The Questionable Authority

Egnor shoots! He scores!

(another own goal, of course.)

There he goes again. Creationist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s latest post over at the Discovery Institute’s Why’s Everybody Always Picking On Me blog may have actually reached a new standard for missing the point. And, as both my loyal regular readers know, that’s not an easy mark for Egnor to hit.

The current contender is his latest post in a back-and-forth that he’s been having with PZ and Orac. Once again, Egnor is attempting to argue that evolutionary biology has not provided any useful insights to the field of medicine. That much is familiar ground. What’s new this time is the hypothetical that he’s dredged up in an attempt to prove his point. His hypothetical is long and involved, which should provide you with your first warning that the argument is perhaps not as sound as he believes:

What I’m arguing is that the truth or falsehood of Darwinian stories is of no tangible value to medicine. Consider the following example.

I would suspect that careful epidemiological studies of the British population would show that the prevalence and incidence of spina bifida increased following World War One. To my knowledge, this has not been investigated, but it would make sense if it were true, for the following reasons:

Britain suffered enormous casualties during the Great War, as did many other European nations. (I’m just using Britain as an example). It has been said, with asperity, that Britain lost a generation of men on the Western Front. Britain suffered 2,300,000 war casualties — forty four percent of mobilized men, with 703,000 men killed in battle or by disease. On just one day — July 1,1916 — 19,240 British soldiers died in the battle of the Somme. The young men who died were the best of their generation — healthy, and by definition capable of meeting the rigorous physical standards required for military service.

Of course, other British men with debilitating genetic disorders, such as men with spina bifida (which renders the afflicted congenitally paralyzed), were not in the trenches that day, because they were physically unfit for military service, or at least service on the front lines as infantrymen. It’s safe to say that military age British men without spinal bifida were at greater risk of death in the war than were military age British men with spina bifida. Whatever the impediments faced by people with spina bifida — and they face many impediments — they were not called to serve and die in the trenches.

Spina bifida would then be a fine example of an environmental adaptation; it was protective against “acute lead poisoning” — protective against being mowed down by German machine gun fire on the Western Front. So, assuming for argument’s sake that my hypothesis about the post-war epidemiology of spina bifida is true, the genes that give rise to spina bifida conferred a selective advantage on young British men in the period 1914 to 1918, and the differential survival (and reproduction) of that age cohort would explain a (hypothetical) increase in the incidence and prevalence of spina bifida in England in the post war period.

Where to begin?

We could begin with the inanity of his example. Spina bifida is still a very serious condition that carries with it a significant risk of early death – and that’s despite the development of effective neurosurgical techniques. A study of babies born with spina bifida in the UK between 1965 and 1972 reported an overall 5-year survival rate of about 37%. One of the symptoms that would have been fairly common in the surviving males is impotence. When you add in the fact that there seem to be factors beyond heredity involved, I’d doubt that there was any measurable spike in the incidence of the disease. Given the high mortality and rarity of the condition, I’d also be surprised if there was even a noticeable difference in the prevalence.

(For those of you who are not familiar with the technical use of the terms, prevalence refers to how common a particular condition is in a population, while incidence refers to how frequently new cases turn up.)

Ultimately, though, dealing with the inanity of the example is unnecessary. Egnor cheerfully admits that he doesn’t actually have any idea at all if his example is actually real:

Interesting vignette, if true. I haven’t a clue about its veracity.

Someone less kind and charitable than myself might point out that the last three words in that quote were entirely unnecessary, but let’s move on.

We could also start things off by focusing on Egnor’s characteristic lack of intellectual integrity. Orac cited both sickle-cell disease and antibiotic resistance as examples of cases where an understanding of evolution has provided useful medical knowledge. Both of these have been pointed out to Egnor before. In fact, they’ve been pointed out to him many, many times.

Egnor has, yet again, decided to ignore the examples that were presented to him. Instead of facing those issues head on, he cooked up an unlikely and convoluted hypothetical that – by his own admission – may have absolutely no relationship whatsoever to reality. Declining to face reality in favor of tilting with your own personally invented reality may not necessarily be the mark of a psychiatric pathology, but it’s definitely not the mark of intellectual honesty, either.

But we can ignore the lack of integrity, too. After all, the fact that Egnor is apparently incapable of facing reality is not in and of itself proof that he is actually wrong.

