Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Argument from Egnor Rants

Cunning plan revealed
Our inside source at the Institute of Discovery today spilled the beans on what he described as "Intelligent Design's secret weapon", namely the devastating arguments advanced by Stony Brook University's Dr Michael Egnor.

Dr Egnor, a neurosurgeon based at the University's department of pediatrics, has for a number of years captivated the field of evolutionary biology with his original and thought provoking arguments against the modern theory of evolution.
Who can forget such classics as the unforgettable 'gene duplication doesn't add information to the genome because its the equivalent of plagiarism'?
Or perhaps his clever rhetorical dismantling of the classic evolutionist argument that overuse of antibiotics will lead to the evolution of resistant clones that will predominate in the population with the result that current antibiotic treatments are rendered ineffective.
"The idea that Darwinists can take credit for the simple observation that bacteria that aren't sensitive to antibiotics is astonishing. It's a ridiculous notion. Darwinism is nothing in our understanding of that."
Egnor stood apart from almost every other creationist in his willful refusal to countenance any possible application of evolutionary theory in modern science.
Well, perhaps one application....
"In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the only contribution evolution has made to modern medicine is to take it down the horrific road of eugenics, which brought forced sterilization and bodily harm to many thousands of Americans in the early 1900s."
In a recent classic Egnorian post in his Open Letter for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology his appreciation for the modern scientific establishment was made plain.
"Evolution is worthless to experimental biology and worthless to medical research. The most "evolution-denying" country in the Western world — the United States — is the world’s undisputed scientific leader."

Dr Egnor's absolute refusal to accept the mountains of evidence heaped in front of him by biologists, and his ever more outlandish arguments in favor of Intelligent Design led has many to the conclusion that his primary function for the Discovery Institute is to make the likes of Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells appear reasonable in comparison.

Our source, however, claims this idea is mistaken.

"No, he isn't joking, he actually believes that stuff!"
"The Darwinists think he's mad or put his foot in it when he flies off the handle and claims that he's disproved evolution by pointing out that people with brain cancer don't evolve better brains, but they fail to realize that making these sorts of ridiculously outlandish claims is the whole point!"

"Don't you see?"

"Look, Egnor doesn't believe in evolution, OK?
In fact he doesn't seem to accept even the basic microevolutionary points that Ken Ham or Kent Hovind wouldn't dispute, like bacterial development of antibiotic resistance.
He even makes it clear to all that even the simplest aspects of evolutionary theory are as comprehensible to him as calculus to a chicken.
And yet, what is he?"

"He's a God-damned BRAIN SURGEON!"

"Not only that, he's an award winning physician that has clearly done well in his chosen career - as a BRAIN SURGEON!
Have I mentioned yet that he's a BRAIN SURGEON?
The public look at this situation and see someone who makes biological claims about evolution that are too silly for even Kent Hovind to pass off and at the same time they notice that the claimant is in fact a BRAIN SURGEON!
What are they to conclude?
Who do you seriously think the public will listen to?
A group of nerdy scientists who spend their whole time counting fruit flies?"


"Look, Egnor is living proof that knowledge of evolutionary biology is not required for success as a physician - and not just any sort of physician, but a BRAIN SURGEON!"


Bobmo said...

Your article makes a convincing argument against Theodosius Dobzhansky's assertion that "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." (American Biology Teacher, March, 1973)

According to the National Academy of Science, evolution is “the most important concept in modern biology, a concept essential to understanding key aspects of living things.” (Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, 1998, p. viii), but it appears that you've debunked that assertion as well.

I agree with your conclusion that a belief in evolutionary theory is not essential to the successful performance of science after all.

Mona Albano said...

Ah, the PR wars. Maybe we could find a dozen equal and opposite brain surgeons?

Bobmo, you can do surgery as a technician. It doesn't matter that the vagus nerve has a long, indirect course for evolutionary reasons, as long as you know where it is and don't damage it.

But there are plenty of medical fields, epidemiology for one, where an understanding at least of mutation and adaptation are necessary.

There's no need to debunk Egnor in detail, because he's so far from right he's irrelevant, like someone arguing that it's obvious Earth is at the center of the solar system.

shonny said...


If you hadn't spent so much time under that stump you might have known about two elements in human communication: sarcasm and irony.

Not to late, so get yourself a good dictonary and look up the two terms, and come back when you have acquired a basic understanding of what they are, and how they are employed.

Bobmo said...

Mona Albano,

I agree that an understanding of mutation and adaptation are important to the field of epidemiology. However, the more you study them the more you realize that neither can account for the diversity of life we see today.

Mutations are almost always harmful and do not produce new, complex specified information.

Adaptation results from natural selection and is a culling process. It does not produce new information either.


You apparently missed both the sarcasm and irony in my post you so eagerly criticized. Now, that's ironic!

shonny said...

Always the possibility of it being a Poe, Bobmo, but sometimes it is hard to read between the lines.