Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The DI's Michael Egnor keeps finding new ways to be foolish

Michael Egnor, brain surgeon and Discovery Institute shill, has weighed in on the discussion of whether Intelligent Design is creationism. As low as my expectations are when this man puts pen to parchment, he managed to surprise me yet again with a new level of inanity here at the misnamed "Evolution News and Views", a site for ID syncopants to take turns pretending they know more about biology than biologists, despite none of them doing any science.

In this article, Egnor misses the point of Mike Dunford's article here that discusses the dishonest nature of the ID movement Wedge Document (it's creationism with the overt religious references removed to attempt to pass legal challenge), and instead tries to defend Denyse O'Leary's contention that ID is not creationism:

"Intelligent design is the theory that some aspects of living things are more reasonably explained as the product of intelligent design rather than as the product of random variation. It’s a scientific inference, open to evidence, and it might be right or wrong. Creationism is the belief in the literal truth of the Bible, particularly in the Book of Genesis. It’s a religious inference, and creationists believe it cannot be wrong."

That's all well and good, until one pays attention to what IDers actually do rather than taking them at their word for what they claim they do. Then it becomes clear that the only reason IDers make the claims they do is because they believe in the Biblical creator. This is why an overwhelming proportion of IDers are fundamentalist Christians.

There is nothing scientific about their approach. They make no falsifiable predictions, nor do they perform any falsifiable experimentation, nor do they publish in the peer-reviewed literature. So the claim of being open to evidence is empty at best, dishonest at worst. They ignore the criticisms of their positions, such as the fact that . Most glaringly unscientific, they place any questions about their hypothesized designer as off limits. One is not ALLOWED to ask about it - how it works, where it came from, what its origins are, etc. Try imagining scientists discovering an artifact that was clearly deposited by aliens declaring that no one is allowed to ask those questions. The reason they declare these questions off limits is obvious: their designer is the Christian God, and they are trying to hide that fact. The only difference in approach between traditional creationists and IDers is honesty, as Dunford rightly points out.

Not content with that misrepresantation, Egnor defends IDers against Dunford's accusations of being anti-education with the "scientific" method of IDers: MSU - making shit up:

"Most intelligent design advocates are teachers — science professors in universities — and it’s fair to say that most are parents with children in the public schools."

Egnor needs to stop playing with his anesthesia machine. As Project Steve makes abundantly clear, the vast majority of scientists and science educators oppose ID/creationism. If most ID advocates are science professors, then ID's ranks must be small indeed.

"We have a huge stake in good science education, and we believe that the problems with Darwin’s theory should be openly and honestly discussed in public schools. The overwhelming majority of Americans support open discussion of Darwin’s theory in schools."

No they don't. The results of various self-serving surveys notwithstanding, the IDers have lost most of the battles on school boards and curricula whenever the agenda of the school board in question comes to light. Dover was the rule, not the exception.

And if the IDers are so concerned with a scientific discussion of the problems with evolutionary theory, why don't they submit their theses to the peer-reviewed scientific literature? Why attempt the battles in backwoods school districts instead? Simple: the more ignorant the audience, the better their chances of success, and they know it.

Egnor then goes on to a bizarre line of reasoning, even by his standards:

"Given that 80% of Americans reject the strict Darwinist interpretation of human origins, the current system of 'good science education' fails by the Darwinists’ own standards.

How many people accept modern evolutionary theory depends on how the question is asked. The more overtly belief in gods is depicted as being in conflict with evolution, the more people reject it. But so what? If 99% of students reject a science, that doesn't mean the answer is to teach pseudoscience! The answer is better science education. It is highly ironic that those like Egnor that work so hard to water down science education would then lay the blame on the student's confusion on someone else.

"Dunford and his colleagues in the evolutionary-thought-police have enjoyed a federally enforced monopoly on biology education for 50 years. It's a federal crime to question Darwin's theory in a public school."

Classic MSU. There is nothing preventing students from asking questions about science, and indeed, most scientists would argue that encouraging students to approach science critically is highly important. What federal law disallows is allowing religious material like ID to bypass the scientific process and be introduced in science class as science.

"Yet they have convinced less than 20% of their students of the validity of their science. What would we say about the didactic skills of physics teachers who, after 50 years of a monopoly on classroom instruction, only got 20% of students to accept Newton's second law?"

Interesting that Egnor chooses Newton's theories of motion, which were supplanted by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Care to guess which would win at the polls of students? Newtons's, by a long shot. Ditto with quantum physics. 20% of the population thinks the sun revolves around the earth. Is Egnor's proposal to fix these problems to stop teaching relativity and quantum physics, and to give equal time to geocentrism?

Egnor then goes on to completely misunderstand Dunford's accusation of dishonesty with regard to IDer's religion and its basis for their beliefs:

"I deeply resent that assertion. I’m a faithful Catholic, I’m devoted to Christ and to the Church, and I attend Mass daily if I can. My faith in God is of central importance in my life. I recognize that much of God's work is beyond my ability to discern or to understand, and there's no a priori reason that I would expect to be able to discern it in biology."

But that is exactly what you are doing Dr. Egnor: assuming a priori that you can discern the design of your god from the designs of nature. That is the ID you push in a nutshell.

"Neither am I dishonest about my scientific beliefs. I believe that the scientific evidence clearly supports the inference that some aspects of living things (e.g. the genetic code, intracellular molecular nanotechnology) are best explained scientifically as the products of intelligent design. The only way that my religious beliefs influence my scientific beliefs is that as a Christian, I accept the possibility of intelligent design if that's what the scientific evidence suggests.

Wrong. You have no scientific evidence of ID, yet you believe anyway. Where are the ID papers published in the scientific literature? Dembski's explanatory filter, which supposedly can seperate designed items from undesigned ones, would be of great interest to archaeologists, SETI, and forensic scientists. Yet there is none, because it hasn't been subjected to the slightest test or rigorous definition within the mathematical and information theory communities.

"Unlike atheists, I don't restrict scientific explanations to strict materialistic causes if the evidence suggests otherwise."

This is both a lie and a straw man. First, most of the people opposing ID are NOT atheists. Most people have no trouble reconciling their religious views with science. Second, atheist scientists are interested in evidence, period. The reject ID/creationism because there is no evidence supporting it.

Finally, Egnor finishes with a bit of projection, another IDer favorite:

There's clear evidence for design in biology. Dunford’s paranoid style is increasingly a staple of Darwinist rhetoric. They don’t have the evidence to support their theory, so all they can do is accuse those of us who question dogmatic Darwinism of conspiring to “destroy good science education for every child in the public schools of America” and of lying about our faith. Much of Darwinist rhetoric isn’t scientific at all; it’s ad hominem attacks and conspiracy mongering. Darwinists will do anything to avoid debating the science.

Riiiiiiiight. That's why all those scientists (calling them "Darwinists" is Egnor's way of trying to poison the well by implying science is a religion) are debating evolutionary theory every day in the literature: is sexual selection more powerful than natural selection? How prominent a role does evo-devo play? Does all life have a common ancestor, or are multiple trees more likely? IDers have nothing to say on these subjects. Instead they sit on the sidelines muttering "Nuh UH!" and "We knew it would turn out that way" while the scientists actually do the science. It isn't an ad hominem to bring the truth of the Wedge Document to bear on ID and to expose it for the political anti-science movement it is, and those like Dunford who call them out on their dishonesty are right on target.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have just posted a blog based on this same piece by Dr. Egnor, and my correspondence with the Discovery Institute around it, at Darwin Central, the Conspiracy that Cares: