Tara Smith posted Entry 1256 on July 28, 2005 11:42 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1254

Anyone who’s been involved in E/C debates has likely heard more than once that “evolution is a religion” (see, for instance, Matt Young’s thread here ). Some opponents suggest that because the theory has been modified somewhat over the years since Darwin’s original proposal, it’s a “theory in crisis,” or assert some other prediction of its imminent demise. Others have stated—correctly, in my opinion—that evolution has as much or more support as the germ theory of disease. So why do people attack evolution, but not the germ theory? Let’s compare the two.

First, a bit of history (and I do mean “a bit;” keep in mind I’m leaving a lot of people, events, and ideas out here). Even in the 19th century, the idea that some form of live contagion served to spread disease was not new. Indeed, the “germ theory” of disease has been around in a raw form for centuries. One of the earliest references to this theory appears in On Agriculture by Marcus Varro in 36 BCE, warning about building near swampy land “…because there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases.”

Variations on this theme remained for centuries, but by the 1800s, the main competitor to the idea of some kind of “minute creatures” caused disease was the “miasma theory,” which held that miasmas—noxious atmospheres produced mainly by decaying organic matter—produced disease. This was the dominant theory, and the idea of germs as a root of disease did not gain a high level of support until put forth more formally by Henle in 1840:

The material of contagions is not only an organic but a living one and is indeed endowed with a life of its own, which is, in relation to the diseased body, a parasitic organism.

Though Henle formalized the germ theory of disease in the mid-1800s, there was resistance to the idea, and evidence was lacking. John Snow’s epidemiological studies of cholera were suggestive of an organism rather than a miasma, but Snow did not isolate the organism himself, which could have further cemented the connection.

In the 1860s, Pasteur demonstrated the existence of pathogenic organisms—bacteria and “filterable agents” (viruses) which could cause disease. In the 1880s, Henle’s student, Robert Koch, isolated the causative agents of both tuberculerosis and cholera. More importantly, Koch formalized a way to determine whether an infectious agent was a cause of disease; these have been modified over the years and are known as Koch’s postulates.

  1. The organism must be present in every case of the disease, but not in healthy individuals.
  2. The organism must be isolated from the host with the disease and grown in pure culture.
  3. The specific disease must be reproduced when a pure culture of the organism is inoculated into a healthy susceptible host.
  4. The organism must be recoverable from the experimentally infected host.

These postulates have been the “gold standard” for determining an infectious cause of disease for the past 125-odd years. However, even from the beginning, they were less than perfect. Using Koch’s postulates to determine the cause of hog cholera, a disease that killed more than 13% of the hogs in the U.S. in several outbreaks in the late 1800s, Daniel Salmon and Theobald Smith determined that the hog cholera bacillus (later named Salmonella cholerae-suis) was the cause of this disease. Koch and Pasteur agreed with them, and indeed, Salmon and Smith had fulfilled Koch’s postulates: they consistently saw the organism in hogs with hog cholera, they isolated it and grew it in pure culture, saw the disease when they infected healthy hogs, and recovered the bacterium. So, how could they be wrong? In 1903, Marion Dorset demonstrated that hog cholera is actually a viral disease, and that the virus had simply been present in the “pure” bacterial cultures. Oops. Thus, an early test of Koch’s postulates—a central principle of the germ theory of disease—failed miserably.

So, Koch and Pasteur were wrong in this case. Does an incorrect statement by the early advocates of an idea disprove the theory? Of course not: it stands or falls on its own merits, regardless of misapplication or incorrect conclusions drawn by using Koch’s postulates. However, there are certainly weaknesses in the theory that merit a second look. I’ll take the postulates one by one:

The organism must be present in every case of the disease, but not in healthy individuals.

Here we run into the problem of the carrier state and sub-clinical infections. A person may show no signs of disease, but may carry the organism on or in their body. Additionally, a disease may be caused by a ubiquitous agent (such as Epstein-Barr virus, which infects ~95% of the population) that causes serious illness relatively rarely. In both cases, the presence of the organism in healthy people makes it more difficult to definitively associate it with a particular disease. Additionally, a disease may develop only after the organism which caused it has been eliminated from the body. Therefore, attempts to culture it will come back negative, resulting in a misleading conclusion that the organism under investigation does not cause the disease in question.

The organism must be isolated from the host with the disease and grown in pure culture.

Here we run into problems of isolation and culture. Not all organisms can be grown in pure culture in the laboratory. Indeed, as I mentioned here, it is estimated that only ~150 out of roughly 400 oral bacteria have ever been isolated; one can imagine how many species of pathogens remain unknown to us in the environment.

The specific disease must be reproduced when a pure culture of the organism is inoculated into a healthy susceptible host.

Here we come to the problem with models. What is a “healthy, susceptible host?” Certainly we can’t go around giving other humans deadly disease, so we most often rely on animal models to replicate the course of infection. However, not all diseases have good animal models, and some pathogens will infect no other species but humans. Additionally, some diseases are not due to an immediate effect of the pathogenic organism, but are due to more distal effects of the organism. For example, the response of the host’s immune system to certain strains of Streptococcus pyogenes can result in rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease months or years after the initial infection, and long after the bacterium is cleared from the body. Additionally, this post-infectious outcome seems to occur more frequently in individuals of a certain genotype; so the pathogen genetics plus the host genetics plus the environment (including the presence of other pathogens) all must be taken into consideration when examining development of disease.

