Medicine and Evolution

Posted by Helen on September 15, 1998 at 12:18:52:

Deb wrote:

I read some of Menton's stuff a while back (but in another context), and I have to confess to finding it woefully lacking (in the particular area I was looking at at the time--something to do with anatomy). I think the main problem is the assumption that just because one has medical training, one is an expert on evolution. This is actually quite false--it's very easy to become a doctor with virtually no real exposure to evolutionary theory.

THAT'S RIGHT!!! And you know why? Because medicine does NOT depend on evolutionary theory!
Down below, scott wrote, concerning vestigials:

Funny you say that, since it was, after all, scientists that discovered the functions of so-called vestigial structures, not creationists or design hypothsists.

Those medical scientists, scott, could have had any worldview they wanted, and that had no bearing whatsoever on their discovery of the functions of vestigials. I take that back. If they were evolutionists who believed the structures were truly vestigial, they probably would not have looked for a function. It would have taken someone who thought that there were no useless or leftover parts to have been seriously looking for a function for a so-called vestigial.


First Response

Posted by Deb on September 15, 1998 at 12:29:54:

Gee, Helen, then why are creationists SOOOO eager to use "experts" who have no training in evolutionary theory to try to refute evolutionary biologists?

I.e. Certain geneticists you have quoted ad nauseum. I believe you yourself have cited Menton as an "authority" able to refute evolution.   OTOH, if one looks at the first name on that list of "Professors" on the White Paper, and then investigates what he does, and what he has published, I think you'll find that "evolutionary biologist" is an apt description.

So if we're gonna continue citing authorities around here, I think I'll stick to those who might actually know what evolutionary biology is, thankyouverymuch.

Response to Deb

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 15, 1998 at 13:01:59:

D: Gee, Helen, then why are creationists SOOOO eager to use "experts" who have no training in evolutionary theory to try to refute evolutionary biologists?

PK: Why are evolutionary biologists calling a structure a gill slit when it neither covers nor vents gills?

D: I.e. Certain geneticists you have quoted ad nauseum. I believe you yourself have cited Menton as an "authority" able to refute evolution.

PK: Where Menton was quoted below he was correct. Futuyama et al were wrong, though it may be somewhat understandable mistake.

D: OTOH, if one looks at the first name on that list of "Professors" on the White Paper, and then investigates what he does, and what he has published, I think you'll find that "evolutionary biologist" is an apt description.

PK: Nobody disputes that Dr. Futuyama, or whoever you are referring to, is an evolutionary biologist. The simple principle is the reverse of 'the broken watch is right twice a day' which is to say that world famous evolutionary biologists really can get involved in mistakes (though they may not have personally made any mistakes).

D: So if we're gonna continue citing authorities around here, I think I'll stick to those who might actually know what evolutionary biology is, thankyouverymuch.

PK: I think they do quitefinethankyou in describing what the theory of evolution really is. If only the evolutionists at CARM could agree with them . . .


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by Deb on September 15, 1998 at 16:49:59:

PK: Why are evolutionary biologists calling a structure a gill slit when it neither covers nor vents gills?

I believe that this has been addressed by two or three different people. However, I don't imagine that you are prepared to accept anything they say. Rather than try to understand the history of terminology, it is far easier just to accuse evolutionists of ignorance.

PK: I think they do quitefinethankyou in describing what the theory of evolution really is. If only the evolutionists at CARM could agree with them . . .

I haven't seen any evidence that we do not agree with them. You certainly have provided none, simply mere assertion and some misunderstandings of your own (i.e. the fact that we do not use exactly the same words as each other appears to be "evidence" that we "disagree".


Response to Deb

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 15, 1998 at 18:06:49:

PK: I think they do quitefinethankyou in describing what the theory of evolutoin really is. If only the evolutionists at CARM could agree with them . . .

D: I haven't seen any evidence that we do not agree with them. You certainly have provided none, simply mere assertion and some misunderstandings of your own (i.e. the fact that we do not use exactly the same words as each other appears to be "evidence" that we "disagree".

