When a single quote tells you all you need to know about a critic's reasoning ability

Last week, I gave everybody's favorite creationist neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Egnor, the gift everyone loves to read but not to receive: the gift of not-so-Respectful Insolence. Christmas or no Christmas, he did ask for it, and far be it from me, given my benevolent nature, not to respond to his plaintiff plea with a resounding "Affirmative!" Nor was I alone. Others joined in. But apparently not everyone thought Dr. Egnor deserving of such a group slapdown. Apparently there is at least one blogger out there who thought that Dr. Egnor needed a defender. Apparently there is at least one blogger out there who can, in defending Dr. Egnor, demonstrate that sometimes all it takes is one sentence from a post for me to recognize someone with no science or critical thinking skills whatsoever.

I'm referring to someone who goes by the 'nym Country Shrink, who did not take kindly to one of the rebuttals of Dr. Egnor's nonsense, specifically that of Dr. Kimball Atwood IV.

Here's the sentence from Country Shrink's post that tells you all you need to know about his scientific and critical thinking chops:

I've learned more from Dr. Mercola (3), than I've ever learned from a traditional M.D.

My brain hurts after reading that one. If this guy thinks Dr. Mercola is a reliable source of any medical information, his knowledge deficit is much more than a quickie blog post can rectify. Dr. Mercola, as you may recall, runs the highly popular repository of "alternative medicine" pseudoscience, attacks on the medical establishment, and apologetics for quackery. True, he's not as batshit crazy as, say, for instance, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, but that's like saying that energy healing is not quite as ridiculously implausible as energy healing.

I'm half tempted to rest my case here, that statement about Dr. Mercola being prima facie evidence of Country Shrink's lack of critical thinking skills, but he also fills his little "rebuttal" with the standard fare of both "alt-med" apologists and "intelligent design creationists." For example, we have the tried-and-not-true big pharma conspiracy mongering coupled with the false dichotomy between "conventional" and "alternative" medicine:

Traditional medicine's approach is this: 'if it cannot be cut, irradiated, poisoned, or altered with synthetic chemicals, we aren't interested. The pharmaceutical industry does not fund us to do that type of research.' Also, 'we can't charge the big bucks for any alternative treatments.'

These talking points would be right at home on those repositories of quackery Whale.to or NaturalNews.com.

Then, predictably, there's the whining about how mean and nasty skeptics are to call Dr. Egnor out when he spouts nonsense:

We've seen time and again that personal attacks are the modus operandi and an established scientific method for the anti-ID movement. It's sophomoric at best and intellectually dishonest at worst.

Actually, at its best, it's spot on accurate. Not all criticism is ad hominem, nor are all ad hominems logical fallacies. If an ad hominem correctly points out that someone has a history of ridiculous statements that show he clearly has no clue what he's talking about when it comes to a specific subject, it is completely justified to point out that that someone has no clue what he's talking about on that subject. Indeed, given that the Discovery Institute, as well as its sycophants, toadies, and lackeys, frequently hold up Dr. Egnor as an authority (using one of their favorite logical fallacies, arguing from authority), aided and abetted by Dr. Egnor himself, who seems to believe that his skill and knowledge in neurosurgery translate into science in general and evolution in particular, it is entirely appropriate to demonstrate that, when it comes to evolution at least, he is nothing of the sort.

The Country Shrink finishes:

So, let's see if Dr. Egnor is proved stupid. Do you think Dr. Atwood (number 4) is a good enough shot to shoot fish in a barrel? By the way, the training to be a neurosurgeon requires 8+ years of college plus a 6+ years residency. Stupid or ignorant right? (5)

I suppose at this point I could point out that being a surgical oncologist with a Ph.D. takes not only 8 years of college and medical school, five years of general surgery residency, three years of fellowship, plus the years it takes to get a Ph.D. I guess that means by Country Shrink's "reasoning," I'm smarter than Dr. Egnor, or at least not as ignorant.