Instead, let’s assume that the hypothetical is actually true, and look at the argument that he’s trying to make:

Interesting vignette, if true. I haven’t a clue about its veracity. But here’s the crux of my argument: military history, which is the basis for understanding this hypothetical blip in spina bifida in England in the 1920′s, is obviously not essential to medical education, research, or practice as relates to spina bifida. Military history may, if my inference is true, offer an explanation for changes in population frequency of the spina bifida genotype and phenotype in post-war England, but it’s not in any way essential or even relevant to the medical management or understanding of spinal bifida. It’s tangential at best, and such historical vignettes, interesting and perhaps of importance to historians, are of no practical use to physicians or medical scientists.

The analogy between my military history hypothesis and Darwinian theories of the origins of disease is quite close. Darwinian explanations for disease are historical vignettes. Darwinian stories are “military history” hypotheses about the ancient struggle for survival, a characterization long employed by evolutionary biologists, and I think an apt characterization.

Here’s the funny thing about his argument: a basic understanding of the principles of evolutionary biology is actually more important to understanding the “hypothetical blip” in the incidence of spina bifida than military history. In fact, there are cases where an understanding of evolutionary biology can be combined with demographic factors (like a war) to inform us about the underlying causes of a disease.

Those are actually two separate arguments, so let’s take them one at a time. We’ll start with the asinine assertion that military history is all that informs us about the cause of the increased incidence.

In fact, our understanding of military history can only inform us of the cause of the (hypothetical) increase if we already understand some basic principles of evolution, and some basic facts about the disease. At a minimum, we would need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation.

The first two factors relate to our understanding of the condition. The third is nothing more nor less than the central principle of evolutionary biology. Only one of those three factors is connected with the military in any way. Military history provides us with an explanation for the differential survival, but that’s all. If we didn’t know the other stuff, the war alone would provide absolutely no explanation for the change.

Egnor has, in short, provided another example of why an understanding of evolutionary biology is essential to the medical field known as epidemiology.

But (as the television salesman says) wait! That’s not all!

Let’s take Egnor’s hypothetical and add an element. Let’s assume, hypothetically, that we have absolutely no idea of whether or not spina bifida has any heritable component whatsoever. In such a case, the demographic changes caused by the war could be combined with our understanding of the effects of spina bifida and evolutionary biology to help answer that question.

If we knew that a particular condition rendered sufferers ineligible for military service, and saw a dramatic spike in the incidence of cases of this condition in the years following a bloody war, an understanding of evolutionary biology would allow us to make several predictions. First of all, we could predict that the condition in question was not so severe as to drastically reduce either survival to reproductive age or capacity for reproduction. Second, we could predict that the condition does, in fact, have a substantial hereditary component.

In a case like that, as in Egnor’s slightly simpler hypothetical, evolutionary biology can help medical understanding.

Comments

  1. #1 Orac
    November 29, 2008

    Oh. My. God. The stupid truly does burn.

    I hadn’t noticed that Dr. Egnor had responded, mainly because ENV traffic is so low that I didn’t notice any incoming traffic from his link. Maybe I’ll post a response under my real name elsewhere, to take away his whining about my using a pseudonym. ;-)

  2. #2 Cash
    November 29, 2008

    Question from the lay readers for Dr. Egnor:

    Exactly how likely is a spina bifida sufferer–that is, a congenitally paralyzed man–to reproduce in the first place?

    Seems to me that spina bifida’s efficacy as a protection against “acute lead poisoning” is significantly decreased if it’s not a trait that can actually be passed down to the next generation.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 29, 2008

    I would bet that if we take into account the element of sexual selection, we would be able to correct for spina bifida and its selective advantage regarding acute lead poisoning, even if, as in Egnor’s hypothetical the trait is heritable.

  4. #4 Science Avenger
    November 29, 2008

    I find Egnor’s writing so poor it is unreadable. His inability to connect his comments logically makes it read like it was written by a person from another planet. It shows how desperate the DI is to employ competent writers and scientists.

  5. #5 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 29, 2008

    There’s also the confounding factor that folic acid deficiency in the mother’s diet increases the risk of spina bifida in the fetus. Nutritional deficiencies were more likely during wartime, so this could certainly give rise to an increased incidence of the condition. But then, Dr. Egnor is a neurosurgeon and knows this already – doesn’t he?

