Science is Never Settled


Scientists and doctors are always learning.

When I began my medical school education 44 years ago, the Dean of the Medical School told us, “Half of what we’ll teach you in the next four years is wrong. But we don’t know which half.”She made this statement to emphasize the importance of viewing medicine as a life-long education – not just four years.

Many political activists insist that “the science is settled” whenever anyone pushes back against their so-called scientific conclusions. They dare you to challenge their interpretation of science whenever it threatens their political agenda. But real scientists and doctors know we are always learning and making new discoveries about the scientific world.

This truth was brought home recently in a powerful way for one family. Jaime Herrera Beutler is the Congressional representative of Washington’s Third Congressional District. She told her story in a recent Op-ed to the Wall Street Journal.

Beutler and her husband faced every expectant mother’s nightmare. When they went to her obstetrician for her 20-week ultrasound, the doctor told her their unborn baby had no chance for survival. The baby had no kidneys. Bilateral renal agenesis, or Potter’s Syndrome, usually results in miscarriage or suffocation at birth because the lungs don’t develop.

Their doctors said there was no solution to this situation and most women in this situation would terminate the pregnancy by abortion. But Beutler and her husband refused to get an abortion.

They prayed and looked for other medical opinions. They tried something that had never been done before: saline infusions in utero to mimic amniotic fluid, which stimulates lung development. Their baby successfully developed lungs even without kidneys and today their daughter, Abigail, is a happy, healthy girl who tells her mother she wants to eventually be Speaker of the House of Representatives!

Their doctors were wrong – because the current level of knowledge of this condition was incomplete. New methods of treatment led to new discoveries and new knowledge – further proof that science is never settled.

Last year I wrote about this in Settled Science Fiasco Remembered, a 50-year look back at the false scientific claims of Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich wrongly predicted a global cataclysm in his book, The Population Bomb,because he believed the earth could not sustain the growing population. Ehrlich erroneously concluded the “carrying capacity” of the Earth was “settled science.”

The happy ending to Rep. Beutler’s pregnancy nightmare is critical to remember when politicians want to push abortion even into the third trimester – or, gasp!, even after birth – as recently debated in the Virginia legislature. Every life is precious in God’s sight and should be in ours as well.

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