Pharyngula

Michael Egnor, Whig historian

He mangles science, now he defames history. Michael Egnor is like the Swiss army knife of creationist hackery.

Former Vice President Al Gore famously claimed to have invented the Internet because years ago he was in the Senate and sponsored a bill. The assertion that Charles Darwin’s theory was indispensable to classical and molecular genetics is a claim of an even lower order. Darwin’s theory impeded the recognition of Mendel’s discovery for a third of a century, and Darwin’s assertion that random variation was the raw material for biological complexity was of no help in decoding the genetic language of DNA. 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. The field of medical genetics is still recovering from eugneics, which was Darwin’s only gift to medicine.

Wow—that is simply breathlessly ahistorical.

  • Al Gore did not claim to have invented the internet.

  • No one has claimed that Darwin invented genetics, either, or even that he was indispensable to it. Mendel’s work languished for thirty years because a) the paper was presented at and published by a relatively obscure natural history society, in Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines im Brunn; b) it really is quite a tedious paper, full of tables of numbers, and not at all the kind of thing most natural historians were keen on at the time; and c) it was unclear how universally applicable his results were—Mendel himself did experiments with hawkweed that gave results that did not fit with the simple Mendelian model. Darwin had a competing (and wrong) model of heredity which did not help matters, but given that the existence of Darwin’s gemmular hypothesis did not impede research in the 20th century, it’s rather silly to blame him for blocking work that he had not even read.

  • The rediscovery of Mendel’s work in 1900 did provoke a great deal of argument within the community of evolutionists for about 20 years; it was not at all clear how to reconcile genetics and Darwinian evolution, and it took a fair amount of scholarship and research to fit them together, work which culminated in the neo-Darwinian synthesis. At that time, though, the most famous name in genetics was Thomas Hunt Morgan, who authored books titled Evolution and Genetics and The Scientific Basis of Evolution — arguing that evolution and genetics were somehow in opposition simply makes no sense at all. Once the concepts were worked out, genetics helped evolution’s case.

  • Watson and Crick both are and were proponents of evolutionary theory, and did not see any conflict between their observations and evolution. I have no idea what Egnor is babbling about when he says “random variation … was no help in decoding the genetic language of DNA.” As geneticists and biochemists worked out the chemical nature of the molecule of heredity, they very quickly puzzled out the mechanisms that generate errors — that work was essential in figuring out how change occurs. Working out the genetic code was a different problem. When Egnor claims that the “understanding of the genetic code was the direct result of the inference to design in biology”, he’s simply lying. Try reading about how the genetic code was cracked by people like Crick and Brenner and Benzer, and what you find is a purely reductionist experimental approach to the problem.

  • Darwin was not a eugenicist. Eugenics owes a greater historical debt to animal husbandry — you do not need evolutionary theory or even genetics to propose that you can change a stock with selective breeding. If Egnor would like to blame agriculture for the cruelties of the eugenics movement, he’d be more accurate.

I’m appalled at Egnor’s poor grasp of the history of these sciences. I suppose it only goes with the territory, though — he’s incompetent when it comes to the science, so why not be a dazzling nincompoop in all areas. He’s a kind of creationist Renaissance man, knowing absolutely nothing about everything.

If Stony Brook lets this man teach, they have a problem. I would actively discourage any students from attending a university that puts such a malinformed fool in front of a classroom.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 28, 2007

    I’m not sure I could write something that wrong if I tried. Somehow, somewhere, a correct fact would enter and the perfect wrongness of my paragraph would be spoiled.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 28, 2007

    In happier news, the first page of Google hits for “Michael Egnor” is comprised entirely of scathing blog entries! His Stony Brook physician profile doesn’t show up until near the bottom of the second page.

  3. #3 Rey Fox
    March 28, 2007

    The DI found a real gem this time. They must have put out an ad: “Liar For Hire: Must have letters after your name and know enough science-y sounding talk to dazzle the donors.”

  4. #4 ctenotrish
    March 28, 2007

    “dazzling nincompoop” – what a perfect phrase. Also appropriate for the SD physician who is blathering similar nonsense.

    (SD nincompoop link posted by a commenter in an earlier post, check Rapid City Journal for more info. If your blood pressure can handle it. Touch and go for me, a South Dakotan with a functioning brain.).

  5. #5 Dianne
    March 28, 2007

    it really is quite a tedious paper, full of tables of numbers, and not at all the kind of thing most natural historians were keen on

    Sigh. (As I read this while taking a brief break from revising a paper with 3 tables and 5 number laden figures.)

  6. #6 Steve LaBonne
    March 28, 2007

    I think it’s delighful that the DI has so eagerly latched on to this obvious idiot. Not exactly the kind of astute PR on which they like to pride themselves.

  7. #7 Andy
    March 28, 2007

    creationist Renaissance man, knowing absolutely nothing about everything

    Did you just coin this? It’s quite a good quote.

  8. #8 Alex
    March 28, 2007

    “…so eagerly latched on to this obvious idiot.”

    The fact is that what he wrote sounds very authoritative and accurate to the lay person. Certainly the audiences he feeds this to won’t question his ideas..as the subject is too complicated with too much minutea. He’s doing a great job being decietful. He’s telling all the sheep exactly what they want to hear, exactly the way they want to hear it.

  9. #9 Glen Davidson
    March 28, 2007

    I think the idea is to come up with a “fresh new” liar to dazzle the IDiots for a time, then as his obvious mistakes and ignorance become too obvious, to simply find another new “star” of ID.

    They can churn IDiots indefinitely, as each failure mostly just whets the appetite for some new savior of ID.

    Primarily, Egnor has simply set up a strawman (that Darwin supposedly invented genetics, inspired it, or some such nonsense), and he keeps knocking it down no matter how many times it has been identified as a strawman. But the man can’t think, at least not about evolution, so he chants his idiocy into the deepening twilight of any remaining respect that anyone of any intelligence might still have for him.

    I had a discussion on this forum just this morning with someone who brought up again the observation that DNA is essentially what the neo-Darwinian synthesis (and later developments) required and predicted for the carrier of genetic information. The fact is that evolution absorbed genetics to a considerable extent, because genetics complements evolution and vice-versa.

    Apparently, to the ignorant Egnor, when genetics independently supplies processes that evolution needs in order for it to work, that’s a strike against evolution. And when genetics independently reveals that the predicted stability and capacity for change needed for evolution to work, that, too, only indicates how useless evolution is.

