Darwin and Medicine, redux

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The summer 2006 edition of Stanford Medical Magazine has devoted their issue to “The evolutionary war.” Being the alumni magazine of a medical school, of course they have an article on “Darwin in medical school.” It’s a nice overview, discussing a bit of the history of “Darwinian medicine” and the pros and cons of teaching it in an already over-scheduled medical school curriculum.

(Continued at Aetiology)

10 Comments

It’s great that someone’s pushing to include evolution education in medical training. There’s way too many creationist physicians out there, which is ironic for a field that benefits so much from evolutionary theory. Evolution may be integrated into many courses, but I’m sure the bits of evolution there are easily missed or ignored; putting a spotlight on it would be a great idea.

But…again with the “Darwinian” references. No one believes in Darwinian evolution any more–the field has advanced considerably since Darwin’s day.

What really bugs me is when somebody comes along and says, “Who cares about evolution or creationism? We don’t need to know any of that stuff! It doesn’t help us out at all!” Then you have to dig around for examples of how evolutionary knowledge has been a boon to modern medicine especially, and biology as an aside. I get the impression that these are the same people who say, “Who cares about space? We should be spending all this NASA money on other stuff! It hasn’t helped us out any!” It’s a frustratingly short-sighted mindset to try and argue against.

I work in the medical field, and you might be surprised at how many creationist physicians and nurses there are. The medical knowledge is just compartmentalized away from the creationism. I’ve worked with docs who I respected, who I would gladly let treat me or my kids, but who are still, when it gets down to it, creationists. On a basic level, medical school and nursing school are just job training programs, and most medicine is algorithmic. If you see A, you do B, and the surrounding theory isn’t going to change much–you just follow “the standard of treatment” and that’s about it.

It’s strange to watch someone NOT ponder the obvious inferences about, say, antibiotic resistance. Though they deal with the realities of antibiotic resistance or sickle cell disease, the “why” doesn’t matter, and their minds are not engaged in any inner debate on the evolutionary implications. I don’t see conscious resistance, so much as just not caring about any of these lines of reasoning. I see much less intellectual curiousity that I expected when I came into the field 15+ years ago. But then again, I’ve spent most of my time in emergency departments, so perhaps if I had worked in a more research-oriented field my conclusions may have been more optimistic.

What??!!??? You mean those creationists doctors are all MATERIALISTS???? You mean they DON’T put their trust in the Lord and heal disease through the power of faith and prayer? Instead, they use (gasp!!) naturalistic materialistic treatments to cure naturalistic materialistic diseases by killing naturalistic materialistic germs???????

They sound rather atheistic to me . … …

I agree with misanthrope. It probably is a lack of intellectual curiosity that permits creationist physicians to utilize the scientific method to come to a diagnostic conclusion while denying that the same methodology can answer more basic questions in biology. I see no evidence that outcomes-wise that they are inferior practitioners. The Frank Burns character in the movie MASH (a far more malignant character than the buffoon portrayed in the TV show) who claimed it was “the Lord’s will” whenever one of his patients crashed does not exist in my medical community as far as I know despite the fact that there are fundamentalists of many different religions all who work in close proximity to each other even being each other’s partners. The single most important message that should be taught to medical students currently is that they can have a successful and meaningful career that does not depend on the performance of elective outpatient technical procedures.

Let’s see if Prof. Lynch and the others on this blog challenge this man’s credentials and knowledge base, or claim he is marginal and unfamiliar with modern biology …

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He led the successful effort to complete Human Genome Project (HGP), a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA, and determining aspects of its function.

In the article by Steven Swinford, in the Sunday Times of London, June 11, 2006

Quote:

THE scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.

Francis Collins … claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. “One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,” said Collins, 56.

“I don’t see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years.”

For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict in his mind. Instead, it allowed him to “glimpse at the workings of God”.

“When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it,” he said. “But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

End Quote

===

It will be interesting to learn whether Richard Dawkins refers to Dr. Collins as a “backwoodsman” because Collins questions the undirected evolutionary model of the source of life and believes there is a rational basis to believe in a Creator.

It will be interesting to learn whether Richard Dawkins refers to Dr. Collins as a “backwoodsman” because Collins questions the undirected evolutionary model of the source of life and believes there is a rational basis to believe in a Creator.

The real question to be asked is why Collins sees no conflict between evolution and Christianity. Why doesn’t the evidence turn him into an IDiot?

