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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Darwin-doubting doctors

An article in Panda's Thumb disputes the Discovery Institute's interpretation of the results of a poll of physicians' opinions about the evolution controversy. There are two online versions of the poll, here and here, and the pollsters' discussion of the poll is here. This poll is discussed in a previous post on this blog and a related post on this blog is here.

The PT article says, for example,

78% of doctors say that they accept evolution; only 15% reject it. Yet according to Egnor, “most doctors don’t accept evolutionary biology”. The survey quite clearly and overwhelmingly shows this to be wrong.

However, a lot depends on how the questions are worded -- for example, Q7 in that same opinion poll showed that only 38.50 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, "Humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement -- no divinity played any role."

Any of the results of that poll shows that Darwin doubting among doctors is surprisingly high. In contrast, a 2002 poll of Ohio scientists -- a fairly old poll -- showed that 90 percent said that intelligent design is not supported at all by scientific evidence. BTW, I think that old opinion polls concerning the evolution controversy should be repeated now because the great publicity about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case probably caused a lot of people to rethink their positions about the controversy.

This widespread Darwin doubting among doctors must be embarrassing to Darwinists because Darwinists have been stereotyping Darwin doubters as uneducated fundies whereas doctors have above-average educations in biology.

29 Comments:

Anonymous peter irons said...

Larry,

I'm glad you posted the full report from the Finkelstein study of opinions (keeping in mind these are just opinions) of doctors on evolution and ID, which show cleraly that Dr. Egnor and the Discovery Institute have twisted those poll results to fit their propaganda spin. Also keep in mind that doctors, who do have "above-average" education (sounds like all the "above-average" kids in Lake Woebegon) most likely took undergraduate science courses that focused on chemistry (organic and biochem) and likely included little exposure to evolutionary theory. But the DI is not being honest in its biased reporting on this poll.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Despite what Peter says, the real problem with these polls is that the questions asked are ambiguous. Does "supernatural involvement," for instance mean Darwinism somehow supervised by God-- the view of Francis Collins, Kenneth Miller-- and Harold Hand, who is Judge Jones' pastor? Or does it mean some non-Darwinist idea, as in intelligent design theory?
(Incidentally, intelligent design doesn't necessarily require anything supernatural: Fred Hoyle's naturally-arising "cosmic intelligence" might serve as a designer of some features of life, for instance.)

So I'm at a loss to objectively interpret these polls. And I'm not suprised that Darwinists and ID theorists sincerely interpret them differently. But I don't think the polls give much comfort to Darwinists.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>the real problem with these polls is that the questions asked are ambiguous. Does "supernatural involvement," for instance mean Darwinism somehow supervised by God-- the view of Francis Collins, Kenneth Miller-- and Harold Hand, who is Judge Jones' pastor? Or does it mean some non-Darwinist idea, as in intelligent design theory?

Actually Jim, the poll already addressed this in the previous question (6). There, nearly two-thirds of doctors supported evolution vs. intelligent design.

If anything, this poll suggests a conflation between creationists and intelligent-design proponents (not a surprise there).

Manuel

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 2:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Anonymous or Manuel: Q6 reads "Do you believe more with the evolution or with intelligent design?" ("The" seems to be a mistake.)

The question is extremely ambiguous. As I pointed out in the March 11 Egnor post, I believe in evolution in one common dictionary sense of the word. So does biochemist Michael Behe, the intelligent design theorist, whose forthcoming book is "The Edge of Evolution."

What I don't believe in is perfectly blind evolution, as in Darwinist theory.

The media commonly misrepresent ID theory as opposed to "evolution" in the wide sense: to descent. So one would expect most doctors to misunderstand the question.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 3:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Actually Q6 reads "Do you agree more with the evolution or more with intelligent design?" Sorry about the minor errors.

But if the physicians had been better informed about what intelligent design really means, the poll suggests that they would be quite supportive of it.

The only answer would come through better polls, which make it clear what ID theory really is, and how it differs from other views: such as Darwinism, creationism, and "theistic evolution."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 3:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>Q6 reads "Do you believe more with the evolution or with intelligent design?" ("The" seems to be a mistake.)

The question is extremely ambiguous. As I pointed out in the March 11 Egnor post, I believe in evolution in one common dictionary sense of the word. So does biochemist Michael Behe, the intelligent design theorist, whose forthcoming book is "The Edge of Evolution."

What I don't believe in is perfectly blind evolution, as in Darwinist theory.

Which part of the "or" do you not get that distinguishes between two options?

Manuel

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 4:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Anonymous or Manuel: the good doctors will surely understand the word "or." And so will I.

What's highly ambiguous are the
terms on either side: "evolution" and "intelligent design."

"Evolution" is often taken to mean simply biological descent, as I pointed out. That would include descent from common ancestry involving an element of intelligent design, as Behe proposes. So how can "evolution" be contrasted unambiguously to "intelligent design?"

But "evolution" can also mean what I and Mayr call "Darwinism" (see Mar 11.) That would conradict intelligent design.