PK: When I point out 15 observed instances of speciation, 3 of which are due to evolution, you note that as follows: "Well, maybe I'm not reading very well today, because I understand the above sentence to mean "I saw 15 claimed instances and I reject 12 of them". You just recently posted the list in which you did the same thing again ("ding ding dong"). Am I missing something here?"

PK: You confuse every instance of speciation w/ evolution, so that if I deny that 12 speciation events are the result of evolution, you read me to deny that the 12 examples I am citing as evidece against the theory, as if I denied them as examples of speciation. You tell me that process/event matters not. It certainly matters if you are arguing the theory of evolution. Since it matters not to you, I can confidently conclude you are either 1) unaware of the theory of evolution, 2) have your own theory which you are still in denial about, or 3) confuse 'what we know' with the theory of evolution.

PK: Obviously, you have a right to your own ideas about things, however, if you are going to argue as an evolutionist, I think you should argue the theory from a recognizable formula, such as that provided by the professors. If you have your own theory, you should present it as such.


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by Deb on September 15, 1998 at 22:29:11:

Pat, I can't help it if you do not understand what the theory of evolution is. When people use different words to explain the same thing, or perhaps emphasize somewhat different aspects of the same thing, you seem to get all confused.

Speaking of which, have you yet figured out what the other mechanisms of evolutionary change are (besides mutation and natural selection, of course)? Convince me that when you mumble about "the theory" you actually know whereof you speak. Otherwise, there isn't much more that I can say to you.


Response to Deb

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 16, 1998 at 09:10:38:

Deb: Pat, I can't help it if you do not understand what the theory of evolution is.

PK: I've pointed out that you either don't know what it is or you have forgotten; I don't anticipate you can engage in a reasonable discussion on it. I've referred you to the paragraphs in the White Paper. Read it yourself.

D: When people use different words to explain the same thing, or perhaps emphasize somewhat different aspects of the same thing, you seem to get all confused.

PK: I do not confuse all speciation w/ evolution. I do not assume that the TOE is correct axiomatically. It should stand or fall scientifically and not semantically.

PK: Not so long ago you misrepresented me as categorically denying speciation. That was pathetic; and if you really believed what you wrote, you are more confused than I can take credit for. If you refuse to concede the possibility that TOE may be seriously inadequate (insisting that all speciation, event/process makes no matter, is axiomatically evolution), you can not defend TOE.

Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by SeeJay on September 15, 1998 at 23:42:56:

Why are you focussing on observed speciation events? Is it because these fall into the category of "directly observable, repeatable" experiments?

The reason I ask is because the fossil record shows a continuous gradation of organisms -- primitive in the older strata, derivative in the recent strata, in terms of morphology at least. Do you dismiss this as valid evidence for common ancestry?

Response to SeeJay

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 16, 1998 at 09:19:23:

SJ: Why are you focussing on observed speciation events? Is it because these fall into the category of "directly observable, repeatable" experiments?

PK: No, but that is a good point. I am following the best (though often inadequate) concept of the species - a population which can exchange genes naturally.

SJ: The reason I ask is because the fossil record shows a continuous gradation of organisms -- primitive in the older strata, derivative in the recent strata, in terms of morphology at least. Do you dismiss this as valid evidence for common ancestry?

PK: The fossil record clearly shows changes in forms. I see that as evidence of adaptation. Often, forms do not change noticeably as one species separates from another. After the two diverge, gradual physical changes may continue. Often we distinguish species by their appearances; though this is a good guide, there are exceptions.

PK: My suspicions on common ancestry have not kept pace with the evidence, so I don't argue against it as loudly as I have in the past.


