Be a Skeptic Part B: Genes, Bones, and Emperors
做個懷疑者(下): 基因、骨頭和皇帝
翻譯:Hongyan Zhu

…Continued from Part A: Dogmas Come and Go


Soon after I started my residency training in pediatrics, a disease called sickle cell anemia was touted as the greatest example
of human macro-evolution. You can see my description in Uncle Reggie stories, “Sickle Cell”. Sickle-cell mutation was declared dogmatically as the major evolutionary “proof,” as an “advantageous” mutation, because of its theoretic protection from malaria. My original skepticism of this concept was that the “protection” was based on “guilt by association”, not by direct proof. And, now the concept is collapsing, since our country is spending millions of dollars trying to eradicate this genetic mutation, which to me, must prove that, by definition, it is not advantageous. This is a great development, and gives hope to many affected children. I have painful memories of managing many sickle cell children who experienced, repetitively, severe bone and chest pains from this potentially fatal disease. Clearly not an advantageous major mutation: I suspect that lab based philosophers had little idea of the real-life misery that their favorite mutation wrought on mankind, especially those of African origin. Be really skeptical when academicians are so dogmatic about anything.


In another Uncle Reggie story, I talked about the Shanghai cell, and how one cell is more complicated than all of Shanghai. But during my residency days there were all these fantastic stories about how man could “finally” create life, so-called spontaneously, in a test tube, and everyone was ecstatic about a few amino acids that seemed to emerge. The hoopla was something like this, “we’ve done it, we don’t need an Almighty Creator, we can do it ourselves, and surely, ’nature’ can just accidentally do it!” However amino acids did not make life, no matter how dogmatic one tried to be about it. And, anyway if there is such a day when man can be so very smart that he can, “create” life, that still means that he used creative intelligence, and skilled hands to “create.” It still means that there is no so-called “spontaneous,” random, chance, accident-precipitated, “life.” Regardless of how dogmatic this is expressed. And where did even the “simplest of cells,” that is more complicated than London, New York, or indeed Shanghai come from? Each and every metropolis-like cell is a far, far, cry from any pile of dangling amino acids. Be skeptical.


There are all these comments in biology and in medical textbooks, dogmatically declared, that macro-evolution involves trials and errors,
and chance, so it is inherently so wasteful, and there all these “vestigial things,” such as organs left behind in the process, with no apparent redeeming value. See my Uncle Reggie stories again, to show that there really are no vestigial organs left to talk about. The only vestiges have been the theories, which have become even less than vestiges! Another dogma crash.


A variation of this vestigial organ concept, is the more modern socalled junk DNA, purported to be “vestigial left-overs” from previous
evolutionary attempts at making DNA. At one time, junk DNA was declared dogmatically to be nearly 90% of the DNA, but the percent
has drastically and steadily dropped, as there are more and more realizations that they are there for great purposes, sometimes even as
the “orchestra conductors” of other DNAs, so technically they could be even more important, if you wish, than “the other” DNA. Someday, I like to predict, no junk DNA “vestige” will remain, as our understanding improves. As Ethel Waters, the ultrafamous singer once said, poignantly, “God don’t make no junk.” Another dogma crashing.

這種殘留器官概念的一個變奏,就是更現代的所謂垃圾DNA,據稱是從以前進化時嘗試製造 DNA 而剩下來的“殘留物”。起初有一段時間,他們教條式地宣布垃圾 DNA 佔總數的近 90%,但是這個百分比持續急劇下降,因為人們越來越意識到它們的存在有偉大的目的,有時甚至是擔任其他 DNA 的“交響樂團指揮”,所以你可以說,在技術上它們可能甚至比“其他”DNA 更加重要。我要預測,隨着我們的知識進步,終有一天將再也沒有垃圾 DNA“殘留物”的想法。正如超級著名的歌手埃塞爾 ‧ 沃特斯的辛酸感言:“上主不會製造垃圾。”又一個教條崩潰了。

In trying to explain the complexity of his subject, a noted paleontologist, in a surprisingly candid commentary, stated that the “field of fossil rock study” was developing so fast, that, “in this field, you can turn over a rock in Africa, and re-write history.” My cynical conclusion is that, if a scientific field can be changed so dramatically with just a new finding under a rock, it is likely immensely unstable and therefore by definition, unreliable. Meaning that today our dogmatic theories may reign in the field, but tomorrow it will be gone. Meaning that we cannot “believe” the theory today, since, who knows, it seems likely to be gone tomorrow. The changing theory is not reflecting how complicated a system it is, but likely how questionable our approach, or concepts, might be. In contrast, in fields of other sciences such as medical science, we investigate thousands of findings, subject them to open analysis, and incrementally add to the knowledge base, and there isn’t this instant discarding of past findings and concepts with each new finding, under a rock. You might begin to see why, frankly, I’m very cynical about all of this.


Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved story, translated into more than 100 languages, tells of the great Emperor who wants the most beautiful
clothes possible. The cunning tailors play on his vanity, and that of the adoring crowds who fear pointing out the obvious. During the great parade, it is only the innocent child with “nothing to lose” who points out the basic problem. He is the ultimate skeptic and even cynic, who suddenly exposes the transparent truth.

安徒生的一個深受愛戴的故事,被翻譯成超過 100 種語言,講述偉大的皇帝想要全世界最美麗的衣服。狡猾的裁縫玩弄着皇帝的虛榮心,又知道敬愛他的群眾不敢指出那顯而易見的事實。在那場大型巡遊中,只有天真的孩子“無所顧忌”,指出了問題所在。那孩子是終極的懷疑者,甚至是猜忌者,突然揭穿了那透明的真相。

One by one, dogmas crash and crash. Exposures begin, step by step. My advice to scientists, doctors, scholars and students, is to remain
skeptical and even cynical. The Spontaneous Macro-Evolution Emperor has fewer and fewer clothes, maybe even no clothes. Keep asking questions, like the innocent child in the story, and keep challenging the system. Frankly, you can, and should do that with faith issues also. It’s okay to challenge Christian history, principles and conduct, because that’s how we can all learn. Even challenge the Scriptures to find out the truth. And no one will threaten you for making the challenge. The history of Christianity is full of attacks by skeptics and cynics over several thousand years. But the amazing thing is that history tells us that these attacks by skeptics and cynics, have often resulted dramatically in changed lives in the challengers themselves. Their skepticism often is finally answered, and they often become, surprisingly, strong defenders of the faith they once challenged. Be a skeptic and cynic, I urge you, and challenge you.