The organism must be recoverable from the experimentally infected host.

Assuming we were able to isolate a pure culture in the first place, and have a decent model of infection, re-isolation still isn’t always possible, as many of the problems with initial isolation are also present upon re-isolation. Additionally, the organism may have been cleared by the immune system, or may be present in one organ but not another (for example, the spleen but not the blood, so where samples are taken from may make a difference).

Looking at all of these problems, it might seem that the germ theory of disease isn’t quite as straightforward as many people assume it is. And it’s not—but there are ways to overcome the limitations. Rather than using pure culture methods, we can use molecular diagnostics (such as PCR) to determine the presence of various organisms. Rather than use solely animal models, we can use serological evidence or epidemiological studies to determine a correlation or investigate a cause/effect relationship between an organism and a specific disease in the human population. We can even use these types of studies to investigate infectious causes of chronic diseases, where the infectious exposure may be decades removed from disease development. Yet I’ve not seen many challenges to the “naturalistic” assumptions underlying the GToD as I do with challenges to evolution, nor have I heard the claim that the germ theory is a “religion,” as anti-evolutionists claim about the theory of evolution. Even the religious connections are there; certainly the Bible has been used by some to support the idea that disease is a punishment from God:

So now the LORD is about to strike you, your people, your children, your wives, and all that is yours with a heavy blow. You yourself will be stricken with a severe intestinal disease until it causes your bowels to come out.” Then the LORD stirred up the Philistines and the Arabs, who lived near the Ethiopians, to attack Jehoram. They marched against Judah, broke down its defenses, and carried away everything of value in the royal palace, including his sons and his wives. Only his youngest son, Ahaziah, was spared. It was after this that the LORD struck Jehoram with the severe intestinal disease. In the course of time, at the end of two years, the disease caused his bowels to come out, and he died in agony. His people did not build a great fire to honor him at his funeral as they had done for his ancestors.

(2 Chronicles 21:12-19)

The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, fever, and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, and with blight and mildew. These devastations will pursue you until you die. The skies above will be as unyielding as bronze, and the earth beneath will be as hard as iron. The LORD will turn your rain into sand and dust, and it will pour down from the sky until you are destroyed. “The LORD will cause you to be defeated by your enemies. You will attack your enemies from one direction, but you will scatter from them in seven! You will be an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your dead bodies will be food for the birds and wild animals, and no one will be there to chase them away. “The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, scurvy, and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The LORD will strike you with madness, blindness, and panic. You will grope around in broad daylight, just like a blind person groping in the darkness, and you will not succeed at anything you do. You will be oppressed and robbed continually, and no one will come to save you.

(Deuteronomy 28:20-29)

I will heap calamities upon them and spend my arrows against them. I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust. In the street the sword will make them childless; in their homes terror will reign. Young men and young women will perish, infants and gray-haired men.

(Deuteronomy 32:23-25)

Once upon a time, a prevailing view was that God sent plagues as a punishment for sin, and early in the days of the germ theory (like evolutionary theory), some were unsure how it could be reconciled with Holy Scripture. Indeed, there was resistance to the thought of these “germs” as a cause of disease at all, as it took away the aspect of morality that was previously linked to manifestation of many diseases. Disease was often thought to be due to moral failings, and specifically, excesses: too much anger, jealousy, gluttony, or sex, either in an individual, or in the population. Yet as the evidence for the germ theory piled up, religious views were modified to coincide with science: perhaps God was acting through nature, sending these pathogenic organisms instead of causing disease directly. This idea rears itself over and over, and was commonly cited even in the beginning of the HIV epidemic (often referred to as a “gay plague” in the early 1980s, and seen as evidence of God’s wrath). Still, very few people have a problem accepting a naturalistic cause for infectious disease (even if they believe God instigated it).

There are still tons of unanswered questions in the field of infectious disease, and as we learn more, we find it’s not always as simple and straightforward as Koch’s postulates suggest. But this is not a reason to be rid of them, nor to doubt explanatory power of the germ theory of disease. Koch’s postulates are still the gold standard for determining disease causation, and have served us remarkably well through the years. To dismiss the germ theory of disease as a “faulty model” because it’s often more complicated than a simple “one germ–>one disease” correlation is beyond naive, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the process scientists go through when investigating these issues. And to hold evolution up to a higher standard than the germ theory, or to call it a “religion” but give the germ theory a free pass, when both have many areas of intense and exciting research devoted to filling in gaps in our knowledge, makes no sense to me.

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Comment #40039

Posted by steve on July 28, 2005 12:15 PM (e)

This textbook contains material on
the Germ Theory of disease. The Germ
Theory of disease is a theory, not a
fact, and germs cannot be seen with
the naked eye. This material should
be approached with an open mind,
studied carefully, and critically
considered.

