Respectful Insolence

I don’t want to make this blog “all Egnor all the time.” I know it’s hard to believe, given my posting behavior recently, but really I don’t. No matter how much the Discovery Institute’s creationist neurosurgeon may embarrass the hell out of me as (I shudder to have to admit) a fellow surgeon, I’ve recently been trying to ration the rebuttals of his nonsense about evolution, and I note that I took one swipe at him yesterday. Even so, I hope you’ll forgive me for this brief lapse. I had to do it because my irony meter is building up to a meltdown and explosion because of what Dr. Michael Egnor recently posted in a post called Pseudo-Darwinism: A Theory for All Seasons.

In essence, he was responding to Reed Cartwright’s taking him to the woodshed for a little education regarding evolution after his ignorant pontificating that “Darwinism” (his epithet for evolution, spat out through clenched teeth) did not contribute to the development of genetics. His response to Dr. Cartwright’s quite reasonable observation that “the research program of Crick, Brenner, Benzer, and colleagues relied heavily on applying Darwinian principles (random mutation and selection) to model organisms” is what did the damage to my irony meter:

Darwin asserted that all natural biological complexity arose by random undesigned variation and natural selection. The intentional alteration and intentional selection of microorganisms is a nice example of designed variation and artificial selection. Dr. Cartwright’s application of Darwin’s theory to intentional design and breeding of bacteria is pseudo-Darwinism.

Pseudo-Darwinism–in this case, the attribution of Darwin’s theory to design and artificial selection–is the antithesis of Darwin’s theory. Crick and colleagues chose variants to study and artificially selected them. Their work was carefully planned. It wasn’t random and it wasn’t natural. The biotech industry breeds bacteria, combining molecular biology with ancient principles of breeding. Darwin learned from breeding; he didn’t invent it or any of its principles.

Excuse me while I pull the plug on my irony meter; the poor thing just wasn’t “designed” to withstand such naked chutzpah. Believe it or not, Dr. Egnor is actually lecturing Dr. Cartwright about the difference between artificial and natural selection.

Maybe my efforts at explaining to Dr. Egnor that, contrary to his repeated assertions to the contrary, eugenics is not based on “Darwinism” because it is artificial, not natural selection have finally sunk in! In fact, whether he realizes it or not, Dr. Egnor has just undermined one of his favorite arguments against “Darwinism.” Remember how Dr. Egnor loves to claim that Darwin’s theory directly resulted in eugenics, in fact going so far as to say that the “only contribution evolution has made to modern medicine is to take it down the horrific road of eugenics“? Heck, Dr. Egnor even said, “The single incontrovertible Darwinian contribution to the field of medical genetics was eugenics, which is the Darwinian theory that humans can be bred for social and character traits, like animals.”

Which is artificial, not natural selection, just like what Dr. Egnor said about “breeding” bacteria!

I would like to congratulate Dr. Egnor for finally realizing that there is indeed a difference between artificial and natural selection and that Darwin’s theory is all about the latter, not the former. It took a lot of effort on my part (and the part of others) attempts to school him on this point, and our efforts finally appear to have borne fruit. Unfortunately, Dr. Egnor either does not realize or will never admit that, in his eagerness to refute Dr. Cartwright, he’s actually self-refuted his own ignorant blather about “Darwinism” and eugenics, a Discovery Institute talking point that he likes to parrot ad nauseum! (As for the rest of his error-filled “rebuttal” of Dr. Cartwright, I’ll leave them to Dr. Cartwright himself to refute. Indeed, if we do a little alteration to a couple of Dr. Egnor’s statements, I couldn’t have put it better myself:

“The attribution of Darwin’s theory to the design and artificial selection that is eugenics is the antithesis of Darwin’s theory.”

And:

“The application of Darwin’s theory to intentional design and breeding of people is pseudo-Darwinism.”

Very nice. Thanks a lot, Dr. Egnor! I’ll remember those quotes for future use! I especially like the term “pseudo-Darwinism” to refer to attributing intentional design and breeding to Darwin’s theory, as creationists like to do so much when attributing the intentional design and breeding of people (i.e., eugenics) to Darwinism.

I guess it’s all just more evidence of Dr. Egnor’s genius, where words mean exactly what he says they mean, no more, no less. To him, all biology is “reverse engineering” of “designed” structures, and, apparently, the distinction between artificial and natural selection is important to him when he thinks that it can be used against “Darwinists” but to be discarded when it interferes with his zeal to demonize Darwin’s theory as being responsible for the horrific eugenics movement that became all too popular in the early 20th century.

Irony indeed.

It’s a good thing, though, that I did turn off my irony meter after seeing Dr. Egnor’s post. The poor thing wouldn’t be able to withstand the second hit coming from the “intelligent design” movement’s big kahuna, Bill Dembski, last night, and which I was made aware of early this morning by Mike, PZ, and John regarding the recent debate about “framing” science. Believe it or not, Bill Dembski surpassed even Dr. Egnor in the irony department:

“Framing,” as a colleague of mine pointed out, is the term that UC Berkeley Professor of Linguistics George Lakoff uses to urge Democrats that the public will agree with liberal policies if only the policies are described in different terms — “framed” in other words. Politics aside, framing is part and parcel with the condescension of our secular elite that the masses cannot be reasoned with and must therefore be manipulated.

