Monday, March 17, 2008


Egnoring Larry On

This will doubtless be fun.

Dr. Michael Egnor, the highly skilled meat cutter who has little or no understanding of science, has decided to take on Larry Moran. The subject matter: Larry's dismissal of Jonathan Well's insistence, as Dr. Egnor puts it, "that research on antibiotic resistance wasn't guided by Darwinian evolutionary theory." Of course, Dr. Egnor, as a Discovery Institute drone, insists on a particular definition of "Darwinian evolutionary theory" as:

... Darwin's theory that all biological complexity arose by natural selection without teleology.
He finds it "ironic" that Larry has denied being a "Darwinist." But Larry has a particular definition of "Darwinism," given in the article by Larry that Egnor cites, that Larry took from Stephen Jay Gould:

... "Darwinism" should be restricted to the world view encompassed by the theory of natural selection itself, the problem of definition is still not easily resolved. Darwinism must be more than the bare bones of the mechanics: the principles of superfecundity and inherited variation, and the deduction of natural selection therefrom. It must, fundamentally, make a claim for wide scope and dominant frequency; natural selection must represent the primary directing force of evolutionary change.
That, of course, doesn't mean selection isn't involved in the evolution of bacteria in significant ways to a Gouldian non-Darwinist. It should be noted that Darwin himself did not insist that that biological complexity arose only by natural selection. He included sexual selection and, at least in later editions of the Origin allowed for at least a limited role for inheritance oF acquired traits.

So what we have is, at most, Dr. Egnor, knowingly or stupidly, equivocating over a definition. But the interesting question is, if the real difference between Wells and Egnor on one side and Larry and the rest of the scientific community on the other, is that Wells/Egnor think teleology is involved in bacterial evolution, how do they plan to study it scientifically and what, exactly, do they think God is doing when He makes bacteria resistant to our drugs?

Update: Larry has issued A Challenge to Jonathan Wells to see if he agrees with Dr. Egnor that, although bacteria evolve resistence to drugs through natural selection, that isn't what Wells meant by the term "Darwinian evolution ."

... what, exactly, do they think God is doing when He makes bacteria resistant to our drugs?

Punishing us, of course, for our hubris in imagining that we can treat disease with something besides intercessory prayer.
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