Discovery Institute’s Doctor Shopping

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Two days ago, word of a survey reached the ears of the Panda’s Thumb. (Not to mix metaphors too much.) A Jewish theological seminary in New Jersey had polled doctors to see what their feelings were on evolution, intelligent design, etc. Additionally, they stratified the results based on religious identification. The results were hardly surprising to those who have been critics of the intelligent design movement. As the resident doctor here at the Thumb, I deferred commenting on this particular survey because the results were so predictable.

Well, the Discovery Institute is shopping around the idea that this survey provides evidence of a growing body of scientists that endorse ID creationism. (To be fair, their language only said that this survey was evidence of “a lively debate,” as though their enthusiasm was less about any scientific breakthrough and more about simply being prominent.)

We’ll discuss this survey on the flip side…

There are several interesting things about the data reported for that poll. Mainly, of course, and most obvious, is the distribution of responses across religions. For example,

The majority of all doctors (78%) accept evolution rather than reject it and, of those, Jews are most positive (94%), Catholics are next (86%) followed by Protestants (59%).

The pattern is even more striking when the responses of other religious/ethnic groups are included. While 43% of Protestant physicians agree “More with evolution”, 61% of Catholics, 86% of Jews, 68% of Hindus, 71% of Buddhists, 95% of atheists, and 86% of “spiritual but no organized religion” agree. Most striking, just 20% of Muslim respondents agree.

What does this mean? The press release says

“As our earlier physician studies indicated, religion, culture and ethnic heritage have an impact on their views of science, even from this relatively homogenous group of physicians who share similar education, income and social status,” noted Glenn Kessler, co-founder and managing partner, HCD Research.

Controlling for education, income, and social status, the variables that govern opinions on the evo-creo issue are extra-scientific, and specifically heavily loaded on religious beliefs. Again, ID creationism receives its support for reasons not related to science. ID creationism is a response to socio-religious issues, even among highly educated people who (though they tend not to be as well educated in the doing of science as popular opinion believes) presumably at least use the results of scientific research every day.

I do wish these polls would ask the question that the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked:

QUESTION: Would you say that you are very familiar, somewhat familiar, or not that familiar with the concept of “intelligent design?” Very Familiar - 18%; Somewhat Familiar - 37%; Not Familiar - 45%

Writing from personal experience, I can attest that all of the people in medical school who endorsed intelligent design creationism (who made their affinities known) did so due to strictly religious reasons. Further, the majority of my classmates did not know what intelligent design was nor what the big deal about evolution was. (This was a medical school in Kansas City and Wichita populated almost exclusively by Kansans; not exactly an American Atheists meeting.) Needless to say, the claims made by the creationists in Topeka - that it is not possible to be a Christian and an advocate of evolution - are false.

It remains for me to mention that, in medical school, intelligent design concepts were never used in lectures. Contrarily, evolutionary perspectives not only made the material easier to understand, it provided the basis for the research about which we were learning and concepts directly related to evolution were a portion of both the USMLE Steps 1 and 2 when I took it.

In another essay, I intend to describe why it is that most doctors should not be considered scientists. Suffice it to say that for the DI to shop around a list of “scientists” who endorse ID creationism whose scientists are mainly M.D.’s is telling.

BCH

– Richard Hoppe assisted greatly in the development of this post.

4 TrackBacks

The Panda's Thumb has a discussion of a poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research at The Jewish Theological Seminary and HCD Research. The results indicate that "the majority of all doctors (78%) accept evolution rather... Read More

Four Out of Five Doctors Agree... from Wake Me Up On Judgment Day on May 25, 2005 8:09 AM

The Jewish Theological Seminary conducted a study of physicians of how belief in evolution or intelligent design correlates with religious belief. What really struck me was that 94% of Jewish doctors and 86% of Catholic ones accept evolution, versus on... Read More

God and the doctors from Gene Expression on June 24, 2005 1:02 PM

Religious Characteristics of U.S. Physicians: The response rate was 63%...Compared with the general population, physicians are more likely to be affiliated with religions that are underrepresented in the United States, less likely to say they try to ca... Read More

