How many medical doctors believe in evolution?

50


Discussion by: debpratik

As a medical doctor myself I have observed that most of my colleagues are theists and do not believe in evolution. I don't mind their being theist since all of them hold rather a refined deist belief and not the cridity that the scriptures suggest. However I am deeply astonished by their lack of belief in evolution (I don't know if belief is the right word to use about evolution or not). Anyway, I was wondering does anyone know any study performed among the medical professionals regarding their belief in evolution? Citation of any study: regional, nation wide or world wide would be much appreciated.

P.S. – By the way, I am an atheist and evolutionist. But I guess you've already figured that out :)

50 COMMENTS

  1. I hope your sample group is skewed. All med docs have a grounding in biology and had to have something akin to comparative vertebrate morphology. If I learned my doc didn’t understand evolution well enough to have accepted that it is something that occurred I would drop him like a hot coal. People that don’t accept that evolution happened and is happening are either uneducated, stupid or intellectually blinded by religion. I would not want such a person in charge of my life.

    • In reply to #1 by digibud:

      I hope your sample group is skewed. All med docs have a grounding in biology and had to have something akin to comparative vertebrate morphology. If I learned my doc didn’t understand evolution well enough to have accepted that it is something that occurred I would drop him like a hot coal. People…
      The only study I could find on this topic was done in USA in 2005 where the number of physicians not accepting evolution (though a minority) is rather alarming:
      http://phys.org/news6847.html
      I don’t know if any other study on this very topic was performed or not, at least this 2005 study result is somewhat ominous.

      • In reply to #2 by debpratik:

        In reply to #1 by digibud: It’s possible that in the US fear of exposure as a non-theist, even among doctors, might skew results.

        I hope your sample group is skewed. All med docs have a grounding in biology and had to have something akin to comparative vertebrate morphology. If I learned my doc didn’t understand evolution well enough to have accepted that it is something that occurred I would drop…

  2. I don’t know of any studies that are aimed at finding out the acceptance of evolution in medical professionals. However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what difference would it make?

    • In reply to #3 by bjchiaro50:

      I don’t know of any studies that are aimed at finding out the acceptance of evolution in medical professionals. However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what difference would it make?

      It’s extremely important! Why do doctors need to cautious about over-prescribing anti-biotics? A: Evolution. Why should families be encouraged to vaccinate children? A: Evolution. Why are studies on other animals suitable as analogues for human conditions? A:evolution. Which animals should you use? A: animals most closely genetically related to us. ie evolution. Why is our anatomy the way it is? A: Evolution.

      And this is before we start on any research or genetics and its implications. Do you want a mechanic to work on your expensive car that just follows the workshop manual or one that actually understands how a car works? Which mechanic would be more likely to find a solution to your problem?

      In addition to this it is an indication of a mind unwilling to question their own biases and willing to believe in unfounded fluff. It also explains why so many doctors also practice alternative medicine. Religious doctors can be effective but only to the extent that they can shut out and compartmentalise their religion from their work (clearly possible but not optimal). In addition to this their baggage makes them often refuse to perform operations like abortions or family planning that may be necessary for the health and well being of a patient. Do you want a Doctor who doesn’t believe in giving blood transfusions?

      • In reply to #13 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #3 by bjchiaro50:

        I don’t know of any studies that are aimed at finding out the acceptance of evolution in medical professionals. However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what differ…

        All of those things you said are included in normal medical practices the doctor doesn’t need to accept evolution for that he just needs to do his damn job. Which by the way he can do just fine without accepting evolution. Would I prefer if he did accept evolution? of course! but he doesn’t have to to be a good doctor.

        • In reply to #28 by bjchiaro50:

          … but he doesn’t have to to be a good doctor.

          I would say, “… doesn’t have to to be a good practitioner.” Reckless Monkey mentioned “up to date medical practices” which have to come from somewhere. Those in the development of said practices do need to understand how the biological machines of our bodies came to be the way they are. Much of the complexity of human response to disease, and the medications we use to try to fight disease, comes from being a system that evolved without the hand of a designer. Understanding how evolution gives us the illusion of design is central to the degree of confidence in predicting the impact of making changes to the practices.

