SOUNDOFF: Why no pink pills for SARS?

The SARS virus seems to have thrown a monkey wrench into myriad of mythologies and a variety of staunchly held beliefs.

What is amazing to this humble observer is that there is a deafening silence from the purveyors of nostrums that have been hawked for years as alternatives to evidence based and empirically arrived at mainstream treatment protocols.

These pink pill panaceas gushed forth from three wellsprings:

The first is the prodigious outpouring from the so-called alternative options for therapeutic selections such as chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, therapeutic massage, color and odor therapy, and a host of others that depend solely on anecdote and placebo effects.

The second group is arrived at, principally, from the occult notion that, somehow, the Chinese, past and present, have discovered the secrets of curative powers that seem to have eluded the rest of the world. These panaceas include acupuncture, and the humongous domain and claim for the palliative effects of herbs that the Chinese and their adherents have raised to Olympian levels.

We have heard from this quarter for years that the validation for their claims of superiority over Western practices is because the Chinese have been using it for thousand of years. Therefore, it must be better.

The third wellspring from which we have not heard is an unexpected and, perhaps, a surprising one. At first one might be puzzled why they would be included in this grouping. I am referring to those who believe in the inerrant word of the Bible. It includes those who identify themselves as creationists or adherents of the Intelligent Design quarters. They eschew evolution and believe in a young earth. In a moment I shall clarify and enlarge on why I would include this group.

So what happens when a mutant virus strikes suddenly and unexpectedly in the hinterlands of China where there is a primitive and undeveloped medical technology? The local medical practitioners, after using all the mumbo-jumbo in their paraphernalia, see that the problem is not only not being solved but also getting worse, and is forced to seek outside help. What happens when the news gets to the cities? Patients are taken to the hospitals in the metropolitan areas. In addition, guess what? They are exposed to and treated via Western evidenced based and empirically arrived at regimens. To add insult to injury, they are forced to ask for help from the international community. Scientists and medical personnel from the World Health Organization are brought in to offer help and advice. When the push came to shove, Western medicine galloped in like John Wayne coming to the rescue.

The news at last count was that the disease was being stabilized in the cities but was continuing to run rampant in the countryside. This is to be expected since the so-called Eastern regimen, which the alternative followers have seemed so avidly to exalt, contains principally the mumbo-jumbo that has never been shown to be scientifically efficacious.

Perhaps, finally, now they are faced with the utter bankruptcy of their claims and are, perforce, silent.

Now, how do the evolution deniers come into the picture. The Saturday, May 3 Seattle Post Intelligencer, headlined a part of what’s happening: “Rapidly mutating SARS frustrates health officials.” The SARS virus is mutating rapidly, developing at least two forms, which could complicate efforts to develop a solid diagnosis and a vaccine.

“The rapid evolution is like that of a murderer who is trying to change his fingerprints or even his appearance to try to escape detection. Researchers have determined the genetic sequences of virus samples taken. We have shown that the SARS coronavirus is undergoing rapid evolution in our population . . .”

No word from the Discovery Institute or the Institute of Creation Research on how this squares with their often expressed denial of the facts of evolution. Perhaps they will try to make the point that only viruses, and perhaps, microbes evolve either through mutations or natural selection, but that all other living things, plants, and animals don’t; that they have been unchanged since the world began. This, according to their claims, is only 6,000 years old.

In any case, from both camps, a deafening silence. I wait with baited breath and resigned expectation, their return to the scene to present their usually convoluted rationale and to see how it will bridge the gap with these current facts.

Basil Debnekoff lives in Coupeville.

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