I’ve often wondered why it is that highly educated doctors and engineers so often appear in support of Intelligent Design Creationism in so-called “debates” in public fora in this country. You may have noticed this in the local example of such a public “debate” in last year’s “Ninth Great Fresno / Oxford Debate” over the proposition “Darwin was right”. Download the linked file with the program for that evening, and look at the panelists – two of the three on the “con” side were medical professionals.
And now, the online open access journal PLoS Biology, has published a very interesting, thought provoking article in the latest issue:
Antonovics J, Abbate JL, Baker CH, Daley D, Hood ME, et al. (2007) Evolution by Any Other Name: Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance of the E-Word. PLoS Biol 5(2): e30 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050030
As the above figure from the paper illustrates, it seems that there is resistance to use of the word evolution in medical journals even in papers specifically dealing with the evolution of antibiotic resistance!! More worrisome is the suggestion near the end of the article that federal funding agencies such as NSF & NIH may have (continue to?) actively discouraged use of the e-word in titles and abstracts of grant proposals, and (perhaps more darkly amusingly) that they may be shy also about encouraging sex:
Indeed, we were told by one researcher that in the title of one proposal, the authors were urged to change the phrase “the evolution of sex” to the more arcanely eloquent wording “the advantage of bi-parental genomic recombination.”
What does it mean for society if medical professionals and government funding agencies try to hide or run away from important facts of life like evolution (and sex) even in the context of professional peer-review?
Reminds me of this Doonesbury cartoon I saw last fall – what would you do if the roles shown here were reversed?