Pharyngula

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.

Comments

  1. #1 minusRusty
    March 29, 2007

    The pathetic levels of detail in your citation chaff are going to drive me to drinking single malt scotch. Just you wait: your Waterloo IS COMING!

  2. #2 Scott Hatfield
    March 29, 2007

    Dr. Egnor, if you’re reading this, you are acting like a total jerk. As I’ve previously mentioned on this site, Sean Carroll’s new book ‘The Making of the Fittest’ entirely addresses the challenges offered by you and Casey Luskin. It is NOT chaff. It is substantive. For an individual with your education and experience to say otherwise is dishonest.

    You disappoint me as a Christian and you embarrass me as a member of the scientific community. I’m just a high school teacher, but I would gladly debate you anytime, anywhere. I will wipe the floor with you, because I have the facts on my side, while you are apparently content to make up crap. Have you no shame? Irritated…SH

  3. #3 Rich
    March 29, 2007

    He’s got a big ego, so perhaps he’ll be an expert witness next time (although it’d be a stretch). Oh and Bill Dembski, perhapou wont shit your pants and run next round of court cases also.

  4. #4 mark
    March 29, 2007

    A modification of the standard denialist tactic. I think it’s the moving goalpost applied slightly creatively. No evidence is ever enough, and now Egnor is saying even the provision of evidence is a sign of evasion.

    That’s kind of twisted. I like it. From now on when I don’t like what I hear I can say, “The mere fact that you’re trying to prove your point with evidence shows you have no evidence.”

  5. #5 Comstock
    March 29, 2007

    I think it is much more appropriate to view the cited lit. as flak, not chaff. 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. Like flak, the papers Egnor believes he is dodging are actually lethally destructive to his arguments.

  6. #6 Robert
    March 29, 2007

    The funny thing about chaff is that both sides had it but neither side wanted to use it because as soon as the other side figured out what it was it could be used against them (they didn’t know the other side had already developed it).

    Not a real accurate analogy seeing as their side has no evidence while our side has all the evidence.

    And even if you did throw up a huge number of papers to confuse and distract, all he would have to do is pick one and show why it was wrong. That would be the way I would take it apart. The fact that he just throws up his hands though… well he sure does look stupid.

  7. #7 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.

  8. #8 Paul Sunstone
    March 29, 2007

    I used to think guys like Egnor were stupid before I realized they were willfully ignorant. I would have prefered stupid. You can be stupid, but still a decent person.

  9. #9 Alex
    March 29, 2007

    Chaff???!!!

    This whole exhange is like something out of a Lewis Carroll creation. Curiouser and curiouser.

  10. #10 MartinC
    March 29, 2007

    Gene duplication, meiotic crossover events, paralogous gene divergence, come on, its all just techno-babble, isn’t it?

  11. #11 Glen Davidson
    March 29, 2007

    A guy who can’t understand the question (even the one he’s asking) can hardly be expected to recognize its answer.

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

  12. #12 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.

  13. #13 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.

  14. #14 NC Paul
    March 29, 2007

    Off topic:
    David, term flak was also used to describe the the barrage laid down by such guns – esp. by the aircrews who had to fly through it.

    On topic:
    The shorter Dr Egnor: “My dogmatic belief is impervious to mere facts and evidence, you pathetic scientist.”

  15. #15 Zombie
    March 29, 2007

    Heads I win, tails you lose.

    What a clown Egnor is.

  16. #16 tacitus
    March 29, 2007

    Ah yes, yet another example of IDists acting like the creationists they truly are. It’s getting very hard to tell them apart.

  17. #17 sparc
    March 29, 2007

    I call it citation chaff.

    I wonder if he would qualify his own papers on neurosurgery in the same way.

  18. #18 NC Paul
    March 29, 2007

    The slightly less short Dr Egnor:

    “…and the fact that you resort to facts and evidence just shows how baseless your findings are.”

    Another right-wing authoritarian who has difficultly living in a reality-based world.