          Yes, you can carry out the board certified standards of care without accepting the Theory of Evolution. However, good luck pushing the frontiers of medicine forward while stuck with superstitions that should have been thrown out with bloodletting.

        • In reply to #28 by bjchiaro50:

          In reply to #13 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #3 by bjchiaro50:
          All of those things you said are included in normal medical practices the doctor doesn’t need to accept evolution for that he just needs to do his damn job. Which by the way he can do just fine without accepting evolution. Would I prefer if he did accept evolution? of course! but he doesn’t have to to be a good doctor.

          Have you thought about why these things might have become included? How doctors know about resistance in bacteria, one which area of science this came to be understood? And who is it that has been over prescribing the medication in the first place? Why did they do this (if they understood the danger?).

          I used to teach people to fly. I can assure you it is possible to teach someone to fly who has a very limited knowledge of how an aircraft works. I can also tell you that the people who are best at it, the most likely to be able to solve a problem in an emergency, see a problem before it happens are the ones with an understanding of how the thing flies and why, they also understand meteorology and they are thinking about what they are doing before they do it so when an emergency occurs they have already decided what to do. So which sort of pilot do you want to fly with the one capable of scraping through with the minimum of knowledge or the one who fully understands what is going on? We just obviously have a very different standard on what we consider a good doctor.

      • Excellent comment!

        In reply to #13 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #3 by bjchiaro50:

        I don’t know of any studies that are aimed at finding out the acceptance of evolution in medical professionals. However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what differ…

    • In reply to #3 by bjchiaro50:

      However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what difference would it make?

      That could work on a monkey-see, monkey-do basis, – as long as the people who wrote the literature and devised the “up to date medical practices “, did understand evolutionary biology!

      • In reply to #30 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #3 by bjchiaro50:

        However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what difference would it make?

        That could work on a monkey-see, monkey-do basis, – as long as the people who wrote the li…

        Exactly! the researchers of course should understand evolutionary biology but a lot of doctors aren’t researchers and so they don’t need to share that acceptance of evolution. Now if they start practicing opposite of those evidence based medical practices then they should lose their license.

        • In reply to #31 by bjchiaro50:

          Exactly! the researchers of course should understand evolutionary biology but a lot of doctors aren’t researchers and so they don’t need to share that acceptance of evolution.

          If they had been given a proper education in biology at school, they should understand evolution and the classification of relationships between organisms which derive from it.
          Topics like the relationships between different species or strains of bacteria or viruses are based on an understanding of evolutionary genetics, as is the understanding of which of these are affected by different medications, and which ones have EVOLVED to become resistant to certain medications, as a result of medical and agricultural malpractices.

          It is possible to learn such information by rote, but applying knowledge works better when those involved understand what they are doing, rather than merely blindly following a script of verbal instructions.

          Now if they start practicing opposite of those evidence based medical practices then they should lose their license.

          People really should be educated and tested in relevant areas as part of their training, rather than being punished later when they mess up on the job.

          • In reply to #32 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #31 by bjchiaro50:

            Exactly! the researchers of course should understand evolutionary biology but a lot of doctors aren’t researchers and so they don’t need to share that acceptance of evolution.

            If they had been given a proper education in biology at school, they should understand evol…

            I agree with you.

  3. “As a medical doctor myself I have observed that most of my colleagues are theists and do not believe in evolution.”

    What century are you posting this from?

    Evolution is not something to be “believed” in, any more than gravity. It is a stone cold, rock sold scientific fact.

    In the UK, I would hazard the guess that about 100% of UK-trained doctors “believe” in evolution and have made a proper science-based study of it as part of obtaining the necessary qualifications to get into medical school. Europe is almost certainly pretty similar.

    Louis Finkelstein carried out this research in America showing most doctors were evolutionists and were far less credulous than the unbelievably ignorant American general public, who seem to believe scientific facts are something you can pick and choose whether to accept or not.

  4. stevehiil comment 5
    In the UK, I would hazard the guess that about 100% of UK-trained doctors “believe” in evolution and have made a proper science-based study of it as part of obtaining the necessary qualifications to get into medical school. Europe is almost certainly pretty similar.

