Burt Humburg posted Entry 2971 on March 9, 2007 08:44 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2961

Those who haven’t had the experience of reading Dr. Egnor’s contributions to the creation/evolution conflict will not know that he is a neurosurgeon at Stony Brook who has trumpeted his support for intelligent design and against evolution. Dr. Egnor has recently written an essay at the Ministry of Media Complaints of the Discovery Institute. Ever on-message, Dr. Egnor seems to think that doctors don’t need to know evolution because he objects to the Alliance for Science’s essay challenge. (Alliance for Science asked high schoolers to write an essay entitled and organized around the thesis, “Why would I want my doctor to have studied evolution.”)

Dr. Egnor has been the subject of multiple fiskings recently and this is a curiosity itself. I’m personally acquainted with at least four attending-level physicians who were creationists at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Up at Minnesota, a chief resident in the department of surgery was a creationist. And now at Penn State, there’s at least one creationist. The Discovery Institute, fresh off their defeat from Dover, put a lot of effort into developing a five-page list of physicians who think evolution isn’t such a big deal - so why is Egnor getting all the infamy for his incredulity? I don’t have a good answer for that: maybe he’s just the DI “Flavor of the Month” or the only physician willing to write essays. What I can answer are Dr. Egnor’s claims that evolution is not needed in medical school.

And I’ll do it on the flipside.

Egnor’s Argument in Summary
For those who can’t stomach Egnor’s essay, permit me to summarize:

Isn’t it “a funny question” whether we would want physicians to know evolution? There are basic sciences that are taught in medical school that must be “important to medicine” like anatomy and physiology. Doctors don’t “study evolution in medical school”, “there are no courses in medical school on evolution,” “there are no professors of evolution” in medical schools,” and “there are no departments of evolutionary biology in medical schools,” and “no evolutionary biologists” would provide useful information to a medical team in hospital. Therefore, evolution just isn’t important to the practice of medicine. I call upon my “20 years [of performing] over 4000 brain operations” to attest that I have never once used evolutionary biology in my work. How could I since evolution is random and doctors look for patterns, patterns that lie far afield from the randomness that is evolution? “I do use many” understandings provided by basic science in my work, such as population biology, “[but] evolutionary biology itself, as distinct from these scientific fields, contributes nothing to modern medicine.” “No Nobel prize in medicine has ever been awarded for work in evolutionary biology.” So I wouldn’t want my doctor to have studied evolution; that answer wouldn’t win the “Alliance for Science” prize, but it would be the truth.

Man, there’s a lot of work fisking all that. I’ll leave the simple stuff (selection ain’t random and that’s why it’s called selection, dude) for others. Let me concentrate on the medical stuff, which I’ll deal with in separate sections.

Section 1: Evolution is a Vital Basic Science for Medicine
I’ll start off my fisking by criticizing an aspect of medical practice and, to make sense of it, those who aren’t physicians need to know that there’s a great divide in the practice of medicine between the physicians who practice to simply the “standard of care,” (the kind of practice you’re expected to know for quizzes, tests, and boards and the level of care you need to meet to not get sued) and the physicians who know the basic science behind why the standards of care are what they are.

For example, when someone is having a heart attack (and daily after they have one), they need to be on aspirin because of the pathophysiology of heart attacks. (I review much of it that pathophysiology here.) Briefly, the aspirin irreversibly inhibits the platelet enzyme involved with forming clots. But you don’t have to know about the irreversible acetylation of cyclooxygenase that occurs in the presence of acetylsalycylic acid in platelets; all you have to do is give people aspirins after heart attacks. The “divide” I refer to is between the physicians who know the biochemistry behind that reaction and the doctors who are content to know only that they should give aspirins after heart attacks. Make no mistake: one can be a great doctor and simply practice to the standard of care knowing not a whit of the basic science that provides that standard’s underpinnings. But if you can know the reasons why the standard of care is the way it is, why on Earth would you limit yourself by choosing to not know it?

The example I’ve given here is limited to a single therapeutic regimen in cardiology, but ideally there’s basic science that undergirds everything we do in medicine. There’s a reason why it’s no big deal if you’re not wearing lead in the radiology suite (thanks to the inverse-square law, as long as you’re three or four feet away from the radiation source, the dose you get is negligible). There’s a reason why diazepam - a drug we use to treat seizures - can cause seizures (much of the brain’s neurons are inhibitory and their suppression leads to increased seizure activity). There’s a reason why two different rheumatological diseases can require separate therapies (diseases involving deposition of immune complexes wouldn’t likely be amenable to an exchange of antibiodies as much as they would be to suppression of the immune system overall). Again, there are doctors who know or want to know the reasons behind the practice and there are doctors who don’t know and/or don’t want to know those reasons.

Doctor Egnor seems to like being in that latter category. More than that, he seems to recommend not knowing the basic science that undergirds the practice of medicine, to the extent that he perceives evolution might have had a hand in developing the state of the art. I see his perspectives as nothing more than ignorance advocacy for the basic sciences, writ large and not limited whatsoever to evolution.

Sure, he writes

I do use many kinds of science related to changes in organisms over time. Genetics is very important, as are population biology and microbiology. But evolutionary biology itself, as distinct from these scientific fields, contributes nothing to modern medicine.

as if to suggest that he has some interest in basic science, but I don’t buy it for a second. First, how is it possible to separate evolutionary biology from genetics and population biology? Post-Darwin, pre-Mendelian evolution, Egnor might have made a weak case that they might be separable fields. However, the entire modern synthesis of evolutionary biology dealt in its essence with merging genetics and selection. Today, they are so fused as to render Egnor’s phrase meaningless: the entity of population biology without evolution does not exist any more than water without wet exists.

Second (and this may be a bit snarky), Egnor quibbles at evolution being immaterial to the practice of medicine, but he says that he uses population biology. Man, don’t I know it. I just can’t get the vitals on patients referring to Hardy-Weinberg and Kimura at least once or twice per patient. Egnor knows as well as I do that if he isn’t going to find evolution in his daily rounds, he’s not going to find population biology, which leads me to suspect that his endorsement of it was a facile claim intended to stave off accusations that he’s an advocate of ignorance.

Well, I think he is an advocate of ignorance, despite the rhetoric he wrote about population biology and genetics.

Let’s move on to Egnor’s claims about evolution in medical school. First, he mentions anatomy and physiology - courses offered in the first two, or “pre-clinical,” years of medical school - and cites them as being important. But “Doctors never study [evolution] in medical school” so it’s therefore not important. I should also point out that calculus is also not studied in medical school. Neither was statistics. Neither was inorganic or organic chemistry, physics - hang on a second while I fish out my college transcript - composition and grammar, or biophysical chemistry. Med schools aren’t going to teach medical students how to write essays or how to add two and two. They also aren’t going to teach elementary chemistry or evolution. They’re going to assume that entering medical students have the barebones literacy to know certain things before they even get an offer to interview, let alone get enrolled.

Hmmm. Egnor might have a point though because that’s a pretty big assumption. I wonder if there were a way to tell whether a future physician would likely have the requisite understandings to succeed in medical school. If only there were a test, some sort of standardized test that admission committees could use evaluate how well medical school applicants had prepared for their medical careers! Can anyone think of such a test?

Of course I’m being facetious. Go here and do an in-PDF search for evolution. Dr. Egnor well knows that the MCAT is required to get into medical school and, according to the people who make the test, the MCAT in part tests one’s comprehension of evolution. And, unsurpringly, pre-medical committees across the nation have strongly recommended to kids that they know evolution. (There’s just something about a low med-school acceptance rates from pervasive failures to prepare students for the MCAT that makes a college or university unpalatable to parents.)

I tried to find something specific from the AAMC about evolution advocacy. Look what I found. (PZ may not have made much of Collins’ book, but the AAMC is an organization of medical schools to whom premed advisors and medical school hopefuls look for advice regarding career preparation for their students, and this interview of Collins appears on their website. I consider this a significant statement and wish they would be even more explicit about the “Look, guys, you need to know evolution” hint that they just haven’t brought themselves to say forthrightly.)

And I want to be the first to ruin the day of creationists when I say that you don’t stop having to know evolution once you get in. For those who don’t know, Step 1 (more formally known as the United States Medical Licensing Exam Step 1) is an exam you have to take after the second year of medical school in order to progress. And I can attest that, during my exam, a question that tested my ability to apply the central theory of population genetics - the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium - was asked, as was my knowledge of whence cometh the mitochondrion into eukaryotes.

That’s just getting into medical school. What about making sense of things once you are there? In the cardiovascular physiology block, we learned about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Whereas previous generations had to perform labs on dogs not intended to survive, we were spared this (so were the dogs) and instead watched a videodisk (it really was - this was before DVD-RW, I guess) of a dog being given various agents and seeing what affect it had on the blood pressure, heart rate, etc. I can’t imagine the befuddlement Dr. Egnor must have had, had he my experience in my medical school labs, when he perfectly understood what happened to the dog, but couldn’t allow himself to generalize the dog’s experience to the human.

Or consider my anatomy lab. So we’re learning the muscles of the back and having a dickens of a time trying to memorize their innervation. No problem, says my anatomy professor, and walks to the chalkboard. He draws a circle and puts in two perpendicular intersecting lines like crosshairs. Picking up the red chalk, he drew the musculature of the shark and with the yellow chalk he drew the nerves that innervate those muscles. Pretty primitive anatomy, really. Then he explained how, through phylogeny, the shark shape gets filleted down the middle, with the two inferior bits being the most lateral and the posterior being the medial, and there you’ve got the mammalian innervation. And the anatomy of it made perfect sense. There was no longer any memorization (past the damned names, that is); there was a theory that explained it all. And I can see Egnor refusing to admit the ease an evolutionary perspective of anatomy affords students, maybe to the point he would have refused the easy way of learning that material. His anatomy lessons must have been harsh, memorizing every muscle, compartment, bone and nerve, never once allowing himself to grasp the overall organizing patterns because he just knew that evolution was wrong.

Egnor reprised that theme often in his essay so let me make something clear here. Anytime you see comparative medicine, or comparative biochemistry, or comparative pharmacology, or anything comparative, that is evolutionary theory. We test drugs in rats and it’s not because we think rat pharmaceuticals are a lucrative industry. (Since 1938, non-toxicity must be demonstrated in animal models before a drug can come to market.) We don’t practice our surgical techniques on animals because we hate pigs. (Residents at SUNY Upstate have access to an animal surgery lab, in which they can hone their techniques on animals before they operate on humans.) Whenever you see stuff practiced or tested or homogenized or whatever on animals with the intention of applying those conclusions to humans or other species, that is evolution being used in practice. Without evolution, animal testing is just making drugs for rats and patting yourself on the back at the sheer (reproducible) dumb luck that the drug you’ve designed for the rat would likely do a decent job in humans as well. (Just a bit of intellectual integrity is needed to make the leap.)

Egnor thinks can say that evolution is unimportant to medicine when he points out that no course entitled “evolution” is generally to be found in medical school curricula. As I’ve shown, he’s dead wrong, and no medical school hopeful would be well served by avoiding an understanding of evolution. Word of advice to premed students: take the hint (which really ought not be a hint, ahem) from the AAMC and learn it if you want to do well.

What about making sense of things after you finish medical school? Has Dr. Egnor never obtained ATLS certification? I certainly don’t want to be the unfortunate patient needing a chest tube on whom Dr. Egnor discovers to my cost that a large amount of pressure but not too much is needed to introduce a trochar through the parietal pleura of the lung. I’d just as soon it be an anesthetized pig, like the one I learned on back in Wichita, KS.

In summary, evolution is indeed important to get into medical school, it is important to succeed during it, and it is important after you leave. Egnor’s perspectives are completely wrong.

Section 2: Professors of Evolution Do Teach in Medical Schools

There are no courses in medical school on evolution. There are no ‘professors of evolution’ in medical schools. There are no departments of evolutionary biology in medical schools.

This one is a simple claim to fisk. Andrea Bottaro, contributor to the Thumb is an associate professor of medicine at a medical school who has published explicitly evolutionary articles. Thanks for playing, Dr. Egnor.

But let’s run with this a bit because it’s so easy. Hans Thewissen, the dude who discovered Ambulocetus natans, is employed in the anatomy department of the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy. He appears to have a dual appointment, both to anatomy and also as the football program’s head coach. (Note to self: I am so getting one of these t-shirts.)

But he isn’t the only one. Nationwide (probably worldwide), there’s a push in medical schools to include specialists from non-medical disciplines in the basic sciences. It’s for this reason that Thewissen, a palentologist, teaches anatomy at a medical school.

Egnor teaches at SUNY Medical Center, right? Well, just check out their medical school’s website and look at their department faculty. Anatomy looks promising. Okay, we see that Sussman is interested in the “comparative morphology” of humans and apes, Stern is interested in “The evolution of postcranial adaptations in primates,” Rubin works on bones in animals and humans, … Those were just the last three - you guys look up the rest.

Want to be a graduate student at SUNY and get your doctorate in anatomy?