    One of the great successes of evolution is that it does what is evidently beyond the thinking abilities of Egnor–it meshes and integrates with all of the other sciences, from genetics to physics. Egnor cannot think across the disciplines, hence he thinks that genetics is something truly separate from evolution (rather than being a convenient cognitive and academic “separation”), and cannot recognize that aspects of genetics are what explain evolution in the predicted manner, and that natural selection is all that is capable of explaining why genomes have the specific information in them that they exhibit.

    Evolution does not explain genetics then, it tells us why we have the genes that we have, and how duplicated and mutated genetic material evolved as they do. Since Egnor is completely opposed to such explanation, however, he is uninterested and unable to explain in any manner how and why genes contain the specific information that they do. The fact that he resorts to a non-explanation, God, only demonstrates the bankruptcy of his “science”.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  10. #10 Inoculated Mind
    March 28, 2007

    Better yet, try googling “egnorant” – 2120 hits.
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=egnorant&btnG=Search

  11. #11 Glen Davidson
    March 28, 2007

    creationist Renaissance man, knowing absolutely nothing about everything

    I like the phrase, but really, he probably does know a lot about surgery, perhaps even a lot about the memorizable bits of medicine (I cannot think that he knows how to synthesize in biology and medicine, as he doesn’t even follow the synthesis of genetics and evolution that is spoon-fed to him).

    He knows one thing, it’s just that he thinks that he is a Renaissance man in spite of the fact that he can’t even deal with subjects related to the human body–even though human anatomy and physiology is his specialty.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  12. #12 Inoculated Mind
    March 28, 2007

    …okay not all of those relate to him.

  13. #13 tristero
    March 28, 2007

    By gratuitously referencing a well-debunked lie about Gore where he doesn’t belong, Egnor gives us a peek at his real agenda, which is not scientific but cultural and political.

    It’s no wonder his “history” is so utterly wrong and distorted. With his Gore remark, Egnor’s totally exposed as just one more rightwinger interested in imposing his bleak, punitive morality on the rest of us.

  14. #14 Julie Stahlhut
    March 28, 2007

    You really have to hand it to the guy. To be completely ignorant of science when you’ve never studied any science is easy. To be proudly, bloviatingly ignorant of science when you’ve been through the experience of a pre-med program, medical school, postgraduate medical/surgical training, and years of surgical practice takes very, very hard work.

  15. #15 Warren
    March 28, 2007

    he’s incompetent when it comes to the science, so why not be a dazzling nincompoop in all areas.

    Sounds like a perfect candidate for a Ph.D. in homeopathy: The less you know, the higher your qualifications.

  16. #16 Steve_C
    March 28, 2007

    That Al Gore thing makes me crazy.
    As soon as anyone uses that crap against
    Al, I have to correct them. I never let it pass.

  17. #17 Russ
    March 28, 2007

    Even though Darwin was not a founder of genetics, I think his clear elucidation of what was required of an inheritance mechanism in order for natural selection to work, prepared many minds to recognize Mendelian genetics, or at least something akin to it, as the right tool for the job.

    Opportunity does favor the prepared mind, and Mr. Darwin provided that preparation as a raw awareness that the biological world was comprehensible in ways never before imagined.

  18. #18 DouglasG
    March 28, 2007

    The Al Gore remark shows where he gets his information from. – Conservapedia? – we’re building tomorrows idiots today!

  19. #19 Stanton
    March 28, 2007

    Dr Egnore goes to show everyone that even IDiots regard facts as the Devil’s playing card.

  20. #20 Geral
    March 28, 2007

    “The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased. Evolution News & Views presents analysis of that coverage, as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution.”

    Oh boy, and does he deliver.

  21. #21 rjb
    March 28, 2007

    I have a good question for the good Dr. Egnor. If he feels that evolutionary biology has no place in medicine, or in his field in particular, can he possibly give an explanation as to why central neural regeneration following events such as strokes, spinal cord injuries, and surgical trauma, doesn’t occur very well in mammals? Yet, it seems to occur quite well in our other vertebrate cousins? Seems to me that there’s lots of research looking into what sort of genetic changes occurred between mammals and other vertebrates that have led to these cellular differences, including changes in proteins expressed by oligodendrocytes.

  22. #22 barkdog
    March 28, 2007

    The post is up to your usual high standard, but where did the title come from? The Whig historians may have been smuggly self-satisfied, but they were hardly liars. Did you have a bad experience with one in your youth? Are you a closet Tory? Inquiring minds want to know.

  23. #23 Zeno
    March 28, 2007

    Damn, but I hate that ridiculous Al Gore fable. I once wrote a sharp note to a journalist who used it in an article (one of those stories containing the off-hand comment “Just as Al Gore once claimed to have invented the Internet…”). What did I get in reply? A semi-apology saying that of course the journalist knew better, but it was just a handy framing device. “Frame” is right. I was not mollified.

    We’d be more likely to have a better president today if journalists didn’t think it was so cute to tell tall tales about the “smart kid” (and thus we ended up with the class clown).

  24. #24 waldteufel
    March 28, 2007

    I would never let this Egnor fellow be my doctor. He is such an incredibly ignorant man on so many fronts that one reels at the thought of his wielding a knife in surgery.

    I would worry that his lack of appreciating his intellectual limitations would carry over to his work.

    Egnor’s motto seems to be: “I’m often wrong, but I’m never in doubt!”

  25. #25 Sonja
    March 28, 2007

    The paragraph speaks volumes — about the ignorance of its intended audience.

  26. #26 Great White Wonder
    March 28, 2007

    Michael Egnor worked in a elementary public school cafeteria after being diagnosed with hepatitis and knowingly allowed blood from his fingers to drip into the fruit cups.

    That was before he turned into a truly vile ignorance-promoting dipshit.

  27. #27 Steve_C
    March 28, 2007

    They basically made out Gore as a exaggerator and a liar…

    They don’t even call Bush that… and he’s a proven liar and exaggerator.

  28. #28 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 28, 2007

    DouglasG:

    The Al Gore remark shows where he gets his information from. – Conservapedia? – we’re building tomorrows idiots today!

    Please, it’s spelled Conservapaedia! (-:

  29. #29 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 28, 2007

    Add this guy to the list of those I can’t wait to publicly humiliate, I suppose. I’m afraid my passive-aggressive slip is showing through a bit. However, it gives one pause to realize that the practice of medicine can be so throughly divorced from the scientific worldview, as well as those facts not immediately under medical purview, trivial things like the age of the Earth and such.

  30. #30 Steve_C
    March 28, 2007

    Does it come down to the fact that some doctors are just trained technicians/mechanics?
    True understanding isn’t really required.

  31. #31 j
    March 28, 2007

    I don’t get the “OM” thing.

  32. #32 j
    March 28, 2007

    Oh, does it have to do with the Order of the Molly?