  19. #19 Chris Benton
    March 29, 2007

    I suspect that what he really means is “reading scientific papers is difficult”. This of course is true; even if you’re familiar with the subject matter, a paper can be fairly heavy going. If the topic is unfamiliar, it may take weeks of work to follow back the chains of references and to read up on the assumed prior knowledge.

    This moron has — at best — flicked through the pile of papers, and without any proper understanding has dismissed them as “chaff”.

  20. #20 John Pieret
    March 29, 2007

    So, is this the new strategy? Egnor got savaged for his stuff, a lot straight out of the Institute for Creation Research and doubtless embarrassing to the DI’s attempt to maintain the illusion, if not the fact, of intellectual respectability). Will he now only be appearing in untranscribed podcasts where it’s harder for us to respond and easier for the faithful to ignore how bogus his arguments really are?

    As to “citation chaff,” it’s just another way to accuse scientists of being intellectual snobs and reassure the believers that being ignorant is okay. It’s just excruciatingly ironic coming from someone who is using his “authority” as a medical doctor to paper over his own ignorance on the subjuct.

  21. #21 MartinC
    March 29, 2007

    If you listen to the DI podcasts (I listen to them – well one of us has to do it!) you get the clear impression that Egnor has been picked as a shrill for them for one simple reason.
    He is a brain surgeon.
    Now to me, or probably most people reading here, that doesn’t give him any authority or expertise to speak on biological evolution. Listening to the inane Casey Luskin falling in awe at his feet however it is clear that they DO think there is an equation that goes ‘Brain Surgeon = Very Intelligent = Is An Expert On Everything’.
    And, unfortunately, considering their target audience is not me but the 70% or so of Americans that don’t accept the theory of evolution and little direct experience of the scientific method, I’m not so sure that they haven’t come up with a good strategy. Expect their next ‘expert’ to be a rocket scientist who will explain to all how the fine tuning of the Universe is clear evidence of intelligent design.

  22. #22 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?

  23. #23 Orac
    March 29, 2007

    Actually, what shocked me far more than the “chaff” argument was when Dr. Egnor actually said this about the question of how biological complexity arose:

    That’s the problem with this debate is…that it is a question that only the intelligent design people are asking. The Darwinists aren’t asking it. And there could be two reasons why they wouldn’t ask it. One reason would be that they have the answer for it already, and so why bother to waste the time. 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.

    Only the ID people are asking how biological complexity arose? What is this guy smoking?

  24. #24 Ginger Yellow
    March 29, 2007

    That’s not even the worst of it. The most egregious part is his paraphrase of your description of how gene duplication ultimately leads to new function/information, with the example of Hox genes and so on. This is how he describes it, according to Orac’s transcript:

    Well, in response to my question, PZ cited these 2,000 papers, but he mentioned one paper that he thought had relevance to my question, and the paper was noting that it was possible for an organism to develop a slightly different biological function by duplicating a gene, by copying a gene, by making two copies instead of one copy. And I pointed out to PZ was that my question was about new biological information, that organisms didn’t just arise by copying themselves because they would have had to have something meaningful to start with, and what I said was: If you really think that just copying something really leads to significant new information, how can you discipline students in your class who commit plagiarism? A student has copied another student’s paper. Is that like a new paper? And the student could use your argument as a way of getting out of an accusation of plagiarism.

    For fuck’s sake. Either the man has absolutely no reading comprehension skills or he’s utterly intellectually bankrupt. I know which I’m putting my money on.

  25. #25 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!

  26. #26 Doc Bill
    March 29, 2007

    I think we need to give this form of “argument” a name, like the Gish Gallop.

    Maybe the Behe Barricade.

    Not only did Behe not read the literature, but he won’t read the literature because he’s convinced the work doesn’t address the question he’s posing (whatever the question du jour is). Just as he conducts no experiments because they wouldn’t be “fruitful.”

  27. #27 John Pieret
    March 29, 2007

    Well, I was wrong about them hiding Egnore by having him only appear in podcasts. He’s got a new “article” up at Evolution News & Views:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/03/darwinist_sleightofthumb.html

    Of course, he’s only repeating claims already made by that highly knowledgeable source, Casey Luskin, made a few days ago:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/03/asking_the_right_questions_bri.html

    We need a new word: something along the lines of “megapathetic” or something.