The program is concerned with the analysis and interpretation of gross vertebrate structure in relation to adaptation and systematics. Training and research focus on (a) an evolutionary perspective in the analysis of morphology, including the influences of function, structure, and phylogenetic history, and (b) the structural adaptations of bone as load-bearing tissue, including the physiologic mechanisms of osteogenesis and osteolysis.

And that’s just the anatomy department. And that’s just at SUNY.

The University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution is part of an interdisciplinary medical program, the “Biological Sciences Division.” The dean of medical affairs is the dean of the division. Best still, they call their interdepartmental evolution program “Darwinian Sciences.”

For more examples, read Cammarata’s “The Anatomy Professor that Ate New York: Some Dinosaurs are Teachers,
and Some Teach About Dinosaurs.”
Read Baker’s “Darwin in Medical School.” And go here to see Nesse’s list of medical scientists/professionals involved or interested in evolution.

No professors of evolution in medical schools? By any non-trivial parsing of that phrase, Egnor is dead wrong. Professors with evolution training and active research involving evolution are commonplace in medical schools and you’ll probably see more of that, not less, as time goes on because these people make the material so freaking easy.

Section 3: Nobel Prizes in Medicine Have Been Awarded for Work in Evolutionary Biology

No Nobel prize in medicine has ever been awarded for work in evolutionary biology.

Creationists evolve, rolling out new arguments and angles like automobile prototypes at a trade convention. The argument that no one has ever won a Nobel prize for work in evolution was apparently first trotted out by Steve Fuller at none other than the Kitzmiller trial:

And in a sense, one way you can see this is that, if you look at the Nobel prizes that have been awarded for physiology in medicine, which is the field, the biological field, essentially, you don’t find anyone ever getting the prize specifically for evolution.

Ideally, I could simply turn to the cross examination portion of the transcript, but Steve Fuller was scoring so many own-goals with his testimony that our lawyers let him off the hook without much of a fight. Yay for the Kizmiller trial, but now I have to do the work.

Briefly:

  1. Insulin was first isolated in dogs and the research was subsequently applied to humans; Macleod and Banting won the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1923.
  2. Neurophysiology was elucidated by studying squid, whose giant axons were large enough to pierce with the instruments of that day and the research was subsequently applied to humans; Hodgkin and Huxley won the Nobel Prize for it in 1963.
  3. Using an animal model of sea slugs, Eric Kandel deomnstrated how changes of synaptic function are central for learning and memory; in 2000, he won the Nobel prize for his work.
  4. The mechanism for olfaction and the genes giving rise to it were found; Axel and Buck won the 2004 Nobel Prize for their discovery and their seminal paper described the evolution of the genes over lower vertebrates and invertebrates. (See this article for a great writeup on it.)

I’m certain there are others (and living Nobel laureates should please not feel slighted by my not listing their work here). Feel free to include any examples you can think of in the comments. By way of summary, Egnor is, again, completely wrong.

Conclusion

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. That’s a contribution which has brought shame—not advance—to the medical field.

So ‘Why would I want my doctor to have studied evolution?’ I wouldn’t. Evolutionary biology isn’t important to modern medicine. That answer won’t win the ‘Alliance for Science’ prize. It’s just the truth.

Dr. Egnor knows that he would be required to use glucocorticoids to prevent seizures in many situations in neurosurgery, but they were first tested in humans in 1948 - well after the FDA would have required the drugs to be proven non-toxic in animal models. Unless he isn’t giving medicines approved after the 1930s - and one doesn’t often find homeopathic surgeons - then he’s using evolution, even if he refuses to recognize it.

But that’s what his post is primarily about. It’s not that evolution is useless to medicine; on the contrary, it is a non-controversial component of essential medical education and one needs to know it certainly to get into medical school these days, to say nothing of staying in and doing well afterwards, to say nothing of having any prayer of a chance of making sense of the science that others use to generate the “standards of care”.

What’s going on here is that Egnor dislikes evolution and is hoping to de-emphasize its importance. Why? It is possible that he earnestly and sincerely believes that evolution has not contributed to his art. It is possible that he earnestly and sincerely believes that recognizing the validity of evolution would render his life meaningless or without value. It is possible he is a cynical liar and he wants no readers of the Discovery Institute Ministry of Media Complaints who credit his perspectives to enter or do well in medical school. (Hey, if true, he wouldn’t be the first surgeon who knew better about evolution but still advocated for ID only to make a buck, gain a little influence, or exhibit some sort of other ulterior motive.) Whatever his motivations may be, readers should not credit his testimony: he is at least dead wrong.

Further, his perspectives are very difficult to distinguish from ignorance advocacy. Egnor first came to attention when a blogger at Time magazine criticized him for not being an expert in evolution. He has stated that he does not use evolution, but this is more an admission of a willful disregard for the evolution he does use and upon which his art is based. Taken together, along with his assurance that the only contribution evolution has made to medicine was eugenics*, his writings bespeak the dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance, traits altogether common with creationists, but that shine in Dr. Egnor to such an extent that a neologism should bear his namesake.

Egnorance. (n) The egotistical combination of ignorance and arrogance.

BCH

*Recall please that Egnor endorsed population biology. I’m informed by my pal Reed Cartwright that the people to blame for eugenics were the early population geneticists. (D’oh!)

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Comment #164867

Posted by afarensis on March 10, 2007 2:07 PM (e)

Stony Brook also has Meave Leakey as an Adjunct Professor!

Comment #164871

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on March 10, 2007 2:35 PM (e)

There is also John Hopkins School of Medicine’s Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution.

The primary research focus of the Center is the exploration of relationships among the functional anatomy, behavior, and evolutionary biology of extant and extinct vertebrates. The Center provides an exceptional opportunity for graduate students to study and conduct original research in evolutionary organismal biology (see the Program page). Training in the teaching of human anatomy is also an important part of our program. Fieldwork opportunities in Costa Rica and Wyoming are available (see individual faculty pages for more information on these).

The department also houses a large collection of fossil vertebrates and various research facilities (see the Resources page for more details).

Comment #164872

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on March 10, 2007 2:36 PM (e)

Chicago’s “Darwinian Science” program is often considered the best evolution program in the world.

Comment #164873

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on March 10, 2007 2:38 PM (e)

Stanford’s evolution and ecology programs are contained in the med-school as well.

Comment #164875

Posted by Dave Carlson on March 10, 2007 2:43 PM (e)

Afarensis adds a few names to the non-existent list of Evolutionary Biologists at medical schools.

Egnor sure is turning out to be quite a piece of work. I hope the DI grants him a fellowship.

Comment #164877

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 10, 2007 3:07 PM (e)

Nice fisking Burt.

Hey look, the DI Media Complaints Division is so proud of Egnor, they’ve given him a promotion:

Michael Egnor, M.D., joins the ENV Team

Some Evolution News & Views (ENV) Readers may have noticed that yesterday we posted Michael Egnor’s response to a pro-evolution essay contest for students. We recently reported how Egnor has been asking Darwinists how much information can be produced via Darwinian mechanisms, but has not been receiving satisfactory answers (see here and here). Michael Egnor, M.D. is professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook and an award-winning brain surgeon who has been named one of New York’s best doctors by New York Magazine. He is now an official part of the ENV team, and we’d like to welcome him on board.

Regarding Egnor’s (and Fuller’s) claim about the Nobel Prize, more can be said:

First, it should be noted that there isn’t even a Nobel Prize category for Biology. When evolution gets in it is usually in the Medicine category. The equivalent for biology, also run by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is the Crafoord Prize, and its winners include most of the famous people in evolution of the later 20th century.

Second, looking at the Medicine category of the Nobel Prize, we have some of the most famous names in evolutionary biology:

1933 - Thomas H. Morgan [chromosomes in heredity]

1946 - Hermann J. Muller [radiation and mutations]

1962 - Francis Crick, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins [structure of DNA and mechanism of inheritance]

1969 - Max Delbrück, Alfred D. Hershey, Salvador E. Luria [the Luria-Delbrück experiment showed that mutations are random]

1973 - Karl von Frisch, Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen [the founders of evolutionary ethology, i.e. animal behavior and its evolutionary causes]

1983 - Barbara McClintock

[jumping genes]

…and this is leaving out people whose research was less directly famous and revolutionary in evolutionary biology, but who used it in their Nobel work, e.g.:

2001 - Leland H. Hartwell, Tim Hunt, Sir Paul Nurse – “He [Paul Nurse] showed that the function of CDK was highly conserved during evolution.”

2004 - Richard Axel, Linda B. Buck – “Whereas fish has a relatively small number of odorant receptors, about one hundred, mice – the species Axel and Buck studied – have about one thousand. Humans have a somewhat smaller number than mice; some of the genes have been lost during evolution.”

Then there is the 2006 co-winner, Craig C. Mello, who was a student in Kenneth Miller’s first biology class.

A simpler way to get a handle on all this is to just google NobelPrize.org on “evolution” and read through the 418 hits Yes, Virginia, physicists got Nobels for cosmic evolution too!

Comment #164880

Posted by Erp on March 10, 2007 3:31 PM (e)

Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley won the 1963 Nobel for Medicine for the squid neuron research not Hodgkin alone.

Comment #164881

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on March 10, 2007 3:53 PM (e)

Then there is the 1994 Economic Nobel Prize given to Harsanyi, Nash, and Selten for game theory. The importance of Game Theory to evolutionary biology is one of the reasons they got the prize.

Comment #164882

Posted by shiva on March 10, 2007 3:54 PM (e)

Pankaj the physicist asks Mukesh the mechanic “Do you know I could tell you why you need a new manifold to tune up any further, I study fluid mechanics.”
“We don’t need no steenkeeng physeex to learn how to soup up your car,”

Egnor’s embarassingly ignorant essay sounds as wise as that

Comment #164883

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 4:03 PM (e)

Egnor said:

That’s why most doctors—nearly two-thirds according to national polls—don’t believe that human beings arose merely by chance and natural selection. Most doctors don’t accept evolutionary biology as an adequate explanation for life.

So obivously he is using the word “evolution” to mean “evolution merely by chance and natural selection.”

And you, of course, are saying “creationism” when you mean “guided evolution.”

So the terminology is completely misleading and there is no way for the general public or high school students to understand what the controversy is about.

I wish people like Egnor would be more careful with their terminology, and I also wish that evolutionary biologists would stop calling everyone who questions extreme Darwinism a creationist.

Medical doctors, like biologists, accept evolution. But a complete explanation of evolution has not been found.

Can you admit that there are things science has yet to understand and explain? If you can admit that, why do you insist so loudly that evolution has been entirely explained?

Comment #164884

Posted by BlueIndependent on March 10, 2007 4:05 PM (e)

Thanks for this. I post at PZ’s blog regularly, but this is one of only a few times I’ve read your blog. This is great stuff, and it shows that there are some absolutely committed to being wrong, and they feel it is OK to keep doing so.

Mr. Egnor never sold me on anything he said, because, like a lot of creationists, he always started from the incredulity soap box, and refused to get off of it. Creationism - any stripe of it - is nothing more than fallacy and disinterest in learning. I laughed some while reading this article, not because you tried to keep the mood light, but also because you provided the overwhelming evidence needed to utterly trash Egnor’s “arguments”. It is funny how easy it is to prove these people wrong; they don’t even check their own backyard (your references to SUNY’s faculty).

Excellent work. I shall be here more often.

Comment #164885

Posted by Dave Carlson on March 10, 2007 4:12 PM (e)

Must not feed the troll…must not feed the troll. . must not feed the troll…oh bloody hell, I can’t help it!

realpc wrote:

Can you admit that there are things science has yet to understand and explain? If you can admit that, why do you insist so loudly that evolution has been entirely explained

Stop lying, realpc. Nobody here has ever claimed that “evolution has been entirely explained,” and you know it.

Comment #164888

Posted by natural cynic on March 10, 2007 4:45 PM (e)

Comparative anatomy, comparative physiology, comparative biochemistry, comparative molecular genetics ….

Yup, they must have been designed that way for the convenience of doctors.

Comment #164892

Posted by Mark Perakh on March 10, 2007 5:20 PM (e)

Is there evidence that Egnor is a real name of a real brain surgeon? The transparent allusion (Egnorance=egomania+ignorance) and the senselessness of his question about biological information make me wonder - can’t it be a hoax a la Sokal?
The question he asked is the same the team of Australian creationists disguised as TV interviewers asked Dawkins a few years ago (and Phil Johnson made a lot of noise about it because Dawkins kept silent for 11 seconds without answering). Those Aussies based their question on the notorious book by Spetner; since then Spetner was repudiated more than once, but Egnor (whoever he is) seems to be following Spetner’s piffle. Well, with creos it is often hard to distinguish what is their serious attempt at argumentation and what is a parody.

Comment #164893

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 5:20 PM (e)

Stop lying, realpc.

He can’t; his brain is broken and apparently is beyond repair.

Comment #164895

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 5:25 PM (e)

His anatomy lessons must have been harsh, memorizing every muscle, compartment, bone and never, never once allowing himself to grasp the overall organizing patterns because he just knew that evolution was wrong.

When did Egnor ever deny common ancestry??? You are trying to mislead and you know it!
When did Egnor ever say he believed each species was created separately; when did he ever deny that species evolved?

You know that Egnor is using the word “evolution” to mean neo-Darwinian evolution. You know that he is not a Christian bible literalist.

