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.
I note that you don't accept abiogenesis, which however is not part of the theory of evolution. Darwin amongst any others suggested that the first life could have been divinely inspired.
So, do you have any arguments about the Theory of Evolution?
Question: Would you rather be ruled by knaves, or fools?
The theory of evolution does not discuss the origin of life. This has been repeated enough times that you are certain to be aware of it, and therefore the above is just an intellectually dishonest straw man.
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.
This is mere vapid hand-waving. It is perfectly possible to come up with scientifically defensible schemes for the genesis of information - as for intelligence, prokaryotes only have intelligence in comparison with creationists, a deplorably low standard.
\ 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.\
You lie. Research groups all over the world are actively investigating the means by which life arose, and bridging the gap between abiogenetic origins and modern prokaryotic life forms.
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.
In the hysterical hyperbole of contemporary fundamentalist Christianity, an organization speaking out to defend the very intellectual core of what it represents is 'intimidation'. What a shame that in the last 20 years, the religious right has chosen to learn philosophy and tactics from the multiculti left, and nothing from the scientists who spend two decades fighting off multiculturalist encroachments, only to face the multicultis' tag team partner, Pat Robertson and his polydactylous cohorts.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
No, I'm ashamed of you. I'm ashamed we both call ourselves conservatives
Unforttunately, it appears either way we are to be ruled by knaves and fools.
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?
You can't scientifically disprove ID. It's a religious Idea, not a scientific one. This point has been made so many times, by so many scientists, that it beggars the imagination it still hasn't sunk in to some people.
The argument was between two different scientific theories one of which "the church" bought into .. so stop rewriting history.
"What were Galileo Galilei's conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church? It was not a simple conflict between science and religion, as usually portrayed. Rather it was a conflict between Copernican science and Aristotelian science which had become Church tradition. Galileo expressed his scientific views supporting Copernicus as well as his biblical views in a 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany ..." MORE
And how would they go about doing that? How do you disprove the existence/influence of a supernatural force? Tell me what scientists could show that would disprove ID.
[hint] There isn't any way. That's why ID can't be a "theory."
When ID does something to increase the sum of human knowledge, they can put it in science class
AMA is once again deciding to leave behind medicine and enter into the world of "Lofty Know Betters vs. Peasant Idiots".
The AMA regular publishes some of the most unscientific studies available, simple because the editorial staff like the outcome.
I know a dozen or so doctors and none of them think much of the AMA. Of course, I don't live in the North East.
"It was Pasteur who indeed proved that life does not occur/evolve readily spontaneously, that it occured through infections. "Darwinists" of today are in fact more on the side of spontaneous generation cult that attacked the inventor of the vaccine himself than on the side of science." ~ Judgemall
Michael Crichton and I agree with you:
...As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact.
The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard? ... [snip]
...At the conference in Washington, during the question period, Ehrlich was reminded that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists were quoted as saying nothing would grow there for 75 years, but in fact melons were growing the next year. So, he was asked, how accurate were these findings now?
Ehrlich answered by saying "I think they are extremely robust. Scientists may have made statements like that, although I cannot imagine what their basis would have been, even with the state of science at that time, but scientists are always making absurd statements, individually, in various places. What we are doing here, however, is presenting a consensus of a very large group of scientists "
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let's review a few cases.
In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compellng evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent "skeptics" around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.
There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the "pellagra germ." The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called "Goldberger's filth parties." Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, a social factor-southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result-despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.
Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology-until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.
And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therap6y the list of consensus errors goes on and on.
Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.
But back to our main subject. ... [snip]
...In trying to think about how these questions can be resolved, it occurs to me that in the progression from SETI to nuclear winter to second hand smoke to global warming, we have one clear message, and that is that we can expect more and more problems of public policy dealing with technical issues in the future-problems of ever greater seriousness, where people care passionately on all sides.
And at the moment we have no mechanism to get good answers. So I will propose one.
Just as we have established a tradition of double-blinded research to determine drug efficacy, we must institute double-blinded research in other policy areas as well. Certainly the increased use of computer models, such as GCMs, cries out for the separation of those who make the models from those who verify them. The fact is that the present structure of science is entrepeneurial, with individual investigative teams vying for funding from organizations which all too often have a clear stake in the outcome of the research-or appear to, which may be just as bad.
This is not healthy for science.
Sooner or later, we must form an independent research institute in this country. It must be funded by industry, by government, and by private philanthropy, both individuals and trusts. The money must be pooled, so that investigators do not know who is paying them.
