Search Results for "egnor"

Jun 12 2014

Dumb Things Creationists Say

Having read deeply into the creationist literature and having had countless discussions with creationists, one thing is clear to me – creationists do not understand evolutionary theory.

To be fair, most people don’t really understand evolutionary theory, but creationists have a particularly poor understanding. Their problem goes beyond generic scientific illiteracy. They primarily learn about evolution from secondary hostile sources – other creationists. What they learn is creationist made-up nonsense about evolution, which they confuse for the science of evolution. This condemns them to mostly attack pathetic straw men rather than what scientists actually claim about evolution.

For example, Michael Egnor (remember him?), the creationist neurosurgeon who blogs for the Discotute, claimed that if evolution were true, then brain cancer should evolve a better functioning brain.

Today I am going to pick on another example of “if evolution were true, then…” creationist nonsense. This one comes from Creationtoday.org, in a Youtube video Derek Isaacs, a young-earth creationist, claims that:

“If evolution is true and it’s all about the male propagating their DNA, we had to ask hard questions like, well is rape wrong?”

It’s a little disturbing that Isaacs finds this a hard question, but let’s break down the many fallacies in this statement.

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Sep 13 2013

More on Logic and Thermodynamics

Michael Egnor likes to play the game of Name That Logical Fallacy – or at least he likes to set up other people to play that game. He is a creationist neurosurgeon who has been blogging over at Evolution News & Views, an intelligent design propaganda outlet. In a recent post he attempts to reply to my post deconstructing a paper by Graville Sewell in which he claimed that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

Egnor blows his first attempt at naming a fallacy.

Novella begins his critique of Sewell’s argument with the usual Darwinist ad hominem:

“Creationists will just not let go of an argument, no matter how many times it is pointed out to them that their argument is unsound. They simply find new twists of logic and distortions of science to resurrect their precious argument, clinging to it more tightly than Gollum held onto his ring.”

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Jul 19 2012

Egnor Tries to Write about Evolution to Humorous Effect

Science makes predictions. That is inherent to the scientific process. It’s what makes hypotheses testable – they make predictions about what will be observed in nature, about the outcome of experiments, and about future trends and events. Scientific theories are really models that allow us to predict the behavior of the world, and they are judged on their utility for making such predictions, rather than whether or not they are objectively “correct” (because we can’t know that).

This was a simple point I was trying to make, with respect to evolutionary theory, in a recent post on feathered dinosaurs. Egnor, who fancies himself an evolutionary gadfly, has tried to counter my arguments but only manages to create a confusing mess. In my original post I made the point:

After Darwin published his theory of evolution one of the early challenges to the idea of evolution, which includes the claim that all life on earth is related through common ancestors, was that there were significant gaps between major groups of living creatures. Birds, for example, seem to be their own group without a close connection to any other group. They are, of course, related to vertebrates. But if evolution were true then there must be fossil evidence connecting birds to another group, such as reptiles.

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May 17 2012

What Is Consciousness? Another Reply to Kastrup

Published by under Neuroscience

I hadn’t planned for this topic to take over my blog this week, but it happens. Judging by the comments there is significant interest in the issue of consciousness, and Kastrup and I are just getting to the real nub of the argument. So here is another installment – a reply to Kastrup’s latest offering. First, however, some background.

Materialism, Dualism, and Idealism

Philosophers of mind, such as David Chalmers, now recognize three general approaches to the question – what is consciousness? Materialism is the view that the mind is what the brain does. This is often stated as the mind is caused by the brain. Some commenters took exception to this phrase, saying it implies a dualist position, that the mind is its own thing,  but I disagree. The brain is the physical substance, while the mind or consciousness is a process that emerges from the brain. A dead or deeply comatose brain has no mind, so they are manifestly not the same thing. Language here is a bit imprecise, but I think the phrase – the brain causes the mind – is an acceptable short hand for the materialist position.

Dualism is the position that consciousness is something separate from the brain and not entirely caused by it. It may be a separate property of the universe (property dualism) or be something beyond the confines of our material universe. Whatever it is, it does not reduce to the firing of neurons in the brain, which cannot, in the opinion of dualists, explain subjective experience.

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May 15 2012

Another Blogger Jumps Into the Dualism Fray

Published by under Neuroscience

It has been a while since I wrote about dualism – the notion that the mind is something more than the functioning of the brain. Previously I had a blog duel about dualism with creationist neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor. Now someone else has jumped into that discussion: blogger, author, and computer engineer Bernardo Kastrup has taken me on directly. The result is a confused and poorly argued piece all too typical of metaphysical apologists.

Kastrup’s major malfunction is to create a straw man of my position and then proceed to argue against that. He so blatantly misrepresents my position, in fact, that I have to wonder if he has serious problems with reading comprehension or is just so blinkered by his ideology that he cannot think straight (of course, these options are not mutually exclusive). I further think that he probably just read one blog post in the long chain of my posts about dualism and so did not make a sufficient effort to actually understand my position.

Kastrup is responding specifically to this blog post by me, a response to one by Egnor. Kastrups begins with this summary:

I found it to contain a mildly interesting but otherwise trite, superficial, and fallacious argument. Novella’s main point seems to be that correlation suffices to establish causation. He claims that Egnor denies that neuroscience has found sufficient correlation between brain states and mind states because subjective mind states cannot be measured.

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Aug 09 2011

Still More Misdirection and Illogic from Egnor

Michael Egnor has responded to my prior post in which I outlined his numerous failings in logic and misrepresentations of neuroscience. His response continues to be incoherent, but does offer some further teaching points.

One of the main points of contention is this – what can we infer from the relationship between damage to the brain and resulting neurological signs and symptoms. My position is that, if the mind is entirely caused by the functioning of the brain, then damage to the brain will damage the mind. I maintain that this is true, as far as we can tell from our current technology and understanding of neuroscience.

