Creationist Michael Egnor on an especially loony anti-Darwin rant

The other day I put up a post about my friend Andrew Berry’s Harvard-sponsored summer course on Darwin and evolution, given yearly at Oxford University. It’s a combination lecture and field course on the history of science, with the students getting to travel through England and Wales to see sites like Darwin’s home and the places he visited while formulating his theories.

The post’s pictures and text were all by Andrew, which I made clear in the post: “A field-trip course in England on Darwin and evolution“. It’s a great course and the students love it. I’ve sat in on a few lectures and went with the students when Darwin biographer Janet Browne took us to Down House, Darwin’s home as an adult.

But Michael Egnor, neurosurgeon and faculty member in pediatrics at SUNY Stony Brook, didn’t much like that post. Egnor is in fact benighted: he’s a Catholic creationist and writes regularly for the Discovery Institute’s website Evolution News (the Institute is, of course, a “no-think tank” for Intelligent Design [ID]). Egnor apparently reads this website obsessively, as he often writes about my stupidity; and I usually egnore him.

In his new post, Egnor goes on what can be seen only as an unhinged rant against evolution. That’s typical of him, but he then denigrates Andrew’s course because it seems to “fetishize” Darwin, a man whose views, Egnor thinks, led directly to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Egnor also mistakenly thinks the post was written by me, not Andrew, which partly accounts for his bile.

Click on the screenshot to see the egnorance (the “pilgrimage” refers to the students visiting various places important in the development of evolutionary theory in the 19th century). I’ve archived Egnor’s rant so your click won’t take you to the Discovery Institute page but to the “wayback” version.

Egnor really, really hates Darwinism, but of course it’s for religious and philosophical reasons, not beause of a lack of evidence. He simply disregards the evidence and indicts evolutionary biology for spreading atheism and, yes, eugenics!

I despise Darwinism. It is, in my view, an utterly worthless scientific concept promulgated by a third-rate barnacle collector and hypochondriac to justify functional, if not explicit, atheism. Richard Dawkins got it right: Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. A low bar, admittedly, but “natural selection” satisfied, and still satisfies, many. Even bright Christians, regrettably.

Darwin still has some cache [JAC: Egnor means “cachet”] among design advocates — the usual trope is that he provided evidence for common descent and explained microevolution. In this I differ from some of my friends and colleagues sympathetic to ID/Thomism. Darwin’s “theory” is completely worthless to science, a degradation of philosophy, and lethal to culture.

Note the reference to evolution enabling atheism and being “lethal to culture”. Those are the real reasons why the religion-soaked Discovery Institute fights against evolution in favor of their “non-materialistic” ID, which invokes a designer who’s formally unnamed but is actually the Abrahamic God.

But wait! Egnor gives us more!

“Natural selection” is meaningless junk science — dismal logic put to the service of atheism. Darwinism is the most effective engine of atheism in modern times, except perhaps for consumer culture, for which Darwin bears some responsibility. “Survival of the fittest” casts a scientific imprimatur on acquisition as a life-goal. 

What???? Aquisition of reproductive success, perhaps, but not goods and money.  (And as a presumably wealthy surgeon, does Egnor live, as Jesus ordered, in poverty?)

Then Egnor starts in on me, not realizing that the writer of the post he hates is actually Andrew Berry:

So why does this idiot “science” gain such respect?Jerry Coyne sheds some light on the only really important question about Darwinian evolution: why on earth would anyone not laugh at it?

Coyne recounts a pilgrimage to Darwinian Holy Land. In “A field-trip course in England on Darwin and evolution,” Coyne tells of a summer course at Oxford for Harvard undergrads. The young pilgrims tour “Darwinland” (Coyne’s word). They visit the messiah’s birthplace, his hometown (Shrewsbury/Nazareth), the sites of his revelations, and walk in the footsteps of his prophets and apostles. Pilgrims can finger his artifacts and gaze on his holy books. It’s quite a spectacle. It is clearly a religious journey, with the reverence and fervor of a cult.