Comment #40045

Posted by Harrison on July 28, 2005 12:25 PM (e)

(Sarcasm on) Why stop with questioning the Germ Theory? Let’s go back into the 17th Century and ascribe all mental illness to demonic possession! Hey! This is fun! We can close all the mental hospitals and throw all the mentally ill into dungeons. We’ll chain them to the walls and call fundies in to pray over them, day and night, until the demons are cast out! And if that doesn’t work, well, it must mean that these people are being punished by the Almighty! (Sarcasm off)

Comment #40048

Posted by Albion on July 28, 2005 12:37 PM (e)

I’ve often asked creationists why they concentrate on evolution while ignoring germ theory. Between the discovery of viruses, the discovery of prions, and the finding that some transmissible diseases are caused by intoxications rather than infections and that some microorganisms cause nontransmissible disease due to immune-system reactions, the germ theory has taken more hits than the theory of evolution in the last century or so.

Somehow creationists don’t have the same objection to germ theory as to the theory of evolution, even thought it’s had to do some quick changes over time and also deals with biology and hence with life and contradicts some of what scripture says. Most of the excuses go along the lines that evolution is just an extension of abiogenesis, which doesn’t exist and therefore evolution doesn’t exist. But I have come across creationists who have been honest enough to say that they don’t have a problem with germ theory because it’s so obvious: one member of a family gets a cold, several others get colds, and there are photos of viruses in textbooks so that shows they exist. And that all the scripture didn’t really mean what it said even though it said it.

In other words, germ theory is too obvious for creationists to deny, despite its difficulties (which creationists don’t tend to know about on account of the creationist ministries aren’t carrying on about them), so therefore it can’t be contradicted by scripture and those passages of referring to demons and divine retribution and so on really, when read literally, are clearly allegorical. Or something. It’s the same accommodation that’s been made for microevolution; if it’s too bleedin’ obvious for creationists to deny, they claim that not only is it supported by scripture but also that Christians accepted it all along anyway.

Comment #40049

Posted by Mark on July 28, 2005 12:39 PM (e)

So thats the etymology of Salmonella. Interesting post.

Comment #40052

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 12:48 PM (e)

A really good post on the complexities of studying infectious disease.

Another good question for creationists would be why, under their analysis, there are any “germs” at all. Evolution explains it. What does creationism say? When were infectious microorganisms “designed”? Why?

Slightly off topic - Anticipating those who will claim that this topic “proves atheism”, many religions have no problem with science.

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.science_section.html
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_from_religious_orga_12_19_2002.asp

Comment #40054

Posted by Flint on July 28, 2005 12:49 PM (e)

Basically, the germ theory can be true all it wants, without even suggesting that your grandfather was a gorilla. It’s not the process of evolution that annoys the creationists, but rather the implied insult.

The main reason germs aren’t in the Bible is because God didn’t know about them a few thousand years ago, or if He did, he didn’t bother mentioning it. In other words, creation stories are flattering tales to beguile the simpleminded.

Imagine a future scientific discipline of “temporalology” following the invention of a time machine. Now THERE’s a discipline that would stand Creationists up on their hind legs. You think we have denial of AIDS, the holocaust, the moon landings, etc., just wait until time travel shows there never was any Jesus. Denial will demolish all current records overnight.

Comment #40056

Posted by Tara Smith on July 28, 2005 12:58 PM (e)

Harrison wrote:

(Sarcasm on) Why stop with questioning the Germ Theory? Let’s go back into the 17th Century and ascribe all mental illness to demonic possession! Hey! This is fun! We can close all the mental hospitals and throw all the mentally ill into dungeons. We’ll chain them to the walls and call fundies in to pray over them, day and night, until the demons are cast out! And if that doesn’t work, well, it must mean that these people are being punished by the Almighty! (Sarcasm off)

I’ve asked that on one board before–“Why no ‘Answers in Demonology’”? (And quoted a lot of scripture to support it). No good response.

Albion wrote:

In other words, germ theory is too obvious for creationists to deny, despite its difficulties (which creationists don’t tend to know about on account of the creationist ministries aren’t carrying on about them), so therefore it can’t be contradicted by scripture and those passages of referring to demons and divine retribution and so on really, when read literally, are clearly allegorical. Or something. It’s the same accommodation that’s been made for microevolution; if it’s too bleedin’ obvious for creationists to deny, they claim that not only is it supported by scripture but also that Christians accepted it all along anyway.

Yup–“it’s so obvious”. Nevermind that we can’t really see someone catching a cold, and that when studying both infectious disease and evolution we use the same types of logic and evidence.

Harold wrote:

Another good question for creationists would be why, under their analysis, there are any “germs” at all. Evolution explains it. What does creationism say? When were infectious microorganisms “designed”? Why?

I can’t say what IDists have to say on this point, but for YECs, I generally get something along the lines of, “all the original infectious organisms were beneficial”(then they point to examples of organisms in the gut which help with digestion, etc.). They then either point to “the Fall” or simple “de-evolution/mutation” that made so many of them pathogenic today.

Flint wrote:

Basically, the germ theory can be true all it wants, without even suggesting that your grandfather was a gorilla. It’s not the process of evolution that annoys the creationists, but rather the implied insult.

I’m sure this is true for many YECs, but what about those who advocate for intelligent design *and* accept common descent? Why aren’t they arguing against the naturalistic assumptions inherent in infectious disease research? They’re the ones that puzzle me most.