Why continue to pretend this is the old evolution - creationism debate. It is not, and you know it.

Comment #164897

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 5:34 PM (e)

The question he asked is the same

Egnor is a “standard practice” creationist who regurgitates the lines spoon-fed to him by DI.

Comment #164901

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 5:47 PM (e)

Anytime you see comparative medicine, or comparative biochemistry, or comparative pharmacology, or anything comparative, that is evolutionary theory.

Yes, it’s evolutionary theory, not Darwinist theory. Egnor criticizes Darwinism, not evolution. You’re implying Egnor is such a dope he can’t see the similarities between species. There are NO NEUROSURGEONS WHO CANNOT SEE THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SPECIES.

Talk about straw men!

Comment #164903

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 6:03 PM (e)

Egnor said:

you don’t find anyone ever getting the prize specifically for evolution.

and you countered with, for example:

Insulin was first isolated in dogs and the research was subsequently applied to humans

That is NOT specifically for evolution, and you know it! Every scientist KNOWS that there are similarities between animals and humans. Everyone KNOWS that medical treatments are tested on animals before they are tested on humans. If there were no similarities between species, animals would not be used as test subjects.

Even unscientific people who don’t believe in any kind of evolution understand that there are similarities between species!!!

So you’re saying the Nobel prize for insulin was specifically for evolution??!!

Your argument is long, but completely irrelevent. And I’m sure you know it.

Comment #164904

Posted by mark on March 10, 2007 6:04 PM (e)

I have noticed that very often one or more authors of evolution articles in Science are noted as affiliated with a school of medicine or a medicine-related field. Perhaps Egnor does not read Science.
A similar argument can be made for other professions–engineer, chef, and others–some practitioners follow the cookbook and generally succeed at what they do, while others, who actually understand engineering and cooking, are able to innovate, adapt to new situations, and advance their field.

Comment #164905

Posted by RBH on March 10, 2007 6:09 PM (e)

As I wrote in a comment on Pharyngula, ignorance is no crime. Willful ignorance is unfortunate and intellectually debilitating. Advocating willful ignorance is profoundly immoral. Egnor’s behavior is morally disgusting.

Comment #164906

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 6:22 PM (e)

Egnor said:

you don’t find anyone ever getting the prize specifically for evolution.

No he didn’t, you retarded troll, Steve Fuller said that.

Comment #164907

Posted by David B. Benson on March 10, 2007 6:23 PM (e)

realpc wrote:

completely irrelevant

Yes, you are.

Comment #164908

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 6:29 PM (e)

“No Nobel prize in medicine has ever been awarded for work in evolutionary biology.”

2006: Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello, “for their discovery of RNA interference - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA”

From the press release:

This year’s Nobel Laureates have discovered a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information. Our genome operates by sending instructions for the manufacture of proteins from DNA in the nucleus of the cell to the protein synthesizing machinery in the cytoplasm. These instructions are conveyed by messenger RNA (mRNA). In 1998, the American scientists Andrew Fire and Craig Mello published their discovery of a mechanism that can degrade mRNA from a specific gene. This mechanism, RNA interference, is activated when RNA molecules occur as double-stranded pairs in the cell. Double-stranded RNA activates biochemical machinery which degrades those mRNA molecules that carry a genetic code identical to that of the double-stranded RNA. When such mRNA molecules disappear, the corresponding gene is silenced and no protein of the encoded type is made.

RNA interference occurs in plants, animals, and humans. It is of great importance for the regulation of gene expression, participates in defense against viral infections, and keeps jumping genes under control. RNA interference is already being widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes and it may lead to novel therapies in the future.

Comment #164910

Posted by Dave Carlson on March 10, 2007 6:41 PM (e)

realpc wrote:

That is NOT specifically for evolution, and you know it! Every scientist KNOWS that there are similarities between animals and humans. Everyone KNOWS that medical treatments are tested on animals before they are tested on humans. If there were no similarities between species, animals would not be used as test subjects.

And there is no coherent explanation for the great similarities between human and non-human animals apart from common descent.

Comment #164912

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 6:48 PM (e)

Say, realpc, why all the agitation, the anger? Hey, didn’t you write

Now it seems to me that whenever an idea elicits such strong emotional reactions, something very important is at stake. We don’t become violently nauseated just because an idea seems wrong. That only happens if the idea threatens something we value. More is going on here than just a scientific quest for truth.

?

Comment #164913

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 6:51 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost,

Research on genetics does not equal research on evolution. Scientists can study DNA and RNA, but they cannot study evolution directly. Assumptions and inferences are made, but there are no direct observations. So it’s hard to win a Nobel prize for evolution research.

Darwinism is based on the observation that evolution has occurred, and on the assumption that nature is mindless and without purpose. Given that assumption, purposeless variations and natural selection must be the explanation.

How can anyone win a Nobel prize for assumptions and observation-free inferences?

Comment #164914

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 6:53 PM (e)

And there is no coherent explanation for the great similarities between human and non-human animals apart from common descent.

Which implies that evolutionary biology is relevant to medicine, contrary to Egnor. realpc’s bleating that Egnor accepts common descent is irrelevant, other than it underscores Egnor’s dishonesty.

Comment #164915

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 10, 2007 6:55 PM (e)

When did Egnor ever deny common ancestry??? You are trying to mislead and you know it!

When did Egnor ever say he believed each species was created separately; when did he ever deny that species evolved?

This is a direct implication of his “evolution cannot produce new information” argument, for instance. It is also a direct implication of his claim that doctors don’t use evolution, ever, even the common ancestry bits.

You know that Egnor is using the word “evolution” to mean neo-Darwinian evolution. You know that he is not a Christian bible literalist.

We do? How? Normally when someone criticizes evolutionary theory but accepts common ancestry, they say, “Now I agree with common ancestry, but…” Egnor has shown no signs of such sophistication so far.

Add his attitude and general complete incapability of getting basic facts right into the equation, and I’d guess we’ve got a better than 95% chance that we’ve got at least an old-earth creationist on our hands with Egnor.

Comment #164916

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 6:56 PM (e)

observation-free inferences

It’s fun when you demonstrate that you have no understanding of science generally or of the science behind the theory of evolution specifically.

Comment #164919

Posted by normdoering on March 10, 2007 7:24 PM (e)

Mark Perakh asked:

Is there evidence that Egnor is a real name of a real brain surgeon?

Has fraud been looked into. I think Mark Perakh is on to something. This guy cannot be real. This has got to be a hoax a la Sokal.

http://normdoering.blogspot.com/

Comment #164920

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 7:27 PM (e)

I never use evolutionary biology in my work. Would I be a better surgeon if I assumed that the brain arose by random events? Of course not. Doctors are detectives. We look for patterns, and in the human body, patterns look very much like they were designed. Doctors know that, from the intricate structure of the human brain to the genetic code, our bodies show astonishing evidence of design.

It is perfectly obvious that Egnor is talking about Darwinist evolution, not evolution in general. He is criticizing the idea that nature is mindless. It’s obvious to him, because of his experience, that the brain is an extremely complex machine. And extremely complex machines are unlikely to evolve merely because of chance and selection.

Pretending that Egnor is a creationist who denies evolution and, even worse, can’t see the similarity between species, is intentional deception.

It’s easy to decide a debate between evolution theory and creationism – evolution wins. Evolution has mountains of evidence, and it’s intuitively plausible. But it’s much harder to decide between the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution and anti-Darwinist theories. No theory of evolution adequately explains what causes evolution to occur. There is no complete or definitive theory.

Pretending the debate is between evolution and creationism simplifies everything, but it’s deceptive.

It’s unfortunate that Egnor sometimes refers to the ND theory of evolution simply as “evolution.” That is obviously not what he means. This quote shows that he is specifically referring to the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution.

Comment #164921

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 7:29 PM (e)

“Is there evidence that Egnor is a real name of a real brain surgeon?”

Yes.

http://www.upsb.org/xq/asp/code.966/qx/html_pati…

Comment #164924

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 7:41 PM (e)

Add his attitude and general complete incapability of getting basic facts right into the equation, and I’d guess we’ve got a better than 95% chance that we’ve got at least an old-earth creationist on our hands with Egnor.

I think the chances of that are very low, and that it isn’t in our interest to go that route. It’s sufficient to address the sorts of errors Egnor makes explicitly. For instance, in one of his replies to Lemonick’s piece on him, he wrote

There are two reasons that people you trust might not find arguments like mine very persuasive:

They’re right about the science, and they understand that I’m wrong.

or

They’re wrong about the science, and they’re evading questions that would reveal that they’re wrong.

My ‘argument’ is just a question: how much new information can Darwinian mechanisms generate? It’s a quantitative question, and it needs more than an ad hominem answer. If I ask a physicist ‘How much energy can fission of uranium generate’ he can tell me the answer, without much difficulty, in ergs/ mass of uranium/unit time. He can provide references in scientific journals (Journal, issue, page)detailing the experiments that generated the number. Valid scientific theories are transparent, in this sense.

So if ‘people you trust’ are right about the science, they should have no difficulty answering my question, with checkable references and reproducable experiments, which would get to the heart of Darwinists’ claims: that the appearance of design in living things is illusory.

It’s interesting that a doctor who argues against teaching basic science to doctors considers himself an expert on valid scientific theories. Brain surgery obviously doesn’t require a basic understanding of logic, as neither a question nor the evasion of a question can “reveal” that someone is wrong about something – “just a question” cannot be an “argument”, and the argument that the failure to answer a question demonstrates that the person not answering the question is wrong about something specific is pathetically fallacious, a false dichotomy and a non sequitur. Not even having difficulty answering the question shows that anyone isn’t “right about the science”. Especially since, in this case, the question is absurdly vague, and is nothing like the question about uranium. It’s a lot more like “How much destruction can atomic weapons cause?” Failure of physicists to provide an answer to this “quantitative question” “without much difficulty” most certainly does not indicate that physicists are “wrong about the science”, but the question and the argument he presents around it provide very strong indications that Egnor is wrong about not just “the science”, but science generally.

Comment #164925

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 7:43 PM (e)

Has fraud been looked into. I think Mark Perakh is on to something. This guy cannot be real. This has got to be a hoax a la Sokal.

Perhaps you’re a hoax, Norm. Certainly you and Mark aren’t helping any.

Comment #164927

Posted by MarkP on March 10, 2007 7:47 PM (e)

Realpc gratuitously asserted:

And extremely complex machines are unlikely to evolve merely because of chance and selection.

Wrong again troll. Chance and selection are more likely to produce extreme complexity, due to their lack of foresight. No designer would ever make the human eye the way it is. Design implies simplicity and efficiency, not inefficient complexity. Rube Goldberg was not an intelligent designer.

It is truely amazing that you cannot seem to make a single statement about these issues without misrepresenting someone or some thing. I’m beginning to sense a little Coulterism, attachment to the ideas for the attention they get, rather than any real belief in them. To apply your reasoning [sic] no one could possibly be so wrong so often about everything without it being some sort of design. You’re a lying propogandist with a bad case of Compulsive Centrist Disorder.

Comment #164928

Posted by JohnK on March 10, 2007 7:51 PM (e)

realpc placing words in Egnor’s mouth to make Egnor “obviously” say what he wants Egnor to say is rather pathetically unconvincing. Egnor’s “no new information” BS implies far more than anti-NeoDarwinism.
Egnor’s animus is partly motivated by his distorted view of the origin of eugenics, and has proven himself either an ignoramus regarding information theory or dishonest - not to mention the above fisking on his numerous claims. Please embrace him as one of your own, realpc. He fits right in with your disgusting crowd.

Comment #164929

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 7:53 PM (e)

It’s obvious to him, because of his experience, that the brain is an extremely complex machine.

As it is to all of us.

And extremely complex machines are unlikely to evolve merely because of chance and selection.

Nice question begging non sequitur, troll. Kindly provide your mathematical calculations – you might want to consult the Behe and Snoke paper.

But it’s much harder to decide between the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution and anti-Darwinist theories.

Certainly if one is as ignorant of the current state of the theory of evolution as you are. And what are these “anti-Darwinist theories”? Do keep in mind what a theory is.

Comment #164930

Posted by Laser on March 10, 2007 8:03 PM (e)

It’s unfortunate that Egnor sometimes refers to the ND theory of evolution simply as “evolution.” That is obviously not what he means. This quote shows that he is specifically referring to the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution.

What’s obvious is that Egnor, like realpc, knows nothing about evolution. For Egnor, it’s argument from ignorance. It’s anybody’s guess what’s going through realpc’s brain.

Comment #164931

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 8:07 PM (e)

When did Egnor ever say he believed each species was created separately; when did he ever deny that species evolved?

This is a direct implication of his “evolution cannot produce new information” argument, for instance.

Except that Egnor didn’t say that; he said that “random variation and natural selection, without intelligent agency” can’t.

It is also a direct implication of his claim that doctors don’t use evolution, ever, even the common ancestry bits.

You’re assuming that Egnor is capable of comprehending the implications of his own claims, and is honest. But

X claims P
P implies Q
therefore X believes Q

is not a valid argument.