    Excuse me for being slow today.

  33. #33 llewelly
    March 28, 2007

    Damn, but I hate that ridiculous Al Gore fable.

    Recall that it was aggressively promoted by Wired – a magazine that
    presented itself as being by, for, and about internet aficionados.

  34. #34 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 28, 2007

    j:

    See here.

  35. #35 garth
    March 28, 2007

    stevec: I wrote ’em. I don’t have an email for Egnor, but I emailed the DI. Although I felt kind of sick and gooey when i was on their site.

  36. #36 Zombie
    March 28, 2007

    I honestly wonder what’s going on with Egnor professionally. He can’t possibly think that this all isn’t going to affect his reputation, and he’s setting himself up for it.

    If I wanted to suggest a conspiracy theory, I’d speculate that Egnor’s having some sort of conflict with his management, and either decided to go out with a bang or set himself up as the Christian martyr.

    I mean, we can agitate to have Stony Brook do something about Egnor’s misuse of his position and teaching responsibilities, but if they actually do, you know the DI’s going to make a giant fuss out it.

    New test case? Instead of a case over pushing ID in, they’ll make one out of an ID martyr?

  37. #37 Art
    March 28, 2007

    Just a reminder – as a way to avoid the implications of breeding for evolutionary mechanisms, ID proponents tend to liken “artificial selection” to intelligent design. This is what they resort to when ducking matters such as the evolution of maize (macroevolution at its core). Since eugenics is but artificial selection applied to humans, this means that, at its core, eugenics is Intelligent Design. Not Darwinian evolution (whatever that is) but Intelligent Design.

    Keep reminding our friends at the DI of this.

  38. #38 Paul D
    March 28, 2007

    @Alex

    The fact is that what he wrote sounds very authoritative and accurate to the lay person.

    Indeed. ‘Tis the very definition of “truthiness.”

    PS: Regarding Al Gore, of course he never said he invented the Internet. But if he had, it would have been a perfectly accurate statement.

  39. #39 Doc Bill
    March 28, 2007

    I have questions and speculation, but we ought to be able to figure this out.

    Egnor is willing to sacrifice part of his reputation for the DI. Why? What’s in it for him? What’s his beef with “darwinism?” Social?

    I think Egnor is literate, but he is intentionally distorting history and science. Why? He’s doing this for a purpose.

    Could it be that the DI, post-Kitzmiller, is so hungry for publicity that they’ve created this Dr. Martyr Guy to provoke the “darwinists” into predictable responses?

    If you recall Egnor’s original posts about evolution not being able to create “information,” he changed his question a few times as responses came in from real scientists, and finally retreated behind a statement that he was only asking a “rhetorical question.” Well, if that’s the case, Casey Luskin, why is it so important that “darwinists” have not (falsely) responded to Egnors (rhetorical) question?

    I think the DI is trying to make news because the mainstream media has obviously grown bored of “intelligent design” after Kitzmiller and moved on. Behe has been reduced to giving lectures in churches, Dembski works in a church and the number of op-ed pieces about ID has dropped to zero. The DI is yesterday’s news.

    Egnor still hasn’t responded to Orac as to how “intelligent design” aids medicine. We musn’t forget that the challenge has gone unanswered.

  40. #40 derek
    March 28, 2007

    Changing the subject from Egnor, but still on the history of Darwin and The Origin of Species, I heard an interview on BBC Radio 4 this morning with this guy, who claims that Darwin didn’t delay publishing because he was afraid of the backlash. He was just a very busy man, committed to writing up the results of the Beagle voyage, plagued by ill health, and with other interests to fit in, like his beloved barnacles.

    Dr van Wyhe says the “delay view” appears to have gathered pace in the 1940s, probably inherited from earlier writers who did not have access to all of Darwin’s work.

  41. #41 Chet
    March 28, 2007

    Michael Egnor is like the Swiss army knife of creationist hackery.

    Hrm, I’m not sure that’s the appropriate simile. Typically, a swiss army knife has more than one tool.

  42. #42 Owlmirror
    March 28, 2007

    Regarding the term “Whig historian” itself:

    Whig historian “one who views history as an inevitable march of progress” is recorded from 1924.

    Although I think there are better terms to describe someone who is confused and/or deceitful about history. “Historical revisionist”, for instance.

  43. #43 Reed A. Cartwright
    March 28, 2007

    I don’t think that PZ will have to worry about Egnor teaching much longer. Egnor has provided the “perfect” framework with it can be argued that neurosurgery is dispensable to medicine. After all, Hippocrates didn’t do neurosurgery. Therefore, it will be easy to cancel his license as being superfluous to medicine.

  44. #44 Mithrandir
    March 28, 2007

    Michael Egnor is like the Swiss army knife of creationist hackery.

    Hrm, I’m not sure that’s the appropriate simile. Typically, a swiss army knife has more than one tool.

    In that case, the Discovery Institute is the Swiss army knife of creationist hackery. They’ve got William Dembski, Michael Behe, Michael Egnor, Phillip Johnson… see? More than one!

  45. #45 Torbjörn Larsson
    March 28, 2007

    Eugenics owes a greater historical debt to animal husbandry — you do not need evolutionary theory or even genetics to propose that you can change a stock with selective breeding.

    My understanding was that Darwin was independently influenced by animal husbandry.

    Perhaps we need to make Egnor an evolutionary tree between between the disciplines? But wait… he can’t read those…

    Okay, how about: if eugenics influenced evolution, how is it there are PYGMIES + DWARFS??

    they very quickly puzzled out the mechanisms that generate errors — that work was essential in figuring out how change occurs.

    How and why change occurs is probably the more important part of the code, especially in medicine. One would think that this shouldn’t be a matter of egnorance.

    a swiss army knife has more than one tool.

    LOL!

    So which type of tool is Egnor? He doesn’t cut it, he isn’t too picky about facts, but tries to screw ignorant people. I will vote for a screwdriver, more specifically a cross one.

  46. #46 Torbjörn Larsson
    March 28, 2007

    Eugenics owes a greater historical debt to animal husbandry — you do not need evolutionary theory or even genetics to propose that you can change a stock with selective breeding.

    My understanding was that Darwin was independently influenced by animal husbandry.

    Perhaps we need to make Egnor an evolutionary tree between between the disciplines? But wait… he can’t read those…

    Okay, how about: if eugenics influenced evolution, how is it there are PYGMIES + DWARFS??

    they very quickly puzzled out the mechanisms that generate errors — that work was essential in figuring out how change occurs.

    How and why change occurs is probably the more important part of the code, especially in medicine. One would think that this shouldn’t be a matter of egnorance.

    a swiss army knife has more than one tool.

