (even before the twin hits of Katrina and Rita), 2 heavy-weight political figures joined the President of the United States to weigh in on a supposedly scientific issue. US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Arizona Senator John McCain, and President George W. Bush each endorsed the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in the science classroom. Can anyone reasonably convince me that these pronouncements were not just cynical political punditry but, rather, were expressions of sincere beliefs?
So you have to ask yourself in light of all of these events, are we headed back to the past with no escape in the future? Are we trapped in a new period of history when science, once again, is in for the fight of its life?
In times like these, as inundated as we are by technical wizardry, one might conclude that American technological supremacy and know-how would lead, inevitably, to a deeper understanding or trust of science. Well, it doesnt. Perhaps just the opposite is true. Technology and gee whiz gadgetry has led to more suspicion rather than less. And a typical Americans understanding of science is limited at best. As far as evolution is concerned, if youre a believer in facts, scientific methods, and empirical data, the picture is even more depressing. A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Science found that 64 percent of respondents support teaching creationism side by side with evolution in the science curriculum of public schools. A near majority48 percentdo not believe that Darwins theory of evolution is proven by fossil discoveries. Thirty-three percent believe that a general agreement does not exist among scientists that humans evolved over time .
What if we become a nation that cant chew gum, walk down the street, and transplant embryonic stem cells all at the same time? Does it matter?
New York Times journalist Cornelia Dean, who balances her time between science reporting for the Times and lecturing at Harvard, told me that she believes that science stands in a perilous position. Science, as an institution, has largely ceded the microphone to people who do not necessarily always embrace the scientific method, she says. Unless scientists participate in the public life of our country, our discourse on a number of issues of great importance becomes debased .
Others, such as journalist Chris Mooney, point to the increasing politicization of science as a pollutant seeping into our nations psyche. In his recent book, The Republican War on Science, Mooney spells out the danger of ignorance in public life when ideology trumps science.
Science politicization threatens not just our public health and the environment but the very integrity of American democracy, which relies heavily on scientific and technical expertise to function. At a time when more political choices than ever before hinge upon the scientific and technical competence of our elected leaders, the disregard for consensus and expertiseand the substitution of ideological allegiance for careful assessmentcan have disastrous consequences .
Jon D. Miller, PhD, a political scientist on faculty at Northwestern Universitys School of Medicine, believes that the sophisticated questions of biology that will confront each and every American in the 21st Century will require that they know the difference between a cell and a cell phone and are able to differentiate DNA from MTV. For decades, Miller has been surveying Americans about their scientific knowledge. We are now entering a period where our ability to unravel previously understood or not understood questions is going to grow extraordinarily, says Miller. As long as you are looking at the physics of nuclear power plants or the physics of transistors [all 20th Century questions] it doesnt affect your short-term belief systems. You can still turn on a radio and say it sounds good but you dont have to know why it works. As we get into genetic medicine, infectious diseases if you dont understand immunity, genetics, the principles of DNA, youre going to have a hard time making sense of these things .
These ideological battles arent likely to vanish any time soon. If anything, an organized and emboldened fundamentalist religious movement buttressed by political power in Washington will continue to challenge accepted scientific theory that collides with religious beliefs. So one must ask, is it too farfetched to see these ideological battles spilling over into areas of medical research and even into funding at the National Institutes of Health?
Now I am not asking for a world that doesnt respect religious belief. My education as a Roman Catholic balanced creed and science. In the classroom of my youth, one nun taught creationism in religion class while another taught evolution in science, and never the twain did meet.
So what does one do? How can a medical student, a resident, or a physician just beginning to build a career become active in these larger public battles? Burt Humburg, MD, a resident in internal medicine at Penn States Hershey Medical Center, is one role model. Hes been manning the evolutionary ramparts since his medical school days in Kansas in the late 1990s when he became active in Kansas Citizens for Science. On a brief vacation from his residency volunteering as a citizen advocate for the federal trial in Pennsylvania, he said education is the key role for the physician. While he realizes that medical students, residents and physicians might not view themselves as scientists, per se, he sees himself and his colleagues as part of the larger scientific collective that cant afford to shirk its duty. The town scientist is the town doctor, so whether we want it or not, we have the mantlethe trappingsof a scientist .
It is time for the medical community, through the initiative of individual physicians, to address not only how one can heal thy patient, but also how one can heal thy nation. There are many ways to get involved; from the most rudimentaryattending school board meetings, sending letters to the editor, and volunteering at the local science museumto the more demandingrunning for office, encouraging a spouse or partner to do so, or supporting candidates (especially financially) who are willing to speak out for science. As Tip ONeill, the larger-than-life Speaker of the House of Representatives, famously declared, All politics is local. Speak out for science. Isnt that a message that should be advanced in every physicians office?
Northwesterns Jon Miller concedes that speaking out may come with a price, It wont make [physicians]...popular with many people but is important for any profession, particularly a profession based on science to do so . Consider this: shouldnt civic leadership be embedded in the mind of every blooming physician? In the end, doesnt combating this virulent campaign of anti-knowledge lead us back to that old adage of evolutionary leadership by example, Monkey see, monkey do? Seize the day, Doc.
You know, I don't have a horse in this race (I don't really believe in either) but the vigor with which opponents of ID are fighting this seems to be a bit extreme and over-the-top of late.
Since when ID professed destruction of Darwinism? Since when a questioned theory meant its death? Since when a theory was entitled? That's no theory then, it's buffonery.
