Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mark Cuban on Health Care

The Long Arm of Evolution

There is much disagreement over evolution but one thing we can all agree on is that evolution is a highly influential theory. Like it or not, few scientific theories are as influential as evolution. Darwin’s theory injected its deeply flawed science into biology, but it did not stop there. One area where evolution’s damaging influence is important today is human health. There is much to say about how evolution has influenced our thinking about health and our health care system. I will focus on two basic myths evolution has propagated which have done enormous damage: the random causation myth and the king gene myth.

You don’t need to be a scientist to know that random change is fundamental to evolution. From Darwin to today’s evolutionists, the key point in arguments for evolution is that this world was not designed. This age-old, Epicurean, idea mandates that the world arose from unguided, random, forces.

Scientific theories require mechanisms, and evolution’s main mechanism is random change. You have heard of natural selection but it, as even Alfred Wallace agreed, is not a mechanism as such. It doesn’t cause or coax helpful biological change to occur. It merely kills off the weaker designs. Evolution is a theory of randomness.

Evolutionists did not understand just how such random change could be caused until genetics was better understood in the twentieth century. Evolutionists needed to explain how biological change could occur randomly, yet be inherited once it occurred. Modern genetics provided the answer: the gene. Random mutations could alter genes and later be passed on to future generations.

This Version 2.0 of Darwin’s theory vaulted the gene to hero status as genes were viewed as the veritable blueprint of the body. The old proverb, “you are what you eat,” became “you are what your genes say you are.”

Not surprisingly there were high expectations for the Human Genome Project, which would transcribe the human genome. Its initial results, produced in the year 2000, were highly proclaimed with much fanfare, with scientists and politicians (including Bill Clinton and Tony Blair) proclaiming great things to come. That early optimism, however, eventually faded as years later scientists would admit the problem was far more complex. Genes are important, but not that important. The idea that your genes determine your body has not held up well.

Evolution's dual myths of random causation and the king gene have not been good for biology, and they also have done damage elsewhere. In the area of human health, our cultural uptake of evolutionary ideas contributed to the dangerously flawed notion that health is a random affair. True, genetic mutations are capable of producing all kinds of diseases, but the vast majority of health issues stem from, or can be alleviated by, lifestyle and workplace decisions. In a great many cases, you are not what your genes say you are, but what you eat and how you live. Diet, stress, exercise, and exposure to toxins play an enormous role in determining your health history.

That shouldn’t be a surprise.

But too often it is completely missed or under emphasized, and an unfortunate example of this flawed evolutionary influence is our health care system and health insurance. Our skyrocketing costs could be reduced by half or even an order of magnitude with proper education and personal decisions. But instead, our health is too often viewed as essentially the luck of the draw. For instance, billionaire Mark Cuban recently expressed this sentiment in advocating for healthcare as a legal right:

All involved [in the national health care debate] are ignoring the basic question. And I think Sen. [Bernie] Sanders brought this up, is healthcare a right or an opportunity in the United States? I believe that, given we all face the exact same genetic and wrong place, wrong time risks, coverage of most chronic and life-threatening illnesses or injuries should be a right.

In other words, everyone faces about the same healthcare risks. Our health is a crapshoot.

This is an astonishing demonstration of scientific ignorance. There is no doubt Cuban is very good at making money. But Cuban fails to grasp the most basic aspects of human health. He can hardly be blamed, however, given how dominant this evolutionary myth has become. Evolution’s influence is enormous, and that is bad news for more than just biology.


  1. Stress can cause heart failure and death and this is illustrated by the condition "takotsubo cardiomyopathy " aka "cray pot heart" aka "broken heart syndrome". It is a real condition with biochemical and structural changes which can be empirically validated. So many other conditions can be related to our emotional and spiritual circumstances e.g. existential crisis leading to suicide, and psychiatry treats it as a disorder of brain chemicals! Much more money to be made in altering brain chemicals than alleviating loneliness helping people feel worthwhile I think. All because most doctors, I'm afraid, treat people as machines because they are taught that way.

  2. "Cuban is very good at making money" or so he would like to claim. Making vast sums of money is definitely a product of random chance. No one knows how a business decision will actually turn out. It can depend on millions of people's decisions. This is one case were random forces actually do have an impact. Although we all know that 'random forces' is not a reality, but a concept in the theory of statistics. In this model it is applied when actual causation is not know.