Without a clear definition of both terms, the poor doctors can't have any accurate notion of how to answer the question? They will probably answer on the basis of highly inaccurate media-characterizations of "intelligent design."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>They will probably answer on the basis of highly inaccurate media-characterizations of "intelligent design."

But if they do this, then they see intelligent design as something that contradicts evolution -- hence the need to rid textbooks "laced with evolution" in order to insert intelligent design or include stickers that single out the theory of evolution. Based on the answers to the questions I see the following: some doctors see intelligent design as equivalent to creationism and therefore accept whatever it offers; others see intelligent design as a sign of theistic evolution (in other words, they know nothing about intelligent design, but since they associate it with god, they accept it). Others clearly know the difference and have no problem with evolution despite believing in God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 7:13:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

peter irons said...
>>>>>Larry,

I'm glad you posted the full report from the Finkelstein study of opinions (keeping in mind these are just opinions) of doctors on evolution and ID, which show cleraly that Dr. Egnor and the Discovery Institute have twisted those poll results to fit their propaganda spin. <<<<<<

Peter,

To me, this Finkelstein Institute report is just another interpretation of the poll results.

I am not surprised that the poll was sponsored by a Jewish outfit and that this outfit interpreted the results the way it did. Some Jews and Jewish organizations have been very active in opposing criticism of Darwinism -- other Jews and Jewish organizations strongly oppose Darwinism. This is discussed in the following posts on this blog:

Some Jews love Darwinism because they hate Christian fundies

Jewish IDism

-- and also off-site in Coral Ridge Ministries "documentary" attributes Hitler to Darwin


Jim Sherwood said (03-14-07 @ 1:03:00 PM) --

>>>>> So I'm at a loss to objectively interpret these polls. And I'm not suprised that Darwinists and ID theorists sincerely interpret them differently. But I don't think the polls give much comfort to Darwinists. <<<<<

I agree. No matter how the poll results are interpreted, they show that significant percentages of physicians reject or question Darwinism. It doesn't have to be a majority.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 8:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>>No matter how the poll results are interpreted, they show that significant percentages of physicians reject or question Darwinism. It doesn't have to be a majority.

But Egnor's argument depends largely on the point that Darwinism is rejected by a majority.

Can doctors be good doctors without knolwedge or acceptance of evolutionary theory? Sure. Does this mean that they understand everything that is happening to a patient or why? No.

But since it's clear that a majority of doctors are not in agreement with Egnor, he is actually quite easily ignored -- despite the claim made on this --- blog.

Manuel

Thursday, March 15, 2007 8:26:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>>No matter how the poll results are interpreted, they show that significant percentages of physicians reject or question Darwinism. It doesn't have to be a majority.

But Egnor's argument depends largely on the point that Darwinism is rejected by a majority. <<<<<<

So Egnor exaggerated a little, but I say that it still does not have to be a majority. You Darwinists just keep moving the goalposts. First you say that Darwin doubters are a bunch of uneducated fundies. Then when a poll shows that a significant percentage of physicians doubt Darwinism, you say that it is not a majority. If it were a majority, then you would say that it is not an overwhelming majority. Then you would say that they are not scientists. Then you would say that they are not biologists. Then you would say that they are not evolutionary biologists.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry wrote:

>>>>>Then you would say that they are not evolutionary biologists

But doctors aren't. Their individual or collective opinion has no bearing on the value (truth or otherwise) of evolutionary theory, aka Darwinism. The only point of having a doctor state that a majority or a significant number or a rather small number of doctors disagree with the canonical view of evolutoinary theory is part of a well-oiled publicity machine that, of course, is meaningless when it comes to the value (again, truth or otherwise) of evolutionary theory. It's not about moving the goalposts; it's about relevance. Neither Larry's or Jim's or Egnor's or the Disco Institutes' (or mine, for that matter), make any difference on the relevance of whether some poll of whatever group of people in whatever location doubts the tenets of biological evolutionary theory.

Manuel

Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:41:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...

>>>>> Larry wrote:
Then you would say that they are not evolutionary biologists

But doctors aren't. Their individual or collective opinion has no bearing on the value (truth or otherwise) of evolutionary theory, aka Darwinism. <<<<<<

On the other hand, the evolutionary biologists are biased because they have dedicated their lives to advancing evolution theory -- or their conceptions of evolution theory.

As an engineer, I know that there are a lot of things in engineering, physical science, and mathematics that lay people are not qualified to discuss at an advanced level. This is also true of a lot of things in biology. However, there are a lot of things about evolution theory that lay people are qualified to discuss.

BTW, I have added another comment to the comment list (linked at the bottom of the left sidebar).

Thursday, March 15, 2007 4:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

Jim (Larry) says:

> What I don't believe in is perfectly blind evolution, as in Darwinist theory. <

I don't think that a ball rolling downhill is taking a "blind" path.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 4:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Hippocrates said...

< However, there are a lot of things about evolution theory that lay people are qualified to discuss. >

Such as?

Incidentally, doesn't it occur to these doctors to ask why the Intelligent Designer wasn't smart enough to prevent their patients from getting sick?

Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Hippocrates said...

< Incidentally, doesn't it occur to these doctors to ask why the Intelligent Designer wasn't smart enough to prevent their patients from getting sick? >

You might claim that he was also showing solicitude for his other brainstorm creations (such as diphtheria, mumps virus, etc.). But that doesn't explain auto-immune disorders or birth defects.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Hippocrates said...

Oh, wait, I understand -- it's all part of the Grand Design. (Doctors also have to eat, not just bacteria.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>On the other hand, the evolutionary biologists are biased because they have dedicated their lives to advancing evolution theory -- or their conceptions of evolution theory.

As an engineer, I know that there are a lot of things in engineering, physical science, and mathematics that lay people are not qualified to discuss at an advanced level. This is also true of a lot of things in biology. However, there are a lot of things about evolution theory that lay people are qualified to discuss.

How does this in any way respond to the point made in my post?

It's not about the biases of evolutionary biologists -- evolutionary biological theory is something that transcends the work of individual or collective biologists working in the field.

Friday, March 16, 2007 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...
>>>>> How does this in any way respond to the point made in my post? <<<<<

You said that people who are not evolutionary biologists are not qualified to discuss evolution and I disagreed with that. I also said that I think that evolutionary biologists tend to be biased in favor of evolution.

>>>>> It's not about the biases of evolutionary biologists -- evolutionary biological theory is something that transcends the work of individual or collective biologists working in the field. <<<<<<

Evolutionary biology is the collective work of individual biologists working in the field.

Friday, March 16, 2007 5:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>You said that people who are not evolutionary biologists are not qualified to discuss evolution and I disagreed with that

Actually, I said that the viewpoints of any given person is irrelevant. You can talk about evolution all you want, but your opinion is moot.

The viewpoints that matter are those that are accepted in the scientific community via peer-reviewed research. Anything anyone does outside that is irrelevant, though it may be interesting.

Manuel

Friday, March 16, 2007 5:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

The viewpoints that matter are those that are demonstrable by sufficiently precise analysis of data: which Darwinism is not. Anything else, when falsely represented as demonstrable science, is authoritarianism, dogma, or meaningless pseudoscientific speculation.

Acceptance by a majority of the "scientific community" is irrelevant in science: although it may be of some interest to those of very conventionalistic bent.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>>>>Acceptance by a majority of the "scientific community" is irrelevant in science

I'm starting to think that you are Larry and not a separate person; maybe the other poster here is right.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 1:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

After a century and a half, no scientific proof af Darwinism has been produced. So it's no suprise that quite a few great scientists have analyzed it at length, and doubted it or repudiated it altogether, in recent decades.

When no scientific proof of a doctrine or hypothesis exists, everyone is still entitled to their own personal opinion, of course.

If the majority of those who are considered to be "scientists" happen to personally prefer the Darwinist doctrine, that is their right. But in the absence of scientific proof, nobody is obliged to accept a doctrine on such a merely conventionalist basis.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 1:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>After a century and a half, no scientific proof af Darwinism has been produced.

You can say this all you want -- until you're blue in the face, until the cows come home, until you get a life, until you get a clue, etc., but that won't ever make it true. You apparently know how to read and use a computer; look up the relevant terms on websites like wikipedia or something.

Manuel

Saturday, March 17, 2007 1:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

I'm not going to repond to personal comments that are insulting. Do some reading in the philosophy of science; or even in the books of Hoyle and Grasse; and you may revise some of your views.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 2:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>>>I'm not going to repond to personal comments that are insulting

But you did.

>>>>Do some reading in the philosophy of science;

Wouldn't actually scientists and not merely philosophers of science exhibit much better support. I'd take Gould any day.

Manuel

Sunday, March 18, 2007 9:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Anonymous Manuel: Look up "Grasse" in the index to Gould's book Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes.

You'll find Gould recounting his meeting with "the great zoologist P.P. Grasse."

But Gould didn't mention that Grasse, in his book The Evolution of Living Organisms (1977) rejected the views of Darwin and the similar views of Dawkins, Gould etc., more or less completely. He didn't think that evolution was due to mutations, etc, and natural selection, but attributed it to undiscovered natural laws.

Grasse was a President of the French Academy of Sciences. If Darwinism is a well-established science, why would he reject it -- as he did -- as "pseudoscience" and "daydreaming?"

Monday, March 19, 2007 1:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

< Grasse was a President of the French Academy of Sciences. If Darwinism is a well-established science, why would he reject it -- as he did -- as "pseudoscience" and "daydreaming?" >

Well, why did William Thomson (President of the Royal Society in London, 1890-1895) say that airplanes were impossible (just one of numerous blunders on his part)? Thomson (aka Lord Kelvin) was a much greater scientist than Grasse, whom hardly anyone has heard of.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

My point is not that Grasse was necessarily right, or that Gould was necessarily right or wrong, but simply that a scientific controversy over Darwinism clearly existed then -- and it's also clear that one exists now. A theory which is fully affirmed by some celebrated scientists and fully rejected by others, hardly qualifies as well-established science.

Obviously, Gould and other American biologists knew plenty about Grasse -- although Americans typically know more about English-speaking scientists than about others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 1:14:00 PM  

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