Comment #164934

Posted by David B. Benson on March 10, 2007 8:17 PM (e)

Laser — Are you sure that realpc has one?

After all, those things are extremely complex machines and maybe Egnor removed his. ;-)

Comment #164935

Posted by Jeffrey K McKee on March 10, 2007 9:14 PM (e)

Having gone to grad school at Washington University, while creationist David Menton was on faculty; having taught anatomy at a medical school (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa), where evolution was a keystone to understanding the human body; and now being a paleoanthropologist back in the good ol’ USA, with a wife who is a medical doctor, I can say the following:

Medical doctors and surgeons are not scientists.
Medical doctors and surgeons who understand science understand human anatomy and physiology better.
There are good doctors who do not understand evolutionary science.
There are better doctors who DO understand evolutionary science.

Egnor-ance may be bliss, but understanding evolution is divine.

Cheers,
Jeff

Comment #164938

Posted by Keith Douglas on March 10, 2007 9:46 PM (e)

All of that is no doubt true - and there are the entire disciplines of microbiology, immunology, virology, nutrition, etc. which also draw heavily upon evolutionary insights.

Comment #164939

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 10, 2007 9:48 PM (e)

You’re assuming that Egnor is capable of comprehending the implications of his own claims, and is honest. But

X claims P
P implies Q
therefore X believes Q

is not a valid argument.

LOL. I was not trying to make a logically foolproof case. My argument was more of the form:

People who claim P (e.g. no new information) almost always, in my experience, also believe Q (deny common ancestry).

To spout the “no new information” argument, especially to do it unhesitatingly as if it were a self-evident truth, almost always takes a creationist. It doesn’t really even make sense unless you have a basically spiritual view of “information.”

Even Behe will admit that evolution can produce new information. The people who deny it are the no-common-ancestry people, because for them DNA is basically the spoken Word of God, just like the text of the Bible.

IMHO of course. If Egnor ever does a public talk, someone should ask him about Genesis and test my prediction.

Comment #164942

Posted by PZ Myers on March 10, 2007 10:15 PM (e)

Has anyone else noticed the desperate retreat we’re seeing from a lot of creationists lately, exemplified by realpc here? They’re all crying surrender by shouting that they do too believe in evolution, they aren’t arguing with common descent (although when you pin them down hard enough, they are), and they’ve just got some itty-bitty little nit-picky complaints about the mechanism.

That’s the new face of creationism – begging for a niggardly little scrap of doubt that they can hide in, while surrendering most of the game to science. Isn’t it nice to see what weasely little cowards they are?

Comment #164943

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 10, 2007 10:21 PM (e)

Well, there isn’t alot on Google about Egnor and religion, but there is plenty of evidence that he a religious right culture warrior:

Egnor on an apparent miracle he witnessed in surgery in 2001 or so

Something about Egnor complaining about judicial power in 2004

Egnor on Terri Schiavo in 2005

Egnor speaks at a Christian young meeting in 2007 (held at a catholic church, so maybe he’s a culture war catholic instead of a culture war evangelical)

Hey, I give the guy credit for being a really impressive neurosurgeon, but if he’s going to spout creationist propaganda without even trying to check the statements first, then he deserves the same flack that someone would get if they started spouting about neurosurgery without knowing anything about it.

Comment #164945

Posted by normdoering on March 10, 2007 10:25 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

Perhaps you’re a hoax, Norm. Certainly you and Mark aren’t helping any.

Sorry, but that name, “Egnor,” is hard to swallow. I guess you’re stuck with the fact that a brain surgeon can be competent and successful without knowing squat about evolution.

That means for some people in the medical field, at a certain level that can include neurosurgeons, an understanding of evolution really isn’t needed. Thus Dr. Egnor makes part of his own point just by existing.

Can you argue that he would be better at his job if he did know more about evolution?

Comment #164946

Posted by Gary Telles on March 10, 2007 10:26 PM (e)

Thanks for the thorough and elegantly simple take-down of this willfully ignorant man. I can just hear my late father the MD, radiologist, pathologist bellowing “IMBECILE!”
Well done.
Gary

Comment #164950

Posted by paul on March 10, 2007 11:08 PM (e)

Burt, thanks for this very thorough and devastating takedown. I always enjoy your posts.

I think I speak for all old biology majors (like me) and everyone else interested in this topic. Keep it up, and thanks for all the hard work you put in to keep us educated on this creationist nonsense.

And then there’s realpc. Creationists are always so amusing!

paul

Comment #164951

Posted by sparc on March 10, 2007 11:09 PM (e)

Egnor reprised that theme often in his essay so let me make something clear here. Anytime you see comparative medicine, or comparative biochemistry, or comparative pharmacology, or anything comparative, that is evolutionary theory. We test drugs in rats and it’s not because we think rat pharmaceuticals are a lucrative industry. (Since 1938, non-toxicity must be demonstrated in animal models before a drug can come to market) We practice our surgical techniques on animals not because we hate pigs. (Residents at SUNY Upstate have access to an animal surgery lab, in which they can hone their techniques on animals before they operate on humans) Whenever you see stuff practiced or tested or homogenized or whatever on animals with the intention of applying those conclusions to humans or other species, that is evolution being used in practice. Without evolution, animal testing is just making drugs for rats and patting yourself on the back at the sheer luck that the drug you’ve designed for the rat would likely do a decent job in humans as well. (Just a bit of intellectual integrity is needed to make the leap.)

Apparently, Egnor has at least two publications in which he applies comparative physiology:

Zou R, McCormack E, Egnor M, Kim D, Wagshul M, Macdonald B, Madsen J. (2005): Increased Phase Synchronization between Intracranial Pressure and Arterial Blood Pressure during Elevated Intracranial Pressure in Dogs. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 1(1):315-318

and

Li J, Shen Y, Miller JM, Egnor MR, Wagshul M, Stewart C, Haacke EM, Walker ME, Ham SD, McAllister JP. (2006): Pathophysiology of communicating hydrocephalus in two novel animal models.
Cerebrospinal Fluid Res. 3 Suppl 1:S21

I wonder if his co-authors share his world views.

BTW, does anybody here have access to Egnor’s comment

Egnor MR. (2005) Evolution of the brain: from behavior to consciousness in 3.4 billion years. Neurosurgery. 56(4):E873

and the article he refers to

Oro JJ. (2004) Evolution of the brain: from behavior to consciousness in 3.4 billion years. Neurosurgery. 54(6):1287-96

Comment #164957

Posted by normdoering on March 10, 2007 11:34 PM (e)

Doctor Egnor said:

I do use many kinds of science related to changes in organisms over time. Genetics is very important, as are population biology and microbiology. But evolutionary biology itself, as distinct from these scientific fields, contributes nothing to modern medicine.

Why does any surgeon need to know genetics? They can’t operate on the genetic level without becoming genetic engineers. Genetics may be important to modern medicine, but he doesn’t need to know much at all to operate on a brain, does he? If he did need to know about genetics, what would he need to know? Certainly not everything. If you don’t need evolution, you don’t need genetics either.

bhumburg wrote:

Egnor knows as well as I do that if he isn’t going to find evolution in his daily rounds, he’s not going to find population biology, which leads me to suspect that his endorsement of it was a facile claim intended to stave off accusations that he’s an advocate of ignorance.

Why not advocate a certain kind of ignorance? It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Call it relevance. If a certain kind of knowledge is not relevant to achieving your goal, why not put it aside and get on with the stuff that is important?

The world is full of more information, especially scientific information, than any one person can learn. I wouldn’t advocate that a would be rocket scientist should learn Spanish. It’s not going to help him launch a rocket. Might help him with that Mexican girl at the cafeteria though.

Egnor’s very existence is a good argument for ignorance. It does speak in a powerful and surprising way to a certain irrelevancy in evolution. He may never win a Nobel prize, but he just might be a better surgeon than someone who could.

Comment #164958

Posted by normdoering on March 10, 2007 11:45 PM (e)

I found the abstract for “Egnor MR. (2005) Evolution of the brain: from behavior to consciousness in 3.4 billion years.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?it…

Once life began as single-cell organisms, evolution favored those able to seek nutrients and avoid risks. Receptors sensed the environment, memory traces were laid, and adaptive responses were made. Environmental stress, at times as dramatic as the collision of an asteroid, resulted in extinctions that favored small predators with dorsal nerve cords and cranially positioned brains. Myelination, and later thermoregulation, led to increasingly efficient neural processing. As somatosensory, visual, and auditory input increased, a neocortex developed containing both sensory and motor neural maps. Hominids, with their free hands, pushed cortical development further and began to make simple stone tools. Tools and increasing cognition allowed procurement of a richer diet that led to a smaller gut, thus freeing more energy for brain expansion. Multimodal association areas, initially developed for processing incoming sensory information, blossomed and began to provide the organism with an awareness of self and environment. Advancements in memory storage and retrieval gave the organism a sense of continuity through time. This developing consciousness eventually left visible traces, which today are dramatically evident on cave walls in France and Spain. We will take this journey from the single cell to human consciousness.

What does this mean?

Comment #164959

Posted by sparc on March 10, 2007 11:47 PM (e)

Actually, Egnor’s comment I mentioned above seems to be part of a longer fight John Oro had with him in Neurosurgery. According to the journals web site it consists of the following articles:

Oro, John J.:
EVOLUTION OF THE BRAIN: FROM BEHAVIOR TO CONSCIOUSNESS IN 3.4 BILLION YEARS.
Neurosurgery. 54(6):1287-1297, June 2004.

Egnor, Michael Robert:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(3):E629, March 2005.

Oro, John J.:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(3):E629, March 2005.

Egnor, Michael Robert:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(4):E873, April 2005.

Oro, John J:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(4):E873, April 2005.

Comment #164960

Posted by sparc on March 10, 2007 11:50 PM (e)

What does this mean?

It just means that you have clocked the link to Oro’s article that Egnor is commenting on.:)

Comment #164962

Posted by normdoering on March 11, 2007 12:00 AM (e)

sparc wrote:

It just means that you have clocked the link to Oro’s article that Egnor is commenting on.:)

Right, that’s Oro. For a minute there I thought Egnor had wrote that and was a bald faced liar.

Comment #164963

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:05 AM (e)

My argument was more of the form:

People who claim P (e.g. no new information) almost always, in my experience, also believe Q (deny common ancestry).

This looks remarkably like the design argument (every instance we know of …) and is just as fallacious. It’s pure confirmation bias, an error that reinforces itself by the very act committing it. This may explain why you simply ignored my point, that Egnor does not say “no new information”, he says “no new information without intelligent agency”. Given his focus on DNA, he may think that all that information is front loaded. But he’s repeating a lot of talking points, so he probably hasn’t thought this through carefully – duh. This guy is operating at the level that he has “switched sides” – on a matter of biological fact – because of “the incivility of the Darwinists”. The point of my previous post was that you made an inference about what Egnor believes that requires that he holds a consistent set of views. It’s not enough, when one commits a fallacy, to wave it away by saying that they aren’t even trying to be logical.

To spout the “no new information” argument, especially to do it unhesitatingly as if it were a self-evident truth, almost always takes a creationist.

He doesn’t do it “unhesitatingly as if it were a self-evident truth”; he talks about “semantics” and doesn’t understand how the “language” of DNA can semantically refer to the world without intelligent agency. This is a very common confusion, and is rampant among philosophers of mind, people like John Searle and David Chalmers who are all atheists. This confusion has even been expressed by biologists who can’t imagine how a computer be conscious or even intelligent, always attributing the intelligence to the programmer – I seem to recall that even you have this failing.

And sure he’s a creationist of some sort; he considers it ridiculous to think that “life, in its astonishing complexity, arose spontaneously from the mud, by chance.” But that doesn’t imply that he rejects common ancestry.

It doesn’t really even make sense unless you have a basically spiritual view of “information.”

It doesn’t make sense, period. Egnor doesn’t understand information or how it relates to evolution, but that doesn’t imply that he rejects common ancestry. Berlinski has a similarly screwball view of information, but it isn’t particularly “spiritual”, it’s just ignorance and misunderstanding.

The people who deny it are the no-common-ancestry people, because for them DNA is basically the spoken Word of God, just like the text of the Bible.

This is the same sort of assuming the conclusion that people like realpc spew. If the point of contention is whether Egnor denies common ancestry, it does no good to point out that people who deny common ancestry share some view with him or make some argument he makes; that’s a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. You say that you weren’t trying to make a logically foolproof case, but you ought to learn the basics of what is and is not logically valid.

We have people here suggesting that Egnor is perpetrating a hoax because his questions about biological information are senseless or because of his name. The failure to appreciate the sorts of ignorance, misunderstanding, and intellectual confusion that are common in the population, even the educated population, and how widespread such confusion is, is unfortunate and contributes to our difficulties.

Comment #164964

Posted by sparc on March 11, 2007 12:08 AM (e)

For a minute there I thought Egnor had wrote that and was a bald faced liar.

Of course this doesn’t eliminate any possibility of Egnor being lying.

Comment #164966

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:18 AM (e)

Sorry, but that name, “Egnor,” is hard to swallow.

For someone fairly bright, you can be remarkably dim, Norm; you’re like the people who see Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun and think it must be a miracle. google Egnor – there are plenty of them.

