To understand why intelligent design constitutes an insidious
menace to medicine, it is helpful to trace its roots. In part, it evolved
from creationism, which takes the Genesis story of creation literally.
Creationism has been discredited, however, by indisputable physical
evidence - carbon dating, for example...Still, a large part of the public
believes in creationism and yearns for a return to God in public
schools...Detractors of the theory of evolution contend that there are too
many holes in it: it is inconsistent with the fossil record, they say, and
it fails to fully account for what we see today in the living world.
Worse, it cannot tell us about the meaning of life...At its root,
intelligent design is a medieval theological proposition that is based on
faith, not logic, and certainly not science. It is theology dressed up as
First and foremost, intelligent design should concern physicians
because the debate influences education at all levels. Now that Bill
Frist, the Senate majority leader and a graduate of Harvard Medical
School, has come out in favor of the teaching of intelligent design,
medical students may soon be learning that only a hidden hand could be
responsible for the complexities of oxidative metabolism in mitochondria.
(An intelligent student might ask why the designer made mitochondria in
the first place.) Moreover, the confusion between faith and science at the
highest levels of public education can hardly be an asset to the pool of
applicants to medical schools and graduate schools in the sciences.
What would it mean to take intelligent design seriously at the
medical school level? Its proponents tell us that gaps in our knowledge of
how living organisms evolved vitiate the theory of evolution. Might we
conclude, then, that the cancer cell and its evolution are so complex that
a creative designer must be the cause of cancer? But if the designer
created cancer, is it against the hidden hand's will to find a cure for
cancer? Is it in accord with the plan of the intelligent designer to
receive a treatment for cancer? After all, a Jehovah's Witness would
rather die than receive a blood transfusion...
The main need now is to begin to understand what the debate is
about and to consider its consequences for the future of medicine.
England Journal of Medicine