Comment #40058

Posted by BC on July 28, 2005 1:01 PM (e)

“All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons; chiefly do they torment freshly-baptized Christians, yea, even the guiltless new-born infants.”
- Augustine, 5th century father of the Christian church

Comment #40059

Posted by rdog29 on July 28, 2005 1:07 PM (e)

A similar history could be given for meteorology, or in this case I’m referring specifically to lightning.

It’s my understanding that, prior to Ben Franklin’s work, lighnting was widely thought to be a manifestation of God’s wrath upon mankind.

When Franklin showed that lightning was electricity on a grand scale, well, so much for the Wrath of God thing.

So why not put Franklin in the same Rogue’s Gallery as Darwin? After all, he was instrumental in putting forth a godless, materialistic mechanism for what had previously been the provenance of God.

Comment #40060

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 1:19 PM (e)

This thread provides an excellent argument that it is inconsistent and hypocritical to reject the theory of evolution on the grounds of so-called “Biblical literalism”, while accepting Germ theory.

The point that some people are “offended” by evolution, because of US social attitudes about other primate species which are evolutionarily closely related to us (including the use of terms like “gorilla” and “monkey” as irrational insults), is a good one. This has nothing to do with religion, though. It’s a non-religious irrational reason to “reject evolution”, even though many of this ilk may claim fundamentalist religious beliefs as well.

It is, of course, unfair to suggest that all religious positions reject evolution, germ theory, or science in general…

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.science_section.html…
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_fr…

If future people “will” investigate the literal historicity of Jesus, then they “already have”…the paradoxes of time travel…

Comment #40061

Posted by ThomH on July 28, 2005 1:20 PM (e)

re: Ben Franklin. Some people did. But because of the spirit of his age, Franklin was considered a hero of the Enlightenment for that very reason. Turgot’s famous quote: “He seized the lightning from the sky and the specter from the tyrants.”

Sad that we seem to be moving backwards. Let’s put Franklin in the Rogue’s Gallery with Darwin, Galileo and many more–the liberators of humankind from ignorance and tyranny.

Comment #40062

Posted by Flint on July 28, 2005 1:21 PM (e)

what about those who advocate for intelligent design *and* accept common descent? Why aren’t they arguing against the naturalistic assumptions inherent in infectious disease research? They’re the ones that puzzle me most.

My best reading is that these people don’t actually exist. Sure, Behe SAYS he accepts common descent, but when cornered, he embraced the “poof! theory” without blinking an eye.

You don’t need to be a master at reading between the lines, only a little familiar with ID dissembling, to realize that if common descent is true, then the inconsistencies inherent in observable design can’t exist. If there is a Great Designer, then He designed a fully seamless package, right down to the last evolutionary mechanism. And if this is the case, the ID folks should be theistic evolutionists as eager as any other genuine scientist to discover how God does things.

ID is, as the much-discussed creationist convention made clear, little more than a dishonest vehicle True Believers hope to drive around current legal principles. Scratch away this thin film of pretense, and we find “literal Genesis” people every time.

Bottom line: it’s no wonder you find their claims confusing. They are lying as usual. Listen to what they say when raising funds, look at those who provide the funds, listen to what the contributors say.

Comment #40065

Posted by Ron Zeno on July 28, 2005 1:24 PM (e)

Perhaps it’s just much more convenient not to attack something that is obviously so beneficial? When one picks scapegoats, best to choose something that won’t obviously be missed.

Comment #40081

Posted by BC on July 28, 2005 2:12 PM (e)

The evolution/creation debate is about our origins – about who we are. This is why its so near-and-dear to everyone’s beliefs. This is why people who know nothing about biology feel they need to weigh in on the subject. Many of the people I’ve talked to who have beliefs in creationism and a loathing of evolution wouldn’t even know that antibiotics are useless against viruses – that’s the level of their biological ignorance. So, why do they think they have an intelligent opinion about evolution? Because it touches on origins and it’s hyped up be religionists. Are we “created in God’s image”? Is the story of original sin true? Or are we descended from apes, and earth was always full of violence and death? Origins is also one of the most important arguments for the existence of God. Evolution allows people to understand human existence without the need to invoke a creator. That’s really, really scary to a lot of people. A lot of people need God to be necessary. Hence, they need to villify evolution as “The Lie” (as Ken Ham’s book declares).

Comment #40082

Posted by Rocky on July 28, 2005 2:15 PM (e)

RDOG29
My understanding from my fundamentalist friends is, they do, by association, blame all “new order” scientists for their belief of the present day moral state of decay.
Like the past was better somehow.
They all want that nostalgic “ole’ day religion”.
When I’ve asked, many times, exactly what historical time-frame that in, the answer is always “before the devil mislead us into our current state of knowledge”.
Or, said another way, before what’s commonly called the “age of enlightenment”.
Come on Dark Ages!

Comment #40085

Posted by mark on July 28, 2005 2:26 PM (e)

So why do people attack evolution, but not the germ theory?

Flint comes closest to the right answer. To many, accepting that evolution has occurred implies that man was not created in God’s image, is not favored by God, and will not live forever in Paradise. Germs can only kill the body.

Comment #40096

Posted by Albion on July 28, 2005 2:56 PM (e)

And germs can be handily explained away by the Fall.

The sad thing is that even though the real reason why fundamentalists don’t attack germ theory is that it doesn’t offend them, being easily made consistent with their world view, they refuse to admit that that’s their reason. They continue to insist that evolution is bad science, and most fundamentalists don’t know or care enough about the science behind germ theory to know that it’s no better supported than evolutionary theory.