What does this mean?

See above.

Comment #164968

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 11, 2007 12:29 AM (e)

This is the same sort of assuming the conclusion that people like realpc spew. If the point of contention is whether Egnor denies common ancestry, it does no good to point out that people who deny common ancestry share some view with him or make some argument he makes; that’s a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. You say that you weren’t trying to make a logically foolproof case, but you ought to learn the basics of what is and is not logically valid.

Dude, if what you are saying were correct, pollsters would be out of a job. In real life, people’s beliefs on one issue often correlate strongly with their beliefs on other issues. In my experience this is even more true with antievolutionists, who have a collection of stereotyped arguments depending on which of a few rather specific traditions they are in. Sure, there are exceptions, but all I was trying to establish was an informal probability estimate anyway.

We have people here suggesting that Egnor is perpetrating a hoax because his questions about biological information are senseless or because of his name. The failure to appreciate the sorts of ignorance, misunderstanding, and intellectual confusion that are common in the population, even the educated population, and how widespread such confusion is, is unfortunate and contributes to our difficulties.

Yeah, I don’t think these suggestions are likely (and Egnor clearly does exist, if anyone was seriously suggesting that it was a pseudonym). The creationist interpretation is far more likely.

(And, as a generalization, we are misunderstanding creationists if we think they are always lying. No, they almost always truly believe what they are saying, which is even scarier IMO.)

Comment #164970

Posted by normdoering on March 11, 2007 12:32 AM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

For someone fairly bright, you can be remarkably dim, Norm; you’re like the people who see Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun and think it must be a miracle. google Egnor – there are plenty of them.

Dude, your way behind the curve here. I agree Dr. Egnor is for real. sparc convinced me.

Comment #164971

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:39 AM (e)

Dude, your way behind the curve here. I agree Dr. Egnor is for real. sparc convinced me.

Dude, that anyone actually had to convince you, rather than you just feigning disbelief, suggests that you’re a lot dimmer than I thought.

Comment #164972

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:42 AM (e)

Dude, if what you are saying were correct, pollsters would be out of a job.

Well, my very intellectually dishonest dude, pollsters use statistically representative sampling.

Comment #164974

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:47 AM (e)

Also, pollsters don’t assume that, because someone holds one view, they also hold another view. Your claim that “if what you are saying were correct, pollsters would be out of a job” is an effing stupid non sequitur. One of my points was that it isn’t just anti-evolutionists who are intellectually dishonest and think illogically, and you’ve always been one of my most outstanding examples, Nick.

Comment #164975

Posted by normdoering on March 11, 2007 12:48 AM (e)

sparc wrote:

Of course this doesn’t eliminate any possibility of Egnor being lying.

But it sure does make that possibility less likely. He’s not saying one thing to the DI and another to the science journals.

Comment #164977

Posted by normdoering on March 11, 2007 12:55 AM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

Dude, that anyone actually had to convince you, rather than you just feigning disbelief, suggests that you’re a lot dimmer than I thought.

What did you think I was? A supernova?

I’ve always read these threads spotty and skimming and shot my mouth off before I’d read everything.

Comment #164978

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 11, 2007 12:56 AM (e)

Actually, Egnor’s comment I mentioned above seems to be part of a longer fight John Oro had with him in Neurosurgery. According to the journals web site it consists of the following articles:

Oro, John J.:
EVOLUTION OF THE BRAIN: FROM BEHAVIOR TO CONSCIOUSNESS IN 3.4 BILLION YEARS.
Neurosurgery. 54(6):1287-1297, June 2004.

Egnor, Michael Robert:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(3):E629, March 2005.

Oro, John J.:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(3):E629, March 2005.

Egnor, Michael Robert:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(4):E873, April 2005.

Oro, John J:
Evolution of the Brain: From Behavior to Consciousness in 3.4 Billion Years.
Neurosurgery. 56(4):E873, April 2005.

I found these available on Ovid, if your library has access to that.

Strangely, the April 2005 articles are exact duplicates of the March 2005 articles. Probably this was just a mistake and there was no April 2005 exchange.

Summary: Oro’s main article is a fairly standard review of the evolution of life, animals, nervous systems, brains, and culture.

Egnor’s reply is an utterly standard recitation of ID talking points, citing irreducible complexity and specified complexity, improbability claims, evolution leads to immorality, methodological naturalism is unfair, yadda yadda. Benjamin Wiker’s moral hedonism book is cited at the end.

Oro’s reply to Egnor is a decent standard reply along the usual lines – exaptation, ID was invented after Edwards blocked creation science, 40% of scientists are theists with no problems, etc. Various common minor errors (e.g. the notion that Phillip Johnson invented ID).

Comment #164979

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 11, 2007 1:14 AM (e)

Posted by Popper’s Ghost on March 11, 2007 12:47 AM

Also, pollsters don’t assume that, because someone holds one view, they also hold another view. Your claim that “if what you are saying were correct, pollsters would be out of a job” is an effing stupid non sequitur. One of my points was that it isn’t just anti-evolutionists who are intellectually dishonest and think illogically, and you’ve always been one of my most outstanding examples, Nick.

What’s the big deal here? Did I wrong you in a former life or something? The idea that I have to do a massive, statistically significant poll before expressing any informal opinion on whether or not beliefs X and Y are correlated is silly, particularly when other people were expressing such opinions before I jumped in. This is the comments section of a blog here. If you disagree with my guess about Egnor’s views, fine. I’ll trust my spidey-sense, you trust yours. Mine has had a few minor successes over the years.

If more data comes in and shows that Egnor does accept common ancestry, then great, I will revise my opinion. This would, however, undermine a number of his own statements, e.g. when he said that the use of animal models in medicine was based on nothing more than Linnean taxonomy. This is an odd thing to say if you accept common ancestry.

Comment #164985

Posted by Marek 14 on March 11, 2007 2:22 AM (e)

In the previous thread, MarkP said:

“Atheism is not a philosophy, any more than a-unicornism is a philosophy, any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

That got me thinking. In this case, probably antitheism could be a philosophy, and a vigorous opposition to stamp collecting might make a good hobby (just imagine all those protest actions, chaining yourself to the post offices…).

When I called it a philosophy, I was using an example from my own life. As an Aspie, I am particularly bad in getting clues from my surroundings - because of this, I developed in completely areligious environment, because I simply did not realize anything like religion exists!
I never became an atheist - I was BORN one, and simply never had a reason to change the view. It’s an unalienable part of my worldview. I’ll give examples:

When I think of mainstream religion’s main claim (the existence of superior being who loves us), I get goosebumps. My visceral reaction is “Why in the world would anyone PREFER such a world?” In such world, we would never be more than children. Nothing we did here would ultimately matter, everything we did could be easily undone. In my worldview, this might still happen, of course, but it would be just a bad luck. Not a deliberate action. I read claims that atheist’s world has no meaning - well, I think that world with mainstream God lacks any “meaning”, since its meaning is prescribed and cannot be changed, if an individual human decides that he would prefer a different one.
For me, a God is a win of human need for satisfaction over human curiosity - a win that is, by my opinion, not worth it. In my rejection of religion, I had a choice between easy happiness and constant possibility of discovering new things. I chose the second. Of course, it’s very possible that I never HAD a choice. Maybe I’m simply wired to be skeptical, and I grew up in environment that never overrode this much.

That is my opinion, at any rate. Now, a word of caution. It is possible that I have misrepresented the religious position. Indeed, it’s likely, as I never had a particular interest in religion, apart from the fact that I looked at it and considered it something I don’t want. If any theist takes offense at what I’ve written, I deeply apologize. While it IS my opinion, I don’t hold it especially truthful on the expense of all others. But for all those who become grossly offended, please take a minute to ponder whether you yourselves haven’t been guilty of similar things in the past.

So, what does it mean for topic at hand? Simply that I don’t understand creationism, and likely never will. For me, the nature is much more complex and more wondrous than would be possible to achieve by intelligence.

Finally, a personal note for realpc. I observed that the overwhelming sentiment in threads where you appear is that you make a distinctions between the parts of evolution you accept and the parts you disagree with. However, virtually everybody else claims that evolution doesn’t actually say the things you claim you disagree with. My question to you: Are you aware of this?

Comment #164986

Posted by normdoering on March 11, 2007 2:36 AM (e)

Nick (Matzke) wrote:

… we are misunderstanding creationists if we think they are always lying. No, they almost always truly believe what they are saying, which is even scarier IMO.

Marek wrote:

So, what does it mean for topic at hand? Simply that I don’t understand creationism, and likely never will. For me, the nature is much more complex and more wondrous than would be possible to achieve by intelligence.

What makes it so scary? Both possibilities give me a sense of disturbing cognitive dissonance, but no real fear. When you say scary do you actually mean “disturbing cognitive dissonance?”

What I mean is more like what Marek is talking about, I don’t understand why there’s this guy, Egnor, who is supposed to have a far more intimate knowledge of our brains and bodies, our biology, than I do. He should be familiar with all the basic biology I know and that has convinced me that we are products of a long evolution, and yet he doesn’t see it that way. What thing could I know about that makes me right and this “expert” wrong? Does he know about genetic algorithms and evolutionary programming? Maybe not. I’m reaching a conclusion using a lot less biological information than this guy should have. I’m no brain surgeon.

Sure, you can point to all the other medical professionals and scientists who share my view, but then that’s an argument from authority and faith in a majority of experts over a minority and not me reaching a conclusion based on evidence.

It’s nice to know that he does make the old standard and identifiable mistakes and that his claims about evolution being taught in medical school are wrong. And I’m sure if you take all that evidence about evolution being taught he’d still not see it as telling the story we tell ourselves about the history of life. It wouldn’t be “evolution” to him. Like PZ says, “… they’ve just got some itty-bitty little nit-picky complaints about the mechanism, begging for a niggardly little scrap of doubt that they can hide in, while surrendering most of the game to science.”

Except if you’re honest with yourself it’s not really nice to see what weasely little cowards they are because they’re just as human as we are and we’re all capable of such blindness. And in the end we know what kind of hope they’re clinging too – a god that looks after them, a reason to believe in a life that doesn’t end.

Like others have said, I’d rather someone operating on me be an “evolutionist,” but it’s not as big a deal as if the guy lost his patients on a regular basis or left surgical instruments in people’s bodies. It’s not that kind of scary.

I’m not sure it matters much more than if your waiter were a creationist or the clerk at the 7/11. It doesn’t seem to effect his job. (If it did he wouldn’t still have it nor would he have gotten as far as he has.) So, it’s not scary like in people will die because he’s ignorant. It’s “scary”/”disturbing” because we can’t be one hundred percent sure we’re not as blind as he is about something in our lives.

Comment #164991

Posted by sparc on March 11, 2007 3:39 AM (e)

Nic:

Summary: Oro’s main article is a fairly standard review of the evolution of life, animals, nervous systems, brains, and culture.

Egnor’s reply is an utterly standard recitation of ID talking points, citing irreducible complexity and specified complexity, improbability claims, evolution leads to immorality, methodological naturalism is unfair, yadda yadda. Benjamin Wiker’s moral hedonism book is cited at the end.

Oro’s reply to Egnor is a decent standard reply along the usual lines – exaptation, ID was invented after Edwards blocked creation science, 40% of scientists are theists with no problems, etc. Various common minor errors (e.g. the notion that Phillip Johnson invented ID).

Thus, use of the term “Egnorance” as “The Egotistical Combination of Ignorance and Arrogance” seems fair enough.

Comment #164999

Posted by MarkP on March 11, 2007 4:56 AM (e)

Marek said:

In this case, probably antitheism could be a philosophy, and a vigorous opposition to stamp collecting might make a good hobby (just imagine all those protest actions, chaining yourself to the post offices…).

I suggest that claiming anti-theism is a philosophy is sort of like claiming ID is a scientific theory, even though all it is is criticisms of evolution.

A philosophy posits truths about the world and the implications of them. “There is no God” has few implications that aren’t completely mundane. It essentially ends with “look elsewhere”. Contrast that to “there is a god”, where the conclusions “we should try to know him, understand what he has to say, etc…” flow fairly naturally. Atheists need other philosophies.

Take your statement here for example:

I think that world with mainstream God lacks any “meaning”, since its meaning is prescribed and cannot be changed, if an individual human decides that he would prefer a different one.

Your argument presumes the importance of individuals being able to ascribe meaning to the world of their own choosing. While this is compatible with atheism, it is not unique to it. One can easily fashion many a deity where this view would work as well. It just doesn’t work with the mainstream god. So we see that your conclusion wasn’t the result of your atheism, but rather some other philosophy.

It has to be. Atheism, by itself, is empty.

Comment #165001

Posted by sparc on March 11, 2007 5:33 AM (e)

Don’t miss Evolutionists want to destroy those who dissent from Darwinism over at overwhelming egnorance. In that post people who dare to point to the flaws in Egnor’s arguments are referred to as “evolutionist terrorist cells” and “the Evolution Mafia” with the

(…) their earnest hope that next time a concerned parent searches for Dr. Michael Egnor they will find a page of false accusations claiming that he is a “credulous fool” and who believes in an “absurd pseudo-science” and is therefore unfit to perform complex brain-surgery. They are clearly trying to frighten patients away from this great and talented brain doctor.