    LOL!

    So which type of tool is Egnor? He doesn’t cut it, he isn’t too picky about facts, but tries to screw ignorant people. I will vote for a screwdriver, more specifically a cross one.

  47. #47 sailor
    March 28, 2007

    “Even though Darwin was not a founder of genetics, I think his clear elucidation of what was required of an inheritance mechanism in order for natural selection to work, prepared many minds to recognize Mendelian genetics, or at least something akin to it, as the right tool for the job.”

    I think that the Darwin model suggested small incremental changes. What Mendel found (due by chance to his choice of subject) was a sort of all-or nothing process. So at first it seemed that Mendel did not really fit in with Darwin. However, since then we have learnt a lot more and it all ties in.

  48. #48 Jeremy L.
    March 28, 2007

    hmmm… Lots of hostility towards the underdog.
    It’s sad because your field of study has already publicly won against the unprepared, inadequately-resourced I.D. and creationist movement. Evolution is widely accepted in North America, Europe, Asia, the South Pacific, and elsewhere. Nearly every museum, public school library, and respectable science-related media carries evolution. The ID and creationist “science” can only be found in churches, websites and private schools. So why the continued assault against them? They get some media attention, and your people go rage over it. Yes, you can and do efficiently argue against their points. So what? That’s why evolution has the place that it does in science and society, and creationism does not.
    You provoke their movement by constantly bringing it up, like bad press for a celebrity… They will just get more popular. Can you actually realistically imagine the paradigm in universities and other forefronts of our secular societies switching over to creationism? Heck no. Not by a long shot. Religious belief is falling in Europe and North America.
    But it seems you guys enjoy having a group of people to look down on and call IDiots. Congratulations, you’ve achieved a mob mentality that is no different from the gang assaults that happen near my house where ten big guys kick the crap out of some small guy with a big mouth until he ends up on life support. Stop giving people reason to believe that the human species is devolving. Its pathetic and you need to focus your attention on something that actually is a threat to people’s standard of living! Let the IDers and creationists embrace and spread their beliefs amongst themselves and to whoever will listen and adopt their “proofs” at their own expense. Its no big deal and it doesn’t compare the hundreds of millions (or more) of people in the westernized world who hold to evolution, even if apathetically. Get over it, and stop acting so childishly self-righteous: “We want to get rid of this pseudoscience so no one will succumb to its stupidity.” Are you really so insecure about your intelligence and the evolutionary paradigm that you need to badger and bully the uninformed amongst yourselves like schoolgirls?

    The things we want to go away will never disappear as fast as we want them to. Let time be the factor that removes this movement from the general public’s eye.
    Grow up in the meantime, its embarrassing.

  49. #49 dzd
    March 28, 2007

    Well concern trolled.

    The reason we have to stay vigilant is because if we don’t, that’s when they start pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

  50. #50 Neito
    March 28, 2007

    To Jeremy;
    We fight against them because they are not dissolved. They are not gone. They are not some set of kooks out in (very) right field. They are everywhere. 10% of the population of america believes that the universe was designed by an intelligence. That’s roughly the same amount as, supposedly, are homosexual. Being gay is not “fringe”. These people win very real fights against proven science. We, and more specifically people like PZ who are experts in this, have a duty to fight against this un-knowledge. Just because they are down doesn’t mean they’re out. They are very much around, and it needs to be stopped.

  51. #51 Glen Davidson
    March 28, 2007

    You provoke their movement by constantly bringing it up, like bad press for a celebrity…

    The learned Jeremy tells us how ID really arose: it wasn’t Phil Johnson, the DI, or Behe. Course not, it was PZ, Dawkins, Gould, and us. You can see why he whines so pitiably, especially about our “gang mentality”. You know how it is, we’re just like UD, since of course we have no real science to protect (that’s right, he didn’t say it, but what other reason would he have?).

    No, we should just let it alone, not file briefs with the court against ID, let them win. What’s it to him? He doesn’t know anything about the threats to schooling, the bullying that ID attempts. He’s pristine, better than everybody, because he’s so like IDists, ignorant, incapable of analyzing the situation, and extremely self-righteous.

    The things we want to go away will never disappear as fast as we want them to. Let time be the factor that removes this movement from the general public’s eye.

    Yes, let it be taught in the schools, and spread through propagandizing of ignorance. That’s how ideas disappear, by having the intelligent educated members of society shut up and make way for the idiots. Oh Jeremy, we have so much to learn from you.

    Grow up in the meantime, its embarrassing.

    Everything about your post is embarrassing, from your total ignorance of sociology, to your inability to discuss the specific threat of ID (thankfully, the education threat has abated at present–Kansas remains a threat on the horizon, however, for in two years the small majority of pro-science board members are the ones mainly up for a vote). Your stupidity is what you enjoin upon us, for we should act as ignorantly as you do, and then you’ll bless us.

    Go to school, little man. Your existence is embarrassing to the human race.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  52. #52 lockean
    March 28, 2007

    If there were such a term, Egnor would be a ‘Tory Historian’; He’s really accusing scientists, liberals, all of us here really, of being Whig Historians for believing that Darwin contributed anything to understanding of the world.

    Also, how did eugenics come from agriculture?

  53. #53 Hank Fox
    March 28, 2007

    Jeremy, I gotta disagree with you. It’s like you’re saying “Well, the bully only picks on a FEW little kids, off in one corner of the playground. If you call attention to him, it’ll only encourage him to act out more.”

    The reason to fight the ID movement is the same reason you fight roaches. If you don’t maintain a standing resistance, they gain on you. Eventually your house (nation) is unlivable … for YOU, anyway.

    Of course I look down on the gang-leaders of the ID movement. They lie. And it appears to be deliberate — a conscious strategem that allows them to make money or gain political power, with no concern for any negative end result. For the same reasons I care about the lies that got us into Iraq, and the lies that allowed tobacco companies to poison people for decades, I care about this. You kinda have to, I think.

  54. #54 Owlmirror
    March 28, 2007

    Also, how did eugenics come from agriculture?

    While Mendel was the first to actually codify the rules inheritance (and these rules needed to be modified as a result of better genetic understanding), for many millennia, farmers and other keepers and observers of animals (hunters with dogs, pigeon-fanciers with pigeons, etc) have had an ad-hoc understanding that desirable traits can be magnified by breeding related animals together. Breeding also involves discarding — culling — those offspring of those animals that do not have the trait desired, or are too weak, or are otherwise defective.

    Millennia ago, the Spartans examined newborn Spartan babies, and subjected them to the same ruthless culling that farmers did with weak and sickly goats or cows: the babies that did not make the cut were tossed into a ravine.