  28. #28 rrt
    March 29, 2007

    However good Carroll’s latest may be (haven’t read it yet), I don’t think it and similar material really neutralizes Egnor’s argument for the simple fact that he has no argument. Egnor’s idiotic “evolution cannot create information in the quantifiable form that I refuse to define” argument is easily used to refute every single article concerning the evolution of information. Since a nonexistent standard is impossible to meet, all scientific articles become chaff.

    Of course, I do think that Egnor’s “scientific chaff” is still effective in that at least it encourages observers to ask why these books and articles don’t meet his standards. The closer they’re forced to examine his claim, the better.

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

    Blake Stacey (OM!) writes: “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?”

    No, Blake, you were on point. It is the “good Christian people” who have either been asleep, or who have looked the other way rather than confront the liars. It’s a shame that more believers aren’t speaking the truth to power, as is their duty…SH

  30. #30 FhnuZoag
    March 29, 2007

    Make them look willfully ignorant?

    They *are* willfully ignorant.

    How else do you explain a mindset that quotes one passage from Darwin, say, and omits the immediately following passage that changes drastically the meaning, or one that challenges evolutionary scientists to present not only the answer, but the question for their musings?

  31. #31 Fatboy
    March 29, 2007

    Hell, even his chaff example gets me:

    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.

    Why just WWII? That’s like bringing up radar, and saying that it was a device used in WWII to detect aircraft. Chaff is still used. Oh well, he gets so much else wrong, a poorly worded explanation isn’t that big in comparison.

  32. #32 wjv
    March 29, 2007

    Besides the point, but he also doesn’t know much about military aviation. Chaff is not a WW2-only thing. It’s very much in use today by every airforce in the world. As a cursory glance at Wikipedia would tell anyone.

  33. #33 DaveX
    March 29, 2007

    I’ve had some dealing with a person like this– immune to reason, fanatically hard-headed, yet able to squeeze out of any argument in the most fantastic ways– I have to tell you that its just not worth your effort. This guy will say he’s right no matter what you throw at him. Don’t be surprised if he and his buddies end up claiming evolution is totally correct and STILL say you’re wrong. With folks like this, you’re just NEVER going to end the argument until they’re dead. Seriously, it’s not worth your time. Try to keep your focus on sane folks– otherwise people like Egnor will spin your wheels forever.

  34. #34 Mark
    March 29, 2007

    I wonder if he would qualify his own papers on neurosurgery in the same way.

    This is mostly tongue-in-cheek, since I in no way advocate stooping to his level and trashing peer-reviewed journal articles outside my field based on unfairly comparing them to discredited pseudoscience., but if I did accept that style of argument, and wanted to tit-for-tat his comparing all of evolutionary biology to cold fusion, this absract
    made me think “phrenology.”

  35. #35 quork
    March 29, 2007

    Chaff? You want to see chaff? Here’s the Discovery Institute’s list of Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design (Annotated)

    Let’s see, we could list some articles as “featured” and then list them again under categories, so that they appear twice. We could list a book and its chapters as separate entries. We could get together with a bunch of our pals in Jesus, call ourselves “peers” and proclaim that our book is peer-reviewed. We could list popular books whose “peer-review” consists of a 10 minute phone conversation with someone who has not even seen the manuscript. Even though this is a list of purported “scientific pulbications,” we could list books and journals articles classified as “philosophy.” We could list conference proceedings as “peer-reviewed publications.” We could list publications we got into print through the misbehaviour of ID-friendly editors and since disowned by journal governing committees. We could list books whose authors have since disowned the content. I see they have now added a number of Christian apologetics articles by William Lane Craig that openly refer to “God” (aka the unknown designer).

    Once you cut through the chaff, all that’s left is chafe.

