Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Why biology education is important

Without a solid fact-based biology education, people might begin believing this junk "science" from the"Unhindered Living Institute", that "explains" what is wrong with the germ theory of disease.

According to this site there are microbes living in our bodies that develop into bacteria, then become a fungus, and then can mutate into a virus. "Germs" don't cause disease - it's the pH (acidity) of your body that determines whether a "virus" forms! Wow - all those doctors prescribing antibiotics and antivirals are wrong! The kind people at "Unhindered Living" will sell you what you need (coral calcium and colloidal silver, along with pH paper) to maintain your pH and stay healthy - what altruists!

What isn't clear to me is whether the people spouting this nonsense really believe in it, or whether they just see it as another way of separating suckers from their money.

Anyone who has taken a decent high school biology class should be able to see how silly this theory is. There is no way that a bacterium could change into a fungus or a virus. These are easily identifiable distinct types of organisms. The way in which microorganisms infect people (and other animals and plants) has been pretty well characterized. This is not a conspiracy by the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies.

My concern is that those groups who want to allow "supernatural explanations" into the science classroom (i.e., "intelligent design" advocats and creationists) will bolster these crackpot theories. While there is no scientific basis for changing a bacterium into a virus, once you allow "supernatural intervention" into the mix anything is possible.

Why is that bad? Two main reasons: the inability to distinguish real science from pseudoscience serves to separate the unknowledgable from their hard earned cash, and, more worrysome, may prevent people from getting the medical treatment that they need (this site claims that following their methods will keep you from getting cancer, AIDS and anthrax).

You can read more about the dubious claims made about coral calcium at Quackwatch and the Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Learn more about bacteria and viruses from Wikipedia.

(via pharyngula)

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