Poor Orac

| 45 Comments

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Orac is a surgeon and a blogger. He’s been trying so hard to defend his profession, but it just keeps getting worse. Recently unveiled is a brand new “dissenters from Darwinism” list: Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity.

As medical doctors we are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the origination and complexity of life and we therefore dissent from Darwinian macroevolution as a viable theory. This does not imply the endorsement of any alternative theory.

(Continued at Aetiology)

45 Comments

I wonder where, in the course of their medical training, they picked up the notion that “Darwinian macroevolution” says anything about the “origination of life”?

Boneheads.

I read the list of dissenting docs and from all I could tell by the first names is that they are all males.

Dunno why??? …just an anthropological observation.

I would not want to be operated on by one of these doctors. Their attitude pertaining to making a diagnosis (reaching a conclusion as a working hypothesis) based on the available evidence has been rendered questionable in my mind.

I’ll repeat here the comment I left on Orac’s blog:

One wonders how seriously the cardiologists on that list (if there are any) would take a statement signed by 34 dermatologists expressing skepticism about Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood (micro-circulation, yes! macro-circulation, no!).

RBH

So I guess this does it, the appendix is intelligently designed!

Here re just two people from the medical profession in the UK who hold similar views to Orac. The first is a qualified surgeon:

http://www.create.ab.ca/articles/mo[…]merrier.html

The second, while not being a surgeon is a practicing GP:

http://www.finalfrontier.org.uk/about.htm

There’s quite a lot on creation science on Kent’s site and he’s also a Hovind supporter. As I’ve often said, it constantly amazes me that so many well educated people can be taken in by such nonsense

Aren’t they like pharmacists? One 3-unit course in general biology, no lab required if they take the lab in any general science course.

Which means pretty much every college graduate who came from an accredited state university has exactly as much training on the biological concepts of evolution as your average pharmacist and doctor. Which leaves me wondering - why would a doctor think he knows something about evolution? Moreso than, let’s say, the lawyer who prepared his LLC filing paperwork or the accountant that does his taxes.

Oh, wait, now I remember. It’s because a large percentage of doctors are arrogant pricks who think that being a doctor qualifies them as experts on everything…

As medical doctors we are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the origination and complexity of life and we therefore dissent from Darwinian macroevolution as a viable theory.

No, being skeptical means you don’t make claims about the “viability” of a theory without learning more about it.

Creationists just don’t get the concept of skepticism, do they? To them it’s just faith pointed in the opposite direction.

Oops. Hope this fixes it

Orac at http://scienceblogs.com/insolence

It is worth a visit.

Orac is no creationist.

Moses said: “…why would a doctor think he knows something about evolution? Moreso than, let’s say, the lawyer who prepared his LLC filing paperwork or the accountant that does his taxes.

Oh, wait, now I remember. It’s because a large percentage of doctors are arrogant pricks who think that being a doctor qualifies them as experts on everything…”

I think the common denominator here is not being a doctor, but rather being a creationist. From there arises this particular form of arrogance.

A pre-med degree has a fair amount of biology in it, more than, say, an engineer’s does. Biochemistry, cell biology, A & P, stuff like that. One may or may not learn much about evolution in those courses, but I’d say that one very well could.

Otoh, this statement reads like Afdave wrote it. No evidence, a glib distortion of the Sternberg issue (gee, the guy was vilified for promoting pseudoscience? What is this country coming to?), and a grand indictment based upon their incapacity to recognize the soundness of evolutionary theory. Apparently these MDs learned very little about science, logic, biology, writing, and evolution.

Another “blow for freedom” by relativists who think that BS has as much right to be considered and taught as science (hey, we know they’re going to push for teaching it at some point) as does sound science.

What would we do without these selfless critics? Probably just go on and do the science that these dolts rely on. Looks like a case of “I’ve got mine”, and who cares about the stupidity and loss of potential learning that their forceful ignorance causes?

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Here re just two people from the medical profession in the UK who hold similar views to Orac. The first is a qualified surgeon:

I think you mean opposing views.

This person lost any sympathy at “Although Sussex is stunningly beautiful,…”. WTF? She should be hired by the Scunthorpe Borough Council to head their tourism office.

(for those of you who don’t know, Scunthorpe was so bad, even the football team moved out)

Bob

Whoops…You are correct Bob. My mistake. They’d both qualify for the PSSI though.

