Sunday, March 02, 2008


It's Just a Theory!

David Horton is over at The Huffington Post expounding on a theory that is his ... the theory he has ... his theory ... the theory belonging to him.

He began to form his theory when he read a comment on a blog that he theorized about:

The blogger had taught a group of medical students that MRSA came about because of evolution in response to the selection pressures of antibiotic use, when a member of the group stood up and said 'That's a lie!' I asked her how she thought MRSA happened - 'It is a punishment from god'.
Quite apart from the worry that there may be medical doctors out there who think the proper treatment of disease is sackcloth and ashes rather than a strategy of antibiotic use to counter bacterial evolution, the stupidity of raising such objections in a medical school setting got Horton theorizing:

Intuitively it seems that the evangelicals are getting stupider and stupider, and evolutionary theory can certainly explain why this is happening. If you started off with a group of, say, 1000 people, who were suddenly converted to some new religion. If the group had the usual bell-shaped curve of intelligence (and I realize that this is a big if, but stay with me) then evolution within the group would begin almost immediately. The smarter members of the group would very soon realize that what they were being told about golden tablets or beings from another world was completely crazy, and they would leave. The average IQ of the group would then fall.
In turn, most of the remaining members would be subject to falling for even dumber things, causing the most intelligent old members to leave and attracting only the dumbest of new members, creating a feedback loop.

I can't agree that his theory applies to all religions but it does seem to explain some significant subgroup of them, doesn't it?

You know, I think he has something there.

And it would also apply in reverse to to groups like these science blogs. There would be an upwards-forcing effect as any Cretins and IDiots present initially found their beliefs threatened by exposure to scientific knowledge and logic and left in a huff. This would mean that the average level of intelligence of the contributors would rise relentlessly - as I'm sure everyone reading would agree.
I found the source for the anecdote about the medical student who thought MRSA was a punishment from God and discovered a few things that make the story more mind-boggling.

(1) It happened in Europe, not the USA.

(2) She was a post-graduate medical student.

(3) 30% of the group -- also post-grads -- supported her.
Let me try that again: I found the source for the anecdote...
It happened in Europe, not the USA.

I'd feel all superior-like and smug except that, for every European doctor who accepts the wrath of god hypothesis, there is probably two American doctors who do.

This'd make me sick ... but I don't dare!
DR MCCOY: ...Medical men are trained in logic, Mr. Spock.

MR SPOCK: Really, Doctor, I had no idea they were trained. Watching you, I assumed it was trial and error.

I had always thought Mr Spock was being unduly harsh on the medical profession in this little exchange.

Now I'm not so sure.

Just as I'm not so sure I would want to be treated by a doctor who thought like that.

How could I ever be sure that I was getting the best treatment if my doctor believed that my illness was a well-deserved divine punishment?

Come to think of it, what was this person doing training to be a doctor if, by her own logic, any attempt to treat illness would be in defiance of God's will?
There's an easy way to test that student's idea, but first the investigator would have to ask her if she has not sinned too much...
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