    I’d reduce that figure to 99.9999% as there are a couple of high profile creationist GPs. I would suggest the very nature of medical training should make the non acceptance of evolution impossible.

  5. I was wondering does anyone know any study performed among the medical professionals regarding their belief in evolution?

    The majority of all doctors (78%) accept evolution rather than reject it and, of those, Jews are most positive (94%), Catholics are next (86%) followed by Protestants (59%). US National Survey of 1472 physicians

    That said, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a wide gulf between the schools of evolutionary biology and medicine. Evolution is not yet taught as a basic science in medical school. Here is a video addressing this and ways to help (Eugenie Scott makes a good point at the end of QA). Randy Nesse, MD Talk

    Mike

  6. I don’t “believe” in evolution. It’s a natural process that goes on whether or not anyone “believes” in it. The doctors around wherever depratik live are probably too busy being worked off their feet to worry about such esoteric concepts as evolution. They just get on with the job of administering modern medicine without worrying about Darwin.

    Of course evolution will present a massive problem to modern medicine with the increasing impotence of antibiotics in face of the changing face of micro-organisms, forever finding new ways of penetrating the immune systems.

  7. Doctors are not scientists, nor do they have a good scientific education. Like nurses they have very specific technical skills, dont mix technology and science, they are two different skill-sets.

  8. Richard Dawkins had a discussion with a doctor during his atheist interviews from one of his UK4 (sorry I’m not up to speed on the channels over in England) who pretty much said that doctors aren’t specifically taught science. I want to say it was Andy Thompson but it was another guy, with glasses, short hair. I think his name is Robert something, or something Roberts. I can’t really search on this PC.

  9. Atheist doctor? I can’t imagine an atheist doctor where I live. Who would go see an atheist doctor (they say)? No, you need a church, a wife with a professional career on hold while she raises your 2.7 children, and a dog.
    Atheist doctor. LOL!

  10. One can be a doctor without accepting evolution, just like a carpenter can believe that trees are made at the lumber yard.
    Such a carpenter will never try to grow a tree more useful for construction.

  11. It’s never pleasant to find ones most paranoid and anxiety ridden fears confirmed. On some other threads I’ve lamented that in the US – or wherever else fundamentalism is in control of education and professions – upcoming generations will be overwhelmed and ruined by the rise in superstition. I had thought – hoped – I might have been exaggerating. Clearly I was not.

    What is the hope for rational care and medical research in such areas?
    None.
    How much should humanity fear the remorseless rise of religion?
    Infinitely.
    What can we do about it?
    Not a lot.
    :(((

  12. I can’t speak for the current decade, but several decades ago, when I was in high school, I was in a traffic accident and had a concussion. When I was released from the hospital and went for a check-up with my GP, he emphasized how close I came to being killed and then asked if the experience had brought me closer to God. (This, by the way, was in California, not the deep south.)

    Young as I was, I found the question embarrassing and inappropriate, and recall only mumbling some sort of apologetic form of “no, I don’t.” In retrospect, I find his behavior toward a young patient as reprehensible.

    I’m guessing there are all kinds of medical schools, and all kinds of people who make it through them. The M.D doesn’t have to mean you are very smart.

  13. Before, I believe in evolution for the simple reason that is taught in school and it is science. Anyway who will not believe in science? Only the uneducated and one who lives in the jungle doesn’t believe in science. As a nominal catholic that never go to church for 16 years, I’m slowly losing my faith in the creator. I think any christian who turn atheist started this way until he read books or websites on atheism. In my case I lose my belief in evolution when I read an article on the amazing DNA, the tiny code thats too good to be a by product of chance mutations and natural selection. And I wondered also why there are growing numbers of secular scientists who never believe in evolution.If it is really a fact and as certain as any other body of scientific knowledge, It should have been accepted right away without question. Then I discovered that like religion, evolution needs more faith than ever to be accepted as fact by any real student of science.

  14. Apart from the culture in the area where they grew up, there is a very simple explanation.

    Some of the most ignorant people on the planet with regard to many features of science (or history), are those who have dedicated their time to intense study of a narrow specialist subject to the exclusion of everything else!

