Intelligent design/creationism Medicine Skepticism/critical thinking Surgery

I hang my head in shame for my profession

Damn you, PZ!

I know I spent three whole posts discussing the problem of credulity towards creationism among physicians. I spent a lot of time in those posts explaining potential reasons why physicians might be susceptible to the blandishments of creationists and even used the example of a medical student who is a proud young earth creationist as an example of the perils to medicine of not taking a stand regarding this sort of pseudoscience.

Leave it to PZ to one-up me.

Sadly, PZ has found an example of a physician who makes Alice (our blogging young earth creationist medical student) look like an emeritus professor of evolutionary biology by comparison. At least Alice seems to have some grounding in some science when discussing evolution. She simply misapplies it and dismisses what doesn’t fit with her young earth creationist beliefs. This guy goes way beyond that into Twilight Zone territory.

But it’s even worse than the fact that this is a fully certified, practicing physician.

The physician that PZ found is named Dr. Henry Jordan, and he is running for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina as a Republican. The idiocy about evolution that he is spewing is an embarrassment to South Carolina and to my entire profession:

“I think everything ought to be taught … and let people decide for themselves. There is no science to support trans-species changes, in other words, a monkey becoming a man,” the Republican said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press.

“A bunch of amoebas didn’t get together and design all this,” Jordan said, referring to the human body. “We’d be operating on people … looking at their hearts, their liver and their lungs, I’d tell the techs, ‘Can you believe those little amoebas figured all this out?’

“I mean you’ve got to be stupid to believe in evolution, I mean really,” he said.

Jordan believes the sin of pride and people’s desire to decide their own fate, rather than obey God, are why people believe in evolution.

Actually, Dr. Jordan should take a little look at himself as far as the “sin of pride” goes. He’s spewing ignorant blather about evolution and seems proud of it. I’ll agree with him that it would be stupid to believe that ameobas could somehow “get together” and design the human body as he describes, but it’s even more stupid to believe that evolutionary theory somehow states or implies that ameobas designed the human body, as Dr. Jordan apparently does! Now that’s some serious stupidity, coupled with a pride that doesn’t allow Dr. Jordan to realize how idiotic and ignorant his statements about evolution are. And it’s not a matter of my making fun of Dr. Jordan’s religious beliefs, either. I’m not. What I am making fun of is Dr. Jordan’s confident pontificating about something about which his own words clearly reveal him to know next to nothing and about which what he believes is based on a spectacularly, mind-bogglingly incorrect understanding of evolution. (No smart cracks about how such excessive confidence in one’s own knowledge is a very common trait among surgeons, please!) That, not Dr. Jordan’s religious beliefs, is what I am mocking, and rightfully so, because his ignorant statements about evolution deserve to be mocked. No, they beg to be mocked, as does his pride. A little humility would have gone a long way in preventing Dr. Jordan from making such a fool of himself.

I haven’t mentioned this before on the blog, as far as I remember, but around seven or eight years ago, when I was looking for my first “real” job out of fellowship, I interviewed at the Medical University of South Carolina. It seemed like a really pleasant place, an up-and-coming institution with a strong Department of Surgery, a personable Division Chief under whom I would have worked, and, most importantly, a commitment to research that was attractive to me. Indeed, had I ended up there, I would have had even more protected research time than I have now at the position that I ultimately ended up taking. (Also, it didn’t hurt that Charleston is an absolutely beautiful city.) I was quite disappointed when I lost out to another candidate, after having made it to be one of the two final candidates.

Now maybe I should see my failure to land the job there as a blessing in disguise. Were I living in South Carolina now, I’d be pulling my hair out by the roots if I had to put up with daily reporting on campaigns featuring know-nothing creationists like Dr. Jordan, whose claim to fame before running for Lt. Governor was trying to blow holes in the separation of church and state in South Carolina by campaigning to have the Ten Commandments posted in public schools all over the state. Oh, and Dr. Jordan was also famous for making comments like, “Screw the Buddhists and kill the Muslims!” when faced with opposition, saying even after he tried to apologize for his intolerant remark, “What I want to do is promote Christianity as the only true religion. This nation was founded to worship, honor and glorify Jesus Christ, not Mohammed, not Buddha.”

Funny, I always thought this nation was founded to allow its citizens to worship (or not worship) as they saw fit, without the state telling them what religion they must follow. The Founding Fathers were all too aware of the horrors that can occur when religious power is coupled with state power and went out of their way to try to prevent such an occurrence in the new nation.

But it’s even worse than Dr. Jordan’s being a physician, running for office, and spouting creationist canards that even Answers in Genesis or the Discovery Institute would have a hard time stomaching.

Dr. Jordan is a surgeon. From his campaign website:

Henry S. Jordan grew up in Anderson and graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1967. He then entered Emory University School of Medicine, and after graduation was posted as a flight surgeon to Southeast Asia. There he volunteered and flew in 32 aerial combat missions. When the war ended, he took further surgery training at the Medical College of Georgia and returned to Anderson, where he has since practiced surgery and participated in Republican political activities.

Darn it all, I keep trying to convince people that we surgeons are more than just unthinking technicians, and then I have an example like Dr. Jordan and his idiotic statements about evolution thrown back in my face! It’s great that he was served honorably in the Air Force and flew all those combat missions. Really it is. I have nothing but the utmost respect for that. I also have no reason to doubt that he is a competent surgeon. But, leaving those two admirable traits aside, Dr. Jordan’s now peddling some of the dumbest creationist tripe that I’ve heard in a long time, and he’s using his stature as a surgeon to give his words authority that they don’t deserve among lay audiences.

That I have no respect for.

But, believe it or not, that’s not all. It’s still even worse than all that.

You see, Dr. Jordan isn’t just any kind of surgeon. He’s a general surgeon, the same specialty as I am. (Yes, I went on to do fellowship training, but my residency was in general surgery. Surgical oncologists are in essence general surgeons who decided to do additional training and specialize in cancer surgery.) Yes, he may be a retired general surgeon who is now only working emergency room shifts (presumably for the flexibility to campaign that such a job allows him), but he spent the bulk of his career as a general surgeon.

Oh the shame, the shame.

I may not be able to show my face again around ScienceBlogs for a while…

ADDENDUM: Noooo! Here’s a followup post with one more reason to hang my head in shame for my profession!

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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