The institute must fund more than one team to do research in a particular area, and the verification of results will be a foregone requirement: teams will know their results will be checked by other groups. In many cases, those who decide how to gather the data will not gather it, and those who gather the data will not analyze it. ....[snip]
I believe that as we come to the end of this litany, some of you may be saying, well what is the big deal, really. So we made a few mistakes. So a few scientists have overstated their cases and have egg on their faces. So what.
Well, I'll tell you.
In recent years, much has been said about the post modernist claims about science to the effect that science is just another form of raw power, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivity that really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no better than any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and they anger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct. We can take as an example the scientific reception accorded a Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist.
The scientific community responded in a way that can only be described as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complained he had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. His publisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that the editor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists should shun the press.
The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud how Cambridge could have ever "published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review." )But of course the manuscript did pass peer review by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and all recommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking a press? Is this the new McCarthyism-coming from scientists?
Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was "rife with careless mistakes." It was a poor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocust denier.
The issue was captioned: "Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist." Really. Science has to defend itself? Is this what we have come to?
When Lomborg asked for space to rebut his critics, he was given only a page and a half. When he said it wasn't enough, he put the critics' essays on his web page and answered them in detail. Scientific American threatened copyright infringement and made him take the pages down.
Further attacks since have made it clear what is going on. Lomborg is charged with heresy. That's why none of his critics needs to substantiate their attacks in any detail. That's why the facts don't matter. That's why they can attack him in the most vicious personal terms. He's a heretic.
Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. I just never thought I'd see the Scientific American in the role of mother church.
Is this what science has become? I hope not. But it is what it will become, unless there is a concerted effort by leading scientists to aggressively separate science from policy. The late Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that "Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference-science and the nation will suffer." Personally, I don't worry about the nation. But I do worry about science.
Thank you very much."
"Aliens Cause Global Warming"
A lecture by Michael Crichton
California Institute of Technology
January 17, 2003
How do you disprove the existence/influence of a supernatural force?
Wrong. Its like Galileo dictating to the church that because the Earth revolves without strings attached, that they can't teach that God set it in motion. Its amazing how quickly scientific-free-thinkers are to squash even the airing of apposing views. Can't science stand on its own?
Your failure to understand the threat ID poses to science education and to intellectual freedom may someday come back to vex you. Or, as they say, "if ignorance isn't bliss then I don't know what is."
I was away when this got posted, so I'm late in deploying the ping list. Great article.
Evolutionary theory is necessarily founded on the assumption that the universe has always existed (not in the Einsteinian sense, but the Newtonian sense). Evolutionary theory needs a forever universe in which to have sufficient time for random chance to do its magic.
It was the work of Einstein and modern physicists that destroyed the forever universe piffle and conceit of the evolutionists. The spectacular COBE results have since confirmed the existence of a cooling universe that was infinitely hot and dense less than 20 billion years ago. The forever universe is no more. That's a development that evolutionists desperately wish had never come along.
Geologists and geophysicists (Ward, Brownlee et al) have since pointed out the astonishing confluence of precise balances of physical forces that must exist to allow advanced life to flourish on earth. How did this happen in such an incredibly short span of time (less than 20 billion years)? Evolutionists have no answer. Their theory is too small and worldview too cramped to allow them to even address the question.
However, if we merely look around us (and isn't observation the prime imperative of the scientific method?) we see that human beings are able to plan and implement analogously intricate and precise balances in short time spans in laboratory and industrial settings. Is this a random and aimless process? Does a space shuttle appear by mankind waiting for one to appear organically from the soil through the action of survival of the fittest? No. Rather, human beings design a plant in which the conditions can be precisely controlled for materials to be brought together to form a completed vehicle. And they do this how? By employing organizing intelligence.
The influence of an organizing intelligence is the only force we know of in the material world that can balance the forces and create initial conditions necessary to allow something as complex as human life and derivative products ranging from arrowheads to space shuttles to form.
ID theory honestly and straightforwardly proffers by way of analogy that the best inference we can make about the existence of life is that an organizing intelligence set the initial conditions and devised the plans necessary for life to arise and evolve to the levels of present day complexity. It is the most logical and rational way, based on our observations, to explain how we got to where we are in less than 20 billion years.
ID theory makes no attempt to name or identify this organizing intelligence, although some ID adherents privately and personally might choose to identify the intelligence as Logos.
Evolutionists, on the other hand, quite clearly name and identify their organizing deity. It is none other than Chaos. Sadly for them, Chaos is only adequate to the task in a universe other than the universe that modern physics has disclosed to us.
Huh? I rest my case.
Sorry, that's not the way it went down.
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