Of course, the number of years I spent in training means nothing in determining whether I am or am not, in fact, smarter than Dr. Egnor, just as all of Dr. Egnor's years of training say nothing about his knowledge of evolution. This is because his specific training in medicine and neurosurgery is largely irrelevant to evolution--particularly given that his training took place decades ago, before evolution became more recognized as being important to medical education. Even now, medical training shortchanges evolution, but 30 years ago it was more or less nonexistent.

As for that little bit about shooting fish in a barrel, let me assure you that Dr. Atwood is quite capable of it, as am I. Too bad the Country Shrink put himself in the proverbial barrel to be shot at by me on a day when I just so happened to be in the mood for shooting fish in a barrel.

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Ouch, Orac! Country Shrink appears to be a perfect storm of altie woo and religious conservative propaganda.

Sheer, morbid curiosity drove me to browse some of his other topics. I only lasted five minutes, but in that time I found some of the stock fundy views on abortion (ABORTION IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY DAMAGING!!! ROE v. WADE is BASED ON A LIE!!11!) and homosexuality (IT'S A CHOICE!! HE CAN CURE TEH GAY!!!). There is also a multi-part series on 'The Psychology of Atheism' that was chock full of comic gold. Alas, all the good shrinkage was making my eyes water at that point, and I had to hasten away without further exploration. Perhaps I'll return another day when I'm feeling smart enough to withstand the roiling flames of stupid therein (which, by CS's reckoning, would apparently require another four years of schooling).

five bucks says hes an AAPS member

orac, every time i read one of your posts i just wanna smack my forehead with the palm of my hand.

so if a neurosurgeon can be an expert in evolution because he's so educated, i wonder about all the awesome things i am an "expert" in due to the sheer amount of education i have, and regardless of my actual expertise or experience. wow!

also, that was more proof that the ID movement is completely uneducated in that whole scientific method thing they talking about but failing to use. (hint: they could start by using the term in proper context.)

True, he's not as batshit crazy as, say, for instance, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, but that's like saying that

Aww, damn, I was expecting a really biting simile there. Can you finish that sentence for me?

By Confuseddave (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink

Traditional medicine's approach is this: 'if it cannot be cut, irradiated, poisoned, or altered with synthetic chemicals, we aren't interested.

I wonder, therefore, how Country Shrink would classify such treatments as rehydration treatments, which consist of salt, sugar and water, CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver, which consist only of muscle movements, treatment for hypothermia (gently warming the body), treatments for hyperthermia (gently cooling the body), bandaging wounds, etc. Apparently all of first aid is outside traditional medicine.

"orac, every time i read one of your posts i just wanna smack my forehead with the palm of my hand."

Not me, it makes me want to smack someone else's forehead. Generally the person(s) Orac is writing about.

True, he's not as batshit crazy as, say, for instance, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, but that's like saying that energy healing is not quite as ridiculously implausible as energy healing.

Ah. . . Is there something going on here which I just haven't had enough caffeine yet to appreciate?

All you had to say was "Country Shrink." The epithet "country" tells us right away he's on the right side of the fence. Funny, though, in the hinterlands, people still stigmatize seeing a shrink as something that only libruhl pansies do, so I don't see how Country Shrink would be drumming up much business.

I gotta say, I did learn about one useful thing from Mercola's site: virgin coconut oil.

It won't cure cancer like Mercola says it will, but it is amazing when used in baked goods and treats. Best Rice Krispy treats EVAR.

By Rogue Epidemiologist (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink
True, he's not as batshit crazy as, say, for instance, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, but that's like saying that energy healing is not quite as ridiculously implausible as energy healing.

Ah. . . Is there something going on here which I just haven't had enough caffeine yet to appreciate?

I think Orac's saying it doesn't really matter how batshit crazy you are relative to someone else. Once you've hit a certain point comparison becomes pointless.

One question, though... I'm afraid to go back to Mercola.com to look this up ... but has he disavowed germ theory and the existence of viruses?