Comment #40099

Posted by Albion on July 28, 2005 2:59 PM (e)

I’ve asked that on one board before—“Why no ‘Answers in Demonology’”? (And quoted a lot of scripture to support it). No good response.

But what a tempting topic for a spoof site. Trouble is, too many zealots might take it seriously.

Comment #40111

Posted by natural cynic on July 28, 2005 3:36 PM (e)

Flint in 40054:
“Imagine a future scientific discipline of “temporalology” following the invention of a time machine. Now THERE’s a discipline that would stand Creationists up on their hind legs. You think we have denial of AIDS, the holocaust, the moon landings, etc., just wait until time travel shows there never was any Jesus. Denial will demolish all current records overnight”

This happens in the scifi novel “The Light of Other Days” by Arthur Clarke and stephen Baxter. In the book, a way of method of accessing pointing wormholes to any time and place is invented and, as is usual with technology, gets disseminated - elimionating privacy and allowing a viewer to observe the past. One of the characters decides to look back at the crucifixion and resurrection, but, alas, since so many others have the same thought, everything is so distorted by the presence of wormholes that nothing can be ascertained.

TomH in 40061:
Let’s put Franklin in the Rogue’s Gallery with Darwin, Galileo and many more—the liberators of humankind from ignorance and tyranny

There are a large number of similar discoveries and inventions, for example: anesthetics during childbirth were opposed because they circumvented the consequences of sin for Eve and all women; and umbrellas because “if God wanted it to rain, He wanted it to rin on you.”

Comment #40118

Posted by Jim Harrison on July 28, 2005 3:50 PM (e)

Germ theory is not problem for even the most traditional of Christians because one can both believe that a disease is caused by germs and that it is the result of divine displeasure. It is a commonplace of anthropology that folk theories of disease leave a place for both natural causes and demons. For that matter, since germs are a necesssary but not a sufficient cause of disease, even modern medicine leaves room for this out. Exposure to germs is like having sex. Disease and pregnancy are not the inevitable outcomes.

Comment #40119

Posted by BC on July 28, 2005 3:52 PM (e)

But what a tempting topic for a spoof site. Trouble is, too many zealots might take it seriously.

It’s crossed my mind a few times to build a spoof site where I simply take creationist arguements and do a simple word substitution to show how absurd it is. For example, making a site in favor of a flat earth. It’d work great. Simply substitute “round-earthers” for “evolutionists” and “flat-earthers” for “creationists”.

Here’s an actual example using the AIG website:

Real scientists, really?

by Dr. Terry Mortenson, AiG—USA speaker and researcher

July 27, 2005

Round-earthers and some curved-earth believers frequently charge that scientists who believe in flat-earth don’t have real degrees and don’t do real scientific research that can be published in peer-reviewed secular scientific journals. A recent conference once again has refuted that canard….
After the paper by the OT scholar showing that flat-earth scriptural verses are narrative, I engaged the chemistry professor again. He seemed relatively unmoved by the argument of the paper, relying instead on something one of his round-earth professors had taught years ago. So I backed off. It appeared that he was not really willing to submit to the authority of Scripture. It grieves me greatly when I see this willful ignoring of Scripture as a result of a “Christian education.”

We need more young scientists who can contribute to the development of the flat-earth scientific model as an alternative to the round/curved-earth hypothesis. But first, parents need to expose their science-inclined children in their growing-up years to good flat-earth resources (both written and audio-visual) to ground them in the truth of Genesis and the real truths of God’s creation. By doing that, these young people probably won’t be led astray by the so-called “knowledge” that they will encounter at secular (and even many Christian) universities or colleges.
http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/0727scientists.asp

The articles about “intolerance towards creationists” are even better:

Pulitzer-prize winner intolerant of flat-earthers!

April 6, 2000

Ellen Goodman, nationally syndicated columnist and the recipient of a Pulitzer prize for her commentaries, had her reputation for tolerance tarnished recently. She wrote an opinion piece late last month that stated that even though polls reveal that most Americans favor the teaching of a flat-earth in public schools, it should be censored anyway. She also grossly misrepresented the efforts of concerned Christians who are attempting to de-emphasize the teaching of a round-earth in schools; contrary to her alarmist claims, very few are advocating that a flat-earth be forced on public school students.
http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2/4266news4-5-2000.asp

Comment #40147

Posted by darwinfinch on July 28, 2005 4:32 PM (e)

As noted in various words by many above, and by every creationist post I have ever read here (though not every one ever anywhere), the objection that make ToE the focus of their energies comes out of their endless false pride and vanity: they claim special place next to their god, and of course their own myths describe a similar character.

Comment #40154

Posted by Sastra on July 28, 2005 4:52 PM (e)

It seems that nobody has yet brought up the fact that many forms of alternative medicine do indeed attack germ theory. In the world of altmed, it isn’t considered a given at all. Proponents of mind/body/spirit connections often insist that diseases are actually caused by various disruptions in the flow of “life energy.” Modern day Vitalists ( which can include New Agers, neopagans, spiritual-but-not-religious and even traditional theists) have been known to argue that germ theory is an unproven component of the materialistic, reductionistic dogma of scientism – in other words, it’s really a “religion.”
Creationism is only one kind of pseudoscience, I’m afraid.