  6. #6 paul collier
    November 29, 2008

    Dr. Egnor does raise one interesting, and perhaps even significant point. The increased incidence of spina bifida (or, for that matter, any genetically-induced affliction) after the War is a dramatic example of how natural selection can be trumped by artificial selection. Because of artificial human priorities, healthier man were actually selected against. It in no way argues against the natural selection mechanism, nor against biological evolution.

  7. #7 Rebecca
    November 29, 2008

    The increased incidence of spina bifida (…) after the War

    There was one?

  8. #8 Russell
    November 29, 2008

    The intellectual blinders are pretty obvious in this case. So long as Dr. Egnor can keep evolution out of his own mind while practising medicine, he will remain firmly convinced that evolution has nothing to do with medicine.

  9. #9 Svlad Jelly
    November 29, 2008

    There’s also the rather ludicrous assumption in this hypothetical that men who die in war fail to pass on their genes, meaning they die childless. There are no war orphans! Hurray!

  10. #10 Noadi
    November 29, 2008

    #5 Food shortages and rationing were very common during WWI. Towards the end of the war things got very bad in England. Malnutrition is a very good suspect for any increase in spina bifida.

    We also can’t ignore the effects that the 1918 flu pandemic also had. It killed more people than the war did and I suspect had long term effects on the survivors that might also have raised the risk of birth defects.

  11. #11 sparc
    November 29, 2008

    I wonder if war would change allele frequencies even considerably. Maybe in the Thirty Years’ War when one third of the German population died. But I guess even then killing didn’t make a difference. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time your genetic conformation just will not help much.

  12. #12 Torbj�rn Larsson, OM
    November 29, 2008

    Ouch! I’m not sure if Egnor entertains a mental spine, but he sure seems to be afflicted by veras bifida.

  13. #13 Jonathan Vos Post
    November 29, 2008

    I don’t know the facts, so I ask here.

    I’ve been told that Scotland had the highest average adult male hight of European nations prior to World War I, and became much closer to the mean in the next generation.

    I’ve been told that both above-average and below-average height in adults in inheritable, notwithstanding reversion to the mean.

    Is there or is there not evidence of artificial selection on the trait of adult male height in accepted statistical analyses about the above-mentioned suggestions?

    And, yes, I find Egnor one of the more astounding educated idiots in the known galaxy.

  14. #14 Ian H Spedding FCD
    November 29, 2008

    I don’t suppose if anyone knows if Egnor is an AIDS denialist?

  15. #15 thalarctos
    November 29, 2008

    Where to begin?

    In addition to all the substantive problems pointed out in the discussion, I can’t seem to figure out what he means by

    It has been said, with asperity

  16. #16 Michael I
    November 30, 2008

    Got here from Panda’s Thumb. The abridged version over there currently seems to be misformatted–the first line of Egnor’s remarks is outside of the quote box.

  17. #17 BaldApe
    November 30, 2008

    I’ve been told that Scotland had the highest average adult male hight of European nations prior to World War I, and became much closer to the mean in the next generation.

    All that means is that haggis is good for you, and the rest of Europe caught up nutritionally. Seriously, height is very well correlated with the height of parents, all other things being equal, but all other things are seldom equal across cultures. :-)

    On Egnor’s actual argument, it is the typical creationist “But if natural selection were ‘true,’ then a serial killer who targets pretty girls will make everyone ugly!” (raises voice and waves arms)

    In picking a ridiculous example, he is talking to his own supporters, who “just know” evolution can’t be true.

  18. #18 Emil
    November 30, 2008

    I’m not a scientist, and my memory is a little hazy on this point, but IIRC, isn’t spina bifida only manifested in cases where the individual carries 2 alleles for it? If I’m not completely mistaken in this assertion, then the most likely male parents of spina bifida children would be single allele carriers of the disease, who would not be exempted from military service any more than the norm of healthy individuals, rendering even the basis for this supposed scenario dubious.

  19. #19 Mark Duigon
    November 30, 2008

    I don’t know about Egnor’s Fan Club, but when I see articles like this (particularly when written by someone known for getting his facts wrong), I figure there is no reason to believe a single word. This reinforces my opinion that such a person is a dozy twit.

  20. #20 Larry Fafarman
    November 30, 2008

    Mike Dunford said (original post) –

    We could begin with the inanity of his example.