    It is quite possible to study human anatomy, read pharmaceutical instruction manuals, and acquire medical technician skills, without understanding wider biological features of the huge range of life forms on this planet.

    Concentrated understanding of the functional mechanisms of one slow to reproduce species, is not a basis for understanding evolutionary development. – Throw in a bit of creationist “micro-evolution”, to explain bacterial drug resistance and denial based on ignorance becomes easily possible.

  15. debpratik, in a similar straw poll of my medical colleagues, most who profess religious belief appear to do so for cultural/social/family reasons (generally those who are non-white) and/or when questioned further, admit a deistic tendency or just want to be ‘spiritual’. When challenged in the intellectual sense, most look a bit sheepish. Some have identified criticism of their religion as personal attack or try the ‘But what about your sense of morality?’ line; I’ve disabused them ungently (including once in a crowd in Dubai, which in hindsight could have been a bad idea).

    I’ve not come across any who outright deny evolution as an ongoing process but do have some friends who are a softish kind of fundamentalist Christian that subscribe to theistic evolutionary beliefs that man was somehow ‘created by God’ as ‘special.’ This includes some who I would not (from a medical competency perspective) hesitate to give responsibility of my family’s care to.

    I would hazard that at least the later generations of UK-trained doctors are mindful of the evolutionary biology underpinning e.g. inconvenient anatomy (appendices et al.) and antibiotic resistance. There are exceptions (such as this report concerning my alma mater) but I have to say as long as one follows evidence-based practise, you can do without any fervent confidence in the science. After all, a medical degree is just a way of ensuring that you probably won’t kill anybody right now

  16. justinsaracen
    I can’t speak for the current decade, but several decades ago, when I was in high school, I was in a traffic accident and had a concussion. When I was released from the hospital and went for a check-up with my GP, he emphasized how close I came to being killed and then asked if the experience had brought me closer to God. (This, by the way, was in California, not the deep south.)

    Here in the UK you would have grounds for complaint and the Doctor would be investigated and told to keep their religious beliefs private. We’ve had a couple of high profile cases where doctors have been taken to task.

    I know religious and non religious GPs and they all accept evolution as fact. And they also accept religion is a private matter and should never infringe on their jobs.

  17. Many theist doctors can probably tell you that they believe in “small scale” evolution (antibiotic-resistant bacteria, for example) but don’t necessarily believe in :large scale” evolution (humans evolved from Australopithecus, all life evolved from single-celled creatures, etc.). You need to accept the former to be a good doctor, but I’m not sure how disbelieving the latter affects how they operate.

  18. godzillatemple:

    Many theist doctors can probably tell you that they believe in “small scale” evolution (antibiotic-resistant bacteria, for example) but don’t necessarily believe in :large scale” evolution (humans evolved from Australopithecus, all life evolved from single-celled creatures, etc.). You need to accept the former to be a good doctor, but I’m not sure how disbelieving the latter affects how they operate.

    Reckless Monkey, a couple posts above you, pointed out why.

    It’s certainly possible for someone who disregards large scale evolution and the implications of the origins of humanity to be a competant doctor, but it requires a scientific mind to be a ‘good’ doctor.

    As others have pointed out, most (or some?) medical doctors aren’t scientists, they’re practitioners who make use of scientifically discovered forms of healthcare. In order to be a ‘good’ doctor you have to be a scientist, you have to be one step ahead of the game and be able to solve medical problems scientifically in order to make the right diagnosis, you have to do more than just abide by the medical rule book and follow the medical establishments guidelines.

    Not to mention conflicts of interest, concerning contraception, abortion and a vast array of psychological problems.

    • In reply to #40 by Seraphor:

      Not to mention conflicts of interest, concerning contraception, abortion and a vast array of psychological problems.

      Well, I would certainly question whether a doctor who does not accept evolution might also have other beliefs that could actually have an impact on his ability to provide me with the care I require. Not just the ones you mentioned, but what if he also believes in the efficacy of faith healing, homeopathy, crystal healing, etc. But I think it’s unfair to just assume that somebody who doesn’t accept evolution holds those other views. So yes, I might well be suspicious of a doctor who doesn’t accept evolution, but I wouldn’t just walk out on him (or her) unless I found out about other objectionable beliefs. Of course, if I were a woman seeking advice on contraception or abortion, I would probably agree more with you on this point.

