It is rare that I get viscerally upset. Usually I simply have a passing feeling of unease leading into a rather grumpy day.
But this post got me rather riled up despite its rather innocuous start,
What is the most significant year to remember in relatively modern history? Is it 1776? Is it 1941? Is it Sept 11 2001?
Some will argue that the answer is 1859, the year Darwin published his Origin of Species.
While I could quibble about the fact that Sept. 11 2001 isn’t a year but a date, I would prefer first to point out who is writing this. Vance Esler is an oncologist born, raised and working in Texas. Not only does he treat people with various types of cancer, he is actively and proudly involved in research, recruiting patients for clinical trials.
Thus the third paragraph in his post is a bit of a breath-taker…
This book has been credited with providing the foundation upon which secular progressives began to build concepts which have led to the steady removal of God from public thought and life. After all, if life is only the result of random events occurring in a random universe, and not the product of an intelligent design, then it becomes so much easier to marginalize religious thought and influence in society.
We all know where this will lead and yes indeed it does move on into a rant about the political incorrectness of challenging evolutionary science.
Dr Esler points to the infamous ‘challenge’ to the theory of evolution from the Discovery Institute (DI) and signed by 700 scientists! Those “who have reached the epitome of their fields” in “engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry or one of the other natural sciences.“
He does ‘forget’ to mention that PhDs in things like physics and mechanical engineering rarely involve deep discussions of evolution but no matter – 700 is an impressive number. And, being involved in research and scrupulously fair, Dr Esler directly linked to the similar list of unequivocal evolution supporters at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE)
Wait – he didn’t!? Hmm.
As of this writing (Feb. 21, 2006), the NCSE list has 790 signatories.
There is a catch. In order to sign the exclusive Discovery Institute list one must be a PhD in something sciency.
For entry onto the NSCE list one must not only be a PhD in something sciency but also be named ‘Steve.’ (Well, “[n]ot just Steve, but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes and Estebans are welcome.” You get the idea.)
You see, even though most scientists understand that research isn’t directly conducted by opinion poll, the Steve list shows clearly that not only is there resounding support in the scientific community for evolution, but the sub-set of scientists named Steve supporting evolution is larger than the DI list.
Oh! And while there aren’t many biologists on the Discovery Institute’s list, about 2/3 of the Steve list are. (Perhaps closer to their field of expertise. No?)
The rest of Dr Esler’s post is taken almost verbatim from the WorldNetDaily website, but what really got me going was his personal summation.
There is a another site called DoctorsDoubtingDarwin.com for physicians who have similar concerns. As a hematologist/medical oncologist who deals with the disastrous results of mutations every day, I can readily attest to the fact that most mutations are fatal, and it stretches credulity to think one could actually result in the appearance of an entirely new species. Needless to say, I have added my name to that list. [my emphasis]
But that other thing – the “most mutations are fatal” quip? Is that a ‘fact’ ‘Dr’ Esler?
So this rather detailed discussion for lay-people about mutations not only not being fatal but not even harmful is just so much hemp haze?
Q: Doesn’t evolution depend on mutations and aren’t most mutations harmful?
A: No. Most mutations are neither harmful nor helpful.
That’s the short answer. The long answer is that mutations can be neutral (neither helpful nor harmful), strictly harmful, strictly helpful, or (and this is important) whether they are harmful or helpful depends on the environment. Most mutations are either neutral or their effect depends on the environment. [My emphasis]
Dr Esler, have you ever heard of people having six fingers? Are the mutations to the H5N1 virus lethal to the virus or good for the virus and potentially harmful to us?
To sum up I would like to quote Dr Esler again. This time from another one of his posts.
It is one thing to place one’s property in the hands of a repairman or craftsman. It is another to place one’s life at risk. Such relationships are historically based upon trust. So whom do you trust? Do you follow the advice of the tall, good-looking, affable young man who borders on cocky because everyone thinks he is so great? [Barack Obama] Or do you rely upon the quiet, thoughtful physician who listens to your complaints and says, “I need to think about this.” There is no easy answer. Trust can take time to grow.
So right now I remain skeptical about non-physicians trying to rank physicians based upon dubious criteria and poorly collected data. I also maintain a healthy skepticism of doctors who are always right, always know what to do, and who register highly on my BS Detector.
Sir, I don’t know whether you are a “quiet, thoughtful physician” but a skeptic you are not.
I do not put my trust of evolution in the hands of electrical engineers or oncologists but in the hands of evolutionary biologists. Something about my feeling about non-specialists trying to rank things based on “dubious criteria and poorly collected data.”
You sir, are not an expert in mutation. You sir are not an expert in evolution. You sir, are an expert on cancer. You sir, register rather highly on a detector of mine.
If you were a skeptic, then you might know that true sceptics realise that scientists understand the limitations of their own knowledge. Dr Esler, while your knowledge of cancer might be broad, it does not lead you to be able to make judgements about the validity of evolution.
But I am sure you are a religious person, full of integrity. I am sure that you are convinced your position is correct and intellectually honest.
Thus, I wonder if you would be willing to put up a sign in your practice along the lines of “I DOUBT DARWIN – EVOUTION IS DESTROYING TEXAS” or something along those lines. That way your patients would know what they are getting into. While you are at it why not take a picture of the sign including your partners and post it to your blog?
But somehow – I doubt you will.
And because I feel this doubt, I felt forced to man the redoubts – for Darwin.