    In a bizarre commentary on the accuracy of that list, it is dated:

    April 15, 2007

  36. #36 Orac
    March 29, 2007

    Well, I was wrong about them hiding Egnore by having him only appear in podcasts. He’s got a new “article” up at Evolution News & Views:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/03/darwinist_sleightofthumb.html

    Ha! If he read that article, then I know he knows about my challenge to him to provide concrete examples showing how the design inference has been “of great use” to medicine and medical research!

  37. #37 Pigghy
    March 29, 2007

    Well, I think I can answer Mr.Egnor’s question.
    Gene duplication increase information of AT LEAST one bit.

    Let’s imagine we have two identical laboratories, one in New York and one in San Diego.
    Both laboratories are equiped with the same machinery and own two clone each of some animal.
    Now, let’s imagine that a scientist in the New York laboratory wants a San Diego’s scientist to perform an experiment.
    What he (the NY scientist) does is calling the SD scientist and explain him what to do.
    This phone call transmit a certain amount X of information from New York to San Diego, where X tells how to perform the experiment.
    Note that X doesn’t need to specify which of the two clones to use for the experiment, since the clones are, well, clones.

    Now, what if one of the two clone in the San Diego laboratory undergoes gene duplication (and NY scientist is aware of this event)?
    In this case, the San Diego own two slightly different animal.

    So now the New York’s scientist must transmit to San Diego X information (how to perform the experiment, as seen before) PLUS 1 BIT (which of the two slightly different animal to use in the experiment).

    To give a computer example of this, think about the patches of some software.
    You already have the software, so in order to update it you need to download only the differences between what you have and what you want.

    Anyway, gene duplication add AT LEAST one bit.
    The real added information could be much more than that.
    What if the gene duplication happens in one of the New York’s animal?
    How much information a NY scientist need to transmit to SD scientist in order to “update” one of the SD animals, so both laboratories will be identical again?

    Well, you need to tell him what genes has undergone duplication, where the duplicate went in the genome, and so on.
    I don’t know how much it is, but it is much more than 1 bit.

    Regards,
    Pigghy

  38. #38 quork
    March 29, 2007

    And I pointed out to PZ was that my question was about new biological information, that organisms didn’t just arise by copying themselves because they would have had to have something meaningful to start with, and what I said was:…

    Move those goalposts! With the bacterial antibiotic resistance issue, he has acknowledged (without honestly acknowledging) natural selection. Now apparently he’s acknowledging (without honestly acknowledging) evolution, but after all, that doesn’t explain abiogenesis.

  39. #39 quork
    March 29, 2007

    He’s got a big ego, so perhaps he’ll be an expert witness next time (although it’d be a stretch).

    Egnor vs. Eric Rothschild? That’d be good.

  40. #40 Stephen
    March 29, 2007

    We need a new word: something along the lines of “megapathetic” or something.

    Gigapiteous? Teralamentable?

  41. #41 Jonathan Vos Post
    March 29, 2007

    I suspect that the Creationists, and those who hide behind the ID curtain, with or without M.D. in hand, have followed this nicely written essay from a gentleman who was a first-rate Mathematician, first rate Physicist, and then threw it all away to pursue strange theomathematics (i.e. probability cost-benefit arguments on wagering whether or not God exists) and the following:

    Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662

    Excerpt from Pascal’s Pensées

    72

    Man’s Disproportion — Behold! This is where natural reason brings us. If it is not true, there is no truth in man; if it is true, he finds in it a great cause of humiliation; either way, he is forced to abase himself.

    And, since he cannot go on without this knowledge, I wish, before entering into larger studies of nature, that he consider nature for a serious and leisurely moment, as well as look on himself, and get to know the proportions between nature and man.

    Let man contemplate Nature in its entirety, high and majestic; let him expand his gaze from the lowly objects which surround him. Let him look on this blazing light, placed like an eternal lamp in order to light up the universe; let him see that this earth is but a point compared to the vast circle which this star describes and let him marvel at the fact that this vast orbit itself is merely a tiny point compared to the stars which roll through the firmament….

    For, finally, what is man in nature? He is nothing in comparison with the infinite, and everything in comparison with nothingness, a middle term between all and nothing. He is infinitely severed from comprehending the extremes; the end of things and their principle are for him invincibly hidden in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he arises and the infinity into which he is engulfed.