Second Response

Posted by KSR on September 15, 1998 at 12:44:07:

I think there has to be a distinction made between useless or leftover PARTS, and one diminished FUNCTION of a part that may have multiple functions, and is one element in a larger system. I see the appendix being used here as an isolated element or character out of its systemic context, with an attempt being made by someone? to declare its 'character state' in various organisms, and then using it in a cladistic manner. I'm not pointing the finger at Helen in particular, since I don't know where her parallelism remarks originated. But I do see a problem here. Also, the appendix may be an 'exaptation' in humans, (but I won't insist on it!)


Response to KSR

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 15, 1998 at 14:42:00:

The problem is that the White Paper, in the introduction no less, and in the paragraph immediatly following mention of the immune system, states "How do we account for our nonfunctional appendix...?" How are we to understand that except as an abysmal lack of knowledge of the same human physiology that they want us to accept their explanation of? How does one make distinctions based on "nonfunctional"? Is the meaning of that word ambiguous?


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by scott on September 15, 1998 at 16:24:24:

I haven't read this White paper, so I will not defend what he authors say (or you claim they say). But I would say that the appendix, as an organ of the immune system, is no more important than Peyer's patches or any other GALT. That there is lymphoid tissue in the appendix is no surprise. That is is a separate 'organ' attached to the digestive system that plays no active part in human digestion is.


Response to scott

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 15, 1998 at 18:58:46:

Scott: I haven't read this White paper, so I will not defend what he authors say (or you claim they say).

*** OK. You don't trust me to be honest? Read it for yourself. White Paper [ http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~ecolevol/fulldoc.html ]. The part about the "nonfunctional" appendix is in the Introduction, so you don't need to read the whole article.

Scott: But I would say that the appendix, as an organ of the immune system, is no more important than Peyer's patches or any other GALT.

*** "Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) which is found in the alimentary (Peyer's patches, appendix, tonsils), respiratory, and genitourinary tracts also contains T and B cell areas, the latter forming lymphoid follicles and sometimes prominent germinal centers." - by Robert C. Mellors, M.D., Ph.D. Perhaps your different terminology is purely a semantics difference. You can read his entire piece Here [http://edcenter.med.cornell.edu/CUMC_PathNotes/Immunopathology/Immuno_01.html ]. For a "medical scientist" he seems to know one or two things about biochemistry and genetics. An aberration perhaps? ;-)

Scott: That there is lymphoid tissue in the appendix is no surprise. That is is a separate 'organ' attached to the digestive system that plays no active part in human digestion is.

*** Only because you insist on viewing it thru the colored lenses of your evolutionary glasses.


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by scott on September 16, 1998 at 14:13:25:

For every MD/PhD you trot out that does active clinical research, I can trot out 10 that get a PhD only to secure a better residency program. How, pray tell, would a person looking through creationist 'glasses' NOT be surprised that a superfluous appendage prone to infection and inflammation whose 'job' is performed just as well by other structures is attached to the digestive system?


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by KSR on September 16, 1998 at 00:01:20:

Kevin, I read what Helen posted on the functions of appendix, her comments on the alleged parallelism problems it poses for evolution, and checked my Fleagle primate book on the digestive systems of primates. I decided then that the appendix most likely has several functions, and I also thought that it couldn't be considered as an isolated element due to the inter-relatedness of body size, metabolism and diet. Quite frankly, I don't know who White is and I don't know why the immunity function wasn't mentioned by White. But I (as in me, KSR!) think that the appendix appears to have multiple functions, one of which appears to have diminished in humans (the digestive role) and this I took a wild shot in citing as an example of 'exaptation,' or "...a character that evolved to fulfill a different function than the one it currently serves." (Wolpoff 1996:65) Sounds appropriate to me in application to the human appendix, in light of the immunity role. I also don't think the appendix poses a problem for evolution, contrary to what Helen noted, since it is an isolated element out of systemic context, and I don't think it is meaningful or informative then as a 'trait' to be used in the manner Helen notes. Am I clearer on all of this now?


Response to KSR

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 16, 1998 at 01:35:56:

Yes, your line of reasoning is clearer. I understand what you are saying about the possible multi-function capacity or function of the appendix. What I was addressing, or attempting to that is, was the white paper's statement that the appendix is "nonfunctional." Obviously you don't agree with that statement. And I see no way to translate nonfunctional into some sort of limited function. The English language simply won't support it.

