“WE WILL BURY YOU!” seems to be his message in his latest complaint. He is very upset that The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology is boycotting Louisiana, and he informs us all in a long argumentum ad populum that the ignorant outnumber us, addressed to the president and members of SICB.
Most Americans are creationists, in the sense that they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life. And they think that they ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in their own public schools. They don’t share your passion for ideological purity in science classes. They have a quaint notion that science depends on the freedom to ask questions, and their insistence on academic freedom is catching on. They don’t want religion taught in the science classroom, but they know that students are not learning about all of the science surrounding evolution. Seventy-eight percent of Americans support academic freedom in the teaching of evolution in schools, and that number is rising fast — it’s up 9% in the past 3 years. People clearly resent your demand for censorship. After all, it’s their children in their schools, and they aren’t happy with a bunch of supercilious Darwinists telling them that they can’t even question Darwinism in their own classrooms. So if you’re going to boycott all the creationists who despise you, you’ll eventually have to hold all of your conventions in Madison or Ann Arbor. Keep up the arrogance and eventually you won’t have to boycott people at all. People will boycott you.
Whoa. I’m impressed.
Note the open admission that the Discovery Institute’s audience are the god-fearin’ creationists, and that the people they regard as “on their side” are plain-and-simple, unmodified creationists, not just the usual Intelligent Design creationists. That’s useful to see.
There’s also the usual distortions. People ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in the public schools — that’s what science is all about, and I would encourage kids to raise their hands and speak out in class. However, none of this argument is about squelching inquiry: it’s about whether weak and discredited ideas, like ID, ought to be given special privilege and elevated to the standard curriculum. They shouldn’t.
We’re also seeing the usual deprecation of expertise. SICB is an organization of thousands of scientists who have invested years of their life in the study of biology. They are experts. Against that, we have millions of people in Louisiana who, while competent in their own areas of work, have very little knowledge of biology. According to Michael Egnor, the people we should listen to on this relatively rarefied subject are the majority who know nothing about it. Would he be quite so sanguine if we dismissed his specialization, neurosurgery, and suggested that he needed to follow the suggestions of a roofer from Baton Rouge? Is it “censorship” that he doesn’t allow his patients’ families into the operating room to give him a hand?
Madison and Ann Arbor are both lovely places to have conventions, and I certainly wouldn’t complain if SICB held their meetings there — it’s much closer to home, for one thing. But Egnor left out a few cities. How about Berkeley and Eugene, Seattle and Tucson, New York and Philadelphia, Austin and Cleveland, Champaign-Urbana and Chapel Hill…and I could go on. These cities and university towns are all part of America, too, and they are places where we find majorities who do not accept the ideology of creationism…because their populations are better educated and less shackled to religious dogma. These are good things.
I’m also confident that the people of Louisiana are a mix of the uninformed and the scientifically competent, and that many are good people who deserve better than the falsehoods institutions like the Discovery Institute will ladle out. It would be great to have more scientific conventions in New Orleans (if nothing else, because the cuisine is fabulous). However, when the government of the state promotes policies that are damaging to science, scientists have no choice but to reject them in any way they can.
If you’re not careful, “creationists” (80% of Americans) might notice this irony: you boycott their states, but you forgot to boycott their money. If one percent of the people you’ve censored and boycotted wrote letters to their congressmen demanding a defunding of evolutionary research — a boycott of you — the grant money currently allocated to advancing Darwinist ideology (it’s ideologues, not scientists, who censor) would be re-allocated to genuine non-ideological science.
There’s a word for this: demagoguery. What Egnor proposes here is nothing less than a naked threat to use the ignorance of the mob to attack science. And you haven’t heard anything yet. Look at this attitude:
Your arrogance and disrespect for academic freedom demeans the scientific profession, and your boycott of people who don’t capitulate to your censorship is risible. You’re actually debasing Darwinism, which, after eugenics and a century and a half of third-rate science, is no mean accomplishment. Most people don’t see your refusal to visit their state as a “threat.” Honestly, they’d rather you made your boycott all-inclusive, so you’d miss all of their legislative sessions and federal court hearings as well. So back off the “boycott” stuff. Just say you misspoke, or pretend you never said it at all. You Darwinists are good at covering your tracks (remember “junk DNA”?). Keep in mind that you’re living off the people you’re censoring and boycotting. Your livelihood is dependent on their largesse, and, in “comparative biology” vernacular, it’s unwise for parasites to boycott their hosts.
My advice: just keep suckling at the public teat and pretend the boycott never happened.
Now we see exposed the Discovery Institute’s opinion of scientists: they are parasites, suckling at the public teat, and that a scientific organization’s boycott of a state is just fine…and that we should be divorced from civic responsibilities altogether.
We also see his ignorance of biology on display. Evolutionary biology is a third rate science. Why is “comparative biology” in quotes? When did parasitism become the provenance of comparative biology? It’s a concept in common use, you know. And of course we remember junk DNA — we know that most of the human genome is junk. There is no covering of any tracks there, so I have no idea what he’s talking about. It’s probably yet another delusion of the creationist mind, like a schizophrenic babbling about his satellite-based mind control rays.
What we really have to remember henceforth is exactly what the Discovery Institute’s agenda actually is, and there it is in Egnor’s freely expressed opinion: the incitement of an intentionally misinformed public to silence scientific inquiry, all in the guise of ending an imaginary censorship.
But let’s leave laughing. There’s a convention in much of the kook email I receive that they howl at length at me, and then sign off with a conventional and inappropriately friendly signature that is entirely at odds with everything they wrote. Egnor fits right in.
Mike Egnor, M.D.