    What else may he do except to perceive some appearance of the middle of things, eternally despairing to know their principles or ends? All things arise from nothingness and are carried to infinity. Who can follow these astonishing processes? The author of these marvels can comprehend them. All others cannot.

    Failing to contemplate these infinities, men have recklessly taken it on themselves to study nature, as if it had the same proportions as they did. It is a mighty strange thing that they wished to comprehend the principles of things, and to arrive from there at a knowledge of everything, with a presumption as infinite as their object. For doubtless no-one could devise such a plan without a presumption or capacity as infinite as nature’s. . . .

  42. #42 Jason F
    March 29, 2007

    This is just the same old script, just with new actors.

    Way back in the day, at ISCID’s “Brainstorms”, when Dembski used to actually participate in the threads, he used to accuse us of “PubMed bombing” after we had posted numerous published papers on the evolution of IC systems and structures.

    It was both hilarious and pathetic then with Demski, and it’s the same with Egnor.

    ID creationist: “X doesn’t exist!”

    Scientist: “Here are several published articles describing the observations of X.”

    ID creationist: “That’s just PubMed bombing/chaff!!”

    ID creationist: “X doesn’t exist!”

    You can’t expect to have an honest discussion with a dishonest person defending an inherently dishonest position.

  43. #43 FastLane
    March 29, 2007

    For those who think a televised debate is a good idea, I would suggest otherwise.

    The other side loves that kind of setting for a good reason. Oral debates, even moderated, are never a good way to prove any kind of point about anything more complicated than one’s opinion on fashion.

    When I was in high school, I was on the debate team my sophomore year. Every year, the student debate team got trounced by the faculty debate team. The year I was there, the students won.

    Why?? Because we all agreed before hand that we would just lie and make stuff up. We had plenty of references, but no one could check them on the fly during the debate. We were overwhelmingly voted the winner.

    After the fact, we pointed out what we had done (since we mostly did it to prove a point), and the teachers actually thought it was pretty funny…well, most of them.

    Complicated subjects like evolution, global warming, anything that requires actually knowing the difference between a theory and a wild ass guess….not the place for an oral debate.

    A written debate on the other hand….bring it on. Of course, I’m betting the DI won’t accept any written debate offers.

    Cheers.

  44. #44 Darrel
    March 29, 2007

    PZ,

    Since he’s a Doctor, ask Egnor to explain the human haemoglobin gene cluters on chromosomes 11 and 16. There’s even a nice picture in the article if you click the link in my name. There are 7 genes on chromosome 16 and 6 genes on chromosome 11 that just so happen to be very similar to the other haemoglobin genes on the same chromosome.

    Design? Sure, I guess that the designer also happened to include a few pseudogenes with the functional ones just to mess with us. New information? How about the gamma-globin gene? It’s gene product has increased O2 affinity; which just so happens to be pretty useful for O2 delivery to a human fetus. Perhaps if he is shown examples enough times one might sink in. If not, I’ve got a genetics book that could be used to flog him until he stops speaking nonsense.

  45. #45 John Pieret
    March 29, 2007

    Gigapiteous! I like it!

  46. #46 George
    March 29, 2007

    Dr. Egnor is not responding to critics. He is preaching to the faithful. He knows what the science is, or at the very least he could know if he bothered.

    But that is not his purpose. His goal is to mislead less knowable folks and convince them that evolution is not important as science. So they can stay in their beliefs with greater comfort, after all a doctor said it was so.

    Obviously, this involves knowingly and purposefully lying, but he must view that the end justifies the means.

    I find this to be one of the saddest comments on religion when the values that they preach are tossed aside so easily when it servers to control others. Religion proves itself to be nothing more that the wielding of political control of others. Creationism is amoral.

  47. #47 Ex-drone
    March 29, 2007

    So in Prof. Egnor’s class at SUNY Stony Brook, do the students get more marks for their papers if they have fewer citations?

  48. #48 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.