Didn’t George Best once play for Scunthorpe. Or was it Ian Botham ?

Moses said: Oh, wait, now I remember. It’s because a large percentage of doctors are arrogant pricks who think that being a doctor qualifies them as experts on everything…”

After spending 8 years as a pharmacy technician in the US Air Force, I can vouch for that statement.

There’s no reason to expect doctors as a group to have a strong appreciation of the scientific method. The factors that motivate someone to become a surgeon aren’t the ones that motivate most scientists. I think the top reasons to become a doctor (not in order of importance, honest) are the social prestige, the money, and a genuine desire to help people. Of course, you cannot practice modern medicine without using the fruits of science, but that doesn’t make you a scientist. If someone primarily wants to understand how living things work, it’s doubtful that they would pursue a career leading to an MD. There isn’t enough time for an overworked doctor to do basic research, and even PhD/MDs are probably going to focus on medical applications not basic biology.

It doesn’t really surprise me much that some group of surgeons is “skeptical” of evolution. This is a group of people who don’t really know more about evolution than any other educated group of people but may be encouraged by their other accomplishments to consider themselves “experts” on anything biological. The main question is why anyone would give weight to such a signed statement.

No Steves on the list yet.

Having taught physicians for years, there is no requirement that they know any evolutionary biology at all past the undergraduate level. In fact, most of their education is strictly technical, and very little has to do with science as a process. The closest they come is clinical diagnosis, which is a very restricted case. (Preemptively, yes some physicians do go into research.) In the basic sciences, the primary concern of most students is “what do I need to know to pass the exam” – a legitimate worry given the overwhelming amount of material to be memorized in a short time. In my experience, our attempts to introduce evolutionary models to help students make sense of anatomy were largely rejected for the simple reason that they did not have time to deal with anything other than the basic information.

Though as a class, physicians probably suffer a relatively high rate of egotism and arrogance, most are decent folks. I certainly would not rank them in the same class as many business folks that I have met, who truly take the cake for astonishing arrogance coupled with ignorance and raw, primeval self-centered greed. And we academics certainly have our share of pricks too. Nevertheless, in the US, status is largely driven by money and power. Therefore, a creationist physician’s word unfortunately can carry a lot of weight.

Of course, worst of all is the arrogant SOB who will uncritically use this sort of thing to further a socio-political agenda, and have the nerve to call himself a “scholar.”

Aren’t they like pharmacists? One 3-unit course in general biology, no lab required if they take the lab in any general science course.

Not everywhere. In the state of California, a pharmacist must have a PhD. I know this because I’m married to one.

Not everywhere. In the state of California, a pharmacist must have a PhD. I know this because I’m married to one.

I’m in California as well, and I’m sometimes amazed at how good of medical advice one can get from a pharmacist. A really good pharmacist can give you much better advice than a mediocre physician.

My orthopedic surgeon is stunningly good at what he does, but I don’t think he’s necessarily any more qualified to make pronouncements on evolution than a CompLit professor or a really bright electrician.

Hmmm, doesn’t Incompetent Design generate lots of business for surgeons? For example, consider the knee. I’m sure you all can think of lots of other examples!

One wonders how seriously the cardiologists on that list (if there are any) would take a statement signed by 34 dermatologists expressing skepticism about Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood (micro-circulation, yes! macro-circulation, no!).

I suppose there is only one way to find out.

Are these the same physicians who said that “raging hormonal imbalances” would make it impossible for a woman to function as President?

Oh, wait, now I remember. It’s because a large percentage of doctors are arrogant pricks who think that being a doctor qualifies them as experts on everything…

As opposed to us lawyers, who ARE experts on everything, yes … ::ducking::

Re: Doctors and science

While some doctors do full-blown research, most do not. As such, doctors are to biology as engineers are to physics.

mpavclan raises a serious issue – shouldn’t physicians have a good working knowledge of evolution, especially with regard to how it applies to their diagnosing and treating disease and injury?

Dr. Randolph Nesse argues that physicians do need to know more, especially now, and he argues it very cogently: Why We Get Sick – The New Science of Darwinian Medicine (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/06[…]5195-0847921).

