Evolution—‘a science that’s leading to cures’?

Dr Carl Wieland responds to Daniel W. Nebert, M.D.

18 November 2002

‘Ridiculous’—that’s how Dr Daniel W. Nebert, a medical professor at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, USA, describes Ohio’s debate over whether to teach alternatives to evolution. (See Vote in Ohio stirs evolution controversy.) He wrote an editorial to the Cincinnati Enquirer (18 October 2002), which the newspaper titled, ‘Evolution is a science that is leading to cures.’

‘For those of us in medical research who have been studying for more than three decades the evolution and expression of genes that code for drug-metabolizing enzymes and receptors, this debate by the Ohio Board of Education-over whether “to teach evolution as the first theory” (Oct. 15) but that students “should also learn about intelligent design”—is ridiculous.

‘Evolution is no more a theory than is Henry’s Law of Gases a theory. Based on the evolution and clinical expression of these genes, one of the goals of our research is to design novel drugs to treat complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity.

‘Wouldn’t it be ironic if one of the members of the Ohio Board of Education, who is voting in favor of intelligent design, were taking one of these new pharmaceutical agents-that have been developed because of such evolutionary studies-to treat one of the above-mentioned diseases?’

Daniel W. Nebert, M.D., Professor, University of Cincinnati Medical Center

Dr Carl Wieland, Managing Director of CMI–Australia and a former medical doctor himself, wrote the editor to challenge Dr Nebert’s misleading claims.

Dear Enquirer,

Read more about operational vs historical science in ‘It’s not science’

As a qualified medico myself, it’s hard to let Daniel Nebert’s piece—with its misleading title, ‘Evolution is a science that is leading to cures’ (18 Oct.)—pass. The design of the drugs to which he refers can no more depend on the truth of the naturalistic transformist hypothesis (i.e. ‘goo-to-you’ evolution) than it would depend upon the cow flying over the moon.

The ‘clinical expression’ of genes refers to the way genes work in the present world. Studying such matters, with the hope of being able to tailor drugs more precisely targeted to human malfunctions of various sorts, is valid operational science (how the world works)-whereas hypotheses about the unobserved and unobservable past involve historical, or forensic science.

Whatever positive therapeutic outcomes might one day arise from Dr Nebert’s research will clearly depend on the ‘here and now’ operational realities of human biology, not speculative attempts to retrace a belief about how those genes arose from alleged animal ancestors.

Read more about equivocation with ‘evolution’ in Anthrax and antibiotics: Is evolution relevant?

The obfuscatory construction of the letter suggests, at best, philosophical confusion, similar to when evolutionary biologists equivocate about the meaning of the word ‘evolution’. Genetic change of any sort becomes automatic proof of the whole molecules-to-man-by-themselves worldview.

See index of present and past creationist scientists

If logic is not sufficient to demonstrate a disconnect between practical outcomes in biological research and belief systems about the past, gives a sampling of just some of the many trained scientists achieving positive results in research, including molecular biology and related fields, with no prior commitment to this naturalistic philosophy.

Carl Wieland, M.B., B.S. [British Commonwealth designation of M.D.]

Published: 3 February 2006