Respectful Insolence

…That all around evolution-ignorant but nonetheless eager lapdog of the Discovery Institute, SUNY Stonybrook Professor of Neurosurgery Dr. Michael Egnor, is back.

Rats. I thought that the utter drubbing he took at the hands of myself and my fellow ScienceBloggers (in particular PZ Myers) might have given him the message that he needs to lay low for a while. Apparently not. I guess he must have the monumental ego that more than a few neurosurgeons are famous for. (After all, it takes supreme confidence in one’s own abilities to be able to cut into the human brain and believe that the patient will come out OK.) It’s not enough this time for him to show up in the comments of PZ’s blog to make a fool of himself and embarrass scientific surgeons everywhere. This time around, he’s appearing on the Discovery Institute podcast, to be interviewed by fellow DI lapdog and sometimes attack poodle Casey Luskin in a a truly nauseating lovefest entitled, One Doctor’s Journey to Becoming a Darwin Doubter:

On this episode of ID The Future Dr. Michael Egnor, professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, tells his story of how he became a full-blown skeptic of Darwinian evolution. Dr. Egnor explains how he originally had internal doubt about the ability of Darwinism to produce new biological information. These doubts were then brought directly to the surface when he read books by leading ID-theorists like William Dembski and Michael Behe.

You know I just had to listen to this, particularly since it’s only around 10 minutes long. I’ll provide translations of some of Dr. Egnor’s more annoying statements (below the fold, of course).

The interview starts out with the cheerily irritating Casey Luskin fawning over Dr. Egnor as a “very distinguished guest” and an “award-winning surgeon.” The other thing that is truly grating is that neither Luskin nor Egnor ever seems to use the word “evolution” much. They both use the term “Darwinism” and refer to “Darwin” again and again in such an obviously intentional way that it’s truly jarring to hear it. (Really. Listen to the podcast to experience it. They practically spit out the term “Darwinism” as they use it as frequently as they can, rarely even mentioning the word evolution.) It’s the typical creationist tactic of trying to denigrate evolutionary theory as ideology by attaching an eponym to it, like Marxism or Leninism. Perhaps we need to start referring to ID creationism as “Beheism” or “Dembskiism” whenever possible.

But I digress. Back to the business at hand. Luskin first asks: How does a brain surgeon become a “Darwin skeptic” and was Egnor originally a “Darwinist”? After pointing out that he had majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate and that he had always been interested in science, Dr. Egnor answers by giving a description that is nothing more than one glaringly obvious argument from personal incredulity. If you boil down Dr. Egnor’s objections to “Darwinism” to their essence, they state that just because he can’t understand how evolution could result in so much complexity, then evolution must not be true. Really, that’s all there is to it under all the pseudoscientific and pseudomathematical handwaving.

Some quotes from Dr. Egnor:

Learning about biochemistry and learning about molecular biology, I found some aspects of it quite unsatisfying in a sense that there was so much astonishing complexity, so much beauty in the way life worked at the molecular level that I couldn’t understand how it came to be. At the time, although I didn’t question Darwinism explicitly because I didn’t realize how much evidence there was to support questioning Darwinism, I felt that there was something really missing in my understanding of biological complexity. But I didn’t think a whole lot about it and went on to practice neurosurgery and do my own research.

Translation: Because I can’t understand how evolution might produce the astounding complexity of life, I decided that evolution must be false. If I can’t understand it it must not be true.

The only thing that Dr. Egnor said that I can’t argue with is that something was (and is) really missing from his understanding of biological complexity. More Egnor silliness soon follows:

As time went on, I came to seriously question whether just randomness, just random meaningless events, could really generate the kind of beauty and elegance and complexity that’s at the core of living things.

Ah, yes, the old “randomness” = “meaninglessness” canard. So far, Egnor’s batting 1.000 for parroting creationist fallacies. Also, why limit himself to just living things and evolution? What about stars, galaxies and supernovae? Aren’t those astonishingly beautiful, too? In particular, though, to Egnor the genetic code is a real problem:

What troubled me about my attempt to understand where the complexity and the elegance of life came from was a difficulty in seeing how, for example, the genetic code could arise by chance. It seemed to me preposterous to assume that a representation of an informational code, which is really a language, with letters and words and syntax and punctuation, could arise by random events, no matter how many random events, or no matter what kind of selection pressure you offered. We have no experience in nature whatsoever with representational codes or languages except in biology, and the only experience we have in our lives is with such languages that are intelligently designed by people.

