Creationism is “Junk Medicine” proclaims a headline in The Times, (UK) 11 Feb 2006. In an article subtitled “How evolution can save lives”, Mark Henderson, science correspondent for The Times calls for people to resist the current interest in creation and Intelligent Design in Britain and consider the practical benefits of evolution. According to Henderson, “Darwin’s natural selection has transformed medical science. Its contribution to health stands comparison with Jenner’s vaccine, Pasteur’s germ theory of disease and Fleming’s antibiotics.” He then goes on to cite “prime examples” – bird flu, HIV, multi-resistant bacteria, sickle cell anaemia, cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Two weeks later, a similar article was published as an editorial entitled “Medicine Needs Evolution” in Science, vol. 311, p1071, 24 Feb 2006. The Science editors claim evolution is “the vibrant foundation for all biology” and also use the example of antibiotic resistance and sickle cell anaemia, but they also claim that evolution explains the increase in breast cancer, infertility and miscarriages. They then call for changes to the teaching of medicine to include evolution. They are: “First, include questions about evolution in medical licensing examinations; this will motivate curriculum committees to incorporate relevant basic science education. Second, ensure evolutionary expertise in agencies that fund biomedical research. Third, incorporate evolution into every relevant high school, undergraduate, and graduate course.”

Geotimes, a website and magazine that normally reports on geology, has also joined the call for evolution in medicine with an article in their March 2006 edition named “Evolution Lessons from Infectious Disease” in which they also name antibiotic resistance, HIV, bird flu and SARS as examples of evolution.

Editorial comment: None of the examples cited are evolution. Pasteur’s germ theory was well used by Pasteur as proof that evolution from chemicals to cells did not happen. Pasteur firmly opposed Darwin’s theory. Bird flu and SARS occurred because of the mixing of already existing genes between viruses. The fact that some virus combinations flourish because they are more successful at making people ill and spreading themselves is natural selection, but it is not evolution. It does not explain how viruses got their genes in the first place. Genetic changes, i.e. mutations, do occur in viruses but they don’t even change viruses into different viruses. They just change their already existing surface properties or growth rates.

Mutations do cause sickle cell anaemia, all cancers and some cases of infertility and miscarriage, but none of these are evolution. Mutations damage genes and indicate that living cells are degenerating from fully functional complex structures to partially defunct structures. This is the opposite of evolution. Antibiotic resistance in bacteria can be caused by mutations, but the bacteria that gain some resistance because of mutations are invariably weaker and only do well in places where there are lots of antibiotics keeping the normal bacteria from competing with them for food and living space, e.g. hospitals. Most bacterial resistance is due to bacteria that are already resistant flourishing when the non-resistant bacteria are killed. Bacteria can also share genes for antibiotic resistance. This is not evolution because no new genes are being made – they are just being re-distributed, and the bacteria that gain them remain the same kind of bacteria.

The call for evolution to be imposed on medical education in coercive ways that put research funds and licenses to practice at risk, shows that evolution is not “the vibrant foundation for all biology”. If it was, it would already be in the foundational science courses used in medical schools, and there would be no need for such totalitarian tactics. We suggest medical schools should teach the facts about mutations and selection, i.e. they are the effects of degeneration of living things and their environment, which is why we need medicine. We also suggest that Geotimes stick to writing about rocks. (Ref. microbiology, illness, health)