    His example of WW1s influence on spina bofida was intended to be inane. It was presented as supposedly another example, along with evolution theory, of something that is irrelevant or unimportant in medical research — Egnor argues, “Darwinian stories, which are orders of magnitude less credible and testable than military history, are, like my spina bofida hypothesis, worthless to modern medical research and practice.” (emphasis added) However, something cannot necessarily be shown to be irrelevant or unimportant just by showing that something else is irrelevant or unimportant. And WW1′s irrelevance or unimportance in understanding spina bofida has nothing to do with the credibility or testability of WW1′s influence on spina bofida. Credibility and testability are not the same issues as relevance and importance, though credibility and testability may bear upon the confidence of claims of relevance or importance.

    We could also start things off by focusing on Egnor’s characteristic lack of intellectual integrity. Orac cited both sickle-cell disease and antibiotic resistance as examples of cases where an understanding of evolution has provided useful medical knowledge.

    Genetics and microevolution are important in understanding sickle-cell disease and antibiotic resistance — macroevolution is not. I’m with radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, who said that one can be a creationist, believe in witchcraft, and believe that the earth is on the back of a turtle and still be a great medical researcher.

  21. #21 doppelganger
    November 30, 2008

    Larry writes:
    “I’m with radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, who said that one can be a creationist, believe in witchcraft, and believe that the earth is on the back of a turtle and still be a great medical researcher.”

    Indeed.

    But such a researcher would be well advised not, not, NOT to present himself as having expertise in anything other than what he does.

    Which is precisely what Egnor has done (not necessarily in this piece).

    Egnor is a surgeon, NOT a researcher. As such, his commentary on ‘Darwinism’ and medical research – or ‘Darwinism’ and eugenics, or ‘informaiton’ and genetics, etc. – is at best not noteworthy, at worst, ignorant and malicious propaganda.

  22. #22 sylvilagus
    November 30, 2008

    Larry – while it might be logically true that someone who believed that crap could be a “great” medical researcher, in practical terms it is highly unlikely. Someone who managed to believe it would appear to lack the very skills of critical thinking and logic that great research requires. Alternatively, such a person might have good logic skills but clearly compartmentalizes their thinking to protect cherished beliefs. This too would tend to work against great research. There’s a reason why most “scientific” creationists have technical credentials, if at all,in engineering and applied fields. I can’t even think of a single modern creationist who is a great scientific researcher, let alone someone who holds the additional beliefs you outline. Can you think of one?

  23. #23 Larry Fafarman
    December 1, 2008

    sylvilagus said,

    I can’t even think of a single modern creationist who is a great scientific researcher, let alone someone who holds the additional beliefs you outline. Can you think of one?

    Michael Egnor. I don’t think he believes in that witchcraft and turtle stuff, though. I think that Dennis Prager was exaggerating a little when he mentioned that stuff.

  24. #24 Mike Dunford
    December 1, 2008

    Good try Larry, but get real.

    Egnor’s CV looks interesting, and there’s almost certainly some good work there, but his publication record doesn’t rank him up with the “greats”. PubMed shows 11 papers; his department page shows a total of 29 papers, presentations, and posters (but hasn’t been updated since ~2002). One of the 11 papers seems to be the result of research he participated in as an undergrad. There are MD’s who post at ScienceBlogs who have more impressive publication records than that.

  25. #25 Mary Hunter
    December 1, 2008

    Didn’t they recently find that the reason Europeans are statistically less susceptible to HIV is due to the Black Death which killed people who lacked a certain gene and left the present population with a higher incidense of a gene that confers resistence. Wouldn’t that be a good example of evolution in action where the selection event caused the unintended consequence of resistance to another disease? How would ID explain this? THe Designer hates non Europeans???? If the evolutionary explaination accounts for the known facts why would Egnor say evolution contributes nothing to medicine when we could not have understood why the resistence existed without applying the mechanism of natural selection?

  26. #26 Novparl
    December 1, 2008

    Interesting that evolutionists have to shout such repetitive abuse. Surely, since evolution is infallibly true, there’s no need to keep shouting so. Unless you have doubts. If so, don’t let your “friends” know. You’ll immediately become the enemy.

  27. #27 Science Avenger
    December 1, 2008

    Larry said: I’m with radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, who said that one can be a creationist, believe in witchcraft, and believe that the earth is on the back of a turtle and still be a great medical researcher.

