kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: Science thinking needs to evolve

November 3, 2012 

Roger Guffey of Lexington is a retired teacher.

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One bright spot in the news is that congressman Paul Proun from Georgia — who dismissed evolution, embryology and the big-bang theory as "lies from the pit of hell" — is that he is not from Kentucky. His indictment of embryology as pseudoscience escapes me altogether, but I do have questions about his rejection of evolution as lies.

If evolution is just lies and there is no evidence for the descent of all living things from common ancestors, then why have we tortured millions of animals over the years to find cures for human diseases? Why are medicines tested on mice, rabbits and chimpanzees before they are used in human trials?

If all mammals do not have a common ancestor, why have we used horse serum to produce vaccines for rabies, diphtheria, botulism, tetanus and bird flu?

If all living things do not share some underlying physiological principles, how can we use the human growth hormone, insulin and other hormones produced by bacteria to treat humans? Why would anyone think that pig insulin could be used to treat human diabetics? Who in their right mind would suspect that injecting controlled amounts of snake and bee toxins into horses or other livestock produces anti-venins that can be used to save humans who were bitten or stung?

Why are the hemoglobins of humans and chimpanzees almost identical, but both are very different from dogs? A few years ago, a premature baby, called Baby Fay, was kept alive for several days by the implantation of a baboon's heart. She died from a kidney infection, not from the presence of the heart.

Pig valves are commonly used to replace damaged valves in human hearts. My own father had one implanted in open-heart surgery. Why would anyone suspect that might actually work?

If evolutionary processes do not tie all living things together, how can we account for the fact that all living organisms, animal, plant, fungus, bacteria or viruses use DNA and RNA as the genetic material to pass on life to the next generation? How can we use recombinant DNA and RNA to treat human genetic diseases by repairing errors in the chromosomes?

Why do all living things use ATP as the energy currency to run the metabolic processes that make life possible? Why should all living things use the same 20 amino acids as building blocks of proteins and the same four bases for the genetic information storage systems?

If all vertebrate animals do not have a common ancestor, why are their embryos virtually identical in the early stages of development? Why should human embryos have gill slits and why are some human babies occasionally born with tails resulting from the extension of the tailbone?

Why do all vertebrates with legs and arms show the same basic structures in all those limbs?

I suppose one could argue that God made those things that way, but it does seem singularly unimaginative for an omnipotent and omniscient creator. One would think such an all-powerful being would impress us with staggering varieties of forms and processes so that we could never hope to figure out anything about living things.

Proun clearly feels comfortable citing Biblical verses that support his view of the world. I wonder if a man who has been married four times is as comfortable citing the verses on divorce and adultery or does he just cherry-pick those passages that will attract voters?

Roger Guffey of Lexington is a retired high school math teacher.

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