Religious Characteristics of U.S. Physicians: The response rate was 63%...Compared with the general population, physicians are more likely to be affiliated with religions that are underrepresented in the United States, less likely to say they try to ca... Read More

112 Comments

Interesting survey - I wonder how different the results would be in other countries (ie Canada)? I agree, clinical physicians aren’t really scientists, although our education is based on science. Our field is applied science,like engineering, dietetics, lab technology and so forth. Certainly there are scientists in our ranks, but they do research, present their findings and subject them to peer review and criticism. I consider myself well-educated in science, with a BSc in chemistry, an MD and 5 years postgrad in Pathology - but I’m not a scientist!

The pattern is even more striking when the responses of other religious/ethnic groups are included. While 43% of Protestant physicians agree “More with evolution”, 61% of Catholics, 86% of Jews, 68% of Hindus, 71% of Buddhists, 95% of atheists, and 86% of “spiritual but no organized religion” agree. Most striking, just 20% of Muslim respondents agree.

I’m intrigued. What do the 5% of atheists who don’t believe in evolution propose?

They may be the alien seed bunch (possibly including some alien abductionists and ufologists too). Alternatively, they may be the ones too stupid or dishonest to fill in the form correctly (ie not necessarily really atheists at all). They might even be so ignorant that they never came across the concept of evolution. It does happen.

More from the poll…

% of doctors who believe that God created humans exactly as they appear now: 35% of 417 Protestants, 43% of 40 Muslims, 37% of 46 Eastern Orthodox

The best measure of poll respondents overwhelmingly motivated by strictly religious considerations.

35% of 417 Protestants, 43% of 40 Muslims, 37% of 46 Eastern Orthodox

The best measure of poll respondents overwhelmingly motivated by strictly religious considerations.

Really? Those numbers don’t look statistically significantly different to me.

A little off topic, but still in the medical area: Since Bush does not want to use federal money for embryonic stem cell research, what is the best place to send donations in support of this research? A great groundswell of donations would be a thing of beauty!

I thought that was the point? showing that organized religion contributed to the similarity of the statistics among the groups listed.

Needless to say, the claims made by the creationists in Topeka - that it is not possible to be a Christian and an advocate of evolution - are false.

That may be true, but the repeated allusions on PT that Catholicism is fine with evolution are misleading. Catholicism, as far as official Roman doctrine is concerned, is fine with theistic evolution only.

John Paul II stated, “the theory of natural evolution, understood in a sense which does not exclude divine causality, is not in principle opposed to the truth about the creation of the visible world as presented in the book of Genesis.”

This is a far cry from a blanket endorsement of full-bodied evolution. I don’t think many PTers endorse divine causality.

BTW, I agree that ID is religiously motivated. What were those two atheists who favored ID thinking?

@ralph:

if you can dig up this article, it will probably have your answers:

Private donors breathe new life into US stem cell research

T Ready Nature Medicine 10, 320 (2004).

“BTW, I agree that ID is religiously motivated”

will you say that under oath the next time a legal trial on teaching ID occurs?

I thought that was the point? showing that organized religion contributed to the similarity of the statistics among the groups listed.

Hmmmm. I see what you mean. But to draw that conclusion, you’d have to see significantly different results from the “unaffiliated” group on the same question. Did I miss something?

will you say that under oath the next time a legal trial on teaching ID occurs?

Of course, I believe it so obviously I would say it whether or not I was under oath.

Burt Humburg Wrote:

Writing from personal experience, I can attest that all of the people in medical school who endorsed intelligent design creationism (who made their affinities known) did so due to strictly religious reasons.

How were you able to ascertain this?

“Of course, I believe it so obviously I would say it whether or not I was under oath.”

great! I’ll list you on our side on the witness list then.

It’s unfortunate that so many on the ID side won’t concede this point.

oh.. wait… that’s right, the reason ID was invented to begin with is because teaching creationism is teaching religion is ILLEGAL.

glad to see you will be making that point for our side.

