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.
Looks like JCEccles is already ignoring anyone who points out that his or her rants are nothing but lies.
Remember how "scientific" the AMA was about ulcers for so many years?
God bless you and goodnight. Remember "Don't Panic."
I'm in a good mood now and you make it even better. Prokofiev's violin concertos do wonders for my mood.
Your whole post is a pack of non-sense. And there is no "ID Theory," they won't commit to whether the universe is 6000 years old, or 6 billion years old. All they say is, "It's too complicated." Well, it isn't.
lol! All I have is some 8-track cassettes left and nothing to play them in.
Okay, it's not complicated. So we'll make it even more simple. Can you make a bacteria from simply combined elements in a week? Life does it in minutes.
Thanks for the ping!
When I first read the article I was struck by its overwrought hysteria. Evidently, if you teach high school students the theory of evolution without the proper reverence and even hint that there might be some phemonena it cannot explain, it will inevitably lead to scientists being burned at the stake.
I'm an atheist. If it were proved that the first living cell was the product of intelligent design, it would no more establish the existence of God than would the discovery of a four billion year old space probe on the moon.
All of this is just dancing around the political question -- why should a federal judge be able to tell a local school board what it should teach?
Justice Potter Stewart
Let me try to make my point a little more clear. The fact that humans are more similar to chimpanzees (on the macroscopic and the molecular level) than they are to baboons is something that a responsible doctor should have taken into account before he undertook his risky experiment, regardless of his opinion on common descent.
So nothing should be discussed in science but just science according to you?...Science class should be an exercise in compartmentalized thinking in which the other subject of life, politics,philosophy,religion, emotions have no part?
"So nothing should be discussed in science but just science according to you?..."
No, nothing should be discussed in science class but just science...
Sort of like doing math in math class and not bringing up the weather, doing Shakespeare in Shakespeare class and not discussing the geology of the Grand Canyon.
Not music, not current events, not local car repair shops, not philospophy...
What's your problem with this?
Oh so the great PH chimes in.
No, there is no non-evolutionary rationale for that bit of apparent common sense.
God had no need to create biochemical similarities to match the phenotypic ones. Think about covergent evolution for a moment and you will realize that.