  49. #49 Dan
    March 29, 2007

    George:

    I find this to be one of the saddest comments on religion when the values that they preach are tossed aside so easily when it servers to control others. Religion proves itself to be nothing more that the wielding of political control of others.

    But it’s nice that they’re no longer even bothering with the pretense of following the – generally acceptable, to be fair — values dictated by their faith, though. What I find sad is that people fall for it anyway.

    In fact, I don’t think religion was ever anything but a quick and easy way of wielding political control over people.

  50. #50 John Pieret
    March 29, 2007

    Orac:

    If he read that article, then I know he knows about my challenge to him to provide concrete examples showing how the design inference has been “of great use” to medicine and medical research!

    Sorry, but given that he is criticizing “citation chaff” as unnecessary to read, there’s no reason to think he’s read the Panda’s Thumb article he’s criticizing.

    The impregnability of ignorance remains intact!

  51. #51 386sx, OMFG
    March 29, 2007

    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.

    Get real. How about the moral fiber of this prominent spokesmen:

    “At once the spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals and the angels attended him.”

    We all know that the moral fiber of that prominent spokesmen is thoroughly the bestest!!

  52. #52 386sx, OMG
    March 29, 2007

    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.

    How about the moral fiber of this prominent spokesman, someone allegedly named “Matthew”:

    “Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give to you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

  53. #53 386sx, Prominent Spokesman
    March 29, 2007

    Guess the prominent spokesman:

    But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head -it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

    Hint: it’s not Abbot and Costello. (Or Ken Ham, or anybody from AIG either.)

  54. #54 John Scanlon
    March 30, 2007

    Antibiotic resistance in bacteria, as has been noted many times, is one of the most obvious ways in which understanding of evolutionary processes is vital for effective medical practice. On page 12 of the March 31 issue of New Scientist is an excerpt of a story from the April 4 1957 issue (‘This week 50 years ago’) reporting from a meeting of the Ciba Foundation ‘this week’, which gives a clear explanation of antibiotic resistance (most importantly involving Staphylococcus and penicillin, in those days, but recognised as quite general).
    The rapid evolution of resistance (referred to in the article as ‘development’, as typical in a medical context) was clearly well known at the time, and the big news was the theoretical basis and application of simultaneous multi-drug therapy. (I thought that only came along in the 80’s, so I guess I learned something today!) Lucky there were people doing evolutionary medicine in the 50’s, or the honeymoon with antibiotics (now ending) could have been over before I was born. Probably before Egnor was, too.

  55. #55 slpage
    March 30, 2007

    If you haven’t read or heard about Jerome Groopman’s book “How Doctor’s Think,” I suggest checking it out. It gives quite a bit of insight into the psyche of folks like Egnor.

  56. #56 schwa sticker
    March 30, 2007

    If you haven’t read or heard about Jerome Groopman’s book “How Doctor’s Think,”

    Ouch. Can you judge a book by its cover if the title is spelled wrongly?

  57. #57 Rupert
    March 30, 2007

    Chaff is pretty random stuff – sure, it’s cut to the wavelength of the radar to give a strong return, but the way it falls is nobody’s business. Perhaps Egnor can give some guidelines about how to tell the apparent randomness of citation chaff from the intelligent information in truly appropriate papers? He managed to categorise all of PZ’s cites really quickly, and by some really obvious way too – he didn’t even need to say how he did it, in case it insulted our intelligence.

    He must have used the IDers greatest triumph to date, the Test For Design. That’s been so powerful in spotting true design against the apparent design thrown up by evolution, this would seem the perfect chance to demonstrate again its unique abilities to winnow the wit from the, er, chaff.

    Of course, it could be inappropriate. I’ve never truly understood how the TFD worked, I must admit – but that’s OK, that means this is an opportunity for further education by example and logic.

    Over to the good doctor and his friends.

    R

  58. #58 matt
    March 30, 2007

    I’ve always been pretty convinced of the underlying mendacity and venal motivation of these ID puppets before, but this whole “citation chaff” thing makes me wonder if there’s a more fundamental cognitive failure at work.