Comment #40185

Posted by steve on July 28, 2005 6:12 PM (e)

Well, they’re kind of against germ theory, at least in places:

DISSENTING ON AIDS
THE CASE AGAINST THE HIV-CAUSES-AIDS HYPOTHESIS

By Kary B. Mullis, Phillip E. Johnson & Charles A. Thomas Jr.

The San Diego Union-Tribune 15 May 1994

Every day we hear and read about “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.” Perhaps no other medical issue in history has received such sustained attention by the media, the entertainment industry, popular literature and the federal government. Therefore it is understandable that most people, as well as most physicians and medical scientists, have come to believe that the entire world is in the grips of a pandemic that is relentlessly spreading throughout every segment of society.

For more than 10 years, this apocalyptic prospect has been drummed into everyone-ever since that memorable day in April 1984 when Margaret Heckler, then secretary of health and human services, announced that “the probable cause of AIDS has been found.” At that point, Robert Gallo, a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, took the microphone and declared that AIDS was an infectious disease, that HIV was the culprit, and that medical scientists at the National Institutes of Health had come to the rescue and would soon have a vaccine for HIV and have the problem under control. They didn’t.

The decision to blame AIDS on HIV was a political one- certainly not a scientific one-for at that time no scientific papers had been published, and the normal critical procedures of the scientific community had not been allowed to operate. Gallo’s papers that followed did not establish a causal relationship and subsequent official inquiries demonstrated them to be flawed for other reasons as well….
Perhaps the cruelest deception fostered by the AIDS industry is the false idea that AIDS is spreading throughout the entire population and that “everyone is at risk.” Nothing could be farther from the truth….
It is time to ask whether any strain of HIV is harmful….
Given the 10 years of total lack of progress on AIDS, the billions of dollars that have been wasted, the human heart-ache that this issue has caused so many Americans, it seems only sensible that we should re-examine the question of what really causes AIDS. At issue here are not only the lives of those diagnosed with AIDS who are being treated improperly, but also of those who are tormented by the fear of AIDS-for themselves and their children. We can’t allow the scientific bureaucrats at the CDC and NIH to prevent this reappraisal from happening.

Comment #40203

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 7:26 PM (e)

Somehow creationists don’t have the same objection to germ theory as to the theory of evolution

I wouldn’t be so sure of that … after all, ID pooh-bah Johnson has already declared in print that AIDS is not caused by that HIV virus thingie, but by “an unhealthy lifestyle” (and I think even the most naive in the audience can tell what THAT is a code word for).

Reading Johnson’s crap on HIV-denial, I get the distinct impression that he believes that AIDS is, quite literally, a punishment from God.

So much for that atheistic materialistic god-denying “germism”, huh.

Comment #40222

Posted by Carl Hilton Jones on July 28, 2005 8:32 PM (e)

Basically, the germ theory can be true all it wants, without even suggesting that your grandfather was a gorilla. It’s not the process of evolution that annoys the creationists, but rather the implied insult.

Of course, my problem is that I see gorillas as noble and amazing beasts. I’m proud to count them as close relations. It’s the fundamentalists that make me ashamed of my ancestry.

Comment #40241

Posted by EoRaptor on July 28, 2005 10:19 PM (e)

bc wrote:

Evolution allows people to understand human existence without the need to invoke a creator.

– Feeling a little squirmy here. – I’m relatively comfortable with the morphological differences among Homo, Pan, and say, Gorilla, but never with the fuzzy stuff about consciousness, language, tool making/usage, etc. I am also an avowed and unrepentant analogist when it comes to reading the Bible. Something more than just anatomy seems to separate us from our closest living relatives (and I am certain they are our relatives, FW my opinion IW). Something different that neurologists, anthropologists, and paleontologists can’t seem to adequately describe, let alone explain. I take it on faith that the difference is God. But, good gosh! What a wonderfully elegant (though sometimes messy, obscure, and obtuse) things evolution, embryology, molecular biology, etc., etc. truly are. Nevertheless, does evolution really truly allow people to understand human existence without the need to invoice a creator? I dunno. Maybe so, maybe not.
Perhaps of no interest to anyone, the current roar and thunder between ID/Creationism (a rose by any other name…) and … well, between the fundies and mainstream religions is a xerographic reporduction of the debate among the myriad christain churches in the first through third centuries ACE. The funny thing is that back then, what was to become the Catholic church was the besieged defender of a literal reading of received scripture. I’ll say more about this on my own blog. I need to find a Latin transliteration for, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

Comment #40243

Posted by EoRaptor on July 28, 2005 10:55 PM (e)

EoRaptor wrote:

I’m relatively comfortable with the morphological differences among Homo, Pan, and say, Gorilla…

In the sense of describing and quantifying them! I do not suffer from sagittal crest envy!

Comment #40247

Posted by BC on July 28, 2005 11:27 PM (e)

Feeling a little squirmy here. — I’m relatively comfortable with the morphological differences among Homo, Pan, and say, Gorilla, but never with the fuzzy stuff about consciousness, language, tool making/usage, etc… I take it on faith that the difference is God.