    And Prager’s qualifications for knowing anything about medical research are what again? I guess its ignoramuses all the way down.

    Tell me Novparl, do you even look at the content of threads before doing your cutting and pasting?

  28. #28 hmd
    December 1, 2008

    Interesting that cdesign proponentsists have to shout such repetitive abuse. Surely, since cdesignism is infallibly true, there’s no need to keep shouting so. Unless you have doubts. If so, don’t let your “friends” know. You’ll immediately become the enemy.

    This is a non-argument because it works equally well (that is, not at all) regardless of the facts of the matter.

  29. #29 Larry Fafarman
    December 1, 2008

    Mike Dunford said (#24) –

    Egnor’s CV looks interesting, and there’s almost certainly some good work there, but his publication record doesn’t rank him up with the “greats”.

    OK, ,maybe we can substitute “good” or “fair” for “great.” I picked up the word “great” from Dennis Prager’s statement. IMO there are probably some “great” medical researchers and practitioners out there who doubt Darwin, but in today’s climate of Darwinist orthodoxy, they are not likely to go around advertising themselves. Also, someone — I forget who — sent out questionnaires to top researchers asking them if evolution theory guided their research or something like that, and they all answered negatively.

  30. #30 Gary Bohn
    December 1, 2008

    Also, someone — I forget who — sent out questionnaires to top researchers asking them if evolution theory guided their research or something like that, and they all answered negatively.

    Well when you find out who, let us know. Then maybe your unnamed authority will have some authority – assuming the poll was valid.

  31. #31 Troublesome Frog
    December 1, 2008

    I’m with radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, who said that one can be a creationist, believe in witchcraft, and believe that the earth is on the back of a turtle and still be a great medical researcher.

    One can be a great electrical engineer and totally reject Newtonian mechanics, but I would hesitate to hire anybody who can get through an EE program and not pick up F = ma on the way.

  32. #32 kanaadaa
    December 2, 2008

    Egnor ignores the fact that his much trumpeted record is not all of the life sciences or even a bulk of it. The human life sciences become a part of larger life science theory only when examined across species and higher taxonomic orders. Egnor is nowhere near that having studied organismal systems in a very limited context. Joe the Plumber can scream all he wants about being able to fix the pipes anywhere with nary a bow in the direction of QM or GR. So also Egnor can talk about evolution. He is nowhere in the picture and inconsequential.

  33. #33 Larry Fafarman
    December 4, 2008

    Gary Bohn said,

    Also, someone — I forget who — sent out questionnaires to top researchers asking them if evolution theory guided their research or something like that, and they all answered negatively.

    Well when you find out who, let us know. Then maybe your unnamed authority will have some authority – assuming the poll was valid.

    The “who” is Philip S. Skell — details are here:

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/09/darwinism-is-grossly-overrated-ii.html

  34. #34 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 4, 2008

    This is what Skell said in 2005 in his opinion piece in The Scientist:

    I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.

    This is a creationist’s paraphrase of personal correspondence from Skell in 2003:

    The renown carbene chemist, Professor emeritus Dr. Philip Skell of Pennsylvania State University, did a survey of his colleagues that were “engaged in non-historical biology research, related to their ongoing research projects” and found that the “Darwinist researchers” he interviewed in answer to the question “Would you have done the work any differently if you believed Darwin’s theory was wrong?” found that the answers “for the large number” of those persons he questioned, “differing only in the amount of hemming and hawing” was “in my work it would have made no difference,” and some added they thought it would for others (2003. p. 1).

    Hemming and hawing? It sounds like he’s interpreting the answers, not reporting them. What constitutes a “no difference” and what constitutes “hemming and hawing?” Perhaps he would interpret the following quote from PZ Myers as “hemming and hawing” and “no difference”:

    Yes, I can go into my lab right now, make up some solutions, run a pH meter, collect embryos, use a microscope, etc., without once using the principles of evolutionary biology. Likewise, I can do a lot of the day-to-day stuff of the lab without even thinking about developmental biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, or physiology; that does not imply that these disciplines are not central to how life works. We don’t need evolutionary biology…except whenever we want to think about how these narrow, esoteric little experiments we do fit into the grander picture of life on earth. You know, biology.

    If so, Skell’s results are useless and dishonest: PZ spent several posts dealing with exactly how he uses evolutionary theory in his “non-historical biology research.” Links from this post by PZ will give the sources for most of my quotes (the first can be found from following Larry’s link tree).

