The cunning Egnor evasion

Hmmm…it seems Dr Egnor, shill for the DI, has been criticizing me in some podcasts. I don’t listen to the DI’s podcasts and I’m not planning to start, but fortunately, Orac caught a few of his remarks. It’s all very peculiar: in a previous post, I showed him that it is easy to find lots of information in the published literature that rebuts his claim, I explained how the mechanism works, and I plucked out a single example and described it. What does Egnor call the scientific literature?

…I call it citation chaff. You know, chaff was stuff that pilots would throw into the air during World War II to confuse radar so that the enemy couldn’t see what was going on. And what Darwinists do is cite all kinds of papers, none of which actually address the question being asked and they assume that the person will be so overwhelmed in trying to answer these irrelevant papers that they’ll go away.

Well, his “question” was unanswerable by design: he asked for measurements of increases in information, but also excluded the use of any quantifiable metrics, like Shannon entropy. I gave him a qualitative description of mechanisms and I gave him examples, many examples, but now his fallback is to claim that the very existence of numerous scientific papers on the subject is simply “chaff”.

He should learn from Behe’s example. This strategy of denying the existence of volumes of information on a subject tends to backfire on them—all it accomplishes is to make them look willfully ignorant. That may work with their willfully ignorant followers who think that’s a virtue, but it tends to turn off people who are honestly interested in pursuing the evidence.


  1. #1 tinisoli
    March 29, 2007

    The Intelligent Design movement is part of a larger effort to destroy the meanings of words like “evidence” and “fact.” Right now, it is simply too easy to lie and get away with it. In fact, Bush et al have essentially made it the defining quality of America in the 21st century. “Truthiness” indeed. Even when the real truth comes out, it’s often too late to undo the damage because the willfully ignorant or delusional among us have already been sated and the virulent falsehoods have already spread. (Hence the eternal shelf life of the “Al Gore claimed he invented the internet” and other myths.) Until the liars have been thoroughly disgraced and marginalized (or jailed), we can expect more assaults on reason, evidence, facts, and accountability.

    PZ, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and other champions of reason should have live, televised debates against the ID gang, Dobson, and whoever else wants in. We could have a full week on evolution, then another on the “faith versus reason” debate, and so on. If the debates are popular, we could move on to the Iraq invasion, global warming, and other subjects whose truths seem to be mired in the murk of the blogosphere. The sooner we do this the sooner ID will wither and die, and the sooner the fundies will have to crawl back into the swamp and revert to their strategy of outbreeding the atheists, and the sooner we can reclaim our country as a bastion of reason and liberty rather than lunacy and torture.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?
    March 29, 2007

    Flak is the stuff that gunners on the ground would shoot into the air in WWII in order to knock planes out of the sky.

    No, it’s the cannon itself. Flak = Flugabwehrkanone = flight-defense cannon.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    March 29, 2007

    Flak is the stuff that gunners on the ground would shoot into the air in WWII in order to knock planes out of the sky.

    No, it’s the cannon itself. Flak = Flugabwehrkanone = flight-defense cannon.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 29, 2007

    Scott Hatfield, OM said in part:

    You [Egnor] disappoint me as a Christian and you embarrass me as a member of the scientific community.

    I’d be much happier if more Christians expressed this sentiment!

    This is one thing which bugged me about that whole Evolution Sunday deal. We heard a good deal about how wondrous a place the Universe is and how amazing the discoveries of science are — and that’s a good lesson to hear — but wonder is only half the balance one requires in order to be an alert citizen of the scientific age. The other partner in this marriage is, of course, skepticism.

    Why, I have to wonder, have we seen so few examples of mainstream Christian denominations explicitly condemning the creationists? We all know that the moral fiber of prominent AiG and DI spokesmen is thoroughly rotten. Come on, it’s long past the time to mince words. How else do you defend an untruth? You lie: either you make up your own lies, or you pass on the distortions of others.

    We’ve seen plenty of times that individuals can, on a personal level, reconcile their faith with science and even become practicing and productive scientists. Now, lots of people here (including me) will be happy to argue the philosophical dubiousness of that, but I think it’s an established fact of human nature, the sort of observation which merits an explanation and shouldn’t be sidestepped. A few of these people have become valuable contributors to the struggle against creationism, fighting for science against antiscience, and we have every reason to remember their names — but we also have a couple reasons to worry.

    First, there’s always the chance that tomorrow, a new scientific discovery will come along with which they cannot reconcile themselves. The next ten years of neuroscience may cause grave difficulties for the Francis Collinses of the world. I’ll be happy to argue that another time, as I have before in these parts, but a more pressing worry is also troubling me.

    It’s the difference between individuals and organizations. The churches paint themselves as voices of morality and teachers of ethics. Why don’t they act like it? Have I just been asleep when the preachers and prelates of America have declared, ex cathedra, that the behavior of creationist leaders is not befitting good Christian people?

  5. #5 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 29, 2007

    Egnor said, as quoted by Orac:

    The other reason would be that they don’t have the answer for it, and they know that trying to answer it would greatly undermine their theory, in which case it would make sense from their perspective to try to hush it up. So what I did was I gave them the opportunity to answer it, if they have the answer. And they haven’t answered.

    Projection at work!

  6. #6 Brownian
    March 29, 2007

    Well, I’ve been sold. Life shows irrefutable evidence of Design. There must have been a Designer.

    Mind if I run a few proposed topics for PhD theses by you guys? Here are a few questions from the 125th Anniversary Issue of Science that I think ID is well equipped to answer:

    Q. What Is the Universe Made Of?
    A. Stuff the Designer designed.

    Q. What is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?
    A. Irrelevant question. The Designer created consciousness.

    Q. Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?
    A. The Designer wanted us to.

    Q. To What Extent Are Genetic Variation and Personal Health Linked?
    A. As much or as little as the Designer wants.

    Q. Can the Laws of Physics Be Unified?
    A. If the Designer wishes them so.

    I’d go on, but I’d like to keep a few of these to myself so I can score some Templeton Prize money.

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