Nobody questioned Egnor’s qualification as a surgeon. Only his claims that evolutionary biology would not explain anything in medicine has been criticized. Since he exposed his ignorance himself publicly it is only fair if scientists point to the flaws in his arguments. Actually, I believe that the DI guys are quite happy that Egnor got beaten up here and at other places. The worst thing that could happen to them would be their Egnorance being ignored.

Comment #165015

Posted by sparc on March 11, 2007 11:28 AM (e)

Seemingly, Egnor ignores articles in his own research field (hydrocephalus) that relate to evolutionary biology or use knowledge obtained from distantly related species. E.g.:

Lechtreck KF, Witman GB. (2007): Chlamydomonas reinhardtii hydin is a central pair protein required for flagellar motility.J Cell Biol. 176(4):473-82.

Ponting CP. (2006): A novel domain suggests a ciliary function for ASPM, a brain size determining gene. Bioinformatics 22(9):1031-5

and

Ibanez-Tallon I, Pagenstecher A, Fliegauf M, Olbrich H, Kispert A, Ketelsen UP, North A, Heintz N, Omran H. (2004): Dysfunction of axonemal dynein heavy chain Mdnah5 inhibits ependymal flow and reveals a novel mechanism for hydrocephalus formation. Hum Mol Genet. 13(18):2133-41

Comment #165038

Posted by Doc Bill on March 11, 2007 6:17 PM (e)

That Dr. Egnor is wrong about the science of evolution is undebatable. Clearly, Egnor is reciting the creationist playbook chapter and verse.

The more interesting question to me is why?

Egnor is a successful surgeon. He’s done good work. He’s done research. No quibble.

So, why is Egnor risking professional ridicule by repeating non-scientific creationist arguments, in public, on the Internet, to the exposure of the World?

My opinion is that Egnor is suffering from a huge crisis of faith where he has realized that the physical world no longer corresponds to his religous world, thus he is in denial of reality. And loudly.

It doesn’t matter that he’s wrong. It only matters that he can attract some supporters to shore up his faith, i.e. fellow creationists, and help him prove himself “right.” Now, he’s part of the press staff at the DI. Whoopdie, doo! Not exactly president of the AMA.

So much for my psychoanalysis.

Comment #165040

Posted by realpc on March 11, 2007 6:27 PM (e)

Egnor is one more person with the courage to stand up to the dominant scientific mainstream and say that the Darwinist emperor has no clothes.

He understands the risk, I’m sure. But if enough respected scientific people take the risk, that poor emperor might finally get something to wear!

Comment #165041

Posted by Dave Carlson on March 11, 2007 6:39 PM (e)

Egnor is one more person with the courage to stand up to the dominant scientific mainstream and say that the Darwinist emperor has no clothes.

And if he has to be very dishonest in the process, he can certainly be forgiven, right? I mean, you have to break a few factual eggs in order to make an ID Omelette!

Comment #165048

Posted by David B. Benson on March 11, 2007 7:08 PM (e)

But then by now we all know that realpc is suffering from a form of rationality disorder

Comment #165052

Posted by ofro on March 11, 2007 9:27 PM (e)

realpc on March 10, 2007 6:51 PM

Research on genetics does not equal research on evolution. Scientists can study DNA and RNA, but they cannot study evolution directly. Assumptions and inferences are made, but there are no direct observations. So it’s hard to win a Nobel prize for evolution research.

If Carl Woese won the Nobel prize, would you agree that this would be a Nobel prize for evolution research? Give him about five years.

Comment #165054

Posted by PvM on March 11, 2007 10:38 PM (e)

realpc wrote:

Egnor is one more person with the courage to stand up to the dominant scientific mainstream and say that the Darwinist emperor has no clothes.

He understands the risk, I’m sure. But if enough respected scientific people take the risk, that poor emperor might finally get something to wear!

Of course few respected scientific people take the position of ignorance and arrogance Egnor has taken. It indeed may take ‘courage’ to stand up to the dominant scientific mainstream, but in this case it seems to be fools courage founded more on ignorance and arrogance than on fact and science.

Comment #165057

Posted by MarkP on March 11, 2007 11:09 PM (e)

The contrast between the two groups in this culture war couldn’t be more starkly illustrated by the Egnor event. Egnor has posed no new arguments, discovered no new data. He has simply joined the ID gang. Can you imagine a scientific group making such a fuss over say, Duesberg suddenly accepting the HIV/AIDS link?

Scientists get excited over new discoveries that advance our knowledge and pose new and exciting questions. IDer/creationists get excited over new adherants that advance their PR agenda and repeat the same tired rhetoric. That pretty much sums it all up.

Comment #165063

Posted by Marek 14 on March 12, 2007 12:55 AM (e)

One day ago, I wrote:
“Finally, a personal note for realpc. I observed that the overwhelming sentiment in threads where you appear is that you make a distinctions between the parts of evolution you accept and the parts you disagree with. However, virtually everybody else claims that evolution doesn’t actually say the things you claim you disagree with. My question to you: Are you aware of this?”

From the evidence so far, I am forced to conclude that the answer is negative.

Comment #165072

Posted by Peter Buckland on March 12, 2007 4:45 AM (e)

Great read! I forwarded it to some others who will no doubt appreciate its veracity and tenacity.
I agree with Mark P’s last comment that the difference really can’t be more different. The arguments have barely changed over centuries - they just evolve with changes in the language so that the watch turns into the computer - and there is nothing but begged questions, god(s) of the gaps, non sequiturs, straw men and endless appeals to ignorance.
And while I loathe to feed the troll, I’d just like to know how exactly common descent is not part of whatever the f*** your definition of neo-Darwinian evolution is? You talk about no clothes on the emperor? Where are your clothes? You keep giving them away to evolutionary science. Not to sound like too much of a recruiter, but give up the irrational dogma dude and get a new suit. Your’s is like a scrap of shirt that’s only covering your useless right male nipple.

Comment #165074

Posted by Pastor Bentonit, FCD on March 12, 2007 6:28 AM (e)

Nobel prize for the research on genetic control of embryonic development in fruit flies: Nüsslein-Volhard, Wieschaus, Lewis (1995).

And do note that the HOX genes laying out the body plan are ubiquitous in metazoans. Ring any bell, cdesign proponentsists?

Cheers,

/The Rev

Comment #165076

Posted by k.e. on March 12, 2007 7:55 AM (e)

Gah… I see the problem Egor is obviously a Sweedish name.

Perhaps Realpc could see if Dr. Egor can insert some much needed information into his skull.

I have this image of the Swedish Chef doing a little brain surgery (who needs to know where all the stuff came from, it was all on the grocery shelves right?).

Dr. Egor in his brain surgeons hat or toque blanche selects some suitable tools and attempts to perform brain surgery not on one person at a time but an entire population. The tool he selected was the DI or maybe vica versa …..the tool the DI selected was Dr Egor. It should be twice the fun.

Now what is our intrepid cook/brain surgeon going to do with this new tool?

Let’s look in zee keetcheen shall vee?

Limp this way. Quiet please.

How to make Codnitive Dishsonance.

Furst ve-a teke-a zee preffruntel reesuner und replece-a it veet zee denurmeleezer und zee stoopeedizer. Next ve-a crunk up zee druuler und pooll slooly oon zee leg.Bort Bort Bort. Und Beengu …..luuk ma nu breeen. Yuoo tuu cun be-a thees smert. Cume-a und get a breeen check tudey speceeel desceleeng serfeece-a vheele-a yuoo veeet..

Comment #165083

Posted by Dizzy on March 12, 2007 9:47 AM (e)

Also, pollsters don’t assume that, because someone holds one view, they also hold another view.

Right - that 30% believe X and 30% believe Y doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any overlap between them.

Sometimes they will say that “of the people who answered ‘yes’ to X, 85% also answered ‘yes’ to Y,” in which case they are often implying there’s a correlation. If you have the source data, there are some pretty simple tests to determine if there actually is a significant correlation, but I usually don’t see significance mentioned in polls. Yet another way that polling or any sample result can be misrepresented to consumers.

Big thing to keep in mind is that correlation does not indicate causation, per se. Causation is either assumed (based on outside knowledge of the subject area), or discovered via experimental methods and a collection of statistical tests, not a single statistical test in isolation. There are also various “traps” or spurious relationships in which an apparent correlation is substantively invalid (e.g. ice cream consumption and violent crime).

Comment #165084

Posted by Flint on March 12, 2007 9:50 AM (e)

Also, pollsters don’t assume that, because someone holds one view, they also hold another view. Your claim that “if what you are saying were correct, pollsters would be out of a job” is an effing stupid non sequitur.

I’m not sure what the problem is here. Nick is entirely correct, as far as I’ve been able to determine, in saying that certain positions commonly come in packages. There’s no guarantee that someone who asserts P *would* also assert Q if that question were posed, but when exceptions are so rare we can count them on our thumbs, we know how to bet.

So what we have here is someone who sounds like a duck, and leaves footprints that look just like duck footprints, and lays eggs from which ducklings hatch, but expressing a strong suspicion that the object in question IS a duck is being dismissed as “an effing stupid non sequitur” on the grounds that we haven’t actually SEEN this object, much less dissected it. Granted, it MIGHT be a deranged monkey, and the eggs MIGHT have been wrongly associated with it, and it MIGHT be wearing duckboots just to trick us.

Comment #165085

Posted by Raging Bee on March 12, 2007 9:52 AM (e)

realpc blithered thusly:

So obivously he is using the word “evolution” to mean “evolution merely by chance and natural selection.”

And you, of course, are saying “creationism” when you mean “guided evolution.”

You must be getting desperate if all you can do is blatantly lie about what we’re saying, and what the Egnoramus is saying, when our own statements are posted here, in plain English, for all to read.

So the terminology is completely misleading…

Yes, the terminology YOU used is indeed misleading, which is why WE didn’t use it. Whose fault is that? Perhaps you wouldn’t be so misled if you actually addressed what we said, instead of what you say we said.

Egnor criticizes Darwinism, not evolution…

Please describe the difference in detail; and show us where Egnor criticises one and accepts the other. Note that in the passages quoted, Egnor uses the word “evolution.” (I just did a search for “Darwin,” and found no instances of it in the writings of Egnor quoted here.)

Grow up and get a job, Skippy. Oh wait, you can’t, because you refused to get a decent education. Sorry, I guess that leaves you only four options: crime, welfare, televangelism, or a DI fellowship. It must really suck to be you.

Comment #165092

Posted by Julie Stahlhut on March 12, 2007 11:11 AM (e)

Scientists can study DNA and RNA, but they cannot study evolution directly.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0334340…

Comment #165095

Posted by Raging Bee on March 12, 2007 12:08 PM (e)

I don’t own this blog, so it’s not my decision to make, but I’m beginning to think realpc should be banned – not merely because he’s an ignorant and uncaring troll who changes the subject of nearly every thread he enters, repeats assertions whose refutation he ran away from in previous posts, and ignores the refutations and reposts the same crap in later posts; but also because, as his statement about the Egnoramus as quoted by myself shows, he’s also a fucking liar.

Anyone who flatly asserts that someone who used the word “evolution” was not really criticizing evolution, is clearly not dealing honestly or in good faith with others, and has nothing useful to contribute to any adult debate.

Just my two cents…

Comment #165103

Posted by David B. Benson on March 12, 2007 1:46 PM (e)

Raging Bee — I am not convinced realpc is capable of distinguishing falsehoods from truths…

However, I certainly agree that he ought to be banned!

Comment #165114

Posted by MarkP on March 12, 2007 3:29 PM (e)

I third Bee’s Rage. The bottom line unforgivable problem with Realpc is he consistently misrepresents what others say, to the point of outright lying (see his made-up nonsense on James Randi in the other Egnor thread). There’s nothing wrong with honest differeces of opinion. Realpc is not honest.

Comment #165164

Posted by Peter Buckland on March 12, 2007 9:21 PM (e)

This is from my father-in-law, an anthropologist at PSU. We regualarly commiserate on the evo-creo stuff. He knows more of the evo and I know the political so it’s a fun balance. He has good things to say. The too long is that we live a bit apart and are about to have a kid.

InSon:

Been too long. How are you doing? Thanks for giving me a stomach ache ;-) Try this on for size:

The Hardy-Weinberg “Law” is used in the study of genetics of disease to check for sampling biases. This is critical for understanding what the alleles code for and their evolution within human populations. This obviously has importance for the Pharma’s, who apparently “believe” in evolution. Ken Weiss & I are now writing an article about the origin, maintenance & importance of The H-W Principle for evo-bio, anthro-genetics & genomics. BTW: The H-W is the founding equation for all of pop-genetics, which is the formal theory of evolution.

Evolution is necessary to understand the distribution of human genes across the globe = “race.” Place of origin can be very informative for appropriate medical intervention. That is, until we have individually specific genomic profiles. Blacks have different response to drugs controlling cardiac issues, like high blood pressure, from which they suffer disproportionately.