    I suspect Egnor really thinks this is a clash of ideologies, that the only thing that matters is swaying public opinion. Since there is no material truth to which all those cited papers relate, only faith, there can be no reason to take them seriously. Of course they’re just diversionary tactics, what else could they be? Of course PZ is flinging chaff about — after all, that’s what Egnor would do. He and the DI flacks know all about that approach, because it’s all they have. There’s a kind of autistic disconnect, basically: he simply can’t conceive of any other mode of behaviour. He’s not evil; he’s just ill.

    Then again, maybe I’m giving him too much credit. Probably this is just another act of conscious, self-promoting, avaricious intellectual prostitution…

  59. #59 Kseniya
    March 30, 2007

    Q: How is Egnor different from Wells?

  60. #60 mooglar
    March 30, 2007

    It’s a brilliant tactic, really.

    1) Ask for evidence of how process X could produce result Y.

    2) If your opponent can’t immediately produce said evidence, declare victory!

    3) If your opponent produces only a few pieces of evidence, declare the evidence is flimsy and unconvincing.

    4) If your opponent produces a LOT of evidence, dismiss it by calling it “citation chaff.”

    Brilliant.

    But I do have to ask myself what kind of asshole asks for evidence and then complains if there is too much of it? I can hardly think of better evidence that one is full of shit than using the abundance of evidence as an excuse to ignore it.

    I guess those of us in the reality-based world are just fools to think that having more evidence that something is true gives us more reason to accept it.

    Perhaps we could call it Egnoratic Dialogue. You know, it’s just like Socratic Dialogue except the questioner accuses you of knowing less the more you answer his questions.

  61. #61 Steve LaBonne
    March 30, 2007

    About 30% of the voting population of this country consists of braindead, reality-impervious assholes (“educated” or not) like the egnorant one. May as well just get used to it, folks, because they’re not going away. The important thing is to keep lazy-minded “swing voters” who aren’t paying attention from voting with them. The Bushco implosion now in progress should accomplish that in the short term, but longer-term strategies are needed.
    Trying to confront / communicate directly with the egnorant portion of the population is a losing game and probably an unwise diversion from the real work ahead. They’re invincibly egnorant.

  62. #62 386sx, Laying On Of Hands
    March 30, 2007

    Why, I have to wonder, have we seen so few examples of mainstream Christian denominations explicitly condemning the creationists?

    I think part of the problem is that many mainstream Christian denominations are empathetic with eccentrics who say they receive revelations from the LORD. Take for example the words of Ezekiel, a prophet whom they worship with great reverence and awe:

    Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year. Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy against it.

    Another part of the problem is that not enough baptized mainstream Christian denominations are prophesying against it and laying on of the hands, which is quite understandable considering the fact that they can’t find the Ark of the Covenant (which they would dearly love to anoint with oil.)

  63. #63 386sx
    March 30, 2007

    Ooops, sorry about that last comment. I incorrectly stated that the passage up there in the blockquote were the words of Ezekiel, when in fact they were the words of Jesus Christ. My bad!

  64. #64 386sx
    March 30, 2007

    Why, I have to wonder, have we seen so few examples of mainstream Christian denominations explicitly condemning the creationists?

    Good luck getting a straight answer on that, for their god is a cagey god. Let me give an example:

    “The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?”

    “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.”

    Go read that whole chapter. It’s hilarious. The people keep asking questions, but they never get a straight answer no matter how many people! Lol!

  65. #65 386sx
    April 1, 2007

    Why, I have to wonder, have we seen so few examples of mainstream Christian denominations explicitly condemning the creationists?

    My guess would be that the mainstream Christian denominations are creationists.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17889148/site/newsweek/print/1/displaymode/1098/

    Sam Harris: I’m doing my Ph.D. in neuroscience; I’m very close to the literature on evolutionary biology. And the basic point is that evolution by natural selection is random genetic mutation over millions of years in the context of environmental pressure that selects for fitness.

    Rick Warrren: Who’s doing the selecting?

    Lol, he is the mainstream… and he doesn’t have a clue.

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