Natural Selection, Antibiotic Resistance, and Interesting Questions.

Dr. Michael Egnor, of SUNY Stony Brook and the Discovery Institute, doesn’t think that evolution is relevant to trying to figure out how to combat the spread of antibiotic resistance. The interesting areas of research, he believes, lie in other areas of biology:

The important medical research on antibiotic resistance in bacteria deals with how the mutations that give rise to resistance arise, exactly what those mutations are and how they work, and what can be done to counteract them. The important medical research involves genetics, molecular biology, and pharmacology. Darwin’s theory is of no substantive value to the research because, as Mr. Dunford admits, there is no difference between antibiotic resistant bacteria that emerge through artificial intelligent selection and antibiotic resistant bacteria that emerge through natural selection. Antibiotic resistance is a phenomenon that occurs because there are often a few bacteria in a large population of bacteria that have a mutation that renders them less sensitive to the antibiotic. These bacteria that aren’t killed by the antibiotic eventually outnumber bacteria that are killed by the antibiotic. Survivors survive. Does this mundane observation really help Mr. Dunford understand things he may not have otherwise understood? It certainly doesn’t advance medical research in any meaningful way. New insights into genetics, molecular biology, and pharmacology do advance medical research.

I realize that I’m just begging for Dr. Egnor to take what I say out of context again, but he is not entirely wrong. If I was working on ways to fight antibiotic resistance, I would certainly want to focus more on the molecular mechanisms that are involved in the development of resistance than on the question of how resistance spreads through a population of bacteria after it appears.

Read more at The Questionable Authority, where comments may be left.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on March 13, 2008 2:14 PM.

El Pais: Lo que Darwin no sabía “What Darwin Didn’t Know” was the previous entry in this blog.

UNM Awards Genie Scott with Honorary Doctorate of Science is the next entry in this blog.

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