Thanks, Sir_Tj. Powers that be: How about an Off Topic thread every now and then, similar to the Bathroom Wall, but a little more “formal?”

“Did I miss something?”

I think so…

while 11% believe that “God created humans exactly as they appear now.”

i’d say 11 vs around 40 is pretty convincing.

You do make a point tho, I think the article presents the statistics in a rather confusing manner.

Several years ago, I asked several dozen Yale grads with Masters and Ph.D degrees about the modern theory of evolution. Aside from the biologists, most of them were woefully ignorant about the subject even though a strong majority assumed the validity of Darwinism. They just didn’t know much about what they were endorsing. Lots of ‘em believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics or some version of orthogenesis and thought that was part of the modern synthesis.

Neither a yes or a no answer to a poll question tells us very much about the state of knowlege of the respondents.

The mixing up of doctors and scientists seems to be one of the biggest misconceptions about what constitutes a scientist that I hear about among my non-scientist friends, and it drives me crazy!

Being a PhD student at a medical center, I can really see that difference in my daily interaction with my medical student and resident friends. These friends are very good at doing what they do - practicing medicine, but not one of them, even ones who majored in biology or biochemistry as undergraduates, have any serious training in fields relevant to evolutionary biology. None of them know anything about the current literature in comparative genomics, evo-devo, phylogenetics, etc., and few would be able to get through a journal article on the subject.

Yet I frequenty hear from evangelical friends who are physicians about how evolution is just a theory and not a fact (sigh), it shouldn’t be taught dogmatically in schools, etc. The scariest thing about that situation is you have someone who does have some background in biology, and they think that they therefore have some kind of expert authority when they talk about evolution - as if they have been able to evaluate the evidence on their own and make a professional judgment.

My consolation is listening to professors complain about giving lectures in biochemistry to medical students…

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 45, column 2, byte 1864 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

The mixing up of doctors and scientists seems to be one of the biggest misconceptions about what constitutes a scientist that I hear about among my non-scientist friends, and it drives me crazy!

Indeed, medical doctors are nothing but glorified auto mechanics.

Most of them don’t know any more about evolution than the kid who delivers my pizzas does. And their opinions on the matter mean no more than his.

When it comes to evolution, the only people whose opinions matter are those who have studied it. And no serious biologist doubts that evolution happened. Even Behe (the closest thing to a biologist that IDers have) accepts common descent and the evolution of humans from apelike primates.

Lenny, don’t be stupid.

First of all, I don’t know why the famous IDers state that ID is not religiously motivated. I have no clue. You’d have to ask them. I have never in my life spoken to or exchanged emails with Behe, Dembski, Wells, Johnson, etc. So why do you suppose I can speak for them?

Secondly, it is patently obvious what I mean by full-bodied evolution. I meant evolution in which God had no role–purely naturalistic–with the possibility that something other than humans as we are now could have evolved. Rome does not endorse such a view of evolution, it only endorsed theistic evolution (as an acceptable, optional viewpoint). I couldn’t count how many times I read on PT that Catholics are free to endorse evolution, where this critical caveat of affirming divine causality was omitted.

Indeed, medical doctors are nothing but glorified auto mechanics.

I wonder if the author of this post agrees with your assessment.

“I have no clue. “

indeed.

Michael White:

not one of them, even ones who majored in biology or biochemistry as undergraduates, have any serious training in fields relevant to evolutionary biology. None of them know anything about the current literature in comparative genomics, evo-devo, phylogenetics, etc., and few would be able to get through a journal article on the subject.

I find this statement depressing, even though it may be accurate. After all, very few of us out here in the Land of Ignorance can be expected to get through those journal articles. I don’t understand one word in three. Looking up the words in the appropriate dictionary helps very little, because I lack the background to make sense of any of it, from the fine level of what the actual words mean, to the background context within which those words make sense, to the history of the field both long-term and current, to the reason why the research was even undertaken. So after hours of puzzling through the words themselves, I’m left with the knowledge that someone did something for reasons outside my experience, using techniques not mentioned because I’m assumed to know them, based on a wealth of theory, assumptions, and background omitted for the same reason, drawing conclusions I have nothing to compare with so I can’t grasp their import.