The authors of “Framing Science” (see below), which appeared in Science, are world-renowned scientists and therefore know whereof they speak. Well, not exactly. Matthew Nisbet is a professor of communication and Chris Mooney is a correspondent for the atheist magazine Seed. (Nisbet’s blog is also hosted by Seed.) Nisbet and Mooney are both outspoken defenders of Darwinism and critics of ID — which is no doubt why the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science) regards them as qualified to “frame” science.

Egads! Bill Dembski and the entire “intelligent design” movement do nothing other than trying to frame their religious pseudoscience as “real science” with vacuous slogans designed to frame ID as a scientifically legitimate alternative to evolution (it ain’t) and to frame the debate as a matter of “fairness” rather than the matter of science that it is, slogans such as “teach the controversy”!

Excuse me. I have to go and clean up. Even unplugged, my irony meter just couldn’t withstand the two-prong assault from Michael Egnor and Bill Dembski. There are smoldering parts strewn all over the place now. Poor thing. It never stood a chance.

Comments

  1. #1 pough
    April 10, 2007

    atheist magazine Seed.

    Logos, er I mean, ID has nothing to do with religion.

  2. #2 JohnA
    April 10, 2007

    Great post! It was only a matter of time before he slipped up and said the opposite…after all it becomes very hard to keep the lies straight after a while.

  3. #3 Stuart Coleman
    April 10, 2007

    Maybe Egnor performed some experimental surgery on himself. I can’t think of any other way for someone to spout out crap like that, and at the rate he manages to. Something’s gotta be broken in his head.

  4. #4 PT
    April 10, 2007

    Damnit. That’s the second irony meter I’ve gone through today.

    The first exploded in a shower of sparks this morning when I heard Rush Limbaugh deriding a program to catalog all species of life on earth, taking a sideswipe at global warming and pointing out how much science doesn’t know. He finished off his tirade by pointing out how vain mankind is in it’s ignorance of this world that was created for us.

  5. #5 Joshua
    April 10, 2007

    Actually, Dembski’s got a great point! Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is and convince all his DI pals except Wells and Behe to shut the Hell up because they’re not qualified in any way, shape, or form to discuss evolution or ID.

    Oh, hm. Actually, that would require him to shut up as well, wouldn’t it?

    All the better! Let only the DI’s biologists every speak of evolution again!

  6. #6 mark
    April 10, 2007

    Let’s start a pool. How long before Egnor is reduced to merely producing animations and farting noises?

  7. #7 Doc Bill
    April 10, 2007

    Atheist magazines, eh?

    You know, he’s right! And it’s not just Seed. It’s a conspiracy of Biblical proportions!

    Little did I know that my house was littered, yes, littered, with atheist magazines, and I bet your house is, too.

    Here’s a partial list of magazines that have No Scripture, No Biblical References, Not Even a Little Prayer. Atheist magazines!

    Gourmet
    Backpacker
    Science (well, duh!)
    Wine Spectator
    Bon Apitit
    National Geographic
    MacWorld
    MacLife
    AAPG Bulletin
    The Planetary Report
    Astronomy
    Natural History

    Dang, I’m infested!

  8. #8 pough
    April 10, 2007

    Mac-related magazines atheist? Tell that to the born-again next to me. I know more about Steve Jobs than Steve Jobs does and I never once had to want to know.

  9. #9 Jesse
    April 10, 2007

    This may be neither here nor there but why doesn’t Evolution News & Views, dedicated to fighting ‘The misreporting of the evolution issue’ not allow comments on their blog entries? If they’re so secure in their reasoning, logic, and data, why can’t pro-evolution readers challenge them?

    What are they so afraid of?
    (and yes, I understand that the answer to my final question could be very, very long….)

    These ID proponents are not doing anything for their cause other than painting all their ilk as feckless chickensh!t.

  10. #10 Jesse
    April 10, 2007

    Oops. Double negative in my previous post. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

    First person to find it gets a cookie. Or something.

  11. #11 pough
    April 10, 2007

    Don’t they not allow comments? I thought not allowing comments was something they did. Mmm… cookies…

  12. #12 Jesse
    April 10, 2007

    Fresh out of cookies.

    Enjoy this bitchslap from the Onion to Creationists.
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/55807

  13. #13 Mark C
    April 11, 2007

    OK, so would someone please explain the problem with “voila [sic]” in the second paragraph?

  14. #14 Paul Power
    April 11, 2007

    Mark C: It needs an “acute” accent (sloping donw from left to right) on the last a: voilĂ !

  15. #15 Ginger Yellow
    April 11, 2007

    While we’re being being pedants, a) that’s a grave accent, and b) it’s ad nauseam.

  16. #16 MR
    April 11, 2007

    People, I can’t stress this enough, you have to pre-set the irony meter (or Dembskometer as it is technically known) to the proper range before you visit the DI page. If you don’t set it right, the resistance will be too low and you get things like this. Let’s remember our lab safety ok?

  17. #17 coffee
    April 18, 2007

    http://www.salk.edu/faculty/faculty/details.php?id=39

    An evolutionary biologist who has contributed significantly to medicine.