Bioethics Discussion Blog: Teaching Medical Students to Become Physicians(2): Teaching Intelligent Design?

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Teaching Medical Students to Become Physicians(2): Teaching Intelligent Design?

Now I am worried. Maybe we all should be worried. I just finished reading the Perspective article by Robert S. Schwartz, M.D. “Faith Healers and Physicians—Teaching Pseudoscience by Mandate” in the New England Journal of Medicine, October 6, 2005 issue. I knew about the intelligent design movement (anti-evolution but proposing “a supernatural being—a hidden wizard—has a hidden hand in shaping the living world.”) [Note: these quotes and quotes below taken from the article.] I knew it was being debated in school boards around the country regarding starting teaching intelligent design to school children beginning in the 9th grade.

What I didn’t know was according to the article “Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, has come out in favor of teaching of intelligent design.” Could this mean there may come political pressure to have medical schools teach intelligent design? “Its proponents tell us that gaps in our knowledge of how living organisms evolved vitiate the theory of evolution.” Think.. if this catches on as medical teaching, what could be the result? Any explanation that our scientists cannot explain must then be explained as part of the intelligent design. Therefore, no further attempt at another explanation would be necessary. This could put an end to scientific medical research. Treatment of medical illness and search for new drugs would be de-emphasized since there is no trumping the product of the “designer”.

Dr. Schwartz urges us in medicine, as physicians, leaders of professional societies and prominent academicians to protect the public from pseudoscience and begin to “understand what the debate is about and consider the consequences for the future of medicine.” ..Maurice.

6 Comments:

At Friday, October 14, 2005 6:36:00 AM, Blogger Orac said...

I saw this article too. Although I agree with much of it, Dr. Schwartz undermined his arguments by being overly solicitous of Phillip Johnson, widely recognized as the father of "intelligent design," stating that Johnson's criticisms of Darwin "have merit." He's wrong. Phillip Johnson's "criticisms" of Darwin are based on fallacies, cherry picking data, and misrepresentation of what evolutionary theory actually says. Worse, Dr. Schwartz either didn't know or chose not to mention that Phillip John is also highly active in the movement of people who do not accept the science showing that HIV causes AIDs. He is a prominent member of that movement and his writings are featured on the Virus Myth website.

The NEJM blew an opportunity to show how poor critical thinking skills and a lack of understanding of the scientific method that leads to the acceptance of one form of pseudoscience (creationism) can also lead to another (HIV denialism). Imagine physicians who can't distinguish science from pseudoscience evaluating various quack claims or even trying to decide whether science supports the adoption of a new therapy. Scary.

 
At Friday, October 14, 2005 7:08:00 AM, Anonymous Bob Koepp said...

I agree that ID shouldn't be taught as a viable alternative to "standard" evolutionary accounts of biological phenomena. And I am very much in favor of medical professionals getting up to speed about the relevance of evolutionary theory for medical science. But I don't have to _imagine_ physicians who can't distinguish science from pseudoscience, or critically assess evidentiary claims -- there are plenty of living, breathing examples whose lack of critical thinking skills is anything but imaginary. And I have no doubt that patients suffer as a result.

 
At Saturday, October 15, 2005 9:36:00 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Indeed there are. Dr. Lorraine Day comes to mind, as does Dr. Rashid Buttar. There are, unfortunately, numerous others.

 
At Monday, October 17, 2005 6:20:00 PM, Anonymous joseph said...

I agree with you Dr. Bernstien that if ID was taught and accepted by everyone learning it, there would be a de-emphasis on drug development, etc. I also agree that scientists should be the ones who help people distinguish between science and non-science. I will say though that the worst way to handle this situation, in my opinion, is for the non-ID people out there to start calling ID people ignorant, backwards, etc. This only leads to more division. In the same way the ID people need to get a better handle on what science actual is, the non-ID people need to come to a better understanding of the cultural and religious factors that have brought about ID in the first place.

 
At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 7:42:00 AM, Blogger Orac said...

We non-ID people have been bending over backwards to "understand" the cultural and religious factors that have lead to the widespread acceptance of the pseudoscience of ID. Sadly, most ID supporters show no such inclination to learn why ID is not a true science.

 
At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 8:30:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Along the line noted by Orac above, I have asked Bob Koepp in the Comments to the posting of yesterday 10/17/05 to give us some of the criteria we should use when separating pseudoscience from true science. Orac, do you have some ideas too regarding the criteria you would use? ..Maurice.

 

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