You mean there’s some human traits which are divinely inserted and non-genetic? Or that God adjusted the genetics to allow for these expanded abilities?

Not sure if I agree with either. The apes have some limited tool-making abilities (like using blades of grass to fish termites out of their hole in order to eat them, or using rocks to crush nuts). More on chimp behaviors: http://chimp.st-and.ac.uk/cultures/database.htm. They seem to have consciousness - e.g. if you place a dot on a chimpanzee’s forehead and place them in front of a mirror, they see their reflection and wipe off the dot – they understand that their reflection is a reflection of themselves. There was an experiment once where bananas are placed under a bucket just before a second chimp is introduced into the area. The first chimp pretended that the bananas weren’t there, but once the second chimp left, he immediately went and grabbed the bananas. This experiment shows that chimps have an understanding that other beings have independent minds - i.e. the first chimp understood that the second chimp didn’t know about the existence of the bananas. He used this information and used restraint to avoid sharing the bananas. They also have a kind of culture - i.e. behaviors which occur in one “tribe” of chimps but not in other tribes. Generally, I see human abilities as a large step further, but it’s a difference of magnitude, not new traits altogether. This is enabled by our large brains and brain structure* - which leads back to genetics. (I say brain structure because neanderthals had larger brains than humans, but didn’t seem to produce any tools.)

Also, when I say “Evolution allows people to understand human existence without the need to invoke a creator”, I should qualify that further by saying that I recognize the possibilty of God’s existence, and possible role in the creation of the universe. However, evolution means it’s not absolutely necessary to invoke the role of God in human origins. You have ideas that God is still necessary, and you may be right, but fundamentalists are scared by the idea that it’s possible to talk about human origins without a blatantly obvious role for God – which is a departure from creationism which says God is absolutely, undeniably central to human origins.

I’ll say more about this on my own blog.

As long as you’re mentioning it, people might like a link.

Speaking of which, this is my infrequently updated website: http://www.turbulentplanet.com

Comment #40250

Posted by Jim Harrison on July 29, 2005 12:17 AM (e)

For Eorapter. It’s not Latin, it’s French: Plus ça change, plus c’est le meme chose.

Meanwhile. While I’m also impressed by the differences between chimps and people, I don’t see how appealing to a God would explain anything about the transition from something like an ape to something like a man.

The Greeks used to have a saying, “Nothing without Theseus” because the Athenian hero turned up in almost every myth. With the advantage of hindsight we understand why. The resourceful Athenians, who knew a thing or two about soft power, rewrote lots of old stories to insert their national hero into everybody else’s stories. If God shows up (uselessly) in the explanations for everything anybody finds remotely remarkable, the reason is similar. The presumption that the God concept is a reasonable hypothesis has been drumed into the public mind at great expense by armies of determined propagandists.

Comment #40253

Posted by Jim Flannery on July 29, 2005 1:14 AM (e)

For example, making a site in favor of a flat earth. It’d work great. Simply substitute “round-earthers” for “evolutionists” and “flat-earthers” for “creationists”.

BC, does this mean you’re unfamiliar with The Earth is Not Moving?

Your irony is useless. You cannot out-stupid these people!

Comment #40262

Posted by BC on July 29, 2005 2:56 AM (e)

Your irony is useless. You cannot out-stupid these people!

Yeah, I think you’re right.

BC, does this mean you’re unfamiliar with The Earth is Not Moving?

No, I hadn’t seen it. Looks like they go a little too heavy on the conspiracy theories to make it a good spoof of creationism (“As with all other levers of power in the USA, the Zionists have de facto control over Christian Evangelism. Duped to their steeple tops by the self-destructing Judeo-Christian oxymoron, and by Kabbalist Millennialism, many evangelical churches are straining every political and religious muscle to establish Jerusalem as the Capital of a World Government.”). Sure, the creationists have their conspiracy theories (along the lines of an atheistic, evolutionist cabal of professors who squash dissent), but invoking Zionists and One World Government is a whole nother level.

Correction to my last post: Neanderthals did use tools.

Comment #40269

Posted by Loren Petrich on July 29, 2005 3:41 AM (e)

As to a religious connection, consider that Jesus Christ had been an exorcist, someone who drives out demons:

Matthew 4:24, 7:21-23, 8:16, 8:28-34, 9:32-34, 10:1, 10:8, 11:18, 12:22-28, 15:21-28, 17:14-21
Mark 1:32-24, 1:39, 3:14-15, 3:22, 5:2-20, 6:12, 7:24-30, 9:38-40, 16:9, 16:17-18
Luke 4:33-35, 4:40-41, 7:33, 8:1-3, 8:26-39, 9:1-2, 9:42, 9:49-50, 10:17, 11:14-20, 13:32
John 7:16-20, 8:48-54, 10:14-21 (here, JC is accused of being possessed by demons)

He even uses salivary therapy:

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:32-35, NIV)

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:23-35, NIV)

Comment #40271

Posted by Kristjan Wager on July 29, 2005 3:51 AM (e)

Harrison wrote:

Let’s go back into the 17th Century and ascribe all mental illness to demonic possession! Hey! This is fun! We can close all the mental hospitals and throw all the mentally ill into dungeons.