And you may check out Dr. Nesse’s website here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nesse/

Perhaps a flurry of activity on the ID/creationism side might drive some new interest in Dr. Nesse’s efforts to get physicians up to speed on evolution. As a sufferer of the Dallas national disease, sinusitis, I hope all of my physicians completely understand Darwin’s ideas and how they explain the effects of cedar pollen on humans, and how to treat the afflictions symptomatically, or at the cause, and how to determine which way is best and safest.

No Steve’s on the list yet.

Speaking of which, I can’t help but notice the number of people who post on this blog whose name involves some form of “steve”.

Maybe I’m just sensitive to that, but I think it might be something genetic.

Sadly, my degree is only a BS in engineering, so I can’t achieve the pinnacle of Steve-dom, and sign on to the Steve’s for evolution list.

- Steve

Glen Davidson Wrote:

A pre-med degree has a fair amount of biology in it, more than, say, an engineer’s does. Biochemistry, cell biology, A & P, stuff like that. One may or may not learn much about evolution in those courses, but I’d say that one very well could.

There’s not that much external motivation to do so, though. An evolution course isn’t a prerequisite for several pre-med majors here, and for the required intro bio courses they only really need passing grades; as I understand it MCAT scores are much more important to med school admissions than GPAs, especially in early courses.

My wife has TAed a physiology course for 2nd and 3rd-year undergrads…generally speaking, the non-pre-med bio majors performed the best, the pre-meds with a veterinary focus below them, and the pre-meds intending to work on humans (the vast bulk of the class) at the bottom. (There were, of course, exceptions–the pre-meds who were already interested in a particular area of medicine, and were motivated to learn about it on their own, generally did very well.) On one test, something like a third of the class wrote that mammals had scales, feathers and/or gills!

Again, these kids had taken one or two years of bio courses already, so they should have had a basic knowledge of evolution, and for that matter they should have known mammals don’t have feathers. Nor were they particularly dumb, of course. They simply didn’t have any practical motivation to retain information on evolution, past what was necessary to squeak through the prerequisite classes.

Oh, wait, now I remember. It’s because a large percentage of doctors are arrogant pricks who think that being a doctor qualifies them as experts on everything…

Wait, I thought that was the definition of an engineer

Um, I’ll find my own way out. :-)

I suspect if you asked these 34 who the Intelligent Designer could be they would answer:

“Me”.

Sadly, my degree is only a BS in engineering, so I can’t achieve the pinnacle of Steve-dom, and sign on to the Steve’s for evolution list.

- Steve

Steve, “Steve’s” should be “Steves”.

-Steve

Project Steve has 24 MDs on their list, and depending on how you count them, another 30+ PhDs in medicine.

I like the response that Einstein gave, when faced with similar BS. The Nazis, who didn’t like “Jewish science”, published the propaganda pamphlet “One Hundred Scientists Against Einstein”. Einstein replied, “If the theory were really wrong, just one would suffice.”

The IDers can publish all the “lists of doctors/lawyers/Indian chiefs” that they like. Until they produce some testable scientific evidence and data, it don’t mean dick. (shrug)

If any of you don’t think that evolution is an important topic for physicians please check out the editorial in the April 2006 issue of the American Journal of Medicine by Joseph L. Alpert head of the dept. of internal medicine of the Univ of Arizona. It’s on page 291. Perhaps someone with more technical skills than I possess could download it onto PT. Regardless I am a doctor although I don’t play one on television and I would be very interested to know if any of the physicians and surgeons for scientific integrity signing this petition are either specialists in infectious disease/epidemiology/public health or are clinical geneticists. These are the specialties where evolution can be expected to be part of the basic knowledge. Many med. school applicants don’t take biology. Math, physics, and organic chemistry are more important and most med. students nowadays are not science majors. Theoretical biology is just not part of the med. school curriculum. Many doctors are fudamentalist Christians and their clinical diagnostic and therpeutic skills are impeccable. If not they’d get their butts sued off PDQ.

The key here is whether anyone, doctor, lawyer, clergy*, chemist, engineer can pass judgement in an area other than the one they work/publish/research. I see letters to the editor in Chemical and Engineering News in which PhD chemists pass judgement on evolution. Mileage in a field of study is what qualifies anyone to comment intelligently. There is so much to evolutionary biology; if I were a researcher I’d be disturbed; nay, offended, at all the “armchair-paleontologists and-geneticists and -historical geologists” questioning the validity of the theories in my field. It is the epitome of arrogance. I would no more question the design of a bridge, the placement of a highway, the effectiveness of a pharmaceutical, the procedures used in firefighting, the diagnosis of a patient.