  55. #55 frog
    March 28, 2007

    Jeremy,

    I just received at my work address (at a University) a very expensive large magazine that is pro-creation, anti-femininst, and not just anti-enlightenment but anti-renaissance. The printing was definitely into the $100,000 if not millions. Obviously from a powerful, well-funded organization to Bring America Back to Religion.

    The theocrats are not weak. They got a fool of a president elected. They are capable of much more. If you think this is hysterics, you’re just a damn fool. Just like the Romans who thought the German tribes were just unwashed barbarians.

  56. #56 RBH
    March 28, 2007

    Science Notes has a handy compendium of the various blog responses to Egnor’s egnorance.

  57. #57 egazh
    March 28, 2007

    Wonder who is the bigger IDiot, a neurosurgeon who doesn’t understand biology or the doofuses at disclaimery unlimited who invited this guy to make an ass of himself and reduce their outfit to inanity. I know Einstein wanted to be a plumber if he could do it all over again. But even then asking Egnorant to comment on biology is exactly like taking a physics lesson from my auto mechanic.

  58. #58 Glen Davidson
    March 28, 2007

    Here’s a particularly egregious bit of nonsense from Jeremy:

    Religious belief is falling in Europe and North America.

    And here’s a good answer to it:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm

    The link does provide a more nuanced and complex picture than we usually see. The most I’d say is that it leaves the level of religiosity in America unclear, probably something like unchanged. Xianity is down (but still very predominant), New Age-y stuff is up, as are a diversity of religions.

    Obviously the problem with creationism is that religion is not sensibly declining, and it appears as though the more virulent strains are gaining at the expense of the (by comparison) sensible and boring mainline Xianity.

    The sad thing is that mostly the opposition to ID/creationism only reaches a critical mass in response to a very real threat to the secular nature of gov’t, and particularly public education, when it crops up to mandate its teaching in the schools every now and then (mostly the constant diminution of evolutionary teaching flies under the radar, and would be difficult to counter in any case). Lately, creationism was set back in the ’80s (McLean vs. Arkansas) only to resurge as ID in the ’90s and ’00s. And since the Supreme Court has not decided against the ID threat, and it has hardly died out politically in any decisive manner, anyone who is the friend of science needs to remain vigilant.

    Publicity-wise, an ID lie makes it around the country twice before the truth gets out of the starting gate. To be sure, in the web age that might not be quite as true, but somehow it seems like it, when every refuted bit of nonsense is repeated endlessly by IDCs on the net, while UD remains completely inured to criticism (with most critics banned from commenting–generally banned for telling the truth). It is so easy to lob a charge at evolution and have those who already loathe it accept and repeat it as if it not only were a valid criticism (rarely, if ever) but a positive case for the creator.

    Actually getting rid of the practice of science (by opposing its evidentiary basis) seems to be the explicit goal only of ID, that is,among the truly influential political organizations and operatives (marginal splinter groups probably do too, but of course we don’t usually bother unthreatening people no matter how idiotic they may be). Very few of us would bother with ID if it had no political power, the only kind of power it wields, and if it did not intend to destroy the power of the empirical method by legislating and propagandizing a mere semblance of science to replace the evidentiary standards utilized by both the judiciary and by scientists (obviously utilized in different, but overlapping, ways).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  59. #59 Don Price
    March 28, 2007

    “Darwin’s assertion that random variation was the raw material for biological complexity was of no help in decoding the genetic language of DNA.”

    I’m glad you pointed it out PZ… My first thought was “Yeesh! I don’t imagine Sydney Brenner would quite agree…”

    BTW, the papers that he’s talking about are some of the finest examples of clear thinking and elegant experimentation in human history, IMO. No brute force here, just geniuses playing with Petri dishes; unraveling the secrets of life. Thinking about them still gives me the chills after all these years.

    The C.elegans Nobel Prize thing was really just a lifetime achievement award for Brenner. It was embarrassing that he didn’t get it for so much of the earlier stuff that he did.

    Kary Mullis got it before him! ‘Nuff said…

  60. #60 Blake Stacey
    March 28, 2007

    RBH:

    Looks like ScienceBlogs swallowed part of your HTML. Try Michael Egnor redux.

  61. #61 H. Humbert
    March 28, 2007

    Neito said:

    “They are everywhere. 10% of the population of america believes that the universe was designed by an intelligence.”

    I’m not sure where you got that statistic, but that seems far too optimistic to me. Everything I’ve heard suggest that just under half of adult Americans believes in literal creationism–as in Adam and Eve and the talking snake.

    Heck, 1 in 4 Americans thinks Jesus will likely return this year! Not just that Jesus will return, or that Jesus may return in their lifetime, but actually come back in 2007. Just let that fact sink in for a moment, then go ahead and allow yourself to be appropriately horrified.

    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/208/story_20828_1.html

    Anyone who thinks creationism is not a threat in modern America is woefully ignorant of its extent, popularity, and ambitions.

  62. #62 Doc Bill
    March 28, 2007

    Jeremy said:

    Let the IDers and creationists embrace and spread their beliefs amongst themselves and to whoever will listen and adopt their “proofs” at their own expense. Its no big deal…

    Too bad they don’t just spread their beliefs amongst themselves. The Kansas State School Board is an example where the beliefs were forced on everybody because the creationists had a majority voting block. Dover, Pennsylvania. Enough said there. Ohio State School Board? A close call.

    No, Jeremy, those dishonest creationist people don’t spread their beliefs amongst themselves, rather they are on a crusade to dumb down America with their superstitious nonsense.

    No, Jeremy, I’m not going to ignore them. I’m going to play Whack-a-Mole, over and over and over.

  63. #63 rrt
    March 28, 2007

    If I may elaborate on Hank Fox’s bully analogy, I would add that in polls, roughly half the schoolkids responded that the bully’s victims “probably had it coming.”

  64. #64 Kseniya
    March 28, 2007

    Attaboy, Doc. *beams*

  65. #65 Neito
    March 28, 2007

    @59
    Well, wikipedia has its errors… But really… Second coming of Jesus this year?

    I’m only 21, and the world, from what i remember, was supposed to have been destroyed about 5 times over. Maybe i should start an office pool…

  66. #66 lockean
    March 28, 2007

    Owlmirror,

    The Spartan hoplite class–the folks known to have practised selective infanticide– did not so far as we can tell show any interest in improving agricultural yields or livestock whatsoever. Nor did the Cretan hoplite class who also may have practised selective infanticide. Nor did any other Classical Greeks that I’m aware of. Classical Greek aristocrats held labor of any kind in contempt, which is partly why Socrates’ comparison of politics to shoemaking and the like was unsettling.