Does Egnor hate evolution because he thinks it has religious aspects that would replace his beloved Catholicism? It doesn’t really, for we’re fully aware of where Darwin went wrong, and we certainly don’t deem his words infallible. Egnor continues:

And that is the meaning of Darwinism. This worthless science, idiot philosophy, and cultural rot is the creation myth of atheists, and homage is paid, as a duty, to the prophet and to his priests. Darwinian idolatry would be funny, if not for the trail of misery and horror Darwin left in his wake.

The salient influence of Darwinian worship is not on science, but on ethics. With the Origin of Species and Descent of Man, vindication of the strong and eradication of the weak was, for the first time in history, given a scientific imprimatur. The ugliest impact of the Darwinian understanding of man is this lie: man is an evolved animal, nothing more, and all of man’s highest qualities evolved from the victory of the strong over the weak.

Actually, the “victory” was of the reproductively successful over those less successful. And, in the end, Egnor draws a straight line between The Origin and Auschwitz (see the link below to understand why he’s wrong):

The only thing left out of the Darwinian pilgrimage to Oxford is Golgotha. That requires a separate trip to southern Poland, to understand the sacrifice Darwinism demanded, and still demands, of us.

Well, that’s all breathtakingly stupid, but typical of Egnor and his ID colleagues. They really shouldn’t be so transparent about their objections to evolution being philosophical and religious, as it makes ID even less credible as a “scientific” enterprise. And, having failed miserably to get ID taught in schools, and to enact the program outlined in the Wedge Strategy, they’re now reduced to kvetching about evolutionary biology and its practitioners.  What happened to their promise that scientific evidence for ID was “just around the corner”?

I asked Andrew for his response to Egnor, and he sent me the following, which was in an email and not intended for publication. But he gave me permission to reproduce it here:

As for Mr Egnor’s bile-filled comments.  Curious that he’s decided to go the ad hominem route (vis-a-vis Darwin) in his attack on evolution.  This is someone about whom there was barely a bad word said by those who knew him.  I presume Mr Egnor has chosen this approach because he either doesn’t understand the science or hasn’t troubled himself to look into it (I take it he’s not a scientist?).  As for his Holocaust fixation; perhaps he should read the Richards paper on the non-Darwinian origins of Hitler’s thinking on matters of racial purity and superiority.

However, I agree with him it is indeed fetishization of All Things Darwin/Wallace (And More) that those of us interested in the history of science indulge in (and my program promotes).  This is the reason first editions of The Origin sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  We admire Darwin and his colleagues, and enjoy the opportunity to feel in some way closer to the events and the people that we’re interested in by visiting sites etc associated with them, just as, presumably, Mr Egnor feels closer to Jesus when he travels to Jerusalem or a Muslim feels more at-one (or whatever) with the prophet on a visit to Mecca.

But there is a difference.  Historians are interested in these acts of “pilgrimage” (we prefer the term “field trip”) because they allow us to better understand the influences acting upon our heroes and to better appreciate the context in which they were working.  When Darwin scholar Jim Moore takes my students around Cambridge, it is with an eye to understanding the strict theocratic universe that was Cambridge University when Darwin studied there.  Darwin’s mentors — Henslow and Sedgwick in person, Paley in text — were part of a dominant natural theological tradition that strongly influenced Darwin’s thinking. When we visit the Linnaeus archive at the Linnean Society, we can see that Linnaeus was thinking hierarchically with respect to the organization of natural things early in his personal development: his Systema Naturae is a continuation of an existing line of thought.  And Linnaeus is charmingly humanized — he’s no longer a distant, remote, impersonal scientific superstar — when we see his attempt to illustrate the way the Sami transport their boats on land.  Historical field trips can be highly instructive.


h/t: Michael (not Egnor)


  1. Hempenstein
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    And speaking of Linnaeus, his home is also open for visit in Uppsala.