I'm willing to concede that it would perhaps be a mistake to dismiss the entire paper based on that one glaring mistatement. But you can hardly blame me or others for taking a somewhat skeptical view of the remainder of the paper when reasonably well know biological funtions of the human body are misrepresented/misunderstood in the introduction to the paper! They are supposed to be experts aren't they?
IMHO, the "gill slit" part also seems deliberately misleading. Pharyngeal pouchs is a very recognizable and more proper term for the same thing. Their use of the slang term, "gill slits", seems intended to be very leading. I'd be willing to bet that out of all the scientific disciplines out there, you'll only find the evolutionary sub-disciplines describing the pharyngeal areas as "gill slits." I did several searches online and I got many many many more hits when searching for "pharyngeal pouches" than I did searching for "gill slits", and that was without specifying anything about species in my search criteria!


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by KSR on September 16, 1998 at 09:28:42:

Thanks Kevin for replying. As I said, I just don't know White, and I'll go back and look it over more carefully. I had company yesterday, and was only able to get onboard for a brief moments. I also do freelance scient. illust. for a college biology lab, and I'll survey the people over there about the 'gill slits' terminology and see what they think is proper form. I think back to my own biology classes over the years and I am familiar with both 'gill slits' and 'pharyngeal pouches,' but don't recall if anyone ever thought one was preferable over the other. What sort of audience was the White paper written for?

That might be one reason slang was employed over technical terms. I don't know. I called a creationist writer out on the carpet for not defing 'apes' properly, and this creationist author has been referenced here and is a biochem Ph.D. at a SECULAR university-- a school I'd love to get in to due to it's program and reputation in anthropology. He claimed to be writing for a popular level audience. So this kind of thing happens on both sides of the aisle.


Third Response

Posted by scott on September 15, 1998 at 16:19:55:

What makes you think it was medical scientists that discovered the 'function' of the appendix? Anatomists and physiologists are not medical scientists. Contrary to the blatant projection (evolutionists close their eyes blah blah blah), the evolutionists I know keep working no matter what. In other animals, the appendix (or the equivalent thereof) has a primarily digestive function. That it contains lymphoid tissue should not be a shocker - the gut is littered with lymphoid tissue. That it no longer has a digestive function in humans - just a minor immune role - is indicative of it being vestigial in that it does not perform the same task as its homologues do in other, more 'primitive' creatures. In fact, it is also an example of poor design. A blind pouch with no evacuative apparatus in what is arguably one of the'dirtiest' body systems that makes it prone to infection and inflammation..... The other GALT does not suffer such indignations and performs its immune jobs quite well......


Response to scott

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 15, 1998 at 17:29:49:

Scott: "What makes you think it was medical scientists that discovered the 'function' of the appendix? Anatomists and physiologists are not medical scientists."

Hmmmm.... Let's see how a medical university describes medical scientists:

Medical Scientist Training Program

The Medical Scientist Training Program is designed to develop a student's independence and competence as an investigative scientist and clinician. The program provides students with a broad educational base for the practice of medicine and medically related research. The Medical Scientist Training Program is administered jointly by the School of Medicine and the Graduate School. During the first three years of the program, students follow an integrated curriculum that includes medical courses, graduate education, and research training. It includes an initial core course in the first year, taught by an interdisciplinary faculty, that integrates aspects of biochemistry, molecular genetics, microbial genetics, cell physiology, and cell ultrastructure into a cohesive, rigorous survey of the molecular biology of the cell. Clinical information is added to this framework by weekly correlative sessions. During subsequent years, formal courses continue to integrate an understanding of the clinical consequences of cellular events.