Talk about anthropomorphizing the genetic code! The only reason the genetic code appears to be a “representational language” is because humans brains can best understand it that way. It is our concept that we impose on the chemical reactions that are at the heart of the genetic code. It’s a metaphor. Of course, Egnor neglects to mention that the “information” and “representational codes” in the genetic code are rather wasteful and redundant. Why would an “intelligent designer” (a.k.a. God) make the actual proportion of DNA in the genome that codes for protein so small and the noncoding regions so large? What “informational purpose” do introns serve? Why are they present only in eucaryotes and not in procaryotes like bacteria? It all seems like a rather cobbled-together “language.” Wouldn’t an “intelligent designer” come up with something less haphazard?

Of course, perhaps the biggest howler of all from Dr. Egnor is this:

The difficulty was that I didn’t realize that a very powerful scientific case can be made that these aspects of living things are not random, and it wasn’t until I read the work of Michael Behe or Bill Dembski and Phillip Johnson that I came to see that the qualms that I had, the suspicions that I had, about the adequecy of Darwinism to explain biological complexity had a very sound scientific basis. In fact, in my view, th science that Behe and Dembski and Johnson were talking about was much better science thatn the Darwinism that I had been taught.

Huh? Behe, Johnson, and Dembski don’t do any actual science! All they do is voice their same fallacious “objections” to evolution and then expect people to accept ID as a valid alternative based on their “skepticism.” What experiments have they done to demonstrate that “intelligent design” might be a valid scientific hypothesis worthy of challenging the Theory of Evolution for dominance as the theory explaining the diversity of life? None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Scientists do science, and they do it by doing some form of experimentation, observations, or original investigation, after which they formulate hypotheses that make predictions based on their observations and then go back to repeat the cycle of experimentation and observations to test their hypotheses. None of these luminaries of the ID movement has done any such thing. Heck, Johnson, for one, is a lawyer, not a scientist, and seems to base his “skepticism” of “Darwinism” on legal-sounding sophistry more than anything else.

Here are some of the “questions” that Egnor has:

What struck me as astonishing in looking at the work of Bill Dembski and Phil Johnson and Michael Behe…is that if you look objectively at the genetic code, at much of modern molecular biology, you see a specified complexity that is really in some way the semantics of meaning in, for example, the genetic code, that the gene that codes for an enzyme doesn’t itself do what the enzyme does. It doesn’t catalyze a reaction. It simply has a meaning that is translated into the enzyme that catalyzes the reaction. How can one generate by random processes, regardless of what kind of selection pressure you have, because all selection pressure has been historically nonintelligent. It gets colder, it gets warmer, a boulder falls on an animal, something happens, but it’s not intelligently caused. But such selection pressure, how can that generate meaning? How can that generate a code, a language? And those questions are very good scientific questions. They’re the kinds of questions that Darwinists should have asked in the 1950′s immediately after the genetic code was revealed. It’s the kind of thing that should have stopped Darwinism in its tracks.

Actually, the full genetic code wasn’t elucidated until the early 1960′s. Indeed, I’m teaching a class in which one of the papers the students have to read is the famous 1961 Crick Nature paper (Nature 192;1227-1232, 1961, actually), in which Crick used an elegant series of bacteriophage crosses to demonstrate that the code was almost certainly a triplet, not a doublet code, although pointing out that his work did not rule out a six “letter” code. By the end of 1961 all that was known was that the genetic code was triplet and that the UUU RNA codon coded for the amino acid phenylalanine. But that’s relatively minor quibbling that’s fun to take Dr. Egnor to task for, given how much he seems to pride himself on his scientific knowledge, but ultimately not enough. The real problem is that Dr. Egnor is once again in essence defining terms to suit his personal incredulity. Because DNA stores the necessary information to synthesize the enzymes that do the chemical work that life requires, Egnor seems to be baffled that such a process could evolve without the input of intelligence. Of course, he never actually cites any evidence that his view is so. He simply believes it and asserts it as being so:

It’s one thing to propose that animals might get longer fur if the weather turns colder because of natural selection. You know, it’s a perfectly reasonable inference. You might infer that bacteria that had mutations that in some accidental way prevented them from being killed by antibiotics might have evolved resistance to antibiotics. Those are all plausible. I’m not so sure they’re so well proven, but they’re plausible. The question as to how you got a representational language, molecules that actually have semantics, that have meaning, that actually gave rise to life, and the question as to how you could achieve that by random processes is a very good scientific question, and it’s a question that should have been asked if Darwinists had been objective about their work. Immediately when the genetic code was discovered. Instead, all they did was that they made the same sort of facile assumptions that they had been making about all kinds of evolution and simply applied the same sort of “just so” stories to molecular evolution. And I think that finally good scientists are starting to come around and say, “Wait a minute. There’s been a serious mistake in terms of understanding this process. We need to go back and look at it again.”

I’ll agree that how the genetic code evolved is indeed a very good scientific question, but it is a question that in no way poses a threat to current evolutionary theory or requires the postulation of some sort of intelligence to explain. Indeed, it’s a hot topic of research for evolutionary biologists, with computer simulations evaluating the plausibility of various explanations and competing hypotheses being tested scientifically. If you search PubMed, you’ll find over 5,000 articles about or touching on the evolution of the genetic code, and PubMed doesn’t even index many evolutionary biology journals in which such articles would be expected to appear. Indeed, there was a rather interesting paper in PNAS in November about how the universal genetic code may have emerged as determined by studying of transfer RNAs. It also seems to me that Egnor also sounds almost Lamarckian in the way he describes how animals evolve thicker coats in response to cold climate. He also seems not to have considered that the very fact that the genetic code is very nearly universal for all organisms can also be viewed as supporting evolution. If the development of the genetic code appeared very early in the history of life, that would go a long way towards explaining why nearly all life, from bacteria to humans, uses the same code, and even the variants of the genetic code that exist are minor.

Not surprisingly, basically all Dr. Egnor’s “critique” of “Darwinism” boils down to is his personal incredulity that biological complexity could ever possibly have evolved from more simple elements without the input of intelligence, his anthropomorphizing the genetic code, and his concluding that, because the genetic code functions like a human language and because human language is created only by the “intelligent design” of humans, then the genetic code must have been intelligently designed. That’s it. No data supporting his position, just his “doubts.” His propensity to equate “randomness” with “meaninglessness” also strongly suggests the religious, not scientific, roots of Egnor’s “skepticism” about “Darwinism.”

This is all of a piece with Dr. Egnor’s previous self-embarrassment on Pharygula and elsewhere. Mark has dismantled Egnor’s pontifications about the fuzziness with which Dr. Egnor equates “information” with complexity, basically doing it in such a way that does not force him to define exactly what he means by “information.” Now that I think about it, I wonder if the drubbing that he took at Mark‘s, PZ‘s, and Mike‘s hands over his abuse of information theory in the service of ID creationism is what led him to start blathering about the “language” of the genetic code instead of how, in his mind, evolution supposedly cannot result in the generation of “new information.” He’s simply deemphasized the term “information” and instead substituted “representational codes” or “language with syntax and punctuation,” but he’s basically talking about the same thing. It’s his same old wine (or should I say “whine”?) in a new bottle, and the wine is, alas, still vinegar. Once again, I really hope that Dr. Egnor shows more intellectual curiosity and diligence in reading the neurosurgery literature than he does in educating himself about evolutionary theory. I really do.

The depressing thing is that at the end of the podcast, Luskin eagerly chirps that Dr. Egnor will be returning to voice his specific criticisms of “Darwinism” and thus embarrass scientific surgeons everywhere yet again with his self-confident ignorance. It looks as though I won’t be getting that paper bag to hide my shame off my head any time soon, as it looks as though Dr. Egnor will keep spouting his ignorance about evolution for the foreseeable future. (No doubt at some point he’ll spout his misunderstanding of the history of eugenics as being almost entirely attributable “Darwinism” as well. It’s only a matter of time.) I guess I’ll just have to learn to live with Dr. Egnor’s embarrassing antics. I think I can manage, though, as long as I get to fisk his parroting of long-discredited “intelligent design” creationist fallacies in my usual inimitable fashion from time to time.

After all, sometimes a guy’s just got to take out his frustrations on something.

