Antivaccine nonsense Evolution Intelligent design/creationism Medicine Pseudoscience Science Skepticism/critical thinking Surgery

“Unprofessional”? Moi? Dr. Egnor attacks over marketing Darwinism

I’m devastated.

Truly and totally devastated emotionally and intellectually. Indeed, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to recover, how I’ll ever be able to live down the shame and go on with my career.

What could bring me to this point, you ask? I’ll tell you. Everybody’s favorite creationist neurosurgeon and dualist Dr.Michael Egnor thinks I’m “unprofessional.”

Worse, he does it while agreeing with Pat Sullivan’s article in which Pat asserts that “Darwinism” has what he calls a “marketing problem,” in essence seemingly saying that, because he can’t understand “Darwinism” but can understand “intelligent design,” evolution must have a problem. P.Z. Myers and I both took him to task for a number of misstatements and misunderstandings of evolution, plus a really ignorant “observation.” This apparently brought Pat to the attention of the only surgeon who has ever tempted me to cover my face with an iron mask to hide the shame of having someone capable of spouting such nonsense about evolution in the same profession as I, Dr. Michael Egnor, who, not surprisingly, was bowled over:

Darwinists would be well-advised to pay careful attention to Pat’s observations about Darwinism’s problems with public acceptance. Contrary to Pat’s self-deprecating comments, he’s obviously a very smart guy. Pat has real insights into Darwinism’s credibility problems, and Pat speaks for millions of Americans who question Darwinists’ dogmatic assertions and their venomous denigration of thoughtful people who ask questions about their science. Sneering ad hominem attacks from a scientist (Myers) and from a physician (Orac) are lamentable, and Myers’ and Orac’s unprofessional behavior contributes to Darwinism’s growing problem with public credibility.

I beg to differ. When it comes to marketing, Pat may be quite slick, but when it comes to science and medicine Pat is about as unsophisticated and credulous as they come. It is not at all an ad hominem attack to point that out, as long any more than it is an ad hominem attack to point out that Dr. Egnor frequently says some very misinformed and scientifically ignorant things about evolution, as long as the specific reasons that I come to that conclusion are described, something that I purposely strive to do in my posts. Indeed, Pat’s an excellent example to bolster my frequent observations about how credulity towards one pseudoscience tends to predispose to credulity towards other pseudoscience. I don’t mean to pick on Pat here (well, maybe I do–but only just a little), but I’m going to give Dr. Egnor the benefit of the doubt for a moment about surgery and medicine. Neurosurgeons, in my experience, tend to be pretty hard-nosed skeptics about alternative medicine and other forms of medical woo. I’m going to assume for the moment, whether erroneously or not, that Dr. Egnor is the same. I note that Dr. Egnor characterizes Pat as a “very smart guy” because Pat doesn’t accept “Darwinism” and is sympathetic towards ID. I wonder if he’d say the same thing about some of Pat’s other views, particularly when it comes to health and medicine, views that led him to found his company. Let’s review a few examples:

Inquiring minds want to know!

The list goes on, by the way. No doubt Pat père et fils will think I’m being horribly mean and unfair (and Dr. Egnor will think I’m being “unprofessional”) by picking on them so, but it’s fair game. The Pats know my opinion on their various “alternative” medicine beliefs, and I know their opinion of me. In any case, Pat clearly believes in all of this, and that’s the problem: his credulity, his demonstrated inability to distinguish between what is well-supported by science and clinical studies and what is not. That’s why it’s not particularly surprising at all to me that Pat is similarly unable to distinguish the pseudoscience of “intelligent design” from the real science of evolution, or, as all good ID creationists like to call it (with a sneer and between clenched teeth, of course), “Darwinism.” That “skepticism” about “Darwinism” is all that Dr. Egnor saw. My guess is that, after Dr. Egnor saw that Pat is a definite “Darwin skeptic” and sympathetic to “intelligent design,” one of two things probably happened. Either Dr. Egnor didn’t bother to peruse any more of Pat’s blog or website, which is why he didn’t see all of Pat’s views on a variety of alternative medicine topics, or he did peruse Pat’s blog and its non-evolution-related content didn’t bother him.

I don’t know which possibility concerns me more.

As for Dr. Egnor’s calling me “unprofessional,” well, let’s just say that I’d be less worried about the occasional cantankerous outburst of snark than I would about an inability to distinguish science from pseudoscience or, as Pat père et fils have done, their publicly “outing” me by uncritically reposting on their blog a message that disingenuously tried to paint me as a some sort of white supremacist and Holocaust denier (or at least sympathetic to them) who was somehow affiliated with the odious website, and their later falsely accusing me of using sockpuppets. (I saved the pages to show it, by the way.) I’m sure Dr. Egnor didn’t know about those little incidents, which is why I’m making a special point of mentioning them again now. Similarly, Dr. Egnor seems to like to contrast himself as being a paragon of “civility” as compared to us “unprofessional” and nasty “Darwinists,” but then he thinks nothing of cheerfully denigrating “Darwinism” and “Darwinists” as being the source of eugenics, Godlessness, and much that he perceives to be evil in medicine and the world today.

No, it’s not “uncivil” or “unprofessional” to call Dr. Egnor out for that, nor is it “uncivil” or “unprofessional” to point out examples of his continuing to spout pseudoscience. Dr. Egnor’s complaining about a lack of civility in this case is nothing more than an excuse not to fully address the content of the criticisms against him.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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