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Evolution is not brain surgery Mr. Egnor.

  3. BobTerrace
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Let’s reflect on recent neurosurgeons in the news.

    Michael Egnor and Ben Carson:

    Glorified wiring technicians who work on nerves instead of copper wires and solder. Common tendencies are to completely misunderstand how science operates and fabricate ridiculous theories. They both seem to need their own services to bring them back to rationality.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      I think your pairing says it all. You would need a lot of nerve to visit either of these surgeons for any medical requirements.

    • Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Egnor and Carson show that brain surgery isn’t, er, rocket science.

      • Harrison
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        There’s a great Mitchell and Webb bit about that.

      • Posted August 12, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Oh … queue Mitchell & Webb!


        • Posted August 12, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink


        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted August 13, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for re-posting that one! And then to think that rocket science is not really well,… rocket science, isn’ it?
          Nothing like say, quantum physics, or evolutionary science, for that matter. 😁
          Note that I know a few neuro- surgeons who can think and do accept evolutionary theory, They are not all like Mr Egnor or Mr Carson. (Yes, I know, that wasn’t said or implied, but still, you do not have to be an idiot in order to be a neuro-surgeon, it is no pre-requisite).

      • grasshopper
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        And the cog-noscenti know it’s not sprocket science, either.

    • David Coxill
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Both prime examples of stupid smart people .

    • Posted October 7, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I thought the same, but couldn’t say it so well.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Interesting (in a perverse kinda way) how Egnore blames Darwin for “consumer culture” — solely on the basis, it appears, that Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” gloss on Darwin’s theory somehow justifies acquisitiveness.

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      So if Egnor is right then does that mean Benny Hinn is a Darwinist?

      • Christopher
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        No, but I think Benny Hill was. At the very least he seemed preoccupied with sexual selection.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 12, 2018 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Don’t make me go for a Jack Benny joke, you guys.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      I think a lot of the rot would be prevented if we were to replace Spencer’s “Survival of the fittest” by Smilodon’s “Reproduction of the fit enough” 😁

  5. johnranta
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The denial is strong in this one.

    • Blue
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      This one ? As Mr johnranta states ?
      This denial is particularly egregious.

      Allegedly ‘educated’ people … … these ?

      I will never understand, let alone,
      even … … like. These people.

      Such an outrage. Preventable.
      Thus, not a tragedy.

      Tragedies are not preventable.
      Outrages … … are.


  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    It might be rather easy to figure out Ignore. With his extreme religious belief, like most people of his view, there is a great fear that science is erasing everything he thought he knew and understood. His only way to survive this fear is to attack it no matter how ineffective that attack is. He could remove this fear if he simply read and educated himself about evolution and gave up on the religion.

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Ignore is a very appropriate name for his juvenile style of anti-think tank name-calling. It’s easy to Ignore Ignore. The scary flipside is Disdecovery Institute recruits like J(ason?) Lyles who actually understand some aspects of the physics and use complex formulae to baffle their way through discussions with razzle dazzle.

      • W.T. Effingham
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Oops. It’s DR. Jason Lisle with ANSWERS in Genesis.😓

  7. Desnes Diev
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “just as, presumably, Mr Egnor feels closer to Jesus when he travels to Jerusalem”

    K. Ham’s Ark Museum should be far (and cheap) enough to fulfill the Creation dreams of Dr. Egnor.

    Quiz: two of the three following journals publish numerous research papers and one contains very few publications most of them based on rhetorics without much substance, find which one:
    Brain Behavior and Evolution
    Journal of Comparative Neurology
    BIO-Complexity (DI publication)?

    Imho, “worhtless science” more aptly defines Intelligent Design/Creation Science.

    • Taz
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Some day I’ll have to read up on all the amazing discoveries made by the Discovery Institute.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

        Well, i guess you won’t need a day. A minute or so will suffice.

  8. Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    A magnificent thoughtful response by Andrew.