Comments

  1. #1 Interrobang
    March 8, 2007

    It’s really easy to understand DNA as a language with syntax if your brain is predisposed to understand things in terms of language and syntax, as it seems to be.

    It sounds to me like he’s doing the classic creationist evolution-is-the-same-thing-as-abiogenesis thing again, as well.

    FWIW, I don’t think I’d find it very reassuring to find out that my neurosurgeon was a creationist. Something about the idea gives me the willies.

  2. #2 Antiquated Tory
    March 8, 2007

    Isn’t there a name for that kind of logical fallacy, where you take a metaphor and treat it as literal truth?

    Oh, and I was disappointed to find out that the doctor was blaming eugenics on Darwin and was not a eugenics apologist. I keep hoping to find a creationist who supports eugenics, especially if he is anti-vaccination as well.

  3. #3 Steevl
    March 8, 2007

    “Isn’t there a name for that kind of logical fallacy, where you take a metaphor and treat it as literal truth?”

    Reification. Another creationist favourite is “laws require a law giver”.

  4. #4 anonimouse
    March 8, 2007

    Egnor is an egotistical loon. I mean, c’mon…if I can’t understand evolution, then there must be an intelligent designer. Seriously, is that all he’s really got?

  5. #5 S. Rivlin
    March 8, 2007

    Most of us are impressed by the language we understand, believing that the language is what makes us so intelligent (just ask Ann Coulter how smart she is). Vice versa, we feel really dumb when we listen to a language we do not understand (ala Egnor). A friend of mine has an African Gray Parrot that speaks English better than most highschoolers. He (the bird) also agrees with Dembski, Behe and Egnor that his ability to utters words that sound intelligent to the IDiots at the Discovery Institute can only be explained by the existence of an African Gray God.

  6. #6 J-Dog
    March 8, 2007

    Aren’t there Surgeon Parties… I mean Surgeon Conventions where you could do a Michael Moore on the foo’? Maybe he could catapult you to the finals of America’s Funniest Home Videos, or at least UTube.

    Of course the danger is destroying the image I have of him right now… Like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein…

  7. #7 Joe
    March 8, 2007

    Egnor belongs on Long Island.

  8. #8 rrt
    March 8, 2007

    I sensed this last time around, and this post reinforces my idea: I think Egnor’s real hook is the “the gaps are fatal” facet of the old God-of-the-gaps argument, and not just argument from incredulity. The core of his above claim is that not knowing how the genetic code evolved “stops Darwinism in its tracks.” Earlier, it was not having a satisfactory (for him) explanation of how some unspecified level of complexity and information could evolve.

    Of course, there’s the added layer of misunderstanding and misrepresentation in that he wants to paint evolutionary biology as a lot more clueless in these areas than it is. But still, I think the thrust of his argument is that not knowing these things means evolution can’t be possible. I think this is the root of his claims that “The science that Behe and Dembski and Johnson were talking about was much better science than the Darwinism that I had been taught.” I don’t think he’s referring to some imaginary positive evidence for ID, but rather to gaps (alleged and real) that the ID movement points out.

  9. #9 fnxtr
    March 8, 2007

    Dembskiism? Too much credit. ID is just neo-Paleyism. Maybe not even neo.

  10. #10 Salad Is Slaughter
    March 8, 2007

    Casey Luskin is an “attack poodle?” My standard poodle weighs 60 pounds, and when I’ve startled him by coming out of a dark room, has flashing teeth and the snarl that came out of his throat (until he recognized me) was blood chilling. Maybe you could refer to Luskin as an attack Papillon?

  11. #11 jod
    March 8, 2007

    nice take down, orac.

  12. #12 Kelly
    March 8, 2007

    On drug resistance: I’m not so sure they’re so well proven, but they’re plausible.

    So, VRE and MRSA are like rumors from Darwinists meant to hide ‘the truth’? This is a terribly disturbing statement from a surgeon who is supremely concerned with sterility and infection control. Eek.

    This is like a public health official saying something like, “I’m not so sure cooking meat has anything to do prevention of foodborne illness. It’s plausible, sure, but what evidence have we really got?”

  13. #13 S. Rivlin
    March 8, 2007

    Dr. Charbonnet: You remember a few years ago, he was the cause of a slight controversy on the subject of sour wine.

    Napoleon III: Oh, yes, I recall.

    Dr. Charbonnet: He claimed to have found little animals in it… infinitesimal beasts.

    Napoleon III: But are there such creatures? Do they really exist?

    Dr. Charbonnet: Your Majesty, microscopic organisms have long been observed. They spring into being of their own accord wherever there is putrid matter or fermentation. They are the result rather than the cause of disease. By heating wine to certain temperature, Monsieur Pasteur was able to destroy them. I presume he plans to cure blood poisoning in the same manner: namely, by boiling our blood.

    Napoleon III: Heaven forbid.

    Dr. Charbonnet: It’s not unlikely, I assure you.

    Napoleon III: But, I won’t have it, Charbonnet. I won’t tolerate such practices. We’re not living in the Middle Ages. This is France… Paris… the nineteenth century.

    Empress Eugenie: I think Monsieur Pasteur should be allowed to defend himself.

    Dr. Charbonnet: But, your Majesty…

    Empress Eugenie: I, too, have read the pamphlet, Doctor Charbonnet. It said nothing about boiling blood – merely to boil the instruments that you surgeons use.

    Dr. Charbonnet: Your Majesty, if I did anything so absurd as to boil my instruments or scrub my hands, they’d think I was a witch doctor resorting to charms and laugh me out of the hospital.

  14. #14 pough
    March 8, 2007

    Perhaps we need to start referring to ID creationism as “Beheism” or “Dembskiism” whenever possible.

    I’m having a hard time trying to decide which of them is funnier.

    Behe – failed to figure out how evolution works, wrote a book about how his failure was one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the last century.

    Dembski – mathematician who doesn’t seem to get math, makes bold predictions that tend to be wrong, makes bets that he doesn’t deliver on; thinks that makes him superior, somehow.

    I say we go for Beheism; he has more cred and he really got the ball rolling with Darwin’s Black Box. Also, it’s nothing more than “I don’t get it so it can’t be true”, which is the bulk of their argument. He gets extra points for re-badging “interlocking complexity” as “irreducible complexity” and trying to turn it into a problem for evolution instead of a prediction.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    March 8, 2007

    Well, Dembski avoided testifying at Dover, whereas Behe got to be on the receiving end of a Perry Mason moment.

    Q. We’ll return to that in a little while. Let’s turn back to Darwin’s Black Box and continue discussing the immune system. If you could turn to page 138? Matt, if you could highlight the second full paragraph on page 138? What you say is, “We can look high or we can look low in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.” That’s what you wrote, correct?

    I think Behe deserves the credit. ;-)

  16. #16 Sastra
    March 8, 2007

    There is a flip side to “I don’t get it so it can’t be true.” Try “Because *I* am so astounded at the amazing complexity of life, people who are less astounded than me lack the sensitivity, aesthetics, and sense of appreciation which I have, and thus they don’t see the problem, and are less open to the obvious solution.”

    Arguments from Incredulity often seem to have a subtext of smugness. It’s not just that the person making them thinks they’re so smart that they ought to be able to understand something, and if they can’t, then nobody can. Their wonder and awe is being trotted out as a measure of their depth of feeling.

  17. #17 Theda
    March 8, 2007

    Paleyism! ID is so Paleyism. That is a perfect epithet. It has the added attraction that it would probably grate on – Paleyists? – to the same degree that the sneer “Darwinist” grates upon others. Also, Casey Luskin is an attack mouse.

  18. #18 Tukla in Iowa
    March 8, 2007

    I can’t fathom the amount of energy released by a nuclear bomb; therefore, nuclear bombs can’t possibly work.

  19. #19 ERV
    March 8, 2007

    After pointing out that he had majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate…

    Ohhhh!!!
    Well now this makes perfect sense. Biochem majors are bio majors that couldnt pass ecology or the other evolution intensive upper-level courses, so they switched to chem upper-levels.

    *ducks and runs from biochem posters*

    hehehehehehe!