I'm just trying to evaluate who's really more batshit crazy: Mercola or Mike Adams.

By Rogue Epidemiologist (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink

@ Rogue Epidemiologist:to assist you in your evaluation, check out Adams' NaturalNews post of 12-28-2008.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink

Rogue Epidemiologist:

Funny, though, in the hinterlands, people still stigmatize seeing a shrink as something that only libruhl pansies do, so I don't see how Country Shrink would be drumming up much business.

I wouldn't be surprised if his bread and butter were court-appointed family counseling type stuff, based on his site content. Furthermore, I'm sure the locals are highly entertained (and simultaneously convinced of his professional worth) by the numerous blog entries in which he offers ponderous psychological explanations targeting the abysmal wrong-headedness of the (godless, evilushunist) libruhl pansies.

Comic gold, I tell you.

Country Shrink: "Traditional medicine's approach is this: 'if it cannot be cut, irradiated, poisoned, or altered with synthetic chemicals*, we aren't interested."

It's amusing to see this old "cut-burn-poison" routine employed by fans of woo, who simultaneously think it's grand to burn off their own skin tumors with bloodroot paste, administer homemade toxins like oleander "soup" for cancer, "zap" themselves with low-level currents to eliminate imaginary parasites, and drink their urine as a cure-all, not to mention the vast array of supplements consumed in a frantic effort at "natural" cures.

Pitiful as Mercola's credentials are, there's really no comparison between him and Mike Adams, who takes rabid buffoonery to the highest level.

*some of my best times have involved alteration via synthetic chemicals.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink

Er - you don't mean "plaintiff" (defendant in a law suit), you mean "plaintive", which is appropriate.

By jimroberts (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink

so if a neurosurgeon can be an expert in evolution

that's certainly possible, but far from necessary. you don't have to be an expert on evolutionary biology to understand how badly wrong the ID crowd is, nor even to soundly refute them; having passed a freshman biology class and possessing some basic critical thinking skills is quite sufficient for that.

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 31 Dec 2008 #permalink

The Country Shrink finishes:

So, let's see if Dr. Egnor is proved stupid. Do you think Dr. Atwood (number 4) is a good enough shot to shoot fish in a barrel? By the way, the training to be a neurosurgeon requires 8+ years of college plus a 6+ years residency. Stupid or ignorant right? (5)

I suppose at this point I could point out that being a surgical oncologist with a Ph.D. takes not only 8 years of college and medical school, five years of general surgery residency, three years of fellowship, plus the years it takes to get a Ph.D. I guess that means by Country Shrink's "reasoning," I'm smarter than Dr. Egnor, or at least not as ignorant.

Ah, but you fail to grasp the basic principles of homeoscholarship, in which the smartness of a person is proportional to the dilution of the knowledge they contain. So you, by having gained more knowledge than Dr. Atwood, have unwittingly made yourself stupider.

The Country Shrink, on the other hand, having gained microscopic amounts of knowledge (if any) from Dr. Mercola, is thus smarter than the whole lot of you put together (which makes sense, since a group of individuals usually possesses more knowledge than any one individual, and people acting in large groups have a capacity for stupidity has been amply demonstrated on many occasions).

Indeed, based on the Country Shrink's posting, I would estimate that he is what is termed "20X concussed" ('concussion' being to homeoscholastics what 'succussion' is to homeopaths). This means that in the course of his learning from Dr. Mercola, he has become smarter to the degree that a normal person would after banging themselves on the head with a 28 ounce framing hammer 200 times*. This is an impressive level of commitment to his cause.

*If you don't believe this works, try it once yourself. I'll bet that after the first whack (a) you say "that smarts", and (b) you become sufficiently smarter that you won't do it a second time. The pain you feel is not actual physical damage - it is due to your brain swelling as it increases in volume, diluting the knowledge already contained and thus (according to homeoscholastic principles) making you smarter.