  35. #35 michael fugate
    December 4, 2008

    Phil Skell is an interesting character with whom I exchanged emails in the past. He is a organic chemist, national academy member and signer of the DI dissent list. His mantra is that evolution is irrelevant to some working biologists (or at least not explicitly referred to in their work) and therefore need not be taught. I asked him if he teaches chemistry without referring to atomic theory, but he never would answer any questions I posed. He would only demand I answer his questions about how evolution is relevant and then dismiss the answers. He actually said science should not try to explain only describe – which I took to mean that we shouldn’t ask certain questions – those he is afraid the answer might not match what he believes. He also tried to claim that Darwin rejected evolution late in life.

  36. #36 Russ
    December 5, 2008

    I wanna play unexpert conjecture too!

    Ahem…I Predict that there would be LESS cases of spina difida after the war! Why? I would imagine that those men on the homefront would be seen as cowards by the patriotic lasses, and unworthy of reproduction. However, those who returned from the front would be seen as both heroically selfless and evolutionarilly fit. I therefore predict an increase of spina free children with unusually stiff upper lips!

  37. #37 Metro
    December 5, 2008

    @Russ:
    Given that anyone who made major or up was likely to spend the war to the rear among the maps and plans rather than shells and mud, and given that such men were largely drawn from the upper crust, I’d also expect to see a similar surge of children with no chins and buck teeth.

    Or possibly a lot of kids who were really good at gardening.

  38. #38 AntiquatedTory
    December 8, 2008

    @Larry,
    There’s the example of my friend’s father, a 7th Day Adventist who certainly does believe in both creationism and witchcraft, who not only performs scientific research, but performs and publishes genetic research of a kind that specifically relies on evolutionary theory. I think that people with what I’d call a consistent empirical world view underestimate the degree of mental compartmentalization and rationalization that other people are capable of in order to preserve their world view.

  39. #39 James M.
    December 8, 2008

    sylvilagus said,

    “I can’t even think of a single modern creationist who is a great scientific researcher, let alone someone who holds the additional beliefs you outline. Can you think of one?”

    Here Syl. Let me give you some examples:
    First a few early 19th century prominent Bible-believing English scientists:
    Chemists Andrew Ure (1778-1857) and John Murray (1786?-1851) Entomologist William Kirby (1759-1850)
    Geologist George Young (1777-1848).
    And of course, who could forget James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) who discovered the four fundamental equations that light and all forms of electromagnetic radiation obey. His equations are what make radio transmissions possible! He was firmly opposed to evolution even back then.

    Today there are many other Ph.D. scientists and researchers who seem to function just fine without a faith in evolution.
    I certainly don’t have a comprehensive list, but you said you couldn’t even think of one, so here are just a few to help you understand that you exaggerated a bit:
    Russ Humphreys is a Ph.D. physicist who has developed (among many other things) a model to compute the present strength of planetary magnetic fields, which enabled him to accurately predict the field strengths of the outer planets. Did a belief in the Bible hinder his research? Not at all. On the contrary, Dr. Humphreys was able to make these predictions precisely because he started from the principles of Scripture.
    John Baumgardner, a Ph.D. geophysicist and biblical creationist, has a sophisticated computer model of catastrophic plate tectonics, which was reported in the journal Nature; the assumptions for this model are based on the global Flood recorded in Genesis.
    Also, think of all the people who have benefited from a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. The MRI scanner was developed by the creationist Dr. Raymond Damadian.

    Creationists can do this kind of “normal” science as well as the best evolutionists. You don’t need evolution for this kind of science. In fact, sometimes evolution actually hinders the progress of medicine and science such as the idea of junk DNA(which discouraged scientists from studying it and finding out it’s secrets) and so-called vestigial organs. How many people suffered unnecessarily because of the evolutionary idea of vestigial organs? This idea too hindered medical research on the function of these organs for years. Or how about the evolutionary idea on the back which for decades mislead doctors and actually encouraged them to prescribe the wrong thing for back sufferers? Evolutionists taught that the reason for back problems was the evolution of bipedalism, which was superimposed upon a skeleton previously well-adapted for quadrupedal motion. The idea was this. Evolutionists thought that the spine was “deformed” when humans began to stand and walk erect, so the logical conclusion was that the proper treatment for back pain would be to decrease or, ideally, even reverse the lordosis curve. It is now recognized widely that back problems generally are not due to maladaption caused by upright posture, but rather to abuses of the body that are common in modern life.
    But for many years, a series of exercises now called “Williams flexion exercises” have been used widely in many medical back treatment programs. The goal of many of these exercises was to decrease, or even reverse, lordosis as much as possible.(which I repeat, is now generally understood to be wrong treatment) Here is one site that refers to this issue:http://www.chiroweb.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=35008