Are people like me then expected not to be able to understand this issue? Or at least, not beyond the canonical level of “nature provides variation, selected through environmental pressures, which leads to splits in populations (or anagenesis?) at rates that vary widely for reasons I can’t understand”? I agree with Lenny Flank’s statement that my opinion does not ‘matter’ in any larger sense, but it matters to ME that my answer to such a poll would be not much better informed than a coin flip, compared with most others posting here. I just don’t like the idea that science, wonderful as it is, necessarily remains mysterious and inaccessible to nearly everyone.

“I just don’t like the idea that science, wonderful as it is, necessarily remains mysterious and inaccessible to nearly everyone.”

I don’t either. that’s why i support all the publically accesible reprint library projects that are starting to appear on the web. a really good grounding in any complex theory requires time. Most decent texts will give you the basic definitions you need to progress to the more advanced stuff.

I am hoping that someday, the only limit to gaining a better understanding of ANY subject simply depends on how much time you have.

things like the internet public library:

http://www.ipl.org/

and efforts towards “open source” biology:

http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0[…]6289,00.html

I hope will eventually lead to better understanding without having to have an advanced degree.

cheers

oh, and don’t forget google scholar:

http://scholar.google.com/

and specifically wrt to evolutionary theory, we can’t of course forget talkorigins.org!

John Paul II stated, “the theory of natural evolution, understood in a sense which does not exclude divine causality, is not in principle opposed to the truth about the creation of the visible world as presented in the book of Genesis.”

This is a far cry from a blanket endorsement of full-bodied evolution.

Rome does not endorse such a view of evolution, it only endorsed theistic evolution (as an acceptable, optional viewpoint). I couldn’t count how many times I read on PT that Catholics are free to endorse evolution, where this critical caveat of affirming divine causality was omitted.

I wonder exactly what “does not exclude divine causality” means in this context? One might interprete “does not exclude divine causality” means “theistic evolution”. On the other hand, one might also interprete “divine causality” as meaning “God made the universe, evolution happened naturally (without divine intervention), but the first-cause was God, through creation of the universe” – hence “divine causality” is preserved even if God didn’t meddle directly with life.

Flint Wrote:

I find this statement depressing, even though it may be accurate. After all, very few of us out here in the Land of Ignorance can be expected to get through those journal articles. I don’t understand one word in three. Looking up the words in the appropriate dictionary helps very little, because I lack the background to make sense of any of it, from the fine level of what the actual words mean, to the background context within which those words make sense, to the history of the field both long-term and current, to the reason why the research was even undertaken. So after hours of puzzling through the words themselves, I’m left with the knowledge that someone did something for reasons outside my experience, using techniques not mentioned because I’m assumed to know them, based on a wealth of theory, assumptions, and background omitted for the same reason, drawing conclusions I have nothing to compare with so I can’t grasp their import.

I’m with you. Although I’m a bit luckier. My wife has a PhD in Developmental Biology and I’ve learned enough over the years that I proof read papers, posters and what-not to help her get the clarity of expression in the information dense format scientists use to convey their ideas. It still doesn’t make me a trained biologist; but I’m not so easy to fool by silly ID psuedo-biology arguments.

In the ID/evolution field, evolution is supported by, literally, tons of scholarly, peer-reviewed academic works. ID is supported by some religious kooks that can’t even look at their religion and deal with it’s obvious internal flaws without leaping into some escapist rationalization.

First of all, I don’t know why the famous IDers state that ID is not religiously motivated. I have no clue.

Don’t bullshit me, Heddle.

Secondly, it is patently obvious what I mean by full-bodied evolution. I meant evolution in which God had no role—purely naturalistic—with the possibility that something other than humans as we are now could have evolved.

Oh, you mean “atheism”. Since “evolution” has nothing to do with “atheism”, why don’t you just say “atheism” when you mean “atheism”.

By the way, does “full-bodied weather forecasting” refer to weather forecasting in which God has no role?

