Pharyngula

Egnor’s latest kook-fests

Michael Egnor is the gift that keeps on giving. He’s been responding to criticisms from us sciencebloggers with more and more inanities — it’s like all you have to do is poke him and he starts puking up more and more transparently fallacious creationist talking points.
Mark Chu-Carroll schools him on his tired claim that selection is a tautology, something we’ve been hearing from creationists since at least the days of Gish. In response to Orac’s challenge, requesting examples of how ‘design’ has helped modern medicine, Egnor coughed up … Watson’s and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA? You’ve got to be kidding me. Orac sounds incredulous, too.

I had dinner with James Watson last January, and one of the topics of conversation was, of course, Intelligent Design creationism (it comes up a lot around me, for some reason). I can tell you with absolute certainty that Watson has nothing but contempt for those fellows; so much so that he considers arguing with them beneath him (which is true enough.) If you want to read his opinion of evolution, one place to look is in a book he edited, called Darwin: the Indelible Stamp(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). It’s a collection of four of Darwin’s books, with a foreword and introduction to each written by Watson. The work he and Crick did strengthened evolutionary theory, it was not independent of it, and to try and recruit the man’s work to the side of Egnor’s creationism is simply ridiculous.

Comments

  1. #1 Ethan
    April 4, 2007

    This may be a basic question, but how do these people still not get the fact that complexity =! design? They STILL seem to be assuming that anything complex is designed, when that argument was blown out of the water 150 years ago.

    And James Watson is a genius, albeit a little annoying.

  2. #2 Dianne
    April 4, 2007

    I know I’ve said this before, but how can you believe in DNA and not believe in evolution? You can’t keep DNA from mutating. Try it: PCR something and see how long it is before you get alterations in the sequence. Twice at 40 cycles apiece should be plenty.

    Watson is a very annoying sexist twit. But that doesn’t mean he’s not also a genius. Well, at least he did one piece of brilliant work. It’s not clear to me that any of his later work was particularly good.

  3. #3 tristero
    April 4, 2007

    This is a comment rightwing tactic. I’ve read how the 60′s era Bob Dylan was really a Bush-style conservative warmonger. Even weirder, Hofstadter’s famous essay on right wing nuts, “The Paranoid Style” has been cited by the right as descriptive of mainstream Democratic centrists.

  4. #4 Merkin J. Pus-Tart
    April 4, 2007

    Watson and E.O Wilson were on the Charlie Rose program about a year ago and Watson adamantly stated that Darwin was the greatest human to ever exist.

  5. #5 Scott Hatfield
    April 4, 2007

    Dianne: You know, when I have my students read some excerpts from ‘The Double Helix’ I always go out of my way to point out Watson’s juvenile attitude toward the fair sex, and Rosalind Franklin in particular. And, where that sort of thing is concerned, there is a price to pay, as I think Dr. Watson ruefully concluded in his subsequent autobiography.

    Having said that, however, I have to stick up for Watson’s intellectual acumen. He was admitted to the University of Chicago at the age of 15. Following the double helix, he managed to head the Cold Spring Harbour laboratory for about three decades, authored the classic ‘Molecular Biology of the Gene’ and was the original director of the Human Genome Project. Not too shabby!

    Still, are these achievements mentioned above seminal discoveries that rank with the elucidation of DNA’s structure? No, but even a moment’s thought will drive home how unfair that particular comparison is.

  6. #6 Blake Stacey
    April 4, 2007

    Egnor’s incoherent rambling (and Torbjörn Larsson’s cogent responses thereto) actually gave me an idea for a fun project to try.

  7. #7 SEF
    April 4, 2007

    to try and recruit the man’s work to the side of Egnor’s creationism is simply ridiculous

    Ah, but these people major in the ridiculous. Someone has already effectively worked that out on the “Teach the controversy!” thread about Patrick Henry College – from their own curriculum claims, given that they eliminate any time or credence for anything non-ridiculous.