Harrison, there are many who still believes this. Christian Information Ministries has made this paper on demon possessing (pdf). Here there is an entire site dealing only with Demonic Possession and Psychiatry. And if you search Christian forums, you’ll find many threads dedicated to the subject.

Depressing isn’t it?

Comment #40277

Posted by Loren Petrich on July 29, 2005 4:25 AM (e)

Consider about flat-earthism:

How is it with those who imagine that there are antipodes opposite to our footsteps? Do they say anything to the purpose? Or is there any one so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? or that the things which with us are in a recumbent position, with them hang in an inverted direction? that the crops and trees grow downwards? that the rains, and snow, and hail fall upwards to the earth? And does any one wonder that hanging gardens are mentioned among the seven wonders of the world, when philosophers make hanging fields, and seas, and cities, and mountains? (Lactantius, Divine Institutes 3:24, ~300 CE)

More seriously, one may ask why creationism has been so politicized and most other pseudoscientific theories have not been. There have been some notable politicized pseudosciences in the past, like Lysenkoism and Hanns Hoerbiger’s Cosmic Ice Theory, but such politicization has not been common.

Trofim Lysenko and his followers got official favor by claiming to do a much better job at crop-plant breeding. Lysenko believed in Lamarckian inheritance; he believed that genes do not exist. He also believed that statistical testing is a waste of time. But despite his scientific illiteracy and shoddy experimental procedures, his views became official dogma and mainstream geneticists were forced to recant their un-Marxist heresies – or worse.

Likewise, Hanns Hoerbiger’s followers tried to get his cosmological theories accepted with pressure-group tactics; when the Nazis were in power, they identified with Nazism, making Nazi officialdom declare that one could be a good Nazi without believing in that theory.

But it’s interesting that vitalism is totally unpoliticized; there aren’t any pressure groups pressing for the teaching of vitalism in public schools alongside molecular biology, and nobody’s calling molecular biology an affront against their religion.

But vitalists can use arguments closely parallel to creationist arguments, like how molecular biology implies that we are biochemical robots without dignity or free will, how there are lots of things that molecular biologists still cannot explain, and how if teenagers come to accept molecular biology, they will become more willing to murder their classmates and commit other terrible crimes (the argumentum ex Columbina).

Comment #40278

Posted by Kristjan Wager on July 29, 2005 4:28 AM (e)

Loren wrote:

Likewise, Hanns Hoerbiger’s followers tried to get his cosmological theories accepted with pressure-group tactics; when the Nazis were in power, they identified with Nazism, making Nazi officialdom declare that one could be a good Nazi without believing in that theory.

Shouldn’t there be a “not” in that last sentence? As in “could not be a good Nazi”?

Comment #40285

Posted by Loren Petrich on July 29, 2005 6:28 AM (e)

Kristjan Wager, I got it right – the Hoerbigerites were not completely successful; one did not have to believe in the Cosmic Ice Theory to be a good Nazi. BTW, in German, the theory’s name was originally Glazial-Kosmogonie, but it got renamed Welteislehre or WEL.

My source for this is Patrick Moore’s Can You Speak Venusian?

Also check out Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science and Willy Ley’s Watchers of the Skies for more on the WEL.

The WEL movement dropped out of sight at the end of WWII, though it revived in the 1950’s and 1960’s. But if it continues to exist, it has no Internet presence known to me, despite me doing several searches.

Comment #40352

Posted by BC on July 29, 2005 12:56 PM (e)

Its my observation that controversy sometimes exists simply because some group or another doesn’t want to accept the implications of the obvious view. This is why creationism is still around, whereas vitalism and demon-caused disease theory is not (or at least isn’t common). If you look at it simply from the perspective of “how good is the evidence?” you wind up scratching your head, because the evidence is bad. Looking around the globe, it’s clear that acceptance of creationism coincides with religious conservativism (read: the US and the Middle East). It’s a sad fact that many people believe what makes them happy and creates the fewest problems for them, even if there is strong counterevidence.

( Speaking of the demon-caused disease theory, there are places in the Middle East where this is taken seriously. There are some fringe groups in the US where this is taken seriously as well. Case in point: “A court in the US state of Wisconsin has heard how an autistic boy died while being held down by worshippers and a priest during an exorcism. Terrance Cottrell, 8, died last year in a service at the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith in Milwaukee.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3877421.stm )

Comment #40353

Posted by Tara Smith on July 29, 2005 12:58 PM (e)

Re: AIDS deniers

The problem there though isn’t that they find fault with the germ theory; they simply deny that HIV fulfills Koch’s postulates. However, as I described in the first post, there are a number of reasons for that–among them, the carrier state (yes, there are some people who are infected and don’t develop clinical disease); inability to isolate virus from sick individuals; different manifestations of disease in different people, etc. What Johnson et al. fail to note is that these problems are found for many more infectious diseases than AIDS, and his beef really shouldn’t be with HIV alone, but with the entire theory. But yes, I guess that would be scientific suicide to admit.

Comment #40435

Posted by Henry J on July 29, 2005 8:52 PM (e)

Re “It’s not the process of evolution that annoys the creationists, but rather the implied insult.”

So being told they’re descended from early non-human apes is an insult, but being told that their anatomical, genetic, and biochemical similarities to non-human apes were deliberatedly chosen by a “designer”, isn’t? I do not see how the first is somehow more insulting than the second.

Henry