Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Guy's been in Congress for 20 Years

He seems genuinely not to understand the causal link between the casual overuse of antibiotics and the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria and other pathogens, which is just one example of what happens when ignorance trumps understanding.  The insistence at the end that there is 'adaptation,' whatever that means to Rep. Kingston, but not evolution would be pathetic if it weren't so troubling.

Here, briefly, is how this particular scenario plays out:

People get sick with some sort of bacterial infection.  Their own immune systems could fight off the illness, but they go to their doctor, who prescribes antibiotics, which is in many cases like prescribing napalm because there are some weeds in your garden.  Some of the bacteria is able to resist the antibiotics, thanks to its genetic makeup.  The rest dies, leaving the resistant bacteria alive to reproduce.  Because the non-resistant bacteria is dead, the resistant bacteria fills the niche.  Over time, the non-resistant bacteria dies out, and the resistant strain thrives, and the next time someone gets sick, the antibiotics don't work.  This is evolution in action.  Bacteria evolve more quickly that humans because they live, die, and reproduce on a much quicker timescale.  The end result, which is happening now, is that we have bacteria and viruses that we can't treat with antibiotics (which is, pretty much, what we've got to treat them with), and people whose own immune systems can't fight them off on their own get sicker and maybe die.

I understand that some people, like Rep. Kingston if the above clip is any indication, find it distasteful to think that human beings evolved from earlier primates who were less like humans and more like monkeys.  I get that.  And I know that a lot of people are pretty strongly invested in those stories people told a couple thousand years ago.  But the evidence really is overwhelming.  The theory of evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology.  As science goes, it's been through the gauntlet and held up to the scrutiny of thousands of people testing it, trying to find a hole to poke in it, and they haven't been able to. 

It seems to me that that ought to carry some weight with people, even people who don't want to believe it. 

Note:  I wrote about one problem I think plays into this particular mental stumbling block a while back, and I still think my observation holds up.  I think at least some of the problem can be attributed to a disconnect in terminology.

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