    Greeks like Hesiod in the earlier Archaic period and the later Helenistic Greeks did show interest in animal breeding, farming techniques, bringing new land under cultivation, introducing new crops and the like, but I don’t know of any of them advocating, much less practising, any sort of proto-eugenics program.

    Medieval and early modern European nobles blathered on about ‘breeding’ a lot (which originally meant improving the family’s ‘bloodline’, not manners), but if the gin has ruined my memory, that’s the very period when abortion was beginning to be outlawed. I’m not sure about that but I am sure they didn’t advocate infanticide, or general racial or national improvement. (For that matter, the Spartans weren’t trying to IMPROVE their alleged racial characteristics.)

    Didn’t pseudoscientific eugenics arise during the 19th century? Right when the percentage of farmers declined and a new urban proletariat was growing? Was it more popular among farmers than among elites? Somehow I doubt it.

    Is there any evidence that eugenics advocates were more interested in farming than other people? Darwin was interested in plant and animal breeding, so why didn’t he advocate eugenics?

    Saying eugenics came from animal husbandry seems a bit like saying cold fusion came from medieval alchemy or perpetual motion machines. Where’s the thru-line?

  67. #67 Graculus
    March 28, 2007

    Typically, a swiss army knife has more than one tool.

    Shouldn’t that be “IS more than one tool”?

    So which type of tool is Egnor?

    A “tool” tool.

    I think that the Darwin model suggested small incremental changes. What Mendel found (due by chance to his choice of subject) was a sort of all-or nothing process.

    Well, mostly Darwin was more correct, “Nature does not proceed in leaps”, than the “all or nothing” view. You don’t go from fins to fingers in one go. Except in the case of polyploidy and a few other instances you don’t ever see a new species in a single generation. Darwin rejected the “paint” theory of blended inheritance, opining that it “must be particulate”, so he got it partly right.

    Everything I’ve heard suggest that just under half of adult Americans believes in literal creationism–as in Adam and Eve and the talking snake.

    According to the last Gallup I saw, 45% of USians believe tha humans were spewcially created less than 10,000 years ago. Only 12% accept non-deity involved evolution.

    I’m going to play Whack-a-Mole, over and over and over.

    We need a bigger mallet. They keep coming back.

  68. #68 Azkyroth
    March 28, 2007

    DouglasG:

    The Al Gore remark shows where he gets his information from. – Conservapedia? – we’re building tomorrows idiots today!

    Please, it’s spelled Conservapaedia! (-:

    Mistre Stacaey is right. Can wae agraeae to spell wourds like thae inventours ouf thae language intended?

    (Couuldn’t raesist… :P)

  69. #69 Torbjörn Larsson
    March 28, 2007

    Jeremy:

    Yes, you can and do efficiently argue against their points. So what? That’s why evolution has the place that it does in science and society, and creationism does not.

    Not at all. Evolution is science because it works, not because scientists argue better than creationists. (Which point of yours is dubious btw, since YEC and ID are excellent PR machines for sterile messages.)

    “We want to get rid of this pseudoscience so no one will succumb to its stupidity.”

    Pretty much, though suppression is the realistic target here. All pseudoscience are antiscientific enterprises, which misled people and take their money in the good name of science.

    Besides the practical aspect, there is also a moral one. Scientists, such as PZ, endeavors for us to learn about nature. All else equal, it would still be unethical to not oppose antiscientism and to not promote knowledge. Unless you can show that your concerns have any real substance, it must be acceptable as default that scientists do as they feel is required of them.

    Btw, a heads up, you are also misrepresenting this blog particularly. The blog owner is a strong believer in education, which is another proactive concern.

  70. #70 Torbjörn Larsson
    March 28, 2007

    Jeremy:

    Yes, you can and do efficiently argue against their points. So what? That’s why evolution has the place that it does in science and society, and creationism does not.

    Not at all. Evolution is science because it works, not because scientists argue better than creationists. (Which point of yours is dubious btw, since YEC and ID are excellent PR machines for sterile messages.)

    “We want to get rid of this pseudoscience so no one will succumb to its stupidity.”

    Pretty much, though suppression is the realistic target here. All pseudoscience are antiscientific enterprises, which misled people and take their money in the good name of science.

    Besides the practical aspect, there is also a moral one. Scientists, such as PZ, endeavors for us to learn about nature. All else equal, it would still be unethical to not oppose antiscientism and to not promote knowledge. Unless you can show that your concerns have any real substance, it must be acceptable as default that scientists do as they feel is required of them.

    Btw, a heads up, you are also misrepresenting this blog particularly. The blog owner is a strong believer in education, which is another proactive concern.

  71. #71 Crudely Wrott
    March 28, 2007

    Alas, poor Egnor;
    He knows it well,
    How to long for an old job.
    But he’ll never tell.

  72. #72 George Cauldron
    March 29, 2007

    Dang, check out that link about Jesus coming back this year:

    For example, 46 percent of white evangelical Christians believe it’s at least somewhat likely that Jesus will return this year, while 17 percent of Catholics and 10 percent of those with no religion feel the same way.

    Let that last line sink in: 10 percent of those with no religion believe it’s at least somewhat likely that Jesus will return this year.

    WTF? 10% of atheists think Jesus might return this year????

  73. #73 tim gueguen
    March 29, 2007

    Having no religion doesn’t mean one is an atheist. Its entirely possible to believe in God without adhering to any organised spiritual belief system. Its also possible that some of those claiming to have no religion are Christians of some sort. Over my years online I’ve run across at least a couple of instances of folks who claimed that Christianity isn’t a religion, religion apparently in their worldview being a term for false beliefs in God, or something.

  74. #74 fardels bear
    March 29, 2007

    On the agricultural origins of eugenics in the US you could read these articles which make such origins clear:

    Cooke, Kathy J. “The Limits of Heredity: Nature and Nurture in American Eugenics before 1915.” Journal of the History of Biology 31, (1998): 263-278.

    Thurtle, Phillip. “Harnessing Heredity in Gilded Age America: Middle Class Mores and Industrial Breeding in a Cultural Context.” Journal of the History of Biology 35, (2002): 43-78.

    The first organization in the US dedicated to eugenic causes was the American Breeders Association, primarily an agricultural organization:

    http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/themes/19.html

  75. #75 fardels bear
    March 29, 2007

    Sorry, one more on the American Breeder’s Association:

    http://sss.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/163?ck=nck

  76. #76 beepbeepitsme
    March 29, 2007

    People who confuse the observation of natural phenomena with what people then decide to do with those observations, are really experts at conflation.

    These same people should be accusing those who observed exploding volcanos with the creation of nuclear bombs.

