Viewpoint for Thursday — November 10, 2005

• Bacterial evolution

Bacterial evolution

By Bettejo Dux

Can we please put the Evolution vs. Creationism debate to rest? Everyone reading this … scientist, believer, layman … everyone in the world, anywhere in the world, is witness to an evolutionary process taking place right before our eyes. Today. This very moment. I am speaking about the Avian Flu. The virus, so far, is transmitted from bird to bird and an occasional human handler. When the virus jumps … mutates, evolves … to a disease transmitted human to human, all of us … scientist, believer, layman … everyone in the world, anywhere in the world, is at risk.

Every sane, thoughtful, halfway aware and intelligent human on this planet has cause for concern. Viruses such as this, a newly evolved virus, are a danger to all of us. None of us has developed an immunity to this new, potentially deadly bug. This bug, this virus that evolved from a disease that kills birds to a disease that kills humans, is a ferocious killer ready to evolve again to a disease transmittable human to human and it is a deadly foe. It is an evolutionary process. There have been many such diseases in the history of man. Scientists, today, are capable of studying them. Attempting to figure them out. Outsmart them. Trying to develop a vaccine that, perhaps, will protect all of us from the ravages. Dr. Carl Bergstrom is such a bacterial evolution hunter. You can find him on the net. Look for Battling Bacterial Evolution. Study it. Let your kids study it. It is Evolution 101. It is a fun, fascinating program anyone can follow, even a confused person like me. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Gina Kolata, a science reporter for The New York Times, has written a wonderful and scary book, “Flu,” that other intelligent … er, confused … persons should read. Also pick up “The Coming Plague” by Laurie Garrett. She writes about infectious diseases, devastating diseases, which periodically evolve creating wide panic and alarm.

The great evolution debate began early with the religious community’s objection to Darwin’s suggestion that, perhaps, we evolved from apes. Today, science knows humans can receive blood transfusions from chimps. Today, scientists know that human DNA is more closely related to the chimp than to any other animal on the planet. These are scientific facts. But, of course, only confused people believe scientific facts.

If, because of your religious beliefs you chose to find these facts objectionable, you have the right to do that. It’s still a free country. Certainly you have the right to say “In conclusion, just because scientific data supports the biblical account of creation does not make it ‘non scientific,’ nor does it make it improper to teach in schools.”

This statement, to such a confused person as I, only leaves me more confused. Sigh.

But even if this is your belief, in the throes of your belief, you do not have the right, as a responsible human, to destroy, demean, discount a scientific fact. A scientific fact that might just save your life if a scientist, in his application of the theory of evolution, the study of how things evolve, can discover a cure or a prevention for any threatening transmittable disease.

I’ll wager that, should a scientist, in his use of the theory, discover such prevention, you would not hesitate to use it to vaccinate you or your children. Please don’t dumb down the kids. One of those bright little minds might be the mind who can find a better way to stop evolved viruses from doing us all in. We’re not playing footsie here, guys, this is literally a matter of life and death.

Because I’m in a rather confused state, I would like to lighten things up a bit. May I? Two questions to the religious community and the men of science who expound creationism: First of all: do you believe in the age of the dinosaur when no humans were on this planet? And, if so, do you think, perchance, God, at that time, was a dinosaur?

Sorry about that, just had to throw it in. You know how confused confused minds get!

  • Bettejo Dux is a resident of Kalaheo.

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