  20. #20 Sastra
    March 8, 2007

    Blake Stacey wrote:

    I think Behe deserves the credit. ;-)

    Ah, but “Beheism” would morph to “Behemianism,” and sound kind of counter-culture artsy and hip, as in “I’m a Behemian.” Dembski and Darwin both have two syllables and start with “D,” and one could always pronounce the “e” in “Dembski” so that it sounds suspiciously like a “u” (kinda like the way creationists call it “EVIL-lution” wink-wink)

    “Dumb-skinian.” That would be more fun ;)

  21. #21 Mike Haubrich
    March 8, 2007

    I would like to be a fly on the wall at dinner during the next neurosurgery conference he attends. He may get his comeuppance, yet.

  22. #22 Keanus
    March 8, 2007

    Creating a name wrapped around the surname of our favorite advocates of ID gives them too much credit. Maybe their practice should be called ignorism for their persistent ignoring of data that contradicts their claims. Indeed the glue that holds their ideas together is ignorance, just plain willful ignorance.

  23. #23 KiwiInOz
    March 8, 2007

    If we go with Behemism, can we say that he has created a behemoth?

  24. #24 KiwiInOz
    March 8, 2007

    Sorry, Beheism, not Behemism, although the later is redolant with miasma.

  25. #25 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 8, 2007

    Cordoviana.

  26. #26 Ginger Yellow
    March 8, 2007

    ” We have no experience in nature whatsoever with representational codes or languages except in biology”

    Guess what, we don’t have natural selection anywhere else in nature. The two might be related. I will never understand the anti-evolutionist’s inability to grasp just how different reproduction with mutation makes life from the rest of nature. I mean it’s pretty obvious. Rocks don’t just start multiplying spontaneously. Bacteria do. That’s a pretty big difference. The likes of Dembski clearly understand this and are playing to the rubes, but an astonishing number of people earnestly use arguments of the “Have you ever seen a computer build itself?” type. To which the obvious answer is: “Have you ever seen a computer have sex?”

  27. #27 MYOB
    March 8, 2007

    “Ah, yes, the old “randomness” = “meaninglessness” canard.”

    Otherwise known as the ‘I’m special’ defense.
    When you have a great bod, great brain and great brawn as I do, something this incredible and pretty couldn’t possibly have come about naturally. I’m just too great. Only a god of the highest magnitude could have done it. Not some lousy wine god or some guy with a trident hanging out with the seaweed, only a really kickass white-skinned god who makes good people rich and evil people poor could have made me.

    MYOB’
    .

  28. #28 Mooser
    March 8, 2007

    While it doesn’t alarm me when those who claim to disbelieve evolutionary theory turn out to have a Lamarkian view. (I’ll exercise and my son will be muscular)

    It’s when those who claim to accept evolution turn out to think in Lamarkian terms, that’s disturbing. It happens a lot.

  29. #29 BYO
    March 8, 2007

    You have to admit – if you really want to hear people to kiss-up to you, having an advanced degree and preaching Intelligent Design is the way to go. No one will kiss up to you like the ID movement will. A neuroscientist who is an evolutionist is met with a shrug (yup, another scientist who supports evolution). But, say your a believer in Intelligent Design, and you’ll get ass-kissers aplenty.

  30. #30 Orac
    March 8, 2007

    Excellent point. If you’re a well-regarded academic physician and want your ego stroked in a really big way, publicly endorsing ID would certainly get you what you want.

  31. #31 Renee
    March 8, 2007

    For those who are wondering, Behe is pronounced ‘Bee Hee’, accent on the first syllable.

    How would I know? Sadly, I went to Lehigh University, current homeplace of Behe, professor of biochemisty. Even his department is ashamed to have him around: http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm . But there’s nothing they can do about him, since he’s tenured.

    On top of this, his department has to list him as one of their faculty, and give him a webpage. Apparently, he has a deep interest in mouse traps:
    http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/faculty/behe.html .

    Back 20 years ago, when he was still doing real research, he was thought of as sort of strange, and graduate students by and large didn’t want to work for him.

    On the subject of neurosurgeons, I had always assumed they had to be the best of the best, smarter than any other kind of doctor, even smarter than other surgeons. However, I have been divested of that notion, ever since I had consultations with 3 different neurosurgeons, to see if I had a spine problem (turns out I didn’t). Well, they didn’t seem all that bright, certainly no brighter than other doctors I’ve seen. And not all that professional either, less so than the general surgeons (4) that I have ever had contact with. I’m not all that surprised to find out that a neurosurgeon has embraced intelligent design.