  3. "Our skyrocketing costs could be reduced by half or even an order of magnitude with proper education and personal decisions."

    I would agree that education (and preventative care) could have a major role in reducing health care costs. But what is the data or source that supports your claim that it can be at least halved?

    1. CaroleTim:

      But what is the data or source that supports your claim that it can be at least halved?

      This isn’t controversial if you’re not an evolutionist. A problem is that the dominance of evolutionary thought has caused erroneous thinking about health and health care, and so too often we’re not even characterizing the problem accurately. The majority of health care in our country, like more than 85%, is not for accidental injury and so forth, but for the management of chronic problems which by historical standards are out of control, and to a large extent can be both prevented and treated with lifestyle improvements. Chronic problems account for the vast majority (something like 90%) of hospital admissions, prescription drug costs, etc.

      This isn’t a big mystery. Junk food is ubiquitous. Fast food chains are common and grocery stores have entire aisles dedicated to junk—several aisles usually. Couple that with a lack of daily exercise, exposure to toxins in the home and workplace, and a stressful lifestyle, and the result is a significant rise in chronic health problems.

      Of course there are the stories of the guy who eats nothing but donuts and lives to 100, and the health nut who dies of cancer at 40. But overall, there is “a direct link between all of these health care costs and individual health risk. … By addressing these modifiable lifestyle risk factors, serious costly diseases such as cancer and diabetes can be prevented” []

      Relatively mild lifestyle improvements have been shown to reduce health-related costs by 25%. []

      Here is a CNN opinion piece from a few years ago:

      “one study of 23,000 people shows that walking for just 30 minutes every day, not smoking, eating a reasonably healthy diet, and keeping a healthy weight prevented 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes and 36% of all cancers. Bigger changes in diet and lifestyle can do even more. …

      For example, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield found that overall health care costs were reduced by 50% in the first year when people with heart disease or risk factors went through our lifestyle program in 24 hospitals and clinics in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Nebraska. …

      People often tell me, ‘Oh, it’s all in my genes, there’s not much I can do about it.’ Knowing that changing lifestyle changes our genes is often very motivating -- not to blame but instead empower ourselves.”

      It is simply absurd, evolutionary thinking to view health risks as driven by genetics and therefore a random affair, and that lifestyle is not really an important factor.

    2. Thanks for the data. I doubt very much that an "evolutionist" would disagree with any of these concepts. And surely wouldn't an evolutionist (who is more likely to be an atheist) be even more inclined to take charge of their own health? (particularly if they don't rely on divine intervention to help).

      But I think Cuban's point was as much about accessibility to healthcare. Yes, more education and self-reliance is needed. But if you are poor, without health insurance, and you don't have money to buy quality food - or time to exercise because you are holding down three jobs - then where is that education going to come from?

    3. No, that was *not* Cuban's point. And that's the point. You make valid points, but those are not Cuban's point. You need to go back and read what he said. He is utterly clueless.

    4. Sloth, Gluttony, Lust and Wrath, I think would account for 90% of bodily medical conditions. That is common sense.

  4. Let's list what evolution has done for mankind:

    We now understand that all life shares some common attributes. So the study of animals, bacteria, and even plants provides some insights into human health and well-being. This is opposed to the view than man is a special creation different than other beings.

    We now apply the scientific method to medicine and public health. This is opposed to prayer, vigils, and magic.

    We understand that the gene is the primary unit of heredity and that many diseases and ailments have a genetic component. Understanding these influences helps to provide useful treatments and, if known, can help individuals tailor their lifestyle to mediate the effects of these genes.

    We have an increased knowledge of how outside influences converge to alter genetic expression. Again useful for medicines and individual behaviors.

    Understanding what does and what does not have a primarily genetic component helps us to focus on behaviors. Per Mad Doc sloth, gluttony, lust, and wrath account for a host of medical ailments. Yet even as we know this people - Americans anyway - remain generally fat, lazy, and unconcerned about health, believing that medicines will cure all ills.

    An understanding of evolution has helped to develop a multitude of antibiotics putatively saving the lives of billions over the last century.

    An understanding of genetics gives insight into why individuals vary in details (e.g lactose tolerance) and allows for individualize treatment.

    Evolution and genetics have provided tremendous insight into immunology.

    We are continuing to grow in understanding of co-evolution and so-called host and parasite. CF the human microbiome as an example.

    It is an absolutely silly statement say that evolution has had a 'damaging influence' on human health.