    (Maybe not the best analogy, but you get my drift.)

  77. #77 Ichthyic
    March 29, 2007

    I mean, we can agitate to have Stony Brook do something about Egnor’s misuse of his position and teaching responsibilities, but if they actually do, you know the DI’s going to make a giant fuss out it.

    New test case? Instead of a case over pushing ID in, they’ll make one out of an ID martyr?

    I’ve been thinking about this for a bit now, and Egnor’s posts and responses are damn near a perfect template.

    I think creating a political martyr figure is EXACTLY what this is all about.

    watch as Egnor’s posts become more and more and yet more ridiculous as time goes by.

    why? he’s trolling his own position; daring the university to say something public in denial, or even remove him from his teaching position.

    remember how much traction they got with the idiotic Sternberg affair?

    you can bet your ass that this is all planned out carefully to garner a specific response.

    It’s very likely why nobody from the eco/evo dept. at Stony, or anyone else from stony for that matter, has said word one about it.

    Unfortunately, as the response from PZ points out, the longer they wait to say something, the worse it looks, and the more impact it will end up having.

    They should have nipped this right in the bud after his very first public posting on the matter, made a public comment, and then left it at that.

    Not that my experience with univeristy administrations has indicated that they treat these kinds of things in clever fashion very often, mind you.

    really, as egnor gets more and more ridiculous, there should be LESS AND LESS reason to even bother responding.

    let him drown in his own blather; giving him bad publicity is EXACTLY what the DI wants, IMO.

  78. #78 Cat
    March 29, 2007

    I’m happy I didn’t go to Stony Brook now, although apparently not all the teachers are like this bozo. As a teacher yourself you should be aware of the primary problem: tenyear, that annoying but comforting thing that prevents you from being easilly fired once you have it. Tenyear frustrates me, not because I don’t apreciate the job security but because it’s annoying when a teacher turns out to be either bad at teaching, abusive toward students (in a psychological way) or spreads misinformation that you can’t just fire the person and try to hire a better one.

    It’s true, just like with Rape there’s a mentality that the victim must have done something to deserve the treatment they get. Maybe they didn’t back down and do exactly what the bully wanted them to, maybe they didn’t stand up for themselves when they should have. No one ever seems to blame the bully or the school officials who don’t get involved. Actually, one of the things that often happens is if the victim snaps (snap ranging in degree from shouting at the bully to trying to kill them to suicide) the victim is blamed.

  79. #79 Ed Darrell
    March 29, 2007

    There is a minor oversight in the article you cite on Al Gore and the internet.

    ARPANET, the predecessor to the internet in many ways, was targeted for zeroing out of the federal budget in the Reagan administration. Had that occurred, I doubt we’d have the internet as we know it today. Al Gore was the only Member of Congress to stand up for ARPANET at the time, and he preserved it from extinction by persuading dozens of other Members to support his amendment.

    If we’re going to let the comedians roll on this, can’t we get one to mention the Republicans’ attempt to abort the internet?

  80. #80 SLC
    March 29, 2007

    Re Darwin/Mendel

    I read somewhere that, after Darwin died, a copy of Mendels’ paper was found among his effects. Unfortunately, Darwin was only poorly literate in German and thus was unable to read and understand the significance of the paper. One can only speculate what would have been the result if the paper had been written in Latin or French, both of which Darwin was quite literate in, as were most educated Englishmen of his time.

  81. #81 PZ Myers
    March 29, 2007

    Here’s a definitive summary of what Darwin knew of Mendel — basically , nothing.

    I really don’t think it would have mattered what language it was published in. Genetics is actually a radically weird and abstract subject, and is difficult to grasp for a lot of people. It appeals to that subset of biologists who are fluent in math, not German or French, and I don’t think Charles Darwin would have been entirely comfortable in the concepts.

  82. #82 Ratel
    March 29, 2007

    I don’t care if it seems like scientists bully creationists. Creationism is a crime against knowledge about the natural world. Criminals should not go unpunished.

    In the United States, under the first amendment, the only protection against bad speech is more, louder, and better speech. The only option in the face of such public lunacy as that perpetrated by Egnor and his ilk is sustained attack.

  83. #83 Kseniya
    March 29, 2007

    ARPANET, the predecessor to the internet in many ways, was targeted for zeroing out of the federal budget in the Reagan administration. Had that occurred, I doubt we’d have the internet as we know it today. Al Gore was the only Member of Congress to stand up for ARPANET at the time, and he preserved it from extinction by persuading dozens of other Members to support his amendment. (#77)

    Ed: That’s very interesting, if true. Preliminary googles haven’t turned up any corroborative information. Do you happen to have a citation or two?

  84. #84 tom p
    March 29, 2007

    As well as that interesting link that PZ posted about how the genetic code was cracked, there’s also a fascinating book about Crick by Matt Ridley, which extensively covers the story of how the code was cracked and Crick’s role in all of this available here:
    http://www.amazon.com/Francis-Crick-Discoverer-Genetic-Eminent/dp/006082333X

  85. #85 barkdog
    March 29, 2007

    Darwin/Mendel: The Field Museum had a temporay exhibit (I think it is gone now) on Mendel that included his personal copy of a German edition of Origins. At the point where Darwin confessed is ignorance of the mechanism of inheritance, Mendel pencilled words to the effect of “I think I have solved the mystery.” It was pretty cool for me to read and imagine the monk who wrote it.

  86. #86 mark
    March 29, 2007

    Some people have remarked that despite his abysmal knowledge of evolution, Egnor is a good neurosurgeon. Egnor’s statements go beyond ignorance; they show an utter disregard for facts, rational interpretation, and consideration of views that differ from his own. In short, he is dishonest. When I come across such a person, whether he is dishonest in talking about evolution or politics, geology, physics, or any other subject where his dishonesty shows, I have to consider: If he lied about this, what else does he lie about?

  87. #87 David Marjanovi?
    March 29, 2007

    As a teacher yourself you should be aware of the primary problem: tenyear, that annoying but comforting thing that prevents you from being easilly fired once you have it.

    Wow! An eggcorn is born! Tenure has nothing to do with “ten” or “year”, it’s about holding in Latin (you are held, kept, instead of fired).

  88. #88 David Marjanovi?
    March 29, 2007

    As a teacher yourself you should be aware of the primary problem: tenyear, that annoying but comforting thing that prevents you from being easilly fired once you have it.

    Wow! An eggcorn is born! Tenure has nothing to do with “ten” or “year”, it’s about holding in Latin (you are held, kept, instead of fired).

  89. #89 David Marjanovi?
    March 29, 2007

    Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines im Brunn

    in Brünn.