 Beginning in the fourth year, and continuing for two or more years, students pursue full-time research on a project of their own design within the major areas of anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology and molecular genetics, and physiology and pharmacology. Research training within these disciplines is available in nationally recognized research laboratories in the School of Medicine. After completing the Ph.D. degree, students return to the medical curriculum to complete the last two years of clinical training to obtain the Doctor of Medicine degree. Source: Loma Linda University, School of Medicine.

What was your point again....?


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by scott on September 15, 1998 at 17:51:40:

Like I said, anatomists and physiologists are not medical scientists. What they 'discover' may very well be used in medical science. I'm in an Anatomy and Cell Biology Department in a medical school. I know all about M.D./Ph.D. students - they are coddled and eased along. Exempt from the mundane duties of graduate students (teaching, presentations, ec.), they cruise through, get heir degree, then a few months into their 3rd year of medical school, they've forgotten most of what they did. I agree with Pat about most medical students. But I've dealt with them IN medical school - ask them a question about something they learned for the last exam and most of them gaze at you with blank eyes.... By the time they become physicians, most of them have forgotten everything except what they need to know to pass their board exams. Anyway... The point is, there is a difference between someone that makes a career out of doing research in anatomy and physiology and one that makes a career out of clinical medical research.


Fourth Response

Posted by Paul Rothberg on September 15, 1998 at 16:48:41:

You are quite right that you don't have to know anything about evolution to practice medicine. In fact you don't have to know much biochemistry or genetics either. You point up some similarities between the practice of Medicine and Creationism. If you want to be excellent then evolution is a necessity. The difference in the quality of science between the creationists and scientists is amazing.


Response to Paul Rothberg

I'm sure your own doctor would be thrilled with that opinion! (nt) Helen 19:37:39 9/15/98 (0)


Response to Paul Rothberg

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 15, 1998 at 19:37:11:

Paul: You are quite right that you don't have to know anything about evolution to practice medicine. In fact you don't have to know much biochemistry or genetics either.

*** Perhaps you should tell that to the Doctors practicing general and specialized aspects of Internal Medicine. How exactly would an Immunologist, for example, go about his/her job not knowing much about biochemistry or genetics? And while I'm asking questions, perhaps you could address why medical universities maintain dept.s in both Biochemistry, and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics? Perhaps that's where the profs meet for their weekly card games... ;-)

Paul: You point up some similarities between the practice of Medicine and Creationism.

*** Yup! Both strive to deal with the facts as they are, not how they imagine them to be. Thanks for the ringing endorsement of Creation science!
Can you imagine cancer specialists sending their potential patients home with the good news that they are evolving into a more fit species? But that would never happen because they don't know enough about biochemistry or genetics to be able to rationalize that far down the road. ;-)

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - John Adams

Research publications and presentation highlights
http://www.llu.edu/news/scope/aut97/research.htm


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by Paul Rothberg on September 15, 1998 at 23:42:36:

My comments come from the inside and a perspective that you don't have. There are academically oriented M.D.s. I work with quite a few. Most M.D.s are not academically oriented.

I have taught medical students. There were a few with curiosity, but the vast majority just wanted to get the test over with and only remember only what they needed to practice. The practice of Medicine for most M.D.s is a vocation, a very difficult and challenging one, but still a vocation. Academic Medicine is different, but the fraction of M.D.s in academic medicine is very small.

A VIP in my hospital said you can tell the year of graduation from medical school by looking at the pattern of antibiotic prescriptions.

Response to Paul Rothberg

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 16, 1998 at 01:52:33:

I understand, Paul. My main concern was that you appeared to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Your own experiences not withstanding, isn't it a bit unfair to extrapolate them across the board to all M.D.s? I mean, I can see your point, especially with regard to family practitioners and other more generalized "specialties" in medicine. But it makes less sense when applied to some of the more focused specialties. I'll grant you that an immunologist probably would be quite uncomfortable having to perform an emergency live birth or something like that. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't know biochemistry for example. Doesn't he pretty much have to know more biochemistry than a general practitioner in order to do his job?

