White Coat Underground

Unhinged—the Michael Egnor story

If someone were to write a biography of the Creationist neurosurgeon, “Unhinged” would be an apt title. He used to content himself with rants against philosophical materialism, and evangelize for dualism with a zealous religiosity. But that wasn’t enough. The “forces of secularism” seemed to keep growing, despite his desire to see some heavenly smiting. In his latest rants, the gloves are off—it’s scalpels at twenty paces.

Let’s see what’s got Egnor so exercised.


First came the announcement by Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) that they would boycott Louisiana because of its recent passage of another wacky anti-evolution bill. (As an aside, I’m always amused by the hubris of lawmakers who feel that they can somehow legislate away inconvenient bits of reality.) I have mixed feelings about such a boycott. On the one hand, it’s important to register disgust at the cultists in government who are behind this idiocy. On the other hand, perhaps showing up and getting the word out about science is a better idea. I just don’t know. But Egnor knows—he’s pissed. He pulls out all the usual rhetorical tools/logical fallacies, like the bandwagon fallacy (“Most Americans are creationists…”), the false dichotomy (“they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life”), and the straw man (“And they think that they ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in their own public schools.”). But he goes a little further than usual. His discourse becomes downright hostile (which, incidentally, is probably a good thing, kind of like Rush becoming the spokesman for the GOP). Let’s look at some of his spittle-filled rhetoric:

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…

…Just one organization of evangelicals has 17 times as many churches as you have members. There are thousands of churches that are larger than your organization, and I’m sure many members would be happy to come to New Orleans for tourism or meetings.

[...]

Worst of all, “boycott” is a very bad meme for Darwinists to be spreading. Where do you think the money that you’re denying the citizens of New Orleans came from? Your grants, mostly, which come from… creationists. You guys are utterly dependent on taxpayers, most of whom are creationists of one stripe or another, and most of whom rank Darwinists on an ethical scale somewhere below Caribbean hedge fund operators.

Wow. So, since some science is publicly funded, it should make sure that its conclusions match the beliefs of a popular cult. Lovely. That’s even worse than Tom Harkin’s insistence that NCCAM produce the results that he wants, rather than what the data actually show.

This is always the problem with people who have fixed, false beliefs—they get really mad when reality infringes on their little fiefdom of inanity. In a way, though, it’s good. This way, the sane people of the world can see exactly where the Egnors and Harkins of this world stand, and then we can slowly back away—laughing.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    March 6, 2009

    On the one hand, it’s important to register disgust at the cultists in government who are behind this idiocy. On the other hand, perhaps showing up and getting the word out about science is a better idea.

    I’m not sure how much just having a convention in a city gets the word out about science. Do meetings of scientific societies even get column inches in local papers?

  2. #2 VJBinCT
    March 6, 2009

    You mean he actually exists? Early on, I thought he had to be a spoof; nobody with a scientific degree (an MD with neurosurgery specialty is at least science-y) could be so out of it.

  3. #3 dg
    March 6, 2009

    @VJBinCT

    you’d be surprised at how quickly the rationality can drop off once you get outside the pure science disciplines. just look at all the wacky creationist engineers. Here’s an interesting essay about the subject (that I didn’t actually read):

    http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/thermo_patterson.html

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    March 7, 2009

    In his latest rants, the gloves are off—it’s scalpels at twenty paces.

    Aha! Now I understand. Egnor has been trying to defend dualism, but his perennial failures have left him all confused, and now he’s defending duellism.

  5. #5 PalMD
    March 7, 2009

    Blake wins teh internets!

  6. #6 MarkH
    March 7, 2009

    “fixed, false beliefs”

    I love it. I believe it is no coincidence that some of these jokers fulfill DSM criteria.

  7. #7 The Perky Skeptic
    March 8, 2009

    Oooh, well-said, PalMD! On all counts!

  8. #8 Nik
    March 8, 2009

    As a medical student, I just want to point out how often I’m disappointed with the scientific knowledge of many of the old school doctors.

    I’ve noticed many doctors over the age of 50, especially surgeons over that age, are woefully ill equipped to discuss science period. A large number of them work their entire practice on voodoo and anecdotal experience, and wouldn’t know a journal article if it hit them in the head.

    In that context, Dr Egnor may not be as odd as I thought he was before I hit the clinics and was exposed to voodoo medicine in full.

    Before I get drawn and quartered, thats not most doctors, not even most doctors over the age of 50.

    I get the feeling that medical education as a whole changed sometime between those doctors educations and mine, I mean I’ve gotten a detailed education on science, statistics, evidence based medicine, and evolution, and its value in medicine.

    Anyone have any more information on this?

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.