Asking the Right Questions Brings out Internet Darwinists' True Colors
It's been amusing--and revealing--to observe the recent debates between many in the Darwinist internet community and a professor of neurosurgery, Michael Egnor. A few simple questions have incurred a deluge of ad hominem attacks upon Egnor, mocking his name by calling him an "Egnoramus" who writes "EgnorRants" and using post titles like, "Egnorance: The Egotistical Combination of Ignorance and Arrogance." In fact, Darwinist attacks upon Egnor are nothing new. Last summer a Darwinist wrote that "Michael Egnor is a Crappy Neurosurgeon Who Will Cut out Your Brain and Eat It," and compared Egnor's arguments to taking "a big ol' steaming s*** on a piece of paper and want[ing] that taught as science." More recently, Egnor pointed out the viciousness of Darwinist attacks upon Michael Behe. Egnor was then greeted with telling replies from Darwinist commenters on PZ Myers' blog who wrote things like: "let me say,as [sic] gently and politely as possible, that on this Egnor is full of s***," and explained away Behe's perseverance through the attacks by saying "if idiots couldn't weather having their idiocy pointed out to them, they wouldn't BE idiots now, would they." Yet for all their numbers and name-calling, not a single one has answered Egnor's question: How does Darwinian mechanisms produce new biological information?
One Darwinist was so angry that he wrote in response to Egnor, "I'm deliberately not linking to the [Egnor interview] podcast; I will not help increase the hit-count that DI will use to promote it's [sic] agenda of willful ignorance." I'll gladly link to this Darwinist because this Darwinist mathematician's irrelevant stammering about the definition of tautology never addresses Egnor's point that we don't really need Darwin to achieve the mundane insight that bacteria which are immune to drugs are going to survive. The mathematician's angry tone proves Egnor's private statement to me: "Chesterton once wrote that insanity isn't a matter of losing your reason, but of losing everything but your reason" (oh yeah, and the Egnor podcast is here). Still, one thing is still missing from Darwinist reason: a satisfactory answer to Egnor's simple question, How much information can actually be produced by Darwinian mechanisms?
These ad hominem attacks remind me of Kevin Beck's post last month on a "scienceblog" called "Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge," where he tells those he calls "faith-filled gasbag[s]" to "look up 'arrogant'" as he praises PZ Myers for "having the temerity to put to use his years of education and scholarship in exploding the stupid arguments of fundagelical Christians." Beck concludes that these "fundagelical Christians" try "to paint" their "opponent as 'soulless' or 'having no greater purpose'." But he himself calls those who believe in the Bible, believers in "horsesh** that has no inherent meaning," calling a hypothetical mother who questions evolution, "the little lamb ... who is supremely arrogant." He calls people like this a "thoroughly debunked s***slinger" and ends with a criticism of religion: "It's often struck me that religious belief is so arrantly f**ed up that its adherents aren't content to merely be wrong; they have to get things 100 percent backward most of the time as well. In fact, the whole house of cards seems to rely on this, especially in an increasingly skeptical world." But at least he gives me a soul, calling me "Discovery Institute's affably inane Casey Luskin."
In the end, I can cheerfully forgive Kevin Beck, but two questions remain: (1) Why is such name-calling so common among Darwinists? and (2) How do Darwinian mechanisms produce truly novel biological information? I've seen no good answers to question 2, and perhaps their lack of such a good answer is driving the observations behind question (1).
[Update on March 29, 2007: Today a Darwinist biologist e-mailed me making no arguments against Egnor (who is professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook and an award-winning brain surgeon who has been named one of New York's best doctors by New York Magazine) other than calling him "a crackot [sic] physician." Meanwhile, the above-mentioned Darwinist mathematician discussed above has responded to this post. How did he respond? He responded by titling his post "Casey Luskin, Proud Idiot," and saying Michael Egnor has "made incredibly idiotic statements," which the mathematician calls "dishonest." Moreover, the mathematicians scientific arguments are still inadequate: he continues to discuss irrelevant Shannon information (a random string of data has the same amount of Shannon information as a Shakespearan Sonnet of the same length), and he also discusses how bacterial genes are spread (a problem solved by molecular genetics, not Darwinism, as Egnor discusses below). The mathematician also talks about how people die to due to antibiotic resistance and the fact that it's a serious problem. But of course Dr. Egnor acknowledges that antibiotic resistance is a serious problem. But Dr. Egnor just doesn't think that Darwinism is very helpful in solving this problem:
Microbiology tells us that bacterial populations are heterogeneous. Individual bacteria differ from one another. Molecular biology tells us that some bacteria have molecular mechanisms by which they can survive antibiotics. Molecular genetics tells us how these resistance mechanisms are passed to other bacteria and through generations of bacteria. Pharmacology helps us design new antibiotics that circumvent the bacterial defenses.I can happily forgive this Darwinist for his personal attacks against me, and I have no doubt Michael Egnor will do the same. But given his continued personal attacks and failure to provide a relevant and adequate scientific response to Dr. Egnor, one wonders if the Darwinist mathematician could have provided a better proof of the arguments I made in this post.]
What does Darwinism add to the sciences of microbiology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, and pharmacology? Darwinism tells us that antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive exposure to antibiotics because of natural selection. That is, bacteria survive antibiotics that they're not sensitive to, so non-killed bacteria will eventually outnumber killed bacteria. That's it.
(Michael Egnor, Quick, Nurse, Give the Patient a Tautology!)