Anyway, I had hoped that the little winking smiley faces would give some small clues to the fact that my tongue kept brushing my cheek as I wrote that post. :-)


Fifth Response

Posted by Pat on September 15, 1998 at 17:04:42:

Like engineers, doctors have vocational training, and spend minimal time on theory. Where I was an undergraduate, for example, the engineers took a special physics course, just as rigourous as those required for the sciences, but they did not have to derive the equations. The premed people took the same courses as the scientists in zoology, and chemistry, but they took a different approach. Very functional. "How can I maximize my GPA? Should I put a few more hours in here, to memorize, or what?" And they were ruthless in labs if you turned your back on them. Joke: "How many premed students does it take to change a light bulb?" "Two. One to hold the bulb, and one to kick over the ladder."
While other students might hang around and talk about the implications of the lecture, they were gone. And they often crammed for tests, with little retention later. I'm always a little nervous going to doctors, having spent some time with them when they were undergraduates. I suppose you've heard my story about how a doctor once told me that "lifting belts" worked by compressing the abdominal cavity sufficiently hard to counteract the force on the vertebral disks. Since the L5/S1 disk can be compressed with a force of over 760 lbs on moderately heavy lifts, I had a hard time keeping a straight face. If a doctor can be that ignorant of human anatomy and fundamental physics, it's pretty obvious that anything even remotely out of their daily work is likely to be a complete mystery. All but a few of them work on rules of thumb, most of the time. Like most of us.


Response to Pat

Posted by Helen on September 15, 1998 at 19:35:39:

They didn't learn any creation ideas in medical school! ALL they got was evolution as theory..... Must be awfully hard to present, I guess.... As far as the doctors being limited, though, I agree. We have learned to pick and choose rather carefully.


Response to Helen

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 15, 1998 at 19:58:29:

Actually, not all medical universities are slanted towards the "theory" of evolution. Most probably are neodarwinist in persuasion, but not all.


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by Helen on September 15, 1998 at 20:03:25:

Forgot about Loma Linda. Thanks.


Response to Helen

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 15, 1998 at 20:30:25:

Not only are they not a neodarwinist medical school, their main hospital (they operate several)was recently named as being in the top 10% of hospitals in the U.S.! Their innovations and contributions to medical science are well known world wide.


Response to Helen

Posted by Pat on September 15, 1998 at 20:38:37:

They didn't learn any creation ideas in medical school! ALL they got was evolution as theory.....

Pat: I seriously doubt if any medical student is taught evolution in medical school at all. Some specialties do have some training, (immunology, for obvious reasons) but even there, it isn't much. Of course, modern biology is based on evolutionary theory. But the medical students don't hear much about it.

Helen: Must be awfully hard to present, I guess....

Pat: Very little time to do anything but vocational training. Far as I can tell, most physicians don't know very much about evolution at all.

Helen: As far as the doctors being limited, though, I agree. We have learned to pick and choose rather carefully.

Pat: For folks as intelligent as most of them are, they are remarkably uneducated outside of their own field.


Response to Pat

Posted by Deb on September 15, 1998 at 22:18:34:

At U of Toronto, the intro bio course is part of the premed premed package, along with math, physics, and chemistry (i.e. you have to pass well all four courses in your first year to even hope to get into premed). It does tend to be built around evolutionary theory, but considering the pressure these kids are under, I highly doubt that any more than one in ten actually retains any of that info beyond the exams. The higher bio courses, and the medical science courses do not deal with evolution. They don't need to. If you want to pursue evolution- related subjects, you go on to zoology.

I also took the medical school anatomy course--as you say, it is fiercely competitive and all the doctor wannabes are worried about is getting the A (most do not. And the attrition rate in that course was over 50%--we started with 160 some odd students, and finished with 74). There was not one word of evolution in the entire course. These courses are designed to weed out the vast majority of those who apply, and crank out med students.

I'd be surprised if most doctors were very well educated outside their own specialties, let alone the field. I know that if I want detailed information on the human skeleton, I'll go to one of the osteologists in my own department, not a doctor.

 

 

 

 
 
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