The Creationist Contribution to Medicine

Bill Maher and Christopher H.Christopher Hitchens, speaking of the beliefs of the American people on an interview with Bill Maher said, “They tell the pollsters they believe in Satan more than they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, but they don’t know anything about either, and when they go to the hospital, they act as if they think Darwin is probably more likely to be right.”

The implication of that statement is that medical advancements were a result of the work of Darwin.

This is revisionist history!

Some of the greatest advancements in medicine came as a result of the work of scientists who were trying specifically to disprove spontaneous generation (abiogenesis)—the Aristotelian belief that certain forms of life sprung forth from non-living matter.

Redi, Leeuwenhoek, Pasteur, Lister, and Snow, to name a few, all made great scientific advances merely because they rejected the belief that non-living matter could produce life.

For example, the experiments of Francesco Redi proved that maggots didn’t spring forth from rotten, decaying meat; they came from eggs that were laid on the rotten, decaying meat.

A Calvinist, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology, developed microscopes which were able to reveal the existence of bacteria, explaining how life could come from life, even though the naked eye couldn’t see it.

Louis Pasteur then performed a series of experiments to prove that bacteria don’t spontaneously appear in a sterile environment. They come from an outer source. His simple “swan-necked” bottles showed again that life only produces life. He believed that his experiment struck a “mortal blow” to the “doctrine of spontaneous generation.”

As a result of his work, humanity has been blessed with germ-free food through the process which has come to be known as “pasteurization.” Pasteur, who also discovered a cure for rabies, wasn’t an atheist. He was a creationist who claimed, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.”

Joseph Lister also made medical advancements in surgical sterilization based on the rejection of the concept of spontaneous generation. His use of carbolic acid (which kills bacteria without being too harsh on the skin) in combination with covering wounds with sterile bandages has saved countless lives. Lister wasn’t an atheist either; he was a Christian of the worst sort. He claimed to be “a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”

Germ theory, the foundation for modern medicine, is also based on the creationist principle that life comes from life and isn’t spontaneously generated. Canned food is also based on this concept.

And yet, Darwin tried to take us right back to the concept of spontaneous generation. Writing in a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, he suggested that life may have begun in a “warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, lights, heat, electricity, etc . . . present so that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes.” This primordial soup theory hasn’t been able to be replicated in a laboratory even though there have been numerous attempts—all of which have failed.

Whether or not spontaneous generation could have occurred as a one-time event, it’s clear that discrediting it as a daily event has led to great lifesaving medical advances, yet Hitchens still attempts to claim that Darwinism is the foundation of modern medicine. How does he get away with it?

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10 Comments

  1. I suspect that no matter where I go on your blog I will take issue with something. So let me take issue here for now: Darwin said nothing about abiogenesis. Darwin’s theory deals with life after it had started. It is about the adaptation of living entities: the origin of species, not the origin of life.
    If you want to see God’s hand in abiogenesis then that’s fine, I can argue – but I shan’t take the time; it’s not worth it, and my chemistry is not good enough.
    However, evolution is a fact. Darwin’s theories are, for the most part, correct (he was slightly off on how he thought sexual selection worked).
    And his theory has absolutely influenced our understanding of medicine. Most evidently, antibiotics and vaccinations. Now, take a moment to consider how many hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved by those two things.

    Abiogenesis is an incredibly rare thing. It only needs to have happened once for life on this planet (and an investigation of our genetics suggests it didn’t happen many more times than once). But it has been replicated in a laboratory. Life has been created from scratch.

    But like I said, the validation and verification of abiogenesis is not important to the theory of evolution, which does inform medicine. You can claim abiogensis is an act of God or a natural phenomenon, it makes no odds to the validity of evolution.