  8. #8 factician
    April 4, 2007

    One also has to credit Watson with the foresight to say in 1998 that all cancer would be cured within a few years using angiogenesis inhibitors. No, wait…

  9. #9 scott
    April 4, 2007

    Elliot Sober has recently addressed ID. He is a philosopher of science and he uses pretty bulletproof language. I’d like to see the Discover Institute clowns rebutt this:

    http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/QRB/journal/issues/v82n1/820101/brief/820101.abstract.html

  10. #10 Orac
    April 4, 2007

    One also has to credit Watson with the foresight to say in 1998 that all cancer would be cured within a few years using angiogenesis inhibitors. No, wait…

    As an angiogenesis maven myself who greatly admires Judah Folkman and is NIH-funded to study an aspect of tumor angiogenesis, I can say from having met and spoken with Folkman that he was quite realistic about the overhype of antiangiogenic therapy that occurred about nine years ago.

    Besides, everybody now knows that it’s targeting the Warburg Effect that’s going to cure all cancer within a few years. ;-)

  11. #11 Oran Kelley
    April 4, 2007

    Scott Hatfield:

    I’ve never met Watson, but know two people who have had a fair deal of contact with him. What I hear from them is

    a) Watson did surprisingly little of the work that appeared under his name after he got his prize;

    b) His “childish sexism” extends far beyond what he wrote early on . . . well into the interminable victory lap that has been life since 1962;

    and c) Yes, he is pretty damn smart. But at least as arrogant.

    Don’t know if this is a fair evaluation or just post-doc carping. But this, and what I’ve read from Richard Lewontin to the same effect makes me wonder.

  12. #12 Albatrossity
    April 4, 2007

    Scott

    The DI’s attack meerkat, Casey Luskin, did take on Sober in one of his trademark multi-post bloviations. Here is one of the links

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/03/what_is_wrong_with_sobers_atta_3.html

    wherein Luskin twists words to assert that Sober’s analysis must mean that ID is testable, but fails to take the more direct route and describe HOW it is testable.

    One would think that it would be easier to refute Sober if he could just point to a couple of testable predictions derived from ID, let alone the actual results of testing such predictions. The fact that Luskin has to resort to semantic weaseling is pretty much indicative of the state of ID “research”.

  13. #13 Brian
    April 4, 2007

    I credit Watson with introducing me to cream cheese and caviar omelettes. It was a treat for the eyes and the tummy, something like eating delicious gold coins. Thanks Jim!

    He is kind of an academic dick sometimes, but donates a lot of money to the Long Island community (the arts in particular), and really is a very smart man. Terrible taste in holiday sweaters. Excellent taste in art. Could’ve acted more interested in my research, but why hold him to a higher standard than my family?

  14. #14 ScienceBreath
    April 4, 2007

    Completely off topic, but…

    Is there some resource akin to TalkOrigins regarding climate change? My departmental fundies are now raving climate change deniers (and, apparently, the ozone hole repaired itself dontchaknow) so I need to get up to speed with the issues. I realise climate change is nowhere near as clear cut as evolution, but I’m currently fighting a rear-guard action!

  15. #15 Tony Popple
    April 4, 2007

    I didn’t see anyone comment on this one yet, so I am dropping this link:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17888475/site/newsweek/

    Here is a point of view that stands in stark contrast to Egnor’s.

  16. #16 PZ Myers
    April 4, 2007

    I don’t know of anything like TO, but you do know about RealClimate, right? That would be a good place to start.

  17. #17 kurage
    April 4, 2007

    Completely off-topic, but I just stumbled across a delightfully catchy musical mockery of “creation science,” and thought I’d share:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIwiPsgRrOs

  18. #18 ScienceBreath
    April 4, 2007

    PZ Myers said

    but you do know about RealClimate, right?

    Ahem, no. But I do now. Thanks for the link.

  19. #19 Keith Douglas
    April 5, 2007

    Blake Stacey: Cute. I wish I had thought of that.

    ScienceBreath: RealClimate.org.

  20. #20 Blake Stacey
    April 17, 2007

    This seems like as good a place as any to note that Egnor is back, misrepresenting electromagnetism this time.

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