The evolution of pathogens helps explain their virulence and hence how the bugs will evolve with respect to our antibiotics, changes in transmission avenues etc. Think TB, HIV-AIDS & … ah, Avian Flu? Duh. This is critical for guiding public health & hygiene intervention and control, which the last time I looked, is part of medicine. Think Influenza, Polio. See Paul Ewald for details. Also, sickle-cell-anemia epidemiology is impossible to understand without the theory of evolution: balanced polymorphisms & heterozygote advantage explain why the fuckin’ allele is at such how frequency, despite being effectively a lethal. Intervention? Spray to kill the mosquito vector which is a necessary part of the evo-ecol cycle. The latter is standard fare in any intro bio-anthro course.

Noble Prizes? Watson, Crick, McClintock et al. contributions only make sense in the light of evolution and have deepened greatly our understanding of evolution & in particular human evolution. Go to The Noble Prize site and peruse the winners for many other examples. PCR now allows us to do hip medical genetics. My hero, T. H. Morgan, won it in 1936 for The Chromosome Theory of Heredity, which provided the physical basis for genetics & … ah, here we go again, evolution. I think chromosomes are medically relevant. The 1st pic of Sam in the Family Album is his karyotype, done because we were assaying for Down’s syndrome, for which old foxes like Roberta are prone and which would have affected our lives, medical intervention. Heavy bioethics, dude. Evolution has ethical implications, but not the ones this motherfucker thinks.

Darwinian Medicine, codified by Randy Neese & Geo. C. Williams about 10 years ago. And now scores of researchers: see many issues of Evolution & Human Behavior. D. M. helps us understand the origins and maintenance of syndromes like depression, postpartum depression, suicide and yuk-critter-epidemiology (see Ewald above) etc. and hence medical/psychiatric/family/social amelioration.

And yes, of course, the use of lab models, from E. coli to Drosophila to Chimps only makes sense if you, forgiver me, “believe” in evolution.

It takes my breathe away to see that this flamer has the nerve to parade his ignorance in public and signal said ignorance as a fatal critique toe evo-theory & medical applications. But he does that by parlaying, the standard creationist rhetorical device, and the ignorance of his audience into nodding their ignorant heads about his wonderfully insightful argument. Also, I must say most critics, like this Dr. who posted his rejoinder, actually don’t know enough evo-bio to make telling counter-arguments (see all my previous verbiage above.) IMHO: his was lame and wouldn’t convince Bill Moyers.

OTOH: This Sky-God-Believer can in fact be a 1st-rate neuro-plumber without evo-theory. But then again he doesn’t really understand the organ he’s fuckin’ with nor possible pathology & cures.

This is a 1st pass. My rant & rave may make some of these examples about evo-medicine forced. But some might be useful, if you wanna throw your hat into the wring. Not me. Can I go back to work? ;-)

Comment #165179

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 3:39 AM (e)

One of my points was that it isn’t just anti-evolutionists who are intellectually dishonest and think illogically, and you’ve always been one of my most outstanding examples, Nick.

What’s the big deal here? Did I wrong you in a former life or something?

No, it’s in this life that you are an outstanding example of an intellectually dishonest, illogical person, despite being a supporter of evolution. Aside from your demonstrative comments here, see your repeated lie (and my response) about Dawkins in your latest thread.

Comment #165180

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 3:53 AM (e)

Right - that 30% believe X and 30% believe Y doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any overlap between them.

Thanks, Dizzy.

Sometimes they will say that “of the people who answered ‘yes’ to X, 85% also answered ‘yes’ to Y,” in which case they are often implying there’s a correlation.

Of course they are observing a correlation among answers, not assuming a correlation between an answer given and an answer not given. Matze’s claim that I must be wrong that he committed a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent because otherwise pollsters would be out of work is astoundingly stupid and dishonest, on a par with any of realpc’s false logic, and Flint’s comment that “Nick is entirely correct, as far as I’ve been able to determine, in saying that certain positions commonly come in packages” is a non sequitur; if he sees nothing wrong, it’s only because he doesn’t want to. But perhaps he and Matze would like to use that “package” logic to argue, with creationists, that science is atheism.

Comment #165181

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 4:17 AM (e)

Expressing a strong suspicion that the object in question IS a duck is being dismissed as “an effing stupid non sequitur”

As I explicitly stated what was “an effing stupid non sequitur”, that’s an intentional misrepresentation, aka a lie. See,

if what you are saying were correct, pollsters would be out of a job

vs.

a strong suspicion that the object in question IS a duck

There’s no semantic overlap at all. The non sequitur had nothing to do with Egnor or creationists, it was the employment of a misrepresentation of what pollsters do to attack my statement about reasoning. Even if Matzke’s statement wasn’t a non sequitur or misrepresentation, even if everything I said was wrong and everything Matzke said was right, the referent of my “effing stupid non sequitur” would not be the “strong suspicion” you identify. But since you think I am wrong and Matzke is right, you seem to feel free to make whatever substitutions you like that are consistent with me being wrong and Matzke being right. This is the same sort of ethics that realpc employs.

Comment #165204

Posted by Raging Bee on March 13, 2007 7:42 AM (e)

There’s nothing wrong with honest differeces of opinion. Realpc is not honest.

…and he doesn’t seem to have any opinion of his own.

Comment #165271

Posted by guestarooni on March 13, 2007 2:18 PM (e)

Its so IMPRESSIVE to us here BACK in KANSAS.

well, first Emanuel Goldstein thinks it impressive, then he thinks it IMPRESSIVE.

so is your admiration of Burt growing, or have you decided that playing with your caps-lock key somehow means you have made some point?

hint:

nobody cares what you think, either here or BACK in KANSAS.

Comment #165577

Posted by AC on March 15, 2007 9:54 AM (e)

In the When Egos Go Before Brains thread, realpc said: “I know that science != atheism. There is absolutely no requirement for scientists to be atheists. Atheism is a faith.” But atheism is not a faith. As Marek 14 observed in this thread, atheism is a null hypothesis. This is not the only word realpc has so abused.

Redefining words to serve rhetoric + defiance in the face of correction = tired old troll technique. PT has seen tons of it over the years.

realpc, there is only one “evolution” as far as the science of biology is concerned, and it doesn’t involve a god because it doesn’t need one. If you need one, that’s fine. If Dr. Egnor needs one, that’s fine too. But sophistry helps neither of you, especially not here. If you’d like to have a realdiscussion about these matters, you must first stop playing dishonest language games.

Comment #167213

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 7:15 AM (e)

I’m a physician. I agree with Dr. Egnor that belief in the “Blind Watch Maker Thesis” is irrelevant to the practice of medicine. It serves as more of a world view on how one looks at the source of biological information. It never enters into the differential diagnosis or treatment decisions for patients. One can simultaneously conclude that the source of the biological information is intelligent, and still have a very clear understanding of genetics, antibiotic resistance, etc.

I can understand that some individuals hold to the theory that the Cosmos is all that is, ever was, and ever will be. I can understand the arguments they put forward in favor of that theory. But, I don’t understand the emotional outburst that is manifested when someone such as Dr. Egnor disagrees with their thesis.

Comment #167214

Posted by ben on March 27, 2007 7:31 AM (e)

I don’t understand the emotional outburst that is manifested when someone such as Dr. Egnor disagrees with their thesis.

So, when someone disagrees with you, and in their arguments publically and repeatedly misrepresents what your position is, you don’t have a problem with that?

Comment #167220

Posted by minimalist on March 27, 2007 8:21 AM (e)

Of course not, ben, there’s only one possible reason why us evilutionists could get mad: the creationists really must have a point for us to get so “defensive”!

And to Steve Banks, one helpful way to find out the specific grievances we have against Egnor is to read the thread. Especially the big posts at the top.

Comment #167221

Posted by Richard Simons on March 27, 2007 8:22 AM (e)

Steve Banks:

You refer to ‘biological information’. As someone who is more biologist than anything else I don’t know what this is. Please could you give a clear explanation of the concept.

Comment #167241

Posted by MarkP on March 27, 2007 10:58 AM (e)

Steve Banks said: One can simultaneously conclude that the source of the biological information is intelligent, and still have a very clear understanding of genetics, antibiotic resistance, etc.

One can? Do educate us. What is your clear understanding of why an intelligence capable of creating such grandness as us would design bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics and therefore kill more of his creation?

I don’t understand the emotional outburst that is manifested when someone such as Dr. Egnor disagrees with their thesis.

It’s because his disagreement is not honest. It is a political ploy. You’ll notice on the rare occasion we actually get an honest person here with questions about modern evolutionary theory, they are usually answered very politely, and refered to the appropriate reference material. But when someone comes on here lying about what scientists say, misrepresenting them as “Darwinists” and the like in a clear attempt to poison the well, they get treated rudely, as they deserve.

Comment #167248

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 11:41 AM (e)

Richard Simons,

When I used the term biological information I’m simply referring to the information in biological systems. An example would be the information contained within the genetic language.

Steve

Comment #167249

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 11:45 AM (e)

Mark P,

You question why an intelligence would design pathogenic organisms with the ability to develop resistance to antimicrobials. Isn’t that really a metaphysical question? I’m trying to be difficult, but am I correct in thinking of this type of objection as a metaphysical objection? If it is a metaphysical objection, should that play a role in accepting or refuting the concept of intelligent design?

Steve

Comment #167255

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 11:56 AM (e)

Minimalist,

I understand that many on this site disagree with the concept of intelligent design. Its just puzzling to see such anger that this topic evokes in what I would assume to be dispassionate scientists.

Steve

Comment #167257

Posted by gwangung on March 27, 2007 12:07 PM (e)

When I used the term biological information I’m simply referring to the information in biological systems. An example would be the information contained within the genetic language.

Define please. And operationalize. (Didn’t someone ask this before? Are you going to be one of “those” people who ignore what people write).

Comment #167259

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 12:22 PM (e)

Gwangung,

You wrote, “Define please. And operationalize. (Didn’t someone ask this before? Are you going to be one of “those” people who ignore what people write).”

If someone told me to operationalize, I must have missed it. I’m not really sure what you mean by “operationalize”. I really didn’t think there was any controversy as to the reality of biological information. I thought the controversy hinged on whether the source of this information required a designer or was the result of strictly material interactions.

Steve

Comment #167262

Posted by Raging Bee on March 27, 2007 12:40 PM (e)

I really didn’t think there was any controversy as to the reality of biological information.

As numerous respondents have said here before, the controversy is over whether, and how, “biological information” can be exactly defined, measured, and quantified. If you can’t quantify and measure “information,” then you have absolutely no way of knowing whether the “amount” of “information” in a given life-form has increased or decreased with a given event; therefore you can’t possibly say whether any “law” about “creating new information” has been violated (which is what the ID crowd are trying to imply). Any assertion about such “information” is vacuous, meaningless, and useless, unless and until someone can come up with an objective means of defining and measuring “information.”

When I used the term biological information I’m simply referring to the information in biological systems.

And when I use the term facts, I’m simply referring to facts.

An example would be the information contained within the genetic language.

Please define; your example clarifies nothing. Does DNA contain “information?” How about protein? If the protein re-folds, does that “information” change?

Comment #167263

Posted by Richard Simons on March 27, 2007 1:04 PM (e)

Steve:

The problem with ‘biological information’ is that it is a term used by creationists/intelligent design proponents and virtually no-one else because it has no real meaning.

The reason scientists get upset with people who push ‘intelligent design’ is because it can only be done by lying, using part-quotes out of context and other forms of dishonest behaviour.

Comment #167274

Posted by Michael on March 27, 2007 1:49 PM (e)

Richard,

You forgot another tactic of intelligent design creationists, attempting to paint their opponents as dogmatic, irrational individuals striving to suppress a legitimate competing theory, or accusing them of angrily defending an issue of faith rather than science.

I’m sure that Steve here wouldn’t be doing that at all, even though he tries to call someone’s argument metaphysical at the same time he (Steve) defends ID and its unnamed designer. I’m sure that when he asks people that appear to be providing considered and thoughtful answers…why they are so angry and defensive, that he’s just confusing rebuttal with personal attacks. I’m sure he’s not intentionally trying to smear anybody since he’s trying so hard to appear a reasonable man!

Comment #167287

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 3:22 PM (e)

Raging Bee and Robert Simons,

The idea that biological information exists is not unique to ID proponents. Are you suggesting that when science journals or textbooks discuss “genetic information” that this is a term with no real meaning?

I think the difficulties facing information theory are not as dire as you fear. Using very generic qualitative terms, would you agree that within the last 4.5 billion years the amount of genetic information on planet earth has increased from “zero” to “lots”?

Comment #167289

Posted by gwangung on March 27, 2007 3:52 PM (e)

The idea that biological information exists is not unique to ID proponents. Are you suggesting that when science journals or textbooks discuss “genetic information” that this is a term with no real meaning?

I think the difficulties facing information theory are not as dire as you fear. Using very generic qualitative terms, would you agree that within the last 4.5 billion years the amount of genetic information on planet earth has increased from “zero” to “lots”?

I ask again. Define. And operationalize.

These are basic methodological requirements for science.

Apparently you DON’T want to pay any attention to people.

Comment #167290

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 4:02 PM (e)

Michael,

I offer an open apology to anyone I’ve insulted. My questions have been sincere.

