Letters to the editor

Darwin 101

Your article on evolution in medical education (Summer 2006) notes that medical schools resist adding evolution to the curriculum, which is crammed full as it is.

As a medical student, I have often considered the role of evolution/adaptation on pathophysiology, but it has been difficult to discuss with peers or faculty, who don’t acknowledge its relevance. I suggest this solution: Convince the editors of standard texts to weave that content into their next editions. If it’s in the essential texts, it will demand respect and consideration.

Jonathan Reitzenstein, medical student
John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii


Divine design

I read with great interest the summer 2006 issue. I hope you will share an alternative view with your readers:

I believe in creation by more than intelligent design. I believe in creation by divine intent, which includes the belief in only one God existing in a supernatural realm that existed before time and space existed. I also believe that one God had and still has a plan (divine intent) for an overall universe, and is responsible for most of what exists and happens, but leaves some of the details up to chance (including random processes like mutations) and delegates some of the choices to intelligent beings. Consequently, some of creation is in fact due to intelligent design by humans. For example, many breeds of animals and plants exist because of inbreeding, crossbreeding and now genetic engineering by intelligent humans. In that light, we can all agree that some of creation is by intelligent design while disagreeing on creation by divine intent.

Gil Drake Tolan, MD, Stanford ’69


Science isn’t religion

The Evolutionary War issue itself mixed religion with science, lamenting participation of “unholy alliances” of wealthy ultra-conservative Christians (all other citizens welcome?) and countering with a “national evolution sabbath.” Some obligate borrowers can’t abide religion not of their own making. 

So what competing orthodoxy have we here? The notion that science, beyond its productive observant disciplines, addresses all that is important to mankind tempts a strained mimicry of religion. This overreaching version generalizes beyond narrowly controlled outcomes, calling upon no less faith than sustains other beliefs. Unfortunately for this role, science has proven to be no refuge from shifting ideas, and ultimately it can serve up only cold, dark, scattered matter as our pointless destiny. As physicist Erwin Schroedinger candidly observed, the scientific picture of the world is “ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us.”

For all its appeal in ducking accountability to a sovereign designer, science as alternate religion can never offer us a personal companionship with that very same amazingly gracious person who has neither been silent in works or word.

Charles Faris, MD, Stanford ’70

(More readers’ comments about The Evolutionary War)


Milk please

Thanks for the article Two worlds, two futures (Spring 2006). Its goal to bring into focus “the hidden competition for U.S. health-care resources” is well-met. As a pediatrician, when I read an article, regardless of context, that contains references to childhood illness, obesity, infant mortality, minority and rural health discrepancies for children and dwindling health-care dollars without any mention of breast-feeding, I must speak up!

Infants who are not breast-fed have a 21 percent higher post-neonatal infant mortality rate in the United States (Department of Health and Human Services). Obesity, illness and increasing health-care costs can all be reduced by a free, naturally renewable resource: breast milk. Simple public-health initiatives such as an all-out effort to switch from formula to breast milk could reduce the competition for health-care resources.

Eric Jump, DO, Florida


Mind your manners

Re: Artless medicine: A physician’s view of a profession in crisis (Winter 2005)

As I observe the practice of medicine and its practitioners, I see that much more can be done for patients than in my heyday. However, the attitudes of the practitioners are appalling. Medical education needs to address this very great problem. Regretfully, if compassion, understanding and simple good manners were not learned at one’s mother’s knee, they probably will never be learned or at least never practiced. My generation must shoulder a large part of the blame for this. We were not watching the store.

Thomas G. Potterfield, MD (retired pediatrician)

Comments? Contact Stanford Medicine at

 Back To Contents