      I believe the OP is talking about medical practitioners (surgeons, diagnosticians, clinicians, etc.) and not researchers. While I’m sure that not accepting evolution would make it very hard for a doctor to ever be a “good” scientist or researcher, I still think they could be a perfectly fine surgeon, diagnosticians, clinicians, etc. Sort of like how somebody who doesn’t accept or understand the laws of thermodynamics probably would never make a good car designer, but could certainly be a fine auto mechanic.

  19. To me that is difficult to believe. Most of my friends and relatives are doctors, and as far as I know, I have never met a person who believed in the existence of any fairytale characters, including demons, ghosts, gods and fairies.
    I did not discuss biology with everybody, but I am quite sure that that non of them ever assumed magic or creation.

    marstal08

  20. To be honest, aside from the studies that showed that more educated people are also more likely to be atheists , i dont know of any study specifically with doctors, however, i do know that if i had a doctor who did not believe in evolution he very quickly would no longer be my doctor. I would not trust my life who does not believe in the science that allows his job to even exist.

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    if you are not able to tell me about this life then what proof do you have that you didn’t forget your past ? and that you will not forget this present life in the future ?

    that is Fact that Supreme Lord Krishna exists but we posses no such intelligence to understand him.
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    same you have to follow real authority. “Whatever You have spoken, I accept it,” Then there is no difficulty. And You are accepted by Devala, Narada, Vyasa, and You are speaking Yourself, and later on, all the acaryas have accepted. Then I’ll follow.
    I’ll have to follow great personalities. The same reason mother says, this gentleman is my father. That’s all. Finish business. Where is the necessity of making research? All authorities accept Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You accept it; then your searching after God is finished.

    Why should you waste your time?


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    im not talking these all things from my own.


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    Chant ” hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare ” and be happy.

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    Here is no Question of Holy Books quotes, Personal Experiences, Faith or Belief. i accept that Sometimes Faith is also Blind. Here is already Practical explanation which already proved that every`1 else in this world is nothing more then Busy Foolish and totally idiot.


    Source(s):
    every `1 is already Blind in this world and if you will follow another Blind then you both will fall in hole. so try to follow that person who have Spiritual Eyes who can Guide you on Actual Right Path. ( my Authority & Guide is my Spiritual Master ” Srila Prabhupada ” )


    if you want to see Actual Purpose of human life then see this link : ( http://www.asitis.com {Bookmark it })
    read it complete. ( i promise only readers of this book that they { he/she } will get every single answer which they want to know about why im in this material world, who im, what will happen after this life, what is best thing which will make Human Life Perfect, and what is perfection of Human Life. ) purpose of human life is not to live like animal cuz every`1 at present time doing 4 thing which are sleeping, eating, sex & fear. purpose of human life is to become freed from Birth after birth, Old Age, Disease, and Death.

  22. This observation doesn’t surprise me at all (that many doctors may not actually be evolutionists) It is one of the problems I have with western medicine. It was conceived and established before an understanding of evolutionary biology. In terms of history and time lines: think Hippocrates, think scientific method then think Darwin. Which was first and which was last?

    This is why I think modern medicine has problems and why it receives as much criticism as it does (E.g. treating symptoms without understanding the root cause). More troublesome is that western medicine is incredibly conservative and resistant to change and new information. In addition, it is highly defensive to constructive criticism (such as that offered here). Being defensive of criticism is NOT a scientific property.

    Unless you have a physical trauma that needs surgery or a specific invasive cancer, it is best to stay well away from doctors. And don’t get me started on modern psychiatry. That just might be the biggest fraud that has ever been perpetrated on human beings.

    • In reply to #45 by hoeloloo:

      This observation doesn’t surprise me at all (that many doctors may not actually be evolutionists) It is one of the problems I have with western medicine…. Unless you have a physical trauma that needs surgery or a specific invasive cancer, it is best to stay well away from doctors. And don’t get me started on modern psychiatry. That just might be the biggest fraud that has ever been perpetrated on human beings….