  32. #32 Justin Moretti
    March 8, 2007

    It’s ironic – ID creationism ought to be a useful tool for weaning people off the six-days approach. Instead it’s being used to take people the other way.

    I have to admire the biblical literalists, actually – at least they’re morally and intellectually honest enough to admit they’re taking it on faith.

    The intellectual rigor necessary to prove (not just state dogmatically) that someone or something really is behind it all is probably greater than that necessary to prove the Darwinian approach. But people denying what I strongly suspect they know to be true, in the name of ideology, sucks. And in the end they’d better be wrong, for their sakes. Because if the God they’re thinking about (whether secretly or openly) does exist, He’ll burn them in Hell for their hypocrisy.

    For me, if there’s any place for God, it’s in setting down the laws and starting conditions that allow a self-perpetuating (or at the very least, self-initiating) universe, of the sort that our science describes. After that, it’s scientific cosmology, physics and evolution all the way.

  33. #33 Hugh7
    March 8, 2007

    “…the science that Behe and Dembski and Johnson were talking about was much better science thatn the Darwinism that I had been taught.”

    So much the worse for the teaching! You in the US have really got to get evolution made central to the biology curriculum. Nothing there makes sense without it.

  34. #34 nopirates
    March 8, 2007

    “We have no experience in nature whatsoever with representational codes or languages except in biology, and the only experience we have in our lives is with such languages that are intelligently designed by people.”

    We intelligently designed languages now? Not if you’ve taken an introductory course in linguistics…

  35. #35 Fatmop
    March 9, 2007

    Now hold on a minute there, there are actually people who identify themselves as Marxist. Or were you referring solely to American propaganda during the Cold War?

  36. #36 Freddy the Pig
    March 9, 2007

    Antiquated Tory was looking for a Creationist Eugenicist –
    I don’t have a modern example, but the Social Credit provincial government in Alberta (Led by Bible Bill Aberhart) passed a eugenics act in the 1930s. This act called for the forced sterilization of the mentally handicapped (many of whom were not actually) and was not repealed until the Socreds were defeated by the Progressive Conservatives led by Peter Lougheed in the early 1970s. Repealing this was either the first or second Bill the PCs passed. When he spoke at the opening of the Tyrell museum of Paleontolgy Lougheed hinted that the museum would never have been built if the Socreds had remained in power because dinosaurs are just too embarrising to creationists.

  37. #37 Mike
    March 9, 2007

    Beheism? Dembskiism? Hmmmm…. Going further back we see Paleyism… But no, I think the present suggests a name far more fitting.

    Dilbertism.

  38. #38 Erasmus
    March 9, 2007

    Creationist Eugenicist: try Robert Malthus.

  39. #39 The Science Pundit
    March 9, 2007

    There are some key differences. Darwinism is characterized by the conception of new and revolutionary ideas that rock the scientific community and cause a lot of very smart people to ask “Why didn’t I think of that?” Beheism is characterized by the resurrecting long ago debunked arguments and restyling them to make then appear original.

  40. #40 Cain
    March 9, 2007

    So I grew up about 10 minutes from the university, and it’s Stony Brook. Two words.

  41. #41 S. Rivlin
    March 9, 2007

    Read this post http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/03/japanese_scientists_growing_mo.html on the Discovery Institute website and you would be amazed at what these people interpret as their success in spreading their “religion” in the Far East. Moreover, they look at a Japanese cartoon about the assault of ID on Evolution as a big victory. Wow!

  42. #42 deadman_932
    March 10, 2007

    I posted up a suggestion to the Stony Brook newspaper, The Statesman, that they take a look at Dr. Egnor’s ideas and claims. Of course, I also suggested that they look here, at PZ’s and Panda’s for some critical appraisals. Who knows –it might get some action.

  43. #43 Richard Wein
    March 10, 2007

    All Egnor’s hand-waving about “representatonal codes”, “meaning” and “semantics” is nonsense. DNA is not representational, except in the trivial sense that each codon (base-pair triplet) represents a particular amino acid. There aren’t bits of DNA that represent arms, legs or other parts of an organism. DNA is more like a recipe for making an organism. The recipe is extremely long and complicated, but the language in which the recipe is expressed is relatively simple, far simpler than human language.