    Any string of German text quoted by a non-speaker turns into a pseudogene at a rate so fast it makes baraminology possible.

  90. #90 David Marjanovi?
    March 29, 2007

    Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines im Brunn

    in Brünn.

    Any string of German text quoted by a non-speaker turns into a pseudogene at a rate so fast it makes baraminology possible.

  91. #91 Showtime
    March 29, 2007

    In our defense we here on the University side of campus tend to pretend the hospital side doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one in Evo even knows about Egnor’s idiocy. I’ll poke around, though.

    If all this keeps up maybe I’ll just tack a list of 95 (or so) Evolutionary Theses to his office door…

  92. #92 lockean
    March 29, 2007

    Thanks fardels bear…

    for the link to the eugenics archive. Great site.

  93. #93 david rickel
    March 29, 2007

    Yeah, I wasn’t sure if he was using “tenyear” intentionally (like, it takes ten years for a professor to be granted tenure) or not.

    I do know that my university was involved in a tenure dispute with a computer science professor when I was admitted; the dispute was still going on when I graduated. Maybe it takes ten years to fire a teacher with tenure.

  94. #94 Chris
    March 29, 2007

    Evolution News & Views presents analysis of that coverage, as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution.

    There’s a big difference between accurately delivering information (i.e. getting it to precisely the people you wanted it to get to) and delivering accurate information (delivering information that is true, i.e. matches the real world). Egnor and IDists in general are good at the first, not so good at the second.

  95. #95 Ed Darrell
    March 29, 2007

    ARPANET and Gore?

    My (often faulty) memory puts it in the 1981 Budget Reconciliation Act battles, a fight so bloody and arcane that there are very few good accounts of the bill and what was in it, and no comprehensive accounts. But it may have been 1982 or 1983; Gore was a Member of the House of Representatives then, and I note that a lot of histories on Gore’s record on technology rather forget that fact.

    I can’t help you with a good internet account. I find much of what went on in the 1980s is not on the ‘net, partly because it’s still under copyright that is being defended, and partly because it would require being rekeyed to make it electronic. I’ll see if I can find a source for you, but in the meantime here’s a discussion of the arcanity of the fights, how the ‘net was hidden as “space” or “defense” depending on which was the best way to preserve it, and depending on who was sniping.

    I worked for the Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee at the time, Orrin Hatch, who was also a member of the Budget Committee. We really blended staff on all of those issues at that time, beacause the Reconciliation Act was so massive, involved so many changes in authorization and appropriations, and because there was way too much to do to fail to put the entire staff on the issue. I was in on one staff discussion where one issue was how much it would cost Utah’s universities (in Hatch’s state) were ARPANET to cease its function, and the discussion quickly got into the possible uses for such a beast, and why couldn’t university professors just use mail and telephone like everyone else?

    Gore was a bit of a thorn in Hatch’s paw at the time. Hatch had the power in the Senate, but Gore often had the better legislation in the House. Gore was very good at flattering Hatch to get Gore’s way. The Organ Transplant Act was Gore’s language, on Hatch’s bill number — so Hatch could claim credit, but the bill got done. That was the first time I met Gore, personally. My assigned job was to delay Gore long enough that a Senate hearing on organ transplants could adjourn, without Gore getting in on the news. Gore saw through the ruse quickly, and engaged me instead in a discussion of what it would really take to get a bill done WITH Hatch. Gore caught the hearing before it ended, and from the witness table negotiated with Hatch the outline of the working process that got the bill passed a few weeks later. It was a rather bravura performance on Gore’s part, I thought, with his stepping back from the limelight in order to get a good and necessary bill passed.

    In any case, my files from that era were archived, and then the archive was destroyed in a cost-cutting move. I’ll see if I can find a source for you; the Washington Post archives is one of the more likely places, but it would be a short piece, and it may not even mention Gore.

  96. #96 thwaite
    March 29, 2007

    Lockean: Darwin was interested in plant and animal breeding, so why didn’t he advocate eugenics?

    Well, although the word eugenics was coined by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, this wasn’t until 1883 – couple of decades after the ORIGIN was published. Galton had published on the concepts in magazine articles about 1865, and in his book HEREDITARY GENIUS in 1869. All such early applications to humans are due to Galton (and in England, eugenics remained limited to sorting for intelligence; in Europe is where racial ‘rankings’ became focal).

    Darwin’s interest was biologically abstract, from his early studies on variations in barnacles, then his systematic solicitations of data from farmers and breeders, which he compiled in his two-volume VARIATION IN PLANTS AND ANIMALS UNDER DOMESTICATION (1868). Only in the 1870’s did he collaborate with applied botanists seeking hybrid potatoes resistant to the Irish blight then prevalent.

    And breeders knew early on (1700’s?) if only at a pragmatic level that ‘hybrid vigor’ is a real phenomenon, and that pure strains express all sorts of problems we now link to homozygous recessive genes.

  97. #97 Kseniya
    March 30, 2007

    Ed Darrell – thanks so much for taking the time to answer me. (Great story, BTW.) I understand the difficulty in easily reconstructing things that happened a quarter-century ago, though I am certainly interested in any details about how the Reagan admin was aiming to deep-six the DARPANET.

  98. #98 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 30, 2007

    David Marjanovi?:

    Tenure/ten-year is already in the Eggcorn Database. I recall the usage of “ten-yeared graduate student” was attested in the Jargon File.

  99. #99 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 30, 2007

    Addendum:

    Yes, it’s in the Jargon File, as early as version 1.5 (1983), but not in the very earliest JARGON.TXT.

    TENURED GRADUATE STUDENT noun.

    One who has been in graduate school for ten years (the usual maximum is five or six): a “ten-yeared” student. (Get it?) Students don’t really get tenure, of course, the way professors do, but a tenth-year graduate student has probably been around the university longer than any nontenured professor.

  100. #100 Keith Douglas
    March 31, 2007

    DouglasG: Indeed. As a sometime educator Conservapedia really worries me. A former professor of mine has now (last I checked) banned online sources from his classes. I fear that I will eventually have to go in that direction …

    As for Egnor: yikes. And his ignorance is one thing – that fact that this guy has been lauded by the DI does suggest that all that they want is a schill and to engaged in scorched earth tactics.

    frog: Eep. Were you the only one at your university, or were your colleagues targeted as well?

    George Cauldron: In addition to the important point that atheist and areligious aren’t synonyms, there are two other bits one should remember here: (1) there are people in the US who claim to be non-religious because they instead have a “personal relationship with Jesus” or something. Religion is “for other people”. (2) In any survey there are a proportion of people (though not 10%) who seem to always agree with the question, no matter what is asked.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.