Does “full-bodied accident investigation” refer to accidents in whcih God had no role?

Why is atheism — oops, I mean “full-bodied whatever” – acceptable to you in some areas, but not in others.

David H.

The time has been compressed and the appreciation of the biochemical complexity of single-celled organisms enhanced by significant amounts since the first shouts of the mantra “given enough time, the unlikely becomes probable.”

But of course there was a recent study – which was directed to your attention explicitly, Mr. Heddle – which showed (or strongly suggested) that liquid water was present on earth much earlier than previously thought.

http://www.freep.com/news/nw/earth9e_20050509.htm

http://www.geology.wisc.edu/zircon/[…]arliest.html

I am done with PT for good.

Not bloody likely!

And it’s kinda boring since GWW was banned.

You two were a fun couple.

“I am done with PT for good. It’s been fun, sort of, but definitely a waste of time.”

“… and they ate robin’s minstrels, and there was much rejoicing”

yaaaay.

who is laying odds on whether/when DH will return?

A small but significant error. Ed said:

What Pope John-Paul II said, ex cathedra

He didn’t say it ex cathedra which is a specific procedure done when an infallible matter is proclaimed by the Pope. For example, neither the edicts against birth control nor against women priests are ex cathedra statements.

Is there a web site like The Crackpot Index for quibblers? And if so, how many points do i get? :)

Comment #32128 Posted by David Heddle on May 25, 2005 03:33 PM (e) (s)

Chance, you make a good point in a twisted way.

I am done with PT for good. It’s been fun, sort of, but definitely a waste of time.

I would agree. Dave’s arguments have been a waste of time.

Prof. Heddle is gone but not forgotten

Is it inevitable, assuming that we don’t destroy the planet, that humans will continue to evolve until such time a new species designation is appropriate?. That is, at some future time there will be a species that descended from modern humans that could not successfully breed with modern humans?

I really don’t know much about evolutionary theory, but it seems that the answer is obvious. In order for a new species to develop, a subpopulation must be isolated from another subpopulation for a very long time. That’s not likely to happen in the human population in the distant future. Maybe if humans colonize another planet ane are left alone (no sexual activity with visitors!) for millions of years.

And BTW, Prof. Heddle’s conflation of “inevetible” and “possible” shows a sorry lack of grasp of the basics of the philosophy of science. Only a religious believer would say that something is possible, therefore MUST be true.

But, sadly, we’ll never see how Prof. Heddle would obfuscate these two points.

Re “legitimate scientific speculation 42% religiously inspired pseudo-science 58%”

But aren’t the ID advocates calling it a “theory” or at least a “hypothesis”? The notion of life having been deliberately engineered is a speculation, but imo to call it a hypothesis requires adding enough details for it to imply something about what we should expect to observe in nature.

Henry

Re Air Bear (Comment #32182) Modern humans also seem to be attempting to rid the world of evolutionary drive (predator/prey pressures, open ecological niches,disease, etc.)

I think any future human evolution may be due to geneticists rather than natural selection.

The only evolution a Catholic may affirm, as far as Rome is concerned, is the view that God maintained complete control and absolute sovereignty over his creation. It’s a view of evolution as exclusively a secondary cause, and one with a divinely controlled outcome.

That’s nice.

Since God maintains complete control and absolute sovereignty over his creation, that would mean that weather patterns are also exclusively a secondary cause, and one with a divinely controlled outcome. Alas, I have never ever heard any weather forecaster acknowledge any role for God in the weather, which would seem to make weather forecasting every bit as “atheistic, materialistic, and naturalistic” as the evolution that IDers keep complaining about.

So once again I ask you, why is atheism *acceptable* for you in some areas (weather forecasting) but *not* in others (evolution).

Could you at least be consistent in your balderdash?

Strip Rome’s irrelevant stance away, and for all practical purposes, Rome has endorsed non-theistic evolution.

Just as YOU endorse non-theistic weather forecasting.

Why is it that non-theistic weather forecasting doesn’t bother you, but non-theistic evolution gets your panties all in a bunch. Why is a-theism acceptable for you in some areas, but not in others.