    The creationist position says that the back was created this way and so rather than seeking to decrease lordosis, the idea is to strengthen the trunk muscles so as to maintain the lordosis and restore it to it’s original position.
    Williams’ exercises perhaps had some benefit for certain issues, but for the most part, it seems they were ineffective which is why they have fallen out of favor. The reason they didn’t work is the goal of his treatment was based on evolutionary thinking. These examples show very clearly that Evolution can and does hinder medical progress and even harms it at times.

  40. #40 Larry Boy
    December 9, 2008

    “Medicine needs … population genetics…. Although stories in evolutionary biology draw heavily from several of these fields, none of these scientific fields depends in any tangible way on evolutionary stories.”

    Wow. Population genetics is simply the mathematical formulation of evolutionary theory. So apparently understanding of evolution is not even used when attempting to understand evolution. Twit.

  41. #41 Marion Delgado
    December 10, 2008

    paul:

    in a way, it’s not all that artificial a selection. What people are doing in wartime is changing the environment. Natural history is full of niche advantage examples like that.

    The military aren’t a bad stand-in for mosquitoes. Sickle cell sufferers are inherently less healthy, yet they survive.

    Human hunter and fisher selection of animals is also not artificial. It’s unfortunate from most POVs, but it’s still “natural,” given that the human animal hunts and selects differently than, say, the lupine. Is a wolverine tearing up, urinating on, and befouling anything it can’t eat unnatural?

    If taxonomy were purely behavioral, it could be humans would be classified as some sort of highly organized wolverine with language skills, IMO.

    What’s really wrong with Egnor is, to me, much, much simpler than his disagreement with evolutionary biology or his low estimate of its worth. He seems willing to dismiss the value of etiology in medicine, just to score points against evolution.

  42. #42 StuV
    December 10, 2008

    James M.: please find a dictionary and look up “modern”.

  43. #43 James M.
    December 23, 2008

    OK StuV,
    Granted, I added some names that are not “modern”, but I gave some that are too. I think you got the point.

    James M.

  44. #44 Peter
    February 24, 2009

    Nasty!
    Hi there, I wrote the note below first and decided to add how I got here before signing off. I mean, you don’t know me, nor I you, so interpreting what you say and commenting on it is unfair otherwise, imho. I am not a sniper. I was looking for information on Antarctic geology, specifically about the structures containing the largest subglacial lakes on the continent. One thing led to another, as is common on the internet, and I ended up on this page after about an hour of searching (for something else, as ALSO often happens on the web). This page being
    http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2008/11/egnor_shoots_he_scores.php in case you were wondering.

    Wow, you seem to really enjoy “taking him down.”
    Not knowing your actual motives, I must say your personal abuse of Dr. whatzisname (Egnor) is antithetical to a scientist, but very much in line with what one might expect from a bureaucratic toady intent on preserving his prerogatives. Downright ugly from this lay perspective. From your own hand (writing) I see you as less interested in the actualities of science than the maintenance of its unbroken veneer. I suppose as one gains greater respectability, one must do what one must to maintain it. If that is indeed your motivation, indeed your rice bowl, then go at it, don’t sweat the unscrupulousness of your screed, and Good Luck in the future.
    Peter Davis

  45. #45 Reginald Selkirk
    March 14, 2009

    John Baumgardner, a Ph.D. geophysicist and biblical creationist, has a sophisticated computer model of catastrophic plate tectonics, which was reported in the journal Nature; the assumptions for this model are based on the global Flood recorded in Genesis.

