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H1N1 Flu, Evolution, and the Anti-Science Texas Wingnuts

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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:05 PM
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H1N1 Flu, Evolution, and the Anti-Science Texas Wingnuts

During the election season last year, Mrs. Dr. Peterr -- a patient saint of a woman -- often quietly laughed to herself as we watched the news. I'd hear some right wing politician tick off the latest blatantly false talking points, and when the reporter would nod sagely and allow them to pass without challenging them, I'd sometimes go nuts. "That's garbage! How can you let that go by? Don't you know . . ." I'd rant at the folks on television, and she'd chuckle at me.

Now I'm getting my revenge.

With her PhD in microbiology, she's the one ranting at the coverage of H1N1 flu, and I'm the one chuckling. My favorite was her "Have you ever even looked at a science textbook?!?!" aimed at one of the pretty faces reading the news.

It's hard reporting on this story if you don't grasp science. But as the Texas Freedom Network noted yesterday, the flu story is even more difficult to deal with for the anti-science wingnuts in their fair state.

Down in Texas, the State Board of Education adopted new science curriculum standards last March, continuing their attack on the teaching of evolution. That's kind of a problem if you realize that the current H1N1 outbreak is a wonderful example of evolution and natural selection in action. From Wendy Orent, author of "Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease," in the LA Times:

Influenzas that have their origins in huge, crowded animal farms are often more virulent than other flu strains. Germs that kill their hosts quickly tend not to thrive; their hosts die before there is time to pass the virus on. But on crowded farms, the next snout is an inch away, and even virulent strains can gain a foothold. It is the same type of conditions that produced deadly avian influenza in giant poultry farms in Asia over the last 10 years.



Natural selection theory also tells us that whatever we will face, it won't be another 1918. As Ewald has argued for years, only packed conditions allowing deathly sick hosts to pass disease repeatedly to the well can produce highly virulent strains of flu -- for animals or for people. The usual sort of human crowding will not do it. Even massive, densely populated Mexico City, with more than 20 million inhabitants, won't produce the kind of lethal strains that the Western Front did in World War I. People died in Mexico because they were close to the epicenter of the disease, to the probable emergence of lethal strains from crowded pig breeding. But natural selection's corrective action is swift and predictable: The strains spreading across the world are milder.

Somehow, I don't think that Don McLeroy, acting chair of the Texas Board of Education, will be pleased to learn that evolution and natural selection are playing out as the lead story everywhere you look. Still, it might get the news that the Texas legislature is balking at confirming him off the front page, and possibly give the writers of the letters to the editor something else to talk about.

http://firedoglake.com/2009/05/02/h1n1-flu-evolution-an...
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:15 PM
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1. But... but.... the panic-mongers keep saying "1918! 1918! 1918!" over and over and over!
Clearly this Dr. Peterr person is an anti-science crackpot with her head in the sand.
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theoldman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:28 PM
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2. Crowed conditions spread disease in humans and animals.
Evolution works best under these conditions. First it kills the weak, then the stronger.
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:37 PM
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3. (shrug) Just like it always has throughout the history of human civilization...
and yet we're still here.
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Tutankhamun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:57 PM
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4. I love how the RW has to scramble around, bending, skewing, twisting, contorting
ever more desperately in a bid to deny science.
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Towlie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 04:38 PM
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5. It reminds me of that classic "Intelligently Designed" Doonesbury comic.
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