Was Darwin Wrong?

Question Evolution

No. And the more I learn about medicine, the more necessary it becomes to have a working knowledge of the mechanisms of evolution. Bacteria, viruses, and other infectious disease evolve to evade our drugs. We have been evolving right along with these microbes for eons in a constant balance of biologic warfare. Evolution even comes into play in the modern plagues of chronic disease: the environment has rapidly changed and we are no longer adapted to the food we eat or sedentary nature of our daily lives.

But what sparked this post was actually a recent trip to the downtown farmers market. Many special interest groups set up kiosks around the capitol square, and in a city like Madison I am always excited by the diversity of perspectives. One banner that caught my attention was the image above: “Question Evolution!”

My philosophy is to question everything, so I was initially pretty excited to see their bold display of scientific nonconformity. But as I started reading their pamphlet, I realized that they were not posing challenging scientific questions, but rather dispensing religious dogma. For a complete review of the “15 Questions” that they were distributing, see this website.

The thing that saddens me about their campaign is not that it misrepresents certain fundamental concepts, but that it promotes lack of curiosity as a virtue. I will just use question 5 as an example: “How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate?” That is a fantastic question! I could easily imagine it being the topic of a well-researched TED Talk by a leading molecular biologist. However, the makers of this pamphlet answered their own question by simply saying that because we don’t know, God did it. Ignoring the fact that they are being academically dishonest to push a certain agenda, this is just an incredibly boring and sad way to live life in the 21st century.

Curiosity about the world we live in is part of what makes us human. It is what drew me to medical school and literally what gets me out of bed each morning. It is just not satisfying to end conversations with appeals to ignorance. I won’t argue with people about their unassailable religious views, but I urge everyone to stay curious. Acknowledge that we adhere to most of our beliefs simply because they work, regardless of whether or not they are accurate. Rather than merely confessing your ignorance, relinquish your ignorance in favor of a “burning itch to know.”  Finally, use the modern miracle of the scientific method to productively feed that curiosity and deeply explore the richness of the natural universe.

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