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Shock: A Darwinian Biologist Notices that Evolution Is Irrelevant to Medical Research

Michael Egnor

Dollarphotoclub_43465706.jpgshocked that medical researchers aren’t invoking “evolution” regularly in their research papers:

It’s not just creationists!

It’s also MDs who avoid the “E” word. A survey of the literature found an interesting shift in usage:

The results of our survey showed a huge disparity in word use between the evolutionary biology and biomedical research literature. In research reports in journals with primarily evolutionary or genetic content, the word “evolution” was used 65.8% of the time to describe evolutionary processes (range 10%-94%, mode 50%-60%, from a total of 632 phrases referring to evolution). However, in research reports in the biomedical literature, the word “evolution” was used only 2.7% of the time (range 0%-75%, mode 0%-10%, from a total of 292 phrases referring to evolution), a highly significant difference (chi-square, p < 0.001). Indeed, whereas all the articles in the evolutionary genetics journals used the word “evolution,” ten out of 15 of the articles in the biomedical literature failed to do so completely. Instead, 60.0% of the time antimicrobial resistance was described as “emerging,” “spreading,” or “increasing” (range 0%-86%, mode 30%-40%); in contrast, these words were used only 7.5% of the time in the evolutionary literature (range 0%-25%, mode 0%-10%). Other nontechnical words describing the evolutionary process included “develop,” “acquire,” “appear,” “trend,” “become common,” “improve,” and “arise.” Inclusion of technical words relating to evolution (e.g., “selection,” “differential fitness,” “genetic change,” or “adaptation”) did not substantially alter the picture: in evolutionary journals, evolution-related words were used 79.1% of the time that there was an opportunity to use them (range 26%-98%, mode 50%-60%), whereas in biomedical journals they were used only 17.8% of the time (range 0%-92%, mode 0%-10%).

… So we have evolutionary biologists who are unafraid to use the word “evolution” properly; medical biologists who know what it is but avoid using the word; creationists who see it happening but don’t understand it and despise the word…

Darwinists use “evolution” because it’s their creation myth and because its regular invocation is required by their thought police. Doctors and medical researchers don’t use “evolution” because it’s irrelevant to medical research. Fairy tales about survival of survivors contribute nothing to medical research, or to any other research.

The extraordinary success of medical research is glaring confirmation of antibiotic pioneer Philip Skell’s observation that reference to evolution in biology is just a “narrative gloss” on the real science. Just-so stories contribute nothing to biology. Medical research is wildly successful, without any significant reference to evolution.

My first post at ENV was about the irrelevance of evolution to medical research and practice. It’s nice to see that PZ Myers finally agrees.

Image: � Vasiliy Koval / Dollar Photo Club.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

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