  9. ChrisS
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    It’s rather cheering to know that evolution and “Darwinism” can still still produce such teeth-gnashing apoplexy in creationists.

    Egnor might do better to examine the role his Church has played in the history of Christian anti-Semitism that culminated in the Shoah.

    “No Darwin, no Hitler”, some ID advocates like to proclaim.

    Who knows? No Catholic church, no institutionalized, systemic child molestation and rape.

    And when Catholics, and others, try to relativize the whole sorry debacle by pointing to all the other churches and institutions that perpetrated such crimes against humanity…well, what a damning indictment of the human species.

    So much for their claims of special creation, that we’re somehow superior to the rest of the animal kingdom because we were made by an all- wise, loving god.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Who knows? No Catholic church, no institutionalized, systemic child molestation and rape.

      Also, the Roman Catholic church never excommunicated Hitler.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        Hitler grew up as a Catholic, and according to himself, his ideology was motivated by his Christianity.
        On the other hand, he would have nothing to do with Darwin.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

          And since we’re at it: Stalin was educated in a church school and later a theological seminary. He didn’t like Darwin either and promoted Lysenko.

        • Posted August 27, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

          Nicolaas Stempels: “Hitler grew up as a Catholic, and according to himself, his ideology was motivated by his Christianity.”

          Yet oddly enough, this is one of the most notable times in history where Christendom, Athiests and Agnostics were all on the same page in support of this insane buffoon.

    • RPGNo1
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      No catholic church, no crusades, no treaty of Tordesillas, no inquistion, no reconquista and expulsion of moors and jews from Spain …

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      “It’s rather cheering to know that evolution and “Darwinism” can still still produce such teeth-gnashing apoplexy in creationists.”

      I know, right? I love watching Egnor squirm, forehead veins bursting, spitting mad and yelling in the void.

      • SecMilChap
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Hitler’s cozy relationship with the Vatican is matched well by his last public comment on religion: “I am a Roman Catholic….” (maybe in ’42 or ’43?). Darwin doesn’t deserve being tossed into the same sewage bucket.

  10. docbill1351
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Down House is a great visit. Just to walk the path and look across the fields and grounds is inspiring.

    Very inspiring!

    • Posted August 12, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I visited Down House in the 1990s before the government discovered its historic importance and before they gussied it up with recordings of David Attenborough and the usual tea house. The original house had a wonderful letter from a local squire to a business man,severing their commercial relationship because the man was seen attending Darwin’s internment in Westminster Abbey. On my second visit that letter and lots of interesting memorabilia were gone; in fact the whole room in the rear overlooking the sand walk was gone. I am glad I got to see the house in its more or less original state. Amazing that the house was preserved at all for over a century, considering how little the British cared about their most important scientist.

  11. Mark Joseph
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Kind of half-wondering if Dr. Coyne’s specific use of the term “loony” in relation to Egnor’s rantings was mere happenstance, or if it was a direct allusion to the Encyclopedia of American Loons, in which Mr. Egnor is represented by this entirely appropriate entry.

    • CAS
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Thanks! Nice site.

      • Merilee
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink


        • Merilee
          Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          Wonder if there’s an International Encyclopedia of Loonery?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      That’s superb!

  12. Mark Joseph
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Richards’ journal article mentioned by Andrew Berry is much appreciated!

    Another source that I find quite excellent on this topic is Nazi racial ideology was religious, creationist and opposed to Darwinism, located here.

    • ChrisS
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that, Mark. Hadn’t come across that site before.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        My pleasure. I’ve recommended the site any number of times.

        Haven’t had the chance to read Richards’ article yet, but it might be the ne plus ultra on the topic.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 13, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Excellent. We already knew that, of course, but I’ve rarely, if ever, seen it spelled out so clearly. Thanks for the link..

  13. CAS
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen this sort of stupidity of sone MDs related to science. They can be good doctors, yet essentially ignorant of the scientific method. This guy apparently has the added handicap of rabid fundamentalist religious belief.

