In a commentary entitled “Stop whining about intelligent design,” 1 well-known NBC-TV reporter Robert Bazell (the US network’s chief science and health correspondent, who has advanced degrees in biology/immunology) suggests that the evolution debate adds little to the education of physicians. In claiming this, however, he still seems bent on pursuing the tired old mantra that serious medicine can’t ignore evolution. While proposing that values should be given greater emphasis in medical education, he also finds time to ridicule those who are proponents of intelligent design and creation.
Mr. Bazell’s initial premise is a reasonable one. As a practicing physician, I would wholeheartedly agree that learning about molecules-to-man evolution is not necessary for doctors. Also, I agree that we should spend more time dealing with moral issues and ethics in medical school—with the advent of genetic engineering, the explosion of new technologies and medications, and a society constantly aging and presenting us with a greater population of chronically ill patients, compassionate and ethical physicians will be needed to deal with the many ramifications of these issues. Even Mr. Bazell admits, “Teaching evolution properly in secondary school will have little impact on these difficult issues.”
Curiously, he goes on to express his belief that evolution and natural selection are as “true as anything in our understanding of the natural world.” The thread of the article then changes course to an attack on intelligent design and creation. Creation is contrasted with evolution as an “attempt to undermine science with arguments that can sound scientific but are not.” No evidences are put forth to support a statement of this type, yet evolution is called real science and creation is not. Yet Pasteur, Maxwell, and Newton, all giants in the history of “real science,” contributed greatly to the sciences, including medicine, and they were believers in the Bible’s Genesis account as literal, straightforward history. A lack of understanding evolution did not hinder their ability to contribute to “real science.”
Mr. Bazell’s commentary suggests, “Serious efforts in biology and medicine can no more ignore evolution than airplane designers can ignore gravity.” This amazing statement is challenged by AiG’s Dr. David Menton, Associate Professor Emeritus of Anatomy at Washington University School of Medicine, who indicates: “If evolution were thrown out of consideration, it would have no negative impact [in medicine]—it plays no necessary role in either the teaching or practice of medicine.” He also notes: “If you remove evolution, there’s nothing in the whole realm of empirical science that you can’t pursue.”
While Mr. Bazell sets forth his opinion that evolution must take a predominant position in science, he also acknowledges its damaging effect in the historical arena. The principal force of evolution is the cruel and wasteful process of “survival of the fittest.” This concept of the weaker or lesser evolved being expendable was used as the justification for Hilter’s atrocities before and during World War II.
Unfortunately, the author does not take the next logical step and explore how belief in evolution might affect the value judgments of young physicians. He says, “Science can never help us make moral or value judgments like those the new physicians will face.” However, an evolutionary worldview will affect moral decisions regarding such issues as embryonic research, abortion and euthanasia.
Mr. Bazell would have us believe that science is science and values are values, and these concepts are separate. After 20 years of medical practice, I can attest that science and values are not so easily compartmentalized. If evolution is true, then there is no moral authority. A belief in the truth of the Genesis account—which actually is consistent with observational science—provides a basis both for a scientific understanding of the world and our moral values.
While evolutionary concepts have no impact on the actual practice of medicine, the value judgments of physicians can be molded by this false worldview. Physicians face critical moral dilemmas every day, even beyond the issues of what is permissible and right. For example, why do we suffer? And why is there death? How a doctor deals with these questions is dependent on his view of origins. The evolutionist has few answers to these questions. The creationist has answers and can counsel those under his care. Perhaps these are the value judgments Mr. Bazell feels are lacking in our present medical education system in America and other westernized nations.
(Dr. Mitchell, with an MD from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, is an exceptional communicator on the relevance of Genesis to the church and society. To bring one of his well-illustrated programs to your area, go to our Request an event page.)