Home » Intelligent Design » “Eugenics was Darwin’s only gift to medicine”

“Eugenics was Darwin’s only gift to medicine”

Respected doctor and professor of neurosurgery Michael Egnor reports in Darwin, Mendel, Watson and Crick, and Al Gore:

Darwin’s theory impeded the recognition of Mendel’s discovery for a third of a century, and Darwin’s assertion that random variation was the raw material for biological complexity was of no help in decoding the genetic language of DNA. The single incontrovertible Darwinian contribution to the field of medical genetics was eugenics, which is the Darwinian theory that humans can be bred for social and character traits, like animals. The field of medical genetics is still recovering from eugenics, which was Darwin’s only gift to medicine.

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5 Responses to “Eugenics was Darwin’s only gift to medicine”

  1. “Darwin’s assertion that the raw material for biological complexity is “randomness” was anti-heuristic…. The field of medical genetics is still recovering from eugenics, which was Darwin’s only gift to medicine.”

    Yet is it not the case that medical genetics is almost exclusively preoccupied with the ramifications of “random” changes in the genetic code? Certainly these genetic flaws that gene-hunters seek–I’ve spent some years at this myself–are not generally considered designed, so they must at some level represent the kind of random variation Darwin spoke of. This is one reason I think it is justified to say evolution provides a unifying framework for biology, including medical genetics.

  2. Thank you for you comment great_ape.

    However it seems to me random variation in this context is a damage to design, not the cause of it.

    Designed systems can suffer random variation. The ID community argues damage to designs are not the mechanism by which large scale novel designs emerge.

    Thank you for your participation here. I often think how nice it would be if you would jump ship and join us. :=)

    Sal

  3. “However it seems to me random variation in this context is a damage to design, not the cause of it.” –scordova

    They certainly are damaging to biological function in this context; no argument there. I only wisheed to point out that, from an evolutionary perspective, this observed variation and associated damage is understood as the same “raw material” from which beneficial variation might occasionally arise.

    (As you point out, the ID argument position is that such variation does not suffice to generate complexity.)

    But understanding the types of changes (both adaptive and neutral) that occur between species (via comparative genomics) sheds light on the nature of the mutations that arise in individual organisms (frequently with negative consequences.) To be more specific, one can examine biases in nucleotide mutation rates such as CpG mutation biases, segmental duplications, chromosomal inversions, translocations, nonallelic recombinations, among many events) The mechanisms through which these occur across species appear to be the very same variety through which disease alleles arise. In this way the evolutionary framework seems to be relevant to medical genetics by providing additional information about what kinds of mutations can occur and what their relative frequencies might be. When assessing a relatively unknown disease-associated region of the genome, the medical geneticist needs to have a sense of what could have gone wrong and what it would look like.

  4. I love how steadily Dr. Egnor holds his ground and mercilessly grinds the hysterical hordes into powder.

  5. Charles Darwin’s own son Leonard actually agreed with Egnor, that eugenics was the best practical contribution of Charles Darwins life work to humanity. Leonard made the following dedication in his book “The Need for Eugenic Reform”

    “Dedicated to the memory of my father. [Charles Darwin] For if I had not believed that he would have wished me to give such help as I could toward making his life’s work of service to mankind, I should never have been led to write this book. ”

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