  14. Nell Whiteside
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I wonder why catholics are not deeply ashamed of their history? Crusades, inquisition, burning living people/witches at the stake, conquest of South America, pogroms, paedophilia, the trade in babies and all sorts of appalling deeds in Ireland, etc., etc..

    Think of all the wondrous ideas and understanding which Darwin initiated.

    Perhaps Egnor needs a neural transplant?

    • Blue
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      O, Mr Whiteside, so succinctly stated !

      One more: the systematic and Worldwide
      oppression and dehumanization of over half
      of the Earth’s populations of human beings.
      For eons of centuries. Girls and women.

      My thinking precisely in re folks of
      that specific muck of christianity:
      where is their S H A M E ?

      ( let alone, their denunciation and
      renunciation and full – bore shunning of said muck ?!
      for always and evermore ? ! )


    • ploubere
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that is the point I was scrolling down to make. The religious obstinately claim to be the owners of morality, in spite of the evidence of their own bloody and cruel history. But then, evidence is of no interest to them.

      • Elaine E.
        Posted August 13, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Of course not, because it is that lack of evidence that should convince them their cults are false. That is why the more honest ones admit there is no evidence & must rely on *faith*.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the full length paper on the non-Darwinian origins of Naziism!! A gem!!!

  16. Roger
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Discovery Insta-toot is still around? I thought they done tooted out.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Too much money in the scam for them to go away.

      • W.T. Effingham
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Too much DARK money. Dark money works so much better than visible money.

  17. Charlie
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I have a question: Humans had used artificial selection for millennia, and eugenics is nothing more than artificial selection applied to people. Was Darwin’s (inadvertent) contribution to eugenics merely the idea that humans were also animals and thus subject to modification via artificial selection? Before Darwin, we were viewed as perfect, unalterable images of god?

    I’ve always wanted to take courses in the history of science…

    • ploubere
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Eugenics has been practiced by humanity since our earliest times. Whenever one tribe conquered another, males were enslaved or put to death and desirable females used for sex. When the Mongol army rode across Asia and into Europe, that is how they decimated every town they came across.

      An attempt to justify it in modern times was rooted in white supremacy, claiming that certain groups were genetically superior to others. It’s just bad science.

      • ChrisS
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Sounds a lot like the sort of thing Yahweh endorses in the Book of Joshua, as the Israelites are commanded to wage total war on the Canaanite tribes.

        Just as well it reads as myth, though that’s not how fundamentalist Jews and Christians take it.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Also mostly not science, in the sense that you cannot eliminate unwanted recessives.

    • Taz
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      When is comes down to it, artificial selection in humans is the justification for nobility.

      • Taz
        Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

        “When it” not “when is”.

    • Posted August 13, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      There is nothing wrong with wanting to better humans, or make better humans. Thinking one race superior to another is however absurd. What many eugenicists did was to worry that we were no longer allowing humans to be the subjects of natural selection, so they wanted/want to use artificial selection – what we have done with domesticated animals. Broadly this is not seen as a good idea as it implies an artificial choice of ‘desirable’ traits. Others arrogantly thought themselves to be the superior type.

      However, if we could create humans who could survive space travel or survive on Mars, or be more intelligent for example, why would we not?

  18. Wayne Robinson
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    When I read the original post I wondered if a similar abbreviated trip could be arranged for non-Harvard participants.

    It seemed to me to be a fascinating trip illustrating the history of the thinking in Darwin’s day.

    History is one of my great interests. Along with science. So the history of science manages to tick two boxes.

    Michael Egnor is an idjit. He has terrible reading skills. I had a physician tutor once who noted that surgeons generally aren’t great thinkers, just good with their hands.