    Is that so? Because I heard that Baumgardner was publishing old-earth and old-moon
    papers in mainstream scientific journals
    , even as he was pursuing the young Earth RATE work. His two listed publications in Nature are:

    D. R. Stegman, A.M. Jellinek, S. A. Zatman, J. R. Baumgardner, and M. A. Richards, An early lunar core dynamo driven by thermochemical mantle convection,” Nature, 421, 143-146, 2003.
    The abstract states:

    Although the Moon currently has no internally generated magnetic field, palaeomagnetic data, combined with radiometric ages of Apollo samples, provide evidence for such a magnetic field from approx3.9 to 3.6 billion years (Gyr) ago1, possibly owing to an ancient lunar dynamo1, 2. But the presence of a lunar dynamo during this time period is difficult to explain1, 2, 3, 4, because thermal evolution models for the Moon5 yield insufficient core heat flux to power a dynamo after approx4.2 Gyr ago. Here we show that a transient increase in core heat flux after an overturn of an initially stratified lunar mantle might explain the existence and timing of an early lunar dynamo. Using a three-dimensional spherical convection model6, we show that a dense layer, enriched in radioactive elements (a ‘thermal blanket’), at the base of the lunar mantle can initially prevent core cooling, thereby inhibiting core convection and magnetic field generation. Subsequent radioactive heating progressively increases the buoyancy of the thermal blanket, ultimately causing it to rise back into the mantle. The removal of the thermal blanket, proposed to explain the eruption of thorium- and titanium-rich lunar mare basalts7, plausibly results in a core heat flux sufficient to power a short-lived lunar dynamo.

    Nothing in there about the universe being less than 10,000 years old.

    Hans-Peter Bunge, Mark A. Richards, and John R. Baumgardner, “The effect of depth-dependent viscosity on the planform of mantle convection,” Nature, 379, 436-438, 1996.
    The abstract:

    LITHOSPHERIC plate motions at the Earth’s surface result from thermal convection in the mantle1. Understanding mantle convection is made difficult by variations in the material properties of rocks as pressure and temperature increase from the surface to the core. The plates themselves result from high rock strength and brittle failure at low temperature near the surface. In the deeper mantle, elevated pressure may increase the effective viscosity by orders of magnitude2–5. The influence of depth-dependent viscosity on convection has been explored in two-dimensional numerical experiments6–8, but planforms must be studied in three dimensions. Although three-dimensional plan-forms can be elucidated by laboratory fluid dynamic experiments9,10, such experiments cannot simulate depth-dependent rheology. Here we use a three-dimensional spherical convection model11,12 to show that a modest increase in mantle viscosity with depth has a marked effect on the planform of convection, resulting in long, linear downwellings from the upper surface boundary layer and a surprisingly ‘red’ thermal heterogeneity spectrum, as observed for the Earth’s mantle13. These effects of depth-dependent viscosity may be comparable to the effects of the plates themselves.

    Once again, this is not a YEC paper. Please support your claim that the Baumgardner’s computer modeling used in this published research is “based on the global Flood recorded in Genesis.” If Baumgardner is doing credible science in a legitimate field, this does not legitimize his YEC activities, which are scientifically questionable.

  46. #46 Reginald Selkirk
    March 14, 2009

    Major Problems with John Baumgardner’s Runaway Subduction Model for the Biblical Flood

    These types of fluidic systems can be modeled by any of several computer codes using finite element difference equations. A good one called TERRA was developed by Baumgardner for his dissertation and can be used successfully to model slow geological processes. However, if certain a-physical assumptions are made about the properties of the earth’s crust and mantle, this model shows ocean crust sinking rapidly into the earth, and literally, all hell breaking loose. Overall, it is enough to say that Baumgardner’s use of the model plays very free and loose with the most basic concepts of thermodynamics, heat flow and dissipation rates, and the physical properties of the Earth’s crust and mantle. The computer code itself is accepted within the geophysics community; however, the input variables Baumgardner uses bear no relation to physical reality. Garbage in, garbage out.
    The fact that TERRA is a computer model lends some defacto credibility for audiences that may not understand that such computer models can be made to do almost anything depending on the variables used. In order to get TERRA to produce rapid geological motions, Baumgardner uses variables that differ from physical values by many orders of magnitude! Essentially, this is equivalent to making a pig lighter than air in a computer model, then claiming that your model proves pigs really can fly.

    Baumgardner states in his paper entitled Runaway Subduction As The Driving Mechanism For The Genesis Flood, presented in 1994 to the Third International Conference on Creationism that:…

    So Baumgardner’s Genesis-compatible models have not been presented in Nature, they have been presented at Creationist conferences instead? This seems rather different than the impression James M gave us.