Mike the Mad Biologist

Why Political Pandering to Creationists Matters

When I heard that Republican Senator and presidential candidate John McCain spoke at the Discovery Institute, I was disappointed but not surprised. In March, there’s going to be a report released about antibiotic resistance in bacteria. A major finding of the report: roughly 40,000 people die every year from hospital-acquired antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.

The problem of antibiotic resistance is, fundamentally, a problem of evolutionary biology. Species of bacteria which had very few resistant strains (or none at all) now contain high frequencies of resistance strains (e.g., methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA). In other words, populations of bacteria have undergone genetic change–evolution–which has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths. How can one expect any administration which has to pander to creationists to take this evolutionary problem seriously? Could you imagine if flat-earthers ran NASA? I fear we would have, at best, another four years of government inaction regarding antibiotic resistance.

So I felt had to write something about McCain’s visit. Fortunately, ScienceBlogling Shelley hit it out of the park, so I’ll just turn it over to her (italics mine):

It is of the utmost importance that a president, or future preseident, have rational thinking and reasoning skills as well as a firm grasp over what constitutes scientific evidence in the formulation of theories. A president makes crucial decisions every day which impact the lives of millions of people. The election of a person who demonstrates an inability to assimilate facts and observations in a way that makes sense, but rather defaults to an emotional mythology, would be a grave mistake. Therefore, not only is it beyond reproach for the “intelligent liberal community” to impose a requirement of rationality on a future president, it would be ludicrous to do otherwise. Yes, I believe that influential people who cannot use their power in a coherant, scientifically-supportable way merits contempt.

Whether or not John McCain really believes in intelligent design, who’s to say? I tend to think he doesn’t, and this talk is just another panderfest to the conservative right. The problem is, in a presidential election, guilt-by-association is a very real thing. The reason for this is that there are no accidental appearances; every minute of McCain’s time from now until election day will be carefully planned, weighed, pondered over, and scrutinized by his team for maximum effect. This talk hosted by the DI, while not specifically admitting to agree with intelligent design, was also no accident. And the fact that a DI luncheon was an attractive place to spend his time in his quest to develop his image and become president, reveals that the image that HE wants to mold is very, very far from the image of the president I would elect.

We can’t afford another four years of pandering to superstition. It’s not just unpalatable, it will be deadly.


  1. #1 Gerry L
    February 26, 2007

    Shelley wrote: “every minute of McCain’s time from now until election day will be carefully planned, weighed, pondered over, and scrutinized by his team for maximum effect.”

    Let’s hope not. Let’s hope that by this time next year McCain will be out of the running, his schedule will be in low gear and his team will be shopping their resumes around.

  2. #2 DMC
    February 27, 2007

    But hospitals know about the infection rates.

    And they are much higher than you report. But to do something about them would cut heavily into profits, maybe even doctors salaries.

    Not to mention the 100,000 plus that are killed every year by doctors screw ups, according to the AMA’s own stats…so you know that reate is even higher, too.

    And pharmaceutical screw ups, too.

    This is the Medical Professions failure; blaming creatonists doesn’t cover it up.

  3. #3 Jessika
    February 27, 2007

    I think you will find this PLos Biology essay interesting: Evolution by Any Other Name: Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance of the E-Word

  4. #4 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 27, 2007

    To encourage you to follow the PLoS link that Jessika thankfully provided, there is the first sentence. Note the correct use of the phrase “life-and-death.”

    Evolution by Any Other Name: Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance of the E-Word
    Janis Antonovics*, Jessica L. Abbate, Christi Howell Baker, Douglas Daley, Michael E. Hood, Christina E. Jenkins, Louise J. Johnson, James J. Murray, Vijay Panjeti, Volker H. W. Rudolf, Dan Sloan, Joanna Vondrasek

    Citation: Antonovics J, Abbate JL, Baker CH, Daley D, Hood ME, et al. (2007) Evolution by Any Other Name: Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance of the E-Word. PLoS Biol 5(2): e30 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050030

    Published: February 13, 2007

    Copyright: (c) 2007 Antonovics et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

    The increase in resistance of human pathogens to antimicrobial agents is one of the best-documented examples of evolution in action at the present time, and because it has direct life-and-death consequences, it provides the strongest rationale for teaching evolutionary biology as a rigorous science in high school biology curricula, universities, and medical schools.

  5. #5 Mike the Mad Biologist
    February 27, 2007

    Jessika, Jonathan,

    thanks, but I’ve already blogged about that here.