      Irrational fear of doctors or of medicine is quite natural I think. Alternative or pretend medicine feels much, much better to the ignorant and ill-informed. And scientology feels superior to psychiatry as well.

    • In reply to #45 by hoeloloo:

      This observation doesn’t surprise me at all (that many doctors may not actually be evolutionists) It is one of the problems I have with western medicine. It was conceived and established before an understanding of evolutionary biology. In terms of history and time lines: think Hippocrates, think sci…

      I am a physician. Whether I agree with evolution or not is irrelevant to my care for patients. Also, “believe” in evolution is probably not the correct term (original post) as I think that during med school, evolution was presented as a scientific theory.

      Western medicine has produced some of the greatest benefit to mankind. Life expectancies are continuously increasing, diseases that were fatal several decades ago are now curable or at least managed as a chronic condition as in the case of HIV infection, and childhood vaccines have eradicated several diseases that used to kill our children. Evolutionary biology, while taught in medical schools has no impact on the innovation and subsequent delivery of medical care and therefore, I would select physicians to treat my family members based upon their competence and not their agreement or disagreement with evolution because that belief has zero influence on a surgeon’s ability to operate, an internists ability to diagnose, or a radiologists ability to read a CT scan.

      Medicine is by its nature highly innovative and continously evolving. New diseases appear necessitating new treatments. New technology is developed requiring doctors to adapt their practices to accommodate. There are numeorus quality committees that meet regularly to discuss complications and ways to improve performance. I would venture that medicine is a field that is most open to change and critique because unlike most other industries, when we improve our performance, people’s lives are saved.

      It is normal to be skeptical of something you don’t fully understand. I’m the same way. But spreading dangerous ideas about medical treatment or vaccines or psychiatric treatment doesn’t help anyone and advocating “natural” therapies whose benefits have no scientific backing is only harmful.

  23. How could any medical doctor not believe in evolution? The study of bacteria and virus would, itself, lead anyone to conclude that genetic mutation exists and, as such, so must the chain of evolutionary progress. If something changes it does not remain the same. I have no qualifications in medicine whatsoever and yet even my, somewhat average, brain tells me that medical doctors must have read something along the line which tells them about evolution, or studied changes in bacteria

  24. Well, I totally lost it with a doc the other day. With serious med crud going on after crash landing in “The City of Churches” (Ft.Wayne, IN), I got stuck seeing a specialist who is a Super Fundy Baptist. (according to the “about us” portion of the group’s website).
    As said above: “It’s never pleasant to find ones most paranoid and anxiety ridden fears confirmed.”

    My brain broke at a follow up apt when he FIRED me because “I lied to him”. [Reality: a portion of my 53 year old history did not make it into the 14.2 minute initial appointment.] I was afraid I was going to get a spanking too. It was bizarre.
    So I did the only logical thing: I stabbed my reputation in the gut and yelled at him like a feral cat sporting Androgel.
    staying alive, staying alive …

    If curious: here’s a link to the belief section of his church’s website:
    http://www.blackhawkministries.org/about/our-beliefs/

  25. But if a physician rejects evolution, then he is rejecting the conceptual framework – the very heart – of biology. Any physician who claims to reject evolution is either a liar or stark, raving mad. Would you want to put your life in the hands of a liar or a lunatic?

    Or to be more pragmatic: A physician who claims to reject evolution must necessarily reject the phenomenon of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Such a person should be stripped of his license to practice medicine.

    In reply to #3 by Mormon Atheist:

    I don’t know of any studies that are aimed at finding out the acceptance of evolution in medical professionals. However, I am not sure why that is even all that important. As long as they are reading the literature and are using up to date medical practices what difference would it make?

  26. Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, who practiced OB/GYN medicine before becoming a member of Congress, has publicly rejected the theory of evolution.

    In reply to #26 by Docjitters:

    debpratik, in a similar straw poll of my medical colleagues, most who profess religious belief appear to do so for cultural/social/family reasons (generally those who are non-white) and/or when questioned further, admit a deistic tendency or just want to be ‘spiritual’. When challenged in the intell…

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