  19. Posted August 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    “Well, that’s all breathtakingly stupid”

    I’d like to see Ignor’s face when he reads that summary of his anti Darwinian/Coyne boo hoo!
    But then again… i have some composting to do and put the rubbish out.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    atheism [vs] ID/Thomism [is] lethal to culture

    Nice to see that some religious has dropped any pretension of science. And funny how the theology aligns with Egnor’s own Catholic religion rather than, say, Aztec religion, and how he still has not learned what the Naturalistic Fallacy is.

    But do these clowns really plan to retain the ‘intelligent’ moniker, seeing how that makes their gods simpletons? Say, Dawkins’ laryngeal nerve favorite.

    put to the service of atheism

    Egnor, being an ass, likes to put the cart before himself.

    The absence of “souls” and “gods” – we now know that the universe is and works fully without non-mechanistic, magic parts* – are results that came out of centuries of hard work. It was always unlikely to be otherwise, myths being story telling and conflicting at that. But it was by no means obvious that we could observe enough of it to know.

    *) 2011 we were sufficiently satisfied that there were no single breeder pair, specifically rejecting Egnor’s catholic ‘sin’ magic. 2017 we were sufficiently satisfied that there were no ‘souls’ or ‘afterlife’.

    And I would say that 2018 we are sufficiently satisfied that the universe is and works by 100 % definable components, so no ‘gods’. Or at least the final Planck data release convinced me personally, by three independent means agreeing even when including remaining data anomalies. We may even see how our specific physics laws resulted, but it is still open (and contentious) so we are obviously not satisfied on that score.

    • Posted August 13, 2018 at 2:47 am | Permalink

      2017 we were sufficiently satisfied that there were no ‘souls’ or ‘afterlife’.

      What did I miss in 2017?

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 13, 2018 at 4:15 am | Permalink

        Particle physicist and popular media personality Brian Cox went out on an episode of his and Ince’s “The Infinite Monkey Cage” and declared at the outset that ideas of “ghosts” and “souls” are impossible to realize. The episode was to be about those as I remember it.

        And participating astronomer and popular media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson went along with it. The rationale was that LHC had accumulated enough results on standard particle interaction. Their quantum nature is such that the particle physicists must know all of them to some strength to explain data. (Technically, Feynman diagrams both demand and allow this.) And there is not enough strength of whatever remains to “listen in” on or otherwise affect our synapses.

        I take that, putting it on Cox’s and Tyson’s public record, as the official announcement of an implicit consensus. If there were any stones thrown I am not aware of it.

        [Coincidentally I had recognized this from thermodynamics a few years earlier – too many synapses to not notice interaction heat – but that limit is barely significant. The LHC limit is much clearer, and some – if not all – of the results are many sigma in quality.

        And I also realized that LHC would imply this eventually. In any case I was pleased to stumble on that BBC episode with the explicit claim recently. It spawned some articles at the time, but perhaps they did not make much of a public impression; I must have missed them.]

        • Posted August 13, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Sean Carroll came to the same conclusion in his talk on QFT at Skepticon 5 (YouTube).


        • Posted August 14, 2018 at 12:38 am | Permalink

          Thanks! I’ve read Sean Carroll’s post about it but I didn’t know others have talked about it.

          Coincidentally I had recognized this from thermodynamics a few years earlier – too many synapses to not notice interaction heat – but that limit is barely significant. The LHC limit is much clearer, and some – if not all – of the results are many sigma in quality.

          Can you explain this a bit? What’s interaction heat? Is that something to do with entropy?

  21. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    A strong impetus is to try to provide a path of reason to those who are wrong; a way back for the lost. But Egnor is so, so very wrong and lost that I find him irrecoverable. I would call off the search.

  22. haymanj
    Posted August 12, 2018 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Evolution deniers persist in the contention that Charles Darwin was a hypochondriac. He was not; his illness with its plethora of symptoms was due to a maternally (Wedgwood) inherited pathological MELAS type mtDNA mutation.