  2. I just wanted to counter your belief that medicine has been greatly influenced by Darwin.

    Ernst Chain (1906-1979) and two others were awarded the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Chain identified the structure of penicillin, and isolated the active substance. He is considered to be one of the founders of the field of antibiotics. Concerning Darwin’s theory of evolution, Chain found it to be “a very feeble attempt” to explain the origin of species based on assumptions so flimsy that “it can hardly be called a theory.”A He saw the reliance on chance mutations as a “hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts.”B He wrote: “These classic evolutionary theories are a gross oversimplification of an immensely complex and intricate mass of facts, and it amazes me that they were swallowed so uncritically and readily, and for such a long time, by so many scientists without a murmur of protest.”B Chain concluded that he “would rather believe in fairies than in such wild speculation” as Darwinism.A He was born in Berlin, Germany, and obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry and physiology there. He worked as a research scientist at Cambridge (also studying for a Ph.D. there), at Oxford University until 1948, and then as a professor and researcher at several other universities. In 1938, Chain came across Alexander Fleming’s 1929 paper on penicillin, and showed it to his colleague Howard Florey. In their research, Chain isolated and purified penicillin. –Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. April 2008. Ernst Chain: Antibiotics Pioneer. Acts&Facts, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 10-12.
    A. Clark, R.W. 1985. The Life of Ernst Chain: Penicillin and Beyond. New York: St. Martin’s Press, p. 147.
    B. Chain, E. 1970. Social Responsibility and the Scientist in Modern Western Society (Robert Waley Cohen memorial lecture). London: The Council of Christians and Jews, p. 25.

    Also:

    Philip S. Skell, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, wrote in the August 29, 2005 edition of The Scientist: “I recently asked more than seventy eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No. I also examined the outstanding discoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.” –Philip S. Skell. August 29, 2005. Why Do We Invoke Darwin? The Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 16, p. 10.

    Finally:

    Sean B. Carroll, of the Medical Institute and Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, wrote in a 2001 edition of Nature: “A long-standing issue in evolutionary biology is whether the processes observable in extant populations and species (microevolution) are sufficient to account for the larger-scale changes evident over longer periods of life’s history (macroevolution). Outsiders to this rich literature may be surprised that there is no consensus on this issue.”– Sean B. Carroll. 8 February 2001. Nature, Vol. 409, p. 669.

    It seems to me that the pursuit of truth is what all of us (creationists and evolutionists) should be searching for. If truth (based on the evidence) can be found in the claims of science, then so be it, but if the evidence matches up with the claims of a religion, perhaps that religion may be the TRUTH.

    As I look at history, I see many scientific claims that have been completely discredited: scientific racism/polygenism, spontaneous generation, Piltdown Man, Nebraska Man, phrenology, the flat earth, eugenics, the baby in the womb is a blob, the geocentric view of the solar system, Pluto(?), oatmeal is good, oatmeal is bad, and on and on . . .

    I also see that the Bible has stood the test of time. It countered scientific racism/polygenism(Acts 17:25). It inspired the greatest scientists such as Newton, Bacon, Boyle, Galileo, etc . . It inspired many in the medical field such as Pasteur and Lister. It would discredit hoaxes such as Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man. It opposes abortion. It would never encourage eugenic experiments on anybody. The gospel of Jesus promotes forgiveness and love. Those who called themselves the Church, yet didn’t adhere to the Gospel might have failed, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never failed!

  3. As I said in my last blog post (which no doubt flooded you inbox today – I apologise for that) I don’t care what the bible inspired, I care about what it says. And it definitely doesn’t preach science or tolerance.

    But to the point – Creation Theory cannot inform medicine, it is prediction free. It is the claim that what ever is is the way God made it. No process, no pattern, nothing to work with. It cannot inform a single thing. It is either right or it is wrong. But it gives us nothing to work with either way.

    So even the most tenuous link between evolution and medicine trumps creationism’s contribution.

    However: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/05/medicine_and_evolution_part_11_studying.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/03/medicine_and_evolution_part_i.php

    Not to mention that penicillin is drug some bacteria can become resistant to. We would have no understanding of or way to deal with that if we didn’t understand the evolution of microbial life. So it informs new antibiotics and and prescription methods.

  4. Actually I think hitchens was alluding to fields of medicine like 1) vaccinations where we predict how a virus will evolve then create vaccines for a future-version of it that doesn’t yet exist, but will by the time we distribute the vaccine, 2) bacteria that evolve resistances to antibiotics, 3) cancer cells that adapt eventually to both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, etc.

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