As for the rest of your comment, I have no clue what you are talking about. I am into physics and try to shun metaphysics.

BWA HA HA HA HA HA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good one, Davey.

I am done with PT for good.

Liar.

Dave Heddle:

it is patently obvious what I mean by full-bodied evolution. I meant evolution in which God had no role—purely naturalistic—with the possibility that something other than humans as we are now could have evolved.

Someone who thinks that the fundamental physical laws governing the universe are totally deterministic would also think that whatever happens is inevitable. Even without a creator, humanity would be inevitable. And the Judeo-Christian creator deity would simply have set up our universe’s laws and initial conditions to make humanity inevitable - no further intervention being necessary.

Since the only physical laws that are even potentially non-deterministic are in quantum mechanics, it is not clear how things would have turned out differently if some of the divine dice-rolling anathema to Einstein had produce different results. Perhaps life would never have arisen at all, any where in the universe. IMHO it is more likely that different versions of our universe as outcomes of non-deterministic quantum processes would be extremely different to ours, rather than similar except for small details.

I also suspect we haven’t seen the last of Mr. Heddle. After all, he’s never let his bad arguments, nonexistent logic, and blatant contradictions being noticed stop him before. Why should he now?

ChaNce apparently doesn’t want to answer the question I asked in #32034. Does anyone else want to take a crack at it?

Nat Whilk:

I suspect your question is concerned more with how the claim was phrased (not very clearly) than with what it said.

I’m not sure exactly what the Catholic Church says, and there seems to be some debate as to whether they have accepted everything evolutionary theory proposes and just stuck a “by the way, God inserted a soul during that process sometime back” or whether the Church has reservations in genuine conflict with current theory.

My guess is that from a scientist’s view, the Pope accepted evolution and whatever religious mumbo jumbo he tacked on is irrelevant superstition. And from the Pope’s view, he’s concerned with Divine Guidance and Purpose, and what scientists pay attention to is basically unimportant mechanical details.

Flint Wrote:

I suspect your question is concerned more with how the claim was phrased (not very clearly) than with what it said.

No, it was concerned with what it said.

My guess is that from a scientist’s view, the Pope accepted evolution and whatever religious mumbo jumbo he tacked on is irrelevant superstition.

“Irrelevant” and “inconsistent with a stunning amount of scientific evidence” are quite different descriptions, wouldn’t you say?

Nat Whilk:

I read chance’s material differently from you, I guess. I interpret his sentence as follows (with my clarifications added):

Thus, Rome’s [new] position is essentially natualistic evo, with a useless addendum meant to reconcile [the modified] doctorine and the stunning amount of scientific evidence inconsistent with their [previous] position.

In other words, the church changed its posture from one of conflict to one of accommodation, in the face of the evidence, the scientific consensus, and the need for the church to stay relevant and not be viewed as unwilling to concede even the most manifestly self-evident.

YMMV

Flint (interpreting ChaNce) Wrote:

Thus, Rome’s [new] position is essentially natualistic evo, with a useless addendum meant to reconcile [the modified] doctorine and the stunning amount of scientific evidence inconsistent with their [previous] position.

This problem with this “two positions” interpretation is that there is no indication in ChaNce’s (unglossed) paragraph that he is talking about more than one position.

Nat Whilk:

You’re right. I’m reading this two-position interpretation into the statement so that it makes sense. I *think* it’s what he intended.

The Catholic Church has changed for good and became a force for science, including evolutionary biology. It is time to notice it and stop denigrating it. I am not a Catholic but I can live with their ideas. In any fight, you need allies. Catholics are on our side.

In other words, the church changed its posture from one of conflict to one of accommodation, in the face of the evidence, the scientific consensus, and the need for the church to stay relevant and not be viewed as unwilling to concede even the most manifestly self-evident.

In other words, they finally learned their lesson from that whole “Galileo” thingie.

Which the Protestant fundies have not.

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This page contains a single entry by Burt Humburg published on May 24, 2005 4:27 PM.

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