I see a glimpse from time to time of the expertise represented here on PT. One interchange struck me with awe; it was regarding the classification of a fossil as reptile, proto-mammal or mosasaur (I think). The poster clearly had logged many academic and scientific “miles” studying these fossils; I got the basics of the post, but the details were clearly meant for a colleague of similar background. This “shop-talk” opened for me (briefly) a window on a another professional world.

I am sorry that professionals in this area have to put up with this nonsense. As an educator, I am used to the public pontificating on what they are SURE would be the answer to all of our problems in education. When reading them, I can plainly see that most have no clue whatever to what education is about, how children learn, what it takes to work effectively with teens, what makes a school successful. Yet most people believe that, since they were once students, they know exactly how to “fix” education. It blows my mind.

*yes, I’ve seen the counter-argument about the letter from clergy. They are simply countering the claim that evolution contradicts Christianity-they go into no detail about evolutionary theory, nor do they claim any expertise.

Many doctors trade on their degree as if it made them an oracle on everything. Partly that’s inherent in the people attracted to the trade and partly because much of society reagrds them with exaggerated esteem and attributing to them expertise they don’t possess. The PSSI is no exception. It should be regarded as a joint effort at exhaling a lot of hot air. Much ado about nothing.

PISSY? they went with PISSY?

Hey, not bad. American medical schools produce more than 15,000 doctors a year, and they got nearly three dozen to sign on to a vacuous political statement. Not a single Steve, though.

RBH: As I recall, that would be, ironically, historically backwards. I seem to remember that Harvey had to postulate that there were blood vessels too small to see by the eye alone. (Capillaries only being discovered after his death, so he was right.)

PSSI Wrote:

There is no cost to become a member, and agnostics or members of any religious faith are welcome.

In other words, no atheists allowed! But it’s about science, not religion; not at all. So much for the ‘non-supernatural designer’ canard.

Duh! Maybe they don’t know the difference between agnosticism and atheism. After all, these aren’t words they learned in medical school…

The thing I noticed about the list is that they all put Dr. in front of their names. I think on this list, it’s a given, isn’t it?

Also notice the over-representation of red states. Florida, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Alaska

”… it’s a given, isn’t it?” Nope.

Comment #100266

Posted by Glen Davidson on May 8, 2006 12:02 PM (e)

A pre-med degree has a fair amount of biology in it, more than, say, an engineer’s does. Biochemistry, cell biology, A & P, stuff like that. One may or may not learn much about evolution in those courses, but I’d say that one very well could.

Yes it does. So does the PharmD. The problem is that the curriculum just doesn’t have any broad theoretical evolutionary biology coursework beyond a few weeks during that first general biology principles class.

It’s not that they don’t learn a lot about cell physiology, organic chemistry, microscopic anatomy, pathology and parasitology; it’s just they’re not challenged and well-grounded in evolutionary biology beyond how “micro-evolution produces anti-biotic resistant germs so don’t over prescribe.” And from the stand point of how much material a physician must learn, in light of the pragmatic requirements related to what it takes to train a Doctor, it makes a lot of sense to not place any emphasis on evolutionary biology.

To stretch an analogy, it’d be like teaching an accountant how to write software so he could use Quickbooks… Some programing is useful for teaching logic and some appreciation of software engineers. But an accountant really needs to be learning accounting, auditing and income taxation.

So, I really don’t have a problem that the average doctor isn’t an expert on evolutionary biology. I just get irritated that they act like they know all about it, when it’s clear they simply lack the training in evolutionary biology to be experts, or the in-depth exposure to even be challenged in regards to their religious perspectives regarding evolution. Certainly not enough to qualify them to start pulling the old “I’m a Doctor, therefore I’m an expert (on this thing I’m not really very well trained in at all…)”

It is unusual for a medical doctor to sign his or her name Dr. Pro From Dover for example. The correct designation would be Pro From Dover M.D. Especially in magazine ads those who repeatedly refer to themselves as Dr. Soandso with no degree designation to follow are chiropractors, naturopaths, or similarly trained non-physicians. I assume none such are in PSSI but I don’t know that for a fact.

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on May 8, 2006 11:10 AM.

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