The continuing problem of creationists and their efforts to hamper science education and research in this country never seems to abate. Some people throw up their hands in resignation and say, “We can never change their minds, so let’s just ignore them.” As I pointed out in my book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, we cannot afford to ignore the creationist threat to science. Not only do they undermine the proper teaching of biology in our schools, but they have made no secret that their goal is to suppress any science that is not consistent with their literalistic view of the Bible. Good bye, astronomy and cosmology. Good bye, physical anthropology and human paleontology. Good bye, geology (and forget finding oil or coal or gas ever again). Good bye molecular biology, and its evidence for evolution. And forget all the benefits that these sciences provide us, or the richer perspective on life that we gain by understanding our true place in the universe, rather than the version handed down by some Bronze Age shepherds.
But a bigger problem is the fact that in some cases, denial of evolution is dangerous or even deadly. Evolution keeps happening all the time, whether creationists want to believe it or not. Yet if we deny the fact that evolution is happening in viruses and bacteria and in other pathogens and pests, it only makes the problem worse when they evolve resistance to whatever we throw at them. If creationists ran the labs that produce these protective chemicals, do you think we would have a chance when the next deadly pest hits us?
Many insects and weeds have evolved resistance to pesticides and herbicides, all within a few decades, causing enormous economic damage to people all over the world. Every modern housefly now carries the genes that make it resistant not only to DDT, but also pyrethroids, dieldrin, organophosphates and carbamates, so there are few poisons left that can suppress them. The mosquitoes that evolved resistance to DDT and other organophosphate insecticides apparently evolved in Africa during the 1960s, spread on to Asia, then reached California by 1984, Italy in 1985, and France in 1986. As entomologist Martin Taylor describes it (in Weiner, 1994, p. 255):
It always seems amazing to me that evolutionists pay so little attention to this kind of thing, and that cotton growers are having to deal with these pests in the very states whose legislatures are so hostile to the theory of evolution. Because it is the evolution itself they are struggling against in their fields every season. These people are trying to ban the teaching of evolution while their own cotton crops are failing because of evolution. How can you be a creationist farmer any more?
But the most egregious example of evolution denial didn’t just hurt people, but actually killed a baby. In 1984, when a surgeon at Loma Linda University in California attempted to replace the defective heart of “Baby Fae” with the heart of a baboon. Not surprisingly, the poor baby died a few days later due to immune rejection. An Australian radio crew interviewed the surgeon, Dr. Leonard Bailey, and asked him why he didn’t use a more closely related primate, such as a chimpanzee, and avoid the possibility of immune rejection, given the baboon’s great evolutionary distance from humans. Bailey said, “Er, I find that difficult to answer. You see, I don’t believe in evolution.” If Bailey had performed the same experiment in any other medical institution except Loma Linda (which is run by the creationist Seventh-Day Adventist Church), his experiments would be labeled dangerous and unethical, and he would have been sued for malpractice and his medical license revoked. But under the cover of religion, his unscientific beliefs caused an innocent baby to die of immune rejection, when other alternatives might have been available. And Bailey still continues on at Loma Linda, treating kids with no regrets about his unethical experiment.
So just think about that the next time you hear someone say, “Oh, creationism is not hurting anyone.”
hazardous to your health...,