    • grasshopper
      Posted August 13, 2018 at 12:44 am | Permalink

      Indeed, Darwin’s poor health symptoms are well documented. And even if he was a hypochondriac, so what? Why disparage him? Is not hypochondria a disease? Grrr. Myself, I think Dr. Egnor suffers from Egnorexia verbosa.

    • grasshopper
      Posted August 13, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      I mocked Michael Egnor for mocking Darwin’s health problems by by ascribing to him a mock disease. I tarred myself with the same brush. Mea culpa.

  23. grasshopper
    Posted August 13, 2018 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Egnor refers to Darwin as a “third-rate barnacle collector”. What an ignorant comment.

    When Darwin returned to England after his voyage on the Beagle, and began developing his theory of natural selection, he was realistic enough to say to himself “Who the fuck am I, that anybody should listen to my ideas?” Thereupon he set himself the task of being an expert in a particular field of knowledge, so that he had a reputation for solid research. He chose to study barnacles, and by 1854 had published four volumes on the topic. He was the leading authority on barnacles of his day. When his theory of evolution by natural selection was presented, his scientific bona fides were such that his ideas could not be dismissed as the meanderings of an amateur.

    • Posted August 13, 2018 at 2:47 am | Permalink

      Contrary to Mr. Egnorance.

    • Doug
      Posted August 13, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      “Third rate barnacle collector” indeed. In 2013 I made my own “pilgrimage” to Down House to get a sense of the place and imagine how Darwin went about his work. As a microscopist I was most struck by the instrument in his study – its primitive optics makes Darwin’s voluminous observations on barnacle anatomy all the more remarkable. I was an unabashed admirer of his scientific accomplishments before I went to Down, but left in even greater awe. This is not worship, but reverence. There is a difference.

  24. Posted August 13, 2018 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    I find creationists the most annoying to argue against. Always full of vitriol and conspiratorial thinking, as if the universe is out to get them. Even other theists are more pleasant, even though their arguments are almost entirely divorced from reality.

  25. Posted August 13, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    What a nasty little man with such a little mind. How stupid he & his little god show themselves to be. How typical that he cannot escape fetishisation of his Roman Catholic religion & uses its language…

  26. Posted August 13, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    “Egnorance”. Bravo! [Applause sound]

  27. Posted August 13, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Its curious that a Roman Catholic should be so anti-evolution. Its not mainstream actholicism to be so. I teach evolution in a Roman Catholic country (Ireland) and I’ve had one (half-hearted) complaint in six years that I didnt also “teach the controversy” and that was dismissed by the University authorities and put down to a fringe oddball.
    I even use a quote from John Paul II’s 1996 encyclical on evolution in class
    “The convergence, neither sought nor induced, of results of work done independently one from the other, constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.”
    Thats a pretty good statement of the conceptual philosophy behind going “Yep–evolution is a fact, if anything counts as one–this does”

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 13, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Before he was a creationist I suspect Egnor was a dualist & that’s what set him on his course rather than Catholicism as such.

      I would expect a well read Catholic to study the outlook of his Catholic philosopher forbears [eg Teilhard de Chardain] to save reinventing the wheel, but he never mentions the guy. He brings up some Aquinas [it’s Aristotle really], he uses some protestant argumentation ripped straight from Alvin Plantinga [whom Catholics know about because of AP’s association with Notre Dame] & he has a right old go, unsuccessfully, at Descartes the so-called father of modern science.

      Having a go at Descartes, who was brought up a Catholic, is a popular pastime among some Catholics [I came across it myself at my RC schools] & maybe that’s what set him on the course to being a dualist which in turn led to his creationism. I think his dismissal of evolution is just a bolt-on later addition to his suite of silly, thoughtless ideas. He seems to rely on Coles Notes style sources & the ID bubble of websites to formulate his terrible essays.

      The core of his thinking is a belief that morals & feelings can’t be a result of brain stuff, which frankly is weird coming from a guy who must know how brain trauma effects those very things.

      Like others in this thread I think he must simply be stupid & incurious ~ end of story


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