Category Archives: Evolution

Michael Egnor: Manipulative Liar

Michael Egnor is back, with yet more drivel about reverse engineering. This time, he’s upset about a new blog post by Michael Lemonick (the one whose blog started Michael Egnor‘s career as a DI shill in the first place, although Egnor had a history of kookiness). Lemonick speaks some plain and simple truth:

If the DI had been around when people thought lightning was stuff the gods threw when angry, we might still not have electricity.

That didn’t make Egnor very happy:

It’s ironic that Mr. Lemonick would choose electromagnetism as a vignette for the design inference in science. The two scientific pioneers of classical electromagnetism, Faraday and Maxwell, were particularly devout Christians who inferred design everywhere in nature. They believed that God designed everything—including electricity. Their approach to science was pure design inference, undiluted by atheism or materialism. Contra Mr. Lemonick, we have electricity because of men who believed in God and in the evident design in nature.

Mr. Lemonick misunderstands the philosophical origins of modern science. The Scientific Revolution emerged within, and only within, Judeo-Christian civilization, and nearly all of the scientists who gave us modern science—Copernicus, Pascal, Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Leibniz, Harvey, Vesalius, Linnaeus, Lavoisier, Mendel, Pasteur, as well as Faraday and Maxwell, were devout Christians who inferred design in all of nature. They worked entirely from the design inference.

In a word, NO. They worked from the idea that Nature exhibits predictable regularities, which is an entirely different animal. They also worked from the evidence, which is a concept the creationists of all stripes, ID included, have had a hard time understanding. Most important of all, they accepted the facts which their observations revealed to them. Scientists of religious persuasions take our discoveries about Nature as indications of the divine imagination, but they do not refuse to acknowledge discoveries because they conflict with prior dogma — and, my friends, that’s all the Discovery Institute has ever done. There’s a big gap — no, a gaping chasm — between thinking that God set the world up with some intelligible order which people can understand and refusing to acknowledge that order because it clashes with your personal notions of the divine blueprint.

Taking an honest search for Nature’s patterns expressed in the mindset of earlier times and conflating that with the Discovery Institute’s manipulative propaganda tactics is despicable behavior.
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Everything Was Beautiful

. . . and nothing hurt.

I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer. I can’t help thinking that. And this engineer knows exactly what he or she is doing and why, and where evolution is headed. That’s why we’ve got giraffes and hippopotami and the clap.

Kurt Vonnegut on The Daily Show

I woke up this morning to learn that Kurt Vonnegut has died. This would have been a marvelous occasion to go back to bed.
Continue reading Everything Was Beautiful


Visitors to Science After Sunclipse have recently left some good comments. I’d like to promote two of them to the top level and discuss a little. Replying to yesterday’s post “Michael Egnor, Reverse Engineering and Genetic Algorithms“, Matt from London said the following:

The trouble is that as far as the Egnors of this world are concerned, GAs — and indeed any artificial system that demonstrates the efficacy of variation+selection — is itself the product of design and therefore cannot possibly constitute evidence in favour of evolution. Whoever wrote the code *obviously* secretly included a complete design of the end product they were seeking. It stands to reason.

Not surprisingly, the TalkOrigins people have a lengthy page discussing genetic algorithms and what they mean. One classic creationist canard is that GAs don’t mean anything for biology and don’t prove evolution works because they have preordained goals. Like most creationist memes, this shows up all over the place; one significant example is young-earther Don Batten‘s essay for Answers in Genesis, “Genetic algorithms — do they show that evolution works?” Not to prolong the suspense, here is what TalkOrigins (in the person of Adam Marczyk) has to say about that:

Continue reading Comments!

Michael Egnor, Reverse Engineering and Genetic Algorithms

The story begins with Time magazine and Michael Lemonick, who wrote an entry for their Eye on Science blog which critizized the Discovery Institute’s silly propaganda piece, their list of “dissenters from Darwinism”. (The National Center for Science Education maintains a list of non-dissenters all of whom are named Steve which is longer than the DI’s list has ever managed to be.) PZ Myers explains what happened next, and how Michael Egnor advances onto the stage:

Now here’s the funny thing: the distinguished brain surgeon Dr Michael Egnor shows up in the comments and spouts the usual boilerplate claptrap we hear from these guys all the time: oh, he was a ‘Darwinist’ once upon a time, but then he was convinced by the complexity of the cell that ‘Darwinism’ had a problem. Sweet Jebus, but one thing that pisses me off is ninnies who equate complexity with design; random processes are excellent tools for making things extravagantly complex.

Michael Egnor has become the latest creationist darling, spewing the same sort of anti-scientific canards which have been refuted for years, if not decades. (Browse the TalkOrigins FAQ for a catalog of these memes. Usually, “frequently asked questions” are asked pretty frequently, but creationists do an astonishing job of asking them all the time and indeed almost never asking anything else!) Egnor‘s writing for the DI’s “Media Complaints Division” has irritated so many people in the reality-based community that the first two pages of Google hits on his name are, with two exceptions, scathing blog entries.

Anyway, Michael Egnor‘s latest ramble gave me an idea for a fun project to try; for details, read below the fold.

Continue reading Michael Egnor, Reverse Engineering and Genetic Algorithms