Darwinists have only themselves to blame for the scientific establisment's entitlement mentality buffonery. Sellers of products have a conflict of interest with the product, and, yes, science at any level is not perfect, it's something to be sold as is and is bought or not, period.
The abuse of the word science by scientists in order to justify its public funding is ridiculous. This is not about Darwinism, these are metaphores about public schools and pet public funding of subjects deemed "scientific" by a closed circuit of beneficiaries from working in those programs.
Are we trapped in a new period of history when science, once again, is in for the fight of its life?
evolution versus creationism flare-ups
You appear to be referring to an admittedly deplorable incident in Massachusetts. However, two wrongs don't make a right.
That's because you don't have a horse in the race, whereas we are fighting for the integrity of what we've spend a large part of our lives and our professional careers doing. One very important element of practical politics is to be very wary of the core issues of others. Evolution is one among many issues for the religious right, and less important, surely, than abortion or gay marriage; it's an absolutely core issue for scientists, particularly biological scientists. When a dog snarls at you, particularly one of those back-of-the-throat snarls, it's time to back off.
to challenge accepted scientific theory that collides with religious beliefs.
How many times are you going to reply to one post?
The A.M.A. is a self-serving political whore. I've been practicing medicine for 26 years and I've yet to hear anything really substantive (that I agree with) come out of that forum.
How do you figure? It's the same as the church telling Galileo not to teach that the earth revolves around the sun, or at least to also teach the earth centric model. Do you think the science community should meet this with a half-hearted, ho-hum defense?
There does appear to be a religious method of "shunning" any and all that question a supposed theory.
Being blinded by their materialist worldview, evolutionists cannot explain the genesis of information or intelligence let alone acknowledge the all-important role that these immaterial factors play in the development of life. Wholly bereft of any argument based in science evolutionists are forced to resort to personally attacking the people who raise such important questions.
You and your fellow evolutionists are in trouble, RWP, because your theory sucks. The more honest among you (Crick, Denton, Kauffman et al) have admitted it. It has an enormous and embarrassing gap that you can only fill by pleading 1) it came from somewhere else (which merely begs the question), or that something magical happened (the Santa Fe group), or by completely ignoring it as if ignorance were a sufficient explanation.
And if you can't answer it, you'll be damned if you'll allow anyone else to try, hence these feeble screechings from your allies in the AMA and related bodies that are quite obviously attempting not to join the debate but to intimidate others into silence.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Frankly, in the end I do not care if it is theory A, B or C, I just see some strange hypocrisy... ie. only when it touches scientists' wallets or stature do we see them coming out the closet.
This deplorable "incident" is ongoing at hundreds of schools nowadays, doing "sex-ed" classes that have nothing bilogical nor scientific about them, but pure social feelings based.
If the AMA were worried about science in school, they'd destroy the unions, the NEA and the retard teacher certification programs as well as flushed public schools of all the crap bogus curriculum they provide. ID is a drop in the bucket. And it's funny it is the RELIGIOUS and NOT THE SCIENTISTS who complain about curriculums and standards, when it should be the latter taking the lead apparenlty, but apparently they made a disgrace of their own tenures because the obessession for the title was meant to care for them, not for the care of the title itself.
I'm a flight instructor and can teach anyone from age 5 to 99 to fly most anything, from bullets to jet airplanes in two languages, but retarded idiots who can't even speak well or write English insist they can teach French better than I because they have the "certificate credentials". Schools will not hire me and protect retards. Lawyers and cops will sue me coz I handle a gun in front of kids and let them touch it supervized, while doctors of the AMA stand there and blame me for exposing kids to "dangerous guns and science". It's ridiculous.
No, what this is about is Marxist theory: matter precedes thought with "Darwinism" used as a trojanhorse code word for instituting slavery by the flesh and materials. To me, matter is meaningless without, yes, a meaning behind it: ie. a bird with chicks is not necessarily a mother of the chicks, but a man properly feeding those chicks is more a mother to them. That however flies in the face of race based entitlement mentalities who try to insist that Darwinism is at the basis of the "fact" that "women make better mothers", or lions can't raise calves.
Great post! I'll ping my short list until PH gets here.
"Some chemicals bubbled happily in a rock crevice in on a paleolithic earthscape. An aimless bolt of lightning struck and the chemicals said, 'I got it! let's become DNA!"
You know you stopped making sense before you finished your first reply to this thread and haven't improved any since then.
You have to perhaps consider that the subject of the debate is a political movement disguised as science which is saying, "Naturalistic explanations are impossible and will never be found, so we might as well just officially punt and say 'Goddidit!'"
You don't learn anything from a "science" like that. It has no place in science class. Thus, the opposition will probably be nearly total from those with a brain.
The main pusher of ID, an organization called the Discovery Institute, has admitted that ID has no classroom-ready content directly regarding ID. What they want to rush into class now is something called "the controversy," which is a collection of recycled creationist arguments against evolution with some minor new wrinkles by Behe and Dembski.
In other words, the bag of ID is still empty just now, but we want to throw in a grab-bag of old, discredited screeches that another theory is wrong. This cannot be justfied on the grounds of science education, so why do it at all?
When ID does something to increase the sum of human knowledge, they can put it in science class.
Somehow it seems that the people with agendas at AMA have taken on "saving" the world. Rather a large task for so few, that are qualified only in their own mind for such a chore.
Perhaps it is best they concern themselves on more fitting exertions such as treating their patients, and somehow I suspect the world will keep on revolving if not evolving.