Pharyngula

The daily egnorance: the mind reels

What are we going to do with Michael Egnor? He seems to be coming up with a new bit of foolishness every day, and babbling on and on. Should we ignore him (there really isn’t any substance there), or should we criticize him every time (although he’s probably capable of generating idiocy at a phenomenal rate—he’s got a real talent for it)?

I’m not going to link to the awful “Evolution News & Views” site, and I’ll make this brief. His latest gripe is with the recent Newsweek cover story (that I had some problems with, too), but his argument is silly.

This is your assignment. You are to read the mind of someone named “Lucy.” Actually, you are to find out where Lucy’s mind came from. You can’t meet Lucy. She’s been dead for 3.2 million years. Your only data will be a fragment of Lucy’s fossilized skull and genetic analysis of some apes, men, and lice.

This isn’t a bad dream. This is an exciting new branch of evolutionary biology, and it’s on the cover of Newsweek magazine. And they’re serious.

The article doesn’t claim to be able to read dead minds. It cites a few studies in paleoneurology, where some interesting correlations between hormones and brain-associated proteins with behavior might provide some general insights. If Egnor is going to build straw men, he could at least try to make the stuffing a little less obvious.

He also goes on and on about how he can’t read brains by looking at blood flow in his work. We know. No one claims that we can. Of course, Michael Egnor does use these indirect measures to diagnose general properties of the brain — broad function, health, injury, etc. Unless he wants to argue that the physical state of the brain has nothing to do with the individuals possessing it, in which case he is out of a job, it’s awfully strange for him to claim that we can’t learn anything by examining brains and the molecules associated with him…and the only way he can do it is by inventing this false claim that biologists are saying they can “read the mind”.

He’s going to have to do better than this dishonest junk. I’m getting bored with him already.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    March 19, 2007

    The fact that there have been some 15 different species of intelligent hominids

    Eh, that depends on your species concept, and most of the 25-upwards species concepts are not applicable to fossils in the first place.

    Depending on the species concept, there are between 101 and 249 endemic bird species in Mexico…