In my medical journals, even when opponents in a debate are presenting arguments for some controversy in medicine, the tone is generally courteous. I don’t think I’m being unfair when I observe that there is anger (or at least marked cynicism) among some of the individuals posting on this site. Perhaps I should have kept that observation to myself.

Steve

Comment #167292

Posted by MarkP on March 27, 2007 4:11 PM (e)

Steve Banks asked: You question why an intelligence would design pathogenic organisms with the ability to develop resistance to antimicrobials. Isn’t that really a metaphysical question?

No, it is a straightforward scientific question, the same as a scientist studying arachnids asking why a spider builds a web, or an archaeologist asking why an ancient Roman would build an aquaduct. Whatever the level of intelligence involved, understanding the “why” is integral to understanding the “what”. So let’s go back to your original statement:

One can simultaneously conclude that the source of the biological information is intelligent, and still have a very clear understanding of genetics, antibiotic resistance, etc.

So I ask again, what is your clear understanding of why that intelligent source chose to create bacteria that would develop resistence to antibiotics and therefore destroy more of what that source had created. There are many ways to address this question, but “You aren’t allowed to ask that” isn’t one of them, unless you are looking to verify that your statement here was a Freudian slip:

I’m trying to be difficult…

Comment #167297

Posted by MarkP on March 27, 2007 4:45 PM (e)

Steve Banks said: I understand that many on this site disagree with the concept of intelligent design. Its just puzzling to see such anger that this topic evokes in what I would assume to be dispassionate scientists.

You presume incorrectly. Scientists are people, just like everyone else, with desires, emotions, and, as people in any area who have put forth great effort at their job, a great pride in their work. They have put in the ungodly hours to get a PhD in a subject (or more), spent ungodly hours on their knees in hot dirty environments gathering specimens, and squinting at samples in a lab they’d just assume set on fire at that moment, and reading hours and hours of journal entries and spending hours and hours in intense thought on topics of interest to few others (who are out drinking beer at the time). So surely to a fair openminded person such as yourself, it is clear why such people might get a little peeved at being not only accused of being wrong, but also of believing things they don’t, by someone who hasn’t gone through all that, and who thinks somehow he has derived truths about the biological world merely by working as an engineer, or an attorney, and basically sitting on his ass discussing the issue with friends over beers. Surely a fairminded person such as yourself would understand why it might tick scientists off when such critics appear, and are given answers to their questions, and then proceed to blather on as if nothing were said.

My questions have been sincere.

Prove it. Pay attention to the answers, and be ready to jetison the views you hold that don’t stand up to the scrutiny. A question asked, and for which there exists no answer that would sway you, is not really sincere.

In my medical journals, even when opponents in a debate are presenting arguments for some controversy in medicine, the tone is generally courteous.

Form a group, go on there, and make up and promote a nonsense theory, following this script:

1) Use arguments long discredited
2) Misrepresent what people say
3) Ignore the proofs given for #1 and #2
4) Accuse the other side of having a philosophical bias against you
5) Attempt to legislate requiring practice of your theory.
6) Ignore all factual arguments presented against you.
7) Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum.

Do that for a year, and I guarantee you’ll see genuine discourtesy in reply.

See, the flaw in your argument is the tacit assumption that being nasty or angry is necessarily an indication of intellectual weakness in one’s view. Not so. It might also be an indication of just being tired of arguing with someone who is clearly not interested in rational discourse, or worse, is just playing a political game. It is a virtue, not a vice, to call a liar what he is, and it is a virtue, not a vice, to get angry about injustice.

That’s the bottom line with all this. The IDers/creationists have had tons of chances to make their case. Yet they failed with everyone. They are like the kid on the playground who lost every game to all the other kids, but still maintains he is the best. You all are just all against him you see, and are cheating. He runs and trys to get the teacher to declare him the winner, despite the other 30 kids from another class who were watching the games, most of whom could give a rats ass who won, saying he lost fair and square.

I don’t think I’m being unfair when I observe that there is anger (or at least marked cynicism) among some of the individuals posting on this site. Perhaps I should have kept that observation to myself.

If you are going to ignore the explanations (ie the reality) of why that cynicism exists, then yes you should. Otherwise you’ll surely add to it, assuming that horse hasn’t already left the barn.

Comment #167299

Posted by Steve Banks on March 27, 2007 4:58 PM (e)

Gwangung,

I thought I had addressed your question in qualitative terms. I can give you a text book definition of genetic information: “The heritable biological information coded in the nucleotide sequences of dna or rna (certain viruses), such as in the chromosomes or in plasmids.”

If you want me to spell out the precise quantitative terms that an information theorist would use to quantify the information, then I’m not willing to do that. There are accepted methods to measure information content.

This whole topic is very interesting. But, I’m not sure I want to devote the time that would be required to finally be able to engage on a more meaningful level.

I mainly wandered to this web site after hearing some information on Dr. Egnor. I still submit, as a physician in practice for many years, that Evolution ideologies have no impact on the practice of medicine. I’ll leave the task of going through the more tedious groundwork to someone else. I’m going home to have supper with my wife and kids. I appreciate your time.

Blessings to all,

Steve

Comment #167311

Posted by minimalist on March 27, 2007 5:38 PM (e)

Steve Banks wrote:

In my medical journals, even when opponents in a debate are presenting arguments for some controversy in medicine, the tone is generally courteous.

And it’s like that in “our” science journals as well. This is because such journals are a professional venue wherein one submits ideas that have been tested experimentally and thoroughly critiqued by a group of knowledgable peers to ensure that those ideas are sound and supported. Those peers don’t even have to agree with the ideas, and in my experience I’ve had and seen plenty of papers where the reviewer was obviously vehemently opposed to the core idea, but could not argue with the data.

When ID’ers are willing to put in that amount of work; when they are willing to formulate a theory of ID and a testable hypothesis derived from it; when they are willing to put in the months, sometimes years of hard work in experimentally testing that hypothesis; in short, when they demonstrate a willingess to stop whining about evolution and do some gorram science;

then they can enjoy the same courtesies the rest of us do in those journals.

Instead, they conduct all their business in public venues (when they aren’t trying to sneak creationism into public schools under cover of darkness), brazenly lying and making appeals to ignorance. In such spaces, few of us feel the need to be particularly polite, especially when we have to deal with the same discredited nonsense time and time and time again.

Comment #167312

Posted by Michael on March 27, 2007 5:59 PM (e)

MarkP,

An excellent reply. Eloquently stated! I should just leave this to the Pros and keep my two cents to myself. On the other hand, to not address these people is to allow them into our schools; to allow them to derail the educations of more American children; to allow them to waste precious school district resources fighting courts cases instead of building computer labs and buying books.

Steve,
I’m glad you decided to throw in the towel, but you leave me shaking my head in wonder that a Doctor, an educated man, would make the statement that medicine has nothing to learn from the study of evolutionary biology. But I must bow to your authority…please tell me what other areas of science can we safely ignore? Perhaps it’s time to shut down the Patent Office, do you think? Have we learned all there is that’s worth knowing, and all the rest is unimportant fluff? Please do tell me what other areas of research hold no promise to the future of medicine. You may consult with Dr. Egnor before you reply, if you wish.

Comment #167459

Posted by Steve Banks on March 28, 2007 6:05 PM (e)

Hi gang,

I had to check back one last time just to see what had been said. Wow! You are some unhappy guys. Just a few closing thoughts:

Rational people on both sides of the debate acknowledge that DNA contains enormous amounts of information. Further, it is recognized that this information did not exist in the pre-biotic era. I read Dawkins book “The Blind Watchmaker” a few years ago. He presents an argument for the gradual accumulation of information via strictly materialistic mechanisms. He didn’t pretend that any attempt to talk about this topic was “vacuous, meaningless, and useless”.

I know you keep explaining about the righteousness of your wrath, but I don’t buy it. The hostility level is way out of proportion to the topic at hand. You won’t garner any sympathy from me regarding years of education and hard work. I’ve been there and done that. It doesn’t justify hostility or make your arguments right.

The health profession encounters a multitude of claims and theories. Some of the theories border on being bizarre. But these theories aren’t met with hostility. Sure, scientists are people and have emotions. But, a wise man is able to control his emotions. Large portions of the responses I’ve encountered have been emotional rants.

I suspect none of you are medical doctors. If you were you would have realized that Dr. Egnor’s basic assertion is true. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to understand that Darwinism does not have a meaningful impact on the practice of medicine. The same research and development and application of emerging therapies will proceed regardless of one’s views on common ancestry or pre-biotic evolution. Some how you’ve got it in your head that ID proponents will have some impediment to carrying out basic research or treating patients. Your concerns are unfounded and quite puzzling to a practicing physician.

I’m not throwing in the towel on this debate. I welcome debate. But life is too short to simply engage in an angry shouting match with little hope of meaningful discussion. I’m sure I’ll be labeled as stupid, dishonest, lazy. etc., but that is OK. I’m leaving with no hard feelings and wish nothing but the best for those that took the time to respond.

Steve

Comment #167470

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 28, 2007 7:22 PM (e)

Actually, “Dr.” Banks, some of the people who have roundly excoriated Egnor for his willful ignorance are physicians.

And, actually, Dr. Banks, I expect that some doctors might get just a little tetchy if they learned that, say, their women patients with family histories of breast cancer were foregoing regular mammograms for, say, “treatments” of magnetized water or apricot extract.

That a primary care physician, or even a neurosurgeon, might be able to get through the bulk of his or her daily round without drawing–in an immediate pragmatic sense–evolutionary concepts into his or her practice would probably not surprise us.

I expect an auto mechanic could get away without applying evolutionary concepts when he or she changed my oil or gapped my spark plugs.

Now, if you were to say the same thing about many research physicians, or medical school professors, or developers of devices or treatments or medicines who regularly rely on animal models…we would be surprised.

But then, however highly trained, educated, and effective, a primary care doc on most days is, frankly, a lot more like an auto mechanic (listen to complaint, isolate failure, apply approved repair technique) than like a research scientist.

I’d still regard either an auto mechanic or a primary care doc who preferred to go through life without understanding and appreciating evolution as an unimaginative, dull, and rather narrowly-trained technical specialist.

But at least the auto mechanic would have the excuse of NOT having all that expense education.

It’s not clear to me yet exactly what your excuse is.

Trackback: Career day at the Discovery Institute preschool

Posted by Pharyngula on March 10, 2007 1:54 PM

“Hi, kids! My name is Barbie, and I'm like Britanny's aunt, and I'm a model, you know? And I don't like math? And you know, I never use math? But you know, when you grow up, you can just hire...

Trackback: Egnorance

Posted by De Rerum Natura on March 10, 2007 2:53 PM

Egnorance (noun)—the egotistical combination of ignorance and arrogance....

Trackback: Word of the day

Posted by Stranger Fruit on March 10, 2007 4:18 PM

Egnorance: The egotistical combination of ignorance and arrogance. First coined by Burt Humburg to describe Michael Egnor, neurosurgeon, ID-flak, and no-nothing (at least when it comes to biology)....

Trackback: Doctors and Evolution

Posted by Liberal Values on March 10, 2007 5:37 PM

...

Trackback: Egnorance

Posted by Sunbeams From Cucumbers on March 12, 2007 1:07 AM

I guess I'll have to pile on. Over on Panda's Thumb, Burt Humburg wrote an excellent take-down of the latest nonsense to come out of Dr. Michale Egnor, a neurosurgeon who has managed to spout some unbelievably dumb things about evolution. Naturally, ...

Trackback: Train wreck, thy name is Egnor!

Posted by Respectful Insolence on March 12, 2007 7:25 AM

It figures. After my having written repeated debunkings of various physicians who are creationists (mostly of the "intelligent design" variety), in retrospect I should have seen this one coming. I should have seen that the Discovery Institute, eager to...

Trackback: The Energizer Bunny of antievolution

Posted by Respectful Insolence on March 13, 2007 8:55 PM

I need some β-blockers STAT. I say that not because I'm hypertensive or because I'm having heart palpitations--at least not now. I'm saying it because, after reading the latest foray into antievolutionary ignorance spouted by--as much as I hate to...

Trackback: Dr. Michael Egnor: The gift that keeps on giving

Posted by Respectful Insolence on March 17, 2007 7:58 AM

Agh! I say: Agh! Again. Remember how it was just a mere three days ago that I administered some Respectful Insolence™ to Dr. Michael Egnor, the Energizer Bunny of jaw-droppingly, appallingly ignorant anti-evolution posturing based on his apparently non...

Trackback: Asking the Right Questions Brings out Internet Darwinists’ True Colors

Posted by Evolution News & Views on March 26, 2007 6:58 PM

It’s been amusing—and revealing—to observe the recent debates between virtually the entire Darwinist internet community and a professor of neurosurgery, Michael Egnor. A few simple questions have incurred a deluge of ad hominem attacks upon Egnor, call...

Trackback: The Addiction of Egnorance

Posted by De Rerum Natura on March 28, 2007 9:00 PM

Dr. Michael Egnor is creationist neurosurgeon at SUNY Stony Brook—an embarrassment to that fine institution, I’d imagine—and the most recent addition to the Discovery Institutes’s roster. He is well known in the blogsphere for ...