Egnor maintains that this is not true – that the relationship is “not the least bit predictable.” Further, that this lack of total correlation is evidence for dualism, that the mind is produced, at least in part, by something immaterial. There are both factual and logical problems with his position. To my criticism of his claims, he writes:

Mental deficits – specific defects in reasoning, judgement, planning, memory– are highly variable. One cannot look at a CT scan done after a head injury and predict with any certainty that ‘this person will have an inability to remember numbers’. High level mental function localizes very poorly to specific brain regions. This is odd, if, as Novella claims, the material brain is entirely the cause of all mental function.

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Aug 05 2011

The Motivated Reasoning of Egnorance

Published by under Neuroscience

If you want to see many examples of motivated reasoning, pay a visit to Michael Egnor’s blog, Egnorance. He’s the evolution-denying neurosurgeon that I have sparred with over the last few years, mostly about evolution and dualism. Motivated reasoning is what most people do most of the time – start with a desired conclusion and then find reasons to support it (humans are very good at that). However, the whole point of philosophy is to rise above this tendency and follow strict rules of logic, while the point of science is similar but also to follow the evidence. Egnor can’t seem to do either, as he rants against non-believers, misinterprets study after study, and attacks those who do not share his particular faith.

A few weeks ago he wrote a response to a blog post of mine about materialism. This is familiar ground, but he does nicely reveal his tactics in the article so I thought I should eventually respond. He starts by misrepresenting the very topic of the discussion:

He put together six assertions that he claims are proven scientifically and thus prove his theory that the mind is caused entirely by the brain.

The materialist theory of mind is not my theory – it is the overwhelming consensus of neuroscientists and the result of over a century of research. But Egnor would have his readers believe it is my own quirky “bizarre” theory. This is, of course, nonsense. It is Egnor who is out on the fringe of neuroscience with his antiquated dualist beliefs. But far more important are the actual arguments themselves (I make this point mainly to demonstrate how Egnor constantly rewrites reality).

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Jul 08 2011

More on God of the Gaps

One of the things I like about blogging is that it is as much a dialogue as it is as it is a venue for one person’s opinions. Often the comments section becomes more interesting than the post itself. I also occasionally blog in response to someone else’s blog, and it is not uncommon for a blog conversation (or argument) to break out. Responding to someone else’s comments (even if they are from some random or anonymous blogger or commenter) can make a discussion more interesting.

For example, I have blogged numerous times in the past about the “god of the gaps” style of argument, and the philosophical nature of science. This has garnered the occasional response from creationists, which is always amusing. Recently a blogger named Mariano Grinbank wrote a response on examiner.com. His response is largely an exercise in naked assertion and ad hominem style arguments. Responding to my mind/brain discussion he writes:

Just how is it clearly established that the brain causes mind? It could actually be said to be much more clearly established that mind causes the brain.

It could be said – but it would be wrong. The question is disingenuous because I outline exactly how it is clearly established that the brain causes the mind, in numerous posts, including the one that Grinbank refers to (although does not link to – perhaps he was just relying on Egnor’s responses to my posts). I will outline the evidence yet again: The hypothesis that the brain causes the mind (and does not merely correlate with the mind) makes a number of specific predictions:

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Jun 27 2011

Egnor Is Back

Remember Michael Egnor – the creationist neurosurgeon who made a second career out of embarrassing himself with nonsensical blog posts over at the DiscoTute’s blog, Evolution News and Views? His crowning achievement on this score, in my opinion, was his argument that if evolution were true brain cancer should result in improvements in the brain.

I haven’t heard from Egnor in a while, but now I learn that he has his own blog, called “Egnorance.” The name is a nice touch on his part – some bloggers have been using the term “egnorance” to refer to Egnor’s particular brand of nonsense. It is sometimes successful to take a term meant to be derisive and adopt it as your own in order to turn it around. At the least it can take the wind out of the sails of your critics. Unfortunately, the content of the blog is a bad as ever.

This came to my attention because Egnor wrote a blog post responding to my recent post about Michele Bachmann’s creationist stance. Egnor (true to his style) thought he could get a blog post out of my use of the term “creationist” by projecting his own intellectual dishonesty. Egnor does provide an excellent example of the apologist form – exploiting any vagueness in meaning to create confusion and the appearance of sinister intent on the part of those with whom he disagrees.

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Apr 13 2010

Quietus and Homeopathy Awareness Week

This is homeopathy awareness week – and like some other science bloggers I want the public to be as aware of homeopathy as possible. I want the public to be aware of the fact that homeopathy is based upon the “law of similars” – which is nothing more than the ancient superstition of sympathetic magic. I want the public to be aware of the fact that most homeopathic solutions are diluted far past the point where there is likely to be a single molecule of active ingredient left – and therefore claims for the homeopathic “law of infinitesimals” violates the law of mass action and the laws of thermodynamics.

I also do not want to silence homeopaths, as some have suggested. I want them to speak for themselves – every time a homeopath opens their mouth they make my job easier. Right now Dana Ullman, the ultimate online homeopathy apologist, is spewing incoherent nonsense in the comments at Science-Based Medicine. You also have to see Dr. Warner’s brilliant explanation for how homeopathy works (every time someone watches this video Einstein’s corpse cries.)

And now John Benneth is becoming the energizer bunny of hilarious YouTube videos. Seriously, this is beyond parody. Nothing’s better than homeopathy explained by a raving…well, take a look for yourself. I am slightly embarrassed to have Benneth as my new nemesis. I preferred Egnor – at least he was coherent at times and didn’t come off as a drunk who just rolled out of bed. With Egnor you could play “Spot the Logical Fallacy” and it would be challenging at times. Benneth makes it too easy.

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