There’s always something bizarre about how creationists try to twist theistic evolutionists into opponents of evolution. You don’t have to find Collins, after all, to find people who accept both evolution and Xianity. All one has to do is look around PT.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Glen D, writes, referring to Dr. Collins: “Why doesn’t the evidence turn him into an IDiot?”

Intelligent Design thinkers are working on defining rigrously the ways to detect intelligent design from the evidence available. As it happens, the eminent Dr. Collins apparently did not need a rigorous system to detect intelligent design in the human genome. He drew the conclusion from his own perhaps heuristic analysis.

You don’t have to be Dr. Dembski or Dr. Behe to find evidence of intelligent design and to draw conclusions from it.

Next, Glen D introduces a non-sequitur:

“There’s always something bizarre about how creationists try to twist theistic evolutionists into opponents of evolution. You don’t have to find Collins, after all, to find people who accept both evolution and Xianity. All one has to do is look around [PandasThumb].”

The Sunday Times article did not mention Christianity. I did not mention Christianity. I didn’t say that Dr. Collins opposed evolution. Dr. Collins opined (as quoted in the full article) that he believes in Theistic Evolution. That means he believes that a creative intelligence launched the system that allowed for evolution to occur. That means that evolution is a product of intelligent design. He also opined that Mankind would not further evolve.

So what exactly was bizarre about my post, or about Dr. Collins’ position??

Justasking7 Wrote:

Let’s see if Prof. Lynch and the others on this blog challenge this man’s credentials and knowledge base, or claim he is marginal and unfamiliar with modern biology…

Dr. Collins apparently doesn’t see any contradiction between Christian faith and the Theory of Evolution, unlike certain creationists of various flavors. In fact, “He considers scientific discoveries an “opportunity to worship”.” I think you’ll find there are many, many professionals in the science with a similar outlook, one of not seeing their profession or its ideas as an opposition to God but rather as a way of exploring the marvels of God’s world. Dr. Kenneth Miller is another one. Here’s a copy of Dr. Collins’ commencement address to the U of V, in which he brings up the subject of faith but never once insists that the spiritual world is an inherently scientific idea, instead it is “a domain not possible to explore by the tools and language and science, but with the heart, the mind and the soul.” In this interview with Bob Abernathy, Dr. Collins makes his views pretty explicit:

Dr. Francis Collins Wrote:

I think it’s probably difficult to take the investigation of the natural world and say, “I can prove to you, because of the elegance and beauty of all of this, that there must be a creator God.” You can certainly use those arguments, but I think they alone will not carry the day for a skeptic … I’m a theistic evolutionist. I take the view that God, in His wisdom, used evolution as His creative scheme … Why is evolution not an appropriate way to get to that goal? I don’t see a problem with that. The only problems that get put forward are by those who would interpret Genesis 1 in a very literal way. And that interpretation in many ways is a – is a modern one.

That doesn’t sound quite like the anti-evolution rhetoric of, say, The Institute for Creation Research, nor the call to arms for a “theistic science” of the Discovery Institute. Until we start seeing Dr. Collins assert that science can be used to infer the supernatural in anything other than a personal, philosophical capacity, there’s not really a reason to argue with the man in anything other than a personal, philosophical capacity on the point. I have yet to see Dr. Collins put forth that God should be included in scientific methodology, or denounce the Theory of Evolution as an atheistic and therefore wrong idea which should be usurped by theistic “alternatives.” This is what you call a red herring.

What are you afraid of?

If Dr. Collins had been a die hard evolutionist, the evolutionist would have already held him up on a pedistal as a God (if they believed in such things), or at the very least the final authority to finally crush the disallusioned and simple minded creationists. So why is it that when someone of his unquestionable credentials comes forth with claims that God and evolution can work together, instead of embracing him and saying how wonderful it is that we can all get back together, the evolutionist (and in all fairness some creationist) say “this guy is just another kook?

I plan to buy his book and see for myself what is says. I have another question for you. If evolution is all there is, then what does the Christian have to lose? (Just the argument.) On the other hand, if creation (and Christianity) is real truth, what does the strict evolutionist stand to lose? The truth? Jesus said, “I am the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.”

Creation or Evolution? Or both? The answer isn’t just to decide who is enlighted and who is simple minded. Or is it?

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on June 8, 2006 9:55 AM.

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